Unquiet Dead

This month I would like to share something a bit different: my own steampunk novel. I hope you enjoy.–Chris


Unquiet Dead

Chris Pavesic

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About the Unquiet Dead:

When the Temples north of Chiaroscuro are burned and followers of the Sun Goddess are murdered, Catherine, a bard of the Ealdoth Temple, sets out to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. With only the help of a traveling group of minstrels and a retired fae investigator, Catherine must solve the mystery before more people are killed.

So saddle up your clockwork mount, buckle on your electro-dagger, and join Catherine as she finds herself pitted against members of her own Temple, rogues members of the Seelie Court, and a seemingly unstoppable army of undead.

  • Genres: Steampunk/Mystery/Dark Fantasy
  • Length: 140 pages.
  • Available in Print and E-Book
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Services were scheduled to commence in an hour, and Ernest needed to be ready. He struck a match and lit the first gaslight, watching the flame take hold and flare up. The light pushed back the shadows so parishioners were able to find their way to the pews without stumbling. He would extinguish the artificial lights right before the service so the effect of the sunlight illuminating the darkness hit with maximum impact as it flooded through the skylights.

The parishioners would marvel at how the Temple filled with the Goddess’s Holy Light just in time for the service. Ernest would marvel at the fact that none of them were smart enough to realize he flipped a switch on back of the altar to swing open mechanical shutters.

There was a religious stirring in Grand Marsh more powerful than anything Ernest had experienced in his ten years as a Sacerd. The services at dawn, noon, and sundown were packed. Few of the farmers went out to the fields. They worked in town on community projects or sat drinking at the tavern. Their wives remained in the town square, full of chatter, instead of staying on their farmsteads. Their thin voices filled the air. The youngest children were kept close while the teens clustered in protective packs far enough away to keep their discussions out of reach of their parents’ ears. But close enough to be in sight at all times. None of them wandered off.

Three times a day they filled the Temple, ready to hear his words. Faces tilted up to him. Man and woman, young and old. And none of his parishioners would confess why they were so filled with the Holy Spirit that they were neglecting their farms. They were afraid of speaking blasphemy. But he knew the reason, and it caused a lift in his heart that was not due to religious inspiration. They were scared, plain and simple, and it gave him hope.

Since being assigned to the far parish almost five years ago, a posting he saw as an end to the upward progress of his career in the Temple, he struggled daily to swallow his disappointment. It wouldn’t leave, and it was bitter. Bitter.

In this remote village, far from the bustle and industry of Chiaroscuro, the quality of his life, the texture of his life, changed. He longed for life in the city. The world seemed to have shifted into two zones. The pace of life for the city dwellers increased while people living in the countryside were being left behind.

Time’s arrow struck fastest through the densest populations. Sacerds assigned to any of the major cities made more connections and accumulated more power in a single week than he did in a year. Exerting influence was impossible when the spheres of power were spinning outside of his reach, moving too fast for him to see, let alone have an impact.

The wound to his pride stung the most. The elders had hurt his feelings. To be dismissed so easily, passed along so casually—it was like the swatting of an annoying insect. The Temple elders did not treat him as if he mattered, as if his family ties were consequential. True he was a third son, but of a noble line. And they assigned him to a rustic Temple to attend to common folk far below his station.

Very little was required of him here. Or, more precisely, very little of what he did here interested him. He burned to return to the central Temple and to be part of the intrigues and power shifts. This attracted him more than caring for the simple souls of farmers and shopkeepers. Power was why he joined the Temple, and what he was now denied.

But not for long. The thought clanged in his mind with undeniable rightness. Not righteousness. It was an important distinction. Would the Goddess sanction his actions? Probably not, but he was past caring about her approval. During all of the ceremonies, all of the prayer and introspection, he had never felt any divine presence. He had never witnessed any miracles, and doubted their existence.

But power, oh he had seen the existence of power. Political. Social. Religious. Whatever you called it really didn’t matter. Get enough people to follow you. Enough people to believe in what you were selling. This was the belief that could move the world.

There was only one woman in his life he needed to please now, and she held no divinity. Merci had offered him a way out of this rural purgatory, and he had accepted. Truth be told, he had grabbed at it like a castaway might grab at a line from a passing airship. If the price were the damnation of his soul, so be it.

He glanced out the window at the transport coming down the lane. A high quality clockwork carriage with the Temple’s Crest stamped on the doors rattled over the boards strewn across the irrigation ditch and stopped, parking in the speckled light cast by the ornament trees planted along the lane. The carriage blocked traffic, but the driver did not seem to care. Elder members of the clergy, Hlytere, and above, felt they had the right of way. Others had to go around.

