Category Archives: Interviews

Interviews with noteworthy steampunks and steampunk enthusiasts.

#60 Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories — A Roundtable Interview, Part 1

Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories is a very unique anthology for a variety of reasons. By unique, I’m not stating that this anthology is tailor-made for only a specific target audience (though it may scream “niche” to the average reader.) Still, upon first impression, a reader might wonder: would someone who isn’t queer or female or a romance lover still enjoy this book? Torquere Books, known for its queer and alternative literature, may be jumping onto the growing steampunk bandwagon that is gaining speed in the publishing world. And, some people might fear the worst after steampunk Palin— is Steam-Powered just another trend-hopper?

No, it is not. To think so would do a great disservice to the quality of work contained within this volume, and the literary thoughtfulness from both the contributing authors and Steam-Powered‘s editor JoSelle Vanderhooft.

These stories feature the work of several prominent and up-and-coming writers in the SF/F world. It starts off strong with N.K. Jeminsin’s The Effluent Engine,” previously published on her blog for the A Story for Haiti fund-raising campaign, and also includes the work of Georgina Bruce, D.L. MacInnes, Sara M. Harvey, Beth Wodzinski, Rachel Manija Brown, Shira Lipkin, Matthew Kressel, Meredith Holmes, Teresa Wymore, Tara Sommers, Mikki Kendall, Shweta Narayan, Mike Allen, and Amal El-Mohtar.

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#54 “Even History Seemed Surprised She Should Be Here”– An Interview with Jordan Reyne

Frontier stories are complicated ones, partly because they occur at the cultural crossroads of the world. Settlers and the places where they live are cast in narratives as either dens of adventure for independent thrill-seekers, or as an ominous presence populated by self-centered opportunists (usually white and Western, and often male) with colonial intents. What becomes lost are the lived-in experiences from those excluded from these tales: in this case, the story of Susannah Hawes, the focal character in Jordan Reyne’s concept album How the Dead Live.

The title for this article is from the album’s first song “From Gravesend,” and aptly describes Susannah’s position as a New Zealand settler in the nineteenth century. Though her circumstances as a settler had political and economic ramifications, her perspective doesn’t belong in either camp of the adventurer or the conqueror. Instead, Susannah is simply there, alone and isolated, fearful of the land she has chosen to live in. In this sense, she is a lonely immigrant in a world in which she doesn’t quite belong, one that seems as frightening as the roaring violent sea she watches from her home.

The precariousness of Samantha’s position is captured with dark starkness in Jordan Reyne’s video for “The Proximity of Death (Blue Eyed Boy).”

Jordan Reyne’s music has been described as “antipodean steampunk” and with good reason: she uses found noises from 19th-century factories and integrates them into her music. The creaks, clanks, and hisses add a layer of roughness to her elegant songs, like grit that gets into a factory hand’s clothes at the end of the day. Her voice and style reminds me of Tori Amos, and like Amos’ work, How the Dead Live evokes the sense of quiet dread and wonderment as a woman seeks out a new life, knowing that her presence is insignificant to History and feeling Death’s whisper in the wind.

Dark stuff indeed, but beautiful as well. After the jump, Jordan and I talk about the inspirations for her music, the difference between “dark folk” and “folk noir” and playing concerts on Second Life.

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#47 Dark Victorian Fairytale Science Fiction: An Interview with Psyche Corporation

In exploring the range of music that has been classified under the steampunk umbrella, Psyche Corporation would be on the more Gothic side of the spectrum.  The one-woman musical singer behind the band,  Psyche Chimère possesses a versatile voice, and her music ranges as far as the imaginative topics she sings about. At turns Psyche Corporation moves from evocative and theatrical, as with“Part of Her Design” or “Beast”; to the darkwave dance beats of “Institute” or “The Crime”; to whimsical but edgy storytelling like in “The Ceiling” and “Wonderland.” (You can listen to her music on her MySpace, Reverbnation, or last.fm).

Psyche Corporation’s music, however, has struck a chord with the steampunk community, and she has performed at steampunk events around the country, including The Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey, Dorian’s Parlor in Philadelphia, the Steampunk Salon run by the Brooklyn Indie Mart, and in conjunction with Steampunk Canada & the Toronto Steampunk Society for Canada’s Fan Expo. Psyche Corporation’s next steampunk performance will be at The Anachronism at Webster Hall in New York City on November 21st.

Just in time for Halloween, however,  Psyche Chimère stopped by the blog to talk about her darkly-tinged music and her career as a musician in the steampunk community.

