Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “interviews

Soup of the day: With Ceri Harper-Leigh and George Shorttail

ceriandgeorge

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 I am extremely honoured to welcome Admiral Ceri Harper-Leigh and George! Thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, me Dears! May I take your hats and coats? We may be over St Michael’s Little Summer but here in the kitchen the fire is nice and warm

Thank-you, its splendid to be here. George and I feel quite at home sat  by the fire.

How was your trip from your own dimension? I hope you did not run into any hostile skypirates or alien life forms on your way?

Fortunately the Sky Pirates and aliens stayed away.  Luckily we managed to cadge a lift from the Regius Professor of Chronology at St. Cedd’s college, who just happened to be passing by your time/space co-ordinates.

Oh that’s marvellous, how convenient for you! And  have you brought along some soup to share with us?

I think we should have Georges favourite meal of “Magical Soup” – basically a mixed vegetable recipe with a star shaped toasted cheese crouton to float on top..

Mmm, it smells delicious, what a lovely idea! I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now George why don’t you stand on a stool beside me here and as I chop the vegetables you can put them into the cauldron for me?

oooo, thank-you Mrs. Baker

You are most welcome my Dear, It’s so nice to have a little helper in the kitchen! There, now while the soup is simmering away,  why don’t you tell us all a little about how the two of you first met?

We first met when we (The Royal Steam Navy) rescued George and his family from the pirate Red Tail and his dastardly crew of grey squirrels when they unsuccessfully tried to sell the bears into “showbiz”.

Oh my goodness! What a dreadful scoundrel! George have had many adventures, haven’t you dear?

I have, thank-you. Not only pirates, but also martian mice, and my latest adventure which is yet to be published with queen Victoria.

Indeed! And Admiral you have begun documenting them in a series of beautifully illustrated books, have you brought some with you to show the orphans?

 

Is it an easy task to keep up with the adventures of such an intrepid young bear?

Yes, they a very easy to write down as I keep a personal journal of my travels, and I can assure the fans of the “bear that dares” that his adventures will continue for at least three more books, bringing the total to six.  So when you place them in order they will portray the colours of the rainbow flag.

I think that is a very beautiful idea! And which has been your favourite adventure so far George? (I know that Max and Collin have enjoyed reading all about your trip to Mars!)

oooo, tough question, but I think I have to say it’s my latest adventure with queen Victoria.

We are all excited to read about that when it is available! And will you be having any other adventures in the near future?

Most certainly, Mrs Baker. I love having adventures

Splendid! Good for you, Dear! But the life of a small grey bear cannot only be about adventuring, surely you have a loving home and family George where you spend most of your time?

Sometimes I can get a little sad when I’m away from my mums and my cat, spot.  but I sing my “happy bear” song and I feel so much better. would you like to hear it?

Oh yes please! We love a good sing-song!

(ahem) # i’m a happy little bear, i never try scare.  i always am polite and i never like to fight. i love my mums and spot so i never ever stop from be-ing a hap-py little bear…#

Oh that is marvellous! Well done indeed! Ah now the kettle is boiling, what can I offer you my dears? – I have contraband tea of all descriptions and a very little coffee saved for special guests (assuming you don’t want the government-standard-issue-decaff?)

Thank-you, tea for me, milk and no sugar please, and a baby-bear-o-ccino for George please.

There you are, now where can we purchase copies of your small grey bear adventures?

Funnily enough you can find us on Facebook as “Small Grey Bear Adventures”

Marvellous! And will you be making any public appearances in the near future?

We are planning to return to the “Festival of Steam and Transport” at Historic Dockyard Chatham next Easter as part of the “Steampunk Village”

Well perhaps we will see you there! Thankyou so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Admiral, and for bringing young George along to help as well! It’s been wonderful to meet and chat with you both and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

 

Thank-you Ma’am for inviting us to your cosy cottage. Sadly we have to return to our own dimension now as I believe I’m needed back on the bridge of my flagship HMS Essex, and George has school in the morning and we wouldn’t want to upset his teacher Mrs. Shorttfur.

No indeed! Thankyou all for joining us in the soup kitchen today, you can find George’s adventures by following the links below – Blessings on your brew my dears!

George books LINK: http://www.smallgreybearadventures.yolasite.com/

Umbrella publishing group LINK: http://ghostbearpublishing.yolasite.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Soup Of The Day: With Mat McCall

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Argonauts 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!

me pic

Helping me this morning is Steampunk author, pillar of the Steampunk Community and all-round Accomplished Gentleman, Mat McCall! Thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today, Mat! May I take your coat? Despite the deluge it is very warm here in Lancaster today…

Indeed. It’s wonderful to be here. Something smells delicious!

Ah yes I have been doing a spot of illicit baking this morning! Oh, could you leave your blunderbuss in the hat stand please, if you don’t mind?

Carefully.

Thank you, dear. I’m afraid weapons unnerve me somewhat. Now, why don’t you have a seat by the window there, how was your trip from your own dimension? I hope those wretched airship pirates didn’t give you any trouble?

Well, no. They are mostly me old mates.

Ah, that is good news indeed! And have you brought along some soup to share with us?

Cream of Dandelion Soup.

  • 2 or 3 cups chopped dandelion leaves
  • 1 cup dandelion flower petals, divided
  • 1 cup dandelion buds
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup of cream
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon each: salt, dried parsley, dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon each; cumin, garlic powder
  • Chopped spring onion or nasturtium flowers to garnish

 Instructions

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil, add the dandelion leaves and boil until tender, 3-5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking.
  2. In a heavy-bottom soup pot, sauté onion and garlic in butter or oil on medium heat, until tender.
  3. Add 2 cups water.
  4. Reserve some of the petals for garnishing, and put aside.
  5. Add dandelion leaves, flower petals, buds, and spices to the pot.
  6. Lower heat and simmer gently 45 minutes.
  7. Add cream and Parmesan cheese, and simmer a few minutes more.
  8. Serve immediately and garnish with flower petals and green onion.
  9. If you don’t have enough dandelions, or like a more peppery taste, you can use nasturtium leaves and flowers.

 

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now, while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us all a little more about your book The Dandelion Farmer? Have you brought a copy with you to show the orphans?

I do.

It looks marvelous, I must say! What inspired you to write such a unique tale?

I have always felt that a lot of Steampunk literature, if you can call it that, has always played to the audience with all the subtlety of a Brian Rix farce, nudge-nudge, wink-wink… and making virtually no contribution to Science Fiction as a genre. So I aimed to write a ‘Steampunked’ Science Fiction novel that was more Science Fiction than Steampunk whimsy.

Saying that, there are some amazing authors writing in the genre of Steampunk, authors that do not get the recognition they deserve, like Craig Hallam, Nimue and Tom Brown, Meg Kingston and Ceri-Leigh Harper, I think that is because Steampunk is not taken seriously as a legitimate branch of Science Fiction by publishers.

Steampunk often postures itself as the badly behaved and absinthe-sotted cousin of Sci Fi doesn’t it? Do you think that Steampunk has more to say on the world stage than “Oops Ma’arm where’s me cucumber sandwiches?” – If you’ll pardon the phrase;  living in close proximity to a flirtatious Octopus and his Gentleman Friend tends to rub off on One I’m afraid!

Nothing wrong with that.

Thankyou! Of course we all like a good laugh and a giggle, I’m sure, but do you think that sometimes the flamboyantly flippant style of many Steampunk novels prevents some of those more serious issues, which are so prominent in science fiction works, from coming to light or being taken seriously?

