Tag Archives: Steampunk Genre

Steampunk Gadgets – a video by yours truly

panel-for-backgroundSteampunk Gadgets

The link takes you to a Youtube video, with Cogpunk Steamscribe (in her Steampunk Sunday persona) discussing the delightful gadgets of the Steampunk cosplayer.

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Filed under Celebrating 30 years of Steampunk, Gadgets, Steampunk, Steampunk Cosplay, Steampunk Genre, Steampunk Sunday, Steampunk Technology, Steampunk Themes

The Competent Woman Protagonist: a Steampunk Feminist Perspective

Compenent Women

Table by Javier Zarracina for Vox

I read an article about Competent Sidekicks on Vox, and saw this table. I don’t completely agree with it, as Luke did blow up the Death Star, but Leia certainly gave him access to the Death Star plans and his torpedo-firing spaceship. But I do think this table makes a valid point; why do these competent women not get their share of the credit at the end of the day?

Agent 99

Agent 99

This cliche is as old as television. Look at 99 and Maxwell Smart. Smart was extremely lucky to be teamed up with Agent 99, as she did most of the thinking and the hard work while he got most of the credit. What made him survive was luck – not to be underrated, but it can’t be depended upon. Even in the modern reboot, Agent 99 has all the training and skills. Max and 99 are the extreme example of the trope, with Starlord and Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy coming a close second.

This occurs quite a bit in literature too. So,how do I avoid this happening in my Steampunk novel.

Well, for starters, my protagonist is a competent woman. And – at the end of the story – she will be getting her credit and her reward. Yep. I finally figured out the reward that would make her happy … a free pass into Kew Gardens. For life. No restrictions. For a woman academic of the 1870s, that is like winning Olympic Gold.

So much more satisfying that marrying her off into a faux ‘happily ever after’.

 

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Filed under Characterization, Steampunk, Steampunk Feminist, Steampunk Genre, Stereotypes, Uncategorized, Writing Style

Female-only Idioms; a Steampunk Feminist Perspective

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Image of the Bionic Unicorn

There are certain sayings and phrases in English that refer purely to women. The ones I am going to discuss today are “She’s the cat’s mother”, “A woman’s place is in the home”, “A Scarlet Woman”,”A woman’s work is never done”, and “Don’t teach your grandma to suck eggs”. I have picked these because there is no equivalent sayings that refer to men. These are not the only examples, I could have included “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” or “the little woman”, but those I picked cover the most common discourses that entagle women in their daily lives.

She’s the cat’s mother: 

I’ve never heard anyone correct someone using ‘he’ by saying ‘He’s the cat’s father’. For some reason, women are held to a higher standard of grammatical English than men. Women aren’t supposed to swear; our language is meant to be lady-like. This is reflected in sayings like this, with the underlying discourse that women are more polite and speak correctly – this was pointed out in Robin Lakoff’s Language and Woman’s Place. Reading this book was a revelation to me, particularly as I was only just learning how gendered English was as a language.

babushkakitty

A woman’s place is in the home:

Aspects of form, topic, content, and use
of spoken language have been identified as
sex associated. – Adelaide Haas

I am imagining a lot of people frowning at their computer screens as they read that idiom. Until recently, that was the argument everyone used when women tried to enter the public sphere. It was the greatest argument used against the suffragists and suffragettes in the Victorian era. You don’t hear of where a man’s place is supposed to be; but the inference is the woman should be cooking him dinner and caring for his house & children. A woman is NOT a refrigerator, and a wife is not another item of white goods.

suffragette-madonna

Because, you know, a father spending time with his infant is a terrible thing. Only a mother can supply the right sort of care. This is insulting to both the mother and the father, when you think about it.

A Scarlet Woman: 

This is the old double standard; a man who plays the field is sewing his wild oats, whereas a young woman doing the same thing is a slut. This is an underlying assumption built into the very foundations of our language. Ponder the difference between the concepts of a male ‘pro’ and a female ‘pro’, or a ‘master’ and a ‘mistress’. That status of women in our culture is reflected in our language. We need to start redefining these terms to take away the negative implications. Women can be assertive without being aggressive, and talk loudly without being shrill.

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A Swedish holocaust survivor attacking a neo-Nazi!

A Woman’s Work is Never Done:

This saying is actually part of a couplet: A man he works from sun to sun (sunrise to sunset), but a woman’s work is never done. This saying originated in the days when women were unable to go out into the workforce in the public area, and were basically unpaid slaves. This perception of unending tasks was because of nature of the unpaid labour done by a wife and mother, which involved caring and feeding for the said ‘man’ and their mutual children, as well as cleaning the house and doing the laundry (and possibly caring for the garden as well). If the woman had actually been paid for this work, no one would have been able to afford her salary.

