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Archive for the ‘Guest Thursdays’ Category

The romance genre is dominated by women writers, but guys can write romance, too. 

Matt Forbeck is an author and game designer and happily married father of five, including a set of quadruplets. For more on his work, please visit Forbeck.com.

Writing Steampunk Romance–A Guy’s POV

by Matt Forbeck

Last fall, Jean Rabe — editor of Steampunk’d — asked me for a story for her next steampunk anthology, Hot & Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance. I’ve written in a lot of genres over the years and have fifteen published novels under my belt, with four more under contract. Despite that, I’d never veered toward writing romance as such. Sure, I had romantic relationships in my books, but when people read my stories they tend to plug them into categories like fantasy, science fiction, horror, or thriller and call them action-packed roller coasters of adventure and fun. The romance bits come far enough down the list that you might give up looking for them before you get there.

Still I’ve known Jean for years and respected her judgment. If she thought I could write a steampunk romance, who was I to argue? The steampunk part I knew I had down solid. Earlier in my creative career, I served as the president of Pinnacle Entertainment Group, a tabletop game publisher best known for the roleplaying game Deadlands, which hit shelves back in 1996. It’s billed as a western horror game, but it also features a massive dollop of 19th century weird science, the kind of thing we can all recognize as steampunk these days.

The romance I had to think about, but after a bit of reflection I relished the challenge. I came up with a fun premise that featured a good measure of my trademark action but centered around the romance between a couple of slaves living on a plantation owned by a Confederate mad scientist at the height of the American Civil War.

Honestly, I never would have thought of writing such a story if I hadn’t been asked, and I enjoyed stretching myself out into a new genre. It forced me to figure out what the tropes of romance stories are and then wrap my head around how I could use them in a tale that intrigued me. That’s the kind of thing that can affect your development as a writer for years to come. 

So, if I haven’t done it enough by now, I’d like to publicly thank Jean not only for coming up with the anthology and lining up so many other great writers for it, but also for daring me to break out of the kinds of stories I’ve already done and try something new. That turned out to be worth far more to me than any money the story might earn.

–Matt Forbeck

Hot & Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance, edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg, officially hit shelves and e-readers on June 7.

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Okay, Jane Eyre isn’t a new release, nor is it steampunk, but it’s a classic and the new movie does feature lots of pretty dresses.  Also, I need to re-read it for a project.  Anyway, I have asked the super-fabulous Nicole from WORD For Teens to come and guest review it for me. So, how many times have you read it?

Nicole runs the successful YA book blog WORD For Teens. When not reading books or watching Doctor Who, she’s studying for her double major in journalism and English.

 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Review by Nicole of Word for Teens

What can one say about Jane Eyre that hasn’t been said already?

I adore Jane Eyre. I adored it when I first listened to the musical version in ninth grade; I adored it when I watched the amazing four hour BBC version in tenth grade; I adored it when I finally picked it up and read it in eleventh grade.

And even now, it’s something I reread and get excited for. I’ve seen the BBC movie Jane-knows-how-many times; I’ve read the book again and again; I’m more than excited for the new movie version that just came out. (Seeing it soon, eek!)

There’s just something about it. Yeah, it’s not written like most modern lit – either young adult or adult – is. It’s a very slow set up until the part of the novel I like best. A good third of the book, I think, is dedicated to Jane’s childhood. You really get in her head and see the miserable sort of situation she was in and why she grew up to be the way she was.

Normally, I’d hate that. I love being launched straight into the action, into the romance, into the real story. (I think that was one of the reasons it took me so long to finally read Pride and Prejudice; who cared what the Bennett sisters were doing? I just wanted to go to the first ball with Darcy, damn it.) But it’s so eloquently written that I still love it.

And don’t even get me started on my love of the characters themselves. Jane? Best heroine ever. Okay, maybe not best, but damn, I do love her. She refuses to change who she is and sticks to her guts. And Rochester? You really shouldn’t fall in love with a man who [SPOILER ALERT!] keeps his wife locked up in the attic and who[/SPOILER ALERT] makes you believe that he’s in love with another woman for a good chunk of the book. And yet…

Honestly, this is one of these classics I think everybody needs to read and form their own opinion on. Strong woman? A hunk of a man? An interesting plot? I mean, it’s got everything. (Including a fantastic modern version – Jane by April Lindner. I highly recommend reading that, too, but only after you’ve read Jane Eyre, or some references will be lost on you.) In my opinion, it’s much better than her sister’s Wuthering Heights and on equal terms with some of Austen’s works.

