Beautiful People: Greetings to Patience

I’m still editing – and trying to balance the two academic and creative meanings of ‘revision’ – so I have no fully-formed character to present for you. Instead, I’m going to have a new-new character for this month’s great questions of the Beautiful People tag (hosted by Cait and Sky). Patience (surname-not-yet-created) is the MC and a maid in one of the steampunk stories I want to write and of which I have a couple of scenes.

  1. What is their secret desire?

Although she outwardly strives for adventure and wouldn’t say no to the job of travelling into the atmosphere, Patience is actually quite shy and very afeared towards the monster aboard The Mallard cosmic train. Her secret desire is probably a simple one: to have a family and not be a servant her entire life, even if the alternative is ‘serving’ as a mother (!). Thus, it’s natural that she forms a bond with similar-minded family-orientated Milo so quickly. It’s not insta-love (in which I don’t believe), but I have seen this sort of bond form in real life, so I know it is possible to transfer to characters.

  1. What is the best and brightest moment they experience during the story?

Probably kissing Milo. I mean, getting to travel to space is awesome and all, but to meet a fellow mind and to go through mystery with him is something that Patience will never experience in her life again. Hair flowing against the backdrop of stars…

File:Messier 5 Hubble WikiSky.jpg
Messier 5 stars, as seen through the Hubble telescope. Wikipedia commons

 

  1. What are the emotional places your characters are afraid to go to?

As an orphaned only-child, Patience can be quite shielded at times. Not one of those dramatic leading ladies who struggles to bond because her parents were unfair or abusive or, conversely, over-soft, but nevertheless someone who doesn’t share her mind so much when it comes to serious matters. Her parents were not overly-strict or overly-caring, so she appears to not miss them so much. I think she could open her heart to her childhood, though – not be afraid to admit that she wasn’t a working girl her entire life.

  1. Is there a place/city/room where they will never go?

Patience will probably never get to travel. At least: to the other side of Earth. Even when her contract with The Mallard ends, she will probably go back into service (unless Queen Victoria enlists another such contraption) and thus will be confined to England. Patience is not a lady’s maid – hence why she was dispensable yet reliable – so she doesn’t get to travel to other Earth countries with her mistress. I suppose that answers the question, even though I haven’t really thought out much of Patience’s ‘backstory’ yet.

  1. If they were permanently leaving town, what would they easily throw out? What would they refuse to part with?

She easily throws out her outfits and miscellaneous bits and bobs that she held on to when she worked in her household. These little items – like an acorn seed her first sweetheart gave her – keep her sane on nights when her family are demanding, but when Patience realises that she has a chance to move into a new field of work as a server on The Mallard she doesn’t see the need for trinkets of nature and fabric. Will she reject this move? That’s a question I’ll be asking myself.

Patience has a necklace that belonged to her mother, a small silver cross. She never takes it off, even though it gets broken over the course of the novella. She’d definitely refuse to part with it, due to sentimental value, and her parents’ once-religiosity. It has past and a kind of fortune.

Sweet Dreams

  1. What do they want (consciously and tangibly)?

Patience would rather like to spend some time at the seaside, perhaps trying fish delicacies and lending her hand at gutting the fish. She doesn’t want a fisherwoman’s life over being a maid to a small household, but she’d like to try something different for a while, as she’s getting a little bored of routine and safety. Figures.

  1. On the other hand: what do they need (on the emotional, subconscious level)?

Patience could probably do with some modest restraint. She’s not one of the sharper-tongued MCs I’ve written, but she still has an outspoken streak, even going so far as to question why her mistress sold a ring to pay for Patience to be one of the servers travelling to space.

  1. If they could change one thing about themselves, what would it be?

She doesn’t have the best self-confidence. I know Patience would like her mystery-solving skills to be better based on logic, when she doesn’t realise that she’s actually good at inference mystery and, well, snooping and silent wandering.

Nor, for that matter, does she have the best sense of humour. She’s a serious young woman– though, luckily, not to the point of being the straight man whom I wouldn’t be able to write.

  1. What is the most humiliating event of their life?

Being a servant, she has experience many humiliating moments. Her employers – well, her mistress – are rather demeaning, as was the way for servants. There were many life lessons she learnt about working in a busy household as she grew up, many slip-ups, literal and figurative.

