Army of Brass

Steampunk celebrates its 31st birthday on April 27, so join in the festivities with the high-flying adventure, Army of Brass.

 

“Steampunk” began as a literary genre, but has expanded to include fashion, music, art, and live events all over the world. During 2017, in honor of author K.W. Jeter coining the term in 1987, Steampunk Journal editor Phoebe Darqueling and the Collaborative Writing Challenge joined forces to create an amazing work that blurs the line between science and magic. Twenty international authors contributed chapters to this story full of gadgets, romance, and political intrigue set against the backdrop of a fantasy world informed by the culture of the 19th century.

What is Army of Brass About?

When the mad conqueror haunting Elaina’s dreams invades her adopted homeland, the real nightmare becomes what she’s willing to do to stop him.

The dreaded Hunter Baron has landed on the shores of Mailderet, but Master Tinkerer Elaina Gable believes she has the solution. Giant automatons sit rusting in the valley, waiting for someone with the drive and ingenuity to bring them to life. But the king, swayed by the destruction his ancestors wrought centuries before, harbors a deep-seated fear of the machines. Though he will not allow the alliance of Tinkerers and Smiths to complete the work, Elaina and a famous airship pilot resolve to bring the machines back to life in secret.

From the safety of the swamps, a woman with silver skin jealously guards the secrets of the automatons. Though the Silver Woman also wishes the past to remain buried, she must weigh the value of secrecy against the thousands of innocents her hesitation might send to the grave.

As they discover the link between the toxic valley and the inner workings of the automatons, Elaina and her allies are drawn into a web of deceit threatening the balance of power across two continents—and proving the truth behind the deadly legends surrounding the Army of Brass.

Read Chapter 1 NOW on Steampunk Journal

Pre-order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 and receive it on Friday, April 27!

Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to meet the writers, participate in giveaways, and more!

Speaking of giveaways, we’ve got one going on for the entire blog tour, so between April 13-May 13, enter to win ebooks from our writers.

Collaborative Writing Challenge: www.collaborativewritingchallenge.com

Email: cwc@collaborativewritingchallenge.com

Launch contact: PhoebeDarqueling@gmail.com

The Sounds of Steampunk

 

I’ve been a fan of British television for years. Due to the wonderful service provided by PBS, my eyes (and ears) were opened early in life to shows like Mystery, Masterpiece Theater, Doctor Who, and (because my Dad had a good sense of humor) Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Dave Allen at Large, and Fawlty Towers. As a 6 year old I spent equal amounts of time with Big Bird and Mr. Rogers as I did with the Daleks and Miss Marple.

At college I studied Shakespeare and Victorian Literature. I watched (and listened to) hundreds of hours of plays and films produced by some of the greatest British directors and filled with British actors/actresses. And, of course, on my college radio station I heard the serialized version of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy for the first time.

Fast forward a few years. I publish my first steampunk mystery novel, Unquiet Dead. I naturally want to include an audio book version. I determine that Audible, which is associated with Amazon, is the place to go. And since it is set in a neo-Victorian society, I want a British voice actor.

Let me first state that I know there are different dialects in Britain, just as there are in the U.S. Listening to a speaker and being able to identify if he/she is from New York, Chicago, Austin, New Orleans, and so forth is something that we pick up just from living in this country. I assume that a native of the British Isles would have a similar type of cultural knowledge.

When I start setting up the request form, I am faced with the following choices:

Conversely the American version looks like this:

What’s an American author to do? When I think of voices, of style of speech, I think of characters. Joan Hickson (from the Miss Marple series) sounds completely different than Brian Glover (from the Campion mysteries). Do I want someone who sounds like Benedict Cumberbatch, Sean Bean, or Gary Oldman? (And since Gary Oldman uses a different accent in every movie, which version would that be?)

