It’s Been A While

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It has been a while since  have posted. I have my rea­sons, I just can’t think what they are right now. Nev­er­the­less I fig­ured that today would be a great day to catch up.

Back around the begin­ning of the year I had a lit­tle bit of a cre­ative depres­sion. I wanted to write, but between hav­ing so lit­tle time, and moan­ing about hav­ing so lit­tle time, and the pres­sures of work, I got close to noth­ing done. Then fol­lows the sense of fail­ure. Intro­vert though I may be, I am still, by nature of my human­ity a social crea­ture and I real­ized that what I needed was to be able to com­mis­er­ate and share with other peo­ple like myself. Writ­ers who had yet to meet with much suc­cess, who like me needed sup­port, guid­ance and a chance to help and guide, and most impor­tantly, some­thing or some­one who would hold me account­able for cre­at­ing some­thing on a reg­u­lar basis. So, on the fly, I signed up for a writ­ing class with Cat Rambo with the hopes that I would find that thing I was look­ing for.

That was the best thing I could have done. It was per­fect in all ways.

Cat was great and I learned a lot from her in the six weeks that our class met up. But the group of ladies and one guy, sin­cere, won­der­ful, sup­port­ive, friendly, funny, inter­ested and inter­est­ing, diverse writ­ers that I met in class are worth more than the $200 I put down for that class. No amount of money could have paid for what I’ve gained in them.

We call our­selves Neb­ula Bound, because, well, isn’t it obvious?

Since the end of that class, I have com­pleted a new short story (actu­ally a much expanded rewrite) and have sub­mit­ted it to Clarkesworld. Don’t start clap­ping yet. I received my offi­cial Clarkesworld rejec­tion within two days. Ha! But, its all good. I’ve already sent it off to another mag­a­zine and I’m work­ing on another story.

Actu­ally, I’ve got a few sto­ries planned, one of which will be a novella, and I’m feel­ing very hope­ful about bring­ing them all to completion.

AUW has received two 5 star rat­ings on GR in the last week or so. That’s ter­rific con­sid­er­ing it seems to have been at a stand­still for the last sev­eral months. That’s some­thing, isn’t it?

I’ve also joined another group of ter­rific writ­ers in a pri­vate online crit group. There are some great folks in that group as well with great tal­ent and bur­geon­ing name recog­ni­tion. Not my name, but hey, I get to say, “I’ve got con­nec­tions.” Right?

Back to the topic of the Neb­u­las, I’d like send my own small unknown yet warm con­grat­u­la­tions out to every­one who was nom­i­nated and/or who won a Neb­ula this year. It is great to see so many women! I’ve made a per­sonal goal, as one who is Neb­ula Bound (stop laugh­ing at me!) that I will read the win­ning works and at least half of the nom­i­nated works this year. I enjoy a good story like any­one else, but also I hope to learn some­thing about good story telling, devel­op­ment and theme.

I’ve already started read­ing Ancil­lary Jus­tice by Ann Leckie and I’ll be updat­ing as I go on GR. I plan to post my reviews on GR and here. Any­one wish to read along with me? I’d love the company.

Well, I think I’ve said enough for now. I’m out.

 

Suna Dasi — Renaissance Woman

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Renais­sance woman — A woman who has broad intel­lec­tual inter­ests and is accom­plished in areas of both the arts and the sciences.

By strict def­i­n­i­tion I can be termed a renais­sance woman. I am an oncol­ogy nurse, and solidly grounded in the world of evi­denced based sci­ence and the order that must come of that. I am also a writer who thinks in very abstract terms, who chal­lenges nor­malcy and social con­ven­tion. In both spheres of my life I hope that my pres­ence chal­lenges stereo­types and mis­con­cep­tions. As much as I dis­like labels, I do like the idea of being a renais­sance woman.

Renais­sance woman — a woman who has acquired pro­found knowl­edge or pro­fi­ciency in more than one field.

