Category Archives: Author

Karen Carlisle: Steampunk Goddess

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Even among the high quality of Australian Steampunk Authors. Karen Carlisle is a standout. She is an expert cosplayer, Steampunk crafter, Vlogger, as well as an author. She is currently having a blog tour, and this blog is part of her tour.

All of the Viola Stewart narratives are excellent, but I wanted to review the first in the series, Doctor Jack. This is the story that intoduces the series protagonist, Viola, and when what an introduction it is. Viola is not your typical Victorian woman. She like cars and wants one of her own. She breaks off her relationship with an abusive beau – though his behaviour would not have been considered out of place in the era. Best of all, she is active and curious without being ‘feisty’, and a woman of science with a medical background. She is also disabled, because she is missing an eye, but she never lets that slow her down.

The antagonist is her ex-beau, Doctor Jack, a cad and a bounder, and a member of the Men In Grey (I can’t say anymore in case of spoilers). Her actual romantic interest is Doctor Collins, who is rather dashing and interesting, but personally I think Viola could do better. It isn’t that Collins isn’t lovely. But Viola would lose so many of her rights if she ever got married.

The actual story for this book is excellent … a mystery and a thriller. Viola has a talent for finding trouble. It isn’t that she is a meddling busybody. Her active lifestyle means that she knows a lot of interesting people and attends many events, and things happen. She doesn’t faint at the thought of danger and her skills set as a detective means that she is often the best person to investigate the occurrence. Men often try to protect her – both literally and figuratively – but she is quite cabable of looking after herself and rescuing the men, if needs be.

However, she is sensible enough to accpet help when she needs it.

Viola grabbed the door handle. It jiggled/rattled in her hand, refusing to turn. That would have been too easy.

Doctor Collins joined her on the low step. He motioned, with a quick flick of his head. “Keep watch.”

Viola turned, then scanned the street. The sun was almost directly above them, shrinking the long shadows. Only fine wisps of mist lingered now. The street was deserted.

The handle rattled behind her. There was a loud click. Viola turned to face her friend. He stood in the open doorway.

Viola stared at him. “How did you…?”

“With all of your detectiving, I had to find a way to keep up with you.” He raised his eyebrows and grinned.

That is one of the reasons I like Viola Stewart. She gives credit when credit is due. She doesn’t need to be in charge, but she isn’t scared of taking charge if she has to. She gets things done without making a big fuss. However, if a big fuss is needed, she is quite ready and capable of kicking one up.

I would recommend Karen’s books to anyone who enjoys reading in the Steampunk genre, but I think they would appeal to any keen reader.

 

Viola has gone on to have further adventures. They are available here for purchase:

The Viola Books

Karen Carlisle does more than write. She is a keen cosplayer and an active member of the Steampunk Community in Adelaide. She is a keen vlogger, see Karen J Carlisle on Youtube

Karen J Carlisle is an imagineer and writer of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition and published her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, in 2015. Her short story, Hunted, featured in the Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’.

Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.

She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea. She has a compeition running every day this week, so visit her website after reading this article!

 Where to find Karen:

Web: www.karenjcarlisle.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenJCarlisle/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/KarenJCarlisle

For info on where to buy Karen’s books: www.karenjcarlisle.com/shop

 

KJCarlisleicon2S (002)As an added bonus – an excerpt from the novella, ‘From the Depths’

© 2017 Karen J Carlisle

 

A shriek pierced the air. Viola flinched. Brine filled her mouth and rushed up her nostrils. She spluttered, thrust her legs downward into the deep chilly water and kicked to keep her head above water.

Men shouted, their cries unintelligible through water-logged eardrums. The other bathing machine thundered into life. Chains rattled, the engine strained. Frenzied splashes of water accompanied its retreat.

The water trembled around her, pounding on her chest. Viola gasped for air. A new undercurrent tugged at her legs. She rubbed the salt from her eyes and searched the surrounding water. Nothing.

Bubbles tickled her body and erupted on the surface. Something solid grazed her calf. Viola’s heart jumped. The Lurker? Goosebumps crawled over her skin.

There’s no such thing as monsters.

