Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “gothic

Aether Egg Hunt: With Nimue Brown

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Greetings, salutations and the polite waving of tentacles.

I’m Nimue Brown and I write a whole array of stuff – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, graphic novels… I also do unspeakable things for money, but best not to get in to that.

I gather that in Steampunk’d Lancaster there is an annual Aether Egg Hunt  – a chance for authors to connect with their readers and give a little gift of thanks for all their support in the form of an Aether Egg or Small Gift linked to the fictional world they have created. I’m always wary when talking about Hopeless Maine in terms of things people might enjoy, but there we go. This may be the bit of the process you get to feel uneasy about, while other aether eggs can be hunted with greater safety.

So here is my contribution which may do more to undermine the fun than perpetrate it, but there we go.

Hopeless Maine Easter Eggs hold the memory of other traditions. Easter itself isn’t reliably celebrated on the island – although shipwrecked Christians will try and honour their festivals. It’s just difficult to work out when anything is supposed to happen. The folk side of Easter – with the traditional decorated eggs tends to happen at the point when there are enough eggs to make a go of it. Someone starts, other people join in. These are simply eggs whose shells have been decorated.

Eggs are painted with whatever pigments can be found. Some things are ideal for colouring eggs – boiling the egg with onion skins for example. Other things, like the exciting turquoise algae Aunt Gladys found, do not always lead to the best results.

Glass heron eggs are a popular choice – their shape and length means the can be painted up to look a bit like people.

glass heron egg

Weird and wonky eggs make popular gifts. So do stones that look a bit like eggs, and there’s the added giggle that the intended recipient can’t always tell if it’s a really hard boiled egg, or something from the beach.

weird Eggs

Of course, whether by accident or design, an Easter egg is a good way of killing your enemies, and for that matter your friends and family. Sometimes it’s the choice of painting materials. Never use anything derived from a night potato – the glowing in the dark may look charming, but the results of eating are less so. Sometimes the eggs do not belong to the birds you thought they came from. Sometimes the eggs fight back. It has been speculated that brightly coloured eggs are left on doorsteps sometimes by non-human islanders looking for hosts.

egg with tentacle

 

You can find my books on any of the usual book selling sites.

This is me on Book Depository https://www.bookdepository.com/author/Nimue-Brown

And connect to me on the internet here: https://twitter.com/Nimue_B

https://www.facebook.com/hopelessmaine/

https://www.facebook.com/nimue.brown

https://druidlife.wordpress.com/

https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

Aether Egg image courtesy of Irum Shahid http://www.freeimages.com


Pipe and Slippers: Tales from Steampunk’d Lancaster

Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of  praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.

I am the ghost known as Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.

But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of that incorrigible octopus and its unnerving  Gentleman Friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by strange creatures promising  cake. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here;   here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!

But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? A bottle of Single Malt eh? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,

like this perhaps… I have been tirelessly working over the summer, interviewing the Hex Slingers of Lancaster, compiling an anthropological study of the lives of those who use magic illegally in those curated back-alley fight clubs – why and how have they come to their present situation? What are their stories? Well, here at least, is one of them…

TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER

SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS 

TALE THE FIRST : Siggy And Me

 

Sigmund Ignatius Newburger doesn’t hear his full name used often. Smite me down, I never even knew that was his full name until I heard it bellowed through the steam-filled Tiffin Den one Monday afternoon in late September. The fella bawling it was a sight. Mind you, smite me down if Siggy ain’t a sight himself. Guess we all are here though ; handling raw magic takes its toll, any hex slinger will tell you that for nothing, long as you ain’t the law o’ course!

The damage starts with your fingers, for most, just a tingling sensation at first a bit like pins and needles and if you stop then and there I dare say you’ll be alright after a fashion. But we didn’t stop, did we? Siggy and me. And now we have to hide our black veined hands and arms beneath long coat sleeves and leather gauntlets ; one look at that scorched, stained flesh and everyone knows what you are and we can’t have that now, can we?

This fella, anyways, he wasn’t a slinger. I could see his arms right up to his elbows, shirt sleeves rolled up and thumbs stuck in his braces like he meant business. “Sigmund, Ignatious Newburger!” he’s bellowed and Siggy jumped clean out of his seat like he’d just seen a flesh eating Liver Bird through the window.

It didn’t take long, a brief altercation and the fella left looking ‘Most Put Out’ as the Garish Set would say. Plenty of them in the Den that day as well but we don’t mix with that sort, revolution’s all well and good when you’re just spitting daggers about the Queen across the tea table, but smite me down if some of these Theatre Lot aren’t a bit too serious for their own safety, if you know what I mean.

Anyhow, I got the savvy over a custard tart and a pot of chajo. Clarence is the fella’s name, Clarence Aloysius Newburger and he’s Siggy’s own cousin. Siggy now spills his guts all over our elevenses and it ain’t pretty ; his old man works for Lord Ashton up at the Silk Mills, he’s some sort of overseer there, right high up and fancy which is how they got the coin  to send The Young Sigmund to school and then, later, to the Wizards’ Collegium in Litchfield.

I never knew all this about Sig before but it all makes sense to me as he says it ; there are three sorts of people who end up here in the back-alley hex rings of Lancaster and smite me down if it probably ain’t the same in all the big cities of Ire : there’s those who ran away because this was their dream, and I guess you’ve got me pegged now too coz I’m certainly one them, then there’s those who are down and out anyhow and looking at any way they can to make ends meet, hex slinging can be the end of you, WILL be the end of you if you stick at it, but if you’re good at it, really good, and me and Siggy, smite me down if we ain’t pretty damn good, you can pretty much make your fortune at it. Or so the ring bosses will tell you. Anyhow then there’s the last sort, Siggy’s sort as it now turns out, and that’s the fallen wizards.

