Archive for September, 2010

Today is the last day you can enter to win a copy of Arthur Slade’s new steampunk Tween thriller “The Dark Deeps.”

Also, tune in Monday, October 4th, 2010, when we announce the lineup for our 2010 Halloween Author Invasion (and what exactly the author invasion is.) Be very afraid (but be excited, too.)

Today we welcome Lolita Leanna, aka Leanna Renee Hieber, author of the “Percy Parker” Gaslamp Romance series.  “A Christmas Carroll” aka “Percy Parker 2 1/2” will be featured in the anthology A MIDWINTER FANTASY which is an ebook to be released by Dorchester.  At the moment Dorchester has delayed the ebook’s release, but if you follow Leanna on Twitter, she’ll let you know when the ordering link goes live.

Gaslight Musings: Building on Your Atmosphere – Leanna Renee Hieber’s latest Strangely Beautiful venture:

It should be no secret that what draws readers to Steampunk, to Gaslight and also to the Gothic is atmosphere. Our favourite works are full of rich atmosphere and intense world-building. One of the important yet tricky things in writing series fiction, particularly if it’s fantastical, paranormal or all of the above, is coming up with ways in which your world still maintains its conventions but also grows in richness, complexity, conflict and intrigue. I think one of the best ways to do this is to make sure that if you introduce a new convention, to be sure that it comes from within the world you’ve already built rather than tacking on something new. Also, the beauty of series fiction allows us to dive deeper into secondary characters, and deeper into the world’s details, where these new flowers can really bloom.

In thinking of new aspects to introduce in “A Christmas Carroll” which serves as Strangely Beautiful series #2.5, featured in A MIDWINTER FANTASY anthology, I knew I needed something new within my spirit world, what I call the Whisper-World.

What I came up with was The Liminal. You’ll see it described in the brief excerpt below, and I didn’t realize until I wrote it that it’s a very Steampunk detail. The Liminal clock keeps magic mortal time; its hands are vast and the barrel tells the year, shifting its great lens to show its charges the necessary scene in any moment in time. But it is still a part of the Whisper-World; a place I’ve described as mysterious, vast and shifting, beholden to powers over life and death that mere mortals can only guess at. The Liminal fit into that premise smoothly.

I love writing series fiction for all of the reasons I’ve mentioned. I love getting the chance to give secondary characters their due, and I adore taking the world I’ve built and simmering further in it; not just the skin and bones but the marrow of the world. I hope you’ll enjoy A MIDWINTER FANTASY, which just released on the 28th! Each of the stories in the anthology features a respective world that the author has built upon for at least two series books. Please note, due to changes at Dorchester Publishing this is a digital / eBook release ONLY. Future books will be released in Trade Paperback, but the transition at Dorchester has caught this book without paperback printing of any kind.

Here’s a tiny excerpt involving The Liminal, Strangely Beautiful’s new world-building detail:

From “A Christmas Carroll” featured in A MIDWINTER FANTASY anthology:

Prologue – December 1888, at the edge of London’s reality

Three spirits murmured to each other, standing in the luminous Liminal that separated the waiting Whisper-world from the dazzling, drawing light of the Great Beyond.  The Whisper-world was quite the grey purgatory, while the Great Beyond, well…who possesses the words to describe Paradise?

The Liminal is a place where magic is discussed and made, from whence spirits receive duties and inspiration, where dreams are both created and abandoned. Where those who are worthy might become angels. It is a place where time is porous and malleable; it keeps its own clock. Here pasts are recaptured and futures glimpsed; here spirits from every walk of death—those still invested in parties on Earth—discuss their current designs on the living, for better or for worse.

The present trio at the Liminal edge was shrouded in shadow, and they contemplated parties in London, England, under the reign of Queen Victoria. Their clothing, too, represented various decades within Her Highness’ extensive reign, long may she live. The spirits stood before a living portrait rendered by exquisite hands: the vast proscenium of an elaborate stage dwarfed their spirit trio. The set scene laid wide before them was a stately school on a moonlit night, dim, eerie, engaging…and awaiting its players.”

For more about Leanna Renee Hieber, the Strangely Beautiful saga and A MIDWINTER FANTASY:



Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/sbsfan

– Strangely Beautiful Blessings!

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Happy Banned book week.