I think you’re absolutely right. SF has always been the best literary medium for exploring issues; such as the nature of being human; from Frankenstein and I Robot to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? To the nature of sexuality and gender, The Left Hand of Darkness, to the subjugation of women in our societies, The Hand Maid’s Tale, even the nature of sanity, anything by Philip K Dick, and it predicts the future, sometimes with frightening accuracy, read anything by William Gibson or Bruce Sterling. I don’t see any attempt in most Steampunk SF to tackle similar subjects.

In Steampunk’s pseudo Victoriana there is little exploration of the moral or social issues of today, let alone what life was like for the vast majority of ordinary people in the late 18th, 19th and very early 20th century. Gender and racial inequality, Imperialism, war, deprivation and grinding poverty.

I think that Steampunk should be as willing to explore tough issues and ideas as much as the main body of SF does.

Do you think it is possible, appropriate or even necessary, for the more humorous side of Steampunk to be used to highlight more serious issues? – ‘Heavy words, lightly thrown’ as some would say?  I am thinking in particular of Professor Elemental who was recently criticized by a minority of his audience for bringing politics into his stage show...

 

 Oh god yes. I think Steampunk can and should play a powerful role in social commentary, both of the past and the present. And as my late Mum used to quote, Chaucer, I think; “Many a true word spoken in jest.”

My book was accused by some rabid Trumpite of being a left wing diatribe, he also complained because it had transgender and lesbian characters. He didn’t see any place in what he thinks is Steampunk for them, he even questioned having black characters in a neo-Victorian story. Well, I put his “review” up on Facebook and let the Steampunks decide, they supported me whole heartedly, as I support Prof. Elemental.

Steampunk in all its forms is, at its heart, ART, and art’s greatest power is to challenge our preconceptions.

I absolutely agree with you, Dear… Ah, now the kettle is boiling, what is your ‘poison’ , as they say, and how do you take it?

Tea, please. Milk, no sugar. It’s a mnemonic I use to get people to remember my name; Mat, one T, no sugar.

Oh dear me! You musn’t make me chuckle I shall spill the hot water all over the mechanical cat. There you are, now then, tell me, what made you choose Mars as the setting for The Dandelion Farmer? Do you think perhaps the human race may end up there one day?

Yes. Unless we extinguish ourselves first. The day a successful colony on Mars reaches true independence is the day our survival as a race takes one major step closer to certainty.

My Mars is probably more about the realities of colonialism. The historical parts of the background story, presented to the reader in the form of extracts from Beresford’s History of the Martian Colonies, is about the failure of imperial colonialism. This follows a clear historical pattern that we have seen, again and again, on Earth, except in this narrative it is accelerated.

Will such a thing happen if we colonise Mars? A struggle for independence from Earthly bound powers. Yes, probably.

Mars, real and fictional, is Science Fiction’s first great love. A hostile world where if you just dig a little below that red sandy surface you will discover a literary layer cake, a fictional geology, of several hundred years if not longer, laid down by writers and imagineers like Greg, Flammarion, du Maurier, MacColl, Wells, Verne, Wyndham, Robinson and Weir, to mention only a few.

I wanted to draw on elements of Verne and Wells, but also Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, Burroughs’ John Carter/Barsoom adventures, and little touches of  Le Guin’s questioning of humanity, P.K. Dick high strangeness and Lovecraftian menace. There are elements of homage, but not cod plagiarism, and it gave me the opportunity to build, not only an alternative history but an entirely new world.

That big red dust ball has been the playground for SF fiction since the earliest stories. SF’s fascination with other worlds and space travel is at least as old as Lucian of Samosata’s True History, written in the second century.

So I wanted to play in that barren garden of delights, and leave my metaphorical boot prints in the red dust of Mars.

And Dandelions! Of course I use them for tea and coffee, but I’d never entertained the notion that they could be used as a  botanical fuel crop! Such an elegant idea, was there a particular reason behind that too?

I was walking the dogs, one morning and at the end of the road where I turn into the park is a house, and that house’s front garden was awash with dandelions. I made a remark to my partner, Nikki, that it looked as if they were farming dandelions. And the idea stuck.

Dandelions are an amazing plant. Everything that Edwin does with them is being done today; liquid fuel, biomass, tea, even soup. Russian dandelions are the best. In a world without much in the way of fossil fuels, humans will have to grow their own fuel.

Did you know that the German bombers of WWII were flying on fuel made from dandelions? It’s not a new idea.

My goodness I had no idea! (Mind you, I am stuck here in the future 1840s and I’m afraid my soup-scrying does not always furnish me with a comprehensive picture of past-future events.. )

The Victorians were also very ingenious about using alternative fuel sources; they were using mummies to fuel the Cairo express at one point, they were cheaper than wood or coal and pretty plentiful.

Goodness! I had no idea!

The book contains an excellent mix of high action and intriguing plot development which adds to the tension, but, as a reader, I felt at all times in touch with the feelings and emotions of the characters because of the structure of using journal entries and letters to tell the story… Was this a very difficult balance to get right?

Very. I wanted the plot to move fast, and there is a lot of plot, several major interwoven themes, in fact, but I didn’t want to lose sight of the humanity of the characters involved. The tradition of using journals and diaries of course goes back beyond Victorian literature, but it has been a device Victorian writers used often.

I like to take the reader into the minds of the characters, to let them see the world through their eyes. To explore their passions, fears, motivations and ideals without bogging the reader down with long expositions by a third person narrator.

It’s also important, when exploring the frailties and uniqueness of the characters, to let them have their own voice. My characters are complex people. Edwin is wracked by self-doubt and worries, and that intensifies his stammer, Adam is on a journey to discover his origins, but everything he learns horrifies him, Aelita is discovering who and what she is, but to do so she has to throw off a lifetime of colonial Victorian culture, Charity is on a mission of vengeance but ends up finding love.

You are obviously a long standing fan of Science Fiction and Steampunk, are there any particular authors, books or events which have influenced your work?

I have always had an abiding passion for Science Fiction and Fantasy only equalled by my passion for Archaeology and History. I’m a big fan of Philip K. Dick,  Ray Bradbury, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Robert Aspin’s “Thieves World,” George Martin’s “Game of Thrones,” and Ursula La Guin’s “Earthsea.”

So I guess all those writers are conscious and unconscious influences on my writing. Specifically, La Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness, Shelly’s Frankenstein, Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, Borough’s Barsoom stories and, of course, Jules Verne and Lovecraft.  

The story ends on a cliffhanger, please don’t say we have to twiddle our thumbs for long before the tale continues?

No, not too long, the second book, The Hourglass Sea, is already half completed.

And in the meantime, where can we stay in touch with you and your works in progress?

Anyone who wants to contact me is welcome to.

My web site is Doktormatas@weebly.com, where you can read the first couple of chapters for free.

On Facebook author’s page is Mathew McCall, author.

And I also have the FB page. Matas Corvus.

I am at Goodreads and the book is available, at the moment, from Amazon UK, and worldwide.

Marvelous, thankyou! But writing fiction is not the only string to your bow is it? When you are not penning works of Steampunk Splendidness what else can you be found doing?

I am very active in the British Steampunk community both online and in the real world.  I’m an educationalist, specialising in Adult Education, I also work for the NHS presenting Diabetes Prevention courses. I’m a History and Archaeology lecturer, award-winning Steampunk artist and contraption maker, bulldog fancier, natural philosopher, gardener, Socialist, non-fundamentalist Christian and Fortean.

I believe very much in the idea of a worldwide Steampunk Community in which we are all part and so I started and run the FB pages; The Steampunk Community Bookshop and Steamcycle.

Steamcycle is the Steampunk’s Freecycle, which I and the inimitable Janine Marriott run so as to help foster that sense of community. Steamcycle has over 1500 Steampunks around the world swapping or giving away things for free to other Steampunks.

The Steampunk Community Bookshop was created to give Steampunk authors a platform to promote their own work to the Steampunk community and for Steampunks looking for a good book to browse through.

