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Posts Tagged ‘Guest Thursday’

Today we welcome Zoë Archer and Nico Rosso!

Zoë Archer and her husband, romance author Nico Rosso, currently live in Los Angeles.  She and Nico share an office and get up periodically to take turns accosting the cats. When she isn’t writing or forcing herself to exercise, Zoë loves to read, bake, and tweet about boots and men in cravats (strictly as a service to her readers).

Nico: Thanks so much for having us today, Suzi! What a great way to wish my lovely wife, Zoë a happy birthday. Usually, I’d get her a pair of boots (which I did), but this year I also wanted to do something special for Zoë.  So I pulled a few strings and called in some favors from Her Majesty’s Aerial Navy and got us a ride along on a Man O’ War airship.

We were already in London consulting with Navy intelligence regarding their airship telegraph docking stations, so it was only a quick train ride to Newbury.  We arrived in the early morning, a low mist shrouding the giant hangars and scaffolds where the airships were built and repaired.  Captain Christopher Redmond was gracious enough to welcome us onto the Demeter and from there, we were off.

Zoë:  Having never been aboard an actual airship before, I was thrilled when Captain Redmond offered us a tour of the Demeter.  We were joined on the tour by his charming wife, Louisa.  It seemed unusual for a woman to be aboard a ship of war, but Mrs. Shaw seemed as much a member of the crew as anyone else—though her role on the ship was somewhat mysterious.  She gave us goggles to protect our eyes when above deck.

The cool air rushed around us as we stood upon the deck, seeing the patchwork of green below us and the wide expanse of cloud-dotted sky overhead.  The view, you can well imagine, took my breath away.  As I’m slightly afraid of heights, I made sure to keep my hand firmly within Nico’s while we took our tour.  But I’d never complain about having to hold Nico’s hand!

We saw the telumium panels bolted to various parts of the ship’s interior.  Captain Redmond’s telumium implants were hidden beneath his uniform, yet we knew that the panels drew his energy toward the ship’s central battery.  The captain pointed out the tanks that collected the ether, which is  a byproduct of the transferral of energy.  This ether permits ships like the Demeter to fly.  Both Captain and Mrs. Redmond seemed perfectly acclimated to the process.  What a remarkable era in which we live!

N: While flying over the rolling hills we spotted another Man O’ War airship practicing maneuvers.  It wheeled and turned in the air nimbly, and I almost felt sorry for anyone who might be the target of its various ether-cannons and Gatling guns.  Skimming along with the ship were three smaller crafts, roughly the shape of a horse with a single rider.

Captain Redmond explained that they were Sky Chargers, part of the US Army’s cavalry. Mrs. Redmond added that they were training with the Man O’ Wars, though there was little hope in refining the cowboys from the West to fight like proper British soldiers. Yet she did admit that what they lacked in propriety, they made up for with fighting spirit.

A table was brought on deck and we all sat to a birthday luncheon for Zoë.  Spanish wine, Italian cheese, English beef.  The horizon spread out all around us as we dined.  The conversation floated as easily as the clouds the ship sometimes passed through.  A brass cylinder about fourteen inches tall was brought to the table.  Captain Redmond cranked a small handle on the side and set the internal machine to action.  It boiled water, brewed tea, then poured the perfect cup for each of us through a discrete spout.  More amazing than the device were the French pastries we had for dessert.

Z: As a lover of all things sweet, I was delighted by the offerings. Once we’d finished dessert, the captain showed us the galley, where the cook proudly showed off a clockwork pastry-making device. One simply had to pour the flour, butter, and sugar into a bowl, wind the machine, and it not only mixed the ingredients into a dough, but rolled it out into the perfect thickness for an elegant pastry.  Mrs. Redmond confessed that it was she who urged the cook to obtain this device, showing her to be a woman of excellent character.

