Author Interview: Michael Wilson

Hannah
Hannah, main character of Phantom Heart

Today’s guest is an active blogger and writer with his first novel, Phantom Hearts, currently on submission. I don’t generally invite yet-to-be published writers for interviews but Phantom Heart has such an excellent premise I just had to know more.

Please give Michael a warm welcome!

Can you tell us a bit about your novel?

Oh, but of course! Sometimes I feel like I breathe this stuff, lol.

 

Phantom Hearts is a steampunk fantasy adventure set in an entirely other world. Hannah, a seventeen-year-old slave, battles her way across a continent engulfed in the first modern war in search of the outlawed magic to bring Jason, her forbidden love, back from the grave. Aided only by a brutal murderer, an unpredictable teenager addicted to Wild Magic, and a carnie who leads an underground railroad for slaves, she must wrestle with the growing weight of her own destiny — or risk losing Jason forever.

 

The world is not unlike a steampunk World War One, but with outlawed magic, rogue spies, steampunk carnivals, and clockwork animals. Hannah unlocks her own magical heritage, the ability — or curse — to live other’s emotions. And of course, there’s a dangerous soldier who seeks to destroy Hannah, bargaining with Ghouls to invade Hannah’s dreams and torture her nights.

I love the world you’ve built here, especially the nature of magic and how it interacts with other parts of the world. I particularly like the way you’ve made Hannah’s magic a double edged sword–it comes with more serious drawbacks than many forms of magic I’ve seen.

 

What part of the story came to you first?

I’m always daydreaming. I come up with the small scenes, emotional moments, or interesting bits of the world and keep them in a journal. Once I have enough of the isolated pieces, I start to ask questions: How can this lead to that? What if this were turned on its head? A plot emerges.

 

This particular book started with the idea of a world that was entering the modern era, but in a steampunk way. Old magic was being forgotten — even outlawed. The first scenes that made me think I have to write this book were of a young girl who’d never had any power, never done anything crazy, going all out in a desperate gamble for the one she loves. One scene in particular was a magic battle that happens on an airship. She’s flexing her “magical muscles” for the first time, and is terrible at it. She’s almost killed. Only her sheer determination helps her escape.

Your novel takes place in another world. How closely is this world based on the Victorian time period usually associated with steampunk?

Actually, my book is closer to an Edwardian (1901-1910) and First World War era. There’s a lot of almost electro-punk or eddison-punk. It’s really a world in transition, moving away from the grime and chaos of clockwork and steam and into the sterile and dangerous world of electricity and total war. It’s also all but forgotten its soul — magic. That said, there is a lot of the Victorian feel, just a tad darker.

How did you first discover the world of steampunk?

Hard to say. Probably The Castle in the Sky when I was a kid, though I didn’t know what to call it (and it may not be traditional steampunk). I started falling in love with steampunk through comic conventions and books like Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. I instantly loved the idea of a world where not everything is uniform. In our world, all the phones look the same — efficient, sleek, simple. I was drawn to the idea that everything can be kind of a jumble, unique, and hand-made. I also adored the on-the-surface optimism in so much steampunk, but in a way that can really contrast with true human problems like class hierarchy and the role of technology.

We’ve actually had a few different authors reference Miyazaki films as their first exposure to steampunk, mostly Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s totally thrilling because these are some of my all time favorite movies and I love seeing how many lives they’ve touched.

 

What do you think is the most interesting thing about steampunk?

The sheer creativity and the community! I love the fact that steampunk is expanding beyond just Victorian england. We’re seeing multicultural steampunk, Egyptian steampunk, and so many others. And the people. Steampunks are just fun people — creative, kind, and not ashamed to be weird. I’ve always felt that way. It is awesome to find a group that you can really be yourself with.

 

And of course, the possibility of imagination in my stories. That’s really what it’s all about for me.

I’m also really excited to see steampunk expanding and exploring all different parts of the world. And the creativity of the people in the community seriously can’t be applauded enough.

 

Your world obviously has a few different types of magic including the addictive Wild Magic. How did you come up with these different systems?

Well, the world actually has one kind of magic system, but it’s pretty complex. Phantom Hearts is just the first in a collection of related, but not dependent books, set on the planet of Anadell. The goal is to ask the question: How would an entire world’s history have evolved if magic was just another part of life? So, the collection explores a 5000 year chunk of history. The Phantom Hearts series is just one part of that. It’s not unlike Brandon Sanderson’s idea of the Cosmere.

 

So the magic on Anadell actually comes from Anasear (the dream world or spiritual realm, sort of). Magic flows through emotion, and not just human emotion. Many animals have evolved basic instinctual use of magic. The Wild Magic you asked about is what happens when people just use raw emotion to channel Anasear’s magic — it’s incredibly powerful, but also a raw adrenaline shot. Addictive and destructive. Treatus Magic is a complex system of spells and charms that are meant to try and control that River of Magic (without a lot of success). And, of course, there are Phantoms, the creatures who live in Anasear. Thousands of kinds of Phantoms (Ghouls, Wraiths, Ghosts) can be bound to a person’s will to do incredible kinds of magic, but at a cost.

 

I love the idea that magic has a cost, a pain. So I started with that idea and just started asking questions, filling in the blanks. There a LOT more to it, but you’ll just have to read the books!

I’m also a big fan of magic having a cost, though the costs in my worlds are usually pretty straight forward–human sacrifices, years off your life, insanity, that kind of thing.

 

You’ve done a degree in Educational Psychology. How has this studying informed your knowledge of character creation?

A lot, actually. My specific focus was on Individual Difference, which allowed me to really investigate how different people see the world. The research is all centered around how the context of a person’s if (biological, cultural, personal history, etc.) impacts how they see the world, how they make decisions, and ultimately, how they learn. I applied these same basic methods to my characters. It helped me create richer backstories and clearer expressions.

I once had the opportunity to interview Robert J. Sawyer and one of the questions I asked him was “If you could start over, knowing you were going to be a successful author, what would you have studied”. I’ll never forget his response: “Psychology, because what else is character but psychology?” Ever since then I’ve spent a lot of time researching psychology online and it’s definitely helped me build epic characters.

 

I also have a Masters in Anthropology, which has probably been even more helpful. I’ve studied cultures from around the world and across time, paying special attention to their folklore, myths, and stories. This gives me a lot more to draw on when building a new world. One of my favorite writing concepts is that “there are no new ideas, only new mixtures of ideas.” That knowledge gives me a bigger ingredient list to mix. I can also see how one aspect of a culture (maybe history) can affect another aspect (say, language) in really detailed ways.

 

Together, they let me create fleshed-out experiences. I can make a consistent context (world, language, myths) for my character and figure out how all of that would shape their perceptions and behaviors.

 

If anyone’s interested in that, I blog about it a lot at chrismichaelsauthor.com.

Sounds like a fascinating blog! I will definitely check it out.

 

What can people read while they’re waiting for your novel to come out?

Well, I have Phantom Hearts and a YA contemporary fantasy-thriller, Allyson Darke, out there playing the “let’s find an agent and publisher game.” I’m polishing a couple others, too. But, it could be a while before any of these are on shelves. (If you’re an agent or editor who wants to chat about it, email me through the website 🙂 )

 

In the meantime, I’m doing a couple serial stories on my blog at http://chrismichaelsauthor.com/sagas. Look at A Wolf of Steam and Fire. It’s a kinda prequel to Phantom Hearts, and I have another set in that same world that’ll be running next. Both are steampunk-fantasies, high action, and totally free.

 

I also blog and tweet about topics like writing, mixed-media stories, interactive stories, storytelling innovation, steampunk, and educational storytelling. You can follow me @chrismichaels84 or find the blog at http://chrismichaelsauthor.com.

 

Really awesome chatting with you!

Michael Wilson has earned graduate degrees in Anthropology and Educational Psychology, both focusing on narrative identity and storytelling. He has presented about steampunk at comic conventions, and maintain a blog dedicated to mixed-media, interactive storytelling and educational storytelling research at www.ChrisMichaelsAuthor.com. When not dreaming up worlds or wordsmithing, he is tinkering in code or gadgets, climbing trees, or spending time with his wife, who is also an author.

Have more questions about Phantom Heart? Want to recommend another author/artist for an interview? Post your thoughts, questions and suggestions in the comments section below!

Learning languages in the Victorian era

SpireCityUrchinAgain
Daniel Ausema’s steampunk serial

I suspect that for most of us when we imagine a steampunk-era education, the image that comes to mind is one of two things: a private tutor in a wood-lined library in the family manor or hard desks in a sparsely ornamented classroom run by a strict teacher.

There’s no doubt truth in these images, but as a language teacher myself, I wanted to dig a little deeper into how languages were taught in Europe in the Victorian era. I discovered a history of idealism and two competing ideas about teaching language, as well as theft and betrayal.

Prior to the Victorian era, the idea of learning another language meant one thing, whether with that tutor in your family library or in an austere classroom with a harsh taskmaster. It required intense learning of the grammatical rules of the other language paired with rote translation of texts, specifically those texts seen as literarily or historically significant. And here all the images we have of knuckle-rapping and joylessly belligerent teaching come to bear.

