September 4, 2011 · 12:00 am
So, if you’re here then you probably like steampunk, but you’re also probably just a little tired of seeing the same old English professor or American cowboy riding his clockwork horse to save western civilization. Me too. And after following the Racefail discussions back in 2009, I set out to create a steampunk series that would be different in every way I could imagine.
I started with research. Lots of it. I learned everything I could about the history and cultures of North Africa and the rest of the Mediterranean to create a time and place for my series that was original and fantastical, and yet thoroughly grounded in reality. Instead of drawing new maps, I looked at ancient maps. Instead of inventing emperors and wars and nations, I discovered the real ones from history (although none of them had appeared in my high school classes, disappointingly). And I carefully knitted them all together as the backdrop for my stories.
Here’s what I came up with.
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January 16, 2011 · 12:00 am
Note: Cross-posted with permission from Yakoub Islam from his website The Muslim Age of Steam on The Steampunk Shariah.
Middle Eastern Astrolobe. 1291.
In Summer 2009, I made the bold decision to write a full-length novel. It seemed like the perfect solution to a troubled and difficult decade, which had largely centred around caring for my autistic son: a return to an old passion – creative writing; a therapeutic outlet following a period of mental and physical illness; and perhaps a means of drawing together the various intellectual and spiritual threads that have informed my faith and eclectic reading over the last 20-odd years. I began by exploring the imaginative possibilities surrounding the first recorded Muslim visit to England, allegedly made by the twelfth century geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi. A small cast of characters was assembled, along with possible subplots, themes and a couple of draft chapters. Yet after twelve months of research and writing, the various elements of my intended novel remained disparate, and I almost gave it up.
I wondered whether the problem wasn’t down to a contradiction that I’m sure many writers have experienced – between creative and publishing ambitions. I wanted to write a one of a kind book, but who would want to read it?
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October 9, 2010 · 12:28 am
This weekend, I’m rockin’ it out at New York Comic Con. I’m there mostly doing the Day Job thing, unfortunately (though, if I can, I might wear my steampunk for Sunday.)
For anyone who manages to recognize me in my civvies, though, you’ll probably end up being filmed or photographed, if you’re looking fabulous and want to flaunt it.
In the meantime, enjoy the linkspam below. This edition features lots of interesting essays, some awesome postcards, and a video of my interview with Cherie Priest.
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Filed under Beyond Victoriana Odds and Ends, Essays, History, Linkspams
Tagged as "Beyond Victoriana Odds and Ends", "beyond victoriana", "central asia", "east asia", "Eastern Europe", "first nation", "middle east", "southeast asia", africa, art, Asian-American, books, diy, fashion, film, indigenous peoples, muslim world, oceania, science, science fiction, Steampunk, technology, transnational, writing
October 3, 2010 · 12:00 am
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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