After this, Captain Redmond admitted that the Demeter would be setting off on another mission within the hour.  Our time aboard the airship had come to a close.  Nico and I thanked Captain and Mrs. Redmond for their hospitality, and thanked the crew as well for keeping the skies safe.  We rode back to solid ground in an ether-powered jolly boat, then watched as the Demeter flew west, chasing the setting sun.

It was a wonderful, steampunk birthday.

So, our question to you is this: if you could have a birthday steampunk adventure, what would it be?  One commenter will win digital copies of SKIES OF FIRE and NIGHT OF FIRE.

***
SKIES OF FIRE: The Ether Chronicles can be found here:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Powells
All Romance eBooks
Books-A-Million

Zoë can be found here:
website
Twitter
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NIGHT OF FIRE: The Ether Chronicles can be found here:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Indie Bound

Nico can be found here:
Website
Twitter
Facebook

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Today we welcome author Nick Harkaway. His new novel ANGELMAKER is a “blistering gangster noir meets howling absurdist comedy as the forces of good square off against the forces of evil, and only an unassuming clockwork repairman and an octogenarian former superspy can save the world from total destruction.”

Nick Harkaway was born in 1972, a distinction he shares with Carmen Electra (allegedly), a collection of indifferent wines, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album, and a company which makes guttering in Pietermaritzburg. He is tall and has a shaggy and unkempt look about him which even the best grooming products cannot entirely erase. His eyebrows were at one time wanted on a charge of ruckus and affray in the state of Utah, but this unhappy passage has now been resolved. He is the author of ANGELMAKER and THE GONE-AWAY WORLD, which was originally titled THE WAGES OF GONZO LUBITSCH– a name which still occasionally crops up on Amazon lists. The new title was adopted because no one could pronounce the old one, and because while he originally intended people to think of Gonzo the Muppet, it was apparent that a majority of readers defaulted to Hunter S. Thompson instead.

Hi Nick, welcome to STEAMED. ANGELMAKER sounds both fun and facinating. Where did you get the ideas for this story?

Nick Harkaway: Everywhere. I get ideas from everything around me, all the time. In this case there was my own criminal granddad and his bent mates, who were the subject of all manner of tall and hilarious tales when I was growing up (but who were monstrous in person and whose company in the real world I was mercifully spared). Then there was the broken clockwork toy on the café table in Primrose Hill, and – inevitably – Jules Verne’s submarine. There were Capra’s movies and my friend Tom’s observation that villains are more interesting than heroes because villains are always launching a revolution where heroes are proponents of the often-miserable status quo. There was Al-Mas’udi’s recounting of the history of Manfarqalas the war elephant of Mansura, and there was an article in the Independent about a despised and utterly blameless ethnicity in southern Europe.

Is ANGELMAKER more character-driven or plot-driven or both? How so?

Nick: The separation is a false one; in any story, you come to know the characters by what they do and feel in the context of the events which unfold. At the same time the more they become involved in those events the more they influence them and the whole thing unrolls together. Style is in there, too – the voice is derived from and partially constrains what can happen and how it can be told; it gives mood to the perceptions of the characters and determines whether we see them from within or without, whether we sympathize or mock. You can’t ultimately separate these things from one another – though it’s fashionable in some circles to try to snip one part away to look at it in depth, that approach inevitably misses a large part of what’s going on.

Here at STEAMED, we love to read book about awesome women. What kind of heroine do you have and how does she relate to the hero?

Nick: There are three central women in this story: Edie Banister, who when we first meet her is retired and 90-odd years old, but who in her youth was a full-blown James Bond-style secret agent for the British Government’s most clandestine service. Young Edie is dryly ironic, desperate to escape her boring existence, physical and smart. Old Edie is complex, her young self still burning inside her. Along the road she’s fallen in love, fallen out of love with her government and her previous profession, and won and lost a lot. I love them both: Young Edie would have broken my heart, Old Edie would inspire my delight and admiration.

Then there’s Frankie, the mathematician whose genius is at the heart of the drama, who is abrupt, wounded, and brilliant.