As you can imag­ine, when I have the oppor­tu­nity to meet some­one who fits the descrip­tion of a renais­sance woman, I want to know more about her and what makes her tick. I want to learn from her. I want to share her with every­one else.

©Steampunk India


 

I met Suna Dasi via Twit­ter sev­eral months ago. I recall see­ing pic­tures of her. One was of this saw a gor­geous Indian woman in a steam­punked out sari and another of the same woman hold­ing a micro­phone as she appeared to be belt­ing out some right­eous rock­ing tune. Of course I fol­lowed her. I later learned Suna is also a writer. Suna is a renais­sance woman and the embod­i­ment of diver­gence and diver­sity. Imag­ine how thrilled I was when she agreed to an interview.

Suna, thank you so much for tak­ing the time to chat with me.

Thank you for such kind words, Khaal­i­dah, I’m pleased to speak with you!

You do so much that I’m not sure where to begin. Why not start by telling me some basics. What is your past/current edu­ca­tional focus and is it related to what you do now? What is your day job, if it is different/separate from your cre­ative pursuits?

I grew up in Europe; I had a very tra­di­tional pub­lic school edu­ca­tion and simul­ta­ne­ously spent six years at a youth the­atre school. After that I stud­ied the­atre and dance for one year at the ArtEZ insti­tute of the Arts. Cur­rently I live and work in Edin­burgh where I am part of Indie pro­duc­tion com­pany Art Attack Films. I’m a back­ing vocal­ist for Texan singer/song writer Erin Ben­nett. In the gaps, I write fiction.

I caught your name on the Wikipedia page for Syren an alter­na­tive rock band and you also sent me a link for Erin Ben­nett, who appears to be the band lead. Tell me about that. How’d you get involved with the band? How long have you been with the band? I see that you sing. Do you play any instru­ments as well? Do you tour and travel?

As a child, I had lessons from a for­mi­da­ble old biddy who had worked in Africa, teach­ing choirs of lit­tle brown chil­dren to sing songs about how One is Never Alone when One has Jesus. She called us ‘Childies’ and made intense lit­tle hop-skips on the spot when she con­ducted the songs, which made her frill dress col­lar jump under her chin. We were given vocal exer­cises prior to singing in order to improve our dic­tion and into­na­tion that wouldn’t have looked amiss in a Vic­to­rian school­room. Luck­ily she had grown more whim­si­cal in her old age, so besides the odd No Man is An Island, she mostly taught songs about del­i­cate fairies flit­ting across wood­land dells, rather than solemn Chris­t­ian songs.

I have always sung in either the­atre or pop­u­lar music, but never took to any par­tic­u­lar instru­ment. How­ever, every­one around me plays at least three, so I am more than con­tent to stick to my voice.

In 1999 I met the group I still work with today; I became involved in their projects, trav­el­ing to Lon­don in my spare time. Even­tu­ally I moved per­ma­nently and have been tour­ing in dif­fer­ent set-ups ever since. On one of the Amer­i­can tours we met a young, fierce and incred­i­bly tal­ented Texan girl who invited us to her home for drinks and played us a short acoustic set of her work.

You have an obvi­ous love for all things steam­punk. I can dig that. Tell me why you like steam­punk so much.

To start with, my own her­itage sparked some of the urge to specif­i­cally write in the genre:

My ances­tors left India in 1861, on a British East India ship bound for the Caribbean as inden­tured work­ers; lit­tle more than slaves. My per­sonal con­nec­tion to the era gives me a vested inter­est in it and my family’s story, set against the wider his­tor­i­cal back­drop, inevitably influ­ences the writing.

