Heir of Thunder

  •  Author: Karissa Laurel

Release: 2016

Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy

Series: Stormbourne Chronicles

Edition: Kindle

Publisher: Evolved Publishing, LLC

Blurb

The Lord of Thunder has passed, leaving daughter Evelyn Stormbourne to overcome her kingdom’s greatest enemies, but first she must embrace her dominion over the sky.

The Lord of Thunder’s sudden death leaves his daughter, Evelyn Stormbourne, unprepared to rule Inselgrau in his place. Weeks before Evie’s ascension to the throne, revolutionaries attack and destroy her home. She conceals her identity and escapes under the protection of her father’s young horse master, Gideon Faust. Together they flee Inselgrau and set sail for the Continent, but they’re separated when a brutal storm washes Evie overboard.

In her efforts to reunite with her protector and reach allies on the Continent, Evie befriends a band of nomads who roam the world in airships fueled by lightning. She also confronts a cabal of dark Magicians plotting to use her powers to create a new divine being, and she clashes with an ancient family who insists her birthright belongs to them.

If she’s to prevail and defeat her enemies, Evie must claim her heritage, embrace her dominion over the sky, and define what it means to be Heir of Thunder.

REVIEW: SPOILERS AHEAD

Evie Stormbourne is the last in a long line of rulers who can control the weather, especially thunder and lightning, to a devastating effect. Throughout the generations the power has weakened, though, and when the story begins Evie’s powers are only a pale shadow of her ancestor’s abilities.

When her father is killed Evie manages to escape with the help of her father’s master of the horse, a young man named Gideon. Although Evie travels incognito, she is in constant danger of discovery because she is being hunted. There are multiple forces at play, and there are those who want to steal her birthright.

Complications arise and Evie is separated from her protector. She is forced to face certain truths about her situation. Why was her father overthrown? Will she avoid the fate others have plotted for her? Does she want to conquer the land her family ruled for centuries? Will she take control of her own destiny?

Evie is an easy character to like. She starts as a very pampered, innocent young woman who has never ventured far beyond the bounds of her father’s estate. She has no idea why her father has been killed and her family home is under siege. She has limited basic survival skills. But she cannot remain in the role of “damsel in distress” and hope to survive. She learns about life iduring her travels, she experiences the world, and she becomes a force to be reckoned with by the end of the novel. (Although, as Laurel hints in the narrative, Evie has a long way to go before developing her full Stormbourne potential.)

The world contains a mixture of historically accurate devices and steampunk inventions. The amount of technology available seems to depend upon a character’s station in life. For instance, most of the characters travel by horse or sailing ships, but more fortunate others travel in dirigibles. It is a distinctive way to divide the classes.

When Fallstaff, the traditional seat of power for the Stormbourne rulers, is under attack, the steam-driven machines are protected by regular army troops:

One of my father’s war manuals showed illustrations of that vicious machine, but I had never seen one in reality. Someone with a brain for engineering had rigged this one with a system of levers, pulleys, and gears. A steam engine automated its processes, and every few seconds a conveyer belt fed another iron missile into a waiting bucket attached to a long wooden arm. From this distance, the trebuchet looked like an assemblage of toothpicks and hungry metal teeth, yet its ammunition tore holes through Fallstaff’s stone and mortar like a moth devours a wool sweater. A group of men stood around its base, guarding the machine with rifles and crossbows.

This genre mixture can be seen throughout the novel and adds just the right touch of reality. Infantry soldiers protect the high-tech steam mechanism that is needed to tear down the fortress. The machine is costly; the men are cheaply armed and more easily replaceable.

Another divide occurs with magic. Very few have access to the forces and knowledge to work spells and only the Stormbourne line can control lightning and thunder. That level of magical ability is priceless and guarantees Evie will have a price on her head unless she overcomes her enemies.

This is a wonderful steampunk/fantasy series. It creates a very in-depth story world and a cast of compelling characters. I highly recommend the novel.

Breaking News: The second novel in the series, Quest of Thunder, has just been released!

Evie must restore her divine abilities, or be enslaved by her enemy’s dark Magic.

Evelyn Stormbourne has overcome revolutionaries, pirates, devious relatives, and powerful Magicians to claim her birthright as Lady of Thunder, but before she can embrace her dominion over the skies, her powers falter, leaving her impotent and adrift. Under the protection of her stalwart companion, Gideon Faust, Evie hides in anonymity and searches for news of the Fantazikes who had once promised to help her master her divine abilities.

