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coverA few days ago, a new small press and a new Steampunk anthology took their first breaths… To help launch this new endeavor, I’ve put together a post to introduce the press and then the authors who have stories in the anthology. – Ray

 

First, a few words from the head of Witty Bard Publishing  about the company and the new anthology: 

My name is Anna Victoria Jones, I prefer to go by Victoria or V. I have been working in Marketing at a Fortune 500 company for about 3 years, prior to that I received 2 degrees in IT. I am back in college, pre-law, at the moment. I have always loved to read and write and I have stumbled into a lot of terrific indie authors over the years. I was shocked, however, that no one else that I knew had heard of them. I have also had a few friends go through a traditional publisher and they are seeing pennies of the profits and are not really seeing much in the way of promotion either. I looked around at publishing options and there really isn’t a middle ground.
I started Witty Bard Publishing, LLC (WBP) to bridge the gap between a total self-published author and a traditional large corporate publisher. I use my marketing knowledge and business skills to promote the authors that, otherwise, may go unnoticed by so many willing readers. WBP focuses on promoting and rewarding quality writing no matter the writer. The competitions we host are one way to do that very thing. My judges do not know the names of the stories or the authors while they are judging. This way there is no author bias on the part of my judges; they grade the writing on its own merits. My plans for WBP include continuing to host competitions, while also offering many other author services, including editing/proofreading, publishing, promotion, etc., more information on those services can be found on our website www.wittybardpublishing.com. My main goal is and will always be to help authors receive the notoriety they deserve.
WBPLogoI am very new to the Steampunk genre. It is something that has always interested me, but I have never become that involved with it. After I decided that I wanted to do competitions I was trying to decide where I should start and a friend suggested Steampunk. I started learning more about Steampunk and I found it super interesting. I have enjoyed reading all the amazing stories that were submitted. I am super excited to see so much interest from the Steampunk crowd! If there is enough interest so soon, I may do another Steampunk anthology with the next set of competitions.
I think that this anthology has turned out very well! I was super excited by the amount and quality of entries and all the interest within the community. There is such a huge amount of diversity between the stories and I think that everyone can find something they love in the anthology. I cannot wait to publish it!
I am always looking to meet new people and I would appreciate any suggestions for future contests. I am also accepting applications for future judging spots, feel free to contact me. 🙂
Happy Writing!
V

 I also had the opportunity to ask the other authors about their stories and writing…

 (the images below will give you an idea of where our authors hail from)authorsmap

1. Author Name – Website

Lee Parry – www.themire.co.uk

John Walton – www.facebook.com/john.walton.927543 

Seamus Sweeney – www.nthposition.com/author.php?authid=217 or scarfaceproject.blogspot.com

Ross Baxter – www.amazon.co.uk/Ross-Baxter/e/B0041DO99U/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_3

Nicole Lavigne – http://www.nllavigne.wordpress.com

Liam Hogan http://happyendingnotguaranteed.blogspot.co.uk

Ray Dean www.raydean.net

 

2. The first – Your story is published in the first “Witty Bard” Publication – how excited are you to be a part of this inaugural event?

Lee: Very excited. It’s the first competition I had entered and I was thrilled to have won.

John: Very, It’s always good to get in on the ground floor then you become part of the history

Seamus:  It is an honour to be considered worthy of inclusion. It is an exciting development and I am extremely impressed with Witty Bard’s professionalism and enthusiasm.

Ross: Very excited, its always great to get a piece published and even better when its with an outfit like Witty Bard.

Nicole: Very excited. It’s a fun theme and I am looking forward to reading the other stories in the anthology. Doubly excited because this is also my first publication.

Liam: It’s always lovely to see one of my stories find a home, and being part of a “first” makes it extra special, hopefully Witty Bard can go on to many more anthologies, and I can say I was there at the start.

Ray: Love the energy of it all. Our publisher was so on the ball and things just kept rolling along. I hope to keep a strong working relationship with Witty Bard!

3. Is this your first Steampunk story?

If yes – what prompted your foray into the genre?

If no – did this story take you in a new direction within the genre?

Lee: No — I had previously self-published a novel that had significant Steampunk elements. It was more tongue-in-cheek and straight-up comedic than my novel. The novel had similar elements (as the short story’s protagonist was a supporting character in the novel)  but was far heavier and dramatic than the short story.

