Tag Archives: #feminism

Steampunk according to Shelley Adina

I had the great pleasure of attending some of Shelley Adina’s lectures on creative writing. In addition to being a phenomenal teacher, Shelley is an extraordinarily kind woman who will let weirdos with websites interview her. I didn’t even have to take any chickens hostage (though apparently, “The Silkie Mafia” comes armed with lightning pistols, so…)


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Shelley Adina is the author of 24 novels published by Harlequin, Warner, and Hachette, and a dozen more published by Moonshell Books, Inc., her own independent press. She writes steampunk, contemporary romance, and young adult fiction, and as Adina Senft, writes women’s fiction set among the Amish and other plain communities.  She won the Romance Writers of America RITA Award® for Best Inspirational Novel in 2005, was a finalist in 2006, and in 2009 was a Christy Award finalist.

When she’s not writing, Shelley is usually quilting, sewing historical costumes, or enjoying the garden with her flock of rescued chickens.

Her latest Magnificent Devices story comes out on the 19th and it looks like this:

 

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Here’s my full interview with Ms. Shelley Adina:

L.J.: What brought you to Steampunk?

S.A.: Would you believe the Wild Wild West TV show back in the 1960s?

L.J.: YouTube says it’s like James Bond on horseback. I can believe it.

S.A.: I loved the adventure in the Wild West, the trick gadgets, the derring-do of it all. Because I was the oldest, when we recreated the episodes after school, I always had to be James West. But I wanted to be Artemus Gordon because he got to invent the cool stuff. Carry that forward several decades, and I’m inventing cool stuff in my imagination now.

L.J.: I’ve been making people define Steampunk all month, but you’ve actually defined it in the past really succinctly as “high technology in the Victorian age,” but you write in the Regency as well. Does the era matter?

S.A.: Since the steam engine was invented by Richard Trevithick in 1807 or thereabouts, the age of steam falls both in the Regency and in the Victorian age. For writers focusing on both eras, steam matters. But what also matters is the punk element—the element of subversion of authority and fighting for independence, especially among women. While it may be easy to imagine Victorian ladies getting up to subversive activities in a time that saw the likes of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Viscountess Amberley, the Regency had its share, too, like Ada Lovelace (born 1815), the first computer programmer. Steampunks know this, and celebrate it in the characters and art we create for ourselves.

L.J.: What do you think caused the Steampunk movement?

S.A.: In a world that’s so high-tech, where you can have relationships with people you never meet in person, the hands-on, “I made this” aspect of steampunk is very appealing. The maker communities are large and active, sharing a community build of a steam-powered motorcycle or a particularly attractive bustle design for a dress. The art of it brings like-minded people together, and there’s a real appeal in sharing a common weirdness 🙂 That speaks to me as a writer, too, because I’m building a community around characters who embody that brave, punk aspect of the movement.

L.J.:  As a reader, do you think Steampunk leans more dystopian or utopian? As a writer which way do your books tend to swing and why?

S.A.: I’ve read steampunk in both flavors. Being an optimist at heart, I prefer the utopian. My heroines get what they want because they’re clever, brave, and compassionate. My worlds, while they might be broken in some ways, still have room for happiness if one is brave enough to create it. Maybe that’s a bit of my life philosophy, too.

L.J.: I really like that as a life philosophy. Can you tell us more about your books?

S.A.: The Magnificent Devices series numbers 12 books, followed by four “manor house” novellas that continue the adventures in a much smaller, more domestic way. Because, you know, the adventures don’t stop after the wedding 🙂

Then there is my spinoff steampunk mystery series, Mysterious Devices, which follows the adventures of Daisy and Freddie Linden, two young ladies from Bath who are searching for their father. He went missing in Book 11 of the larger series. Along the way they solve murders, missing persons cases, and espionage cases. As one does, in steampunk.

L.J.: Last thing, because I don’t want your chickens to get out and start robbing banks without their mom keeping an eye on them, what are your top five Steampunk favs?

S.A.:

  1. The Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld
  2. The Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest
  3. The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger
  4. The Baskerville Affair series by Emma Jane Holloway
  5. And a delightful French movie called Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec that is based on a comic book series

You can find Shelley’s work 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!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

Steampunk Music: Dresden Dolls

Another one of my favorite bands is The Dresden Dolls. I find it incredible the variety of sounds these two people are able to make. According to Wikipedia, the style of music is actually Brechtian punk cabaret, but given their encouragement for all kinds of artistic expression (there are living statues, fire jugglers, and all kind of busking at their live shows) I don’t think they’d mind being showcased with some steamy punks.

