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Posts Tagged ‘Steampunkapalooza’

As a contributing author in Shanghai Steam & the Steamfunk! Anthology, Ray Dean enjoys writing about many different cultures. Steampunk speaks to her in a retroactive futurism that opens so many possibilities. Her blog, My Ethereality (http://raydean.net), explores history, culture, war and love in eras and countries that influence the Steampunk world.

The Pacific Commercial Observer 
29 April, 18–
by Ray Dean

advertIt has come to this humble reporter’s attention that a rash of attacks perpetrated on women touring seaside locales has not given rise to widespread panic. The reason? A simple cure created by the world renowned chemist, Dr. Oh!

“I truly had no idea why such a thing was even needed,” heiress Wilhemina Chatsworth informed us as she lounged in the sitting room of her rented flat. Her feet pillowed on a richly brocaded ottoman, Miss Chatsworth made some mention of her injury. “I am able to move about on my own,” she assured me, “most likely I would have suffered a much greater injury had my most able companion not leapt to my defense.”

At such time, she did indicate the woman standing a few feet away. Dressed in a sensible day dress of woolens, the woman of indeterminate age and unremarkable looks stepped forward.

When asked for her name, the woman demurred, insisting that her actions were nothing out of the normal. That any other person, armed with Dr. Oh’s Octopodiform Deterrent, would be able to protect someone in their acquaintance from such an attack.

The atomizer, she explained, was one that contained an ample supply of the deterrent. Displaying the conveniently sized bottle, one that we are assured fits easily into a moderately sized reticule, she demonstrated how easy it was to use.

London Weekly Record
21 June, 18–

The shores of Lyme are known for their dark beauty and wild waves. Many flock to the town to experience the majesty of the ocean, but a sinister shadow now lies beneath the waves. A shadow with eight appendages has terrorized both visitors and denizens alike.

While many pressed for an increase of police at the water’s edge, the local constabulary asked that any visits to the Cobb be postponed until the danger had abated. On any given day, nearly a score of visitors could be found treading the slick stones beside the water.

One such visitor, a young woman by the name of Philomena Prentiss, was nearly dragged into the sea by the fearsome shadow.

As a few visitors raised the alarm and called for assistance, Miss Prentiss watched in horror as a second tentacle snaked out of the waves and wrapped around her wrist.

A gentleman nearby, who asked to remain nameless, gave the young woman great praise for her quick thinking and quicker hands.

“Even with the unwelcome attention of the mysterious beast, the young lady was able to loosen the strings of her purse and from its dainty confines withdraw a smart-looking bottle. One spritz and the creature rushed out to sea before the tides!”

When Miss Prentiss divulged where she had purchased the bottle of Dr. Oh’s Octopodiform Deterrent, the shopkeeper was soon sold out of the miraculous product and planning on ordering a number of cases for his stock.

ETSY listing –
http://www.etsy.com/listing/67383459/steampunk-advertisement-11-x-14-inch-art

~Ray Dean

http://raydean.net

 

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Caitlin Kittredge writes both YA and adult books including The Iron Codex series. She is the proud owner of an English degree, two cats, a morbid imagination, a taste for black clothing, punk rock, and comic books. Visit her website at www.caitlinkittredge.com to learn more.

 

The Finish Line

by Caitlin Kittredge

itcoversmallI read a lot about starting a steampunk story—how to worldbuild, how to create compelling characters, how to mix up timelines and history to make a unique, compelling universe—but I don’t see much about endings.

The last book in my Iron Codex trilogy was released in February  and while I’m sad to have the journey end—as any writer would be—I never intended the series to be more than three books. I always had an end in mind, a destination for the journey. I don’t think that’s necessary—some of the best writers I know start with no end in sight and figure it out as they go. But I knew these characters and their world had a single story to tell, and then I’d exit gracefully.

ngcoversmallYet, as I drew to the end of writing The Mirrored Shard, I found myself leaving little things open. Aoife, Dean and Cal get their endings—some happy, some not so happy—and the plot that carried me for three books wrapped up, but I left more ends open than I anticipated. Was I just being wistful? Maybe. But I think it’s a sign that maybe I didn’t say quite all I had to say about the world of the Iron Codex. Maybe there’s a short story, or a novella in my future. I can’t say!

I like little openings for future stories scattered here and there in the natural arc of the story I’m actually telling. I don’t like ambiguous endings. I blame a childhood of serial stories, mostly in comic book form, that led me to be the sort of writer who has to leave a few trails of breadcrumbs here and there for alternate storylines.

The Mirrored ShardI tried to strike a good balance in Mirrored Shard—all the major threads ending where I’d always intended them to. But there’s still one large element left without resolution at the end of Mirrored Shard, and that’s absolutely on purpose. In another time, with another set of characters, this could absolutely be its own series. I’ve only ended one series before the Iron Codex, and since those stories were serial, not really connected, it was very different. The heroine got her ending, the plot wrapped up, and everyone could pretty much go home happy (except the bad guys, of course.) This time, I like to think I was smarter, and left myself with another story to tell, a small door left open to sneak back into this world I’ve devoted close to half a decade to writing in, imagining, dreaming about.

Like I said, maybe I’m just wistful. I love steampunk and Victoriana, so I know I’m definitely nostalgic!  But maybe in the future I’ll get another chance to go back to the start with a new set of characters and revisit Aoife’s world, explore that last thread left loose. Loose threads, after all, beg to be pulled and they exist in all of my favorite books. Tantalizing possibilities that, once explored, can lead to brave new worlds of their own.

~Caitlin

http://www.caitlinkittredge.com/

 

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Seleste steampunk bustle

At a young age, Seleste deLaney discovered the trick to not being afraid of the monsters under the bed was to turn them into heroes. Since that time, she’s seen enough of human monsters that she prefers to escape to fictional worlds where even the worst demons have to play by the rules and the good guys might end up battered and bruised (or dead), but they always win. And really, isn’t that the way it should be 

She is in the process of relocating to southeast Michigan with her two kids (and a pair of fierce, attention-hungry slobber-monsters of her own) and is hard at work on her next book. In those rare moments when she isn’t battling terrorists, vampires, or rogue clockworks, she can be found all over the Internet, where she loves to interact with readers. To that end, you can find her at her WebsiteBlogFacebook ProfileFacebook PageTwitter, and Pinterest.    

The Big “What If?”

By Seleste deLaney

It’s been said that all the best stories start with “Once upon a time…”

Then of course, there’s the redneck version of that which says all the best stories start with “Hey, y’all, watch this…”

For myself, all the best stories start with a storyteller sitting back and thinking to themselves “What if?”

  • “What if vampires roamed Victorian London?”
  • “What if the Black Plague brought forth a mutant gene that turned nobles into monsters but let them live forever?”
  • “What if the monsters are us and a simple potion makes them come forth?”

