Today we have an amazing guest for you, but first, yes, we have some winners to announce (and who doesn’t like winners?)
First off, I’d like to announced the winner of a copy of Kate Milford’s new book The Boneshaker.
…drum roll please…
Congratulations, Gaida. Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize.
Now, for the winner of the amazing gift basket from O.M. Grey.
…drum roll please…
Congratulations, Tamibates! Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize.
On to today’s guest. I am pleased and honored to welcome Kaja Foglio. She and her husband Phil produce an amazing gaslamp fantasy web comic called Girl Genius.Who doesn’t love the tagline–adventure, romance, MAD SCIENCE! Kaja will be giving away a Girl Genius Omnibus, a pin assortment, and an original GG sketch by Phil to one lucky poster (and how cool is that??)
Please give her a warm Steampunkapalooza welcome!
Gaslamp Fantasy and a Sort of Love Letter to Steampunk
Sooooo…I have no business being here, but I was invited, so here I am anyway. Muhahahahaha.
Therefore I inflict myself upon you all. Have no fear, it’s only for one day, tomorrow the Chair of Steamcon will be here to talk to you. She is absolutely lovely and throws an incredible convention. Hock your raygun and buy a membership. It’s worth it. We’ll be there too, assuming they’ll let us back in. We did have a lot of fun last year.
And why do I have no business here? Well, mostly because I don’t actually use the word “Steampunk” to describe what I do. In fact, except for my eBay listings, (where I want people to actually FIND my auctions) and the odd review that I quote because they say such nice things about my books, I do my best to resist using the term altogether. Instead, I hide behind the blast shield of “Gaslamp Fantasy,” a term I thought I had read in the introduction to an H. Rider Haggard book, but in fact had cooked up myself out of a muddled memory, with a dash of the San Diego Gaslamp district thrown in. Probably a dash of Cream Sherry as well. Oh, well. Let’s hear it for muddled memory. And Sherry.
Oh. Right. Hello–I’m Kaja Foglio. Along with my husband Phil, I write and produce a story called Girl Genius. You can read it in its comic form at girlgeniusonline.com. We update three times a week, collect the pages into a printed volume every year or so, and were awarded a Hugo Award for it last year. We’ve been nominated for another one this year. Also, the members of American Mensa listed us as one of their top 50 Web sites for 2010. We are very, very lucky. Our readers are smart, kind and funny, they send us lovely presents and photos of themselves in their laboratories reading Girl Genius. They dress up as our characters at conventions. I mean, really now. We have a job where people bring us presents, and we have a huge amount of fun doing what we do. What more could we ask? Life is pretty good.
And it’s been getting better in recent years. We started working on Girl Genius in 1993, and finally brought it into publication in 2000. Since then we’ve watched as the literary genre known as Steampunk has morphed into an…well, actually, I really don’t know what. Certainly a fashion movement, which I know I never expected. And a sort of odd lifestyle thing that is reminding me a lot of my early days in the SCA, but with a lot less arguing about authenticity (and bless you all for that.) And of course, there is the rise in popularity of the actual literary genre. Or sub-genre, really, since it’s all pretty much fantasy/SF with a special, delicious twist. When we started working on Girl Genius, none of this was the crashing force it is now. There was “Steampunk” stuff out there, of course, but nothing like what’s going on at the moment. What’s going on at the moment is incredible.
This brings me back to my Gaslamp Fantasy. When we were first working on Girl Genius, it was going to be modern–sort of Cyberpunk, actually. But at the time, I was going through Phil’s old sketches and finding the most wonderful drawings–airships and cats with pocket watches and a superhero called “Locomotive Lars.” I was working on trying to come up with something involving mad science, since I…um… kind of have a thing for that… and I’ve long been a fan of Lovecraft and Poe and Shelley and Rider-Haggard and Wells and Verne (of course, Verne.) After a while of going through all these wonderful sketches, I said to Phil something along the lines of: “The modern stuff is boring. Let’s do something kind of Lovecraft/Verne-ish. You’ve done hard SF (Buck Godot, zap gun for hire) and Fantasy (MythAdventures) and modern (What’s New with Phil & Dixie), Let’s do something with this style you’ve been drawing but have never used.” I probably used more words than that, because you really can’t shut me up sometimes, but I didn’t use the word Steampunk, because I didn’t know it then…
Fast forward to the year we actually got around to releasing Girl Genius in print. I knew the word by that time. But when it came time to publish the first comic, I didn’t want to use it. Let me go look at my Wikipedia entry, which I believe has an actual quote of something that I apparently said in print at some point:
–Tic Tic Tic–
AAH! My Wikipedia entry has vanished. I redirect to Girl Genius. Oh well, that sure puts me in MY place. Oh, the existential angst of being deleted from Wikipedia. Ouch. Anyway, I dug up the actual quote. Under “Gaslight Fantasy” no less. What on Earth is THAT? Gaslight? Really? Oh, well, here it is, at any rate:
“I called it Gaslamp Fantasy because, around the time we were bringing Girl Genius out, there was a comic called Steampunk on the shelves and I didn’t want any confusion. Plus, I’ve never liked the term steampunk much for our work, it’s derived from cyberpunk (a term which I think actually fits its genre well) but we have no punk, and we have more than just steam, and using a different name seemed appropriate. I mis-remembered a term that I had come across in the foreword to an H. Rider Haggard book, where the author was talking about Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Rider Haggard and that sort of pre-pulp adventure material, and came up with “Gaslamp Fantasy.” I felt a bit foolish when I discovered that I had made up my own term, but it works and I like it.”
