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Today we welcome M. Holly-Rosing.

M. Holly-Rosing is the writer/creator of the webcomic BOSTON METAPHYSICAL SOCIETY. You can read the comic as well as buy the companion novellas (Kindle, Nook and Smashwords) and the print edition through the website.

Her short story THE CLOCKWORK MAN (A Boston Metaphysical Society Story) was published in eSteampunk Magazine (February). Another short story THE WAY HOME (A Boston Metaphysical Society Story) will be published in September as part of a comic anthology with Atomeka Press.

Steampunk and Clocks

By M. Holly-Rosing

What is it about steampunk and clocks? Where ever you look you see time pieces and their requisite gears churning away reminding us of the inevitable march of time.  It is a curious thing really, to be able to see seconds slip away on a mechanical device.

The astrolabium is a wonderful example of literally watching seconds, days and months pass by. Pre-dating this gorgeous mechanism, ancient Greek astronomers had developed a device to determine the position of the sun and stars. However, the astrolabium does more than simply count off hours, minutes, months, and dates.  It gives time beauty and substance in an existential kind of way. Designed by the famous clockmaker Philipp Matthaus Hahn (1739-1790), its origins and/or inspiration can be attributed to the tellurium clock, the Antikythera Mechanism of the 2nd century B.C. and possibly many others.  (Creativity and inspiration often seep across national boundaries and flourish in unexpected ways.)  Whatever its origins, the astrolabium uniquely reminds us of the passage of time with a miniature globe of the earth that rotates and revolves around a solid brass sun in this particular model.

Clocks

Though it is beautiful, I find it rather annoying. I mean the part about watching your life slip away. But you see I have always liked clocks. Pocket watches, necklace watches, the old mantel piece clocks that once were so fashionable in days gone by.  I love to see the inner workings of clocks and watches for the simple reason I find the craftsmanship to be extraordinary.  And it’s just so damned pretty. If I had enough room in our house there would probably be clocks everywhere, but practicality won out and in their place are stacks of books.

One of my fondest memories as a child was to hear my grandparents’ grandfather clock chime in the early morning hours in their home in Oregon.  I knew my grandfather would be up soon, but I didn’t have to get up yet. So I’d snuggle in until the smell of coffee would waft up the stairs. By the time I dragged myself out of bed, I knew my grandfather would have decided what needed to be fixed that day.  For a child it brought stability, love and all the good things one hopes for in life.  And it all started with a clock.

So, what is it about steampunk which finds clocks so enticing and engaging?  And not just any type of clock, but ones where their inner workings are exposed for all the world to see and dissect.  It is my belief that in steampunk clockworks are a representation of the human heart.

Its ticking is the equivalent of a heartbeat. Its exposure a symbol of human frailty. Gears can falter, skip and even grind to a halt. The human condition all wrapped up in a mechanical device.

Steampunk has imbued clockworks with soul and a sense of purpose beyond the intention of their original makers.  You know the old saying, “you wear your heart on your sleeve?” In this case, it’s on the wall, in your pocket or in the palm of your hand.  And it can be crushed at a whim.

Clocks and time play a very large role in steampunk.  Loosely based on Victorian England sensibilities and technology, steampunk looks to the past for a new vision of the future.  For the uninitiated, you will see steam-based technology augmented with modern devices in steampunk fiction as well as fashion and home-built gadgets. Some make sense, others not so much. But that’s part of the fun.  Fashion is often ripped straight from Victorian styles, though more often than not the person wearing it has given it their own individual flair.

As the writer/creator of the webcomic and companion novellas for BOSTON METAPHYSICAL SOCIETY, I worked within the framework of a specific time and place, but since I was working in fiction I had the opportunity to take a more modern point-of-view towards science and social mores.  It was challenging and rewarding. The challenge being making sure my time line made sense. The reward was when it all worked out.

