It’s no secret at all that I’ve been a huge fan of Karen J Carlisle’s ineffable knack for storytelling and world building since I fist encountered her Viola Stewart series a few years ago. Her beautifully entertaining paranormal series Aunt Enid has captured my heart too, but I have to confess that I have been missing the mysterious steampunkish world Viola inhabits with its secret societies and artefacts of wonder … so imagine my glee when I was sent an ARC of the first book in her new series The Department Of Curiosities -For The Good Of The Empire, which is set in the same world as the Viola Stewart stories! I couldn’t wait to click ‘open’ and begin reading and I’m happy to say it was all I could have hoped for and more…
Karen J Carlisle is one of those rare gems who’s storytelling captivated me from the first page and carried me expertly through a marvellous world of mysterious occurrences, secret societies, wondrous devices and characters I both loved and loved to hate.
Miss Matilda Meriwether is a strong, independent and resourceful character with secrets to protect and unravel and an agenda that is utterly her own. Having said this she is also realistic for the world and time period in which she exists and she wrangles with all the social and emotional baggage that women in the late Victorian era had to contend with. These both combine to make her an utterly believable and lovable character and I found myself feeling her frustrations and quandaries even as I admired her bravado and ingenuity. She is certainly a character I now want to follow through the rest of the series.
As for the plot I don’t want to reveal to much because the beauty of this book is in the secrets and surprises… young Matilda is trying to unravel a family secret with the help of a very unexpected and comically petulant and cryptic ‘guide,’ when she becomes entangled with The Department Of Curiosities. Tillie hopes that working for the department will bring her closer to solving her own mystery but of course life has a lot more in store for her before she gets there… this is a fabulous ‘gateway’ book for anyone new to Steampunk and for old hands it is an expertly woven tale incorporating everything we love about the genre from mad scientists, secret societies, strong heroines, dastardly villains, marvellous mysteries and incredible devices ; yet another another absolute treat from Karen J Carlisle.
Steampunk: The Second Decade
Greetings to fans of Steampunk old and new! This is the third installment of a series exploring the history of the Steampunk genre in honor of its “31st birthday” on April 27. As part of the 30th birthday festivities in 2017, I coordinated and contributed to a collaborative Steampunk novel called Army of Brass. You can pre-order now at a mere $.99 as our “gift” on this most hallowed of days and it will be delivered on Friday.
In the first post in this series, I talked about adaptations of Victorian works as examples of Steampunk before the word “Steampunk” came into being. If you want to know more about that momentous occasion and the first ten years of amazing books, check out part 2. Now, we embark on the decade spanning the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s in which Steampunk branched out from literature and found a home in fashion and graphic novels. Plus we see the birth of the first online forums for connecting Steampunk fans.
Steampunk jumped from the pages of books into the realm of wearable art sometime in the mid- to late-1990s. Fashion student and member of the fashionable set, Kit Stolen, is one well-known example. He wore distressed Victorian style clothes paired with his own unique hair creations (called “falls”) and caused quite a sensation. Large-scale events wouldn’t show up in earnest for a few years yet, but daring creators like Stolen paved the way for the rest of us to enjoy our corsets and top hats later on.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
In 1999, writer Alan Moore (The Watchmen) and illustrator Kevin O’Neill paired up to create the first LoEG graphic novels. The story is set in 1898 in the aftermath of the events of Dracula. Mina Harker is recruited by Campion Bond (a predecessor of James Bond) to lead a unique group of “extraordinary” literary figures. She recruits the likes of Allan Quatermain, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, and Captain Nemo to join her to fight Fu Manchu in the first collection. Volume II centers on the events of War of the Worlds.
This two-volume collection of comics is brimming with literary characters and settings from the 19th century. And much in the same vein as the first Steampunk books, this series definitely has a dark side. The 2003 film by the same name, however, was pitched as more of a family affair. Sean Connery plays Quatermain and as the one with the star power, he ended up totally usurping Mina as the leader of the group. They also added a big role for Tom Sawyer as a CIA agent. Many fans of comics hated the movie because it shed all of its darkness, and film critics didn’t love it either. Still, it’s a fun homage to the literature of the steam era.
