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!
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to the parlour, pull up a lemonade crate and make yourself at home. I’m afraid you find us in a contemplative and, some might even say, philosophical mood this morning… so if the idea of a contemplative and philosophical octopus will put you off your tea, you may wish to call back another day when we have sobered up a little…
Staying? Oh marvellous, well then… a-hem… this is what we were discussing…
If steampunk sits, eyeing us all seductively across the poker table, shuffling the cards of re-imagined realities , be they past, present or future, then surely He / She / They or indeed It is well placed to grind one sneering scarlet stiletto boot heel into the face of the spluttering, over indulged prejudices and misconceptions that have thwarted the progress of humanity throughout history?
And it is our own, humble, modest and most tentatively proffered opinion, that anyone who is inclined to be a part of that boot, or the alluringly unshaven leg within it, or even to cheer from the side lines and pour the next round of absinthe laced tea, should be encouraged to do so.
You know the Age Of Steam has always been my Least favourite in history; so much of it makes my blood boil, and no less in your own dimension than here in Ire. Granted we don’t have the issues of colonialism or empire building that you have had, but if you think that means our world is free from oppression and bigotry then you really haven’t been paying attention.
Everyone hates the Wizards and the Tea Time Lords because they control everything, everyone hates the Witches because the Wizards tell us to, everyone hates the Tinkers because they can do things that most of us can’t , but everyone wants the Tinkers to do things for them, everyone hates the Land Pirates, the Tea Smugglers and the Tiffin Madams because they succeed in living outside the law, and everyone would love to live outside the law, but everyone wants the things these outcasts have to trade, and few want to examine the turbulent history that has lead them to their current mode of existence.
And of course everyone hates the Skyway Men because… well, have you ever met one? I rest my case.
Hm? Oh, Max says that “everyone hates the Skyway Men because they are a small group of Tinkers who have broken away from their allotted niche at the bottom of society and formed an aristocracy of their own built on oppressing those they deem beneath them, much in the same way that the royal family and its social entourage have done for centuries, and nobody likes it when the tables are turned or when an upstart minority group rebels against its allotted station in Iife.”
Well possibly, Max ,possibly, all I know is, last time I was in Annwn they called me a dribbling cephalopod and threatened to blow our brains out. Hm? I don’t care if it was a hand made lace tablecloth Max, I just don’t care, offence has been taken and that is that. And will you please stop interrupting!
Now then, the reason I love Steampunk is that it provides a splendid, hand crafted, gleaming brass, steam powered, time travelling, dimension hopping vehicle into which we can jump (teapot in one hand and energy-ray-blunderbuss-of-idiocy-thwartation in the other) and re-write the wrongs of the past, not to somehow exonerate or brush under the carpet our embarrassing ancestors (and lets face it, we all have a few of those – Max particularly…) but to create new narratives that grab these perpetrators of injustice by the shirt collar, tie them to a small rickety wooden chair in the basement of an abandoned mansion house, shine a spot light in their face and pelt them with a relentless barrage of witty abuse, whilst posing about in front of them wearing smug faces and fabulous amounts of bombazine…
Hm? No! It is merely a sartorial preference, Max, not a fetish. Honestly, for a Very Quite Gentleman you do an awful amount of interrupting.
… Far from allowing us to then traverse the murky rivers of the past with impunity, pith helmets on crying “Oh it’s alright, we’re not like that any more see?!” these new narratives help inform the development of the future, both real and imagined. By not only slaying the beasts of the past but paving the road forwards with their carcasses, we create a poignant ‘bone road’ for those who follow in our adventurous footsteps.
But are we obliged to do this? Is it possible that all this talk of ethics, equality, diversity and inclusivity should not cross the boundary from the real world into the imagined? Can’t we just romp around in whatever costumes we like and write or ridicule whatever we fancy because, at the end of the day, it’s just a bit of fun and nobody means any harm and we don’t want the fun taken out of the thing now do we? Leave politics for the pub and steampunk for the cons? Hm? Does it matter if we create an accidentally segregated situation in which certain groups of society do not feel welcome in our ranks or are offended or hurt by our actions or unable to join in the fun because they cannot gain access to it?
