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Archive for June, 2013

I love cemeteries. Always have. In college, we had a particularly old one in the historic Texas town where I grew up. Sam Houston, once president of Texas, is buried there among the ancient tombstones and moss-covered monuments. Two of the most popular statues therein are those college students referred to as the Black Jesus, a bronze statue of Christ, and the Angel of Death, a quite beautiful statue of an angel whose crevices are stained with mildew. One, by the way, I would view quite differently now after BLINK (as Whovians would understand). We’d go there in the middle of the night, tripping on whatever psychedelic we had taken that night in the early 90s, and talk, dream, philosophize, etc. After reading Anne Rice my freshman year, my Gothic nature was both defined and solidified.

My fiction leans more toward the Gothic fantasy side of Steampunk than the highly technological science fiction side of Steampunk’s beginnings. Sure, my work has sprinklings of fantastic Steampunk technology, but the dark themes of my work almost always deal with death and loss in one way or another. From my Gothic short stories, like the erotic, Steampunk Chronicle’s Readers’ Choice Award-winning “A Kiss in the Rain” to my novels Avalon Revisited and The Zombies of Mesmer, when it comes to my taste in fiction, reading or writing it: the darker, the better.

Imagine my delight when I discovered the Cross Bones Graveyard in my research, home of “The Outcast Dead.” Stretching back to medieval times, the graveyard became home to the unwanted, the poor, and the working girls between the 16th to 19th centuries. Those too poor to be buried properly in hallowed ground at the nearby Southwark Cathedral, then known as St. Saviour’s, found their final resting place at Cross Bones. Many a prostitute throughout that time, including the infamous “Winchester Geese,” prostitues licensed to work by the Bishop of Winchester, from the 18th century, are among the hundreds buried in this tiny plot of land. In 1853, the graveyard was closed “on the grounds that it was ‘completely overcharged with dead’ and that ‘further burials’ would be ‘inconsistent with a due regard for the public health and public decency’.”

In 1990, a partial excavation was done at the site, removing some 148 skeletons. It’s estimated that’s less that 1% of all the 15,000 buried on those tiny grounds.

Situated on Redcross Way, it’s iron gates have become a colorful shrine to the forgotten dead as well as others lost by visitors. Glorious colorful ribbons and roses cover the entrance to this once-shamed place, telling its inhabitants and the world that every decent person is worthy of respect and remembrance, despite their livelihood or economic status.

The amazing Julie Mollins, the same reporter who wrote an article on me for Reuters in 2011, reported on Cross Bones and John Constable, the man who breathed life back into the graveyard with The Southwark Mysterys plays and monthly ritual honoring the forgotten dead.

Next month, I’ll be traveling to London in part to plan an O. M. Grey Tour of London for 2014, where I will personally take readers to the places found in my novels and short stories. On that tour that will take us all from Bedlam to Gray’s Inn Road to Hyde Park and beyond, the Cross Bones Graveyard will be one of the many stops in the Gothic borough of Southwark.

The Cross Bones Graveyard appears in my forthcoming novel The Ghosts of Southwark, the sequel to The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel which is available on Amazon, Kindle, and serialized on my blog for free, either in print or via podcast.

-_Q

Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.

Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com

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tableThis weekend I enjoyed my first steampunk picnic. Loads of fun and much good food was had by all.  I love having the opportunity to put on pretty clothes, break out the silver-plate and lace tablecloths, while my spouse, a wonderful cook, had fun poring through Victorian cookbooks to complete our menu. Our contributions included a jellied cucumber salad (gelatin with cucumbers and cream cheese, served with arugula in place of the hard-to-find watercress and tomatoes). We also had a pork and apple pie, Welsh rarebit and cucumber tea sandwiches, petit fours, cheese, crackers, strawberries, and chocolate chip cookie bars. The green bottle on the table is holding homemade fig-infused lemonade which was amazing.