Indian, Dutch and Eng­lish mar­itime his­tory, women’s his­tory, and the Indus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion have always held a par­tic­u­lar sway over my imag­i­na­tion, as has the Vic­to­rian era as a whole. It is such an enor­mously dynamic chap­ter in the his­tory of the mod­ern world. I have always loved Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, H.R. Hag­gard and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to name but a few.  One of my favourite books is Michael Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time and I will always make a case for this being one of the ear­li­est mod­ern nov­els with Steam­punk ele­ments as well as his War­lord of The Air  series, which pre­dates the moment when most folk con­sider mod­ern Steam­punk fic­tion to have started. When the League of Extra­or­di­nary Gen­tle­men comic came out (for which my friend Kev O’Neill did the glo­ri­ous and iconic art­work) I was delighted espe­cially with Nemo’s char­ac­ter, as it delved so much deeper into his Indian back­ground, some­thing Verne him­self only men­tioned in passing.

I have had a life­long love affair with sci­ence fic­tion; mixed with a con­tin­u­ous grav­i­ta­tion towards alter­na­tive modes of thought and living.

Steam­punk is a mar­vel­lous plat­form for express­ing all of the above and aes­thet­i­cally one of the most pleas­ing gen­res to express it in. Not only that, the added joy of alter­ing, remould­ing and re-imagining that period in his­tory into some­thing that is more inclu­sive, less con­strained and with a whim­si­cal lee­way to add fan­tas­ti­cal ele­ments makes that I always hap­pily immerse myself in it.

What is the extent of your involve­ment with steam­punk? I mean, you have taken some rock­ing pic­tures, and you have a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence online with your blog and web­site but what else are you doing? Projects? Writ­ing? Film?

As far as steam­punk is con­cerned, I write, first and foremost.You might say that my ini­tial exper­i­ment got slightly out of hand and ran away with me: with the web­site and the Face­book page, I wished to gain an insight into the con­cept of British India dur­ing the within the steam­punk genre. I had an extremely clear idea of what I wanted to write about from the very begin­ning, but was curi­ous to what extent poten­tial read­ers would be attracted to both India-based steam­punk fic­tion and/or imagery.

The response was over­whelm­ingly rapid and pos­i­tive and when the first story went up it was with the happy knowl­edge that I was not only pleas­ing myself.Because the move­ment itself is so vibrant, it’s very easy — and fun! — to get swept up in other activ­i­ties, such as dress­ing in full regalia and attend­ing events. This is not some­thing I have much time for, unfor­tu­nately, due to my other com­mit­ments. Recently I was asked to give a talk on Mul­ti­Cul­tur­al­ism in Steam­punk at the Glas­gow School of Art and this I was very pleased to be able to do. A tran­script of the talk and footage shot at the event will become avail­able on the steam­punk India web­site in due course.

The photo’s are really an enjoy­able side effect to the writ­ing, because I started tak­ing them as a way to get a han­dle on some of the char­ac­ters I was cre­at­ing. The fic­tion is the main focus of the project.

The Steam­punk has bled over into other projects on occa­sion, as you will be able to see in one of Erin’s music video’s.

I also con­vinced the band to partly per­form in Steam­punk gear when we opened for Hawk­wind last year. As many of their most land­mark albums and lyrics are based on Michael Moorcock’s writ­ing, this was utterly sat­is­fy­ing on sev­eral deep con­verg­ing nerd-girl, music –and book lov­ing levels.

I noticed you posted a story on your web­site for a “steam-inspired tale. Not bad. Are you pub­lished any­where else? Any other com­pleted works you’d like to share? Any­thing you have in the works that we should keep our eyes opened for?

The story on the web­site is part of a larger project. It is the first of a series of eight short pieces that form the intro­duc­tion to the alter­nate India I am build­ing. The plot threads and char­ac­ters in those eight pieces, in turn, will come together in a novel that ties up all the threads.

This writ­ing route is mapped out over sev­eral years, with parts of short sto­ries to be released on occa­sion, con­tin­u­ally inter­spersed with music and film projects for Erin Ben­nett and Art Attack films respectively.