Probably everyone’s opinion will be different, we can only offer our own…
Speaking candidly, as folk who are usually in the minority wherever we go (there not being many people in the world-above-waves who sport such fetching tentacles as myself and my Vary Quiet Gentleman Friend), Max and I think these things do matter and that in the Steampunk arena, as in every other area of life, everyone has a duty to follow the wise words of that hypocritical oath that so many doctors swear by…
Hm? Hypo what? Oh Hippocratic is it? So sorry I thought it said ‘first do no harm’ … oh it does say that does it? I’m sorry your human world is so very confusing.
But all this waffling is only the humble opinion of one tea-sotted octopus, over the next few weeks we will be talking to some seriously salt-worthy Steampunks who are passionate about the issues of inclusivity and diversity.
As I said earlier, I believe that anyone who is keen to jump into their space-time-dimension vehicle and begin wreaking restorational havoc upon the past, present or future should be encouraged to do so… but anyone who has encountered our own dear Gail Force will know that such well meant endeavours can occasionally blow up in one’s face, so I will also be getting some first class advice on how not to end up causing more harm than good.
Max and I encountered an irate individual the other day who, rudely but quite rightly, said that we shouldn’t go through life terrified of offending others. This is true and we would like to place it now upon the record that, as creatures with many tentacles, we do not wish anyone to be terrified of the ramifications of treading upon one of those limbs. Accidents happen all the time and any reasonable creature will understand that. (An Elder God may not, but they are thankfully few and far between).
We would however like to help create a world where everyone is aware that creatures with tentacles exist and where, just as we try to be polite and courteous and not to trip anyone up or dribble over your best lace table cloths (be quiet Max!), others try to be polite and courteous to us and not trample on us in their eagerness to get to the free biscuits.
More tea? No? Five cups is your limit is it? Ah well, thankyou for staying and enduring the ramblings of a tea-sotted octopus and the embarrassing ejaculations of his Very Quiet Gentleman friend, we hope you will join us again next week for more marvellous tea and excellent Steampunk fiction and of course tomorrow Mrs Baker will be talking to Nils Nisse Visser about his Steampunk book Amster Damned.
We wish you a very biscuit-full afternoon and, until we see you again,
please, be always
A small but unpleasant thing happened at a con recently which brought to my attention several issues that, in my naivety, reclusiveness and small-scale social paddling pool of carefully vetted beautiful-hearted human beings I had not been aware of.
But before I talk about the little incident and the road forward from there, I need to make it clear that I am speaking and writing and feeling from a situation of immense privilege. For anyone who doesn’t already know, I am half Rromani. Over the generations the parents and grandparents of my family have done all they could to merge with mainstream British culture to the point that all the children of my generation (and now my children’s generation) can live without the stigma associated with being labelled with the racist term ‘gypsy.’
That means they totally (publicly) abandoned their names, culture, religion, traditions, language, dress, beliefs… so that we could have full access to jobs, education, a social life and all the other aspects of life which they had been denied because of their ethnicity. Being Rromani was dangerous, it still is for many, and so my family hid – becoming invisible in plain sight.
Because of their sacrifice, I am able to choose to stand shoulder to shoulder with any other middle class British person, blissfully unaffected by racial issues of disadvantage or prejudice. So when I choose to reclaim, explore or celebrate aspects of my cultural heritage I am exercising that right from a position of safety and privilege ; I am able to choose to opt in or out, to reveal or to hide.
Often I choose to opt in because I feel that, if I don’t, all the beautiful and terrible things that are becoming lost will be lost forever. All the stories will pass away. I feel that the efforts of my elders will have been wasted if I don’t stand in the place their sacrifice has put me and wave their flag for them. Opre Roma? Well, here we are! And although I have endured the odd idiotic remark, that is by no means comparable to the atrocious suffering undergone by many Rromani people, both historically and today.
So when my husband and I Steampunk we always draw inspiration from Rromani history and culture (real Rromani history and culture, not this, frankly insulting, ‘steampunk gypsy’ aesthetic that can be seen wafting around the internet) and, probably because we always Steampunk small-scale with friends and family, this has never been an issue.
