Clockwork Fairies: A Tor.Com Original

Review Photo
Author: Cat Rambo
Release: February 1, 2011
Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy
Edition: Kindle
Pages: 24
Publisher: Tor Books
Buy it here: AMAZON

Blurb

Desiree feels the most at home with her clockwork creations, but Claude worries about all this science and Darwinist nonsense—after all, where do clockwork fairies fall in the Great Chain of Being?

Review—with Spoilers

John Barth described Cat Rambo’s writings as “works of urban mythopoeia” — her stories take place in a universe where chickens aid the lovelorn, Death is just another face on the train, and Bigfoot gives interviews to the media on a daily basis. Clockwork Faeries is another entry into this type of world where steampunk and magic exist side-by-side.

Clockworks Faeries is the story of Desiree, a mulatto heiress who grew up in Rambo’s reimagined Victorian Era England ostracized from upper class London society simply because of the color of her skin. It is told through the point of view of Claude, her fiancé, who is a traditional English gentleman, Oxford Dean, and stout believer in the religious dictates of the Church of England.
What makes Rambo a masterful writer is her use of conversation, interior monologue, and immediate events to describe the world in which Desiree lives. There are no long passages of exposition; the readers see the world through the eyes of Claude, mostly at the same time that he experiences it. (Some immediate events and conversation will trigger a short reminiscence on his part that directly applies to the storyline.)

The story opens with Claude visiting Desiree’s house one Sunday evening and encountering her newest creations:

At first I thought them hummingbirds or large dragonflies. One hung poised before my eyes in a flutter of metallic skin and isinglass wings. Delicate gears spun in the wrist of a pinioned hand holding a needle-sharp sword. Desiree had created another marvel. Clockwork fairies, bee-winged, glittering like tinsel. Who would have dreamed such things, let alone made them real? Only Desiree.
(Rambo, 2011)

Throughout the story Desiree continues her work and builds even more complex creatures. While he marvels at them, Claude also disapproves. He is very much concerned with appearances and the ways that society views both himself and his fiancé. The members of the upper class will not care about her inventions; they will only care about how she dresses, speaks, and behaves at social functions. Throughout the story Claude gives the impression of a weak man who almost blindly follows the values of his society, except for his fascination with Desiree.

This is what makes their love story tragic. Desiree is attracted to Claude because of the way he looks and his position as a Dean at Oxford. Being accepted in a society that made her late mother a near shut-in is important to her, but it hurts when the color of her skin exposes her to stares and outright snubs by others of her class.

Claude finds her beautiful and enjoys her company, but believes she could be so much more: “Dressed properly,” he tells her “you would take the city by storm” (Rambo, 2011). In effect, he is sometimes blind to the reactions of others. “Did you not see Lady Worth turn away lest she contaminate herself by speaking to a Negro? Or perhaps you did not overhear the sporting gentleman laying bets on what I would be like between the sheets?” she asks him after a social gathering (Rambo, 2011). He is shocked that such words would come out of her mouth and does not think to comfort her over the insults she suffered.

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Clockwork Fairies: A Tor.Com Original

Desiree’s father, Lord Southland, actively discourages the marriage because he believes Claude is not intellectual enough for his daughter and believes too much in religion. Claude admits that he is interested in Desiree for her inheritance as well as her beauty, but that is not unusual in the Victorian Era where marriages were arranged more often than not among the upper class based on social position and wealth. Lord Southland does everything in his power to entice Desiree to reject Claude’s offer. But Claude has something his daughter wants: a place in society where she will be accepted. They both want what the other has to offer; even though it is not everything they would wish.

A twist of fate intervenes when Lord Tyndall, an Irish noble and landowner, takes an interest in Desiree’s clockwork designs. Tyndall invites Desiree, her father, and Claude to his estate for a shooting party. Desiree is delighted, for she had enjoyed speaking to Tyndall about her work and wants to see the countryside that inspired her design for the clockwork faeries. Although he feels that Tyndall might have ulterior motives for the invitation, for the man seems entranced by Desiree, Claude agrees to the journey. There, isolated from English society in a castle overlooking the Irish seaside, they are able to look at each other, and their own desire to pursue the marriage, clearly.

I enjoyed Clockwork Faeries a great deal.  Cat Rambo weaves a wonderful tale with settings and characters that I enjoyed.  The steampunk elements are essential to the story and the “touch” of magic in the Irish castle by the sea is not overdone; it adds a sparkle to a story and helps push Claude and Desiree toward a resolution that they may not have otherwise reached.

