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As we all know Mary Shelley wrote sci-fi before H. G. Wells or Jules Verne and was one of the main pioneers of the genre. Everyone’s familiar with Frankenstein and probably everyone looking at this post has read it. It is the first mad-scientist sub genre book and many consider it  the first work which can logically be labeled sci-fi.  But I’m going to talk about a lesser known book of hers that is also significant to the sci-fi  genre, The Last Man. It is the first written work  of the sci-fi sub genre of a sole survivor of earth. A still popular plot, often used in books and movies two hundred years later.

A good place to start with Mary Shelley’s work is with Mary herself. Mary Wollenstoncraft, an author and the most important feminist of the day, died due to child birth complications nine days after giving birth to her daughter, Mary Wollenstoncraft Godwin. Mary’s father was the famed philosopher and author, William Godwin. Shortly after his wife’s death, William married Mary Jane Clairmont. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin grew up in a household with her half sister, Fanny Imlay, from a liaison her mother had with an American, and her step mothers’ two children from a previous marriage, Charles and Claire Clairmont, and her half-brother William, the child of her father and his  new wife.

When she was 16 Mary fell in love with the poet, Percy Shelley and ran off with him, even though he was married. Mary gave birth seven months into her first pregnancy and the premature baby died shortly after. Her next pregnancy produced a healthy son, William. Soon after that, Percy’s wife, Harriet,  drowned herself and her unborn child. Then Mary’s half sister, Fanny, committed suicide.  After that, Mary gave birth to a daughter, Clara. That child died a year later and the next year her son William died. She became pregnant again and gave birth to her son, Percy,  the only child who survived. After that Mary suffered a dangerous miscarriage she barely survived. Then her husband drowned in a boating accident. By the time all this loss occurred, Mary was only 24 years old. In the few sentences above, these facts about her life, we can see the tragedies she experienced contributed to her creations of both Frankenstein and The Last Man and gave her the emotions she needed to pull from to write them.

I also wanted to mention that at the time they were first published both Frankenstein and The Last Man received terrible reviews but both sold well and were widely talked about by readers of the day. Shelley was a brave author who wrote what she wanted to write even if it went against political, religious or social beliefs of the time. We owe much to her for that. The sci-fi genre owes much to Mary Shelley for that.

“The last day passed thus: each moment contained eternity; although when hour after hour had gone by, I wondered at the quick flight of time. Yet even now I had not drunk the bitter potion to the dregs; I was not yet persuaded of my loss; I did not yet feel in every pulsation in every nerve , in every thought that I remained alone of my race, — that I was the LAST MAN.”

The Last Man is set in the 21st century and written in first person. The writing is elegant with marvelous description. Verney tells the story of his life. Through mistakes of his father, he and his sister, Perdita,  are cast out of a happy life into one of poor lonely orphans.  He forms a plan of vengeance against the people who brought this ruin. The main culprit was the king, who is dead. When the king’s son, Adrian, comes to Verney’s town he sets his plan in motion. However, Adrian turns out to be a great supporter of Verney’s  late father. Verney rises from his life of despair and longing with the help of Adrian, who becomes his lifelong best friend.  This circle of six friends: Verney, Perdita, Adrian a poet and intellectual , Raymond a hero nobleman (who marries Perdita) , Adrian’s sister, Idris  (who marries Verney) and Evadne, a Greek princess, have many ups and downs in their lives. Eventually, most end up married with children and quite happy and settled. But Perdita’s husband, Raymond, cheats on her with Evadne.  So Perdita leaves Raymond. A war between the Greeks and the Turks break out and Raymond fights in it as does Evadne. She dies on the battlefield and Verney finds her body and buries her. As Raymond is on his death bed from mortal war wounds, Perdita goes to him and forgives him. When he dies, she kills herself.

Soon after this an epidemic begins. It’s unknown what causes it or how it spreads. It goes from country to country. For a long time England is untouched by it. Due to the plague and several natural disasters in different parts of the world, England is filled with immigrants. Then the symptoms reach a patient in a hospital in London. In the year 2096 the few survivors of the plague in England decide to leave and find some untouched part of the world. Verney, Adrian, and their families are at the forefront of this group.

