Steampunk Hands Around the World 2016: Reflections on my favorite aspect of Steampunk

 

One of my favorite things about Steampunk is how it has persevered and evolved since I entered its realm five years ago, when The Steampunk Bible came out May 2011. Immediately after that book came out, there were fears that the movement was about to jump the shark as it swam towards mainstream acceptance, but here we are in 2016, in the third year of Steampunk Hands Around the World celebrating everything but that mythical shark. Sure, there was that show with Kato last year, a fall season or two of cinched vests, corset belts, military coats, cogs and fobs, and tiny top hat fascinators in stores like Forever 21, and a few experiments within Hollywood (Sherlock Holmes series and The Three Musketeers), but Steampunk has survived all of that. None of it has diminished what makes Steampunk tick—relationships, reinvention, and revelation.

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Steampunk Hands Around the World, now in its third year, has been a great way to highlight and celebrate Steampunk’s international (r)evolution. Read more posts at Airship Ambassador‘s wonderful blog.

 

For me, personally, I have seen these three “r’s” constantly reinforced over the years, even in my own projects. I always have a bit of poseur syndrome when it comes to the Steampunk community, because I approached the movement as a journalist—an outsider documenting this interesting phenomenon that evolved from computer mods and three California guys flirting with romantic science fiction. My interest and love for nineteenth century art and literature was what drew me to it, and like many journalists who get too close to their subject, I fell in love. But I didn’t know how to really be involved. I didn’t cosplay, or have a steamsona, can’t craft things for shit, and while I aspired to write historical, gothic fiction, I lacked a true sci-fi bent. What I was into was travel, being a lit/art-nerd, and the people and histories that fell through the cracks of the 19th century and early 20th century, especially as it pertained to Romanticism, Symbolism, and Modernism. Enter Arthur Morgan.

Steampunk Paris authors
My co-author, Arthur Morgan and I celebrate the good news at Dr. Lupin in Pigalle, Paris. Photo courtesy of Chris Bonnefoy (http://www.eclatsdevie.com)

He contacted us in 2010 regarding French Steampunk for SB, and as I interviewed him and read the interviews he graciously translated for us, things finally started to click for me. Within the work of French Steampunk artists like Etienne BarillerFuturavapeur, Annliz Bonin, and Sam van Olffen, I saw reinvented those movements I had studied and loved:  Dada, Surrealism, Symbolism, and Romanticism.

So, yeah, Arthur and I became fast friends, and when I told him I would be abroad promoting The Steampunk Bible, he told me he had been working on a tour of Steampunk Paris he’d like to show me. Here was an angle to Steampunk that had never occurred to me. The year before, I indulged in some literary travel in Europe visiting a few sites found within Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but Steampunk as a mode of travel, galvanic machines aside, never occurred to me. I asked Morgan if he’d write about this with me, and he agreed. The rest is history—we wrote these essays in 2012 and had the amazingly talented fashion photographer Nicolas Meunier illustrate it for us, and now we are writing a travel book about Steampunk Paris, coming out this fall from Pelekenisis press.

Through this writing, through my love of France and its literature, art, and culture, through my love of travel, I finally feel like I am participating and contributing in a way that only I can—and this is what I love most about Steampunk. No matter your interests, your expertise, your background, your goals, there is something for you, and everyone, here, and that “something” is guaranteed to reveal things you’ve never seen, things lost through the cracks of history, and the past, present, and the future becomes far more connected and diverse than how you had previously known it, making the world a much more fun and interesting place to inhabit.

Story Published: “The Neurastheniac” in CASSILDA’S SONG

Awesome cover for CASSILDA'S SONG designed by Steve Santiago.
Awesome cover for CASSILDA’S SONG designed by Steve Santiago.

Joe Pulver’s long-awaited anthology, CASSILDA’S SONG, is finally in the world! This collection looks at the more feminine-side of Robert Chambers’ THE KING IN YELLOW, and I am honored to share a TOC with some of the awesomest ladies writing today. You can find the full Table of Contents at the end of this post.