Every year the American Library Association records hundreds of attempts by groups and individuals to remove books from schools and libraries. Groups try to ban books–get them off the shelves so they can’t be read–for a variety of reasons, some of the most popular reasons being “sexually explicit,” “offensive language,” and “unsuited to age group.”

Both new books and classics are challenged each year. Both “Catcher and the Rye” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” English class staples, made the 2009 most frequently challenged book list alongside the Twilight series, The TTYL series, and many others. Most of the books are kidlit/YA lit or books teens read in school.

The list of frequently challenged classics is always my favorite list to peruse.

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
9. 1984 by George Orwell
10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
13. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
37. The World According to Garp by John Irving
38. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
39. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
40. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
41. Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
46. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
48. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
51. My Antonia by Willa Cather
52. Howards End by E. M. Forster
53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
55. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
56. Jazz by Toni Morrison
57. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
59. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
61. A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
64. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
66. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
68. Light in August by William Faulkner
69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
70. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
71. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
72. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein
79. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
82. White Noise by Don DeLillo
83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
85. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
87. The Bostonians by Henry James
88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
89. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
90. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
91. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
92. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
93. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
94. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
95. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
96. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
97. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
98. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster
99. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
100. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

How many of them have you read? I’ve read 31, most as school assignments. Even H.G. Wells is on the list. I think it’s ironic that “1984” is on the list–someone tried to censor a book about book censorship.

The purpose of banned book week is to let people know that even in this day and age, censorship still exists in America. The first amendment is still questioned. During this week we try to get the word out that banning books is censorship, pure and simple, and it’s wrong.

So what will you do to celebrate banned book week?

I think I’m going to read some H.G. Wells.

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Today we welcome author Philippa Ballantine!

Philippa Ballantine is a fantasy writer hailing from Wellington, New Zealand. In the coming year she will have three books hitting the real and virtual shelves. The first of which a supernatural fantasy (containing the odd airship and feisty heroine), GEIST from Ace Books will available in late October 2010—just in time for Halloween. Find out more at booksoftheorder.com and pjballantine.com

The First Ladies of Steam

By Philippa Ballantine

We often discuss steam, but today I’m taking the chance to talk about some punks to go with them.

This last weekend was the 117th year of woman’s suffrage in New Zealand—and of all the excellent things about my country that’s the one I am most proud of.

Yep, New Zealand women have been accused of being bossy, stroppy and overly independent. (Actually we have been accused of running the country—which we have done a couple of time.) However all of these are excellent attributes for a steampunk woman.

True, there were millions of proper women in Victorian and Edwardian society, drinking tea, and staying in their place—but we also shouldn’t forget that there were plenty of the other kind of women—the kind that risked their position in society, their health and their lives to go against the grain. What’s more punk than that?

When I was at WorldCon in Melbourne, I was on a steampunk panel—one on the future of the movement. It was argued that the genre doesn’t represent the true terribleness that did exist in that time period. While costumers make goggles, and authors write about airships, it was suggested we are largely ignoring the racism, colonialism and sexism that existed in that time. While there are plenty of stories to tell, and issues to explore as the genre continues to grow, there is some truth in that statement.

Now I admit—the kind of steampunk I like is fun. As the Brits would say, I enjoy a jolly good romp—but that doesn’t mean we can’t inject a little education into those very same stories.

The second book of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences I am writing with Tee Morris, is going to revolve to a large extent around the suffrage movement. While our suffragettes will be a little better equipped than their real life counterparts, their spirit will be drawn from the same place. (Still, it’s interesting to imagine what they could have done with the odd automaton or raygun to further their cause).

I am having great old time using actual suffragettes for the basis of our story—two in particular are loads of fun to give the steampunk treatment to.

Kate Sheppard is so famous in my home country she is on the ten-dollar bill—not bad for a chick that spent her adult life fighting to change the system. This charismatic woman was a powerhouse of energy and the leader of the suffrage movement in New Zealand. Without her the whole thing would have struggled to wrestle the vote from the hands of men. As it was it took three separate petitions and constant work to get the job done. Her determination and energy is something I feel like I am honouring—but then I give her a clock-work eye and ordnance system to go with it. (There is something awfully appealing about the gentile and lovely Kate with her own steampowered weaponry to really ram home the point to menfolk).

