Happy Sunday folks! I don’t usually do a Sunday post but I was fortunate enough to be invited to do a guest post on Stephen Palmer’s blog on the subject of Rromani representation in fiction so I thought I’d share it at the weekend so that it doesn’t get trampled by Collin and his Frost Fair shenanigans! XD
Here’s the link to the guest post: http://www.stephenpalmer.co.uk/
Stephen Palmer writes a variety of diverse fiction including Sci fi and Steampunk. You can find his authour page on amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stephen-Palmer/e/B0062Z5R78?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1581086881&sr=8-1
Happy #MythpunkMonday! Today I thought I’d take a look at owls. I’ve always loved them and our myth-bank has a particularly sad and moving story about the barn owl which has haunted me since I first heard it.
In this tale, the sun god chases his sister the moon goddess around the earth in lust until at last he catches her. Her child is born, a winged, liminal creature of darkness and light with a terrible shrieking cry. The moon draws her night cloak over all her children – the foxes, bats, badgers, deer and all the other nocturnal creatures – but the barn owl she casts out in revulsion because she shines with her father’s light – a wood demon burning with a ghastly flame – and her mother, after all she has suffered, finds that light too painful.
Across world mythologies owls tend to be recognised as symbolic of either wisdom / good fortune or death / ill fortune, or sometimes both.
There’s a nice article on some different cultural beliefs about owls right here: https://www.owlpages.com/owls/articles.php?a=62
Owls are also often associated with the divine feminine – often linked to a goddess such as Lakshmi / Alakshmi, Athena or Blodeuwedd and it’s this aspect of the owl-image within our collective consciousness that I feel is a good in-road for punk fiction.
In truth of course all owls are not wise, or evil and seeing an owl is more likely to indicate that we have stumbled into its territory rather than it has sought us out to give us some dire warning of our own imminent demise.
But it is interesting, I think, that a creature which is seen as magical, wise, lucky (if you eat it), ill-omened, deadly and even evil should also be so often associated with the feminine. I feel it says a lot about historic cultural views of innately feminine attributes which now, in the light of modern cultural paradigm shifts, need to be challenged.
So bring on the stories that break the owl-shaped mould for the parameters of feminine form – and visa versa of course! Bring on the stories which illuminate the prison bars of feather and bone, and set us free to really fly.
How about you? Do you have a favourite owl myth? Have you included owls in your own mythpunkery? Or do you have a real life owl encounter you’d love to share? Feel free to join in the fun in the comments below or using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag!
Beautiful owl image by Gavin Vincent http://www.freeimages.com
Happy Saturday! And Happy Halloween / Samhain / All Saints and Souls / Candy Fest whatever you celebrate at this time of year 😀
Here’s my #RainbowSnippets post for this week – if you’re new to this, Rainbow Snippets is a chance to read and share 6 sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction every Saturday. There’s a huge variety from Steampunk, like mine, to Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Comedy and everything in between. You can join the fun and read all the other fabulous snippets at the wonderfully friendly and supportive official facebook group here.
As it’s the spooky season I thought I’d do a few snips from a WIP which is the very last book (probably) in my Steampunk series Ashton’s Kingdom. This one is only 5 sentences but they’re long ones!
About 500 plus years after the events in the first book (The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry) a forgotten cult are still obliviously serving their long-dead leader, Wiz, and trying to find the secret of immortality. Sort of. Actually daily temple life revolves more around knitting circles, bridge nights and summer fetes… until two novices stumble upon the secret of undeath themselves and unleash a couple of very unlikely ‘gods’ (and one disgruntled octopus) upon the unprepared and erstwhile peaceful community.
Thunder, Lightening, rain, hail, ominous fog and all the other things that accompany the beginning of an iconic horror movie or damn fine novel about Tea, Cake and lashings of Untimely Death, were occurring all over the little island known colloquially (and everywhere else) as The Skull.
Douglas skidded and stumbled over the vindictively slick cobblestones, cursing the length of his disgustingly sodden red robes, the ineffectual protection offered by his floppy wet cowl, the stupid little purse that dangled at his waist and was constantly expelling all his valuables into the muck, the fact that his favourite pocket watch had broken – again – and any and everything else that passed through his mind as he finally staggered, panting and wheezing to the top of the hill.
