Introducing DreamersEcho Creator Jet Falco

I’ve mentioned before that I am obsessed with steampunk anime and JRPGs, so I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover DreamersEcho, a comic that combines steampunk, anime, and JRPG storytelling. Unfortunately I’m still on a self-inflicted Kickstarter ban(my credit card was starting to get angry at me), but I reached out to creator Jet Falco and was lucky enough to secure an interview. I hope you’ll find it as fascinating as I did!

Welcome to the Steampunk Cavaliers, Jet! Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?

Thanks for having me on Steampunk Cavaliers, Dianna!

Name’s JetFalco. I’m mainly an artist, writer, and musician, though I’ve been known to dabble in the worlds of cosplaying, video production, and most recently, 3D printing! I’ve found a few ways to intertwine some of those random skills into a little adventure comic inspired by steampunk and Japanese role-playing games. I’m pleased to present to you the very first. . .

Can you tell us a bit more about the characters of DreamersEcho?

The characters are where the roots of this adventure take hold. Allow me to introduce you to a young man named Falco, and his two friends, Roz and Wulfi. They’ve been hard at work in hopes of finding a decent job in their hometown, the cliffside port town of Lufe Cape. Falco studied as a shipbuilder’s apprentice while serving the remainder of a work sentence in the mines. Roz and Wulfi are both training to enter the town Guard. All three young adults are gearing up for a big day tomorrow, when the graduation trials will decide if they’re cut out for the occupations they desire.

Falco, Roz, and Wulfi have stuck together since they were kids.

Falco can tend to be a bit forgetful and sleepy. It’s tough work balancing academy studies, serving at the mines, and sleepless nights putting together his airship for the trials. There’s one thing he can’t stand: failure. Since before he can remember, it’s like life is just a setup for one failure after another. At least he has friends to keep him sane.

Roymund Wulfiore, or Wulfi for short, is the son of the Admiral of the Guard, which pretty much guarantees a spot after the trials. His “silver spoon” makes him a pretty carefree guy, and maybe he tends to drink a bit much if the occasion calls for it. He’s known to make rash decisions and can turn into quite the mess from time to time. But he always stands up for his friends. He’s known Falco and Roz since day one of academy.

Roz, short for Rosalyn, has always been a fighter. She finds it hard to trust the men in town. Rumor has it, there’s a reason why she wears belts around her arms instead of the academy-standard training gauntlets. Some say it has a connection to her distrust of men. Regardless, Roz isn’t gonna tell you. She’s about as distant as a girl can get. It doesn’t help that Wulfi has been crushin’ hard on her since they were kids.

Seated at the center of our tale, they’ll soon find that the graduation trials and their futures may be put on hold as they’re forced to embark on an epic adventure. A great deal of supporting and antagonizing characters soon find their way into the cast, each establishing their own deep connections with these three.

What part of the story came to you first?

As a young writer, I fell for the classic formula, “kid wakes up, problem hits, adventure begins,” but it was long overdue for a good, healthy twist! Lost in thought for many nights, I designed characters, plotted out the world, but I hit a wall. I just couldn’t pen a script with a twist I felt was worthy. So I took some classic advice my parents gave me and I slept on it… and wouldn’t ya know, the twist came to me as I woke from a dream. Almost as if this “kid woke up, problem hit hard, adventure began.” The irony never sleeps in my house.

I thought, what if the twist is the world itself? What if the entire thing was just a dream? Of course the first thought that follows is the classic “it was all a dream” trope, sure. Then why not take it a step further? And by further… I mean take it a step back. Confused yet? Well it’s all revealed and explained in the prologue/Chapter Zero, in which existence itself is realized to be nothing more than a dream, and our main guy finally gets his second chance after the biggest failure of a lifetime. I mean that quite literally. The biggest failure of a LIFETIME. You’ll see.

How long did it take you to get from original idea to finished script for Volume 1?

