Good Morning! Welcome to the Annual Lancastrian Frost Fair on the frozen River Lune!
My name is Mathew McCall and I write Dark Steampunked Science Fiction, which is gritty Science Fiction set the Steampunk genre. Probably because my first proper introduction to SciFi was Cyberpunk, I wanted to take Steampunk down the Cyberpunk route. I am also a big fan of Dick, Bradbury and Lovecraft so you won’t be surprised that my Steampunk is darker than most. Yes, it still has all the things you associate with Steampunk; corsets, nutty professors, top hats, airships, mad adventures, crazy machines and wonderful contraptions, but there’s something darker under the surface.
My first book is The Dandelion Farmer, set on Mars, twenty-five years after revolution threw off the yoke of the rule of the old Earthbound Empires. I aimed to write a Steampunked Science Fiction novel that was more Science Fiction than Steampunk whimsy. I knew I wanted it to be set on Mars and I wanted it to draw on elements of Verne and Wells, but also Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, Burroughs’ John Carter adventures, and a little touch of Lovecraft. This would give me the opportunity to build, not only an alternative history, but an entire new Steampunked world.
I felt that modern most Steampunk literature, with only a few notable exceptions, has always been “fluffy,” playing to the audience with all the subtlety of a Carry On movie, nudge-nudge, wink-wink… and making virtually no contribution to Science Fiction as a genre. Nonetheless it is to the Godfathers (and Godmothers) of Science Fiction, the authors of the late 18th and 19th century that Steampunk owes its existence. I wanted to write something that I would be proud to see on a shelf next to those giants.
Edwin and Adam simply came fully formed out of my imagination, I am sometimes left feeling that I am merely exploring their world beside them.
The first book starts off almost Western Frontier adventure in flavour, but quickly evolves into something more akin to a Verne-like quest, especially as other darker forces come into play.
The Dandelion Farmer is an adventure over three books, “The Dandelion Farmer” being the first, with “The Hourglass Sea,” almost completed, being the second in the series.
I self-published through Amazon UK and Kindle and I have had great reviews, see also Goodreads, but not much success in getting out to the wider SF and Adventure reading audience.
You can see my wares displayed here for your perusal, please feel free to browse at your leisure…
My website, where you can read the first couple of chapters and reviews for free; https://doktormatas.weebly.com/the-dandelion-farmer.html
My book is available from Amazon.uk and worldwide from Amazon.com in both paperback and kindle. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1549539140
Or come and have a chat with me on my FB pages Mathew McCall Author or Doktor Matas.
I hope you enjoy your time on the ice today, thank you for stopping by.
Hello and welcome to our annual Lancastrian Frost Fair on the frozen River Lune! Throughout January and February a fabulous array of Steampunk, Sci Fi and LGBTQ+ authors will be taking to the ice with stalls and sideshows to display their fabulous books for your perusal and enjoyment!
Frost Fairs were once a traditional (if rare) feature of Londonian winter time and you can read more about their history here:
But before we begin the festivities, I’d like to let you know about a few changes that will be taking place here on Blake and Wight during 2019.
I’ve been struggling the past year to find a balance between work, family life and supporting the creators whose work I really love and 2019 is going to be a very demanding year.
Also, behind the scenes of Steampunk’d Lancaster, big changes are taking place for our characters – Max and Collin are moving onwards and upwards to bigger and better things (they hope!) and you can follow their latest adventures in our new #rainbowsnippets posts on Saturdays.
This storyline will also have a big impact on the futures of Mrs Baker, our lovely kitchen witch, Peril, our grumpy ghost, and the loathsome landlord Montmorency so I really want this blog space to reflect those changes too.
Lastly, while I’ve really enjoyed writing and reviewing as an octopus for the past few years, Collin’s scope for accurately reviewing and expressing my own personal views of the books I’m sent to read is sometimes limited.
So, taking all these things into account, the plan for 2019 is as follows –
I will take over the review posts from Collin and there will be approximately one review post per month to make things more manageable. I’m hoping this will enable me to write more useful, detailed and personal reviews and also post them on a wider range of sites.
Interviews will also change to approximately one per month but creators will be able to choose to be interviewed either by Mrs Baker, or (if they’re feeling brave) by Max and Collin.
The seasonal author promos seemed to work out really well for everyone last year and so I will continue to run those again this year, starting with the Frost Fair, then Aether Eggs, Summer Postcards and ending with Lovely Library in the autumn.