John: I am currently busy with a series The Voyages of the Black Thistle No1. This is a back story of one of the devices and some of the characters. Which will eventually form a companion volume. So to answer your question, not a new direction but an opportunity.

Seamus: Not really, but it is my first published one. Various threads in Irish history have acted as my inspiration. One is a chap called Henry Joy McCracken, who was one of the United Irishmen who, inspired by the French Revolution, rebelled in 1798. McCracken was a Presbyterian mill owner in Belfast. It is one of the ironies of history that the movement for Irish independence was initially led by Ulster Presbyterians, who would in later times be the bulwarks of Unionism. Reading about that period in history and subsequent events, there are many other roads that things could have gone down. There was much sympathy between Catholic communities and “dissenter” ones, well into the 19th Century we read of the communities helping each other to build churches and meeting houses. Also, as someone raised and educated in the Republic of Ireland, little of the industrial heritage of the whole Island was taught to us. I was also inspired by a book called “Jacquard’s Web” which essentially described how the loom invented by Jacquard in the early 19th century was a form of early computer. So, somewhat in the spirit of Gibson and Sterling’s “Difference Engine”, I postulate mass computational technology arising much earlier, but using spinning/weaving technology. I retain, at least in broad terms, the social structure of those industries, with cottage-based spinning giving way to industrial processes as the 19th Century continued. And also it is very much a muscle-power based industry.

I’ve written three of these “flaxpunk” stories so far, of which “An Honest Ulster Spinner” is the middle story chronologically. The first story deals with Henry Joy McCracken with various other twists. It probably has more exposition than the other two, and another speculative fiction element which I won’t give away here. In “real history” McCracken was executed  after the 1798 rebellion; that doesn’t quite happen in my timeline! The third follows Caroline, the daughter in “An Honest Ulster Spinner”, many years later. I’ve submitted both to various outlets so we’ll see what happens. They are standalone stories but with some overlap.

Ross: No. I’ve got a Steampunk Novella published with Phaze.com, available on Kindle. However, it’s Steampunk with a difference – it is erotic Steampunk written for a (very) mature audience (!)Writing erotic Steampunk pays well, but is a very narrow genre. The story in Witty Bard is more mainstream, and has allowed me to play a bit.

Nicole: It is the first Steampunk story that I have completed. I’ve read a few Steampunk stories and really enjoyed the juxtaposition of technology with history. Plus, it’s fun and the costumes look cool.

Liam: Ahem. I may have squeaked in by the narrowest of margins in definition terms. But that’s okay. I seem to have predated steam by (quite) a bit, and it’s rather less punk than others in the anthology! I tend to write all sorts of styles, depending on the seed-idea for the story – some horror, some sci-fi, some urban fantasy. And now, a little bit of Steampunk.

Ray: My first published story was Steampunk and so are a few of the other stories that are published or in the process of publication. This story is the first one that I’ve written that was set in my ‘hometown’ – The Hawaiian Kingdom/Sandwich Islands.

4. Hopefully your muse has continued to draw upon more Steampunk inspiration, are you planning to write more Steampunk stories? Short or novel length?

Lee: I am writing another short story set within the same universe for a similar competition, and I am also working on a second novel — again, set in the same universe.

John: Oh Yes – both

Seamus: I would like to explore this flaxpunk world more. I would see it developing as a series of vignettes and episodes, getting a sense of everyday lives lived in a specific world. At the start of 2014 I had notions of writing a story a month along these lines but things haven’t gone entirely to plan!

Ross:  If the right idea comes along, then yes. I find it very hard to write Steampunk, and need a great idea to help me carry it.

Nicole: I have another Steampunk short story in the works right now that will be quite different from Stolen Cargo.

Liam: Absolutely. I’m going to try my hand at a proper Steampunk short story, for Steampunk Trails – Steam punk meets the Wild West. Lets see if they like it.

cover

Ray: Have a bunch in the process of publication and I’m always working on more… both short and novel-length.

So… how do you get your copy???

1. Use any of these links to find a format to order:

2. Reply to this post and I’ll select a random participant to receive a KINDLE copy of the anthology 

– to be considered, please have your ‘comment’ completed by end of  Monday May19, 2014

 

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Natalie Zaman is kept busy by pointy things.  Pencils. Pens. Needles (the knitting and sewing variety). Arrows. She also has an eye for the sparkly, and likes black. She’s the co-author of Sirenz and Sirenz Back in Fashion.

