Elizabeth writes YA Fantasy and has published through EvernightTeen, (which is the innocent little sister of Evernight Publishing who releases most of my smut…I mean stories.)
Anyways, Ellie wrote Justice Unending—a YA fantasy/steampunk novel with a lot of really cool mystic elements as well. So I thought I’d reach out and see if she would talk to us dirty birds about Steampunk.
• The entire Parasol Protectorate series is am-AAAAAAAAA-zing!
• Bioshock Infinite is a steampunk videogame, and it absolutely blew me away.
• The Something Strange and Deadly series is rough around the edges, but it has zombies! Steampunk and zombies!
• Agatha H and the Clockwork City is a novelization of a webcomic, and I admit that I haven’t read the comic (and the second book wasn’t my favorite.) So while I can’t say I know much about the actual series, this book did come at an opportune time for me. I read it just as I was really getting deep into editing Justice, and the world-building was just so quirky. It really inspired me on my journey with my own fantasy-steampunk.
Steampunk just falls into a really cozy place for me. On one hand, it lets you play with a lot of really modern, familiar-feeling concepts, with a technology-rich world and some modern conveniences. On the other, it’s still distant enough that you don’t have telephones or television, which really make the world feel… small, I guess. Like it’s all known, and all visible, and all discoverable.
And since Justice Unending is essentially a steampunk-fantasy with corsets and trains and crazy inventors (and possession!), it just hits on a really fun mix of industrial but not modern, technological but full of magic. It’s fun!
I’ve read a lot more dystopic steampunk than utopian ones. (I’m… not sure I’ve read any, actually. I’d love to!) And that’s not too hard to understand—the real Victorian age was brutal, so it’s easy to get caught up in the “no workers’ rights, child labor everywhere, robber barons galore” elements.
And as much as I’d like a chipper steampunk, mine isn’t! I’d describe Justice Unending is a false utopia. Brittany Bastion, where the book is set, is genuinely a pretty nice place: it’s a completely sealed-off country, protected from the mysterious, Wilds that lie beyond its walls. And while the Wilds are lawless and savage—and obviously not a topic of polite teatime conversation—Brittany is a genuinely peaceful, prosperous place. It’s just one that expects sacrifices, and one of the most important relates to the spirits called the Unending. These bodiless, immortal spirits are the lifeblood of Brittany and keep it safe from harm. And since they don’t have their own bodies, they have to incarnate in a human’s—and then they’re sharing the body and fighting for control of it. When you get chosen, the only socially acceptable thing to do is to march yourself down to the capital, where you’ll be gently, kindly, asphyxiated to death so that the spirit can use your body for themselves.
Brittany’s society accepts this as the price of peace—that sometimes your friends and families get chosen, and that this is sad, but ultimately good for everyone—so it’s only when the main character, Faye, is possessed that she starts to learn about why this system was put in place and what it means to all the people who were killed before her. And she learns that it’s not what it seems, and that this seemingly fundamental part of their society is rooted in a lot of unpleasant, dark history. It’s not exactly a raging dystopia, but it’s definitely a world built on ugliness.
In Justice Unending, Faye, a stubborn, tomboyish teenager has her sister chosen by one of the Unending. This is supposed to be a joyous occasion—and her family and neighbors all try very hard—but Faye, being stubborn, refuses to accept that her sister has to die. So she goes to try and see her before the ritual is completed.
Instead, she instead bumbles right into the middle of a murder and is promptly chosen as the next body by the Mad Immortal, Aris, an Unending who has spent the last several hundred years trying to bring the Bastion down from within, mostly by committing horrible murders. And this leaves Faye with two equally awful choices: she could turn herself in and let herself be killed (which is obviously not a great choice) or she can try to escape, even though just about everyone in the Bastion would turn her in to the capital if they knew who was inside her.
And she has to do all of this with a murderer inside her who is fighting her for her body and very much wants to continue their fight against the Bastion. It’s very much an action-adventure!
You can find more Ellie here.
The Fantasist is a quarterly online magazine that publishes three original Fantasy novellas on the third Thursday of every third month.
And this month, while they celebrate Steampunk, one of them is mine!