  1. What things do they turn to when they need a bit of hope?

Back on Earth, Patience was friends with a younger maid, Marie, who, although lovely, was the lowest in the social hierarchy, and, as such, a bit of a drip. In orbit, however, Patience cannot turn to her absent friend, and she trusts no one but Milo onboard the lethal vessel. On the other hand, she is known to the driver for her love of almond cake and gingerbread pudding from the dining car.

Look, Cait, food for you! Hope you all enjoyed my Beautiful People post for March. I certainly learnt a lot about the backstory and past of my newest MC. Readers, don’t forget to check out the other writers who have participated in this month’s Beautiful People posting.

Steampunk Spotlight: Folly Blaine

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.

A capuchin monkey. Cute, eh?

 

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 🙂

Find Folly Blaine on Twitter. You can learn more about her on her blog about page, Maybe it was the Moonshine.

Steampunk Spotlight: AG Carpenter

*bounces off walls* Hullo, readers. D’you remember that Steampunk Spotlight I created, like, a couple of months ago? Well, I have another steampunk author on the wings here – the lovely AG Carpenter. Follow her blog and Twitter for all her updates. What I love best about this interview is actually its length and the depth AG goes into when thinking about steampunk. I particular like her thoughts on the individual versus society and how that is brought into steampunk fiction.

Steampunk watch
Steampunk watch

What inspired you to start writing Steampunk novels and novellas?

Comic books. I was reading a lot of graphic novels at the time and really enjoyed Mike Mignola’s HellBoy series, and the dark and disturbing League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore. I didn’t even know what kind of subgenre to put them in, but I was very much in love with the alternate history meets speculative technology aspects of those works and I thought “I could write something like this.” But I hadn’t even heard Steampunk, so I spent five years or so tossing around an “alternative history” idea before one of my beta-readers said “This is probably Steampunk.” Which gave me a specificity in abiding by or breaking all the tropes that have developed within that sub-genre. I love tropes and digging in deep on one or two and then turning them on their heads.

Does your writing process differ between writing Steampunk stories and other speculative stories?

Not really. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been writing speculative fiction, but the “what if?” elements invariably are there to help me highlight some part of the story and the characters. So, when I choose a setting it’s based off ‘what will best highlight this story?’ Sometimes it’s space opera, sometimes it’s straight fantasy, sometimes it’s steampunk.

I have a fondness for Steampunk on a visual level because it has an aesthetic that appeals to me, but not every story works with corsets and cogs.

hellboy4_lgAlt-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?

The advent of steam power changed labor in our world in a permanent way. We’ve since moved on to other types of engines and power, but the groundwork was laid in steam. It made agrarian work easier, and enabled a system where things could be mass-produced. Cloth, for example. And carpets. Typewriters, sewing machines, light bulbs. All of these things that needed mass-production in order to survive as household necessities. Steam made available and affordable – a different class of living even for the poverty class.

It also meant a decline in specialty and artisan trades and the training that went along with it. The industrial working class was more utilitarian because anyone could be trained to run a machine. Even a child. So, we gained better living conditions, but lost some of the individuality we’d had previously.

That’s something that Steampunk draws on pretty heavily, I think. The clash of individual against society, the march of progress that is also regressive, the loss of the old ways in the face of a new conformity. These are ideas that Dieselpunk, Cyberpunk, etc build on, but the changes are, in some ways, never going to be as drastic as the advent of steam. (Computers, of course, have drastically changed the way we can interact as individuals. But I’m not entirely certain the changes have improved society to the same extent as we see with the Industrial Age. The improvements are less striking. To me, anyway. I still use a pen and paper to draft parts of my work, so I’m old fashioned in that sense.)

Chris_sepia5
The Industrial Age. (Or just an excuse to display this photo 😉 )

How did you go about building your Steampunk world? Were any aspects stronger/more well formed than others when you started writing?

I started with the basic idea that I was looking at a particular time period (1888. And, yes, for exactly the reason you’re thinking.) And the knowledge that magic had been predominant, but the development of Steam as an energy source was bringing Science back to the foreground.

Then I wrote a story. A really bad draft that was exhilarating at the time, but makes me cringe to look at now. But I knew I had the bones of a story I liked so I started working on it to make it better.

As I went, I started solidifying more about the world. Ireland was never conquered by the English because it was a stronghold of the magic folk and they beat back Crom and his attempts to appropriate Ireland. Crom was afraid of magic and science and had plunged Britain into a sort of dark ages because of it, but traces of that prejudice have remained ingrained on the British folk. And most of the technology used to be driven by springs and magic, but is now being transformed into less refined steam-driven technology.