When a wizard gets disillusioned or disgraced – I don’t know, maybe he suddenly realises that The Almighty Wiz ain’t as benevolent and loving as all his holy texts make him out to be or maybe he develops a Tiffin habit or a taste for Lemonade, we all have our vices eh? – whatever the reason for him leaving Litchfield he doesn’t have many options open to him; everyone hates magic users and if you ain’t carrying an official licence from the Collegium you can’t legally practice it anyway. Chances are he’ll end up in one of two places; The Gutter Wizards or The Hex Slingers.

We don’t get many of Siggy’s sort down here, as you can imagine.

But I’m getting off the point again. Siggy said he never like Litchfield. He loved magic but he says they don’t teach you real magic up there, only their own limited and feeble understanding of how the world is put together and how a man can influence and exert his limited and feeble will over bits of  it.

Not like us, we stretch our soul out of our fingertips and into the aether, grasp the threads that hold the world together and force them to obey. It’s incredible, raw, adrenaline-fuelled ecstasy and once Siggy tried it( in a back alley behind the Burlington Arcade with a Youth who wore the scarlet leather of the Cameo Libris Scribes and claimed his mother was witch) he knew his Collegium days were over.

He came home to Lancaster but his old man didn’t want to know about it. That’s when he met me and I got him his Beauty and we started this whole lark together.

“Haven’t a friend in the world, Erik,” he kept saying – Erik Wise, that’s me in case you didn’t figure it out – “Haven’t a friend in the world now.” He’s one of those comic-morose types y’know? All Over with the Rueful Smiles and Languid Glances, the Heavy Sighs and such.

So I got him one. In a matchbox. Docklands are crawling with mice you see and they’re good for the fight if you know how to use them. You can use anything to boost your game if you know how, but Siggy likes mice ; smite me down if he can’t stand in a hex ring with Beauty on his shoulder and whistle and every mouse in every garret and gutter will come and swarm on him like a second skin. You can really do a lot with a skill like that and it drives the crowds wild and terrifies the wits out of any newcomers I can tell you.

We always go in for the doubles, Siggy and Me. I like the dust, it listens to me now and I can use it to bring physical form to the magic, which is terrifying in its own right, even without the Myomancer beside me. But we’re a great team and I wouldn’t go solo for any common price.

So this Clarence fella, he’s come to Lancaster looking for help and Siggy’s father won’t give it to him. Clarence is all set to solve his problems some other way when he hears on the ground that Siggy is still in Lancaster and fighting for coin in the hex rings. This suits Clarence’s plan even better ;  seems that some rogue relation – Harvey Hilarius Newburger, whoever he may be – has gotten himself into a scandal and needs to be gotten rid of sharpish before he lands the whole family in hot treacle. Seems Clarence thinks a hex slinger ought to be able to sort this little problem out a treat.

But Siggy’s a decent sort and he won’t have a part in it so old Clarence goes off to do the dirty work for himself and smite me down if I didn’t pity this fella Harvey-Whoever-He-Is on account of the murderous look on Old Clarence’s face as he left the Tiffin Den that day.

We never heard from him again and smite us both if we ain’t glad about it. We’re doing alright, Siggy and Me, we make enough in the rings to keep us in ‘Tops, Tails n Tiffin’ as they say round here. Maybe one day we’ll make that fortune we were promised, or catch the eye of some well to do Patron, then we’d hit the big time and no mistake. But we’re doing alright for now…

 

So there you have it, the first in this little series of snap-shots of Lancastrian street-life.

Now then I really must insist you go, I have important work to be getting on with, not least making sure the front door is Liver-Bird proofed again, true I have no flesh to devour but they do make a dreadful mess of the books if they manage to get in …. what’s that? You’re not sure your coat is Liver-Bird -proofed either? Well I’m sorry you should have thought of that before you decided to break the curfew! It’s certainly not my problem! Good Night!  

Oh, er…leave the bottle though…I mean, if you don’t make it home it’ll be a terrible waste…


Morning Cuppa: Sinners

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back at last to Max and Collin’s scrupulously sinful and magnificently meretricious parlour located somewhere in the bowels of the splendidly scenic city of Steampunk’d Lancaster.

True some have called it the slightly sinister cellar of a maniacally minacious monster, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning feeling slightly sorry for ourselves – the lemonade selling season is at an end, Lord Ashton’s delightful curfew begins again tonight and with it will come his flesh eating Liver Birds, ridding the Lancastrian streets of unsightly vagrants and orphans. If my Very Quiet Gentleman Friend and I do not find ingenious ways to pay our rent we will be cowering below the skyway rails with the best of them so, things really are as thick as government-standard-issue porridge, as they say.

But never mind all that for now, you didn’t come here to listen to an octopus bemoan the hand that a life of relentless roguery hath dealt him, you came to enjoy a splendid cup of tea and some excellent fiction, so let’s kick our tentacles up on the table and do just that…

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This is the third book in the graphic novel series and if you haven’t already dipped your tentacles into this divine cauldron of delicious gothic delights we suggest you begin at the beginning

If however you are already a fan and have previously devoured The Gathering you will no doubt have been gnawing your knuckles to bone waiting to find out what happens to Sal, Owen, the islanders and the ‘other islanders’ ( of whom so far there had only been hints and teasing glimpses through the mist) … if this is you, then in Sinners you will not be disappointed. The same glorious amalgam of wordcraft and illustration that is the hallmark of this enchanting series endures and the intriguing plot thickens – what is the eldritch presence that pervades the island of Hopeless Maine? And in what way are Sal and her, markedly absent, parents embroiled in it? The Doctor thinks he knows… The Reverend thinks he knows too… Owen hopes they are wrong but Sal’s inexplicable powers undoubtedly come from somewhere and the disembodied voices of demons in the mists claim they know as well. To make matters worse, an epidemic of consumption is sweeping the island and the delightfully demonic Durosimi and his underground followers think they have a very elegant solution ; should the islanders set their differences aside and take the controversial route to salvation? Or are there really worse things than being dead…

Flying boats, skeleton dogs, folk with tentacles … an absolute joy from start to finish.