I also am a founding member of the Steampunks of Gloucestershire group and the Minimum Altitude Display Team, “MAD T’s,” that has featured at the Lincoln Asylum for the last 5 years.

Splendid! Well, thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Mat, it’s been wonderful chatting with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

Shall I be mother?

Thankyou very much! – and thankyou to all of you for joining us today in the soup kitchen,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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: With Nimue Brown and the Sinners of Hopeless Maine

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the sweltering summer streets of steampunk’d Lancaster! You find us this morning still trying to sell enough lemonade to keep our sinister landlord off our proverbial backs (and our actual backs, in fact – he has recently fitted his walking cane with a morning star.)

So, can we interest you in a delightfully delinquent and relentlessly refreshing bottle of fiz? Brewed by our own fair tentacles? …. What? Oh, hold on a minute, who’s this?

Well strap me into a corset and call me Susan, it’s our dear friend Nimue Brown!  What brings you to this street corner, my darling? (Max, stop being rude and ridiculous)

N: This is what I get for borrowing a pair of trousers from Professor Elemental. At least we now know where and when I am, which is progress…

Well we are very, very glad the trousers went wrong because we have been simply dying to get our tentacles on a copy of Sinners – the newest release in your Hopeless, Maine Steampunk graphic novel series!  Please, do tell me you have some Hopeless Sinners tucked away somewhere about your person?

N: I’m like some kind of non-seasonal, less than perfectly masculine Father Christmas with a really dodgy sack just now. I’ve got all the Sinners. Hopeless Sinners.

sinners

The very best kind of Father Christmas then by all accounts! Thankyou! (Max take your mits off it you’re getting it all sticky) we will certainly be reviewing that over a nice cup of tea in the parlour shortly, but before we get it home and out of its negligee (Hm? Oh it’s called a ‘dust jacket’ is it? Sorry…) a-hem… do we get a little teaser as to what’s inside? From the cover it looks like Sal has grown up a little!

N: No, you were right first time, it was a negligee, I may have got a bit carried away with the ‘sinners’ part. I don’t think I’ve got any of the chained ones left…

Oh that is shame…

Yes, Sal is a bit more grown up at this point, but it’s still a passably child friendly read, if the child has no fear of demons, elder gods, monstrous sea life and whatnot. Funny things happen, terrible things happen, and we find out more about the people who live underground on the island.

Now that is what I call a tease! And where can our good friends here get their hands (or indeed tentacles)  on a copy?

N: In theory, anywhere that sells books. In practice, you have to make an appropriate sacrifice at the full moon and pray to an elder God that the online store of your choosing will have copies and will not be charging an entirely random price for them! We’ve had issues in the pre-order period.

Well if anyone needs a potential sacrifice candidate we have a landlord we are willing to part with for noble purposes such as this so do shout…

Otherwise, watch out for Sloth Comics at comics events, or my betentacled crew at Asylum in Lincoln.

Splendid! Now look here, Mrs. Brown, I don’t suppose you could help us sell a few bottles of this fiz here could you? My tentacles are drying out in this heat and Max’s so called ‘wit’ is driving the punters away in… ouch!… I mean, is perhaps not to everyone’s taste…

N:We could redeploy some of the negligees to protect those vulnerable tentacles, don’t you think?

Hm, this reminds of that  pole dancing episode … Max get off that lampost people are starting to flee the street…

I don’t know any lemonade songs. I’ve got a lemon song, but I mostly use it for stuffing chickens with. It goes (brace yourself)

‘lemon up your bum, lemon up your bum, lots and lots of lovely lemons, lemons up your bum’.

Which might or might not sell lemonade, I suppose…

 

Well I think between the three of us we have managed to clear the docklands quicker than if someone had shouted ‘PLAGUE!’ … and now we may well be reduced to pole dancing again to make the rent this month, so may I keep the negligee?

Thankyou for joining us on the street corner this morning, we will be back soon with more splendid shenanigans and a super special announcement … or two… so, until then,

please be always,

Utterly Yourself


Soup f The Day: With Army Of Brass Author Jeremiah Rickert

 

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 Army Of Brass author Jeremiah Rickert, good morning Jeremiah and what a beautiful sunny one it is! Here, let me take your coat and hat and you can have a seat here by the window and put your feet up while I make the soup for the orphans.

There now, I have heard so much about the Collaborative Writing Challenge and your marvellous book Army Of Brass, tell me how did you first get involved with the CWC?

I believe I saw a solicitation on the CRWOPPS listerv and was intrigued by the idea of both collaborative storytelling and the idea of writing some steampunk fiction.

And what is your favorite part of working collaboratively?

It takes a lot of pressure off of worrying about macro-storytelling.  You get to focus a lot of energy on just your chapter.

Yes I imagine that must be a refreshing and unique experience. Who is your favorite character?

I had the most fun with Captain Davenport.  I like the idea of a gentleman swashbuckler with a strong well of pragmatism inside of him.

Oh yes I believe he made quite an impression on Max and Collin yesterday! Did you have a favorite setting in the story?

I usually would be seated at the keyboard with a goofy grin on my face whenever the characters were on one of the airships.

Ah yes, airships – I have seen some of my visitors arriving in those although we haven’t quite reached that level of technological advancement here in Lancaster. Did you have a favorite gadget or technology?

The airships with their gas bags and propellers have always been my favorite aspect of Steampunk.  They are a ubiquitous in the genre, but they are pretty cool, so I can see why.

Indeed! Did you have much experience with Steampunk before the collaboration?

I had read a few books, but I’m not super dedicated to the genre.

I see, would you mind passing me that sack of onions, Dear? Thankyou, goodness I’ve so much to do today! How often do you sit down to write?

Not with any regularity.  I write when I feel like I have something to say.

And what is your ideal setting for writing? 

I did most of my writing for this project at a local all-night diner.  I have headphones on, but often they are just there to filter the noise a bit.  After two hours, I would pause and have a snack, then write until I started getting sleepy.

Oh that sounds marvellous! What is your favorite genre to write?

I like all genres.  The key to me is just to have fun characters to play with, no matter what the setting.

Perhaps the reason you write such strong and memorable characters! Are there any genres you haven’t tried but would like to?

I have been sitting on an idea for a pulp-style Space Opera story for a long time.  This project has loosened up a lot of the machinery inside me that feels compelled to create.

That certainly sounds like a project that should see the light of day! Who is your favorite character that you’ve created?

I have a finished novel about a noir-style detective who happens to dress like a clown when he’s on the job.

Oh marvellous, perhaps he would like to meet our own anchorite clown Freddy Payne some time! Where do you get your inspiration for these wonderful characters?

Being observant and people watching typically serves as my inspiration.  I tend to take a lot of notes with snippets of conversations I’ve overheard or thoughts that have occurred to me.  A particularly fertile period for me was when I worked a graveyard shift in a 7-11. I saw a lot of people and things that I am still mining for inspiration to this day.

And are there any writers who inspire you?

The first that comes to mind is Mark Helprin, author of A Winter’s Tale, Soldier In The Great War, and others.  I don’t know how he produces such beautiful, descriptive prose, that never seems like a slog to read through.  It is sorcery. I am also a huge fan of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, particularly the recent translation by Edith Grossman.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

There are two tips that come to mind:  First, read everything you can, as much as you can stand, across all genres, and don’t be afraid of the classics.  Second, get yourself some deadlines. The one thing I missed most about college after I graduated was having deadlines.  They are highly motivating.

Yes indeed! And speaking of deadlines, our soup here is nearly done and I can hear the urchins clamouring in the street outside so we had better start serving this up. But before we do, where can we find more of your writing?