Each of those little revelations occurred as the story came together, so it wasn’t an immediate vision of the world I was working in. More of a connect-the-dots affair. Which is always fun, because it kept me interested even when I was working on what seemed like the zillionth draft.

Do you participate in other parts of the Steampunk genre/lifestyle or only the writing side of Steampunk? 

At this point it’s only the writing side. Because money and I’m not especially crafty. I drool over all the nifty things – laptops and desks and clothes – but it’s not a practical addition to my life at this point.

I can certainly concur with that point! Any advice to readers and/or writers just getting into the Steampunk genre?

When I was first working on the Steampunk Novel I put some of the chapters up for feedback on a particular writing forum. I was feeling my way through writing a novel and refining my storytelling skills and needed some solid critique to help me find the weaknesses in my craft. Which can be a bit of a brutal way to learn how to write fiction, but the publication world is not for the thin-skinned. Some of the comments I got told me that I shouldn’t have magic in a Steampunk story. Or that I needed more of certain tropes. Or that the voice of the story didn’t fit the genre. They wanted more like Peake and Dickens and I’m less wordy and less conversational than either of those, despite loving their work.

I was pretty discouraged for a while and actually put that first novel aside because I thought maybe I couldn’t write in the genre. But I poked around a little more and looked at more examples – and back at the things that had originally inspired me – and eventually I realized that just because Steampunk is a sub-genre and has particular tropes, it doesn’t mean there’s not room for new work. I couldn’t let what someone else expected from me control what I wanted to write.

It’s that whole “To thine own self be true” adage and it’s scary. I’ve come to realize that I will probably always write about magic and really bad things will always happen to my characters and there will always be some doubt about whether or not my characters will make it to the end of the book alive, let alone live happily ever after. But they will be my stories and that is more important than just writing what someone else wants me to write.

So, that’s my advice. If you want to write a specific thing (Steampunk or Contemporary Thriller or whatever) then find out what it’s made of, then write the story you want to write. Even if it doesn’t seem like it hits all the same notes as what has already been written, there is always room for new work. Always.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film cast

Magic is awesome, though. 🙂 Tell us a little about your journey to getting an agent.

I started my Agent Quest in December of 2012. Over the next ten months I sent out a lot of queries. A lot. And I got a satisfactory number of partial and full requests, but no offers, just a steady stream of “Not quite right for me.”

In July of 2013 I received an invitation to Revise and Resubmit. I was excited. I got a long email from the agent with notes on things they wanted changed. Some of them I agreed with and some I didn’t, but that’s part of the editorial process. I spent four weeks revising and sent the new MS back.

Then came the rejection. It was not just a rejection, it was detailed and criticized things that had not been brought up previously. Things that had to do with writing style, the voice of the book, and my writing craft in general. I was… gutted. And angry.

I went back through my list of possible agents and found one that I had been hesitant to query because there was this rumor that he didn’t rep fantasy. And there were no guidelines on the single webpage for his agency. But my gut said “This guy.” So I sent just the query and told myself I’d give it another couple of months and then maybe it would be time to move on.

Four minutes later I got a response. Please send me the full manuscript. After I stopped doing my victory-dance-in-my-desk-chair, I sent the MS and settled in for a wait.

About two weeks later I got a phone call in the middle of the afternoon from a number I didn’t recognize. When I answered a cheerful fellow on the other end identified himself as Bob Mecoy and said he’d read my manuscript and loved it. He wanted to know if I could tell him more about the “potential sequels” I’d mentioned in my query. We exchanged a few more emails, had a long phone call about another round of revisions to the novel and suddenly I had an agent.

I know you didn’t ask for advice here, but I will say that if anyone is thinking about finding an agent you really shouldn’t give up. I see stories about folks who turn to self-publishing or the small press route after receiving only a handful of rejections from agents. And those are both valid options for many folks, but if you really think having an agent represent your work is the best option for you, don’t give up on it. You put time and effort into writing your novel, do the same for finding an agent.

SO true. Tell us something interesting about your Novel. 

The magic in the Steampunk Novel is essentially energy that is manipulated by sound. But it’s not merely spoken or even sung. It’s an enharmonic manipulation where there is a base tone and a melody tone sung at the same time. (YouTube has some pretty fantastic videos of “throat” or “overtone” singing.)

The fantastic detail of the magic is the use of words in multitone singing, of which I’ve not found any examples in real overtone singing. But the singing itself is absolutely real. (And amazing. Seriously. Check out YouTube.)