But this year we went to something big and I’m sad to say that we received some rather idiotic remarks from a few other Steampunks about our overtly Rromani costumes not being ‘Proper Steampunk.’ Thankfully our children didn’t hear and obviously we didn’t run off to blub in the toilets but just got on with the day and had a marvellous time. But it has lead my husband to say that perhaps we shouldn’t dress like that anymore (in case it happens again and the children do hear and get upset), that we should just wear top hats, goggles and lots of high tech gadgetry to try and fit in more rather than stand out as something outside the norm, perhaps we’re ruining it for the mainstream and they don’t want people to stray from the approved aesthetic? Or perhaps they just don’t understand and it’s not worth trying to educate them.
Well I thought about it long and hard – at first I have to say I was shell shocked because I’d always assumed that my small but very diverse circle of educated, enlightened, all-accepting and utterly beautiful friends was reflective of the entire Steampunk Community. I did some snooping, hoping to discover that my first impressions had been correct and that what we experienced was a one off… sadly I found lots of folks had had similar experiences … but happily I also found that lots of folks like us were trying to put their own cultural stamp on Steampunk and THAT I felt was something to dwell on, to pay attention to, to celebrate and to encourage.
I need to respond to what happened, because it left such a nasty taste in my mouth, and fortunately I am in a position that enables me to choose to respond by ignoring those trolls and instead drawing attention to as many fabulous folks as I can find who are doing good things and helping to make our community diverse, interesting, welcoming, representative, inclusive and fun for everyone who wants to be a part of it – because I think that for the most part it is!
So I stand very awkwardly, very humbly, and very nervously before you all today, in the shadow of those far better and wiser than me, on the shoulders of those far stronger and more deserving, hoping to spend some time celebrating the diversity that already exists within our wonderful Steampunk world by bringing together some fantastic writers, artists, musicians and creators who are actively shaping the genre into a really splendid scene to be a part of. (rather than an exclusive, fusty old gentleman’s club stuck up it’s own rear end).
So that is what will be happening here over the next few months ( I mean, hopefully it sort of inadvertently happens already!)
Nimue Brown spoke recently about creating types of sacred space, the more we all work together to try and create sacred spaces where we can celebrate and explore our own histories and cultures side by side through the medium of punk fiction, the more the trolls will be pushed to the sidelines where they belong.
(Thankyou for humouring me. Apologies for the interruption to the usual schedule of frivolity and mayhem, normal tea service will resume as soon as octopoidly possible…)
😉 – Penny
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! A very warm welcome back to Max and Collin’ s ravishingly refreshing and zestily zany parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.
True some have called it too piquant for their tastes, but we consider that such individuals are simply sour that they have not yet received an invitation.
Well you find us this morning safely returned from our inter-dimensional jaunt to MCM Comic Con in London (for some reason your London is not a clockwork city run by Land Pirates as ours is but nevertheless our tri-cornered hats, fake mechanical limbs and crys of ‘arrrr me hearties!’ did not seem to be out of place)
Unfortunately operating the photographic device we had brought with us whilst preventing our small hoard of street urchins from half-inching shiny things, assaulting aliens with their lethal balloon-swords and getting themselves locked up by the security team meant we didn’t actually take many photographs, but here is a small taste of some of the steampunk splendidness that was on show in case you weren’t able to make it there yourselves …
But now the excitement is all over and we are very pleased to be home and able to kick our tentacles up on the table with a splendid pot of Lady Grey tea from Mystic Brew Teas and an excellent book… like this one…
Katie is a 28 year old woman in crisis; her relationship (if you could ever call it that) has crumbled and she’s back at her father’s house popping pills and drowning her sorrows while her demonic step sister is trying to win the world’s worst tantrum award. But when the little brat falls down the stairs, breaking her neck, Katie is blamed for her murder and sent to Greystone Asylum… a dark and terrifying place where death stalks in a black hood and no one is quite what they seem. Who is the mysterious murderer? What secrets are the doctors harbouring behind their office doors? And will Katie survive long enough to find out?
To call this book a contemporary lesbian murder mystery would be accurate but not do it justice. The raw reality of Susanna Kaysen meets the gripping horror of Paul Hoffman in this dark and twisted tale which, amongst the sexual intrigue and the pervading tension, has at its heart some deep questions about humanity, our concept of self and our judgement of others.
