My First Steampunk Experience by Felicity Banks

Today’s article is part of a series called “My First Steampunk”. To learn more about the series – and apply to be featured – scroll to the bottom of this article.

Love, like steampunk itself, is not a static thing. It grows and changes over time, as the object of love also grows and changes. If you’re lucky, the love grows more beautiful instead of fading.

My friends Will and Jason liked steampunk, way back when we were all in our twenties. It was a natural obsession for two history nerds. They danced historic dances and started shaving with straight razors after seeing the 2007 Sweeney Todd movie. Both men had sideburns (and, I presume, a steady hand). Because of Will and Jason I was vaguely aware of the steampunk scene: clothes and cogs and marvellous machines.

Then one day, Will steampunked a teddy bear. It was so cute, and fascinating, and maybe a little macabre. Above all, it worked. The bear had been adapted into steampunk, but it looked like it had always been that way.

Steampunk has an extraordinary flexibility, which is part of what makes it endlessly fascinating. I’ve seen steampunk Disney princesses, steampunk Captain Americas, steampunk Wonder Women, steampunk wheelchairs and nerf guns and motorbikes. Steampunk cosplay can link to any character, or to no character at all. No single steampunk character has burned itself into the public imagination in a genre-defining way, which means there is plenty of creative room. It also means my own original characters are the first steampunks many of my readers encounter.

I started toying with the idea of writing a steampunk novel. For all steampunk’s flexibility, I would need to learn a great deal about history, and technology, and the genre as a whole. I could break rules willy-nilly, but only if I knew when and why I was doing so. For a long time, I wasn’t sure I was up to the task. I liked the idea of writing steampunk set in Australia for the simple reason that relatively few people set fantasy stories in my own home country. Besides, it wasn’t a big jump from the traditional ‘source’ of steampunk in Victorian England. In the 1800s many Australian-born children of British parents still considered the UK to be their home, even though they had never seen it.

Then one day, talking about possible story details with Will, he pointed out the importance of water for steam-based technology. At the time we were in the middle of yet another Australian drought. The thought of drought + gold rush + bushrangers + steam made everything click to me, and I decided that day that I really would write an Australian steampunk trilogy.

I’ve read dozens of steampunk novels and non-fiction books since then, and traveled to steampunk fairs and fan conventions. Over and over again I find that history is more eccentric and delightful than anything I can invent, and I’ve grown to love steampunk more and more.

My first novel, Heart of Brass, was published in 2016 by Odyssey Books. It’s available in print or digital formats from Amazon, Kobo, B&N, IndieBound, Powell’s, and bookshops. The second book, Silver and Stone, was released on 1 October this year, and the final book will be released in 2018.

The process of research never ends. I walk a zigzagging line between fact, fiction, and fantasy in my novels, stealing real-life characters from history and trying not to anger their descendants. Since I began the Antipodean Queen trilogy I discovered the wild world of digital interactive fiction and amused myself by writing a linked steampunk tale in every new IF engine I learned to use, from Twine to ChoiceScript (this story takes place during Book 3, so there is a risk of spoilers). The biggest and best is “And Their Souls Were Eaten” which is a spoiler-free prequel set in 1836 Europe with a completely different magical problem. I threw historical characters into the story with enthusiasm as I discovered an amazing range of real history that was too fascinating not to share. That story is available via the Tin Man Games serial story hub app “Choices That Matter” on iOS and Google Play.

I have plans to write more stories, set in different places and featuring some familiar and some different characters. Right now I have my eye on Hong Kong, and my to-read pile is defying all logic by growing bigger with every book I read.

The book trailer for Antipodean Queen 1: Heart of Brass is here.

About the Author

Felicity Banks is an Australian writer of steampunk and fantasy books including interactive fiction (digital Choose Your Own Adventure stories). Her debut novel, Heart of Brass, is the beginning of the Antipodean Queen steampunk fantasy trilogy and is available in print and digital formats anywhere in the world. The sequel, Silver and Stone, is available now through Odyssey Books.

About the Series

“My First Steampunk” is a celebration of the many different paths into the steampunk community. Once a month (this will be the third Tuesday of the month starting January 2018) a guest contributor takes over the Steampunk Cavaliers blog and shares how they fell in love with this amazing genre and community. If you’re a steampunk creator of any kind–author, artist, cosplayer–and you want to share how YOU fell in love with steampunk, email diannalgunn@gmail.com for detailed guidelines on how to submit YOUR story.

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