Good morning my lovelies! Things are a little mad this end, the frost fair (thankyou so much to everyone who came and made it such a splendid affair!) is over and I am now working flat out at clearing my reviews backlog so every Friday for the foreseeable, reviews are what we shall be all about here in Steampunk’d Lancaster! 😀
But amid the madness Kari Trenten was kind enough to have me over for a chat about my naughty Necromancers on her wonderful blog : Cauldron Keeper
Find Kari’s wonderful books here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/K-S-Trenten/e/B01F60SX5C?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_fkmr0_1&qid=1583221854&sr=8-1-fkmr0
And her wordpress blog here: https://inspirationcauldron.wordpress.com/
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s rambunctiously raucous and chi-chi to the core parlour located high above it all on board our beautiful rainbow-sailed ship, The Harlequin Ladybird.Our tentacles are all of a quiver this morning and our china cups are chattering because we are honoured to have Stephen Palmer joining us for elevenses this morning.
Do please have a seat, (Max, get off the chaise and let him sit down … hm? … no he can’t sit on your lap, just move aside.)
Would you like tea? Earl Grey? Lapsang? Assam? Darjeeling? ( We are all out of Oolong Max so don’t even think about making that joke again)
Definitely Darjeeling. Nothing else will do! But I’ll just cross my legs and place this pocket abacus on my lap so that Max is stymied…
That is very kind and unnecessarily accommodating of you Stephen, here is your tea. Now then, do tell us more about yourself and your latest books.
Well… it’s a long story. Many years ago I was taken off the slush pile by Orbit Books, which started my time as a published author. Since then my career has scaled some heights and descended into some depths, though recently it’s been on a bit of a high. At the end of 2016, my steampunk/alternate history trilogy Factory Girl (The Girl With Two Souls / The Girl With One Friend / The Girl With No Soul) was published, to a very positive reception. Earlier this year we decided to relaunch it with covers designed by famed steampunk illustrator Tom Brown (he of Hopeless, Maine), with a fourth, supplementary novel – not published with the original trilogy – also set for publication. This latter novel is set in 1914-15 and is called The Conscientious Objector.
Oh that does sound like an intriguing series! We very much admire Tom Brown’s artwork too and did you hear that Max? That last book sounds like just your cup of tea! ( Many people find Max objectionable, I’m sure you can see why.) What inspired you to write the series?
The entire plot, characters and structure of Factory Girl came to me one evening during a two hour blitz of ideas. That this happened means it was waiting in my subconscious ready to appear. The overarching theme is whether or not souls exist, an area explored via Victorian-style automata, though also through the life stories of the main characters. Of these, the main ones are: Kora Blackmore, an illegitimate mulatto (used here for historical accuracy) girl imprisoned in Bedlam Mental Hospital; Erasmus Darwin, grandson of Charles; Dr Spellman, an entirely mysterious benefactor; other members of the Darwin family; an enigmatic automaton who can speak and understand; and Sir Tantalus Blackmore, Kora’s father, the greatest industrialist of his age and owner of the Factory in Sheffield, where all the Empire’s automata are manufactured. The story takes place over all three novels during 1910-11.
I see, it sounds most enticing… er, no Max we do not need to hear about your experiences in Bedlam thankyou… nor why there is a young lady there who swears you have tentacles… I’m so sorry Stephen I’m afraid he has been at the sugar again this morning. Moving swiftly on, what would you say most influences your writing in general?
I’m known in the genre world for rarely reading fiction. Most of my influences are non-fiction. For instance, I recently read: Mama’s Last Hug (the emotions of animals), Novacene (James Lovelock’s new one, celebrating his 100th birthday), and The Hare With The Amber Eyes (an extraordinary memoir about netsuke).
How interesting! But if not any fiction then are there any authors who have particularly inspired you?
In my earlier days I was influenced by authors such as Jack Vance, Gwyneth Jones and Gene Wolfe. These days there aren’t many authors of fiction who inspire me, but in the steampunk world I much enjoyed the YA novel Cogheart.
Hm. Excellent. (No he does not want to hear your poetry Max, that is not in least bit inspiring, stop interrupting) Battenburg?
Do you have any parkin? I understand they make it in Leeds.
We certainly do have some Parkin – left over from a tea party with the Brown’s in fact! – although this was made in Lancaster. You know, writing is something I’ve always fancied turning my talents to – having so many tentacles I imagine I could be quite productive as an author. Tell me, what was your own road into fiction writing like?
It was an extraordinary stroke of luck. I had been sending sample chapters and the like to various London publishers, but without much by way of reply. Then, mere days before I moved house (never to return for reasons best not mentioned), I received a letter from Orbit asking me to send the full MS of a novel I’d sent them over a year before. I was surprised! So I sent it off, but then, because of various life-events getting in the way for me and for them, I didn’t hear anything for a while, during which time I wrote a third version. This version was eventually accepted, to be published in 1996 as my debut Memory Seed.
I see, what marvellous good fortune! And do you have any plans for new projects in the near future?
When I do writing events or author appearances I usually mention writer’s volcano – the opposite of writer’s block. So, yes, I have lots of projects on the go! This winter I’ll be writing the final volume of a steampunk trilogy set in an alternate Shrewsbury (my home town) and in London. Set in 1899 and 1900, it follows the fortunes of a couple of orphans.
Ah, we are well acquainted with a small army of orphans so can easily see how that subject could provide ample plot-fodder – in fact Max often wishes he was an orphan. So, where can we get our tentacles on your work?
My novels are available in all the usual places online, both as paperback or ebooks. Infinity Plus have most of the ebooks of my back catalogue.
Splendid. And can we find you online?
Wooooah! Dear me I do apologise, the airship must have slipped and I seem to have landed in your lap I hope I haven’t covered you in octopus slime?
It’s no problem! I’m wearing Dr Avebury’s Secret Trouser Improver, from which liquids dissipate.
What a marvellous invention, perhaps we should invest in some ourselves. But Are you sure you’re alright? Can I perhaps tempt you with another cup of the hot stuff?
If it’s my usual poison, yes indeed… but I must away. A Nigerian automaton has just leaped from my blazer pocket and told me the time. Farewell!
Oh dear, Max I do believe your menacing threats of mostly awful poetry and ill-concealed amorous advances have scared off yet another of our guests. You really must learn to behave yourself ‘In Company.’
Thankyou, friends for joining us this morning on board our beautiful rainbow sailed ship The Harlequin Ladybird and until we see you again, please remain always
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/
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!
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?
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
- 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.
- In a heavy-bottom soup pot, sauté onion and garlic in butter or oil on medium heat, until tender.
- Add 2 cups water.
- Reserve some of the petals for garnishing, and put aside.
- Add dandelion leaves, flower petals, buds, and spices to the pot.
- Lower heat and simmer gently 45 minutes.