The answer is quite simple: 15 years. That first inkling that birthed DreamersEcho came from a much younger me. I wasn’t always the fancy cosplaying-youtubing-fool JetFalco you see nowadays. The concept stage started in 7th and 8th grade. By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I had penciled a rough Chapter 1, got feedback from my peers, and a second draft of that chapter came out 2 years after that! A decade of growing passed, and DE took a backseat for quite some time. But as anyone will tell you, you never forget your first. DE was always in my mind, and I was always jotting down ideas and penciling new characters and designs. The finished script of Volume 1 finally made its way onto my laptop screen in late 2015!

At what point did you decide to give DreamersEcho a soundtrack?

I’ve always been fascinated with creating. I started comics in 2nd grade. Music quickly took hold in middle school. Before I knew it, I found myself becoming somewhat of a singer/songwriter, forging acoustic rock and techno beats like any other weird kid in the nineties/early 2000s. But the eternal tug-of-war with my first love was always there. With the launch of the DE Vol. I Kickstarter, I finally wed the two in what is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do. Had I known that my two loves were courting each other behind my back, I would’ve done this way earlier. LOL.

When I started the volume you see now, I listened to epic orchestral soundtracks to keep my pen hand motivated. It’s truly amazing how the right music can take anything you’re doing and ascend it to new heights, creating a brand new experience in the process. I definitely think DE deserves that same experience. Now I’m working with a couple of friends to produce a fantastic set of tracks to help create an atmosphere to bring your reading experience to the next level.

You can see the preview track on Soundcloud.

Your art style is obviously heavily influenced by JRPGs. What are some of your favourites?

Most adventure-style games in general, always continue to leave an imprint on my creation process. I can’t go without saying the biggest ones out there: Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda have definitely come up in conversations with fans of DE, with the former being a huge influence. Final Fantasy has elements of steampunk: huge airships and weapons with pipes and steam and the like, but I find its execution is quite unique: it manages to create an epic adventure without actually feeling a full-fledged steampunk adventure. The steam influence is there, but it manages to create something completely new from it all… and that’s kind of the direction I’m taking my story. I believe steampunk to be one of the most exciting and extraordinary styles and it’s always an honor to try an incorporate it into my work in any way I can.


A few others that left their mark on my work: Chrono Cross/Chrono Trigger which give kind of a “futuristic-calypso-steam” vibe, WildARMs which is more of a western-steam tone, and a newer one called I am Setsuna, which has one of the most unique art/play styles I’ve seen yet. Just to name a few! It’s always interesting to see the different crossroads of style JRPGs try out. What can I say? I love me some good adventure!
Other than JRPGs, what are some of your biggest artistic influences?

Many have said my style is a great blend between American and anime, and I really can’t argue! It didn’t stop with games. I’ll have a little fun with this and try to name a western influence for every Japanese one:

Ghibli/Miyazaki adventure films hold a spot in my heart. The art of the late great Michael Turner always hits a home run. He created one of my favorite adventure comics of all time, Soulfire. Akira Toriyama is his anime counterpart for me. I’ll always love his character design and stories in things like Chrono Trigger and DragonBall. I grew up in The Matrix generation, so I’m one of those kids who’ll always wonder if life is a computer program (lol), but like those kids, I always find it’s a great source of inspiration. Steins;Gate is an anime I cannot stop thinking about. It’s weaving, almost migraine-inducing plotlines always boggle me and tempt me to make my story as complex! I seem to find myself drawn to comedies as well, but not like you’d expect. A few examples from each side of the world: the American cartoon Clarence has me rofl’ing and the anime Prison School had me in tears. I try to incorporate a little light-hearted joke or two in my stories. A good example of style of comedy I aim for is found in my favorite cartoon of all time, Over the Garden Wall. To top it all off, I’d say Tolkien and the epic scale of Lord of the Rings can never cease to inspire and amaze me. Come to think of it if Clarence and Lord of the Rings had a baby, it would be Over the Garden Wall. So much great inspiration out there!

DreamersEcho is funding on Kickstarter right now. After the Kickstarter, what are your next steps?