Without her capacity to control the storms, Evie wonders how she’ll ever reclaim her throne—a legacy she’s not convinced she deserves. But when a fearsome nemesis from her past reemerges, she embarks on desperate quest to find the Fantazikes and restore her powers. If she fails, her enemy’s dark Magic will enslave her, forcing her to destroy everything and everyone she loves.

 

 

Airships are Awesome

Modern airship
A modern day airship.

When I was a kid, back in the long ago, I would scour the elementary school library for any and every book on aircraft. One of my third-grade art projects featured a construction-paper airplane with a proper airfoil. In other words, I was into flying machines of every variety in a very serious way. However, nothing quite filled my nerdy heart like airships.

Let’s face it, while airplanes are remarkable machines, the experience of traveling in those fixed-wing speedsters of the skies isn’t that much different than traveling by bus. There’s something about the idea of traveling in a machine more akin to a floating hotel that sounds simply spectacular. It’s no wonder they are a staple of the steampunk universe.

There was little doubt that I would include an airship in my first steampunk story, but I had to think about how a steampunk airship would actually work. The story was aimed toward middle-grade readers and the airship is merely a backdrop for a small part of it, so I had no intention to include lots of details, but I wanted what did show up to make at least some sense.

The first item to figure out was what type of airship it would be. Airships basically fall into three categories: blimps which hold their shape purely with air pressure, semi-rigid airships which also hold their shape with air pressure and include some metal structure to distribute forces, and rigid airships whose shape is defined by its metal structure (sometimes called Zeppelins even though the Zeppelin company wasn’t the only manufacturer of such machines). Weight is everything with airships so the less of that heavy structure the better. However, as size increases more structure is needed to deal with the loads the airship has to carry. This means that when we look toward history, all the truly large airships have been of the rigid variety. If large airships were produced today, advances in engineering would likely result in the use of a semi-rigid design to reduce weight. My airship needed to be big, so a rigid design was the only possible choice.

That led me to the tricky part. How do you propel a huge airship? In the real world, airships were powered with internal combustion engines rather than the external combustion engines that powered the age of steam. External combustion means burning fuel to heat water in a boiler to produce the steam pressure that powers the engine. That means a heavy engine and plenty of hot flame. Heavy is always bad in an airship and flames… well, everyone knows about the Hindenburg.

USS Macon
The USS Macon with a 747 jumbo jet and a school bus to give an idea of scale.

As far as weight goes, I think it means that steampunk airships need to be big. A huge airship can carry enough lifting gas to support the structure needed for a powerful steam engine and boilers. The airship would need to carry water as well, but that is historically the case anyhow. In order to control altitude an airship needs to be able to change either the amount of lifting gas or its weight by adding or removing ballast and that ballast was generally water. Removing water for an airship is easy enough, you just release it. Adding water is less obvious, but it can be added by capturing engine exhaust and condensing the steam in the exhaust back into water. A lot of engine exhaust is water vapor. The United States Navy had some large airships for a short period of time (like the USS Macon that served as a flying aircraft carrier) and they relied on capturing water from exhaust to manage altitude.  So a steam-powered cousin of those big U.S. Navy airships would probably be larger and slower to carry the same load, but it seems plausible.

Now about the whole flame thing. The best lifting gas for an airship is hydrogen–it’s the lightest element after all. Unfortunately, hydrogen really likes to burn which makes the airship a fireball waiting to happen. There’s a reason that the big airships that used hydrogen for lift mounted their engines outside of the hull.

Well, the obvious solution is to use helium–the second lightest element–as the lifting gas. Unlike hydrogen, helium doesn’t burn and is quite effective at smothering fires. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with helium. Now, helium is about twice as heavy as hydrogen for a given volume, but that’s less of an issue then you might think. Lift in an airship is produced by displacing air and air is so much heavier than either helium or hydrogen that the difference between the two doesn’t have a huge impact. The real problem with helium is the supply. Hydrogen is easy to produce from water so there’s no problem filling the vast volume of an airship. In fact, hydrogen airships would just vent off hydrogen as it consumed fuel and became lighter during a journey. Nobody had to worry about replacing that hydrogen before the next trip. Helium, on the other hand, can’t be produced unless you happen to have a fusion reactor handy. The only significant source of helium is as a by-product of drilling for natural gas. In current times, there’s actually a fair amount of concern about the helium supply. There might not be a lot of airships around, but helium is an important coolant for superconductors.