SL_Badlands_250x400Sci-fi and fantasy are all based on the “What if?” And nowhere is this more true than with steampunk. It allows us to imagine a world where genetic manipulation, advanced prosthetics, and all sorts of wonderful things were created and perfected far before their time. More than that, though, it allows us, as readers, a glimpse of a world that might have been, if only tiny bits of history had changed and advancement had never been stalled.

When I first wrote Badlands, I knew I wanted a region run by women, but I didn’t know how it would have come about. Thoughts of Australia as an English penal colony came to mind, and I thought to myself, “What if the United States had done that? Sent all their criminals off to somewhere else?” For me, that question was the birth of Ever’s people. Criminals would be shipped across the Mississippi and their families would often follow. Eventually the wildness would need tempering, giving rise to leadership that wouldn’t automatically be distrusted by the Union—women. Not the criminals themselves, but their wives and daughters. (There were sons too, but with nameless and faceless criminals, they’d be more suspect.) Violence would spawn the need for control, resulting in the Border Guard.

The funny thing about questions is they tend to spawn more questions. Readers wanted to know more about the world Ever, Spencer and the Dark Hawk crew lived in, so I wrote more. The sequel, Clockwork Mafia, comes out at the end of the month, and I do hope you’ll all check it out.

But for me, the most interesting bit was how questions about the world that wasn’t led me (via questions from my children…go figure) to conversations about multi-verse theory and the possibility that all worlds imagined by authors exist in some other universe. And that led to time travel and dimensional rifts and…eventually it will lead to a new series very different from Badlands, but with that same heart of adventure and political intrigue.

That’s the joy of story telling—there are no limits but what can be imagined. And in the world of steampunk, the imagination has no limits.

More about Clockwork Mafia (coming April 29 from Carina Press):

Clockwork_Mafia_final

Inventor Henrietta Mason is retiring from airships and adventuring to return home to Philadelphia. Determined to erase all trails leading to her late father’s duplicity, she dismantles his lab and removes all records of the Badlands gold. While in the city, she can’t resist the lure of a charity gala but winds up regretting the whole experience. Well, everything except a heart-racing dance with a certain U.S. Marshal.

His career and vengeance on the line, Carson Alexander must prove a connection between Senator Mason and the mafia. He lucked out happening across Mason’s strikingly beautiful daughter, only to have her slip through his fingers. On a desperate hunt to track her down, he never expects his search to take him into the brutal Badlands.

With a mechanically enhanced enforcer after them, only Carson knows the extent of the danger they face. He’ll have to win over Henrietta’s trust, and her heart, before it’s too late…

Pre-order Clockwork Mafia at Carina PressAmazonBarnes & NobleAll Romance Ebooks, and Bookstrand.

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Today we welcome Maureen O. Betita

I’m Maureen O. Betita, creator of The Kraken’s Caribbean Series and A Caribbean Spell Series. I live in California and am so damned lucky to find Steampunk conventions flourish on the west coast.

 

Steampunk Convention(s)

By Maureen O. Betita

LoreleiΓÇÖs-Song200x300There is nothing like attending a Steampunk convention. Big, little, in a hotel, on a cruise ship, wearing a corset or overalls. It’s just…a world outside of itself. And inside itself. I often feel as if anything could happen at one of these conventions.

Dr. Who could wander thru one of these wonderful events and no one would blink. Captain Jack Sparrow, Sherlock Holmes (pick your favorite)…and Jack the Ripper, Mr. Hyde, Dracula. As if there is a huge neon sign blinking into the cosmos – ALL ARE WELCOME!

Flash Gordon? Come on in! Ming the Merciless? We have a table for you right over here. Miles Vorkosigan? Luke Skywalker? Captain Nemo! Love the turbin, let me set your sword over here…

Wander any Steampunk conference and you’ll see it all. If you open your eyes and look. James West and Artemis Gordon just wandered thru the ballroom, Jim took a spin with that redhead sporting tentacles under her skirt…

Music plays, commerce takes place, couples wander, arm in arm, posing for pictures. Tea is served, battles are discussed, as are great scientific accomplishments. The man from SETI is in the forward meeting room, setting up a slideshow. The company following whales from the dirigible are babbling about how close they got to a mother and calf, migrating to Alaska.

And off in a corner, there are shadows and strange meetings. Beneath the haunting music of Unwoman  a writer huddles, scratching away at her tablet, beset with an idea…

I was that writer. Aboard the Queen Mary at Her Majesties Royal Steampunk Symposium, Long Beach, California. I thought, what if…

smallprayerAnd Lorelei’s Song was born. My newest release from Decadent Publishing, a mix of Steampunk/horror/erotic romance. What makes it Steampunk? It takes place at a Steampunk convention, mostly. What makes it horror? Well, the descendants of Cthulhu are stalking their prey. What makes it erotic romance? There are two of them and one of her and she wants to be caught.

Cthulhu was part of the Steampunk con on the Queen Mary. The Sunday morning service was in homage to his great tentacleness and from there…I knew. I had to see his horribleness wander a convention.

For those who don’t know who Cthulhu is…get thee to Wikipedia! His immensity has become a bit of the patron god of Steampunk. Born of the imagination of H.P. Lovecraft…or channeled, who knows… he’s taken the world by steam! And his distant sons take Lorelei…

Here’s an excerpt, the men are setting up the Steampunk convention, hoping to find the one woman who can help them remain sane and handle the strength of their passion… Unknown to them, she’s in the room. Instincts try to take control…

His nostrils caught the perfume of something different. Spicy, with a hint of dry driftwood, it wafted in the air and he froze. Damn, what the hell was that? He started at a sharp rap on the table. “Fuck.”

“Get up here!” A kick arrived with the plea.

He rose, rubbing his head, to find Jerrod snatching up a pair of goggles and sliding them on.

“What the hell?”

“My eyes. I can’t—” His kinsman turned his back on the nearly empty room. “I smelled something odd and—”

“Okay, okay. Sit and—”

“Get me the hell out of here!”

Jerrod gripped his arm tightly, head turned so Nicholas could glimpse the shadow of the change on his cheek bones.

Nicholas didn’t think. He wrapped his arms around his cousin and pulled him down to the shadow of the table. Lowering a hand, he gripped the steel-rod erection he knew he’d find beneath the loose pants.

Holding the rigid cock, he whispered, “I smelled her, too. She’s out there. You just have to be stealthy. Be the monster who stalks. Blend in. We’ll find her.”

 “I…want….”

The hollow echo of the deepest crevasse of the ocean reverberated against Nicholas’s bones in the low voice.

“Yeah, we’re gonna find her, and we’re gonna fuck her, and this time, we aren’t going to hold back.”

……

Lorelei’s Song – available as an ebook at Decadent, Amazon, Smashwords and most e-outlets.