Whew, great question. One thing they never tell ya is how draining running a Kickstarter campaign can be! I never thought I would be doing so much work! In fact, just this past weekend, I finished the art for the book cover, and I’m collaborating with an extremely skilled map artist to help me flesh out the world of DreamersEcho once and for all! It’s gonna look superb. Both the color cover and the map will be available as posters for fundraising rewards!

So to answer your question, I have no doubt working on the rewards will take a bit of time. I still meet weekly with my music collaborators on the soundtrack as each song is churned out, and I continue to write new melodies and beats every day. The soundtrack alone is definitely going to be worth the wait.

And after all the Kickstarter odds and ends get wrapped up, I’ll hopefully have Volume 2 started and available to read! I’m really excited for this volume. Volume 1 was just the kick-off; it got things started, the world introduced, and teased the reader enough. Volume 2 is going to be much more exciting, to say the beast. Oop. Did I say beast? Oh, it would seem that I did… Oh well, leave it. It’s the perfect hint at where Volume 2 is headed. 😉

Sounds like an exciting, if exhausting, time lies ahead! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us! How can readers support DreamersEcho?

I am truly honored to have the DreamersEcho: Volume 1 SoundComic featured on Steampunk Cavaliers. People can support DreamersEcho AND get a whole bunch of awesome rewards by backing the Kickstarter campaign. We’re already halfway to funding and thrilled to see the outpouring of support for this project. Thank you so much!

On Duality and Worldbuilding in Steampunk Literature

The steampunk genre is often used to provide social commentary on our present by means of the past. One of the ways it does this is by setting up dynamics of boundary disruption between timelines, cultures, and the self/other. It may sound obscure and theoretical, or—horrors—postmodernist in the extreme. But the disruption of these false binaries is a central and rich source of conflict and tension for the stories.

So let’s look at some examples of steampunk writing that sets up these dualities and transgresses them.

1. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Stardust will always inhabit a special place in my heart and my dreams. I love the complex relationship between Tristran and Yvaine. I adore how Gaiman wrote the story almost as a thought experiment, taking on the mindset of a Victorian-era scribe writing English fantasy and drawing inspiration from his environment: a low wall in the middle of the countryside, a shooting star.

The film adaptation takes on a much more distinctly steampunk tone, particularly with the addition of Captain Shakespeare, but both do an excellent job of capturing the tension between our world and another, just beyond our reach.

In Stardust, this boundary is literal: a wall, bordering the magical realm of Faerie. The story is about the consequences of breaching that boundary, for better or worse. First, by Dunstan, resulting in a child who belonged to both worlds. Then by Tristran, not knowing that he was the key to restoring balance. And also, by Yvaine, divided from her home in the sky and her earthly form. They all transgress, and each transgression furthers their ability to overcome the physical and metaphysical barriers that divide them from their heart’s desire.

2. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Next we have a cultural divide in Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, an alternative history of World War II. It isn’t just the philosophical division between the Allied and Axis forces, but a technological one as well between the mechanical and biological, and a social one as Deryn inhabits a gender non-conforming space.

Deryn and Alek must work together to bridge their differences. Both are unable or unwilling to fulfill the roles deemed necessary for them. Both are seeking their own paths. Both discover that the societies of the Darwinists and Clankers and the world they inhabit is far more complex than they were told.

In this series, what initially seems to be starkly differentiated battle lines are blurred, and the focus is centered not on who is right and who is wrong, but their individual ethics and choices.

3. Soulless by Gail Carriger

In this book, the social mores of Victorian society are disrupted and amplified by the addition of a supernatural element. A comedy of manners begins from the first scene, with a rude vampire, a displeased werewolf, and Alexia—soulless and a spinster.

One of the primary delights of the Parasol Protectorate series is how deftly Carriger weaves the rigid social system with the supernatural classes. Alexia is an outlier in her family and society: her preternatural state renders her incompatible with the normal and paranormal, even as she and Lord Maccon realise their fiery compatibility with one another.

4. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

Finally, a classic of the steampunk genre, exemplifying the tension between past, present and future while also exploring questions of the human condition. The differentiation between the peaceful Eloi and the terrifying Morlocks.