Water rumbled and churned. Waves sloshed against her torso. She jerked her knees up to her chest, struggling to untangle her limbs from the snarl of the heavy woollen skirt of her bathing costume.

There’s no such thing as monsters. There’s no such thing as monsters.

Viola shivered. She had drifted further from the bathing machine than she had thought; the candy-striped change box was nearly eighty yards away, the shore even more distant.

A crowd was gathering on the shoreline, waving their arms and shouting.

“Get out of the water!”

Two men swam toward her. Another bathing machine trundled in their wake. The sea hissed. Too close.

Spurts of water burst from the surface. A large shadow lurked beneath her.

Viola’s heart raced, her breathing shallow. She wanted to run, to flee, to swim to the safety of the change box, but her arms refused to move.

There’s no such thing as monsters.

The shadow turned and glided southward towards the headland. A trace of bubbles marked its course, fading as the shadow disappeared into deeper waters.

The two men splashed closer. Uncomfortably close. Their bare arms glowed white against the dark water.

“Get out of the water!”

Viola spun to face them. The weight of her water-logged pantaloons dragged her downward, slowing her movement. Her skirt swirled up in the current, floating up around her thighs. Balloons of fabric surfaced on the water, leaving her legs exposed…

Viola pulled the skirt below the water, yanking low to cover her legs and cursed under her breath. Big mistake; salty water caught in her throat. She sputtered and caught her breath and swam hastily back to the bathing machine. She dove headlong onto the steps and dragged herself into the change box. The skirt clung to her legs; her loose hair wrapped around her neck like tentacles.

The splashing outside stopped. The walls shook with a thud. Viola jumped, skidded in the growing puddle on the floor. She grabbed the hook, draped with her stockings.

“Are you all right, Miss?” The voice was deep, and close to the doorway.

Viola steadied herself. “Yes, I am well.” Her voice was a bit shakier than expected.

“You’re not injured?”

“No.”

“Did you see it?” asked a second, reedier voice.

“See what?”

“The Lurker? It was right under you.” There was a pause. “Did you see the monster, Miss?”

“Shut it, William,” replied the deep voice. “We don’t want to scare the lassie any more.”

There was a shadow on the step.

Viola snatched her robe and flung it around her shoulders. “What monster?” she asked, as she peeked through the doorway.

A tall redheaded man stared back at her. Deep furrows etched his forehead. A sandy-haired man appeared at the bottom step. His eyes widened. His gaze lingered on Viola, tracked down a drenched tendril of hair, fell to the puddle at her stockingless feet, and flicked back to the dark water surrounding the change box. His cheeks reddened.

Viola pulled her robe tight.

“You’re a long way from shore, Miss,” said the sandy-headed man. “Do you not know of the legend of The Lurker?”

“Willam!” The redheaded man’s deep voice echoed through the change box.

“There’s no such thing as monsters.” Viola cleared her throat. “It’s just a story to titillate the tourists.”

“If you say so, Miss.” William scoffed. “Come on, Mr Fraser. We know when we’re not wanted.”

Fraser nudged William and lowered his voice. “Perhaps it is time to return to shore, Miss?”

Viola stared down at the water. Ripples formed a few hundred yards away. Something glinted just above the surface. A dark hump broke the waterline, turned seaward and slipped back under the surface.

Viola nodded.

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Filed under Australian Author, Australian Steampunk Author, Author, Book Review, Karen Carlisle, Uncategorized

Lynne’s Favorite Ten Modern Science Fiction (non-Steampunk) Authors

This list is not in order of preference.

1/ Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey; Portrait by Linda Eicher

I read ‘The White Dragon’ when I was nineteen, and have been a McCaffrey fan for ever after. I think the Pern books are great, but it is her ‘The Tower and the Hive’ books that I probably love the most.

2/ Ursula k. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin

Every Le Guin book is something to treasure, but my favourites are her fantasy EarthSea series and her feminist Science Fiction classic The Left Hand of Darkness and her post-colonial/ecological Science Fiction classic The Word for World is Forest. Her short stories are gems.