So that’s the way 2019 will look here on Blake and Wight. Of course I’ve a whole stack of high hopes and pipe dreams that may flesh things out but we’ll see what time and resources allow for.
I wish you all an amazing 2019 where all your hard work pays off and life and work find a rewarding balance 🙂
Happy Saturday! And happy new year! Here’s hoping 2019 brings us all everything we need and enough of what we want to keep us all smiling 🙂
Still posting from the novella I’m working on. It’s called Jack and Marjory and it gives space for two of my bigender characters to tell something of their own side-adventure (which played a massive part in the history of Ire in a behind the scenes sort of way.) If you want some world background, check out the Introduction page above 🙂
To see all the other fabulous rainbow snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction for this week check out the rainbow snippets facebook page
The previous snippets from Jack and Marjory were posted here:
And here’s snippet 8 (slightly over 6 sentences so that the next snippet can cleanly move into a new setting) – Jack and Marjory are debating whether to help the leader of the revolution smuggle a dodgy teaset into Lancaster in exchange for a small fortune in illegal gunpowder tea…
“Marvelous. Then meet me back here Sunday evening and I’ll give you the other half of the tea.” He stood up, scooping the octopus onto his shoulder as he turned to go.
“What if we say no?”
He stopped but didn’t turn to face us again, “then I find someone else ; You’re my first choice, Jack, not my only option.”
We tried again, “It’s not that. We’ll do it. But that’s no common amount of tea… we’d like to know what’s at stake, if you understand?”
He turned this time, and took off his bowler hat, made a mess of his hair and jammed it back on again. “Two lives, one city and an unimaginable amount of lemonade,” he said at last, “will you do it?”
We nodded. Of course we would.
being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless, historical tea set before the owner finds himself at the gallows.
rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 at http://www.freeimages.com
book cover image by Renphoto
Wishing you all a marvelous start to the new year! Next week we’ll be hosting our annual frost fair here on the blog with guest posts from some fantastic steampunk, sci fi and LGBTQ+ authors as we all open our stalls and take our wares onto the frozen river Lune! The frost fair will run through to the end of February and if you have books you’d like to promote and would like a guest slot, do get in touch via email or facebook and let me know and I will send you a template and information.
Blessings on your brew 😉 x
Or we could have said 50 shades of EARL grey but that sounded a bit prejudiced against all the other lovely teas out there – we are a pro-diversity site remember!
So what is this diabolically titled post all about? Celebration of course! Celebration of tea and diversity and difference and similarity and community and preferences and peculiarities and did I mention tea? I don’t pretend to be an artist, just a sad old tea-sot who’d like to improve!
So this year my teabies are going to bring you ’50 shades of tea’ starting with a group hug… because that’s the way all things should begin isn’t it? Feel free to snigger, or groan as you see fit 😉
- EVERYONE’S A LITTLE DIFFERENT:
Here’s Max, Collin and Christina (I hate-love-hate drawing Chrissy and Max together but, that’s the history.) Very unhappy with the shakiness of my damn hands but, hey, start at the bottom and climb upwards right? That’s the plan anyway..
And from today here’s a lil sketch of Chrissy on her own wearing the teabag dress with all Joyce Jameson’s wise words written on the teabags (“whoever has the last bag of flour will win the war…the limits of the diaphane…the soul of the commonest object…the poem in the heart of the treacle miner..” etc etc ) which she wore when she went to see Max get hung in Lancaster.
2. CHRISTINA TAKES IT IN THE BACK PASSAGE:
Tomorrow, Thursday and Friday I’ll try and do Chrissy in tea and Max in ink… blessings on your brew, and all your inktober endeavors 🙂
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s Utopian underwater apartments located, at present, beneath the deluge of water overflowing from the river Lune and into the drainage systems of the splendidly scenic city of steampunk’d Lancaster.
True some have said that there’s always something fishy going on around here, but what exactly do they expect when one of us is an octopus and the other refuses to kowtow to public demands for personal hygiene … owch! It was a joke Max! My gentleman friend has no sense of humour at all…
Well our pig is still happy, although we have had to set him adrift in a little crate as the parlour is flooded with rainwater coming in through the floor and we are going to have strong (ish) words with our landlord about this, once we pluck up the courage… in the meantime I am going to perch on Max’s head while he ‘bails out’ and… hm? … you think I ought to be just fine in the water because I’m an octopus? My dear friends, there is a world of difference (at least there ought to be) between the waters of The Great Western Ocean and the excrement of the Lancastrian sewer system… a-hem… now where was I? Oh yes, perching on Max’s head about to open a marvelous book …
Selkie Cove is the next installment of Kara Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series which we have become absolutely addicted to over the last few years. It is no secret at all that she has become one of our favorite authors and with very good reason – her writing combines diverse, complex and compelling characters embedded in gripping narratives which combine action, emotion and suspense in perfect balance.