Mean­while, one of my other Steam­punk sto­ries, Unmade, a love story set on a Caribbean plan­ta­tion, will hope­fully find a place in a Mul­ti­cul­tural Steam­punk anthol­ogy which is in the early stages of devel­op­ment in Europe. The story is close to my heart as I chose the loca­tion very delib­er­ately: The Orange Hill plan­ta­tion in St. Vin­cent is where my great-grandfather was shipped to in 1861. My grand­fa­ther was born on the plan­ta­tion and was released from his born sta­tus later in life. It has been a long road to find this story a home and it may yet be longer, depend­ing on how the pro­duc­tion of the anthol­ogy unfolds. We shall see!

(Of note, I later received an email from Suna regard­ing the i09 arti­cle 10 Sci­ence Fic­tion and Fan­tasy Sto­ries Edi­tors Are Sick of See­ing. Her mul­ti­cul­tural steam­punk story Unmade appar­ently breaks rule #8 with the inclu­sion of a rather graphic rape scene, and Suna won­ders if this has some­thing to do with the sto­ries dif­fi­culty with find­ing a home.)

Jeff van­der­Meer and Desi­rina Boskovich’ The Steam­punk User’s Man­ual is set to come out later in 2014; extracts of my writ­ing about Steam­punk India and Steam­punk in gen­eral will be fea­tured in the publication.

At the moment I am work­ing on the audio nar­ra­tion for Those Dark Satanic Mills, a short story set in the Min­istry of Pecu­liar Occur­rences uni­verse, which I wrote for Tee Mor­ris and Pip Ballantine’s spin-off anthol­ogy series Tales From the Archives. This will be released within the next month or so.

Tell me about your involve­ment with Art Attack Films.

Art Attack made music videos for bands in the US, but when set­tling in Scot­land, branched out fairly quickly into other work. Exam­ples are The Body Mer­chants, doc­u­ment­ing the lurid trade of Burke & Hare and the film we made for the Edin­burgh Surgeon’s Hall Museum about the life and work of Joseph Lis­ter, which is part of the per­ma­nent His­tory of Surgery exhibition.

The work is always done with a view to facil­i­tate our true pas­sion: mak­ing movies.

We have our con­nec­tion to Acci­dent Man, based on the comic by Pat Mills. This year Titan Comics have re-released the comic so it is the per­fect occa­sion to make the movie. We’ve shot pre­lim­i­nary scenes with World Karate cham­pion Paul Lap­s­ley in the role of Mike Fallon.

We are in post-production for our first fea­ture Selkie, a fresh take on a crea­ture of Scot­tish folk­lore. The trailer is view­able on Youtube and the movie stars the war­riors of Com­bat Inter­na­tional, who have been part of main­stream movies such as Gladiator,The Eagle,  Snow White and The Hunts­man, and most recently Thor 2: The Dark World.

Pic­ture the open­ing sequence in Glad­i­a­tor: a huge Gaul bran­dishes a sev­ered head at the Roman legion and roars his defiance.

This is Char­lie Allan, our lead actor in Selkie. We’d known him for some years, through film­ing his his­tor­i­cal build­ing project Dun­car­ron Medieval Vil­lage and doing music pro­duc­tion on three upcom­ing albums of his b=and Saor Patrol. We realised he (and his team) could be per­fect for our script. He was.

You seem like a very busy woman, so my next ques­tion may be a bit over the top. What do you do in your spare time? Any hobbies?

Liv­ing in Scot­land, the stun­ning coun­try­side is just there for the tak­ing; I go for big walks as often as pos­si­ble. I love danc­ing exces­sively. If you can’t find me dur­ing a night out at a club or party, I’m undoubt­edly on the dance floor. I swim. Books are oxy­gen and lis­ten­ing to music is a close sec­ond. I adore going to the cin­ema and the the­atre, most recently seen was the NTLive broad­cast of Cori­olanus, which was superb. When I can find the time –which is hardly ever nowa­days!- I prac­tise archery, climb­ing and horse rid­ing. This sum­mer I will be ful­fill­ing a long­stand­ing wish by going on a short fenc­ing course. 

Despite all of your inter­ests and tal­ents, what haven’t you done/learned/experienced yet that you would like to?