One thing you might note is that of the two gentlemen with me in this photo, only one is in steampunk garb. The other, a dear friend, is in what he HPIM1382determined was comfortable clothing. Something I’ve discovered, to my delight, is that the steampunk community here in Detroit is welcoming, whether you choose to garb all the way, just a little, or not at all. Clothing ranges from jeans to full period uniforms to purely Victorian, to weird west, and anything else one might imagine. No matter how much time or money you have to put into your outfit, you’re still welcome to come along. I like that. It makes me willing to bring along friends who aren’t into costuming and introduce them to other cool nerds. So kudos to all. I’m proud to be part of that. Earlier that week, we’d participated in a silent auction and bake sale, to raise money for one of our community who has large medical bills and no insurance. That entire event made me even prouder to be part of such a caring, generous community.

tiltFollowing our lovely idyll beside the Detroit River, we strolled through the conservatory on Detroit’s Belle Isle. I was particularly fond of the Lacy Palm, which reminded me very much of tentacles. 🙂 It was hotter than blazes outside, so the conservatory was more than steamy in every sense of the word. Nonetheless, I wanted to share this great shot of me and my husband. Off-kilter, just like us. 🙂

A wonderful kick-off to a steampunk summer. Hope yours is lovely as well.

(My corset is by Ties That Bynde, a marvelous Detroit based artisan. Skirt is by Holy Clothing, an inexpensive source for basic, monochrome pieces. My blouse is from another on-line retailer, Pyramid Company.  Parasol is a thrift store umbrella and the purse is from a booth at the Michigan Renaissance Festival. My watch is a family heirloom, as is my husband’s pocket watch. Glenn’s suit, shirt and tie are from his everyday wardrobe. The waistcoat is from Gentlemen’s Emporium.

 

 

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Since CHARMED VENGEANCE releases 8-8-13, I’ve been trying to make more (awkward) videos. Here’s me talking about INNOCENT DARKNESS.

Also, there are copies of CHARMED VENGEANCE up for grabs on Goodreads. You should enter.

Haven’t read INNOCENT DARKNESS yet, or perhaps you’d like to read it again? Join the INNOCENT DARKNESS read-along! (There are prizes.)

Have a great week, everyone.


Suzanne Lazear is the author of the YA Fairytale Series The Aether Chronicles. INNOCENT DARKNESS is out now. CHARMED VENGEANCE releases 8-8-13. Learn more about the series at www.aetherchronicles.com

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Steampunk Seaside Outings

Ready To Board

Ready To Board

Local Houston Steampnk enthusiasts recently gathered for two pleasurable excursions by the sea. We picnicked at the San Jacinto Battlegrounds, where Texans won their independence from Mexico in 1836. Then we leisurely wandered about the grand old Battleship Texas.

Manning The Guns

Manning The Guns

This amazing ship, launched March 18, 1912, so it’s over 100 years old. At that time she was the most powerful weapon in the world. The battleship Texas was the first to mount anti-aircraft guns, the first to control gunfire with directors and range-keepers and the first U.S. battleship to launch an aircraft. The Battleship Texas proudly played a prominent role in both World War I and World War II.

Looking Out At Sea

Looking Out At Sea

Swabbing The Deck

Swabbing The Deck

Soon after that excursion we gathered by the sea once more for fun and leisure. Spending a sunny Sunday afternoon at a scenic park in

La Porte Texas for a picnic by the sea.

Steampunk Picnic

Steampunk Picnic

We spread our blankets on the soft, green grass and chatted as we nibbled from the bounty of our wicker picnic baskets. We took leisurely strolls down the lengthy fishing pier. The sun was soft and the wind gentle and all together it proved a perfect day for a picnic.

The Pier

The Pier

We had as much fun as any Victorians, including Queen Victoria herself, when indulging in the popular pastime of picnicking during that era. Here is a fun description of a picnic from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, published in 1868.

“The commander in chief and his aides soon spread the tablecloth with an inviting array of eatables and drinkables, prettily decorated with green leaves.

Picnic By The Sea

Picnic By The Sea

Jo announced that the coffee was ready, and everyone settled themselves to a hearty meal, for youth is seldom dyspeptic, and exercise develops wholesome appetites. A very merry lunch it was, for everything seemed fresh and funny, and frequent peals of laughter startled a venerable horse who fed nearby. There was a pleasing inequality in the table, which produced many mishaps to cups and plates, acorns dropped in the milk, little black ants partook of the refreshments without being invited, and fuzzy caterpillars swung down from the tree to see what was going on. Three white-headed children peeped over the fence, and an objectionable dog barked at them from the other side of the river with all his might and main.” http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/514

I hope your friends, family and local Steampunk groups gather for wonderful picnics this summer and that you have as much fun as Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth.