- Add cream and Parmesan cheese, and simmer a few minutes more.
- Serve immediately and garnish with flower petals and green onion.
- 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?
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!
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.
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?
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!
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.
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…
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,
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?
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:
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
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:
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?
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 ?
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…
Blessings on your brew my dears!
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!
An absolute pleasure!
Oh and who is this magnificent gentleman you have with you?
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?
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!
I am extremely happy this morning to welcome my dear friends, the paranormal investigators Sir John and Marie Jennings… Good morning to you both, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitc… Sir John? Over here… Marie, my dear, are you sure he can see with those goggles on? Whatever are they for?
Sir John: These are my ectoscopic goggles that allow me to see any spectral energy so as I look around the room…GOOD GOD WHAT IS THAT!
Marie: I think you are looking at the cat, mon cher…if you take the googles off…
Sir John: Ah yes, ahem, yes I’ve seen this before where feline energy can be mistaken for, er, ghostly energy. Perfectly normal.
Mrs Baker: Oh dear yes, I’m so sorry about the cats, they are after my illicit cream stores, you know. Well, why don’t you both have a seat here by the window. How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you were not delayed by any spectral presences en route?
Sir John: It was relatively uneventful. We made use of my brother Saul’s cabinet to travel here through time from 1901. He was, I’m afraid to say, a bit of a crank, believing in some pseudo scientific hogwash he called Quantum Physick. Most bizarre, with strange parallel worlds and waves behaving like particles. He built this device to travel to these parallel worlds, and it seems to work as it’s brought us here. Hopefully we can return, it’s the first time we’ve used it.
The only real trouble we had was when we were stuck in some hellish box, travelling in random directions with strange, dishevelled muttering creatures. What was that thing called Marie.
Marie: I think it was Southern Rail.
Mrs Baker: Oh dear me yes, I have heard your trains are as bad as our Skyway Rails, for future visits might I recommend the number nine bus, some have found the driver both adventurous and persuadable if bribed with sufficient tiffin. Now then, I shall put the kettle on, have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?
Marie: I brought a recipe that our maid Miss Henderson suggested for Courgette and Milk Soup. She said it is from the “Mysterious and Exotic East”.
Sir John: I think she means Walthamstow.
Mrs Baker: Oh!
Marie: Here is her note…
Mrs Baker: Thankyou my dear, let me see now, she writes… “Dear Mrs Baker, please find below my recipe for Corset and Milk Soup. Take a pound of corsets…” CORSETS?!
Sir John: we think she means courgettes
Mrs Baker: Oh! I see!…...and cook in a bit of water until soft but not too long or the taste will cook out. Mix them up – I use a device Sir John has made for me called a Vegetofruit Blending Device. It’s quite quick and only moderately dangerous. Put aside and then heat a tablespoon of butter and when that’s melted take off the heat and add tablespoon of flour. When that is like a paste, add half a pint of milk and stir until it thickens a little. Then add the corsets and some ground Kew men…
Mrs Baker: Oh yes of course! …and season with salt and pepper. Finally serve in bowls with some Sumac powder sprinkled on top. The soup is mild in flavour and the dark purple colour of the Sumac is a lovely complement to the pale green of the corsets.”
Sir John: Funnily enough she got the name for Sumac powder right. It’s a fascinating spice, rumoured to give anyone that prepares it correctly a five octave singing voice. I’m not sure that’s true but our previous maid, Mrs Flitwick, did once mistake it for cocoa and she made a very high pitched noise.
Mrs Baker: Well it certainly sounds delicious, I wouldn’t worry about the Sumac, the orphans are quite hardy round here you know. So, I will just pop the cauldron onto the fire, there. Now while that is simmering away why don’t you tell us all a little more about the work you do, paranormal investigation sounds most fascinating!
Sir John: Well it all started in Paris, where we met. I was working away at various theories of how to detect paranormal activity. Marie was my willing companion, assisting where she could. Eventually we married and moved to London and set ourselves up as Paranormal Investigators. It was a little easier as my French isn’t terribly good and I was concerned it may be difficult to communicate with francophone fiends.
Mrs Baker: What a wonderful story, I do like a good romantic tale! And I have heard that you employ some very specialist inventions to help with this work, have you brought some along to show the orphans?
Sir John: This is my Thanatograph. It’s allows us to hear the spectral voices of any phantasm. It’s quite subtle, if there are any such entities present we may hear a faint human-like voice when the machine starts. Now I’ve set it up, let’s all be very quiet and see what happens.
Mrs Baker: Is it supposed to do that?
Sir John: Actually no. It’s quite unusual for it to fly around the room like that.
Mrs Baker: Oh, silly me! I’m afraid we are directly above the underground library and so our resident ghost, Perilous Wight, may be setting it off?
Sir John: Ah I see! Let me see if I can catch it. Oooof!
Marie: Mon cher, are you alright!
Sir John: Yes I think so. I don’t chew much on that side of my face anyway. Let me put it away before it causes any real damage.
Mrs Baker: I’m so sorry about that, I hope it will be alright. Well, these machines are all very technical and exciting, but Marie, my dear, (and while Sir John is occupied putting that device away) I cannot help but sense something of the mystical about your aura, I have a feeling that perhaps you do not need such devices to see these ghostly goings on?
Marie: Well, why I sometimes ‘ave some, shall we say, intuition into what may be going on… I’m not sure what you mean or where you have ‘eard this…
Mrs Baker: Oh my dear, I’m so sorry, I did not mean to alarm you or to be rude! Magic is forbidden in this dimension of course, but there are those of us who still practise it in secret where we can and I cannot help but sense that you have, shall we say, the ‘gift of intuition’ when it comes to the paranormal?
Marie: Ah, I see. Well, yes, it is true that I can sometimes offer … more help than is obvious. I like to keep that to myself. Oh look, Sir John is back.
Mrs Baker: Oh marvellous, and that is the kettle singing, can I offer you both some tea? How do you like it?
Sir John: Plenty of milk, three sugars, not too strong.
Mrs Baker: Oh dear, I’m afraid that is almost the last of the sugar, I shall have to visit the smugglers again.
Marie: Black, please. No sugar.
Mrs Baker: There you are. Now I know you have had many adventures but would you like to tell the orphans a little about your most recent or exciting one?
Sir John: Yes we have recently been relating our vacation in Sunnyport in our journal. It started out as a holiday and quickly became a terrifying nightmare. And that was before anything supernatural happened.
Mrs Baker: It all sounds so very exciting! And I hear that Paul Michael and Josephine Pichette have compiled some of your adventures into a book?
Sir John: Yes, indeed. It’s a collection of our first four investigations: a haunting, a strange case of a mesmerised young heiress, a fiendish killer in London, and a theft of some magical artefacts. It’s called, rather appropriately Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators Casebook One. It’s apparently available in South America?