3/ Jennifer Fallon

Jennifer Fallon

The Tide Lords is my favourite series, but it is hard to pick just one stand-out book in her bibliography. You always have fun when reading any of her books.

4/ Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

But he’s a fantasy author, you all protesting. May I direct you to the Long Earth series … written with Stephen Baxter.

5/ Vonda N McIntyre

Vonda N. McIntyre

Vonda N. McIntyre

If you haven’t read Dreamsnake or The Moon and the Sun, race out and read them right now, or I just can’t talk to you.

6/ Judith Tarr

Judith Tarr and Pooka

I reread A Wind in Cairo at least once a year (it is a fantasy book). Tarr has had a long and prolific career, and writes both Science Fiction and fantasy.

7/ R A MacAvoy

R A MacAvoy

Tea with the Black Dragon is one of my very favourite books of all time, but I love all her books. She is another author who can write both fantasy and Science Fiction books, with elegant ideas and enchanting prose.

8/ Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones

You might be surprised at Diana Wynne Jones inclusion on this list. You can’t tell me that Howl’s Moving Castle, or A Tale of Time City, aren’t partly Science Fiction as well.

9/ China Tom Miéville

China Mieville

Okay … he has written books that can be considered part of the Steampunk oeuvre. However, most of his books aren’t in the Steampunk genre, but written in something he likes to call Weirdpunk. Most of his books defy genre definitions. And if that won’t entice you to read something of his, may I recommend Embassytown.

10/ Sean Williams

Sean in a hat

Sean Williams

He is a New York Times bestseller. Go read the Twinmaker series, and thank me later.

And Lucky you! I’m making an extra recommendation: Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. Read Songs from the Seashell Archives Quintet and her Science Fiction collaborations with Anne McCaffrey.

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

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Blonde, Brunette or Blazing Red: A Steampunk Perspective of Victorian-era Hair (Part Two)

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Mary Ingalls

Her beautiful golden hair was gone. Pa had shaved it close because of the fever, and her poor shorn head looked like a boy’s. Her blue eyes were still beautiful, but they did not know what was before them, and Mary herself could never look through them again to tell Laura what she was thinking without saying a word. – Laura Ingalls Wilder “By the Shores of Silver Lake”

This image of a shorn Mary Ingalls stayed with me for years. In a lot of Victorian-era novels, you read of girls with a fever having their hair cut, as their hair was ‘draining their strength’. Anna Karenina has her hair cut while she has a fever, and it marks the change in her fortunes from respectable woman to ‘hysterical’ mad woman. There is the dramatic hair cutting scene in Jane Eyre, with poor Julia made to cut off her natural curls. The various types of symbology relating hair is a goldmine for a writer.

 This is how Alice should look.

Because long hair was the fashion for the 19th century, the cutting of a woman’s hair was a big deal. It was shocking to see a woman with short hair, as glorious long hair symbolised a woman’s youthfulness, femininity, and health. It would only be cut off for illness, including ‘brain fever’ or madness, or as a terrible punishment, because it was physically destroying her beauty and femininity. It could have a greater impact as seeing a woman today with her head shaved bald. This was why Anne Shirley, from Anne of Green Gables, was kept at home after she cut her hair after the dreadful dye experiment. This was why Jo from Little Women was making such a great sacrifice when she cut her hair to make money for her mother’s trip to see Jo’s father. Both Anne and Jo regretted the loss of their hair, their ‘one beauty’.

 

As she spoke, Jo took off her bonnet, and a general outcry arose, for all her abundant hair was cut short.

Your hair! Your beautiful hair! Oh, Jo, how could you? Your one beauty. My dear girl, there was no need of this. She doesn’t look like my Jo any more, but I love her dearly for it!

As everyone exclaimed, and Beth hugged the cropped head tenderly, Jo assumed an indifferent air, which did not deceive anyone a particle, and said, rumpling up the brown bush and trying to look as if she liked it, “It doesn’t affect the fate of the nation, so don’t wail, Beth. It will be good for my vanity, I getting too proud of my wig. It will do my brains good to have that mop taken off. My head feels deliciously light and cool, and the barber said I could soon have a curly crop, which will be boyish, becoming, and easy to keep in order. I’m satisfied, so please take the money and let’s have supper.”