This is a “recommended read” for anyone who enjoys Neo-Victorian Era Steampunk and Fantasy.

 

Introducing Carl Jackson of the Victorian Bareknuckle League

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

Please give Carl a warm welcome!

Can you tell us a bit about Victorian Bareknuckle League?

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

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

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

 

How did you develop the idea for Victorian Bareknuckle League?

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

How did you first get into steampunk?

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

What do you love most about steampunk?

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

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

 

What steampunk creators inspire you?

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

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

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

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

 

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

Introducing Sante Mazzei of Sìon, The first Italian Steampunk graphic novel

banner-sponsorizzazioneI’m as big a fan of Victorian England as the next person but one thing I’ve been really looking forward to since I started this blog is the chance to explore steampunk in different regions in the world. I’ve already delved into Japan with my Steampunk in Animation series and now it’s time for us to start exploring Italy with Sìon, the first steampunk graphic novel set in Naples, Italy. Sìon is currently funding on Indiegogo and has almost a month left to go. Sante Mazzei, one of the writers involved in Sìon, has taken the time to tell me all about the creative process that brought this masterpiece together. I hope you’ll enjoy learning about this magnificent graphic novel as much as I have!

Can you tell us a bit about Sion

Sìon is a graphic novel set in a version of Naples that started to take advantage of the Vesuvius volcano as a source of geothermal energy. The use of electricity has changed the citizen’s way of life introducing new ways to entertain, travel, communicate and even kill. Our main character, named Sìon, is a physically mute Jewish man, taken from his community, who begins to investigate on several terrifying creatures spotted in the underground of Naples
What part of the story came to you first?
The setting was one of  the main things we worked on. We added electricity to a particular historical context and calculated every possible outcome.  We imagined a huge “Corona” around the Vesuvius volcano, in order to harness its energetic potential. The plot, in order to work, would have needed a setting as extraordinary and believable as possible.
Why did you choose to crowdfund this project? 
Crowdfunding gives authors the chance to express as best as possible their potential. We decided to have full control over our story, without censorship or cuts, and the materials and packaging that our graphic novel will be made with. We will use a never before seen kind of paper for a comic book, the Dolce Vita, allowing the details and lighting of the electrically lit setting to shine through the page. All this is made possible by working with industry experts like the international-level typography: FonteGrafica as well as Favini, a world leader in supports for innovative graphics. We believe that crowdfunding is the best way to give life to an idea, thanks to the participation of all fans. In this case, the birth of the comic book is not only an achievement for the authors but for all those that have supported the project.
You’re also working on a limited edition Sion board game. What convinced you to take on this ambitious project? 
The board game represents the possibility for the reader to enter the world of Sìon and take part in his investigations. We love role playing games and board games with strong and convincing settings. We saw in our comic book a perfect setting for a role playing board game, that will allow you to “live” Naples as we imagined it, hunt during the night, conduct research in our refuges, while a deus ex machina moves the creatures and the fate of the city. We love the ideas that we developed regarding the game and we can’t wait to know what our supporters think of them!
Are you planning to create more graphic novels in the world of Sion
Our graphic novel will be a self concluding story. The investigations of Sìon will come to an end. But the universe we created is huge and we would love to explore other aspects of the story and allow the reader to discover all of its details. When structuring a multi-faceted setting as ours, having to tell only one aspects of it turns out to be too superficial for the readers. So yes, we will confront other aspects of the city and of the universe that we created.
Sion_3What drew you into steampunk in the first place? 
We ourselves are readers of comic books, as well as lovers of games, movies, music and all other art forms. Steampunk has found a way to live within all of these, with masterful stories and atmospheres of great beauty. Lately it has grown a lot as a genre and we will give our contribution deviating from the ground that other authors have already laid.
What do you think is the most interesting part of the steampunk genre/culture?
We feel it is the introduction of a technology so distant from the historical period presented. It allows us to calculate social, political and economical implications of a society. The screenwriter of Sìon is an Archeologist who is currently involved in anthropology. He has always been fascinated by the social transformations that followed discoveries and scientific applications. For this reason Sìon has been envisioned from the beginning as a steampunk work.
Sion is live on Indiegogo right now. How are you working to keep momentum going throughout your entire campaign? 
We are hard at work in consistently publishing new content and details on the perks that make up our campaign. Pictures are grafico-percentuali-immagine-2worth more than a thousand words and it is for this reason that we prioritize illustrations and characters, as well as their descriptions. We hope that you will love our project as much as we do

Steampunk in Animation Pt. 3: Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing

Shorewood Blu-ray OcardLast week I reviewed Last Exile, a fun steampunk anime with many dark secrets at its core. Today I’d like to introduce you to Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing, another steampunk anime series which came out several years after the original Last Exile.