Now then, but what tea could possibly accompany such an epic read? We think it HAS to be Seven Deadly Sins by Sugarmoon Teas (which is actually rather virtuous but shhh, don’t let on)

We very much hope you will join us for elevenses tomorrow when we will be talking treacle with impunity, until then please remain always

Utterly Yourself

 


Steampunk Summer Postcards: Greetings from Hopeless Maine!

 

 

Welcome to Steampunk’d Lancaster my dears! I am Mrs Baker, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. My soup kitchen is rather quiet now for the summer, Max and Collin and all the little street urchins are out selling Lemonade, everyone else seems to be off on their holidays and things are overly quiet around the bakery. Nevermind, it gives me a chance to go through all the lovely postcards I have been receiving – although some appear to be mis-directed and others seem to be from dimensions I have never even heard of! Still, it is very nice to have mail, let us see now what have we got in the letter box today… Why it’s a postcard from our dear friends on the island of Hopeless Maine, our favourite gothical place to be! (As long as one is armed with a sturdy rolling pin to ward off the night potatoes that is!) …

 

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Of course you are all aware that the latest installment in the Hopeless Maine body of tentacular awesomeness, Sinners, is now available …

sinners

And you can follow the building body of island intrigue in their pan-dimensional newspaper The Hopless Vendetta  

I certainly hope to pay another visit very soon, as soon as I have strengthened some of my shielding spells and re-enforced my cauldron that is, the plant life are disturbingly sentient there you know and seem to resent being turned into soup!

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 


Getting back to normality! (And the ridiculous route we took to it!)

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Firstly I think I owe everyone  a massive apology  that it has taken me so long to get back to the blog. When I signed off for a while we were poised to move into our new house and I was poised to have a small but necessary operation… well the best laid plans as they say!

The house turned out to be falling down and had illegal building work done on it so the sale fell through – which left us sofa-surfing while we scrabbled around trying  to find another house! On the plus side we got to spend lots of time with family and friends, visited some unusual places and had some fun caravan in the snow and wrestling with frozen pipes, no heating, filthy accommodation and all sorts of funnish things! We made some lovely memories saw some beautiful landscapes and wildlife and, looking back, our lives are undoubtedly richer for those experiences – but it is very, very, very good to finally have a roof over our heads that is ‘ours’ !

We have now settled into a lovely little house which suits us perfectly and our first house warming present arrived yesterday which I have to share with you…

 

THE FLUFFY DOOM! Made for us by the most talented, awesome and beautiful woman in the world Nimue Brown of http://www.hopelessmaine.com

We had the very great privilege of spending time with Nimue and Tom at the Hopeless Maine Tourist Information Booth and Time Quake festival in Manchester last month and you can read all about that on the Hopeless Maine website here:

https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/2018/04/06/hopeless-maine-comes-to-time-quake/

We also joined the Ministry Of Steam Wizards and there will be more about that in the coming months.

As I’m sure you can all appreciate, moving house and getting a truck load of little coglings back into their routines takes a lot of time and energy and I’d like to make sure I do that bit right, so there are going to be some temporary changes to the blog schedule to allow me to catch up with everything and not let anyone down.

My review list has grown slightly insane! So I’m not taking on any new books just now and any books I have promised to review will be done between now and December, when the list will open again with the usual Recommended Christmas Reads.

In order to make all this happen, elevenses and the soup kitchen will stop until either September or December, with the exception of very special and worthy promotions (ie folks doing non-profit, good cause  or exceptionally cool low budget / indie things). However if you are missing our kitchen witch and her culinary wisdom, if you feel you desperately need advice on housekeeping, moral living and general wholesomeness, you may want to keep an eye on the Hopeless Vendetta over the next few weeks … I will say no more but there will be links when links are available…

The lovely library will open as usual in the autumn and authors whose work has been reviewed or featured are, as always, welcome to submit short stories / extracts for this (see submissions above).

So things will be a little quieter than usual around here but the wheels will continue to turn and slowly gather speed as we settle in and whenever I get the chance I will continue with the Rromani Steampunk posts and Notes From Penny as well.

Next Friday (yes I know that’s weird)  Max and Collin will be back for the Army of Brass blog tour which begins today on Steampunk Journal  and continues across the web until the 13th May. You can join us all for the Facebook Launch Party on 28th – 29th April as well to chat to the authors and take part in giveaways and such but more about that next week.

For now I will just say thankyou so much to everyone who has continued to be patient and supportive and inspiring and awesome through this ridiculously uncertain and disorganised period of our lives.

Blessings on all your brews, whatever they may be

Penny 😀


Soup Of The Day: With Author Jack Wolf

 

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

 

Helping me this morning is Jack Wolf – author of The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones, which Max and Collin reviewed a short time ago with their Morning Cuppa.

Good morning to you Jack! Thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, may I take your coat and hat? It is certainly very frosty out there today but the fire here in the bakery is lovely and warm.  How was your journey here from your own dimension?

Not too bad – the skies were fairly clear and the traffic was ok.

I’m very glad to hear that! This cold snap seems to have the Skyway Men clinging to their fires which is a mercy! And have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

I make something called Bungitin Vegan soup, which is basically a load of chopped veg – 1 onions, 2 carrots, 1 tin’s worth of tomatoes, 1 pepper, half to a whole tin’s worth of chick peas and/or other legumes, and anything else I can find in the kitchen fridge – 1-2 courgettes are good. Add at least one clove of garlic or a teaspoon of garlic paste – this is really important – and a mix of herbs and spices to taste. The italian herbs are good for this, so oregano, basil and sometimes a little black pepper. I don’t usually add salt, but you can, if you want. To cook, brown the onions and begin to soften the carrots by stir-frying in vegetable or sunflower oil for about 4-5 mins, then add everything else and about 3/4 pint of vegetable stock, and let it all simmer until everything is soft and it tastes really rich. Don’t let it burn or get too dense, as this can make the flavour too strong – you have to keep tasting it.

