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Posts Tagged ‘multicultural steampunk’

Today we welcome Jeannie Lin, who has awesome news to share with us. ~launches cupcake cannon~

the-sword-dancer-mediumJEANNIE LIN writes historical romances set in Tang Dynasty China. Her current release is The Sword Dancer, the first in a new series of romantic adventures involving the salt trade, corruption, and law and order in the 9th century. Her September release, The Lotus Palace, is a romance with a murder mystery set in the infamous Tang Dynasty pleasure quarter. She looks forward to moving a thousand years into the future with the Gunpowder Chronicles to create new worlds and new adventures.  

 

My Steampunk News or “Why I owe Suzanne Lazear a cupcake”

by Jeannie Lin

I thought it only fitting that I make this official announcement on “Steamed” as pretty much it’s Suzanne’s fault.

Flashback to the Romantic Times convention 2011:

I was in the lounge, sipping a cocktail and hanging out with several authors. One of them was Suzanne, wearing a lovely steampunk outfit which I envied.

“We were talking about how there needs to be more multicultural steampunk,” she told me. “And we’ve decided you should write it.”

In case you don’t know her, Suzanne is really shy. She’s also very subtle.

“I wish I could,” I told her, laughing it off. “I just don’t think that way. I can’t even come up with a steampunk plot.”

Because I actually love reading steampunk. I love the worldbuilding and the aesthetic and the whole philosophy of it. I love how open and experimental the genre is. I just have a real hard time coming up with new story ideas. I think I may be the only writer I know who has this issue.

Later in my hotel room, I Googled the Victorian era, where the traditional steampunks tend to take place, and crossed-referenced it with what was happening in China at the time.

And suddenly I wasn’t laughing anymore.

asian_gothicThe Victorian era and the age of colonialism coincide with a dark period in Chinese history. It parallels the Opium Wars, a time when European powers threatened China from the outside and rebellions threatened the empire from within. This period is hailed as the “beginning of modern China”, but also the fall of the imperial government.

It was the time when the Western world rediscovered China and became fascinated with Asian culture and art, creating their own interpretations and misinterpretations of it. The icons of that time are what people think of when they think of historical China: footbinding, mandarin collars, opium pipes and rickshaws.

It was the ultimate era of East meets West.

It was a time when steam technology allowed the British to crush the Chinese navy, which had dominated the seas for centuries.

I began to re-imagine this time through steampunk goggles and it didn’t seem so far-fetched. Technology, societal upheaval , dystopia – it was ALL already there.

Image and fashion were an important component of the emerging identity as cities like Shanghai and Canton struggled with being at once Chinese and foreign, ancient and modern.  The look that emerged was a dramatic one. My imagination ran wild.

chinese_gearsThen I began to research technology. (In addition to being a history geek, I’m actually a big science and technology nerd.) How did a culture that was hailed as technologically superior a thousand years earlier get so blind-sided? And what did China and Japan do in response to this period to try to compete? Some believed that they needed to adopt Western technology. Others shunned it.

I could create a steampunk technology based on native Chinese developments.

I could challenge all the elements I had always found difficult about this period; the colonial oppression, the footbinding, an empire addicted to opium.

I had gone from thinking that there could be a story there…

To thinking this is something I might be able to do…

To “OMG, I HAVE TO WRITE THIS STORY, IT WAS MADE FOR ME!”

History. Science. Rebellion. Empire. Made for me.

Chinese_Gunpowder_FormulaI wrote the first couple of chapters and shipped them off to my agent, who was ecstatic about the story. She pitched it to her top choice for this project who also happened to be my dream editor for the story.

And now I can announce that the Gunpowder Chronicles (working title) have sold in a two book deal to Cindy Hwang at Berkley and is slated for their Intermix digital first imprint.

So thank you for planting the seed, Suzanne. I owe you a cupcake.

~Jeannie

http://www.jeannielin.com

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Steampunk Greek Gods – photographed by Foodbyfax at DragonCon 2010

Steampunk writers and readers love clockwork automations but they go back much further than you may think. They begin as long ago as ancient Greece, third century B.C. with Ctesibus, the first head of the library in Alexandria. He invented the hydraulis a water organ and the first keyboard musical instrument, the ancestor of the modern pipe organ. Clocks are a big part of Steampunk and his, the clepsydra, kept more accurate time than any clock until Dutch physicist, Christiaan Huygens invented the pendulum clock in the 17th century AD. If Ctesibus invented such a marvelous clock, what else could he, someone, or others have created to technologically revolutionize ancient Greece? Does your muse have you thinking about togas? What about a Steampunk and Greek mythology? Steampunk Greek Goddesses.

Asian Steampunk at Aetherfest 2012

But before Huygens came along with his swinging pendulum, a Chinese monk, Su Sung, created atowering clepsydra in 1092 AD. It stood five stories high, and was operated by a large water wheel, which acted very similar to a modern clock escapement. It most likely was the first mechanical clock. Every fifteen minutes the water wheel turned, then all the other cogs and gears, which opened and closed doors that released the automata. Here is a scale model of Su Sung’s clock. Just imagine, historical China and Steampunk, what a perfect combination for an exotic, adventure tale.

Let’s go through the mist of time from China to Japan back when Shoguns ruled and to the invention of karakuri dolls, the ancestors of modern robots.The dolls were crafted of paulownia wood with gear wheels to move the joints, and whale whiskers were used as the springs in the mechanism.

Just think, Shoguns, robots, and Steampunk, who could ask for more.

I hope you find this information interesting and aslo helpful for anyone who’s writing a Steampunk story set much further back than the 19th century.

Maeve Alpin

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Ancient Egyptian culture has had a major influence on the Victorian era and also modern Steampunk. As indicated by the titles, two classic Steampunk novels include strong Egyptian influences: The Osiris Ritual by George Mann and The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers.