Now that women can go out to work, the burden of domestic labour still falls on the shoulder of women. This happens even if both partners work full time.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/mar/10/housework-gender-equality-women

It is frustrating that our language and culture still encapsulates this discourse. Who does the Christmas shopping in your house, as an example?

ive-suffered

Hah! You never hear about henpecked wives.

Don’t Teach Your Grandma to Suck Eggs: 

For those who haven’t come across this say, it means that inexperienced people should try not to give advice to experts in their fields. However, the depreciating humour in this idiom never pokes fun at Grandpa. And sucking eggs sounds disgusting.

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“So a girl is damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. If she refuses to talk like a lady, she is ridiculed and subjected to criticism as unfeminine; if she does learn, she is ridiculed as unable to think clearly, unable to take part in a serious discussion: in some sense, as less than fully human. These two choices which a woman has — to be less than a woman or less than a person — are highly painful.”
Robin Lakoff, Language and Woman’s Place (1975)

 

 

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Filed under Metaphors, Steampunk Feminist, Steampunk Themes, Steampunk Writer, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Style

How Setting and Plot can affect Characterisation

professor-alice

My main character of my Steampunk novel is a seventeen year old girl called Alice. She is a polymath, and finds it difficult to gain respect and recognition for her inventions and education in the male-dominated field of science in Britain, in the 1870s. How you build a character should link back to your setting and plot. I am going to run though how Professor Alice was developed.

When I first had my idea for the novel, I knew it was going to be about a woman fighting against the established patriarchal restrictions built into the scientific society of Victorian England. So the fact she was female was a given. And she had to be tough and resilient.

She also needed to be rich. Alas, but only the daughters of the wealthy usually had access to a proper scientific education. A poor girl would be lucky to scrape enough education to read, write, and do figures. I made both her parents well educated, so that it was more likely that Alice would receive a better education than watercolours and piano playing. By making them minor nobility, it also gave me the opportunity to explore the class system of the Victorian era.

Now to pile on the negatives and increase her struggle. Red hair was NOT a fashionable colour in the 1870s, and was associated with prostitution and the lower classes. I didn’t want Alice to be a conventionally pretty woman. As well, I made her tall, in an era when small women were favoured over tall women (and I suffer from height envy – if I can’t be tall, I can at least write about tall women). In this way, she is visually striking without being considered beautiful, so that her looks would create uncertainty in social occasions. No hiding away like a wallflower for my Alice.

She was going to be having a lot of adventures, so she had to be fit and active. As well, she doesn’t wear corsets or skirts on a daily basis, because they restrict her movements and bustle skirts are simply dangerous in a laboratory. This would also add to the perception of her unnaturalness or Otherness in society.

When you look at characters in books, don’t assume that their appearance was just a random choice by the author. A small, brown-haired Alice with no money or education would not have been able to function within my plot.

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Filed under Alice, Characterization, Plot, Setting, Steampunk, Steampunk Feminist, Steampunk Genre, Uncategorized

Ghosts as Big Business: a Steampunk Feminist Perspective

the-ghost-child

Just as vampires and zombies are big business at the moment, ghosts were popular everywhere in the Victorian era. A sure sign of their popularity is that Dickens climbed onto the money wagon with his own ghost story A Christmas Carol. We all know how very popular that story was and still is. You can’t say it is not a commercial success!  Why were ghost stories so popular?

whose-afraidscared

 

Part of the blame can be laid at the foot of the growing interest in Spiritualism, mediums, seances, and Ouija boards. On both sides of the Atlantic, it was not unusual for fashionable parties to be themed with a spot of Spiritualism. Who could resist the lure of contacting a departed loved one? I know how much I miss my deceased family & friends, so why would the Victorians be any different?

seance

The esteemed literary historian, Jack Sullivan, argues a “Golden Age of the Ghost Story” existed between the decline of the Gothic novel in the 1830s and the start of the First World War, brought about by popularity of the works of the American author, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Irish writer, Sheridan Le Fanu. It is important to realise that the ghost story has never really gone out of print, but the popularity of the genre fluctuates, both through time and geographically.

the-haunting

Even though the Steampunk genre stands squarely as a subgenre of the Science Fiction genre, this doesn’t mean a ghost story can’t add some excitement to the plot. Sheridan Le Fanu was famous for construction hauntings that were only visible to a single character and inferred the ghost (or other gremlin) was only a figment of that character’s imagination. And seriously, who doesn’t like to be given a bit of a scare while sitting safe in an armchair?

i-feel-a-presence

 

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Filed under Ghosts, History, Horror genre, Steampunk Genre, Steampunk Themes, Uncategorized, Victorian Era

The Editing Blues

This post was inspired by a discussion with author, Kara Jorgensen.

https://www.facebook.com/thevampirelock

kara

I’ve discovered the biggest difference (for me) between writing and editing. The more I write, the easier it becomes to write. However, it never works that way with editing. *sigh* I get to a point where the manuscript I’m editing no longer makes any sense. Sometimes I have to step away to ‘freshen my brain’. I think of it as the Editing Blues or Editing Burnout. (This is why I use beta readers. Sometimes, I just get blind to the problems.)