Here’s what the product page has to say about Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing:

Soaring adventure and high-flying heroism fill the skies in Last Exile – Fam – The Silver Wing, a thrilling new chapter in the Last Exile saga!

Years ago, humanity abandoned the ruined Blue World. Generations later, with the planet again capable of sustaining life, mankind returned. In the skies above the reborn world, rebellious young Fam and her best friend Giselle make their living as Sky Pirates. Atop sleek Vespa Vanships, the girls dart fearlessly through the clouds, capturing and selling airborne battleships for profit. It’s a life of care-free swashbuckling – until the Ades Federation attacks. The only nation to remain on Blue World during humanity’s exile, The Ades Federation wages war against those who returned only after the planet’s darkest days had passed. When Fam and Giselle rescue a princess from the clutches of the rampaging Ades armada, they join the young royal’s battle to save her Kingdom from destruction – and undertake the impossible mission of uniting humanity in peace.

The story of Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing is strong enough to stand on its own but is definitely more fun to watch if you’ve already enjoyed the original Last Exile. In many ways the second story mirrors the first. There are many references to the first anime but all of them make sense within the story of Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing. We even get to see several characters from the original Last Exile, including a brief appearance from the main characters themselves at the end.

One thing about the original Last Exile that really stood out was the sheer variety of airships and the different ways they were used. I was particularly intrigued by their use of sonar to track other airships.

In Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing there’s an even larger variety of airships and the main characters are actually sky pirates who spend their days hunting “skyfish”. The way these sky pirates work is awesome to watch in action. They are full of cool tricks which they use to minimize damage done to the “skyfish” they catch.

With only 23 episodes, Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing is even shorter than the original but it manages to tell a well rounded story in that short amount of time. The story of this anime isn’t as dark as the story of the original Last Exile but it’s definitely a story that will make you think about human nature and the nature of war. The characters are lots of fun, especially when you get to re-meet the crew from the original Last Exile, and the world of this story is an especially beautiful one.

Purchase Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing here!

Introducing Andrea Berthot of the Gold and Gaslighting Chronicles

HeartlessToday’s author caught my attention when I read a review of her most recent novel, The Hypnotic City, which is part of the Gold and Gaslight Chronicles. The series caught my attention right away thanks to its new take on one of my favourite old stories, Dr. Jekyll & Hyde.

Please give Andrea Berthot a warm welcome!

Can you tell us a bit about your books?

There are currently two books in my Gold and Gaslight Chronicles series, both involving glittering excess and science-gone-wrong in reimagined urban settings during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The Heartless City is set in 1903, and London has been quarantined for thirteen years, terrorized by a race of monsters created by Henry Jekyll. Due to his own devastating brush with science, seventeen-year-old Elliot is now an empath, leveled by the emotions of a terrorized, dying city. He finds an unlikely ally in a music hall waitress named Iris, and together they must discover who’s pulling the strings in Jekyll’s wake. Monsters, it turns out, are not the greatest evil they must face. The Hypnotic City is a sequel/spin-off that will be released on August 1st, 2016, and it follows one of the minor characters in The Heartless City – Philomena Blackwell – as she attempts to make it as an actress in 1905 New York. When she lands a big break, it seems as if the city is ready to fall under her spell – just as she seems to be falling for a handsome young stage manager – but a new and more terrible danger lurks in the shadows of Broadway’s bright lights, and even a mind as determined as hers may not be immune to its seductive, insidious pull.

Which part of the story came to you first?

I first thought of the idea for The Heartless City when I was discussing one of the film versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with one of my students (I am an English teacher). I suddenly thought, “what would have happened if Dr. Jekyll hadn’t kept his formula to himself, but instead shared it with his friends or sold it?” And the idea grew from there.

I love when stories come about like this! It’s amazing how much story you can get out of a single question.

The Heartless City is set in 1903 London and The Hypnotic Cityleads your main character to 1905 New York. How much research on each setting did you do before starting each book?

I did LOTS of research for both books. It was different with The Heartless City because it wasn’t only 1903 London but a reimagined, quarantined, monster-filled 1903 London, so I had to research things like what products, world events, and cultural changes they would be cut off from and how that would change the dynamics of the city. The Hypnotic City was a little bit easier, because it is less re-imagined history, but I still read many books and studied many maps in order to prepare, just like I did for Heartless.