One suffragette from Britain is someone I might be afraid to give such devices to.

Lilian Lenton- oh my! If you have an impression that suffragettes were gentile ladies, who sat around drinking tea and painting signs, then you are in for a shock. This girl was born to shake things up. If I could steal anyone’s Wikipedia entry it would be hers.

…dancer, suffragist, arsonist and winner of a French Red Cross…

Quite a set of accomplishments! This lady was known for two things: setting fire to buildings, and making daring escapes from custody. The buildings she burnt were things like gazebos in the public gardens, but her escapes from home detention were nothing short of brilliant. The house where Lilian was under house arrest (recovering from the horrific practice of force feeding) was guarded by two police officers. A whole posse of suffragettes entered the house, then all dressed the same as her rushed out and scattered up the street taking her with them. Pure theatrical brilliance.

I mean what writer wouldn’t grab that as inspiration?

And what better basis for our female steampunk aviators, inventors and adventurers than the suffragettes? If we teach a little, or add a remembrance of how things actually were for women in the nineteenth century then all the better. If steampunk is a history that never was, then such people and such stories deserve a place in it.

Sure I am giving the suffragettes a little update, but their spirit and adventures remain the same. I like to think at least some of them (Hey Lilian!) would have approved—and I for one am dying to discover just what they would have accomplished with the right steampunk gadgets!

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If you are into Steampunk, then naturally you’re into Victoriana of one kind or another. As a writer, research is one of my favorite things, and there are three books I’ve kept on my research shelf when dozens of others have been shuffled off to less stellar spots (read cardboard boxes in the attic).

One book is To Marry An English Lord – The Victorian and Edwardian Experience Tales of Wealth and Marriage Sex and Snobbery by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace. While it’s not your typical reference book I absolutely inhaled it. It looks at the idea of marriage from a distinctly Victorian view. It discusses things such as the bidding on American Heiresses to bring money to well-titled, but financially poor English families, the protocol of calling cards, how one gave the cut direct in high society and follows the likes of the American equivalent of Victorian royalty, such as the Vanderbilts and the Astors. It shows a glimpse of what life as a married heiress entailed from luncheons to dealing with one’s spouse. So much fodder for a mind bent on imaginative fiction!

The second is What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew – From Fox Hunting to Whist – the Facts of Daily Life in 19th Century England by Daniel Pool. From finding out how social rank worked, to when to yell “Tally Ho!” during a fox hunt, and how one ended up in debtor’s prison (like Charles Dicken’s father), this book covers the gamut of odd Victorian social norms and customs (for instance did you know that the “plums” in a Christmas plum pudding were really raisins?) If you plan on being one of the aristocracy in your Steampunk costuming or mannerisms, I highly recommend it.

Book number three is really more of a specific book to my current work in progress. It’s A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West – The Reminiscences of Mary Hallock Foote edited by Rodman W. Paul. It’s an autobiography written by a Victorian woman who moved West, and both wrote and illustrated western stories for such magazines as Century and St. Nicholas, but it is not a bunch of dull letters. Instead it is the vibrant account of the struggles of woman on the western frontier who longed for the cultivation and friends she’d left behind back East, but who adored the rugged beauty and opportunity the West offered. The book includes a number of her illustrations.

You see, while we writers do indulge in making up stuff for our fantastical fiction, we actually do research and immerse ourselves in the details of Victorian life now and again. Are there research books you particularly adore?

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Today we welcome author Arthur Slade, who writes The Hunchback Assignments series. Did you know there are Steampunk books for tweens/younger teens? He’s written two of them! The Dark Deeps , the second book in the series was just released and I have a copy to give away to one lucky poster!

The Hunchback Assignments

When Modo turns fourteen, his education is complete. He must first survive in London on his own, then, with the help of beautiful Octavia, he uncovers a sinister plot being carried out in the very sewers beneath London.

The Dark Deeps

Modo’s latest mission, to uncover the underwater mystery behind the sinking of several ships, seems impossible. There are rumours of a sea monster or something even more nefarious. An astounding secret in the depths of the ocean.

