Saturday, 30 July 2011

Steampunk Finale

Sad to say, this finally ends our steampunk party - although I have to say I've thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it! Many thanks to all our fabulous and generous guests of honour, Beth Ciotta, Gail Carriger, Kady Cross, Theresa Meyers and Meljean Brook. And thanks to everyone else who came by, either to leave a comment or to lurk in the crowd :).

The next party, 22nd to 26th August, goes a little more steamy and risque, as we celebrate Erotic Romance novels. Hope you'll be there too, because we've got some more great guests lined up. Keep checking back for details!

Marie

Friday, 29 July 2011

Welcome Meljean Brook!

A little later than scheduled, but we're thrilled to have her with us last - the fabulous Meljean Brook, who has moved heaven and earth to get to us in the end! Welcome to the party, Meljean!


Steampunk – What it Isn’t

Hi, everyone, and thanks to Marie for the invite! Thankfully I’ve finally got my head together enough to be here!

I feel like a lot of the posts I write about steampunk are trying to explain what it is – but this time, I’m going the opposite way, and instead focus on two things that steampunk isn’t. 


 Steampunk isn’t necessarily Victorian. Steampunk can be set in the Victorian-era (even my series is a pseudo-Victorian period) but it doesn’t have to be. Other time periods are fine – other worlds are fine. Steampunk can be set in Feudal Japan, it can be set before (or during, or after) the European colonization of Africa, or before the conquest of the Americas. Anywhere, anywhen. The important bit is the steam, and writers can set an industrial revolution or technological advancement anywhere in history that they like. It’s science fiction, after all. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the appeal of the Victorian aesthetic and era. Oh, those corsets. All of that gorgeous tightened-and-buttoned-up clothing, just waiting to burst open. And I think that most writers in the West are probably most familiar with the Industrial Revolution in the west, and the effects of culture in that particular era/locations. But, it doesn’t have to be Victorian – which is a claim that I hear a lot regarding steampunk, and which isn’t necessarily true. 

Steampunk isn’t wimpy. Whatever tone is taken with a steampunk work – light and frivolous, serious and dark – it isn’t a wimpy genre. There is the ‘punk’ aspect to consider, after all. That doesn’t mean every author/artist will make a full-on challenge of or comment on every political, social, gendered, racial, cultural, etc., aspect of their world, but as 21st century readers, writers, and artists referencing historical eras that are ripe for those challenges, we can’t ignore them, either. If a woman has no rights, it’s not enough to shrug it off and say: Ah, well, that’s the way things were back then. Modern steampunk writers are smart enough to address this  . . .  usually by making their heroines rebel against those constraints, or by pointing out other injustices and evils and recognizing the injustice and evil in them.

Steampunk can be an awesome way to give a voice to many, many people who didn’t have one, to show a different side of history through 21st century goggles. It doesn’t have to do that, and it definitely doesn’t have to preach about it, but anyone writing in this genre is essentially taking history’s balls, and giving them a little twist. Throw in adventure and mad science on top of that, and you’ve got a genre that isn’t for the faint of heart.

So I’m curious – is there anything that you think that steampunk isn’t?


From chapter two of HEART OF STEEL (November 2011) This includes spoilers for THE IRON DUKE. Yasmeen has a valuable sketch on board her airship, which once belonged to a man that she threw overboard into a mob of zombies.