Oh, and there’s this.

~Nicole
http://www.wordforteens.com/

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Today’s Visiting Lolita is author Cindy Spencer Pape who’s new release Steam & Sorcery is now available from Carina Press.

Author of over forty popular books and stories in paranormal, historical, and contemporary romance, Cindy Spencer Pape is an avid reader of romance fantasy, mystery, and even more romance.  Cindy firmly believes in happily-ever-after. Married for more than twenty years to her own, sometimes-kilted hero, she lives in Michigan with him, two adult sons & an ever-changing menagerie of pets.  Cindy has been, among other things, a banker, a teacher, and an elected politician, but mostly an environmental educator. Her degrees in zoology and animal behavior almost help her comprehend the three male humans who share her home.

Steampunk Lite?

By Cindy Spencer Pape

One of the tenets that you often hear about Steampunk is that it has to be a dystopian, bleak setting, a worst-case scenario of the Victorian or Edwardian eras.

Oops. Now they tell me. I fell in love with the idea of Steampunk early on, but never quite managed to write a world as dark as I’d planned. Sure, in Steam & Sorcery, the slums of London are rife with poverty, prostitution, black lung disease and vampyres, (yes, vampyres—the nasty, smelly, evil kind!) but there’s also progress toward women’s rights, fascinating scientific advancements, and a glittering high society. Those of the upper class work diligently, of course, to pretend the bad stuff doesn’t exist. Even when it’s right under their noses. Just like they ignore the chambermaid and her automated sweeper. If they don’t acknowledge it, it can’t be there, right? To me, that’s not so much dystopian as simply the way things were (and are.) Mostly I don’t want to talk about the politics, I want to talk about the vampyres and robots and governesses and sex.

So there you go. Steam & Sorcery is a mash-up of steampunk, fantasy, and mostly romance. My working title for this book was Mary Poppins meets Van Helsing—with robots. That pretty much sums it up. A wealthy, titled vampyre hunter, the Order of the Round Table, a bunch of street urchins with automaton pets, and a plucky, not-quite-human governess. Add some steamy sex, some horrible villains, and shake well. Voila!

If you want to take a walk on the lighter side of Steampunk, I’d love for you to stop by the Carina Press website and check out Steam & Sorcery, the first in my new Gaslight Chronicles series. I’d like to thank Suzi for having me here today and letting me share the fun. To celebrate the new release, I’m running a contest. Comment on any (or all) of the blogs I visit on my blog tour this week. One entry per person, per blog stop. You can visit my blog to find the other stops. After the final stops on Sunday, March 13, I’ll draw one winner for a free download of Steam & Sorcery, or their choice of my other available titles. Happy Reading!

~Cindy Spencer Pape

http://www.cindyspencerpape.com/

 Steam & Sorcery, Gaslight Chronicles #1

Sir Merrick Hadrian hunts monsters, both human and supernatural. A Knight of the Order of the Round Table, his use of magick and the technologies of steam power have made him both respected and feared. But his considerable skills are useless in the face of his greatest challenge, guardianship of five unusual children. At a loss, Merrick enlists the aid of a governess.

Miss Caroline Bristol is reluctant to work for a bachelor but she needs a position, and these former street children touch her heart. While she tends to break any mechanical device she touches, it never occurs to her that she might be something more than human. All she knows is that Merrick is the most dangerously attractive man she’s ever met—and out of reach for a mere governess.

When conspiracy threatens to blur the distinction between humans and monsters, Caroline and Merrick must join forces, and the fate of humanity hinges upon their combined skills of steam and sorcery…

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Today we welcome Jon Heartless, author of Romanticism Lost. 