Marie: Amazon, mon cher.
Sir John: Ah, yes.
Mrs Baker: Splendid! And where else can we read about your adventures?
Sir John: Well our journal regularly publishes details of our adventures and other interesting tidbits. Mr Michael and Mme Pichette are kind enough to update it twice weekly. They are also on, is it Twitbook, Marie?
Marie: That’s Twitter and Facebook.
Mrs Baker: Splendid! And will there be more books in the future?
Sir John: Yes indeed, Mr Michael and Mme Pichette are, I believe, chronicling our recent trip to Paris in a book they are calling The Paris Awakening. You may have read about the aftermath of that trip in the papers. It made the front page.
Marie: I don’t think Mrs Baker gets Le Monde here, and not from 1900, especially.
Mrs Baker: No indeed, the year here is 1840… and besides which, the only paper I get the is Tiffindependent…
Sir John: Well I believe it was in The Times as well…page 27. Underneath an advert for a mechanical carpet cleaner.
Mrs Baker Well perhaps I can use my soup-scrying techniques to locate a copy. Ah but that soup certainly smells the ticket doesn’t it? Thank you so much for coming to help out in the kitchen today, my dears, it’s been wonderful to chat with you but now those little urchins must be ravenous so shall we start dishing it up?
Sir John: Yes, let’s! Thank you so much for having us to visit. I’m terribly sorry about the scorch marks from the Cryptozoetropometer. I can pay to have that cleaned.
Marie: Yes thank you Mrs Baker, it’s been nice to meet a fellow…cook.
Mrs Baker: Indeed! Thankyou all of you for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I hope you will come back again next week and until then
Blessings on your brew my dears!
Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since those dreadful land pirates , 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!
Now I am extremely honoured this morning because Faerie Tale Minstrel, Alexander James Adams has very kindly agreed to help me dish up some soup for our poor unfortunate orphans here in Lancaster. Good morning Alexander! Can I take your hat and coat? This is supposed to be spring but nobody has told the weatherman as usual!
Oh, and who is this you have brought with you?
While not always visible except to such discerning folk as yourself, my Lady, my feline familiar Bartholomew Dragon Master is always with me since he became a ruler of the Sun. When he ascended from this realm in 2015 during Samhain, he made it known to me to have his name inscribed on my neck where he liked to rest his paw when sleeping and the ink used was to be infused with his ashes so now he is a part of me and I of him.
Oh what a touching tale! Well you are both most welcome. Have a seat here by the fire and I will put the kettle on, and here of course is a saucer of cream for Bartholomew. Now do tell me, how was your journey here from your own dimension?
Wonderous and unthreatened. That is not always the case when traveling, but you gave very safe directions so I was able to avoid the Unseelie Court and Their kind. They like to invite me to Their parties, but I try to have other things to do so as not to be tempted so often to do mischief with Them.
Oh dear me yes, there are many who delight in leading the unwary traveller astray! But of course you must be quite used to time and space travel by now; from Victorian, Medieval and Renaissance times on earth to the realms of Fairyland, your music speaks of a most exciting and adventurous life! Are there still more stories to tell?
Yes. I have been to many magical places, not the least of which was the Land of Fae Itself where I was abducted to by the Fae at the time of my birth. A changling took my place bearing the name of Heather Alexander and she dwelt among the Mortals for forty years or so enchanting folk with her magical music. Then she got bored and returned home, where upon I saw my chance, challenged the Queen of Faeries in a dual of fiddles, won my freedom and came here to the realm of Man. I plan on traveling to more and more magical realms to collect new songs and stories. The lands of Steampunk, furry talking animals who walk upright like humans, and even the Realm of Aegis, a new world of high adventure and canticles where I bear the name of Everon the XIII, a false immortal bard who battles for the Light of the World:
Goodness it all sounds so exciting! And certainly puts my own meagre adventures to shame! But it is so kind of you to brave the trip to our blighted Isle Of Ire to come and help me out this morning in my humble little kitchen , tell me have you brought some soup along to share with the orphans?
I brought my favourite! As a musician and sometimes empty pocketed, I have learned to make the most of what I have and can save for a hard time ahead. I call it Boiled Bone Soup. I use the frozen bones from various dinners previous, reboil them til I can strip every little bit of meat from them, toss out the bones, add rice, cloves, cinnamon, brown sugar and nutmeg to taste, plus any vegetables I have around. If I’m really lucky, I‘ll have a little port or red wine to add. Stir and cook until it’s all soft and warm and serve with fresh homemade bread. The next day, it will be almost solid and becomes a casserole until it’s all gone, but it’s so good, that doesn’t take too long at all.
Oh how delicious! Let us take out my largest cauldron then and make a double batch so we have plenty for tomorrow as well. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us about your exciting new Steampunk project?
It will be a huge event. A kind of Cirque du Soleil presentation with musicians, elaborate settings and four to five “Mechanical Technicians” to run “Hypnotica’s Magical Mind Machine”. It is a form of stage hypnotism themed in a setting of Steampunk and done by music and singing rather spoken suggestions. It won’t be just simple entertaining parlour tricks and making folk do silly things either. Everywhere they “travel” in the machine will give them an experience that will give them a sense of accomplishment and fun. I want to make sure that everyone who comes, whether they volunteer for hypnosis or not, are transformed and empowered by the show. Hypnotism does work much like real magic. It is a way of allowing your brain to accept a specific suggestion and then believing it to be real. If done with proper intent and respect, it can change the way a person thinks and behaves for the rest of their life. When folk see the Magical Mind Machine, they will learn that with the power of their own minds, they can change life for the better. That’s good magic, right there.
That certainly sounds like a marvellous thing to look forward to! When do you hope it will be released?
The musical album should be out by the end of summer this year. The show itself will take a little more time, but we hope to see a version of it come out next year. The producer himself, Mark Maverick, is a Manchester man, so we hope to have the show in London in the first year, if possible.
Oh how exciting! Now I know you’re rather a legend in the folk / filk arena but this new project isn’t your first Steampunk album is it?
Not entirely. I released a faerietale/steampunk combination album in 2014 called Summer Steam. It combines the 5 songs of Summer Releases from that year and 4 songs called Clockwork Collection all bundled to make a 9 song album.
I have heard it playing on Max and Collin’s spirit radio, it really is marvellous! But tell me my dear, what first sparked your interest in Steampunk in particular? Was it the tea?
Indeed, the tea is exceptional, but I really love the old ways of air travel like with dirigibles and hot air balloons. They seem so much more connected to the air and the magic of flight. Also, it is a genre where the gentlemen can have as much fun with clothing as the ladies and I’ve always enjoyed accessorizing!
Oh indeed! You know I think you would get on very well with our dear Captain of The Chronic Agronauts, he shares both those views entirely! But, I do find it very curious that so many people who have their roots in folk eventually find themselves drawn towards Steampunk, do you think there may be some intrinsic link between the two?