Barker took his leave after finishing the drink Yasmeen owed him, but she stayed on, nursing hers until they were warm. Some nights in a tavern were meant for drinking, and others were meant for listening. Fortunately, nothing she heard suggested that word of the sketch had gone beyond Mattson and Kessler. She turned down one job—a run to the Ivory Market along the Gold Coast of Africa. Lucrative, but he hadn’t been willing to wait until she returned from England, and she wasn’t inviting anyone onto her airship before the sketch was in the Iron Duke’s fortress.
She hadn’t always been able to turn down jobs. Now, she had enough money that she could be choosy when she took on a new one. Even without the fortune that would come after selling the sketch, she could retire in luxury at any time—as could her entire crew.
She never would.
Midnight had gone when Yasmeen decided she’d heard enough. She emerged from the dim tavern into the dark and paused to light a cigarillo, studying the boardwalk along the docks. It was just as busy at night as during the day, but the crowd was comprised of more drunks. Some slumped against the buildings or slept beside crates. Groups of sailors laughed and pounded their chests at the aviators—some of them women, Yasmeen noted, and not one of them alone. The shopgirls and lamplighters walked in pairs, and most of the whores did, too.
Yasmeen sighed. Undoubtedly, she’d soon be teaching some drunken buck a lesson about making assumptions when women walked alone. 
She started toward the south dock, picking out Lady Corsair’s sleek silhouette over the harbor. Familiar pride filled her chest. God, her lady was such a beauty—one of the finest skyrunners ever made, and she’d been Yasmeen’s for almost thirteen years now. She knew captains who didn’t last a month—some who weren’t generous toward their crew, or not strict enough to control them. Some who were too careful to make any money, or too careless to live through a job.
She’d made money, and she’d lived through hundreds of jobs during the French war with the Liberé: scouting, privateering, moving weapons or personnel through enemy territory, destroying a specified target. Both the French and the Liberé officers sneered when she’d claimed that her only loyalties were to her crew and the gold, but they used her when they didn’t have anyone good enough or fast enough to do what she could.
Then the war had ended—fizzled out. All of the same animosities still simmered, but there wasn’t enough gold left in the treasuries to pay for it. So Yasmeen had left the New World, returned back across the Atlantic, and carved out her niche by taking almost any job for the right money.
Lately, that meant ferrying passengers over Horde territory in Europe and Africa—a route that most airships-for-hire would never take. Sometimes she acted as a courier, or she partnered with Vesuvius when Mad Machen carried cargo that needed airship support, fighting off anyone who tried to steal it from them.
A routine life, but still an exciting one—and the only kind of settling down that she would ever do.
Yasmeen flicked away her cigarillo, smiling at her own fancy. Routines, excitement, and a particular version of settling down. She’d have to record that thought and send it to Zenobia—along with an account of the little excitement that was about to take place. 
Someone was following her.
A man had been trailing her since she’d left the tavern. Not some drunken idiot stumbling into a woman walking alone, but someone who’d deliberately picked her out—and if he’d seen her in the tavern, he must know who she was.
But he must not be interested in killing her. Anyone could have shot her from this distance. Instead he tried to move in closer, using the shadows for cover. He needed lessons in stalking. Her pursuer paused when she did, and though he tried for stealth by tiptoeing, his attempts only made him more obvious. Of course, he couldn’t know that Yasmeen was at her best during the night—and that she had more in common with the cats slinking through the alleys than the lumbering ape that had obviously birthed him.
She’d only taken a few more steps when he finally found his balls and called her name.
“Captain Corsair!”
The voice was young, and quivering with bravado. He’d either taken a bet at the tavern or was going to ask for a position on her ship. Amused, Yasmeen faced him. A dark-haired boy wearing an aviator’s goggles and short jacket and stood quivering in the middle of the—
Pain stabbed the back of her leg. Even as she whipped around, her thigh went numb. An opium dart. Oh, fuck. She ripped it out, too late. Pumped with this amount, her mind was already spinning. Hallucinating. A drunkard rose from a pile of rags, wearing the gaunt face of a dead man.
No, not a drunkard. A handsome liar.
Archimedes Fox.
Yasmeen fumbled for her guns. Her fingers were enormous. He moved fast—or she was slow. Within a blink, he caught her hands, restrained her with barely any effort.
She’d kill him for that.
“Again?” he asked, so smooth and amused. “You’ll have to try harder.”
The bastard. She hadn’t tried at all. And though she tried now, she sagged against him, instead—and for a brief moment, wondered if she’d fallen against a zombie. Each of his ribs felt distinct beneath her hands.
But zombies didn’t swing women up into their arms. And they didn’t talk.
“My sister sends her regards,” he said against her cheek. “And I want my sketch.”
“I’d have let you have it.” She couldn’t keep her eyes open. Her words slurred. “You just had to ask.”
“Liar,” he said softly. “You’d never have given it back.”
Ah, well. He was right about that. But he might have been able to talk her down to forty percent. She began to make the offer, but couldn’t form the words. 
Blissful darkness swirled in and carried her away.


Today Meljean is generously giving away TEN packs of trading cards featuring her characters (See Rhys and Mina above), AND a copy of the anthology Wild and Steamy (out next week), which contains a short Iron Seas novella by Meljean. To enter the contest, answer Meljean's question above: Is there anything you think that steampunk isn't? Or comment on her post in some other way. The contest will close at midnight tonight and the winners will be announced tomorrow on this thread.

Welcome Theresa Meyers!

Today we're joined by the very talented Theresa Meyers, whose first steampunk novel comes out in November. Here she is to tell us all about it. Welcome back, Theresa!




The curious thing about steampunk is that most people aren’t aware that they’ve secretly liked it because they didn’t know such a thing had a name. That was me.

In high school my mother had one rule about formals for school dances, if I wanted one, I had to sew it myself. Since I’d been good friends with my sewing machine since age 8, this wasn’t such a hindrance as an opportunity. Most of my formals ended up with a lot of Victorian flair. There was even an over-skirt and bustle on one!

I also happen to be a hopeless tea addict with a collection of teapots and a taste for tea from Whittard’s of Chelsea, thanks to a friend who lived in London for a few years. I have always been fascinated by Victorian architecture and clothing. Other little girls asked their mothers for calendars featuring fluffy kittens or cute puppies. I wanted the one that was Victorian houses, complete with floor plans. I also subscribed as a teen to the magazine Victoriana and live in a “new” Victorian house. (So really, you see really this is something that’s been brewing beneath the surface for some time now.)

So when I came up with an idea about a trio of brothers in the Wild West who were supernatural Hunters in 1998, I didn’t actually realize I was writing steampunk. All of them were named after their father’s favorite guns: Winchester, Remington and Colt. I knew that the oldest was a lawman, the middle brother an attorney and the youngest a gunslinger/outlaw.

What I didn’t know is how they fit together, their history of how they became what they were. Fast forward ten years. In watching the television show Supernatural, I began to think, hey what would it have been like to have these hunters in the West or Victorian times? How would they have functioned, who would they have been, would they have had a secret society that trained them? I merged that idea with my brothers and found out what I had was a Steampunk story-line.

My brothers are hunters in the Weird Wild West. They have an inventor friend who creates and maintains the unusual weapons they use to find and hunt down demons, shapeshifters, ghosts, vampires and the like. My youngest brother rides a mechanical clockwork horse. I have a vampire Countess who has a dirigible. Applying the Steampunk aesthetic to my book made it so much better! It was like finding the missing jigsaw piece that made the whole thing work. The whole series has come together in three books called The Legend Chronicles and the first one, The Hunter, will be out in Nov. 2011, followed by The Slayer in April 2012 and The Chosen in early 2013.