 

Oh vegan soup recipes are always here, what with the dairy rationing and such, thankyou very much! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire and tell us about your book The Tale Of Raw Head and Bloody Bones, and its main character Tristan Hart? I see you have brought a copy with you to show the orphans..

full cover rawhead.jpg

 

 

The cover art is stunning! I confess to very much enjoying the book myself, not least because of the cunning use of magic, folk lore and the world of faerie to support the narrative – tell me, have you always had an interest in the relationship between our own everyday ‘stories,’ and the magical and mythological frameworks we use to make sense of our ‘real world’ experiences?

I’ve been drawn to faerie tales, and faeries in general, for a long time. I’m also fascinated by human psychology, and the idea that humans create our own conceptual worlds out of the stories – and I use that word extremely broadly – that we tell ourselves. To an extent, the ‘real world’ of our experience is something we invent – a story we tell ourselves every moment of every day.

 

And the story of Raw Head, that is a real British folk tale isn’t it?

 

Yes and no. It’s a recorded folk belief, but I haven’t found any complete tales concerning it – with a beginning middle and end, and so on. It’s likely that the original RH&BB is more a general bogeyman than a character, in the way that, say, the Wolf in the Three Little Pigs is a character. I think he was a personification of the threat of drowning in a culture where only a tiny minority of people knew how to swim, and nobody knew how to perform cpr on a drowning victim. The idea was, I think, that the fear of RH&BB would keep the kids away from the waterways in a way that a simple explanation of the danger would not. References to the figure seem to peter out in the UK after the 18thC, so I guess superstitions moved on.

But oddly enough, in the US the image seems to have persisted, and mutated – there’s a legend in the Ozarks of RH&BB where a creature by that name appears as a monstrous pig. It may be co-incidental, of course. But I drew on this alternate image a little bit as well in the novel; Tristan’s dread of Joseph Cox becomes focused on the fact that Cox works as a pig-keeper.

 

Ah yes! I didn’t recognise that wonderful little twist but that certainly makes sense!  I had also thought it reminded me of the La Lorona mythos and more localised ‘Maggie O Th’Well’ tales. Tell me, what particularly drew you to use that tale as the focal point for Tristan’s story?

 

I’m fascinated by bogeymen, and the idea that one of the tools we use to keep ourselves safe is actually terror. But the name “RH&BB” is also a wonderful metaphor for what a human being is – mind and body brought together in this messy, contradictory way – and trying to make sense of that conundrum is Tristan’s most prevailing obsession.

Raw Head is by no means the only myth you reference in the book, what other prominent faerie figures feature in the narrative?

Well, I also draw heavily on the idea of the Glanconer – the Irish Faerie seducer – or as we might now acknowledge, rapist. He’s the dark Faerie who lies at the bottom of the myth of the Elf Knight, or as I call him in the book, the Goblin Knight. In numerous folk songs such as The Outlandish Knight and Steeleye Span’s The Elf Knight (which was the first place I encountered him) he is a seducer and murderer of young women who lures them to their doom sometimes by drowning, like RH&BB, or more simply by stabbing or strangling them. But of course as a Faerie Knight he’s also part of the court of the Faerie Queen, so she had to come into the book as well – and the image I’ve used to represent her is that of the shapeshifting barn owl. I’ve called her Viviane, of course, which is a nod to the Arthurian tradition. 

Of course, and very nicely done indeed! Now, in some modern / mythpunk re-workings, the world these tales and archetypes belong to is something that is a step removed from the protagonist’s reality but in your book the world of faerie doesn’t just run alongside Tristan’s human world does it?

Well, I don’t see the worlds as being separate in the way that a lot of modern fantasy does. I’m much more drawn to the Alan Garner or Susan Cooper school of world building in which the two realms are in constant communication with each other. It’s much closer to the way I experience the world, as well.

Well, I for one can certainly identify with that, Dear! I very much liked the way that, by giving each of the main characters both a human identity and, simultaneously, a faerie-self, you seemed to re-imagine (or perhaps ‘release’) some of those ancient beings in a way that made encountering them a very fresh, real and emotive experience.

Do you think that it is important to keep exploring these tales and releasing these characters into the collective consciousness?

 

Yes. I think it’s vital, actually. In the last couple of hundred years, we have built an  industrial society that demands that we deliberately reject older, deeper ways of thinking, and more intuitive ways of experiencing ourselves and the world around us, in order to be considered full, ‘rational’ individuals. It’s a form of madness, I think – cutting off a very ancient, nourishing, and protective part of the psyche. We need to find stories that allow us to reconnect with who we really are as a species. I think faerie stories do have the capacity to do this.

 

I certainly think you are right on that point!

The book is set at an important liminal moment in British history – revolutions in the worlds of medical science and industrial technology are bringing a ‘great awakening’ of so called rational thought, but at that same time, aspects of the collective consciousness seem still to be slumbering in the ‘dream world’ of spiritual / magical understanding and superstition. Did you deliberately choose this time period as one that would reflect the turmoil within Tristan and some of the other key characters?

 

Absolutely. The period stands exactly on the cusp of the modern world – and Tristan, in particular, is a character who represents – even embodies – the confusing contradictions inherent in that historical moment. 

 

The character Katherine Montague uses the story of Raw Head And Bloody Bones to communicate and cope with her traumatic life experiences and Tristan uses it to understand and make sense of his own fragmented reality… do you think that, to some degree, we are all prone to using the language of faerie / magic to feel secure and form an understanding of our often confusing or frightening world?