The infamous Hindenburg was originally intended to use helium rather than hydrogen, but the Germans didn’t have access to enough of it. They also considered surrounding a central section of hydrogen gasbags with helium, but the supply was too short to make that work as well. When the U.S. Navy deployed its large airships, helium was used since the United States had a much greater helium supply than Germany. Maybe the Germans couldn’t make the idea of a hybrid airship work because of their helium shortage, but the idea could work for my imagined steampunk vessel.

With a hybrid design, my airship started to make sense. It would be bulky and slow compared to its real-world counterparts, but using helium to provide a protective layer around its dangerous load of hydrogen meant that the flame and boilers could be used with a plausible degree of safety. Even if hydrogen leaks, it goes up keeping it away from the engine mounted below.

Carrying all that hydrogen meant that it doesn’t even need to carry a separate supply of fuel. It can burn its hydrogen to heat the boilers and power the ship. As I mentioned earlier, Airships normally carried water for ballast and the steam from powering the engines can be captured or released to help control altitude. Since most of the lifting gas would be hydrogen, I can better hand-wave around where all the helium comes from to support fleets of such machines.

With a bit of thought and research, I felt I could justify my steampunk airship. That’s a very good thing since airships are awesome.

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Viriconium

 

  • Author: M. John Harrison
  • Release: December 18, 2007
  • Genre: Steampunk | Cyberpunk | Fantasy | Dark Fantasy | Sci-Fi
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Publisher: Random House LLC

 

Blurb

A magnificent city existing on the ringes of the past, and on the brink of destruction, Viriconium • With a foreword by Neil Gaiman

Available to American readers for the first time, this landmark collection gathers four groundbreaking fantasy classics from the acclaimed author of Light. Set in the imagined city of Viriconium, here are the masterworks that revolutionized a genre and enthralled a generation of readers: The Pastel City, A Storm of Wings, In Viriconium, and Viriconium Nights. Back in print after a long absence, these singular tales of a timeless realm and its enigmatic inhabitants are now reborn and compiled to captivate a whole new generation.

Review (Spoiler Free)

I would like to start with the recommendation, which I usually place at the end of the review. I enjoy this work, which is actually a collection of novels and short stories, and would recommend it for anyone who enjoys steampunk, cyberpunk, fantasy, sci-fi, and dark fantasy blended together in a unique genre of its own. Viriconium collects Harrison’s stories about the great city Viriconium, the empire that rose to prominence after the fall of the Afternoon Cultures. In the Kindle edition, Neil Gaiman writes the forward, which is a selling-point all on its own.

This is not a typical series. In fact, the only element that binds the stories together is the city/empire. The collection starts with two queens, Methvet Nian and Canna Moidart, battling to rule the empire; Lord Tegeus-Cromis and the last survivors of his order fight for Methvet Nian against the rapacious Northerners and the frightening Geteit Chemosit, leftovers from the Afternoon Empires. Airman Benedict Paucemanly returns from the moon followed by an invasion of locust-like creatures who come from the stars and threaten to destroy humanity. And finally, Viriconium connects to our world through mirrors. These portals allow people to travel between the realms and their adventures are told through a collection of loosely related short stories.

The writing style is vivid. For example, near the start of the collection Harrison describes the crash of an airship:

When it came close enough to make out detail, Cromis saw that its faceted crystal hull had been blackened by fire, and that a great rift ran the full length of its starboard side. Its power plant (the secret of which, like many other things, had been lost a thousand years before the rise of Viriconium, so that Cromis and his contemporaries lived on the corpse of an ancient science, dependent on the enduring relics of a dead race) ran with a dreary insectile humming where it should have been silent. A pale halo of St. Elmo’s fire crackled from its bow to its stern, coruscating. Behind the shattered glass of its canopy, Cromis could see no pilot, and its flight was erratic: it yawed and pitched aimlessly, like a waterbird on a quiet current.

Cromis’s knuckles stood out white against the sweat-darkened leather of his sword hilt as the vehicle dived, spun wildly, and lost a hundred feet in less than a second. It scraped the tops of the rowans, shuddered like a dying animal, gained a few precious, hopeless feet. It ploughed into the wood, discharging enormous sparks, its motors wailing. A smell of ozone was in the air.

The air ships, as well as many of the other inventions, fall under the genre of steampunk. The people who live in the current era, though, have little understanding of how the inventions work. Their society is more feudal, or high fantasy, in nature like the worlds created by George R.R. Martin. There are blends of sci fi, reminiscent of H.G. Wells, fairy-tale tropes, and so much more. This collection really seems determined to invent its own genre!