Maeve Alpin is the author of four Steampunk/Romances: To Love A London Ghost, Conquistadors In Outer Space, As Timeless As Stone, and As Timeless As Magic.

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I get asked to explain Steampunk all the time. So, I finally made a video. An awkward video. Because I am technologically awkward.


Suzanne Lazear is the author of the Aether Chronicles Series. INNOCENT DARKNESS is out now. CHARMED VENGEANCE releases 8-8-13. For more information visit www.aetherchronicles.com

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The lovely Lolitas of STEAMED! have asked me to contribute twice a month, and I am quite honored to do so. Initially, at least, my articles will revolve around the interesting historical tidbits of the Victorian Era that appear in my novels and stories.

One my favorite things about writing Steampunk is the research. It’s fascinating, really. So often in my fiction, I incorporate historical people or events or places or even technology. My imagination for technology is rather limited, I’m afraid, as my strengths as a writer are characterization, emotional depth, and dialogue. Technology and world-building are far down the list, so I work with what’s already there, although much of what I incorporate into my work has been all but lost to history. These little-known facts and events and gadgets find new life in my work. With that splendid thing known as creative license, I embellish and bend historical events and 19th century technology to fit the needs of my story.

Today, I’ll focus on The Air Loom: The Human Influencing Machine, something devised in 1810, even before the Victoria’s Reign began in 1837. While doing research on the notorious Bedlam (Bethlehem Hospital, aka Bethlem) Asylum for a guest post called “Lunatics in London” for Bitten by Books during a blog tour, I watched a fascinating documentary on the infamous hospital. Within, they introduced one James Tilly Matthews, the first documented paranoid schizophrenic. I was immediately fascinated by this person and his concept of The Air Loom, so I vowed to work it into my next novel.

In my Steampunk teen romance The Zombies of Mesmer, we visit the horrible Bethlehem Asylum. Although set in 1880, my Bedlam’s halls contain the misery and pain seen in the hospital in Matthews’ time there. After being released from a three-year stint in a French prison for suspicion of being a double agent, Matthews returned to London and proceeded to accuse the Home Secretary of treason in a rather dramatic and publicly disruptive way. Matthews was committed to Bethlem Asylum in 1797 as a lunatic. Fortunately for Matthews, a resident of the hospital for over a decade, he had a relatively cushy room there and ended up drawing plans for the renovation of Bethlem Hospital among many other helpful things. In 1810, he wrote a book called Illustrations of Madness in which he illustrated the influencing machine in great detail both in design and description of purpose. Matthews believed that scientist spies, experts in “pneumatic chemistry,” had set up near Bedlam and was tormenting him by means of rays emitted from The Air Loom.

The Air Loom was a piece of advanced technology, but in the early part of the industrial age advanced technology often meant enormous machinery, rather than the increasing minutarisation that characterise the 21st century. The Air Loom was enormous. The mechanism stood seven metres tall and occupied a footprint of nine square metres, and it was constructed from oak with machined brass fittings.

It was surrounded by barrels that fed noxious gases through oiled leather pipes into the main body of the machine. The gases were derived from substances including ‘gas from the horse’s anus’, ‘seminal fluid’, ‘putrid human breath’ and ‘effluvia of dogs’. (Source)

The machine’s rays exacted such horrendous tortures onto Matthews’ mind like “kiteing,” where ideas were forced into his brain; “thought-making,” where thoughts were removed and replaced by others of the scientist’s choosing; and Lobster Cracking, where “the external pressure of the magnetic atmosphere surrounding the person assailed was increased, ‘so as to stagnate his circulation, impede his vital motions, and produce instant death’.” Other torments included “lengthening of the brain,” “thigh talking,” “fluid locking,” and “bomb bursting.”