Steampunk Book Trailers
by Arthur Slade

Book trailers are a relatively new creation of the book publishing industry and they range from the “made on my home computer” to professional, movie-quality videos. I had created plenty of my own book trailers on my Mac, but to kick off The Hunchback Assignments I felt I needed to do something new and professional. I worked with a company out of Texas. I gave them the back cover copy, images from the Canadian, American, and Australian covers and they ran with it. They were able to provide powerful graphics, original music and, well, a “movie announcer” voice. Take a listen.

I was extremely pleased with how it turned out. How I wish my voice sounded like that! There was a good response to the trailer and it was fun to go back to the same company and see what they could do for The Dark Deeps.

Essentially this video is a sequel to the first one. The book trailers have become more useful than I imagined–I thought they would only be appearing on the internet but the trailers have been used on radio to introduce me before an interview (obviously they only used the audio portion of the trailer ), in bookstores to promote the book, and I use the trailers whenever I do a presentation–it’s a great way to lead off a reading and talk about the book. They certainly get the audience’s attention.

Plus, it’s almost like seeing a movie of the book come to life. Almost…

The Hunchback Assignments
“A terrific entertainment.” Quill and Quire. Starred review.

Arthur Slade was raised in the Cypress Hills of southwest Saskatchewan and began writing at an early age. He received an English Honours degree from the University of Saskatchewan, spent several years writing advertising and now writes fiction full time. He is the author of the “Canadian Chills” series of books, “Dust” (which won the Governor General’s award), “Tribes,” and “Monsterology.” He currently lives in Saskatoon.

Make sure you visit the other stops on Arthur’s book tour!

Previous stops on The Dark Deeps blog tour:

Friday, September 17 – ArtSlade.com
Saturday September 18 – Cynsations
Sunday, September 19 – Free the Princess

Upcoming stops on The Dark Deeps blog tour:

Tuesday, September 21 – Steampunk Tribune
Wednesday, September 22 – Suvudu
Thursday, September 23 – Steampunk Scholar
Friday, September 24 – Through the Looking Glass

Want to win an ARC of The Dark Deeps? just leave a comment below telling me which book trailer you liked better and why. Contest runs through 11:59 pm PST, September 30, 2010, open internationally.

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Today we welcome the elusive and mysterious Dr. Fantastique who runs the Steampunk Zine Dr. Fantastique’s Show of Wonders which features Steampunk stories, art and culture. Today he is accompanied by writer Matt Delman who is going to try to keep the Good Doctor on topic.

The Tale of the Show of Wonders

When first the darling Lolita Suzanne contacted us to write for her fine periodical of the aether, we were at a loss for the proper verbiage to communicate our delight. Then once the initial euphoria departed us, we were left with the insidious difficulty of determining what to compose for such auspicious an occasion.

What the good doctor means to say is that he couldn’t think of anything to talk about. It’s always a surprise to see him dumbstruck, so I suggested he talk about himself. In true Doctor Fantastique fashion, he immediately panned the idea.

We have informed Monsieur Delman on numerous occasions that we do not pontificate on the topic of ourself; not when so many other fine performers in the Show of Wonders have not had their opportunity in the spotlight.

And there you go being modest again. You’ve spent your life with the Show of Wonders to keep it running, and the performers and I appreciate everything you do. There’s absolutely no harm in talking about yourself once in awhile, especially considering how fascinating your life story is.

We do not appreciate this harassment, Monsieur. It has ever been our policy to not speak of our past, and we do not intend to countermand this under such pressure as yours.

Your name is spreading around the Internet, Doctor. Why not give the people a taste of the man behind the Show of Wonders. Your name’s on the marquee after all, so why not give the people what they want? Isn’t that what being in the traveling show is all about?

We do not reveal our secrets. This is a fact you have heard before.

Yes, I know. “A good showman never reveals his tricks.” Suzanne’s counting on us to make this interesting though, and what better story is there than your own?

Clearly you cannot be dissuaded from this course of action. If we must tell our story, then we will tell it the way we desire to.

That’s perfectly fine, Doctor.

We were born outside the City of New York in the summer months of 1827. We are not certain of the exact date; our mother died in labor and our father spent much of his time in the bottle during our first years of life. We ran away from home at age eight — or perhaps it was age nine or ten — we do not recall the precise time.