Overall, a gripping page-turner which horror and mystery fans will adore.
Now our oracular cephalopterois is straining at the leash to tell us something so let us pop him into his teacup and what his far seeing spines have plucked from the aether for us this morning…
Oh ho! Well, that makes sense because it is indeed lemonade season here in Ire and our meticulously maniacal landlord Montmorency has been badgering us again about getting out there and selling the stuff so, for the next few weeks we will be All Over Lemonade; its history, place in Victorian culture and lots of luscious recipes for making your own.
So, we invite you back to join us tomorrow for some lusciously lemony elevenses and until then, please be always,
Good morning ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s breathtakingly brew-tastic parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!
True some have called it a tasteless affair offered up by the dregs of society but we consider that such individuals are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
Well we hear that in your dimension you are celebrating something called Beltane? We hope that is going splendidly for you all! Celebrations abound here in Ire as well with our annual Decimation Of The Flowers ritual (or deflowering ceremony as some folks call it) and so we humbly ask that you forgive our absence yesterday as we were swept along with the tide of evil cultism… you know how it is…
Wiz has decreed that wild flowers can only possibly bloom from seeds pilfered from government plantations and are therefore illegal and must be destroyed on sight. Flowers, after all, contain nectar which bees might use to make honey and then wild honey might be illegally harvested by anyone, and then how would the Wizards regulate the national sugar intake? Anarchy would ensue.
So, in each of the seven counties this month you will find troupes of people using home made apparatus and ingenious devices to rid their locality of wild flowers in all their many forms and destroy any bees nests whilst avoiding being stung. It is all highly amusing and, best of all, it is quite possible in the confusion to finger-smith lots of Percy (that is, lots of sweet edible flowers and honey for one’s ‘personal use’) without The Good Folk noticing. (Of course a diligent gent can snag Wild flowers at any time of year, there is always something in bloom, but evidently Wiz hasn’t cottoned on to this fact yet)
But before we embark on our morning deflowering mission we must fuel up with enormous amounts of tea and good literature and, naturally, we have both. Our tea this morning is the festive Blooming Tea from ZakkaCasa and our book is the tea machine by Gill McKnight…
Millicent is an intelligent woman of independent means whose life couldn’t be more perfect, that is until her scatterbrained genius of a brother,Hubert ,decides to decimate her best Parasol to use as the lever of his time machine… as Millicent tries to reclaim her beloved property she inadvertently triggers the machine and finds herself plunged headlong into the future of an alternate reality where the woman she loves is in mortal danger. As Millicent tries to save her beloved Sangfroid from what seems like an inevitable and violent death something, or someone, seems to be pulling the strings of time and space into a noose around their necks. Can Millicent, Sangfroid and their friends escape the machinations of evil tea cultists and giant space squid and discover the temporal anomaly that has lead to the rise of the tea goddess and her terrifying steam powered Empire?
This well paced steampunk adventure has everything you could wish for, the whimsy of Gail Carriger, the intrigue and intensity of Meredith Rose and a cast of characters we instantly fell in love with; we laughed, we cried, we basked in the classic Wells/ Verne flavouring and we almost forgot to breathe at the scary bits! We cannot wait for the next book in the series to be released next year.
Now then,our poor oracular pet is straining to be unleashed so let us pop him into his teacup and see what he has plucked from the aether for us this morning…
Well REALLY! What is the impudent creature trying to suggest? That we switch our beloved tea to coffee instead? Hm… I am beginning to suspect that little cur of insubordination and possible defection of our noble revolutionary efforts. Coffee indeed! Pff.
We wish you all a very pleasant morning, whatever cult you belong to, and we hope to see you back in the parlour again soon, hopefully with armfuls of pilfered posies, but until then, please be always
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s formidably flamboyant and delinquently day-dreamy parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!
True, some have called it a barren affair; its charms a figment of fiendish imagination, but we consider that such people spend too much time indulging in unsavoury gossip.
You find us this morning reminiscing about the innocent delights of youth… at least I think that is what we are doing.. we are coming out of the end of an all night tiffin session with the lovely Miss Ottis, our local Milliner. I’m not sure Max has noticed that she gave her leave over an hour ago and he has just finished regaling her empty chair with a charming story about how the poet Christina Biscotti first introduced him to something called a sherbet rocket.
