Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rain, steam and speed

Last weekend: The Victoria Steam Expo
This was a smaller affair than was hoped, with a horrible flu of some sort taking a number of Seattle guests out of action, and preventing the arrival of the Robot Squid. There were some rather good costumes, naturally, including a steam-driven robotic arm, which we didn't get pics of, and a winged girl, whom we did. I made an attempt at a costume, by digging up the Baron Samedi costume I made for Chris some few Halloweens back (minus the 4 ft tall skull-headed walking stick, because Mark and I biked down to the Empress) and borrowing Mark's vintage welding goggles. (but I must now reference Kate Beaton's 'Brunel is tired of these time-travelling assholes')

Cherie Priest was the guest of honour, and did a Q&A on the Saturday and a reading (from Dreadnought) on the Sunday. After the Q&A she signed books for the quickly-forming line, and after that Mark and I took her up on the 'ask me questions and I will talk' invitation. This ended up on the Verandah of the Empress (because the Bengal Lounge will not let you in if you are wearing a hat. T-shirts are okay, top-hats and turbans not. Hm.) for a couple of hours of writing etc. chat, including the 'seven-year overnight success' story, the 'utterly fortuitous rediscovery by a publisher' story, the 'never go with a micropress' story, the 'my early years of B&E and explorations of deserted buildings' stories. I would've felt guilty for snaffling the GoH, but fortunately Heather was one of the volunteers and chaperoned as well as contributing some great stories of her own to the mix.
See? I am working on the the schmoozing. But I'm only going to do it if it's fun. Which it definitely was, and you can add Cherie Priest to the list (headed by Mary Robinette Kowal) of 'people you should buy a drink/snack for and provide keywords to for hours of entertainment'.
Didn't get a picture of 'me with GoH', but I'm still too Canadian to be other than embarrassed by that suggestion anyways.

Displays & vendors were way out of my pocketbook's range, but I have to mention the Really Awesome Clockwork Trilobite by Randie Feil.

On Sunday there was a talk on Steampunk Archetypes which put me off rather. While I was amused by the theological hairsplitting between steampunk, clockpunk and dieselpunk (apparently you can adapt Victorian/Edwardian fashion as much as you like, but if your imaginary power source is diesel rather than steam or phlogiston, you'd better not call yourself steampunk, hombre), the narrowness of the permissable cultural influences was making me twitch. According to the speaker, the only 'pure' locales were London and the American West. Oh, and parts of the British Empire, if you were an Explorer or Engineer (ie white?).
Um. Yeah.
When questions were permitted I asked if France & Europe were acceptable locales, given that Jules Verne (not from London) was surely one of the founding fathers of Victorian sf? Which point was rather missed in the reply, which was that Verne, yeah, Verne was very important.
Given that K.W. Jeter, Cherie Priest, and Jay Lake (those just off the top of my head) all write stories that deal with the underside of industrial and colonial expansion and have multicultural characters, I hadn't expected this unexamined narrowness--maybe it's more an aspect of the costuming side? The speaker seemed much happier once she got onto weapons-modding.

This weekend: rain and clouds and cold. I've had a fire going most of the day and have moved my laptop into the kitchen for warmth & solace. Working on Cost of Silver with breaks to read Witchfinders: a 17th century English tragedy, by Malcolm Gaskill (narrative nonfic about Hopkins & Stearne). This is not cheerful reading, though engrossing. Gaskill fictionalises a good deal, guessing at motives and background, but as long as one keeps that in mind, I don't think it's a problem.
The thing that's hanging me up with research is trying to get a picture of how the witch fever tied in with the Civil War that was going on at the same time. Not psychologically, because I get that the uncertainty and disruption and privations of war would be a proper breeding ground for fears of intangible malicious influence. But physically, how the witch finders travelled through an England scattered with armed camps that would take passing strangers to be spies, and just how people carried on their lives. I probably need to get Antonia Fraser's The Weaker Vessel: women's lot in 17th century England out again, for that side.
Anyway, I will try not to blather on with historical witchcraft neepery, like how the suckling of familiars is such a particularly English concept, and how the concept of a contract or covenant with the Devil may have developed from the Puritan 'covenant of grace' to become a standard part of witchcraft lore. But I can't resist this anecdote--
Matthew Hopkins asked Elizabeth Clarke in what form the devil had come to her. Clarke retorted: 'A tall, proper, black haired gentleman, a properer man than your selfe.' Asked by Stearne with whom she would rather share a bed, she had no doubt: the devil.

My own particular bedevilment recently is the temptation to (brace yourself for teh stoopid) make a book trailer for Cost of Silver, a book that I haven't even finished yet, to compound the idiocy.
But, but, I have IMovie! I have photographs I took in Suffolk! I have jpgs of copyright-free woodcuts! And my cat runs away from vacuums, so she's no help!
I'm trying instead to channel this impulse for good by working further on the (provisional title) Chimps on a Blimp novel, which is at least writing, not messing around. Also it is steampunk, so I should be all inspired after the Expo. Also I have inspirational music, specifically Navigator by the Pogues, and Rain, Steam and Speed by The Men They Couldn't Hang. So really there is nothing to stop me. Right?

Next weekend: panicked speed as I start on the last (please!) revisions of Willow Knot. Somewhere in the cross-border mail is a packet of the first 200 pages of the mss. marked for trimming and tightening.
I promised I'd have the revisions finished within a month of receiving the pages, so I expect June to be a somewhat distracted month in the run-up to Fort Rodd Hill and our Living History week.
Especially since June includes a trip to the Known World Heraldic Symposium (and a visit to Seattle, yay!)


Terri-Lynne said...

I'm so envious! You got to meet Cherie Priest! I love her work. I follow her blog. She's very cool. Just how blue is her hair?? :)

I refuse to read any part of your blog that includes books. Nonononono! I still haven't read Witch's Boy, but that's up next on the TBR pile.

Yay! Final revisions! (HOPE!) I have to have my revisions in by mid July. Meep! I suppose I should save getting nervous until I actually get the edits, huh? Ha! Things move a lot faster in small-press world. :)

batgirl said...

Her hair is iridescent peacock blue. And one of the first things she said when she got on stage was 'Yes, my hair really is this colour.'
She is super-approachable. She declared a 10-foot 'no shyness' zone around herself for the Expo.

John Chu said...

A weird bit of synchronicity: Earlier in the same day, another friend of mine posted her review of a WisCon panel on steampunk. It, of course, examined the narrowness that can be associated with steampunk.

My guess is that for a lot people steampunk is building and crafting things. They're not so concerned about anything else. Of course, the WisCon panel shows that there are plenty of people interested in the (inadvertent?) implications.

Best of luck with the revisions. I hope these will be the last, that the book gets bought at auction for a blushworthy sum, and that you'll find a place on the mantle for the Hugo (or World Fantasy Award or Nebula).

Incidentally, I've hit the point where I see someone with wings and my first thought is invariably, "But the physics don't work out!" For a human being, the wings need to be huge and then you'd probably only fly like a flying squirrel. If you posit superhuman strength (to right the strength to weight ratio), then you might fly like a condor.

batgirl said...

Priest got a shout-out from one of the audience, an Asian guy in bowler, duster & goggles, for her inclusion of Asian characters - as she said, she couldn't write about Seattle in that time and not include Asian characters! Who will be reappearing, some getting their own stories.

What I don't get - I'd thought at first that it was just people not examining the archetypes they were working from, but if they're laying out these boundaries, they're examining _something_, so how do they miss that colonialism was not an unalloyed good? (though I still think stopping suttee was a good idea).