Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


Diversity is Difficult (For Me)

With all the talk of diversity from last month’s Pride month, I’ve got stuck thinking about the topic of all sorts of diversity.

Miriam Joy and I were discussing our Work-in-Progresses recently. Her YA contemporary about modern-day knights is packed with queer characters (to quote Miriam “I’m bad at writing straight people.”) whilst in my steampunk/alternate history, I’m finding it difficult to identify any sort of diversity.

My reaction when people talk about diversity in WIP novels

Any pre-millennium author would argue this is because of the setting and a world where not only was homosexuality considered a mental illness, many queer people refused to admit the truth to themselves—but I refuse to take that as an excuse for my own writing. The idea of diversity has to, fundamentally, exist throughout the centuries, worlds and genres. One can’t swipe it away by the idea that some genres or places are ‘immune’ to diversity. That would be ludicrous.

This is, sadly, a trend in my writing. One of my characters was obviously gay to me; and Agnetha is bi, even if she is more heterosexual-homoromantic than anything else; if any of my characters are asexual, that would be Andrew Costello, but even his disinterest is classed as being a confirmed bachelor in the NeoVictorian world*.

As I write, I don’t see my characters as being diverse, and I’m hardly one to shoe-horn in the queerness and the colour; as I’ve briefly mentioned before, I’d be happy to have some of my characters whom I envision as white in my head played by actors of colour, but I am – one might sigh and say sadly – one of those little middle-class white girls with a tendency to write about white girls. And, of course, they’re middle-class, because the upper and lower classes are too often written about.

On the other hand, it’s more difficult simply to make assumptions about characters—

Though I can’t help but want to let my readers decide about the sexuality of my Supporting Characters. With MCs, I tend to be more specific, since I can’t escape writing in romance. For instance, in Horology, Cathy gets engaged to Alexander, though I do accept that the certain fact does not negate queerness of either partner. But they’re straight. Believe me. SCs, however, don’t have to be specific. Of course, I’ll know what I feel they are meant to be, but characters have their own decisions ex libris and I cannot stop them feeling what they might.

Be that as it may, my authorial side has her own opinions/interpretations/assumptions – and it’s here that I find, once I’ve created the cast of a WIP, that barely any characters strike me as queer.

And one has to be aware of stereotypes. I know certain images appear at the thought of, say, the word lesbian, because of the way popular culture has shaped our views, and I have no wish to further the stereotype—yet, characters automatically conform to certain patterns of stereotypical appearance. For instance, I can see how a couple of my SCs in Horology could be queer, but they’re already non-conformist in their jobs and opinions, so – to me, personally, by the way; I fully understand the subjectiveness of the matter – it seems a cop out to have them be queer. That’s almost what the reader expects.

So, what about subtle queerness? But with characters who don’t need to be romantically involved, or are chased by an unwitting ‘straight’ (used in the very general sense) character, how does one show their sexuality without making a point of it? Or without doing a JK. Is it bad if I’m not being explicit? *overthinking*

You know, I’d like to see more diversity in interests, too. Whilst a lot of writers include ‘fun’ interests, like sciencey-things and music and stuff (specific, I know), I’ve not met many, especially non-contemporary, characters who are furries or lovers of inanimate objects or animals (and, no, I’m not talking about bestiality. Bestioromance. You know, in a nice way). Lifestyles that are a little deviant of ‘the line’. I think I’m allowed to raise that point, even though I’m only 50% Live-Action Role Playing.

I guess it’s too early in the Steampunk fashion boom to expect contemporaries with characters who Steam dress and have Steam personae, but I find this sort of ‘cultural’ cross-dressing is absent everywhere, despite knowing two people who, rather than cosplay, do daily dress in their creations.

In summary, I suppose what I’m raising is that I myself should be writing more characters in non-contemporaries who put on the gear of cults/societies/non-conformist fashion without fear of exposure/mockery/plot-device.

And, you know, more obviously queer characters.

I feel I ought to mention the series of Pride posts Nevillegirl did, since those also in part inspired this post and got me thinking about more diversity in my own works.

*Perhaps I’ll further explore the use of ambiguity in prose – both the oh-that’s-a-remark-about-sh*gging-guys and the author-isn’t-meant-to-know kind – when regarding sexuality in another post, since it’s a little off-topic here. In particular, the lives of a lot of the characters in The Continent world (When the Clock Broke) are private even to my eyes. There are some things to which I don’t want to know the answer.

