Monthly Archives: December 2014

What I learnt this year

James Murray and me

This has been a year of both personal growth and some setbacks.

Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first:

I developed another skin cancer, but on the upside I caught it early and so removal was still simple and effective. Curse my pale and freckly skin; why couldn’t I have inherited some of the olive skin genes that float in the family gene pool?

I still don’t have a full time job. However, I did get some part-time work as an actual content writer. Thank you Discovery Campervans!

My cat, Miss Josephine, passed away at eighteen years of age. There is no upside to that.

I suffered a minor setback in my emotional health, which saw me retreat from socializing in the Steampunk Community for a few months. I am recovering my confidence.

So, now for the positive:

First up: the Steampunk Charity Ball. We raised nearly $5000 for the Queensland Cancer Council. (Ironic that I had a cancer this year, is it not?) Of everything I accomplished this year, this makes me the proudest. People had fun. We built up good community feeling within the Steampunk community in Southeast Queensland. And I became an official Steampunk Ghostbuster. The picture accompanying this article is of James Murray and me, at the ball.

My writing has been going very well. My editing has been slow. My New Year resolution is to focus more on my editing skills, so see that reflected in this blog.

Online: I wanted to increase my presence as a science blogger online, and managed to score a spot with paper Droids (Geek Culture for Women). I started blogging more regularly here, on this blog, and I like the way this blog is shaping up. It helps my focus on my writing, and I hope it is helping other people. My Facebook site is still going well.

Submissions: I am pleased to say that I have been submitting short stories to market all year. And even though none were accepted, I have received excellent feedback. The goal for the coming year is to up my submission schedule.

Writing Career: I actually got a paid writing gig as a content writer! I find that incredibly encouraging. Hundreds of people, maybe even thousands, will be reading MY prose online. And do you know what helped me get that job – THIS BLOG! I proved I could show up every day and write creatively. So never think that blogging is just writing an online diary. You are reaching other people in unexpected ways.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. I hope you were entertained (and maybe educated) by this blog over this past year. And so raise a toast to the old year, and another for all the possibilities the new year will provide.


Filed under Bling, Personal experience, writing

Some thoughts about Fandom

Let’s start with a true story:

As a child, teenager and in my early adult life, I had plenty of lovely friends, but I was always just a little bit lonely. This was because my so-called ‘tribe’ rejected me on a regular basis. I read comics, loved to read in the ‘hard’ Science Fiction genre, loved to watch Science Fiction movies and television shows, and was what would be recognised today as a fangirl. And yet, I couldn’t find other people who accepted me for that side of my nature. I went to a comic con in Brisbane back in the 1980s, and found it a very negative experience because the boys (and they were certainly too rude to be called men); those boys kept ‘calling me out’ as not being a true fan. None of the women I knew were into Doctor Who and Star Trek and Star Wars to the same extent that I was.

Some people like to glamourize the ‘lone wolf’ role in the media, but it isn’t much fun when you are actually living it. I fitted in the best I could. I really did have a wonderful group of adorable friends, and that helped. I was drifting through life, keeping my enthusiasms private and close to my chest. When I did try to share my passions, I was often made to feel peculiar, even by my family.

Then things started to change. I started meeting women who were just as interested in Science Fiction as I was. Fandoms started to gain acceptance in the mainstream media, and even moved into ‘fashion’ – look at the popularity of the Marvel universe at the moment. Pop culture conferences took off in Australia (YAY!), and were attended by men and women. Then I discovered the Steampunk community and finally found my true tribe. Funnily enough, I’ve found my growing confidence in being part of an alternative subculture has flowed into all aspects of my life, with my family growing more supportive of my ‘quirks’. I think this acceptance was aided by the younger members of my family who have grown up in this more tolerant era; I love that my children, nieces and nephews actually have joined various fandoms of their own. I no longer feel isolated … instead, I feel very excited to be living in an era where my interests are shared and celebrated by so many other people.

