Steampunk Spotlight is back, woop! *begins waltzing* Today, I’m interviewing Ms. Folly Blaine, a cheerful writer of Lovecraftian short fiction, fantasy and horror. To view her entire bibliography, see her website – her latest short story is a steampunk piece about steampunk shape-shifters in the Gears and Growls Anthology.
Welcome to the blog, Folly. 🙂 What inspired you to start writing Steampunk-esque short stories?
I love the whole Steampunk aesthetic–the costumes, the Victorian setting, the whole alternate history aspect. And I love that Steampunk encourages its fans to interact in the real world and create amazing costumes and contraptions. Specifically for my short story though, “The Man at the End of the Chain” that just came out in the anthology, Beast Within 4: Gears and Growls, I was also inspired by the anthology’s theme: shapeshifters with Steampunk technology incorporated into their bodies. That was a fun challenge, and it let me go a little dark with the subject matter, which I like.
You have written a lot of horror fiction. Does your writing process differ between writing Steampunk and the horror genre?
Mostly I just try to tell an interesting story. But in terms of process, horror is about the mood of the piece, the sense of dread I want the reader to experience. Steampunk focuses on the setting and historical perspective. So the main difference for me between writing Steampunk and horror, is that writing horror is about pacing and mood, while Steampunk requires more research, more historical context. I particularly recommend Henry Mayhew’s excellent book, London Labour and the London Poor, as a primary source of information.
Alt-history fantasy has expanded into a whole umbrella of genres, including Dieselpunk and Atompunk. What, in your opinion, is a vital attribute of a Steampunk setting or story?
All of these genres are about asking what if—what if this event or events had gone just a little differently–and it’s so satisfying to ask that question. For me, Steampunk is specifically about expanding the genre of Victorian-era science-fiction, and exploring a vision of what the world could have been technology-wise, if say, Charles Babbage’s steam-powered computer (Analytical Engine) had been built 170 years ago. Also, I think it’s important not to limit the “what if’s” to a Victorian England perspective, but taking the whole globe into consideration.
How did you go about building your Steampunk world? Were any aspects stronger/more well formed than others when you started writing?
For “The Man at the End of the Chain,” I began with the single image of an organ grinder and built the story from there. My story is about a were-capuchin, basically a woman that can shift into a monkey and is forced to work for an organ grinder in her capuchin form, and based on that initial image, I did a lot of research about organ grinders during the time period, as well as therianthropy – shapeshifting ability. I was interested in playing with the idea of a seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and using that to explain the main character’s shapeshifting ability, and I was also interested in cemeteries. So based on all of those images, I did some research, connected the dots, and out came this story.
That’s amazing! I love how much thought you’ve put into even a short story. Do you participate in other parts of the Steampunk genre/lifestyle or only the writing side of Steampunk?
I’ve attended an annual Steampunk convention called SteamCon in Bellevue, WA, which I enjoyed a lot. Mostly though I’ve focused on the writing side. I’ve never been great at assembling the amazing costumes others put together, but I’m happy to admire their creativity from afar.
Hehe, me neither. Any advice to readers and/or writers just getting into the Steampunk genre?
For writers, it’s a good idea to read inside and outside of the genre. Check out the Mayhew book I mentioned earlier for historical context. Look for critique groups or beta readers who can give you honest feedback. For readers, my introduction to the genre was The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer and S.J. Chambers, and that was helpful for giving me a high-level understanding of the genre. Most recently I’ve enjoyed reading the Steampunk webcomic, Girl Genius, by Phil and Kaja Foglio.
Readers, I’d recommend the comic, too. Folly, what’s the future for your writing? What are your current goals?
I attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, WA, over the summer and came out of that experience with six new short stories. I need to finish revising them and send those out. Lately, I’ve been narrating and mastering audiobooks for other people, which has been pretty rewarding. And I just had another short story come out, “Arkquarium,” in a Lovecraft-inspired anthology called That Ain’t Right: Historical Accounts of the Miskatonic Valley. That story takes places in modern times and is about a strange creature that wreaks havoc at the Arkham Arquarium.
Tell us something interesting about your current Steampunk-y WIP.
I’m working on a short story about a female mad scientist exiled to Prague in the late 1800s. Well, she doesn’t think of herself as mad, but there’s definitely something wrong with her.
Ooh, thanks for joining me, Folly. These are great answers 🙂