Most my print and online material appeared in the late 90s/early 2000s and is no longer accessible unfortunately.  The Army of Brass collaborative project has re-awakened the urge to write, however, so I anticipate more material appearing soon.

Well I hope you will come back to the soup kitchen some other time and tell us about your next work when it is published! 

Thankyou everyone for joining us in the kitchen today and if you would like to find out more about Army Of Brass or purchase your own copy you can follow the links below.

Blessings on your brew my dears! 

 

Order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 and receive it on Friday, April 27!

 

Take a sneak peek at the full Chapter 1, read an exclusive excerpt, or check out another interview with writer Jason Pere or Jean Grabow as part of our blog tour, now until May 13. If you want to find out more about collaborative writing, Army of Brass contributors and CWC veterans Crystal MM Burton and Kathrin Hutson shared articles for the tour about the pros, cons, and rewards.

 

Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to meet some awesome writers, participate in a giveaway that includes a $25 Amazon gift card, and more!
Speaking of giveaways, we’ve got one going on for the entire blog tour, so between April 13-May 13, enter to win ebooks from our writers.


Elevenses: With Captain Jack Davenport of Army Of Brass

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously ridiculous and chi-chi to the core parlour located somewhere within the lower intestines of the splendidly steampunk’d city of Lancaster.

 

Our tentacles are all of a quiver this morning and our china cups are chattering because joining us for elevenses this morning we have our favourite character from Collaborative Writing Challenge’s Army Of Brass Captain Jack Davenport (is an octopus allowed to swoon?) of the Capital Cartographer’s Society.

 

Do please have a seat Captain (Max, get off the chaise and let the Captain sit down … hm? … no he can’t sit on your lap, just move aside.)

Would you like tea Captain? Earl Grey? Lapsang? Assam? Darjeeling? Oolong? (Max don’t be rude)

Just Darjeeling is fine, thankyou.

There you go. Now then , do tell us more about this Capital Cartographer’s Society you are a member of, what is its purpose?

 

Why, exploration of course! We use our fleet of airships to take us all over the world and we map the places and ideas we find there.

 

Oh did you hear that Max? Doesn’t it sound exciting and exotic and… hm? Oh yes, wait a minute, Max says  ‘did you say you map ideas?’

 

Er, well, yes. In a sense. The CCS is concerned with which way the wind is blowing, both real and figuratively. We pride ourselves on understanding the way information travels and being able to predict events as much as to report on them after the fact. We have agents who are stationed in different cities, and as captains, such as myself, travel from place to place, we always spend a day or two catching up on what has happened there since our last visit. That information is compiled in Mailderet’s capitol, Antikythera, and our agents sometimes act in an advisory capacity to the king.

 

Hm, we’re not overly fond of Royalty and their advisors around here Captain, do you act in that capacity yourself?

 

I never stay in any one place for very long, so I’ve never had the pleasure myself. Journeyman Cartographers rarely have the opportunity to rub shoulders with royalty.

 

Even a Journeymen as famous as you?

 

Though the general public has certainly become familiar with some of my more daring exploits through the press and the occasional novel penned in my honor, the CCS’s feelings on the matter are rather more…complex. Lord Whithorne, the Seneschal, says he would prefer I spent less time giving interviews and more time in the skies, at least officially. But between you and me, I think he secretly enjoys the favored place the Cartographers occupy in the imaginations of the people. Our image as heroic explorers can open doors for us that the king’s seal simply cannot.

 

As your presence in our parlour this morning testifies, Captain. Battenburg?

 

Er, thankyou … is that octopus slime on my plate?

 

Maybe…. Being a CCS captain must  keep you on your toes – Any time for finding that special someone?

 

[Clears throat] As in love and marriage you mean?

 

Not necessarily…

 

Well, as you say, my work keeps me rather busy and on the move. There is one woman who…that is to say, I have met many interesting and lovely ladies on my travels,

 

What about cephalopods?

 

God no! I mean …. no one can compare to The Wayfarer. She is my love, my constant companion, and my gateway to the skies. I don’t know what I would do with myself if I ever lost my ship.

 

Did you hear that Max? The man is in love with his ship. Our hearts are broken.

Oh well. So which decadent delights are you and ‘The Wayfarer’ off to sample next?

 

Unfortunately, I’ve got serious work to do at the moment. We’ve known for some time that the Hunter Baron has been gathering his forces. The rough seas around Maildaret have protected us for some time, and the mountains inland protect the capitol and the House of Lords in Brasshaven, but he appears to be mobilizing all the same. His Marksmen army certainly outnumber our forces, and we must be prepared. Personally, I believe the key rests in the hands of the Master Tinkerer, but she will need some assistance. So, when I leave this way-station, I am going to Brand to consult with the Forgemaster and convince him to travel to Brasshaven to lend her a hand. Then, I must deliver the news of Fairport’s fall to the House of Lords and the Master Tinkerer.  

 

Have you ever met the Master Tinkerer before? She’s rather new to the position, isn’t she?

 

Elaina? Er…I mean… Mrs. Gable? Yes, we’ve met before. In Corkshire, during the massacre. She lost her husband there, but also got dozens of people to safety. She’s one of the bravest, most competent people I’ve ever met.

 

Oh Max, I think we have uncovered something! Captain Davenport, are you blushing?

 

What? No, of course not. It’s just warm in here. Wouldn’t you say it’s warm in here?

 

I certainly feel some of us are rather hot, would you like me to relieve you of your coat? Shirt? Anything at all?

Ah, no I…

Hm? I am not ‘pestering the Captain,’ Max, I’m just being hospitable! Max says that the involvement of Tinkerers and Smiths makes it sound like you’ve got something mechanical brewing to fight the Hunter Baron?

 

That’s astute of you. Perhaps you should consider becoming a Cartographer as well.

 

It sounds like a delightful proposition, but I can’t help but notice that you didn’t answer our question.

 

Oh, I’m fully aware of that, my friend. But one mustn’t tip one’s hand completely. Especially not when war is brewing. Fairport fell far quicker than anyone would have guessed, and I suspect the Duke had a traitor in his midst.

 

Why Captain if my sensibilities were more delicate I’d be offended! Are you insinuating I could be a spy? How deliciously dramatic of you! But, seriously, you must have some idea what sort of strategy the king will take in fighting the Hunter Baron?

 

As I said, I don’t really know his majesty personally. Though he may turn to the CCS from time to time, her prefers his circle of lords to any of us commoners. Once I have all of the pieces of my own plan in place, I hope to convince the Seneschal to arrange an audience with him to present the idea. He won’t like it, but I think it’s the best shot we have at keeping the people of Mailderet safe.

 

I see, then all we can do is wish you the very best of luck, Captain, and hope that the king can be persuaded.  And we must be getting back to the devious business of financing our own revolution which is desperately disorganised and underfunded. Do give lavish amounts of love and kisses to ‘Elaina’ from us both won’t you?

Oh dear Max I fear your overly dramatic advances have scared him away, I’ve never seen an airship weigh anchor as quick as that. Oh well, onward to the next conquest… and if you, dear friends, would like to find out more about Captain Davenport’s adventures you can order your copy of Army Of Brass here:

 

army of brass

 

Mrs Baker will be in her soup kitchen tomorrow with the next stop of the Army of Brass tour and we shall be back next week with some Steam Wizard magic so until we see you again, please remain always

Utterly Yourself


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/

 

 

 


Soup Of The Day: With #Steampunk Author David Lee Summers

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!

DLS-Owl Dance

Helping me this morning is Steampunk writer David Lee Summers, author of The Clockwork Legion series! Good morning David, thank you so much for coming to help me in the kitchen today, I hope your journey here from your own dimension was a good one?