They sail from England, leaving it depopulated. The group decides to pass the hot months in the icy valley of Switzerland. As they journey there Idris, Verney’s wife. dies from the plague. By the time they arrive in Switzerland it, like every other place, is empty of people. After seven years the plague ends. Thinking danger has passed they leave the alps to go into Italy and pass the winter in Milan. Then they  spend the summer in a villa by a lake. There one of the children is struck with a sudden fever and dies. They burry the child and sail their skiff toward Athens. But a storm overtakes the ship . Everyone is drowned in the shipwreck except Verney.

Verney enters the town of Ravenna near where the wreck occurred. He sees oxen, dogs, horses, birds, and other animals but no men among them. After staying a while in Ravennna, he heads to Rome, the capital of the world, the crown of man’s achievement. He finds pens and paper and writes a book about his life, which is the book – The Last Man.  He leaves it in the ancient city of this world as a sole monument of Verney the LAST MAN. He then leaves Rome to sail around the shores of deserted Earth.

The Last Man is elegantly written with marvelous descriptions. It is written in first person with complicated characters. However, keep in mind it is written in the Regency era for Regency era readers. In that time period writing did not demand nor did the readers want fast pacing, hooks or a balance of dialogue and narrative. This book has far more narrative than dialogue. Therefore it may be slow reading for us modern readers. I had to push myself to get through it at times, but I am so glad I read it.

The next time you are writing, reading, or watching a movie or TV show with a mad scientist or sole survivor on earth plot, take a silent moment to thank Mary Shelley. And if you’re at a con or other event and someone says something like women are new to Sci-Fi, you might just want to remind them that women have been reading and wiring Sci-Fi for over two hundred years.

~       ~        ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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Carousel Horse(photo from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/)

The circus was a big part of British life in the mid-1800s. Much like the one run by Belinda’s great-uncle, traveling troupes featured side shows, trick riding, acrobats, clowns, and animal taming, along with early carnival rides. Some traveled by train, others by caravan, and my imagination has applied the steampunk elements. For a good article on Victorian circus, you can go here, to an article from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Here’s a tiny taste of what Connor and Belinda find when they go undercover in the circus: (excerpt ©2013 by Cindy Spencer Pape)

The morning of the circus opening was hectic, but Connor couldn’t help a sense of exhilaration. A crowd of people crowded around the fence watched anxiously as Nicky Smith, the owner’s nephew and mechanical army survivor, stoked the calliope, and performers scurried back and forth getting ready. The scents of animals and roasting peanuts filled the air.

Connor, in his role as assistant ringmaster, was meant to patrol the grounds, nominally overseeing all the workers, but mostly watching the crowd for their adversaries. Today’s goal was to establish that the magick in the circus as real and make sure it was impressive enough that word would spread. He’d spoke to Merrick and Fergus about the Builders’ Guild and the Architecture and Arts Association the night before, and Merrick would look into those today while the circus was busy here.

About half an hour before the gates opened, Connor ducked into the fortune-teller’s tent to make sure Belinda was ready to go. Rowan’s tail thumped as Connor walked in and the dog stuck his big head up for Connor’s scratch. Connor rubbed a wiry ear, but he only had eyes for Belinda. He’d grown used to her simple gypsy clothing of bright skirts and a peasant blouse during the last few days, but today she’d added to it, with brassy bangles on both wrists, big hoops in her ears and a red scarf covering the top of her head, while her dark curls spilled out from underneath. Even in layers of mismatched styles and colors, she still looked good enough to eat as she smiled up at him, her grandmother’s tarot cards in her hands.

“All set?” Willow and Rowan, sprawled on either side of her, shifted to make room for Connor.

Belinda nodded. “I remember my lessons on how to fake a reading in the crystal ball, and I’ve memorized what the various lines on a palm are supposed to mean. I practiced this week on most of our co-conspirators, so I think I’m ready.”

He slid into the chair opposite hers. “Show me.”

Belinda lifted an eyebrow. “You want me to read your fortune?”

“Exactly.” He winked.