Wild Wild West Movie (1999)
This is another movie that checks several Steampunk boxes but ran into problems with fans. This reimagining of the 1960s Western-spy crossover as an adventure comedy rubbed many the wrong way. The franchise centers on James West, a sheriff who works for Ulysses S. Grant. At the time, Will Smith, who played West, was one of the hottest actors in Hollywood, and Kevin Kline was on a similar hot streak when he played West’s sidekick. It culminates in a mad scientist on a rampage in his giant mechanical spider. I personally loved this movie when I first saw it. Then again, I’d never seen the original so I wasn’t suffering from any dashed expectations. The movie is definitely a comedy, so I can see why someone looking for James Bond in the Wild West could be disappointed. (But still, giant mechanical spider = awesome. Am I right?)
Girl Genius (2001-Present)
The husband and wife team of Phil and Kaja Foglio created this series in 2001. It straddles the line between Steampunk and gaslamp fantasy, a term that Kaja Foglio created to describe the series as it straddles the line between sci-fi and fantasy. It’s about Agatha Clay, a harried science student in a semi-Victorian setting and carries the tagline “Adventure, Romance, MAD SCIENCE!” It started off as a black and white print book, added color in issue 3, and jumped to the web in 2005. You can read the entire series from the beginning and it is still updated every week.
Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidoqc (2001)
In the original French, this film is called simply Vidoqc because this name is famous in their history. Eugene Francois Vidoqc was a real police investigator in the first half of the 19th century and is largely recognized as the “father of forensic science.” His methods were so advanced, in fact, that people thought he dabbled in the occult. This association is the inspiration behind the film, which is both gritty and beautiful. The structure is unusual and non-linear, and among my favorite films of all time.
The Amazing Screw-on Head (2002)
Dark Horse comics later released this dark comedy by Mike Mignola (Hellboy) about a secret agent working in Abraham Lincoln’s service in 2002. True to his name, Screw-on Head has a removable head that can be installed in a number of bodies with different capabilities. A few years later, the SyFy channel released the pilot for an animated series. Unfortunately, despite the voice talent of Paul Giamatti, David Hyde Pierce, and Patton Oswalt, it never made it past the first episode.
The Five Fists of Science (2006)
Dark Horse published another Steampunk gem with Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla in the starring roles. This is a tight little book that doesn’t waste any words, which means that all of the front-pages are more than just prologue. If you pick this one up (and I recommend you do), make sure you check out the short biographies of the real people involved, as well as the letter shared between Twain and Tesla that inspired this story full of giant robots and Lovecraftian beasties.
Steampunk Hits the Web
In 2006, the first dedicated Steampunk forum was established. Though the creator no longer plays an active role or updates it regularly, you can still visit “Brass Goggles.” This was an important step in the evolution of Steampunk as a community rather than a string of independent people. People could swap tips about making props and costumes, recommend books, and plan get-togethers in a streamlined way.
And Then Came the Music
And don’t forget, Army of Brass comes out tomorrow! 21 international writers came together to create this tale of giant automatons, fearless airship captains, and deadly conspiracies.
Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to meet the writers, participate in giveaways, and more!
Not sure if it’s for you? Read a review, take a sneak peek at the full Chapter 1 or read another exclusive excerpt. You can also get to know the character Captain Jack Davenport a little bit better with his interview on Blake & Wight. If you want to find out more about collaborative writing, Army of Brass contributors and Collaborative Writing Challenge veterans Crystal MM Burton and Kathrin Hutson shared articles for the tour about the pros, cons, and rewards.
Speaking of giveaways, you can enter to win ebooks from the CWC writers.
and if you want to read the other posts in this series you can find them here:
Note from Penny: Thankyou so much to Phoebe for this awesome guest post which forms part of the Army of Brass blog tour. Regular readers may have noticed the Abney Park album featured on the panel in the music section and recall that this blog is temporarily boycotting Abney Park because of Robert Brown’s antiziganistic remarks and behaviour (until such a time as we can speak to him personally and see what he has to say for himself) However we have allowed this one exception so as not to ruin Phoebe’s wonderful guest post (Coz we iz nice like that innit?) and not at all used it exploitatively to draw attention to this issue we’re passionate about… a-hem… 😉
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Thankyou for joining us in the parlour this morning. Our fish-oil lanterns are still burning well, as you can smell…er…see for yourselves and so we laugh in the faces of those who mentioned the impracticalities and health risks of such a venture, at least we would if we could see their faces through the haze of fish-funk and sooty black smoke, ah-hem – ugh – hem..