Wells uses his time traveller to examine theories of what makes us rational, moral creatures. How distinct are our beastly, animal impulses from the pure logic of invention and industry? His experiment takes on the tones of the theories of his day, but give us insight into the hopes and fears manifested by these bursts of technological innovation.

And in this way, Wells bridges the divide between the Victorian era and the digital epoch in which we now live.

We become part of the narrative as we transgress the boundaries of past and present, by turns embracing and rejecting the leaps of innovation that sustain our lived realities. We pick and choose our gizmos and costumes and social codes, disrupting dualities while bonding over tea.

Steampunks look to the past, and see a future.

Rebecca 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/.

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!

Getting Started in Steampunk Costuming

Walking into a convention is like walking into a different world. You step outside of your day to day to join so many others who are both like and unlike you as you celebrate something you enjoy. You have the opportunity to walk around and observe, to meet new people, to shop, and to participate in all sorts of fan activities.  There are people at these events taking a chance to be their true selves without judgement, and others who become characters they love, acting or dressing up to show their passion.

For those of us who have been doing this for a while, conventions and their quirks are normal, freeing, home. For someone new to the scene these events can also be overwhelming. So many of the people on the con floor seem to have this world figured out and that can be intimidating to someone new to the experience. Steampunk especially, has its own unique style, and steampunkers in costume tend to appear put together. My own experience when I started looking into this unique fandom was to gawk and the amazing corseted dresses and fantastically detailed props, and think that as beautiful as it was – it was never something I’d be able to do.  I thought you needed to be very advanced to make a corset, or steampunk jacket and my skills just didn’t add up. These people must not only be extremely talented (true), they would never want to talk to little ol’ gluegun-weilding, anime nerd, halloween costume making me (false).

Over time I’ve had the chance to meet so many people within the steampunk  and cosplay communities, and I’ve learned that they are both open and welcoming to new people and excited to share what they’ve learned in costume creation.  Within hours of my first steampunk event (an art opening a friend was featured in) I’d been given suggestions for thrifting my first costume pieces, been invited to more events, and had pattens suggested to me. I lucked out and stumbled upon some experienced and talented costumers who were willing to teach me and while I still have SO much to learn, I’m finally at a stage where I’m starting to be able to show some of what I’ve learned to newer costumers too.

This community is amazing. The people in it are fantastic. I am so grateful to the people who have taken their time and had the patience to show me what I’ve learned so far. I am even more grateful for the knowledge that, with the help of those wonderful friends, I will continue to learn and grow as a costumer.  I am living proof that with a little support, anyone who wants to participate in steampunk costuming can get started, and create something to be proud of.  I’ve met people who draft and sew full gowns from scratch and people who go to Value Village and turn curtains and a tablecloth into a beautiful skirt without even owning a sewing machine. All you need to do is just take that first step.  Wonder up to that fancy looking steampunk table at your next con, and introduce yourself. You’ll make some friends, and get some tips… you never know just how far that first step can take you.

Over the course of this series I’d like to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned from other costumers. Many of the things I’ve learned as an adult getting into costuming are things that seem like common sense to people who have been sewing since childhood. I can still remember some of the jaw drop moments my friends have had while looking at how I think something is made, and the solutions they’ve taught me.  You’re never to old to start learning, you don’t need to already know how to sew to create a great costume.  There are so many wonderful resources available, and I hope to be a tiny tiny one of them!

See you on the con floor,

Amanda

Amanda Groulx is an avid Fan of many genres whose favourite way of showing her passion is through cosplay. She loves to spend time working on new pieces with her friends, and is part of an award winning group of costumers. When she’s not participating in Fandoms, Amanda is employed in Broadcasting and enjoys cooking and writing.   You can find Amanda’s cosplay on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/modernmythscosplay/

Wishing for more Punk in Steampunk

Image taken from PixabayAs I’ve begun to explore steampunk more,  I’ve noticed a disappointing trend in the books and movies in this genre. They seem to have forgotten the heart of steampunk: the punk.