I had a delightful journey. The spacetime vortex was a trifle bumpy in the middle, but that just adds some zest to the ride!

 

Indeed! And have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

I did indeed. This is a soup my character Ramon Morales enjoys in the novel Lightning Wolves called Caldo de Pollo.  It’s a traditional soup from New Mexico and the proportions are easily adjustable to feed as many as you need.  This recipe will make about six 8-ounce servings.

 

1 tablespoon Canola oil

4 chicken leg quarters

4 cloves garlic chopped

1 teaspoon garlic powder

48 oz chicken stock

1 cup whole grain brown rice

2 cups water

1 cup baby carrots

2 large potatoes

1 onion chopped fine

¼ cup cilantro

2 tablespoons New Mexico or Anaheim green chile roasted and chopped

2 stalks celery cut about an inch long

½ cup salsa (pick the flavor you like, I like a smoky, Chipotle salsa)

 

Heat oil in 4 quart pot.  Sauté onions until clear to lightly browned.  Cut chicken quarters in half and add to the pot.  Add chicken stock, rice, garlic, and green chile.  Bring to boil then simmer until chicken is tender—about an hour.  Allow to cool.  The dish may be prepared to this point and refrigerated overnight.  Remove chicken from pot.  Discard skin and bones. Shred meat and set aside. Skim fat from broth.  Add 2 cups water, carrots, celery, potatoes, cilantro, salsa, and garlic powder to the stock.  Bring to a boil then cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender.  Add water as needed to keep it brothy.  Add the shredded chicken back to the pot and heat through.

 

 

Oh how marvellous! Thankyou! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we have a seat by the fire and I will put the kettle on, and you can tell the orphans here all about your Steampunk series, it starts in New Mexico but the story unfolds to span the globe doesn’t it?

The Clockwork Legion series does indeed start in New Mexico.  It begins when a small town sheriff meets a woman from a distant land who endeavors to be a healer in every sense of the word.  She wants to heal not only sick and injured people, but the land and rifts between people. Unfortunately, not everyone wants those rifts healed and she falls afoul of the rich and powerful.

In the meantime an alien swarm, so tiny it can’t be seen, comes to Earth.  Fascinated by our two main characters and their desire to heal the rifts that divide people, it decides to take action and starts unlocking the potential of the world’s great inventors. In the process, it inadvertently unleashes the Russian Invasion of America and our heroes struggle to set things right again. The story spans the Western United States and then crosses the Pacific to Japan for the third book.

And what about the main characters, Fatemeh and Ramon, could you tell us a little more about them?

Fatemeh Karimi is the healer I mentioned. She ran away from Persia when she converted to the new Bahá’í Faith and found herself in danger of persecution. She’s curious about all things spiritual, has a strong sense of justice, is a talented herbalist, and wants to help every troubled person she meets. That strong sense of justice, though, gets her in to trouble.  Also she might, just might, talk to owls.

When we meet Ramon Morales, he’s the sheriff of Socorro, New Mexico, a raucous mining town in the center of the territory.  He’s very owl-like with round glasses and soon falls under Fatemeh’s spell.  Like her, he has a strong sense of justice, plus he has a strong interest in what this great century of change will bring.  When we first meet him, he’s trying to find his direction in life.  As the books progress, we see his interests come into greater focus.

Your settings and characters are certainly a move away from London-centric Steampunk do you think we need to encourage greater diversity within the genre or do you think we have it already?

The whole world experienced the steam era, which means there is a whole world that could serve as a backdrop for stories.  There have been some good strides made toward diverse steampunk such as Nisi Shawl’s Nebula-nominated Afro-steampunk novel Everfair or Eric Brown’s steampunk novel set in India, Jani and the Greater Game.  If you add time to the mix and allow for post-apocalyptic stories we can consider Paulo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl set in Southeast Asia.  Cheri Priest’s Clockwork Century novels are set in America.  If we now add in small and independent press titles, we truly span the globe.

So yes, we do have diverse steampunk, but really, we’re just beginning.  Because people do have a very London-centric view of Steampunk, it’s clear we need to keep up the good work and encourage more diverse steampunk.  We need to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to come and join us as we explore this wonderful, fun, creative space and have them tell their stories.  Steampunk will only be richer for the efforts.

I absoloutely agree with you I …Oh! now the kettle is boiled, may I offer you a cup of tea? How do you take it?

Just a little sugar, please!

Hm, it is the last of the ration I’m afraid! There you are. So what first attracted you to Steampunk?

I think I was a Steampunk before I even knew what Steampunk was. My dad was a locomotive foreman for Santa Fe Railroad and introduced me to steam locomotives at a young age. What’s more, while I’m a speculative fiction writer by day, I’m an astronomer by night. My first job in the field was working on a nineteenth-century telescope with a wind-up clock drive and glass photographic plates. I got to see first-hand how I could use nineteenth century technology to produce publishable science in the late twentieth century!

My first story published for professional rates was called “The Slayers” and told the story of an airship crew who hunted dragons. The story had a very Steampunk aesthetic and appeared in Realms of Fantasy Magazine in 2001, long before I even heard the word “Steampunk.”

I first heard the word “Steampunk” around 2009 when I was telling someone about a story I’d written in which a zombie-like creature is raised from the dead with a Tesla coil.  The person said the story sounded very Steampunk.  I looked into it and realized he was right. What’s more, I realized a lot of the stuff I liked writing could, indeed, be called Steampunk.

This is all to say that when I finally did discover Steampunk, the pump was primed and I was ready to jump aboard.  I’ve always loved nineteenth century technology from precision gear-driven machines to electrical apparatus such as Tesla coils.  Also, I love looking at points in history and seeing what would happen if dots were connected that hadn’t been connected in history as we know it.

Splendid! And how have your own culture and experiences influenced your writing?

When I write, I try to capture the world around me as I see it. I grew up in a culturally diverse neighborhood in Southern California.  My mom was a third-generation New Mexican and we visited the state often when I was young. I fell in love with it and moved to New Mexico for college. In college and in my subsequent astronomy career, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with men and women from all around the world. Currently, I live in a diverse neighborhood about 35 miles north of the Mexican Border.  The observatory where I work is in the Tohono O’Odham Nation of Southern Arizona.

Ethnically, I’m some mix of Celtic and Central European stock and undoubtedly have reaped the benefits of white privilege.  That said, I’m so far removed from those roots, it’s not always easy to separate those cultural influences from the ones that surround me on a daily basis. Although I do worry about falling into the trap of cultural assimilation in my writing, I do my best to avoid that by respecting the cultures I write about. I learn what I can about their history and remember that first and foremost, we’re all people and we’re more alike than different.

Having noted all that, I always thought it was strange when I was a child to watch western films and see them populated with nothing but white people.  They seemed nothing like the west as I knew it.  It took books like The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols and Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya to show me the New Mexico I saw with my own eyes. I wanted to capture that New Mexico, that western United States, in my writing.

Another element to mention is that I’ve been surrounded by strong women all my life, including my mom, my wife, and my daughters. They are a big influence on the strong women in my stories. Among other things, it’s important that the characters in my stories be good role models for my daughters.

There is a strong undercurrent of social , religious and political commentary to your work, do you think Steampunk is well placed to draw attention to important issues both past, present and future?

By its nature, Steampunk looks at the past and asks “what if?” That puts it in a unique place to not merely report on the past, but ask how it could have been changed.  Although we can’t change the past, those insights can help us see where problems persist in the present and allow us to shape the future in response.

The nineteenth century is rightly criticized for many human rights’ abuses and inequalities. It was an era of rampant colonialism. That said, it was also the era when many brave men and women began to speak out. Arguably, that was a much harder time to speak out. Speaking out often got you beaten or even killed. Looking back and facing the ugly parts of our past becomes a way to remind ourselves to be brave and steadfast in the present, seeking justice and equality where we can and not to allow ourselves to fall back into a time when we judged people by their gender or their skin color.