I confess I couldn’t follow most of it (sweet delights like that may be illegal in the land f Ire but below the sea they are simply unobtainable, as even the most intrepid cake smuggler does not think to put on a diving suit and peddle their wares along the sea bed.) but the whole thing seemed to take place on a punt in Oxford and ended in a near death collision with a steamer.
Anyway, Max has now moved on to rambling about Christina’s Mostly Awful Poetry and that can only end in tears so I think it is time we opened something splendid to read and put the kettle on again for a nice grounding cup of Wildflower Serenity Tea from DaisyandMallow
Our book this morning is An Oxford Holiday, another beautiful offering from the mistress of ingenious mechanical devices, Kara Jorgensen. An oxford holiday is a short companion story to the series and falls between books two and three.
Lovers Adam and Immanuel have been separated since their last adventure, Adam lives in London while Immanuel is finishing his studies in Oxford. Although the nightmare reality of Immanuel’s capture and torture by the gentleman devil is now over, the Oxford bully boys continue to make his life a misery and his experiences have left scars that are both physical and emotional. He is overjoyed at the prospect of Adam coming to stay for a weekend, even if they cant let their feelings show in public it will be good to have a friend as company, and then f course Adam will have his own hotel room… But things don’t go as planned as an emergency at the university means that Adam and Immanuel may not get the break they planned for after all.
If you haven’t already read the first two books it is possible to enjoy this as a sweet gay romance story on its own as Kara does a great job of filtering in the necessary facts without any annoying information dumping. What newcomers may not fully appreciate, and this is the reason devotees of the series will want to make sure they grab this little bonus book, is just how much Immanuel has suffered in the past, how much this precious time alone with Adam means to them both. Immanuel is an adorable character and we desperately want him to find happiness with Adam if their plans for the future work out, but the subtle threat to that at the very end of the book implies that even London may not be the sanctuary he is hoping for, we suspect that Immanuel and Adam have more trying times ahead and we can’t wait to read the next book
And now we must pop our oracular pet into its cup and see what its tentacles have plucked from the aether for us this morning…
That is truly ingenious! I wonder if he could make us one for the tea… we wish you all a very sweet and steamy afternoon, and hope you will join us for elevenses tomorrow so,until then, please be always
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s marvellously meretricious parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.
True some have called it a brummagem quagmire brim full of the ashes of mortal hopes and dreams… but we consider that such individuals are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us this morning wading through a slough of self pity, shuddering sporadically with shame as we remember the horrors and humiliations of the past two weeks.
Montmorency waved his straw-stuffed hand breezily as he assured me that exploitation was not a word in his vocabulary, that everyone in his employment was over sixteen and by opening his burlesque club to employ “Men, Women and Everything In Between” he is “pioneering a new era of equality in workers’ rights and flying high the flag of anti-discrimination.”
But nobody likes being referred to as a non-descript entity lost between the two poles of normality, especially not myself… or Max, and we suspect that merrily making money out of the bodies of those with tentacles alongside the bodies of those without is not the sort of equality and anti-discrimination The New World should be aiming for.
Somebody needs to get a handle on that scarecrow and, in the meantime, we need to find better methods of making money.
But now the long dark teatime of the soul is over, the rent is paid and we can sink into our imaginary silk cushions and brew ourselves a reviving pot of Molly’s Morning Magic from DesertSageNatural and open something splendid to take our minds off the trauma…
Yet another utterly ineffable piece of steampunk splendidness from Nimue Brown, this mischievous tale is jam packed with druids, pirates, undead biscuit bakers, inventors, archaeologists, industrialists, circus performers, preachers, pesky kids and one fabulously formidable grandmother to keep them all in check and make sure they wash their hands before tea.
Little Temperance is terribly excited when an archaeologist moves in next door – she can’t wait for them to start unloading the dead people! But socialite Justina Fairfax isn’t ‘that sort’ of archaeologist, and even when she does discover ‘something’ she needs to call on the skills of would-be-inventor Charlie Rowcroft to re-construct the broken pieces and figure out what it is before she can claim the fame and glory. Enter Temperance and her dead cat and suddenly Charlie’s house is overrun with reanimated corpses. Before long the quiet and unsuspecting town of Bromstone is awash with chaos, beards and mortless mice…
This is a wonderfully witty and marvellously magical tale which fans of Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman will absolutely adore.