Tell me of your favorite monster and who you would like to see wander a Steampunk convention. One random comment will win a copy of Lorelei’s Song.

~Maureen

www.maureenobetita.com

 

Decadent http://www.decadentpublishing.com/product_info.php?products_id=751&osCsid=od4lb7goki9vvlpaa1t5519og7

 Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Loreleis-Song-ebook/dp/B00C2FCZ4U/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1364509074&sr=8-3&keywords=Lorelei%27s+Song

 Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/300475

 

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It’s time for Steampunkapalooza–our annual month-long blog party filled with special guests, prizes, and mayhem.

It also means that Steamed is four. Yes, we’ve been running this blog for four years. Launch the cupcake cannons.

So, thank you so much for making this blog a success, and here’s to many more years of Steamed.

Here’s this year’s Steampunkapalooza schedule-check back often and enjoy!

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Monday April 1 – Kickoff

Tuesday April 2—Deliah Dawson

Wednesday April 3—Airship Vindus

Thursday April 4–Maureen O. Betita

Friday April 5–Seleste DeLaney

Monday April 8–PJ Schnyder

Tuesday April 9–Deborah Schneider

Wednesday April 10—Teen Librarian Toolbox

Thursday April 11–Kate Milford

Friday April 12—Maeve Alpin

Monday April 15—Zoe Archer and Nico Rosso

Tuesday April 16—Karina Cooper

Wednesday April 17—Cindy Spencer Pape

Thursday April 18—Theresa Meyer

Friday April 19—Colleen Gleason

Monday April 22—Caitlin Kittredge

Tuesday April 23—TBD

Wednesday April 24-Kassy Taylor

Thursday April 25—Veronique Chevalier

Friday April 26–Syfer Locke

Monday April 29—Raye Dean

Tuesday April 30—Closing Party

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It’s nearly April, and April means Steampunkapalooza!

Steampunkapalooza is Steamed’s annual blog party we hold to celebrate our birthday. Yes, the Steamed blog is four! Four! 

All month long where will be special guests, prizes, and mayhem. I’ll post the full schedule for as soon as I have it!

Here’s to another great year!

~Suzanne

http://www.suzannelazear.com 

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Today we welcome author Annie Seaton.

Strong and Sassy Steampunk Heroines!

By Annie Seaton

When I decided to write my steampunk story, Winter of the Passion Flower, my heroine was constantly in my head, telling me what to do!  She wanted to be the one in charge, the one who called the shots, and the one who did most of the adventuring. Thus it became a very easy story to write as Indigo de Vargas y Irausquínno pushed the swashbuckling action to the limit.

One of the concerns when you  are writing about a strong heroine, particularly in the steampunk and romance genres, when most readers love an alpha male is to be able to balance the strength of your hero and heroine so that the action and the romance are believable and satisfying to the reader.

Gail Carriger has done this perfectly with Alexia Tarabotti in the Parasol Protectorate series. As well as being a strong female character, Alexia drinks tea, carries a parasol and has been known to faint!

Indigo appeared in my mind, all of her characteristics already in place. Being the ultimate pantser and one who does not take time to do character sheets and plotting, my characters evolve through their actions and this really works effectively for me. When the book was finished, I reflected on Indigo’s character and tried to marry it to words that would be characteristic of a strong and sassy heroine.

Is she a risk-taker, is she brave, and does she have attitude? Tick…yes to all of those.

Does she have a strong survival instinct in the face of adversity?
Does she passionately believe in a cause?

Does she have the respect and admiration of the other characters?

Does she recognize when she makes mistakes?

Tick… yes to all of those.

Sassy is defined as impudent, vigorous and lively and it can be very easy to overdo the ‘sass’ to the point where a character can become unlikeable. Sassiness must be balanced with strong by softness and an underlying reason for the sassiness must be demonstrated. A passionate belief in a cause, where the heroine fights for truth and justice in our alternate steampunk world, whether it be on a global scale or within a relationship must provide a backdrop for each of the sassy heroine’s actions and reactions.

So how does an author convey the strength of a strong and sassy steampunk heroine, yet still keeping her as a believable and likeable character? One of the most satisfying reviews of Winter of The Passion Flower recognized Indigo’s strength:

 I especially like that Indigo is the scientist and I love that Indigo needs to rescue Zane! Both characters were light and fun and fit in perfectly with this swashbuckling plot. (The Romance Reviews)

Detailed descriptions of both setting and physical characteristics are very important. The use of strong verbs, both when describing the actions of the heroine and in her dialogue are essential to provide a backdrop to successful characterization.

Strong dialogue, where the heroine shows her intelligence, and demonstrates her ability to make the right decisions under pressure, can convey much about her strength of character in very few words and can be a most effective tool for telling the reader about her.

Having the respect of secondary characters is integral to the success of a strong female character and this can be demonstrated successfully though both dialogue and action. Mr and Mrs Grimoult in Winter of the Passion Flower came alive for me in their love and respect for Indigo. It is essential that the soft side of the strong character comes to the fore when required and the reader gets a balanced view of the character.

Excerpt:

“Madam, here are your goggles,” insisted Mrs. Grimoult, holding them out to Indigo as she peered down through the transparent floor of the dirigible. Indigo glared at her as she observed Mrs. Grimoult roll her eyes at her husband.

“Madam, the putrid air will not be good for the baby’s health,” coaxed Mr. Grimoult. Indigo reached over, donning the goggles, without a word, taking great care not to disturb her magnificent hairstyle

When there is a fight or an action scene, it is essential to use the right creative technique to convey action. Short sharp sentences are effective. The heroine must always win! Indigo is physically strong and this made it very easy to convey her strength of character, which complements her physical strength and size.

Excerpt:

She bit. She slashed. She screamed. No holds barred, she fought dirty. Her life depended on it. Using her fingernails, she gave a grunt of satisfaction as skin ripped beneath them. Her adversary released her as she ran for the road, pulling the scarab controller from her bag.

The relationship of a sassy heroine with the hero must always be full of fireworks. After all, he is threatening her independence and making her feel emotions that she is unused to, as well as threatening her control. They must always be at odds—both physically and in dialogue.

I love this moment between Indigo and Captain Dogooder…

Excerpt:

Their eyes locked, and she moistened her lips in a slow and sensuous movement. Indigo moved in closer, and the captain’s eyes darkened.

She bit him sharply on the lip as she brought her knee up hard to his groin. Pushing him away, Indigo spat words at him. “You will learn your place in the scheme of things. Do not ever touch me without invitation. Do not ask questions about things best left unsaid.”

Summer of the Moon Flower, the sequel to Winter of the Passion Flower is set ten years later and follows the adventures of Sofia, Indigo’s younger half sister. It has been an interesting journey, as Sofia is petite and fragile and writing her as a strong character in an action packed romance, when she doesn’t have the physical strength of Indigo has been challenging.