When you set out to write The Heartless City did you intend to write a series?

Not at all! I thought it would be a standalone, but Philomena became such a powerful and compelling character that when the story was over I knew I had to find out what she did next and give her her own story.

This has happened to me recently, with one of my novels turning into a trilogy. It’s awesome and terrifying all at once, because a series is a much bigger commitment.

What was the first steampunk media you discovered?

I first became intrigued by steampunk fashion, especially when I saw a local production of Sweeney Todd that was costumed completely with a steampunk aesthetic. It was so dark, quirky, dramatic, and exciting.

That sounds amazing! Sweeney Todd is one of my favourite stories. I know a lot of people who are fans of the play aren’t fans of the movie, but I adore it and have watched it at least seven times.

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

It’s just fascinating how it takes most of the things I love about Victorian culture and then adds sci-fi/fantasy. It gives the writer/artist the opportunity to ground themselves in something historical and real and then take off from there and create something new and exciting.

It really is a fantastic combination, one of the most fascinating periods of history combined with some incredibly creative additions from the fantasy & science fiction genres(which happen to be my favourite).

If you could meet any one steampunk author/artist, who would it be?

Definitely the OGs of steampunk – H.G. Wells and Jules Verne

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

After completing The Hypnotic City, I decided that I wanted to make the Gold and Gaslight Chronicles  a trilogy, so I am brainstorming/outlining the next book, which will likely take place in Paris and have to do with the birth of early cinema, and of course some weird and creepy science.

That sounds awesome! I’m really eager to explore more steampunk that isn’t England-centric and I love that your series is all over the world.


bookpicofme
Andrea Berthot’s
last name has a silent “t,” like the word “merlot” – which fits, since that is her favorite drink to have at the end of the day.

Back when she was born in Salina, Kansas, her last name was Price, and she grew up loving singing, acting, reading, and of course writing. By day she teaches high school English, creative writing, forensics, and directs the yearly musical, and by night (or rather, by early morning, as her brain is more alive at 5am than 5pm) she writes Young Adult stories involving history, romance, magic, literature, and some good, old-fashioned butt-kicking.

She lives in Winfield, Kansas with her husband and their two sons, Maximus and Leonardo.

The Heartless City

Henry Jekyll was a brilliant doctor, a passionate idealist who aimed to free mankind of selfishness and vice. He’s also the man who carelessly created a race of monsters.

Once shared secretly among the good doctor’s inner circle, the Hyde drug was smuggled into mass-production – but in pill form, it corrupted its users at the genetic level, leaving them liable to transform without warning. A quarter of the population are now clandestine killers – ticking bombs that could detonate at any given moment.

It’s 1903, and London has been quarantined for thirteen years.

Son of the city’s most prominent physician and cure-seeker, seventeen-year-old Elliot Morrissey has had his own devastating brush with science, downing a potion meant to remove his human weaknesses and strengthen him against the Hydes – and finding instead he’s become an empath, leveled by the emotions of a dying city.

He finds an unlikely ally in Iris Faye, a waitress at one of the city’s rowdier music halls, whose emotions nearly blind him; her fearlessness is a beacon in a city rife with terror. Iris, however, is more than what she seems, and reveals a mission to bring down the establishment that has crippled the people of London.

Together, they aim to discover who’s really pulling the strings in Jekyll’s wake, and why citizens are waking up in the street infected, with no memory of ever having taken the Hyde drug…

Heart-eating monsters, it turns out, are not the greatest evil they must face.

Purchase The Heartless City on Amazon today!

The Hypnotic City

Philomena Blackwell survived a city plagued with monsters, the gilded cage of high society, and the rule of a heartless man… and she aims to leave it all behind.

It’s 1905, and London has finally been freed from Henry Jekyll’s terrible legacy – its people cured, its thirteen-year quarantine lifted. The world is waiting, and for a girl who dreams of being its most dazzling star, what could be more enticing than the bright lights of New York City?

She is drawn across the ocean like a moth to a flame, her heart set on proving that while she may be small on the outside, her soaring talent eclipses even Manhattan’s towering skyline. When she lands a big break, it seems as if the city is ready to fall under her spell – just as she seems to be falling for a handsome young stage manager. But is it her stage presence mesmerizing the audience, or something more sinister behind the scenes?