Supanova Gold Coast 2014 074

So, it makes me very sad when I see that sexism still lingers in the alternative scene. This is evident in several ways. If you’ve missed the Tankhead tee-shirt kerfuffle, to cover the highlights, their shirt read I like Fangirls how I like my coffee. I hate coffee. and were surprised when this generated quite a backlash. The fact they thought this was funny tells me a lot about the ingrained sexism in that company, and I was immensely irritated by the fact that people used the “Women should grow a sense of humour” argument in the argy bargy afterwards. Whenever a woman comic book artist makes a comment about the unrealistic figures, costumes and poses expected from female superheroes (when compared to male superheroes), she is bombarded with abuse and threats for having an opinion. This often frightens women and men away from trying to start a discussion about sexism.

Don’t let the haters silence you. Fandom is NOT a men only party. It never was.


Filed under Alternative Subculture, Feminism, Personal experience

Last Christmas: A Doctor Who Episode Review

Spoilers Sweetie!

Peter Capaldi

This episode was an interesting mix of super scary and genial humour. I think our Doctor was really on his game in this Christmas special, and his antics were pure Moffatt. It referenced the classic horror movies Alien and The Thing and ,The Invasion of the Body Snatchers; the Science Fiction thriller Inception; and the classic Christmas movie A Miracle on 34th Street; and there was even a nod to the Wham! Christmas hit in the title of the episode. This might sound like a hodgepodge, but it worked remarkably well to create both the chills and the thrills.

One of my favourite bits was the short scene with Danny Pink. He acted and sounded like Danny, rather than a dream version of Danny. Still selfless. Still madly in love with Clara. Still snarky with the Doctor. And – sadly – still dead. It was Danny’s appearance that made the episode for me, as I am still secretly hoping that Danny can be saved in some way, for Clara’s sake. (And if we can save Danny, we can save Oswald.)

Another favourite bit was when he called the middle-aged woman ‘the sexy one’. The Doctor doesn’t see age. More proof … he didn’t think Clara looked any different at ninety!

As a special treat, Michael Troughton, the son of the Second Doctor actor, Patrick, played Professor Albert Smithe. He has his dad’s nose and eyes, and is quite sexy in his own understated way! His brother David turned up previously as Professor Hobbes in season four or five. I really enjoy how the Doctor Who cast includes the family of previous Doctors. One day I really should do a post simply on family members.

Clara and the Doctor reconciled in this episode. You should be with your family and loved ones at Christmas. Clara seemed much more human in this episode, particularly with how she interacted with both the Doctor and Danny. She seemed less self-assured. I didn’t like it. I prefer the bossy Clara who gets things done with a quip and a cheeky smile.

I loved Santa! If you’ve ever watched the movie ‘Kinky Boots’, you will know the actor who played Santa. And who can’t get behind a Santa played by an actor whose real name is Nicholas Frost. Mu only big question … the tangerine in the window at the end of the episode. Are we to infer Santa is real? (That is my take.) Or is this a teaser that the whole of next season is just a dream crab fantasy?


Filed under Doctor Who, Review

Richard Harland: Australian Steampunk Author

With Richard Harland 2012 Supanova Gold Coast

Richard Harland wrote the first Australian Steampunk novel I recognised as being part of the Steampunk genre: The Black Crusade. We met at a Freecon in Sydney, where I was enchanted by both Richard and his book. Since then, he has gone on to write the Worldshaker series, also in the Steampunk genre. We meet up once in a while at various conferences, usually Supanova. Richard has two of my favourite Steampunk accessories, his hat and his guitar. Like Michael Pryor, he is very approachable and a charming man.

The Black Crusade is both a comedy and a horror story, as well as having the best Steampunk gadgets. It certainly has Absurdist overtones, with some really lurid, technicolour adventures. One of the main characters in the book is Volusia, aka ‘the Australian Songbird’, so there is a strong Australian connection. Though an Englishman by birth, Mr Harland has lived in Australia since 1970.