Now then, our oracular cephalopterois is straining at the leash to bring us some news from the aether so let us plop him int his tea cup and see what his tentacles have tuned into this morning…
Mechanical animals eh? Well I don’t know what it is trying to tell us but I do know that I have had quite enough philosophy for one morning. We wish you a very easy and taxless morning free from exploitation, discrimination and copromise and we invite you back to join us tomorrow for elevenses so until then, please be always
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s religiously ravishing and piously precocious parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!
True, some have called it a festering Hull-hole filled with demonic fiends, tentacled terrors and irreverent imbeciles, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
You find us this morning deep in philosophical discussion. Our delightful landlord, ever the entrepreneur, has given us an ultimatum – either we make enough money to meet our next rent by selling his filthy lemonade (a feat which is becoming ever more difficult as The Good Folk have increased their street patrols now that the warmer weather has set in) OR we join the chorus line at his (even filthier) burlesque club across the Docks Road and earn the money in tips. The question is, would anyone really want to see a Very Quiet Gentleman and his Octopus pole dancing in their suspenders? Would it be coins and wolf whistles, or glass bottles and death threats that were flung at us from the stalls?
These are all serious matters to consider. Max has done a lot of artistic modelling in Litchfield, mostly for Michael Biscotti, but he assures me it is hardly the same thing at all. He also assures me that going back to Litchfield is not an option, well, we have until Friday to make our Hobson’s choice.
Ah well, let us take our minds off these tribulations with a nice cup of tea and this morning we’re filling our pot with cranberry rose from melysteashop and to accompany it we must of course have something splendid to read, like this…
For The Love Of God Marie! by Jade Sarson (also creator of the fabulous comic Cafe Suada, of which we are huge fans) is a heart-warming, heart-breaking, masterpiece with bold, gutsy,lovable characters who held us spellbound throughout – we laughed, we cried, we forgot we were reading a graphic novel as we became so emotionally invested in Marie, Will and Annie’s lives.
This is a book we have now read many times! The story follows catholic schoolgirl Marie on her journey from daughter to mother and as we voyage those stormy seas along with her we see the changing attitudes of society towards issues of sexuality both on macro and micro level. 1960s school girl Marie just wants to love people – what’s so wrong in that? Well, plenty according to her parents and teachers who both manage to present a highly prescriptive yet utterly confusing ideal of what love is.
By the 1990s Marie is now both teacher and mother but instead of being able to make up for the mistakes of her elders, Marie finds herself just as alienated from the wants and needs of her own teenage daughter.
There are lots of laughs, some really joyful love scenes and a fair few teary heart-breaking moments along the way but the book ends on a beautiful, sassy, optimistic note (which we won’t divulge for fear of ‘spoilers’) and left us with a lovely warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
And speaking of things which feel fuzzy, it is time to lift our oracular pet into his cup and see what its far seeing tentacles have plucked from the aether for us this morning…
Oh my goodness that is marvellous! I know Penny has an old singer I wonder if she would make us a tea machine? Perhaps if we ask very sweetly…
We wish you a very splendid afternoon filled with only the finest fancies and we will see you back in the parlour tomorrow for elevenses so until then please be always
Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.
I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.
But I do not have time for entertaining tonight, can you not see that I have just returned from a most important business trip? I have papers everywhere and notes to set in print and… what’s that? What are you wittering about? Help? You’d like to help me transcribe the notes from my journals into volumes so that they can be preserved for generations to come? You’ve brought along some late bottled vintage port to keep out the chills as we work?
Well, I suppose that puts a very different slant on things doesn’t it? Very well then, I will dictate and you can pour…I mean type… a-hem…
Here, then, is the next instalment of the account of my first expedition…..(if you missed the first instalment you can find it here)
“Pearl White is it?”
I gave the boatman my most imperious glare. The effect was not the desired one and I instantly feared that my mastery of these new, delicate feminine features was going to take some time to achieve. What I needed was a mirror, and time to spend in perfecting the manipulation of this woman’s eyes, nose and mouth into the expressions I required. But neither luxury was afford me and so I was forced to try again.