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate editing. It just makes me want to add more, polish more, and fiddle with structure. It tends to become a never-ending process. The more I edit, the more I can see where I can add more details to help refine the plot, or highlight the importance of the setting, or to intensify characterisation. I want to make my Steampunk manuscript absolutely perfect.

In the past, I’ve been able to sit down and write a novel from start to end, and some of these novels haven’t needed that much polishing. I suspect this is because I am not so emotionally invested in these stories as I am in others. Some projects seem to require more attention than others. I suspect my expectations are higher. It is like expecting a pass mark for Phys. Ed. and a top mark in English; I am just better at some things and it is easier to put in the extra effort for a good mark. Maybe that isn’t the best analogy.

A mother shouldn’t like some of her children better than the others … but I do. My Steampunk novel has to be utterly perfect before I send it off. I want the plot to be convoluted by still logical and easy to follow; I want the characters to be fully realised and unforgettable; and I want the settings to act as framing devices par excellence, full of metaphor, resonance, and meaning. I want the prose to sing! To make my readers remember part for weeks after they have read the book, and smile to themselves. I wasn’t to see online discussions of who would play which character if a movie or television show was made based on the book. This book should bring as much joy to my readers as other books have thrilled and enchanted me.

quote-anne-lamott-perfectionism-is-the-voice-of-the-oppressor-23241

That kind of perfection takes work. Sometimes, it seems like too much work and I am overwhelmed by my own vision.

This is when the skills of learnt as a writer kicks in. Take it one page at a time. It kind of reminds me of that old adage: looks after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. Get one page right, and then the next page, and so on … and one day the editing will be finished. It takes time and dedication to climb a mountain.

In other news, I’ve received another rejection; my story wasn’t long enough and they felt I overestimated age of the suitable audience. This is great feedback, because now I know to re-target my submission list for this manuscript. I am well on track to get 100 rejections in this financial year!

power

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Filed under Editing, Personal experience, Steampunk, Steampunk Genre, Steampunk Writer, The Writing Life

Steampunk Art and the Steampunk Aesthetic: Part Two

samson-the-blue-ringed-octopus-and-his-assistant-jeremiah-for-blue-ring-iron-works

Art by Brian Kesinger

Samson the blue ringed octopus and his assistant, Jeremiah, for blue ring iron works.

I love illustrations, for books, for graphic novels, and for posters.One of my favourite artists is Brian Kesinger, the famed creator of Otto and Victoria from “Walking your Octopus”. Kesinger is an American illustrator, author and animator, who has worked for Disney. Many of his works have a Steampunk Aesthetic.He even paints with tea! His use of the Steampunk Aesthetic to tell a tale withing his illustrations reflects his deep understanding (and love) of the genre.

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Brian Kesinger’s Tea Girls, painted using tea.

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Otto and Victoria cosplaying as Doctor Who and a Dalek.

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The Inventor, by Brian Kesinger.

Edward Gorey is another artist who favours a Victorian flavour in his illustrations, but his tastes tend to be more Gothic. The late Edward  Gorey was an American writer and artist, famed for his illustrated books.

image-from-edwardgoreyelephanthouse-tumblr-com-website

Now, the aesthetics of Gothic Victorian and Steampunk are very closely related, and Gorey is a master of the dark arts. It is his eye for detail that makes his work resonate on so many levels. That, and he can be both macabre and whimsical within the same illustration.

willowdale_handcar-image-from-wikipedia

innocence

 

from-the-willowdale-handcart

Illustration from The Willowdale Handcar

osbick-bird-by-edward-goreyNow, I can’t mention Steampunk illustrators without mentioning Liz Mamont. Like Gorey, Mamont blends a mixture of Gothic horror with a Victorian aesthetic. Like Gorey, her work often has a surreal edge. Her use of line work is superb, and she doesn’t back away from Absurdism in her work.

liz-mamont

The Mantis Family Outing Liz Mamont

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Electricity by Liz Mamont

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Art by Liz Mamont.

Unlike Steampunk sculptures, there is no expectation of ‘functionality’ in illustrations. Instead, what makes these illustrations fit into the Steampunk genre is their sense of humour – black or otherwise – and their sense of fun, while remain restricted to a a Victorian-era style and aesthetic.

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Filed under Art, Steampunk, Steampunk Aesthetic, Steampunk Art, Steampunk Cosplay, Steampunk Genre, Uncategorized