Monthly Archives: July 2016

Any Suggestions or Requests?

Is there anything you would particularly like to know about when it comes to Steampunk or Writing? Please feel free to ask.

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‘Vigil’ by Angela Slatter: A Book Review


Now, I am going to come right out and say that I am a fan of Angela Slatter’s work and so I may be a tad biased in this review. However, I will also try to capture some of the magic and wonder that she traps withing her prose, so that you will appreciate why I am such a fan. To make things easier to express myself, I will dedicate my opinions to the successes or failures of her setting, her characters, her plot, her themes, and her style. I will also try very hard not give away any spoilers.


Setting: Brisvegas, better known as Brisbane, is one of the stars of this narrative. Angela Slatter lives and works in Brisbane, and it shows in the authenticity of her descriptions of various locations used in her book. She has turned our city – as I have lived and worked in inner Brisbane myself and still live in a satellite city – into a place where the phantasmagorical creatures of myths and legends mix with the Normals (the non-magical humans, the muggles) of the city. She evokes the atmosphere of each of her locations with a fine eye for detail, inserting just enough fantasy to transform the real-life locations into something new and strange. Her love poem to the Shingle Inn was worth the ticket money alone.


Her use of an ordinary city reminded me of the work of Charles de Lint, and in particular his Newford book cycle. He sets many of his books in the urban setting of his generic North American/Canadian city of Newford, and – like Slatter – peoples the city with the Fey and the Fantastic. By setting her narrative within the restrictions of a real and familiar city, Angela Slatter is able to increase the verisimilitude of her characters and action; she also manages to make Brisbane seem exotic to a local like myself.

Characters: I fell in love with the main protagonist right from the start, as she is supernaturally strong, while remaining very human in her basic nature. Verity is also impulsive and has a well-tuned shit-detector, which gets Verity into and out of trouble. My only nit-pick is that her romantic interest is just a little too perfect. He needs a flaw or two, because I tend to suspect such a lovely person of having a hidden agenda.


All the human and supernatural characters are well delineated, even though some the supernatural folk had dreadful-to-pronounce traditional names. I admired the way the personalities of the mythological folk actually suited their legendary roles … I believe I can mention that the sirens are flighty without giving anything away. Angela Slatter uses their traditional roles as major plot points withing the narrative, so you have to stay alert. You can’t compare her characterisations to anyone else, because she uses such an original voice. The closest I could suggest would be Diana Wynne Jones; Verity reminds me of a grown-up version of Sophie Hatter from Howl’s Moving Castle; they both have a can-do attitude while working with such secretive friends and enemies.

Plot: This is a whodunnit, with the protagonist and her team trying to juggle several cases at once.  It reminded  of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, with all the multiple story-lines kept apart and creating tension with the various mysteries running parallel to each other.  There is plenty of action and excitement, while at the same time we explore Verity’s unique position as a Halfling who works within the fractures between the supernatural and the ‘Normal’ worlds. ( I read the book in a day, by simply not doing anything else.)

gaiman with angel

Themes: Surprisingly, the main theme I took away from this book is how your family and friends are what makes you who you are. I wasn’t expecting a whodunnit to have such a profound underlying discourse, but then, Angela Slatter never works on just one level.

Style: Angela’s prose is always quite lyrical, but in this, her first novel, she has toned down the poet without losing her ability to toss away clever, clever sentences. I tend to grunt with approval whenever I read something clever, and my family must have thought I had a major gut ache with the amount of grunting I did while reading this book. One or two sentences made me punch the air and then quietly howl because I want to be that clever. I am not using the word ‘clever’ in the trite sense either, but in the sense that Angela Slatter is a mistress of the written word and it shows.

I can recommend this book to anyone who loves a gripping story with or without supernatural creatures to leaven the story.


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Guinea Pig Hugs.jpg

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A King May Look at a Cat – a fairy tale

  By Lynne Lumsden Green

Queen Cat


Felina strolled past the palace twice a day.  The royal guard dogs would get hysterical every time, slobbering and barking and quivering with their fury and rage, as she paraded in front of the iron gates.  The cat, cool and sophisticated, would ignore them.  Most days, she wouldn’t even acknowledge them with a twitch of whisker or tail.

Felina was a beautiful cat, and as she walked there were ripples of silver, pearl and black just like fluttering ribbons of watered silk.  Felina was a true aristocrat, all elegant bones and knowing, haughty eyes.

The King hated her.

She had all the freedom in the world.  She walked with her insolent tail held high and jaunty, as close to a wild thing as any mortal creature in his kingdom.  A Queen.  An Empress.  A Witch.

The King envied her.  He was a bitter, small-souled man.  His people feared him, for he was bad-tempered and cared for little other than his own desires.  Felina knew the King was watching her.  She was used to people staring at her.  Her jewel-jade eyes never met his steaming gaze.  She didn’t care…and her uncaring stung the King like a thousand poisoned needles.

The King wanted her.  He wanted her to be frightened by his dogs.  He wanted to her to see him, to be reflected in her green eyes – like a kaleidoscope – as a million powerful men worthy of her respect.  He wanted to tear her casual elegance to shreds.  He wanted to her to *see* him.

He went to his Royal Wizard with a request.  “Curse the cat,” he ordered.  “I want her freedom, her wildness, to be taken away from her.  I want her to be changed into the form of the ugliest, most miserable creature in the kingdom.”

“As you wish, milord.”

That night, the King went to bed a nearly happy man.  In the morning, he woke up as a stunted tomcat.

Now, Queen Felina rules in the palace.  She sets the dogs onto every tomcat she sees lurking around the palace gates.  She has dismissed the Royal Wizard.

