We have a terrific guest for you all today. But first I’d like to announce the winner of the clock hand earrings from EJP Creations.
…drum roll please…
Congratulations, Arwen! Please email me at suzannelazear @ hotmail so you can get your prize.
Let’s give a big Steampunkapalooza welcome to today’s guest–young adult writer Scott Westerfeld. Scott has written a number of incredible books for young adults including the Midnighters and Uglies series. His Steampunk book, Leviathan was released last fall with the sequel Behemoth to follow in October, 2010.
I’ve written five science fiction books for adults, and I’m best known for my Uglies series, which is also science fiction. So people often ask me, How did you wind up writing a steampunk series?
I should probably to come up with some sort of literary-sounding answer, but the real story is one of pure self-indulgence.
After the success of Uglies, I figured I could do pretty much what I wanted. That is, I had this one shot to write something that was maybe a bit less commercial, because I had a publisher and fans who would support me.
So I decided to embark on a series that contained all the props and themes that I personally enjoy, including, in no particular order: airships, walkers, derring-do, swords, awesome clothes, and strange chimeric animals. And really, steampunk was the only genre flexible enough to incorporate all these.
Steampunk is a literature of collage, in a lot of ways. You can build steampunk out of a whole bunch of contradictory elements, from the real past or from the Victorian period’s imaginary futures, from feasible alternate technologies or crazy pseudo-sciences like hollow earths and spirit photography. You can decide what to include based on visual appeal, or on story needs, or on world building, or even your personal politics (challenging colonialism and sexism is big in steampunk, after all).
I started my collage by imaging a world that was divided into two warring sets of countries. The Clanker Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary, use machines like we do (but much steampunkier) while the Darwinist Powers, France, Britain and Russia, engage in a form of Victorian (well, Edwardian) bio-engineering. I had a girl dressed as a boy to serve in the Royal Air Navy, and the son of the Archduke Ferdinand disguised as a commoner trying to escape his father’s murderers.
Like I said, it was all the stuff I really liked, all crammed together.
But about sixty pages into the first book, I realized what was missing. You can’t do a collage without pictures! So at that point I spent an endless time (about a year) searching for the right illustrator. I finally found Keith Thompson, who created a sort of “Edwardian manga” style based on the illustrations in Punch Magazine of 1914.
To show you what I mean, here’s my girl-dressed-as-boy, Deryn, showing that engineered military beasts don’t scare her:
And here’s the eponymous airship over London:
At last, everything was in place. And luckily for me, my publisher really got it, and came along for the ride. They printed the books on wonderfully thick and heavy paper, and added color end papers with an amazing map that Keith created. It really looks and feels like a book from 1914. (Back when even books for adults had illustrations.)
After all, part of doing steampunk is living the part. Putting on the right frock or the perfect pair of goggles. So I’m pleased to bits that I wound up with the book equivalent of a velvet waistcoat.
Not to mention some pretty awesome clothes created by Keith:
But this is just between us. In interviews, I usually talk about wanting to create a metaphor for the collision of metal and flesh that was World War I, or something like that.
So don’t tell anyone, but it was mostly to have an excuse to buy a really good waistcoat.
Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Scott! Those illustrations are amazing, and I think a lot of us are partial to Steampunk clothes. For more information on Scott Westerfeld and his books please drop by his blog and website. Watch for Behemoth in October, 2010!
Keep tuning in all week for more great authors as Steampunkapalooza continues. Tomorrow we have author Regina Riley. Please join us on Saturday, April 24th for prizes and mayhem as we help author O.M. Grey release her new book Avalon Revisited. Young Adult author Kate Milford stops by on Sunday, April 25th.