A pale, dark-haired woman emerged and stood for a moment looking around. She pulled the hood of her dark cloak over her hair and walked through the yard toward the Temple. Ernest’s gaze followed her, trying to imagine who this stranger was.

Her footsteps sounded in the aisle and, when he turned from window, she was almost upon him. Her speed startled him. When he saw her face to face he realized she was younger than he had supposed. Too young to be a Hlytere, but her use of the carriage meant she was favored by the Temple elders. The seed of jealousy radiated through him. He felt it in his chest and the pit of his stomach. He struggled to keep the emotion off his face.

“Greetings.” He shook her hand with a firm grasp. Her hands were small and smooth and white. “Will you come in for a moment?” He led her to the small reception room off the main area that contained a round table and several wooden chairs. He lit a cheroot, offered her one, which she declined, and they sat down.

“Please forgive me for calling on you so close to mid-day Services, Sacerd Ernest.” She paused. “You are Sacerd Ernest, correct? It’s not like me to presume.”

“Of course. I’m glad you came. I watched you drive up, you know, and I wondered who you were. We don’t get many visitors from the Temple here.”

“I’m surprised you don’t recognize me, cousin. Of course, I didn’t recognize you. So perhaps it’s not so surprising.”

“I’m sorry. I …”

“I’m from the cadet line of our family tree. My father is the elder son of the younger son of our line.”

His brow creased in thought. “Grace?”

“Yes,” she said with a smile, reaching out to touch his hand. Her fingers rested there for a moment too long. Lingered. And then she leaned back in the chair and crossed her legs, which were slim and bare beneath her robe.

Sacerd Ernest regarded his guest, wondering that her physical presence should suddenly dawn upon him so. She was more beautiful than he had thought at first. Her skin was clear and lovely, and her eyes and mouth were made up carefully and well.

What’s her game? He licked at the perspiration that appeared upon his upper lip.

“I would like your help in a small matter. And of course I wanted to meet you.”

“You did?”

“Our sponsor has spoken of you with such affection.”

“Our superior?” He used the wrong word to see if she would correct him.

“Technically, I suppose, she may be yours. I’ve never thought much of the rules of hierarchy in the Temple.” She cocked her head, listening to noises from the other room. Some of his parishioners had started to file in for the service. “It’s such a mercy, isn’t it?’

Ah, code words.

She must think she’s being clever, although he had no idea who could possibly overhear their conversation. It was only just dawning on him why she must be here. In his town. In his Temple. But he didn’t care. All he wanted to do was get out of Grand Marsh. Get back to Chiaroscuro. It didn’t bother him that people, his parishioners, may die, or suffer a fate worse than death. He just wanted to get out.

It’s not my fault if I’m following orders.

But that was a poor excuse, wasn’t it? Guilt flared, hot and strong.

Do you want to stay in Grand Marsh forever? Ministering to the townsfolk? Do you?

No … but he didn’t want to hurt people. Those conflicting thoughts pulled at him. There was the question of right and wrong. What was right for him might go wrong for others. But that was the way it had to be.

Thus he banished the guilt. When something inside of him tried to protest again, tried to tell him to think before he did this, he smothered it.

“When?” He didn’t have any time for nonsense. The quicker it occurred, the quicker he resumed his rightful place.

“In two days. I have some items in my transport that need to be set up in the Temple, but kept out of view.” She smiled and spoke a little louder so that the earliest arrivals overheard her. “I wish I could stay to help with the Mass, but I am needed back in Chiaroscuro.” She lowered her voice. “Officially I never left the city.”

“Of course.” He guessed that she had no desire to partake in the service. “I will help you with whatever you need.” Whatever may come of it, he had gone too far to stop now.


Meet the Author:

Chris Pavesic lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, fairy tales, and all types of 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.
Find Chris Pavesic Online:


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Perilous Prophecy by Leanna Renee Hieber

Today I am incredibly thrilled to share an exclusive excerpt from Perilous Prophecy, a gaslamp fantasy novel by Leanna Renee Hieber. Leanna’s already been a featured guest on my personal blog, The Dabbler, and I am a huge fan of her work. So without further ado, let’s dig into Perilous Prophecy!

Continue reading “EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Perilous Prophecy by Leanna Renee Hieber”

Tesla and the Lamplighter

The wifey and I watched a great short animation the other day. It’s called Tesla and The Lamplighter. It’s a cute non-verbal story about a lamplighter helping to revitalize Tesla’s love of inventing.

While there are an intro voiceover and an outro voiceover no characters speak. With the quality of the animation and the flow of the score, it doesn’t need them to. At fourteen minutes long it’s the perfect length for your midday stretch. Or just long enough to eat a snack.

This short is the first release from CAROUSELpictures. There are two ways to pay them, you may rent it for three bucks. Or buy it for $6.50.  If you feel like the teaser is something you see yourself watching more then once, then, by all means, please buy it. But if you’re only going to watch it once renting is the way to go.