I found it very helpful to read Gaiman’s forward. Please do not skip this if you pick up the collection. Otherwise a person could get lost looking for a common thread or repeating characters in the novels. But the connection is not through the characters, or even in the style of writing. The relationship is with the world that Harrison creates. And the world is as vivid as other fantasy creations, like Discworld, Middle-Earth, or Pern. Again–I highly recommend it as long as you are not looking for “pure” steampunk but are willing to go along for the ride.

Steam Highwayman

Want to play an RPG but without those pesky things called friends? Enter Steam Highwayman, a steampunk choose your own adventure gamebook. Take to the roads as a highwayman whose only possessions are the clothes upon their back, gun and sabre at their side, and a Velosteam bike under their feet. Right off the bat your choices determine starting skillset and direction of travel. With only a set of dice and your wits to determine your fate, be careful. As you speed through the world you decide what type of highwayman you wish to be: Punisher or Robin Hood. Seek out codewords and other secrets that can be carried over volume to volume.

 

If this sounds like the kind of experience for you, check out the Kickstarter where you  can purchase the first gamebook volume for £15.00. Because this is a gamebook there aren’t any “kickstarter extras.” Unless of course, you count the £200.00 6 hour 1-1 session with the game maker where he will reveal all his secrets and help you create your own gamebook.

 

Steam Highwayman is also utilizing social media to release content. Instead of just setting Kickstarter funded goals, which are exclusively about illustrations. Steam Highwayman is setting social goals as well, the first 100 Likes on Facebook has earned a PDF document about the design aspects of the character with illustrations by Ben May. More will be added as the campaign started to pick up speed.

Unlike other game kickstarters, Steam Highwayman actually has a small demo to give you the feel for how the game plays and what you can expect from Steam Highwayman. I played the demo, I won’t spoil anything for you though as this is a game best experienced.

 

I did enjoy flipping through pages and your choices do make a very different game. Instructions are a little unclear if you have never played a game this way before but once you pick it up it’s extremely understandable. While the game does rely on die rolls, combat does give you the chance to not die because RNG is not in your favour.

Steam Highwayman is created by Martin Barnabus Noutch who got a job in the Marlow area and while riding his motorcycle through the countryside came to realize why this area was known in the past a highwayman’s dream.

Sneak Peek at Sunless Skies: A LitRPG Victorian Steampunk Game

cover-imageAfter playing and reviewing Fallen London (read the review here) I eagerly awaited the next Steampunk LitRPG game from Failbetter Games. Sunless Skies launched on Steam Early Access on August 30, 2017. Until September 8th the game will be available for 10% off its full price of £18.99 / $24.99, so act soon if you want to grab it at a discount.

Sunless Skies is a top-down literary RPG set amongst the stars. Explore a universe steeped in celestial horror and ravaged by Victorian ambition in this game of exploration, corruption and jeopardy for PC, Mac and Linux.

Players will initially be able to explore one of the four regions of the High Wilderness—the Reach. “We chose the Reach specifically because it’s the region players start in when they begin the game. It’s also more user-friendly than some of the later regions, which get properly strange,” says producer Lottie Bevan.

avidhorizonOn the 30th, players can expect to explore the Reach in their locomotive, scout for nearby ports, dock at any of the 11 diverse ports available, interact with stories, engage in combat and of course, experience Terror and Hunger.

“The current state of the Reach is set up to give players a small taste of what the final game will be like rather than a big taste of an emptier, less representational world,” says CEO and Art Director Paul Arendt, “We wanted to focus on a more contained area, a space where we can test mood, story and mechanics.”

windwardcompanyThe feedback Failbetter received in Early Access for Sunless Sea was absolutely essential to its development, and the team are eager to see what fans think of Sunless Skies. “Early Access provides us with that pivotal indication on whether the direction we’ve set for the game is the right one. It gives us early warning on what people don’t like, what people would like to see more of, and what could use further development,” explains Director of Development, Liam Welton.

