Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “history

Frost Fair: Collin’s Memoirs part 5…

Thankyou, friends, for joining me this morning on board the Harlequin Ladybird, do pull up a cat.. er, sorry, I mean a cushion… and make yourselves comfortable as I, Collin The Octopus, read to you all from my marvellous journal of extremely exciting adventures… a-hem…

February 1824…

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s delicately dazzling and glamorously glitzy parlour located within the fantabulously frost spangled city of Lancaster!
True there are those who will say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us this morning enjoying what may well be the last week of the frost fair as our Oracular Pet has assured us that the ice will begin to melt over the weekend and the Barge Folk will be able to get their craft dislodged soon afterward.
People are beginning to carve things into the ice now – at first it was just the odd name or profane comment – “Victoria was ‘ere” and the like –  but now the whole river resembles the Cameo Libris in the Burlington Arcade and it seems every drunk and lunatic is determined to leave his mark…

“Whereas you J .  FROST have by force and violence
Taken possession of the RIVER
I hereby give you notice to quit Immediately
A . THAW”

“Behold the Power of WIZ! Which locks,
In close Confinement, under pond’rous Rocks
Of dreadful Ice and Snow, our famous RIVER;
Whose matchless Glory doth the world make shiver!”

Even the stall vendors have taken to the sport, ‘pitting their limited wits against the noble tongue’ as Max put it …. here are some of the worst we have read….

To the Print-house go,
Where men the art of Printing soon do know,
Where for a Teaster, you may have your name
Printed, hereafter for to show the same:
And sure, in former Ages, ne’er ‘was found
A Press to print where men so oft were droun’d!

Behold the liquid RIVER now frozen o’er
That lately SHIPS of mighty burden bore.
Here you PRINT your name tho’ cannot write
‘Cause numbe’d with cold: ‘Tis done with great delight.
And lay it by: That AGES yet to come
May see what THINGS upon the ICE were done.

Kind master, drink you beer, or ale or brandy?
Walk in, kind sir, this booth is the chief,
We’ll entertain you with a slice of beef,
And what you please to eat or drink, ‘tis here,
No booth, like mine, affords such dainty cheer;
Another crys, Here master, they but scoff ye,
Here is a dish of famous new made coffee.
And some do say a giddy senseless ass
May on the LUNE be furnished with a lass.

I was sincerely hoping that Max would join me in setting our sights a little higher and agree to stop and watch the Parlour Poets in their ‘Sparring Salon’ but he suddenly became uncharacteristically Quiet, mumbled something about dogs, and has now skulked back to the parlour claiming a sudden urge for a cup of tea.

As I am still wheelchair-bound I had absolutely no say in the matter and so here we are, feeling a little perplexed and out of breath (it is no fun being rattled along the cobbled streets at speed in a bone shaker like that I can tell you), but with an excellent tea on the brew.

 

Yes indeed those amateur ice graffiti ‘artists’ left a lot to be desired – and along with the roasted Ox and the rampaging elephant I feel they were at least partly responsible for what happened next… but I will leave that until the next time you visit and instead leave you with this marvellous video of someone doing something FAR more worthy and impressive with the medium of ice…


Frost Fair: Collin’s Memoirs part 4…

Thankyou, friends, for joining me this morning on board the Harlequin Ladybird, do pull up a cat.. er, sorry, I mean a cushion… and make yourselves comfortable as I, Collin The Octopus, read to you all from my marvellous journal of extremely exciting adventures… a-hem…
February 1824…
Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome once again to Max and Collin’s splendidly Siberian – themed parlour located within the spectacularly frosted-over city of Lancaster.
True, some have called it a frigid flophouse belonging to chilling individuals whom you would not wish to meet down a dark alley, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find me this afternoon feeling a little foolish, a little sorry for myself and a little disappointed that ice skating isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Certainly ice skating with tentacles is not a thing I shall ever be attempting again. I’m afraid I got a little over excited at the Street Pageant … the Masala Chai punch…you know…
So here I lie, my tentacles in splints, attempting to suck chips of frozen tea through a straw while Max reads to me and the cats do their best to irritate me to distraction. Mrs B has kindly made up some foul smelling brown goo to rub into my wounds but it does nothing for my pride, I’m afraid; I am a fallen creature indeed….oh do shut up Max I am in no fit state to suffer your dubious wit.
Fortunately our soothing tea this morning is a beautiful and gentle blend of Sencha with sea buckthorn, spearmint and lemon verbena which reminds me of my ocean home and a lesson learned that not all forms of water provide an octopus with his element!
Still we did manage to take something of a stroll around the fair this morning.
I say stroll, which implies a leisurely pace, but my Very Quiet Gentleman Friend was doing an embarrassing amount of huffing and puffing and gasping for breath which was quite off putting I can tell you and leads me, once again, to question exactly what constitutes ‘Very Quiet’ in the realm above the waves.
I say stroll, but perhaps that is a misnomer for the exercise as in fact my tentacles were, as I said, all in splints from the ice skating affair and so Mrs B kindly rustled up an old wheelchair from somewhere and we strapped a couple of floor board planks to the wheels so that Max could push me through the snowy cobbled streets and over the icy river with ease.
Oh the joy! I cannot tell you how immeasurably more enjoyable it is to experience a winter’s walk from the cozy comfort of an armchair…there were fire eaters and jugglers, oh my goodness they even had an elephant! I’m amazed the ice does not crack! Mind you, they were roasting spit an ox with impunity over near the centre and I am certain it is going to lead to disaster.
There were so many things for sale, most of which are double the price one would expect to pay for them because they have the word ‘souvenir’ and a date scratched onto them. Luckily Max is a bit of a Finger Smith and we managed to procure some excellent spiced buns and treacle toffee before slipping away into one of the ‘fuddling tents’. These are made of the barge sails propped up haphazardly with poles and inside you will find some of the most lethal chai-cocktails to be mixed this side of a Tiffin Den.
We sampled ‘Purl’ (a steaming black brew made with lapsang and wormwood) which the vendor told us would have a man gibbering for days, and ‘The Spiky Mother’ (A pungent Assam with chilli and dark chocolate) which had apparently already hospitalised a crowd of eight, but we must be candid and say that, even after four or five cups of each, Max still had the wherewithal to hot foot it out of the tent and away before the angry vendor could catch up with us an extract his payment.  (no mean feat pushing an octopus in a make-shift sled)
He almost cornered us but luckily Max employed a pocket full of escapological marbles (if you are naive to the uses of escapological marbles to thwart a pursuer just ask the nearest five year old) and we left him cursing in the gutter.
So here we are again, back in the parlour, and eager to tuck in to our sticky treats – once Max has got his breath back.

