Tag Archives: books

Black Empire: George Schulyer, Black Radicalism and Dieselpunk–Guest blog by P. Djeli Clark

[Note from Ay-leen: Cross-posting P. Djeli Clark’s blog The Disgruntled Haradrim]

blackempire3232011Sometime in the 1930s, a black journalist is kidnapped in Harlem by the charismatic Dr. Henry Belsidius, leader of the Black Internationale–a shadowy organization determined to build a Black Empire and overthrow the world of white racial hegemony with cunning and super science. Journalist George S. Schulyer’s fantastic tale was written in serials in the black Pittsburgh Courier between 1936 and 1938 under the pseudonym Samuel I. Brooks. It quickly found a loyal following among African-American readers, who saw in Dr. Belsidius and the Black Internationale a heroic, sci-fi tale of black nationalism, triumph and race pride. The newspaper was surprised at the serials’ growing popularity, and pushed for more–sixty-two in all. Yet no one was as surprised at the story’s success than George Schulyer who, disdaining what he saw as the excesses of black nationalism and race pride, had written Black Empire as satire.

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Filed under Essays, History, Review

BV4 Giveaway: Vintage Tomorrows & Fashion Talks

Vintage Tomorrows_eraly release cover

For the academically-inclined or the subculturally-curious, two books that will spark your interest.

Vintage Tomorrows by James Carrott and Brian David Johnson first pinged on my radar with their documentary sponsored by Intel as part of the Tomorrow Project, which explores how real science and science fiction are changing our future. This companion book to the film is told as an accessible first-hand account about their dive into the steampunk community. Vintage Tomorrows address what steampunk means for today’s technological future, and features dozens of interviews from academics, artists, writers, and makers from the community. Right now, you can download an  early release copy from their publisher’s website, but you can also get your hands on the published, hard copy final edition as part of this giveaway!

Still aren’t convinced about your need to own this book? Well, try taking a gander at the description and the documentary trailer below.

Book Description:

Can you imagine what today’s technology would have looked like in the Victorian Era? That’s the world Steampunk envisions: a mad-inventor collection of 21st Century-inspired contraptions powered by stream and driven by gears. It’s more than just a whimsical idea. In the past few years, the Steampunk genre has captivated makers, hackers, artists, designers, writers, and others throughout the world.

In this fascinating book, futurist Brian David Johnson and cultural historian James Carrott offer insights into what Steampunk’s alternative history says about our own world and its technological future. Interviews with experts such as William Gibson, Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling, James Gleick, and Margaret Atwood explore how this vision of stylish craftsmen making fantastic and beautiful hand-tooled gadgets has become a cultural movement—and perhaps an important countercultural moment.

Steampunk is everywhere—as gadget prototypes at Maker Faire, novels and comic books, paintings and photography, sculptures, fashion design, and music. Discover how this elaborate view of a future that never existed can help us look forward.

We also have one free copy of Fashion Talks: Undressing the Power of Style, edited by Shira Tarrant and Marjorie Jolles . This featured my academic debut with Jaymee Goh in our article about the meaning of steampunk fashion, but also contains TONS of great articles about the politics of fashion and its place in pop culture today.

Fashion Tallks

Book Description:

Essays on the politics of everyday style.

Fashion Talks is a vibrant look at the politics of everyday style. Shira Tarrant and Marjorie Jolles bring together essays that cover topics such as lifestyle Lolitas, Hollywood baby bumps, haute couture hijab, gender fluidity, steampunk, and stripper shoes, and engage readers with accessible and thoughtful analyses of real-world issues. This collection explores whether style can shift the limiting boundaries of race, class, gender, and sexuality, while avoiding the traps with which it attempts to rein us in. Fashion Talks will appeal to cultural critics, industry insiders, mainstream readers, and academic experts who are curious about the role fashion plays in the struggles over identity, power, and the status quo.

“Think of this book as your contemporary style guide. With wit and verve, these fine thinkers redress fashion as a force both frivolous and profound, offering the kind of intelligent, entertaining analysis that transcends trendiness. Topics vary widely—think: baby bumps, little-girl looks, steampunk, colonial chic, feminism, fur, emirati couture. The result is an elegant mix-and-match that brings thoughtful consideration to everyday issues (like getting dressed!), while deepening understanding of our sartorial worlds.” — Deborah Siegel, author of Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild

“From indie brides to Islamic abayas to emo-hipster style, Fashion Talks speaks volumes about the sophistication of contemporary feminist scholarship. Its essays bring together a wide range of different, occasionally divergent perspectives on how style has been applied, critiqued, analyzed, and of course donned for political ends, in ways that encourage readers to truly reconsider the popular slogan ‘This is what a feminist looks like.’ This book is an invaluable source of new scholarship on the subject that will have tremendous appeal to those interested in gender studies, popular culture, and their sartorial expression.” — Maria Elena Buszek, author of Pin-Up Grrrls: Feminism, Sexuality, Popular Culture

Shira Tarrant is Associate Professor in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at California State University, Long Beach. She is the author of Men and Feminism and When Sex Became Gender and the editor of Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex, and Power. Marjorie Jolles is Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Roosevelt University.

