Today I’d like to introduce Gareth Torrance, an author who’s written numerous steampunk short stories for various anthologies and even published a short story collection of his own, The Imperium Collection. He’s here to celebrate the recent release of his first novel, Valkyria, and share what he loves about steampunk.
Please give Gareth a warm welcome and enjoy the interview!
Can you tell us a bit about your novel?
Valkyria itself a steampunk fantasy adventure novel that follows three different people, Einar, Nate and Seran, who are dragged into the start of a war between the Alexandrian Empire and the Inquisition,the once elite soldiers of the Empire who betrayed them and took control of a group of islands called the Ringlands.
As well as this, they are forced to contend with the Creatures; smart pack-hunters that used to be human, but now are feral beings who feast on the flesh of any living being.
Sounds like one interesting world you’re playing around in!
Your novel is set centuries after the “Old World” burnt, creating an almost post-apocalyptic world. What gave you the idea for this setting?
The post-post-apocalypticâ€ setting (as I call it), was something I have always been fascinated with. We have all these books and movies like Mad Max or The Walking Dead that deal with the (relatively) immediate aftermath of the apocalypse. But very few stories deal with what happens after humanity rebuilds.
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of looking into the way humans live now and how they would live after having to rebuild the world.
Would they find peace, being able to put aside their own desires in order to stop the world from ending again? Or are we destined to repeat the cycle of creation, destruction and recreation? Would we care more about the way we live and how we affect the planet we live on? Or would we keep on polluting the world?
That is part of the reason I think such a setting works with the steampunk genre; we wouldn’t want to keep using fuels like petrol, so other means of getting power would become popular.
I’d love to see more post-post-apocalyptic stories out there too. Not only are there very few of them but most of the ones I’ve encountered feature societies that are almost identical to medieval times, even if they’re several hundred years after the apocalypse, yet the odds of a cataclysmic event setting us back further than roughly Victorian technology are pretty slim.
3. How much of your setting is based on historical places and how much is purely from your imagination?
Valkyria itself, as the first book in what I hope to be a series of stories in this world, is very limited in its area of the world. Glimpses of the Empire’s capitol city, named the Great City of Alexandria, is built on plates above the ruins of London. In fact, the poorest members of society live in the ruins themselves.
The Ringlands are what is left of Ireland after The Fire swept across the world, oceans flooded and lava cooled to reform the layout of the world.
But in terms of specific landmarks, none truly appear within Valkyria. However, in one of my short stories set in the Great City, most of it takes place in the London Underground and in the next book, the characters will be visiting Notre Dame.
A city built on a city… I’m falling more in love with your world the more you talk about it!
4. When/how did you discover steampunk?
To be honest, I think my first real experience of anything steampunk related was through Final Fantasy 6. From there, the fascination grew through anime, like watching Howl’s Moving Castle or Castle in the Sky.
I was always fascinated with speculative fiction anyway, so it clicked with me about the same time cyberpunk did as well. I began searching out similar themes in things without realising it was steampunk. Even my favourite Gundam anime series is Turn A Gundam, which has steampunk elements in it.
It wasn’t until, perhaps, 2007 that I realized that this set of themes I enjoyed so much was Steampunk and an actual genre. So, as you can guess, from that point I dove head first into the genre.
My first taste of steampunk would also be a Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy IX, and several of my favorite anime series are either outright steampunk or include a lot of steampunk elements. Over the next few months I’m going to be reviewing some of these games/series and I’m really excited to shine a spotlight on some of the more obscure ones.
5. What do you think is the most interesting thing about the steampunk genre & why?
The most interest thing? Oh that’s a tough one; I guess it would be the versatility of the genre more than anything. I am sure most people would say the aesthetics, the technology or something similar. And yes, they are the reasons I love the genre, but the most interesting thing is something entirely different to me.
Steampunk is the only niche, specific genre that can really be put into any timeframe, any scale and any plot. Want to make a horror story set on another world? You could have a steam powered colony on mars where a mad scientist tries to recreate Frankenstein’s work.