Over the past three months 900 alpha testers have been pioneering Sunless Skies to catch the first bugs and help Failbetter prepare the game for Early Access. “Perhaps our Kickstarter should have given us a sign, but we were totally floored when nearly 10,000 people signed up to our alpha list!” says Marketing Manager Haley Uyrus, “We had very specific aims for the alpha so we kept the number of participants low, but it’s going to be exhilarating to open the gates for Early Access.”

giant-space-monster“We’re excited to open the heavens to the first major wave of explorers. Player feedback is crucial to us, and we’ll be watching, learning, and amending our own course accordingly. Because there’s much more to come,” alludes Narrative Director Chris Gardiner, “As Early Access progresses we’ll be adding more regions, more ports, more discoveries, more stories, more secrets, more nightmares, and more unwise decisions that sensible captains will avoid at all costs.”

In celebration of the Early Access launch, Sunless Sea for iPad will also be on sale for $6.99 from 30th August – 3rd September. The game will also be available to play at this year’s EGX in the Rezzed section.

Here is a sneak peek at their trailer:


Who are Failbetter Games?
Failbetter Games are an independent games studio based in London, UK, who specialise in narrative-driven, darkly funny 2D and text-based games. Any allegations of cannibalism remain unsubstantiated.

What is Sunless Skies?
Sunless Skies is a top-down literary RPG set amongst the stars. Explore a universe steeped in celestial horror and ravaged by Victorian ambition in Failbetter’s spiritual sequel to Sunless Sea.

It is the dawn of the 20th century, and London has taken to the stars! As the captain of a spacefaring locomotive you’ll behold wonders and battle cosmic abominations in the furthest heavens. Stake your claim. Fight to survive. Speak to storms. Murder a sun. Face judgement.

The Sunless Skies Kickstarter raised £377,952 of its funding £100,000 goal – the goal itself having been raised in the first four hours of the Kickstarter.

What is Sunless Sea?
Sunless Sea was released in 2015, receiving an Essential rating from Eurogamer, and went on to sell over 200,000 copies in its first year. It was named among the best games of 2015 by the New Yorker, the Onion AV Club, Vice, Kotaku, PCGamesN, The Mirror, Forbes, Develop Online and Killscreen.

Sunless Sea is available for Mac, Linux and Windows, and will be released for iPad in spring 2018.

Review: The Cog and the Steel Tower by W.E. Larson

This month I’d actually like to review a book I read several months ago, Cog and the Steel TowerThe lovely W.E. Larson sent me a free copy in exchange for my honest review, and after several months of thought, I’m ready to share that review with the world.

Let’s start with the blurb!

BLURB

Thirteen-year-old Cog loved getting her hands greasy in her Uncle’s workshop and building the occasional mud-cannon before the return of her mother knocked her life completely off its rails. Before long she’s stowing away on a royal airship and tricking her way into a dream apprenticeship with the Queen’s master engineer by pretending to be a boy. But her situation takes a dangerous turn when she discovers a plot to assassinate the Queen and throw the kingdom into war.

If she can keep her identity a secret despite her best friend developing a crush on her alter ego, unravel the deadly conspiracy, and keep the demanding master engineer happy, then maybe she can have the future she’s always wanted. Keeping hidden identities and saving kingdoms may not be the same as fixing a steam wagon or an auto-mechanical potion mixer, but Cog has a set of precision screwdrivers and she isn’t afraid to use them.

Follow Cog’s rollicking adventure as she uses her wits and ingenuity to find friendship, trust, and justice in a colorful but sometimes unforgiving steampunk world full of mechanical mayhem.

REVIEW (SPOILER-FREE)

Cog and the Steel Tower features several of my favourite steampunk tropes: the tomboyish girl tinkerer, the young woman who wants to avoid arranged marriage at all costs, airship stowaways, and educational apprenticeships that serve as the perfect way to show off all the steampunk-y goodness in the author’s world.

All of these tropes combined to make Cog and the Steel Tower a fun, often rambunctious adventure. If you’re looking for a light read to take your mind off all the awfulness in the world, Cog and the Steel Tower is perfect.

That said, I personally found Cog and the Steel Tower disappointing. Its use of archetypes and familiar tropes was brilliant, but it missed several opportunities to deeply explore and challenge those tropes. Cog herself–and, we later find out, the Queen–challenges the awful restrictions on women, but fails to actually create change. She becomes an exception, rather than a reason for a new rule.

I’ve written before about how I long to see more punk in steampunk, and Cog and the Steel Tower was very much the opposite. Cog did rig up awesome devices from found parts in a very punk way, but that was about it. Her only reason to challenge or even question the strict gender and class rules of her world was because she personally wanted to be an engineer and wasn’t allowed. And the Queen, who challenged gender norms to get into her position, has failed to champion other women’s rights.