The “Greying Down” of Culture

by Jon Heartless

Is anyone else worried about the ‘greying down’ of culture which seems to be increasing all around us? Society does it by scorning anything outside the conventional. Our employers do it by demanding that we wear their uniform, use their methodology, and even use their word forms when dealing with customers. Governments do it by promoting bland manifestos, even blander politicians, and only supporting media-friendly, populist policies which can all be measured and quantified. The UK Government is especially target-obsessed, and exhibits the belief that everything can be fed into a spreadsheet of tick boxes which will yield statistical data on every part of our lives. “Real life doesn’t comply with forms AH139 to VT9735 inclusive? Then reality is wrong. We have the paperwork to prove it…”

In short, we are being homogenized in a variety of ways, usually by having bits chopped off so we fit a pre-determined shape, and I’m rather peeved about it. It’s at times like this that I truly understand why a diabolical mastermind wants to create a death ray and zap everyone. It’s not an insane desire to take over the world; it’s just table-chewing frustration at the way we’re treated by those who have power over us. Give me a death ray and I would quite happily point it at the Houses of Parliament. Or corporate employers. Or the tabloid press, with its insular attitudes and hatred of anything unlike.

This got me thinking one day on what the Sherlock Holmes stories would be like if Conan Doyle were writing today. We’re used to the idea of Holmes and Watson receiving a telegram pleading for help, dashing off in a hansom cab to Waterloo, the luxurious railway carriage, the hiring of a dog cart at the rural station, the investigation, the deduction, and the unmasking of the villain. Can you imagine what that would be like in the modern world? Holmes would be prosecuted for breaching health and safety laws after lighting his pipe, while the criminal, after being unmasked, would be able to sue the consulting detective for slander, emotional belittlement, loss of confidence etc etc. And this pre-supposes Holmes could get anywhere near the crime scene at all with our modern rail companies, who seem to view the transportation of passengers as being a distraction from their true calling of taking our money in ever increasing amounts in return for an ever decreasing service.

From all this was born my novella, Romanticism Lost, and only after I’d written it did I realise that I had something a bit ‘steampunkish’. (Please note I hesitate to label it as a definite steampunk work, though it does feature a nineteenth century setting and a Calculating Man made from glass, brass, and clockwork). And this, finally, leads to the point of today’s blog: when we create something that doesn’t fit into a preconceived set of values or opinions, do we create something more imaginative, something more enjoyable, something ‘better’?

After all, if we sit down and say, ‘I’m going to write a western,’ we immediately limit ourselves to a certain set of rules; cowboys, the sheriff, high noon etc.  Even in a wider context we still do this – consider the British Empire. Immediately, our thoughts are channelled into a few well-established streams; it was good/bad, it did this, it caused that etc. So when we sit down to write steampunk, do we similarly limit ourselves to predetermined rules and thus a predetermined outcome?

I am in no way a steampunk expert, but I do know that it is now a genre, and genres often feed off themselves and in doing so they can lose originality. Witness the ‘steampunkiness’ of Doctor Who over the years, in which the past was represented by the Doctor with his Victorian/Edwardian clothing and old fashioned heroism, while the TARDIS was the new world of technology. Together they were incongruous, yet they worked. Now compare that to the modern day version, where deliberate quirkiness is forced into the concept, and you can see quite a shift in our creativity; we are retro-eccentric for the sake of it, rather than because it just happens to fit the artistic demands of the story.

Does this sort of thing limit us? And if so, is this true to the spirit of steampunk, which theoretically has no limits other than being set in an alternative, tech-heavy past? Are we now creating steampunk rather than creating something that can be labelled (often retrospectively) as steampunk? If we are starting with the intention that there will be warlords, airships, unconventional heroines, modern technology enclosed in Victorian aesthetic design etc, does this mean that we are sealing ourselves into a self-replicating loop?

I’m guilty of doing exactly this, incidentally, in that I’m writing a story inspired by Charles Stross’ blog complaining that the genre isn’t realistic enough about the horrors of the Victorian era. From this infamous rant, an idea lodged in my head about creating a steampunk story that does show the appalling social conditions of the Victorian age, and hence was born my work in progress, Steampunk Imperialism. However, I fear I am working to Mr. Stross’ agenda as to what the genre should be. I also fear that in trying to create a recognisable steampunk story I am heading through the door marked ‘Conventional’ rather than the door marked ‘Innovative’.

