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Announcing my new Steampunk/Romance, Conquistadors In Outer Space, coming this Friday, February 1st. The subtitle is Ana’s Interplanetary Conquest.

Henri de Montaut, from De la terre à la lune (From the earth to the moon), by Jules Verne, Paris (Hetzel), 18??

In an alternate history of 1610 AD, the King of Spain commissions the creation of giant cannons, fashioned from Leonardo Da Vinci’s design, for the purpose of blowing the island of England to the bottom of the ocean. Since that country separated from papal authority, Spain has the approval of the church to separate England from the rest of Europe. Then, after an interrogation by priests with the inquisition, Galileo sees a faraway dot in the night sky with his new telescope. He shows the pope planet X, an actual New World Spain can claim and all the inhabitants can be converted to Christianity. Also all the gold and riches discovered there will belong to Spain alone. So they find a way to use the cannons to that end instead.

Thrown off the Spanish estate she worked at all her life, Ana, a milkmaid, seeks a new life. Disguised as a rich widow, she boards a rocket, to be blasted out of a huge cannon, and targeted for the newly discovered planet, X.  Sparks fly when she finds Ramon, the only man she ever loved, heir of the estate she worked on, is flying to Planet X as well. As the Spanish governor of Plant X searches for gold, the treasure Ramon seeks is Ana. His conquest is challenging, though he swears to protect and love her, as a noble he cannot marry a peasant. Ana cannot deny her desire for Ramon, but she will not be his mistress. Will his conquest of her heart succeed or will Ana make a life for herself alone amid the wonders and dangers of Planet X.

Excerpt:

In an instant the loudest boom and ka-chung noises he ever heard rattled his ears as the metal projectile shook violently. He clenched his teeth as every muscle in his body quaked with the blast.

“It is the Estrella. It is hurdling through space to planet X.”

He recognized the voice of the priest who strapped him in. Ana’s ship, De Nunez had told him. “Is all well,” he yelled out. “Did they lift off safely?”

Now that he had found her again, he needed to protect her. Once they arrived on planet X, he would seize this second chance to win her heart for she’d stolen his long ago.

“Si.” The priest’s tone held a tinge of awe. “In a blaze of light they blasted through the heavens. They are in God’s hands now.”

Ramon let out a long breath of relief. Ana was safe, shooting through space. The Estrella had cast off and the Juanita would soon follow. When his rocket blasted off in an explosion of light and fire, he wouldn’t hear anything.

He felt his mind loose itself in drowsiness. He shut his eyes under the power of this death like sleep and prayed in twenty years he would wake. When he did, he’d be on Planet X with the woman he’d always loved. He knew for the next twenty years of the voyage, he would dream of Ana.

Contest: Comment below to enter my new release contest to win a PDF Ebook of Conquistadors In Outer Space.

Maeve Alpin, Steampunk Romance Author

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Today we welcome Ray Dean! A reenactor and educator, Ray Dean has delved into many eras of the past, but Steampunk speaks to her in a retroactive futurism that opens so many possibilities. Her blog, My Ethereality(http://raydean.net), explores history, culture, war and love in eras and countries that might influence a Steampunk world.
Alternative History and Inciting Incidents 
by Ray Dean
Tomorrow, December 7th, is yet another anniversary of ‘A date which will live in infamy…’

Living in Hawaii, December 7th is a date I can not escape, nor would I want to. The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Navy of Japan is an event which has shaped my life even though I was born a little over thirty years after it happened. What events in history have shaped your life? Not only the ones that have happened while you were alive, but the ones that happened to your parents… to your ancestors?

What does this have to do with Steampunk?

Some view Steampunk as an Alternative History of the Victorian era.

What is Alternative History? Althistory Wiki describes it as “the most frequently used term for the fictional genre which often presupposes a change of a minor historical event that produces an incredible series of changes in the world, diverging it from Our Timeline (OTL) and creating a new, alternate and parallel world.”

So, what is that ‘minor historical event’ or perhaps even a ‘major event’ that created a Steampunk world? What was the ‘inciting incident’ that set this brave new brassy world in motion?

What challenges did the world face? And what changes happened because of them?

Perhaps it was a war? War and strife can advance science and other technology. Every armed conflict has the potential to incubate an idea for a new, better, more deadly weapon.