Again, setting, physical description of characters and the use of strong dialogue have been essential in the creation of a vivid picture of her personality, and to convey her strength of character. Sofia is directing me through a process where she is more proactive than Indigo. Most of the action scenes and interactions in Winter of the Passion Flower were reactive; in the sequel Sofia is much more in charge of what happens!

Make your sassy steampunk heroines human… let them make mistakes, let them show their emotions, give them a soft side. So…when you are creating your steampunk heroines, make them the heroines that we all secretly envy!

~Annie Seaton

Winter of the Passion Flower Lyrical Press March 2012

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Today we welcome author Mark Hodder. One lucky commenter gets a copy of Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon.

Mark Hodder is the creator and caretaker of the BLAKIANA Web site (www.sextonblake.co.uk), which he designed to celebrate, record, and revive Sexton Blake, the most written about fictional detective in English publishing history. A former BBC writer, editor, journalist, and Web producer, Mark has worked in all the new and traditional medias and was based in London for most of his working life until 2008, when he relocated to Valencia in Spain to de-stress and write novels. He can most often be found at the base of a palm tree, hammering at a laptop. Mark has a degree in cultural studies and loves British history (1850 to 1950, in particular), good food, cutting-edge gadgets, cult TV, Tom Waits, and a vast assortment of oddities.

Dancing Amid the Ruins
(A Peculiarly British Perspective)
By Mark Hodder

We, in the Western world, are dancing amid the ruins of fallen empires. They died slowly, those great, lumbering beasts, and there are those who think to revive them, or to create new ones, but we won’t let them. We know that empires benefit the few whilst enslaving the many. We cannot support such injustice, such avarice.

In Britain (God bless her, and all who fail in her)—once the seat of the largest empire in history—it was young satirists who alerted us to the fact that the beast must die. The world wars had already destroyed the myth that the privileged were special, deserving, superior. Forced by conflict into close proximity with the smelly commoner, the Lords and Viscounts were revealed to be a mite funky themselves—rather ordinary, in fact—and, by golly, they got needlessly slaughtered just as efficiently as plain old Tommy Watkins.

After the conflict (which was really one long war with an intermission for ice cream), those toffy nosed twits who’d managed to survive dug in their claws and clung on to their riches and, of course, continued to propagate the cultural myths that kept them in their stately homes. But they were much weakened. And now they had a new enemy. Not Johnny Foreigner this time. No, it was Johnny Bird and Johnny Fortune and the other satirists of the snarky Sixties. Those guys ridiculed the heck out of any pompous idiot who tried to maintain a delusion of dignity. The aristocratic, the rich, and the powerful became the laughing stock of the country. Respect your betters? Are you serious? Take a look at what they get up to! Listen to the gibbering nonsense that spews out of their mouths! They’re too busy bothering foxes to understand the real world. Down with the upper class! Up with the lower class! We’ll mingle in the middle!

The gloss came off the posh.

The killing blow, the true end of the empire, was struck in the late Seventies. Again, it wasn’t at the hands of Johnny Foreigner. This time, it was Johnny Rotten. The punk movement jabbed the knife in good and proper, and did so with one very clear, very basic, very deadly war cry: “We don’t respect you.” You might have a plummy voice, country tweeds, a Range Rover, a family crest, and a comfy seat in the House of Lords—but we don’t care what you got; if you want respect, you gotta earn it, you greedy git.

Empire only functions when you know your betters. Punk didn’t know any.

So the British Empire snuffed it, just like the Portuguese Empire had done, and the Spanish and Dutch and Italian and Russian and all the many others. The time of empires is gone, but their ghosts still haunt us. Obviously, the pitiful remnants of the elite would like to resuscitate them, but, even more, now it’s the economists who want empires. Shiny new ones. Great big cash cows. Come on European Union, get your act together. Trust me, it won’t. We have no will for it.

Enter Johnny Steampunk.

Steampunk embodies the ghost to remind us that the dead are dead. It plays at empire with a wry smile. It toys with the romance of it—the unexplored territories ripe for exploitation, the pioneering spirit required for imperialistic colonisation, the promise of fabulous contraptions that will cower the less “civilised” into submission—but it does so with a knowing wink and a gentle dose of self-mockery. It’s the cool clothes without an evil bastard inside of them, it’s an airship that doesn’t drop bombs on the natives, it’s a blunderbuss that won’t mess with your face. See, a lot of the propaganda produced to bolster belief in the empire was actually tremendous fun. You just have to filter out all the guff. Back in the day, stiff upper lips and prodigious whiskers adorned the faces of heroes who, just beneath their very, very, very white skin, were racist cads of the highest (which happens to be the lowest) order. Now, though, you can square your shoulders, grow a fine pair of Picadilly Weepers, don a stove pipe hat, and everyone recognises that you’re affiliating yourself only with the joy of the wrapping, not with the filth of the content. Steampunk gives the icons, symbols, fashions and mores of empire a damned hard shake until all the confounded nonsense has fallen out of them. What’s left signifies that which deserved to die and must never be allowed to live again. It’s a celebration—a happily nihilistic jig on a well-earned grave, stamping down the earth so the corpse can’t rise, while a curious and optimistic eye is cast to the future.

Punk was the murder. Goth was the mourning. Steampunk is the wake.

Mark Hodder
THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF SPRING HEELED JACK
THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE CLOCKWORK MAN
EXPEDITION TO THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON

One lucky commenter wins a copy of Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon. North America only, please. Contest ends 11:59 PM PST, April 23, 2012.

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Today we welcome husband and wife writing team Clay and Susan Griffith.  One lucky commenter wins both The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book One AND The Rift Walker: Vampire Empire Book Two.  Don’t forget to show us your gadgets and win great prizes.

Clay and Susan Griffith are the authors of the VAMPIRE EMPIRE trilogy (Pyr Books). The Greyfriar: Book1 (2010), The Rift Walker: Book 2 (Sept. 2011), Book 3 (2012).

What is this Steampunk of which you speak?

by Clay & Susan Griffith

 

We just returned from the RT Booklovers Convention. This convention is sponsored by RT Book Reviews magazine, which was once known as Romantic Times. Well, now RT covers all genres of books, including science fiction and fantasy. We were at their convention to promote our VAMPIRE EMPIRE series. RT has recognized the booming steampunk genre and sponsored a workshop track dedicated to it. We were on one of the panels because Vampire Empire is steampunk.

There was a lot of conversation around the convention about steampunk among readers and writers. The three most commonly heard comments at RT were:

  1. “What the heck is steampunk?”
  2. “I just read my first steampunk book, and it was awesome.”
  3. “I’m writing a steampunk book.”