“Very well, most honored sir.” She slipped into the persona he’d seen her practicing all week. “Would milord prefer the cards, to have his palm read or to plumb the mysteries of the crystal ball?”

“Oh, the crystal ball, by all means.” He settled into his seat, enjoying the show.

Her dark eyes twinkled up at him. “For the spirits to come, you must honor them with silver. Five shillings, if you please.” She held out her palm.

Connor handed her a five-shilling coin.

“You are most gracious, sir, as well as handsome.” Belinda laid both hands on the large quartz globe on a silver-plated stand in front of her and peered into it. “Think of a question, concentrate on the answers you wish the spirits to provide.”

“Very well.” He grinned back. “I have my question.”

He could feel her gaze dart to him when she wasn’t looking into the ball. “I see an image beginning to form,” she said. “A man? No, ’tis a woman. Her hair is dark, ah yes, but it isn’t your wife, no…she’s younger. A sister, perhaps? I see. Her eyes are just like yours—no, not in color, but the expression, the intelligence and humor, those are the same, are they not?”

“Give over,” Connor said, impressed by her acumen. “How did you know I was thinking of Melody?”

*****

Contest: In conjunction with the release of Cards & Caravans, Cindy is running a contest for a $25.00 gift card to the e-book distributor of your choice, plus the chance to name a character in the next Gaslight Chronicles story. To enter, visit the “Contact Cindy” page on her website and send her a note. Mention which blog you saw this on and some little detail about the post. One entry per person per blog post. The complete rules and a list of post locations and dates are available on the “Contest” page on Cindy’s site.

 *****

Cards&Caravans_final About the Book: Cards & Caravans is book 5 in the Gaslight Chronicles steampunk romance series, and releases from Carina Press on March 18. Find out more here.

Blurb: Belinda Danvers isn’t a witch. But that won’t stop them burning her at the stake…

Connor McKay can tell at a glance that Belinda’s magickal powers are minimal at best. She can’t be guilty of murdering village children. There’s something suspicious about her arrest and lightning-quick sentence. Unfortunately, telling anyone how he knows would mean revealing his own powers. He’s been sent by the Order of the Round Table to help and he can’t just let her die.

Escaping from jail and running from vindictive villagers in her grandfather’s steam-powered caravan is more excitement than Belinda’s had in years. And despite the danger–or maybe because of it–she loves the time spent with her sexy rescuer. But there’s more to his magick than he’s letting on…

There’s something going on that’s bigger than the two of them. It’s time for good to make a stand.

Review: 4 Stars from Romantic Times: “All the trappings of a good steampunk novel are here..but most enchanting of all is the love that develops between the hero and heroine.

*****

About the Author: Cindy S391766_509428429076163_422038333_npencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. Award-winning author of 16 novels and more than 30 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book. Catch her online at:

Website: http://www.cindyspencerpape.com

Blog: http://cindyspencerpape.blogspot.com/

Newsletter group: http://yhoo.it/ni7PHo

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CindySPape

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/gjbLLC

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It’s Book Monday. One lucky commenter will win a copy!

CUTTLEFISH

by Dave Freer

Copy provided by PYR

The smallest thing can change the path of history.

The year is 1976, and the British Empire still spans the globe. Coal drives the world, and the smog of it hangs thick over the canals of London.

Clara Calland is on the run. Hunted, along with her scientist mother, by Menshevik spies and Imperial soldiers, they flee Ireland for London. They must escape airships, treachery, and capture. Under flooded London’s canals, they join the rebels who live in the dank tunnels there.

Tim Barnabas is one of the underpeople, born to the secret town of drowned London, place of anti-imperialist republicans and Irish rebels, part of the Liberty—the people who would see a return to older values and free elections. Seeing no farther than his next meal, Tim has hired on as a submariner on the Cuttlefish, a coal-fired submarine that runs smuggled cargoes beneath the steamship patrols, to the fortress America and beyond.