I’m very interested in Vimeo as a platform for independent creators. Vimeo does not compress your video file as much as YouTube does, and with a way to set payments for your work. It shows promise of slipping into the void that will occur when YouTube has to reinvent itself to keep up with current demands of content creators and advertisers. With my current interest in getting my own short film out to the world, I’ll have to look into this more thoroughly. 

Please follow the link below and enjoy a teaser of Tesla and the Lamplighter.

Introducing Seregon O’Dassey, Creator of Steampunk TV Show Absynthia

Today we have a very special interview with Seregon O’Dassey, creator of the steampunk TV show Absynthia, currently raising funds for the pilot episode on Kickstarter. Please give her a warm welcome and don’t forget to check out the Kickstarter!

The Trailer

The Interview

Hi there, want to tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi. I’m Seregon O’Dassey. I’ve been an actress for about 20 years, a model for most of that time, and most recently a writer and director. And I’m a redhead: the rumors are true 😉

What about your show, Absynthia?


An attack on a mercenary airship sends the lives of Captain and crew facing their pasts. The events that unfold as a result of par-amnesia could destroy the government’s well planned society. Commander de Cardia marries a man to infiltrate the government and assassinate her husband – who was next on her boss’s hit list. However when her ship is attacked and the entire crew suffers par-amnesia, no one can remember all the details and loyalties switch. What everyone discovers is a web of secrets. Trust is Finite. Loyalty is six degrees.

What part of the story came to you first?

It’s actually a scene that’s not in the pilot. It was, but I moved it to a later episode. It’s a dream I had about a woman with steampunk-like angel wings sword fighting with a military officer in the desert. Really.

How long did it take you to get from idea to finished script for a pilot?

About 3 weeks for the first edit. About another month once finalized.

How did you find a team of people willing to help you create Absynthia?

I got lucky in working on others’ projects that I met a lot of great people who were smart and hard working. I pretty much recruited them LOL.

Absynthia has a very diverse cast. Why do you believe diversity in steampunk is so important?

I think diversity in everything is important. People have to stop writing characters of only white men as leads. Earth isn’t made of just one kind of person, so why should a made up world be? That doesn’t mean there aren’t white men in Absynthia, because there are. Just that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Some of my characters aren’t even human (although all of the actors are 😉 )

Truth be told, I didn’t set out to purposely make the cast diverse. I simply hired the best person for the role. Except for Captain Ryan who is African American (because Rutina Wesely was the inspiration for her) I auditioned different people for all the roles. That’s what people need to do: don’t write a “male” or “female” role. Don’t write it by race. Just write it and audition a variety of people. You’ll be surprised how much your POV can change when the right actor walks in the door.

What has been the most exciting part of working on Absynthia so far?

Seeing the actors bring the characters to life. They’re just words on a page without the right actor. I love to watch people internalize and breathe life into something that, until recently, was just a concept in my mind.

You have a Kickstarter going on right now for the pilot of Absynthia. What will your next steps be if the campaign is successful?

To continue filming! We had two production days so far and shot 6 scenes. I have locations to rent and schedules to make, but it can’t happen without the Kickstarter campaign being successful, so please take a look, everyone and consider making a contribution! Of course I will be shopping it to networks. We need strong female leads and a steampunk inspired TV show!

I will definitely be looking forward to Absynthia! Especially after looking at all this awesome artwork…

Want to know more about Absynthia? Want to help make it happen? Maybe get a sweet steampunk corset in the process? Check out the Kickstarter Campaign & make your pledge today!

On Writing Steampunk and Accessibility

captaindukeSteampunk literature is a disruption of the historical narrative. When I’m creating a universe for my characters, I treat history like the icing on the cake. Or, sometimes, the rosettes. I am creating a world with airships, sky pirates, auto-baubles and appropriated Victorian aesthetics. I pick and choose which parts I borrow from our history and which parts to embellish.

So, I chose to base the Tales of the Captain Duke on a society where advancements in gender equality and intersectionality happened far earlier than those in our timeline, but I also wanted to ensure that the struggle for those achievements was not erased.

Enter Professor Georgina Jameson Sewell.

Professor Sewell* is the mad genius inventor of the story, a mentor to the protagonist’s brother, a character whose alliances are yet unknown but whose passion for her work is readily apparent. She is also missing a leg.

In a steampunk universe, particularly one with pirates, a missing leg is no big issue. There’s the classic image of the peg leg to work with, for one. The idea that a lost eye or limb is a minor setback, as long as you find a way to adapt and fight again. Pirates are rather inclusive when you think about it.