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#45 Building the World of Virtuoso: An Interview with Jon Munger & Krista Brennan

Steampunk can be very much a “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey” sort of thing, as The Doctor would say. History can be re-written, new paths explored, inventions changed or inverted or perhaps, never discovered at all. While exploring these possibilities of incorporating the non-West into steampunk, it can be more complex than making everything rusted over, but set in Zimbabwe, or building a steam energy plant in Thailand. A creator should also consider the effect of the environment and cultural social norms when also addressing how steampunk technologies evolve and impact that world.

Virtuoso is one fine example of a work that considers these questions when building a steampunk world. Set in an African-inspired, matriarchal society, this comic has already gotten loads of attention because of its wonderful Art Nouveau style; what is fascinating to me is how Virtuoso is very steampunk but also firmly rooted in a world independent of the West.

Jon Munger and Krista Brennan, the creative duo behind this comic, took some time to discuss the intricacies behind Virtuoso, plus much more.

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#44 Magic in Post-Apocalyptic Africa: WHO FEARS DEATH Interview with Author Nnedi Okorafor

When my comrade-in-arms Jha Goh attended Wiscon this year, she asked me if I wanted anything. I only asked for two books, one of them being Nnedi Okorafor’s WHO FEARS DEATH. This isn’t a steampunk book, but I had read a bit about the setting: one with magic in a world where technology had crumbled and a vicious empire seeks to wipe out other tribes through genocide. Rebuilt societies + imperialist themes + magic = a book worth checking out. A couple of weeks later, I eagerly opened the package in the mail and read the following inscription: “I hope this novel takes you there and back again.”

“There” is post-apocalyptic Africa, in a land known as the Seven Rivers Kingdom, a land plagued by war and genocide. My guide is the strong and determined Onyesonwu, a young woman whose name translates to the title of this book. Her story, told in simple but engaging language, is her journey. Though she is hated because she is an Ewu–born from the rape of her Okeke mother by someone from the conquering Nuru tribe– Onyesonwu’s life changes drastically when she develops the ability to change into animals and even raise the dead.  Now, Onyesonwu must grapple against prejudice aimed at her because of her birth and her gender in order to master her magical abilities. But time is running short, because the Nuru armies are approaching her homeland–and a powerful magician is out to kill her.

Alongside magic powers and spirits, WHO FEARS DEATH deals with very tough, very real issues: weaponized rape, child soldiers, female genital mutilation. These topics are not sensationalized, but integrated into the harsh reality of the world of the Seven Rivers Kingdom. Nnedi also doesn’t shy away from portraying the messed-up perceptions characters have concerning these subjects too, like the poor treatment of Okeke rape survivors, who are shunned because they are “ruined.” Nnedi handles each subject upfront; the more violent scenes were not gratuitous and didn’t make me feel uncomfortable reading it, though I’ll give this book a trigger warning.

Yet Onyesonwu’s tale is much more than the harshness of her world. It’s also very much a story about women finding strength in themselves and in their friendships. It’s about sex used in all its forms: as part of violent oppression, intrinsic desire, and personal liberation. It’s about the mysterious spirit world where demons called masquerades walk the land and dragons fly in the air and tribes can manipulate sand storms (reminding me of the sand benders from Avatar: The Last Airbender). It’s also very much a coming-of-age story as Onyesonwu seeks to affirm her personal and magical identity. And the core strength of the book lies in its ability to take readers to places that are at turns dark, mythical, brutal and wondrous.

After finishing this book, I talked with Nnedi about her career and the challenges she’s faced when writing WHO FEARS DEATH.

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#36 Celtic World Beats: An Interview with Coyote Run

Image courtesy of Coyote Run

I first heard Coyote Run while at Wicked Faire, but didn’t have a chance to see their full set until Steampunk World ‘s Fair. My friend Max had practically leaped out of the hallway where we had been talking, exclaiming, “I have to go Coyote Run is playing–!” My friend in question tends to be very enthused about a lot of things, and from what I had gathered from him before his sudden dash was that Coyote Run was one of the best gypsypunk bands he had ever seen and so it was absolutely imperative that I go see them too.  I watched their set and was quite impressed with their crackling energy and great sense of showmanship. And, surprisingly enough, I also found out that they don’t identify themselves as steampunk, or even as gypsypunk, but as a Celtic rock band. That in itself is very interesting, considering the variety of international instruments they play and the range of genres they incorporate into their music.

For some examples of the type of tunes they play, I recommend checking out their YouTube videos Whalesong and But For Blood.

Afterward, I got in touch with Coyote Run’s lead singer David Doersch to talk about their versatile sound.