And finally there’s Polly the Bold Receptionist. Polly has the hardest job from a story point of view – she has to be a person despite having a lot of jobs in the narrative. She’s sexy, somewhat offbeat and unpredictable, dangerous and determined. I worried that she didn’t get enough time to show her colours in the book, but I got a tweet from someone this morning saying how much they wanted to be her, so I’m happy.

Since many of us here at STEAMED write romance, we tend to love a good HEA. How important is a happy-ever-after in your writing?

Nick: I like a story to come to an end in a way which doesn’t make you want to go out and throw yourself under a bus. I also don’t really get along with unresolved endings. I feel if I’m a reader I’ve invested a lot of time and emotional energy in a book and I’m owed some kind of payoff. I don’t really accept that doubt and angst are a payoff, though I know intellectually that some books are about those things and the ending must reflect that.

Even so.

So my stories have happy or happy-ish endings in general; I figure by the time they reach the end my heroes tend to have been through the mangle and they’ve entertained us and fought for us and made us care and they deserve a break. I don’t like things too pat, though, so it’s not so much happily ever after as happy now, more to do, which I think is all any of us gets.

That said, I don’t do sequels. I read a sequel once to a book in which the hero clearly died at the end of the first story, and the new book started ‘but he did not die’ and proceeded to mess up his life again for three hundred pages and I just thought: that’s mean. It’s just frankly unkind to the guy.

Do you have any villains? And how do they relate to your hero and heroine?

Nick: Oh, you’ve got to have a good villain. I have a couple, and they are villainous! The villain defines the action and the nature of the story at least as much as the hero. Who’s the main character in Star Wars? Luke Skywalker. Who defines the action? Darth Vader. He’s at the heart of it all.

So my villains are like that. They are the instigators, the hidden hands which must be revealed, the stalking scary bad which comes at you from the dark. How do they relate to my heroes? They hate them. They hate them with a burning, fiery passion.

It’s always so interested to hear about how people balance life and writing. Can you share with us your writing schedule?

Nick: Sure. It’s not complicated. My wife goes to her office at around 8am, and I write from then until when she comes home, with a break for lunch. I say “write”, but I don’t mean that I necessarily bang the keyboard all that time. It depends on how a book is working. Sometimes I read it back, edit with a pen, scribble ideas, stare into space, make tea… it’s all process.

Do you have any more projects in the work?

Nick: Of course! I always have more stuff in the works. I wrote a shorter novel while I was waiting for the edit on ANGELMAKER, so I have that to rework and sort out. Then I have a thriller in my mind which will be pretty scary. After that… there’s so much to do… we’ll see.

If readers want to know more about you and your writing, where on the web can they find you?

Nick: I am ubiquitous. The best thing to do is Google me and pick what you like. I’m on Twitter (@Harkaway) and Facebook – I have a professional Page there, I’m trying to wean people off my personal page because it basically doesn’t get used much any more and it doesn’t get the announcements and stuff – and tumblr (www.Harkaway.tumblr.com) and I have my own site, due for a revamp this summer – www.nickharkaway.com – and I’m on Google +. Heck, I’m on Diaspora* – I’d love to move all my social media stuff there, but it’s not quite ready yet.

So, yeah, not hard to find.

Actually, that’s a good thing for me to ask you – what’s your favourite way of interacting with an author? It drives me crazy that most author sites are basically like old posters at bus stations – they’re flat announcements of information with very little depth. That’s why I love Twitter – because it’s fully interactive. But maybe that just makes me a niche social media person. Where would you most likely look for an author?

Thank you so much for coming, Nick!