In addition, all of the characters do not “sound” the same, coming from different areas and levels in my fictional society. Some of them aren’t even human. (But we can leave that for a different post!) And what is the appropriate terminology for the style of speech after I make the choice?

Fortunately for me (and for my listeners) I found a wonderful narrator in Penny Scott-Andrews. Pen is a regular narrator for Curio.io, and voices the daily news with Cover Media for Yahoo, AOL and Google. She is currently recording Audiobooks with White House Sound, and narrating for The No Sleep Podcast, and Joosr. Learn more about her HERE.

Pen took my notes and created a wonderful performance. You can hear a short clip HERE. I’m still not certain what each character’s dialect should be called, but I do know that it sounds just right.

 

Effective WorldBuilding

Recently I watched the first season of The Frankenstein Chronicles on Netflix and started musing on steampunk world building. The Frankenstein Chronicles is not a steampunk series. It is a sci-fi period drama starring Sean Bean that originated in the United Kingdom. After a successful run on ITV’s Encore station, Netflix acquired the show and presented it as a Netflix Original. But while viewing the series, I felt that it had all of the elements that I wanted to see in a neo-Victorian era steampunk show—except the “steam.”

About the Show

In The Frankenstein Chronicles John Marlott (Sean Bean) is a police officer who discovers the body of a small child. Except forensic examination reveals that it’s not a small child. Pieces from “seven or eight” small children have been dismembered, mutilated, and stitched together to form a “new” body.

Soon after examining the body, Marlott is charged to discover the murderer by Sir Robert Peel (Tom Ward), the Home Secretary and an advocate for advanced medicine who is trying to pass “The Anatomy Act” in Britain. If made into law, the act would ensure only licensed experts could practice medicine, and the deceased corpses of the poor would be donated to surgeons for practice and education. Because of the condition of the corpse, Peel believes that the murderer is trying to discredit “The Anatomy Act.” Of course, given the title of the series, a viewer will be able to discern that everything is not what it seems on the surface.

Minor Spoiler Alert (Occurs in the first few minutes of the show.)

When Marlott discovers the “body,” the child grabs his hand. Which, given the “facts” of the composite body, is impossible. But it happens and is one of the reasons Marlott is so invested in solving the crime.

What Does this Demonstrate for Steampunk Worldbuilding?

Now we get to the crux of the argument. Why is this series such a good example for a steampunk world?

1). It brings the “punk.”

Last week The Steampunk Cavaliers presented a wonderful guest post by Steven R. Southard: “Putting the Punk Back in Steampunk.” Sothard writes:

“The ‘punk’ part means the story has a rebel who’s opposed to the existing socio-political order. At least one character needs to strive against the prevailing norms of the time.”

As Marlott delves into the messy politics of 19th century health care, he discovers a war raging between the wealthy and the destitute, the religious and the scientific, and the young and the old. It is a clash on many different levels and Marlott stands at the center, fighting against both the old traditions and the new innovations, advocating for a humanism that is radically different than any other side.

2). It brings history to the forefront.

In 19th Century England an increased interest in anatomy study caused issues for the universities. A lack of cadavers ushered in the practice of grave robbing. Some groups (or gangs) in London would murder victims to sell to anatomists.

The Anatomy Act was put forth in an effort to combat this supply-and-demand situation and to legalize the acquisition of cadavers.

3). It doesn’t gloss over the problems in the society.

Marlott champions London’s disenfranchised underclass. He works with the orphans who live on the streets, the prostitutes, the runaways, and the homeless. The series captures the grittiness of the world alongside the upper-class and aristocratic homes. Yet social class does not make you inherently “good” or “evil” in this worldview. It is more complex and layered.

There are other elements inherent in a good, layered steampunk world, but these three are a start. The first season of The Frankenstein Chronicles hits the mark for a work that is not steampunk and has a lot to offer those who want to learn about effective worldbuilding.

What are some things you look for in your reading and viewing of steampunk works? What else should be included? Let me know in the comments below.