Oh, a mul­ti­tude of things. To pick one, I’d like to learn kalar­i­pay­attu; the South Indian mar­tial art on which most other mar­tial art forms are based and the fight­ing style employed by the won­der­ful actor Naseerud­din Shah, as Nemo in the movie adap­ta­tion of League of Extra­or­di­nary Gen­tle­men.

Lastly, because I’m very inter­ested in know­ing what makes peo­ple tick take this test and tell me what the results are. Do you think the results are fitting?

ENFP (Extra­ver­sion, Intu­ition, Feel­ing, Perception)

As an over­ar­ch­ing descrip­tion of my char­ac­ter this is pretty accurate.

The ‘see­ing every­one and every­thing as part of a cos­mic whole’ grates on me a=s too squishy: I’m an abun­dantly pos­i­tive per­son, but not indis­crim­i­nately s=o. I do enjoy social­is­ing and am fas­ci­nated by group dynam­ics. I’m fond of hear­ing a good yarn and love spin­ning one, but abhor spite­ful gos­sip. And yes, I have a decid­edly silly streak!

There are some dif­fer­ences: I love soli­tude as much as I adore being part of a heav­ing dance floor, for instance.

And though I am very empathic and sen­si­tive to injus­tice and inequal­ity, you would not see me for­feit the inter­ests of my near­est and dear­est to change the world, unless they are stand­ing there next to me, doing the same thing.

Suna Dasi on:

Twit­ter

https://www.facebook.com/SteampunkIndia

What We Already Know About Steampunk (#steampunkhands)

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LuftFlotte Steampunk...This post was sup­posed to be a steam­punk short story called The Golden Bird. The Golden Bird was sup­posed to be my con­tri­bu­tion to the Steam­punk Hands Around the World ini­tia­tive to show­case the art(s) of steam­punk on a world­wide arena via the web. Obvi­ously that is not what this is.

My short, The Golden Bird turned out to be not very short. Sev­eral thou­sand words in, I real­ized that my beloved story was turn­ing into a novella length work. When this became clear to me, I decided to put the breaks on it, because I am cur­rently embroiled in a larger long term piece of writ­ing, and unlike many of my writerly friends, I am com­pletely inca­pable of divid­ing my time and ener­gies between two large pieces. I can’t. It stunts my cre­ative juices and it steals my time, which is in very, very short supply.

Since I’m not pre­pared to post The Golden Bird quite yet, I thought I’d share the begin­ning sketches of the pic­ture that will even­tu­ally be the cover of the novella.

Emira Amin from The Golden Bird

Emira Amin by The Artist

This post has instead become my per­sonal trib­ute to STEAMPUNK.

steam∙punk – a genre of sci­ence fic­tion and or fan­tasy that typ­i­cally fea­tures steam pow­ered machin­ery rather than advance technology.

Steam­punk has become an espe­cially pop­u­lar art form within the last 20–25 years, but it has been around for much longer than that. Some of the first prog­en­i­tors of steam­punk are names we know very well from lit­er­a­ture such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. Steam­punk is usu­ally iden­ti­fi­able via cer­tain tropes and props such as googles, brass work, clock­work mech­a­nisms, air­ships, trains, machines pow­ered by steam or magic or both, bus­tles and boots, pocket watches and gun hol­sters, buck­les, tele­scopes and com­passes. Can you see it? I can, because in a sin­gle yet inad­e­quate word, steam­punk is beau­ti­ful.

When I first heard of steam­punk, not many years ago, I was shocked to real­ize that I had been enjoy­ing the art form, pri­vately dig­ging on the beauty and artistry of it, with­out real­iz­ing it for many years. And even now, when I feel as if I have a pretty good under­stand­ing of what steam­punk is, I keep get­ting slapped in the face with the fact that there remain con­tri­bu­tions to this genre that I have enjoyed with­out once giv­ing a thought to the fact that they are con­sid­ered works of steampunk.