Okay. For your pleasure, readers:

Thanks for giving such an insight into your writing processes and steampunk-ness, AG!

My PhotoA.G. Carpenter writes fiction of (and for) all sorts. Her work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Abyss & Apex, Stupefying Stories and Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls. She prefers Die Hard to When Harry Met Sally and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly over Animal House. Her favorite color is black. Repped by Bob Mecoy.

Into the World of ‘H’

As you know, I’m currently ploughing through CampNaNoWriMo – all your wordcounts belong to me! – and, unlike last year…or, actually, unlike any of the other times I’ve tried writing challenges…I am writing straight onto my laptop instead of having to write on a physical notebook first (FYI, I still haven’t completely typed up DMWT from last year’s CampWriMo/trip to Uganda). In a way, this both heightens and releases the pressure.

I’ve currently written 35K, and am on chapter 16, but, due to the mishap with my laptop, I had to write on my phone for four days, so, whilst it felt like I skipped through the 20s merrily, I believe I am behind on the 2K-a-day trial. To add to that, I’m holidaying with a friend in Suffolk – we arrived yesterday – so I have no set writing times as I would when at home.

As with a lot of my writing at the moment, I’m going for a facetious tone, but trying to keep the heroine from being outspoken, as that would not suit her. I’m going to share a couple of extracts, to give you a glimpse into this fantasy/alternate history world, featuring an infected leech bite, a storm, and a dormant volcano. And that’s just in chapters 12 to 16.

NOW I get why Atlantis has always been my favourite Disney film

Who among you negotiates?

The language of the novel is vital. Well, not only is it something I love, but it shows their Steampunk world in more detail – how each character ought to interact, particularly that of the MC, since her actual words are often filled with more eloquence than her internal monologue.

Deal or no, if they arranged no posited lodgings with the lady, the sky would be pocked by nightfall and all hopes of survival in the alien wasteland would be dashed.

At least Cathy was not alone in her sympathies. In their quick exchanges, Amelia and Jonathon were demanding of the captain some little element. Cathy heard very little of the hisses – but the words lodgings, night, and help, even if they were imagined, warmed her chest.

“Lady,” the captain called, “I simply mean to ask if you would give us lodging for the night until we can fetch supplies for the journey to Rome.”

Silence. Even through the distance, no one would mistake that close-lipped smile marring the woman’s features.

Eventually – a mere minute dragged in desperation – Petite Victoria drew her fingers away and unstuck her dark lips. “Pray, who among you negotiates the treaties of sleep with strangers?”

Before he might speak and throw the entire operation, Cathy jolted a hand onto the captain’s arm, despite lunging across Amelia and Jonathon.

“Please,” she hissed to him. “Let me talk with her. I know their native language, after all.”

Ignoring the petulant half-snort that came from Jonathon, Captain Moorcombe nodded, and said to Petite Victoria, “You may have your time with the lady Cathleen.”

~

A device for seeing and finding…

Of course, every stereotype of Steampunk is metal cogs and airships, and, whilst that’s not something I completely abhor, I’d rather step away from the typical before it becomes another overdone trope. However, one can’t help admit that those items affect the aesthetic, and, done well, are one of the integral legs of identifying a Steam piece.

The woman gave Cathy a dry smile. This close, the eyepiece – or, rather, the lady’s eye – was inescapable. The metal was too light, too polished to be copper or brass, but, at the same time, it looked as if it had been crafted from the alloys of old, and that was an accomplishment, considering how the metal writhed and squirmed around the organic flesh.

Cathy blinked. Staring at the rooted disk made her own pupils ache by association. Still, that didn’t stop her stretching her fingertips to it. Quite what she was doing, she had no idea.

Petite Victoria halted, but she threw up her head, and connected eyepiece with Cathy’s fingers without a word. She needed none – her chin declared her pride at bearing the mechanical incision.

To the touch, the disk stank of alloy. Under that, the layer of charcoaled cogs rotated anticlockwise – clicking in the wind’s breath, they operated a chain of smaller and smaller winding cogs, down to the pupil itself, which had belonged to her in a previous life.

Now, however, the bottle-green of her right eye had been carved away and polished into a gemstone lock.

Victoria’s eye was no eye. It was a device for seeing and finding, for spotting and destroying.

~

Even that simple move had escaped her.

