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Archive for the ‘multicultural’ Category

Today we welcome author Alison DeLuca. 

Alison DeLuca is a writer of urban fantasy for young adults.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.   As a teacher she taught every grade level in every kind of school district possible.  She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.

The Creation of the Governess 

by Alison DeLuca

My steampunk Crown Phoenix series is set in Edwardian England. One of the main characters, Mana, comes from an island country and has dark skin. This would be no big deal today, but in Edwardian England it would have been an interesting social situation, to say the least. Mana is one of my favorite characters that I ever created, and I hesitated over handling her place in English society.

I wanted her to be a real person, who had intelligence, beauty, and humor. I also wanted her to exist in a realistic society, although one that was filled with steampunk elements. Therefore, Mana had to face a level of prejudice that was abhorrent to write but necessary for the story. She had to overcome what would have been a natural attitude, sadly, at the time. It was a very difficult type of mental gymnastics: I wanted to create a sympathetic character that was strong in her own right and yet have her confront social morés and keep her dignity within a long, complicated plot.

As she developed a personality and characteristics, she started to win other characters over in the story. Her first conquest was the difficult, neglected daughter of a rich man, Miriam, who had become almost feral in disposition. Next were some of the servants in the house where Miriam and Mana lived, a very difficult thing to accomplish.

In The Night Watchman Express, Mana was viewed from the point of view of Miriam, the child, and that was a huge help to me as a writer. Children are prone to love easily, and as Miriam began to truly accept and respect Mana, her governess, the true character of the woman from the islands emerged. The girl admired Mana’s patience, neatness, and the way the governess never raised her voice and yet got people (Miriam included) to do what she asked.

It was a very delicate nuance to develop. I thoroughly enjoyed creating Mana, and I hope that one day you will invite her into your imagination as well.

 ~Alison DeLuca

 Fresh Pot of Tea blog http://alisondeluca.blogspot.com/
On Amazon http://amzn.to/p13tCl

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Maeve Alpin loves reading and writing about ancient times. It’s only natural she loves alternative history just as much. She had a lot of fun adding an ancient twist to the Victorian age in her Egyptian/Steampunk/Romance As Timeless As Stone by Lyrical Press. And her newest release, a Celtic/Steampunk/Romance, To Love A London Ghost by Eternal Press. She lives in Texas with her family; her grown son, her granddaughter, and her spoiled cat, Severus. Visit Maeve Alpin at http://MaeveAlpin.comt

Multicultural Steampunk by Maeve Alpin

As the hub of the industrial revolution, Victorian Britain and its culture will continue to be one of the strongest settings for Steampunk fiction. That said, it is not the only legitimate setting. After all, even Jules Verne’s most memorial character, Captain Nemo, mentioned more than western European aristocrats in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. “Do you think I’m unaware of the suffering people and oppressed races of this planet, the poor to be comforted, the victims to be avenged?” In our modern world most people share the Captain’s concerns and a trend toward multicultural Steampunk mirrors this.

One book that breaks out of the typical Steampunk mode is Cold Magic by Kate Elliot. The first book in her Spirit Walker trilogy focuses on Celtic and African Cultures. Another novel cultivating cultures other than those of Western Europe is The Burning Sky by Joseph Robert Lewis, the first book of the Halcyon Trilogy. This alternate history is set in exotic Morocco in the 16th century, a melting pot of the people of West Africa and the Mediterranean. It encompasses the Amazigh, Yoruba, Igbo, Mali, Spanish, and Persian cultures.

For Steampunk in an Irish setting try James White’s As Silent Stars Go By. In this alternative history, Ireland, the most powerful nation, launches a space flight to a new world, which includes their allies, the Redmen, the natives of north and South America. For more Steampunk exploration of ancient cultures, check out Maeve Alpin’s Steampunk/Romances. Though As Timeless As Stone is set in Paris, and the soon to be released As Timeless As Magic takes place in London, they both include an ancient Egyptian time traveler as a main character. Her brand new novel, To Love A London Ghost, coming October 7th features an unusual Steampunk heroine, a Celtic warrior ghost from the Iron Age, who died on the bank of the Thames fighting Julius Caesar.

Steampunk settings and ethnicities aren’t limited to Western Europe. After all, Steampunk is for everyone and the literature should emulate that.  The popular trend toward Multicultural Steampunk is sure to grow.

 Maeve is giving away a toy airship from the film The Golden Compass. Please comment below to enter.  Contest ends October 5th at 11:59 PM PST.  Open Internationally. 

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Before we get to today’s guest I have some winners to announce.

First we have the bag ‘o swag and books from RT.

Elaina Watler 

Next we have the copy of Colleen Gleason’s The Vampire Dimitri. 

Joelle Walker

We have two sets of The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack and The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder.

Clothdragon

Riva Laughlin

Finally, we have four copies of Andrew Mayer’s The Falling Machine.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Legends of Fantasy

Richard

Heather Hiestand

Congrats on  winning.  Please email me at suzannelazear(@) hotmail to claim your prize.

Didn’t win?  You can still win books by George Mann, Mike ResnickTim Akers,  or Ren Cummins, or a prize pack of goodies including a copy of Blameless and a fan autographed by Gail Carriger.

Today we’re going to touch on a very important subject.  A lot of people think “Steampunk” means Victorian.  But that’s not true, Steampunk doesn’t need to feel or be Victorian at all.  The great thing about Steampunk is that you can include people from all cultures and walks of life, Steampunk stories can be in any genre,  any place. 