 

I think there is a human tendency to perceive the world through stories – and as I said above, I think that, right now, we need better ones than we currently have. It is a form of magical thinking, in a way – constructing one’s own reality through images, words and ideas. But we don’t all draw on the language of faerie to do this: we all construct our own stories out of whatever conceptual material we have to hand. In Katherine’s case, this happens to be the language of faerie tales: the abused girl, the wicked mother, the stolen child, etc are all common tropes in the folk-awareness of her time. A modern character in her situation would most probably use different stories to try to make some sense out of the dreadful things that have happened to her, and around her. But a modern character would hopefully have more psychological support… Katherine literally can’t speak about what she has gone through unless she displaces it onto a faerie tale – which both enacts and subverts another faerie trope, the magical silence. For her, magical thinking really is a survival mechanism.

For Tristan the situation’s slightly different, because the whole thing goes so much farther – for him, the worlds of faerie, story and rationality collide in a way that is quite traumatic in itself. He may be using the story, but there is also a sense in which he is also being used – and abused – by it. 

 

While this ‘magical toolkit’ for understanding the world may be useful to the individual utilising it, it can lead to fear, suspicion and ultimately persecution of individuals who are seen as liminal themselves – the ‘outsiders’ if you will, whose lifestyle or beliefs set them apart as ‘abnormal’ can’t it?

 

We still don’t live in a particularly tolerant society – even though in many ways it is, of course, much more accepting than it was in Tristan’s time. But it’s true that standing out from the crowd in ways that the crowd don’t understand, or even fear can bring about terrible persecution – I’m thinking of Sophie Lancaster’s murder here, but there are other examples.

When it comes to holding a magical or otherwise ‘fringe’ understanding of the world in some way, I have found that intolerance has tended to manifest as ridicule, rather than fear or violence. I am a panpsychist, for example (a highly unusual position here, but actually one that was most likely the norm throughout most of human pre-history, and which is still common in certain non-westernised societies), and most educated Westerners simply cannot grasp the principles behind it. So they mischaracterise and then dismiss it. The author Emma Restall Orr went through exactly this experience years ago on BBC Radio 4 with Michael Gove. She responded by writing The Wakeful World, which is a fairly decent introduction to the concept, I think. 

 

Viviane, for example, is a character whose ‘otherness’ allows Tristan to see her as quite unreal and therefore excuse and ‘explain’ his misconduct towards her using the framework of faerie mythology. This use of faerie / magical lore against women (and often, as you highlight marvellously in the book, against Rromani women) is a very real phenomenon isn’t it?

 

It was very much a problem in the 18thC, where it did become, in addition to other things, a cloak for racism against the Romani (not that the concepts of racism, or even sexism, existed then). It’s less obvious now, and here, of course – that’s thanks to the Enlightenment convincing the populace that magic is not real – but it still endures verbally in slurs – “Witch” etc – and in cultural assumptions about the overwhelming sexual allure of women’s bodies. “She put a spell on me, your honour” isn’t really that far from “she was wearing a short skirt,” in my estimation. Both rely on the belief that a female body – a woman in a body – somehow exudes some sort of mystical aura that overcomes a man’s ability to control himself, and provides him with the excuse to, as you say, explain away his misconduct.

 

But Tristan isn’t deliberately demonising Viviane in order to take advantage of her, is he? He is genuinely grasping at the threads of, what for him is, a confusing multilayered reality and this manifests to those around him as a form of madness – demonising him, in turn.

 

Yes, Tristan is completely oblivious to the cultural programming that’s going on beneath the surface; and he’s certainly not demonising Viviane on purpose. As far as he becomes concerned, she is wholly the Faerie woman of his dreams and nightmares – if she ever had a real, human self, he can’t acknowledge that.

 

Again, the demonization of those ‘outsiders’ who come to be labelled ‘mad’ is something that has always been a frighteningly real occurrence hasn’t it?

 

Yes, it has – and it is still going on today. When I was writing Tristan I was very conscious of the stereotyping that leads to people with severe schizophrenia, or similar disorders, becoming objects of fear. People have been taught to expect the mad to behave like monsters. It’s dehumanising – demonising. if you like. it’s also statistically untrue.

 

Perhaps especially unsettling is the fact that what is termed ‘madness’ to one particular culture or at one point in history, can later come to be understood as a natural phenomenon  – the hormonal surges of menstruating or pregnant women, for example, and those whose sexuality is anything other than heterosexual…

 

Absolutely – the boundaries of what is considered ‘sanity’ are shifting all the time. I really do believe that in a couple of hundred years – assuming any humans are still left by then – a lot of the beliefs and habits we hold to now will be seen as dangerously crazy. I don’t, of course, know which ones these will be. I have my hopes, but I don’t see history as  an inevitable march of “progress”, either technologically or culturally, so it may be that some very dark definitions of sanity/insanity will come to dominate. Hopefully we won’t go back to a time when women were locked up for being disobedient, but it could happen.

 

 

I suppose it all comes down to who has the cultural upper hand at the end of the day? Here in Ire, for example, a person is considered dangerous and ‘mad’ if they crave a cup of tea or a slice of cake!

 

Now, you see, I think anyone who doesn’t drink tea or like cake must be completely crazy.

 

Power is certainly a theme that you explore rigorously in the book isn’t it? – The power we may have over the people, animals and natural world around us, the power others may have over us and that which we have over ourselves, our actions and our perceptions…

 

Yes, it’s one of the major themes of the novel. It’s connected with the idea of disconnection and displacement – that the less integrated we are as beings with each other and the natural world, the more our relationships become aligned along power lines: power over, rather than power with. Katherine’s and Tristan’s relationship is really an example of mutual power in flux, rather than power over, on either side, although it may not look like that superficially. The dynamic between them is nothing like, for instance, Jane and Barnaby’s marriage, or the sibling relationship between Tristan’s father and his sister.