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Today we welcome the Ladies of Mischief

Textile Arts — A Fascinating Frontier that Weds Form to Function and Design to Desire

By Blue Stocking-Reads For The Ladies of Mischief

From the shimmer of a fine silk to the rough heft of homespun wool to the smallest and laciest of unmentionables, textiles bind our lives together. And not just ours: Human beings have been weaving and stitching, spinning and sewing, for millennia, back to prehistoric days and up to today. The Egyptians had their thin, fine linen shifts, and the Romans their bulky, urine-bleached wool togas (imagine that overwhelming smell on a hot day!) — although they only wore them on special occasions. And the Byzantine and Chinese courts dazzled with all the pageantry that legions of cloth artists could provide. From hundreds of types of tassels at the height of the French court to the intricate lace of Holland, textile arts had already reached an incredibly high level when “just” done by hand. By the time of the French Revolution, industrial-style factories with huge looms already existed to feed the ever-growing needs of the mercantile class. The march of the machine only intensified through the true age of steam and beyond.

But factory-issued doesn’t spell the end of handmade! The ladies of the Victorian era were indefatigable crafters, knitting and crocheting and tatting lace, creating dresses from patterns found in popular magazines like Peterson’s. (Go ahead and look through a recent issue of Cosmo to find a pattern for a handmade morning dress with lace collar. Go ahead. We’ll stay right here and wait for you to get back.)

Imagine reading an instruction for a knitted piece that said, simply: “cast on sufficient stitches for piece, knit in pattern to completion, bind off in pattern.” That’s the rawest pattern you may ever see!

Yet if a lady knew what she was doing — through years of expertise and practice — she could take that minimalist pattern and create something useful and beautiful.

The ladies of Mischief is a collective of knitters, crafters, artists, and steampunk enthusiasts who are creating a book to explore the amalgamation of knitting and steampunk. We are working hard to have this work completed by the spring.

The patterns in our book are more like the most fantastic, intricate creations the Victorians could dream of — complicated and delicate, beautiful and fine. Don’t worry — we will walk you through each step, row by row and line by line.

You won’t need a hand-cranked home sock machine, as some Victorian ladies used (although don’t let us discourage you from getting one… and modifying it to according to own designs, of course!).

All you need are the same forthright spirit of adventure that rises up to meet the call: “I am a puzzle to be solved, a pattern to be plumbed and understood, a challenge to be met!”

Join us in new adventures and let’s make textile history together!

~The Ladies of Mischief

http://theladiesofmischief.wordpress.com/

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Today we have Jane George, author and illustrator of the YA book, The Mumbo Jumbo Circus. 

Sideshow, Burlesque and Circus

by Jane George

“STEP RIGHT UP! DON’T BE SHY. THAT’S RIGHT FOLKS, WHAT’S INSIDE MUST BE SEEN TO BE BELIEVED!”

As a kid, I was exposed to such imaginative oddities as The Wild, Wild West TV show and The 7 Faces of Dr Lao.

These kinds of cultural influences wax and wane, and now the lure of the mysterious, the impossible, and the forbidden is stronger than ever.  The resurgence of interest in circus arts, sideshow and burlesque theater may be part of the same cultural backlash to beige-box consumerism that spawned Steampunk. Humans crave color, imagination and creative freedom.

Poster: Gemini & Scorpio

Intense explorations of cabaret/burlesque, circus, sideshow and Steampunk have popped up all around the country, from one night events like The Lost Circus Circus Meets Dark Cabaret With a Steampunk Twist in Brooklyn last year to on-going performances and dinner theater.  Just to name a few:

In Austin, Texas, The East Side Show Room serves up gourmet cuisine and vintage cocktails with a side of cabaret in a steampunky-circus atmosphere. For a Tim Burton meets the circus experience, there is Cirque Berzerk   in Los Angeles. And in San Francisco you can have, “Love, Chaos & Dinner,” in a tent with Teatro ZinZanni

While the delights of classic roadside attractions like The Thing are now few and far between, there are performers who are carrying on the tradition of Sideshow and the Ten-in-One.

Austin, Texas is also home to Noel Benedetti aka Ballyhoo Betty, a sideshow performer who specializes in fire arts.