Philomena has always relied on her fierce will and fiery heart, but a new and more terrible danger lurks in the shadows of Broadway’s bright lights, and even a mind as determined as hers may not be immune to its seductive, insidious pull…

Both fans of The Heartless City and new readers alike will enjoy this stand-alone / spin-off tale of Philomena’s adventures on stage – and in love – in NYC.

Check out The Hypnotic City on Goodreads!

Do these sound like awesome novels to you? Do you want to see more series like this featured on The Steampunk Cavaliers? Know a series you want to see featured here? Let us know in the comments section below!

Steampunk in Animation Pt. 2: The Last Exile

LastExileI’ve talked before about how many of my favourite examples of steampunk are animated and about my eagerness to dive further into steampunk animation, especially steampunk anime(Japanese animation). The Last Exile is one of the most highly recommended steampunk anime, so it seemed like a natural place to start my journey before diving into the obscure reaches of the anime world.

I’m not so great at the summary thing so I’ll start by sharing what’s on the Funimation page:

It’s the dawn of the Golden Age of Aviation on planet Prester, and retro-futuristic sky vehicles known as vanships dominate the horizon. Claus Valca – a flyboy born with the right stuff – and his fiery navigator Lavie are fearless racers obsessed with becoming the first sky couriers to cross the Grand Stream in a vanship. But when the high-flying duo encounters a mysterious girl named Alvis, they are thrust into the middle of an endless battle between Anatoray and Disith – two countries systematically destroying each other according to the code of chivalric warfare. Lives will be lost and legacies determined as Claus and Lavie attempt to bring peace to their world by solving the riddle of its chaotic core.

Like many of the best anime, The Last Exile is a short, self contained series with only 26 half hour episodes–but you will be amazed at just how much story these animators manage to fit into a short period of time. I am honestly still reeling from everything that happened in just the second half of this anime and I’m already excited to watch it again to pick up on all the nuances.

Right away I adored Lavie–the extremely talented and quirky girl mechanic is a fairly common anime trope but it’s one of my favourites–and by the end of the first episode I was already enthralled by the variety of airships roaming the skies of Prester.

At the beginning The Last Exile is a fun story that marries all the things you love about steampunk with some of the best anime tropes, but after the first five or six episodes the story takes a sharp turn onto a very dark path with a strange cult-like Guild at the center. Quirky, even outrageous characters and awkward romance scenes are skillfully used to keep it from being extremely heavy, but at its core this anime’s story is deeply disturbing.

I do kind of wish The Last Exile went on a little bit longer because a couple of the character arcs felt rushed, especially at the end. Everything did come to a satisfying conclusion, but there are a couple points where you can tell they’re really trying to jam a lot of story into the 26 episodes they were given.

I would recommend The Last Exile to anyone interested in exploring steampunk anime. The characters are truly likable and the story is fascinating, delving far deeper into the nature of humanity than you might expect, especially from something this short.

Does this anime sound awesome to you? Do you know an epic steampunk anime I should feature here? Let me know in the comments below!

Daniel Ausema Interviews W E Larson, Author of Cog: And the Steel Tower

cogSeveral years ago, a bunch of my writer friends and I were captivated by the work in progress being shared by one of our group. We raced to be the first to read the chapters as he posted them for critiques and had a great time reading the story. I’m thrilled that W. E. Larson is now releasing the book, Cog: and the Steel Tower. I had a chance this weekend to ask him a few questions about it.

 

Thanks for joining us here at Steampunk Cavaliers! Without simply repeating the book’s blurb, tell us about Cog: and the Steel Tower. What will stand out for steampunk fans?

But repeating the blurb is so much easier!

Well here goes… It’s a story about a mechanically-gifted young girl nicknamed ‘Cog’ who is forced to strike out on her own in order to live the life she wants to live. She becomes a stowaway on an airship, assuming a false identity and stumbles across a plot that threatens the whole country. Once the airship arrives at the Steel Tower, the seat of power for the nation, she has to maintain her secret while at the same time unraveling the mystery of the plot. There’s a lot she learns along the way involving friendship, trust, and the dangers of trying to take on everything yourself.

Steampunk fans will find a rich world of alternative technologies and 19th century ideas of psychic abilities and mysticism. Since Cog is an aspiring engineer, the steampunk elements are very much an integral part of the story. The Steel Tower itself is a playground for mad science where all sorts of inventing and experimentation takes place.

Cog is such a great character, clever and caring and unafraid to challenge the way things are. Tell us more about her. What led you to write about her? Did she surprise you as you wrote the story?