His website is at:

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Filed under Australian Steampunk Author, Steampunk, Steampunk Genre

Australian Steampunk Authors: Michael Pryor

Michael Pryor Supanova Gold Coast 2012Supanova Gold Coast 2014 074

For the next few weeks, I thought I would share around a few Steampunk Authors from Australia. Australian authors are among the best in the world, and often their books are cutting edge in genre fiction. Okay … this might make me sound like I’m a tad patriotic, but it is completely true. I hold up as my first example Michael Pryor.

Michael Pryor has written quite a few Steampunk genre books. I first came across his work when judging for the Australian Aurealis Awards, when I read his book ‘Heart of Gold’, the second in his The Laws of Magic series. I was immediately hooked. This series has an Edwardian setting, and his protagonist, Aubrey Fitzwilliam, has both a rational, curious, scientific turn of mind and is able to use magic. There are six books in the series, and every one of them is  a winner. Then he went on to write The Extraordinaires,which is so far two books about Kingsley Ward, (an alternative world Mowgli) magician & hero, and Evadne Stephens, a brilliant and talented inventor, juggler, and a driven woman.

I have to admit, if I hadn’t already fallen in love with Michael’s writing, Evadne would have won me over. She is flawed, physically and emotionally, but at no point do her flaws turn her into a damsel in distress. She is the  brains of the duo, and Kingsley is quite happy with that arrangement, because he is remarkable for both his common sense and his understanding above and beyond the rules of British Edwardian society. Evadne is also the one taking charge in their developing romantic relationship. She loves to invent weapons and give them playful names, and she is an expert in all her inventions. She is beautiful, but it isn’t her looks that define her, it is her intellect!

I would recommend any of Michael Pryor’s books, because they are beautifully written, beautifully told, and his Steampunk books are full of unexpected puzzles and solutions.

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Filed under Australian Steampunk Author, Personal experience, Steampunk, Steampunk Genre

My Family’s Acceptance of my Alternative Lifestyle

A Present from my Father

A Present from my Father

My family used to ask me what Steampunk was, with some confusion. My family now think that my obsession with Steampunk makes it easy to shop for me for Christmas! My father bought me a Steampunk book simply because he saw it in a bookshop – it wasn’t a Christmas present as such, just a love gift.

Steampunk Locket; a Christmas present from my nephew and his partner.

Steampunk Locket; a Christmas present from my nephew and his partner.

My Christmas present from my sister and her family - the makings of Steampunk Jewellery for my craft box.

My Christmas present from my sister and her family – the makings of Steampunk Jewellery for my craft box.

At fifty two years of age, I have finally found my ‘tribe’. I got a lovely present from Secret Santa at the Christmas Party for my Steampunk Friends.

The leather wristlet from Secret Santa.

The leather wristlet from Secret Santa.

I also received some lovely books, including some Steampunk genre books that I will be reviewing over the next few weeks.

I hope you all had a lovely holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas or not.


Filed under Alternative Subculture, Personal experience, Steampunk

The Edisonade Literary Genre: a Steampunk Perspective

The 1868 cover of 'The Steam Man of the Prairies' by Edward S. Ellis.

The 1868 cover of ‘The Steam Man of the Prairies’ by Edward S. Ellis.

Edisonade – definition gleaned from Wikipedia

‘Edisonade’ is a modern term, coined in 1993 by John Clute in The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction, for stories based around a brilliant young inventor and his inventions, many of which would now be classified as Science Fiction. This sub-genre started in the Victorian & Edwardian eras and had its apex of popularity during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Frank Reade and His Steam Man of the Plains, circa 1875

I don’t know about you, but that sounds suspiciously like something I would write about the Steampunk genre. In fact, you could almost classify my current Work-in-Progress as sitting in the Edisonade genre. Almost … except my protagonist is a female inventor, and I am writing in the 21st century. Does this mean I write in the Neo-Edisonade genre?

 At this point, let’s take a deep breath. Genre is all about labels, and labels are nothing more than a way of organising. And I know I said I was looking for a better term for Steampunk, but Edisonade isn’t the label I am looking for! Neo-Vicwardian Retro-Futurism is still out in front.