This is at least partially because Cog and the Steel Tower is middle grade, and people assume kids aren’t interested in the deeper political realities of Victorian-based worlds. I think this does a massive disservice to kids, who are quite capable of understanding and tackling those challenges. It assumes they can’t think deeper rather than encouraging them to develop those thinking skills. And I think we need to do better by our kids.

But it does also bring up another problem I’ve had recently: virtually all the steampunk I’ve found has either been middle grade or YA. Where are all the adult protagonists? Specifically, where are all the adult woman who have already–and permanently–rejected their roles in their society and built new ones? Are we to assume that all these badass little girls grow up to be perfect Victorian women? Based on the lack of badass woman role models in these books, I’m pretty sure those are the assumptions.

So, my review in one sentence: Cog and the Steel Tower was a lot of fun, but it brought my biggest issues with the steampunk genre as a whole to the forefront in a big way. To be honest, it’s kind of put me off the genre for a little while. But I know steampunk can do much better, and I’m excited to find stories that break the mold.

Does Cog and the Steel Tower sound awesome to you? Do you know any steampunk books that really challenge the tropes I talk about here? Please let me know in the comments section below!

 

My First Steampunk Experience: Nerd-lesque with Phoebe

I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe in the power of a single moment to drastically change the trajectory of a person’s life.

I was back in my native Minnesota for a visit, and a friend happened to have a show the same weekend. I always thought of her as a singer. But she’d recently started to perform with a burlesque troupe. Or, what she said was more accurately described as “nerd-lesque.” In addition to the sexy strip teases, the performers usually chose something from geek or pop culture to integrate into the act.

That month, they’d chosen steampunk as their theme. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I can’t remember now exactly how my friend defined it for me, but I do remember that when she told me about steampunk I thought, “Wow! All those things that I love have a name?”

My buddy decked me out in a corset and a pair of goggles, and we headed to the show. Much to my embarrassment, halfway through the evening one of the stage hands pointed out to me that I had somehow managed to put my corset on upside down! She got me straightened out (pun intended) with a quick “corset 101” lesson, and now I always know to look for the garter rings if I’m not sure which way is up.

It turns out that steampunk and burlesque are a great pairing because the steam era saw a heyday for the art form. The performers did a combination of traditional burlesque, like a feathery fan number, as well as some geekier reinterpretations of pop songs with a steampunk spin.

The night was fully of spunk and silliness, and as I delved into steampunk in the ensuing weeks, I found out that these were crucial ingredients to what made steampunk, steampunk. The aesthetic, with its leather, lace, and mixed metals, certainly caught my attention. But I think what really reeled me in was the whimsy.

It took me a few years before I really took any steps to join the steampunk world. Between my first foray and 2013 when I started my first steampunk website, a lot changed. I won’t go into the details, but when I got to the other side of the tunnel, I found that I needed some magic infused back in my life.

Steampunk served as a gateway to get me thinking in a more creative and hopeful way than I had in years. But most importantly, it got me writing again. The look of the fashions and gizmos, but also the themes of the genre, captured my imagination and soon I found I couldn’t keep the words off the page.

And even two novels and over 500 articles later, I see no reason to stop.

About the Author

Phoebe is the pen name of a Steampunk-loving vagabond and aspiring novelist. She spends the majority of her time doing research for her novels about a relapsed con woman in gas lamp America, or writing articles for the Steampunk Journal. In her free time, she enjoys playing tabletop games and watching aggressively bad movies with her husband and tiny dog, and tearing the films to pieces with snarky commentary a la MST3K. (Though admittedly, the dog doesn’t add much in that department. His comedic timing is rubbish.)

Where to find Phoebe Darqueling

Author Website: www.PhoebeDarqueling.com

Twitter: @Gearturns

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Phoebe-Darqueling-953785968035747/

Come join the United We Steampunk, Divided We Fall group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1589640957716352/

Selkie Cove

Author: Kara Jorgensen
Release: July, 2017
Series: Ingenious Mechanical Devices
Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy | Lovecraftian | Mystery
Edition: Kindle
Pages: 317
Publisher: Fox Collie Publishing

Buy it here: AMAZON

Blurb

Immanuel never liked being the museum’s resident seal expert, until a strange specimen arrived: part human, part seal, and a murder victim. He knows the only people who will believe him are the supernatural agents of Her Majesty’s Interceptors.