Pretty Miss with Parasol belly dancing at ComicCon’s Steampunk Ball

The Victorians were fascinated with Egyptian mummies and unwrapping parties were quite stylish. George Mann tied Steampunk with mummy unwrapping in a wonderful scene in The Osiris Ritual. Here’s an excerpt from a Victorian mummy unwrapping party in the Steampunk/ Romance, As Timeless As Magic: Heru peered within the sarcophagus, at a coffin shaped like a human figure, in a green headdress with a single yellow stripe and a jewel painted in the middle. His gaze lingered on the beautiful hieroglyphics in orange and blue, thinking of the power they held and the magic his mother created with them in her spells.

“Now, what we have all waited for.” Mister Mugrage opened the coffin. A gilded mask lay over a linen sheet wrapped around a human corpse.

Heru rubbed his brow, then fisted his hand, aching to punch Felicity’s father in the teeth.

Mister Mugrage removed the mask in the likeness of the mummy inside and held it up. “This mask is a wonderful treasure for the evening and I will do you all the favor of parting with it for the highest offer made.”

The crowd all sighed with “oohs” and “ahs.” Heru could tell by the gleam in several people’s eyes, they wanted to own it. This was all about money to Mister Mugrage. He had no love of the history, the art, or the spiritual significance his daughter seemed to understand. Heru vowed he wouldn’t blame Felicity for her father’s actions, but a throbbing surge of anger rose in him as she unwrapped the sheet from the mummy. The guests closed in like a mob and thrust forward. Heru could hardly breathe, the room felt void of air.

Mister Mugrage yanked a strip of linen wrapping, tugging it off as he circled the mummy, unraveling it. He withdrew an amulet from the linen gauze and held it up. “Our first party favor. Who wants this lovely turquoise scarab?”

A lady in a large hat and a blue gown fluttered her fan. “I do, Mister Mugrage.”

“Madame Mills, by all means, this little gem is yours. It shall bring you great luck.” Mister Mugrage placed the treasure in the woman‟s gloved hand as she giggled with glee.

Heru loosened his cravat before he gagged. The crowd‟s thunderous applause fueled his anger. These amulets protected the deceased, helped him find his way in the afterlife, and this ridiculous man handed them out as party favors.

Mister Mugrage continued unraveling the mummy until he came upon the next find, a small hawk carved from blue lapis. He handed it to a man with a protruding belly and white beard, dressed in black trousers, a gray coat, and a green cravat. Heru fought the urge to grab the amulet back from the man‟s chubby fingers.

No sooner had the other guests congratulated the man than Mister Mugrage yanked the wrappings again. “Here we have a hollow gold beetle.” He placed it in Felicity‟s hand. “What is this symbol on the top?“

Felicity peered at the golden insect, examining it closely. “Two crossed arrows over a shield, the symbol of Goddess Neith, deity of the hunt.”

“Who will have this fine beetle?” Mister Mugrage flashed a broad grin.

Heru wanted to yell for them to stop as he stood helplessly by, watching a corpse being violated for nothing but the fleeting pleasure of shallow people. He accidentally bit his tongue. He grabbed his jaw, and rubbed it.

A woman held up her dainty hand netted in a lacy glove. Felicity gifted the lady with the beetle amulet.

As Mister Mugrage unwound more linen gauze, he discovered a small statue with the body of a man and the head of a jackal.

“Anubis.” Finally, an idea struck. Heru swiftly stuck out his hand, almost grabbing the amulet. ”May I?” he asked in French.

“Oui.” Mister Mugrage handed it to him.

Heru knew this held the most powerful curse, for the priests who cast spells on the amulets wore the mask of Anubis. He flipped it over and read the hieroglyphic inscription. “You dare to touch this sacred mummy. You mortal man, whose flesh and skull will return to the desert sand. I curse you with the loss of your hands.” Heru clasped the amulet tightly, whispering the spell in Old Egyptian in the parlor just as he would have in the temple of Anubis. “Curse him, who disturbs the dead, who robs what the gods entombed. His hands should be severed if not his head, his cursed fingers doomed.”

“Give me that. Let me read it.” Felicity’s father reached for the amulet to grab it back from Heru. He gasped. His fingers fell limp. Mister Mugrage screamed, “My hands!”

Felicity rushed to her father and clutched his arm “What is it?”

“I can’t move my hands, not even to lift a finger. They are numb, I cannot feel anything.”

Steam Driven Belly Dancing

Even more than mummy unwrapping parties, the Victorians loved costume balls. Cleopatra influenced costumes were highly fashionable at these affairs. Steam Ingenious’ Steampunk Cleopatra fancy dress project is inspired by authentic Victorian fashion plates of Egyptian costumes. It’s a recreation of the Celopatra costume Lady Paget wore to the 1875 Delmonico Ball in New York City. The portrait and photo of Lady Paget in the costume along with several fashion plates of Cleopatra style gowns are pictured on the blog and the details of the pattern and the fabrics are included.

Another Egyptian influence on Steampunk is belly dancing, which has been big ever

Sword & Steampunkery

since Abney Park incorporated it into its live shows. Many belly dancers have been inspired to go steampunk adding goggles, corsets and pantaloons to their costumes. The extraordinary Steampunk Belly Dancers featured here are from the Osiris Dance Company. If they look familiar, they perform at the Steampunk Ball at ComicCon each year and they will also be performing at the Wild West Festival in Tucson next year.

A heroine who belly dances could add an interesting element to a Steampunk novel.

As you can see it’s easy to weave some exotic Egyptian influences into your Steampunk books.

If you liked the excerpt from As Timeless As Magic the novel is free as a kindle eBook from today until Friday, August 31st.

Maeve Alpin

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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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