Monthly Archives: February 2015

Steampunk as Workshop

Steampunk Hands Around The World!

Airship Ambassador

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For those that consider the aesthetic used in Disney’s 1954 production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to be steampunk, that was my first exposure to the grandeur and wonder of steampunk-before-it-had-a-name and the Victorian sense of design. Even though I was barely in grade school, I knew I wanted my home one day to look like that Grand Salon.nautilus-plans

Over the years since that first of many viewings of the movie, I have come to appreciate more than just the visual appeal of the set design. Now, there is genuine interest in how it was filmed, and how the costumes and props were created. Like steampunk, the process of creating something takes many forms and includes many facets.

Art Donovan-Siddhartha Pod Lantern-Full View

Our community seems to create more of everything than any other group I can think of. Our authors have been creating new worlds in their books for decades. We have artist…

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Spanish Steampunk with Marian Womack for Steampunk Hands Around the World

Steampunk Hands Around the World!

Beyond Victoriana

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For Steampunk Hands Around the World, it’s my pleasure to chat with co-editor Marian Womack about her and James Womack’s newest anthology The Best of Spanish Steampunk.

1) What was your motivating factor behind assembling the Best of Spanish Steampunk?

Steampunk is currently a very popular genre within speculative fiction, especially in Spain, and so I thought that one of the ways in which I could carry out my more general project, which is to make people in the English-speaking world more aware of what is happening in Spanish writing, would be to create an anthology that was both popular, but also focussed, not simply a general introduction to Spanish speculative fiction (Where would you begin? Where would you end?), but a more focussed, more directed anthology that was in some senses able to give a view of speculative fiction in general as it is being written in Spain…

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Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons, Issue One – a book review

Suffrajitsu review

The cover of the first issue, and an actual illustration from the era. Someone has really done their homework!

As anyone who has read this blog will know, I am a huge fan of the suffragette movement of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. I have been looking forward with anticipation to the graphic novel, Suffrajitsu, written by Tony Wolf (originally from New Zealand, go the Antipodes) and illustrated by João Viera. It is with great delight I can write a review about Issue One of the trilogy, as published by Jet City Comics.

Before we go any further, let’s address the elephant in the room … yes, a man has written a graphic novel about the suffragettes. I write about male historical characters. It is what writers do, and I personally think Tony Wolf has one an amazing job in recreating the pressures and problems the suffragettes faced historically, while still writing an alternative history adventure. This just isn’t a historical retelling of the suffragette movement … it is an alternative history, a might have been.

This is a Steampunk narrative because it had several the major genre markers. The Steampunk literary genre embraces the use of alternative histories, and often uses historical people as characters … but the characters in the fiction are only inspired by these real people. The Steampunk genre includes anachronistic technology, such as the train the Amazons use to travel to Glasgow; this train is a “suspension railway” monorail.  The technology for that type of transportation did exist in 1914, but there were no actual cross-country suspension railway lines at that time.

The suffragettes are using innovative techniques to defend themselves, breaking the stereotype of the frail, helpless and hysterical Victorian female, and replacing her with intelligent and determined women who know how to handle the physical assault of an assailant. This type of woman did show up from time to time, but she was an exception rather than the rule in most Victorian and Edwardian media.

Image from the Illustrated Police News.

The illustrator, Viera, has made each character quite distinct. He uses a rich pallet of colours, which is an excellent choice. Popular culture tends to believe that the Victorian era was dull thanks to the B&W photos of the era. The bright colours are much more realistic, as the Victorian actually were quite lavish in their use of colour. Viera adds historically authentic details to his artwork, such as the violet, green and white ribbons and sashes used by the suffragettes. The action scenes are realistic. I’ve read a lot of graphic novels, and getting the artwork to match the writing seamlessly is a hard slog. The text and the illustrations are working together and not pulling in different directions, with the writer and illustrator well matched.