Noel is blogmistress of www.HeyRubeCircus.com , a fantastic celebration of all things circus and sideshow. She is affiliated with 999 Eyes Freakshow, The Invisible Man Corporation, and The Surreal Sideshow.

Noel says this about her experience as a sideshow performer, “Aside from musical acts, people are relatively sheltered from live entertainment today and so people are typically unaware of the very visceral chemistry that can exist between performer and viewer. During a live sideshow, there is an interaction taking place, unlike the unidirectional consumption of most mass media, such as television. This dynamic often takes people by surprise, and you can see their eyes light up in response to this confrontation.”

In contrast to the hybrid theater/circus/cabaret blends that are gaining in popularity, Noel says this about her art, “While sideshow is often considered a radical or fringe culture, it is also heavily steeped in tradition. There are relatively few genuinely novel sideshow acts around today; people have been eating fire, swallowing swords and displaying anatomical oddities for centuries and tipping the hat to performers of the past has become a norm in the business.”

Photo: Jason Black

Noel suggested I look up a visual artist and sideshow performer named Jason Black, aka The Black Scorpion.  Among the venues he performs at is Coney Island’s Sideshows by the Seashore

A poem by Black describes The Black Scorpion:

A winged, performance Anti-Artist.

He, born a naked baby boy with irregular hands, unlike any other.

When him you see, understand you will.

Witnessing his Anti-Act is the longest day you will ever live.

Remember he is breathing for something onstage, and living the rest for his life.

That last line stays with you, doesn’t it? I’ll bet his act does too.

Current circus and sideshow acts could be be said to be more about individualism and creativity than about “Hey, Rube” hucksterism. This is especially true in the modern world of burlesque. A revival in burlesque and the art of the striptease happened in the Nineties and has been gaining in popularity ever since. Partly driven by a nostalgia for old-time glamor, modern burlesque is also a feminine reclaiming of the “male gaze,” often in intelligent and hilarious send-ups of the medium. Burlesque is theater, cabaret and performance art rolled into one.

photo: RJ Johnson, Hot Pink Feathers

Hot Pink Feathers   is a renowned, award-winning San Francisco Bay Area troupe that performs World Cabaret Showgirl dance. Founder and head Feather, Kellita, told me why she feels burlesque is so popular, “The heart of the matter is that burlesque is an art and a craft that puts the woman front and center, as performer and as producer. Audiences today are more heavily female than they used to be. Content is almost exclusively created by a woman for herself, and it often parodies her personal insecurities, transforming them into mainstays of joy and inspiration.  Burlesque is an art form that deserves its due. When it’s done right, a lot of craft goes into the art of slf-expression.”

Hot Pink Feathers is performing a Sally Rand-type showgirl routine, with feather fans and dripping-pearl bikinis, in San Francisco’s Carnavale Parade on  Sunday, May 29.  Say hello to them at the staging area 9am-12 at Bryant between 21st & 22nd.  Parade starts at noon. They can also be seen on the 2nd Saturday of every month at Café Van Kleef, where they perform with the Blue Bone Express brass band. Next show is June 11.

For a while now, circus arts have been making their way back to the more intimate, single ring circus. When I saw an equine show produced by Cirque du Soleil called Cheval Theatre, I could practically reach out and touch the horses. I definitely felt the whoosh as they galloped past my seat.

Poster: Circus Flora

A circus dedicated to this connection between performer and audience is Circus Flora in St. Louis. Circus Flora weaves a theatrical storyline through their classical circus acts. From their site, “The artistry, magic and charm of Circus Flora’s performances have made it part of the vanguard of the “new circus” movement in North America.”The artistry, magic and charm of Circus Flora’s performances have made it part of the vanguard of the “new circus” The theme of their performances changes annually. This year it’s a Victorian-era riverboat theme entitled Vagabond Adventures.