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A Thought for Today: Bunny Bennett’s It Gets Better Video

I may be a cis-gender heterosexual and mostly-heteroromantic woman – and Pride month isn’t particularly a well-announced thing here in England, so I didn’t really know about it – but I wanted to share with you this video by steampunk performer Bunny Bennett.

Yes, it’s an old video, but the band Steam Powered Giraffe has really inspired me these last couple of months, in imagination – and self-confidence.

“Maybe you’re just tired of all the hate in the world.”

One thing I’ve learnt in my year at uni, something much more valuable than Heidegger’s continental approach to considering the world’s existence or how the brain acts on sensation signals, is that the world and its opinions are not narrow. They are not the product of a Catholic girls school (take from that what you will; I’ll only say that the opinions of your school-friends will always be unrealistically petty). Life is not the sole opinion of your parents; you can have your own views, beliefs, loves and that’s more than simply acceptable.

Laws are there for a reason – to keep us safe – and, although political correctness has veered off the helpful track, opinions are not the same as laws. You can feel one thing and act another, and, yes, that doesn’t have to necessarily be a bad thing. Hate and love are not spectra, and, yes, it is possible to feel hate but to show love and turn the other cheek.

The Steampunk community rules!

As Bunny says in the video’s description: “This video isn’t just for the LGBT community. It’s for everyone and anyone that needs it. We all go through tough times. We all have seemingly impossible odds against us.”

I have a friend who lives down the corridor from me, a beautiful, charismatic girl who happens to dress like a 40s pin-up because that’s the kind of fashion she loves. She gets flack, but we all get flack. Everyday. It’s the life we live. Yet, that’s no reason for my friend to stop being pretty with her looks or for me to deny that I do enjoy NeoVictorian and modern NeoVictorian (wearing non-Victorian shirts and trousers but jazzing them up with steam accessories like belts and bows and frills. I love frills.).

And your start is to start loving yourself, and forgiving yourself. We all do silly things and feel arguably silly feels, but beating yourself up for how you feel does no one any good.

I know – this post is comprised of nothing novel. I just wanted to share this beautiful video from a beautiful amazing woman.

Well, life’s too short, so share the love. You know it is. You know it is. Don’t do things that you shouldn’t do, because that’s bad. ;)


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Experiences With a New Phone

Hello. Your Wednesday post comes via YouTube in the form of my latest vlog, where I spend seven minutes talking about the ups and downs of my new phone, the HTC Windows phone 8S. Don’t ask me about specific classifications; I don’t know. I’m not here to be a modern technologist, but to provide some insight into the life of a working writer and fan of the archaic rather than the modern. I didn’t mention the phone’s size in the vlog, but mobiles are so massive now that they worry me. We don’t need to widen our screens and still not fit all the ‘app’s on. We simply need to remember a mobile is a phone, pure and simple.

Plus, you get to hear what a paragraph of my new short Cavendish Mechanics sounds like when it’s narrated by the robot of a notepad app. For this, I suspect this has been my favourite vlog so far to record/edit. The amount of voices I put on is something of encouragement for future projects.


Lifey-Wimey Things

I apologise for a blatant lack of consistency in my posting. At the moment, I’m in an intermittent stage between levels of everything, an ‘in-between life’. Like Hazel. You know, that character in some film of a depression book by John Green that’s out in Australia and the US, but not the UK yet…

Like John Green says (but of which there is no gif!): Hazel is called Hazel because it’s an in-between colour: “in-between health and sickness, in-between adolescence and adulthood,” etc.

I pity all the Hazels in fiction that they will be forever compared to the Fault in Our Stars girl.

What about nullities, huh? Are some nullities bigger than other nullities?

(Answers in the comments)

Anyway! That said, I am on the other side of having written of the Steampunk short and only goodness knows if it is interesting. June barrels on with its everything (for instance, I have Open Day training tomorrow for work on Friday and Saturday. Brits, come to the University of Reading! It’s awesome!) and in the back of my mind lingers ideas of the planning I’m meant to be doing for July’s CampNaNoWriMo. Yes, I take on too many projects, but that’s the way I like it, for the empty mind is one with vicious claws.

Also, the alt grave key on my laptop broke. So, yeah, that was a success on the existing part!

That’s my life for now, I guess: in-between work and leisure; in-between past and future and all those words entail. In between total and acceptable insanity.