So that’s what I said. Probably in my blog, which I’m pretty bad about writing in these days. At least I’m getting this done. But, yes. I didn’t want to confuse my thing with someone else’s thing. So I stuck something else on it. And that’s all it was. Really.
But these things have a way of getting away from one… and now, during interviews, people are asking me (with totally straight faces! It’s amazing!) how Gaslamp Fantasy differs from Steampunk. And expecting some kind of intelligent answer. From ME. HAHAHAHAHAHA! … I have no idea. Originally, it was a sidestep, a way of avoiding the toes of a noble colleague. These days, it’s my way of avoiding the “But THAT’S not STEAMPUNK!!!!” argument that I see playing out all over the internet. It happens all the time. The snark is unbelievable. Something is too goth, or too modern, or doesn’t have a damn (Ooh. I said “damn” in front of the Victorians. Sorry, folks. It’s the tipple.) steam engine right in the middle of it, and the dogs of the internet are released. You know what? I make my stories to please myself. I’m not interested in making my stories according to someone else’s mold. It’s not Steampunk as others see it? Okay. That’s fine. It’s MINE. I’m not trying to play by someone else’s predefined rules. Having my own goofy home-made label to hide behind has saved me SO MUCH grief. On the other hand, it has bitten me, as well, because…
The downside to being on record as having “dissed” the beloved Steampunk is that people think I don’t like Steampunk! I get people thinking that if they use the term to describe my work, I’ll be offended! Seriously. One simply can’t do anything without getting people all upset.
Let me set the record straight.
Do you know what it’s like to live with a head full of this stuff, and suddenly be able to go off to conventions and see it all? Everyone dressed so beautifully, with the most incredible gadgets… things I would have had to have Phil DRAW for me if I’d wanted to see them? Or worse, to hack away at drawing them myself? Ugh. To have well-wishers daily send me links to things that make my heart skip multiple beats? To see how many people out there are enjoying this, and making amazing things, and working on raising the tone of everything in their daily lives by the application of a healthy dollop of artistic fantasy? To stand on top of the Neverwas Haul: a three-story Victorian house that drives around at Burning Man, and that I’d only seen in pictures until recently? To get my picture taken on a giant brass snail (the Golden Mean) that spits fire, and sit on a giant metal ride-on trilobite that I would KILL for? The art people are making, the dreams they’re dreaming… Well, actually, if you’re reading this, you probably DO know what it’s like, don’t you?
Isn’t it wonderful?
I’ve just turned forty. So far, it’s been a good year. If the second half of my life is going to be filled with things like this, then I can only imagine that I was VERY VERY GOOD in my previous life. And to those of you who are making it thus? Thank you. Whatever it is that I make, (and we won’t get into that any more than necessary, oh dear, no, not after all this “Gaslamp Fantasy” business…) what you make is a true delight. Thank you.
Wow, what a great post. Thank you so much, Kaja, for taking the time to visit us today. To win the amazing prize (a Girl Genius Omnibus, a pin assortment, and an original GG sketch by Phil) all you have to do is post a comment. That’s it! THe contest is open until 11:59 pm PST, Sunday, May 2nd, winner will be announced Monday, May 3rd.
Tune in tomorrow for the last official day of Steampunkapalooza when we’re visited by Diana Vick from Steamcon! After that, please keep visiting us most weekdays and the occasional weekend as my fellow Lolitas and I continue to bring you musings, mayhem, and all things Steampunk. Thanks for making Steampunkapalooza a smashing success!