We came upon the traveling show of Professor Astounding outside Tarrytown some time later. We had lived on the road for nearly a year; stealing from coaches and campsites along the way for sustenance and clothing. By the time we discovered the traveling show, our original clothes had turned to rags and we swathed ourselves in accoutrements too big for our small body. Winter had come on with a frigid snap that year, and we spent much time huddled in caves and under tree branches for warmth.

Professor Astounding took us captive when one of the barkers caught us trying to steal bread from the kitchen wagon. We do not know what he saw in us, but rather than turn us into the authorities, the kindly old Professor took us in as a stableboy for the horses. We traveled with the Show of Wonders all around the Northeast in the intervening years. We cared for the horses, did errands for the Professor, and helped the performers wherever we could.

Professor Astounding discovered in us a facility for juggling one day when we were caring for the horses. We believe it was in our fifteenth year that we joined the Show of Wonders in a showman capacity. The kindly old Professor offered us a space in the juggling show, and we gladly accepted if it meant no longer caring for the horses. The jugglers accepted us as a son among their band, and showed us their secrets in how to throw the flaming torch so you never caught the burning end, how to juggle well with knives, and how to throw things at your partner quicker than the eye could see. We watched, and listened, and learned all that we could.

Until one day the lead juggler took ill, and Professor Astounding asked that we take his place on center stage. Nerves twisted our stomach tighter than any vise, but we took the stage in the jester’s garb with bells on our head and feet. We wowed the audience in Fishkill with our skill at blades and flames, and lead the show with what the Professor termed “vim and vigor.”

His pride in our performance made us joyful. We moved throughout the Show of Wonders from that day on, learning everything we could from all the performers. From the barkers we learned to be heard, from the acrobats we learned flexibility, and from the rest of the performers we learned about life and how to put on a fabulous show.

When did the Professor tell you his secret?

We are getting to that, monsieur. A spinner of tales such as yourself knows one does rush the climactic moment of one’s narrative.

True, but we’ve got a set amount of space here. And Professor Astounding’s secret is the really fascinating.

Since you are insistent on ruining the cadence of our prose, we shall move forward to the event you so wish to hear us relate. It was the summer of our thirtieth year, and we had camped near the Ohio River, when the good professor invited us into his tent one evening after a performance. He told us then that he was not a kindly man of eighty-seven as we had originally believed. Nay, he was much, much older than that. In point of fact, he had been born in the sixteenth century! We goggled at this news, as he continued to speak of working a traveling show with his mentor, the Wandering Magister.

Then, in the summer of his thirtieth year, the Magister brought Professor Astounding into his tent and informed him that it was time to enter the Professor into the Brotherhood of Wanderers — an ancient group that led traveling shows all over this world of ours. Part of the conditions for joining this fraternal organization was to accept a gift bestowed on the first Wanderer by the natural philosophers of Sumeria. This gift was one of a much-extended lifespan; the Magister was 600 years old when Professor Astounding met him.

As of the time of our meeting in the summer of 1857, Professor Astounding had already turned 400. Once he related this story to us, we watched him open an old steamer that he kept in his tent. From within, under a heap of old blankets, he withdrew a massive gearwork mechanism of copper and brass and steel. Professor Astounding flipped a switch on the rear of the device, and the gears began to spin. We stared as the gears revolved ever faster around the vertical and horizontal.

The mechanism exploded with a cacophony of light and sound. We dove in the seconds before a gear struck us in the face. When the light faded and our hearing returned, we looked up to the visage of our mentor. Professor Astounding sat on his folding chair serene as he ever was. He looked us over, and smiled wider than we had ever seen.

“Now you are a Wanderer,” he told us. “Now you are truly part of the Show of Wonders.” He placed the mechanism back in its trunk, and locked the machine away.

We took the name Doctor Fantastique after an intensive course of study we partook of in Paris. Professor Astounding would not allow us to use the appellation until we completed our studies at the University of the Fantastic. We were surprised that such an institution existed, but Professor Astounding insisted that was where all Wanderers received their monikers.

Professor Astounding retired the week we completed our matriculation. He gave us leadership over the Show of Wonders, and we have traveled the countryside with the Show for more than a century. The players in the Show of Wonders may change from year to year, but we are ever in mastery over it. We guard the mechanism ourselves now, waiting for the day when we may pass the secret on to the next member of the Brotherhood.