The Bahá’í Faith features strongly in my Clockwork Legion novels. That started simply because it was a brand new religion during the late nineteenth century. However, the more I learned, I discovered that its practitioners are denied educations and even jailed to this day simply for their beliefs. What’s more, there’s a lot I agree with in the faith, including the emphasis on education for all and equal rights for women. It became an opportunity to bring attention to a subject that’s often buried under more prominent social issues.

That is fascinating, it has certainly inspired me to find out more. But back to your own writing for a moment, do you have any new releases or projects brewing that we can get excited about?

I just co-edited an anthology called Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales which is a collection of exciting science fiction tales released by WordFire Press.  My most recent novel is called The Astronomer’s Crypt and imagines astronomers, ghosts, a drug cartel, and a monster from the dawn of time colliding at an observatory like the one where I work in real life.

On the Clockwork Legion and Steampunk front, I’m very excited to announce that my Clockwork Legion story “Fountains of Blood” is in the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone edited by David Boop and published by Baen Books. In addition to my story, you’ll find stories by Jim Butcher, Larry Correia, Jody Lynn Nye, Alan Dean Foster, Phil Foglio, and many more.  Also, I’m just putting the finishing touches on the fourth Clockwork Legion novel, Owl Riders.  Stay tuned for more information about that soon!

Wonderful! Lots of things to look forward to! And where can we find your work online?

You can sign up for my newsletter and find more about me and my books at http://www.davidleesummers.com

I also maintain a blog at http://davidleesummers.wordpress.com with news and information plus articles related to my writing, my work life in astronomy, and other things that influence my work.

 

Marvellous! Well now, it really has been so wonderful to chat to you today David, thankyou so much for coming to give me a hand in the kitchen! I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?

Thank you so much for the interview. I’m hungry now! Definitely time to dish up the soup!

Thankyou all of you for joining us today, I must pass on Max and Collin’s apologies for not being at home this week – apparently they have ‘reasons’ and apparently these will soon become…er…apparent! In the meantime, do please take the time to visit David’s weblinks below and come and join me next week when I will be hosting our blog tour post for Karen J Carlisle’s wonderful new instalment of Viola Stewart!!! Until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074FHCJXG/

The Astronomer’s Crypt: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N5EH8QP/

Straight Outta Tombstone: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1481482696/

Clockwork Legion novels are as follows:

Owl Dance: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00K8N8U7O/

Lightning Wolves: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LI3LO80/

The Brazen Shark: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AHCSA0W/

 


Soup Of The Day: With Steampunk Author Kara Jorgensen

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 one of my favourite Steampunk writers Kara Jorgensen, author of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series!

 

Good morning Kara, thank you so much for coming to help me it is so nice to welcome you back to my soup kitchen again, I hope your journey here from your won dimension was a good one?

…. It’s always a little rough this time of year, but luckily, I made it in one piece. Thank you so much for having me.

Oh you’re most welcome , Dear, it is lovely to have you back! And have you brought something delicious with you today to share with the orphans?

I have brought some Tamatar Palak Ka Shorba, or Indian spinach and tomato soup. Here’s the link to the recipe:

https://www.whiskaffair.com/tamatar-palak-ka-shorba/

 

Thankyou! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we have a little peer into its depths and see what images it can conjure up for us from the aether?

steam arm

 

Ah yes, the Steampunk genre is certainly full of characters who sport mechanical prosthesis of one form or another isn’t it? I wonder why that is?

I’ve wondered that myself. A lot of it I think is merely due to aesthetics. You can add all sorts of gizmos and gadgets to a prosthetic, like knives, guns, rocket launchers (if you’re a little more modern in your punking). Plus, then your character has some steampunk flavor beyond just their clothing. Now they are actively part of the genre, so to speak. If it’s an actual limb, your character will also regain most of their function or even more, depending on how functional the prosthesis is.

Prosthesis feature prominently in your own writing, not simply as an aesthetic to support the genre but as key elements which shape the narrative, was this a conscious decision?

Yes, it was definitely a conscious decision. While I enjoy the aesthetics of steampunk, I had read a story where the prosthetic served no other purpose than to look cool. I didn’t want that with Eilian and his arm. Disabilities aren’t a costume, and I didn’t think a character with a disability should merely be used to strengthen the genre’s aesthetic. I wanted to show Eilian’s struggles with coming to terms with his disability and eventually progressing enough that he could function without an arm or prosthetic. I felt that journey was necessary before I introduced the prosthetic arm into the story. Instead of having the prosthetic “solve” his problems, I wanted him to solve them himself.

 

Of course to Eilian and Hadley, prosthetics have a huge impact on their lives in many ways…

Oh yes, well, poor Eilian is minus one arm, so his prosthetic arm plays a large role in his story. Going from an active world-traveller to an invalid, even temporarily, is a huge blow to him, but he eventually adapts to his burn scars and missing arm. His first prosthesis is horribly cumbersome and not worth wearing. After he meets Hadley, well, I won’t give too much away, but she devices something much more functional. Prostheses are Hadley’s business, so they are her livelihood. As a woman in the Victorian Era, she is expected to keep house and have children, but because she is the last surviving member of her family who can create prostheses, she totally goes against the norms of the time by actively working on mechanical devices.

 

But for Immanuel, his eye injury is not remedied by technology or medical science. Did you ever think that he might choose to try and repair or replace his injured eye, or was that never an issue for his character?

It may sound silly, but I don’t think Immanuel likes to admit that his eye bothers him. In several scenes, his partner has suggested he get glasses, but I don’t think there would be any other technology that could “fix” his eye. In my writing, I only use materials that were at least semi readily available during the Victorian Era, so I can’t make anything too complex. A moveable arm is one thing, but an eye is a much higher level of complexity. I couldn’t think of a way to make a device to help him see that wasn’t completely anachronistic.

 

You do a marvellous job of showing the complexities that Eilian has to face, both physical, logistical and social when he loses his arm, do you think it’s important to explore these issues in Steampunk and not just have characters ‘slap on a clockwork prosthetic limb and jump back into the fray’ ?

Very. It’s one thing if the story takes place a long time after the character lost their limb or they have always used a prosthesis (as in someone who has a birth defect). Then, it would make sense for them to slap on a prosthesis and go, but to lose a limb is a life-changing event. To brush it off as if it were nothing is unrealistic and kind of insulting to those who have gone through similar traumatic experiences. One thing I try to teach in my creative writing classes is that characters are people, too, so you have to give them human psyches. Exploring these psychological and sociological complexities are what make works of fiction rich, and in my writing, I try very hard to give my characters realistic experiences that readers can connect to.

 

Immanuel certainly has some physical injuries remaining from his ordeal with Lord Rose (goodness that monster’s name sends a shiver down my spine!) but what affects his life the most is PTSD, isn’t it?

Definitely, his PTSD is far worse than any physical wound. In time, those heal and disappear, or scars at least lessen, but PTSD never truly goes away. As I mentioned before, my characters are written to be human and have human limitations, as far as trauma goes. After being kidnapped and tortured for nearly three months, he has deep psychological wounds. I try not to overdo it in his stories to the point that his PTSD is comical or makes him seem completely dysfunctional, but it affects his everyday life. There are times when something triggers flashbacks to Lord Rose (such as cigarette smoke) or he has a panic attack that tears his mind away from reality. As the series goes on, his PTSD lessens to a point and the psychological issues associated with it change with the healing process.

 

Prosthetics are very popular in Steampunk cosplay but do you think there is ever a line of tension between creating worlds where varying abilities and needs form major narrative / aesthetic devices, and making those worlds accessible to real people with varying needs and abilities?