Ah yes, I still suffer a little with rheumatism in my tentacles after that terrible episode – nevermore! Is now my mantra when it comes to the ice skating, but I do so love watching you humans go about the business, all the same. So I’ll leave you with this lovely lady doing a far better job of it than I did and until we meet again, tread with care and remain always,
Utterly Yourself


Frost Fair: Collin’s Memoirs part 3…

Thankyou, friends, for joining me this morning on board the Harlequin Ladybird, do pull up a cat.. er, sorry, I mean a cushion… and make yourselves comfortable as I, Collin The Octopus, read to you all from my marvellous journal of extremely exciting adventures… a-hem…

February 1824

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen! You find us some what in haste this tea time as we are getting ourselves all dressed to impress and not just for larks or some nefarious landord’s scheme to make money, no, this time we actually do have somewhere swish to go!
Courtly Masques have been a traditional part of New Year celebrations here in The New World for centuries and the public version The Street Pageant is something that accompanies the Frost Fair here in Lancaster every year.

Some of the most outstanding lunatics, parlour-poets, tea fiends and self proclaimed ‘artists’, in the full intensity of their creative insanity, have devoted themselves to producing these Pageants (despite the earnest efforts of various New World Puritans to abolish them) and the infamous Garish Theatre producer Joyce Jameson recently proclaimed it to be “the highest art form in The Scattered Isles.”

To give the balance however we should  also quote journalist Pomona Squash of the Tiffindependent Newspaper whose scathing review of last years’ revels read:

“The entertainment went forward, and most of the presenters went backward, or fell down, wine did so occupy their upper chambers. The actress playing the Queen tripped over the steps of the throne, sending her gifts flying; Hope and Faith were too drunk to speak a word, while Peace, annoyed at finding her way to the throne blocked, made good use of her symbolic olive branches to slap anyone who was in her way” (click here to tut at our rampant quote theft)

So that is where we abscond to this evening, to paint the town of Lancaster (revolutionary) red and utterly get away with it because we shall be masked up and totally unrecognisable… we hope…
We wish you all an equally jubilant evening and we will let you know how we got on on Monday so, until then, please throw on a mask be whoever the Hull you wish (for one night at least!)

 

Hm, yes I remember those pageant nights getting somewhat out of hand… in fact (voices hushed please) perhaps this extract wasn’t such a good one to have been reading out loud at all – Max once spent some time in Lancaster Castle prison, rather beaten up and waiting to be hanged (whether or not they managed to hang him in the end I really couldn’t say, he has an annoying knack of defeating death which really makes me wonder if he isn’t some sort of demon afterall…)

Ah but I digress; the point is he had some sort of delirious vision while he was there about a Cheese Ball… or a Cheese Masque… or some such nonsense, (I believe some nefarious conspirator from the island of Hopeless, Mainementioning no names – slipped him a hairy coffee at visiting hour) and it would be well not to set him off on a blasted recital of the Mostly Awful Poem he wrote about the…

Sunken Hull Max! Are you trying to frighten the life out of us sneaking around like that? …. no nobody mentioned cheese, or Masques, or indeed anything of the kind and we certainly have not got time for… will you get down off the table… oh dear, it seems there is no dissuading the wretch, cover your ears or run good people – preserve your sanity!

 

HISTORY IS MADE AS MAX SPEAKS TO THE ROOM AT LARGE RATHER THAN JUST COLLIN FOR THE SECOND TIME IN PARLOUR HISTORY…

 

Friends, Tea Fiends, Revolutionaries, Poets, Painters, Hex Slingers, Technomancers, Goddess Worshippers, and Octopussies, I humbly (sort of  I mean, one can’t be too humble with a face like this -wink- ) present to you all …

“En Route To The Fromagian Ball”
(A Political Poem Of The Mor Irate Revolution By Eightcups Max)

As I waited for the Tyburn Tree
To spread its limbs and welcome me
To its embrace eternally
I dreamed I journeyed long, to thee
(To dance The Masque at Caerphilly)

I met Morbier on the way
He wore a masque of silver grey
Very smooth he looked, yet grim
And seven rats did follow him

Fat they were, and no surprise
For, despite his mournful sighs,
And as I feasted with my eyes
Yet they with sharp teeth took their prize.

Next came Roqufort and he had on,
All speckled with viridian,
A gown so tattered, holed and frayed
I wondered not he looked dismayed

“Can you sir, really, thus arrayed,
Be going to the masquerade
To dance at Caerphilly?”

And the little cats, who round his feet
Did lip and lap and even eat
The scroobius crumbs which from him fell
And each grew fat and fine and well

Clothed with Her Majesty’s revenues bright
Glittering gold through the grim twilight
Mild Camembert, smiling, sauntered by
And by her side, strode Manouri

And my heart sank to see the sly
Reflections in each gleaming eye
Of all the host that by me strayed
Towards the marvellous masquerade
To dance at Caerphilly.