Perhaps. While Steampunk does involve the machinery and innovations of Man, it works so much more intimately with Nature and the land, leaving a much lighter footprint, so to speak, which the Folk culture tends to favour. If we had been smarter and more respectful of our world when we first started inventing, perhaps we would have become more like the world Steampunk represents.
Now there’s an interesting thought indeed… Ah, now the kettle is boiled, what is your hot beverage of choice, my dear, and how do you take it?
Hmm…I think some hot chocolate with a twist of brandy would be good, if you please.
Splendid, there you are. I’m afraid I cannot indulge in the brandy myself though, it’s my husband Albert who is the drinker. Now while we are waiting for your new release, where can we see you performing this year?
I will be traveling to the Renaissance period for the month of May performing for the Queen in Castleton, Muskogee, Oklahoma and then just popping in and out of many realms and times as I am invited to do for the rest of the year.
Most of the friends that gather here can actually see me bi-monthly if they wish through the magic of a service called Concert Window.
I try to perform an online concert from my home every other month and I ask my friends via the Book of Faces for their favourite dates and times during a given weekend. If those gathered here contact me through the Book of Faces under my full name of Alexander James Adams, I will be happy to arrange a time where this side of the pond will be more awake to attend.
Oh that is splendid news indeed! I know many of us here were thrilled to see you perform a few years ago when you visited the UK as part of Tricky Pixie, do you have any future plans to pay the UK another visit?
If I get an invitation and some help with the travel, I would jump at a chance. The Steampunk CD will bring me to Scotland to mix and master it with my good friend Fox Amoore so perchance this summer I will schedule a gig there and possibly elsewhere if I get information and the schedule to make it happen. If any one of your friends can help, please contact me at email@example.com and let’s talk!
That sounds promising indeed! And for those of us who are trapped in another dimension entirely and cannot make it out to your live performances, where can we purchase recordings of your marvellous music?
Through my web page:
or direct download through Bandcamp:
They can also get access to music, videos and art that no one else can if they wish to join my Patreon subscription:
It starts at 1 dollar US currency per month but it will be helping to pay the monthly fee on my live-in Pro Tools Studio which I hope to have built by the end of this summer so I can make even more music and magic than before.
Splendid! Now I know that the little street urchins were hoping you might play a song for them before we eat?
This being May and still a little chilly, I recommend a “Good Beltaine Fire”!
Oh marvellous! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Alexander, it’s been delightful chatting with you and I hope you will come back and see us again sometime. Now I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?
Please, and thank you so much for inviting me today! May your soups always be fulfilling to the soul!
Thankyou all of you for joining us today, I hope you will come back again next week and until then,
Blessings on your brew my dears!
Oh and before I go I must take a moment to apologise for the absence of Max and Collin this week, apparently their participation in the de-flowering festival has resulted in their home-made-steam-powered-wagonette crashing into a farmer’s barn and setting the whole thing on fire. They are now walking home, keeping to the woods and ditches to avoid said irate farmer, and should hopefully be back in the parlour next week – in my opinion it serves them right for fraternising with wayward cultists but, you know how it is, boys will be boys…
Helping me this morning are the magnificent monster fighting duo, Miss Persephone Plumtartt and Mr. Ichabod Temperance. Good morning to you both, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Can I take your hats and offer you a cup of… oh, goodness me what on earth is that?
“Good morning, Miss Mrs. Baker, Ma’am, please do not be alarmed, she ain’t near as dangerous as she appears.”
“Not you, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am! I was talking bout this here contraption I’m lugging around. It’s a universal-trans-dimensio-temporal-type-o’grapher. I use this to communicate with the alternate dimension of an Earth in the far-future year of 2017.You ladies just wait until the condensors are charged and the vaccuum tubes get warmed up, then I’ll show you what she can do.”
“This may not be the appropriate time to engage this wonder of information transportation, eh hem? One is concerned at the unusual amount of errant electrical discharges, sir. Not only have the organic felines of the house been frightened away, but the clockwork cat has fled in fear of the dread device as well.”
“Oh my Goodness, I did not mean to scare the kitties! I can show off the temp-o-graph another time.”
Oh not to worry my dears, the cats are only after my secret stash of illegal cream and as for that dreadful clockwork contraption it is an awful piece of gutter wizardry! I really cannot stand it snooping about. So, now then, do have seat, how was your journey here from your own dimension?
“Boy, oh, boy, we sure ‘nough had us a humdinger of a trip, Miss Mrs. Baker, Ma’am! I bought a ‘build your own dirigible’ kit from an advertisement in the back of a Greater Britanicacaca Scientific Journal for Kids catalog. We made it here all the way from Irondale, Alabama, USA in it!”
“No, not quite, all the way, Mr. Temperance. Unfortunately, the aircraft did not survive the journey. Moreover, One maintains the craft was woefully under-sized and ridiculously impractical for such a trying voyage.”
“It looked a lot bigger in the catalog picture, Ma’am. I still think that we could have made it all the way if those Portuguese sky pirates had not gotten after us.”
“Perhaps, Mr. Temperance, nevertheless, I think my own prudent caution of packing an inflatable dingy in my bustle saved us from certain drowning when you wrecked our own vessel’s steerage whilst disabling our foes, eh hem?”
“I didn’t have no choice, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am! I didn’t have so much as a slingshot aboard to fight with!”
“With which to fight.”
“Nor that neither.”
“You lost my newest parasol, sir, during the engagement.”
“But I needed it to hook the rudder what sent our Portobellan Buccaneers into a nice, neat spiral. They didn’t like being upside down worth a flip. So to speak. I sure did hate crashing our little ship into the ocean. I’ll never see that $7.95 again. At least we ran into a friendly herd of psychic porpoises that pushed our safety raft all the way into Morecambe Bay. We hired us a pony cart to get us from Heysham to Lancaster. I think that mean little horsie over-charged us, though. I’m sure this is a lovely area, I’m just waiting for the fog to lift, to let me have a look. I know this is an invite to a soup kitchen, but this here pea soup fog is more substantial than what I have planned.”
Oh dear me, it sounds like you have had a dreadful journey! Thank goodness you are such a resourceful pair, it would not have done at all to let sky pirates get in the way of a nice cup of tea and a sit down. I can only apologise for the fog, I’m afraid at this time of year it is dreadful but Lord Ashton is working on a set of turbines to blow it further inland (along with the toxic gasses from his factories.) Now then, what is this soup you intend to share with the orphans? That’s not it there is it?!
“‘Kudzu Gumfoo’! This here is a real life magic soup! Its primary ingredient is the magic vine of Alabama, ‘Kudzu’. I just had a small root of it with me, but as soon as I planted it outside, it took ahold like it was happy to be here. We already have plenty to make soup for all the kiddies. Just remember, you have to keep eating it. If you don’t eat the Kudzu, the Kudzu will eat you.”