The perfect example of the Edisonage genre hero would be Frank Reade (and Frank Reade Junior). The four Frank Reade stories concerned adventures with the character’s inventions – robot-like mechanisms powered by steam. The first book,  Frank Reade and His Steam Man of the Plains, is frankly a rip-off of The Steam Man of the Prairies, even to the illustrations (see the examples above). Frank Reade Junior was a cog that didn’t fall far from the engine. This teenaged inventor built airships, submersibles, steam-powered and electrical vehicles for getting about on land, and steam-powered robots (proving that he was just as able a plagiarist as his father). He has been the protagonist in many a story and novel, even to this day, by an assortment of authors.

Tom Swift is a slightly more modern example of the boy inventor genre. These books were also written by more than one author. They made famous the ‘Tom Swifty’,  in which a ‘spoken’ sentence is linked by pun-ish adverb. For example:

“I find the interior of this submarine very roomy,” said Tom, spaciously.

“The lava is hot,” said Tom magnanimously.

“We have to move, right now!” exclaimed Tom, swiftly.

(Gosh, I can hear you all groaning. I’ll stop.)

What I find sad is the lack of girl inventor fiction. Thank goodness for ‘Girl Genius’ webcomic and Michael Pryor’s ‘The Extraordinaires’!!

Joking aside, the term Edisonade was only ‘recently’ been coined in 1993, well after the term Steampunk was coined in 1985. Because of this, I would argue the Edisonade could/should be considered a subgenre of Steampunk. As well, Steampunk is a much broader genre.


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Filed under Genre, Genre Markers, Steampunk, Subgenres of Steampunk

Go read the UK Krampus Crackers tales

Tiny Owl Workshop

Two quite gorgeous organisations in the UK, The State of the Arts, and The Leeds Big Bookend, are combining their powers for good.

They’re posted the UK Krampus Crackers tales on their blogs. Go. Read. Look at the art.You know Krampus would want you to.


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The Steampunk Aesthetic as Neo-Vicwardian Retro-Futurism

Dirigible Parking only.

I think the best way to understand the term Neo-Vicwardian Retro-Futurism is to break it down into its component parts.

Neo:  ‘neo’ is a prefix from the ancient Greek word for ‘young’; a new or revived form of.

Starburner Couriers

Vicwardian: a portmanteau word of Victorian and Edwardian, to cover the beginnings of the Industrial Era. The Industrial Era occurred at different times all over the world.


Retro: imitative of a style or fashion from the recent past.

The term retro has been in use since the 1970s to describe new artefacts that self-consciously refer to particular modes, motifs, techniques, and materials of the past.  – Wikipedia

Scott and one of theGhost-busters  proton packs

Futurism: concerned with events and trends of the future, or which anticipate the future;

Retrofuturism (adjective retrofuturistic or retrofuture) is a trend in the creative arts showing the influence of depictions of the future produced in an earlier era. Characterized by a blend of old-fashioned retro styles with futuristic technology, retrofuturism explores the themes of tension between past and future, and between the alienating and empowering effects of technology. Primarily reflected in artistic creations and modified technologies that realize the imagined artifacts of its parallel reality, retrofuturism has also manifested in the worlds of fashion, architecture, design, music, literature, film, and video games.         – Wikipedia

Does this clear up some of the confusion? No?

Alisa from back

The Victorian and Edwardian eras didn’t have just one fashion style. Just like now, fashions changed, and different parts of the world had different fashion trends. What was fashionable clothing in London wouldn’t have been considered in Paris, Moscow or New York, and would certainly have been too hot for Sydney or Auckland. So the Steampunk Aesthetic doesn’t have just one style to draw from, but a whole century’s worth of fashions. The same deal goes for the literary genre … you just aren’t limited to late 19th century British writing styles!