I started off the book wanting to make something my daughter might enjoy reading which led me to a female protagonist. Since I wanted to create a steampunk-style world, it felt natural to make this girl mechanically gifted with a bit of mad scientist thrown in. With the Victorian influences of steampunk and the modern challenges girls face in STEM fields, there was a natural story about having her challenge gender roles so it sort of all flowed together to create this young girl who is an almost unstoppable force of determination and MacGyver-like ingenuity.

What surprised me was how confident she ended up being. I think there is a strong temptation with a young girl as a protagonist to have her gain her confidence and discover her strength as the story progresses, but that just isn’t who Cog is. I had to go in a different direction with her development.

What about Cog’s world? It has an interesting mix of the fantastical with the industrial changes of a steampunk world. What do you think will draw readers into her world?

Part of the fun of steampunk is that ‘what-if’ quality of imagining a world in which technology developed in a different way. Cog’s world has that element and throws in alchemy, psychic ability, and abandoned scientific theories to add a little fantasy. It’s a book for kids, after all, and I think a little of the fantastical helps add to the fun. However, because the fantastical is wrapped up in things that people really believed in and isn’t just ‘magic’, I think it maintains the steampunk feel. I’m hoping the reader will find that an engaging combination.

Are there other prominent steampunk works in middle-grade novels right now? I always felt books like His Dark Materials and The Series of Unfortunate Events have a steampunk feel without it being an overt part of how they’re marketed. Any other works stand out? And what aspects of steampunk do you think middle-grade readers will be drawn to?

I did feel that with His Dark Materials and I suspect that Lyra Belacqua had an influence on my development of Cog. The steampunk series that comes to mind for me right now is the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld, though I haven’t read it. I think in steampunk young readers can find the wonder of fantasy in a setting that’s very different and fresh from traditional fantasy worlds. Maybe the characters can be easier to relate to as well since it’s still a technological and urban world even if it is very different from our own.

What will be next for you? Will Cog have more books to test her mechanical abilities? Will you be branching out into other works, other subgenres?

There is a lot more to explore with Cog, her friends, and her world so I have plans for more books. I’ve already started a sequel called ‘Cog and the Copper Dragon’. I have a more traditional fantasy book in the same age-range which I’ve finished writing and has been through some rounds of revisions, but isn’t quite ready yet. There’s also a science fiction YA book I have outlined that I’d like to write for an older audience that will dive into some deeper issues, but that’s on the backburner for now.

Great, I’m looking forward to hearing more about the sequel when that comes around, too. Thanks so much for your time. For more about W. E. Larson, visit his website: http://www.welarson.com/. And to order your own copy, in print or digital format, check it out on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01F6MD1AC.

What Steampunk Means To Me by Louise Peacock

I have only been involved with Steampunk since early 2014.

This involvement was thanks to a wonderful artisan/Steampunk advocate called  Anne Marie Schlodder. She along with her silversmith daughter, Victoria, encouraged us to participate.

Photo by Bruce M Walker

 

 

 

Thanks to her we showed up at an event called Steam On Queen, a local event in Toronto, celebrating all things Steam punk. this event was the Brainchild of the wonderful Adam Smith, seen in the midst of the event.

Photo by Bruce M Walker

 

and again with some of his creations and his amazing helper, Syndi Berman

Photo by Bruce M Walker

I quickly saw the huge potential for dressing up and dove into it full-tilt-boogie-band. I even got my husband to get involved.

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This was taken at Steam On Queen in 2014 with our designer friend Emi .

Photo by Bruce M Walker

Once of the nicest parts of getting involved is some of the super people I have met.  Lord Christoper MacRaven and his lovely lady seen next.

Photo by Bruce M Walker

The Pennys,  Nerissa from SteamGummi designs, Archie from Mental Floss, this list goes on.

Nerissa and I below.

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I’ll close with glimpses of the great event that was Steam on Queen, sadly not to be repeated.

 

Photo by Bruce M Walker Photo by Bruce M Walker Photo by Bruce M Walker Photo by Bruce M Walker
All photos by Bruce M Walker and used with express permission.

Did you enjoy this post? What does steampunk mean to you? Let us know in the comments section below!