Or a thriller about serial killers? Take a look at Jack the Ripper and go from there. There are hundreds of romance novels in the steampunk genre. And post-apocalyptic books, Wild West stories, and more. Any major genre works within the Steampunk sub-genre, and that I find amazing.
What a great answer! I definitely love the versatility of steampunk, especially the ways it’s used in anime and other stories from different cultures.
You’re also really interested in cyberpunk. Do you think the two genres compliment each other?
I would say they are two sides of the same coin. Both heavily rely on the aesthetics of the world, and can fit within a variety of different major genres. Both tend to focus heavily on societies with some sort of class structure, such as the Victorian era or a world where the “elite” watch and enslave the lower classes.
The heros and heroines in steampunk tend to be tinkerers, whilst in cyberpunk they tend to be hackers of some sort (even if they work for Public Security Section 9). Even when it comes to fantastic elements, like Frankenstien or vampires, they can work in both. Look at Penny Dreadful or Shadowrun.
I would say that, to me, the only thing that really sets them apart is the level of technology. Since cyberpunk is almost certainly set in the future, or at least the very-near future, and steampunk can be too depending on how the present is handled, the difference comes down to this:
Cyberpunk is high tech, low life. Steampunk is (usually) low tech, high life, depending on what class of society the character are in.
The steampunk and cyberpunk cultures really do seem like two sides of the same coin, don’t they? The amazing DIY artwork and costume work both groups do is utterly amazing and the aesthetics are quite similar, as well as the themes of class and oppression. It’s kind of amazing to me that I’ve never realized the connection myself.
Who is your favorite steampunk author?
This is one question I can never answer with a single author. I have two that I feel really bring me into the world they are crafting; that really inspire me and spark my creativity and cause my brain to ignite; Scott Westerfeld and Gail Carringer.
Both of them have great visualisation in their books. They make me feel a part of the world, as if I were being sucked through the paper into this alternate dimension.
I can’t say I blame you for being unable to pick a favorite author. Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite book is I tend to freeze. Both these names have been added to my list!
What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?
For those who loved Valkyria, I am working on the next book in that series called Memoria. It takes places 6 months later, and expands the reach of the story much further into the world, with the war finally exploding across the lands.
On top of that, I am working through another book under the working title of 218x, which will be the start of my cyberpunk world of hackers, mega-corporations and a fully connected world. One man will bare witness to the livestreamed murder of a CEO’s daughter, and be thrown into a game of corporate cat and mouse under the eye of “big brother”.
I’m thrilled to see you expanding on the world you’ve started in Valkyria; it sounds like a fun world to get lost in, at least if you’re doing it through the pages of a book. Cyberpunk isn’t so much my genre but I love the concept of 218x too.
Centuries have passed since the Old World burnt, and humankind still survive. Through the churning of gears and the billowing of steam engines, new nations arose to replace the world that was lost to the Fire.
Yet the thirst for war never truly fades from the hearts of men.
In a world gripped by a cold war where mutated hoards roam the land, the lives of three men from different nations are about to intertwine, starting a chain reaction that could very well ignite the embers of war.
But little do they know, a man hides in the shadows pulling the strings of their fates.
Join Einar as his life is turned upside down following the disappearance of his sister and the murder of his best friend.
Follow the engineer Nate as he is forced to leave behind his home and choose a side as war threatens to flood the lands of Rhythlan.
And finally, hear the tale of Lord Seran of the Alexandria Empire as he is sent behind enemy lines and finds out how much of a threat the Empire’s enemies truly are.
I was born in Luton, a small multi-cultural city in the middle on England, but was raised in a small village an hour away from Cambridge. As an adult, I moved around Europe, living in Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Ireland and Turkey, before settling back in England, within the historic market town of Bourne.
I have always been fascinated with science fiction and fantasy, reading the greats such as Lord of the Rings and Neuromancer as a child. In my teen years, I became infatuated with cyberpunk and steampunk, in part because of Ghost on the Shell and Last Exile. From that point, my imagination expanded constantly, and I researched various books, television shows and movies on the subjects.