Though I do not have any visible clocks in the webcomic, there is however, a “ticking clock” which lurks in the background. A “ticking clock” in the writer’s world means your protagonist must accomplish something in a specific amount of time or something bad will happen. In this panel from the second chapter, Samuel has met with B.E.T.H. to discuss what to do about “The Shifter,” a trans- dimensional being who has been killing people at an ever growing rate. Their job is to stop it before it kills again.

panel 1

The theme of clockworks in steampunk not only suggests the inner workings of the human heart but as I mentioned before evokes another time and place.  And in some cases, those times and places cross over in the most unusual way. In this panel from the first chapter of the webcomic, Duncan, who is a ghost, had hidden a camera from Caitlin’s vengeful mother. He has crossed over from another time and place to help someone he cares for.

panel 2

Since clockworks and time are inexorably linked, steampunk does what it does best in demonstrating another vision of the past with influences of the future. In this panel from chapter two, the men of B.E.T.H. are on a hill overlooking Boston Harbor. It is an image of an alternate history where dirigibles are common place along with a modern looking steamship which cruises into harbor.

panel 3

 

I have been a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy since I was a kid, but I was not introduced to steampunk until a few years ago by a dear friend. (I owe him one.)  BOSTON METAPHYSICAL SOCIETY has been my first venture into steampunk as a writer, but I have funny feeling I may have found my home.  It allows me to explore the issues and themes which are important to me in a way that appeals to my own personal aesthetic.  For when you strip away the gadgets and the fancy clothes you discover that in steampunk, time is always at the heart.

M. Holly-Rosing

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BostonMetaphysicalSocietyComic

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mhollyrosing

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Hi all, I ‘m Maeve Alpin, one of the new lolitas who have climbed aboard the airship. On my last shore leave I shared my booty of Steampunk comics with you and as promised here are some more. Imagery can be very inspirational to a writer, so many of us pull ideas from our dreams or things that catch our eye. The collaboration of visual and literate art in comics inspires new ideas far beyond the illustrations and story lines. In addition to several comic books labeled as Steampunk, many others have Victorian, Dystopian, Dieselpunk, Weird West, or Alternate History ascetics. Here is part two of my list of some comic books you’ll enjoy.

1.     Steampunk by Chris Bachalo & Joe Kelly

The hero is Cole Blaquesmith, a poor 18th century fisherman. I love his period dialogue. He falls in love with Fiona, a kind, noble lady who helps the lower class. When she falls gravely ill he takes her to Doctor Absinthe, a mad scientist, who promises to cure her if Cole uses the Engine, a time traveling machine, to get him books on science and other objects from the future. Cole does so but when he returns from 1954, Absinthe breaks his part of the bargain and Fiona dies. Cole buries the Engine beneath Stonehenge and in turn Absinthe rips out Cole’s heart. A hundred years later, Cole wakes up in a coffin during the Victorian era to find that Absinthe experimented on him, his chest is a now a metal furnace and his right arm is a huge mechanical claw. He also discovers that London is ruled by Absinthe. There are two historical royals in Steampunk. Napoleon Bonaparte is referred to as Frances in issue six, because after Absinthe killed Josephine, Napoleon gives up his humanity to become a living computer controlling France’s weapons systems and soldiers. So he actually is France. Instead of being the queen, in this London ruled by Absinthe, Victoria works for him as an assassin until she joins the resistance and falls in love with Cole. She’s a brunette beauty, her hands are surgically grafted to her arms, and her main weapon is a metallic whip that makes one of those wonderful comic book sounds, SHRAAK. Laslo, another member of the resistance, is a very interesting character. He’s a black man who speaks with what I think of as 1960’s slang, such as “Don’t ask for details about my rumble with Faust. Don’t dig for more than I lay down.” He also wears a big Union Jack print scarf that belonged to his best friend, Rikk, who was killed by Absinthe’s assassin, Faust.

This dark, dystopian Steampunk, alternative history, comic book series debuted in 2000 and ran for twelve issues. The dialogue, characterizations, plotting, and art are exceptionally good.

2.     Girl Genius by Phil & Kaja Foglio

The lead character, a young lady, Agatha Heterodyne, is a hapless student of Transylvania Polygnostic University. When her locket is stolen it sets off a chain of events in which she discovers she is a powerful Spark, talented at creating and repairing electrical and mechanical devices. The story involves the traditional Steampunk components of an alternative history, the industrial revolution, a wonder kid, and mad scientists. It’s a whimsical, fun, highly enjoyable read recommended for ages ten to adult. Girl Genius has won many awards recommended for ages ten to adult. Girl                                                                                                                                                                                   Genius has won many awards, including a Hugo for Best Graphic Story in 2011.