Comment on this post before midnight EST on February 19th in order to enter.


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


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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The Manual of Aeronautics: The Art of the Leviathan Trilogy–by Mordicai Knode

I was at a reading for Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan when he mentioned off-hand that it would be a trilogy… with an illustrated guide to the world he was building, in the style of the Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World.

Now, there are a lot of reasons that I liked the Spiderwick guide—I’m a big fan of Tony DiTerlizzi, for instance—but the deep reason is that I’m gonzo for apocrypha. Those sorts of bits and extras that deepen worldbuilding, whether they are art books like Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Art of the Animated Series or in-world mythology like The Tales of Beedle the Bard. The icing on the cake with The Manual of Aeronautics is that Keith Thompson does the art for it, as he did for the series.

[Read “The Manual of Aeronautics: The Art of the Leviathan Trilogy” on Tor.com]


Filed under Essays, Review

Rockin’ That Steampunk–by Kevin J Anderson

In a world lit only by fire
Long train of flares under piercing stars.
I stand watching the steamliners roll by.

That’s the first stanza of “Caravan,” the opening track of Clockwork Angels, the new album from rock supergroup Rush – introducing listeners to the steampunk land of Albion. The concept album tells a fantasy adventure of a young man’s journey across a landscape filled with mechanical contraptions, alchemical coldfire, steamliners, lost cities, a strange carnival, pirates, a rigid Watchmaker and a “freedom extremist” who called himself the Anarchist.

In a groundbreaking crossover project, I wrote the novel of Clockwork Angels in close collaboration with Neil Peart, the lyricist and drummer for Rush. The twelve songs give snapshots of the story, like scenes in a movie trailer; but music is different from prose, and there was so much more to tell, and the characters and settings needed room to grow.

[Read “Rockin that Steampunk” on Tor.com]

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Beyond Victoriana Special Edition #10

Here be some links and news of note that caught my eye. And, if you have any to share, don’t hesitate to share them on Beyond Victoriana’s Facebook page, or email me.

First of all, a glimpse at the early cover for the upcoming academic anthology Steaming into the Victorian Future, edited by Julie Anne Taddeo, Cynthia Miller, and Ken Dvorak and published by Scarecrow Press.  I’ve contributed a piece to this volume, and you’ll also find writings from other well-known steam academics, including Dru Pagliassotti, Mike Perschon, Catherine Siemann, and an introduction by Jeff Vandermeer, all commenting about steampunk as a subgenre and as a subculture.

And I finally gave in and got a tumblr for Beyond Victoriana (Jaymee, you’re welcome). Follow me, drop a message in my Ask Box, or watch me re-blog to my heart’s content. There isn’t much on there yet as I figure out themes and suchlike, but that will soon change.

Oh, and if you are planning to go to San Deigo Comic Con next week, I won’t be there, but my fellow compatriots at Tor.com will be! Plus, they will be giving away newspaper editions of Tor.com that feature a variety of articles, including my essay about Vietnamese identity and steampunk “The Ao Dai and I.”

Enough with the self-promotion — more links after the jump!

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Filed under Announcement, Beyond Victoriana Odds and Ends, Linkspams

Incan Intrigues & More Make Naomi Novik’s Crucible of Gold A Captivating Read

(Note: Not steampunk, but I think there is enough overlap to warrant a cross-posting. And, if you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend it)

Fans of dragons and historical alternate history alike must know about Naomi Novik’s popular Temeraire series, where dragons and men battle during the Napoleonic Wars. Lively, uniquely-drawn characters and intriguing takes on history are two aspects I adore about these books, plus the international scope Novik brings to her storytelling. Though the war is raging through Europe, other non-European nations get slowly drawn into the mix, and Novik presents each society and their human-dragon relations in a nuanced manner. In China, for example, dragons and men are treated as equals. In England, dragons are considered widely as nothing more than working beasts capable of speech. African dragons, on the other hand, are respected as the reptilian reincarnation of deceased tribal elders.