 

The power that women have over their own bodies is something that you explore in a number of ways through the different female characters in the story, is this something you feel strongly about?

 

I’m very passionate, actually, about the right of a woman to inhabit and control her own body. It is still a shocking truth of our society that women aren’t always accorded physical autonomy – look at the abortion debate, for example.

 

Looking at the #metoo phenomenon in your own dimension recently, it seems as though we are still very much in need of stories which explore this issue?

 

Very much so. We need, as a culture, to reclaim and then rewrite the ballad of the Elf Knight. I think we actually are trying to do something like that, in this historical moment, at least. I was delighted to read that in the latest production of Carmen, in Italy, Carmen shoots Don Jose, not the other way round – and there’s also that new prize for Crime Fiction that doesn’t focus on dead female bodies. There are other stories that can be told. When I started writing RH&BB, several of my early readers imagined Tristan was going to kill Katherine. Er, hardly! But that tells me how deeply embedded some of these unhealthy cultural assumptions about what love is, and what women can and should expect from men who love them, actually are. I was writing against those expectations then, and I will continue to write against them.

 

 

Such important subjects but oh my goodness! I do ramble on don’t I? I must apologise, the kettle has long been singing at us and I haven’t offered you a cup of tea! What is your poison, dear, and how do you take it?

 

Builders’, soya milk, no sugar. Thanks!

 

Here you are. Now then, moving away from The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones for a moment, what can you tell me about your own involvement in the world of faerie and the enigmatic character of Lord Crow?

 

That’s an interesting question. Of course, being bound by the laws of Faerie, I can’t tell you very much! But I suppose in one way Lord Crow is an idea; in another he’s a being-in-himself. I want to explore the possibility of writing from the point of view of the non-human, and he is my voice and my persona when I do that. I guess there are similarities here with the faerie co-walker, who is a figure I’ve come across occasionally in various modern “guide to faerie” books – though to be honest, I don’t tend to read those sorts of books. The older stories speak to me much more clearly – and also, there’s a tendancy in more modern writings to try to group faeries into species, or even races – which is a hangover from the Victorian obsession with scientific classification. The faeries I know – so to speak – would wet themselves at the thought that any human being should be able to classify them into any sorts of types – especially along such spurious lines as ‘light’ and ‘dark’. They would also probably explode at the notion that they should show any real interest in helping human beings. Faeries are wild. Humans, on the whole, are not. Faerie, as I understand it – in a modern sense, moving away from some of the ways it has been perceived historically as a concept, place, or whatever – has its essence in the flow of energy through complex systems – it can’t be fixed into any stable form. The best way I have found to get to know it is to get to know the natural world, and really fall in love with that – truly, madly, deeply, without reservation, fear, or any desire for power-over it.

I think Lord Crow is quite unlike me, personality wise, though other people disagree. He’s wilder, darker, cleverer, less forgiving, and much less patient. Given the current state of our relationship to the natural world, I don’t find this in any way surprising.

 

‘Re-wilding’ is an important concept that is, happily, growing in popularity as regards our physical relationship with the land isn’t it?

 

Yes; it’s a wonderful development, but it has a long way to go. I’m hoping that it represents the beginning of a tectonic shift in the terms of that relationship towards integration and respect and away from exploitation and power-over. It’s great that people here are slowly becoming accepting of the idea that we should live alongside beavers and – to an extent – wild boar, but I also want to see lynx in every suitable habitat across the UK, and I think some research should be done into reintroducing the wolf in Scotland, to balance the red deer population and give the Caledonian forest regrowth a fighting chance. (And besides: wolves! Wow!) Just as importantly, I want to see a new ‘wilding’ of cities. Bath, where I live, is an ideal habitat for peregrine falcons, because of the many urban pigeons. It’s also a breeding site for herring gulls, which are now in serious decline. People love the peregrines and loathe the gulls. I want to see the gulls welcomed alongside the more charismatic falcons. Urban foxes, too. For one thing, more foxes can mean fewer urban rats; and it’s not so hard for the city to provide fox and gull-proof bins. For another, there’s a moral case, I think, for opening up cities to creatures that can safely live alongside us.

Humans are a bloody invasive species. They need to learn to share.

That’s Lord Crow, now, interrupting. I knew once he heard the conversation he’d be unable to resist joining in with it.

And a very warm welcome to you Sir!

Space-invaders! Manspreaders!

All right, Crow.

 

Do you think that it also concerns our spiritual or psychological relationship with the land as well?

 

I don’t think one is achievable without the other. If we don’t change our overall attitude toward the land, then we will never effect meaningful changes in our behaviour. This whole “man must overcome nature” narrative has got to change.

 

Or it will be changed.

Is that a warning, Crow?

Just an observation.

 

 

Well thank you so much, both of you, for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Jack, it’s been wonderful to chat with you!

I know you are probably eager to be off and explore our wonderful Lancastrian Frost Fair that is just coming to an end at the moment but, before we start dishing up this wonderful-smelling soup, would you like to tell us about any of your current projects and where we can find more of your marvellous work?

 

I’ve got several projects on the go at the moment. I’m working on something with Lord Crow, of course, but obviously I can’t say too much about that, especially now he’s sitting in the kitchen with us. Faerie law. We’ll see what develops. I’ve also finished my second novel, which is currently looking for a publisher. I’m actually quite strongly drawn to the idea of putting it out via Unbound, as I like the idea of having full editorial control over my own work, and Unbound looks like exactly the sort of model I think both writers and readers want and need – grassroots, down to earth, writer and reader-centred publishing, which doesn’t have to pander to the rather limited tastes of the big London houses. But again, we’ll see what happens. Watch this space!

