Welcome back to Steampunkapalooza! Stay tuned for a super contest to be announced on Sunday. Today we welcome YA author Tiffany Trent.
Tiffany Trent lives and writes in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She is the author of the HALLOWMERE series, THE UNNATURALISTS and its forthcoming sequel. Her stories have appeared in MAGIC IN THE MIRRORSTONE, CORSETS AND CLOCKWORK, SUBTERRANEAN, and the forthcoming WILLFUL IMPROPRIETY. When not writing, she can be found in her apiary playing with bees. Visit her at http://www.tiffanytrent.com.
By Tiffany Trent
When I think about steampunk, I actually don’t think about steam. Well, much. I didn’t even really know what I’d written was steampunk at first, until I noticed that it was being billed as such. I had read much steampunk and enjoyed it immensely and I have files and files of images saved on my computer of beautiful steampunk costumery (Kit Stolen, anyone??) as inspiration, but I think what became steampunk for me is very different than it might be for most people.
For example, THE UNNATURALISTS began as a thought experiment for me. I’ve long had a fascination with the Victorian naturalists—how they “discovered” Nature and collected it with a peculiar devotion. Everyone in Victorian times who could afford to be was obsessed with natural things and pretty much everyone who had the means was an amateur insect collector or geologist or botanist in addition to being, say, a doctor or pastor or what have you. And those who became professional naturalists had vitriolic battles with one another over what they observed—look up Richard Owen (founder of the British Museum of Natural History and the man who coined the word ‘dinosaur’) if you want to see how truly cutthroat these men (because they mostly were men, except for the very famous Mary Anning) could be.
So, I wondered: “What would happen if naturalists like this were suddenly transported into Fairyland? What if they woke up and saw a dragon or fairies outside their doors?” And I knew they’d collect them and put them in a museum, the Museum of Unnatural History. Suddenly, I had a setting. And I wondered what that would do to a world made of magic. Then, I had a plot. And when a certain auburn-haired, sassy unnaturalist showed up, I had a character and a novel.
For me, that’s the real beauty of steampunk: it allows us to re-imagine history in a way that I’m not sure has occurred before. It allows us to enjoy the things that were splendid and to interrogate the things that weren’t. Through our steampunk stories, we can have as much fun or be as serious about engaging with history as we want. It gives us choices and options that I very much appreciate having, especially when true history took away choices for so many people and cultures. And judging from this fabulous Steampunkapalooza, it’s inspired a ton of wonderful writers to make their own discoveries, too!
Thanks so much for including me. THE UNNATURALISTS will be out in August; I hope you’ll give it a go!