Perhaps it was a natural disaster? Did disease and suffering demand the attention of scientists and inventors. What did they create to keep the flood waters at bay, protect the town from noxious fumes, or save men from dangerously rising seas?

Perhaps it was something unnatural? A rising zombie horde, an asteroid deposits a new ore, or even beings from another planet with their own agenda.

When I interviewed artist James Ng (the cover art from our Shanghai Steam anthology was his creation) for The Gilded Monocle, he explained:

I began to wonder… if China was the first to modernize during the turn of the last century, then the history and the look of the world would be drastically different. If industrialization and modernization happened with the influence of Chinese culture, instead of Western culture and if China was the standard that other countries had to work towards, what would things look like today? Perhaps China will still be in imperial rule? Maybe skyscrapers would look like Chinese temples? Cars would look like carriages? Maybe we would have fantastical machines that look both futuristic and historic. That’s the idea behind my personal project. Each image I create for the series is my attempt to reflect on the original idea of a Chinese influenced industrial world.

His artwork is built from his own imagined Alternative History of the World.

In the Movie Tai Chi Zero, the Company building the railroad throws a small mountain town into chaos when it sends a machine chugging up to the gates. This monstrous assemblage of steel, iron, and steam is not only able to lay down track and railroad ties with amazing ease, but is also a machine capable of great destruction. What were the incidents that led up to this conflict? What will happen now?

In Shanghai Steam, the British shipping companies react to a law banning vessels from entering a Chinese port carrying opium. Instead of following the spirit of the law, they react only to the letter of it. Using their airships, the British companies are still able to deliver their cargo from India and avoid reproach from the Emperor. What they didn’t anticipate was the reaction of the people living in the town.

These ideas apply for anyone interested in World Building. Be it writing, cosplay, conceptual art… any creative endeavor. Delve into history and find those moments of divergence. Turn left instead of right. Reach for a new idea or solution or take something and twist it this way and that.

Where will you take the future from each new starting point?

What new things will you discover in the past to create something new?

~Ray

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two of our tour guides dressed the part

two of our tour guides dressed the part

42nd airborne battalion at the Houston Maritime Museum

42nd Airborne battalion at the Houston Maritime Museum

Recently with the help of the Steampunk group, the 42nd Airship Battalion, I organized an outing to the Houston Maritime museum. The tour included over 150 model ship exhibits, spanning the age of exploration to the modern merchant marines and several models of steam powered ships from the Victorian age. As you can see from the photos we all had an amazing time.

Steampunk outing at the Maritime Museum

Steampunk outing at the Maritime Museum

The museum exhibits included models of steam paddle ships. Riverboats conjure images of fun and adventure and are therefore a perfect setting for a Steampunk story. Paddle boats were highly popular in the 18thcentury for navigating well in shallow waters as well as up river against fierce currents. Prior to the development of the railways they were a favorite ways to travel. The interiors of the antebellum riverboats were luxurious with elaborate crystal chandeliers, lush hand carved furniture, oriental rugs, and so much more.  Of course one needs drama and trauma in any novel and there is plenty of opportunity for that on a steam paddle ship.

at the Houston Maritime Museum

at the Houston Maritime Museum

Fire is always s a great disaster for fiction. At the museum I learned the double steam stacks towered so high to keep sparks as far away from the wood boat as possible. Still sometimes an ember would hit the ship. Wood and paint are highly flammable so fire, panic, and catastrophe would ensue. If you want something even more dramatic, the boilers sometimes exploded in a huge, ear splitting, blast of fire and smoke, resulting in the deaths of many passengers and leaving even more injured.  Body parts were literary blown off.  In 1830 the US Congress funded research to end boiler explosions. Here is a website that even list River Boat demise with the reason and year of the loss.

The museum also had an exhibit on the Texas Navy which served the Republic of Texas when it stood as a separate country from 1836 into 1845 after gaining independence from Mexico. The idea of combing the wild west with Victorian nautical influences thrilled my muse. You can see more of these valiant fighting men in tiny but feisty ships on this youtube video.