A mighty troupe of cheeses round
And as they rolled they shook the ground
Waving each a blunt hooked knife
And in their wake came grief and strife

And yet with glorious triumph they
Rode through The Scattered Isles so gay
Drunk as with intoxication
Upon the wine of unfair taxation

Through Crumbia, past The Once Was Sea
Caroused the pageant, fat and free
Pounding flat and crushing down
Each village, hamlett, temple, town
Until they came to Caerphilly

And each guest of that monstrous ball
Did gasp and gape and stand in thrall
As tearing down their revelry
The fromagian host advanced with glee

And, to my horror, out there came
To meet the host and so to claim
Their glory, friends and family
All singing odes to Sbrinz and Brie

“Oh we have waited, hungering
For the mighty curd-coming”
And on their knees each one bent down
And for each cheese, proffered a crown

Then each took fork and knife and spoon
And there below the blood red moon
They rat-like, cat-like all did feast
And, eating so, became the beast

And wild, rapacious was the eye
Of every one who passed me by
Behind each masque that greeted me
As I came to Caerphilly
But as I felt myself besieged
By comrades now themselves in league
With lovers lost and rampant cheese
As gazing, lost, at all my foes
A vapour from my teacup rose

Faint and fragile as the dew
All silver grey the image grew
This Maiden, mailed, before me stood
With spork blade bright and shimmering hood

My Lady, Silverneedle, stands
Her teapot held in mighty hands
And above the roar of cheese
Her voice rings o’re the land and seas:

“Sions of Ire, scions of glory
Heroes of unwritten story
Suplings of one mighty pot
Rise and slice the Gordion knot”

“Rise like Silver Needle’s steam
Swift and to fulfil the dream
In the heart of every slave
The late of birth, the late in grave.
The dream of every treacle miner
No notion simpler or sublimer”

“Rise as one to take with might
The final bag of flour, white,
For you are many, they are few
And all they gorged was meant for you!”

With step as soft as wind she passed
O’re my head so swift and fast
And though I sought to find her there
Still all I saw was empty air.

But lingering in the morning grey
Some muse stirred in my memory
The scent of bergamots’ faint leaves
Which soothed my soul to thoughts of thee

As I waited for the Tyburn Tree
To spread its limbs and welcome me
To its embrace eternally
Still in my dream I danced with thee
(We danced The Masque at Caerphilly)


Frost Fair: Collin’s memoirs part 2…

Thankyou, friends, for joining me this morning on board the Harlequin Ladybird, do pull up a cat.. er, sorry, I mean a cushion… and make yourselves comfortable as I, Collin The Octopus, read to you all from my marvellous journal of extremely exciting adventures… a-hem…

February, 1823…

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s splendiferously sparkling and frostabulously frozen parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!

True, some have called it a frigid place of cold hearts and frosty welcomes but we consider that uch people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning, warming our tentacles beside an imaginary fire after an enterprising and entertaining morning at the fabulous frost fair which is being held on our beloved river Lune.

Our psychotic scarecrow landlord, Montmorency, woke us before dawn with the business end of his walking cane and demanded that we head out into the frozen darkness and not return until we had enough money to pay for this month’s rent. The fact that we only just paid for the last month seems to have escaped the rogue and so I perched upon Max’s shoulder and we set off towards the river.

There were already traders setting up stalls on the ice but none of them took favourably to our offers  of  assistance (it seems that Queen Vic’s recent  amendments to equality in employment law do not extend to an Octopus and a Tea Fiend) So we settled ourselves on the bank instead and watched the sun rise over the frosted spires of the sail barges which had collapsed crazily into the ice sheets and lay mired liked the skeletons of stranded beasts from some fantastical caffeine-fuelled nightmare.

Things picked up once the punters arrived. After some initial competition from a woman hawking root beer (For a Very Quite Gentleman, Max can be terribly clumsy when glass bottles are around) we managed to sell twenty bottles of lemonade (and drink many more) without being lynched by the barge folk for selling without paying the trading fees.

We decided that that was quite enough hard shirking for one morning and spent the rest of the time mooching around the stalls, watching the jugglers and fire eaters and, most impressively to me, the ice skaters. Having lived under the sea all my life, I never imagined this curious form entertainment and I am determined, soon, to beg, borrow or steal enough pairs of ice skates to attempt the thing myself.

Now here we are back in the parlour, our landlord briefly appeased, our cats greedily devouring the last of the skimmed milk ration, and all desperately in need of a reviving spot of elevenses and some soothing music to tap our tentacles to. Unfortunately our absconding butler has not seen fit to deliver the goods this morning (perhaps she thinks it’s a holiday? ‘Though what a werewolf would find to do at a frost fair we have no idea…) but not to worry because we managed to run into our lovely Mrs Baker on the way back and she has set us up with a packet of genuine Frost Fair Souvenir Gingerbread which, knowing Mrs B, will be crammed full of illegal sugar…mmm…

And, by happy chance, Max’s constant pocket companion ‘The Whole Duty Of A Woman (or an infalliable guide to the fair sex) – 1737’ (A birthday gift from a devoted family member I think) has an excellent recipe for … OWCH! …Well, really! You know, for a Very Quiet Gentleman, Max, you  can be excessively violent devoid of a sense of humour… do learn to take a joke, please!

I was going to say, before I was so rudely interrupted by a flying teapot, that this is a recipe for ginger bread biscuits, rather than the cake which we are enjoying now but it is nonetheless share-worthy, I think…

“To Make Gingerbread…

Take a pound and a half of London Treacle, two eggs beaten, half a pound of sugar, one ounce of ginger, beaten and sifted, of cloves, mace and nutmeg, all together, half an ounce beaten very fine, coriander seeds and caraway seeds of each half an ounce, Two punds of butter melted; mix all these together, with as much flour a will knead it into a pretty stiff paste, then roll it out and cut it into what Form you please; bake it in a Quick Oven on Tin-plates; A little time will bake it.”