Given the individual artistic craft that goes into creating a steampunk-style computer, dress, or ray gun, it would be ironic indeed if we are succumbing to a rigid mindset on what is, and isn’t, acceptable. Is steampunk’s success going to be its downfall? Would it really make a difference if you could buy steampunk off the shelf in a supermarket? Is Steampunk really in danger of becoming SteamcorporateTM?

Of course, even is this is true, and I do emphasise I am only speculating here, you may well think it doesn’t matter, and you could be right. Some great things can still be achieved within the well-defined parameters of a genre, and in any case, it depends on what you want to do; are you writing a Dickensian tale of misery designed to show the inequality of Victorian life, or are you creating an adventure romp, or something which can inspire young readers, or something else again? There’s no law on this, just personal likes and dislikes.

Is Romanticism Lost a better work for not being bogged down in the minutiae of being a particular type of fiction? Or will Steampunk Imperialism be superior for having a definite genre and philosophy? (It certainly helps that I am interested in the Victorian age, although I am out of my comfort zone in setting the story at the start of the Victorian era rather than the fin-de-siècle). In the end, I suppose it all depends on the individual. And if that isn’t steampunk, I don’t know what is.

Speculation over, and I still haven’t reached a conclusion, but I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and, more importantly, I also hope you continue to enjoy steampunk for many years to come, no matter what guise is presents itself under.

Romanticism Lost can be purchased direct from Double Dragon Publishing, or from third party retailers such as Kindle. My YA werewolf tale The Wolves of Androcolus will be available from BloodMoonPublishing.com shortly, under my pen name Barnabas Corbin. Steampunk Imperialism will hopefully appear one day, assuming it doesn’t depress me to the extent that I give up on it.

–Jon Heartless

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First off, there’s still time to register for my writing YA class, which starts Feb. 14th. Details here.

Second off, I have the winners of the two copies of The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book 1. The winners are…

Alden Ash and Heather Hiestand

Alden and Heather please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize. Winners of Anya Bast’s Raven’s Quest will be anounced Monday.

Today we welcome Middle Grade Author David Burton who’s going to tell us about his new steampunk adventure for kids, Scourge (and giveaway some copies, too.)

ScourgeFirst, can you tell us a little about yourself and your latest steampunk creation?

Gladly! I was born in Windsor, Ontario (just across the river from Detroit) to parents who encouraged me to read from a very young age. I graduated from the University of Toronto with a major in Biology and a minor in Classical Civilization. I currently live near Toronto with my same-sex partner and our three boys (we adopted three brothers three years ago). And we have one basset hound that keeps us all in check. 🙂

Scourge is a middle-grade (ages 9-12) novel that is the first in a series. It centers around a young boy and his family that travel to the world of Verne. Naturally, there are dirigibles, goggles (my favorite part!), and absinth.

Here’s the blurb and the book trailer:

Two dads, five siblings, and goggles!

Grim Doyle has always known his life was not exactly “normal”, and things get even more curious when he discovers a set of stones that sweep him and his family to the fantasy, steampunk world of Verne – a place they had escaped from years ago. Now that they’ve returned, Grim and his siblings hide from the evil Lord Victor and his minions. And while learning about Jinns, Mystics, and the power of absinth they try to discover who is trying to kill them with the deadly Scourge.

Why did you choose steampunk as a genre?

For most of my life I would have considered myself more of a fantasy reader/writer. But looking back, prior to adopting our children I was a Final Fantasy addict for two decades, so a steampunk influence has been in my life a long time. In fact, that’s probably the greatest influence when it comes to this book (other than my boys, that is!). When we adopted our boys I watched what really got them hooked and that’s when I realized that I should go back to my roots and not focus solely on fantasy as a genre. Incorporating steampunk with fantasy was the perfect mix and it really allowed me to stretch my imagination for this series.

Why did you write it for middle grade?

There are great works out there in the YA category: Boneshaker, The Windup Girl, Leviathan, Soulless (and thankfully because of these, I think the steampunk genre is really taking off), but there isn’t as much in the middle-grade arena. Pullman’s His Dark Materials series is wonderful, but I thought there needed to be more. Fortunately, the voice of the narrative seemed to come out in a middle-grade format when I started writing it, so it worked out well.