Now I have had some people say, wait, you can’t set steampunk in the West. Actually yes, you can. While the word Victorian makes people think of England, the truth was it was an era that lasted for almost 70 years. The fantastic thing about the steampunk aesthetic is that it is so completely versatile. From Far East to Wild West, you can create settings and characters that are anywhere in any decade of the Victorian era (for that matter even outside that time if you look at H.G. Well’s Time Machine). That said, there are a number of character archetypes you can use when creating costumes or ideas of your own.

Some of the most common character archetypes found in Steampunk include: Adventurer, Airship Captain, Aviator/Aviatrix, Aristocrat, Cardsharp, Cowboy, Dandy, Explorer (which is different from Adventurer because they are more specific in their pursuit, like an archeologist or botanist), Femme Fatale/Soiled Dove, Hunter/Fighter, Inventor, Mad Scientist, Lolita, Mechanic, Military Man/Woman, Pirate, Professor, Reporter, Snakeoil Salesman, Suffragette, Tycoon (different than aristocrat because these are the garish new rich who have working class roots and like to flaunt their wealth.)

So how do you make these archetypes fresh? One way is by putting them in different settings. For example by taking a typical archetype and blending it in with an unusual setting, you could certainly see how a Femme Fatale in China might come across as a Dragon Lady or a Dandy in the Wild West might have a more Southern Gentlemen styling to his clothing. A Snakeoil Salesman in Australia would be very different from one in the American West. And a Lolita in Russia will likely look very different from one in Japan, or even Argentina during this same Victorian era. Are they all equally valid? Absolutely!

For the more outlandish fantasy type archetypes such as airship captain, the country of origin might play into how their ship is constructed and out of what materials. For instance an airship captain from China might be flying something more akin to a junk, while one from Britain might have a three or four-masted barque that flies. Think how different the pirates appeared in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie when they came from all different parts of the world.

You can also blend archetypes. For instance what if you had an inventor who is also a suffragette? What kinds of inventions is she going to create to advance her cause of women gaining the right to vote? How different would a cowboy aviator from your standard aviator?

Steampunk is a world of endless ideas just waiting to be explored. So what about you? If you had to pick a character and dress the part, what would you pick?


Here’s a taste of The Hunter, coming out 11-1-11 from Zebra.

THE HUNTER
by Theresa Meyers
978-1-4201-2124-7
Price is $6.99
Zebra paranormal romance with steampunk elements

They’re the Chosen—Winchester, Remington and Colt—brothers trained to hunt down supernatural beings using the latest steam-powered gadgetry. It’s a hard legacy to shoulder, and it’s about to get a lot more dangerous…

A DEVIL OF A JOB

Colt Jackson has gotten his name on many a wanted poster with success in the family business: hunting supernaturals across the frontier. Lately, though, there’s a sulfur stink in the wind and the Darkin population is exploding. A rift in the worlds is appearing. To close it, Colt will have to do the unthinkable and work with a demon to pass arcane boundaries no human alone can cross.

Except when he summons his demon, he doesn’t get some horned monstrosity: he gets a curvy redheaded succubus named Lilly, who’s willing to make a bargain to become human again. He also gets Lilly’s secret expertise on the machinations on the dark side of the rift. And her charm and cleverness help to get them out of what his silver-loaded pistol and mechanical horse can’t. Of course, when all hell breaks loose, he might have to sacrifice his soul. But what’s adventure without a little risk?

*


Everything in the little mining town turned ice hub in Arizona Territory seemed coated with a ghostly layer of grit, even the chipped crystal chandeliers overhead. He felt the grit in his lungs and in his nostrils. It stunk of putrid eggs and worse, probably from the smoke stacks billowing white outside against an endless cerulean sky. He picked up his smeared, nearly empty glass of ice water leaving behind a dark ring in the pale dust on the scarred, liquor sticky table.

Hell, the only reason he’d stopped in Wickenburg in the first place was for the ice. Ever since the mines deep in the desert had flooded out, and ingenious businessmen replaced the old rock crushers with steam-powered freeze machines, ice had become one of the most profitable commodities next to copper, gold and silver in this special little sizzling corner of hell on earth. He glared at his glass. The ice water had cost him almost as much as a good whiskey.

The lithe blonde saloon girl he’d been eyeing since he walked in strolled toward him across the warped wooden floorboards worn smooth from the sand of so many boots, her hips swaying to the sound of the out-of-tune piano plunking away near the stairs that led up to the rented rooms on the second floor. The cheap glass beading on her dark blue off the shoulder dance hall dress flashed in the illumination of the gaslights overhead creating sparkles to dance along the curves of her pale cleavage.

“Would you like some company, sugar?” Her smile didn’t reach her heavily kohled eyes. She was anywhere between sixteen and thirty. How many men had she had? Worse, did he really care? He wanted the comfort of someone who smelled sweet and womanly. Someone in whose arms he could forget, if only for a few hours, who and what he was.

Colt smiled wide. Enough women had told him his smile was dead gorgeous that he’d learned when to use it to his advantage. He’d dressed with more care than usual tonight, in clean black trousers, a white starched shirt and black brocade vest threaded with a pattern of silver and blue he’d been told matched the blue in his eyes. Seemed the effort had been worth it. “Yes, ma’am.”