Just today as I was perus­ing a list of steam­punk lit­er­a­ture com­piled on Goodreads, I saw a much loved story that I never real­ized is con­sid­ered steam­punk. Full­metal Alchemist Broth­er­hood. And now that I know, I can see it. It’s the metal work, the indus­trial feel, and the magic so embed­ded in the nar­ra­tive that it feels “nor­mal”. Full­metal Alchemist Broth­er­hood is the sec­ond anime series that I ever watched and it remains at the top of my list of favorites and most mem­o­rable. Other steam­punk manga/anime include the very obvi­ous Steam­boy, Metrop­o­lis, and Howl’s Mov­ing Cas­tle, and the more sub­tly steam fla­vored, sort of new and insanely pop­u­lar Attack on Titan and Baccano!.

The Emperor’s Edge series by Lind­say Buro­ker is one of my favorite books series for its fun sto­ry­line, quirky char­ac­ters, inter­est­ing per­ils and of course, its seam­lessly woven ele­ments of steam that include magic, weird steam pow­ered con­structs, trains and sub­marines among other things. I also love how Lind­say Buro­ker throws out the occa­sional bit of odd word usage, neces­si­tat­ing the use of my dic­tio­nary and thereby mak­ing me a smarter more well-rounded per­son and writer… but that’s another story alto­gether. But this lyri­cal mixed period use of ver­biage is also com­mon with steam­punk, as it is a genre that feels caught between many time periods.

steam∙punk – a sub­genre of spec­u­la­tive fic­tion, usu­ally set in the anachro­nis­tic Vic­to­rian or quasi Vic­to­rian alter­nate his­tory setting.

Per­dido Street Sta­tion by China Mieville is another book that I really enjoyed, for alto­gether dif­fer­ent rea­sons than the EE series. This is one of those books that I read with­out being con­scious that it was a steam­punk ren­der­ing. But of course, it is. PSS is like a uhm… triple dark choco­late cookie served with a mocha latte. Deli­cious, but best if eaten slowly and in small quan­ti­ties. Or like a train wreck, it’s hard to look at but you’re com­pelled by some sick part of your psy­che to watch. None of that is to say I didn’t love PSS, because I did, even more now over a year later, but it’s a heavy piece of writ­ing, to say the least. Which is likely why it didn’t ini­tially dawn on me that this was steam­punk. There was so much other stuff hap­pen­ing that I was on overload.

Here are some other steam pow­ered books that I’ve either read or own and have yet to read: The Golden Com­pass: His Dark Mate­ri­als, Flash Gold, The Time Machine, Bone­shaker, Leviathan, Un Lun Dun, The Alchemy of Stone, Lady of Devices, and as they say, the list goes on.

My favorite steam fla­vored film has to be The Pres­tige. That was a scary smart movie about magi­cian friends turned rivals and ene­mies. The term steam fla­vored per­fectly describes this one because ele­ments of steam are quite sub­tle here as they appear to be more about time and place, which is indus­trial era Vic­to­rian Lon­don than about mag­i­cal gad­getry, although there is tons of magic. Hugo is an obvi­ous and beau­ti­ful steam­punk film. This movie is all about gad­gets and trains and automa­tons. The really mag­i­cal ele­ment is the sto­ry­telling itself.

steam∙punk – a ris­ing sub­genre, cul­ture and movement…

What all of these forms of steam­punk art have in com­mon is stun­ning imagery, genius level cre­ativ­ity, a will­ing­ness to rewrite his­tory, stretch and erupt bound­aries, and the knack for posit­ing the age old ques­tion of “What if?”. I love steam­punk because it is brave. It doesn’t care about con­ven­tion or genre expec­ta­tions. It says “absolutely any­thing goes”.

All of this is why Kevin Steil’s idea, Steam­punk Hands Around the World, is so bril­liant. This inclu­sive world­wide endeavor encour­ages diver­sity of peo­ple and thought just as steam­punk does. Peo­ple from all over the world are par­tic­i­pat­ing and I am immensely proud to have been invited to par­tic­i­pate and I hope you con­tinue the tour when you leave my site!