This is perhaps because steampunk is a genre with many distractions. It’s easy to get caught up in the airships, the tools, the corsets, and many creators do. Writers spend page after page lovingly describing these things(and many do it quite well); comic book artists pour hour after hour into every image.

What they forget are all the other things that make the Victorian era such a fascinating one. They skip the political intrigue and religious conflicts inherent in the time. Their characters create inventions and go on grand adventures that change their lives but rarely seem to impact the world around them. Often their stories even reinforce the highly structured class system and oppression of these worlds.

This is in some ways the opposite of a common problem found in other subgenres of science fiction and fantasy: the chosen one who goes on a grand quest to save the world. Steampunk stories are great at choosing characters who are only slightly larger than life, who are awesome because of their personalities and skills rather than because they are “chosen”, but it doesn’t give those characters the same opportunities to prove themselves.

I believe we can do better. I believe steampunk fiction is at its best when characters use their steampunk creations to subvert the Victorian-esque cultures they live in, the way punk music subverted the existing culture of music in the real world. I want to see characters who make their place in the world instead of finding it, and I want to see characters tearing apart the class systems and governments that oppress them. Most of all, I want to see steampunk worlds that grow and change.

The steampunk aesthetic is wonderful and airships are fascinating, but steampunk is about so much more than the superficial. In our own world steampunk communities are some of the friendliest out there. They are creators of all kinds, professionals and hobbyists, fat and thin, white and black. They are incredible people who are changing the real world, one tiny step at a time.

Steampunk characters should be allowed to do the same.

Know of any steampunk books like this? Got one of your own? Tell me about it in the comments section below!

Dianna Gunn is a freelance writer by day, a fantasy author by night, and a steampunk fanatic all the time. Her debut YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn, is set to release in spring 2017. She blogs about books, creativity and life at The Dabbler.

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/.

 

Gaslight and Grimm: Steampunk Faerie Tales

Review PhotoGaslight and Grimm: Steampunk Faerie Tales

Release: May 29, 2016
Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy | Humor
Edition: Kindle
Pages: 356
Publisher: eSpec Books

Buy it here: AMAZON

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 4.44.12 PMBlurb

Once Upon a Time, ageless tales were told from one generation to the next, filled with both wonders and warnings. Tales of handsome princes and wicked queens, of good-hearted folk and evil stepmothers. Tales of danger and caution and magic…classics that still echo in our hearts and memories even to this day, told from old, cherished books or from memory at Grandma’s knee.

Oh yes, tales have been told…but never quite like these. Journey with us through the pages of Gaslight and Grimm to discover timeless truths through lenses polished in the age of steam.

With tales by James Chambers, Christine Norris, Bernie Mojzes, Danny Birt, Jean Marie Ward, Jeff Young, Gail Z. and Larry N. Martin, Elaine Corvidae, David Lee Summers, Kelly A. Harmon, Jonah Knight, Diana Bastine, and Jody Lynn Nye.

Review

As a fan of fairy tales, fantasy, and steampunk, this collection grabbed my attention immediately. The first story, “In Wolf’s Clothing,” is a perfect play on the words in the title and reimagines the “Little Red Riding Hood” story. “When Pigs Fly” is the story of the “Three Little Pigs,” only now the “pigs” are captains of airships and the “wolves” are pirate vessels attacking the fleet. There are steampunk versions of “Jack the Giant Killer,” “Rapunzel,” and even “Puss in Boots” with clever steampunk inspired titles. “The Steamy Tale of Cinderella” might sound like an adults-only version of the tale until you remember the theme of the collection.

Since space is limited, I have decided to review only one short story in the collection. For a spoiler-free review—if you love any of these three genres, log on to your favorite bookstore and emulate Philip J. Fry from episode 3, season 6 of Futurama. *

Spoiler’s Ahead

It was hard to choose a favorite story in this collection, but I have enjoyed Jody Lynn Nye’s novels for years, so her story “The Perfect Shoes” narrowly edged out the others for the review. I also happen to feel that it is a good representation of the mixture of genres in the collection.