She cuddled up beside him, throwing a long leg, bare to the thigh, over his. “So what brings you to Wickenberg, cowboy?”

He slid a hand over her smooth thigh. “Hunting.”

She let out a husky laugh, full red lips tilting up in a come hither pout. “Most men here are lookin’ to strike it rich in ice. But I knew you was different the moment I saw you. In fact, I’ve seen your face before. What’s your name?”

Colt tensed. He worked fairly hard at keeping a low profile, but every now and then a completely unwarranted wanted poster tended to circulate with his likeness. “Colt Jackson.”

“Relax, handsome,” she said, rubbing her hand over his chest, delving beneath the edge of his vest. He felt the heat of her hand through his shirt as her soft fingers stroked right over his heart. “We get outlaws in here all the time.”

Yeah, but Colt seriously doubted they were anything like him. Her constant kneading touch began to drain the tension out of his shoulders, but only a little. His gun hand had started itching the moment he’d stepped into the bar, and his instincts had never steered him wrong before. Something in this little town wasn’t right.

“So are you famous? Are you dangerous?” she asked, her fingers threading through his shock of dark, nearly black hair as she wiggled on his lap. Her perfume was way too strong, and verging on unpleasant. Her skin under all that make up looked dirty. Her blonde hair felt stiff and brittle beneath his fingers and he dropped his hand to her waist feeling whalebone and crisp satin, not silky skin.

“Not exactly,” Colt muttered, finding her less appealing by the moment. “Really more like a modern Robin Hood.” 

Glossy ruby lips pouted. “It’s so much more fun when you’re dangerous.” He realized that it didn’t matter how much he wanted or needed a woman right now, a tumble wasn’t going to give him what he truly wanted and could never have—a home, a place where he belonged. No matter how delectable she looked, she wouldn’t satisfy the deeper craving.

These days nothing could. There wasn’t a way to feed the hunger that gnawed deep down, belly-deep. It bit into his bones and wouldn’t let go. Hunting was a like a drug. Once a man knew supernaturals existed, he saw them everywhere. Once a Hunter knew that those creatures were the cause behind deaths no one else could explain, duty lay heavy on his shoulders.

Once a Hunter started hunting, he couldn’t just stop.

Evil didn’t take a holiday. Hunting wasn’t a profession, it was a way of life.

For an instant he wished he could be like his older brothers, Winchester and Remington, upstanding citizens who didn’t run from place to place even if they too were named after his pa’s favorite guns. While the Jackson brothers looked a lot alike on the outside, with their pa’s jet hair and wide shoulders and their ma’s blue-green eyes and winning smile, they were different as could be on the inside.

Winn was a solid, steady, ordinary man. Remy straddled the line, looking respectable but hunting on the side. But being like Winn and Remy wasn’t his destiny. No, Colt had every intention of living up to the family legend his pa Cyrus “Black Jack” Jackson had started as one of the most notorious outlaws of the western territories, rather than living it down like his brothers. That was the life of a Hunter. Tracking down supernatural monsters one at a time and killing them to make the world a safer place. Winn and Remy may have shirked their responsibilities to the Legion of Hunters, but he never would.

“So tell me somthin’ mister. If you’re a gun slinger where’s your gun?” She snaked a hand down to wrap around the inside of his thigh, rubbing suggestively at his groin and wriggling her bottom into his lap. That got his attention. It’d been a long time since he’d rested long enough to find a woman. If he’d been a less focused man all the blood would have drained out of his brain right then and there regardless of how she’d looked.

With practiced ease she slipped one leg over the far side so she straddled him. The damp heat of her seeped right through his britches. He let out a ragged breath and she pressed forward, her soft breasts pushing against his chest as she skimmed the tip of her soft slick tongue along his neck.

Then he heard it. Right next to his ear. The distinct sudden flick of a vampire’s fangs being extended. He caught a sudden whiff of sulfur so strong it burned.

Colt reared up from the chair, but the vampire clung to him, her smooth legs firmly encasing his middle with the strength of a metal handcuff. Knowing he had only seconds to act, he shoved an arm between them, pushing her away from the blood pumping hard and fast in his neck.

Her face was warped beyond recognition, the brows protruded and bent, the eyes red, feral and hungry, her fangs twin white daggers bracketed by stretched ruby red lips. “Now, hunter, you will die.”

He looked her straight in those red eyes and didn’t flinch. “Ladies first.”

With his free hand he pulled the Stun Shooter from the holster at his hip. A high-pitch keening sound split the air an instant before he shot her point blank in the stomach.

Zzzot.

The arc of bright blue electricity catapulted her to the floor with a thick thud. She writhed and bucked on the floor like a beached fish, smoke curling in a black wisp from between her red lips.

The piano abruptly stopped. Half a dozen screams echoed in the bar as people came up from their crouch on the floor and stared at the barmaid, then at Colt with accusing eyes. Her face had already returned to its human shape. Her fangs retracted as she lay on the floor in a spreading, glistening black pool that leaked from two charred and smoking holes seared straight through her.

Shit. He hadn’t intended for it to kill her, merely stun her senseless. That would teach him to use one of Marley Turlock’s inventions before it was fully cooked. Marley was a brilliant inventor, but sometimes his ambitions outpaced his execution.

Colt knew better than to wait until the town’s people could get their hands on him and string him up on the nearest tree. So he did what any sensible Hunter would do. He ran like hell.


