To kick off Steampunk Saturday-the new weekly column before my next steampunk book is released-we have a wonderful interview with steampunk writer Steven Bell. Steven is one of my favorite bloggers, and I consider him a close personal writing friend. He creates wonderful steampunk worlds, and I’m very excited to have him here.
1. What is the first piece of steampunk you read?
2. Was that the piece that inspired you to write in the steampunk genre? If not what was it? If so, why?
In part it was. It is the one that showed me a steampunk America, and exposed me fully to the notion of an Alternate History. Where things are similar but slightly different. For example in ‘Boneshaker’ the Civil War is still raging many years after 1865.
My first attempt at writing something in the Steampunk genre is an unfinished novel I titled: Plague Lights. Which is more gaslight than steampunk. To be clear: Gaslight is more fantasy based (Elves, Orcs, magic etc..) and not necessarily taking place on Earth. That took a lot of influence from the webcomic: Clockworks (http://www.shawntionary.com/clockworks) The art style was fantastic and so different from what I was used to seeing.
After mulling over the ending to ‘Plague Lights’ and failing to come up with anything I wrote a short story as sort of a love letter to Harrisburg PA. Technically the story was a flop. It was said by the commenters that the story has great characters, great description but lacks a cohesive plot. I took that pretty hard. I loved what I had written so much, but I had to agree in terms of a plot it was really, really weak.
3. What is your favorite element of the steampunk genre?
I really love the fact that at its core, the Steampunk genre is a melting pot of genres. There is no real right or wrong element. You can put technological marvels next to a horse drawn carriage, or have a rogue magician causing problems.
I am a fairly unstructured writer and I do not like boundaries in what I write. So here is this genre that allows me to put science in next to magic, maybe a bit of sleuthing to boot. Or stand it all on its head and have an Orc savaging a trainload of engineers on their way to school. It is as flexible as the writer needs it to be.
4. If you could live in any steampunk world, which would it be?
I am not too sure which world I would choose. There are a lot of great worlds out there. Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century is a favorite because the Northwest (Seattle Wa etc) is close to me through family ties and spending summers out there as a child. Though it is fraught with peril. George Mann’s England (Newbury and Hobbes Investigations) is pretty thrilling place too.
5. What specific steampunk image do you find especially inspiring?
The airship. Just because there are as many airships as there are worlds of Steampunk. They are all different, all floating by some means or another and all stylish as Hell. Just google: steampunk airship to see what I mean.
6. What is your favorite steampunk piece you’ve written? Feel free to post a link to it.
My favorite steampunk piece that I have written? Wait, I write? Dang, that explains all those pens. All kidding aside, hard choice… I think I am going to say it is one of my background short stories concerning Ignatius St. Eligius, my main protagonist. I would say either To Use a Gun No More (http://talesfromxira.wordpress.com/steampunk-adventures/to-use-a-gun-no-more/ ) or Emancipar ( http://talesfromxira.wordpress.com/steampunk-adventures/emancipar/ ) <- Which was incidentally inspired by Chris Stocking’s western short story: https://mentalsweatshop.wordpress.com/shorts/blood-on-my-hands/ Oh, but not the bit about the Jorongo. That’s all mine.
7. Final question: What is your favorite steampunk item, and why?
The Automaton or Automata, without a doubt. The potential for them as characters came from the webcomic Penny Arcade, which ran two multi-part storylines: http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/06/12 – Automata and http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/07/23 – Blood and Oil. I am so taken with them that I started outlining and preluding a future tale in my Steampunk world where the Automatons are independent and used by the U.S. Marshalls in 1920 as investigators. Of course I head off into the weeds as I plan on including clockwork dragons, super villian, a real dragon and Singapore as the backdrop.
Thanks for the opportunity to flap my fingers about Steampunk. It is such a wonderful genre to work in and read.
Thank you so much, Steven! Be sure to check out Steven’s blog at http://www.talesfromxira.wordpress.com