I’m not someone with a physical disability, so I can’t say for certain but I could definitely see how that tension could arise. When a disability is used as a prop, it may look cool to the average reader, but to someone with a similar disability in real life, it could be disheartening to see themselves used to further an aesthetic while in real life they struggle for accommodations that would help them live a more normal life. Having a disabled character float through life, especially Victorian life, without issue is hard to believe unless a very high percentage of people in that world are also disabled. No one’s hardship should be used as a prop, whether it’s a disability, their sexuality, or their race, just because it makes the character more exotic or interesting. These things affect people’s lives, and to treat it as nothing more than added flavour, is disrespectful to those living with it.

 

Do you think more can be done to make sure that Steampunk fiction and conventions are made accessible and welcoming for all fans of the genre?

With conventions, it is fairly easy: make sure the events are all on one floor or have elevators and accommodations for those who need them. The Steampunk World’s Fair does a good job of being inclusive for those with disabilities, differing sexualities, nationalities, etc. Panels on writing/creating characters different from yourself would help a lot to create awareness among writers that their stories could hurt people with disabilities if they don’t do proper research. Going off that, writers of steampunk fiction can take these things seriously when they write and be aware of what having a foreign or disabled character really means and what bad representation does to those that character represents.

 

Thankyou Kara for those wise and insightful words, I absoloutely agree with you. It really has been so wonderful to chat to you today, thank you so much for coming to give me a hand in the kitchen again! Now then, the kettle is singing so why don’t we pour a nice brew and you can tell me about what is new in the world of Ingenious Mechanical Devices; I know you have Selkie Cove which has just been released ?

SelkieCoveLH

Oh yes, Selkie Cove, book five of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices, came out in late July. It’s my latest book child, and I’m super stoked to have it out in the world. In Selkie Cove, Adam and Immanuel get involved with a magical government agency called Her Majesty’s Interceptors, and for them to join, they must first solve a case involving a murdered creature called a selkie. The selkies are seemingly half-human and half-seal and dwell in the northern waters between England and Scandinavia. Along the way, they find more dead bodies, new powers, and that Adam has been holding back more than he’s let on.

And do you have any new titles planned for next year?

Several, hopefully. I’m currently writing a story about Emmeline Jardine that takes place around the same time as Selkie Cove. She finds new love, some interesting lore about her family, and a new direction for her life. In 2018, I’m hoping to write another Eilian and Hadley story as well as an Immanuel and Adam story. With those, I only have a vague idea of what those might be about, but the Emmeline story should be out by Spring 2018 at the latest.

 

Well that certainly is alot to look forward to! Oh! I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?

Mmmm, I can’t wait. Thank you so much for having me. Bon appetit!

 

Thankyou all of you for joining us in the kitchen today, if you would like to find out more about Kara’s writing you can find her on the aether-web here…

 

Website: http://karajorgensen.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorkarajorgensen

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kara-Jorgensen/e/B00L4KTO0W

 

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Soup Of The Day: With Steampunk Author Nils Nisse Visser

 

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 Steampunk writer Nils Nisse Visser, author of Amster Damned! Good morning Nils, thank you so much for coming to help me in the kitchen today! 

NILS bw author

An absolute pleasure!

Oh and who is this magnificent gentleman you have with you?

FIVEWAYS 2

I’ve brought Fiveways Wilf, an extraordinarily adventurous ginger Persian cat from Brighton. Fiveways Wilf is extremely sociable to both the delight and despair of the humans he owns (Staff#1 and Staff#2) as he’s an incorrigible jailbreaker and forever devising new ways to go for a saunter around the Fiveways area of Brighton, visiting friends, strolling into shops and generally just about owning the whole neighbourhood. Fiveways Wilf has become quite a local celebrity and generously uses that fame to raise funds for less fortunate felines (http://www.lostcatsbrighton.org.uk/). Naturally I was delighted when Fiveways Wilf agreed to star in the Time Flight Chronicles where he appears as himself, albeit simply called Fiveways. All the payment he asked for was for me to help him support Lost Cats Brighton and I added the City Cat Shelter to that list of my own accord. My protagonist Alice Kittyhawk has a soft spot for cats you see…..when she retires she’ll probably become a crazy cat lady.

Well there is certainly nothing wrong with that, I have rather a soft spot for cats myself – except the clockwork kind, of course! And is that your sky-skiff double parked outside, Dear? I wouldn’t leave it there too long you know, the local law enforcement are inconveniently vigilant at this time of year. 

Yarr, Alice lent me The Liddle Mew, her own skyskiff, which means ‘Little Seagull’ in Sussex dialect. I’ve checked your local Lancaster parking regulations and they are fairly detailed on wheeled vehicles and air ships, but there’s nothing about leaving a fishing boat on the street, so I reckon that leaves me covered.

Oh splendid, well done for checking that! But how was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you didn’t run into any rogues en route?

As for the journey, we had a brisk spectral wind at our back. Apart from having to evade a few critters and an Aero Fleet patrol it was pretty uneventful. All in day’s work.

For you perhaps! Goodness me I have never taken much to flying, not that I have done much of it I confess but my one impromptu airborne adventure was enough to last me a lifetime I assure you!  Mmm, but something smells delicious!  Have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

Sussex Fish Stew, a local speciality. Leek, fennel, bay leaves, rosemary, parsley, ground pepper, homemade fish stock, cider, a few taters, some sour cream and a dash of double cream as well as filleted cod and haddock. The secret ingredient is the cider, which goes into both the fish stock and the soup itself, it has to be unpasteurised Sussex cider, so none of your supermarket stuff. Proper cider does the trick.

Oh how wonderful! That certainly sounds delicious – and thankyou so much for bringing the cream, we are spoiled for fish here at the docks but since The Good Folk have stepped up their patrols I cannot risk having any contraband in the house! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we have a seat by the fire and I will put the kettle on, and you can tell the orphans here all about your book, Amster Damned…

There are a number of themes in the story. One is the notion that girls can’t do some things because only boys can do them. That is absolutely ridiculous. Girls can do anything they want, they are just as clever, just as resourceful and just as capable as boys. So my main character, Alice, is a young woman doing what people in her time considered a man’s job, and she is very good at it. Some of her friends are the same, there’s a female Admiral in the story and the engineer of the airship The Centennial Kestrel is a woman too, and both of them are very friendly, intelligent and capable. The Minister of Lost & Found is a woman as well, but although she is very clever and cunning she isn’t such a nice person. Anyhow, none of these women, nice or not, stand around waiting for men to rescue them or tell them what to do or how to think, and that’s how it should be, don’t you think so?

Oh yes indeed! I’m sure we all agree with that!

Another theme is one you might know well children. Maybe you’ve been told before by adults that you can’t read certain books or find out about certain things because you’re not old enough. Well, in the story some people, the powerful ones, have taken that a step further and made very long lists of books people of all ages aren’t allowed to read or ideas people aren’t allowed to think about. Adults can be just like children and when they are told not to find out or think about some things that’s exactly what they do. That includes Alice. She is an avid reader of books and she spends a lot of time finding books she’s not allowed to read.

Well here in Ire we can all identify with the notion of having others control what we can or can’t read, think, say and even eat! But Alice is a wonderful character isn’t she!

Then there are a lot of interesting characters, many of those really exist. I don’t know them myself but a good friend of mine, Corin Spinks, is an excellent photographer and takes their photographs at steampunk gatherings, sends them to me and I then make up a story about them and put them into my stories.

Last but not least, there is a fabulous airship, because……well, you know, because: Airships.

Yes of course, airships are beautiful things indeed, although, as I said,  I think I prefer to keep my feet firmly on the ground! Oh lovely, I see you have brought a copy of your book with you to show the children?