 

Steampunk Robots

by Natalie Zaman

As an aspiring manufacturer of gaslight fantasy, I’m always looking for resources—not just the reading kind, but the living kind—the kind you can hear, taste, touch, experience… However the essence of Victorian science fiction is no easy thing to come by in Suburbia, save through various media and my own invention. But the aether will surprise you, sometimes when you least expect it. It found me on, of all things, a school field trip—to the FIRST Robotics World Championship.

Very well… perhaps it’s not so surprising that one would make such an encounter at a celebration of, well, science—but in an arena filled with Frisbee throwing robots?

1 Team 4531 on the Field

Can you spot the Infernal Device?

I was playing spectator, waiting for my daughter’s team to play their match when I saw the first sign.

Unmistakable.

Indubitable.

A top hat.

I blinked, and then all I could see were numbers, steel and plexi-glass, all well rooted in the 21st century. The match I waited for finished, and I went out into the hallway, only to meet this chap.

2 Steampunk Chap

Fancy meeting you here.

So there was a Steampunk-themed robotics team—one whose members possess the sartorial sensibilities of a crew of airship captains. I wanted to know more, but first, a little bit about FIRST, the instrument of fate that brought us together:

Started by inventor Dean Kamen and Dr. Woodie Flowers in 1989, FIRST’s acronym explains its mission: For Inspiration and Recognition In Science and Technology. Each year FIRST teams build a robot to accomplish a specific challenge. This year it was throwing Frisbees and climbing a pyramid.

3 Bringing the Robot onto the Field

Getting ready for competition.

4 Drive Team

Technology needs a human element. Enter, the robot drivers.

 

Team #4531, STEMpunk (another fitting acronym, though not exactly “steamy”: Science Technology Engineering Math + punk) hails from Mishicot, Wisconsin. They earned their spot at the World Championships by being the 2013 Wisconsin Regional Highest Rookie Seed team and winning the 2013 Wisconsin Regional Rookie All-Star award.

When I visited their pit (home base where repairs are made) to ask “Why Steampunk” (they were the only team at the Dome with Victorian flair after all), I was enthusiastically informed that scientific spirit of Steampunk manifested in its gears and cogs and wheels, “fit.” It is a perfect combination. In addition to the science, there’s the “handmade” aspect of the program; not just the robot (which the students design and build themselves with the guidance of mentors), but outfits, accessories, swag and environment, all concocted by the students…

5 Pit CrewSome of the extraordinary gentlemen of STEMpunk. And yes, there are ladies too.

And then there’s that swaggering bravado, an essential trait of all budding venture-capitalist-scientists:

6 Team in Tees

Whether in standard issue team tees…

7 Team in Stands

 …or full regalia, the gears are always turning.

The robot is still waiting to get a Victorian veneer—a goal for the future. That’s the thing about brass-works, clockworks, gears, chains and other trappings—they’re heavy, and the rules are strict when it comes to weight limitations. It will be a challenge, but if anyone knows about the blending of form following function, it’s STEMpunk. Lest you think that their garb is purely for show, have a look at the nifty safety glasses that are a part of their everyday work wear.

8 Goggles

Cleverness! The eyepieces screw off so the dark lenses can be removed, leaving the wearer with fully functional safety glasses.

Little details like this—or big ones like how things work (students learn and use mathematical and scientific concepts as well as training on a variety of machinery), lend authenticity and tactile touchstones to a story. I was fascinated by the melding of past and present so well done by team #4531—but there are hundreds of other teams with varying themes and in various stages of formation—there’s lots to learn on all sides.

If your novel has scientific or technological elements, involvement in FIRST could be a mutually beneficial form of research. My own light involvement in my daughter’s team gave me a better understanding of scientific concepts (and my algebra is admittedly improved—who knew it would be useful in re-sizing photos?). Teams need volunteers both in and out of the shop—writing and communication skills are key in promoting and growing interest in the program and for raising funds (things that so many authors become good at by default). If you have the time and like working with young people, think about volunteering for FIRST—then get ready to inspire and be inspired.

And you’ll never meet a nicer bunch of kids.

~Natalie

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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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Today we welcome Kate Milford.

 Kate Milford is the author of The Boneshaker, has written for stage and screen, and is a regular travel columnist for the Nagspeake Board of Tourism and Culture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. To learn more, visit www.clockworkfoundry.com.