Not only am I proud to be in this antho for the TOC, but also because I think my story “The Neurastheniac” may be one of my favorite things I’ve written to date. Joe is a really great editor to work with. Not only is his enthusiasm in the project infectious, but he goes the extra mile to encourage you in your vision, even when you are working within someone else’s sandbox. What has resulted is probably a story that is more Selena biz than anything published so far, with the exception of my piece in Starry Wisdom Library.

“The Neurastheniac” is about Helen Heck, a failed beat/confessional poet/junky, and what she uncovers from a series of trespasses through the abandoned suicide chambers in the 60s. It gets weird.

Reviews for CASSILDA’S SONG have begun popping up, and I am happy to say people have been enjoying my weird Poetess as much as I enjoyed writing her. Here are a few highlights:

For Laird Barron’s “Five for 2015”, he wrote on his blog: “Cassilda’s Song, edited by Joseph Pulver. An anthology dedicated to the King in Yellow. Pulver’s third major tribute anthology in recent days and probably the best. Selena Chambers, Maura McHugh, and S.P. Miskowski set the pace for a sleeper anthology of 2015.”

Des Lewis is live-reading the collection, reviewing each story blow-by-blow and having a lot of fun. Of “The Neurastheniac,” he compares her notebooks to Ferlinghetti and Ligotti, but also the Decadents. “That contemporaneous example of her Ferlinghetti-like poetry (poetry that sometimes in this work approaches, to my eye, fin de siecle decadence) is a section of this delightful patchwork quilt of impressions and examples of the work of Helena Heck (1937-1968) whom KiY’s surnamesake surconscious author Selena jams for us like jazz. ”

Many thanks to Messrs. Barron and Lewis!

Speaking of jazz, there are a lot of musical references in the story, from the suicide songs of the 20s and 30s through the ironic melancholy of the 90s. So, to celebrate the release of the collection, I created a playlist of all the songs that either inspired or are featured in the tale. You can tune in here.

CASSILDA’S SONG is published by Chaosium Inc. and is available for Kindle, and forthcoming for print.

Table of Contents:

Black Stars on Canvas, a Reproduction in Acrylic … Damien Angelica Walters
She Will Be Raised a Queen … E. Catherine Tobler
Yella … Nicole Cushing
Yellow Bird … Lynda E. Rucker
Exposure … Helen Marshall
Just Beyond Her Dreaming … Mercedes M. Yardley
In the Quad of Project 327 … Chesya Burke
Stones, Maybe … Ursula Pflug
Les Fleurs Du Mal … Allyson Bird
While The Black Stars Burn … Lucy A. Snyder
Old Tsah-Hov … Anya Martin
The Neurastheniac … Selena Chambers
Dancing The Mask … Ann K. Schwader
Family  … Maura McHugh
Pro Patria! … Nadia Bulkin
Her Beginning is Her End is Her Beginning … E. Catherine Tobler & Damien Angelica Walters
Grave-Worms … Molly Tanzer
Strange is the Night … S.P. Miskowski

Victor Sierra: Steampunk Paris Music

The Paris-based Steampunk band Victor Sierra is currently crowdfunding for their third album DARK PASSENGER at Indiegogo. I’m not very good at describing music, but If you can imagine taking the world of Sam van Olffen, orchestrating it with strains of Abney Park, Concrete Blonde, and some Rockabilly/Bluegrass Americana–that may come close to describing their sound. They are a really interesting project, and a great presence on the French Steampunk/Steampunk Paris scene.

You can find out more about the band, the fundraiser (which is 1k away with 12 days to go), and their latest project here.

Fermentation Lounge Reading: Featuring Molly Tanzer with Jesse Bullington & Selena Chambers

So Molly Tanzer has written this AMAZING weird-western called VERMILION (Word Horde Press). It was released last April and has been blazing trails of both the critical and selling-like-hotcakes paths. If you don’t believe me, check out NPR’s review here.

Anyway, it just so happens Molly Tanzer will be in Tallahassee (if you didn’t know, she’s got roots here, y’all!) this week and is having a book-release bash at Fermentation Lounge, May 12, at 7 pm. She’ll be reading from the book, while giving Jesse Bullington and I a tiny-bit of limelight with short readings of our own.

If you happen to be in the area, we’d love for you to come by, experience some weird lit, drink some brews, and help us toast Molly and Lou Merriwether into the glory hours. Details and updates can be found at our Facebook event page here.