Professor Sewell takes that one step further, to change the very society in which she lives. A childhood accident led to her disability. However, thanks to her intelligence and perseverance, she never learned to see barriers—only possibilities yet to be realised. Her parents gave her books and encouraged her correspondence with the authors when the source material was inadequate. They supported her as she began to invent her own creations, including her magnificent clockwork leg.

Professor Sewell learned that she could shape her environment to suit her needs. That accessibility was a matter of challenging and overcoming systemic barriers. And why stop there?

In our universe, the social model of disability was coined in 1983 by the British academic Mike Oliver, and expanded over time by researchers and advocates around the world into our modern conception of the ways that society is structured to impede the differently-abled.

It can be something as simple as changing physical structures to include ramps, for wheelchair users. Or acknowledging the different but equally valid needs of a person with an anxiety disorder. Including translators or sign language interpreters for people who communicate in a different language. These are all ways in which we make our society more accessible and inclusive.

So, in a steampunk setting, what does accessibility look like?

In the Tales of the Captain Duke, Professor Sewell is the morally-ambiguous Tony Stark figure. She becomes one of the first students at Lovelace University, a school founded by Mary Somerville and funded by the heirs of Ada Lovelace. She pioneers the field of biomechanical engineering with her incredible prosthetics and reshapes the Victorian understanding of disability. The classic image of the crippled, impoverished veteran pushing himself on a scooter is undone, reshaped into a foreman supervising work at a factory on eight-foot legs.  The Professor disrupts society with her inventions, and challenges her peers’ understanding of the possible.

This idea of possibility is also brought into play when she is challenged anew with helping a friend and ally injured in battle. Here, the wound is not only physical, but psychological as well. Professor Sewell learns to treat not just the mechanical impairments, but also those of the mind.

I won’t spoil anything as to how she achieves this end, but let us just say that overcoming barriers is a talent of hers.

As an author, I feel that it is important to critically examine the social structures we reproduce in our writing. Everything we put into our books, we bear responsibility for. Those choices are ours, good and bad, and we must take ownership of them, even as we grow and improve and write better stories. It’s a choice, to include characters who are different than us. To give them complexity and dimension. To dispute stereotypes and tokenistic representation.

Steampunk is particularly suited to encompass these kinds of decisions. The broader steampunk community has founded itself on inclusion, diversity and body positivity. But these are choices that we still must work to uphold, and do the difficult labour of ensuring that our work and our communities remain open to all.

Our work is not yet done. But the possibilities are endless.

–Rebecca Diem

*I would like to thank Brooklyn Marx, and acknowledge the work she did in reading over the early drafts of A Gentleman and a Scholar (Tales of the Captain Duke #3) for its accessibility content.


Author Rebecca DiemRebecca Diem is a writer, music lover and nerd. She is the author of the indie steampunk series Tales of the Captain Duke, beginning with The Stowaway Debutante (2014), following the adventures of a defiant young aristocrat who saves a band of airship pirates from certain peril and talks her way into joining their crew. Her favourite feature of steampunk is its ability to disrupt and re-imagine both history and the future. She currently lives in Toronto, and is on a never-ending quest to find the perfect café and writing spot. You can find her at https://rebeccadiem.com/.


Dead Magic

Review PhotoAuthor: Kara Jorgensen
Release: November 1, 2016
Series:Ingenious Mechanical Devices
Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy | Mystery
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 306
Publisher: Fox Collie Publishing
Buy it here: AMAZON


Immanuel wants nothing more than a peaceful life as a scientist, but his happiness is short-lived when his past demons refuse to go quietly. As body-snatching spirits attack and creatures rise from the dead, he fears his sanity is slipping. Burdened with strange new powers, he struggles to hide them from his lover for fear of losing the only person he trusts. But the woman who shares his soul has a secret of her own. Disillusioned with her life, Emmeline turns to a handsome suitor who offers her a world of limitless possibilities at an exclusive club. Rumors swirl of occult rituals and magic, and Emmeline soon fears he wants more than just her love.

Something wicked is heading for London that threatens to destroy everything Emmeline and Immanuel hold dear. And it wants more than secrets . .

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Dead Magic is the fourth novel in Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series and is the second novel to feature the characters of Emmeline and Immanuel. Although Dead Magic is a sequel, it is not necessary to read The Winter Garden first. (Although you absolutely should read all of the novels in this series! They are excellent.) Jorgensen provides enough details in the narrative to catch a reader up to the plot line of the new novel.

In fact, I did not follow my usual practice of rereading the prior book in the series before reviewing (mainly because, like most people, I am pressed for time during November and December), but I was swept up in the story without any difficulty. I gave a copy of this novel to a friend who had not read the prior novel and he was able to enter and enjoy the story world as well. The novel can certainly stand on its own.