Her people love their kind and graceful queen, so beautiful with her silver hair and pearls and black silk dresses.  She strolls around the palace gardens twice a day, cool and content, as she surveys her well-run kingdom with knowing, haughty, green eyes.

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Sharing other Blogs

This used to be very straight forward. Please note that three of the recent blog posts are by other bloggers and should not be attributed to me.

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My Visit to the Vulcan Steampunk Spectacular — Kawaii Street Fashion (Shared Blog)

A couple of weeks ago I attended a local Steampunk event called the Vulcan Steampunk Spectacular. It was the first one to be held and was organised by the White Rose Yorkshire Steampunks. The location for the event was very special as it took place at the Robin Hood airport in the Vulcan’s hangar and […]

via My Visit to the Vulcan Steampunk Spectacular — Kawaii Street Fashion

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Steampunk Time Machine Backpack — The Steampunk Ledger

I made this for this year’s Steampunk World’s Fair which just passed in May. I also made a Steampunk rifle which I will be writing about in a separate post. So I got the idea for this backpack a while ago when I saw a video on Youtube here showing how to make a lamp out […]

via Steampunk Time Machine Backpack — The Steampunk Ledger


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Wednesday Pull: Monstress Vol. 1 – Awakening — mattyreads

Welcome to your Wednesday pull, in which I review a comic that I have recently read for your consideration. Today, that comic is: Monstress, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. This review covers the first trade, which includes issues 1-6 and is subtitled ‘Awakening.’ The Story – Humans and Arcanics are at war. The world has been decimated […]

via Wednesday Pull: Monstress Vol. 1 – Awakening — mattyreads

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Looping Through a Time Paradox

‘The moving finger writes, and, having writ, moves on’

Omar Khayyám

The concept of the Time Paradox is relatively new (pun alert). It came into prominence with Einstein’s theory of space/time and relativity, and with science fiction writers jumping onto the concept with screams of delight. Time travel had been a SF genre stable since  H G Wells had written ‘The Time Machine’ in 1895, and a new time travel concept was considered a marvellous innovation. The grandfather paradox was described as early as 1931. It didn’t take long for writers to start making stories based on the concept. Among the first of the SF stories dealing with the grandfather paradox was the short story Ancestral Voices by Nathaniel Schachner, published in 1933. It dealt with a time traveller killing his umpteen-times grandfather by mistake … and wiping away the existence 50,000 of his relatives (and himself) at the same time. Time paradoxes have been a favourite subject ever since.

In this post, I want to discuss the implications of time loops, using three of my favourite sources:

  • Terry Pratchett’s YA Discworld novel, I Shall Wear Midnight;
  • Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel The Books of Magic;
  • The Doctor Who episodes, Before the Flood.


I_Shall_Wear_Midnight by Terry Pratchett and illustrated bt Paul Kidby


I Shall Wear Midnight is  Tiffany Aching book. To start with, I want to point out the two versions of Tiffany on the Paul Kidby cover. This is genius, summing up the major scene in the book without giving any surprises away. Tiffany meets with her older self and so completes a time loop. As the Older Tiffany explains, the meeting goes differently every time it happens, while essentially remaining the same, because of the nature of the Discworld Multiverse. (A similar explanation is given to Samuel Vimes about his time travel in Night Watch.) One one level there is only one meeting in time; but on another level is occurred over and over again, with slightly different versions of the same characters. This version of the time loop means that Tiffany is always working towards the meeting with herself.


The Books of Magic bt Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Charles Vess & Co


‘It became necessary to destroy the town to save it’, original quote attributed by journalist Peter Arnett to a United States major.

In The Books of Magic, there is a very elegant version of a time loop, based around the character of Mister E. Mister E walks Tim Hunter – destined to be the world’s greatest magician – to the end of Time to see the future of Magic. Mister E had been taught time walking by a blind stranger who was walking backwards in time, At Terminus ( a very cute nod to Douglas Adams), they watch the last few moments before the universe ends. Mister E thinks this is the perfect place to murder young Tim, to ‘protect’ him, and so Mister E attempts to stab or strangle the boy. Tim is rescued by Death of the Endless from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman universe. Death punishes Mister E by making him walk back through the billions of years to his starting point.  It is inferred that the mysterious stranger that taught Mister E to timewalk was none other than this later version of himself, creating a ‘bootstrap’ time paradox, also known as a causal loop.

The Bootstrap Paradox is a theoretical paradox of time travel that occurs when an object or piece of information sent back in time becomes trapped within an infinite cause-effect loop in which the item no longer has a discernible point of origin, and is said to be “uncaused” or “self-created”.  – from the Wikipedia


The Doctor Who television series is the best provider for any of this wibbley-wobbley Timey-wimey stuff. This explanation of the Bootstrap Paradox is from Before the Flood episode. Even if the rest of the episode was rubbish (which it wasn’t, and the Fisher King was so scary), this explanation made the whole episode worth it. It helped underline the whole premise of the episode – very clever and fun. It played with the causal time loop like it was a Klein Bottle rather than a closed system, by having the Doctor inform himself of the words necessary to save the day (I don’t want to say too much if you’ve never watched the episode). At the end of the episode, Clara asks the Doctor how he knew what to make his ghost’s hologram say. He informs her that he only knew what he had to do because he found out through her telling him what it was already saying from the future. And so the loop is closed off and allowed to ‘pop’.

Before the Flood

I am a time traveller in the sense that I use historical settings in my writing. But I am tempted to write my own Bootstrap Paradox narrative, simply for the fun of it.

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It’s been a mad week.

To make up for it, here are three articles you should read.


Women in Science: An Illustrated Who’s Who


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Filed under Feminism, Steampunk Feminist, Uncategorized, Women in Science