But all that aside, please, pull up a lemonade crate and a cushion, perhaps even a cat or two, kick your tentacles upon the table and let us treat you to something rather splendid because today we are hosting a leg (tentacle?) of the book tour for the release of Karen J Carlisle’s fabulous new Viola Stewart ebooks – ‘From the Depths’ and ‘Tomorrow, when I die.’
We first fell in love with Viola Stewart almost a year ago when we read Doctor Jack and we have been devoted fan-boys ever since. These next titles in the series did not disappoint, if you are already a fan you can expect the same thrill and excitement of these delightful steampunk mysteries coupled with a cast of much loved characters (and a few new ones to boot!) If you are not familiar with Viola yet then have no fear, you can still enjoy these novellas as stand-alones so, what are we waiting for? Let’s dive in…
FROM THE DEPTHS
Doctor Viola Stewart, a widowed optician with a penchant for investigating, is recuperating after her last adventure ; a relaxing holiday on the Scottish coast, a spot of sea bathing and fossil hunting… but Viola hasn’t been there long before she hears rumours of a mysterious sea monster that is plaguing the local coastline, attacking bathers and fishing boats. At first Viola, woman of science, isn’t taken in by the tales, but when her bathing machine is attacked, it seems that something certainly is haunting the waters around the bay. Determined to investigate, Viola soon stumbles into a web of murder, intrigue and an enigmatic stranger… who is this mysterious Mr Peabody? Who exactly is he working for? And why is he so interested in Viola?
TOMORROW, WHEN I DIE
Viola’s friend , Sir Archibald, physician to the queen, is in danger – he will die tomorrow unless Viola can save him. But as Viola begins to investigate his strange assertions she begins to unravel a fantastical plot involving time travel , secret societies and curious devices that ought only to exist in science fiction! Will Viola’s rational understanding of space and time be forced to accommodate the incredible? Is time travel really the only way to save Sir Archibald? And with her beloved Henry out of action, the dashing Mr. Peabody back on the scene and The Men In Grey lurking in the shadows, just who can Viola trust?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen J Carlisle is an imagineer and writer of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition and published her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, in 2015. Her short story, Hunted, featured in the Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’. Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat. She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea. Her favourite tea at present is a local specialty (special tea – ha!) called Roman’s blend – Assam and Darjeeling combination – named after a friend of hers. He worked with local tea cafe, Kappy’s, to develop the brew. It sold so well, they named it after him.
And there’s the kettle boiling so please do join us in a cup of Roman’s Blend while we tell you about Karen’s free ebook competition…
For a chance to win a free Viola Stewart ebook visit www.karenjcarlisle.com and answer the daily question in the comments below the post. (See Karen’s blog pages for full terms and conditions. ) You can enter once. No purchase is required. To enter, answer the day’s question in the comments below on the corresponding post at www.karenjcarlisle.com Begin your entry comment with ANSWER: (to make it clear you wish to enter).One winner is chosen randomly from those with the correct answer posted in comments below and will be announced at www.karenjcarlisle.com Prize is one Viola Stewart eBook and cannot be redeemed for cash. Prize is redeemed via Smashwords. The winner will be advised to email Karen to receive Voucher code and instructions on how to redeem your prize.
MORE TO LOOK FORWARD TO…
The final ebook in the series is due out early October and the paperback is due later in October. sign up for Karen’s Tea and Tidings newsletter to get all the latest info. http://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/
Where to find Karen on the aether web:
And you can find hints of current research threads on her Pinterest page: https://au.pinterest.com/riverkat42/
We wish you an exceedingly scrumptious afternoon and hope you will join us in the parlour tomorrow for more tea-based adventures, until then,
please be always, Utterly Yourself