“Oh! My goodness! How … unique! I think I will just ask one of the street tuffs to wrestle it into submission so that we can cook it. Now then, while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we put the kettle on? Max and Collin have told me so much about your exploits battling monsters and such it all sounds thrilling but tell me, Miss Plumtartt, how did a nice genteel lady such as yourself become mixed up in such awful events ?
“Good morning my dear, I cannot say what a delight it is to be welcomed into your abode. My thanks to Max and Collins for sharing our adventure. As to my acquaintance with Mr. Temperance, I confess that a rather unlikely set of extraordinary circumstances brought him and me together. Mr. Temperance and I come from disparate backgrounds. I am of the family Plumtartt, famous throughout Britain for our production of capital ships. Technically, I am from Elderberry Pond, of Crimpenmestylenshire and of the famous Plumtartt Manour there, but in truth, I am the product of many and varied educational environs. My involvement with the unassuming Mr. Temperance, who bears an under-educated rural Alabama resume, borders on the edge of improbable to impossible, yet, somewhere, in that little fellow is an ineffable essence of charm that I find difficult to deny.”
Indeed? And you, Mr. Temperance, you are an inventor from America, is that right? How did you come to be involved with Miss Plumtartt?
“Oh, yes, Ma’am, Miss Mrs. Baker, Ma’am, I surely am an inventor. In the world that Miss Plumtartt and I inhabit, our Earth is visited by a comet, that apparently, did not visit any of the other multitude of universes out there. In the summer of 1869, the Earth passed through the tail of a comet. Well, what do you know, ever since then, there have been sprinklings of varied genius popping up all over the world. There have been all sorts of amazing advances in spring and steam-powered mechanicals. The advances in electrical products are shocking!”
“I couldn’t resistor, Ma’am. It is now the year 1877, and this here planet is just awash in fantastic contraptions. Things have gotten a little out of hand in the paranormal sections of our world too. It seems like Miss Plumtartt and I can’t swing a holiday possum without hitting some kind of devious monster bent on subjugating our unsuspecting planet. It ain’t like we go out hunting for monsters, they just sort of plop into our laps and it is up to us to set things right.”
It sounds like your adventures are far from over, where can we read more about your exciting battles to save the world?
“Golly Gee Whillikers, you can bet your pointy hat we have more adventures to share! We have ten of them published so far. Each themed, stand-alone adventure is a full length novel, yet is reasonably priced at .99. It is even free to read on KDP for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. The universal-trans-dimensio-scripto-temporo-graph is all warmed up, so here is a link to my alternate dimension Amazon author’s pages”
Oh marvellous, I know that Max and Collin are very keen to follow along with the fun, which reminds me, Mr Temperance, I did promise Collin that I would ask you a question; I’m sure you have very little time for making goggles these days but Collin uses a specially made pair of gill-goggles to ‘breathe’ on land, sadly they are leaking and he wondered if you might be able to fix them before you go? (tinkers are few and far between in Lancaster you see, unless you count the Spoon Smith and the Time Keeper – who we are all a little afraid of…)
“I was wondering what that was on the floor. You know how it is with pets. I am relieved to know that it is just seawater. I can fix Collin up in a jiffy! I always have lots of tools and general repair supplies on hand. I will probably need to employ my micro-tools, and utilize my macro-goggles, but that’s why I carry that stuff around.”
Oh that is so kind of you Mr. Temperance, thankyou!
Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, my dears, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and learn about your adventures! I must say that soup smells…. interesting. I think it must be about ready now so shall we attempt to serve it up before it devours somebody?
“It has been our pleasure! Thank you for having us!”
“Hear, hear, I say, good show!”
“We better let them kids in. That Kudzu vine is coming on strong, and I don’t want them urchins to get ette before they can do the eating.”
“Mr. Temperance, I wish you to convey an unusual quality of your writings to our host and her guests. You see, little by little music has crept into the books. Before we depart, will you share a sample of your singing with Mrs. Baker, eh hem?”
“Oh, yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtart, Ma’am! You see, in this latest adventure, we are up against a ruthless gang of pirates! Strangely, though….
My pirates get to sing
I let their voices ring!
It might be wrong, to write in song,
but I don’t give a ding-a-ling!
Splendid Days, everybody!
~Icky and Persephone. 🙂 “
Oh how marvellous, come on children, join in the song! We do love a good sing song while we eat, and singing pirates bring back such happy memories of my time with the Chronic Agronauts..
thankyou all for joining us today and do come back again next week for more soup-based fun, until then,
Blessings on your brew my dears!
Helping me this morning is Steampunk Author E. A. Hennessy, aka Liz, author of Grigory’s Gadget. Good morning Liz, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?
I did! I recently made this delicious Roasted Red Pepper and Gouda Soup. It’s just the thing for a cold, dreary winter’s day!
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 have a seat here by the fire and tell us a little more about your marvellous book, I hear that Max and Collin enjoyed it very much indeed……
I’m so glad they enjoyed it! Grigory’s Gadget, which is Book 1 of the Gaslight Frontier Series, follows Zoya Orlova and her friends as they try to escape their oppressive life in Lodninsk. On their way to their new home, they are kidnapped by pirates and forced to join the crew. What’s more, the pirates seem to have a particular interest in Zoya’s family heirloom – a small gadget of compacted wires and gears.
It sounds thrilling, you know I was kidnapped by pirates myself not so long ago, but they were awfully nice really… but have you always been interested in writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. I remember writing all sorts of stories, from mysteries to sci-fi and fantasy. I always knew I wanted to publish a book someday! I’m so happy to share my stories with the world.
And how did you first become interested in Steampunk?
I believe the first steampunk thing that really caught my eye was the Studio Ghibli movie Howl’s Moving Castle. I was obsessed with that movie, though at the time I didn’t know exactly what “steampunk” was. Gradually over the years, I noticed I was drawn to the Victorian aesthetic and to retro and anachronistic technology. Eventually I was able to give a name to those interests – steampunk!
Now I promised Collin I would ask you… when do you plan to release the next book in the series?
I am working on the rough draft right now. My plan is to finish the rough draft in the next month or two. After that, I like to utilize beta readers to gain some feedback. After a lot of self-editing, I’ll send my manuscript off to my wonderful professional editors at Writership! All in all, I would say that the sequel, Serafima’s Stone, should be out sometime next year!
Oh how exciting, I do hope you’ll visit us again when it is released. And, in the meantime, do you have projects, appearances or releases that we can get excited about?
In addition to working on Serafima’s Stone, I am participating in the Collaborative Writing Challenge Steampunk Project, titled Army of Brass! This is a really cool project where dozens of authors work together to create a single novel. It’s written chapter-by-chapter, with 4-5 submissions from different authors for each chapter. It’s a really fun challenge!