“Circus Flora is about performance, not spectacle. Circus Flora concentrates on displaying the individual talents and personalities of human and animal performers highlighting their relationships to one another. It’s a circus about family, beauty, magic and inspiration.”  Ivor David Balding

That quote could have been written about my recently-released, young adult fantasy, The Mumbo Jumbo Circus. It describes the themes of my novel perfectly. One random commenter will receive a paperback of The Mumbo Jumbo Circus. Step Right Up! into the world of human possibility that is this writer’s imagination.

Freedom, creativity and individualism are hallmarks of modern sideshow, burlesque, cabaret, and circus arts. Just like the relationship between author and reader, the magic is in the point of connection. I like to think of a circus ring as a sacred circle of human possibility. Happy performing, in whatever you do!

 ~Jane George

What do you love most about the circus? 

Jane is giving away a copy of The Mumbo Jumbo Circus to one lucky commenter (North America only please).   Contest ends 11:59 PM PST  June 1, 2011.

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We’ve got a prize to give away first off today, the lovely pocket watch from Steampunk Threads.   If you don’t win a new contest starts Monday.

The winner of the pocket watch is…

skylarkade

Congrats!  Please email me to claim your prize.  (Suzannelazear (@) hotmail

Today we welcome author David Boop.

David Boop is a Denver-based single parent, full-time employee, returning college student, oh, and yes, and author. His first novel, the sci-fi/noir “She Murdered Me with Science” came out in ’08. He has over a dozen short stories and two short films to his credit. He’s written in several genres, including weird westerns. His weirdest job was professional Beetlejuice impersonator. You can find out more on his website, www.davidboop.com.

Meanwhile… On the Other Side of the World.

By David Boop

“Doc’s Alive! And he’s in the Old West!”

While technically a comedy with shades of steampunk (“Ice Tea?”) and science-fiction (It’s not a hold-up, “It’s a science experiment!”) Back to the Future III gave many of my generation their first taste of a weird western.

However, some of us were fortunate enough to have discovered the weird western concept via comics, pulps, film serials or television many years before. I can remember sitting as a little whipper-snapper glued to the TV as cowboys lassoed a dinosaur in The Valley of Gwangi. As easily as I accepted that, I was more than ready to launch into the James Bond-esque world of post-Civil War western intrigue with the original The Wild, Wild West TV series (not the horrible remake.)

As to what makes a weird western, for the uninitiated, it is a gentle blending of non-western elements into the classic western tale. In Jonah Hex, the original comic book character was given the “mark of the demon” which eventually led to him being able to communicate with the dead. In Once Upon a Time in the East by Lionel Fenn, an outlaw is dragged through time in an attempt to find redemption. I’ve read weird westerns with aliens, zombies, robots and magic. The trick to good weird western writing is not to overpower the story with too many non-elements so that the core genre changes from western to something else.

Weird westerns are to steampunk what Star Trek: The Original Series is to Star Wars; the less sophisticated, country cousin come acallin’. While Victorians were having tea and riding in airships as they fought off sky pirates, on the other side of the planet, cowboys were drinkin’ moonshine on a train and battling an undersea invasions from Atlantis. Victorian England and Western Expansion happen roughly about the same time period, so it was only natural that the cousins would meet, marry in classic Jerry Lee Lewis fashion, and produce weird western steampunk fiction, such as Cheri Priest’s marvelous Dreadnought and Mike Resnick’s delightful The Buntline Special.

My own weird western writing started with a little mystery involving the ghost of an outlaw having to investigate and avenge his own death. “The Rag Doll Kid” was picked up by Tales of the Talisman Magazine, and will see a reprint in May within How the West was Weird Vol. 2. I created a fictional town of Drowned Horse, AZ for the piece, so when I was invited to submit to Science Fiction Trails Magazine I set my next piece, “Grismel Guffyfeld’s Quick Drawatorium,” in the same location. I decided to make this town the nexus of weird stuff, and have now three pieces set there. “Bleeding the Bank Dry,” about a vampire hired to pull a bank robbery, was released last year in Six-Guns Straight from Hell. I hope to release a collection called The Drowned Horse Chronicle, taking the reader through an eighty year history of the town from creation to destruction.