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Review PhotoRelease: September 29, 2015
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: The Cinder Spires
Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy | Adventure | Humor
Edition: Kindle and Audio
Pages: 640
Publisher: ROC
Buy it here: AMAZON

Blurb

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.
Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.
And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

Review

I am a fan of Jim Butcher’s urban fantasy series, The Dresden Files, so I admit to being excited by the fact that he had plans for a new series set in a steampunk world. These last two months have been a busy time for me professionally, so I purchased both the Kindle and the Audible editions of the novel hoping to save a bit of time with the Whispersync function. (When I review a book I generally read it two times and take notes. This is a bit longer time commitment than simply reading a novel for pleasure.) Unfortunately I have Apple products (iMac and iPad) and Whispersync does not work with them. The iMac and iPad Audible versions did not sync with each other either. Ah well—the best laid plans of mice and men! I am glad, though, that I purchased both: Euan Morton narrates the Audible version and he is such a versatile actor it is almost impossible to believe one person is voicing each character. This is a book I will listen to again.

Spoilers Ahead

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is a wonderful addition to the steampunk genre. It is not set in Victorian England or the American West, although these time periods do serve as touchstones of inspiration. It is set in its own world and it incorporates unique aesthetic touches.

The world-building in this series is incredibly detailed, yet is not intrusive to the narrative. It takes a deft touch for a writer to include so much information without it bogging down the story, but Butcher is able to achieve this. I believe that Butcher succeeds because of his experience as a writer—because of his years of honing his craft. If you are interested in a “behind-the-scenes” type view of writing, visit Jim Butcher’s Live Journal. It contains detailed, step-by-step posts on how to write a novel.

The steampunk elements are essential to the story. Airships, spire cities at war, and almost magical seeming gauntlets that shoot out beams of light are part-and-parcel of life for the characters. The society is structured and multi-leveled.

One interesting aspect of the society is the (mostly) mandatory military service for the children of the wealthier/aristocratic houses. Families who have only one child do not have to send their heir into service, but most of them do so despite the danger. It is a particular badge of honor to serve. The tradition in the novel reminds me of the real-life service that Great Britain’s royal family has partaken in over the last few generations. Prince Harry, the second child of Prince Charles, even served in active duty in Afghanistan.

Although there is a heavy focus on aristocratic members of society in the first novel of the series, the characters run the gamut of society: Bridget, scion of a once-prominent noble house on the verge of ruin and her talking cat, Rowl, Highborn Gwendolyn Lancaster, her “warrior born” cousin, Benedict; the disgraced Captain Grimm; and master etherealist Ferus and his assistant, Folly, are a motley group of grizzled veterans and novices that are sent off to stop the mysterious force behind a very coordinated and deadly series of attacks on Spire Albion by its rival, Spire Aurora.

The chapters are narrated by different points of view. The character location is presented in a sub-heading at the start of each chapter and the voice of each is unique. It is not difficult to determine who is speaking simply by the diction each one uses. This is particularly effective with Euan Morton’s narration in the Audible book where he does an excellent job portraying the diversity of each character’s manner of speech.

The battle scenes, both on the ground and between the airships, are thrilling. It has elements of the swashbuckling adventures of C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brien and just a touch of Joss Whedon’s Firefly:

“Evasive action!” Grimm ordered. The distant screaming roars of the Itasca’s guns continued, and he heard the hungry hissing of blasts streaking through the mists around them, making them glow with hellish light. They had been lucky to survive a single glancing hit. Thirty guns raked the mist, and Grimm knew the enemy ship would be rolling onto her starboard side, giving the
gunners a chance to track their approximate line of descent. If the same gunner or one of his fellows got lucky again, Predator would not be returning home to Spire Albion.

Jim ButcherThe action rarely stops in this novel and the world is a steampunk-themed playground waiting for Butcher to explore in future novels. What lies on the surface of the world? What created the mists? And what game is Albion, ruler of Spire Albion, playing? Readers will have to wait for those answers as the series develops.

 

Introducing Cassandra Duffy, author of The Gunfighter & The Gearhead

GF&GH One of the most awesome parts of running a blog like this is that I get to feature stories the mainstream media usually ignores. In our two months of blogging we’ve already featured one steampunk series about a transgender woman and today I’m thrilled to share The Gunfighter & The Gearhead, a steampunk novel featuring an explosive relationship between two brilliant women.

I hope you’ll enjoy learning about their story as much as I have.

Can you tell us a bit about your novel, The Gunfighter & The Gear-Head

It was my first novel and is still one of my favorite projects. It’s a love story at its heart with an unusual backdrop of the post apocalyptic American southwest. It sprung from a short story I wrote in college and blossomed into a full series of books combining an end of the world setting with steampunk technology and a dash of humor and sex.