“Tell me all about it, Jo. I am not quite satisfied, but I can’t blame you, for I know how willingly you sacrificed your vanity, as you call it, to your love. But, my dear, it was not necessary, and I’m afraid you will regret it one of these days,” said Mrs. March. – Louisa May Alcott

With hair seen as a woman’s ‘crowning glory, it isn’t hard to imagine that hair was something of a Victorian obsession. I’ve mentioned hair jewellery before, but it is worth mentioning again. Hair was often used to create keepsakes, particularly of the deceased. Locks of hair were given out for friends and family to treasure, often at the request of the dearly departed. Or the living would give up a precious lock to create a love token.

Woven Hair Jewellery

Woven Hair Jewellery

Mourning locket, gold,  hairwork, seed pearls, made by John Wilkinson Jeweller & Silversmith, Leeds, England, circa 1826. In the collection of the Powerhouse Museum.

Mourning locket, gold, hairwork, seed pearls, made by John Wilkinson Jeweller & Silversmith, Leeds, England, circa 1826. In the collection of the Powerhouse Museum.

Bouquet Brooch made with the hair of 15 individuals including 2 men and 7 children.

Bouquet Brooch made with the hair of 15 individuals including 2 men and 7 children.

Hair was a large part of a woman’s public persona, which was another reason why cutting it short was so shocking. When women started bobbing their hair in the 1920s, it was a public signal of their freedom from the restrictions society had placed them in. When Victorian women criminals entered prison, their hair was shorn, it was claimed for reasons of ‘cleanliness’, but it was also the quickest way of shearing away a woman’s confidence, making her docile and compliant to the prison’s discipline. Women fraternizing with the enemy had their head shorn as punishment, ruining their allure and making their shame public. Shorn hair was a very public way of highlighting a statement (or showing you were a bit over enthusiastic with the curling iron and have burnt off all your hair).

Long hair

In my own Steampunk narrative, my main character has unfashionable red hair … and a calm and rational temperament. Alice is a deliberate break from the stereotype of the short-fused Scottish redhead, but her hair is long and glossy. I am toying with the idea of her deliberately cutting her own hair as part of a disguise. It will need to be a much more emotional scene than if a girl was to cut her hair today. But I can use the cutting of her hair as a symbol of cutting away her restrictions within a Patriarchal society. 

If you are a Steampunk Enthusiast, I also have a site on Facebook where I share articles and images: https://www.facebook.com/SteampunkSunday

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Filed under Analogy, Author, Fashion, Historical Personage, History, Jewellery, Metaphors, Steampunk

Victorian Women Writers with Masculine Nom De Plumes

We all know that Mary Shelley is one of the mothers of the Science Fiction, but being a woman writer, poet and/or author was never an easy road to travail. Mary was lucky to get her work published under her own name. Other women authors took a different route to publication, and offered their work up under masculine nom de plumes. I have chosen to share a short observation of four of the finest, and why they chose to take on the mantle of masculinity.

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George Sand in Masculine Dress

George Sand, the alter ego of the Frenchwoman Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, was one of the original rebels who became just as famous for her celebrity as for her books and memoirs. She made her literary debut in corroboration the writer Jules Sandeau,  when they published a few stories in collaboration, signing them ‘Jules Sand’. Her first published novel, Rose et Blanche (1831), was also written in collaboration with Sandeau. The very the next year she published a solo literary effort, Indiana, under the pen name, George Sand.

As George Sand, she underwent a transformation, becoming something of a scandal; which did nothing to harm the sales of her books, by the way. She began wearing men’s clothing in public, which she justified by claiming the clothes were far sturdier, more comfortable, and less expensive than the typical feminine outfits of her era (I believe her claims wholeheartedly). In addition to being comfortable,  she favoured masculine clothing for its ability to gain her access to places generally not frequented by other women of her era. Sand also took to smoking cigars in public, at a time when fashionable women didn’t smoke. To top off all this, she had numerous affairs with other famous writers, painters, and musicians; her most famous being a ten year relationship with Frédéric François Chopin.