I’m off to play Quidditch and croquet. But not simultaneously. I hope.

One day I will be able to use an SPG gif in a relevant manner.

Oh, hey, this one’s relevant if you imagine me shutting down instead of The Spine!

Is it gif or “jiff”? Is there a culture/US-UK difference?

Also, stop me before I watch too many Green brother vlogs! I have to organise my YouTube ‘watch later’ section.


What’s Inspiring ME This Week

| Three exams down, five to go. Next tomorrow, then Friday.|

Another short-on-words post, since I am, of course, still revising, but I thought I might flick through my Google searches this week and present you with some of the images I have come across. After all, as things go, work makes me crave editing and writing. And reading. I thank goodness for all of the steampunk I can get my chai-tea-stained hands on!

For starters, this stained glass evergreen helped me with a bit of description/symbolism in WTCB.


A flintlock pistol. Enough said. Okay, maybe one piece of dialogue might pique your interest: “Surely you are not under the impression that my Papa failed to teach me how to handle a gun?”





Different types of aerostats… :D

Beautiful blue dress from the Victorian fashion wiki. My MC of my short story WIP, Louisanna, wears a dress very similar to this in one of my favourite scenes. Plus, I have a love for this icy blue hue on my own steam pieces (see below).

File:Jean auguste dominique ingres princesse albert de broglie.jpg

As such...

As such…

These wonderful automaton blokes (which is no reference to gender, but a quote from the first song I heard):

Steam Powered Giraffe. Perfect visual inspiration for steampunk robots. And, you know, gorgeous people music. *ahem* If I were only a robot made a hundred years earlier… *Victorian-style swoon* (And, whilst David Bennett is a genius, he is, naturally, less handsome and mannered than The Spine, just as Lady Chronaire is made of a great deal more wit and confidence than I am.)

Another video set: this time of the theatrical type and more relevant to my research for the novel ‘H’ than for my short story world: League of S.T.E.A.M. Steampunk ghostbusters, pretty much ;) Again, this combination of aesthetic and humour and wit is perfect research and glamour for my novel.

The entirety of the Steampunk opera The Dolls of New Albion is worth a listen to if you have the time. I’d love to act the Narrator. Although she’s not technically involved in the story, she sounds a very dynamic character.

There’s an interesting Steampunk name generator from Brass Goggles.com, too. Much fun.

Also, many many more bands I wish I could list and many Etsy shops and other fun online knick-knacks that have been serving the imagination. A lot of my research has, naturally, come from the various authors dabbling in various Steam genres, including Kady Cross (notice: book cover with a blue dress ^.^), and of course Gail Carriger.

Finally, I’m sad to add that the UK bookshops (at least those I’ve reached) are terribly absent of steampunk novels…though I did find this beauty.

THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR. Sorry for the reverse webcam-shot.

THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR by Lilith Saintcrow. Sorry for the reverse webcam-shot.

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Extolling the Virtues of Steampunk Subgenres


Yes, WTCB is more NeoVictorian than Steampunk – rather than being set in the 19th Century, NeoVictorian or ‘Victoriana’ novels are set in the modern century with Victorian manners, class systems and technology as I hope WTCB is, whilst being set in 2010 – but with the devising of my new Steampunk novel ‘H’, I’ve realised how comfortable I feel in a world surrounded by the tautness of order and rules, a la the Victorian era. I don’t see what is too much of a problem by putting on a ‘steamsona’, a ‘steampunk-person’; following the rules of late 1800 and early 1900 in a modern world can actually be intriguingly healthy.

But Steampunk is so wide that, like any cross-curricula genre, one can dive into so many different subsets and interpretations.

The term is not about proscriptive designing of worlds, but about how one lives what might have been. Alternate past, after all. Hence I ask: what does Steampunk mean to you?

Is it an art? Well, everything is an art (arguably, though one might suggest that every art is a science of using logic…but I shan’t get into that here. That thought is for the other blog.) – but is your Steampunk a visual art? Is it in the creative notions, the way one devises not only the worlds of dirigibles, clockwork (like the table-clock on the blog-bar above) and torn power of guns and rough-style in conceptualisation, but also in paintings with characters looming in a Steamy sky. It may be a talent I lack, but I have seen some gorgeous artwork online.

Steampunk Fighter by Spiegellicht

The majority of the top Google images for ‘steampunk’ are of women holding guns and wearing very little, but mostly leather and iron. Personally, I disapprove.