Spin Round, Wooden Doll

by Kate Milford

I don’t exactly remember when I started to become obsessed with automata. I’ll have to ask my husband; he remembers this kind of thing, largely because it’s usually through him that I find the weirder stuff I become interested in. But somewhere along the way I found a book and two stories that have loomed in the background of everything I’ve written since. The book was the Penguin edition of Sigmund Freud’s essays on the uncanny; the stories were Hoffmann’s The Sand-Man and Automata.

I should explain that I’m not a fan of Freud, and I disagree with about 60% of what he says in his essays on the uncanny. But I love Hoffmann. In fact, if what I write is in any way interesting to fans of steampunk, it’s because I’m a Hoffmann fan.

Among the things that I most love about steampunk is the constant presence of mechanical stuff. I love clockwork and vacuum tubes and old metals with patina, and I think my grandfather’s hand-drawn circuitry diagrams are like art. And because, not being particularly mechanically gifted myself, even though I understand the basics of how a circuit and an escapement work, they retain an element of the wondrous for me. This is what has drawn me to the genre—not the Victoriana, not the inventors, not even the presence of spunky, sexy girl geniuses prevalent in modern steampunk. Nope, what does it for me is the frequent presence of richly-imagined machinery, the exploration of mechanics and what can be done with them, and the philosophical questions these things raise about what it means to be human, and part of society.

For me, one of the great beauties of writing about analog and mechanical technologies is that for many readers in the twenty-first century (and especially for my target audience of kids and teens) they are familiar and unfamiliar all at once. It is easy work to push things like clockwork just a little further toward the unknown and render them (to use one of Hoffmann’s and my favorite words) uncanny. Consider the escapement; in a world of smartphones that render even digital watches mostly irrelevant, most kids—heck, most adults—have no concept of the workings of the antique clocks in the shadowy halls of their grandparents’ homes. They don’t know that they’re made up of things that, like the components of a piece of music, are called movements, or that those movements are made up of things with beautiful names like ébauches and assortiments (the latter of which includes the escapement). Even the beautiful word escapement is strange, evocative, almost forbidding. Consider the automaton, the otherworldly oddity of any sort of human or beast-shaped simulacrum that winds with keys and moves with unnatural and often frantic gestures, slowing down to stillness in a brief parody of a human’s much slower decline…until it is wound again and brought back to life.

Consider how ticking is like a heartbeat. Consider how it is like a footfall. Consider how it throws the passage of time in your face.

Writers and readers are drawn to mechanical technology for more reasons than I dare guess at, but I can tell you exactly why it speaks to me. I grew up surrounded by men who understood mechanical things and spent time tinkering with them both for work and for fun. As an adult I married a man who makes his living in bleeding-edge information technology and automation and who is a reader of Ray Kurzweil, Charlie Stross, Neal Stephenson, and others who philosophize about or weave tales touching upon the increasingly blurry line between natural and artificial intelligences. I chalk it up to my father and my grandfathers and my husband that I like writing and thinking about mechanics and technology, and I think our innovations and interactions with those things reveal our humanity by constantly causing us to question what it means to be human. That’s why I love science fiction and fantasy as much as I do; to me, they are nearly always reducible in some way to interesting questions of identity. And if I can have those questions plus a world of bespoke gadgetry and oddball clockwork and steam-driven innovation where the transistor never happened, well, cool. Because according to my dad, we got the transistor by reverse-engineering stuff found in the Area 51 crash, so really, a pre-transistor world is a better place to discuss humanity as defined by human technology.

Just kidding. But back to E.T.A. Hoffmann, and the uncanny beauty of the mechanical.

Writing at the turn of the eighteenth century into the nineteenth, Hoffmann was an innovative and dizzying storyteller who made no apologies for leaping between different points of view, beginning stories with letters and ending them with third-person narrative, or pausing for pages in the middle of a very tense tale for one character to lecture at length on the subject of music and humanity. A few pages on, Hoffmann might just reveal that that everything up to that point has been a story being told by another character who then stops his tale to explain that he’d rather be left with absorbing questions at the end of a story that force him to muse over it than to have it end tied up so satisfyingly that he has no reason to think about it any longer. And yes, that’s where that particular story (The Automatons) ends.