I met the good Doctor three years ago on Cape Ann in Northeastern Massachusetts. My car stopped on Route 128 South as I was driving home. I saw the lights, and thought maybe they’d have some jumper cables or something to help me get back home. Instead, I meant a man who called himself Doctor Fantastique and, upon hearing that I was a writer, decided to tell me a story. A very fascinating story, and one I thought made-up … until he showed me the mechanism.

I founded the magazine after much deliberation with Doctor Fantastique, who had shown a surprising love of science fiction. He wanted to see more pieces that dealt with the era of his birth, the Victorian Age, and so we agreed to start the website with the name of his traveling show attached to it. A bit of a cross-branding idea on my part. And that’s where we stand today.


Matthew Delman is the Editor/Founder of Doctor Fantastique’s Show of Wonders, the Founder of Free the Princess, co-founder of The Secret Archives of the Alliterati, and an aficionado of Steampunk in all its forms. You can also find him on Twitter at @mattdelman, @docfantastique, and @FlyingPenPress (where he is the Marketing Director).

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Dear Reader,

I would like to begin by saying while I revel in the science and enjoy the Victorian splendor that is in today’s steampunk, I find that there is often something missing…and it’s not steam…it’s steaminess.

Now before you get your bustle in an uproar, take a look at some of the most celebrated authors of other science fiction and action genres, like James Rollins, Michael Crichton and James Patterson. More often that not, they include some relationship (dare I say romantic) element between their characters within the context of the story. And while steampunks are full of science and fantasy elements, I believe they would benefit from a heavier dose of the relationship aspects between the characters.

Why? Because it’s human nature to be interested in the human condition. That’s part of what makes even dystopian fiction possible. There’s been a long-standing tradition among those in the science-fiction genre that says too much steaminess in a story somehow lowers its quality. Why?

After all, when you read a book, is it simply because that character has the coolest raygun in existence, or is it because you actually are curious what will happen to the character once he shoots said raygun and mayhem errupts?

When you meet a couple, do you ask how they met, or do you want to know how often they polish their brass buttons on their captain’s jacket to get them to gleam so well?

Part of the reason I adore Gail Carriger’s steampunk Parasol Protectorate series is because of the relationship between her main characters. The first book especially got me hooked because there was an attraction between Alexa Tarbotti and Lord Macon that was nothing if not steamy.

While the Victorian era was indeed a little more straight-laced about the kinds of affections that could be touted in public, we must remember that this is steampunk. Perhaps being a little steamier requires us to be a little more punk about our perceptions of the era and let those relationships out in the open.

After all, if a woman can wear her undergarments on the outside without steampunk social circles batting an eyelash, why should we not have more steaminess in our steampunk stories? What do you think? Are you for more steam in your steampunk or not? 

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Steampunk for everyone?

Is Steampunk for everyone?

Not everyone gets Steampunk.

Does that mean that they couldn’t eventually get or enjoy Steampunk?

Yes, I think they can.

The very reason why is also the reason why I love Steampunk–the sheer depth and breadth of the genre.

Not everyone might enjoy writing–or reading–Steampunk. But Steampunk extends so much further then just the written word.

Also, just because I don’t knit doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy handknitted things. Of course, it also means I don’t like every hat someone knits. I have to figure out what I like.

The same things goes for Steampunk.

Maybe they’d be inspired by the sounds of Clockwork Cabaret or Abney Park.

Perhaps it’s the handcrafted jewerly that has them scouring Etsy for the newest creations or flocking to flea markets for broken pocket watches to male their own. There’s more than jewelry–there’s tatted lace, tiaras made of clockhands, and hats.

Oh the hats.

Someone who loves hats–the bowler or the derby or even the cloche–might appreciate the simply elegance of a grey silk top hat or a black derby festooned with feathers and a small veil.

The fashion of Steampunk can be spectacular. Someone who’d always loved Victorian elegance, the rustle of silk, the bounce of the bustle, wide ball gowns worn over a hoop, is bound to find something among the many made to order and off the rack Steampunk fashions. They might even get inspired to sew their own.

Steampunk even has art, everything from big-eyed faeries to sweeping scapes.

Don’t even get me started in the science and technology. That’s the heart of Steampunk. Build a difference engine or a raygun (it’s okay of it doesn’t work). Rip the keys off your keyboard and replace them with typewriter keys (or buy one.) Steampunk your car.