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NEW! “I’m an Ideas Sort of Gal” — An Interview on the Airship Ambassador

At the risk of tooting my horn a bit too much for the past couple of days, I’m announcing a little “bonus material” to add to today’s update. Recently, the dear Airship Ambassador cast a line down and we chatted it up about my thoughts on steampunk, blogging, and the focus behind Beyond Victoriana.

Read part 1 of the interview here.

ETA: The second half of the interview is now up, where Kevin and I talk about living the con life and much more.

Read part 2 of the interview here.

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#33 Riffs into Madness: An Interview with Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band

Steampunk music comes in various interpretations and styles, from Rasputina’s lilting southern gothic to Sunday Driver’s Indian-infused world folk and Vernian Process’s melodic steamwave instrumentals. But few bands can embody steampunk’s post-modernist mix of eclectic, rip-roaring energy as the ladies and gentlemen that make up Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band. Today being the Fourth of July, the US holiday marked by parades, parties, and fireworks, I thought it was only apt to feature some big, incendiary music on the blog, and ENSMB is as big as steampunk bands can get.

Steampunk’s Big Band, Emperor Norton’s Stationery Marching Band

The band professes that their origins stemmed from esteemed eccentric Emperor Norton’s final deathbed revelation:

Emperor Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico

Before passing from this plane in 1880, Emperor Norton, I, revealed to his followers that he was no ordinary mortal man, but instead a manifestation of the absurd and unusual forces of the universe. He offered them the chance to follow him on his crusade to unsettle and disturb that which had become bland and banal. A grand parade ensued and continues on through time and space, bringing in its wake a glorious commotion that encourages all to join in the jubilation and make of this world what they will.

ENSMB is the progeny of this bizarre cavalcade. They dance at the edge of reason, sing the song of society’s fringe and drum out whatever din you are called to march to. Emperor Norton is not dead; he is waiting to be awakened in each of us.

Saxophonist and ringleader Handsome Chuck (the gent in the bowler and spiffin’ side-whiskers in the first row, right-hand side in the above picture) offered some insights into the workings of steampunk’s most mobile musical group.

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#23 Interview with Karin Lowachee, Author of THE GASLIGHT DOGS

I admit, I kick the old adage in the face when it comes to book covers: I don’t hesitate to judge and judge fiercely. That being said, if a book cover intrigues me, I will pounce on it like a kitten goes to capnip. When the book-world blogosphere was reeling over the whitewashing Liar controversy, which was then followed by the Magic Under Glass fiasco – instances where the main protagonist of color was portrayed as white and light-haired – Orbit did a cover launch for THE GASLIGHT DOGS featuring this lovely example of Covers Done Awesome:

The Gaslight Dogs

The Gaslight Dogs

But it would be months until I got get my hands on the physical book, and was quite pleased when I finally did. Karin Lowachee’s publishing career began when she was won a first novel contest judged by Tim Powers (yes, fellow steampunks, *that* Tim Powers, author of The Anubis Gates) and had her book WARCHILD published in 2002. WARCHILD was the first of a trilogy that continued with BURNDIVE and CAGEBIRD, and both WARCHILD and BURNDIVE were nominated as finalists for the Philip K. Dick Award.

But enough singing of praises for her previous work. THE GASLIGHT DOGS, a fantasy set on the wild borderlands of the frozen North where, in the epic words of the back cover: “an ancient nomadic tribe faces a new enemy – an empire fueled by technology and war.” Sjenn, a young spiritwalker from the Aniw tribe, is taken prisoner for murder by the Victorian-esque Ciracusans settlers and meets Captain Jarrett, a brash soldier with daddy issues and a terrible gift. The two of them and the steadfast Whishishian native guide Keeley must work together to master a deadly power or else everyone – both colonialist and native – will suffer dire consequences.

I devoured this book in two days after getting it, and was able to get in touch with Karin for an interview about writing THE GASLIGHT DOGS.

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#12: Sneak Peek at Steampunk Comic “The Seven”

This week’s feature came to me from MySpace (yes, I still have one, and keep it updated…sorta).  From the steampunk community there, I friended Tess Fowler. She’d done some gorgeous steampunk erotica work in the past, but I noticed that she began posting character designs such as these:

The Seven

Yannick Nguyen - the Gentleman

Cue the double-take on the names. Characters of color in my steampunk? And (gasp) one of them is Vietnamese-?

Since then, I’ve been following Tess and her progress on The Seven for months. The project is still in its development stages, but, dying to know more, I had a recent conversation with Tess and The Seven’s writer Chris Gutierrez about The Seven and what inspired them to create a multiracial steampunk world.

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Read the interview under the cut

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