Main character is Persephone Wright: her uncle is Edward W. Barton-Wright, and she is a master of Bartitsu, the martial art that he developed and taught. She is a staunch supporter of Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter, Christabel. Her characterisation is complex, as she is also a bit of a ‘wild child’, enjoying tobacco and cocaine – in an era when both were freely available. She reminds me slightly of Doctor Grace from Murdoch Mysteries, intelligent, determined, and not afraid to try new things.

The secondary characters haven’t been left as two dimensional personalities and have their own distinct styles. I like that Flossie is from New Zealand, as New Zealand and Australia certainly had their own contingent of suffragettes. These real life touches give the whole story its verisimilitude. The forced feeding of suffragettes is mentioned. The suffragette movement is forced to use ‘amazons’ to protect the speakers at rallies. The ‘amazons’ are highly trained, but they don’t rely on brute force alone.

In this first issue, we get few hints as to the identities of the true villains of this narrative. But – rest assured – there is plenty of conflict and action provided by the clashes between the suffragettes and constabulary, and between the suffragettes and the establishment. I recommend this graphic novel to fellow Steampunk enthusiasts, feminists, and anyone who enjoys a finely made story.

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Suffrajitsu: A Steampunk Feminist’s Perspective

I’m reblogging this as a lead-up to reviewing ‘Suffrajitsu’, the graphic novel.

Cogpunk Steamscribe

Tossing a policeman

No more the meek and mild subservients we!
We’re fighting for our rights, militantly!
Never you fear!

‘Sister Suffragette’ is sung by Mrs Banks from Disney’s Mary Poppins

In this modern era of Third Wave Feminism, it is often hard to realise how much the suffragettes battled against the oppression of women. It wasn’t just a battle of debates and political lobbying, there was several aspects of the struggle that were life threatening. The Cat-and-Mouse Act of 1913 was brought into subjugate the women prisoners who took to hunger strikes, and was a cruel policy to negate the death of these women in custody. Hunger strikes are a non-violent method of protest. Some suffragettes were more militant.

The Women’s Social and Political Union was formed in 1903, and ran until the Great War, where it turned its might to supporting the British war effort. It was only one of the suffragette…

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Vale Leonard Nimoy

When I was growing up, two of my very favourite shows was Doctor Who and Star Trek. On Star Trek, no one was as wonderful as the logical, rational Science Officer, Mister Spock, with his beautiful voice. He was a gorgeous young man, and he only improved with age. His legacy will live on.

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The Solar-Powered Salamander

http://www.paperdroids.com/2015/02/24/solar-powered-salamander/

Spotted Salamander

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Mind your Language: a Steampunk Perspective

As a writer, my goal is clarity in my prose.But sometimes even the most careful writer will make a mistake. Take a look at the comic just above this paragraph. In all honestly, I can see me writing a sentence like this and not noticing the ambiguity of meaning, particularly if I was caught up in the storytelling. And I might not  pick it up in the edits, because it will seem to make perfect sense in the context of the story. I might even miss this flaw in the proofreading stage, because writers often become blind to their own mistakes. This is why it is always a good idea to have one or two friends prepared to cast an eye over your work for typos and plot holes and ambiguous sentences.

This isn’t my only writing flaw. I’m not good with settings, unless I really concentrate. I tend to overuse the word ‘it’. I like adverbs (please don’t hate me). But these are flaws I can generally pick up when I am doing my edits.

Writers are only human. Achieving perfect means lots of hard work … and no writer ever looks at a finished piece of work and says “That’ll do.” I have a mental vision of most writers refusing to die because they have just one more correction to make. Sometimes our manuscripts have to be crow-barred out of our clutches. This is because we know that the minute our little word baby is released to the world, we are going to find a mountain of mistakes we never saw before.

But you can’t just hang onto your work forever.  Even the most dedicated word nerd needs to finish that manuscript (I feel such a hypocrite while writing this sentence). If you’ve spent the time and the trouble to get your story nigh on perfect, it’s time to share, even if it just with a beta-reader or two.

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