Is it a craft? Is your Steampunk in the act of changing mechanical bits-and-bobs into touchable decorations? Because of its growing trend, Steampunk shops (especially those on Etsy) have sprung up with trades – just as those shoppes would have by trade in the true century.

Steampunk is a lifestyle for some. As well as writing, Steampunk extends to music (and film and popular culture, etc). Far be it for me to list how Steampunk has been influenced by the cultures and its own budding subgenres, but one definitely sees Steampunk changed by whom is its author. Some people of colour create focuses and characters of colour and settings that include dashes of their culture as it might have been in the ‘East’ in a Steampunk past; some British authors use their own knowledge of manners and make that one of the core values of Steampunk. Of course, that’s great – a universal community from one idea. Perhaps because the genre of Fantasy centres on a purely speculative past, those who were treated with scorn in the real past get a chance to live more freely in the Steampunk one.


Although it’s not a route into which I like to venture, some Steampunk depicts a barren land and a cast of Western-esque characters, steam pistols and leather utilities at which the everyday Victorian might pale, with tough, angular styles seen more in gothic fingerless gloves than classic royalty elegance. “Endless prairies of the North,” as described in Paul Shapera’s New Albion I track of The Dolls of New Albion opera.

What does it mean to me? Fashion, but not in a superficial way: dressing in an appropriate way, complete with the historical requirements. I’m not a fan of Steampunk representations of ladies with external corsets and higher-than-ankles (or, at a push, knee-and-higher) dresses. Even if the alternate past accepts this sort of anachronism, to me it jars with what would show the era as it is.

There’s a difference between an autostat, a zeppelin and a dirigible, you know, and these details add colour to one’s choice of type of Steampunk. I prefer the latter, myself, with its traditionally navigable quality (I hear your raised eyebrows: of course the linguist chooses the etymological definition: ‘dirigible’ was originally French for steerable), implying that the use of coal/steam to fly has sense in power, despite its non-rigidity. That opinion might be questioned by the traditional use – as opposed to the traditional meaning – but I’m certainly allowed to twist the proper past a little ;)

Too, as Lord Pikedevant, Esq. has sung, Steampunk is not so much cogs as mechanisms, not so much dress as attitude. Steampunk – for me – is as much about the way one holds one’s self and speaks and treats others as what one looks like. And, you know, the cogs have got to work. In the Victorian and progressive Industrial age, every piece of technology had a role to play and affected everyone on a near-daily basis. Whilst there are some great concepts in the land of Steampunk art, some simply don’t intrigue me because they clash with my understanding of ‘Steampunk’ as a working society tag.

And that’s all right, because the Steampunk world varies depending on its creator.

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More Creative Quotes

Another ‘creative’ quote from my manuscript, this time from Aidelle’s side of the separation. Of regrets and chilling thoughts of being away from him.

(It’s larger – and the picture was, sadly, more cumbersome than my previous, horizontal photos – therefore, I have to say, the quote carries less elegance than the other, but I still thinks this brings a certain bundle of ‘feels’ when I read it. I highlighted some of the phrases that have stayed with me throughout writing.)


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Phillip Laments

Because Phillip is very poetic in the midnights of our sorrows.

A quote from my manuscript. I thought I’d go fancy and edit one of my photos to include it. Thanks to my friends from the Quidditch team for their posing.


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Vlog: Self-Harm Awareness Day

Alexandrina Brant:

(Seeing that I managed to miss Self-Injury Awareness Day this year, here’s a neat vlog giving a quick summary of self-harm.)

Originally posted on rosie brown: fighting the stigma:

(the video is clearer if you click the link and watch it on Youtube)

Hello everybody.

Yesterday/ this morning I have made a video on Self-Harm in honour of Self-Harm Awareness Day/ Month.

I deal with:
- What is Self-Harm.
- Why People Self-Harm.
- How Common is Self-Harm.
- What to do if you Self-Harm.

And I have interspersed some of my own personal experiences.

I hope you enjoy the video. It was difficult for me to make as I am still getting used to talking about it. If you have a youtube account then please subscribe. I am new to YouTube so would really appreciate the support. Also if you don’t already I tweet here : @fighiting_stigma.