Spoiler’s Ahead

For readers who enjoy steampunk and neo-Victorian fiction, there is a lot to appreciate in this novel. Set in an alternate version of Victorian Era England, Jorgensen demonstrates her expansive knowledge of the time period. Indeed, by combining the themes of science and fantasy, the author is reflecting the dominant cultural beliefs of the historical culture.

While many who lived during the 1800’s were obsessed with the developing fields of science and technology, a large number were also obsessed with mysticism and “unseen world” that supposedly existed next to our own. The practice of spiritualism was popular at all levels of society. There was widespread interest despite Christian piety in psychic phenomena and the occult. Spiritualist societies sponsored lecture tours, opened reading rooms, and published newspapers where photographic evidence of spirits were presented as proof that contact with the unseen world could be documented on film.

Many of the historical spiritualists were revealed as “fakes,” like Madame Nostra in Dead Magic. They used tricks, and even played with the new technology, to convince the gullible public in their powers.

Emmeline rolled her eyes as the others tittered for her to tell them more. One day back on English soil and they were already falling over themselves to be in Madame Nostra’s good graces. Did they not realize she couldn’t actually communicate with spirits? All it took was one reading with her for Emmeline to discover that Madame Nostra’s spirits spoke in knocks that came from her left foot. It didn’t seem right for her of all people to rise to the top, but with Lord Rose dead, Madame Nostra had the biggest name and the loudest mouth (Jorgensen, 2016).

Emmeline and Immanuel actually have abilities beyond the norm. This adds a nice touch to the story world; although based in history, it is indeed “punked” with actual magic.

The main characters develop further in the newest edition to the series. At the start of The Winter Garden, Emmeline is a young, spoiled aristocrat whose main concern is her place in society. Immanuel is a poor, foreign-exchange student at Oxford University who has to face prejudice due to both his nationality and his sexuality. After Immanuel saves her life with magic, he and Emmeline and bound by their souls.

At the start of Dead Magic, Emmeline behaves rather wantonly (for a Victorian Era lady) by encouraging the attentions of Lord Hale, a fellow spiritualist. She is also bemoaning the loss of her position as temporary head of the London Spiritualist Society. Immanuel has obtained a job as a junior curator at the Natural History Museum and lives with his lover, Adam Fenice. He still suffers bouts of post-traumatic disorder from his torture at the hands of Lord Rose, but is improving.

Once again Immanuel is the character that resonates with me the most; he is intelligent and gifted, but an outcast all the same. His romance with Adam is a secret that should not have to be kept and it offers them as much pain as it does solace. When reading this it is not hard to imagine having to live a double-life where you have to censor everything you say because society would object to your relationship.

Emmeline is growing on me, though. I think it is because she is maturing in the story and looks at the world from an adult perspective. She is headstrong, even when it gets her into trouble. She is determined and does not give up, even in the face of danger. And she is loyal to her friends.

Throughout the novel the characters develop as they face and overcome a multitude of obstacles, including those in the magical and the social realms. The pacing of the story is fast, the detail makes it easy to envision the story world, and the steampunk and fantasy elements are interwoven seamlessly.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys steampunk, fantasy, and/or mystery novels.

Other Books in the Series
Other Books in the Series

The Tinkerer’s Daughter

Review PhotoAuthor: Jamie Sedgwick
Release: 2011
Series: The Tinkerer’s Daughter trilogy
Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy | YA
Edition: Kindle and Paperback
Pages: 290
Publisher: Timber Hill Press
Buy it here: AMAZON


Breeze is an outcast, a half-breed orphan born into a world torn apart by a thousand years of war. Breeze never knew her elven mother, and when her human father is recalled to the war, he leaves her in the safest place he knows: in the care of a reclusive tinker.

The Tinkerman’s inventions are frightening at first -noisy, smelly, dangerous machines with no practical use- but when the war comes home, Breeze sees an opportunity. If she can pull it off, she’ll change the world forever. If she fails, she’ll be considered a traitor by both lands and will be hunted to her death.

Screen Shot 2016-10-14 at 3.13.33 PMReview

I purchased this novel through a free offer in Bookbub and I have subsequently purchased the other two novels in the series. I am looking forward to reading them over the holidays—preferably curled up on the couch with a cup of eggnog-flavored latte by my side. This series is a mixture of the fantasy and steampunk genres. It is appropriate for YA readers.

Spoilers Ahead

As a child of four, Breeze’s father leaves her with the Tinkerman. He has been called to fight in a war with the Tal’mar—elf-like creatures that live in the neighboring realm. Breeze is half human and half Tal’mar and is an outcast in both worlds; although she has the build and coloring of a human, she has the ears of a Tal’mar and would be shunned in either kingdom.

Although leery at first when meeting him, there were new and exciting things for Breeze to discover at the Tinkerman’s cottage. This is where the steampunk elements start to come into the storyline.