Can you share with us a scene from Scourge?

Here’s a scene when Grim takes it upon himself to try to find a cure for the Scourge:

The streets were bare. The lampposts gave off a bluish-white light that reflected off the slickened streets. The moisture in the air settled into Grim’s bones. There were no moons or stars in the sky. The thick cloud cover had taken care of that. Yet despite the lack of life on the street, Grim couldn’t help but feel that there was something there, watching him. He looked for the strange bird that he had seen across the street, or the cloaked man.

There was nothing.

He stopped. A couple of sewer rats scampered across the road behind him. An alley cat, or maybe it was Pringles, was perched upon a steel railing. It paid him no heed, more interested in the rats.

Grim moved on, determined to make haste. He pulled his jacket about him to ward off the night’s chill. Three small dirigibles sped overhead.

He looked at the street signs, one at a time, yet none were Absolution Street. And none of the buildings had signs that read The Green Fairy.

Grim ducked into an alley at the sound of something coming up the street. One pair of boots and a walking stick that tapped the ground at a hurried pace. He stuffed himself between some old crates that smelled like bad cabbage and waited.

The footsteps turned into the alley towards him, and Grim shuffled back, trying to catch a glimpse of whoever was coming. All he could see were shiny boots and a pointed walking stick.

Grim turned and ran, twisting and winding through alleys. The footsteps continued behind him.

The passageways funneled Grim between large buildings, yet never seemed to lead him anywhere, or at least not to any street. It became a maze of darkened laneways and slippery cobblestone corridors. He tried various doors.

All locked.

The footsteps quickened. Grim ran, his feet sliding.

Until finally he came upon a door. On it was a metal emblem of a girl with emerald wings.

He yanked on it, and it opened.

Then a large, meaty hand reached out and tugged Grimwald Doyle inside.

Billy BonesSo what’s next for you?

Currently, I’m working on another children’s novel that I’m posting live at my blog as I write it called Billy Bones: Beyond the Grave. I’m also releasing a paranormal romance novel in the spring titled Broken, and I have a dark fantasy novel I released last year called The Second Coming. Naturally, I’m trying to work in the next of the Grim Doyle series as well. 🙂

You’re offering to do a giveaway. Can you tell us about that?

At my site, I offer an electronic version (ebook) of my novels with a dedication page, addressed to the purchaser, that is autographed by me. I also substitute the name of one of the minor characters in the book with the name of the purchaser. It makes for a unique version of the book for those that want it. So I’ll be giving away 3 of these for Scourge. I’ll let you handle the rules for the giveaway. 🙂
Good luck to those that enter, and thanks so much for having me here!!

Cheers!

David
http://davidhburton.com

Want to win one of three of these unique ebooks (for you or someone else)? Just comment here and three lucky people will be chosen at random. Open internationally. Contest closes Sunday, Feb 20th. 2011 at midnight PST. Good luck!

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Today we welcome Lia Keyes.

Lia Keyes is a British expat Young Adult writer,represented by Laura Rennert (Andrea Brown Literary Agency). She’s the founder of The Steampunk Writers & Artists Guild, co-editor of a Steampunk Shakespeare anthology to be published by Flying Pen Press in 2011, and is currently assisting in the production of four non-fiction books to be published over the next two years. She lives in California with her son, two cats, an Irish Red & White setter with a fondness for smoked salmon, and over 5,ooo books.

By Lia Keyes

Steampunks are an affable lot. They don’t lurk in dark corners, bemoaning their fate in the world. They get out and party. They’re outgoing, rollicking networkers—gregarious, eccentric and fabulously dressed.