If you are new to this series, it is possible to start here and still understand what has gone before, but much better to start at the beginning: The Earl Of Brass
If like us however you have been dying to know what happens next, you will not be disappointed…
With the horrors of the past seemingly far behind them, Immanuel and Adam are still feeling the after effects that dark magic has left on their lives. When a new mystery surfaces and magic invites itself into their lives once more, the couple are faced with some difficult choices that will affect the course of their future lives.
It was interesting to see how Adam and Immanuel’s relationship developed – and how they both grew and changed as individuals – when faced with the new challenges of life as a couple within the rigidity of Victorian society. This interplay gave the story warmth and depth and added to the emotional roller coaster that all the IMD novels offer. Overall this was a top notch adventure and we loved the interplay of myth, magic and science within this steampunk setting.
Now then, I’m afraid we don’t have any tea to offer you today because it is all being painted with – today is the first of Inktober and, just like last year, we are going to endeavor to do a little bit of tea painting each day in the hopes of producing one painting per week (or perhaps more but lets not got carried away!) we will post our first effort so far tomorrow so, until then
please remain always
Happy Saturday! I didn’t have an author snippet sent to me for today so I thought I’d share the first six lines from the novella I’m working on right now. It’s called Jack and Marjory and it gives space for two of my bigender characters to tell something of their own side-adventure (which played a massive part in the history of Ire in a behind the scenes sort of way.) If you want some background, check out the Introduction page above 🙂 To see all the other fabulous rainbow snippets for this week check out the rainbow snippets facebook page
IS THIS WHERE WE END… ?
“ of laughter and soft lies, no safety or surprise, I’ll never look into your eyes…”
Yeovil skyway station, vomiting bile onto the porcelain of a public Crapper with a full hip flask boasting a lethal dose of Matcha and no hope in Hull.
Is this where we end? I s’pose it must be.
The door of the next cubicle swings open and through the blur of caffeine withdrawl we clock a deek at him – a Plain As Henry well dressed body, an everyday sort of beast, someone unremarkable with an enviably dull and happy existence, who pays his sugar tax and sticks to his government standard issue cup of dandelion root coffee and his tinned tomato soup, his peaceful caffeine, sugar, magic free existence… is this a moral tale? P’rhaps it is, but we don’t think it was ever meant to be. We, certainly, didn’t plan it that way.
The door swings shut on just another dreary tea sot dead in a pool of their own vomit … yep, sounds plausible alright.
But we wasn’t always like this you know…
Jack and Marjory:
Being an entertaining and informative piece of travel writing by a couple of rogues on the run as they attempt to avoid the machinations of wizards, monarchs and a ruthless band of beatnik poets, deflect a civil war and deliver a priceless, historical tea set before the owner finds himself at the gallows.
rainbow flower image courtesy of mariah22 at http://www.freeimages.com
book cover image by Renphoto
Happy Saturday! Welcome to our next Rainbow Snippets post – 6 sentences of top quality LGBTQ+ fiction to brighten your weekend 🙂 This week our snippet comes from Steampunk author Felicity Banks. (Photo by Cat Sparks)
EXTRACT FROM HEART OF BRASS
I braced my feet against the top step, forming a cradle of our linked arms, and pushed with my legs. Matilda popped out of the hole and landed on top of me, crushing the breath from my lungs.
“I love you,” she gasped, choking on the smoke. “Since I first saw you.”
“It’s me,” I said, looking up at her in concern. “Emmeline.”
Don’t forget to visit the rainbowsnippets fb page to read all the amazing snippets from this week.
And if you liked that snippet you can read all about Emmeline’s adventures in the first book here…
Rainbow flower image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com.
Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.
I am the ghost known as Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.
But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of that incorrigible octopus and its unnerving Gentleman Friend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by strange creatures promising cake. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here; here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!
But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? A bottle of Bruadar malt whisky liqueur eh? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,
like this perhaps… I have been tirelessly working over the summer, interviewing, stalking … I mean studying… the Hex Slingers of Lancaster, compiling an anthropological study of the lives of those who use magic illegally in the curated back-alley fight clubs – why and how have they come to their present situation? What are their stories? Well, here at least, is one of them…
TALES OF STEAMPUNK’D LANCASTER
SERIES 1: TALES OF THE HEX SLINGERS
TALE THE THIRD: by PENNY BLAKE
We wasn’t always called Jack and Marjory. But then again we didn’t always live in Lancaster. We didn’t always own these boots. We didn’t always work for Kitty Flynn.
