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The Battle for Seattle Continues in Cherie Priest’s The Inexplicables

http://www.tor.com/images/stories/blogs/12_11/Inexplicables.jpg

The Inexplicables, Cherie Priest’s fourth novel in the Clockwork Century series, breaks from her previous books in several ways. Most significantly, instead of being set in a new location in her Civil War-torn US, we return to Seattle with a new perspective: that of the drug-addled Rector Sherman, the kid who had a brief appearance in Boneshaker as the boy who showed Zeke Wilkes how to enter the city. This is the first full-length novel with only a male protagonist (though she did have Captain Hainey starring in her novella Clementine, and Andan Cly shared the spotlight with Josephine Early in Ganymede). There isn’t a mechanical showpiece that serves as the title’s namesake, either–though discovering exactly what the “Inexplicables” are surprised me.

The breaks from her previous storytelling don’t hinder her, however. In fact, The Inexplicables doesn’t rehash as much as it refocuses on the aspects that got readers to love her world in the first place: a gritty survival tale where gas masks and goggles are necessary to live another day, and the aesthetic’s rough edges feel natural and real. Like all of the books in the Clockwork Century, The Inexplicables is a stand-alone novel, but is accessible enough to pull in new readers while giving nods to longstanding fans.

Read the rest on Tor.com

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#94 Luis Senarens, Penny Dreadful Author from Brooklyn–Guest Blog by Miriam Rocek

An illustration from Jack Wright and his Electric Stage; or, Leagued Against the James Boys published in 1893

It’s no secret that what we currently call “steampunk” has its roots in the speculative, imaginative fiction of the 19th century. People often cite Jules Verne as the founding author of the steampunk genre, but he was one of a number of authors who wrote fiction dealing with elaborate, futuristic technologies. During the 19th century, there was one man referred to as “the American Jules Verne,” whose works are full of quintessentially steampunk elements. There’s a steam-powered mechanical man, racing across the American plains, a bullet-proof, electrically powered 19th century stage-coach, hot in pursuit of the Jesse James Gang, not to mention an electrical flying machine. The stories revolve around a boy-genius inventor, and all of them are set, and were written, before 1896. The author’s identity was appropriately exciting to the imagination; he wrote under the intriguing pseudonym “Noname,” a mysterious, unknown presence, producing fantastic works at an astonishing rate, including twenty-six stories in 1893 alone.

Before there was television, before there were movie theaters, before there were comic books, there were dime novels. Called “penny dreadfuls” in England, these were cheaply printed, floridly written adventure stories, lurid, exciting, and intended for a popular audience. They were read by children and adults, men and women. They were working class entertainment, easily purchased, easily hidden from a schoolteacher or other disapproving authority figure, and easily devoured in a single day. They ranged from romances to detective stories, from horror to western, covering every genre that might appeal to readers eager for excitement. The works of Noname were wildly successful dime novels, telling stories of adventurers and inventors.

What is interesting about Noname, apart from the stories he created, is that he was two people. Much like the Dread Pirate Roberts, “Noname” was a pseudonym that was handed down from one man to another. The second, and by far the most prolific of these two men was in reality Luis Senarens, a Cuban American man from Brooklyn, who was just sixteen years old when, in 1879, he took over writing a series of dime novels about a boy inventor and adventurer named Frank Reade.

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Steampunk Appreciations: This is American Steampunk (And How!): Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century Series on Tor.com

Photo credit: Ben Z Mund

When Cherie Priest entered the steampunk scene years ago, she stumbled upon some comments on a message board declaring that American steampunk wasn’treally steampunk, since it had to be based in Victorian England. Priest, who had one more book under contract with Tor Books at the time, saw this as a challenge. Thus, Boneshaker, the first in her Clockwork Century series, was born.

Who knew that an attempt to squish some internet forum posturing would end up as a three book (and one novella) ongoing series, with nods for both the Hugo and the Nebula and wins from the PNBA and Locus Magazine for Best Science Fiction Novel? Not to mention that many consider Boneshaker to be the watershed novel marking the popular rise of the steampunk subgenre in SFF.