But all help comes with a price. To become a member of the Interceptors, Immanuel must first convince his lover, Adam, to help him find the culprit. They have a week to uncover the killer or Immanuel will lose the only chance he has to learn about his own arcane abilities.
Upon arriving at Seolh-wiga Island, Adam and Immanuel quickly discover that what the island lacks in size, it makes up for in mysteries. At the heart of it all is a series of disappearances, murders, and devices connected to the island’s sordid history.

Will Adam and Immanuel earn a place with the Interceptors? Or will they become the island’s next victims?

Selkie Cove is Book Five of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. The other books do not need to be read in order to enjoy this novel. Feel free to jump right in!

Review (Spoilers Ahead)

“Magic is more of an art than a science” Judith Elliott tells Immanuel Winter as he struggles to learn to use magic in a world more suited to technology. Judith, a member of Her Majesty’s Interceptors, is helping Immanuel develop his abilities. And he needs those abilities as Judith involves him in investigating a rather unusual specimen that appears at the museum where he works.

Staring back at him from beneath the bath of embalming liquid was a seal with a not quite human face. For a moment he merely stared at it, unable to grasp how the mismatched pieces fit together so seamlessly. While the body retained the shape and grey spotted fur of a seal, the creature’s face appeared out of place with its sharp cheekbones and Cupid’s bow lips, but what held him wholly were the creature’s eyes. They were wide and
round like the seals he had studied, yet they retained the colored iris of a human.

As Jorgensen mentions in the text, so-called mermaids were popular display items in the Victorian era. Fishermen in Japan and the East Indies had long constructed “hybrids” by stitching the upper bodies of apes onto the bodies of fish. P.T. Barnum obtained one of these creations for one of his exhibits and caused quite a stir when publicizing the item. But Jorgensen’s novels are filled with magic as well as science/technology, and the mermaid, also known as a selkie, Immanuel examines is real.

The Interceptors offer Immanuel a challenge—find out what is happening to the selkies for a chance to join the organization. It is an opportunity that Immanuel cannot pass up as it would not only give him the opportunity to use his education and magical abilities, but also provide a way to support both himself and his lover, Adam Fenice.

Adam has been facing challenges of his own because of their relationship. He was fired from his job as a bookkeeper because of social prejudice over his relationship with Immanuel. This sends him down a path of despair. The trip to Seolh-wiga Island in order to help investigate the death of the selkie is a way for him to regroup and come up with a plan for the future.

But a trip becomes more dangerous when Adam and Immanuel try to join up with a Metropolitan Policeman who is investigating multiple disappearances among the human population of the island. There is more danger than meets the eye in the seemingly idyllic setting. And the two young men may end up becoming the next victims in an ongoing war that lies just beneath the surface of the sea.

I received this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review, but I also purchased it from Amazon because I believe in supporting indy authors. I recommend Selkie Cove to anyone who enjoys neo-Victorian novels, steampunk, magic, Lovecraft, and a good mystery. The other four books in Jorgensen’s series are available and I highly recommend them as well.

About the Author

6Chris Pavesic lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, and writing speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.  She also blogs intermittently at www.chrispavesic.com and tweets @chrispavesic. She became a Steampunk Cavalier thanks to her involvement in The Darkside Codex blog.

 

My First Steampunk Experience: The Steampunk Symposium with Ash K. Alexander

I’m not a newcomer to steampunk, though nor have I been here from the start. I can remember with clarity what drew me to the community/genre/lifestyle that is steampunk. It was a book. The cover read Soulless and from page one I was hooked on this hungry heroine and the world that Gail Carriger had built from the familiar London streets. I was reminded of Dianna Wynne Jones with a dash of Terry Pratchett, and I was in love. From there, it was only an internet search away from this term I’d never heard before.

Steampunk

Now, as a teen I was a goth, and there is that old standby that steampunk is what happens when goths wear brown but I don’t hold to that logic. steampunk is a community that envelopes aspects of goth, and the two intermingle though do not always overlap. Discovering a community that combined my love of history, costuming and literature was…like coming home. It was like I’d always been searching for this ephemeral thing and here it was, right in front of me.

My roommate and I discovered there were a few steampunk groups nearby (Airships) and went to a couple of meet and greets, but it was not until we went to our first convention that I would say I had my first proper introduction to the community at large. It was the inaugural Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Held in a hotel that had many of recalling moments of The Shining, the atmosphere was actually rather perfect. It was cold enough that all those layers of pseudo-Victorian costume weren’t unbearable.