At the end of the last novel, Tongues of Serpents, the former captain Will Laurence and Temeraire trek across Australia after a stolen dragon egg only to discover that the aborigines are trading with China. The revelation was certainly significant for the bigger global picture Novik is constructing, but it wasn’t her most exciting book to read. Too much wandering the outback and too little action.

I looked forward to Crucible of Gold, however, in hopes there would be more excitement. And there definitely is.

[Read on Tor.com. Sea-journeys! Incans! Dragon Tournaments! Mild spoilers ahead.]

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Beyond Victoriana Special Edition Odds & Ends #9

Haven’t done one of these in awhile, but here are some pertinent links for sci-fi & steampunk-related events and causes…

First of all, this month in the US is African/African-American History Month. Beyond Victoriana has done features relating to this event in the past (check out our stuff on Black Victoriana in 2010 and African/African-American Heritage series in 2011) and this year I want to spotlight a venture by Alicia McCalla: The State of Black Sci-Fi 2012 blog carnival. She along with several other writers talk about where they see black sci-fi right now and where it is going. There’s a lot of food for thought on all of the contributors sites; so please check them out at the link. Plus, a shout-out to Valjeanne Jeffers’ post on why she loves steampunk and Balogun, the author of the steampunk/alt- hist book Moses: the Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, wrote about why he hearts steam too.

The annual Con or Bust Fundraiser is now open! Started by fans from the feminist convention WisCon to help raise money for people to color to attend SFF conventions, Con or Bust has raised thousands of dollars in support of a more diverse fandom since it started in 2009. You can read more about their history and go ahead and bid on some awesome stuff!

Did you know that Steampunk Magazine #8 has just come out? Well, if you don’t have a copy in your hands right this second, you can buy one or download the issue from their website.

A bit old, but the book Postcolonialism and Science Fiction is coming out, and i09 posted an excerpt from the introduction. I’m intrigued.

Emilie P. Bush, friend of the blog, has a children’s book coming out on Feb 28th: Her Majesty’s Explorer. The illustrations are adorable, and you can see them in the book trailer below.

Did you know that my intellectual comrade-in-arms Jaymee Goh is hosting a monthly series of interviews with people of color in steampunk? Already, she’s interviewed Native steampunk Monique Poirier, Maisarah Abu Samah, editor of the Singaporean steampunk anthology Steampowered, and author Stephanie Lai.

Speaking of interviews, I recently did one with Decimononic about steampunk jewelry. At first, I was honestly puzzled why they’d request me, but Jose and Irene are both jewelers from Spain who are running a series of interviews that explores the various ideas associated with steampunk and art. So I end up talking a lot about the historical formation of subculture, cultural appropriation, and my love of Russian things. Check  it out here.


Filed under Beyond Victoriana Odds and Ends, Linkspams

Empires and Explorers Re-told in Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention

Before Jules Verne and H.G. Wells came onto the literary scene with their scientific romances, another genius inventor took the stage: Frank Reade, the 19th century whiz kid who tackled the globe with his fleet of electronic-powered vehicles in a series of popular dime novels. Scholars like Jess Nevins argue that Frank Reade and other Edisonadeswere the proto-sci-fi figures that influenced the steampunk subgenre today. If you ever picked up a classic Frank Reade story, (there are some available online), you’ll also find that they were very much pulp stories of their place and time, filled with adventure, innovative machines, juvenile writing, and the whiff of imperialist attitudes and racist stereotypes.

The premise of Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention takes these entertaining, if flawed, stories and turns them on their head for a modern audience. Authors Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett have played with history before in their previous book Boilerplate, where a fictional robot was inserted into actual history. This time around, though, Frank Reade touts itself as the “real life biography” of Reade and his family of inventor-adventurers, who were so iconic that dime novel stories (the actual pulp fictional tales) were written about their lives. This cute idea was a trend in dime novels: Buffalo Bill and Thomas Edison, for instance, got the same treatment. While the Reade family never lived, however, the feat that authors Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett accomplish is not just re-mixing fact and fiction, but writing it in a way that reveals the double-edged sword of glory during the Age of Empire and beyond.

[Read the Rest on Tor.com]

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#101 “Afro-Celtic Post-Roman, Icepunk Regency Novel”: A Review of Kate Elliot’s COLD MAGIC — Guest Blog by Maeve Alpin

You may be familiar with Kate Elliot’s previous books, the Crossroads Trilogy, The Crown of Stars septology, the Novels of the Jaran, and The Golden Key, her collaboration with Melanie Rawn and Jennifer Roberson. Cold Magic, an adventurous multicultural steampunk novel is just as marvelous.

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