Every single one of these holds variations from lowbrown to classy. The possibilities are endless. I’ve only began to touch on the many facets of Steampunk.

So, yes, Steampunk really has something for everyone.

You just have to look.

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Today we welcome back one of our favorite Visiting Lolitas, author Gail Carriger.

Her newest in the deliciously Steampunk paranormal Parasol Protectorate series, Blameless, was released September 1, 2010. Other books in the series include Soulless and Changeless. She also has a story appearing in the Steampunk Reloaded anthology which will be released November 15, 2010.

Blameless is also a featured book for the month of Steptember over at the Barnes and Noble Paranormal and Urban Fantasy Book Club.

Getting Cozy with Gail Carriger

There’s this concept of cozy which may be the most iconic thing I can think of to represent British culture. Yes there’s the Queen, and Ascot, and Oxford and so forth, but I’m going purely philosophical here and delving into the nature of culture itself. Small town or city, north or south, there is one thing that they do better in Britain than anywhere else in the world (apart from tea): Get Cozy.

You can picture it in your head: the small thatched cottage on the edge of the moor, puffing smoke out its little chimney, a tilted sign at the garden path that reads “Duck’s Bottom.” You know that at the door there will be a little brush shaped like a hedgehog upon which to wipe your rubber boots and just inside a pot for your umbrella. Once the door has closed, you notice that the place smells like baking bread. You can hear the lilting hum of conversation, a querulous rise and fall, so musical when compared to our loud American flatness. And soon enough someone comes toward you with a welcoming smile, flour on their apron, and says, “Oh, it’s you. Come in, come in. Cuppa?”

Cozy is the way everything is smaller over in the UK: cars, bath tubs, doorways. Except tissues, they’re huge. Cozy is the fact that odds are, if you enter a used bookstore some cat will sidle over to collect a pet taxation, or, if it’s sunny, coil in the window amongst dusty book jackets in an obliging sunbeam. Cozy is the patchwork quilts on the beds or the fact that you can order your gingerbread with a dollop of warm custard spilled over it. Cozy in inherent in the names of things: Winny the Pooh (a children’s book character), loo (the bathroom), babblers (a kind of bird). Even the food is cozy, designed for well padded comfort, nothing to stress about, nothing too hot or too spicy or too good for you: spotted dick, clotted cream, Christmas pud, digestive biscuits, Cornish pasties, crumpets, bubble and squeak, rumbledethumps.

Being truly British, however, means one has to suffer for this concept in order to appreciate it. In the South of England, where I spent much of my youth, I would often see parades of macintoshed wanderers striding the green landscape enduring a near-constraint drizzle. “Mighty fine day, isn’t it?” Some had a scruffy dog or two, others sported binoculars and a keen interest in birds (Birdos are called Twitchers over there – how awesome is that?), but most are just out for a stroll. I don’t know about you, but here in California no one would EVER go for a walk in the rain. The very idea! But I believe this is tied to the fact that these damp adventurers know that upon returning home there will be a cheery little fire, a fat cat on the knee, and perhaps a hot toddy.

I think one the best literary depictions of this side of Britishness is the Hobbit villages in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. As Tolkien implies, we would all be better of if we could have more cozy in our lives, that slow lazy pace, that genuine appreciation for comfort. There is simple functional pleasure to be derived from a tea cozy or fuzzy slippers. There is such joy to be had in curling up in a big soft sweater with a great book and a cup of tea. Cozy is not just a concept, it is a state of mind.

New York Times Bestselling author Gail Carriger began writing in order to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Ms. Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She now resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported directly from London. She is fond of teeny tiny hats and tropical fruit. The Parasol Protectorate books are: Soulless (Oct. 2009), Changeless (March 2010), Blameless (Sept. 2010), Heartless (July 2011), and Timeless (2012).

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Happy Labor Day!

Summer’s done, it’s sad to say

The holidays will soon be on their way

The weather will be growing cool

Vacation’s over, back to school

(all the mothers say “hurray”)

Art by Zoe Stead

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So … the Ann Taylor Loft flyer arrives, and there they are. I ask you, are these not the boots of an air pirate? If I were building such a costume, this is where I would start.

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