 


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!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

 

Steampunk according to Elizabeth Spencer

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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 Unendinga 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.

 

 

 


According to Elizabeth:
Since I’m coming in at the tail end of steampunk month, I’m sure all your readers would agree that steampunk can almost be anything! I think the only universal in steampunk is the aesthetic—the steampower, the industrialism, and some maybe-historical-maybe-fake-Victorian feel. But there’s alternate-history steampunk and steampunk that’s basically Victoriana science fiction. It can be based in the real world or just set in one that’s up to its nose in airships and steam trains. It’s all good!
Top Steampunk books/movies/etc. that influenced you?

• 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.

I first got into steampunk for the aesthetic, honestly. I love corsets, lovely dresses, and ridiculous hats (and yes, yes, I know the largest and most glorious hats are Edwardian!) All this led me to steampunk festivals. And then, because I wanted a costume, the first thing I ever learned to sew was good ol’ Simplicity 2712
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(Note to everyone else: don’t try to make something like that for your first pattern. Really. Don’t.)
Then it was books like Something Strange and Deadly and Agatha H and the Airship City, and then… well, I wanted to write something myself!

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!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

Steampunk Music: Disturbed covers “Sound of Silence”

Okay, definitely more punk than steam.

So much of Steampunk is taking what we find interesting about the past and reshaping it to our own tastes. I understand Simon and Garfunkel and 1964 are not the same thing as the per-electric era, but… damn it I love this song.


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!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

 

Steampunk Music: Steam Powered Giraffe

I think the general reaction to the live Steampunk culture when you first encounter it is… “what?”

Followed quickly by a “I want to do this too…”

No band personifies that quite as much as Steam Powered Giraffes. I really don’t have any way to describe these guys except to show them to you.

Same band. Different day.

And that, my friends, is what counterculture is all about.


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!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

 

Steampunk according to Michael Butcher

Michael Butcher is also being published in the Fantasist this month. He says he writes fantasy stories somewhere in the blasted wastelands of Western Australia and that he’s bee successfully avoiding roaming packs of raiders, but I think we all know better. He’s leading those damned packs which is why I’m afraid to Americanize his spelling.


According to Mike:

Although I don’t consider myself a steampunk writer, I enjoy the potential for storytelling the genre provides. It’s a genre that revels in the idea of exploring new frontiers of the physical world and of science, and perhaps magic. For readers, it may be a sort of interest in history, of alternate timelines or simply the aesthetic. It’s a genre that can perfectly blend fantasy and science fiction with a strong spirit of adventure. I can see why it is so popular.

Steampunk is an aspect of the retro-futurism art movement, a movement that basically imagines how certain eras of the past might imagine their own future. In steampunk’s case, typically the future with a distinctly Victorian or Edwardian flavour. The genre is ripe for criticising the class distinctions of the era along with unethical scientific endeavors and the hubris of inventors, entrepreneurs, “captains of industry” etc. Frankenstein could be considered a precursor to Steampunk because of the way Mary Shelley worked fantastical science fiction elements into a cautionary tale of arrogance in a world where advances in science seemingly make everything possible. Also there’s lots of gas powered lamps and steam powered everythings.

One of steampunk’s primary real-life influences was the industrial revolution, a period of growth and possibility but also of wealth inequality and labour exploitation. I can’t help but imagine that underneath a glittering, marvelous, steam-powered metropolis, there wouldn’t be a vastly exploited working class. I think that tension is one of the more appealing aspects of steampunk, or retro-futurism as a whole concept. For me, there’s a cautionary aspect to it, a just-cos’-you-could warning about pushing the limits of science into the unknown and what horrible things that might reveal to us.

A steampunk city is a city built on the idea of limitless potential, the underlying feeling that it could collapse into a dystopic nightmare at just the right push is one of my favourite things about it, and it is what I will enjoy writing about the most as I continue to tell more tales in this world I’m building with this work!

The Thief’s Darling is a novella I started writing late in 2017. I didn’t actually set out to write a steampunk story.

[L.J. exclaims on first read: What! But it has gas lamps? It’s totally steampunk.]