It’d be like expecting a traveler to an English-speaking country to learn the language by studying grammatical distinctions between the present perfect and pluperfect and then translating Shakespearean speeches. Much as I love Shakespeare’s monologues, they would hardly prepare someone to talk with strangers on the streets today–or even in Victorian-era London.

So in 1835, the French teacher Jean Manesca published a radical new approach. He had been using the approach for a number of years by then, teaching French in the United States, and had shared his ideas with some others who adapted them to their own language teaching. His argument was that the grammar-translation approach might be good and fine for learning to read an ancient language like Latin or other languages no longer spoken, but it was terrible for learning to speak a living language.

Manesca advocated a style of teaching that was supposed to mimic the way we learn languages naturally as children…although in truth the rote way he laid it all out, sounds scarcely more engaging than the strict grammarian approach. (Incidently, a very similar divide continues to exist in language teaching theories, though the specific approaches on both sides have grown more sophisticated.)

The key point for our steampunk interests was the idealism that lay under it…and the theft that would soon follow.

Jean Manesca wrote that “teaching ought not to be a torment; a mental acquisition which is desired, should not be purchased at the price of any mental or corporeal suffering…” which goes against our image of the cruel Victorian teacher…

One of Manesca’s followers, Don Carlos Rabadan, adapted Manesca’s approach to Spanish. In his Spanish-English textbook he wrote, “For if pleasure alone be our object, without regard to its great utility, what can be more gratifying than to be able to converse fluently with [people] of different countries?”

I love this sense of idealism that underlies Manesca’s approach. Language wasn’t an end in itself, but a vital part of improving the world, bringing an enlightened peace. That it didn’t, well, is to be lamented, but making space for this kind of grand ideal in our steampunk stories is one way to give them added dimension. And maybe even weaving in the failure of such an ideal…

For all his influence, however, Manesca did not become famous. Instead Henri Ollendorff, a German who taught Latin, took Manesca’s lessons and translated them (often directly, with no changes in examples or sequence) into Latin.

Soon, elite tutors bragged of the Ollendorff method. It was seen as a sign of sophistication to have learned with the Ollendorff method, which came to be used for German, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Greek, and Arabic. Several popular editions of his books were published in the 1840s and beyond. As for the Manesca method? No one spoke of it. (In fact, at the time of this writing, Manesca’s only appearance in Wikipedia is on Ollendorff’s page, with a dead link to a page yet to be written about Jean Manesca.)

I have not been able to uncover any reaction from Manesca to Ollendorff’s theft and fame, though his son Louis was very critical of Ollendorff. I like to imagine how they might have greeted each other, though. An idealistic gratitude that at least Manesca’s approach was spreading? Or a bitterness that the upstart had stolen his chance for fame?

Either one could make a very cool layer in a steampunk story. No need to make it specifically about language teachers, but that dynamic of idealism, innovation, theft, and adaptation are all so central to the technological and societal changes of the Victorian era. How cool to incorporate some aspect of that into our steampunk stories!

Much thanks to the Boston Language Institute’s blog (https://bostonlanguage.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/jean-manesca-the-first-modern-foreign-language-teacher/), which started me looking into Manesca, his followers, and imitators.

Daniel Ausema is the author of Spire City and one of the original Steampunk Cavaliers. Find him on Twitter @ausema.

Did you enjoy this post? Learn something fascinating? Want to see more posts like it? Let us know in the comments section below!

Introducing Beth Cato of The Clockwork Dagger Series

FinalFlight330x534Whether it’s celebrating their first contract with one of the Big Five, the beginning of a second series or simply the next book in the series they’ve already started, being able to celebrate the accomplishments of writers I love is one of the best parts of being a blogger. Today’s author, Beth Cato, is one who I’ve been watching since the release of her first novel, The Clockwork Dagger. Now she’s preparing to release the third story in The Clockwork Dagger Series and she’s been generous to share some of her inspiration with us.

Can you tell us a bit about The Clockwork Dagger series?

The series mixes up steampunk and magic. My main character is Octavia Leander, a gifted magical healer and doctor, who worships a mythical giant tree known as the Lady. Octavia’s gifts are unusual, and when she’s traveling on her own, she suddenly finds herself the target of assassins and intrigue. The adventure builds from there!

Did you start The Clockwork Dagger with a series in mind or did it simply grow out of the first book?

I pictured it as a duology, and the main plot wraps up very well in the second book, The Clockwork Crown. Harper Voyager Impulse approached me about writing more stories in the world; they are being released as ebooks first for 99-cents each, and will be in a print collection out later this year. Final Flight is the last of these additional stories. The previous works include another story, The Deepest Poison, and my Nebula-nominated novella, Wings of Sorrow and Bone.

You don’t see duologies often but that’s actually how I originally envisioned the books I’m working on now(which are now part of a much bigger series, but hey). It’s nice to see something other than the traditional trilogy. I also really love how short stories and novellas allow you to explore a world in more detail. Still, I’m a paper book kind of girl and I can’t wait to get my hands on the paper copy of your anthology!

 

The Clockwork Dagger stories take place in Caskentia, a country you created. How closely is Caskentia based on the real world Victorian era?

I took most of my inspiration from the Edwardian era and World War I. Caskentia is a country that has been warring off and on for fifty years. It is a dark, gritty place, suffering from death, disease, starvation, even a profound lack of education. There is the pollution that one expects from the Victorian era–smokestacks and coal coke–but the technology is more advanced.

Sounds like a fascinating combination of the two periods. The juxtaposition of pollution, darkness and disease against rapidly improving technology is a truly fascinating one that lends itself to asking big questions about humanity.

 

What got you into steampunk in the first place?

I loved historical fiction as a kid and found the fantasy genre as a teenager. Steampunk combines those two loves!

What do you think is the most interesting thing about steampunk?

It brings out the best and worst of human ingenuity. Steampunk, at heart, is about creating something beautiful out of coarse components.

What a beautiful way to summarize the heart of steampunk! I think steampunk is able to do this so well thanks to the juxtaposition I mentioned earlier.

The third supplemental story in The Clockwork Dagger series, Final Flight, is coming out soon. Is this going to be the final story in the series?

For now, yes. I’m totally open to writing more stories and books in this world, but for the next while, I’m focusing on my new series.

Do you ever find it difficult to keep continuity between novels?

I’m lucky in that I just have the two novels to draw from, not scads of books. I do have many Word documents on worldbuilding that I refer to as need be, and I skim the earlier works to make sure I keep things consistent.

What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

My next novel is out on August 23rd. Breath of Earth starts a whole new steampunk series, this one based on an alternate history and set in 1906 San Francisco. The United States and Japan are allied as they seek world domination, and airships, magic, and mythological creatures feature heavily as well.

That sounds seriously awesome! I think steampunk could benefit from more mythological creatures and influences. I’m definitely going to have to pick up a copy–maybe as a birthday present to myself since it’s so close(my birthday’s the 29th). Thank you for doing this interview!


Beth Cato
hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.

Beth’s short fiction can be found in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and many other magazines. The Clockwork Dagger is her first novel. The sequel, The Clockwork Crown, will be released in 2015.

Follow her at www.BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

The Clockwork Dagger

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.

Purchase The Clockwork Dagger here.

Final Flight

Another breathtaking short story from the author of The Clockwork Dagger and The Clockwork Crown, set in the same world…

Captain Hue hoped he was rid of his troubles once Octavia Leander and Alonzo Garrett disembarked from his airship Argus. But he was quickly proved wrong when his ship was commandeered by Caskentian soldiers. He is ordered on a covert and deadly mission by the smarmy Julius Corrado, an elite Clockwork Dagger.

Now Captain Hue must start a mutiny to regain control of his airship, which means putting his entire crew at risk—including his teenage son Sheridan. As the weather worsens and time runs out, it’ll take incredible bravery to bring the Argus down….perhaps for good.

Final Flight will be released April 26th.

Did you enjoy this interview? Are you excited about The Clockwork Dagger? Want to suggest an author for me to interview? Let me know in the comments below!

Raising Steam

Raising Steam

Raising SteamAuthor: Terry Pratchett
Release: October 28, 2014
Series: Discworld
Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy | Humor
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 365
Publisher: Doubleday
Buy it here: AMAZON

Blurb

Change is afoot in Ankh-Morpork – Discworld’s first steam engine has arrived, and once again Moist von Lipwig finds himself with a new and challenging job.
To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork – a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it’s soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work – as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital . . . but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don’t always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse . . .

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi’ t’flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he’s going to stop it all going off the rails . . .

Review

I purchased this novel in 2014 but did not read it until last month. This was not because I did not have the time—I always make time in my schedule for Sir Terry Pratchett and Discworld novels—but because I knew I would love it. I know this sounds strange so let me explain . . .