I can’t call it adventure for nothing. Yes, it involves a lot of travel and a handful of contagonists, acting for their own, not-mentioned purposes, who happen to cross the path of my MC. The stakes are high for the MC, who just wants to find where her fiancé has disappeared to, but the world into which she finds herself plunged is one of revolt and secrets.

Cathy struggled against the netting fabric, which cut unflattering lines into her face. She turned, but that did nothing to alleviate the awkward position into which she’d managed to fall. Although her petticoats were doing their best to cover her modesty, her ankles stuck into the top of the netting like two pillars in the skyline.

She fought to drag her feet down from their height, but even that simple move had escaped her. Whilst she moved her wrists and fingers like any other day, they’d barely dragged down her legs, one by one. She splayed them again – but she’d manicured her nails into square, polite shapes, and they’d lost any of their ability to cut. Not that Miriam would’ve been pleased by the idea of her former student, a young lady, slashing with her own humane fingernails.

Forget her. Miriam wasn’t here; she wasn’t the one finding a way from the tight spaces of the net. Cathy took a deep breath, surprised when her chest howled in pain from the corset jamming her ribs and breasts in all the wrong ways.

Smart footsteps – no urchin or shop owner afforded to pay for the types of metallic steel that lined this man’s boots enough to click as he rounded the corner cobbles – neared, and Cathy found herself holding her breath. She didn’t even know from where the anxiety rose. The thought of The Passing, perhaps? From this direction, the sun shone obvious and semi-circular over the Thames eastbank. It hadn’t even set fully, and she was already pulling worries from the frantic edges of her mind.

That’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed peeking into the scenery of my NaNo adventure.

Extolling the Virtues of Steampunk Subgenres


UprightTable2_AlexB

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.

Wow…

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.

Steampunky Love

It seems that I will have one of those months where I write consecutive posts one week, but fail to get anything in the next. I’m very sporadic and crazy at the moment. As I did say, I am trying to revise for my exams, so I have been putting my entire collection of ideas on the back burner.

Anyway, I promised a snapshot of my crazy, steampunk ghosts dream. Whilst I have a proper chapter of the new novel idea, it tracks into the 3.5K words; therefore, I’ve just delivered a snapshot of what I wrote. Enjoy!

TableClock_AlexB

The click of Alexander’s heels together raised her face from her hands. He slid from the sitting chair to the wooden floor. His fingers worked at a hidden bolt, a hidden trapdoor of which only Charles’ best occupants knew. Alexander wandered down the steps onto the Evening Platform, a platform-balcony of wooden boards and struts spanning the length of the conservatory – and, rightly, on which it balanced – and Cathy, determined not to creep with her tail between her legs, followed.

“Where are you going, Alexander?”

He’d strode to the square opening in the middle of the platform, from which dropped a stiff, vertical ladder of raw iron rungs. Alexander descended. Smugly.

“You cannot stay another night in New York without your four bags. Yes, I counted.”

Cathy huffed. She didn’t care that she travelled heavy. “I’ll get them after The Passing.”

“No, you shan’t. No woman should walk at night…lest words be spoken.”

Alexander was halfway across Charles’ outer court before Cathy had pushed herself onto the well-traversed steel ladder. She clamped a boot on the rung above hers where it clanged as it landed. “I’ll be comfortable without my bags.”

“I do not mind. My pleasure.”

This time, Cathy bit her lip so the taste of blood fuelled her. Far from his stubborn dismissal of her all afternoon, she fumed at his audacity to risk his life against the post-dusk for the retrieval of her bags.

No. She unwound the heel of her boot from the iron rung and jumped to the ground. Flakes of mud rose to her gown hem.

“Alexander, you shan’t.”

He spun, and Cathy almost crumbled under his fierce glare. “I shall do what I please, thank you, Miss.”

She took one step back, as if the force of his words had smacked her across the face. Certainly, her weak-womaned form made her a lesser creature (in his eyes…in the world’s eyes), but Cathy still curled together her hands. She didn’t understand his need to fetch her items for her.

With one last look of disdain, Alexander spun. He fixed his thumbs into his pocket-edges and stormed through the wooden sidegate.

Fine. She didn’t need him. Not like that. Cathy shifted her hands onto her hips and sashayed back to the scaffolding structure under the conservatory. Well, almost. She’d just checked her gloves (had Charles even seen the mess the iron rungs shed onto ladies’ white fingers?) when her breath caught in her throat, crystallised, and spewed out of her mouth in a broken rush.