 

We certainly will! And I hope that you will come back and talk to us about your marvellous work again soon. Well now, I must say that soup really does smell delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins are starting to get fidgety so shall we start serving it up?

 

It’s been lovely to visit! Thank you for the conversation, tea and cake!

 

And thankyou to you all for joining us in the soup kitchen today! If you would like to read more of Jack’s wonderful works and keep up to date with his new releases, do visit his website and blog at: https://jackwolfauthor.wordpress.com/

 

 

 


Morning Cuppa: The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody bones

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, we ask that you be gentle with us this morning, no raised voices or glaring candle light please, we are very much sore-headed and delicate after a long weekend of carnival capers and masked-up mayhem and now want nothing more than to curl our aching tentacles around a marvellous piece of fiction and a steaming mug of tea…

 

The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones is one of our favourite books ever in the history of books. It is a love story of the most unique, raw and daring kind and at the same time it is an extremely dark fairy tale with all the exploration of psyche and self that hallmark a classic work of Gothic fiction. As a historical novel it explores the boundaries of class, affluence, education, mental health, culture, sexual and perceived moral behaviour to admirable depth making it a graphic, challenging and breathtaking read that will not suit everyone’s taste. This is not a book for the faint hearted but it is heart breaking and absorbing and utterly, utterly wonderful with characters who leave us weeping every time we step back into these dark and beautiful pages.

Tristan Hart is obsessed with understanding and preventing pain, at the same time he is addicted, enthralled and excited by it.

Nathaniel Ravenscroft is delightfully delinquent, exciting and enigmatic and everything that Tristan would like to be. Possibly. Or possess. But something isn’t quite right, there is a darkness lurking around that demonic smile, a secret or two that no one wants to talk about and when Nathaniel vanishes, does the key to his whereabouts lie in this world, or in the realm of fairies, daemons and an ancient half-remembered myth?

Katherine Montague is a troubled soul, beautiful and fragile, in need of Tristan perhaps as much as he is need of her… but is their love tonic or poison? Is their mutual obsession the key that will eventually help them both to find themselves, or is it a perversion that will eventually be their downfall?

An intensely compassionate, emotional and tormented soul, Tristan sees beauty where others see the grotesque and his days are a tense and brittle ice-path between the relationships of his physical world and the strange-woven mythology that inhabits the hearts and minds and landscapes that surround him. Who is this Raw Head? Who is Bloody Bones? Who, really, is Nathaniel Ravenscroft? Who is the monster and who the redeeming angel?

We wish you a perfectly restorative afternoon and swear we will be on better form to guide you around the frost fair tomorrow so, until then, please be always

Utterly Yourself.

 


Elevenses: Alternative Advent

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Well, it seems the Dustcats of Hopeless Maine are taking over our little parlour for the festive season in some strange steampunk parody of your earthly tradition of ‘Advent’ . Having put them sternly to bed on the mantle piece again last night we found them this morning in a state of spoons… with yet another odd note…

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Morning Cuppa: Wizmas is here again!

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to Max and Collin’s Wonderfully Wizard parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True, perhaps, some have called it a house of ill manners, ill repute and illicit tiffin, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning in something of a panic-fuelled frenzy.

Wiz being the usual, run of the mill egomaniacal dictator that he he is, has decreed that for  at least six weeks of the year every New World citizen must drop what they are doing and spend every waking moment celebrating his rise to power and general magnificence.

And of course being the paranoid loon that he is, the date that this ‘Wizmas’ is to be celebrated changes every year, nobody knows when it will strike or who exactly decides on the date but Wizmas cards and wrapping paper will suddenly appear in shops over night and then the mad rush to buy presents and arrange parties will begin because if The Good Folk or The Watchers catch anyone displaying a ‘Lack Of Wizmas Cheer’ …well…

So, as we’re both rather fond of our necks, we will, over the next few weeks, be celebrating Wizmas with all the flamboyant flare that only an octopus and his Very Quiet Gentleman Friend can muster. So, if the Turkeys and Nativity Plays, the Tinsel and the Wassailing of your own world is driving you insane, you can rest assured that The Parlour will remain, throughout December, a veritable haven of sanity.

Hm? Oh, Max says ‘There is a phrase that is not likely to be heard again.’

Here you will find only witch hunting, spoon duelling, spurtle wielding, soup reading and other New World shenanigans as we attempt to push subversion, parody and insubordination to the limit…without being arrested and hanged.

But before we begin rampaging about wrapping eachother in foil and wotnot, we must take a moment to introduce you all to a couple of pests…er…I mean PETS who have appeared in the parlour yesterday afternoon. They are Dust Cats, usually residents of our favourite gothical island Hopeless Maine and we are at quite a loss to know exactly how they got here, however we put them quietly to bed on the mantle piece last night and in the morning we woke to find they had created absolute havoc with the tea and left us a rather sinister note…

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Hm, we are going to be keeping an eye on these little chaps over the festive season and any further shenanigans will be posted here!

And Now we really ought to start this holiday thing in ernest and that means a cup of tea (if we have any left!) and a fabulous list of splendid Steampunk books to keep you glued to the chaise throughout December…

Selkie Cove – Kara Jorgensen

The Illusioneer – Karen J Carlisle

A Study In Temperence – Ichabod Temperence

Gifts – Margaret McGaffey Fisk

The Dandelion Farmer – Mathew McCall

Legacy  – Michelle Lowe

Legacy The Reunion – Michelle Lowe

Heart Of Brass – Felicity Banks

Silver And Stone – Felicity Banks

The Antics Of Evangeline Vol 1 – Madeleine D’Este

The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones – Jack Wolf

The Befuddlement Of Flash Mahogony – Tim and Kathy Hunt 

Strax And The Widow – Victoria L Szulc

Red Dog Conspiracy – Patricia Loofbourrow

And our tea this morning is something rather special and splendid – gunpowder and ginger from We Are Tea

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This smokey, spicy blend reminds us of our recent adventures in The Temple of Heaven and how lucky we are to have survived all that and be safe and snug here in our lovely cozy parlour…hm? …. oh, sorry, Max says ‘Don’t go too far old man’ … was I going too far? Well…

As I am apparently being censored this morning, there seems nothing left to do except consult our oracular cephalopterois (who has been notably quiet these last few weeks – probably the move has unsettled it) and see if it has any Wizmas cheer for us this morning…

 

Thankyou Mr Colin Furze. Ah, how enlightening! So that is how you do this ‘Christmas Dinner’ thing in your dimension? Well it puts our hum drum Wizmas Salmon to shame indeed.