3. Gotham by Gas Light by Brian Augustyn & Mike Mignola

One of DC’s Elseworld comic books, set in 1889, Gotham by Gas Light, features a Victorian batman. Shortly after Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City from a visit to Europe, a murder takes place in Gotham in the style of Jack the Ripper. After a bloody knife is found under Bruce Wayne’s bed, he’s arrested as Jack the Ripper. While in prison, he figure out Jacob Parker is the real Jack the Ripper. After escaping jail with Alfred’s help, Batman finds the Ripper just as he is about to kill his next victim. A chase ensues and they come to a stop at Bruce Wayne/Batman’s parents graves. When Bruce Wayne/Batman’s mother rejected Jacob Packer’s advances he began murdering women who resembled her, to silence the laughter he hears in his head. It also turns out that he had hired the assassin who killed batman’s parents.  Packer attacks Batman, but Commissioner Gordon shoots him dead and Batman disappears into the shadows.

4.     Hellboy by Mike Mignola

Hellboy is a demon summoned to earth by Nazi occultist. As a supernatural hero he fights resurrected Nazi scientist and other biomechanical creatures. He has a giant stone hand, the hand of doom, and superhuman strength, healing, and endurance. He also comprehends ancient and magical languages and carries items to battle supernatural forces in his utility belt such as horseshoes, herbs, and hand grenades.

5.     The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 1 & vol 2 by Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neil Illustrator

Like fan fiction from popular Victorian novels Captain Nemo, the invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,  Allan Quatermain, Mina Murray, John Carter and other well known characters form a type of Victorian era justice league. Fu Manchu has stolen the only known cavorite in existence, a fictional substance created in H. G. Wells First Men On The Moon.  Professor Moriarty orders the league to retrieve the cavorite but doesn’t divulge that he plans to use it to build an airship to bomb Fu Manchu’s Limehouse lair, that explosion would also destroy London. The league triumps over both Fu Manchu and Moriarty. Volume 2, continues as the League fights the Martian invasion from H. G. Wells War of the Worlds.

          6. Jonah Hex – Jimmy Palmiotfi & Justin Gray, Luke Ross Illustrator

“When  a man knows there’s no place in Heaven waiting on him, then he’d best be wise to cozy up to the devil. And so, Jonah took it upon himself to dispatch as many sinners as Hell could accommodate… and never look back.” The art work is well done, truly brilliant. Though Jonah Hex can be classified as Weird West, Westernpunk, or Cow punk, it is first and foremost a western about a mysterious, stranger riding into town and righting wrongs in a lawless land. In the comic book series, Hex, the wild west bounty hunter is transported to the 21st century where he fights crime as a post-apocalyptic warrior.

7.     Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Cardboard Box by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Retold by Murray Shaw and M. J. Cosson, Sophie Rohrback and J. T. Morrow, Illustrators

Released in March of this year, Graphic Universe adapted this classic tale to comic book form for ages nine and up. When a woman receives the gruesome package of two human ears, Holmes and Watson are on the case. Clues at the back of the comic book reveal the process Holmes used to pull the facts together and solve the mystery. The Adventure of the Cardboard Box by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was first published in Strand Magazine in 1892.

We can look forward to the future of Steampunk comic books offering even more diversity, but there should be something for every Steampunk reader among these fourteen comic books listed in part one and part two of this post. Many of these comic books are out of print and if you have trouble finding the ones you like at your local comic book stores, try your local library or the inter-library loan program. Happy reading.

~Maeve Alpin

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Considered the starting point for the modern era of Steampunk comics, Bryan Tallbot’s 1970’s Luther Arkwright series is set in a parallel world where the English Civil War has been prolonged. Speaking of Bryan Tallbot, his Grandville series is total Steampunk. I’ll begin with it, followed by six more for Part 1. Part 2 will follow in another post later in the month with additional Steampunk Comic books.

 1. Grandville by Bryan Talbot

The author and artist, BryanTablot, was inspired by a 19th century illustrator, who drew anthropomorphized characters in costumes of the period and used the pen name J J Grandville. The story takes place in an alternate world where the British lost the Napoleonic War and a Scotland Yard Inspector, a badger, investigates the murder of a British diplomat. The events of 911 and a conspiracy theory are woven into the plot. The cast is made up of animals garbed in Victorian clothing, there are a few humans now and then, maids and bell hops, who are called doughfaces, which I find hilarious. Grandville is smart, interesting, well plotted and the art is incredible.

2. Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez

Set in 1878, in the city of Mechanika, known as the city of tomorrow. Lady Mechanika, part human, part machine, with no memories of her past, searches for her identity. Her enemy, Blackpool, a mad scientist experiments on humans, removing body parts and replacing them with machine parts. It’s pure Steampunk and has a strong female as the lead character.

3. Ruse by Mark Waid (2nd half of the series written by Scott Beatty)

This Victorian/Mystery comic series is set in the fantasy town of Partington on planet Arcadia. Simon Archard, a Sherlock-Home-type detective uses his master mind, while  his partner, Emma Bishop, a strong woman in mind and body, does everything else required to solve crimes. The one line cover tag sums it up: He’s the World’s Greatest Detective. She’s even better. The banter between Emma and Simon is witty, wry, and hilarious. I think Ruse holds a special appeal to women and I absolutely love it.

4. Scarlet Traces by Ian Edginton, Art by D’Israeli

The premise is genius. It takes place in England in the early 1900’s, just ten years after the War of the Worlds when the Martians were defeated by microscopic germs humans had been immune to for centuries.  British scientist adapt the highly advanced Martian technology to everyday life. Carriages running on robotic spider legs like the Martian vehicles replace horses and homes are heated and lighted by a version of the Martian heat ray. Two English spies take on a case of a missing girl and uncover so much more. Stempunk fans will love the Victorian/Edwardian London setting, the utilization of alien technology, and the H. G. Wells connection, as well as the dark, dystopian tone.

5. The Clockwork Girl by Sean O’Reilly and Kevin Hanna

This is a story of star crossed lovers from two different houses. Sounds familiar? One of the two fantastic castles is built by a grafter as a monument to the science of nature while the other is built by a tinker as a tribute to the science of technology and machines. The tinker creates a clockwork girl named Tesla. You will even find two quotes of Nikola Tesla within the story. Though different, several images of the little clockwork girl and the monster boy are reminiscent of scenes from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. As the Clockwork Girl is an obvious nod to and inspired by William Shakespeare, Nikola Tesla, and Mary Shelley it has to be good, and it is.

I fell in love with the characters, Tesla, the clockwork girl and Huxley, the monster boy. I imagine everyone who reads this will do the same. It’s a heartwarming story, brilliant in its simplicity, and it is not only suitable for adults but also children as young as grade school, say seven years old on up.

The dedication in the front of the book sums The Clockwork Girl up best, “To love and those who purse it relentlessly.” It’s a fun, fast, fulfilling read.

6. Ignition City by Warren Ellis, Art by Gianluca Pagliarani

In a dieselpunk/alternative history, washed up space heroes live in Ignition City, a rough and rowdy settlement cut off from civilization on Earth’s last spaceport. Ignition City has a strong woman for the main character, Mary Raven, a space pilot and daughter of the famous spaceman, who stopped a Martian missile plot. She heads to the spaceport to discover how her father died and who killed him. It has colorful language and a Wild West tone. There are aliens, ray guns, and the marshal flies around in a rocketeer type outfit. It’s a fun, action packed read.

7. Iron West by Doug Te Napel

A rugged, old west cowboy hero, Struck, robs banks, cheats at poker, lies to women with promises of marriage, and runs away at any hint of trouble. Yeah, this bad boy is a real charmer. Still when some old prospectors dig up robots, who in turn dig up a whole army of metal men that go on a rampage killing humans, our hero comes to the rescue of his woman and his town. Of course he has to, he’s set for a lynching and the sheriff gives him no choice but to help or to hang. Struck has some help himself from an elderly Native American gentleman and Sasquatch. Yes that’s right, Big Foot himself. This comic book is a blast, so much fun. Iron West will make your day.

You can see that though only a few comic are labeled Steampunk, several have Victorian, Dystopian, Dieselpunk, Weird West or Alternate History ascetics. We can look forward to the future of Steampunk comic books offering even more diversity and choices for readers.