Jody Lynn Nye has written many humorous fantasy series, and has collaborated with Robert Asprin and Piers Anthony, so I started reading “The Perfect Shoes” expecting something clever and light, with perhaps a few puns thrown in for good measure. What I found was something clever and dark, sobering and uplifting, and all-together unsettling. It is a short story that I found myself thinking about long after I read it during quiet, reflective moments. It made an impact.

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From Wikipedia Commons

The story is not a take on “Cinderella,” as one might think from the reference to shoes, but to “The Red Shoes,” a much darker tale originally published by Hans Christian Andersen in 1845. The original tale is based on the idea of temptation and material desire; of being cursed and finding redemption through humility.

“The Perfect Shoes” follows this formula, but with exquisite steampunk details. The shoes, for example, are the creation of a master clockwork maker, M. de Raymond. Instead of being simple adornments, they are fashioned to help the heroine, Monique, fulfill her dream of being the prima ballerina of the Paris Opera Ballet:

At her ankles, knees, and hips, there were clockwork joints, gears, and flywheels, but as tiny as those in a fine watch. They would be invisible under her tights. Strangely, the shoes and their attendant gadgetry felt perfectly comfortable, as though they were a part of her body (Nye, 2016).

The shoes allow her to dance beyond her natural ability and she quickly rises to the position of prima ballerina. Monique is willing to trade her soul for her dreams, but M. de Raymond asks for much less. Still, Monique is not willing to keep the bargain she struck. But M. de Raymond does not hold this against her and allows her to keep the shoes and pursue her dreams. Instead, it is her own cruelty to the rest of the dancers and her own pride that bring about her downfall.

Does Monique find redemption at the end of the tale? That would be giving too much away. I recommend reading the tale, and the rest of the collection, for yourself.

*Fry yells: “Shut up and take my money!”
(This, of course, assumes you talk to your computer. Which I do when shopping. Frequently.)

The Mechanicals

Review Photo Author: Nix Whittaker
Release: September 26, 2016
Series: Wyvern Chronicles
Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy | Young Adult
Edition: Kindle
Pages: 152
Publisher: Reshwity
Buy it here: AMAZON

Blurb

Hara and Gideon are on a mission for the Emperor of the Wyvern Empire. They are to rescue a reluctant bride who has fallen into the clutches of an ambitious Duke. The Duke has plans to start a civil war and commit genocide of the dragons.

Spoilers Ahead

The Mechanicals is Nix Whittaker’s second book in the Wyvern Series. The first, Blazing Blunderbuss, was published early in 2016. It is not necessary to read the first book in the series to enjoy the novel, but knowledge about the characters and the story world can add a depth to the story, particularly at the start of the novel.

The novel is a unique blend of high fantasy and steampunk adventure. There are dragon/human hybrids, pirates, airships, clockwork dragons, and mechanicals/automata. Hara, the heroine of Blazing Blunderbuss, is a tough, intelligent survivor who has difficulty trusting men because of events that happened during her childhood. She and her airship crew were forced into piracy and now, in The Mechanicals, have to face the repercussions of that choice. The Emperor offers her a way out for the entire crew; help rescue his wife’s niece and avert another war.

Gideon, a dragon/human mix, bonded with Hara in Blazing Blunderbuss to save her life. In effect they are married, but Hara’s lack of trust of any man means their relationship has moved very slowly and has not been consummated. Gideon is also the uncle of the Emperor, but not considered part of the royal family because he never entered into his brother’s collection—an additional grouping that dragons join that further establishes kinship.

The thoughtfulness that Whittaker puts into creating each of her characters is evident in the complexity of their interactions and growth. When they arrive at the Emperor’s court, for example, Hara learns more about Gideon and his relationship with his family. Gideon likes being a “rogue” royal and generally avoids the Emperor’s court; he does not like the fact that many of the courtiers would play up to him simply because he is a human/dragon. And the members of the court would prize Hara’s clockwork dragon, Angel. Still, he does want Hara and her crew to be pardoned, so they answer the Emperor’s call.

“The women will try to steal Gideon and the men will try to steal your other dragon.”