Hoffmann’s tales are also replete with panic about the possibility of mistaking a simulacrum of humanity for a real person. In The Sand-Man, one of the most famous of Hoffmann’s “night pieces,” the passing off of an automaton for a real girl causes the complete breakdown of an impressionable young man; in The Automatons you get a lengthy panic attack from one character who’s horrified by the idea that a mechanical thing could be allowed to make music. To Lewis, the character in question, music is a thing reserved for nature and for men, and while attempting to duplicate the music of nature is the highest and most worthy challenge a (human) musician can undertake, for an unnatural thing like a mechanism to create music on its own is an abomination. Just two examples from two of my favorites; there are so very many more I could list.

In Hoffmann’s world, human identity is a delicate bit of machinery in its own right, a program that can be damaged beyond repair far too easily. In his world, things like doubles, automata, puppets, even spectacles and telescopes, are causes of anxiety—they present the appearance of something they are not. The arts, which Hoffmann’s protagonists often feel passionately about, seem to be the things they cling to in order to prove that they and those around them are “real” people. Hoffmann, a composer and music critic who lived in an era of tremendous musical innovation and a time during which some of the most famous automata were conceived and built, seems to have viewed the ability to create as what we might call a Turing test today. He also seems to have had a unique sense of the way that what is familiar can be utterly terrifying if it is suddenly suspected to be not quite what one thought it was, and the more completely at home you feel with something—as Hoffmann must have felt about music—the more terrifying it could potentially become. Dancing, for instance. In The Automatons, after his lecture on the dreadfulness of automatons playing music, Lewis has special words of horror for the idea of a man dancing with a mechanical woman and not having a clue about her inhuman nature. Sure enough, it is so scarring to Nathanael, the protagonist of The Sand-Man that not even dancing with the automaton Olympia tips him off to her mechanical nature that when he breaks down at the end of the book screaming, “Spin round, wooden doll!”

Two hundred years later, the uncanniness of his tales is amplified by the fact that his simulacra are made up of things that, for me, already inhabit that uncomfortable but wildly compelling place where beauty and familiarity and oddity intersect. They are made of pocket spyglasses and clockwork and instruments that sing in unearthly tones. They are made of things that wind up, of things that tick with mechanical heartbeats but sing like angels. They are made of things that, like those antique clocks counting quietly in dark and dusty hallways, are easy to take for granted today until it comes time to admit that most of us really don’t interact with them or understand them at all.

After reading E.T.A. Hoffmann, it’s not as easy to walk by that clock. We pause, then we look closer and wonder if we really know what we’re looking at. Then we look at each other, and try not to wonder the same thing.

~Kate Milford

Twitter: @katemilford

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Today in celebration of National Steampunk Day, we, the Lolitas of STEAMED! offer up ten things you can do to get into the spirit of things:

10. Wear goggles to work (or if you’re already at work and have missed the opportunity wear them out to dinner). You’ll be amazed at the curious looks and questions you get, which is a perfect time to talk steampunk!

9. Try wearing a corset. That’s on the outside, please.

8. Wear a hat. Top hat, aviator cap, newspaper boy slouchy cap, bowler, it all counts!

7. Unplug and read a steampunk book – by lamplight. Okay you can use a candle if you must, but instead of watching the television tonight, why not escape into a great piece of steampunk fiction?

6. Talk with a British accent for the day. You may even call your boss, “Old Bean” unless of course, he or she is younger than you.

5. Use phrases like “My word”, “How splendid”, or “Please excuse me while I wind my gears,” or “Where did I park my aeromachine?” “Drat”, “Most peculiar” or even “Fire the mechanical monkies!”

4. Drink a cup of tea. Crumpets, clotted cream, jam and little fingers sandwiches are optional.

3. Learn to waltz. Waltz anyway. Why walk when you can waltz?

2. Go read Girl Genius (it’s updated every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at http://www.girlgeniusonline.com under comic. Warning: it is addictive, especially if you start at the beginning).

 And, the number one thing you can do is. . .

1. Try the Steampunk Drinking Game. Pick out a steampunk movie or book of your choice. Best played with others who don’t actually plan to go anywhere afterward. Beverage may be of your choice. For each item you come across, take the prescribed drink. Last person standing wins.
Aether = 1 drink
Airhship = 2 sips
Automaton = gulp
Bodice = 1 drink
Corset = down the whole shot
Gears = 1 sip
Goggles = three sips plus bite of lemon
Her Majesty and/or Queen Victoria = down the whole shot
Horse and/or carriage = 3 drinks
Inventor and/or mad scientist = 4 drinks
Inexplicable device = 1 drink
Mention of social rank (Duke, Marquess, Earl, Barron, etc.) = 4 sips
Parasol = 2 drinks
Presence of bioengineering = 4 drinks
Puff of steam = 1 drink
Raygun = chug
Top Hat = 3 drinks
Tesla coil = down the whole shot

Celebrate Steampunk!