This is a good time for the weird western. In addition to the much anticipated, Cowboys and Aliens, Ron Moore, the force behind the Galactica reboot, is rebooting The Wild, Wild West. (I have no doubt Artemis Gordon will end up being a woman, which actually makes sense.) In addition, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series will finally be adapted into both film and television.

So, strap on some irons and jump on your robot steed. We’re in for one hell of a wild ride!

-David Boop

www.davidboop.com

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Today we welcome back Scott Westerfeld, author of the Steampunk YA adventure books Leviathan and Behemoth. He’s written a variety of other YA books, including the Uglies series. Behemoth, book two in the Leviathan series, was released October 5, 2010.

Steampunk has been expanding steadily. Not just in the sense of visibility and sales, but in terms of settings, backdrops, and milieus. In other words, our sub-generic headquarters may still be found in London, but, like the Victorians themselves, we have outposts all over the globe. Cherie Priest’s Hugo-nominated Boneshaker is set in Seattle. Ten years ago Jan Lars Jensen’s Shiva 3000 featured steam-powered Hindu gods. Countless manga titles bring steampunk to Japan, and if you want see a great live-action Japanese steampunk film, check out K-20: Fiend of Twenty Faces. Readers of this blog can probably supply many more examples of steampunk’s promiscuous diversification in the comments.

But what has this to do with me? My Leviathan series is set in an alternate World War I, and all of book one transpired in Europe—namely London, Austria, and Switzerland. When the first book came to a close, however, our heroes were headed for Istanbul.

Turkey may be part of the European Union now, but in 1914 it was a different world. The Ottoman sultan was the Caliph, the secular ruler of Islam, and his empire stretched from Persia to (nominally) Egypt. The Ottomans had been at odds, culturally and militarily, with Christian Europe for centuries. By late 1914, though, both sides of the Great War had an interest in wooing the Ottomans over to their side. So I thought an airship trip to a steampunk Istanbul would be a great way to expand the world of the series.

For those of you who haven’t read Leviathan, the Great War is between the Clankers (Germanic machine users) and Darwinists (Charles discovered DNA in the 1860s, and created a sort of Victorian biotech). So we have steampunk mechanical walkers versus living machines like the eponymous airship, made from the life-threads of a whale. Leviathan is also illustrated, like any self-respecting novel would have been in 1914. The artist, Keith Thompson, created a style for each of the warring powers. The Clanker style is boxy and mechanical, the Darwinist style organic and sinuous. To show this distinction, I always use this Clanker walker compared with the captain’s desk aboard the Leviathan:

So when my characters traveled to Istanbul, Keith and I figured that the Ottomans needed their own style. Since they ultimately joined the Germans, we figured they had to be Clankers at heart. But they were on the fence for a few months in 1914, so I decided that Ottomans would make their machines in the form of animals, just to give the Darwinists a fighting chance. Thus the sultan’s power is based on an army of mechanical elephants:

This two-page image shows how rich Keith’s Clanker Istanbul is. We can see a minaret and mosque alongside the western-influenced residential architecture of the city, and in the background a pair of Iron Golems guarding a Jewish neighborhood. Istanbul in 1914 was a true multicultural city, so each religion has its own Clanker style. My favorite is possibly the Kurdish battle walker, based on the goddess Şahmeran, shown here in a Steamed World Exclusive!

One of the great things about illustrated books is how the themes in the text are reinforced by the art. In these last two images you can see the conflict that the Ottomans face: Are they steely, functional Clankers or sensuously styled Darwinists? They have bits of both, of course, so choosing sides in the great war won’t be easy.

Without being too spoiler-y, I’ll reveal that in the third book of the series, Goliath, His Majesty’s Airship Leviathan continues on its travels around the globe. There should be many more styles to discover along the way.