 

amster damned

 

That is marvellous. Now then, the theme of smuggling crops up rather a lot, are you a smuggler yourself , Dear?

We prefer to use the term ‘free trader’ in Sussex.

Oh dear, I’m so sorry I didn’t mean to cause offence!

It’s been my professional ambition to become a fully-fledged pirate since I was a little lad. As I got older I was often told that wasn’t realistic or mature which only made my determination stronger, being an irrationally stubborn person (or so I am told – I don’t believe a word of it myself of course). I was absolutely delighted when I moved to Sussex and discovered a very rich smuggling heritage, moreover, one of which the locals are extremely proud. In Rottingdean, Hastings, Brighton and other places there are annual celebrations in which everybody dresses as a smuggler, pirate or mermaid. *glances at orphans* A lot of “Yo Ho Ho and bottle of sugar-free lemonade” going on on those days, savvy?

Oh yes I’m afraid we’re all a little more worldly wise than we ought to be around here… A-hem… Ah now the kettle is boiling!  May I offer you a cup of tea? How do you take it?

With a dash of ru……a dash of milk and sprinkling of sugar please.

I quite understand, Dear. There you are. So what first attracted you to Steampunk, was it the tea?

The Nautilus. I was six or seven and my parents took me to a seaside town in the Netherlands with an unpronounceable name, Scheveningen. There’s a pier there and at that time within one of the pier buildings they had a life size scaled Nautilus submarine. I walked into that ship and was smitten. Gleaming pipes, fascinating instrument panels, portholes which offered a view of a sunken pirate treasure protected by a giant octopus waving its tentacles, schools of fish…..now those fish were paper mache dangling from strings but as a young child with an overactive imagination it was pure magic. The rest wanted to go to the beach, swim, eat ice cream and such stuff and I just wanted to stand behind the helm of the Nautilus and sail off into the unknown. They had to drag me out screaming and kicking in the end.

So it was love at first sight? What a splendid tale, and how have your own culture and experiences influenced your writing?

I define myself as a cultural chameleon. When I was a child I grew up in countries in Asia, Africa, North America and Europe, all over the place really. So I have passport which says I have a nationality but I feel transnational. I can identify with all the cultures I’ve lived in but also see the less positive sides. I hear a lot of people from different countries enthusiastically expounding on how their country is the greatest and best, but I don’t believe in all of that. All the countries I’ve visited or lived in have wonderful sides to them, and darker, far darker, sides to them as well. As a writer I feel that I’ve benefited greatly from the ability to view things from multiple perspectives. I am going to use The Time Flight Chronicles to revisit all of those places. We’ve had Amsterdam in Amster Damned, but in her attempt to find Dr Beesworth, Alice Kittyhawk will visit Brighton, Paris, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Dar-Es-Salaam, Zanzibar, Cairo and Oklahoma. I know all of these places, have vivid memories and my own unique insights, so the setting is pretty much sorted.

There is a lot of humour and warmth in your writing style which complements the serious issues you raise concerning prejudice, governmental control and oppression, both historically and today – do you think Steampunk is well placed to draw attention to important issues like these?

Thank you, that is a very thoughtful compliment and I’m glad you’ve picked up on that. That balance is very hard to achieve and you’re the first to suggest I’ve succeeded in it. I think Steampunk is ideally placed for this purpose, yes. The inclusion of ‘punk’ in the name suggests as much. I reckon Punks are meant to be hollering about something or other and definitely ought to be kicking against the walls of the establishment. So I remind people of Victorian realities, in which, for example, two adult ‘gentlemen’ tell a ten year old girl they’ll pay for her services in four, five years time when she is considered ‘ripe’. At that time their social status as rich and influential men and the child’s as a slum-girl meant they could get away with that kind of behaviour. The child is Alice, my protagonist. She’s far older in Amster Damned, around 25, but the incident left a deep impression on her, the notion that such a future was all she was deemed good enough for has fuelled her aspirations to reach to greater heights and make her own destiny.

I also think Steampunk can be used as a mirror to reflect on our own time, and you’ve noticed that because the attempts by TimePol to suppress all forms of fantasy fiction in my steampunk setting very much reflect the manner in which today’s global society sees increasing government and corporation control over every conceivable aspect of our lives. In Alice’s world, the powers that be have identified writers, readers and librarians as the enemy and are actively oppressing them. The current flow of international politics suggests that we might not be far off from such a moment. Freedom of speech is under threat when science and progressive thinking is debunked as fake news, experts are ridiculed and fantastical make-believe is presented as reality. As another Alice once famously said: “Curiouser and curiouser.”

Indeed! Do you think, there is sometimes a danger that Steampunk may be seen to glorify the blunders of the past rather than expose them?

No. One of the reasons that I really love this genre is that it affords me ultimate creative freedom, Steampunk is whatever I want it to be. In my case I have some limited talent in telling a story and in that I weave social and historical observations and try to kick the establishment a little. Somebody else may be 100% engaged with Steampunk purely because of the frocks and corsets or creating the perfect top hat, not ever having read a single word of Steampunk literature or caring much about the social inequality of the period. Who am I to say that what they are doing is not Steampunk and what I am doing is Steampunk? The moment I would do that I would try to impose rules on Steampunk. That leads to exclusion and dogmatism, moreover, it erodes the very core strength of Steampunk which is the freedom it affords.

Yes I see your point, there certainly is a strong argument for keeping things as rule-free and inclusive as possible. Now then, back to your own writing, do you have any new releases or projects brewing that we can get excited about?

Definitely. Time Flight Chronicles Book 2 is called Brightonesque and should be out within a year. Also, Writerpunk Press has recently published its fourth anthology, called What We’ve Unlearned: English Class goes Punk. I’ve got a novellette sized story in there called “The Rottingdean Rhyme” which is a stand-alone story and it’s about the friendship between a London poet and a Sussex smuggler called John Hawkeye, who happens to be Alice’s father. So Alice Kittyhawk features in that one as a six-year-old and as a nine-year-old, in the company of her childhood friend Brax Beesworth and Fitzsimmonds Noakes also makes an appearance. So if you simply cannot wait to read more about Alice, I’d very much recommend the anthology, it has really good stories in it from the other writers as well, a wonderful diversity of imaginative craftings. Seth features in another story in the Writerpunk Press anthology Merely this and Nothing More, as a side-character in my “The Oval Sky Room” story the main character in my “The Oval Sky Room” story is Alice’s childhood friend Lottie. As for the Wyrde Woods fans, my other main series (magical realism and dark urban fantasy), I haven’t forgotten about them. There will be a brand-new Wyrde Woods back story in a new Fantasy Anthology called Dreamtime Dragons, and I am determined to get on with Hidden Spring, the sequel to Forgotten Road. Also, back to Amster Damned, Alice was recently invited for an interview by The Protagonist Speaks. Being rather busy she sent Fitzsimmonds Noakes instead and you know what Captain Noakes is like, so prepare for a torrent of Victorian obscenities. That is scheduled to be released on October 6th.

Oh splendid, lots of things to look out for then! And where can we find your work online?

Well, there’s an Amster Damned teaser here: https://hubpages.com/literature/The-Yellow-Book-Chronicles-part-the-first

I’ve got a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NilsNisseVisser/

GoodReads works for an overall impression of all my books: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9843111.Nils_Nisse_Visser
Marvellous! Well now, it really has been so wonderful to chat to you today Nils, thankyou so much for coming to give me a hand in the kitchen! I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?

The soup does smell delicious. Thank you very much for having me, it’s been a pleasure.

And thankyou all for joining us today! I hope you will all pop back again next week for some more splendid Steampunk and Soup, until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!