So how does that work if you’re a writer of Steampunk fiction, a profession which demands many hours spent alone, dreaming up wild worlds? How do writers make time for conventions, balls and exhibitions when there’s a deadline to meet? This was something that frustrated me until I started The Steampunk Writers & Artists Guild (S.W.A.G) in early November 2010, and invited the party into my study. Now, I have only to log in to S.W.A.G to participate in fascinating debates, network with other Steampunk writers, ask for help with knotty writing problems, and share news when something cool happens. Our members come from all over the world, from notable Brazilian writers to talents from the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Our flying start wouldn’t have been possible without the passionate support of our members and we’re grateful for all the Steampunk community has done to promote the Guild. The Airship Ambassador and Steampunk.com are tireless, and Tor Steampunk, Pyr Books, and Flying Pen Press have all put their shoulders into getting the word out across the aethernet.

We’re currently collaborating with Flying Pen Press on an anthology of Steampunk adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. The first submissions have delighted us and we’re looking forward to reading many more before the May 1st deadline.

We are also dedicated to the promotion of our members’ work via author panels and social media.

All this is well and good, but it’s the generation of a close relationship between writers, illustrators and publishers which is the true gold of the Steampunk Writers & Artists Guild, providing an opportunity to support each other through the process of writing, from conception to marketing. It not only provides an open dialogue about what Steampunk actually is, but the chance to shape what it becomes.

A recent forum discussion asked:

“Many books have been declared Steampunk that one might argue would more comfortably fit into other speculative fiction genres. Which do you think are the elements that define a Steampunk novel?”

David Major kicked off the debate:

“There needs to be some consideration of a dislocation or tension between humans and their environment, and this dislocation must be addressed in some way by technology. So, the air is bad? Your character wears a pressure suit, or mask, the more unwieldy the better. Communicating over distance? A clunky, oversized, clockwork-powered radio. Want to write something down? A pen that requires several actions just to get started, preferably with some hissing of gas-powered components.

So, the relationship between humans and their world becomes a complex field in itself, in which all manner of technology-based solutions and experiments can knock themselves out.

Gail Carriger’s Soulless had less of it (but it was still there to some extent) — Soulless was more a story of vampires, golems, and general (and glorious) Jane Austenesque excesses, and it was so well written that whether it was classic steampunk was beside the point. Soulless could be described as ‘parasolpunk’, I think…

The Halfmade World, which I’ve just finished, was totally based on this idea of tech vs environment, and it was done brilliantly. Probably the best steampunk novel I’ve read so far. Great characters, solid writing, and a relentless plot. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”

Gail Gray, author, artist, and editor of Fissure Magazine:

“David, I agree with your concept of the tension and dislocation between humans and their environment, but as an author who may fall more into the area of “parasolpunk,” (I really like your term), I do feature technology in my work, but focus more on how characters react to the use of the technology and it’s effects when in unethical hands. I may be considered one of those writers who use the “trappings of the technology” to elaborate on character interaction, so my work doesn’t really fit into the Sc Fi approach. In my personal reading, I prefer a less intensive look at the mechanics. I’ve purchased too many books where I got bogged down in the mechanical descriptions.

On a separate note, I’d be curious to see how the group looks at the overuse and detailed descriptions of violence. As the editor of Fissure magazine, a venue for experimental writing, I received an overabundance of submissions where the writers considered extreme violence to be their experimental angle. This was not only disturbing, but I also saw it as a way of the writer’s bailing out on using their imagination. That’s why I turned to steampunk. There are so many imaginative ways to treat the genre. Recently, in a few of the novels I’ve purchased, the violent descriptions overtook the plot line and technology. Yes, there should be room for everyone’s tastes, but in the lack of reviews on many steampunk books. I’d love to see more see more “categories” so we purchase the books we enjoy reading, as opposed to those we put down early in the story.

In my personal steampunk writing, I am more influenced by the darker psychological side of tales set in the Victorian era, such as Daphne Du Maurier’s, as opposed to the more scientific approach, yet I don’t consider myself a romance writer. (I continuously check with my writer’s critique group to assure I don’t go there.) I’ve previously written dark urban fantasy and magical realism and I’m sure some of that bleeds over into my work. So I’d like to see the genre stay open to interpretation and leave room for readers and authors of all inclinations.

I’d love to hear more about authors on the Steampunk Writers Guild as to their ideas on this subject, since at this time, it all seems so wide open.”

