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