Sheet lightening flared for a second, silhouetting the crumbling chapel as Douglas clasped the cold iron ring in the studded wooden door and, with a cautious shoulder, silently eased it open.
The eerie luminescence of a hundred flickering candles, vanished in an ebbing wave to be replaced by darkness and smoke and a smattering of accusatory choking noises.
Thunder shook the walls and lightening flashed again, gleaming on several stiletto thin blades, poised in mid air.
Is Douglas in trouble? I’ll let you know next week 😉 Meanwhile have a spectacularly spooky weekend folks 😀 and don’t forget to check in at the #rainbowsnippets facebook group for more fabulous snippets of LGBTQIA+ fiction
This #IndieThursday Collin is sharing his love of…
The Druid path offers a person many valuable tools for coping in these challenging times. use your spiritual practice to underpin your activism, turn your lifestyle changes into offerings and find the means to stay inspired and hopeful. Explore how the bard path can be applied in face of climate chaos, how to practice self care for the benefit of the planet as a whole, how to harness your dreaming, and work with the elements to change your day to day life. Sustainable living should be the goal of any Druid’s life.
Photograph by Kovacs Orsi from www.freeimages.com
Happy #Mythpunk Monday!
Today I’m going to talk about trees! I find few things more inspiring than walking through a forest where the trees seem anthropomorphic. Coming from a spiritual tradition which taught me from the earliest age that all trees were living sentient beings with their own spirits and personalities, I find it interesting that people seem to be drawn more to commune with trees like oak and hawthorn who twist their trunks more readily into gnarled semblance of faces or limbs than, say, the linden, ash or birch who mostly grow straight up to the sky. Of course there are stories of slender-limbed, silver-skinned birch dryads; pretty young maidens dancing lithe and beautiful in wooded glades, but why do we only seem drawn to trees if we can view them as being in some way like ourselves? Even Tolkein’s Ents had a human-likeness about them…
The phenomenon of Pareidolia may be in some way to blame here – the inherent nature of the brain to seek familiar patterns (particularly those of faces) in dissociated stimuli ; fire, clouds, tree bark, wall paper, rock surfaces, waves … it is a natural survival mechanism developed even before we are born to help us seek out our care givers, our kin and our kind.
But even as we grow older and are able to reason beyond our instinctive drives, wondering and questioning whether a tree spirit would or could or should look anything like us in order to be taken seriously and communed with… I know I am sometimes still guilty of being drawn to those tress who do.
Having said that, the tree spirit I have had the deepest relationship ever was a beautiful, strong, generous and resilient beech tree with little to no anthropomorphic qualities whatever – so perhaps there is a lesson for me eh?!
On the other hand, perhaps it depends on your tradition. Mine, as I say, teaches that trees are beings in their own right and unrelated to humans, although communion can and should be sought with them, but perhaps other pathways view things differently? Perhaps trees twist themselves into human like faces in order to try and communicate with us? Who knows? I’d be interested to hear other thoughts on this if you have them 🙂
What we do know and can say for certain is that we have worked trees into the heart of our mythologies and spiritual traditions since we first began imagining the beginning of ourselves and our world. Without trees we wouldn’t have the planet as we know it and we seem to have been aware of this long before it was scientifically proven.
Many religions incorporate the idea of a World Tree, stretching its branches into the heavens and its roots down into the underworld, for example égig érő fa in Hungarian Mythos, the Norse Yggdrasil, Ağaç Ana in Turkish Mythology, The Slavic oaks which even today form the Zapis tree-temples, the Hindu Ashvattha and the Chinese Jianmu.
Leaving aside the great and the grand of world religions and moving in to a more local level, trees have always played an important part in folklore too. Cloutie trees (as we call them here) can be found all over Europe ; trees where folk can leave a small offering in exchange for the tree’s protection, blessing, healing or as a sign of thanks or respect.
My family made a great thing of visiting one of these shrines and leaving a rag of clothing and the story went that an old man was resting one day in his cloak when a poor child came by with none. The man took of his cloak – his last scrap of clothing – and gave it to the child. The tree saw the kindness of the man and sheltered him from the elements that night so no harm came to him. Then in thanks the man returned next year and tied a piece of his cloak to the tree and now all folk thanks the tree for it’s kindness, but anyone who robs the tree will be cursed! I remember my little sister being too scared to go into the shrine in case she touched a rag and it fell!