I have been a fan of Terry Pratchett’s work ever since college. I majored in English and was reading massive amounts of Victorian era novels, Elizabethan era plays, literary criticism of said works, and writing papers about all of it. Although I enjoyed it, I liked to take a break from reading “schoolwork” and read science fiction and fantasy. (Only people who love books truly understand reading something “fun” to take a break from other reading.) It was during this time that I first encountered Good Omens, by a friend who decided that I “needed” to read it. (She was right.)

After that I read everything by Pratchett (and his co-author for Good Omens, Neil Gaiman) that I could find. Discworld is still my favorite out of Pratchett’s series, and up until Raising Steam I read them as soon as I purchased them. But I held back . . . even though it’s the story of how the railway comes to the Discworld, a fictional world that evolved over 41 books from a rural, agrarian sword-and-sorcery type world with Elizabethan era influences to a pre-industrial Victorian era setting which was missing only the advent of the ingenious mechanical devices to make it a steampunk playground.

I held back from reading it . . . because it would probably be the last chapter of the story. In 2007, just years before he was granted a knighthood for services to literature, Terry Pratchett announced he had been diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Despite this he continued to write. Raising Steam is the last adult novel set in the Discworld universe. In 2015, The Shepherd’s Crown, the last volume in his Young Adult Discworld series, was published posthumously: It was not complete at the time of his death. So Raising Steam is the last full work ever to be published in the series and, having read all of the novels except for The Shepherd’s Crown, it does seem to be in part a farewell to many of the characters of Discworld.

Spoiler’s Ahead

It is important to stress the fact that you do not need to have read any of the Discworld novels in order to enjoy Raising Steam. It is the only book in the series that can be considered steampunk, but if you enjoy a neo-Victorian fantasy setting of the grittier-sort, the books set in the town of Ankh-Morpork may peak your interest.

Pratchett focuses the narrative on two fronts—the creation and development of the railway in the Discworld’s major city-state, Ankh-Morpork, and the attack on inter-species progress by dissident dwarf groups.

The railway is developed first by Dick Simnel, the son of Ned Simnel who was featured in a previous Discworld novel, Reaper Man. Ned had created the Disc’s first steam-powered combine harvester, but died in an explosion. Dick was determined to learn from his father’s mistakes and worked with steam-powered machines until he created Iron Girder, the Disc’s first steam locomotive:

“You learn by your mistakes, if you’re lucky, and I tried to make mistakes just to see ‘ow that could be done, and although this is not the time to say it, you ‘ave to be clever and you ‘ave to be ‘umble in the face of such power. You have to think of every little detail. You have to make notes and educate yourself and then, only then, steam becomes your friend.”

Lord Vetinari, ruler of Ankh-Morpork, has the opportunity to stop the advent of the railway. He explains this to Moist Von Lipwig, the reformed conman who Vetinari employs to run such notable city institutions as the Post Office, Royal Mint, and Royal Bank:

“Some might say that it would have been easy for me to prevent this happening. A stiletto sliding quietly here, a potion dropped into a wineglass there, many problems solved at one stroke. Diplomacy, as it were, on the sharp end, regrettably unfortunate, of course, but not subject to argument.”

But Vetinari refuses to do so. He has worked over the course of the series to make Ankh-Morpork into a strangely benevolent dictatorship—one that encourages diversity and new technology that is beneficial to society.

“Mister Lipwig, I feel the pressure of the future and in this turning world must either kill it or become its master. I have a nose for these things, just as I had for you, Mister Lipwig. And so I intend to be like the people of Fourecks and surf the future. Giving it a little tweak here and there has always worked for me and my instincts are telling me that this wretched rail way, which appears to be a problem, might just prove to be a remarkable solution.”

The game is afoot after the railway receives Ventinari’s support. Simnel joins forces with a wealthy and influential member of Ankh-Morpork society, Mr. Harry King, and Moist finds himself not only negotiating for land rights for the railway but also working to develop the entire enterprise: Food, hotels, shopping centers, platforms—all of these aspects must be considered, and they are given the Discworld twist. Some of the dishes that are prepared for railway travelers, like Primal Soup, even sound quite tasty by our standards, and some, like Rat-Onna-Stick, do not (even if the rat is battered and fried).

But progress is not embraced by everyone, as Vetinari mentioned. Clacks-towers, which are Discworld’s answer to telegraph lines, are the first target of the dissident dwarves until they perceive the threat that the railway offers to their plan of overthrowing the Low King (the title for the ruler of the Dwarves.) The clacks-towers can only send messages; the railway has the ability to connect people everywhere. Some of the dwarves are up in arms against the modernization of the society, and people are being injured, and killed, in the battles.

It is interesting to note that Vetinari, who is a tyrant by his own words, believes that everyone is equal. There is no slavery in Ankh-Morpork; everyone—human, dwarf, troll, vampire, golem, goblin, and other assorted races—only answered to the law.

In Ankh-Morpork you can be whoever you want to be and sometimes people laugh and sometimes they clap, and mostly and beautifully, they don’t really care.

But this is not true of the entire Disc—and this is where the railway is headed. It is up to our heroes to make certain that the enterprise of steam is not derailed.

Raising Steam is a must-read for anyone who is a fan of the Discworld series, and I think it is a must-read for anyone who loves steampunk as well. It is a wonderful story full of twists and turns, humor, adventure, magic, neo-Victorian imagery, and, of course, the steam technology fans of the genre love so well. I will let Terry Pratchett have the last word with a short description of the main steam locomotive in the story, Iron Girder, and the beauty of her departure as the railway heads out across the Disc and into whatever the future has in store:

And the driver made his magic and the firebox opened and spilled dancing red shadows all around the footplate. And then came the rattle and jerk as Iron Girder took the strain and breathed steam for one more turn around the track as the goblins whooped and cackled and scrambled up her sides. And then came the first chuff and the second chuff and then the chuff bucket overflowed as Iron Girder escaped the pull of friction and gravity and flew along the rails.

Steampunk Animation Pt. 1

English DVD edition of one of my favorite steampunk movies, Howl's Moving Castle I may be obsessed with books but when it comes to steampunk I’m all about the visual media, especially when it’s animated. Almost all my favorite examples of steampunk are some kind of animation, whether it’s a series, a movie or a video game. There’s just something magical about the way animation brings steampunk worlds to life. I mean, airships are cool, but they’re way cooler when they’re animated. Or at least I think they are.

Most of the steampunk animation I’ve watched has been Japanese animation or anime. American animation is almost exclusively for children and tends to center around a relatively narrow handful of topics, but anime explores every genre. In fact, anime often goes to the extremes of every genre, including horror–both the gory and the psychological kind.

Some of the best known anime is steampunk. Howl’s Moving Castle is an anime movie based on a novel by Diana Wynne Jones set in a wondrous steampunk setting. I’ve never read the book, but Howl’s Moving Castle was one of my first introductions to both anime and steampunk. Magic in the world of Howl’s Moving Castle can be either fun or dangerous and is both throughout the movie. Created by Studio Ghibli, one of the most well loved names in anime, the animation of Howl’s Moving Castle might be old but it still looks fantastic today.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky is another Studio Ghibli masterpiece with a fascinating steampunk city. It’s not quite as well known as some of the other Studio Ghibli movies but it is just as awesome. This movie is a great place to start if you’re really into the lighter side of steampunk. Also, airships.

Want a series to dig into? Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an incredibly popular steampunk series set in a country called Emestrius, which uses a combination of steam technology, gear technology and of course alchemy. There is also a longer Full Metal Alchemist series but the story line in Brotherhood is much closer to the original manga and(at least in my opinion) more interesting. If you love steampunk because of the opportunities it presents for political intrigue, Brotherhood is one series you’ll adore.

Seven Samurai is a lesser known example of steampunk anime which takes the classic film Seven Samurai, adds magic and robots(it makes more sense than you might imagine) and transforms it into an awesome anime. It’s also the only anime on this list where the main characters are all adults, or at least all adult-ish, which brings me to another interesting point about anime:

Anime is not afraid to throw children into harsh situations. In fact, a lot of anime created for adults around adult themes still feature protagonists who are in high school or even younger. In some ways this is really awesome. I think stories about/for young people in our culture could use a lot more diversity, and creepy children… Well they’re the best at being creepy. On the other hand, I’d love to find more anime that centers around actual adults.

Of course, the Japanese aren’t the only ones who’ve created steampunk animation. Just last week a French animated film called April and the Extraordinary World was officially released in the US(I actually can’t wait to see this movie, check out the trailer to find out why). There have also been a handful of animated steampunk movies created by American studios such as Atlantis – The Lost Empire.

Over the next few months I plan to take a journey through the land of steampunk animation, reviewing animated steampunk series and movies I discover along the way. Most of it will be anime(I’m a bit of a fanatic) but I’m eager to explore steampunk animation from everywhere else in the world too. I hope you’ll enjoy discovering it with me!

Have you watched any awesome steampunk animation? Are you interested in discovering more? Let me know in the comments section below!