To me the most important Victorian submarine was the Plongeur, simply because when Jules Verne saw it at the Exposition Universelle in 1867, it served as his inspiration for the Nautilus. However, the museum’s model of and news clipping about the confederate submarine the H. L. Hunley intrigued me. This combat submarine, named after its inventor Horace Lawson Hunley, was the first sub to sink an enemy warship. However, the Hunley itself sunk three times in its short career. The second time it sunk, Horace Lawson Hunley was among one of the men who drowned. After the Hunley’s successful attack on the screw sloop, the USS Housatonic the sub sank for unknown reasons and was lost.

Speaking of the confederacy and the U.S Civil war the museum included models of the ironclad ships, the rebel Merrimac and the union Monitor. Ironclads refer to steam powered warships of that era, protected by iron or steel armor plates. By the end of the U. S. civil war the Union was building triple turreted ironclads with twenty inch mounted guns. By the 1880’s ironclads were equipped with the heaviest guns ever mounted at sea and more sophisticated steam engines. Modern day battleships developed from these ironclad ships.

If you have a maritime museum in your local area, I encourage you to visit. Organize a Steampunk outing there if you are able, I guarantee you it’ll be a lot of fun and I’m sure you’ll gather inspiration for your Steampunk writing. After all, it’s sad to think of this, but if  Jules Verne had not attended the Exposition Universelle in 1867 and seen the Plongeur, we might not have 20,000 Leauges Under The Sea, which readers enjoy to this day, over 140 years after it was first published.

There may well be an exhibit at your local museum just waiting for you to discover it and gain inspiration for your next book.

Maeve Alpin

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Ancient Egyptian culture has had a major influence on the Victorian era and also modern Steampunk. As indicated by the titles, two classic Steampunk novels include strong Egyptian influences: The Osiris Ritual by George Mann and The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers.

Pretty Miss with Parasol belly dancing at ComicCon’s Steampunk Ball

The Victorians were fascinated with Egyptian mummies and unwrapping parties were quite stylish. George Mann tied Steampunk with mummy unwrapping in a wonderful scene in The Osiris Ritual. Here’s an excerpt from a Victorian mummy unwrapping party in the Steampunk/ Romance, As Timeless As Magic: Heru peered within the sarcophagus, at a coffin shaped like a human figure, in a green headdress with a single yellow stripe and a jewel painted in the middle. His gaze lingered on the beautiful hieroglyphics in orange and blue, thinking of the power they held and the magic his mother created with them in her spells.

“Now, what we have all waited for.” Mister Mugrage opened the coffin. A gilded mask lay over a linen sheet wrapped around a human corpse.

Heru rubbed his brow, then fisted his hand, aching to punch Felicity’s father in the teeth.

Mister Mugrage removed the mask in the likeness of the mummy inside and held it up. “This mask is a wonderful treasure for the evening and I will do you all the favor of parting with it for the highest offer made.”

The crowd all sighed with “oohs” and “ahs.” Heru could tell by the gleam in several people’s eyes, they wanted to own it. This was all about money to Mister Mugrage. He had no love of the history, the art, or the spiritual significance his daughter seemed to understand. Heru vowed he wouldn’t blame Felicity for her father’s actions, but a throbbing surge of anger rose in him as she unwrapped the sheet from the mummy. The guests closed in like a mob and thrust forward. Heru could hardly breathe, the room felt void of air.

Mister Mugrage yanked a strip of linen wrapping, tugging it off as he circled the mummy, unraveling it. He withdrew an amulet from the linen gauze and held it up. “Our first party favor. Who wants this lovely turquoise scarab?”

A lady in a large hat and a blue gown fluttered her fan. “I do, Mister Mugrage.”

“Madame Mills, by all means, this little gem is yours. It shall bring you great luck.” Mister Mugrage placed the treasure in the woman‟s gloved hand as she giggled with glee.

Heru loosened his cravat before he gagged. The crowd‟s thunderous applause fueled his anger. These amulets protected the deceased, helped him find his way in the afterlife, and this ridiculous man handed them out as party favors.

Mister Mugrage continued unraveling the mummy until he came upon the next find, a small hawk carved from blue lapis. He handed it to a man with a protruding belly and white beard, dressed in black trousers, a gray coat, and a green cravat. Heru fought the urge to grab the amulet back from the man‟s chubby fingers.