In the Steampunk Literary Genre:

  • Their settings are industrial
  • They tend to mimic Victorian literary style and language
  • Many incorporate ‘fantasy’ elements like magic
  • Mash-ups are a popular literary device
  • They involve scientific innovation as a major plot point
  • There will be a major character who is a scientist or inventor
  • They tend to utilize Victorian notables as characters (Queen Victoria)
  • They may ‘borrow’ characters  and settings from Victorian and Edwardian fiction (Sherlock Holmes)


Filed under Bling, Characterization, Plot, Setting, Steampunk, Steampunk Aesthetic, Steampunk Genre, Writing Style

Dying to be Pretty: A Steampunk Perspective of Victorian Literary Deaths

This blog post has been inspired by this article:

With thanks to Ged Maybury for pointing the article out to me.

Robert Koch

The word “consumption” first appeared in the 14th century, and was used to describe any fatal wasting disease -it wasn’t just the one disease but a range of them, like cancer is today. Cancer isn’t one disease, but a whole family of related conditions; that is why there can never be one straightforward cure for cancer. Over time, the word ‘consumption’ was specifically to used to describe tuberculosis. Although the word ‘tuberculosis’ first appeared in print in 1860 (and it is uncertain how long it was in use before that), it wasn’t until 1882 that the German physician Robert Koch identified the bacterium that caused the illness. And – as it turns out – tuberculosis isn’t just one disease, there are several strains of it, like influenza and the common cold.

 Most infections do not have symptoms, and the dormant disease is known as latent tuberculosis. About one in ten latent infections eventually progresses to an active state. If left untreated, tuberculosis kills more than half of those with the active state of the disease. In the late stages of a fatal infection, the lung tissue is eroded away by the rapidly growing colonies of the bacteria. It becomes difficult to breathe. Victims experience weight loss (hence the common name), fever, night sweats, and the painful coughing up of blood-filled sputum. If you have ever suffered from a chronic cough, you know how painful that can be, with your chest burning as if filled with live coals. Despite the movies, it is neither a pretty nor an easy way to die.

One-third of the world’s population is thought to have been infected with M. tuberculosis, with new infections occurring in about 1% of the population each year. In 2007, an estimated 13.7 million chronic cases were active globally, while in 2013, an estimated 9 million new cases and 1.5 million associated deaths occurred, mostly in developing countries. The absolute number of tuberculosis cases has been decreasing since 2006, and new cases have decreased since 2002. The rate of tuberculosis in different areas varies across the globe; about 80% of the population in many Asian and African countries tests positive in tuberculin tests, while only 5–10% of the United States population tests positive. More people in the developing world contract tuberculosis because of a poor immune system, largely due to high rates of HIV infection and the corresponding development of AIDS.

From Wikipedia


That is the state of play RIGHT NOW! Imagine what it was like back in the 19th Century, when medicine was more of a dark art and less of a science.

In the fictional world, even today in movies like Moulin Rouge  and television shows like Penny Dreadful, and in every Gothic novel from the Victorian era until the present day, consumption is a ‘sexy’ disease. The sufferer gets thin and pale, their eyes burn, they tend to lie around in elegant dressing gowns or frilly bed jackets, and usually the adults lie on suggestively rumpled beds. They still seem to have the energy and breath to sing entire arias before collapsing and dying, like in the opera The Lady of the Camellias. The reality was  and is the complete opposite, with sufferers made gaunt with the illness, eyes bruised from the chronic cough, skin and hair ravaged by illness, and a constant expression of pain on their face – not so glamorous. Even after death, the corpse did not miraculously become ‘transformed’ by death into something peaceful and pure (and now I’m looking at you, L. M. Montgomery and Charles Dickens).

Consumption was the ‘heroin chic’ of its day; and there is nothing pretty or romantic about a heroin sufferer. So when you – as a writer of Neo-Vicwardian Retro-Futurism – get the urge to kill some character off in a ‘romantic’ way, like consumption … DON’T! It might seem like a wonderfully tragic way to kill off a character, but don’t make it ‘sexy’ or ‘romantic’. Keep it real.

The Reality of Tuberculosis … not pretty.

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Filed under Characterization, Historical Personage, History, Steampunk