Today we welcome authors Zoë Archer and Nico Rosso. They both write books in the ETHER CHRONICLES series. Nico’s books include Night of Fire and Nights of Steel. Zoë’s books include Skies of Fire and Skies of Steel.
by Zoë Archer and Nico Rosso
Zoë: Thanks so much for having us here today! Nico and I have been talking a lot about what constitutes steampunk cannon, especially because there are readers and writers of the genre who seek to define what steampunk is and isn’t. For starters, I think one of the elements of steampunk that really drew Nico and I to write it was how wide open it was as far as interpretation.
I happen to love history, so I enjoy writing about historical aspects within steampunk. But because we’re writing about alternative history, actual timelines don’t have to be adhered to. On top of which, I can shape social mores to suit my own personal ethos—which means women in more active roles, and a culture that accepts women in positions of power. This way, I can incorporate certain details about life in another era, but also utilize elements from our own time period (or even a better world than our own) within that historical timeframe. So in SKIES OF FIRE, Louisa works for British naval intelligence, while in SKIES OF STEEL, Daphne is a anthropologist. And in SKIES OF GOLD, which comes out this summer, the heroine Kali is an engineer (as well as being half East Indian). So I can shape history to suit my desires as a writer.
In general, I think the one aspect of steampunk that most writers incorporate is the late-19th century feel and aesthetic. That might not be canon, but it is widely used. When readers see a cover with men in waistcoats and goggles and women in corsets holding unusual firearms, they understand that they’re going to read a steampunk story.
Nico: Because I’m the main technological inventor for the Ether Chronicles, one of the most consistent elements I try to adhere to are the materials and building techniques for the various steampunk inventions and vehicles. Even though we’ve created an alternate history, it still has many similarities with the actual end of the 19th century, so I keep things grounded there as much as I can to keep the elements relatable for the reader.
In our world, and in the late Victorian period as well, many technologies were still hand made. This is especially true for one of a kind experimental projects – like Jack Hawkin’s augmented arm in NIGHTS OF STEEL. To create these things, I need to use what the inventors at the time had – brass, steel, iron, wood and leather. Modern materials like aluminum and plexiglass aren’t available the world of the Ether Chronicles. Neither are construction techniques like CNC part creators or plastic molding.
Some of our technologies are completely made up for our world, like the tetrol fuel used for the most advanced engines, but for the most part, things feel genuine. That way, the characters can use them on a realistic level, and the reader can understand what each piece of technology does and how it works. And if I’ve done things right, the reader could even imagine what it feels like to hold one of these inventions and operate all its gears and levers.
Z: While Nico and I don’t follow an external canon, we stay consistent to the technological and sociological rules created within our alternate history…
N: While at the same time using some of the landmarks of the actual past to ground them…
Z: That way, readers can be immersed completely in the stories and feel that they’re real for the characters and themselves.
~ Zoë and Nico