Author Interview | E. Chris Garrison is bringing #EqualityInLit to the world of #Steampunk by writing a story whose lead character is transgender living in world close to our own.

Conversations of Steampunk banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Pierre Rougier.

What is interesting to relate to you #SteamCav readers, is my introduction to the world of podcast radio was a spotlight and conversation in conjunction with Ms Chris via The Star Chamber Show in 2013. Since our first interaction on the podcast, I have been following her writerly career via her Seventh Star Press releases, the latest of which was “Blue Spirit: A Tipsy Fairy Tale” which I thoroughly enjoyed reading! It was spunky and hilarious with a serious undertone of drama which left me unable to put it down! I loved seeing the cheeky humour match so well with this fully realised Fantasy world where nothing is ever quite as it seems!

I recently received a bit of book mail from Ms Chris, and she enclosed a special surprise for me: my very own Transit King magic token! I cannot put into words how wicked delighted I was to receive this special piece of “Tipsy Fairy Tale” memorabilia as it has such a special role inside the story! If you want to get a taste for what is waiting for you in her Fantasy worlds, due check out my review of “Blue Spirit” via my #JLASblog showcase review

When I became a contributor of The Steampunk Cavaliers, I did not know where my adventures would take me on this newly conceived blog where my fellow bloggers are exploring the worlds of Steampunk; one thing I knew for certain, I wanted to highlight authors I’ve come to know who are carving out their own individual Steampunk worlds full of heart and with a bent towards giving readers a new appreciation for expanding the genre due to the stories they are writing.

This is why I wanted to interview Ms Chris and give our blog readers a chance to ‘meet her’ whilst finding out about her Steampunk serial fiction! Not only am I an enthused reader of her stories, I am blessed by her friendship. The following conversation was a true joy for me to bring to The Steampunk Cavaliers!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Trans-Continental: Girl in the Gears by E. Chris GarrisonTrans-Continental: Mississippi Queen by E. Chris Garrison

Book Synopsis of ‘Mississippi Queen’:

Ida and Duffy are back!

In the exciting follow-up to Girl in the Gears, the duo make their way to the Free City of New Orleans, where they plan to find some answers for Ida among the eclectic citizens of the dazzling city.

Instead, they find themselves “recruited” as bodyguards for the city’s Queen Mayor, who’s on the run from an invading force, and swept up the river aboard a very special steamship: The Marie Curie!

The current ahead is filled with spies, rogues, gunfights, and even an old flame or two. Can Ida and Duffy ride out the storm and survive long enough to find the answers they seek?

Play the book trailer for ‘Mississippi Queen’!

Play the book trailer for ‘Girl in the Gears’!

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What first inspired you to the Steampunk culture and genre of literature!? Did you enter through it’s vortex by the creativity of it’s eclectic expressions and definitions or was there a specific reason why Steampunk spoke to your heart?

Ms Chris responds: This is a difficult question. I remember when William Gibson and Bruce Sterling published The Difference Engine in 1990 and I was riveted by the idea of an information age that came a century early, along with all the technological advances that went with that boom. It was a spectacular example of alternate history, and I wanted to see more.

I’ve watched the genre grow from rare curiosity to an ever-expanding movement in fashion and culture. I know brilliant cosplayers, makers, gamers, authors, and readers who love steampunk dearly. Steampunk worlds are full of endless potentials, possibilities, technological frontiers with a Victorian aesthetic, science fiction as Jules Verne would recognize it, even. It’s possibly the most romantic of the subgenres of science fiction, and often bridges the gap between scifi and fantasy.

Reality Check by E. Chris GarrisonI began to embrace steampunk more fully when I wrote Reality Check, which was published by Hydra Publications in 2013. Reality Check features several alternate realities, one of which was a steampunk world. My protagonist never calls the place “steampunk” however, he thinks of it as the “silly hat universe”, which is where my website and self-publishing imprint, Silly Hat Books get their name.

That same “silly hat” steampunk world of Reality Check is the setting for my newer Trans-Continental series, which began with Ida, the transgender main character, meeting Duffy, the mechanically-inclined rogue, in Girl in the Gears , and continues with my latest release, Mississippi Queen.

I love how you entered into the world of Steampunk – as this is one thing I am uniting through my conversations here on #SteamCav – to unearth how each author has arrived inside a genre which is actually it’s own sub-culture! There are so many lovely layers to Steampunk, it’s hard to pin it down directly to what first catches our eye and what becomes the mainstay of why we’ve staid invested in it’s sphere! I love how you had a cross-media interest in Steampunk before settling on writing a world which is Steam-based!

‘Reality Check’ is the one story I haven’t yet read of yours and of which I am growing more curious about each time I read a bit about it! I do find it quite interesting how you re-entered this world via the Trans-Continental series giving you a new way to continue setting characters & their stories inside a known world.

I do wonder what Verne would be expressing about where Steampunk has evolved and what he might feel is the best asset the genre & sub-culture has to give as we move forward. I also never knew this was the ‘back-story!’ to your Silly Hat Books – quite clever of you!

Speculative Fiction as a whole is lovely diverse in it’s selections of stories – as you know I fully support #EqualityInLit which includes stories of LGBTQIA; do you feel the Speculative realms are more inclusive to diversity than other genres or are they starting to open up the doors to new voices and literary lifestyles not previously seen now as a result of the commentary extending out of #WeNeedDiverseBooks? Or is the change separate from that movement?

Ms Chris responds: I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this more than on a personal level. As a person who’s always been different than other people I knew, speculative fiction has always felt more open and welcoming to me, as far as diversity goes. There just seem to be more possibilities for acceptance when you hang out with aliens, elves, monsters, wizards, and mad scientists.

Being different didn’t seem quite so different after all with wider horizons of the imagination. And I have found many friends and kindred spirits among other fans of speculative fiction, too. These days, as diversity can be expressed more openly, so too have authors and readers of science fiction been more open about their sexual orientation and gender identity.

As a transgender person, I used to read Jack Chalker because his characters often switched bodies, including swapping genders, but these days, I can find protagonists who are actually transgender like me, which is nothing short of miraculous to a child of the 80s like myself.

I definitely agree with you – the climate of communication about diversity and equality is a lively one right now in our living age, but it’s also, causing great milestones to make enroads in Literature as a whole. Readers are much more cognisant about what ‘Equality in Lit’ truly means and it’s not simply about ‘diversity’ by a singular definition but an inclusive umbrella of showcasing pro-positive story-lines across previous barriers of exclusion from both society and the literary world.

I think this is one reason I loved reading Science Fiction & Fantasy as a teenager – you could soak inside a world where a lot of different species and cultural identities were co-habituating and getting along with each other.  This was one draw for series like ‘Star Trek’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Battlestar Gallactica’ and ‘Babylon 5’ – of course I’m referring to the ‘originals’ of each of these series of which became a mainstay of my growing years.

Mississippi Queen marks the second installment of your Trans-Continental series featuring a transgender heroine at the helm of the Steampunk series. What inspired you to take on the steamboats and Mississippi river city of New Orleans in this sequel?

Ms Chris responds: Without spoiling Girl in the Gears much, I’ll just say that Ida and Duffy had great motivation to leave the East coast, away from New England and especially Dixie, and my thoughts followed the Mississippi River down to the Delta region, which I had already decided was a very open city, full of scum and villainy and also diversity, like a certain Cantina in a galaxy far, far, away. It may be an alternate universe, but New Orleans is still a partying town with a rich history and a militarily strategic location.

As for steamboats, the genre has steam right in the name. How could I resist including a steampunked-up, massive steamboat in this series?

I love how you broached talking about this particular part of the story and how it was inspired to be written. I visited New Orleans as a teenager and I can definitely concur with it’s enriched heritage, musical identity and it’s unique presence of being cross-cultural and artistically inclined to be individually rockin’ to it’s own beat. NOLA is a special place and it’s lifeblood has sustained itself despite everything it’s gone through – setting this story at her shores was a good idea as like you said – where else to find a Steampunk vehicle that could best a wicked awesome *steamboat!*?

I cannot wait to see how the steamboat played a pivotal role for transportation but also, how you eclipsed a knowing presence of it’s locale!

As you are open about being a transgender author, how important was it for you to write a story which would have an intrapersonal connection to your own spirit? How did you approach balancing your own personal journey with Ida’s? What did you want to focus on in respect to Ida’s transition and her life as a transgender adult?

Ms Chris responds: Well, Ida’s story, and her friendship with Duffy, came to me in a dream in late 2014. I woke up and scribbled it down and found the notes in the morning and started work within the next month. I did not want Ida’s story to be a mirror of my own. She’s bold and extroverted where I am shy and cautious. Ida is a soldier turned actress, I am a techie turned author. She dares to be herself in a world that lacks even a word for being transgender, while I made many compromises until the “transgender tipping point” where being myself was more accepted.

And despite all that, Ida and I have much in common. We’ve had to change the hearts and minds of people by living our lives, just as Duffy comes to see Ida as the woman she is despite never knowingly meeting a transgender person before, people in my life have come to understand what transgender means by having me in their lives. We’re more than the tragic victims that are the examples we see too often in mainstream media; I wanted to tell a story where the protagonist just happens to be transgender.

