I have always found STEAMPUNK fascinating! Maybe because, I am a huge fan of historical fiction so of course anything that has to do with the past, intrigues me to no end. I am also in love with the clothing and the period speak in STEAMPUNK fiction. I am particularly in love with Emma Jane Holloway’s STEAMPUNK series, but I often wonder how many other people know exactly what the genre entails. Sooooo… when I was discussing with topics with Tee, I thought the best thing for our readers was to talk about WHAT IS STEAMPUNK?
I am so happy that Tee hooked Nerd Girl Up with this months Hallowread Special! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
♥ Gladys #XOXOtheNerdGirl
Steampunk: A Past That Never Was (But We Wish Could Have Been)
by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris
We have been writing Steampunk since 2009; and even after five years, we still face the question of the ages: “What is steampunk?” Perhaps a lazy, shallow way to look at the genre is to simply call it “Victorian Science Fiction” and that be the end of it.
Truth be told, this is merely your first step. While history looks at the 19th Century as the Industrial Age and the late-20th century as the Computer Age, the concept of computing devices were realized by mathematician, inventor, and engineer Charles Babbage as early as 1812. His mechanical computation devices at the time were considered more of a curiosity rather than innovation, but Babbage’s theories served as inspiration for The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Best known for their offerings in cyberpunk, Gibson and Sterling created an alternative Industrial Revolution where Babbage’s inventions were the norm, creating a struggle between the working class Luddites (who feared technology) and an “enhanced” elite that wanted as much integration with these technological wonders as possible.
Here’s where Steampunk becomes far more than just “Victorian Science Fiction.” Steampunk envisions an Industrial Age that brought to fruition theoretical designs like Babbage’s analytical engines, flying machines, and advanced electrical engineering. How would society react? What would be the impact on a global scale? What would happen not only on a sociological level, but on a political one as well? Early realizations of Steampunk, pre-dating author K. W. Jeter’s coining of the term, can be found on film. Walt Disney’s lush, lavish, and epic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea serves as a warning of technological achievements potentially turning on society. Jules Verne was not a stranger in using science fiction as a vehicle for cautionary tales, but Disney’s 20,000 Leagues adaptation fulfills Verne’s intentions while remaining true to the luxuries and indulgences of the 19th Century. Another memorable motion picture encapsulating the definition of Steampunk is Nicholas Meyer’s Time After Time. In this film, H.G. Wells invents a time machine, intending to witness the futuristic Utopia he has speculated will occur. Instead, his best friend, Dr. John Leslie Stevenson (revealed in the course of events to be Jack the Ripper) uses Wells’ creation to escape capture by Scotland Yard. Here, the underlying theme of this adventure across centuries is responsibility and atonement, something Victorians rarely took in account in the pursuit of science or innovation. The question Wells faces is not “Can I build a machine that can travel through time?” but “Should I have invented a machine that can travel through time? Are we responsible enough to wield such technology?” Quickly, he discovers that some inventions, regardless of the intentions behind them, can affect not only societies of the present, but societies that have yet to happen.
Whether it is The Wild, Wild West or the Castle episode “Punked”, the works of K.W. Jeter (Morlock Night) or Gail Carriger (The Parasol Protectorate), or the podcasts, role playing game, and novels from our Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Steampunk offers you a variety of historical watersheds to choose from, now integrated with technology that can either be new, familiar, or exploited by your work’s protagonists and antagonists. But where exactly does the “punk” comes into play in Steampunk? Beyond romantic Victoriana, goggles, airships, and brass fixtures, the “punk” in Steampunk comes from going against convention, not necessarily in undermining establishment but through creativity and declaration of one’s individuality. That individuality can come across through style, gadgets, or attitude. In our own work, the “punk” is embodied in Eliza D. Braun, an agent from the farthest reaches of the Empire where women have the right to vote, where “natives” co-exist with “colonials,” and where everyone speaks their mind frankly and honestly. Eliza goes against the standard norms at the home office in London, England. She is everything her partner, Wellington Thornhill Books, Esquire—a man to the manor born now serving at the Queen’s pleasure—is not; and it is their chemistry and unorthodox approach to peculiar occurrences that make them unique within a society striving for conformity.
We’ve been a gateway for many people into Steampunk, but that doesn’t mean we have stopped learning, or even changed a few opinions, about the genre. Steampunk is a voyage into science, ambition, imagination, and adventure; and all we can hope for is that in the years to come, people will still want to undertake this journey with us into the Past That Never Was. It’s been a fantastic ride since 2009, and now with seven awards, two of them Reader’s Choice Awards from The Steampunk Chronicle, we believe we must be doing something right.Why not see how far we can go together in this journey? Make yourself at home in the Archives.
I’ll put the kettle on.