I attended every panel I could fit into my schedule, though now they all sort of blur together. That first convention was exhausting. I really wasn’t well prepared for it, as my only previous experience with convention going was a few hours here and there, not a full weekend. I remember best sitting in the various lobbies and hallways and just talking to other people. It’d been a long time since I had felt so comfortable talking to strangers. But if there was a single person responsible for pulling me into the community to stay, well, I know exactly who that is and I met her for the first time at that convention.

The amazing Leanna Renee Hieber, who truly changed my life’s trajectory. Fantastically theatrical, Leanna’s reading of her novel reminded me even more of what it was that I loved so much about writing. And with every year I attended the convention, I got to know Leanna a bit better. I got to see her triumphant republication of Strangely Beautiful. She encouraged my writing. I was also incredibly fortunate to connect with Emily P. Bush, author of the Steampunk children’s book hit SteamDuck. I have her to thank for pushing me to take my writing further in her writing workshops.

Thanks to them, I am now part of the team (with Sophia Beaumont) leading the literary track for Steampunk Symposium next year. Something I never could have considered happening. I get to be the person helping newcomers to the steampunk world. I get to be the person pushing writers further. I’ve come such a long way from the day I picked up Soulless. Since the day I stepped into that probably haunted hotel for my first real steampunk convention. I will never regret taking those steps. In steampunk, I found new friends. I found a community to work with. I found the stories of my heart all over again.

About the Author

Ash is an artist, author and cat mother currently residing in the Heartland. She spent her college years tromping about in tombs and museums, though that passion didn’t play out. When not writing or plotting new ways to torment her characters, she can generally be found attempting to garden.

Find Ash at any of the following locations:
https://ashkalexanderwriter.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/ashkalexander
https://www.etsy.com/shop/thedappermenagerie

Steampunk Fact vs Steampunk Fiction

I am a relative newcomer to the world of Steampunk, having recently made the jump from Victorian Magician to Steampunk Author (it’s a long story and one for another day). As part of my initiation I attended the New Zealand Steampunk Festival, the largest such event in the southern hemisphere. While wandering the streets of Oamaru’s Victorian quarter, surrounded by a dashing and eclectically dressed mixture of likeminded souls, I had a certain epiphany. The majority of the costumes I saw, while wonderful, had little similarity with those in the fictional Steampunk worlds we read and write about.

In cosplay, the starting point for the costume is a character from a book, film or comic-book but in Steampunk, this is not the case. I initially wondered if that is because we don’t have enough readily available or easily identifiable Steampunk heroines and heroes to ape. There may be an element of this but I feel the reasons go deeper.

A quick Wikipedia, ahem, I mean Encyclopedia Britannica, search of the word punk divulged the following – One of Punk’s main tenets was a rejection of mainstream, corporate mass culture and its values. So, do Steampunks adhere to the values of Punk and reject the mainstream? I guess we probably do, but not for political reasons like Punk. Also, I dare say that if a fictional Steampunk world ever gained the popularity of Harry Potter our ranks would be swelled by characters from that world, and not necessarily the worse off for it.

One of the initial fashion statements of Punk was the rejection of fussy and elaborate clothing. However, over time the addition of non-functional adornments, safety pins, chains, padlocks and studded leather became common place. Many of the costumes at the Steampunk festival were similarly embellished with clocks, tea-cups, keys, tentacles and myriad cogs, springs and mechanical parts, all of which served no purpose other than in decoration. In fact, much of the decoration rendered the costumes almost completely impractical, not that the Victorian crinoline, corset or bustle were ever designed with comfort or functionality in mind.

I have no doubt that I am less widely read in the Steampunk genre than many of you. However, in the Steampunk stories I have delved into, although corsets, goggles and bowler hats are very much in evidence, the adornments are not. So, what has brought about this disparity between the Steampunk Fact of the costumes we wear and the Steampunk Fiction we read? And does it matter? I have no idea. Please feel free to enlighten me as to your thoughts on the issue below.

About the Author


Gareth Ward, a.k.a. The Great Wardini is a magician, hypnotist, storyteller, bookseller and author. He has worked as a Royal Marine Commando, Police Officer, Evil Magician and Zombie. He basically likes jobs where you get to wear really cool hats – as writer and compere of Napier City’s inaugural Steampunk murder mystery evening he wore a rather splendid bowler.

His first novel ,The Traitor and the Thief, a rip-roaring young adult Steampunk adventure, won the 2016 Storylines Tessa Duder Award.

You can find out more about him at www.garethwardauthor.com