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Today we welcome author Philippa Ballantine!

Philippa Ballantine is a fantasy writer hailing from Wellington, New Zealand. In the coming year she will have three books hitting the real and virtual shelves. The first of which a supernatural fantasy (containing the odd airship and feisty heroine), GEIST from Ace Books will available in late October 2010—just in time for Halloween. Find out more at booksoftheorder.com and pjballantine.com

The First Ladies of Steam

By Philippa Ballantine

We often discuss steam, but today I’m taking the chance to talk about some punks to go with them.

This last weekend was the 117th year of woman’s suffrage in New Zealand—and of all the excellent things about my country that’s the one I am most proud of.

Yep, New Zealand women have been accused of being bossy, stroppy and overly independent. (Actually we have been accused of running the country—which we have done a couple of time.) However all of these are excellent attributes for a steampunk woman.

True, there were millions of proper women in Victorian and Edwardian society, drinking tea, and staying in their place—but we also shouldn’t forget that there were plenty of the other kind of women—the kind that risked their position in society, their health and their lives to go against the grain. What’s more punk than that?

When I was at WorldCon in Melbourne, I was on a steampunk panel—one on the future of the movement. It was argued that the genre doesn’t represent the true terribleness that did exist in that time period. While costumers make goggles, and authors write about airships, it was suggested we are largely ignoring the racism, colonialism and sexism that existed in that time. While there are plenty of stories to tell, and issues to explore as the genre continues to grow, there is some truth in that statement.

Now I admit—the kind of steampunk I like is fun. As the Brits would say, I enjoy a jolly good romp—but that doesn’t mean we can’t inject a little education into those very same stories.

The second book of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences I am writing with Tee Morris, is going to revolve to a large extent around the suffrage movement. While our suffragettes will be a little better equipped than their real life counterparts, their spirit will be drawn from the same place. (Still, it’s interesting to imagine what they could have done with the odd automaton or raygun to further their cause).

I am having great old time using actual suffragettes for the basis of our story—two in particular are loads of fun to give the steampunk treatment to.

Kate Sheppard is so famous in my home country she is on the ten-dollar bill—not bad for a chick that spent her adult life fighting to change the system. This charismatic woman was a powerhouse of energy and the leader of the suffrage movement in New Zealand. Without her the whole thing would have struggled to wrestle the vote from the hands of men. As it was it took three separate petitions and constant work to get the job done. Her determination and energy is something I feel like I am honouring—but then I give her a clock-work eye and ordnance system to go with it. (There is something awfully appealing about the gentile and lovely Kate with her own steampowered weaponry to really ram home the point to menfolk).

One suffragette from Britain is someone I might be afraid to give such devices to.

Lilian Lenton- oh my! If you have an impression that suffragettes were gentile ladies, who sat around drinking tea and painting signs, then you are in for a shock. This girl was born to shake things up. If I could steal anyone’s Wikipedia entry it would be hers.

…dancer, suffragist, arsonist and winner of a French Red Cross…

Quite a set of accomplishments! This lady was known for two things: setting fire to buildings, and making daring escapes from custody. The buildings she burnt were things like gazebos in the public gardens, but her escapes from home detention were nothing short of brilliant. The house where Lilian was under house arrest (recovering from the horrific practice of force feeding) was guarded by two police officers. A whole posse of suffragettes entered the house, then all dressed the same as her rushed out and scattered up the street taking her with them. Pure theatrical brilliance.

I mean what writer wouldn’t grab that as inspiration?

And what better basis for our female steampunk aviators, inventors and adventurers than the suffragettes? If we teach a little, or add a remembrance of how things actually were for women in the nineteenth century then all the better. If steampunk is a history that never was, then such people and such stories deserve a place in it.

Sure I am giving the suffragettes a little update, but their spirit and adventures remain the same. I like to think at least some of them (Hey Lilian!) would have approved—and I for one am dying to discover just what they would have accomplished with the right steampunk gadgets!


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