Isn’t it quite interesting how a story can be percolating inside our dreamscapes? It’s such a fascinating process how the stories alight inside our mind’s eye and then transfuse themselves onto paper; becoming this unique conduit of creativity and imagination. I love how your Trans-Continental series is stepping outside the known stereotypical role transgender persons are finding themselves reflected as in fiction and re-defining a better way to not only represent them but to have their characters have extraordinary adventures!

I love your approach to mainstream a transgender character and to give readers and other writers something to think about the next time they are choosing which trans story to read.

As Ida and Duffy’s lives start to intersect what was the most joy for you to bring their friendship to the heart of the series first revealled in Girl in the Gears?

Ms Chris responds: I love writing about Ida and Duffy. Theirs is the kind of friendship we all want, they’re opposites in many ways, and yet the complement each other nicely, playing off each others’ strengths, and bolstering each others’ weaknesses.

If you follow my books, friendship is a central theme of all of my novels. I think the thing that made me happiest was the turn of heart that Duffy had over time, how she went from misunderstanding Ida’s lifestyle as a disguise or a delusion to the realization that Ida has a truly female spirit burning within her, and loving her for it, rather than despite it. Meanwhile, Ida slowly lets herself become more vulnerable with Duffy, after a lifetime of being on her guard against discovery and derision.

I continue that bond in Mississippi Queen, only with some of their pasts coming back to haunt them even as they follow Ida’s quest to find others like her in the world.

Opposite personalities have the tendency to have the best longevity in friendships; not always the case, but with enough frequency to be keenly appealing to acquire. I think you’ve set their friendship up to have not only a realistic open communication between each other but to talk about things that are relevant to our living world as well. It’s good to have challenging conversations in fiction but also, to show how friends can love each other as they are whilst accepting differences don’t have to separate us but can unite us together.

I also like the suspense of your novels next to the friendship elements because readers who are familiar with your style, will note that there is something that has to be become known as the story proceeds forward – a drop of suspense with a strong friendship at the core of the story is what brought me into your stories. I also like the light-hearted humour and the cheeky bits, too!

As this is a series being published under your own Silly Hat Books, can you talk for a moment what your plans for the publishing line of stories you’ll be focusing on in the future? Will you become a mainstay in the Steampunk genre or tackle new variants of Sci Fi & Fantasy as your inspired to create new stories?

Ms Chris responds: So, I do plan to write at least one more Trans-Continental book, though I doubt I’ll be able to walk away from Ida and Duffy so easily, there will likely be more. I may also return to this steampunk world in sequels to Reality Check, or perhaps as the setting for other, unrelated stories. There’s a lot of potential here.

But am I sticking to Steampunk as my sole genre? Definitely not. I have my urban fantasy stories set in the world of the Road Ghosts and the Tipsy Fairy Tales that is also wide open for other characters and stories, and I’d like to revisit the alternate space-age “Moon world” in Reality Check someday. I do like to explore many speculative genres, but I like to think my stories have some common elements that make them related in ways that transcend genre.

I hadn’t personally felt you would (writing only Steampunk stories) but to serve as an introduction to new readers, I felt asking this question was warranted as it allowed you to talk more about your writerly life as a whole. As I had mentioned earlier, I love how you’ve found clever ways to carry forward a known world of yours whilst giving readers more to chew on with the characters’ lives! It’s such a lovely surprise for a reader to find a small extra extension of a story and/or a curious new tidbit of insight on behalf of a character they’ve come to love – I think whatever you choose to do will be met with a happy heart and smile from your dedicated readers!

I love how your ‘transcending genre’ and building such a lovely style of written worlds as to attract a heap of readers who are each seeking ‘something unique’ and will find something to enjoy from your collective works!

What did you appreciate the most about being in complete control as a self-published author with the Trans-Continental series vs seeking traditional or Indie publishing options?

Ms Chris responds: As you say, control is the big thing for me in self-publishing. I love working with indie publishers, I’ve done great things with Hydra Publications and Seventh Star Press, and will continue to work with them in the future. But Trans-Contiental, with its transgender themes, I felt I needed to do that project myself, using all that I’ve learned in working with the small presses and the short story collection I helped put together as part of the Speculative Fiction Guild.

I think this is the sole benefit of publishing through self-publishing means – it allows a writer to have such a depth of control not to be equally matched elsewhere. More and more authors I know are choosing this route for the same reasons you’ve outlined. Some of whom are cross-published like you are with either a Major Trade or an Indie Press or Pub, whilst navigating certain stories and/or series outside of that scope for their Self-Pub endeavours.

I believe we should each listen to our intuition when it comes to make these choices and if we feel it’s the right path for us to take at that particular junction, then to be fully confident in pursuing it! The readers will celebrate your industrious moxie and the sparkfire of a story that might curate it’s own niche to reside inside.

You have a charitable heart and have already promoted a charity donation attached to the first story Girl in the Gears which benefited a Transgender outreach charity last year; will you be continuing the legacy with each new installment whilst focusing on a new charity for Transgender youth and adults?

Ms Chris responds: To launch the Trans-Continental series, I donated the first month’s sales of Girl in the Gears to the Trans Lifeline (http://translifeline.org ) to help them on their mission to help prevent the alarming number of transgender suicides that happen. After that, I set up a personal monthly donation to that cause.

I am not doing fundraising with the second book, though of course my sales will help offset my costs in that regular donation. I highly encourage fans of this series to help out however they can, whether through donating to a transgender-supportive charity, and/or by supporting transgender rights by writing to local, state, and federal legislatures who put forth anti-transgender bills. That kind of thing is why the Trans Lifeline is necessary.

I definitely concur with everything you’ve shared – and I do believe change is coming forward to where Equality will be granted to everyone. Your examples of what readers can do to help is encouraging and I hope you’ve inspired more than one reader here today.

How did you approach writing the Trans-Continental series? Did you outline the full breadth of the series or are you allowing it to organically knit together per each installment your writing? How many installments will there be?

Ms Chris responds: I am just making this up as I go along. I can say with the first book written, I had only a vague plan to send Ida and Duffy to New Orleans, and that I wanted a few other specific elements (characters, events, locales) to factor into it. When I got there, the characters led the way, and the plot grew organically around that. I did have to do planning as I went, a little like madly laying down ties and rails as the train comes barreling down the tracks. But do I know what happens in the next book? Not really.

Again, I know where I want to send the characters, in a general way, I want a few specific things to happen, and I want Ida to be confronted with a very difficult personal dilemma, but the details will have to work themselves out when I sit down at the keyboard. I have faith in my characters, they’re pretty clever. They haven’t let me down yet!

I’m very organic in my approach to writing as well – I don’t like to know the whole picture of where a story or a character in particular is going to take me. Half the joy for me is sorting all of that out as I move along in the chapters but I also, don’t write a story straight-forward start to finish; I tend to move around and tuck inside different corners of the story’s heart. I also have the same initial musings with me as I begin – a few small elements or points of reference but then I allow my imagination to take over. It’s the best way to proceed, as you get to have the adventure alongside your own characters! Rock on!

Your writings always include cheeky humour and strong story-lines which include life lessons and/or a shift in a character’s journey; did you want this series to be more comedic or dramatic in comparison to your collective works?

Ms Chris responds: I really love to mix comedy and drama. My dark urban fantasy Road Ghosts Trilogy features humor through the personalities and banter of the main characters, even in the most dire of situations. I set out to make the Tipsy Fairy Tales lighter and funnier, and while Skye’s mishaps and observations did provide plenty of comedy, the stories have been darker than I set out to write all the same.

With Trans-Continenal, I set out to write something even faster-paced and episodic in nature; like old serials or Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories. There’s humor in there, it isn’t in my nature to write something deadly serious without some comic relief. But it’s primarily a series about two famous friends and their adventures, out of the frying pan and into the fire, another fine mess, and so on. So I suppose I intended this series to be dramatic, with a comedic flair, which seems to be my specialty.

Laughs. Yes, I think it’s your trick of the trade – to sort out a way to have a very dramatic story read with such a heart of comedy at it’s inner core! You do blend the two quite well as you pull back when it’s necessary and you pull inward as well. It’s a tricky balance to have narrative be equal halves of comedy and drama, but you’ve excelled at this quite well! Champion!

How did you settle on a timescape to place your series and what drew you to that particular era to explore? Was it the technologies or the backdrop in History that motivated your choice?

Ms Chris responds:  Well, the thing I do not come out and say in the series is that it’s not an alternate history; it’s an alternate reality. That is, time branched off somewhere in the past; the silly hat world of Ida and Duffy isn’t in the 1800s, it’s now in a world where alchemy continued its proprietary bumbling progress, instead of the more open and organized progress of science that began around Newton’s time in our world. It was an alternate to the world we know in Reality Check and I continue to use the assumptions and “what ifs” I started with when I wrote that book.