Thanks for reading/ Watching. x

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My Top Five Movies

Something light for your Friday evening Saturday. I’ve not done one of these ‘top five’ posts before, and that’s not surprising, considering that I dislike having favourites – everything should be grand, in my opinion! However, recently I noticed a trend of some sort in my love of old[er] movies rather than the newer stuff. I like a film that, whilst being entertaining, also resonates and is wise.

1. Stardust (2007)

I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving this epic fantasy. It’s sweet, funny, clever and just a bit magical. ;) The entire cast are on fine form and the setting is gorgeous – just look at those rolling hills. Gah, I could pointlessly praise the film repeatedly. To be honest, it’s one of those pieces of work for which I have no particular love. I just do love it! I’m not the only one to say so, either. It’s one of the great English films of the ‘noughties’.

Oh, and, as a plus, my dad likes it, too! His favourite characters are the ghosts and his favourite scene the confrontation between Tristan and the witches after Septimus is killed, which makes sense, since he’s in the army and that fight scene has an element of military humour.

2. Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998)

Oh, great, Alex is talking about this movie again. Haha, yes, I am! I’ve mentioned before how much the book influenced me – even if Carroll does suggest the ‘it was all a dream’ ending – and the film did the same with its faithful adaptation. It’s so quotable! One only has to think of the rich universe Carroll created to imagine the presentation the movie brings: prissy talking flowers, chessboard portals, cacophony and order, wrapped together with some delicious pieces of soundtrack by Dominik Scherrer.

"'The white knight slid down the poker; he balanced very badly.' That's not a memorandum of your feelings!"

“‘The white knight slid down the poker; he balanced very badly.’ That’s not a memorandum of your feelings!”

The actors bring those exotic characters to life, from Kate Beckingsale right up to Geoffrey Palmer and Penelope Wilton, and it doesn’t take much to get lost in the fantasy. Sure, it’s a 90s film and the people dressed up as animals reflects that, but, despite this, there’s no sense of falseness in the filmography. One gets so ‘into’ the fiction that one forgets what is reality or not. Apparently, it was low-budget, too!

In a way, one could argue that my adventures into philosophy started with Lewis Carroll’s fiction, and for that I shall be forever grateful.

3. The Jungle Book (1994)

Live action, adult romance version of Rudyard Kipling’s tales. Mowgli is separated from Kitty as a child when vicious tiger Shere Kahn attacks the camp in which they’re staying. Mowgli survives in the Indian rainforest by being raised by wolves and a panther and a young bear he rescued from a fallen log. By the time Kitty returns as part of her father’s army posting, she’s unhappily betrothed to an arrogant young officer who seeks the mythical treasure of monkey King Louie, regardless of who he betrays in the process.

The tension! It’s such a rich plot. (And, no, it’s not a love triangle. From the first time we meet adult Kitty, Katherine, we can tell that she’s become uncomfortable with her previous flirtation, but is squashed under the rule of her officer). Lena Headey is one of my favourite actresses nowadays, though I guess I can now link back to when I first saw her, even when I didn’t realise who she was then. And John Cleese. :) I can’t really say much more about why I like this film, but it’s clever, funny, and unique, since Mowgli cannot speak for the first forty-five minutes of the film so the actor who plays him portrays so much emotion through feral glances and movements.

Animals are our friends. :)

4. A Bug’s Life (1998)

Classic Pixar. This was one of my favourite childhood films, though I have no idea why. Inventor ant hires a bunch of circus clowns to free his colony from the tyranny of mean ol’ grasshoppers. Atta was my favourite character – you know, the lovable, sensible female lead – but Flik and Hopper resonated with me so much that the first piece of fiction I wrote was a short story about them, written on two sides of A4 in bright red felt pen. I think my house still has a giant talking Dot doll somewhere, too.

So, it was probably the dynamic colours, setting and the characters that drew me to the film, but the plot and believable dialogue kept me to it. Pixar worked hard with this one.


5. Bringing Up Baby (1938)

The only one on this list I’ve seen only once, but I’d jump at the chance to see it again, cringiness or not. This is also the most unusual of the top five, for its black and white-ness. I don’t normally watch black and white films, but, like a good book, I forgot that the colour had gone because I was so immersed in the quaint tale of a crazy heroine, her pet leopard called Baby, and the palaeontologist who finds himself in the middle of their business. Katharine Hepburn is a gorgeous charm, though her character is frustratingly insane to no end! Cary Grant plays pathetic to perfect pitch.

You said it, 1930s trailer!


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