When the Imperial soldiery comes ravening, Clara and her mother are forced to flee aboard the Cuttlefish. Hunted like beasts, the submarine and her crew must undertake a desperate voyage across the world, from the Faeroes to the Caribbean and finally across the Pacific to find safety. But only Clara and Tim Barnabas can steer them past treachery and disaster, to freedom in Westralia. Carried with them—a lost scientific secret that threatens the very heart of Imperial power.

(summary from the Barnes and Noble website)

I love how you can take one small thing (like synthetic ammonia not being invented) and use it as the catalyst to create an entire new world. This fast-paced YA tale is filled with submarines, smugglers, death-defying adventure, and a dash of romance. Freer’s nautical aesthetic and use of submarine pirates provide a fresh and imaginative take on steampunk. This was a fun, satisfying read.

One lucky commenter will win my hardcover copy of CUTTLEFISH. Open internationally, contest closes Sunday, September 30th at 11:59 PM PST.

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Today we welcome back Vivien. She’s going to review THE KINGMAKERS, book three of the Vampire Empire series.

THE KINGMAKERS
Book 3, Vampire Empire
Clay and Susan Griffith
ARC provided by PYR
Review by Vivien

The Kingmakers is the third book in the thrilling Vampire Empire trilogy. A fast paced action adventure filled with war, vampires and political machinations. In a world that could mirror our own, it stands out with the heavy doses of steampunk woven throughout.

The third book takes off immediately where The Rift Walker (book 2) ends. There is no down time in this book. It starts off with a bang and keeps you on your toes until the very end. Every scene plays an important role in weaving the plot together. The Griffiths found the perfect way to fool the reader into thinking that you knew what each character’s motivations were. Only to tweak the plot lines a little to leave you not knowing who to root for.

The characters are by far my favorite aspect of this series. While the world building and technicalities play their role, they aren’t what kept me invested in this series. Over the course of the trilogy, you get to see many sides to each character. Some selfish, some stubborn but most of all they were all very passionate in their beliefs. It’s invigorating to be able to glimpse these…human characteristics.

Adele finally emerges as the mature woman she was meant to be. She holds her power well and stands by her decisions both good and bad. The Greyfriar/Gareth really lets his soft side show through. He becomes more vulnerable in the realization of his feelings for Adele. Their relationship grows more intimate in the few moments that they are able to steal away. There aren’t many, but they draw strength from their trust in each other.

A very satisfying ending that leaves me wanting more. This conclusion was a very explosive novel. The action starts off with an explosive battle and ends with a victory. But who will win in the war of humans versus vampires? Who will be crowned King? How many will be left standing in the end?

~Vivien

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Today I welcome back Visiting Lolita Vivien to guest review THE RIFT WALKER, book 2 of the Vampire Empire series.

 

THE RIFT WALKER

Book 2, The Vampire Empire

Clay and Susan Griffith

PYR Books

Review by Vivien

After really enjoying the first book in this trilogy, The Greyfriar, I was very eager to sink my teeth into The Rift Walker. It immediately picks up exactly where The Greyfriar left off. So, if you don’t remember everything, I’d recommend a refresher.

While The Greyfriar was filled with technological advancements and a bloody war, The Rift Walker is more about political intrigue. The schemes and machinations of everyone involved is just utterly fascinating. It held my attention throughout. I can’t divulge any more without completely spoiling it all!

Getting a few different point of views this time around, The Rift Walker takes a slower pace than it’s predecessor. Having linear plot lines that all need to be told can seem tedious at times, but it really fills out the story. You need every bit of information that you’re given.

While the relationship between Adele and The Greyfriar wasn’t in the foreground in The Rift Walker, it still blossoms right before our eyes. Gone is the abrasive tension and replacing it is a more comfortable companionship. Towards the end I really felt their struggle as a whole with the world they live in.

A fascinating sequel to The Greyfriar. While some may not find The Rift Walker as engaging, I think it really adds to the depth of this trilogy. The Griffiths really built on the characters in this sequel. I am on edge for The Kingmakers, the last in the trilogy. I can’t wait to see how all the pieces that they have created, fit together to create one cohesive world.