All these comments say interesting things about the genre…or subgenre or whatever it is.

First, even among a large group of seasoned genre readers, steampunk is still a relatively new animal. Or at least, the word steampunk is new to them. When you tell the uninitiated to think about Jules Verne or H.G. Wells or Wild Wild West, they immediately get it.

Of course, you can wade into a more complicated explanation, but that only opens the door to the whole debate about “what is steampunk…really?” Does steampunk have to be Victorian? Does it have to have steam power? Is it defined by what it is, or what it isn’t? If you add an airship to Lord of the Rings, does it become steampunk?

Hardcore steampunkers care a great deal about that argument, but we believe that generally most readers are looking for something new, and they want to be immersed in an innovative and exciting atmosphere. They intuitively grasp the workings of a world of established manners, usually Victorian in nature, that are then challenged by new technologies or alternative historical events or supernatural outbreaks.

That leads us to the second comment in which readers who are new to steampunk find they really like it. (Self-servingly, many people told us that Vampire Empire was the first steampunk they had read, and now they wanted to read more. Yay!) So will steampunk become the new Regency romance? The new Western? The new hardboiled private eye? Those genres have readers who return over and over with almost slavish love and, in the case of some readers, are the only type of book they enjoy. It’s too early to tell whether steampunk will become the go-to genre for very many readers, but it is certainly becoming a favored item off many readers’ menus.

There was a lot of discussion at RT about whether steampunk has legs in the publishing world. Some publishers seem hesitant to buy, while others are stockpiling. Is steampunk a flash in the publishing pan that has already peaked in its popularity expansion? Or are we seeing just the beginning of a growing trend? From the numbers of the first two comments noted above that we heard at RT, you might conclude that the trend certainly isn’t played out yet. And, in fact, it may just be reaching a mass market.

The third most common comment we heard at RT came from writers who were delving into the genre for the first time. Of course, writers being writers, there’s always going to be an upsurge in manuscripts in a particular genre any time a new blip hits the publishing radar screen. Vampires. Paranormal romance. YA fantasy. Zombies. And now steampunk. That’s natural. Writers want to sell their books, so they look for what the hot trend is, or they get swept up in the excitement of a new genre and want to be a part of it somehow.

However, that isn’t the case with many writers who are working on steampunk novels who talked to us at RT. They are writing books they have always wanted to write, but never had a market. Now the steampunk “explosion” gives them the chance. They might have to make a few changes to render the book a little more steampunky, but they truly aren’t just pulling an old unsold historical romance or epic fantasy out of their file cabinet, tossing in gears and top hats, and sending it off newly labeled as steampunk. They are truly fascinated by the tropes of the genre, and want to explore them.

Even faster than vampires, paranormal, and zombies before it, tropes of steampunk are being twisted and shattered. Steampunk may be the one genre where the ground rules are never even fully established before writers begin flying off into their own directions. And that’s pretty cool. It also calls into question what steampunk is…really.

But that’s not the issue here. At RT, we learned that there is great curiosity about steampunk, a growing love of the genre, and a massive productive force ready to throw themselves into exploring and exploding the genre.

Things are going to happen fast and furious in the world of steampunk fiction over the next year or two. So hold onto your hats and corsets, a lot of new readers are about to be swept up in a wonderful genre, and fresh voices will twist steampunk in wild directions.

~Clay & Susan Griffith

http://clayandsusangriffith.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/vampireempire

One lucky commenter wins both The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book One AND The Rift Walker: Vampire Empire Book Two.  North America only, please.  Contest ends April 22, 2012 at 11:59 PM PST.

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Today we welcome the band Control.

Folklore and horror interface–laugh, but smile no more.

This did not happen

by Control

Why do we do steam punk?  We have to, because it gives us the power to fashion our own reality from fiction, future, and history.  Performances and productions fixate on the synthesis of artifacts and auguries, embellishing the dark side.   Essentially, this is what humans have always done.  That is how rockabilly informed psychobilly, and how folklore influenced sci-fi. In an age where it seems every deed has been done,  we look back at the past with a jealous eye, wishing there were just one original innovation left to be created.  We replay the past in a malicious light, editing to express our rage at the barren landscape of art and music today.  Steam punk is fan fiction for an age in which we should have lived.

Despite our obligation to antiquity, we don‘t play age-old instruments or wear ornate costumes in our band, Control.  Our lyrics cover topics from local news scandals and prevailing phobias to folklore and forensics.  All of these things can happen simultaneously and without explanation. Postmodernism offers us the tools to revise timelines and combine a diverse range of influences, and we’ve accepted the invitation to wield them artfully.

Our writing process is based on our urges and responses to art.  Images from fiction and film captivate and command our artistic impulses.  These moods spawn riffs, lyrics, and rhythms.  Then we elaborate. And suddenly we have crafted an epitaph for Magrathea or a threat against Abigail Williams.  Characters from our favorite works send us signals about their undisclosed desires and objectives, and we respond in song.  This constitution between fantasy, history, and sound is our only imperative.

Your iPod has both Strauss and Stooges.  Your bookcase shelves Dickens next to Douglas Adams. You can’t let go of things that should have happened.  Listen and we’ll go raking up old graves together…

~Control

http://www.reverbnation.com/controlrock

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Control/186838704667612?ref=ts&__adt=2&__att=iframe

 

 

 

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Today we welcome YA author Inara Scott.  Steamed is playing host to her today as part of her blog tour for her new release THE MARKED.

Inara Scott is a writer, lawyer, teacher, mother, and coffee-addict currently growing mold in the beautiful (but rainy) Pacific Northwest. Inara writes for teens in her paranormal young adult series The Talents, and also writes paranormal and contemporary adult romance. You can find her latest release, THE MARKED (book 2 of the Talents series) on Amazon or at her favorite indie bookstore, Powell’s. Inara firmly believes in magic and fairy tales, and doesn’t think happily ever after is the least bit unrealistic.

Inara loves to hear from readers; you can find her on Twitter (@inarascott) or Facebook far more than is healthy. For contact information, event schedules, her blog, and much more, check out www.inarascott.com.

Something Old, Something New…World-Building in Fantasy/Sci-Fic

By Inara Scott

If you were to ask me what the essential components of a great fantasy/science fiction story were, I’d say 1) world-building, 2) world-building, 3) characters, and 4) world-building.

Okay, that might be a bit of exaggeration, sort of like a realtor saying that the key to real estate is location, location, location. But honestly, I think it’s true.

Every novel needs great characters and a compelling conflict/plot. I take that as a given. But fantasy/sci-fi readers (and I throw steampunk and paranormal readers under that heading) are looking for something beyond that. If they just wanted conflict and characters, they’d go read contemporary fiction.

They want more. They want a new world.

So what does great world-building entail? Here are my essential elements to building a compelling world in fiction: something old, something new, something borrowed, something true.