With other titles to tell you about, I’ll continue the article on May 16th with more Steampunk Comics. Even with those mentioned above, there is something for everyone’s taste. Happy reading.

Maeve Alpin draws on her love of ancient times, alternative history, and happy endings to write Steampunk/Romances. Please visit her website.

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Today we welcome comic book artist Joe Benitez, who does the *awesome* Lady Mechanika comics. 
 
Joe Benitez is an American comic book artist who has worked on such titles as “JLA”, “Superman/Batman”, “Detective Comics”, “Supergirl”, and “Titans” for DC Comics and “The Darkness” for Image Comics. He also co-created and penciled the sci-fi series “Weapon Zero” and the dark fantasy mini-series “Magdalena: Blood Divine” for Image. In 2005, Joe published his first creator-owned mini-series “Wraithborn” through Wildstorm.  In 2009, he stepped in to finish up Michael Turner’s run on “Soulfire”. Joe is currently working on a new creator-owned book, “Lady Mechanika”, published by Aspen Comics.  For more info on Joe Benitez or Lady Mechanika, please visit www.joebenitez.com.
 
Lady Mechanika #2 is scheduled for release July 13th, and a collected edition including the sold out #0 and #1 issues will also be released the same day.  Lady Mechanika books can be found at your local comic book store, or online at www.aspenstore.com.
 
Hello all!
 
My name is Joe Benitez and I am a comic book artist.  A lot of people associate comic books with men in tights, mwa-ha-ha villains, and outrageous plotlines.  While these elements can sometimes be found, comics have evolved to encompass so much more, giving me a perfect medium for expressing my love of steampunk!
 
“Steampunk”, to me, is about re-imagining history, combining the elegance, mystery, and superstitions of the Victorian Era with more advanced inventions and technology.  While this can all be effectively incorporated into a well-written story, there’s one thing traditional novels can’t explore, the most appealing aspect of the steampunk genre in my humble opinion:  the visuals.
 
Corsets and cogs, airships and automatons!  Written descriptions simply don’t do them justice!  I was first inspired to create a steampunk comic book by all the visual possibilities.  For the last several years, steampunk cosplayers have been flocking to comic conventions with their brass goggles, intricate timepieces, and clockwork rayguns.  This piqued my interest so I began researching steampunk online, which steered me into a new world of amazing crafts men and women with their own spin on the genre.  The more I looked into it, the more amazed I was by all the cool steampunk artisans.  I was very taken by the genre, loved the idea of combining Victorian elegance with the retro future tech look.  I wanted to be a part of this phenomenon, to show my artistic take on “steampunk”, so I began working on my own steampunk comic, eventually titled “Lady Mechanika”. 
 
After the spark of inspiration was lit, I had to work on the actual story.  I was doodling and sketching, designing the look I wanted for this world I was creating, but I also wanted to create compelling characters and intriguing storylines.  From the get go, I knew the main protagonist would be female and British (there’s just so much more you can do with female fashion).  I wanted to have a strong female character in a very male  dominated era.  Then I gave her mechanical limbs.  This, for me, was the ultimate steampunk character:  an elegant, classy Victorian woman with mechanical parts.  It also automatically gave me an interesting story:  discovering how she came to be.  At the start of the story, Lady Mechanika has no memory of her early years, so she doesn’t know where she came from or how she got her mechanical limbs – she doesn’t even know her real name.  Finding the answers to her past is a driving force for her character. Though she hasn’t been able to unravel that mystery yet, her search leads her to investigate other unusual or supernatural cases, giving me the opportunity to place her in various adventures that explore the visuals of my fictitious steampunk world.
 
-Joe Benitez
www.joebenitez.com
 
 
 

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It honestly doesn’t take much to make someone into steampunk gush enthusiastically about a fantastical hand-crafted ray gun or stunning hat, but when it comes to reading, there is a comic that combines the best of steampunk with the best of entertainment – Girl Genius.

Now, if you are into steampunk, you probably know all about it. You probably even know that their inventive comic series has now spawned a delightful novel that hit the top 20 on Amazon on Girl Genius Day, Jan. 12th, but what you might not know is that from a writer’s perspective, Girl Genius is damn brilliant writing.