Read more about this fascinating machine and see images of The Air Loom, built by artist Rod Dickinson using Matthews’ illustrations at http://www.theairloom.org.

An altered version of The Air Loom appears in my forthcoming novel The Ghosts of Southwark, the sequel to The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel which is available on Amazon, Kindle, and serialized on my blog for free, either in print or via podcast.

-_Q

Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.

Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com

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Today we welcome Jeannie Lin, who has awesome news to share with us. ~launches cupcake cannon~

the-sword-dancer-mediumJEANNIE LIN writes historical romances set in Tang Dynasty China. Her current release is The Sword Dancer, the first in a new series of romantic adventures involving the salt trade, corruption, and law and order in the 9th century. Her September release, The Lotus Palace, is a romance with a murder mystery set in the infamous Tang Dynasty pleasure quarter. She looks forward to moving a thousand years into the future with the Gunpowder Chronicles to create new worlds and new adventures.  

 

My Steampunk News or “Why I owe Suzanne Lazear a cupcake”

by Jeannie Lin

I thought it only fitting that I make this official announcement on “Steamed” as pretty much it’s Suzanne’s fault.

Flashback to the Romantic Times convention 2011:

I was in the lounge, sipping a cocktail and hanging out with several authors. One of them was Suzanne, wearing a lovely steampunk outfit which I envied.

“We were talking about how there needs to be more multicultural steampunk,” she told me. “And we’ve decided you should write it.”

In case you don’t know her, Suzanne is really shy. She’s also very subtle.

“I wish I could,” I told her, laughing it off. “I just don’t think that way. I can’t even come up with a steampunk plot.”

Because I actually love reading steampunk. I love the worldbuilding and the aesthetic and the whole philosophy of it. I love how open and experimental the genre is. I just have a real hard time coming up with new story ideas. I think I may be the only writer I know who has this issue.

Later in my hotel room, I Googled the Victorian era, where the traditional steampunks tend to take place, and crossed-referenced it with what was happening in China at the time.

And suddenly I wasn’t laughing anymore.

asian_gothicThe Victorian era and the age of colonialism coincide with a dark period in Chinese history. It parallels the Opium Wars, a time when European powers threatened China from the outside and rebellions threatened the empire from within. This period is hailed as the “beginning of modern China”, but also the fall of the imperial government.

It was the time when the Western world rediscovered China and became fascinated with Asian culture and art, creating their own interpretations and misinterpretations of it. The icons of that time are what people think of when they think of historical China: footbinding, mandarin collars, opium pipes and rickshaws.

It was the ultimate era of East meets West.

It was a time when steam technology allowed the British to crush the Chinese navy, which had dominated the seas for centuries.

I began to re-imagine this time through steampunk goggles and it didn’t seem so far-fetched. Technology, societal upheaval , dystopia – it was ALL already there.

Image and fashion were an important component of the emerging identity as cities like Shanghai and Canton struggled with being at once Chinese and foreign, ancient and modern.  The look that emerged was a dramatic one. My imagination ran wild.

chinese_gearsThen I began to research technology. (In addition to being a history geek, I’m actually a big science and technology nerd.) How did a culture that was hailed as technologically superior a thousand years earlier get so blind-sided? And what did China and Japan do in response to this period to try to compete? Some believed that they needed to adopt Western technology. Others shunned it.

I could create a steampunk technology based on native Chinese developments.

I could challenge all the elements I had always found difficult about this period; the colonial oppression, the footbinding, an empire addicted to opium.

I had gone from thinking that there could be a story there…

To thinking this is something I might be able to do…

To “OMG, I HAVE TO WRITE THIS STORY, IT WAS MADE FOR ME!”

History. Science. Rebellion. Empire. Made for me.

Chinese_Gunpowder_FormulaI wrote the first couple of chapters and shipped them off to my agent, who was ecstatic about the story. She pitched it to her top choice for this project who also happened to be my dream editor for the story.

And now I can announce that the Gunpowder Chronicles (working title) have sold in a two book deal to Cindy Hwang at Berkley and is slated for their Intermix digital first imprint.

So thank you for planting the seed, Suzanne. I owe you a cupcake.

~Jeannie

http://www.jeannielin.com

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