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If you were to tell the story of this gal what would it be? Is she an airship pirate, or military general?

What is the eye piece for? Does it replace her own eye or is it an add on to detect automatons passing for humans? Did she steal that fancy coat?

And what about those wires on her left shoulders?

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Today we welcome Steamypunk Author Bonnie Dee. Her steampunk romantic adventure Like Clockwork is now available from Carina Press.

Tic-Tok of Oz, or What Turned Me on to Robots

By Bonnie Dee

Mechanical people fire our imagination from I Robot to the Stepford Wives. The concept of what it means to be human and whether synthetic life forms can develop humanity was explored in great depth in Battlestar Galactica. Is the quality of humanity judged by the ability to reason or is it necessary to feel emotions? If a mechanical being develops emotions such as love, does it also require a certain spark—call it the soul—to be more than a replicant?

When I was a child, I avidly read whichever books from the Oz series I could get my hands on from the early Frank Baum books through the continuation of the series by Ruth Plumly Thompson. Sidenote: I still remembered her name without looking it up because it’s so unusual. I actually liked Thompson’s books better—The Hungry Tiger of Oz, Kabumpo in Oz and Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz in particular—probably because her stories always had a romance element which Baum’s books lacked.

Anyway, the character Tic-Tok of Oz was a mechanical man who was rather cold at the beginning of the story but developed personality through interaction with humans. What does this have to do with my new steampunk novella Like Clockwork? Not so much except that reading about Tic-Tok as a child started a lifelong fascination with synthetic life forms and the question of where humanity lies.

Like Clockwork, available as an e-book from Carina Press and at other online stores such as Amazon, B&N and Kobo, is a tale of murder, mayhem, espionage, inventions, romance and steam.

Victoria Waters is a woman ahead of her time, part of a team of scientists that created working automatons. She intended the machines to replace human laborers in dangerous occupations, but the original project idea mushroomed beyond her expectations. The mechanical people have replaced all types of workers, putting much of the lower class out of work.

Dash is a man who has lived a life of poverty in one of the worst slums in London. Only the intervention of a kindly mentor taught him to use his keen mind. He is part of a subversive group called the Brotherhood which speaks against the influx of automatons. To draw attention to their cause they plan to kidnap Victoria and hold her ransom until their demand for representation on the Commission for Animatronic Affairs is met.

Dash soon finds his captive is on the same page in her beliefs and willing to help the Brotherhood reach their goal. But when the Southwark Slasher strikes again, murdering a woman who was close to Dash, he and Victoria’s relationship abruptly changes. They become close very quickly, sharing personal history and discovering a mutual attraction.

Danger looms as Victoria learns more from a colleague about the Commission and their long term agenda for the automatons. Romance blooms as Dash and Victoria grow closer. And death threatens when Victoria comes face to face with the Southwark Slasher.

To whet your interest, here’s the prologue of Like Clockwork:

London, 1898

If he slit the body from sternum to groin and peeled back the flesh, he could see what made a woman tick. If he probed a little deeper into that steamy, sticky mess, he could remove her pulsing heart and examine it. Maybe at last he could understand what made him different.

Precision. That was the key. Each cut, each motion must be meticulous, following a careful order he’d designed for himself. It was akin to a schematic, an exquisite plan. Unfortunately the insides of a woman were so messy. There must be a way to suction off the blood. He should figure that out. It would make his work so much easier.

He watched the woman’s eyes as she beheld her beating heart in his hand and continued to gaze into them until they went from wide and horrified to blank and glassy. Then he knew her workings ticked no longer.

He positioned her body in his pre-arranged pattern, keeping her heart for himself. Removing his gloves, he packed them into his black satchel and clicked the latch closed. He rose, removed his smock and stowed it too in the case. Then he checked his overcoat for traces of blood—wouldn’t do to take the messiness away from the scene with him. After brushing away a spot of dirt from the broadcloth, he decided he was in as pristine a condition as when he’d arrived. He strode away from the sprawled body in the alley, swinging his satchel lightly and whistling a tune.

It was a pleasant night and he had accomplished much.

~Bonnie Dee

http://bonniedee.com

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