What is it about Priest’s Clockwork Century series that makes it stand out? Well, you can start by reading the reviews on Tor.com: BoneshakerDreadnoughtGanymede, and Clementine (the novella). After the jump, I’ll get more in-depth about various aspects that keep me reading. And to note: as with all versions (or re-imaginings) of history, it’s not perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I highly enjoy the Clockwork Century books and I’ll continue to follow them. But this is an appreciation, and one can’t truly appreciate anything without acknowledging both its strengths and its weaknesses.

[Read the Rest on Tor.com's Steampunk Week.]

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Steampunk Appreciations: Mike Resnick’s The Buntline Special: A Weird West Tale by Rajan Khanna on Tor.com

The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is one of the most enduring tales of the American West, having been the subject of countless depictions across various media. The story has even been given the genre treatment, adding magic or science fiction elements in works such as the excellentTerritory by Emma Bull. In Mike Resnick’s novel The Buntline Special, the story gets the full on steampunk treatment in what is a light, fun, rollicking read.

Resnick sets his tale in 1881, in an alternate reality in which the U.S. expansion never went west past the Mississippi and in which a young Thomas Edison teamed up with Ned Buntline in Tombstone, Arizona to revolutionize modern science. Together, the two create a number of new inventions, including electricity and artificial limbs.

[Read the rest on Tor.com's Steampunk Week!]

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“Will this Sub Sink their Battleship?” A Review of Cherie Priest’s GANYMEDE

In Cherie Priest’s newest installment of her Clockwork Century series, Ganymede, something lurks in the bayous of Texan-occupied New Orleans. Ganymede, the only-known working submarine, is a war machine that could finally put an end to the Civil War, if only someone knew how to drive it. While the occupying army sweeps the swamps in search for this machine, one woman — Miss Josephine Early, a mixed-race madam of a high-scale brothel — is desparate to find a pilot who can work this machine. And that pilot might be none other than her old flame, the airship pirate Andan Cly…

Throw in some walking dead, some voodoo common sense, and a pirate cove and you’ve got another thrilling addition to Priest’s intricate alternate history steampunk world.

[Take her down, cap’n. Mild Spoilers, ahoy! Read the Rest on Tor.com]

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#91 Alonzo Herndon and his Crystal Palace–Guest Blog by Evangeline Holland

Note: This was cross-posted with permission from Edwardian Promenade.

Herndon's Crystal Palace Barber Shop

The amazing and outrageous dichotomies of life under Jim Crow were embodied in Alonzo Herndon. Each day, he traveled from his home to ride at the back of a street car to his barber shop in Atlanta, where he then entered the building from the rear entrance. When Herndon’s barber shop opened for the day, he shaved, clipped, trimmed, and otherwise pampered many of Atlanta’s most prominent white men in his flagship barbershop on 66 Peachtree Street. It may have shocked his customers to their toes to learn that their elegant and efficient barber had been born into slavery in 1858 and rose to become Atlanta’s first black millionaire and president and founder of the Atlanta Life Financial Group (then known as The Atlanta Benevolent and Protective Association). It would have also shocked white Atlanta even more to visit Herndon’s home, a Beaux-Arts classical mansion designed by his first wife, Adrienne McNeil Herndon, an actress and elocution teacher at Atlanta University.

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#89 Peter Sewally, the “Man-Monster” of New York City

One of the most scandalous cases in the summer of 1836 in New York City involved a wallet-snatching black prostitute who went by the name Mary Jones…but was later revealed to be a man named Peter Sewally. Sewally’s trial proved to be a spectacle that resulted in a newspaper frenzy as the competing papers New York Herald and New York Sun tried to out-do each other over reporting the most lurid details about Sewally and his transgressive deception. Sewally’s female image was also published as a popular lithography by yellow paper publisher H.R. Robinson (seen above). His case is a highlight in sex worker, queer, and African-American histories, and it all started on June 11th, 1836, when Robert Haslem reported his wallet being stolen while cruising the midnight alleyways of New York.

