writing


My short story, “Dead’s End to Middleton” is available at Crossed Genres–as of yesterday, in their Steampunk themed issue. It’s got steampunk, and guns, and aliens, and explosions. Should be entertaining, anyway! With the moving and whatnot, I’m a little delayed, I’m afraid! Ah, well. There’s some great stories in the group, and Crossed Genres is well worth taking a look. Exciting to finally see this story go live, that’s for sure.

(cross posted from Writing Across Worlds)

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The site has been in dire need of a little tidying up, and thanks to some art by the brilliant Brigid Ashwood (of whom I cannot say enough when it comes to her artistic talent) I’ve done a bit of a renovation! See: new background, new banner! And the best part? I did it myself, with CSS. And the site did not implode, the world did not end, and I’m actually happy with the results. For reasons I can’t quite comprehend, I’m far better at designing things on Pages than I am with Photoshop…

I also have a new tagline: Steampunk. Fantasy. Western. I mean, that really does sum up the whole thing, doesn’t it?

At any rate, watch this space! More meandering steampunk chatter, and some thoughts about writing weird west to come soon!

“I’m no more a knight than I am an ass, though I suppose at times there has been sufficient argument to support the latter claim.” – Emry Roy, from Chapter Five of The Ward of the Rose

Well, since finishing Alderpod a few months ago, it’s been a little quiet around these parts! I’ve been very much in writing mode and, until about a month ago, I’d been working on a variety of projects that had little or nothing to do with steampunk (or, else, they do, but my reasoning for thinking of them in such ways is as long and convoluted as possible, not the sort of thing to lend itself particularly well to the blog).

But now, back into the fray. First and foremost, I’m working on The Ward of the Rose, the sequel to The Aldersgate, as we speak. But I should point out that I’m working slowly and steadily. It’s been absolutely thrilling to return back to the setting of the story, and I promise to post some snippets of the story as it progresses. I recently scrapped about 30K of the original sequel, finding that I started much too late in the book and was skirting some rather important issues. That’s been resolved.

Also, I’ve noticed a recent uptick in Alderpod subscriptions. Thanks to those out there listening to the story, again or for the first time. I think all the technical issues are finally resolved! Also thanks to the reviewers, too. I don’t know what the future of the book is, but I promise I’ll keep you posted. The support and encouragement from readers of the last two years has been absolutely remarkable. I certainly never anticipated that my little podcast would do much, but I’m so glad it’s introduced me to some of you.

I’ve also been writing quite a bit of weird west stuff lately, in short story form, and I’ll let you know if and when you can find them. While not always steampunk, they’re all definitely Neo-Victorian, since they take place in a fictional alternate Arizona of the 1880s. You can get a glimpse of that world in “The Brass Pedestal” which was in Steampunk Tales #4 (which isn’t in Arizona itself, but what’s now Missouri… but it’s not called that since… well, I won’t get into that just yet!).

At any rate, expect more in this space in the weeks to come. I’ve got lots of ruminations on steampunk to share, and am definitely looking forward to the year, and the words, ahead.

From Chapter One of The Ward of the Rose

“It is your decision to make,” Cee said with a sigh, matching that of her grand-niece’s almost tone for tone. She folded her hands and leaned on the railing, gazing across the slope into the fog. “Let no one make it for you, dear Coralie. Gem will be with you always, and Professor too, I think. For as difficult as your journey here has been, you are standing at a crossroads of fortune.”

“Fortune?” asked Cora, almost laughing.

“As you said. There is war, there is discussion, there are decisions to be made. And you are not alone in this. While Maelys is concentrating on the Ardesian threat, and the growing Soderon force, the fact that one Alderclass girl has escaped her grasp will likely pale in comparison to what she must do. For now you are safer than you were before. Though I fear Renmen and Gawen do not agree on the course of the Order of the Asp… they will likely both try to win you to their sides.”

“Because of what I can do,” Cora said, staring down at her hands. She flexed her fingers, then curled them against her palms.

“You are a boon no retinue would want to let go—a key to health and restoration,” Cee said, dropping her voice. “But listen well to their arguments, and make your own choice, whatever it will be.”