“You quite alright Miss?” the boatman looked deeply concerned as he watched me wipe the canvass clean and start over with an new attempt at ‘menacing frown’.
“The name is PERIL” I corrected, ignoring the soft and almost squeaky intonation of my new inferior vocal chords.
The boatman wiped his nose with an oily rag. “Right. You sure you gonna be alright with this skiff Miss? The Thames might be fine for a couple of chaps on a hay day but a birdie on her own, that seems asking for trouble to me…”
I tell you I very nearly popped the fellow with my dainty lace gloved fist for his sheer impertinence.
He must have sensed the menace in my aura because at length he shrugged, muttered something about Abney Park and handed me the oars.
There was some little difficulty in boarding the craft and arranging my belongings but after a little negotiation and a quick dip in the river to gain perspective I managed to get going and soon fell into a steady rowing rhythm, putting the raucous laughter of the dock workers behind me as I headed up stream towards Bermondsey.
It is there that the Toshers have a legend which I was certain must be evidence of some magical presence – The Rat Queen.
Toshers, in case you are unaware, Gentleman Scavengers who frequent the city sewers at nught in search of all the coins, pocket watches, rings, swans…you know how easy it is to drop these things when one is preoccupied.
The Tosher makes his living from trading in the treasures he finds in the subterranean darkness in much the same way as a Treacle Miner and so it is no surprising to find that the two professions share a belief in protective spirits who have the power to grant good fortune and personal safety, as long as they remain appeased.
For the miner, this sprite is a type of brownie known as A Knocker, for the Tosher, it is The Rat Queen.
The Rat Queen is a supernatural being said to be able to shift form between that of an enormous sewer rat and that of a beautiful woman. In her human form she will approach a Tosher when he is alone in the tunnels and offer him a deal – if he can satisfy her passions and pay her a worthy tribute of treasure from his haul, he will be blessed beyond his wildest dreams -his business will prosper and his family will grow large and healthy. But if he fails or refuses to part with his loot he will find nothing more i the sewers but a watery grave.
I moored the skiff beneath an overhanging elder tree and, after a minor war with the potable stove, made myself a depressing supper of cold tinned ‘standard issue’ soup and hunkered down to wait for midnight.
Under the cloak of darkness, I lit my dark lantern and made my way into the sewers in search of The Rat Queen …
“Pardon me, ladies, but would one of you happen to be The Rat Queen?”
The little coven of brightly painted damsels whom I had stumbled headlong into in the dark regarded me with unrestrained disgust; hands on hips, red lips twisted into smirks and sneers. “Oh, we’re all rat queens down here, deary..” the eldest bird squawked, flicking her head plumes, “question is, who the Hull are you, eh? You can’t just wander in here trying to join the game, thinking you can get in on a good earner…” her eyes narrowed, “anyway, who was it who ratted out on us?” She held up her own lantern and shone it into the faces of the assembled women, “who’s not here? Sharon! That little chatter box tart…”
Teeth began to gnash, painted talons flexed, I felt the time had come to set the record straight…
“Fear not, Madame,” I said, attempting to inject an air of authority into my voice which was ricocheting off the brick dome in sopranino staccato most vexing. Cursing my new feminine vocal chords, I floundered on.. “I have no intention of encroaching upon your little entrepreneurial endeavour I…”
my confident smile fled the scene
my manly resolve snatched up his hat and followed suit
my legs finally cottoned on and joined the exodus, propelling me back through the watery tunnels with the rabble of raucous rat queens in rabid pursuit. Rocks and lemonade bottles exploded off the pith helmet as I made good my escape and at last, breathing hard, I made it back to the skiff and applied myself to the oars as if my life depended on it.
Of course this was quite ridiculous as my life expired many years ago but I did feel a certain obligation to return this body in proper working order….
Aaaand I think that is quite enough for one evening don’t you? The bottle is dry and…what’s that you say? Stay the night? Certainly not, what sort of a wraith do you think I am? Now go on, out with you, not another word, GOOD NIGHT!
all images used with kind permission from http://www.freeimages.com