Originally, it was going to be much more of a classical fantasy setting, with the weird science aspects replaced with more traditional, occult magic shtick, but I was doing quite a lot of research into the practices of alchemists in preparation for the writing process and was really interested in alchemy, in the early modern period, as a precursor to modern day chemistry and the effects it had on science as a whole. Also, I do like the aesthetic of gas lamps.

It is the story of five sisters who are master alchemists living in the run-down town of Wadlock, a once vibrant place that has fallen on hard times. The sisters, led by Enith, are attempting to create the perfect man by distilling the essence of romance novels down and transmuting them into a man who is sort of the amalgamation of a whole range of pulp romance novel “hunks”. His name is Troy.

[L.J.: As someone who writes these romance novels, I am all about this premise. But if we get this technology IRL, I think we have to name him “Chris” because of the inordinate amount of sexy Chrises.]

Most of the sisters are partaking in the project for a laugh and to spend time together, but it certainly seems to mean something entirely different for Enith.

They have hired a thief, a young woman named Cady “Nine-Lives”, a scrappy sort of sixteen-year-old who is trying to pull together enough money to skip town. One night, during a raid on the local library, she runs afoul of the librarian, an old man with an affinity for classic romance novels who also hides a bloody and tragic past. Cady accidentally burns down the library which puts her life and the life of Troy into jeopardy.

My intention was to create a story that subverts the reader’s expectations. There seems to be a sort of culture of disdain surrounding women who read romance novels (or just anything women enjoy en masse).

[L.J.: you said it, brother!]

Most of the story is told through the eyes of Cady, a teenager who carries that same disdain, and so she tends to view the sisters as “gross” or “wrong” for their reading habits, but as we explore the character of the sisters more, it is suggested that not only do some find a sense of comfort in reading and appreciating romantic fiction, but also find good-natured community and sisterly  bonding.

You can find Michael’s story 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!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

 

Steampunk according to Van Essler

I met Van at Seton Hill where we instantly clicked and became intellectual lovers, which is like real lovers, but without the sex. Or the knowing each other very well. Okay, mostly we just get excited by the same things. Which is basically the same as being in love.


Van

Van Essler is a yoga junkie with a tarot collection who makes friends with her dreams, whether they are sweet reveries or nightmares. She won the Founder’s Award from the Professional Writers of Prescott for fiction and has publications in Story Emporium Magazine, Zimbell house anthologies, and Z-composition.

 

Her story “Chasing the Eleusinian” is a play on the girl pretending to be a cabin boy trope only it happens on an airship with some steampunked Greek mythology flair.

According to Van:

Jess Nevins once said “Steampunk is what happens when goths discover brown” and I am that goth.

I have always been fascinated by the Victorian era. The period’s corsets and etiquette in a sharp contrast to harsh realities of the Industrial Revolution had an irresistible allure. I discovered Bram Stoker’s Dracula at thirteen, and immediately dove into research of anything Victorian and dark, from Jack the Ripper to arsenic green dye.

About ten years ago, I read my first steampunk in the way of short fiction in an online zine. I was instantly sucked in by the Victorian aesthetic, but even more entranced with how the authors used the steam technology in the stories. Inspiration struck, and I just had to write the Steampunk stories that flooded my head. It was kismet.

My top five Steampunk influences are:

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest – a mesmerizing steampunk novel featuring a strong female protagonists and zombies in early Seattle.

Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeves – Seriously, cities eating cities. What else can I say but I love the whole concept of this novel.

Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina – An amazing tale with a smart and strong female protagonist utilizing her inventive skills in the mean streets of London.

The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling – An exploration into an alternative Victorian world where the computer has been invented, complete with mystery/thriller fast paced plot.

Howls Moving Castle directed by Hayao Miyazaki – A brilliant film that mixes a Steampunk Edwardian aesthetic with witches and sorcerers. If you have kids, this is a great one to cuddle up on the couch and watch with them.

[Behind the scenes, L.J. says: Damn it, that counts? I want Howl’s on my list too. That’s a great film.

Van: It should be on your list! I love that movie on so many levels. It really shows how versatile the genre can be.

L.J.: But I published my list last week…

Van: But isn’t this like three weeks in advance.

L.J.: …

Van: …

L.J.: Anyways, what the Hell is Steampunk?]