Fermentation Lounge is located at 415 All Saints Street #113., Tallahassee, FL  32301
Fermentation Lounge is located at 415 All Saints Street #113., Tallahassee, FL 32301

Reading: This Weekend in Atlanta

I am crawling out of my hermit crab-shell this weekend, and will be rolling into Hawtlanta to tangentially participate in the World Horror Convention. And by tangentially I mean via pool and/or bar-conning as well as a special group reading with friends: Jesse Bullington, J. T. Glover, Orrin Grey, and Molly Tanzer. While I haven’t quite pinned down what I am reading, I am leaning towards “Descartar,” which is part of Jason V. Brock’s THE DARKE PHANTASTIQUE anthology, nominated for Stoker Superior Achievement in an Anthology, so that seems pretty approps. The location is TBA, at the moment, so if you are at #WHC, or just in the Atlanta area, and want to check us out, follow the Facebook event here.

Readings by Jesse Bullington, Selena Chambers, J. T. Glover, Orrin Grey, and Molly Tanzer.
Readings by Jesse Bullington, Selena Chambers, J. T. Glover, Orrin Grey, and Molly Tanzer.

STEAMPUNK WORLD nominated for a STEAMPUNK CHRONICLE Reader’s Choice Award.

THE STEAMPUNK CHRONICLE’s Annual Reader’s Choice Award (what I call the Steampunk Hugo) is now open for voting. I am pleased to see that Sarah Hans’ awesome STEAMPUNK WORLD anthology, which I’ve discussed quite a bit in this space is nominated for excellence in Fiction. A thousand congrats to Sarah, Alliteration Ink, James Ng who illustrated all of the stories, and to all my fellow contributors in the book.

If you enjoyed STEAMPUNK WORLD, please take a moment to vote for it here:  http://www.steampunkchronicle.com/SPCAwards/Voting/tabid/513/Default.aspx

Appearance: Anomalycon, March 27-March 29, 2015 in Denver, CO

I am very excited to be returning to my second Anomalycon as a guest along side such Steampunk/SF luminaries like Cory Doctorow, Ay-Leen the Peacemaker (a/k/a Diana Pho), Madeline Foxtrot (a/k/a Ashley Rogers), Christine Rose (formerly a/k/a O.M. Grey), Carrie Vaughn, Jason Heller and Molly Tanzer to just name a few of the awesome line-up, which you can see here.

The programmingphoto looks great, and I submit my own schedule below as just a sampling as to what con-goers can expect this coming weekend.

FRIDAY

Fri 5pm–The Future of Steampunk:  Steampunk isn’t dead, or even plateauing. New fiction, exciting ideas and where the genre is going beyond the world of written words. S. Chambers, M. Tanzer, S. Ficklin, S. West. Fiction

Fri 7pm–Closing the Loop:  Editing and re-editing and outlining and reviewing and getting your book out to an agent…you have so much to do now that you’ve finished your first novel draft. Where do you go from here? B. Dornbusch, S. Chambers, J. Brawner, Ay-leen the Peacemaker

Fri 8pm–Why Are We Still Talking About This?:  No, seriously. Aren’t you tired of hearing about angry minorities? Why are we still talking about feminism and equality? Isn’t it here yet? C. Doctorow, S. Chambers, M. Fowler, J. Heller, C. Rose (M)
SATURDAY

Sat 10am–Tropes and the Victorians:  Did they really all wear corsets? And what’s with the layers? S. Holl, S. Schafer, S. Chambers

Sat 11am–Steampunk, Anarchy, and Socio-political Activism:  Steampunk is on the rise and fans of the genre enjoy more than just the aesthetic. But what about using the core of a movement to bring about positive change in the political or socio-economical climate? C. Doctorow, S. Chambers, J. Heller, A. Rogers.