Today, Theresa is giving away an autographed ARC of The Hunter and a hand-made beaded bookmark. To enter, answer Theresa's question above: if you had to pick a character and dress the part, what would you pick? Or comment on her post in some other way. The contest will close at midnight tonight, and the winner will be announced tomorrow on this thread.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Steampunk Art

Well, we've looked at steampunk computers and fashions and crafts, so I thought today I'd post a random selection of steampunk art and lifestyle objects.

First of all, from Wikipedia, check out this illustration, "Maison tournante aérienne" (aerial rotating house) by Albert Robida for his book Le Vingtième Siècle, a 19th-century conception of life in the 20th century.












And here's a rather charming drawing from the Steampunk Magazine:




There are some amazing steampunk sculptures to oggle if not own. I rather like this one, Tim Wetherell's Clockwork Universe sculpture at Questacon, Canberra, Australia (September 24, 2009:

Or this strange object: Paul St George's Telectroscope installation at London City Hall (May 24, 2008):


Any arachnaphobes among us? If so, avert your eyes now from this rather beautiful Steampunk spider!

This is interesting: Decay of Time: steampunk art by Amazon Butterfly on Deviant Art...








And this, also on Deviant Art by darkroastedblend.com - Steampunk Motorcycles


This is rather beautiful: a steampunk art nouveau pendant at kaboodle.com:





This from blog.wingsofsteam.net: myths



artnectar.com:












And I'd love to own this: Steampunk_Watch_Floral_V2_by_Aranwen.jpg
aranwen.deviantart.com









Or go the whole hog with a totally steampunk home! 


In which you would have to have a table like this one at worldsstrangest.com
800 × 395 - Dale Mathis Clockwork Table is apparently a “must-have” for any steampunk furniture collector





So, what do you love or hate out of these? Do you have a particular website or shop where you buy or just  lust after steampunk goodies?

Marie

Welcome Kady Cross!

Please welcome today's brilliant guest of honour, Kady Cross, aka best selling author Kathryn Smith. I'm doubly delighted that Kady's joined us today, because she very kindly stepped in to the party at short notice. Without more ado, welcome, Kady!


Why Doesn't Steampunk Have a Show on HGTV?

Hi there! I'm Kady Cross, author of the Girl in the Steel Corset from Harlequin Teen. I like to consider myself fairly crafty, but I'm rubbish with a sewing machine. I can get by on small projects, but bigger ones... well, let's just say I always seem to bite off more than I can chew when it comes to my inner couturier. I can, however, do some other crafty things that don't seem to vex me quite so much. I can decoupage and solder (a little). I have an assortment of acrylic paints and polymer clays in my basement. I've recently taken up altering shoes.

What does this have to do with Steampunk you ask? Well, one of my favorite aspects of Steampunk culture is that 'do it yourself' attitude that permeates the scene. DIY is encouraged. Go to any Steampunk gathering and you'll see people carrying weapons that they've made out of old lamps, corsets that they made out of tarps, spats made from faux leather, hats that have been labored over for hours... the list goes on. One of my good friends is a bit famous in the community for his inventions -- the kind of stuff way beyond my ability to create.

Probably everyone who is into Steampunk has seen Datamancer's computers and keyboards. Gorgeous! Eric Freitas' clocks blow my mind. Oh, and those Topsy Turvy hats! They're all fabulous and born from an intrinsic artsy/crafty nature. Dr. Grymm's Amelia Earhart and Edgar Allan Poe machines are fully interactive, providing an amazing experience for the participant. When you see the individual pieces that go into creating something like this, you can't help but think - WOW. And then, you realize how easy he made it seem.

I'm no milliner, but I've made a few Victorian/Steampunk hats that I'm quite proud of. I've made some jewelry, and soon I'll make my own spats and alter some footwear -- when my schedule permits. I've yet to tackle sewing a costume, but I have augmented clothing that I have. It's amazing the difference stitching on a few key pieces of metal can make, or the right appliques.

Steampunk craft books are popping up here and there -- showing you how to make jewelry or softies. Some showcase the work of other creators that will make you think you'll never be half so talented. I'm surprised Martha Stewart hasn't jumped on it yet. Hell, there have been Steampunk wedding cakes. Why isn't there a show on HGTV or TLC about DIY Steampunk? Isn't there at least a website or something? I haven't found a thing, but if you know of something please let me know. I think we need a Steampunk craft show for those of us who sometimes need a little outside inspiration, or to showcase our incredibly talented Steampunk family.

I'd love to hear from other people who have made their own Steampunk items. And please feel free to share some of your favorite artists and sites. Thanks so much for stopping by to read my post!



Excerpt from The Girl in the Steel Corset ©Kady Cross

“It’s not safe having her here,” Sam insisted, trying to bash Griff with his will once more. “For her, or for us. We can’t afford to call attention to ourselves not with those…things out there.” His voice cracked on ‘things’. They all heard it. They all ignored it.

He meant the machines. The automatons. Most were perfectly harmless, but there was nothing quite as frightening as metal out of control. That was why Griff had the remains of Sam’s attacker in Emily’s workshop, so they could figure out what had happened to turn an uncomplicated underground railway digger into a murderer. It had attacked five people -- only Sam survived.

“What would you have me do, Sam?” Griff ran a hand through the thick mass of his hair. “Toss her out like rubbish?”

Sam’s mouth opened and Griff knew he was going to suggest just that. Emily jumped in, “You know we can’t keep her for long, lad. She isn’t… one of us.”