 

 

Oh I do miss our dear Mrs Baker very much indeed! And yes, I’m sorry to say that Max is no less violent and humourless when it comes to ‘taking a joke’ these days as he was then… fortunately he has decided not to join us for these little readings, although I can’t think why he would deny himself such a pleasure, hedonism notoriously being his chief virtue…

If you are out on the ice today, do tread with care won’t you? Unless you have ice skates in which case throw yourself gracelessly with wild abandon! And until we meet again please, remain always

Utterly Yourself


January Book Review: Boston Metaphysical Society

Good morning! So, this is me taking over the review slots from Collin and Max … is it weird that I should feel inexplicably nervous about this? As though Collin is peering over my shoulder to make sure I get all my links in the right places and don’t get my tentacles in a twist over the spellchecker? (Perhaps not as he is in fact sitting in the armchair by the window contemplating the frost outside and hopefully not about to put his ice skates on again after the last fiasco.) If you are missing Max and Collin, they are still very much around and doing fun and you can catch up with them having that on Saturdays in our #rainbowsnippets posts. But for now you have me, hugging my mug of Lapsang in fingerless gloves to ward off the snow and bringing you our monthly book review…

 

 

Boston007 coverfinal2 [Recovered]

Boston Metaphysical Society is a  graphic novel series set in the late 1800’s in an alternate retro-futuristic America, where steam power has allowed rapid technological advancement along with rapid and, for some, alarming changes in the function of society. This socio-political upheaval and its affects on the collective consciousness have rent the fabric of time and space and a sinister creature has been able to pass through into this world.

Caitlin O’sullivan, Samuel Hunter and Granville Woods are The Boston Metaphysical Society and their individual expertise in science, detection and the spirit world must combine to destroy The Shifter once and for all.

This is a story which touched my heart in many ways. Firstly the illustrations (Emily Hu) are perfect; capturing the pace, emotion, mood and narrative perfectly in each scene and reminiscent of a combination of the weight and beauty of Sana Takeda and the vibrancy of Tim Yates in a style which enticed me before I had even read a word.

Secondly, the writing is exquisite and tight as tuned drumskin. The dialogue is an absolute joy to read at times, particularly the banter between Tesla, Houdini and the other members of the secret society B.E.T.H, and works in perfect harmony with the illustration to give a rich and  immersive experience for the reader.

And lastly I loved the characters – from the machinating big-names who I fell in and out of love with all over again (having had to wrench their souls laboriously from dry history books and dull documentaries over the course of many years, to see them here given life in alternate and vibrant form which both captured and questioned their lives, personalities, motives and aspirations was an exciting and exhilarating experience.) to the Boston Metaphysical Society characters with their rich, diverse and engaging personalities and their complex and intriguing back stories (more about which can be found by reading the prelude to this series) .

This is bold, unflinching storytelling at it’s best and sits at that raw, uncomfortable heart of the Steampunk genre where the lives of the privileged and the poor jarr together and their stories and histories vie for our attention. This is the curtain – as subtle and subliminal as it ought to be – which gives the backdrop for this graphic novel series. Madeleine Holly-Rosing has built a seductive world filled with the classic steampunk staples of alternate science, technology, history and magic and laced through with sharp wit and subtle warmth, but our storytellers come from every corner of late 1800’s society and this, for me, makes the series particularly enjoyable.

I am very much looking forward to reading the next books in the series ; The Scourge Of The Mechanical Man and A Storm Of Secrets and will be reviewing both over the next few months.

The complete series of Boston Metaphysical Society installments can be bought as one paperback with a ten page bonus story ‘Hunter-Killer ‘ here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Boston-Metaphysical-Society-Madeleine-Holly-Rosing/dp/0996429220/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1548232812&sr=1-2

 

Or kindle users can purchase the episodes separately in special editions  here:

 

I hope you are all able to enjoy, or at the very least survive, the cold snap and I hope you’re enjoying our Frost Fair guest posts as well which will be going on throughout the rest of January and February, we’ve had some fabulous contributions and if you’d like to take part there’s still just about time to send me something so drop me an email for full details.

Blessings on your brew, Penny 🙂


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 Bruadar malt whisky liqueur 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, stalking … I mean studying… the Hex Slingers of Lancaster, compiling an anthropological study of the lives of those who use magic illegally in the 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 THIRD:  by PENNY BLAKE

We wasn’t always called Jack and Marjory. But then again we didn’t always live in Lancaster. We didn’t always own these boots. We didn’t always work for Kitty Flynn.

Kitty’s coffee house, The Angel, is always full, always bustling, always respectable and everything above board.

They serve government standard issue coffee – the lifeblood of the workforce and the would-be well-to-do alike.

Chicory, acorn, dandelion … the great copper pots of brown liquid sit simmering in the seventeen fire places all day long and Kitty’s daughters run to and fro serving it out in pewter tumblers on silver trays.

The rules are framed in mahogany on the white washed wall: no foul language, no char-latin, no anti-royalist, anti-religious or anticlimactical notions, no games of chance, no business dealings, no magic.

Yes indeed, The Angel is a perfectly respectable place. It must be. The patrons run the great societal gamut from the lowliest mill worker, to dockers, street traders  and Sho’vani barge folk; from town Tinkers like The Time Keeper and The Spoon Smiths, to landlords like Montmorency and Clitheroe, even true aristocrats like Lord Ashton and Lady Grace and wizards like that so-called ‘Dr. Smith’…

The Angel is always full, never a spare room in the place. Kitty rents rooms alright but you’d be damned if you could ever get one. Very particular is Kitty Flynn about who she’ll let a room to and once she gets a tenant in, they tend to stay for a very long time.

We, certainly, intend to stay for a very long time.

Because once you’re in, like us, there’s only one way out – and it ain’t pretty. No, indeed, it really ain’t.

There are seventeen chimney’s in The Angel. Seventeen chimneys and each has an inglenook bookcase.

On a certain evening, at a certain time, after the doors are locked and barred and only a few select patrons are still at table – presumably having booked lodgings for the night and enjoying a late supper – Jack and Marjory might suddenly take into our heads the fancy of reading a particular book titled The Winchester Mystery which is located on the seventh shelf of the bookcase in the seventh chimney.

It is a favourite of almost every patron and tenant and no one  bats an eyelid as the whisper of well oiled cogs heralds the opening of a hidden door and we slip through, and down into an entirely different world below.