“I wish you could come with me,” Cora said, turning to Cee. Tears came, and she tried to hide them, but Cee saw and put her arm about her shoulders.

Cee squeezed Cora against her. “I’m an old woman, Cora. My adventures are at an end. For now, I will pick up the pieces of my ranch here, help those servants and workers I have left put the fragments of their lives back together again. My place is here.”

“It must be good, in a way, to have such a place,” Cora said.

“You may yet someday, Coralie. You may yet.”

steampunk_lordnevermore

Lord Nevermore by Brigid Ashwood

It’s been a few years since I first stumbled upon the term, drooled over the aesthetic, and learned about the culture. From a writer’s perspective, it’s been an interesting ride. I didn’t start out with a steampunk novel in mind, and I hope I’ve never given that impression. However, since discovering that the world of the Aldersgate Cycle was a fantastic take on steampunk, I’ve done my own delving into the culture.

I came to steampunk, as I’ve written before, by way of the American West, and through a love of fantasy and alternate worlds. While I spent some time in the early 2000s hanging around lots of punk rockers in the Baltimore area, I’ve never considered myself very counter-culture. I mean, sure. I’m weird. I’m a geek. I’ve always been a maker of words. It’s not to say that I don’t have plenty of political views that might be considered unusual, but I try not to let that leak into my blog or (too much) into my writing.

What’s been interesting to watch, however, is the greater absorption of steampunk culture into the mainstream. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a progression like that before, save perhaps the goth progression in the late 80s and early 90s (though I was listening to the Beatles at that point, I certainly watched from the wings). Search trends for steampunk continue to rise, and everything from fashion to home decor shows signs of cross-pollination.

But I wonder, is the definition of steampunk changing? As it becomes a known part of our culture at large, does it diminish? Or does it grow? Here’s a few scenarios I think we might see in the coming months.

Gaining literary steam. I’m not the only writer out there with a love for steampunk. In fact, I see more and more writers trying their hand at incorporating alternate history/fantasy steampunk facets into their writing; we’ve seen Steampunk Tales for the iPhone, for example, and of course the VanderMeer short story collection (which, I believe, is in talks for a followup). From a novel approach you’ve got people like Ekaterina Sedia, Tobias Buckell, and Cherie Priest (among others) either publishing or actively working on steampunk-esque books. Why? While “steampunk” literature has been around a long time (well, they didn’t call it that when they were writing it in the late 19th century) it’s seen a rebirth. With appeal for fantasy, science-fiction, horror, and thriller writers, it’s not surprising to see growing trends in steampunk writing. It’s wonderfully fertile ground, and can be written in a multitude of ways. From a fantasy perspective, it’s a nice break from the standard medieval approach.

The -punk phenomenon. We may start hearing about lots of other “new” punks. You’ve probably already heard of cyberpunk and dieselpunk, etc.. I know plenty of writers who hate these terms (even the term steampunk itself) but it is what it is. In a way steampunk has become an umbrella term, incorporating bits and pieces from the 17th century onward to the Edwardian, and sometimes beyond. There are definitely divided camps, here, some who believe steampunk is only Victorian, and others who want to broaden the definition. Of course, there are positive aspects of each, but I certainly see–especially in the realm of fashion–the second camp winning out. It tends to give historical nitpickers hives, unfortunately… Is “steampunk” the right term? I dunno. It is what it is at this point.

Movin’ down the dusty trail. As with any subculture, there are always folks who are transients. That is, people who “find” a movement, become active, and move on. Now that you can buy steampunk inspired clothing at JC Penney, it’s not as hard as it once was to fit in at an event or a club. But, given time, and other new subcultures bound to crop up, people will move on to other things because, by nature, they always need to be different. Hell, there are already folks disenchanted with steampunk, or frustrated with the growing commercialization of steampunk. Or just bored. Because for some people, being different is all that matters. What lies beneath is inconsequential. (Although, if you join a movement to look like a bunch of other people, “different” is very relative, I suppose.)