Paul Marlowe:

“There’s a natural tendency to want to pin down things into exact categories that can be defined by certain characteristics, but I think that’s more useful for publishers’ marketing committees (and for literary critics) than it is for writers. Writers start with ideas that excite and interest them, and then later might attach labels to what they’ve created.

Broadly speaking, I think Steampunk is speculative fiction connected to the era dominated by steam technology, and that should include many things: alternate history, science fiction, fantasy, the paranormal, and so on. But it needn’t concentrate on steam technology. The Steampunk label was invented to describe Victorian-set fiction written by people with a taste for Victorian literature who created stories that had an off-beat, non-realistic angle to them, making them not really historical fiction. Since then, it has gone on to include other things too.

To say that any particular theme needs to be present in a story in order for it to qualify as Steampunk would, I think, be unnecessarily restrictive.”

Meg Winikates:

I essentially ended up sliding sideways into the world of steampunk from the world of historical fantasy (Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, Susannah Clarke’s books, Sorcery and Cecilia, etc.) so it’s quite likely that those books have influenced my preferences where steampunk stories are concerned. I find that the elements which really categorize the idea of steampunk for me include 1) an underlying sense of optimism in the ingenuity of humanity to solve problems even in what may seem a dystopic society 2) good old-fashioned ‘adventure’ 3) unusual, not to say anachronistic technology 4) some kind of kinship with (despite departure from) Earth’s actual history. I like best the sorts of stories which incorporate recognizable historic figures or events and then take an interesting tangent off from what we know.

That said, one of my current projects is a steampunk Sleeping Beauty, so clearly I’m not into restricting the genre either. *wry grin*

Andrew P. Mayer (author, Pyr Books)

“[Insert]Punk Genres generally are, I think, punk because of the DIY aesthetic. Looking at Cyberpunk for example, it’s about what happens when powerful technology falls into the hands of the masses. It’s not just what it *is*, it’s what you *do* with it.

In the case of Steampunk in particular that’s driven it’s an idealized “never was” world, where we take elements of the past and filter them through our own cultural perceptions. IE, we are putting our methods of production into the hands of the people of a previous world. (More or less, depending on the author.)

One other thing I’m trying hard to get into my books is what I call “the quest for authenticity”. If you look at the maker apsects (costumes and craft projects) you’ll see that a great deal of what makes Steampunk resonate for people is the idea of something handcrafted and personal in a world of mass-produced items. It also has an obsession with materials that are far less easier to manipulate and craft than plastic such as brass, leather, and steel.”

Gail Gray responded:

Authenticity, Andrew, that’s the word I’ve been looking for and it hadn’t come to mind, despite my 20-year long study of Carl Jung. I’ve been asked to write an article on the psychology of steampunk, and after a few drafts am getting close, but I kept missing something, could see a void, but couldn’t figure out what it was. I needed a word that encapsuled the human need that drives us to such things as steampunk – and that’s it. Thanks!”

The Guild’s site isn’t the only way you can interact with SWAG members. The Guild hosts a weekly Friday chat on Twitter using the #SteampunkChat hashtag. Our latest chat, hosted and introduced by @jhameia, discussed Steampunk and Revolution, and if you’d like to hear what author Scott Westerfeld had to say, the transcript is available on the chat’s website.

As fun as these get-togethers are, it is this kind of ongoing dialogue between writers, illustrators and publishers that will encourage Steampunk’s growth, evolution, and staying power in a society with a short attention span, all too given to moving on to the next hot thing.

~Lia Keyes

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Today we welcome  Clay and Susan Griffith authors of THE GREYFRIAR: VAMPIRE EMPIRE Book1, which came out from Pyr Books, in November of  2010.  Yes, Steampunk Vampires.  (I need a little fanged smiley face to put here.)  TWO lucky posters (yes, two) will win a copy of the book (US only please)

So You Wrote a Steampunk Novel?

By Clay & Susan Griffith

Yes.

Well, no.

Sort of.

First of all, Hello. We are Clay and Susan Griffith, authors of The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book 1. Thanks to Suzanne for inviting us to submit a guest blog. We’re frequent visitors here, and we want to take a few minutes of your time to talk about how we came to publish a steampunk novel when we didn’t really write a steampunk novel.