Here the air is tight, charged with electricity, close with the heat of many bodies and breaths and damp with sweat and mildew. Arachnid threads of green sphagnum and lichen trace along the limestone walls and arched tunnel ceilings and our footsteps echo among the cheers and jeers, shrieks of pain and laughter and flesh hitting stone.

There are rats down here, snails, reptiles, cats and dust but we don’t need them. When you work for Kitty Flynn, you keep things pure. Just the magic, that’s what Kitty wants. That’s what Kitty gets.

Kitty’s house is always full. All the tenants fight down here. It’s how we earn our keep, of course, and more than that as you can see ; no Hex Slingers in Lancaster are togged out finer than us who board at The Angel, well and truly minted is what we are because Kitty looks after her own…

But you knew that already, right? That’s why you came, that’s why you asked if there was a room and when we saw your hands, bandaged up in strips of kid leather to hide the scars and that high collar pulled up close under your chin, when we saw the hunted look in your blood shots eyes, we knew you’d fit right in…

 

 

 


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…


Soup of the day with Suna Dasi of Steampunk India

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 Suna Dasi of Steampunk India ! Good morning Suna, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, there is a weapons cache in the bread bin there by door if you’d like to leave your… what do you call that piece of dispachorial equipment, I have never seen anything like it!?
It’s my Aural Induction Oscillator, also known as the Earwig…and I shan’t need it while enjoying the hospitality of your kitchen! I’ll lean my pneumatic crossbow against the wall if that’s alright?
Of course! How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you were not waylaid by any skywaymen or land pirates en route?

Well, I was hoping you were receiving my ship’s dispatches, as I very much wished to arrive on time. Unfortunately we had some temporal flux issues – putting us about eight months off-course! – but we made it in the end. As far as pirates and other skyjackers are concerned, I’d like to see them try! My airship The DevaDasi is perfectly well equipped to deal with such situations and my pilot, Captain Gita Rohini is a force to be reckoned with.
Well you don’t look at all ruffled my dear, your outfit is amazing, did you make it yourself?
I wish I were skilled enough with my hands, but no. I’m a Pengineer, so I’m most at home in the inkwell, not the sewing kit….my saree was hand spun in Varanasi, the blouse custom fit to match. Only the embellishments are mine, which reminds me, I should have taken off the bandolier belt that holds my crossbow bolts, my apologies.
That’s quite alright! And have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?
No soup, I had hoped your orphans might be adventurous enough to try some South Indian kitchree? This is the original dish that Scottish kedgeree is a derivation off. So a base of fragrant stock with ginger, galangal, some chilli, turmeric and coriander, thickened with basmati rice, chopped carrots, chickpeas, okra and green beans. My own version; you’ll find many varieties and the ‘right way’ to make it in several regions of India. I have added crumbed eggs and dried caramelised onion flakes on top. I do hope it’s not too outlandish!
 

Oh what a splendid idea! Thankyou! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire and tell us what attracted you to Steampunk in the first place?

My passion existed before I discovered the word.
As a child I was fascinated by aspects of history like the Age of Sail, the history of global trade and the Age of Steam. I had a hankering for objects behaving like more than what they were designed for. I’ve always loved classic adventure novels (Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard, et al may be problematic to modern sensibilities but their books are also ripping adventure stories!), vintage sci-fi, Victorian poetry, weird fiction, mythology, folklore and pantheism. I’m hugely interested in applied sciences, neuroscience and robotics. I’ve never grown out of preferring costume-type clothing incorporated in daily attire and because of my heritage I was very focused on blending in Indian elements. Corsets combined with tweed trousers, riding boots, a sash and a jacket made of saree material and a turban, or better yet, a traditional Indian saree or salwar kameez suit with Steampunk accessories are so much more enjoyable than modern Western fashion! All these things and many more besides, seemed to suddenly fall into the same category called Steampunk, or aspects of my interests were used in the world-building of Steampunk fiction.
And have you found that your own cultural heritage has influenced your participation in the genre?

Absolutely. I am less active at events and cons, but if I do, my costumes are always based on Indian dress. Mostly, though, it expresses itself in writing and that is because I wasn’t reading characters I wished to see. 
When we read, we want an escape and an anchor at the same time. We want to escape into worlds beyond our own and we want a character we can anchor ourselves to, a way of sailing through the narrative.
Aside from a very few dusky damsels in distress or a few crudely drawn male martial sidekicks or stern warrior types, there was a dearth of actual Indian characters with developing stories. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’s Nemo is great because we follow him through the second half of his adult life, all the way to the very end; after he dies, his daughter takes the relay baton as the protagonist. It’s almost unheard of for a non-Western character to have such a narrative run in Steampunk.
On the other hand we have the fact that the Victorian Age transformed society and made it what is today; one of the biggest ingredients of that transformation was British rule in India.
It can perhaps be understood why I felt underrepresented within the genre once I started reading the fiction on offer. India during the British occupation is a prominent and influential chapter in history, a chapter that has a deep political and cultural resonance to this day. It is really quite odd to completely ignore it as a part of the Steampunk genre. What makes engaging in Steampunk so wonderful is the re-creation of an era in history in a different mould – an era that has the Empire running roughshod over other cultures. Why not make alternate history truly alternative? Instead of writhing in post-modernist angst about what is ‘correct’, which seems to be the going trend, we should grasp the creative nettle, as it were. It is fiction: the creativity that builds alternate history must be allowed to run unimpeded or the trap of self-censoring is a very real and dangerous one. And humour. Humour is so important!

I confess to very much enjoying your writing, would you mind telling the little urchins here a little about the wonderful Steampunk world you have created?
My India has seen the Mutiny come and go, but the outcome is very different indeed. India has essentially been split into three enormous regions and the British are more or less integrated in society, depending on the region.
For my stories I have taken certain things as read: though there are traditional elements to my alternate India, it is a given that women can study, work any kind of job, have sexual relationships with whomever they please, including other women, and lead independent lives to a reasonable degree. This is not a glorious, golden army of amazing accomplished saints, however; there are thieves, cowards, degenerates and murderers among them… They are people. I have moved certain elements from Victorian Britain to the Indian setting, such as children’s workhouses, though they may not be what they seem at first glance…Mostly, it is important to me to think through of what might be in such a society. The added mythological and slightly supernatural elements, which are sparse but present, are pure fun.
 