Another tradition is to hammer pennies into the trunks of trees in exchange for wishes. This tradition has always rather angered and confused me as it must harm the tree, but a few years back, while visiting a fairy tree near Scar Fell, I was happy to learn the roots of one such tradition – it started some time around the 17th century during times of great famine when there wasn’t enough work and many poor people were going hungry. Rich people in the area were encouraged to hammer coins into felled tree logs and wish for better times to come, then after dark (to spare their pride) the poor were encouraged to come and take the coins. The rich either believed or (more likely) played along with the notion that the fairies and taken their offering and were granting their wish and so things began to slowly improve. Of course it wasn’t a solution to the problem but it is still a nice story about communities working together to help one another.
If you’re interested in some really excellent research on the subject, look out Ceri Houlbrook’s ‘Coining The Coin Tree’ here: https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/files/54558281/FULL_TEXT.PDF
We’ve talked a lot of myth today, soon I’m going to have a good look at how we incorporate tree Mythos into Mythpunk, because at first glance it’s not an easy fit. But for now, I’ll leave you with a little extract from my own tree-punk endeavours…
This extract is from Opre! which means Arise! It was written for Romani Family History Month and the Opre Roma! movement and it draws parody between the Romani people, (caught and enslaved both literally throughout history as in our enslavement in Eastern Europe and almost complete annihilation during Baro Porajmos (in some cases still today such as Italy ) and metaphorically today where many of us are still unable to live full lives with basic human rights simply because of who we are) and the trees which our ancestors, and still many of us today, revere in a spiritual way (caught and butchered and poisoned and ‘put to use’ by humanity)
But there is a hopeful beauty here too – the roots which push up the paving stones, the seeds which find root in the cracks between tarmac, the branches and leaves which coil over boundaries and fences… so our people have not been destroyed because we shoulder what the world throws at us and we carry on, we find a way to survive, and one day I believe we will arise, not to conquer or steal or enslave others but just to stand on equal ground as all people should…
Our splintered marrow guards your precious ground
Not bought in blood, but taken in the twilight
When ‘taking’ was a thing we did not understand
Now sentinels bound, subservient you think we stand
Down inside those ringlets blacked by damp
Not the wind—kin to your own cur breath—
But the jewels it carries, diamonds, our inheritance,
Touching, unveiling in our stripped-bare bones
If you liked this extract you can read the rest of it here on Vocal: https://poets.media/opre
Or in my Mythpunk collection Mahrime: Mythpunk For Monsters
Thanks for joining me for another #MythpunkMonday! Feel free to leave me your own thoughts on trees, mythology and mythpunk in the comments and to join in and share your own Mythpunk, or someone else’s that you’ve enjoyed, using the hashtag or in the comments below 🙂
Thanks so much for journeying along with me so far, or if your new then very much welcome aboard!
A lot of my own stories centre around the strife and tension suffered by cultures who come seeking refuge, fleeing war and persecution, when the host country fails to welcome and respect them as human beings with established beliefs, values and ways of life.
These deserve to be valued wherever possible, just as those of the established culture are already, but so often they instead become embedded in a strange juxtaposition of both shame and ferocious pride.
When our beliefs, culture, language, skin colour, clothes and ways of being are treated as strange or unnatural by others (especially if they are outlawed, as in the case of the original Rromani refugees in Europe) those precious things which are innately ours can become a source of shame and we can feel the need (perhaps in fear of our lives or liberties) to hide them.
At the same time, in hiding them there is a sense of ritual preservation – a keeping close, a treasuring – and that can become obsessive and unnatural in itself as the evolution of ideas which would take place naturally over time with each generation is now not allowed to happen.
Sacred things die. They are not passed on. Partly out of fear – putting the young ones in danger. Partly our of pride – this knowledge will die with us, the last pure ones, it cannot be trusted to anyone else now, it will become diluted and destroyed or turned against us all.
I’m going to share with you an extract from ‘Mulengi Sinija’ which means Table For The Dead. This is a small shrine of sweet treats laid out for the ancestors to encourage them to remember the next generation, the little ones, and watch over them and visa versa to encourage the young children to enjoy communing with their ancestors.
Here though, the celebration is taking place in a strange new land where the characters are forced to hide who they truly are (firebirds living secretly amongst a population of spiders) and the irony is that the precious link between young and old, past and present, ancestors and living is being lost as the generations pass and so the title is more a lamenting ; a saying goodbye, rather than the celebration it was meant to be….