Since the time The Greyfriar was released in November 2010, it has been placed in a lot of categories and genres. Vampire. Fantasy. Paranormal romance. Pulp. Adventure. Alternate history. Young adult.

And, yes, Steampunk.

It seems like almost every reader starts with different assumptions about the book’s genre based on the title or the cover or what they’ve heard about it. Countless reviews begin with –

“I was tired of vampire novels, but…”

“I don’t read young adult, but…”

“Romance isn’t my thing, but…”

“I’d never heard of steampunk, but…”

Fortunately, the vast majority of those reviews have ended up at the same spot – with a book that surprised and pleased the reader. However, the category confusion over The Greyfriar is not surprising. The book was never intended to be just a vampire novel or a romance novel or a young adult novel, or even a steampunk novel.

The genre blending in The Greyfriar was purposeful. We did it because we love all those genres and wanted to work with those story elements. We’ve been very fortunate that it has been well received. It’s been gratifying that so many readers have found what they sought in our book (action, romance, horror, politics, cats, etc.), but they also discovered things they didn’t know they liked before (action, romance, horror, politics, cats, etc.), and particularly steampunk.’

We originally conceived Vampire Empire many years ago before the term “steampunk” was quite so well known as it is now. We didn’t set out to plot a “steampunk” story back then. Our book was meant to be an alternate history rooted in the Victorian Era. We were huge Victoriana buffs, and that was the period that best served the story. While writing, we always referred to the book as “neo-Victorian.” However, over the years, steampunk reached genre consciousness and, by the time we pitched the novel to agents in 2010, steampunk was not just a subgenre buzz word, it had become a bona fide target demographic.

So, just as we were finishing our neo-Victorian vampire romance pulp adventure novel, the neo-Victorian subculture became part and parcel of steampunk, and that genre achieved social critical mass.

So how does The Greyfriar qualify as steampunk? The book is set in a recognizable, but altered “Victorian” world. We were careful not to just write a fantasy novel and throw goggles on characters and darken the skies with airships. Never fear, there are airships and goggles, but they serve a purpose based on function, technology, and economy. We extrapolate new global technologies and geo-politics, given the realities of our vampire-altered world.

Here’s the background on the plot: In the 1870s, vampires destroy the industrial states of the northern hemisphere. Human refugees flee to the tropics (vampires abhor constant heat) and struggle to integrate with the indigenous societies they encounter there. The tropics experience more than a century of cultural tumult as cultures collide and coalesce and recreate themselves. The Greyfriar actually begins 150 years after the Great Killing, when the new human states of the equatorial regions have finally built their technology and societies to levels equivalent to the late 1800s. They are now prepared to wage war on the vampire clans of the north. Or so they think.

The Greyfriar is very much a neo-Victorian fantasy. But it is also a vampire novel. And a romance. And a pulp adventure. And, apparently, young adult.

We didn’t set out to write a steampunk novel. We wrote The Greyfriar, and the steampunk happened.

So, what’s the take-home message of this blog? One, if you like steampunk fiction (or adventure, vampires, romance, etc…), we certainly hope you’ll pick up The Greyfriar and give it a shot. Two, if you’re a writer, don’t write a “steampunk novel” by taking your detective story, or monster story, or romance story and throwing in all the brass gizmos and be-goggled archetypes you can think of. It won’t ring true. It’s like putting a cape on a cowboy and calling him a “superhero.”

Steampunk can give you a rich and marvelous worldview. It has a lot to offer setting, story, and characters. But let your world rise organically from the story you want to tell, and the characters you create. It may end up being as steampunkish as you’d hoped, and you’ll create some great steampunk police procedurals or steampunk horror or steampunk romance.

But, who knows, it may go in directions you didn’t expect, and you’ll have to come up with a new genre label.

With that in mind, what genres would you most like to get a steampunk treatment? And what are your favorite types of genre blending in general?

~ Clay & Susan Griffith

http://clayandsusangriffith.blogspot.com
http://twitter.com/clayandsusan

 

Two lucky posters will win copies of The Greyfriar (sorry, US only please.)  Contest closes Sunday, February 6th.  Winners will be announced February 7th, which will also kick off Fantastic February…More about that Monday.  

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