It was dark inside, until Tinker pulled a metal switch on the wall. A shower of sparks rained down from the ceiling, and a dim light flooded the room. I glanced up at the odd device and saw a glowing coil of metal attached to two thick wires. My father paid little attention to this gadget, but to me it may as well have been magic. I had never seen anything like it. Our small cabin had always been lit by candles and oil-burning lanterns. This was something new, something exciting!
(Sedgwick, 2011).

I enjoyed the description of the Tinkerman’s cottage and barn. There were mazes of books, piles of gadgets, strange devices, and stacks of wood and metal parts scattered everywhere. While Breeze is getting used to these items and learning how to “tinker” and invent from the Tinkerman, she also develops magical abilities from the Tal’mar side of her heritage. She has the ability to connect with the trees, for example, and they communicate with her and help her to travel.

This is an enjoyable story with a positive, upbeat heroine. It is a first person narration that develops as Breeze ages and grows in knowledge and understanding. Yes—bad things happen in the novel, but Breeze focuses on using her natural gifts to improve the situation. For example—after Breeze learns that both humans and Tal’mar would hate and distrust her because of the war, she considers the situation:

How could I have been born into a world so cruel? I’d started out knowing nothing about the world, and had found that the more I knew, the more I hated it. I didn’t like feeling that way. I didn’t like the hopelessness that was gripping me,
the promise of a future full of loneliness and rejection. Then something happened. It was like a switch got flipped in my mind. I’m going to change things, I decided. I’m going to find a way to make them like me. I’m not going to live my whole life like a hermit in the mountains, even if Tinker says I will. Someday I’ll be able to go to town, maybe even live there…
(Sedgwick, 2011).

This is a child’s thought after experiencing the hateful prejudice of the human townspeople, but the core idea never leaves her mind. As she ages, Breeze focuses on ways to change the situation and bring about an end to the war.

Screen Shot 2016-10-14 at 6.25.03 PM Breeze was not willing to give up on living in society. After reading a lot of novels with angst-filled heroes/heroines, this was a pleasant departure for me. It reinforced the idea that a person does not have to fundamentally change who he/she is to find a place in society. It is, essentially, a story about staying true to your ideals and beliefs.

The Tinkerer’s Daughter is an enjoyable YA novel. Sedgwick has created an interesting story world that contains an equal amount of steampunk and fantasy aspects. I am anxiously waiting for the holidays so that I have enough time to finish the series.

Steamborn by Eric R. Asher

SteambornSteambornPerm is an incredibly fun steampunk novel with an adventurous tinker’s apprentice at the lead. Within the first chapter I was entranced by a world that reminded me of many of my favourite anime settings, a city with massive walls to keep out terrifying deadly bugs. Bugs who are often at least as big as the main character and who have fun names like Red Death and Widow Maker.

You’ll also find Spider Knights in the book, trained warriors who ride giant spiders. Which, as someone who used to have arachnophobia, was simultaneously awesome and terrifying to read about. The spiders–along with all the other bugs–are described with details so realistic it actually made my skin crawl.

Anyway, enough about the bugs. Steamborn is about much more than bugs. It’s a book with many layers and many questions, including deeply unsettling questions about the nature of history and humanity. Or, put another way: you know a book asks some heavy questions when you’re reading it and you start to wonder how Hitler would have written the history books if he won.

When I post this review on Goodreads I will definitely be giving this book four out of five stars.

Want to know more? Here’s the full blurb:

Jacob, a tinker’s apprentice and sometime thief, has lived his entire life in the mountain city of Ancora, protected by the city walls. These towering barriers keep the Deadlands creatures at bay, but the monsters move higher into the peaks every year. More and more, they breach the defenses of the Lowlands while the Highlands rest easy.

A swarm overruns the walls and wreaks utter devastation on the Lowlands. Charles, the old tinker, suspects the attack may not be natural. With help from Jacob’s closest friend, Alice, and Samuel, one of the city’s elite spider knights, Jacob and Charles will uncover a terrible darkness at the heart of their city.

Does that sound awesome to you? Purchase Steamborn here. 

Author Bio

Eric R Asher ProfileEric is a former bookseller, cellist, and comic seller currently living in Saint Louis, Missouri. A lifelong enthusiast of books, music, toys, and games, he discovered a love for the written word after being dragged to the library by his parents at a young age. When he is not writing, you can usually find him reading, gaming, or buried beneath a small avalanche of Transformers.

The Shape of a Steampunk Story


season3-500I’ve been thinking about endings, specifically the ends of stories, books, series. Is there a particular shape to steampunk tales? Does a steampunk story generally end in a particular way?