Mulengi Sinija Extract:
There is a weight, more than the fabric, of that long black skirt and the high necked lace shirt she heaves up over her fire form. Here are the white-beaked masques now with their golden glitter and their gaudy plumes, here are the capes of scarlet velveteen, the sun is sinking with a sigh to the guillotine.
One more cup before we have to go? We drink it slow. Drink deep the thousand stories calligraphed in dark amber there against the white. And when it is all gone, step out into the night.
If you liked the extract you can read the rest of it on my sister site here:
Thankyou for joining me for MythpunkMonday! I really hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you have, feel free to join in and share some Marvellous Mythpunk that you have written, created or enjoyed. You can share using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments here below if you like and I will continue to make this a regular Monday thing 🙂
Merry Mythpunk Monday! Today I’m going to talk about what Mythpunk is and recommend some marvellous Mythpunk to fill your shelves with.
This is a bit of an experiment, I’m hoping to do this every Monday and I’m also hoping that other Mythpunk fans and writers will join me in celebrating this wonderful sub genre by sharing your own / others writing, art, music, inspirations etc. using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag. That’s a lot of hope! … but I really passionately feel the world needs more Mythpunk and there’s some awesome stuff out there already that needs bigging-up so, let’s see what happens!
Mythpunk is a term coined by Catherynne M. Valente to describe Punk fiction which is rooted in folklore, fairytale or mythology.
At its simplest, Mythpunk could be a modern Punk retelling of a fairytale with an original ending, tangent or twist ; at its more complex, it has potential to utterly transcend its origins by bridging the gap between archaic world views and modern experience, making it an important tool for social commentary and cultural evolution.
You can read a great interview with Valente on the subject here:
And you can find her Mythpunk series ‘The Orphan’s Tales’ here:
So Mythpunk can be a punked up retelling of a myth, folktale, fairytale or legend, or it could be an interweaving of many different threads from across history and mythology, or it could be something entirely new which resembles, parodies or has elements of folklore and myth.
Mythpunk doesn’t have to be restricted to writing either – it can be music, art, theatre…
For example here’s the soundtrack to Valente’s series by S J Tucker, which you can listen to and purchase here: https://music.sjtucker.com/album/solace-sorrow
So, if you’re new to Mythpunk and what you’ve seen so far has got you hooked, you’ll now want to rush out and stock your bookshelf / kindle full of fabulous Mythpunk titles, right? – fear not, here’s my quick-fix / take-away / happy-meal list of five fab books / series to get you started…
1 Monstress Series
“Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both. Entertainment Weekly praised MONSTRESS as “one of Image Comics’ most imaginative and daring new series” and dubbed it the “Best New Original Series” in their year-end “Best Comics of 2015″ list.”
2 The Automation:
“The capital-A Automatons of Greco-Roman myth aren’t clockwork. Their design is much more divine. They’re more intricate than robots or androids or anything else mortal humans could invent. Their windup keys are their human Masters. They aren’t mindless; they have infinite storage space. And, because they have more than one form, they’re more versatile and portable than, say, your cell phone—and much more useful too. The only thing these god-forged beings share in common with those lowercase-A automatons is their pre-programmed existence. They have a function—a function Hephaestus put into place—a function that was questionable from the start…
Odys (no, not short for Odysseus, thank you) finds his hermetic lifestyle falling apart after a stranger commits suicide to free his soul-attached Automaton slave. The humanoid Automaton uses Odys’s soul to “reactivate” herself. Odys must learn to accept that the female Automaton is an extension of his body—that they are the same person—and that her creator-god is forging a new purpose for all with Automatons…”
3 Firebird Fairytales Series:
“Born on the crossroads between worlds Anya’s Gate Keeper magic is buried under grief and rage until one fateful night a firebird hatches on her farm who is sharing its body with the fabled Prince Yvan. With Yvan’s dark magician brother Vasilli and other powerful enemies closing in around them, Anya has no choice but to sober up, follow Yvan intoSkazki and hope that she can learn how to control her awakening magic before it destroys her and any hope of keeping the gates to both world’s safe.”