Empowerment of women is a strong theme running through your fiction isn’t it? Is that something you feel particularly passionate about?
It fuels everything. I work in the creative industries, I’ve done some acting for theatre and film and I currently earn my living as a singer. The glass ceiling for women within the creative disciplines is an ever present beast. I wish this wasn’t so and there is a massive sea change occurring as we speak, in the film industry, the music industry. In fiction, I contribute in my own way by writing women (and men) in reversed roles, unexpected situations in which their reactions aren’t restricted to classic, outdated heteronormative expectations of how men and women are. (I’d like to say that I’m pretty politically incorrect in all areas however; I may not satisfy. I am satisfying me.)
At the moment, I’m actually digressing from specifically Steampunk into speculative poetry and harder Sci-Fi, both excellent formats for expanding similar ideas and great vehicles for turning some classic tropes on their head. Similarly, I’m exploring ancient Indian myth and folklore for writing fiction. 

You have some wonderful, strong female characters, I particularly fell in love with the idea of the Temple Priestesses with their secret double lives, would you tell us a little more about them and how their creation come about?
It comes from the very popular and often loudly vocalised idea that all sex workers are always downtrodden doormats who had no choice and that there is no woman on the planet who would enjoy doing that kind of work. That no woman would make the autonomous choice to give the gift of sex to paying customers and actively enjoys it.
Yes, there are women who fall under this category, especially in impoverished countries. But nuance is vital. There is a history of sacred sexuality in many cultures, of ecstatic pagan worship involving orgiastic rituals and yes, of sacred prostitution as a lauded, accepted and valid path for a woman to pursue (cadres of historians and feminists serving a certain agenda will loudly naysay this, whatever I say or do) So I am writing about two strong willed, happy, sex positive, kick ass temple dancers, whose patron deity is Vajrayogini (an emanation of Chinnamasta, a left hand path Tantric goddess). They use everything in their considerable arsenal of feminine autonomous strength to solve crimes and political intrigues. The underlying reasons for them being who and what they are sound quite heavy, I know, but it will make for quite the adventure. 
No one is black and white in my universe, people are complex creatures, they have flaws and foibles and they make stupid choices when they’re emotional. No one is exempt. 
I am working on a short SciFi story that goes deeper into the morals and values that surround this topic, including certain strands of current sex-negative feminism.

Your writing takes the viewpoint of characters who are often looked over in society, those who come and go unnoticed but without whom 19th century society would have ground to a halt, was that a pre-meditated decision?
It was! It seems preposterous to me that worlds are built without those strata of society, especially as, when they are incorporated, it is usually in an antagonistic setting, or a classic ‘frowned upon romance across different societal layers’. Surely there can be more outside of those contexts! It’s a big part of any culture’s struggle away from restrictive caste systems, to this day many cultures only marry into families of their own social milieu and many cultures have class wars that are still ongoing – but there were far more ‘odd couple’ groups and pairings in history than recorded history lets on. In Science, in Music, in Romance….
I must say, we don’t see many Chimney Sweeps or Night Soil Men walking round Steampunk conventions do we? Do you think Steampunk would benefit from more diversity in it’s central characters, settings and themes?
I think Steampunk, like any genre or subculture, would benefit most from accepting that everyone has different ways of expressing their passion for said genre or subculture and make sure there is enough room, without being snotty or judgemental about somebody else’s enthusiasms.
With common sense and some self awareness, everyone should be able to enjoy their favourite genres. 
I understand that some Steampunks especially love the etiquette and sense of inherent poshness that goes with Victoriana, but I imagine they may conveniently forget that some of the most retentive politeness in Victorian society covered up some of the most hedonistic behaviour behind closed doors, the Victorian criminal underworld was something to behold and some of the most inventive smut ever written comes from the 1800s. I should know, I’ve read quite a bit of it.
And as Steampunk is about alternate worlds and universes, what a great opportunity to incorporate everything, bloomers out and all – including the peoples and cultures of all those wondrous, far flung continents that made up the Empire.
If I may deviate from Steampunk for a moment, I have just seen Deadpool 2 and straight up loved it. One of my favourite characters is Dopinder, the starry eyed cab driver who wants to be a superhero. I’ve heard from many different directions how he is seen as a problematic character.
I thought he was hilarious and everything relating to his race was pure, unalloyed, wicked irony, especially as (spoiler alert!) he actually pulls through in the end and gets his kill in.
If I listen to most of the indignant people, apparently I should be offended. I am Indian and I wasn’t. I’ve asked fellow Indian, Pakistani and Sikh people what they thought and they all without fail thought he was great. 
By the same token, there was a great outcry when the other Avengers ranted at Thor about how his brother attempted to level New York, to which Thor hastily responds: “He’s adopted”.
I was howling with mirth in my seat at that. I am also adopted. I was not offended in the least.
(I’m also very invested in the Marvelverse – I’ve been reading X-Men since I was 14 – so I will stop digressing or we’ll be here forever.)

You describe the Victorians as ‘dodgy’ my dear, which I confess did make me chuckle, do you think that, as Steampunks, we stand, at times, on slightly thin ice and have a duty to make sure that we challenge rather than glorify that ‘dodgyness’?
No, I think we should absolutely glorify the dodgyness! I think a lot of Steampunk is way too politically correct. Be the cads, scoundrels and perverts some of them were, openly and with pride. It’s the glorification of stilted manners and stuffiness that gets on my nerves. You can be a sophisticate and a thorough sexual hedonist, an autodidact scientist, mathematician and musician and a wheeler dealer in the London underground crime scene.
It’s what makes Gordon Dahlquist’s Glass Books of the Dream Eaters such an exquisite symphony of politics, science, intrigue, cultishness and sexual deviance. For me, those books are the perfect Steampunk; quite literary but not eschewing the underbelly of life and it still involves airships, steam-trains and afternoon tea. Just perfect. 