Sat 1pm–Author Free-For-All:  Don’t miss this wild answer to every question you never thought to ask your favorite authors! Twitter meets steroids. S. Chambers, C. Doctorow, K. Seibert (M), J. Nye, S. Litore, G. DeMarco, J. A. Owen, M. Tanzer, M. Mohanraj, J. Koyanagi, Ay-leen the Peacemaker, L.J. Hachmeister, T. Heermann

Sat 3pm–Steampunk Paris:  Travel Paris in real style. Only Steampunk will do. S. Chambers

Sat 5pm–Steampunk World Interview with S.J. Chambers and Molly Tanzer:  Beyond the Tropes talks Steampunk with S.J. Chambers and Molly Tanzer

Sat 6pm–Steampunk is Taking Over The World!:  When people think “Steampunk” Jules Verne and Wild Wild West often come to mind. But the last 50 years of media have been full of hints of Steampunk. It’s everywhere, and there are things you need to see and read.  J. Heller, S. Chambers, M. Acevedo

 

SUNDAY

Sun 12pm–The Grand Tea Hosted by Psyche Corporation and S.J. Chambers, featuring a special painting demo by Aria. Tickets are only available ahead of time (before pre-registration closes). Featuring glorious afternoon tea fare and hours of wonderful company and entertainment. An AnomalyCon special event! S. Chambers, Aria, Psyche Corporation, C. Rose 12th Floor Ballroom

Sun 2pm–Beyond the 19th Century Steampunk Fiction is often categorized as analyzing the future by looking to the past. Explore works that go beyond this past concept and apply Steampunk ideals to other timelines. S. Litore, S. Chambers, M. Tanzer History (Or Fiction)

Sun 3pm–New Fiction Now Writers Reading Cool Stuff that just came out. Pick up a new favorite. M. Tanzer, S. Chambers, S. West, S. Ficklin Fiction

Sun 4pm
COLLAPSE!

Foxhound Favorites: Video Game Music Radio

Foxhound FavoritesI am highly influenced and inspired by my friends. Over my life I have connected with a lot of awe-inducing geniuses, and I try to celebrate them as much as I can. It gets hard, of course, because as we get older, we all move away and shift focus, and evolve in our lives, but even then there are people who can swoop in for a lunch or a drink, pick-up where you left off a few years ago, and enrich your life with their own, and hopefully vice versa. One of those friends is Brendan McLeod.

Brendan, my husband, and I became friends in college, and from the first time I’ve met him I have always been impressed with his optimism, will, and drive to keep owning. He is in the Video Game designing biz, and is a huge advocate of the culture around it, including its music. Last time he was in town, he told me he’d started a radio show podcast called Foxhound Favorites that celebrates a scene I was unaware of…musicians and bands and DJs remixing and covering and bringing to the forefront the video game scores that have always played in the background.

Every Thursday, Brendan a/k/a Fox, and his dog Pullo a/k/a Hound design a playlist based on a hand-picked and annotated theme from this community, most recently: Mega Man X.

I dabble in gaming. Right now, I am at an impasse with it because I failed a case in L.A. Noire and I’m pretty pissed about it. Apparently after thirty-years on this Earth, its taken a video game to tell me I don’t read people well and am pretty gullible. Thanks for the life assessment, Rockstar Games. Anyway, I tend to favor first-person shooter/mission games like Grand Theft Auto 5000 and Fallout 3, games that don’t necessarily have original scores. I have had Nintendo days and Sega days here and there, but I wouldn’t say I was an expert on any of it, so with all that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t recognize anything on Foxhound Favorites.

Curious, I tuned in and had so much fun listening that I started sweeping through the archive. I was really surprised by what I did recognize. First, scores in games I had played but never payed attention too like Silent Hill and Castlevania; then, games I’ve never played but somehow have become part of my collective consciousness like Mega Man and Chrono Trigger. Sensations were nostalgia, wonder, and the occasional “awwww, that’s my jam!” It was really nice experiencing the range without the visual distracting the ears, if that makes sense. Also, there is some real talent here. Who thought trills in Mega Man would translate into some Jimi Hendrix lightening-shreds? I also found it’s pretty fun stuff to work to. In fact, I’m listening to the 2014 Greatest Hits as I draft this. This episode is pretty great, and is among my favorite episodes that include Halloween and Castles.

If you are a dabbler like me, or a hard-core gamer, or just like pop-cultural allusions, you definitely should check out FOXHOUND FAVORITES’ archives and catch new episodes every Thursday.