Why did I pick a steampunk / victorian styled era for this story? I really wanted to get to the essence of what it is to be transgender, and having read about the transgender people that have been recorded in our history, I wanted to write about such a lone spirit, finding her way in a world without any role models, labels, or preconceptions. She’s a one woman revolution, defying the world’s notions of male and female, to be who she knows she is inside, on her own terms. I couldn’t do that in a modern era, and in the future, I’ll be somewhat of a dinosaur as the technologies surrounding transgender transition become more and more advanced. So, instead, I picked Steampunk for its possibilities and its simplicity.

Alternative Reality – yes, that is quite befitting, I think! Sometimes I am uncertain which attribution to attach to which story as more writers are genre-bending with such finesses as to ‘trick you’ out of realising the style and methodology of the craft your reading! I do admit – even though I evoke out a bit of a way of speaking about a specific story, I never find myself limiting where that story can take me or how further it can go even without putting a specific tag on it’s style. I love dancing through genres, as you know, and so for me, I like noodling out the specifics from a pure curiosity angle!

Such a clever way to talk about Ida and also, the whole of her story as it evolves through Trans-Continental! I think you’ve summarised her very well! Esp when you called her a ‘one woman revolution’! Quite apt!

Which authors in Speculative Fiction are writing stories similar to yours which are exploring characters we do not readily see being featured but are being championed by readers? Who would you recommend reading next after a reader picks up your series?

Ms Chris responds: They say to write the story you’d like to read. I couldn’t find stories out there like this, with characters who happen to be transgender, rather than telling another story of transgender transition or worse, all-too-common tragic victimhood. I would like to know the answer to this question myself.

If your readers have suggestions, I will gladly pick up some new books to read!

I honestly wished I had known of others myself – as I’m new to seeking out #DiverseSFF as it’s not that I’m not keen on reading more stories featuring LGBTQIA characters or even POC or culture, my problem is seeking out the SFF stories which are not overtly violent or drowning in vulgarity as I struggle with finding a cosier middle ground for the main umbrella of the Speculative worlds as a whole. I love hard science fiction for it’s brilliant technologic explorations but I also appreciate soft science fiction for it’s gentler elements that can turn introspective and/or give a lighter side of the genre that is worth exploring, too. Therefore, if I stumble across more authors and stories and/or if we get commenters who are sharing stories I would be thrilled to peaches to find them, too!

How do you renew your spirit outside of research and writing!?

Ms Chris responds: My books have a theme of friendship for a reason. My spirit is enriched and renewed when I get to spend quality time with friends and family. Trading jokes and personal stories, playing show and tell with bits of our lives and loves, warming each others’ lives with affection and care.

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E. Chris Garrison (who also publishes as Eric Garrison) is active in the writing community in Indianapolis, Indiana. Chris lives in the Circle City with her wife, step-daughter and a cabal of cats. She also enjoys gaming, home brewing beer, and finding innovative uses for duct tape.

E. Chris Garrison

Chris’s novel, Reality Check, is a science fiction adventure released by Hydra Publications. Reality Check reached #1 in Science Fiction onAmazon.com during a promotion in July 2013.

Her supernatural fantasy stories include the Road Ghosts trilogy, published by Seventh Star Press. These novels are dark and humorous supernatural fantasies, dealing with ghosts, demonic possession and even sinister fairy folk.

Chris’s short story, “Drag Show” appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of Strange, Weird and Wonderful Magazine.  Her flash piece, “Dark Reflection”, appeared in the Indiana Horror 2011 anthology. Chris’s Tipsy Fairy Tales short story, “Seelie Goose” was included in the A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court anthology. “Christmas Special”, a Road Ghosts / Tipsy Fairy Tales short story, was a part of the charity anthology, Gifts of the Magi: A Speculative Holiday Collection.

Site | @ecgarrison | Facebook | GoodReads

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I am so very appreciative to Ms Chris for sharing her heart and the spirit of her writerly life with all of us today! It was a joy to get to know more about the Steampunk side of her career but also, the heart of what is motivating her to compose the stories of the Trans-Continental series! I love celebrating authors and books, but this is a special moment to be celebrating a friend’s new release! 

The second installment ‘Mississippi Queen’ released

on 13th of March, 2016!

The paperback edition will be forthcoming!

Kindly leave your comments, thoughts and musings in our comment threads, as I am quite sure Ms Chris will be positively delighted to hear what you have to share!

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In closing, I’d like to give a s/o to our dedicated new readers of whom are happily providing us wicked sweet feedback via #SteamCav posts and/or are interacting with us on Twitter! Bless you! Also, if you’ve enjoyed this convo between Ms Chris and I, kindly know I listed a bit about what I’m seeking during my interview features on our Policies page.

We thank you for taking this journey with us and hope you will continue to be a part of our growing story here on The Steampunk Cavaliers where we are striving to create community and interaction within the Steampunk tribe!

IF YOU WOULD LIKE ME TO INTERVIEW YOU ABOUT YOUR STEAMPUNK SENSIBILITY AND WHY THIS IS A WICKED FAVOURITE GENRE OF YOURS, KINDLY CONTACT ME VIA #JLASBLOG!

{SOURCES: Book Covers for “Reality Check”, “Trans-Continental: Girl in the Gears”, “Trans-Continental: Mississippi Queen”, book synopsises, author biography and author photograph of E. Chris Garrison were provided by the author E. Chris Garrison and used with permission. Conversations of Steampunk banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Pierre Rougier. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com.}

Copyright © Jorie Story of Jorie Loves A Story as a contributor piece on behalf of The Steampunk Cavaliers, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Author Interview: Gareth Torrance

Used with permission from author Gareth Torrance Today I’d like to introduce Gareth Torrance, an author who’s written numerous steampunk short stories for various anthologies and even published a short story collection of his own, The Imperium Collection. He’s here to celebrate the recent release of his first novel, Valkyria, and share what he loves about steampunk.

Please give Gareth a warm welcome and enjoy the interview!

Can you tell us a bit about your novel?

 

Valkyria itself a steampunk fantasy adventure novel that follows three different people, Einar, Nate and Seran, who are dragged into the start of a war between the Alexandrian Empire and the Inquisition,the once elite soldiers of the Empire who betrayed them and took control of a group of islands called the Ringlands.

As well as this, they are forced to contend with the Creatures; smart pack-hunters that used to be human, but now are feral beings who feast on the flesh of any living being.

Sounds like one interesting world you’re playing around in!

 

Your novel is set centuries after the “Old World” burnt, creating an almost post-apocalyptic world. What gave you the idea for this setting?

 

The post-post-apocalyptic” setting (as I call it), was something I have always been fascinated with. We have all these books and movies like Mad Max or The Walking Dead that deal with the (relatively) immediate aftermath of the apocalypse. But very few stories deal with what happens after humanity rebuilds.

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of looking into the way humans live now and how they would live after having to rebuild the world.

Would they find peace, being able to put aside their own desires in order to stop the world from ending again? Or are we destined to repeat the cycle of creation, destruction and recreation? Would we care more about the way we live and how we affect the planet we live on? Or would we keep on polluting the world?

That is part of the reason I think such a setting works with the steampunk genre; we wouldn’t want to keep using fuels like petrol, so other means of getting power would become popular.

I’d love to see more post-post-apocalyptic stories out there too. Not only are there very few of them but most of the ones I’ve encountered feature societies that are almost identical to medieval times, even if they’re several hundred years after the apocalypse, yet the odds of a cataclysmic event setting us back further than roughly Victorian technology are pretty slim.

 

3. How much of your setting is based on historical places and how much is purely from your imagination?

 

Valkyria itself, as the first book in what I hope to be a series of stories in this world, is very limited in its area of the world. Glimpses of the Empire’s capitol city, named the Great City of Alexandria, is built on plates above the ruins of London. In fact, the poorest members of society live in the ruins themselves.

The Ringlands are what is left of Ireland after The Fire swept across the world, oceans flooded and lava cooled to reform the layout of the world.

But in terms of specific landmarks, none truly appear within Valkyria. However, in one of my short stories set in the Great City, most of it takes place in the London Underground and in the next book, the characters will be visiting Notre Dame.

A city built on a city… I’m falling more in love with your world the more you talk about it!

 

4. When/how did you discover steampunk?

 

To be honest, I think my first real experience of anything steampunk related was through Final Fantasy 6. From there, the fascination grew through anime, like watching Howl’s Moving Castle or Castle in the Sky.

I was always fascinated with speculative fiction anyway, so it clicked with me about the same time cyberpunk did as well. I began searching out similar themes in things without realising it was steampunk. Even my favourite Gundam anime series is Turn A Gundam, which has steampunk elements in it.

It wasn’t until, perhaps, 2007 that I realized that this set of themes I enjoyed so much was Steampunk and an actual genre. So, as you can guess, from that point I dove head first into the genre.

My first taste of steampunk would also be a Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy IX, and several of my favorite anime series are either outright steampunk or include a lot of steampunk elements. Over the next few months I’m going to be reviewing some of these games/series and I’m really excited to shine a spotlight on some of the more obscure ones.