Ah yes, I have heard of it, it sounds wonderful! And where can we find your books for sale?
Grigory’s Gadget is available in ebook form on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iTunes, and Kobo. It’s also available in paperback form on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you’re ever in the Troy, New York area, there are signed copies available at Market Block Books!
And now the all important question, upon which the fate of the universe may hinge – what is your favourite hot brew and how do you take it?
I’m currently obsessed with the cinnamon tea from Adagio Teas. It’s a Ceylon black tea with cinnamon sticks and cinnamon flavor. No milk or sugar needed! Alternatively, if I don’t want caffeine, I love making hot chocolate with real melted chocolate.
Oh splendid, always good to have a caffeine-free substitute on hand for if The Good Folk show up!
Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Liz, it’s been wonderful to chat 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?
That sounds like a great idea! Thank you so much for your hospitality. Let’s eat!
Marvellous, I hope you will all join me next week when Margaret McGaffey Fisk, author of The Steamship Chronicles, will be helping me to dish up some more delicious soup so,until then,
Blessings on your brew my dears!
Helping me this morning is author and Awenydd (or Spirit-Keeper) Elen Sentier. Good morning Elen, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Can I offer you a cup of tea?
Lapsang Souchong, please, straight, no milk. Unless you happen to have Bruichladdich single malt ???
I’m afraid I don’t touch alcohol Elen, it’s my husband Albert who is the drinker. Now here is your tea my dear…
Thankyou Mrs Baker, I wonder if we’re related? My aunt was Ida Baker who kept the sacred well in the village on the edge of Exmoor where I grew up; it was in the wall between her garden and ours, still there and still revered. She was a darling, and so was her magical gardener-husband, Uncle Perce, she gave me seedy cake and strawberries when I got in trouble at home when I was a wee kiddie J, and Uncle Perce taught me about talking with plants and bees.
They both sound marvellous Elen, you know I do think it’s possible we could be connected in some way, although I have never been to Exmore I’m afraid, it was my Mother’s job to guard Pendle before me, and I had never set foot outside it until the pirates came and kidnapped me…
BTW, I’m really sorry to hear about the treacle (and the sprats!). Just down the road from me is, I think, the only pub in the country called The Treacle Mine. Wish they could have done that with you, a much better idea z|a.
Oh we do have treacle mines at Sabden and Chobham, but you’re right it was a dreadful waste of confectionary, I do wish they had used some of the dreadful ‘standard issue tinned soup’ the government forces upon us all instead…
Oh yes, the soup for the orphans! … well, goodness me, there’s so many. When it’s the season, I just love tomato soup and it’s so simple to do. You need a good wallop of ripe tomatoes, the ones with that fabulous smell, a big bunch of fresh basil, and you can either use olive oil or good butter, butter gives it an extra sweetness. You need a good, heavy-bottomed pot to make it in.
Chop the basil really fine so all its scented oils are released. Chop the tomatoes small, and heat up the oil or butter, not boiling but good and hot. Take the pot off the heat, put half the chopped basil into it and swish it about to scent up the oil/butter, then add all the tomatoes and put back on the heat. Don’t have the heat up high or you’ll burn rather than cook. Keep stirring the mix as this helps the flavours to seep through. When the tomatoes look/taste/feel ready take the pot off the heat and allow it to sit for at at least an hour to steep further.
When you want to eat, heat up the pot again but don’t boil, keep stirring and watching, as soon as it’s ready pour it into heated bowls and Bob’s your uncle J. I like to eat it with some fresh sourdough bread and good unsalted butter, and maybe a bit of grated cheese … Yummmm !
Oh how delicious, there is nothing better than good homemade tomato soup (it knocks the socks of the tinned variety every time!) Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire. I hope your journey to our dimension was a good one?
Not too bad at all, got a bit bumpy flying over the M6, the turbulence there can be frightful, damned near fell off me broom and the cat got sick! But we’re all fine now, that cuppa you gave me sorted things.
Oh dear, the poor cat, I’m glad he is feeling better now though. Elen it is so lovely to meet another woman who deals in spiritual matters, here in Ire it is absolutely forbidden and I have to do all my work in secret which is a dreadful strain. Now why don’t I put the kettle on and you can tell me a little more about the work that you do ?
Another cuppa would go down grand, and the cat would love a saucer of milk now, says his stomach can handle it. We, he and me, don’t have quite the same problems you seem to have up here, not down in the Welsh Marches. It’s a lovely twilight land, between two countries and between two worlds, where the Faer folk are very happy to come and play with me and the students. I always have some students to pass on the work to, the old ways, and it’s such a lovely spot for writing too.
It sounds wonderful. I have had the very great pleasure of reading some of your books, including your newest release; Merlin – past and future Wizard, oh is that a copy you have with you there?
Yes, indeed, would you like it? I thought you might so I brought one along. Hmm … Merlin … well he and I’ve been friends all my life. Dad it was who introduced us, Dad’d known him too, when I was nought but a baby, and I began to find out about him through the stories. Where I live now is one of the places he was born and lived, we have our own Merlin-story but here we call him Dyfrig (you say it Duvrigg) which means water-baby because of how he got born.
I had heard a little about this Merlin figure from your world and thought him to be a fascinating mythical character but your book goes beyond these myths to show us a Merlin who we can engage with within the context of our daily lives doesn’t it?
Well yes, he’s not an academic construct and certainly doesn’t fit into those boxes. He really does want to get known again, to make friends with as many people as want to know him because he really can, and will, help us through this enormous crisis the Earth is going through.
He wants to know people – when they want to know him. He comes as a friend, an older and more experienced friend who has walked the path far longer than any of us humans. But he comes as a guide not someone who expects either worship or rule-book following. He works with each of us in ways we can do best. All we need to do is ask him. I say “all” but I do know how hard that can be, because we’re no longer encouraged to believe and work with our intuition, nor are we taught how to know it from our personal wants and desires. That’s part of what we learn with Merlin.
It seems that Merlin is a figure who can guide and influence us no matter what age we are living in but are the old stories as important as the new?
Yes, indeed. Merlin is just what the book-title says – the once and future wizard. He has been with us here on Earth since time out of mind, and he will be as long as the Earth still orbits the Sun. And, it seems to me from my lifelong experience with him, that he was around in the universe long before the Earth was formed and will be still after she’s gone. That makes him always here, always available to help … whenever we ask. And the old stories are still as important as the new. Our old ways are what I call “and/and” rather than “either/or”, they’re inclusive not exclusive. We are our personal selves and, at the same time, we are our spirit selves, the two are not exclusive, they happen at the same time – we call it walking between worlds.
