What We Already Know About Steampunk (#steampunkhands)

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!

What’s Wrong With Being Nice? The Likable Heroine Effect

I’m happy to have Ale­sha Esco­bar, author of The Gray Tower Tril­ogy, back on my site. She is tour­ing with the Addicted to Hero­ines Blog Tour (see the lovely badge in the mar­gin) so I encour­age you to take a gan­der and see who else is involved. This time Ale­sha tells us about the qual­i­ties of a lik­able hero­ine, and as usual, she’s got it spot on. Thanks Ale­sha for stop­ping by again!

HawkgirlCreative Commons License Wilton Tay­lor via Comp­fight

Do you remem­ber the news story about women get­ting depressed using Face­book? Appar­ently some women would read up on oth­ers’ sta­tus updates filled with on-point hair days, per­fect chil­dren, glam­orous jobs, and unicorns–and log off feel­ing like crap.

I’m not surprised.

It’s inevitable to com­pare our­selves to oth­ers, and when we feel that a cer­tain sta­tus or behav­ior is unat­tain­able, it leaves us feel­ing some­thing is lack­ing, or that we are lack­ing. The same goes for our fic­tional heroines–when we see the per­fect Mary Sue, we sort of cringe and fail to relate. We’re not per­fect, and when we pick up a book, we don’t want to encounter a hero­ine who’s going to get every­thing right all the time. Yet, I’m hes­i­tant to throw in my towel and pro­claim we need to start writ­ing and read­ing crude, “unlik­able” female heroes.

The idea of the lik­able hero­ine is one that rests on the expec­ta­tion that a hero­ine be appro­pri­ate in her behav­ior, sweet, nice, or “the good girl.” She has to be likable…right? There’s no room to be depressed, self­ish, a user, or a bitch.

For those who cri­tique the “lik­able hero­ine” being placed on a pedestal, I agree with them that there’s a prob­lem with this. Women are com­plex human beings, and we run the range of lik­able to unlik­able. Why can’t our hero­ines reflect the same?

Still, a female ver­sion of a jerk anti-hero isn’t all too palat­able either. So let’s strike some mid­dle ground. It’s okay for our hero­ines to be “real,” to have flaws, and make mis­takes. And it’s also okay for her to be noble, brave, and–gasp–kind.

We like hero­ines we can relate to, but many of us also like them to be the torch­bear­ers of really cool qual­i­ties and per­son­al­ity traits. At least that’s what attracts me to a hero­ine. Give me the intel­li­gent Eliz­a­beth Ben­nets who find love, the Eowyns who refuse to be caged, or the fierce Brit­o­marts who hold their heads high.

If I could be a hero­ine, I’d want to pos­sess some of these traits. So what’s wrong with being nice or lik­able? Noth­ing at all. Just remem­ber that there are deeper lay­ers, desires, and qual­i­ties to the lik­able hero­ine, and instead of rest­ing on sim­ply one aspect, try explor­ing the whole person.

authoralesha Twit­ter



Steampunk Hands Around the World

by Ray Dean

by Ray Dean

What do you like about steampunk?

What I like is the fact that many peo­ple like and even love steam­punk and they don’t even know it. That would have been me a few years ago. I’d watched steam­punk inspired movies and ani­ma­tion, totally dig­ging the spiff and shine, the gad­getry and magic, and the mash up of gen­res, tropes and imagery to cre­ate some­thing, well…unnameable. Except it does have a name. Steampunk.

Until three weeks ago I never thought for a sec­ond that I would do more than read a steam­punk book or watch a movie. This will soon change.

Steam­punk Hands Around the World is the brain child of the Air­ship Ambas­sador, Kevin Steil. I was invited to par­tic­i­pate by group mem­ber, Suna Dasi, who had put out a call to attract a mul­ti­cul­tural group of women to par­tic­i­pate in this quirky, fun event. I am so very glad that I accepted. The Mis­sion State­ment reads as such:

Steam­punk Hands Around the World is a month long event in Feb­ru­ary 2014 show­ing and shar­ing that steam­punk and the com­mu­nity is global and as such, all steam­punk every­where are con­nected. There are new friend­ships to be found in every con­ver­sa­tion and event. “Hands” is pre­sented in mul­ti­ple for­mats from blogs to videos to live events. Each per­son is respon­si­ble for orga­niz­ing their own con­tent and for­mat, but the cen­tral theme is that of global con­nec­tion and friendship.

While con­tri­bu­tions to this event will be unique and var­ied, by an equally unique and var­ied group of artists and steam­punk lovers, my part will be a short story ten­ta­tively titled The Golden Bird. In keep­ing with the theme of this event, it will of course, be a steam­punk tale and it will be mul­ti­cul­tural. I’ll be post­ing it right here on Feb­ru­ary 23rd. And, if all goes as planned, The Artist will pro­vide a unique piece of art to go along with my story. I am both excited and ner­vous because this puts me on a dead­line. *shudders*

So…I’m sign­ing out now so I can get back to work on this story.

by Ray Dean

by Ray Dean