Griff’s mouth lifted on one side, a half grin he always got when he thought he was right. “I’m not so sure about that.”

“What does that mean?” Sam scowled. “Why do you have to be so damn cryptic all the time?”
Sam’s frustration was so strong Griff could almost taste it. He’d known the big lad long enough to know when he was spoiling for a fight, and he also knew that physically he was no match. Sam was the strongest person in Britain, perhaps the world. But Griffin had his own powers, that didn’t require brute strength.

He could become one with the Aether, that mysterious indiscernible force that was in everything and everywhere. It was also the realm of the dead – where ghosts existed. It was like another dimension hidden within the normal world. He didn’t know why, but he could feel it in his veins, and when he called it the most terrific power came forth to serve him. All that universal energy filled him, making him feel as though he was part of everything and somehow everywhere. Sometimes it scared him. So much so, that he hadn’t confided any of it to his friends. Nor had he confided just how much he believed the terrible power took from him.

Instead of giving Sam the fight he wanted, Griff turned to Emily, which only annoyed the bigger boy all the more. Wisely though, Sam held his tongue. Emily had been silent all this time, watching and listening. She nodded at him – on his side as he believed she would be.

Did you see how she ran through the park?” He asked Sam.

The large boy scowled. “No. I didn’t notice her at all until we were upon her.”

“Exactly.” Griff’s gaze travelled to each of them as he continued, “One second all was well and the next she was in front of us. I had barely sensed a disturbance in the Aether before I hit her. No normal human could move that fast.”

“What the hell is she then?” Sam demanded, his fists clenched tight at his sides.

Griff shrugged. “I have no idea. But the three of us should find out, shouldn’t we?”

“Cordelia isn’t going to like this,” Emily reminded them. Griff’s aunt wasn’t due back from Yorkshire until the day after tomorrow. She was up there investigating strange circles that had appeared in a farmer’s field.

“It’s not her house, nor her decision,” Griff reminded her.

Emily held his gaze. He’d always admired her backbone. “If she is like us. Then it’s our duty to help her.”

Griff glanced at her. Emily rarely talked about herself as being different. That Griff knew of she had no abnormal abilities other than her uncanny knack for science. Had that changed?

Sam shot her a dark look, then one at Griff as well. “The two of you are too bloody trusting. Being like us doesn’t make her good any more than being metal makes one of those monsters a toaster.”

Griff would have laughed at the absurd comment had the door to the library not burst open at that exact moment. It was the housekeeper, Mrs. Dodsworth.

“What is it?” Griff asked, stepping forward with a frown. The woman was positively white in the face. Had one of the few automated servants left in the house turned on them? After Sam’s attack Griff had decommissioned many of the machines out of consideration for his friend, and for the safety of every living creature under his responsibility.

“It’s the girl you done brought home, Your Grace. I think you should come right away. It’s like she’s got the very devil in her!”

Griff took off running. Emily and Sam followed, chasing him up the stairs to the room where the girl had been left sleeping just a short time ago. A man came flying out of the open doorframe like a child’s toy tossed aside. Sam caught him before he could hit the wall.

“Thank you, Master Samuel,” the footman said in a shaking voice as Sam set him on his feet. “I thought she was going to kill me. She’s like a demon, she is!”

Sam’s mouth tightened as he lifted his gaze to Griff’s. “I told you so..."

*

In her other life Kady Cross is a USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 books. She is lucky enough to have a husband who shares her love for the slightly twisted, and all things geek, and a houseful of cats with whom she shares her darkest secrets.  When she’s not listening to the characters in her head she’s either trying to formulate the perfect lipgloss or teaching herself to solder. She has a weakness for all things girly, sugar skulls, and boots. Her love of books and makeup borders on addiction – from which she never, ever wants to be cured.



Today, Kady is kindly giving away a copy of 1000 Steampunk Creations by Dr. Grymm to one lucky winner who answers her question about homemade steampunk items, or who comments in some other way on her post. The contest will end at midnight tonight, and the winner will be announced tomorrow on this thread.


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Steamside Chronicles

Some of you may have noticed in my early announcements about the Steampunk Party, that one of our guests of honour was to have been Ciar Cullen. Unfortunately, Ciar had to cancel because of unavoidable family business, but having read and loved her steampunk novel, Steamside Chronicles, I thought this morning I'd post the blurb and urge you to check it out :).

STEAMSIDE CHRONICLES
By CIAR CULLEN



Emily Fenwick, formerly with the NYPD, is now the reluctant defender of 1890 New York. Unfortunately for Emily, who hates "the creepy stuff", she ignored her inner voice, went to a carnival in Central Park, and entered a Victorian tent in hopes a psychic would have some encouraging news about her woefully boring love life. The guarantee she received of meeting a tall, dark, and handsome stranger comes with a huge catch - he lives in an alternate dimension of the past.

Jack Pettigrew leads a quirky band of lost souls in a battle to save New York circa 1890. Nightmares have come alive and threaten to terrorize a fragile era. Jack leads the “punks,” who have been sucked back in time through a vortex. Each has a fleeting memory of their own death–or near death–and must determine for themselves why they have been chosen for this mission. Is Steamside their Purgatory? Could an Egyptian obelisk in Central Park be the cause of the time rift, or is Emily herself to blame for the goblins, zombies, and other nightmarish scenes plaguing them?

If the Punks want to return to 2010, they must ensure there’s going to be an 1891. If they conclude they’re really ghosts, then it might be time to party like it’s 1999.