No sooner had the other guests congratulated the man than Mister Mugrage yanked the wrappings again. “Here we have a hollow gold beetle.” He placed it in Felicity‟s hand. “What is this symbol on the top?“

Felicity peered at the golden insect, examining it closely. “Two crossed arrows over a shield, the symbol of Goddess Neith, deity of the hunt.”

“Who will have this fine beetle?” Mister Mugrage flashed a broad grin.

Heru wanted to yell for them to stop as he stood helplessly by, watching a corpse being violated for nothing but the fleeting pleasure of shallow people. He accidentally bit his tongue. He grabbed his jaw, and rubbed it.

A woman held up her dainty hand netted in a lacy glove. Felicity gifted the lady with the beetle amulet.

As Mister Mugrage unwound more linen gauze, he discovered a small statue with the body of a man and the head of a jackal.

“Anubis.” Finally, an idea struck. Heru swiftly stuck out his hand, almost grabbing the amulet. ”May I?” he asked in French.

“Oui.” Mister Mugrage handed it to him.

Heru knew this held the most powerful curse, for the priests who cast spells on the amulets wore the mask of Anubis. He flipped it over and read the hieroglyphic inscription. “You dare to touch this sacred mummy. You mortal man, whose flesh and skull will return to the desert sand. I curse you with the loss of your hands.” Heru clasped the amulet tightly, whispering the spell in Old Egyptian in the parlor just as he would have in the temple of Anubis. “Curse him, who disturbs the dead, who robs what the gods entombed. His hands should be severed if not his head, his cursed fingers doomed.”

“Give me that. Let me read it.” Felicity’s father reached for the amulet to grab it back from Heru. He gasped. His fingers fell limp. Mister Mugrage screamed, “My hands!”

Felicity rushed to her father and clutched his arm “What is it?”

“I can’t move my hands, not even to lift a finger. They are numb, I cannot feel anything.”

Steam Driven Belly Dancing

Even more than mummy unwrapping parties, the Victorians loved costume balls. Cleopatra influenced costumes were highly fashionable at these affairs. Steam Ingenious’ Steampunk Cleopatra fancy dress project is inspired by authentic Victorian fashion plates of Egyptian costumes. It’s a recreation of the Celopatra costume Lady Paget wore to the 1875 Delmonico Ball in New York City. The portrait and photo of Lady Paget in the costume along with several fashion plates of Cleopatra style gowns are pictured on the blog and the details of the pattern and the fabrics are included.

Another Egyptian influence on Steampunk is belly dancing, which has been big ever

Sword & Steampunkery

since Abney Park incorporated it into its live shows. Many belly dancers have been inspired to go steampunk adding goggles, corsets and pantaloons to their costumes. The extraordinary Steampunk Belly Dancers featured here are from the Osiris Dance Company. If they look familiar, they perform at the Steampunk Ball at ComicCon each year and they will also be performing at the Wild West Festival in Tucson next year.

A heroine who belly dances could add an interesting element to a Steampunk novel.

As you can see it’s easy to weave some exotic Egyptian influences into your Steampunk books.

If you liked the excerpt from As Timeless As Magic the novel is free as a kindle eBook from today until Friday, August 31st.

Maeve Alpin

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Considered the starting point for the modern era of Steampunk comics, Bryan Tallbot’s 1970’s Luther Arkwright series is set in a parallel world where the English Civil War has been prolonged. Speaking of Bryan Tallbot, his Grandville series is total Steampunk. I’ll begin with it, followed by six more for Part 1. Part 2 will follow in another post later in the month with additional Steampunk Comic books.

 1. Grandville by Bryan Talbot

The author and artist, BryanTablot, was inspired by a 19th century illustrator, who drew anthropomorphized characters in costumes of the period and used the pen name J J Grandville. The story takes place in an alternate world where the British lost the Napoleonic War and a Scotland Yard Inspector, a badger, investigates the murder of a British diplomat. The events of 911 and a conspiracy theory are woven into the plot. The cast is made up of animals garbed in Victorian clothing, there are a few humans now and then, maids and bell hops, who are called doughfaces, which I find hilarious. Grandville is smart, interesting, well plotted and the art is incredible.

2. Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez

Set in 1878, in the city of Mechanika, known as the city of tomorrow. Lady Mechanika, part human, part machine, with no memories of her past, searches for her identity. Her enemy, Blackpool, a mad scientist experiments on humans, removing body parts and replacing them with machine parts. It’s pure Steampunk and has a strong female as the lead character.

3. Ruse by Mark Waid (2nd half of the series written by Scott Beatty)

This Victorian/Mystery comic series is set in the fantasy town of Partington on planet Arcadia. Simon Archard, a Sherlock-Home-type detective uses his master mind, while  his partner, Emma Bishop, a strong woman in mind and body, does everything else required to solve crimes. The one line cover tag sums it up: He’s the World’s Greatest Detective. She’s even better. The banter between Emma and Simon is witty, wry, and hilarious. I think Ruse holds a special appeal to women and I absolutely love it.

4. Scarlet Traces by Ian Edginton, Art by D’Israeli

The premise is genius. It takes place in England in the early 1900’s, just ten years after the War of the Worlds when the Martians were defeated by microscopic germs humans had been immune to for centuries.  British scientist adapt the highly advanced Martian technology to everyday life. Carriages running on robotic spider legs like the Martian vehicles replace horses and homes are heated and lighted by a version of the Martian heat ray. Two English spies take on a case of a missing girl and uncover so much more. Stempunk fans will love the Victorian/Edwardian London setting, the utilization of alien technology, and the H. G. Wells connection, as well as the dark, dystopian tone.

5. The Clockwork Girl by Sean O’Reilly and Kevin Hanna

This is a story of star crossed lovers from two different houses. Sounds familiar? One of the two fantastic castles is built by a grafter as a monument to the science of nature while the other is built by a tinker as a tribute to the science of technology and machines. The tinker creates a clockwork girl named Tesla. You will even find two quotes of Nikola Tesla within the story. Though different, several images of the little clockwork girl and the monster boy are reminiscent of scenes from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. As the Clockwork Girl is an obvious nod to and inspired by William Shakespeare, Nikola Tesla, and Mary Shelley it has to be good, and it is.

I fell in love with the characters, Tesla, the clockwork girl and Huxley, the monster boy. I imagine everyone who reads this will do the same. It’s a heartwarming story, brilliant in its simplicity, and it is not only suitable for adults but also children as young as grade school, say seven years old on up.

The dedication in the front of the book sums The Clockwork Girl up best, “To love and those who purse it relentlessly.” It’s a fun, fast, fulfilling read.

6. Ignition City by Warren Ellis, Art by Gianluca Pagliarani

In a dieselpunk/alternative history, washed up space heroes live in Ignition City, a rough and rowdy settlement cut off from civilization on Earth’s last spaceport. Ignition City has a strong woman for the main character, Mary Raven, a space pilot and daughter of the famous spaceman, who stopped a Martian missile plot. She heads to the spaceport to discover how her father died and who killed him. It has colorful language and a Wild West tone. There are aliens, ray guns, and the marshal flies around in a rocketeer type outfit. It’s a fun, action packed read.

7. Iron West by Doug Te Napel

A rugged, old west cowboy hero, Struck, robs banks, cheats at poker, lies to women with promises of marriage, and runs away at any hint of trouble. Yeah, this bad boy is a real charmer. Still when some old prospectors dig up robots, who in turn dig up a whole army of metal men that go on a rampage killing humans, our hero comes to the rescue of his woman and his town. Of course he has to, he’s set for a lynching and the sheriff gives him no choice but to help or to hang. Struck has some help himself from an elderly Native American gentleman and Sasquatch. Yes that’s right, Big Foot himself. This comic book is a blast, so much fun. Iron West will make your day.

You can see that though only a few comic are labeled Steampunk, several have Victorian, Dystopian, Dieselpunk, Weird West or Alternate History ascetics. We can look forward to the future of Steampunk comic books offering even more diversity and choices for readers.

With other titles to tell you about, I’ll continue the article on May 16th with more Steampunk Comics. Even with those mentioned above, there is something for everyone’s taste. Happy reading.

Maeve Alpin draws on her love of ancient times, alternative history, and happy endings to write Steampunk/Romances. Please visit her website.

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