4 The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones:
“Meet Tristan Hart, precociously talented student of medicine. His obsession is the nature of pain and preventing. He is on a quest to cut through superstition with the brilliant blade of science. Meet Tristan Hart, madman and deviant. His obsession is the nature of pain, and causing it. He is on a quest to arouse the perfect scream and slay the daemon Raw Head who torments his days and nights. Troubled visionary, twisted genius, loving sadist. What is real and what imagined in Tristan Hart’s brutal, beautiful, complex world?”
5 Vassa In The Night:
“Vassa in the Night is a powerful and haunting modern retelling of the Russian folktale “Vassilissa the Beautiful” for teen fans of urban fantasy, fairy tales, magic, and horror who enjoy books by Leigh Bardugo, Kendare Blake, Catherynne Valente, and V. E. Schwab. In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood. In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue.”
Thankyou for joining me for my very first MythpunkMonday! I really hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you have, feel free to join in and share some Marvellous Mythpunk that you have written, created or enjoyed. You can share using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments here below if you like and I will try and make this a regular Monday thing 🙂
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, thankyou for joining us once again on the swelteringly sultry streets of Steampunk’d Lancaster as we attempt to sell bottles of illegal home brewed lemonade in a desperate bid to pay our rent.
At least that is our ruse for loitering on this street corner this morning, but shhh, step closer, we have something to show you…
If you’ve been with us for some time you’ll probably be aware that our mistress, Penny, as well as leading a secret double life as an incorrigible octopus and his unnerving gentleman friend (that’s us by the way and we’re not sure we care for the description!) also writes short stories, poems and prose with a far less frivolous flavour in the Mythpunk genre.
If you weren’t aware, you can read some of them here for free: PENNY BLAKE ON VOCAL POETS
Mahrime – Mythpunk For Monsters is a collection of mischievously mutilated and punk’d-up folk tales heavily influenced by Penny’s Rromani cultural heritage. Each poem, story or prose piece explores the themes of identity, power and love by putting the monsters, the outsiders, the outcasts, the ‘unblessed’ right at the heart of the narrative.
It’s available now to pre-order on Kindle, free with Kindle Unlimited or 0.99 without and also in paperback if that’s what you prefer (the paperback is full colour with black pages, white text and beautiful white mandala art work by ArtsyBee and comes with a free Kindle copy)
“And what is Mythpunk?” we hear some of you ask…
Mythpunk can be as simple as taking a traditional tale and re-working it to produce something fresh, inspiring and new , or it can be a far more complex synthesising of cultural and mythological evolution; a deep exploration into the cultural psyche or an unflinching dissection of archaic archetypes. A lot of Steampunk involves some Mythpunking along the way and a lot of Mythpunk has a decidedly Steampunk flavour.
So, now that we know exactly what we’re letting ourselves in for , lets take a little sneak peek at just some of the things inside the cover…
Mahrime means ritually unclean / unblessed in Rromani language, it is akin to the word Unseelie in Celtic lore but it is applied to people. The title story in this collection draws heavily on the experiences and mythology of Rromani People and explores the historical out-casting of certain groups and types of people who are branded as ‘monsters’ because their existence is at odds with a dominant cultural or religious ideal. It also goes deeper to hint at the aspects of self which we choose to lock away because we believe them to be unlovable or unacceptable.
The Road Back Lost
This Mythpunk’d version of The Company Of Wolves is a response to the ideal that we all have both an internal and external collective of wise guiding voices who can teach us our culture, our heritage, our purpose and our place in the world; these voices, intuitions, bodies of lore, family, elders, clan-folk etc are supposed to teach and guide us safely through the wild woods of life and all the dangers therein but what if we don’t have them? What if our family or culture or bodies of lore or even our parents and home have been lost to us? This is the situation for many people today as war and poverty tares children away from their families and cultural white-washing tares culture away from people and places it in the hands of the fashion industry. So what can we do? Try to go back? Try to move forward? Or stay and become the wolf?
Damao means ‘to overcome’ ; the final piece of prose in this collection echoes the hopeful thought that is embedded throughout the book – with solidarity and support for eachother we can overcome the problems inherent with being labelled ‘outcast’ or ‘monster’, we are not alone and we will endure.
