Steampunk for the Romantic in all of us
by Arabella Wyatt
It’s hardly an obscure fact that reality quite often fails to live up to fiction. In reality we have bills to pay, people to please who don’t necessarily please us in return, and jobs that eat into our time and, at worst, our souls. In fiction, we can soar above this and be heroic, romantic, and unconventional. In part, this helps explain the success of science fiction and fantasy, as well as the enduring appeal of certain archetypes; the rebel, the pirate, the mad scientist etc.
It was thinking along these lines that made me want to write something that was just plain, simple fun. Something with action, adventure, and romance. Given that I have long enjoyed the aesthetics of steampunk, and that I’m a bit of a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean, it was no surprise when the two meshed in my head and I had the core idea of steampunk pirates. So be warned – these are not the pirates of airships. These are the other sort, traditionally seen with an eyepatch, a parrot, and a wooden leg. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
Of course, a lot of the above is film fiction rather than actual fact, but even so, the pirate is an enduring image. I liked the idea of bringing piracy and steampunk together and began planning the story, knowing from the outset it had to have certain ingredients from each genre; a protagonist who, while undoubtedly heroic, has a few flaws. An adventuress defying convention. A good pirate, and a dastardly pirate. A Victorian setting mixed with advanced technology. A silver woman who crashes into the sea onboard her spaceship…
Maybe the last one isn’t a convention, but I knew who she was and how she fitted into the plot. Thus was born Lady Mechatronic and the Steampunked Pirates. Having got the ingredients I gave them a good stir and immediately hit a snag or two. For one thing, there was too much going on. The logistics of getting character A into location B, and ensuring that there he can meet character C, who will have an effect on D, dictated a certain shape to the story. For example, in making the hero, Captain Hartwell, a reluctant pirate, he had to have a nemesis to make him that pirate, and that nemesis quickly turned into his superior officer, the iniquitous Admiral Johnson. Which meant I had no place for the villainous pirate.
To make things worse, as the book progressed, I realised that Johnson was a character who demanded more space, not least because he’s a fat git. And so one of Johnson’s minor henchmen was promoted to second villain status, to leave Johnson free for future development. This resulted in another problem, in that the book was potentially growing into the size of an encyclopaedia, and given that I was aiming at a novella – a quick, exciting, light bite of a book – I had to look again at the ideas and decide that a sequel was going to be needed. Probably several.
This meant that the practical decision to curtail the first book raised yet another issue; the steampunk elements had hardly been explored, it being the nature of the plot that these elements would develop in a logical, straightforward way… so although the components were there, I didn’t have the space to delve into them too much.
This made me worry that the title, concerning steampunk pirates, could be a trifle misleading, but there I have had to shrug and hope there is in fact enough retro-tech to make the ardent steampunk fan happy – and there is still the promise of future steampunk developments to come. Such as what is happening to the galleon the pirates are travelling on…
So, if you pick up a copy of Lady Mechatronic and the Steampunked Pirates and you’re disappointed with the relative lack of steampunk in it, please accept my apologies, be patient, and wait for book two in the series, where just a little more will be revealed…
Lady Mechatronic and the Steampunked Pirates is available now from Devine Destinies, and will soon be available from Kindle, Fictionwise and other third party sellers.