Makin’ a steampunk buck. I’m sure you’ve seen it. The superfluous gear. The short story that tries too hard. That friend of yours who has become a born-again steampunk and is now making bookmarks, postcards and t-shirts all proclaiming love of the culture. Yeah, it’s tough territory here. You want to be welcoming to everyone, but at the same time, so much of what I’ve been seeing lately just comes across as people trying to make a quick buck. And I hate that.

Asking the hard questions. Steampunk isn’t perfect. The Victorians, for all they gave us, were highly flawed people. They were often racist, sexist and classist. And while some writers, in particular, have explored these issues, it hasn’t really seeped into the culture. I love corsets, from an aesthetic perspective, for example. But, some of the extremes women went through–or were made to go through–in attempt to “look right” is downright uncomfortable. That we can choose to wear corsets or not in this day is rather amazing. Know what I mean? It’s amusing to find that one of the instruments feminists rallied against has become a symbol of feminine power and sexuality… Anyway. I digress.

Not your parents’ steampunk. Steampunk will change. People will push the envelope. It’ll move beyond gears, cogs, and goggles, and become something else. It will be reinterpreted, re-envisioned, re-appropriated. It will move to Asia, to Africa, to the Middle-East, and bring new flavors, sounds, sights, and influences. And it will be better for it. I, for one, can’t wait!

What about movies? I think they’ll continue to be few and far between, and of middling quality. So far, most attempts, including most recently City of Ember, have not done terribly well. There’s something steampunkish, certainly, about 9, as well as a few others (not to mention new RPGs). I mean, in the past, the outcome just hasn’t been that great. Not even I could sit through Wild Wild West again. My hope is that something comes to television, soon. I think there, steampunk might find its home. With shows like Warehouse 13, which certainly cater to the aesthetic, I’m optimistic!

So, what do you forsee for the future of steampunk?

ModeArtistiqueMai1880Last night I recorded the last two chapters of The Aldersgate for Alderpod.

I don’t know what I was expecting to feel. I mean, I haven’t actually been writing in the draft in months. I’ve had my head in other projects, so maybe it was the distance that did it. But finishing it, reading that last bit, then adding the music and hearing it back again. Well, it was a little emotional for me. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that my sister’s voice is there at the end, too…

But it’s more than that. Finishing a book is a weird process, especially when you’re expecting to write more later. The Aldersgate was never envisioned, to me anyway, as just one book. But, still, it’s got to be able to stand on its own. Even though some of the plot points won’t get resolved for a while, it’s important that each of the characters complete their own journeys.

And I think, above all, that’s what I’m most pleased with. The book has room for tightening in a lot of places. But such are revisions. I can get away with some stuff in reading that likely I can’t in writing. Just one of the weird ways the audiobook and physical book differ. But, back to the characters. I like the way the book ends because the main characters–in this case, Cora, Emry, and Brick–really come into their own. I won’t go spoilery on you, and it’s not that they all figure it out perfectly, or that’s it’s a happy ending. It can’t really be (as in the case of Sylvan and Ellin).

Anyway I’m babbling. The coffee’s not yet kicked in. At some point today I’ve got to go and put the tags on the file, and listen one more time to make sure it’s as good as I can get it.

And now, this begs the question: what to do next? The podcast has been going on for the last year and change (the prologue went live on April 22, 2008). As I mentioned at the beginning, reading aloud is just a part of my writing process, and it may be that I choose to do another podcast just… well, because there’s going to be a gaping hole where Alderpod once was!

Regardless, there will be at least one more Alderpod, wherein there is an epilogue. It will help set up some of the background for The Ward of the Rose, as well as tie up what happened with Kaythra Bav, Alastair Grey, and Denna Grey. So it’s not the end of the end. I guess no story is really ever over, anyway…

Alderpod #24: Chapter 22 – Lady Vezina

Finding a little time on my hands this rainy day, I have recorded Chapter 22, Alderpod #24. I am trying hard to make up for lost time, and now that the book is creeping toward the final climax, that’s only fitting.

So, without further adieu!

Most of my writing-only posts live over at Natania Barron – Writing Across Worlds. To save you the trip, here’s a few!

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