Tee Morris has been writing for over a decade, running the gamut from science fiction to fantasy to horror. His first novel, MOREVI: The Chronicles of Rafe & Askana, was a nominee for the 2003 EPPIE for Best Fantasy, but in 2005 the book became the first novel to be podcast in its entirety, ushering in a new age for authors — podcasting. He went on to write several books on social media initiatives and tour around the world with a variety of seminars and workshops covering blogging, podcasting, and social networking.
In 2011, Tee returned to fiction with Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel, written with his wife, Pip Ballantine. The title went on to win the Airship Award for Best Steampunk Literature and become a finalist for Goodreads’ Choice Awards for Best Science Fiction of 2011. 2012 saw the release of the sequel, The Janus Affair, also a finalist for Goodreads’ Choice Awards for Best Science Fiction of 2012. While celebrating the release of Dawn’s Early Light, Tee and Pip continue producing Tales from the Archives, an award-winning podcast anthology featuring short stories set in their steampunk universe. He has also just released a new Ministry short story as part of Tales of a Tesla Ranger: A Tribute to P.G. Holyfield, all proceeds from the book given to a trust benefitting the Holyfield children. Explore the works of Tee Morris, and enjoy the occasional geek rant, at TeeMorris.com.
Q. When and why did you begin writing?
I have been writing stories since the fifth grade, but according to my parents I have been writing even earlier than that. SO, safe to say, a really LONG time.
Q. What inspired you to write your first book?
I owe a lot to online roleplaying, and this particular roleplay was a free-form RPG where people assumed characters of all make, all backgrounds, and all genres, and interacted. What was supposed to be a free-form RPG by email took form of a novel-in-progress and thus,MOREVI came to be.
Q. What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?
Terry Brooks made a real impact in my writing and after working through the original trilogy of The Sword of Shannara, I discovered other authors that all took me into their imagination.
Q. Tell us about your characters and how they came to be?
Inspiration comes from just about anywhere and everywhere. I have some characters that continue to prod and poke at me until I finally get to writing for them, and I have other characters who patiently wait until I can settle in with them and get back to their world. For our steampunk series, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Books & Braun are always a pleasure to write for. Just so much fun.
Q. Have they been in your head for a long time?
Characters do not stay in my head for long. If I got a story for them, I get started on it as soon as I can. Otherwise, the prodding and poking begins. *LOL*
Q. What motivates you to write?
I need very little motivation to write. An idea gets its hold on me, and I find the time and the means to get to work. I never think of writing or editing as a chore. The more I see things like a layout, a cover design, or a listing on Amazon, that only motivates me to work harder.
Q. What is the hardest part of writing?
Editing. It is also the most exciting as that is when you start to get into the nuts and bolts of the story and you discover new layers of the character, of a setting, or a moment, and that is when real magic happens. It’s hard as you on a deadline and the exploration and discovery you are in the throes of can distract you from the aim which is polishing and completing the book for publication.
Q. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Over the books I’ve written, both non-fiction and fiction, I have learned that no editor or writer can catch every typo. It’s a little frustrating but you have to focus on getting the work done in the end. The other lesson I have learned is that if I take on multiple projects, they are destined to have overlapping deadlines; and that is a tempest of stress that takes days to recover from. I’ve learned to accept it. Reluctantly. *LOL*
Q. Where do you get your ideas?
Anywhere. Music. Movies. The news. I once got an idea for a short story from a sermon in church. It was a single line — “I think Judas got a bum rap.” — that nested an idea in my head. It was good fun to get that on down on paper.
Q. What does your family think of your writing?
Very supportive, to a point where my dad is reading now even though he was never much into reading himself. He has favorites of mine, and I think he truly enjoys seeing me on the shelves. I think he enjoys bragging a bit about that.
Q. What is the best advice you would give to inspiring authors?
Before you hit “Publish” on that first book of yours, regardless if you are self-publishing or going with a traditional house in New York, craft and hone your own marketing plan. Rarely will publishing houses step in and “take care of marketing” even though they have resources on tap for that. A writer’s job in today’s market is their own promotional team so you really need to have that taken care of.
Q. What book are you reading now?
As I answer this question, I am in line edits with my wife on The Diamond Conspiracy: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel while working on a social media book for writers (coming in 2015 from Writer’s Digest), all while looking over final proofs for Tales of a Tesla Ranger, a tribute anthology for P.G. Holyfield who succumbed to cancer back in August. It’s been an onslaught of creating and editing new material that I need a break from words…
…so in the early mornings, before my day job, I’m on the elliptical watching House of Cards. I just started the second season so that should tell you—I am really digging this show. Also, good television—House of Cards, Constantine, Agents of SHIELD—are great character studies and the writing within the series can teach you a thing or two.
On my radar of what to read next, when I get some downtime, are books by Jeff Vandermeer and Chuck Wendig. Just have to get beyond these December deadlines.
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