(Ha! Bet you didn’t see that last one coming!)

1) Something Old: Great world building often starts with something familiar. It may sound counter-intuitive, but if you are asking people to come with you on a journey to a new world, you’ve got to give them something to hang onto. As readers, we need to empathize with characters and imagine ourselves in the middle of the story. If writers don’t give us a hook we can grasp, feel, and emotionally connect to, they’re in big trouble.

This works in two ways. I talk about familiar tropes in (3) below, but here I’m talking about the world of the senses. In DRAGONFLIGHT, by Anne McCaffrey (my favorite book of all time), her characters drink a pungent, bracing, hot liquid called “klah” (which immediately reminds us of coffee). In Harry Potter, your journey to Hogwarts starts with a subway tunnel. Steampunk effortlessly combines real, familiar objects like goggles, wrenches, and airships, with all manner of fantastical elements.

2) Something New: Note to writers: if you simply recycle an old plot and familiar world, you’re finished. Great sci-fi/fantasy writers give their world something new and different. Harry Potter is a series of unexpected bits of creativity and complexity. Every book adds new creatures and new magic. Anne McCaffrey’s thread was something horrific falling from the skies—a threat to humanity that no one had ever seen. I loved Suzanne Lazear’s INNOCENT DARKNESS for all of her wonderful, creative details, including the inseparable connection between Human and Fey worlds.

3) Something Borrowed: Like “something old” this is the way you ground readers in something familiar, while you take them on a journey to somewhere new. Familiar tropes are essential to sci-fi and fantasy because they are an anchor for the reader while traveling in a new and strange world. If you don’t believe me, try this: how many books about an abandoned/abused/orphaned child, who discovers he/she is the savior of the world, can you name? (I’ll start you off with Harry Potter, and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series). In sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal romance, how about the ordinary girl whose spunk and spark attracts the attention of the most beautiful/tormented/alpha male/powerful creature ever to live? (Can you say Twilight, Hush Hush, Shiver, every werewolf story ever written?).

Tropes aren’t evil or bad, though they can obviously become a crutch for a lazy writer. The key is combining the trope with something new, so the reader doesn’t feel like they’re treading the same road they’ve been down before. Take what’s old and make it new. A seemingly impossible task, but one writers have been working at for centuries.

4) Something True: Once you’ve got all the ingredients, you’ve got to mix them up right. The world must fit together seamlessly, in a way that feels natural, safe, and true to the reader. As a writer, you must demand absolute consistency. No cheating. You can’t solve a major plot bunny by creating a magical new gift for a character. The “rules” of the world must be internally accurate. If you’ve got magic, you’ve got to explain why and how people use it. If magic can be used to solve one problem, you’ve got to explain why it can’t be used to solve another problem. Push yourself to go beyond the convenient and easy answers to make sure you’ve created something true. If you do, readers will follow you anywhere you want to go.

~Inara Scott

www.inarascott.com

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Today we welcome Ray Dean!

A reenactor and educator, Ray Dean has delved into many eras of the past, but Steampunk speaks to her in a retroactive futurism that opens so many possibilities. Her blog, My Ethereality(http://raydean.net), explores history, culture, war and love in eras and countries that might influence a Steampunk world.

Patent Medicine

 by Ray Dean

“Step right up, yep, step right up! That’s right, folks, don’t be shy. Shy don’t get you good health! Shy don’t get you a cure for your ills.” The man in a sharp suit with a sharper eye steps up to the edge of the stage erected before his wagon and takes the measure of the audience. “A wise man knows that fortune favors the brave, my friends, and I’m calling on you to be one of those brave people that listens to what I have to say… Come closer and I’ll tell you about the miracle of modern medicine that has brought me here today.”

The crowd, most of them drawn in by curiosity or perhaps drawn in by the day to day boredom of a Western Town on the verge of some many disasters, would lean in and listen with rapt attention as the medicine salesman gave his pitch.

“Do you suffer from dyspepsia,” he’d ask, his eyes serious and concerned, “or does the ague keep you awake at night?”

Some in the crowd would murmur and nod.

He’d continue, listing diseases and symptoms that would make a list as long as his arm or even some mens’ beards. Still, he’d promise that he had the ONE medicine to cure all their ills!

A Patent Medicine.

Contrary to  the name, the only thing patented about this medicine was the  name. Dr. Flint’s Quaker Bitters. Professor Lowe’s Liniment.  Dr. Davis’ Painless Catarrh Specific. Such eye-catching names came  with fancy labels on pretty bottles. Who knew health could be  so attractive?

“And who among you have children?  There’s no need for them to suffer through bouts of quinsy. Nor for those among you bent at the joints with rheumatism to endure the pain.”

Behind him an assistant tugs on a rope and a banner unfurls behind the  salesman. A wild and brightly colored picture of an Indian is revealed.

“That’s right, folks! Genuine Kickapoo Sagwa! The medicine  that up until now has only been known to the medicine men of the Kickapoo tribe! ”

If the terrifying visage of the Indian painted on the sign didn’t cause the women to faint or men to walk away grumbling he launched right into the rest of his pitch. “What price is your health, dear friends? Wouldn’t you rather pay me a single dollar than six to the undertaker?”

For those unconvinced, they had only a moment to wait before a feeble cry would arise from the back of the crowd. “Here, I’ll try one.” A thin, bony hand would rise up above their heads, a shiny coin held aloft. “Here’s my money.”

The crowd would make way for the elderly man, bent nearly in half from pain and old age, as he walked to the stage. In exchange for the coin he was given a bottle of the elixir and the crowd waited while he drank down a few gulps.

No sooner than the liquid had settled in his middle a miraculous change would occur! Straightening his back with artful glee, feet dancing about in the dirt, a chortle of laughter would give way to a shout. “I feel young again!”

The cheers would soon be drowned out by people shouting for  their own bottle of whatever elixir that the salesman had to offer.

Medicine and Technology have a push-pull relationship where one influences the other, trading back and forth in the dominant role. Where would Steampunk take the Medicine salesman/chemist? Or, what kinds of Steampunk technology would influence the creation of Medicine?

~Raye Dean

Glossary:

Dyspepsia – indigestion

Ague – malarial fever or chills

Quinsy – tonsilitis

Images courtesy of Steam Dust Studios 

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Today we welcome author Christopher Beats.  Cruel Numbers releases on April 30, 2012.

Christopher Beats has been exiled to the asphalt prison of South Florida for crimes against philosophy. Before his exile he taught history for several institutions around the state. He shares his exile with a gluttonous dog, a blind cat, and the only two humans who can tolerate him. He spends his days contemplating infinity and writing fiction.