A short story that turned into a series of novels! I thought that only happened to me! All joking aside, this is an awesome way to build a story.

What part of the story came to you first?

The romance between Fiona and Gieo, definitely. I wanted to write an out of control emotional connection between two women that have almost nothing in common beyond their undeniable attraction to each other. The firestorm relationship between a dangerous, unbalanced gunfighter and a brilliant, fearless scientist needed an interesting setting, and that’s where Tombstone came into play.

This sounds like such a fascinating relationship, no wonder you couldn’t keep it contained within a single short story.

How much planning did you do before delving into the actual story?

 

Since it was a short story first, the bare bones of what I wanted to do already existed. I fleshed the ideas out some, took a few drives into the desert for inspiration and research, and everything grew from there. I have the entire series outlined, which has made it easy to add three more books including two sequels and a prequel.

You sent this quote to me with the blurb: “Four things greater than all things are, – Women and Horses and Power and War” ~Rudyard Kipling Why did you choose this quote to represent The Gunfighter & The Gear-Head?

 

Kipling is such an interesting historic and literary figure. He’s a British colonial writer, which should make him completely outdated and bland by modern standards, but they just remade the Jungle Book into a live action movie so his work still has appeal. His stories and poems about under dogs and the power found in unlikely people are remarkable for his genre and era. I actually found the quote before I wrote the third book in the series and it summed up exactly what I was going for. Two of the earthshaking forces people know and expect, war and power, but I don’t think everyone realizes how influential women and horses have been in shaping human history, and that’s the story I wanted to tell. All four great forces Kipling mentions combined into one movement: the Raven Ladies.

When & how did you discover steampunk?What part of steampunk is most appealing to you?

I like the science and style mixture. Function and form melding together. My father is an aerospace engineer so I grew up in a household full of pictures spanning the age of flight, models and sculptures of anything that ever left the ground, and tons of schematics, blueprints, and design drawings for flying machines. I never had a talent for any of the engineering side, so I invented my machines in fictional realms where they wouldn’t rely so heavily on funding and physics to exist. I doubt Boeing would be wooed by Gieo’s airship designs, although Harley Davidson might take a look at her motorcycle.

I also really love the combination of science and style you find in steampunk. I think too often modern science has gone for efficiency without aesthetics, leading to an overly sanitized and often ugly world.

Your “day job” is actually freelance writing, but do you write any types of fiction other than novels?

I think for a freelance writer to make a living it has to be all about diversification, like a good investment portfolio. I write short stories and novellas from time to time. I have a few collections out and a novella series right now. I used to write sex advice columns for various lesbian magazines, then a relationship advice column for a network of dating sites, and now I’m writing grants for LGBT organizations. I’ve tried my hand at poetry and fan fiction with cute but ultimately not very good results.

That’s quite an impressive list of things you’ve written. I’m really interested in learning more about the grant writing process and expanding the diversity of my own non-fiction work–I’d love any advice you can share in the comments section here!

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

I’m on the homestretch of writing a mystery novel set in early 20th century Barcelona with a steampunk private detective investigating a serial arsonist. It’s called Pintor Noche and I’m hoping it’ll be ready for release this summer. It combines so many of my favourite things, intrigue, food, art, gadgets, sex, and fashion.

Those are many of my favourite things too! I’ll have to add it to my to-be-read pile(which only seems to grow, no matter how fast I read books. Thanks for agreeing to this interview, I hope you’ll stick around to discover the other amazing Steampunks we’re going to feature!

About Cassandra

CassandraDuffyI write a free-lance sex advice column found in various lesbian magazines and dating websites. My short story collections and novels can be found at http://cassandra-duffy.com/. I’m a dutiful partially-Asian daughter who is beloved by a fairly traditional Korean father who thinks having a gay daughter is just fine as long as I keep playing coed flag football. I’m a stereotypical younger sister, and adoring aunt of a hilarious little boy. Being a modern techno-freak, gamer-girl, I spent most of my childhood dreaming of designing video games, but changed my mind and brought my dreams of world building and story-weaving to writing unique romance novels. I am a gleefully monogamous wife to an earthbound goddess. When I’m not being an avid fang girl (vampire fan girl) or tormenting people in online gaming, I live and write in Florida with my soul mate Nichole and our two cats: Dragon and Josephine.

Think The Gunfighter & The Gearhead sounds awesome? Know a steampunk author/artist you think we should interview here? Let us know in the comments section below!

You can find Cassandra at www.Cassandra-Duffy.com.