~Vivien

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I’d hoped to do a cover reveal today, but that hasn’t shown up in my mailbox yet, (pout) leaving me with very little in the way of steampunk-ish goodness to talk about. I CAN say that Moonlight & Mechanicals, the fourth story and second full-length book in the Gaslight Chronicles will be out from Carina Press on Oct. 22.

Anyway, since I don’t have much of anything else to say about my own books or steampunk in general, I thought I’d sneak in another non-Monday book review, if it’s okay with the Lolita-in-Chief. These two stories are gaslamp fantasy rather than steampunk, but they really captured my imagination. The author, Christian Klaver, grew up about a mile from where I did, but we’ve only met recently, through the SF world, and I think the speculative fiction crowd is going to really love his voice once more readers find him. Maybe there’s something about us Detroiters that really gets into the gritty vibe of steampunk and gaslamp. I do believe these are Kindle exclusives, but with Calibre’s free conversion software, they can be read on any kind of e-reading device.

Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula: The Adventure of the Solitary Grave (The Supernatural Casefiles of Sherlock Holmes) is Holmes like you’ve never seen him before. And by that I *do* mean that Holmes isn’t a vampire. That, I’ve seen. This blending of two major Victorian characters is written in a style so seamless you can almost believe it was found in the attic of one of Doyle’s editors. Yes, it’s a little darker than I usually read, but I honestly couldn’t put it down. The nuances of Holmes, Watson, and yes, Count Vlad Dracula himself are layered and well-drawn. You’ll hold your breath, I promise. It’s quite simply the most believeable Holmes/fantasy crossover I’ve ever read, and I’m a Holmes geek from way back.

Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Innsmouth Whaler (The Supernatural Casefiles of Sherlock
Holmes)
 combines Holmes with another great mythos: H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu, and proves once again how well Klaver can weave disparate universes into a single, and unique blend. This isn’t light and fluffy Cthulu, it’s got some gore and some darkness, but again, I really fell into the universe and could completely see Holmes and Watson in the unhappy seaside village of Innsmouth dealing with Deep Ones.

My Take? Klaver is definitely an upcoming author to watch. Here’s the cover for the upcoming third story, coming soon to a Kindle near you. I know I’ll certainly be waiting for it. I think Klaver is one of the next big discoveries in the world of Spec. Fic. And yeah, it doesn’t hurt that he’s a Detroit guy. 🙂

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Hi everyone!  INNOCENT DARKNESS releases in a week and a half — in fact, pre-orders are already starting to ship!  I’m busy, busy getting everything ready for the blog tour, virtural launch party, launch party, etc. So, I invited Vivian to guest review The Greyfriar for me.  

The Greyfriar, Vampire Empire, Book 1
by Clay & Susan Griffith
PYR 2010
Review by Vivian

The Greyfriar is a standout in the steampunk genre. Set in an alternate world, vampires have taken over much of
the world. In 1870, they emerged as a vicious outbreak and dominated the humans. These vampires aren’t your
friendly sparkling variety. They are omnipotent and diabolical. Having invaded the Northern territories, the
human survivors were forced to move South. The fight for territory would be bloody and deadly.

Princess Adele of Alexandria is set to marry the American Senator Clark. An arrangement the would unify their
people so they can engage is an all out war against the enemy. As her ship is attacked by vampires, Princess
Adele is rescued by a mysterious stranger. The Greyfriar is her savior, but soon the masked crusader is overtaken
and unfortunately, she is kidnapped by the infamous Prince Cesare.

The world building was just magnificent in this novel. There is a lot of it, but it really sets the scene. You can
just visualize the death and brutality in every page. Incorporating airships and weapons to give it a steampunk flair,
The Greyfriar becomes a refreshing vampire novel.

This book really surprised me. I just fell for the Greyfriar. He was mysterious and enigmatic but vulnerable at
times to really draw you in. He is a very complex man and I can’t wait to get past his more of his layers. Adele goes through
her own transformation. She starts off as a naive Princess who grows some spine towards the end of the novel.

The Griffiths really hooked me in creating a world that could mirror our own. Captivating from the start, the action and
adventure will keep you riveted until the end. Blending a budding romance, political conspiracies and vampires, The Greyfriar
is unforgettable.

~Vivian

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