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“The Sikh Pioneers of North America”: The Punjabi-Mexican Americans of California

ca. 1909. Sikhs from India at the Calapooia Lumber Company, Crawfordsville, Linn County, Oregon, 1905-1915. (Crawfordsville is about 30 miles north of Eugene, Oregon). (Photo courtesy of Stephen Williamson http://www.efn.org/~opal/indiamen.htm)

In California at the turn of the 20th century, a community grew in southern California with an interesting history: Punjabi-Mexican families of the Imperial Valley. This unique community stemmed from the effects of British colonialism, transnational labor immigration & American economic opportunity (and American anti-Asian discrimination laws). Many multi-generational families in the area today can trace their multicultural and multiethnic histories back over a hundred years, and refer to themselves as “Mexican Hindus”, “Hindu” or “East Indian” today.

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#75 Cinco de Mayo – Guest Blog by Evangeline Holland

Note: This has been cross-posted from Edwardian Promenade. A few days late for this blog, but still relevant (I also recommend reading this modern perspective on this North American holiday too).

I live in California, and coincidentally, this was where the first Cinco de Mayo celebrations were held in the 1860s. Just in case you have no clue what the holiday entails, “[t]he 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo) commemorates the great victory of the Mexican forces, led by Gen. Porfirio Diaz and Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza, over the French attacking Puebla, on May 5, 1862. It was essentially a military victory, and its celebration gives occasion for arousing the martial spirit and enthusiasm of the united people.”

Battle of Puebla

The turn of the century witnessed America’s adventurous palate, and restaurants serving ethnic cuisine and cookbooks showing how to cook these new dishes sprang up in abundance. In 1914, Bertha Haffner-Ginger published the California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook to clue in the average American woman how to prepare such “exotic” fare as frijoles and tamales. Because most affixed the more genteel term “Spanish” to anything made with chiles, beans, or tortillas, Haffner-Ginger takes pains to explain “it is not generally known that Spanish dishes as they are known in California are really Mexican Indian dishes. Bread made of corn, sauces of chile peppers, jerked beef, tortillas, enchiladas, etc., are unknown in Spain as native foods” before jumping into recipes ranging from salads to tacos to side dishes. Here is a peek at some of the recipes from the book.

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QUAINT #18 Assowaum from “The Regulators of Arkansas” by Friedrich Gerstäcker

Image from the Gerstäcker Magazine from the Gerstäcker Museum, featuring his illustrated Westerns. Click for source (in German).

Assowaum was created by Friedrich Gerstäcker and appeared in Die Regulatoren in Arkansas (“The Regulators of Arkansas, 1845″). Gerstäcker (1816-1872) was a German who went to America in 1837. For six years he lived a checkered life in America, working as a schoolteacher, chocolate maker, silversmith, fireman, woodcutter, hotel manager, and, for the majority of his time, a hunter in the Arkansas wilderness. He returned to Germany in 1843 and began writing novels for children and novels for adults set in the American frontier and in the South Seas. The Regulators of Arkansas remains his best known novel. It was first published in English as “Alapaha the Squaw,” “The Border Bandits,” and “Assowaum the Avenger,” in American Tales 67-69 (23 July-16 September 1870).

The Regulators of Arkansas is set in Arkansas in the early years of statehood, in the 1830s, when murder was common and bad men more so. Opposing them were local vigilante groups, the “Regulators.” The main characters of The Regulators are searching for a particularly violent gang of thieves who are involved with Rawson, a sociopathic Methodist minister who marries and then kills women. Rawson is engaged to Marion Harper, a sweet woman who only knows him as a devout Methodist. Rawson and his gang steal a band of horses, and when the Regulators pursue them, aided by Assowaum, a native warrior, Rawson murders Alapaha, Assowaum’s wife. The Regulators pursue Rawson and the horse thieves and corner them in a farmhouse, where they are holding hostages, including Marion. Assowaum helps the Regulators break into the farmhouse, and the gang is captured. All of the thieves are hanged with the exception of Rawson, who is burned alive by Assowaum. Marion marries Brown, one of the Regulators, and they live happily ever after.

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