Everyone’s spirit-life is always evolving. Nothing is ever set in tablets of stone, it’s always growing and adapting to where and when we are at this instant, so new stories are needed to fit with who we are now. But the old stories still fit too – if you read them properly and don’t try to dumb them down into whatever your “normal-box” is. Stories are one of the very basic ways humans learn and pass on wisdom to each other, and always have. Recent research has shown that our stories – the ones they’ve worked with – go back at least to the Bronze Age, that’s maybe 5,000 years ago! The old stories show us how to be, how to behave, how things really are, and how to relate with otherworld, as well as how to travel there. But we, and our stories, are as riddling and contrary as Zen, if not more so. To get the point, understand them, you need to spend time with the stories learning how to feel into them rather than trying to translate them into what you already know. After all, what’s the point of doing that? !!!
Throughout the book this dynamic, engaging (at times quite seductive) spirit of Merlin urges us to take up that liminal space between past and present and truly live ‘in the moment’… that is a very big challenge isn’t it, especially with all the pressures and insecurities of modern life?
Chuckle! Yes, he can be very seductive! That way of living, engaging all the time with the liminal, is very challenging for many modern folk. We’re so heavily caught up in the shibboleths of how we should be, according to the adverts on TV, politics, political correctness and all that crap! And it’s so scary for most people to dare to break out. This is the first hurdle my students have to get themselves over, and they do it too but it can be like ripping your skin off, like a snake shedding its skin. And getting used to the fact (yes, fact!) that otherworld completely permeates your everyday world is a huge step, but it does, and the students discover this for themselves with my help. That’s really important too, I do Merlin’s job in little, at my own small level, because I’ve walked the path a bit longer than my students. You always need that, someone you can really get on with who’s been doing it longer than you. That’s what being apprentice is about.
The Merlin I felt as I read your book, Elen, seemed to be firmly planted in the modern man-made world, but at the same time you show us his continuing rootedness in nature and the history of the land, do you think it is important that Merlin is able to straddle these, sometimes so opposing, spaces?
Oh yes, he’s the threshold, the doorway, the place between that connects us across the worlds. And he’s in the here-n-now with us just as much as in the “past”. An example – he called one of my students on her mobile phone last autumn on the workshop! LOL, it was hairy for her but she got it, worked with it and grew herself enormously as a result. And it made me smile. We too often want to get into the cutesy fantasy-stuff rather than reality, and Merlin’s all about reality. He’s in every particle of our Earth’s body as well as being with us in our everyday modern world – and/and again. Try this ancient picture of the goddess/god, it’s on a gold brooch from the La Teine culture …
Do you get it? The one head is the other but turned upside-down! And/and yet again J. One interpretation of this is Vivien and Merlin as lady and lord, the pairs of opposites which make the whole. We’ve forgotten that. We’re taught to think that things are “opposing” when in reality they’re two sides of one coin. We need to change this attitude and Merlin will help us with that. Being a threshold is how he does it. Come to me he says, step through me, now look back and I’m still here but different, the same but different. It’s a bit like light which is both particles and waves at the same time!
Your book was such an enlightening read, Elen, and I really feel I could pick your brains all day about this subject but I know you must be off soon, you have a talk to prepare for in London is that correct?
I do indeed. I’m doing an illustrated talk for Earthstars Sacred Space, at Steiner House in London on 24th Feb, and need to get on it J. It’s about Merlin and his relevance for us today too. If you want to come here’s the link https://www.facebook.com/events/1839244072988715/
Oh marvellous, I shall certainly try to come along, even if I cannot do the dimension hop in person I will try to tune in with Max and Collin’s Spirit Radio, it picks up most things from your world. Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Elen, it’s been wonderful to chat 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?
Yummm! Let me give you a hand …
Wonderful, thankyou. I hope you will all join me in the kitchen next week when Steampunk author Liz Hennessy will be dropping in to give me a hand and talk about her book Grogory’s Gadget. Until then,
Blessings on your brew my dears!
Helping me this morning is Steampunk writer Kara Jorgensen, author if the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. Good morning Kara, thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?
Here is a recipe for Irish beer cheese soup. http://www.aspicyperspective.com/irish-beer-cheese-soup/2/ I love cheese, and while I’m not a fan of beer, this soup is one of my favourites, especially in a bread bowl.
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 writing? Did you always want to be a writer?
For as long as I can remember, I have loved writing. When I was little, I would visit my grandma at work and peck out stories on her electric typewriter. For a while, it was melodramas with my dolls, but in middle school, I really started to write more seriously and try to write an entire novel. It didn’t work. It wasn’t until I was in university that I realized writing had been my passion all along.
And what inspired you to write in the Steampunk genre in particular?
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Victorian Era. I loved Sherlock Holmes and period dramas, so when I realized that steampunk afforded me the ability to manipulate and rewrite the past while still dabbling in medicine, science, and magic, I couldn’t help but join in. There’s also a lot of dualities in the Victorian Era that make it interesting: science v. pseudo-science, morals v. sensuality, utilitarian v. luxurious brocades and corsets, massive wealth v. sinfully poor. Steampunk is an incredibly diverse genre, and that diversity allows me to write things that may not work in straight-up scifi or historical fiction.
Are there any particular writers who you feel have influenced or inspired your writing?
Probably every writer I’ve ever read influences me in one way or another, but my main influences are probably Oscar Wilde, Anne Rice, and historical-fantasy writers like K.J. Charles and Jordan L. Hawk. Charles and Hawk write fantastic historical-fantasy stories featuring LGBT characters, and in Rice is in the same vein, though I probably pull more from her use of atmosphere and description. With Wilde, I think it’s more of what he stood for. He was in his heyday in the 1890s when my stories take place, so he is that typical Victorian genius, full of wit, excess, and all the dualities of the period.
Your books are wonderfully detailed, which gives the impression that either you are an expert on archaeology, history, mechanics, prosthetics and a dozen other subjects at least, or you do a fair amount of research before you begin to write… which is it?
Research is the best and worst part of writing historical-fantasy. I love learning about new cultures, history, whatever I can get my hands on, but it eats up a lot of time. Sometimes I find myself winging it because I just want to write. This leads to having to fact-check everything during the revision process. The great thing about writing steampunk and historical-fantasy is that it lets me dabble in all of the subjects I love, including history, mechanics, medicine, and of course, archaeology.
In the first book, The Earl Of Brass, we meet Eilian and Hadley; two engaging, headstrong characters whose developing friendship runs as a background theme throughout the book. Together they show the reader the prejudices of the world in which they live and this adds a welcome layer of depth to this romantic adventure. Tell me Kara, do you think it is important for science fiction to comment on and challenge the notions of the past, present and possible future in this way?
I definitely do. When I think back at the books I’ve read, I’m often drawn most to those that made me see the world differently. Anne Rice’s books made me aware at a young age that not everyone was straight, white, or free to do as they pleased, and that altered my thinking and made me more aware of the struggles of “the other.” Books are a society’s written history, veiled through motifs that less threatening than flat-out saying we are doing x, y, and z wrong as a society. People are more likely to listen and enact change if they can sympathize or empathize with the person struggling, and what better way to do that than through compelling characters.