So there you have it, Mythpunk for Monsters, we hope you enjoy it, and now I think we will just sit back on this soap box here and sample some of our own lemonade, this day is far too hot to be doing any work and my tentacles are wilting despite the negligee we borrowed from Nimue Brown and her Hopeless Sinners yesterday I think what I really need is a parasol…
Thankyou for joining us on the street corner today, hm? What’s that Max? You think YOU ought to write a book? Honestly, I really don’t think ANYONE is going to be interested in anything you have to say… well alright then I will ‘wait and see!’ … and who exactly do think will publish such an atrocity? Hm? …. oh you’ll ‘find a group of marvelous monsters as mad about tea and tentacles as you are’ will you? Well good luck with that my friend! I shan’t be holding my breath…
While we wait to see what, if anything, comes of Max’s new ambition, let me thank you once again for joining us today and for supporting our endeavors as always and whatever kind of monster you happen to be please, do remain always,
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 photographer and Steampunk Charli Anderson-Farrar, Mastermind behind the awe inspiring Pagan – Steampunk project ‘Shades’, which you may have seen exhibited at The Asylum back in August. Good morning Charli, my dear, 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 have indeed, and I hope you like it! I’m a bit of a cheese addict, I’m not ashamed to say it, and I discovered a wonderful creamy cheese and bacon soup recipe on geniuskitchen.com a while back that I adapted to be more to my taste by using Blacksticks Blue cheese! This recipe serves 6 and takes about 1 hour and ten minutes to complete.
2 Starchy Potatoes
8 slices smoked bacon (you can use unsmoked if you wish but Blacksticks and Smoked Bacon taste amazing together!)
115g Blacksticks Blue cheese (you can substitute this for another blue cheese or stilton if you prefer)
475ml single cream
Salt and pepper to taste
- Boil the potatoes until soft.
- Drain, then transfer to a pan with the milk and blend thoroughly. Grill the bacon until crispy then cut into small pieces.
- Crumble the cheese over the potatoes and gently stir it in until the cheese has melted. Then add the cream and salt and pepper to taste. You can also add the bacon now if you wish to infuse the smokey flavour. Bring the soup to the boil, then remove from the heat.
- If you did not add the bacon before boiling, place it in the bottom of the bowls or in the soup tureen. Serve the soup over the bacon immediately.
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 all about the main concept for your exciting steampunk project Shades ?
The idea behind “Shades” was initially going to be a staged version of a British myth, prompted by a topic in my university course, but I was encouraged to move away from British Myths and ended up doing a Greek one instead. The idea stayed with me though, and it quickly moved into the idea that those things that go bump in the night, the traditional zombies and vampires, were not the only things that hide in the shadows.
I was more interested in the stories that many people have forgotten over the centuries. These are Gaelic and “Celtic” tales, pre-Christianisation spirits and Gods, word of mouth stories passed down for centuries and often lost to the mists of time; the Courts of the Ancient Fae, the Aos Si, tales of Banshees and Phantom Horsemen, personifications of Human Evils and even Humans themselves touching the darkness with their desire for power and wealth. I love the origin stories of natural phenomena, such as Will o’ the Wisps (gas lights in marshes) being the lanterns of pixies causing mischief, or how fire came to the world through the theft of Faerie Fire. These stories are more open to interpretation, as there are fewer popular preconceptions and film visuals dictating how they should look, dress, act or think, which will allow me a certain freedom from modern cultural influences when it comes to creating the aesthetics of the characters.
And what inspired you to merge forgotten myths with the Steampunk aesthetic?
Even those that move in the Shadows have to move with the times. The television series “Grimm” shows fairytale creatures in the modern setting of Portland in the USA, hiding in plain sight, while the film “Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters” shows the God Hermes as having a day job at a Courier Centre. I already knew that I wanted to create my images in an alternate-world setting, as I felt that just bringing them forward into the modern era was a little bit limiting in terms of fantasy design and that was something I really wanted to keep a hold of – I didn’t want to just mimic Grimm and Percy Jackson by having old objects in a new setting. I wanted the objects to still be aesthetically relevant.
The alternative-world opens the way for even greater creativity surrounding the character and costume design of these fantastical creatures, and because of this, I desperately wanted to include a Steampunk element. While not exactly “modern” in its primary aesthetic, Steampunk is something that I love and cherish, and with so many possibilities and creative avenues to explore within the genre, there is something there that will cater to all the characters that I have planned. Not only that, it gives me an excuse to utilise modern ideas with a much older aesthetic.
It certainly is a marvellous and original idea, oh and I see you have brought some photographs along to show the orphans?
Those look marvellous! Who designs and creates the costumes for each character?