Kitty’s coffee house, The Angel, is always full, always bustling, always respectable and everything above board.
They serve government standard issue coffee – the lifeblood of the workforce and the would-be well-to-do alike.
Chicory, acorn, dandelion … the great copper pots of brown liquid sit simmering in the seventeen fire places all day long and Kitty’s daughters run to and fro serving it out in pewter tumblers on silver trays.
The rules are framed in mahogany on the white washed wall: no foul language, no char-latin, no anti-royalist, anti-religious or anticlimactical notions, no games of chance, no business dealings, no magic.
Yes indeed, The Angel is a perfectly respectable place. It must be. The patrons run the great societal gamut from the lowliest mill worker, to dockers, street traders and Sho’vani barge folk; from town Tinkers like The Time Keeper and The Spoon Smiths, to landlords like Montmorency and Clitheroe, even true aristocrats like Lord Ashton and Lady Grace and wizards like that so-called ‘Dr. Smith’…
The Angel is always full, never a spare room in the place. Kitty rents rooms alright but you’d be damned if you could ever get one. Very particular is Kitty Flynn about who she’ll let a room to and once she gets a tenant in, they tend to stay for a very long time.
We, certainly, intend to stay for a very long time.
Because once you’re in, like us, there’s only one way out – and it ain’t pretty. No, indeed, it really ain’t.
There are seventeen chimney’s in The Angel. Seventeen chimneys and each has an inglenook bookcase.
On a certain evening, at a certain time, after the doors are locked and barred and only a few select patrons are still at table – presumably having booked lodgings for the night and enjoying a late supper – Jack and Marjory might suddenly take into our heads the fancy of reading a particular book titled The Winchester Mystery which is located on the seventh shelf of the bookcase in the seventh chimney.
It is a favourite of almost every patron and tenant and no one bats an eyelid as the whisper of well oiled cogs heralds the opening of a hidden door and we slip through, and down into an entirely different world below.
Here the air is tight, charged with electricity, close with the heat of many bodies and breaths and damp with sweat and mildew. Arachnid threads of green sphagnum and lichen trace along the limestone walls and arched tunnel ceilings and our footsteps echo among the cheers and jeers, shrieks of pain and laughter and flesh hitting stone.
There are rats down here, snails, reptiles, cats and dust but we don’t need them. When you work for Kitty Flynn, you keep things pure. Just the magic, that’s what Kitty wants. That’s what Kitty gets.
Kitty’s house is always full. All the tenants fight down here. It’s how we earn our keep, of course, and more than that as you can see ; no Hex Slingers in Lancaster are togged out finer than us who board at The Angel, well and truly minted is what we are because Kitty looks after her own…
But you knew that already, right? That’s why you came, that’s why you asked if there was a room and when we saw your hands, bandaged up in strips of kid leather to hide the scars and that high collar pulled up close under your chin, when we saw the hunted look in your blood shots eyes, we knew you’d fit right in…
Happy Saturday everyone! We are ecstatic to announce that Blake and Wight are now participating in ‘Rainbow Snippets’ which means that every Saturday we will endeavor to post 6 lines of LGBTQ+ fiction from some of our favorite writers. Some will be published works, some will be works in progress, some may even be book recommendations but all will be utterly awesome tidbits from LGBTQ+ writers with LGBTQ+ characters and themes.
And kicking us off on this ride, who better than Ceri Harper-Leigh with a snippet from her upcoming novel (October release) Nothing New Under The Sun …
Old Compton street on a late summer Friday afternoon was buzzing with the local LGBTQ community soaking up the last rays of sun sitting outside Chi-Chi coffee shops drinking their skinny caffè latte’s, it was like a rainbow jeweled fashion show, even the Weather Man was wearing shorts. She checked her mobile again, re-reading the last text she had received from her friend. ‘…Yep’ she thought. Pausing as she stood outside the familiar doors she looked back on how long it had been, and the whole different lifetime away since the last time she stepped into “Comptons of SoHo”.
And for more snippets head to the official fb page and see what other snippeterd are posting… https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets/permalink/2170572923012758/?comment_id=2171236862946364&reply_comment_id=2172099499526767¬if_id=1537069769865966¬if_t=group_comment_mention&ref=notif
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!