And on that slightly warped note, we had better pour a nerve-settling brew, kick our tentacles up on the table and not lift a finger to clean up the dust in case we upset our dear little guests.

We wish you an utterly splendid morning, filled with tranquillity and calm, only dust if you absolutely must! And we invite you back to join us tomorrow for elevenses so, until then,

please be always, Utterly Yourself

 


Morning Cuppa: Punk fiction, Poe and Cake (is there more to life?)

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s pristinely punked-up and ruthlessly rebellious parlour located somewhere  near the grumbling appendix of that splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.

True some have postulated that we are an inconvenient truth which our landlord has sought to bury in his darkest and most inhospitable dungeon, but we consider that any below ground level abode is vastly preferable to one with windows in a city that is overrun by flesh eating birds. In short, we couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. ish.

You find us immensely apologetic that we have not been ‘at home’ the last few days – we honestly swear that we have been up to a lot of very good things and Penny will tell you about them shortly but for now all we can do is humbly offer an appeasing teapot overflowing with splendid keemun xiang luo, an epicly proportioned slice of sticky ginger cake, and two excellent books…

The first of which is….

 

 

 

This book came into our hands via the eminent procurer of curiosities via the historical Suffolk ‘free trading’ system – steampunk author Nils Nisse Visser , and fans of his excellent book ‘Amster Damned’ will be happy to see another splendid smuggler’s tale ‘The Rottingdean Rhyme’ featuring the series’ central character Alice Kittyhawk (as her much younger and frankly adorable self).

The collection is a gleaming treasure trove of subversive, twisted, re-imagined  and perfectly punked-up versions of classic tales from a wide variety of genres and time periods;

Our personal favourite was ‘A Connecticut Rigger In Kings Court’ not only because we are utterly besotted with anything to do with Ada Lovelace but because it was challenging and heartbreaking and had that exquisite but very subtle  tension between beauty and abomination that pervades all good Gothic tales, but presented in a refreshingly original way.

We also loved The Red Headed Mob by Anthony Stark which, although not quite as ‘punk’ as some of the other tales, was a strong, well written and altogether utterly enjoyable tale that set Holmes and Watson amid the political and social tension of the 1980s.

There really is something for everyone in here from ‘Aurelia Awakes’ by Andrea Hintz giving  Pinocchio a delightful Steampunk make-over to ‘Of Folly And Fallibility’ by Amber Cook who skillfully manganese to take Jane Austin to ‘new heights’… “If an ordinary woman is to become a heroine, she cannot allow the unremarkable state of her life to prevent it. She must and will do something, anything, to throw adventure her way…” Or from Rachel A Brune’s ‘Bea Wolf’ to Jeffery Cook and Katherine Perkins’ ‘Consolidated Scrooge’ and plenty more besides but we won’t list them all – you need to have a peek at this chocolate box for yourselves…

 

Our second book this morning is also from Writerpunk Press and (only because of our obsessive compulsive penchant for punking Poe) was our favourite of the two and longstanding followers will remember we did feature it in our Poevember month last year – but it’s such a fantastic collection we’re sure you won’t mind us singing its praises once again…

 

Here in the parlour we have read lots of Poe, we have punked lots of Poe, we have read lots of attempts at punking Poe and we therefore, rather egotistically, consider ourselves to be quite the connoisseurs of the genre. So when we say that “this collection of short stories is a splendid spectrum of Gothic gorgeousness that takes a hearty cross section of the Poevian gamut, distils each essence into scintillating glass vials and then creates a series of new and wonderful word-creatures in which the marrow of Poe lives on” you can take us at our word.

The  macabre, the melancholy and the madness that we all expect from Poe are here in abundance but the ‘punk’ aspect is very skillfully executed throughout to give a collection that is inventive, refreshing, exciting and unpredictable. Steampunk seems to marry well with Poe for obvious reasons but we hadn’t anticipated how well his themes would be translated here  into Cyber, Bio and Diesel as well.

Sandwiched between two vibrant and  enthralling versions of The Fall of The House Of Usher, we have another gem from the world of Alice Kittyhawk ‘The Oval Skyroom’ , the beautiful ‘To Helen’, the sinister ‘Envy Of Angels’ and ‘Silence, Stillness, Night’ , the pure insanity of ‘Ticker’  and so very many more treasures that we often find ourselves dipping into on a rainy afternoon or long skyrail journey. This is an indispensable addition to the library of punk and Poe fans alike.

And now the teapot is empty and we are quite breathless from all this talk so I hope you will excuse us as we retire for a little snooze? We wish you a devilishly delightful afternoon and until we see you again, please be always

Utterly Yourself

 

A Post Script From Penny – I’ve started using the ’embed’ version of sharing amazon titles because it’s easier and quicker than authors having to send me cover files and also hopefully easier to find the book if you want to sample or buy it. I haven’t signed up to the affiliate amazon programme though, if I ever do I will make that clear in the posts. If anyone would strongly prefer me to go back to the old method of posting just the cover file and links let me know 🙂