 

As a formal definition, I would say that Steampunk is speculative fiction set in Victorian or Edwardian periods, often alternative versions on those times, that reflect the values and challenges of those eras. Typically, the steam technology of the time period is changed to retro-futuristic imaginings or there are variations to the recorded timeline with alternative historical events. Steampunk has also morphed into an aesthetic—a sort of vibe or style that can apply to any story. If it has brass goggles and airships, more than likely it will be considered steampunk.

I feel that so much of the Victorian time period mirrors today’s society; both eras had rapid jumps in technology that drastically alter their culture. Steampunk speaks to me as a writer as a way to explore our current world by pulling from that rich history. Also, the amount of delightful world-building and researching I get to embark on is a perk.

[L.J.: Perk for you, torture for me, lady. You can keep it.

Van: C’mon, you know you can’t resist the research rabbit hole.

L.J.: I can and I will.

Van: Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.

L.J.: *Mutters and growls with incoherent annoyance, then returns to research Prussian wigs.*]

Steampunk resonates with audiences on a nostalgic level as well as feeling aligned with our current world. There’s something so appealing about a past we feel a part of and yet have never seen. I also think that much of the steam-powered technology of Steampunk feels more human in a sense. Cogs and gears assembled to run a device seem far more accessible to us than motherboards and microchips. We can create and put together the parts of Steampunk, while the overly sleek and perfect technology of today is beyond the capabilities of our own hands.

The conflicts of the Victorian era are ripe to twist and bend into bleak societies.  Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines has cities literally eating each other for survival, which feels ten shades of dystopic from the first line. Of course, I probably notice the more dystopian works within the subgenre due to my preference of darker themed fiction.
I’ve never been the utopic type of storyteller. I’m always far more interested in characters that face obstacles not only on a personal level, but must overcome the hand dealt to them by the world they live in. I’m sure others would argue they prefer to focus on an individual’s struggle in a society that runs pretty much like clockwork (pun intended), and they should. The more variation we can creatively explore, the better. As for me, I’ll keep to the shadows.

Which is why my most recent Steampunk story “Chasing the Eleusinian” is a little dark. It’s a short story mixing airships with a bit of Greek Mythology. Sam, a girl disguised as a cabin boy aboard The Dire Crimson, sails the skies in search of the legendary Eleusinian ship run with automations. But if she can’t keep her gender concealed from the misogynist first mate, her sky faring days will abruptly end.

 

You can find Van’s story 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!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

 

Steampunk Music: Bitter Ruin

 

Bitter Ruin has to be one of my favorite bands, partly because I like so many different kinds of music and they experiment with all of them.  I’m not sure if they’d like being called Steampunk, but “Ticker Don’t Tock” definitely helped me get into that clockwork mindset while I was writing The Scribbling Windhund.

 

I’m not sure “Trust” has anything to do with Steampunk either, but man is this a great video.

 


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!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

Steampunk Movie Review: City of Lost Children

I realize that my number one influence for Steampunk was actually La Cité des Enfants Perdus which is the proper French title for my favorite movie of all time, The City of Lost Children. The visuals are striking and extremely Steampunk, which is odd to me because I wasn’t thinking of this as Steampunk until just today when I was thinking about the Cyclops (the fat-faced guy with the eye thing is actually a blind man in a cult that kidnaps and sells children to the really old guy).

“The City of Lost Children is…the story of Krank, a tormented scientist who sets about kidnapping local children in order to steal their dreams and reverse his accelerated ageing process. When Krank’s henchmen kidnap his brother, local fisherman and former circus strongman One (Ron Perlman) sets out on a journey to Krank’s nightmarish laboratory, accompanied by a little orphan girl called Miette.”  – Umbrella Productions

It’s a weird quest story with a lot of strange world elements. The ocean is polluted (possibly poisonous, judging by the milky green hue), the world is dark (I don’t think there’s any day light in this movie), the characters are all incredibly well-rounded. Almost everyone even the smallest side characters has something they want that they can’t have.

And because trailers in the 90’s were almost as fucking weird as the movie itself, enjoy this:

 


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!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.

Images from the Past: Women of the Future

There are from a set of postcards designed by Albert Bergeret in 1902. He was French and apparently these were a little risque.  Personally, I think they fit very neatly into what we would now call a Steampunk aesthetic.  Especially, the Lady General.

 

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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!

cropped-The-Fantasist-Logo-192x192
Support these guys. They have good stories for free.