I do! I did some theatre and film design studies a while back, so I had some experience in designing costumes and props already. Originally I had planned to have a local seamstress make them, but I couldn’t afford to pay her as the whole project is voluntary. She wasn’t willing to work in that way, which I can understand, but it did leave me in a bit of a pickle. So I re-acquainted myself with the use of a sewing machine and revisited some of my old stage costume and prop-work from when I was at school to get myself back into the swing of things. Some of the outfits, like the Wisp, are put together from charity shop and Ebay finds or donated items, while others, such as Lorell the Embodiment of Fire, are made 100% from scratch.
That is amazing! And what is your ultimate vision for the project to be presented to the public? I have heard whispers of a book or possibly a performance piece?
Yes, eventually I want to get all the pictures together into a photo-book, perhaps with some short stories or essays in to compliment the images. I also like the idea of presenting the project in a slightly more interactive way than a traditional exhibition – I want people people to be interested in the project on an educational level, as many people don’t know the history of our country from before the Roman settlement. I’ve always felt that if you give people the opportunity to get involved and interact with things, they tend to be more interested and remember what they have learned.
Indeed! I am aware that Shades is a collaborative project, is there any way that the good folks gathered here can get involved or support the project?
Well, one way to support the project is to make a donation of money or materials, either to the one-off donation box on the Shades website, or you can sign up as a Patron on Patreon. Most of my Patreon earnings go towards Shades, and those that don’t help support other projects that I am currently working on, which in turn also generate interest in Shades, so either way, Shades wins!
Another way people can get involved is by supporting the exhibitions. I keep a list of exhibitions on the website, so you can come and visit, or if you are a festival or event organiser, we are always interested in hearing from people who might like to have Shades displayed.
Finally, if you keep an eye on the “Get Involved” page on the website, you can see if we have any voluntary openings coming up. These are usually for models, but I do occasionally need specialist skills that I can’t personally do, and these will go up there as well. I also sometimes take requests for work experience and portfolio development opportunities, but I don’t take requests for secondary photographers.
And where can we see the costumes displayed, learn more about the project and keep up to date with future developments?
The outfits can be seen “live” at exhibitions, though currently I don’t have any confirmed shows coming up just yet. I have just finished my application to take part in Asylum X in August, so hopefully I should have some news on that soon! Otherwise, you can check out www.charli313.wixsite.com/shadesproject where all information regarding Shades is kept. You can also follow the project on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheShadesProject/, follow me on Twitter (@charlianderson) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CharliAndersonCreations), see pictures on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/charliandersonfarrar/ or check out my Patreon for special Patron-Only updates and exclusive behind-the-scenes pictures and footage! (https://www.patreon.com/charlianderson).
I sometimes take my work to other kinds of shows, depending on the theme. For example, the Lorell outfit is dedicated to a gaming community of the same name, they I recently took the outfit to a game fan convention to display there, so keep your eyes peeled for those odd occurrences too!
And finally, the all important question, on which the fate of the world may hang… the kettle is singing so which is the brew that inspires your creative endeavours, coffee or tea? (and how do you take it?)
Always tea for me, as coffee gives me headaches! NATO standard, milk with two!
Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Charli, 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?
No problem, I’ll grab those bowls for you! And if you ever have a particular British spirit or God you’d like to see me represent, I’m always up for a challenge, so drop me a line sometime!
We certainly will my dear, and I hope you will come back and visit us again some time!
Thankyou all for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I will see you next week when Poet and Science Fiction authour Kevan Manwaring will be telling us all about the launch of his new Eco-sci-fi Thriller Black Box!
Until then, Blessings on your brew my dears!
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s fabulously festive and expertly extravagant parlour located within the spledidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.
True, some have called it an offensively ostentatious affair, filled with frivolous flamboyancy but we consider that such individuals are tasteless and we would never consider having them for supper.
You find us this morning turning the parlour into a veritable Wizmas Wonderland…
Apparently the final battle between Wiz and The Goddess took place on the snowy peaks of Siberia. (Having visited Siberia ourselves recently we are, to be candid, a little sceptical of this assertion.) and so it is traditional to cover one’s self and immediate surroundings in as much snow as possible throughout the Wizmas season. The more snow you are seen to sport, the more you likely to convince The Good Folk of your allegiance to our supreme ruler.