The second book is perhaps a little darker than the first and we meet some new characters, and a new Ingenious Device, would you like to tell us a bit about that?
The Gentleman Devil is the second book in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series, and it moves away from the adventuring aspect of steampunk and into the mad scientist side of things. The story begins with a teenage medium nearly drowning in the Thames and being rescued by an Oxford student with a family heirloom that can resurrect the dead and inadvertently ties their souls together. Of course, a potion that can revive the dead or grant immortality would be very useful for some less than moral characters, and Emmeline and Immanuel end up in deep trouble. Luckily, the latter also finds love, and Emmeline learns more about herself and her future in the process.
How many books are there in the series so far (and will there be any more) ?
As of right now, there are four books out, and I’m writing the fifth, which should be out by summer time. I also have ideas for at least two more stories in the series, which would bring the series to seven stories. Besides the books, there are two companion short stories. One is a romantic romp between Adam and Immanuel that occurs between books two and three, and the other is a prequel that shows how and why Eilian decided to ditch nobility in favor of adventure.
And besides the books, where else can we read your work?
Before my books are published, I always post chapters on my website along with lots of teasers. When you join my newsletter, you get a free short story entitled, “The Errant Earl,” which is the prequel I previously mentioned.
Do you have any new projects or releases planned that we can get excited about?
Yes, I’m currently working on the fifth book in the series, I’m really looking forward to sharing it with everyone once it’s complete. It features Adam and Immanuel as they venture to an island in search of some strange, humanoid sea creatures. After that, I’m hoping to tackle another story featuring Eilian and Hadley off on an adventure and Emmeline, my bratty, sassy heroine will get a story of her own.
And now the all important question which do you sup to inspire you when you write, coffee or tea? (and how do you take it?)
Coffee is my go-to drink. I love a dark roast with some half-and-half and a bit of milk. At that point I’m probably drink three-quarters rather than half-and-half, but I love the mellowing effect it has on a dark roast… and that it makes it cool enough to drink in a timely manner.
Well thankyou so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Kara, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and learn more about your writing. 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?
Sounds great to me. Thank you so much for having me and for cooking up some soup for us. If anyone would like to receive a free short story along with information regarding future books and projects, I hope they will join my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bfJTW9
Wonderful, I hope you will all join me in the soup kitchen next week when I will have another very special guest helping me so until then,
Blessings on your brew my dears!
Helping me this morning is Morrigan, creator of the amazing steampunk and cosplay accessories at Terrible Mischeif Studios. Good morning Morrigan, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?
Why yes, of course I love potato soup the most at this time of year, it’s hearty and feeds a lot of your little urchins!
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 3-4 cups of peeled and cubed potatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup chopped ham or turkey ham
- In a large stock pot add potatoes, celery, onion, chicken broth and parsley flakes. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until vegetables become tender.
- In a separate bowl mix flour and milk. Once it is well blended, add to soup mixture and cook until soup becomes thick.
- Stir in ham and simmer to desired consistancy!
Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we take a look at some of your stunning creations, have you brought some along to show us today?
Of course, here are just a few examples of my work I specialise in metal wings and medals for airship pirates and captains of every stripe, but I also occasionally make jewelry, cosplay props, and art when the mood strikes me.
Your steampunk creations really are wonderful, what inspires you when you sit down to create each one?
I adore the creativity of the world of steampunk, so I try to imagine what someone who is a pirate, or an imperial merchant, or a wild free as the breeze captain might actually do in such a world of mayhem and machines, and I use bits and shinies to try and create something that that character might really wear in their everyday life, and then try to never make two pieces exactly alike so they an authenticity to them as a part of unique costume. Of course putting on some of my favourite steampunk music from Professor Elemental, Abney Park, and Steampowered Giraffe really gets the creativity flowing!
Ah yes, my dear, I recognise some of those name as Max and Collin often have their Tesla Radio tuned in to your dimension when I visit The Parlour! Splendid! And where do you source all those amazing materials?
I try to use actual vintage clockworks and parts as much as possible, most of which I get from the Europe and also from a local clock repairman who has a shop two doors down from mine in Tacoma, which is a really lucky break for someone in my line of work! Most of my centrepieces are just interesting things I collect up on my adventures in craft shops, bead stores, and reclaimed recycling places both on and offline, so I like to think of myself as a true scavenger!
How marvellous, you know I do think it is so important for a woman to be resourceful, especially when living in a post apocalyptic dystopia. Tell me, do you take custom orders?
Most Definitely, I do try to find ways to make peoples experience with me a real positive interaction with a a fellow cosplayer rather than a faceless business, so I try to accommodate in any way I can!
Wonderful! Now then, you also specialise in cosplay photography, would you like to tell us a bit about that?
I do, have actually been using photography as an art medium for several years, and I am expanding to include it in my geeky sphere as well. Mostly because it seems that most professional photographers that are offering it are quite expensive, so I’m just trying to be a more affordable option! Most of what I do however is professional editing of personal and candid photos people have of their cosplays, and I offer that service at very affordable rates as well, as my way of supporting the cosplay community 🙂
That’s marvellous! And where else can we find your work displayed, featured or for sale?
We have a small etsy shop and a small brick and mortar shop in downtown Tacoma, as we sometimes frequent local shows and conventions, the info on all of our adventures can be found at our website www.terriblemischifstudios.com
Now I also hear that you are known as Captain Piper, would that be an airship you are captain of and if so do you ever use your creations to help you on your steampunk adventures?
Yes, I am officially known as Captain Aurelia Piper, I have a small independent trade ship the Mischief which I pilot around and sell my goodies, I call it my little gypsy ship! Our little shop in Tacoma is actually decorated as a small airship to represent her , and I usually dress as Captain Piper for events, and of course I use my own goodies and props for my cosplays.
And finally, the all important question, on which the fate of the world may hang… which is the brew that inspires you more when you are creating, coffee or tea?
Quite important, surely, it is tea of course. I prefer strong oriental spiced black teas myself, they keep me awake and sturdy at the helm on those long nights keeping guard against airship pirates!
Of course! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Morrigan, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and see all your beautiful creations! 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?
Of course, thank you so much for the opportunity to meet and learn from a magical creature such as, and to share my story, I do hope we can get together again soon!
Certainly! It would be a pleasure to see you again my dear, now we really must give the orphans their soup before The Good Folk start their patrol (if they find us serving home cooked soup instead of the regulation issue tinned variety, they will have our heads!) Thankyou all for joining us today and please come back next week when Nimue and Tom Brown, creators of Hopeless, Maine, will be stopping by with some rather sinister smelling stew to share with us, so, until then,
Blessings on your brew my dears!