 

5. What do you think is the most interesting thing about the steampunk genre & why?

 

The most interest thing? Oh that’s a tough one; I guess it would be the versatility of the genre more than anything. I am sure most people would say the aesthetics, the technology or something similar. And yes, they are the reasons I love the genre, but the most interesting thing is something entirely different to me.

Steampunk is the only niche, specific genre that can really be put into any timeframe, any scale and any plot. Want to make a horror story set on another world? You could have a steam powered colony on mars where a mad scientist tries to recreate Frankenstein’s work.

Or a thriller about serial killers? Take a look at Jack the Ripper and go from there. There are hundreds of romance novels in the steampunk genre. And post-apocalyptic books, Wild West stories, and more. Any major genre works within the Steampunk sub-genre, and that I find amazing.

What a great answer! I definitely love the versatility of steampunk, especially the ways it’s used in anime and other stories from different cultures.

 

You’re also really interested in cyberpunk. Do you think the two genres compliment each other?

 

I would say they are two sides of the same coin. Both heavily rely on the aesthetics of the world, and can fit within a variety of different major genres. Both tend to focus heavily on societies with some sort of class structure, such as the Victorian era or a world where the “elite” watch and enslave the lower classes.

The heros and heroines in steampunk tend to be tinkerers, whilst in cyberpunk they tend to be hackers of some sort (even if they work for Public Security Section 9). Even when it comes to fantastic elements, like Frankenstien or vampires, they can work in both. Look at Penny Dreadful or Shadowrun.

I would say that, to me, the only thing that really sets them apart is the level of technology. Since cyberpunk is almost certainly set in the future, or at least the very-near future, and steampunk can be too depending on how the present is handled, the difference comes down to this:

Cyberpunk is high tech, low life. Steampunk is (usually) low tech, high life, depending on what class of society the character are in.

The steampunk and cyberpunk cultures really do seem like two sides of the same coin, don’t they? The amazing DIY artwork and costume work both groups do is utterly amazing and the aesthetics are quite similar, as well as the themes of class and oppression. It’s kind of amazing to me that I’ve never realized the connection myself.

 

Who is your favorite steampunk author?

 

This is one question I can never answer with a single author. I have two that I feel really bring me into the world they are crafting; that really inspire me and spark my creativity and cause my brain to ignite; Scott Westerfeld and Gail Carringer.

Both of them have great visualisation in their books. They make me feel a part of the world, as if I were being sucked through the paper into this alternate dimension.

I can’t say I blame you for being unable to pick a favorite author. Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite book is I tend to freeze. Both these names have been added to my list!

 

What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

 

For those who loved Valkyria, I am working on the next book in that series called Memoria. It takes places 6 months later, and expands the reach of the story much further into the world, with the war finally exploding across the lands.

On top of that, I am working through another book under the working title of 218x, which will be the start of my cyberpunk world of hackers, mega-corporations and a fully connected world. One man will bare witness to the livestreamed murder of a CEO’s daughter, and be thrown into a game of corporate cat and mouse under the eye of “big brother”.

I’m thrilled to see you expanding on the world you’ve started in Valkyria; it sounds like a fun world to get lost in, at least if you’re doing it through the pages of a book. Cyberpunk isn’t so much my genre but I love the concept of 218x too.

 

Valkyria blurb

Centuries have passed since the Old World burnt, and humankind still survive. Through the churning of gears and the billowing of steam engines, new nations arose to replace the world that was lost to the Fire.

Yet the thirst for war never truly fades from the hearts of men.

In a world gripped by a cold war where mutated hoards roam the land, the lives of three men from different nations are about to intertwine, starting a chain reaction that could very well ignite the embers of war.

But little do they know, a man hides in the shadows pulling the strings of their fates.

Join Einar as his life is turned upside down following the disappearance of his sister and the murder of his best friend.

Follow the engineer Nate as he is forced to leave behind his home and choose a side as war threatens to flood the lands of Rhythlan.

And finally, hear the tale of Lord Seran of the Alexandria Empire as he is sent behind enemy lines and finds out how much of a threat the Empire’s enemies truly are.

Gareth Torrance

gareth-square I was born in Luton, a small multi-cultural city in the middle on England, but was raised in a small village an hour away from Cambridge. As an adult, I moved around Europe, living in Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Ireland and Turkey, before settling back in England, within the historic market town of Bourne.

I have always been fascinated with science fiction and fantasy, reading the greats such as Lord of the Rings and Neuromancer as a child. In my teen years, I became infatuated with cyberpunk and steampunk, in part because of Ghost on the Shell and Last Exile. From that point, my imagination expanded constantly, and I researched various books, television shows and movies on the subjects.

Find out more about Gareth at www.garethtorrance.com or follow him on Twitter. Got more questions or an author you think should be interviewed? Mention them in the comments section below!

Dueling in the 19th century

Free image from pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/gun-pistol-handgun-weapon-firearm-1144112/This is the first of many articles exploring the Victorian world steampunk novels are based on. Enjoy!

 

For hundreds of years, one of the key markers of social privilege and good breeding was was the right to defend personal honor with deadly force. To most of us today, the idea of exchanging gunfire over accusations of cheating at cards or the assertion that someone has lied seems ridiculous, but for those who aspired to the status of “gentlemen,” these accusations could become matters of life and death.

 

Aristocrats in Europe fought duels for hundreds of years, but the type of formal combat of most interest to steampunk enthusiasts is the pistol duels of the early 19th century. In England and the United States, these were generally conducted under some local variation of the Irish Code Duello, which was promulgated in 1777, at about the time that pistols began to replace swords as the most common weapon on the field of honor.

 

The code consists of 25 rules, many of which are designed to defuse the dispute. The Code lays out several point at which an “apology” or “explanation” may be honorably offered and accepted. Special emphasis is given the role of the seconds, the trusted assistants to the principal parties of the duel.  Rule 21 states: Seconds are bound to attempt a reconciliation before the meeting takes place, or after sufficient firing or hits, as specified.

 

The Code gives the challenged the right to choose the weapon and  the ground, while the challenger chooses his distance, and the seconds fix the time and terms of firing.

 

The weapons were generally large-caliber, smooth-bore muzzle-loading pistols. Dueling pistols were often works of art in their own right, but not very accurate or reliable by modern standards. The lack of rifling — which causes the bullet to spin for stability — combined with the uneven quality of black powder and the unreliability of flintlock and percussion cap firing mechanisms limited the lethality of these weapons. Most codes took advantage of these defects to lower the lethality even further, limiting the number of shots that could be fired (typically to three) and counting a misfire as one of those shots.

 

The main concerns with choosing a dueling ground were picking a place where there would be no interference from the law. Even though dueling was widely accepted in this era, it was often illegal. River islands were popular dueling fields, because there was frequently some uncertainty about which state the island was in, and the jurisdictional issue could give a prosecutor an excuse not to act. Maryland hosted many of the politically-motivated duels originating in Washington, DC because the practice was legal in Maryland but banned in the nation’s capital.

 

The code does not specify a standard distance, but sources describe a typical separation between participants  as 30 to 40 feet.

 

Dawn is the traditional time of day for a duel. The low light and mist of the early morning hours aid in concealing the activity, and waiting for at least a day gives all the participants a chance to sleep on their decisions.

 

Terms of firing could vary. The duelists could stand at the agreed-upon distance and fire upon an agreed-upon signal. They could also fire “at pleasure,” leaving each participant to work out their own trade-off between firing accurately and firing rapidly. There are even some cases where the duelists agree to take turns firing at each other. Given the accuracy and reliability of the pistols involved, this probably wasn’t completely irrational, but it seems like it would be terrifying.

 

Depending on the code being used, the seriousness of the offense, and the agreement of the parties, the duel could end in many ways. A simple exchange of shots with no one being hit was considered sufficient in many cases, giving each man a chance to prove their seriousness and courage. Other duels might end when at least one participant was hit, or it might continue until one of the participants was disabled. In some cases, the dispute might not be considered settled until one participant was dead.

 

Dueling’s popularity declined sharply during the latter part of the 19th century. In England, removing the privilege of dueling from the aristocracy was part of a movement against aristocratic privilege in general. Some sources also suggest that boxing began to substitute for dueling at about this time. In the United States, dueling’s decline is often attributed to a reaction against the mass death of the Civil War, and the defeat of the Southern planter class. The increasing reliability and accuracy of firearms probably also played a role.

 

Like many aspects of the 19th century, dueling will not be missed by most people. However, it does survive in steampunk circles today as the sport of tea dueling.

Defining Steampunk

Image taken from free image library Pixabay(https://pixabay.com/en/clock-time-gear-gears-face-blue-70182/)What began as a small subgenre of science fiction has become a movement large enough that almost everyone has some idea of what steampunk is. Yet for most people the idea of steampunk is extremely vague. The word conjures images of corsets, gears and airships, but what does it actually mean?