Of course there is always the small problem that snow in The Scattered Isles is not the most common meteorological phenomenon. Still there are ways to fake snow and we have pushed the iceberg out this year on that front!
We have carpeted the entire floor in sheets of cotton wool batting (We did try white crepe paper initially but it wasn’t nearly as messy, irritating or difficult to remove, this cotton stuff soaks up the water from the cellar floor beautifully too!).
The strange chains (which hang from the walls and do not invite us to ask our landlord their purpose) we have piled high with a mixture of baking soda, white and blue glitter, a few drops of vanilla and peppermint oil and a tsp or two of water just to get it to hold together. As Freddy is also chained to the wall we have simply wrapped him in tissue paper to keep him out of sight.
Upon the tea table, we have carefully sculpted a pyramid from ‘snow balls’. These were made by mixing glitter (again) with coconut flour and a little cold water.
Sadly we no longer have any windows, this being a cellar afterall, otherwise we could have stuck baking parchment over them to make them look ‘frosted.’
As for our own attire, we have given eachother a fairly good dusting with white glitter and talcum powder and can safely say we look perfectly abominable.
We simply can’t wait to see the look on Montmorency’s face when he sees the effort we have gone to…true it is difficult to read the facial features of a psychotic scarecrow, but we tend to guess that when his head is leaning to the left he is in a better mood than when it is leaning to the right, he looks a little friendlier like that you see.
And our furry pals the Dustcats seem to have got into the mood as well!
Anyway, now that we have enough snow to infuriate our landlord we can sit back with a nice cup of tea and begin writing our Wizmas cards. Fortunately, our fabulous friends over at Hopeless Maine have brought out several sets of ‘alternative festive cards’ this year to bring a massive helping of Steampunk Splendidness to the season! ‘Steamed Pudding’ , ‘He Hears His Master’s Holiday Message’ and ‘A Hopeless Holiday’ are available from the Hopeless Maine etsy shop (click the image to go straight there) and can be bought as separate designs or as a multi-pack! So if Robins and Penguins and fat men in red suits are putting you off reminding your loved ones that you still exist and would appreciate cash or brandy this year rather than socks or arrest warrants , no more excuses eh? …
Now all that is needed is some suitably seasonal audios to usher in the afternoon so let us tune in our Tesla Radio and ….
Marvellous! We wish you all a very splendidly snow filled afternoon, and we invite you back to join us soon for more festive fabulousness. So, until then please be always,
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
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, I hope we are all feeling extremely eleven o clockish because the time is, of course, eleven o clock so pull up a chintz armchair or even a lemonade crate and Help yourself to a delightful slice of this blueberry and passion fruit cake from hummingbird high while I recount the dreadful disappointments we have suffered in the realm of subletting cushions.
In truth we stand before you chagrined at our own naïveté, there is only one person we know who considers manacles a daily necessity, he is an anchorite, his name is Freddy Payne and (if you are as smart as you look) you will not be surprised to hear that he is also a harlequin (Max calls him a clown but then Max enjoys vexing violent people for some reason).
Usually Freddy spends his days, and nights, chained to the wall of Montmorecys ‘office’ in the basement of our delightful tenement building but, as he explained between fits of maniacal laughter (at least we hoped it was laughter) the rat problem below stairs has become insufferable ; there are, after all, only so many rats a man can stomach and a diet of of raw rodent is, apparently, disrupting Freddy’s Muse… does everyone above the waves fancy themselves an artist of some description?
We spent an interesting evening listening to Freddy wax about his life choices and the virtues of becoming a Holy Man devoted to The Divine Comedy (I say interesting rather than informative for the fellow insists on speaking in cryptic sentences, cunningly composed to evade accurate interpretation and dished up always three helpings at a time. ) But sadly, in the end, he concluded that our rotting woodwork was not going to be an adequate replacement for the stone walled cellar and so everyone’s time had been wasted. At least we were able to send him on his way with a couple of cats and vague promises of visiting him down there occasionally … but to be honest I would rather return to Hull than venture down into that Scarecrow’s lair.
So now here we are, still tenantless and broke but eternally optimistic that an opportunity for raising cash or Cain will present itself sooner or later. In the meantime let us tune in our spirit radio and find something ironic to tap our tentacles to…
Oh dear, and that has set Max moping about Christina again… ah well. We wish you an afternoon filled with laughter and none of it at your own expense and until we see you again, please be always,