To back up a moment, this summer I released the final episode of my steampunk serial, Spire City. That brings the series to three books, a complete trilogy. I never saw myself as writing a trilogy—told myself I never would, in fact, when I started writing seriously. But there it is, a series of three seasons worth of steampunk-fantasy episodes. So the ending of a series has been on my mind a lot.

Then along comes the mail last week, and with it the new Harry Potter book. Not exactly the start and not exactly the ending of a series, so much as a new ending, of sorts (and very enjoyable, for what it’s worth, very Rowlingian as I saw someone call it on Facebook). Not steampunk either, but it brought my mind again to the way stories can end.

In college lit classes (a…few years ago), I learned how one of the common tropes of high fantasy is the healing of the land in the end, a restoration of things that seemed damaged beyond bearing. Sometimes it’s literal and sometimes metaphorical, but it’s one of those ur-story elements that gives fantasy its shape. Something is wrong with the world but then through the actions of the heroes, something is restored to health.

Obviously there are exceptions, stories that counter and subvert that image of healing or ignore it entirely, but it’s one of those story shapes that can be useful—hold it up to a story to see both how it conforms to that image and how it twists away. Often the healing is tinted with sadness, with the aching memory of things lost, but it can still be seen when we look at the story from that angle.

Science fiction stories might sometimes conform to that image as well. Often a more useful story shape for looking at SF, though, might be a step to the side, where a lack of knowledge leads to the crisis, and discovering something new (or sometimes inventing new technology) leads to the resolution. Rather than restoring something broken, SF discovers something new.

(It isn’t really the point of this post to argue between the two. I have seen some claim that this distinction makes fantasy inherently reactionary and past-looking and SF inherently progressive and future-looking…but that strikes me as a shallow way of seeing both—and not supported by the body of works we usually classify as either.)

What I’m curious about, though, is how a steampunk story fits into that. Does steampunk find its crisis in a changing, industrialized world and find its way through by restoring the polluted lands and broken bonds of place and family? I’d love reading a story that fits that. Or does steampunk find its crisis in the unknown of its changing time and discover new knowledge or new machines that let its people find new ways forward? I’d love reading a story that fits that, as well, actually.

Either of those story shapes works fine in a steampunk milieu. I call Spire City a steampunk-fantasy, and I won’t spoil the ending, but really I think both shapes fit the story’s ending—and neither accounts for it completely. Maybe the most memorable stories are the ones that can be seen as satisfying from multiple angles.

Where I see steampunk standing out isn’t in the shape of how the plot resolves or how our characters’ arcs play out. Rather it foregrounds the change itself. Nearly all stories rely on change at some level, but steampunk revels in the changing world, it gets down into the grime and excitement of new things, what’s damaged in the process and what’s gained. Some stories celebrate the changes, growing giddy with the potential of gears and steam. Some stories turn away in terror at what its people have created. But either way, the element of change is in the foreground.

So that’s the shape of a steampunk story for me, a many-tentacled shape with octopus arms grasping in countless directions, but always centered in a world that’s changing.

Introducing Carl Jackson of the Victorian Bareknuckle League

Page4finalNo, today’s guest doesn’t actually participate in Victorian bareknuckle boxing. He’s actually a comic book writer and artist whose first steampunk graphic novel, The Victorian Bareknuckle League, is currently live on Kickstarter. Carl Jackson has been kind enough to share the above page of his graphic novel with us along with much of his creative process and future plans for this awesome project.

Please give Carl a warm welcome!

Can you tell us a bit about Victorian Bareknuckle League?

Victorian Bareknuckle League is my first comic book. I have read comics since as far back as I can remember. I used to get He-Man toys as a child. You got a little comic book in the back about the characters and I loved them. As I got older I then progressed to Marvel comics and never looked back. I have always drawn characters, like superheroes and fighters but never managed to pull them all into an idea as cohesive as Victorian Bareknuckle League. I think it’s a mix of my major passions. It’s a comic book via the way of Street Fighter II, WWE wrestling and the Victorian era.

The League itself is exactly what it says. The story of the Victorian Bareknuckle League and all the characters who inhabit it. Some of the people are based on real life characters, some are pure fiction. For instance, the character M’butu is based on Bill Richmond, an Afro American slave who literally boxed his way to freedom and ended up in the palaces of European aristocracy. I think it’s important to have a narrative in comics that are based on combat. It is too easy to fall into the trap of filling a comic with fighting without the characters having a real reason to win. As such, the first four issues follow the path of a woman named Millicent Figg. Without giving too much away, she witnesses the murder of her lover at a bareknuckle bout and begins a descent from gentle pacifist into a hardened, world weary, violent fighter.

This sounds like a really unique steampunk story, one which really focuses on the dark parts of the Victorian era and humanity in general rather than focusing on all the shiny experimental tech in steampunk worlds.