And what about challenging prejudice within the genre, that’s not always easy to tackle head-on is it?
The only prejudice that continuously gets my goat is ‘more Steampunk than thou’ attitudes. Everyone is here to have a good time, whether they wear a dress with clockwork print or a full suit of armour with actual working, ticking clockwork. MAKE ROOM. YOU’RE NOT LOSING ANYTHING. 
*cough* 
Apologies, I hope I didn’t startle you.
What would you say to those here today who might want to express their own culture and history through their Steampunk writing and costuming?
Do it. Be proud.
And what about those who might want to explore and express aspects of cultures that are not their own?
Do it. Be not an idiot about it.
Now then, 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?
Masala chai without sugar, please!

Ah, one of my favourites! There you are. Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, it’s been wonderful to chat with you! I know you are very busy at the moment, would you  like to point us to where we can find out about your current projects?

Please could I refer to my website and Twitter account for listed projects and some free fiction?
http://www.steampunkindia.com and http://www.twitter.com/SteampunkIndia

image1

Some of my work includes:

A Day in the Life or, What The Tiffin Saw, Steampunk fiction, February 2014, Brown Girl Magazine, USA

Those Dark Satanic Mills, Steampunk Novella for the Tales From the Archives anthologies, edited by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, May 2014

The Steampunk User’s Manual by Jeff VanderMeer & Desirina Boskovich, (nonfiction contribution), October 2014

The Tinku Diaries, Steam/Clockpunk fiction for The Clockwork Watch Transmedia Project & the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK, November 2014

UnMade, Steampunk LGBT romance for the Steampunk Writers Around the World anthology, Luna Press, August 2017

Internal Devices, Steampunk LGBT romance for the Steampunk Universe anthology, Alliteration Ink, January 2018

 

Marvellous! Well now, I must say that kitchree smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins are starting to get fidgety so shall we start dishing it up?

Let’s! I have been baking some roti’s and garlic naan to accompany the food and I have brought some jars of my homemade courgette chutney.
Splendid, thankyou so much all of you for joining us in the kitchen today – blessings on your brew my dears!


Elevenses: The Politics of Post-Brexit treacle

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, thankyou for joining us for elevenses this morning! Today you find us burning the candle at both ends. We have just returned from laying bets on a splendid spot of hex-slinging over at The Angel where we ran into a very dear friend of ours, Jack and Marjory, who used to work in the treacle mines over at Chobham (before we liberated them and the other orphans who had been enslaved there that is)

We should probably explain to any non-UK residents that, here in Britain, we mine our treacle out of the ground. This has been the case for centuries and  William Cobbet, recently visiting Crumbria in 1816, wrote:

“This place I found to be a fair and healthy place, the women and children well fed and happy. Most menfolk were at work upon the Land but that evening in the excellent Crown and Thorns Inn I was surpassingly surprised to see many men brown of hue. On enquiry I determined that these were miners of Treacle and what a jolly crew they turned out to be. That night I repaired to my bed thanking our maker that there was at least one happy parish in the land.”

 

You see, when rain water falls over Birch forests any residual sap on the sides of the tree trunks becomes dissolved in the rain water and is carried down under the ground. The rainwater seeps into the bedrock where it pools and eventually evaporates, leaving behind the black sticky birch sap , or treacle. Over thousands of years the treacle hardens into veins which can be mined out of the rock in the same way as coal. Occasionally, the pressure of large deposits  causes the rock to crack and the treacle to ooze, or sometimes rocket,  to the surface, in fact this is how the treacle hot spot in Chobham was discovered – much to the embarrassment of the courting couple who were caught in the explosion.

Treacle mining has, in the past, controversially employed boggarts to retrieve the ‘black gold’ (as we call it over here) but the government now ‘employs’  street children to do the dirty work as the boggarts, along with all other magical beings,  disappeared after the goddess was defeated.

Of course Max and I are communicating with you via the wonders of aether-technology from the year 1842 but Penny tells us that in fact the last known treacle mine in Britain closed in 2012, which begs the question…if you are still eating treacle, where is all your treacle coming from? Hm? Because if you are depending on the one and only European Treacle Mine in Bergues, you may find your post-Brexit  desserts have come to a sticky end.

The Bergues Treacle Mine was founded when Frittenden pit boss Harrold Gray was forced to close his mine after a plague-like  infestation of Fritts (small insects which live below ground and destroy the wheat crops of neighbouring farms). Gray decided to take a trip down to the cliffs at Dover and reflect on which direction his life now ought to take. Gazing out to see he happened to glance down and saw a gentleman of similar age standing perilously close to the cliff edge. Harry called out to warn the fellow but in doing so alarmed him and the young man slipped, falling into the waves below. Without thinking, Harry leapt after him and, clinging to eachother for dear life, the two were quickly swept out to sea. Fortunately they were picked up by a schooner running buns out of Calais but as the smugglers were on their return trip they could only agree to drop the two men in France. Stranded with no means of getting home, Harry and his new chum Herbert made their way by happenchance to Bergues where they discovered that the local forester, Majolica Luneville, had recently struck a treacle gyser and had no idea how to exploit the vein. Harry stepped in with his expertise and together the three treacleteers opened the first and only ever French Treacle Mine. Since all the British mines are now closed, we can only assume that all the world’s treacle now comes from there.

Still it is possible that the British monarchy have already forseen this problem and made the first move – The Prince Of Wales has apparently recently laid claim to the treacle mining rights in the Duchy of Cornwall, much to the anger of Talskiddy Treacle Mining Corporation.

Luke Bazeley, the mine boss at Talskiddy said  “Although it’s said that nothing will come of this, I think that as the current climate is cold as far as Talskiddy treacle’s market value is concerned, this worried some local employees.”