What makes it work? First you’ve got a fun, smart, quirky main character who is an underdog. That makes Agatha Heterodyne sympathetic from the start. But add into the mix that she’s enamoured with the son of her deadliest rival for control of Europa (not that she knows that in the beginning when she meets Gilgamesh Wulfenbach), that she’s being hunted, and that she discovers her role as the last heir to a great mad-inventive legacy and you’ve got a character mired in a great bundle of internal and external conflict. Story developer Kaja Foglio further amps up the tension by adding in a third main character/love interest who competes with Gilgamesh (and has known him from the past when they were in school) and a coniving blonde cousin to Agatha who wants to kill her and take over as the fake Heterodyne heir.

The action is packed to the brim. The visuals, courtesy of Phil Foglio, are dynamic and fun. The inventions are mad and brilliant. And every Monday, Wednesday and Friday they post up the next page (which is not nearly enough for we true addicts of the Girl Genius). And every page ends with a fabulous hook that lures you on, keeps you addicted and makes you want to flip pages faster than a steam-powered airship engine could.

But what really makes it all hang together better than super rubber bands, is the inventive world the Foglio’s have created. It’s familiar (set in a Europe-like fascimile of the Victorian era) and yet it’s very otherworldly with airships, creatures and villians enough to make this a very bumpy ride for our characters. (Conflict is essential to good story-telling, btw.)

I first found Girl Genius when I was doing research on steampunk, because I didn’t really realize that’s what I’d been writing. I’d just been toodling along in my own story in my own little Victorian world.

The comic has ever page posted since Monday, Nov. 4, 2002. WARNING: These are addictive. And I mean that sincerely. I spent four to six hours a day for three days straight reading them all. I then had to invest in the entire series of comic books for my children who were reading them over my shoulder…once you drink of the genius tea, you will not be able to walk away. And if you wish to indulge, you have been amply forewarned (and encouraged). They are at www.girlgeniusonline.com (click on the comic to get to the latest installment. If you wish to start at the beginning click start and it’ll take you to where it all began.)

I adore Girl Genius because it’s smart and fun. I adore the characters because they are flawed and delightfully human (even if they are cartoons). There is romance and adventure as promised, and definitely lots of mad science. And I can’t wait to read their novel Agatha H. and the Airship City.

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I’ve been working hard compiling two Steampunk reading lists to use as supplemental material for some workshops the Lolitas and I will be doing. One list is for Young Adult/Middle Grade and the other is for Comics/Graphic Novels. (Other people are handling other the categories).

Here is what I’ve come up with with the great suggestions I’ve gotten so far (thanks everyone!) I’m going to put it out there one last time for feedback before I turn it in.

So, what am I missing? Suggestions appreciated! Thank you for all your help.

Young Adult/Middle Grade Steampunk Reading list
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (releases 8/31/10)
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
The Boneshaker by Kate Milford
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
“His Dark Materials” series by Phillip Pullman
“Hungry City Chronicles” series by Phillip Reeve
“Larklight” series by Phillip Reeve
The Invention of Hugo Cabaret by Brian Selznick
“The Hunchback Assignments” series by Arthur Slade
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Steampunk Comic Books/Graphic Novels
Gary Gianni’s adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
AlterNation
Baker Street
Cathedral Child
Clockwork Angels
Cyborg Ivy
Five Fists of Science
Kazu Kibuishi’s Flight
Gotham by Gaslight
Girl Genius
Jonah Hex
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Les Aventures Extraordinaire d’Adele Blanc-Sec
Steampunk (Wildstorm)

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Today we have an amazing guest for you, but first, yes, we have some winners to announce (and who doesn’t like winners?)

First off, I’d like to announced the winner of a copy of Kate Milford’s new book The Boneshaker.

…drum roll please…

*~*~*GAIDA M.*~*~*

Congratulations, Gaida.  Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize.

Now, for the winner of the amazing gift basket from O.M. Grey.

…drum roll please…

*~*~*TAMIBATES*~*~*

Congratulations, Tamibates!  Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize.

On to today’s guest.  I am pleased and honored to welcome Kaja Foglio.  She and her husband Phil produce an amazing gaslamp fantasy web comic called Girl Genius.Who doesn’t love the tagline–adventure, romance, MAD SCIENCE! Kaja will be giving away a Girl Genius Omnibus, a pin assortment, and an original GG sketch by Phil to one lucky poster (and how cool is that??)