But I’m not the best person to talk about this, so I’ve asked Jha Goh of the blog Silver Goggles to tell us more about race and Steampunk.

Steampunk Postcoloniality

by  Jha Goh

Hello, I’m Jha, and I’m a steampunk postcolonialist.

I talk about race and steampunk a lot.

I’m asked to talk about multicultural steampunk a lot too.

I’ve written about my problems with the term multiculturalism before. Namely, that I don’t think I’ve really seen it exist without a single dominant culture that overwhelms the non-dominant ones. This is not to say nobody tries (and in fact, promoting it is fairly integral to my work, so here is a site you should read!)

So today, I don’t really want to talk about those things. I’m a steampunk postcolonialist, and I want to talk about steampunk postcoloniality.

Steampunk, from the outside, looks like it’s all about Empire, you know? Charles Stross, famous very important science fiction literary figure, had a rant about it, which I think really points to two things: the ignorance of someone who’s not involved deeply in steampunk, and the impression steampunk is giving outsiders.

The first is easily ignored, or would be, if it wasn’t for the fact that shit like Stross’ rant makes us look bad, no matter how into steampunk we are. Steampunks glorify Empire, and Stross has the clout to spread this impression far and wide. We should be concerned about this.

We should also be concerned about the fact that this impression is one of the first that strangers and newcomers to steampunk get. Ask any one steampunk to define the genre, what do we get? Very often, the following words are part of the phrase: “19th century,” “Victorian,” “England.”

And there are, of course, purists who genuinely believe this. Amal El-Mohtar, whose story To Follow the Waves appears in Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories, received the criticism that her story wasn’t steampunk. Why? Because it’s not Victorian. (It’s set in a technofantastic Syria.)

Terminology matters. As much as I believe in being able to pin down specific boundaries and awesome easy terms, I also believe that many steampunks do not have an inclusive language that acknowledges the breadth and depth of steampunk—unless we’re talking about how far back our influences go (and many will cheerfully admit 19th century science fiction to the term, despite the fact that steampunk is a particularly modern concept).

And the current popular terminology used—“19th century,” “Victorian,” “England,”—signifies a very particular kind of steampunk: the steampunk associated with the glorification of Empire, a time of ruthless colonization, great poverty, gender inequality and burgeoning industrialization. At least once a month I see a comment that points to the imperialism that steampunk seemingly celebrates—it matters that this is what people immediately see when they come to steampunk. I don’t blame them. I resisted participating in steampunk for a long time too, because I just didn’t see a place for myself in it.

The work of postcolonialism is to examine the effects of colonialism, even after dominant powers have supposedly seceded. Through this work, we bring to light how colonialism has been embedded in the psyche of colonized peoples, so ubiquitous we don’t notice. We don’t notice when a developing country lionizes a First World country, passing it off merely as natural that of course, one would idolize the higher standard of living present in a First World country, without questioning where these standards come from, and why we think it’s a good idea to pursue those ideals in the first place.

My work in steampunk is two-fold: examine the effects of colonialism as it appears in steampunk, particularly white Eurocentric steampunk, and find little rupture points for those of us who have cultural histories of colonization.

Because, make no mistake, colonialism is present everywhere in steampunk: it’s when you go costuming and you find mostly English fashions with corsets and bustles; it’s when you go to a convention and you find mostly white people; it’s when you find that non-Euro steampunk is being performed by white people. Colonialism is present in the fact that the majority of high-profile names are white, or present as white.

Colonialism is also present in the fact that, when a person of color wants to represent his/her/hir own culture, the representation is blithely, thoughtlessly thrown up in accordance to and reinforcing the stereotypes that have permeated our understandings of racialized groups for so long. Commodification of your own culture does not get any more special meaning just because you’re a minority doing it, if it’s done for white people’s consumption.

Colonialism is also present in the fact that, when another person of color tries to do something more original, more true to one’s own culture, a white person can say, “actually, you’re getting it wrong,” without an inkling that this is microaggressively racist, ignoring the pain that comes along with knowing that one’s own culture is so devalued, one cannot do anything original with it without a powerful outsider saying, “you got your own culture wrong”.

Colonialism is present in the minds of people who will think, while reading this post, “you have a chip on your shoulder, dwelling on the past like that.” It’s also present in the minds of people who genuinely believe colonialism was a good thing, because it brought civilization (because, after all, there is only one standard by which to measure civilization).

Colonialism is present in the fact that I didn’t use to think like this, and that I wrote predominantly white people in my fantasy and science fiction since it just never occurred to me to write people who look like me (except in wuxia settings).

Nobody escapes it just because they’ve decided to adopt a fictional persona of a past that never was. That some folks think that so is magical thinking. It’s self-serving and delusional. Also, it hurts us who don’t get to leave behind our skin colour and other such ubiquitous problems with our personas.

I don’t expect steampunks to constantly be thinking about this issue while going about their fun. I certainly don’t myself. This shit is depressing. But I do expect more thoughtfulness about this issue. I want to see fewer dichotomies about how “other cultures are so much more interesting than mine” (I know you’re trying to be positive, but Other-ing is still Other-ing) and less explorers of the uncharted wilds (because, really, whose uncharted wilds are we talking about?). I want to see more panels and talks about historical landmarks like the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Opium Wars and the Sepoy Mutiny and the genocide of indigenous peoples that highlight the conflicts that Empire imperialism to the world. I want to see more people whose lived realities are affected by such events invited to speak and listened to.

More than that, I do not want anyone to stop there.

Thanks, Suzanna Lazear, for letting me have this space.

~Jha Goh

http://silver-goggles.blogspot.com/

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