Welcome Gail Carriger!

Today, I'm thrilled to welcome Gail Carriger to the party. I'm a big fan of Gail's  imaginative and humorous Parasol Protectorate series, so I'm doubly delighted she can join us today. Welcome, Gail!



The Archaeology and Evolution of Steampunk Fashion

It's always difficult to pin point the beginning of a style trend. In archaeology we construct Seriation charts which have popularity curves. Think, for example, if you were to excavate jeans over the past 40 years how the popularity of different pant legs might ebb and flow.


 Steampunk fashion is no different, even though it is coupled to the maker movement. In fact, being part of an aesthetic revolution that involves not only books and music but interior design and gadget modification makes steampunk fashion even more difficult to analyze. It clearly has some roots in the short-lived cyberpunk style of the late 80s and early 90s, which combined plastic and metallic accessories with brightly colored block coloring. Cyberpunks incorporated glow sticks, backlight, pvc, and telephone cords to their everyday look. The movie Hackers is a great example.


 But there is also a Goth element: steampunk witnesses Goths discovering color, texture, and new avenues of characterization. The Victorian homage remains (along with the stripy stockings). But then there are also some Burner elements to steampunk as well. So what we have ended up with is the following formula.
color + found-objects (a la cyberpunk) + Victoriana lace and frills (a la Goth / homemade fabrics + gadgets (a la Burners) = steampunk

Jodhpurs, meets automated arms, clock jewelry, and yarn hair.

(Gail, courtesy of J. Daniel Sawyer)

As an author who came to steampunk via the aesthetic movement I find it strange how disconnected the fashion seems to be from the literary movement (which started in the early 80s with K. W. Jeter, Tim Powers, and James Blaylock). Both are now evolving. The steampunk aesthetic now includes people who are into dressing only a little bit (a cog necklace, a newsboy cap), and people who are hardcore fashion gurus (full on bustle dresses and head to tow gadgetry) and everything in between. Ralph Lauren put steampunk down the runway in 2008, Target put it into shops a few years later, Sherlock Homes stuck it on the big screen, and Sony made it into video games. There are makers with massive fire-breathing snails, makers with booze-dispensing brass backpacks, and makers who are green-believers who want steampunk to save the planet. The literary side includes steampunk romance, steampunk adventure, steampunk paranormal, steampunk noir, and steampunk dystopia. One of the places these two parallel worlds meet is at steampunk conventions, which are fast becoming one of my favorite venues for fun and inspiration.

Having watched the cyberpunk movement fade away, I'm delighted to see steampunk become ever more inclusive, in as many ways as possible. After all, one of the worst things about the Victorian era was its elitism, snobbery, bigotry, and classicism. I'd like to hope steampunk can leave those bits far behind.

Nevertheless, even being part of this moment as both a DIYer and an author, I remain confused as to it's evolution. How has it managed to cease the imagination of so many? Where do we see steampunk going? And is there enough tea to keep it afloat?




Gail Carriger's latest steampunk novel, Heartless, is in stores now. She is a self-titled fashionista, tea addict, archaeologist, and steampunk author who, when not excavating, lives on a vineyard in Northern California with one cat, three vehicles, and fifty pairs of shoes. Her books include the New York Times Bestselling Parasol Protectorate series, Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless and Timeless (March 2012), and the Finishing School series (next year from Little, Brown). She also has a manga edition of the first book due out in Spring 2012.

Alexia and Conall 

You can listen to a full cast podcast production of the first chapter of her first book, Soulless, at http://www.jdsawyer.net/soulless-final-draft.mp3

If you'd like to read more on her thoughts concerning steampunk fashion and its cultural evolution she has a piece in Steampunk Reloaded edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer. Her website includes an extensive page on steampunk. http://www.gailcarriger.com/steampunk.php And she'll be attending TeslaCon this year. http://www.teslacon.com/


Today, Gail is giving away a copy of Heartless (winner'c choice of US edition or UK trade edition) to one lucky winner who tells us about their own personal favourite steampunk fashion, or who comments on Gail's post in some other way. The contest will close at midnight tonight and the winner will be announced tomorrow on this thread.

News, plus Steampunk Film and TV

First up, the good news! Meljean Brook has found me! She's well, but was so focused on writing deadlines that she lost track of everything else - know the feeling! Anyway, she's hoping to join us at the end of the week instead - more precise information to follow :).

Now, I know we talked a bit about steampunk movies and television with Beth yesterday, but I thought I'd add in a few more thoughts, along with some pictures :).

So, I've heard talk of the upcoming new Three Musketeers movie, and apparently it's a steampunk version featuring airship battles and associated steampunk mayhem. I've got to see that!



I must admit, I did enjoy the chaotic, steampunk overtones of Robert Downey Jnr's Sherlock Holmes, so with that and the new Musketeers in mind, I went trawling on the internet for more steampunk films, and found plenty, some reminders of movies that jogged my memory, and others that I haven't seen; but what most surprsied me on the steampunk movie lists were old films that I had never associated with steampunk, most notably Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! But when you think about it, it IS steampunk - all that impossible technology, fantasy, off-the-wall, misfit characters and all.




A few random films that stuck in my mind: Mary Shelly's Frankenstein (and even Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein!), Sleepy Hollow, The League of Extraordianry Gentlemen, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Hellboy, Lemony Snicket, The Prestige, The Golden Compass...

Any more loves (or hates!) to share? Any you're depserate to see but haven't?