Please give her a warm Steampunkapalooza welcome!

Gaslamp Fantasy and a Sort of Love Letter to Steampunk

Sooooo…I have no business being here, but I was invited, so here I am anyway. Muhahahahaha.

Therefore I inflict myself upon you all. Have no fear, it’s only for one day, tomorrow the Chair of Steamcon will be here to talk to you. She is absolutely lovely and throws an incredible convention. Hock your raygun and buy a membership. It’s worth it. We’ll be there too, assuming they’ll let us back in. We did have a lot of fun last year.

And why do I have no business here? Well, mostly because I don’t actually use the word “Steampunk” to describe what I do. In fact, except for my eBay listings, (where I want people to actually FIND my auctions) and the odd review that I quote because they say such nice things about my books, I do my best to resist using the term altogether. Instead, I hide behind the blast shield of “Gaslamp Fantasy,” a term I thought I had read in the introduction to an H. Rider Haggard book, but in fact had cooked up myself out of a muddled memory, with a dash of the San Diego Gaslamp district thrown in. Probably a dash of Cream Sherry as well. Oh, well. Let’s hear it for muddled memory. And Sherry.

Oh. Right. Hello–I’m Kaja Foglio. Along with my husband Phil, I write and produce a story called Girl Genius. You can read it in its comic form at girlgeniusonline.com. We update three times a week, collect the pages into a printed volume every year or so, and were awarded a Hugo Award for it last year. We’ve been nominated for another one this year. Also, the members of American Mensa listed us as one of their top 50 Web sites for 2010. We are very, very lucky. Our readers are smart, kind and funny, they send us lovely presents and photos of themselves in their laboratories reading Girl Genius. They dress up as our characters at conventions. I mean, really now. We have a job where people bring us presents, and we have a huge amount of fun doing what we do. What more could we ask? Life is pretty good.

And it’s been getting better in recent years. We started working on Girl Genius in 1993, and finally brought it into publication in 2000. Since then we’ve watched as the literary genre known as Steampunk has morphed into an…well, actually, I really don’t know what. Certainly a fashion movement, which I know I never expected. And a sort of odd lifestyle thing that is reminding me a lot of my early days in the SCA, but with a lot less arguing about authenticity (and bless you all for that.) And of course, there is the rise in popularity of the actual literary genre. Or sub-genre, really, since it’s all pretty much fantasy/SF with a special, delicious twist. When we started working on Girl Genius, none of this was the crashing force it is now. There was “Steampunk” stuff out there, of course, but nothing like what’s going on at the moment. What’s going on at the moment is incredible.

This brings me back to my Gaslamp Fantasy. When we were first working on Girl Genius, it was going to be modern–sort of Cyberpunk, actually. But at the time, I was going through Phil’s old sketches and finding the most wonderful drawings–airships and cats with pocket watches and a superhero called “Locomotive Lars.” I was working on trying to come up with something involving mad science, since I…um… kind of have a thing for that… and I’ve long been a fan of Lovecraft and Poe and Shelley and Rider-Haggard and Wells and Verne (of course, Verne.) After a while of going through all these wonderful sketches, I said to Phil something along the lines of: “The modern stuff is boring. Let’s do something kind of Lovecraft/Verne-ish. You’ve done hard SF (Buck Godot, zap gun for hire) and Fantasy (MythAdventures) and modern (What’s New with Phil & Dixie), Let’s do something with this style you’ve been drawing but have never used.”  I probably used more words than that, because you really can’t shut me up sometimes, but I didn’t use the word Steampunk, because I didn’t know it then…

Fast forward to the year we actually got around to releasing Girl Genius in print. I knew the word by that time. But when it came time to publish the first comic, I didn’t want to use it. Let me go look at my Wikipedia entry, which I believe has an actual quote of something that I apparently said in print at some point:

–Tic Tic Tic–

AAH! My Wikipedia entry has vanished. I redirect to Girl Genius. Oh well, that sure puts me in MY place. Oh, the existential angst of being deleted from Wikipedia. Ouch. Anyway, I dug up the actual quote. Under “Gaslight Fantasy” no less. What on Earth is THAT? Gaslight? Really? Oh, well, here it is, at any rate:

“I called it Gaslamp Fantasy because, around the time we were bringing Girl Genius out, there was a comic called Steampunk on the shelves and I didn’t want any confusion. Plus, I’ve never liked the term steampunk much for our work, it’s derived from cyberpunk (a term which I think actually fits its genre well) but we have no punk, and we have more than just steam, and using a different name seemed appropriate. I mis-remembered a term that I had come across in the foreword to an H. Rider Haggard book, where the author was talking about Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Rider Haggard and that sort of pre-pulp adventure material, and came up with “Gaslamp Fantasy.” I felt a bit foolish when I discovered that I had made up my own term, but it works and I like it.”

So that’s what I said. Probably in my blog, which I’m pretty bad about writing in these days. At least I’m getting this done. But, yes. I didn’t want to confuse my thing with someone else’s thing. So I stuck something else on it. And that’s all it was. Really.

But these things have a way of getting away from one… and now, during interviews, people are asking me (with totally straight faces! It’s amazing!) how Gaslamp Fantasy differs from Steampunk. And expecting some kind of intelligent answer. From ME. HAHAHAHAHAHA! … I have no idea. Originally, it was a sidestep, a way of avoiding the toes of a noble colleague. These days, it’s my way of avoiding the “But THAT’S not STEAMPUNK!!!!” argument that I see playing out all over the internet. It happens all the time. The snark is unbelievable. Something is too goth, or too modern, or doesn’t have a damn (Ooh. I said “damn” in front of the Victorians. Sorry, folks. It’s the tipple.) steam engine right in the middle of it, and the dogs of the internet are released. You know what? I make my stories to please myself. I’m not interested in making my stories according to someone else’s mold. It’s not Steampunk as others see it? Okay. That’s fine. It’s MINE. I’m not trying to play by someone else’s predefined rules. Having my own goofy home-made label to hide behind has saved me SO MUCH grief. On the other hand, it has bitten me, as well, because…

The downside to being on record as having “dissed” the beloved Steampunk is that people think I don’t like Steampunk! I get people thinking that if they use the term to describe my work, I’ll be offended! Seriously. One simply can’t do anything without getting people all upset.

Let me set the record straight.

Do you know what it’s like to live with a head full of this stuff, and suddenly be able to go off to conventions and see it all? Everyone dressed so beautifully, with the most incredible gadgets… things I would have had to have Phil DRAW for me if I’d wanted to see them? Or worse, to hack away at drawing them myself? Ugh. To have well-wishers daily send me links to things that make my heart skip multiple beats? To see how many people out there are enjoying this, and making amazing things, and working on raising the tone of everything in their daily lives by the application of a healthy dollop of artistic fantasy? To stand on top of the Neverwas Haul: a three-story Victorian house that drives around at Burning Man, and that I’d only seen in pictures until recently? To get my picture taken on a giant brass snail (the Golden Mean) that spits fire, and sit on a giant metal ride-on trilobite that I would KILL for? The art people are making, the dreams they’re dreaming… Well, actually, if you’re reading this, you probably DO know what it’s like, don’t you?

Isn’t it wonderful?

I’ve just turned forty. So far, it’s been a good year. If the second half of my life is going to be filled with things like this, then I can only imagine that I was VERY VERY GOOD in my previous life. And to those of you who are making it thus? Thank you. Whatever it is that I make, (and we won’t get into that any more than necessary, oh dear, no, not after all this “Gaslamp Fantasy” business…) what you make is a true delight. Thank you.

Thank you.

*~*~*~*

Wow, what a great post.  Thank you so much, Kaja, for taking the time to visit us today.  To win the amazing prize (a Girl Genius Omnibus, a pin assortment, and an original GG sketch by Phil) all you have to do is post a comment.  That’s it!  THe contest is open until 11:59 pm PST, Sunday, May 2nd, winner will be announced Monday, May 3rd.

Tune in tomorrow for the last official day of Steampunkapalooza when we’re visited by Diana Vick from Steamcon!  After that, please keep visiting us most weekdays and the occasional weekend as my fellow Lolitas and I continue to bring you musings, mayhem, and all things Steampunk.  Thanks for making Steampunkapalooza a smashing success!

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