Sand was to write of Chopin, “I must say I was confused and amazed at the effect this little creature had on me … I have still not recovered from my astonishment, and if I were a proud person I should be feeling humiliated at having been carried away …”

George Sands was born in 1804 and died in 1876, so all of her writing output was during the Victorian era. She was -and still is – known well in far reaches of the world, and remembered for both her outrageous behaviour and her sublime writing. Her masculine nom de plume was well known to belong to a woman, and I believe she saw her George persona as a way of tossing aside the restrictions place upon Aurore, rather than trying to hide her identity as a woman author.

Mary Ann Evans, who wrote under the pen name of George Eliot.

“And, of course men know best about everything, except what women know better.”

― George Eliot, from  Middlemarch

This is very different to the strategy of another ‘George’, George Eliot. Mary Ann (also Marian, Mary Anne – she used alternative spellings as it suited her mood) Evans used a masculine pen name to ensure her works would be taken seriously by the literary community, as most female authors were stereotyped as only writing lighthearted romances.

However, she did live a somewhat unconventional life, though no where near as scandalous as George Sand’s escapades. Mary Ann Evans met the philosopher and critic George Henry Lewes  in 1851, and by 1854 they had fallen in love decided to live together, even though Lewes was still married to another woman, Agnes Jervis. Evans and Lewes considered themselves married, with Evans calling herself Marian Evans Lewes, and referring to Lewes as her husband, and they lived together for twenty years until Lewes died. Mary Anne remarried in 1880. Even though she legally married John Cross, society was shocked because she was twenty years younger than Mary Ann by marrying a man twenty years younger than herself, and again changing her name, this time to Mary Anne Cross. She died in that same year.

Her pen name strategy worked for her, because she was and is considered one of greatest English novelists of all time, thanks to novels like The Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch. Throughout her career, Eliot wrote  a politically astute narratives, like a Victorian-era Harper Lee, presenting the cases of social outsiders and small-town persecution. She was (and is) well regarded for the sophistication of her character portraits. She was a popular author in Victorian times, and remains so to this day.

Emily Jane Brontë , who wrote under the pen name Ellis Bell. This portrait was made by her brother, Branwell.

CharlotteBronte.jpg

Charlotte Brontë, who wrote under the pen name of Currer Bell.

Anne Brontë , whose masculine nom de plume was Acton Bell, as painted by Charlotte Brontë .

Most of us know the romantic history of three Brontë sisters, all with ambitions to be writers, and all three decided to use masculine pen names. In May 1846, Charlotte, Emily and Anne self-financed the publication of a joint collection of poems under their assumed names of Currer Bell, Ellis Bell and Acton Bell. The women then went on to solo careers as Victorian-era writers.

Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because — without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called “feminine” – we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise.

– Charlotte Bronte

All three ended up famous, though poor Anne is somewhat overshadowed by her two sisters. Sadly, none of the sisters survived middle age, with Charlotte living the longest by achieving 38 years of age. The most scandalous thing they ever did was publish books under nom de plumes, but their legacy lives on. One can’t help but wonder what masterpieces might have been written if they had lived into their seventies.

As a writer, I have a pen name, Lynne Lumsden Green, but only as my own name is so common I needed something to make it unique. I haven’t any urge to take on a masculine nom de plume, but if I had to face the same attitudes as Sands, Eliot, and the Brontë sisters, I would probably be using Lyndon instead of Lynne. But gender stereotyping lingered on well past the Victorian era.

“It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree’s writing.”

— Robert Silverberg

Alice Sheldon, who wrote under the name James Tiptree Jr, was a Science Fiction writer who kept her gender identity a secret until her death in 1987. She often wrote about gender and sexuality in her work, so it is a shame that she felt only a masculine persona would gain publication and recognition.  I dedicate this article to her memory.

As a Steampunk enthusiast and writer, I feel it is my duty to read books by Victorian writers, to get a feel for the era from people who lived in it. Four of these women are the backbone of English literature, along with Jane Austen, and George Sands is considered one the greatest writers of her time. They shook down the walls of the Literature with their talent.

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Filed under Author, Historical Personage, History, Steampunk Feminist