And then there's steampunk television. The shows that spring to my mind are Firefly and some episodes of Dr. Who (particularly one of the Christmas specials). And most recently, I discovered Warehouse 13, which is vaguely steampunky in some of its artifacts and technology.

Even before yesterday's discussion, I'd heard of Wild Wild West, but I've never seen it or another one that was getting a big puff from steampunk fans -  Legend with Richard Dean Anderson. Any more thoughts or additions?

Marie

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Welcome Beth Ciotta!

Today I'm delighted to welcome talented author Beth Ciotta, who has written in several romance genres and is looking forward to her first steampunk novel coming out in 2012... but I'll let her tell you about that herself! Welcome, Beth!


Old Worlds, New Wonders

Hello.  My name is Beth Ciotta and I’m a creative spaz.

My publishing history, although under the ‘Romance’ umbrella, is all over the map.  Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary, and in the near future, Steampunk.  There are those who would question the wisdom of subgenre hopping when trying to build (and maintain) a career in publishing.  Indeed it does make it more challenging to grow a devoted readership and perhaps slows the rate of one’s success. (Depending, of course, on how one defines success.)  But even though I know this logically, I can’t ignore the voices in my head or the concepts that come out of nowhere and refuse to fade away.  One such concept started with a title.

The Glorious Victorious Darcys.

 I knew two things.  It was a trilogy based on three siblings—The Darcys.  It would take place in Victorian, England, but with a high-tech, adventure element.  I filed that bit away and a couple of
years later when it came time to pitch new ideas to my publisher, I expanded on the Darcy concept and pitched it along with ideas for a paranormal and two contemporaries.    

I was told The Darcys sounded like Steampunk, something they weren’t looking for.  It wasn’t the first time I’d heard the word Steampunk associated with one of my story ideas, still it surprised me.  Did I even know what Steampunk was?  After a bit of research, I realized I’d been a great fan of Steampunk for years, although my obsession was rooted in movies.  Here are just a few of the films that charmed, mesmerized, and inspired me.
·         Great Race
·         Prestige
·         Sherlock Holmes
·         Sleepy Hollow
·         20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
·         Stardust
·         Time Machine
·         Van Helsing
I was also a longtime fan of the original Wild, Wild West TV series as well as the cult classics, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, and, the oh-so-brilliant brainchild of Joss Whedon’s—Firefly.   

Oh, the fantastical gadgets and gizmos, the edgy fashion, the cool lingo, colorful characters, and, yes, airships!


My passion for The Glorious Victorious Darcys burned strong, even though I knew it was a quirky premise that might never find a home.  Several months ago, while pitching various projects, on a whim I proposed The Darcys to NAL (Penguin).  Between you and me (and okay, the world!), here’s the pitch for the overall trilogy.

1887 (An alternate version of Europe, peppered with anachronistic gadgets and gizmos and futuristic dirigibles.)

In celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, an anonymous benefactor promises fame and fortune to the first man or woman who discovers and donates a technological ‘invention’ of historical significance to her majesty’s British Museum in honor of her beloved deceased husband, Prince Albert.

Lord Jules Darcy, Lord Simon Darcy, and unbeknownst to them, their sister, Lady Amelia Darcy set off in search of three different ‘lost’ legendary inventions. Whilst on their quest, all three fall prey to a sizzling romance and forever love.  In the end, one sibling will bring glory to the British Empire, another scandal, while the third becomes an unwitting accomplice in a plot to assassinate the Queen. Will love or technology save the day?  Will the Darcys prevail or perish? Passion and adventure abound in these humorous steampunk-ish tales.

NAL’s enthusiasm for the project blew my mind!  Before I knew it, we’d gone to contract. (Special thanks to my new editor and champion, Jhanteigh Kupihea!)  This within days of signing with St. Martins Press for a new contemporary series, The Cupcake Club.  I didn’t plan the dual sale, I swear. Once again I find myself writing in two different worlds and all I can say is—lucky me! An opportunity to explore multiple passions.  A chance to spread my wings in Steampunk and soar! The launch book for The Glorious Victorious Darcys is loosely slated for release late 2012.  Meanwhile, please visit the GVD Steamblog for steampunkery tomfoolery and publishing updates.  http://bethciotta2.blogspot.com/

By the way, the first book features, Amelia Darcy. I’ll leave you with visual ‘essence’ of her along with her character profile.



Age: 20
Nationality: British
Parents: Lord Reginald and Lady Anne Darcy
Siblings: Older twin brothers, Jules and Simon
Passions: Air Ships, Aeronautics, Reading, Leonardo da Vinci
Goals: To own and pilot an air ship. See the world.
Trivia: Determined to live life on her own terms, Amelia has rejected six marriage proposals and has successfully distanced herself from 'society'. Her best friend, Leo, is an 'enhanced' falcon.
      
Did I mention all of my stories, no matter the subgenre, feature humor, adventure, and sexy romance? 

So, when did you first fall in love with Steampunk?  Let’s talk favorite genre movies!  Comment for a chance to win a copy of The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers.  A neo-vintage gem!

Curious about my creative spaz efforts? Visit www.bethciotta.com

Special thanks to Marie for the invite to the party. What fun!

Today Beth is giving away a copy of The Steampunk Bible to one lucky winner who answers her questions above, or comments on her post in some other way. Sorry, this contest is limited to US residents. The contest will close at midnight tonight and the winner will be announced tomorrow on this thread.