For the first time Hara looked at the women whispering in the corridors as they passed. She looked at Gideon and the look in her eye said one thing. Mine. It warmed him deep in his soul and he offered his arm and she took it.

Gideon said, “You make sure the women don’t steal me and I’ll make sure the men stay away from Angel.”

Hara nodded her head sharply, “You have a deal, dragon.”
(Whittaker, 2016).

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I recommend Nix Whittaker’s series to anyone who likes YA fantasy/steampunk adventures. I received an advanced reader’s copy of this work, but (as always) I purchased the e-book to write the review. I liked it enough to purchase the first book in the series, so . . . I read them in reverse order. I like to support independent authors whenever possible and whenever I decide that I like a book enough to review it, I put my money behind it. You can read both novels for free if you have Kindle Unlimited, which I received as a gift for Christmas. (My friends and family know me so well!)

 

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

Blurb

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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Review

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

Steampunk Next by Daniel Ausema

SpireCitySeason2
Season Two of Spire City was largely written during Nanowrimo

Like many writers out there, I’m spending this month of November furiously writing, as I take part in National Novel Writing Month for the sixth time. In my first year participating, I wrote (most of) Season 2 of my steampunk-fantasy serial Spire City. A few years later, I wrote a good portion of Season 3.

The serialized seasons of that story are complete, but for a number of years I’ve had this idea for a story that takes place some twenty to thirty years later. Spire City, the Next Generation as it were…

I’ve always said, though, that the sense of change is one of the big draws to steampunk for me. If Spire City corresponds roughly to an 1890s level of tech (amped up with fantastical steam advances), then a later generation should feel different. Otherwise where’s all the change that was happening in the earlier story?

So how do you tackle that sense of change within a steampunk world? How do you create an ambience that feels more modern yet still steampunk?

I have a few ways I’m trying to give this story a later feel. The simplest is in-world change. Things that had seemed fixed and certain in the earlier story—just a part of the way things are—are now seen by the characters in the story as quaint, old-fashioned. These relics of the past make brief appearances juxtaposed with the more modern ways of the current day. That only works for those who’ve read the earlier story, but those subtle hints can have a powerful subconscious effect.

Another way, which this new story also makes use of, is to simply amp up the steam. Make the gears and gadgets and airships even more fantastical. Make the inventions of the earlier story, which had evoked a sense of wonder, commonplace compared to the new things that are rolling out.

But what specific things can a storyteller use to make this feel like real change?

I’ve found two that are working for my story.

First, this is much more a war story than the earlier one. Most of the characters are away from the fighting themselves, but everyone is deeply affected by the ongoing war. So I’m looking at World War I tech and weaving in some of the advances of that era. And even beyond the tech, the demeanor of the soldiers and the way people back in Spire City behave can really create that sense of being in a later era.

Image from Wikipedia
Image from Wikipedia

The other big advance is a widespread use of radio. I’ve read steampunk stories with radios in them. There’s nothing to say you don’t already have radios in your stories, but for the world I created in the Spire City stories, it creates a startlingly different feel. It’s often very subtle on the surface, but it gives the mood of the story just the right amount of difference.

So when did radio come into use in our world, and what kind of other tech will fit with a use of radio, if you decide to incorporate it in your steampunk stories? You could make an argument going back even to the early industrial revolution, if you want an especially brilliant inventor or fortuitous discovery. Some of the earliest experiments began all the way back into the late 18th century.

Then for a good stretch of the 1800s, new experiments and observations pushed our understanding forward. In fact, Edison in 1875 tied radio waves in with that beloved-of-steampunk-fans term the ether (or specifically “the etheric force”). But it was really in the 1880s that scientists began to understand what they were working with and make use of it.

The early devices, using a continuous wave, were quite limited. So it wasn’t until World War I that radios began to be more useful. And our image of the old-time commercial radio system didn’t spread until the 1920s.

So all of that fits with the time era I am looking at for this story. I’ve heard some creators try to define a separate term for things based on that somewhat later era, but such distinctions have never interested me. I still call it steampunk.

What about you? Any inventions or developments that give your steampunk stories a later feel? I’d love to hear.