“We need to talk about diversity,” has been the conversation starter in SF/F as of late. But the best fiction, as the saying goes, shows, not tells. The anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, reveals representation as more than a tally-count concerning diversity, and highlights how the act of reading across difference can be an intensely immersive experience.
Reading Long Hidden very much felt like sitting in on late-night conversations in a room full of strangers, darting from one conversation to the next. I might not immediately recognize the context of one tale or another, nor did I feel pressure or ridicule for not knowing something beforehand. What was important was recognizing the generosity and trust in which these stories were being told, and letting the conversation flow.
I’ve had the pleasure of conducting such a conversation with Rose and Daniel after my read. We discuss their challenges and joys during the editing process, the logistics of outreach and crowd-funding, and the impact of marginalized voices in the future of speculative fiction.
[Read our interview here.]
The most fantastical aspect of A Country of Ghosts is how it’s an earnest tale about an alternative society when dystopias fill today’s bookshelves. Full disclosure here:the author has written for Tor.com, and I did hold interest in reading his book once he described it to me as an “anarchist utopia.”
With that seed in mind, I couldn’t help but view A Country of Ghosts as the latest in a long tradition of utopian novels, starting with Thomas More’s as the most well-known early example (and a fantastic open source annotated edition can be read here).
Of course, utopias and speculative fiction go hand in hand. In the 19thcentury, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland envisioned a society of women. Alexander Bogdanov wrote about communist utopia on Mars in his 1908 book Red Star. Later utopian novels include Ursula K. Le Guin’s take on anarchism in The Dispossessed, Arthur C. Clark’s peaceful alien invasion inChildhood’s End, Aldous Huxley’s utopian counterpart to Brave New World in Island, and the fulfillment of the radical movements of the 1960s in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, along with many others.
In A Country of Ghosts a regional collective known as Hron (they’re only kinda, sorta a country) fights against a colonial empire, and Killjoy’s mix of politics and storytelling is at times intellectually engaging and at times winsome, though it’s also a curiosity to behold in the field today.
Read the rest of the review here: [“The rules don’t really matter. It’s the spirit that matters, I think.”]
Pavan Krushik, a digital and photographic artist from Bangalore, India, contacted me recently about his latest photo-story “The Legend of Old Smoke.” As Krushik explains, the story “revolves around the adventures of a Legendary steampunk warrior Cecilia who caught up in the events of a world changing war sparked by the sciences discovered decades earlier.”
The artist also excitedly talks about the inspiration that drew him to the steampunk aesthetic: “The City of Lost Children (La Cité des enfants perdus) by Jean-Pierre Jeunet is the movie which actually made me fall in love with Steampunk genre. I felt an alternate universe and a fictional era like steampunk should really exist in our generation to escape from reality. I was so fascinated and impressed by this movie and started watching every other steampunk-themed number ever since. I have always been intrigued by Steampunk because of its emphasis on Science and Invention. I love this genre for its dynamic feel, industrialization, fashion and technical evolution. I’m a big Sci-fi fan in general. Other movies like Hugo, A Series of Unfortunate Events, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Sherlock Holmes, The Golden Compass and many other Victorian-period style numbers also have influenced me so much and not to forget the novels of my favorite writer HG Wells, especially ‘The Time Machine’. I have always enjoyed creating new worlds of my own and Steampunk is one prominent way, and I dare say a very versatile one at that, to express myself. Very suiting for me since I have always been a sucker for the Victorian era. :)”
Enjoy the story below!
It is an age of steam and sorcery. Her name is Cecilia, daughter of a famous scientist in Old Smoke who was killed in a spate of assassinations for his invention of latest steam powered machinery to curb the environmental problems. Now she’s on the brink of fury. She’s not evil, but likes the thrill of revenge.
(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.]
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.
One representation of Agartha, based on writings of Raymond W. Bernard, which assumed that Agartha existed inside the Earth with an opening entrance in the Himalayas. Click for source.
Agartha was created by “Saint Yves d’Alveydre” and appeared in Mission de l’Inde en Europe, Mission de l’Europe en Asie (Mission to India from Europe, Mission to Europe from Asia, 1885). Joseph Alexandre Saint-Yves, Marquis d’Alveydre (1824-1909) was a French thinker and mystic, similar to (if less influential than) Eliphas Lévi. Agartha is an ancient underground kingdom in Tibet.
The kingdom has a strange effect on outsiders: they either do not notice it as they travel through it, or they forget about it once they have seen it. Even so, there are many rumors about Agartha. It is said that its capital, Paradesa, holds the University of Knowledge, where the occult and spiritual treasures of mankind are guarded. Those in charge of these treasures are the Secret Masters, superior beings who are the spiritual leaders of humanity. They are in telepathic communication with enlightened humans around the world, who in turn try to spiritually uplift humanity until “the Anarchy which exists in our world is replaced by the Synarchy,” the proper system of government for all of humanity.
Note: This is part 2 of our roundtable interview with several contributors to Steam-Powered. Read part 1 here.
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.
The intelligent automaton—one of the many symbolic Others in sci-fi literature. When characterized sympathetically, the automaton represents humanity without being human, the lone outsider puzzling the world around it. The Othered Automaton pops up in steampunk lit too, like Boilerplate and Mattie from The Alchemy of Stone. In both cases, the automaton finds camaraderie with people who feel similarly alienated by the societies they live in; Boilerplate had his Buffalo Soldiers, Mattie had her mechanic dark-skinned lover Sebastian. But what Jaclyn Dolamore brings to the table is a new perspective to this relationship in her fantasy steampunk novel Magic Under Glass: the protagonist is not the Othered Automaton, but that of Nimira, the human Other seeking her fortune in a strange land.