Ideas in Action

by Christopher Beats

My historical view is focused on ideology. After several years of teaching, this paradigm has saturated my consciousness and dripped into my writing. When I dream of other time periods and worlds, they inevitably become blood-soaked arenas where philosophies hotly contest each other. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a prominent German thinker of the late 18th century, viewed history as a contest between two opposing ideas. Every period of history has a “winner,” which would proceed to the next era. This winner would divide into two opposing ideas or be challenged by a new one. As you can imagine, this was a popular interpretation here in America during the Cold War.

If history is about ideas, why should alternate history be any different? Ideas have power. They shape societies and behavior. The 19th century was a Baby Boom of ideologies. Many different ideas came into being, some of them with negative connotations today. Racism and cultural chauvinism were normal in the 1800s. Cultural chauvinism has always been pretty common. The idea that your own nation or people are superior can be found in almost every period of history. Racism, on the other hand—with a big R—was new, and it took this idea to a whole new level. It was a philosophy (that’s right, I said philosophy) that developed in the 1800s as an effort to explain how the world worked. People were proud to call themselves ‘Racists.’ They believed that different races were like different species of animal occupying the same ecological niche. Like two species battling it out, human groups would inevitably turn on one another. This philosophy was strongly influenced by Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher who spectacularly misinterpreted Darwin (Darwin actually argued that evolution made men more cooperative, since it created civilization, a point largely ignored by Spencer). Spencer’s theory, called Social Darwinism, was used to justify the stratification of society as well as races. Factory workers were poor because they’d failed to compete as well as the plutocrats above them. England was triumphant because evolution had made them so.

Spencer’s ideas sound harsh to us, but like Racism, they were accepted by many respected figures of the day, including Teddy Roosevelt. Racism and Social Darwinism were a tidy explanation for the harsh truths of realpolitick. Nations—even ‘good’ ones—do horrible things. Social Darwinism justified this behavior. Warlike nations—and races—weren’t bullies. They were doing what came natural.

It’s important to understand that this theory of racial war wasn’t just about white vs. black. Obviously, people recognized that other folks had different skin colors. But in the 19th century, linguistic and ethnic differences were just as important. Jules Verne was so worried about Germans developing a sense of superiority that in 1879 he wrote The Begum’s Fortune. His villain, Professor Schultze, believes that Germans are the master race. Anyone living in our time would expect this to mean an attack on Jews. Yet Professor Schultze rants about Latins, a vague term for Mediterranean people that somehow included France. Like many real life Racists, Verne’s antagonist didn’t do his homework. The Franks who created France were related ethnically to the tribes that settled Germany. Verne, being French, was no doubt aware of this glaring inaccuracy, probably because he knew that many Racists were misusing history to justify political agendas.

For Schultze and the Racists he was modeled after, it wasn’t about skin color. It wasn’t Africa vs. Europe vs. Asia. It was about a person’s home country versus EVERYONE ELSE. It was about differences in language, outlook, and religion (protestant countries hated Catholic and vice versa). If the Irish were uncouth savages who needed to be taught the ways of civilization then England was justified in conquering them. The same applied to India and Africa. This attitude wasn’t just in Britain, either: it was also used to justify the latent prejudice which Poles, Italians, and Irish felt when they came to America, a country dominated by Anglo culture.

Professor Schultze is an example of how these beliefs can be used to stoke up a villain. But I didn’t tell you about Teddy Roosevelt’s beliefs because I want you to hate him. Far from it. I think Roosevelt is a fascinating individual. He’s on the list of people I’ll meet for coffee once my time machine is finished. But he was a man of his time and we have to understand that about him. These beliefs, as repugnant as they are, would likely show up in protagonists as much as antagonists.

Part of Steampunk’s lure is stepping back into another mindset, even when that mindset is unpleasant. Rather than shrinking from the uglier parts of the 19th century, Steampunk authors should embrace them. Anytime there is conflict—and these ideologies scream conflict—the story gets interesting. Gail Carriger’s protagonist, Alexia Tarabotti, is an excellent example. What would these books be if the heroine could go where she pleased and say whatever she liked without consequence? The Alaskan tundra challenged and defined Jack London’s characters. English society serves the same purpose for Alexia, offering a stark foil for her personality. Absent the rigid Victorian ethos, we would never get to know Alexia. The men around her, meanwhile, have to reconcile this strong-willed female with their worldview. The same environment that helps define Alexia also gives the male characters a chance for development. How will they reconcile a capable, headstrong woman with their worldview?

This doesn’t mean writers should feel constricted by historical reality. In a divergent timeline, things are different. That’s the point. But things should never be different without a reason. This is where understanding causal relationships is important. Causal relationships are what history is all about. Historians essentially spend their time trying to understand cause and effect. Writers can benefit from this. By understanding cause and effect, one can predict or explain why a society develops in the way it does, even a fictional one.

Feelings about women were very different, for instance, in the American West. Women pulled their weight around the farm. They were not expensive window dressing like their upper class counterparts in London or Boston. By being important members of the economy, women earned respect and afforded rights they wouldn’t have in the “civilized” east. They could even vote in some states.

It’s entirely possible for people to have rights they didn’t have in our reality. Those rights may even change from place to place. Your female inventor or African American ornithopter pilot don’t have to spend the whole book being shunned if it hurts the narrative. Just show how and why ideas in your timeline have evolved. This is another fun aspect of writing alternate history: alternate ideologies.

Explanations are important because nothing ruins a story like characters that are inexplicably modern in outlook. Take, for example, the main character in The Patriot, Benjamin Martin. Benjamin’s a Southern planter but, for some reason, all his workers are freemen. He doesn’t use slaves at all. This is a powerful statement that the filmmakers glossed over. I assume they found the topic of slavery uncomfortable. In one scene, Benjamin is kindly hidden by runaway slaves. So he must believe in emancipation. Why didn’t they say this? Why not show the reaction of the other planters? While he might be popular with slaves and former slaves, many of his neighbors should despise him. They would worry that he was ‘poisoning’ the minds of their slaves. Benjamin would have been a lone planter following his conscience—and facing ostracism as a result, making him a much more compelling character.

As authors, uncomfortable subjects should excite us, not deter us. Whatever you write, you will offend people. Just read ten lines of an internet message board if you don’t believe me. So don’t worry what a few outliers might think.  The best books make people—including the writer—think. I’m not saying every story needs to have a moral. But the books which entertained me most also had me thinking long after I put them down. The Muggle-bashing in Harry Potter wasn’t a homily. It was a frank acknowledgement of how some people react to having power. Tolkien’s presentation of Sauron isn’t preachy. It’s a sublime meditation on the nature of evil. This enhances the story without resorting to an Aesop-style punch line. This is the role ideology should play in Steampunk: enhancing without hijacking. When done properly, it adds more than world-building. It adds depth, something every book can use.