Talskiddy residents first heard about the claims in a letter sent to them by the Land Registry. It said the registration did not mean it had any intentions of mining the land but residents and workers are naturally concerned.

Mayor of St Columb David Swindells said: “The Duke of Cornwall is trying to claim the land and minerals of the people of Talskiddy, but this is a Mad Hatter idea. This isn’t Alice In Wonderland and if he continues, he might find himself in a sticky situation.”

A Cornwall Council spokesman said they would try “ to keep the local community sweet”

So there you have it, will there still be treacle after Britain leaves the EU? Will the crown seize the day and cash-in by re-opening  the mines of old Blighty? Or will treacle deposits be discovered elsewhere and instigate world war five? Who knows. In the meantime here are some interesting articles exploring the plight, decline and politics of the treacle industry in Britain , you know, in case you thought we were making it all up… oh ye of little faith…

 

Treacle Mines Of Britain: http://www.treacleminer.com

Treacle Tax: Dunchideok Mine Treacle Tax

Trevithick re-opnes – https://trevithick-society.org.uk/cornish-treacle-mine-re-open/

Miners convention: http://www.treacleminer.com/

Kent closures: http://www.treacleminer.com/

Saben mine closure: https://www.duedil.com/company/gb/02159301/sabden-treacle-mines-limited

 

Mrs Baker will be talking Steampunk India with Suna Dasi in her soup kitchen tomorrow and Peril flings wide the doors of his Lovely Library on Friday to bring you his latest piece of anthropological research – ‘Tales From Steampunk’d Lancaster Part 1: Tales Of The Hex Slingers’ . And of course Max and I will be back on Monday with some more excellent fiction and tea so, until then please remain always,

Utterly Yourself

 


Tea at Three: Mythpunk For Monsters

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, thankyou for joining us once again on the swelteringly sultry streets of Steampunk’d Lancaster as we attempt to sell bottles of illegal home brewed lemonade in a desperate bid to pay our rent.

At least that is our ruse for loitering on this street corner this morning, but shhh, step closer, we have something to show you…

Mahrime_Cover_for_Kindle

 

If you’ve been with us for some time you’ll probably be aware that our mistress, Penny, as well as leading a secret double life as an incorrigible octopus and his unnerving gentleman friend (that’s us by the way and we’re not sure we care for the description!) also writes short stories, poems and prose with a far less frivolous flavour in the Mythpunk genre.

If you weren’t aware, you can read some of them here for free: PENNY BLAKE ON VOCAL POETS 

Mahrime – Mythpunk For Monsters is a collection of  mischievously mutilated and punk’d-up folk tales heavily influenced by Penny’s Rromani cultural heritage. Each poem, story or prose piece explores the themes of identity, power and love by putting the monsters, the outsiders, the outcasts, the ‘unblessed’ right at the heart of the narrative.

It’s available now to pre-order on Kindle, free with Kindle Unlimited or 0.99 without and also in paperback if that’s what you prefer (the paperback is full colour with black pages, white text and beautiful white mandala art work by ArtsyBee and comes with a free Kindle copy)

“And what is Mythpunk?” we hear some of you ask…

Mythpunk can be as simple as taking a traditional tale and re-working it to produce something fresh, inspiring and new , or it can be a far more complex synthesising of cultural and mythological evolution; a deep exploration into the cultural psyche or an unflinching dissection of archaic archetypes. A lot of Steampunk involves some Mythpunking along the way and a lot of Mythpunk has a decidedly Steampunk flavour.

 

So, now that we know exactly what we’re letting ourselves in for , lets take a little sneak peek at just some of the things inside the cover…

Mahrime

mahrime quote

 

Mahrime means ritually unclean  / unblessed in Rromani language, it is akin to the word Unseelie in Celtic lore but it is applied to people. The title story in this collection draws heavily on the experiences and mythology of Rromani People and explores the historical out-casting of certain groups and types of people who are branded as ‘monsters’ because their existence is at odds with a dominant cultural or religious ideal. It also goes deeper to hint at the aspects of self which we choose to lock away because we believe them to be unlovable or unacceptable.

 

The Road Back Lost

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This Mythpunk’d version of The Company Of Wolves is a response to the ideal that we all have both an internal and external collective of wise guiding voices who can teach us our culture, our heritage, our purpose and our place in the world; these voices, intuitions, bodies of lore, family, elders, clan-folk etc are supposed to teach and guide us safely through the wild woods of life and all the dangers therein but what if we don’t have them? What if our family or culture or bodies of lore or even our parents and home have been lost to us? This is the situation for many people today as war and poverty tares children away from their families and cultural white-washing tares culture away from people and places it in the hands of the fashion industry. So what can we do? Try to go back? Try to move forward? Or stay and become the wolf?

 

DAMAO

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Damao means ‘to overcome’ ; the final piece of prose in this collection echoes the hopeful thought that is embedded throughout the book  – with solidarity and support for eachother we can overcome the problems inherent with being labelled ‘outcast’ or ‘monster’, we are not alone and we will endure.

 

So there you have it, Mythpunk for Monsters, we hope you enjoy it, and now I think we will just sit back on this soap box here and sample some of our own lemonade, this day is far too hot to be doing any work and my tentacles are wilting despite the negligee we borrowed from Nimue Brown and her Hopeless Sinners yesterday I think what I really need is a parasol…

Thankyou for joining us on the street corner today, hm? What’s that Max? You think YOU ought to write a book? Honestly, I really don’t think ANYONE is going to be interested in anything you have to say… well alright then I will ‘wait and see!’ … and who exactly do think will publish such an atrocity? Hm? …. oh you’ll ‘find a group of marvelous monsters as mad about tea and tentacles as you are’ will you? Well good luck with that my friend! I shan’t be holding my breath…

While we wait to see what, if anything, comes of Max’s new ambition, let me thank you once again for joining us today and for supporting our endeavors as always and whatever kind of monster you happen to be please, do remain always,

Utterly Yourself.