Steampunk is a genre that brings advanced steam technology to the Victorian era(or an original world made to resemble the Victorian era). You’ll often find an interesting jumble of modern and Victorian sensibilities in steampunk stories, many of which play directly off of tumultuous politics caused by rapid changes in technology. Most steampunk fiction is optimistic, using the advanced tech to better the world.

Like fantasy or science fiction, steampunk is all about the setting. You’ll find all kinds of stories in steampunk: murder mysteries, adventure novels, romance novels, political novels and novels that combine all of those elements.

The steampunk movement is a vibrant DIY culture filled with creative people of all kinds. And the art forms are as varied as the people. There are painters, seamstresses, illustrators, sculptors, metalworkers and more creating amazing steampunk adventures. Some are enthusiasts who actually have day jobs in the arts but more are people who taught themselves so they could express their passion for this genre.

You can also find many people who build their own steampunk gadgets. Many of these are for costume use only but you can also find lots of functioning steampunk gadgets–some of which take real modern technology and transform them into beautiful steampunk creations(my favorite example is steampunk keyboards).

Of course there are people who sell all of these beautiful creations, but part of the culture is learning to make your own. It’s the “punk” in steampunk.

Steampunk now also has a few subgenres of its own:

Clockpunk is set in what is called “the Enlightenment Era”, shortly before the industrial revolution. Some advanced technology exists in the world but instead of being powered by steam it uses gears or clockwork technology. You’ll usually find this kind of technology in steampunk worlds as well but you never find steam technology in clockpunk.

Gaslight Fantasy combines the Victorian era(or a world that resembles it) with both steam technology and magic or mythological beings. Some definitions also include aliens/anything not created by humans themselves. How the magic works and how much of it there is varies greatly from story to story. Gaslight fantasy is perhaps the fastest growing subgenre in the realm of steampunk. As a total fantasy nerd, it is also the one I’m most excited about(if you have a gaslight fantasy novel PLEASE send it to me).

Dieselpunk is actually set in a later time period than steampunk, focusing on the period between the world wars all the way through to the 1950s. It combines the time period with advanced technology based on diesel as well as steam and clock power. Most of these stories take place between the wars but there are also many dieselpunk narratives during World War II. Dieselpunk also tends to be more pessimistic whereas steampunk is usually optimistic.

Valvepunk comes a little bit later than dieselpunk, although the line here is very often blurred, and most advanced technology is based on valves. Wondering what kind of tech used valves in real life? High quality radios and early televisions used valve technology. This is obviously a lot of fun to play with.

The technology in each subgenre may be different but at their hearts they all have the same themes: how our world would have been different if we had certain tech sooner, how rapid change is, how people can change their world(usually for the better). They’re also all part of the same massive community.

How do you define steampunk? Do you agree with my list of subgenres? Think I’ve missed one? Let me know in the comments section below!

Author Interview: Nikki McCormack of The Clockwork Enterprises

Used with permission from Nikki McCormackBlogging has allowed me to meet many great authors over the years, several of whom came to my blog as debut authors and have gone on to find many successes. Nikki McCormack, author of steampunk series(it might technically be clockpunk, but more on that next week) The Clockwork Enterprises and the Forbidden Things fantasy series, is one of these authors. I met her not long after her first novel, The Girl and The Clockwork Cat, came out and I am thrilled to be showcasing her successes here years later. I hope you’ll enjoy our conversation and take the time to check out her work.

Can you tell us a bit about your Clockwork Enterprises series?

The Clockwork Enterprises series follows the adventures of a young half-Japanese pickpocket named Maeko living on the streets of London. Everything changes for her when she finds Macak, a cat with a clockwork leg. In her efforts to protect the cat, she becomes entangled in a murder investigation and the hunt for the one person who might know the truth, Macak’s true owner, the wealthy inventor and owner of Clockwork Enterprises. Along her adventures with Macak, Maeko has the chance to discover love, friendship and the true meaning of family. Most importantly, she has the chance to show that she is much more than the lowly pickpocket people see her as.

What originally drew you into the world of steampunk?

I was always marginally aware of steampunk, but I knew very little about it until, in the summer of 2010, a friend of mine invited me to a steampunk vendor faire with a burlesque show and Abney Park concert in the evening. I was captivated by the creativity of the people involved and the unique look and feel of the steampunk atmosphere. That was when I first started paying attention to steampunk.

That’s awesome! I am utterly fascinated by burlesque dancing and I can only imagine how wonderful it is when combined with the steampunk aesthetic. I would have been sucked in right away too.

 

Did you set out to write a steampunk novel or did steampunk simply worm its way into your world?

Shortly after the event I mentioned above, I attended a writer’s conference and heard several editors and agents mention steampunk. I had been listening to my new Abney Park cd on my drive to and from the concert and the event was still fresh in my mind so, even though I was working on another book at the time, I started wondering how one would go about writing a steampunk novel. The next morning on the way to the event, Maeko popped into my head and I started playing around with a story idea. A few days later, I mentioned it to my mom and we started talking about the idea and Maeko showed up in that conversation. After that, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head, so I had to write it, so I started doing research, attending events, and reading other steampunk work so I could get a better feel for the genre.

What is your favorite thing about steampunk? (Feel free to talk about the aesthetics/subculture as well as the stories themselves)

I honestly think my favorite thing about steampunk is the creativity. Whether in writing, clothing, or art, I have seen some of the most amazing creative effort put into steampunk and some amazingly beautiful work has come from those efforts. It is really wonderful to see people diving into a creative form so enthusiastically and witnessing the results of their passion. I also have a soft spot for the grittier leanings that give it an slightly dystopian feel at times.

The Clockwork Enterprises takes place specifically in Victorian London. How much research did you do before starting the first book?

I researched everything I could think of before starting the book and continued to do extensive research during the writing and editing process. I picked a time period and researched clothing, culture, maps of the city in that time, technology, politics, medicine. I researched everything I could think of, including Japan and its culture and political situation at the time since Maeko’s mother is from Japan. Once I had gathered as much information on London at the time the book takes place, I could start tweaking it to fit the alternate reality I was creating. I also got the fantastic opportunity to visit London after writing book one so I could see many of the places I had written about in person before diving into the second novel.

Even Japan? Talk about thorough! As for London itself, it really is an amazing place. I was there last year myself and I only wish I’d had more time to explore it.

 

Can you tell us an interesting random fact you learned during your research?

There were so many interesting things. I think what I found most interesting was all the invention and development that occurred during the time period. They started paving roads with tarmac for the first time, pedal driven bicycles were invented, the Metropolitan Police Force was established (and subsequently driven out by the Literati Police Force in my books), and many things started developing into more widely consumable forms, such as electricity in the form of the incandescent lightbulb. There were also huge strides in the areas of medicine and waste management. There was so much going on.

It is a pretty amazing backdrop, one that really lends itself to new, wackier inventions. Perhaps that sheer amount of innovation is what draws us all to the time period, even if we tell ourselves it’s the beautiful corsets 😉

 

Who is your favorite steampunk author and why?

I don’t know if I have a favorite author (though I am quite partial to Jay Kristoff with his take on Japanese steampunk in the Lotus War series). I do have a favorite book though. The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling was the first steampunk novel I read and I really appreciated the approach. In some books, I feel like the steampunk aspect gets so much attention it almost becomes the main character. I do love a lot of the books that take that approach, they are incredibly fun, but in The Difference Engine steampunk was an accepted part of the world. It was an integrated part of the atmosphere and society. I really liked that approach and tried to mirror it to a certain degree in my Clockwork Enterprises series.

Most of the steampunk I’ve read or watched actually uses the same approach–steam technology is just part of the world. The tech might be used in the story at some point but for the most part it’s the backdrop. Frankly I prefer that–my favorite steampunk stories focus on the politics rather than the steampunk aspect itself. I’ll definitely check out The Difference Engine!

 

What are you working on right now that readers can look forward to?

I am very close to releasing the third book in my Forbidden Things fantasy series. After that, my focus will be on getting the third Clockwork Enterprises book out by late summer/early autumn. At the end of the year I will be introducing a new fantasy that I am quite excited about.

A new fantasy thing! I’ll admit I’m kind of behind on the old fantasy thing–it’s hard to keep up with all my author friends AND all the other books I want to read–but I can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with this time. And of course I can’t wait for the next book in the Clockwork Enterprises.

SmallpicNikki McCormack lives in the magnificent Pacific Northwest tending to her sweet old horse, a couple of cuddly cats, and her fun-loving, toy-destroying dog. She feeds her imagination by sitting on the ocean in her kayak gazing out across the never-ending water or hanging from a rope in a cave, embraced by darkness and the sound of dripping water. She finds peace through practicing iaido or shooting her longbow.

You can find Nikki at the Elysium Palace or follow her on Twitter/Facebook.

Thank you to all of you for taking the time to read this and to Nikki for taking the time to chat with me. It’s always a pleasure to share awesome authors with the world. Feel free to leave your comments, questions and suggestions for authors I could interview in the comments section below!