Coldness. More than coldness: water-bare, lifeless coldness from her toes to the strand of hair falling across her forehead. Cathleen Worth-Hamilton raised her eyes to the entrance of Charles’ complex.

Heads and hands materialised at the far gate. First, blue lips puckered through the atmosphere, then a nose more beak than skin, and eyes as pinpricks. Cathy wilted. They’d come. The first phantasma drifted in the shape of an elderly women, her white hair stained by the darkness. It had taken no more than a metre’s way before another pulled through the air, this an apparition of maybe eleven with her grey hair loose around her shoulders. A male phantasm followed them, a young man of Alexander’s age, perhaps.

Alexander. With The Passing hitting every New York abode, he’d be caught in the way. If he didn’t move fast enough to a platform with distance between it and the floor, the ghosts would Pass through his soul.

“Cathy!” Charles called. When had he climbed out onto the balcony? “You must move. Now!”

She shook her head. Unnatural fear smudged through her body, rooting her to her place.

Charles’ gloved fingertips weren’t even close to her shoulder. “Take my hand.”

“Alexander’s out there.”

~

Five Fantasy Faces

Yes, I know, I’ve had a lot of wordy posts recently and am drafting a couple of new ones, so here’s a change of pace: I was tagged by Jae to create my circle of five fantasy faces. These are the personalities of the five people you would surround yourself with and bleed into your own self.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

fantasycirclelitandscribbles

The Doctor

I recent have been going through a Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) phase, but each Doctor has his own quirks and mannerisms. I particularly have an interest in the way each one speaks and uses specific phrases (think: Ten’s “allonz-y!”). Jae herself chose David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor and I can’t blame her. He’s probably my favourite Doctor for his mad eccentricity. And the fact that I have shoes like his. He is the imitatable Doctor.

"Shut up, I'm deducting." Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor plays Holmes in the Christmas special 2012
“Shut up, I’m deducting.”
Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor plays Holmes in the Christmas special 2012

Hercule Poirot

DSuchetGoogleThe only person on this list with a wonderful moustache! The former Belgium police officer now working as a private detective, of sorts, in the glossy part of London was an obvious inclusion for my fictional five circle more for his brilliance than his eccentric nature. I was inspired by Agatha Christie as a child, but now Poirot means more than mystery to me. He himself is an unique individual who only comes around once in a while.

(Link to the Wikipedia page, packed with fascinating information for if you’re a Poirot-lover like I am.)  

Sherlock Holmes

Jeremy-Brett-Sherlock-Holmes-sherlock-holmes-6544320-500-445Although I do champion Jeremy Brett’s Holmes over Benedict Cumberbatch’s interpretation, I love the eccentricity of both and the mannerisms of each, showing just how incredible a character Holmes is. He’s so versatile to portray, and yet, at the base of every actor’s ideas, there is still that integral image of the Victorian gentleman, eccentric enough to create the title of ‘unofficial consulting detective’ to pay his rent. Like the best of characters, Holmes is not perfect, and his cocaine addiction is one thing I would want to keep away from myself. Nevertheless, the way he conducts his cases and theories of detection are so novel that I would keep him here to try and aid him if not anything else.

Professor Layton

He may not even have a physical actor to portray him, but Professor Hershel Layton has incredible charm, from his dulcet, Victorian tones, to his intriguing mystery-solving skills and incredible top hat (or vice versa the adjectives!). This is one person I’d happily spend hours with, in the hope that a least a few of his mannerisms and some of his wit, gentlemanly conduct and intellect rub off on me.

And he can fence. It’s a winning combination:

Sheldon Cooper

Being a student of Psychology, I am fascinated by behaviour – especially that of those who have disorders. Although never diagnosed, Sheldon Cooper of the show The Big Bang Theory is a good example of Asperger’s Syndrome. Frankly, I find his blunt honesty and hygiene obsessions quite reasonable. And since I have half an A-Level in Physics, I would happily listen to his theoretical concoctions. I wouldn’t have much to say in return, but I can imagine myself conversing casually with him. A friend and I have assigned each other characters from The Big Bang Theory and, due to my Biology/Psychology knowledge, I’m Amy, Sheldon’s girlfriend. That works nicely!

sheldon1

“I’m not mad. My mother had me tested.”

And, yes, they’re all men. My sanctum altum would be full of these sorts of men because I don’t get on with fictional women so well.

Now, the people I’ll pass the baton onto to write a post about the five characters they’d surround themselves with: UponAtlasHeartofParadise, and Paigeadams.