How did you develop the idea for Victorian Bareknuckle League?

The idea actually germinated as the idea for a video game. The idea was for an old school beat em up that used Victorians as characters who bareknuckle boxed. I had been watching a lot of shows like Penny Dreadful, Ripper Street and I think it came from that. So I set about designing the characters and getting some people who are better artists than me to flesh it out. However, it stalled when I actually researched the actual amount of money and people that are needed to make a game, even one you consider fairly simple. I then took it back to the drawing board. I knew I had this idea but needed to do something else with it. A comic was the obvious answer. So I had all these characters, and I had developed backstories for each. Then it was just a case of deciding which would be the most interesting story to tell first while managing to introduce some of the other characters and as such I chose Millicent. The real turning point was when an author friend told me that I should take my character from the highest point they can possibly be at to the lowest point they can reach. That was the catalyst.

Starting with a comic is definitely a great way to create a story that may eventually become a game. I also think a lot of the strongest stories start with characters, because these stories are the truest to the characters’ personalities.


What was the most challenging part of creating Victorian Bareknuckle League and how did you make it easier for yourself?

Aside from deciding which characters to follow in the first arc, the most challenging part was actually just the general business side of it. I am not a business man at all. So when I set off I was pretty adamant that I didn’t want to crowd fund. I didn’t want to work out how much comics cost to print, how much it is to post things, work out percentages going to the crowd funding website and such forth. However, when I had my first offer from a publisher I froze when I read the part about signing my characters over. It just hit me like a bullet that all these characters and backstories would no longer be mine. So I began to look at crowdfunding, researching it and it became more and more appealing.

I had no idea you had to give up character rights for publishing deals in comics! I’d definitely go with crowdfunding too–staying true to my stories is worth all the extra effort and expenses.


How did you first get into steampunk?

I think I was into steampunk long before I actually realized what steampunk was. I did a trip on the Trans-Siberian railroad after university (which is pretty steampunk in itself) and I remember coming back with loads of crazy stuff from Soviet antiques markets likes goggles and old Tsarist war medals. But it was actually this book that got me into steampunk as we look at it now. Before I had begun creating it, I pretty much just read superhero comics. I knew about steampunk but it was just a thing that existed in the background. Then when I began my research I soaked up everything. Books, graphic novels, movies, TV, cosplay. By the end of it I had a pretty good grasp of the genre. The most amazing thing about steampunk is that most of the best works were created before the term was actually coined. It’s also strange that a definitive steampunk canon or universe does not exist. Star Wars has this whole universe of characters, locations and planets that transport you away across the galaxy. Marvel and D.C. have massive Superhero universes that allow us to imagine godhood. But if we want to lose ourselves in this world of Victoriana and machinery we don’t really have a definitive steampunk world to do this in.

What do you love most about steampunk?

The thing I really love about steampunk is the cosplay aspect. Very rarely do you see bad steampunk cosplay. With superheroes and anime it seems to be allowed to do a bit of a crap attempt but that does not seem to exist within the steampunk scene. It was probably this that had the most influence on my book. I would design characters with the image of a cosplayer in my head. That is the day I know when I have made it, when someone takes weeks to fashion an outfit representing one of my characters. Detective Van Der Brouck is crying out for a cosplay makeover. In fact, the first person to mail me with a really great Victorian Bareknuckle League cosplay can have a signed comic for free.

Steampunk cosplay really is something amazing! I’m aching to get into it, but I’m rather untalented with sewing and purchasing good cosplay is often crazy expensive. Here’s hoping the opportunity will come soon!


What steampunk creators inspire you?

One of my favourite steampunk artists is a guy named Fyodor Pavlov. Although not strictly steampunk, he draws in a style that perfectly encapsulates that Belle Époque era both in his subjects and style. I would really like him to do a cover or standalone issue at some point. Be warned if you check out his website as he does have some dirty stuff on it!

Where do you plan to take Victorian Bareknuckle League after this Kickstarter?

I have so many ideas for this book. All of the people you will meet in the first four issues have a story that needs to be told. Currently, I have about 12 issues written that deal with a few of the initial characters. After that I have so many places I want to go with it. At some point it is inevitable that the circus will come to town with all its freaks and weirdos. In the first arc I have deliberately used characters that you would find in the UK at the time but the British Empire is vast and a commonwealth championship will be on the cards at some point. Plans for an LGBT fishing vessel named the Rainbow Trout will hopefully take us on the high seas. I just have to get past the first Kickstarter

Sounds like this is a massive project you’re embarking on. I really hope everyone rushes over to support the Victorian Bareknuckle League Kickstarter and help you bring them all to reality.


Does Victorian Bareknuckle League sound awesome to you? Do you want to see more graphic novels on The Steampunk Cavaliers? Let us know in the comments section below!