~Christopher Beats

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Jim Best is the director of youth ministries at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles, Illinois.  He creates jewelry and clockwork creatures in his spare time and is a member of the Promethean Society.  He has a new Etsy shop called Clockwork Curiosities and can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Jabsloth.

Confessions of a Steampunk Jewelry Maker

 by Jim Best

I want to begin by thanking Suzanne for letting me stretch my virtual pen and introduce my own two cents into Steampunkapalooza.  I apologize for my ramblings in advance, but this is what happens when you give a preacher a podium.

I get laughed at a lot.  Okay, some of it I bring on myself, and some of it is just because I am more than a little eccentric, but last year at TeslaCon 2, several people poked fun at me because during the dance, I stopped to pick up little bits of broken jewelry from the floor and put them in my pocket.  I get the same reaction when I stop to pick up a rusted piece of metal on the street, or go to the hardware store and peruse the nuts and bolts looking for something interesting.  The people at Ace have learned to stop asking me if I need help finding anything.

 People a lot smarter than I have talked at great length about what has drawn people to steampunk over the past few years and turned it into the movement that it is today, but for me it came down to one major point.  I had spent most of my time doing things like playing computer games or watching TV; activities that, while fun, created nothing lasting.  I felt like I needed to be doing more.  I felt like I should be adding something to the beauty of the world.  Seeing some of the amazing creations of people at steampunk events around Chicago and Milwaukee, I knew I had to try my hand at creating things as well.

  The first piece of jewelry that I tried to create was really basic.  I wanted a pin that would look like a clockwork bug.  I had a nice watch movement to use as the base, but was having problems finding something I liked for the wings.  I was sitting at my desk with the idea of looking online for ideas, when my eyes glanced down at a flattened penny I’d been given at the Frenzy Universe booth many years before.  I have no idea why I’d kept it all this time, except that when I was given the pressed coin, the girl at the booth told me to “take it and make something out of it.”  Holding it up to the watch movement, I knew I’d found my wing.

Since that day, I’ve made a lot of jewelry.  Most of it I give away to friends, some I sell, and some just clutters up the house, waiting for its moment.  And for me, making the jewelry has really solidified what I love about steampunk.  Whether it is making an airship out of a flattened penny, some wire, and some watch parts, or turning some broken metal found on a dance floor into a clockwork beetle, when it comes to steampunk fashion and art, absolutely nothing is useless!  Everything can be turned into something beautiful and wild.

This right here is my own steampunk philosophy.  Everything and everyone has a purpose!  It may not be the expected thing; we’ve all seen pepper shakers turned into ray guns, or mason jar lids turned into goggles.  And it may not be what society tells you is the proper use; I’ve seen copper toilet floats turned into mechanical owls, and cardboard and spray paint turned into the fist of an emperor, so none of that matters.  We don’t have to worry about what society tells us our place is, or worry that we’re not doing what is expected of us.  We are steampunks, emphasis on the Punk!  And in steampunk nothing is useless and nothing is junk.  We all have a place in the world.  We are all useful and all beautiful!

–Jim Best

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Today, as Steampunkapalooza continues, please welcome YA author Jay Kristoff.

Jay Kristoff is a Perth-born, Melbourne-based author. His first trilogy, THE LOTUS WAR, was purchased in the three-way auction by US publishing houses in 2011. He is as surprised about it as you are. The first installment, STORMDANCER, is set to be published in September 2012 in the US, UK and Australia.

Jay is 6’7, has approximately 13870 days to live and does not believe in happy endings.

EVOLUTION

 by Jay Kristoff

Once upon a time, there was this fellow called Neanderthal man. He was handy in a scrap, well-suited to the freezing climates in which he hung his furs, and possessed of a brain larger than the average human. He was an apex predator, had a language and complex societal groups. Maybe not complex enough to develop grand concepts like us (reality TV, 4-chan, Sarah Palin) but you know, close.

And around 25,000 years ago, he and all his buddies disappear from the fossil record.

No-one quite knows why. The most popular theory is that he was wiped out by a more complex evolution of his genome that we now call homo sapiens, who essentially rolled up in his cabbage patch and a) Killed every Neanderthal he saw, or b) Did the sexah with every Neanderthal lady he saw, and essentially bred poor Neanderthal right the frack out of a job. Some scientists hypothesise that rapid climate change did him in. But in any event, Neanderthal’s inability to adapt cashed his check for him.

In short he didn’t change. He liked the way he was and he was going to stay that way, dammit. Extinction be damned.

Which brings me to steampunk (See what I did there? No? Maybe I need to work on my segues…)

25 years after KW Jeter coined the term ‘steampunk’, the tropes of the SP genre are pretty well established. Any geek worthy of his Browncoats membership will have a clear image in mind when you mention the word – an industrialized Victorian setting, with technology you wouldn’t expect to find in said setting, either flitting about the air or clanking about the streets amidst clouds of phlogiston or aether or another fantastical fuel source. And this is all good. Tropes need to be established. There needs to be rules before you can break them.

But.

My personal theory is that steampunk sits at a crossroads in its evolution. Down one fork lies experimentation – the challenging of rules and norms, spectacular failures and amazing successes. And down the other lies the tropes we’re all familiar with; all goggles and corsetry and top hats and howdoyoudo’s, and Mr Neanderthal crouched on his haunches wondering WTF hit him.

I’m not saying steampunk is at risk of dying anytime soon – I’m just saying evolution from what we know and expect from it is probably a good thing. And granted, any novel, no matter how steeped in tropes it is, can be wonderful. ‘Write it well’ should always be the golden rule when it comes to fiction, genre or otherwise. But take a look at the more successful acknowledged steampunk authors around – people like Scott Westerfeld (NYT bestseller) or Cherie Priest (awards goddess) or Alan Moore (yeah, he’d probably pop an artery if anyone called him that, but hey…). These folks took the tropes and fracked with them. They took the norm and challenged it, and came up with books that really woke people up to the idea that steampunk can be almost anything we want it to be.

I like the idea of a world where people aren’t quite sure what Steampunk is. I like the idea of we as creators and community members doing our best to defy codification and tropes and convention. Steampunk doesn’t have to be corsets and goggles and phlogiston. It can be the siege tanks in Avatar: The Last Airbender. It can be iron walkers clashing with genetically engineered warbears in the Leviathan series. It can be clockwork ballerinas in The Music of Razors. You can crossbreed it faeries and other, less friendly fae. It can be set in the frontier age of colonial America. Or a magic-inspired version of tsarist Russia.

Or maybe even the samurai age of Japan.

Yeah, that segue was much better… J

Point is, it can be almost anything you want it to be, within a few sketchy guidelines. The only limit should be your imagination, and that shouldn’t be any kind of limit at all.

Go forth and evolve!

–Jay Kristoff

http://misterkristoff.wordpress.com/

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