Author Gail Carriger writes comedic steampunk mixed with urbane fantasy. Her Parasol Protectorate books, their manga adaptations, and the first two books in her YA Finishing School seriesabout Victorian girl spies were all New York Times bestsellers. Her newest book, Waistcoats & Weaponry, is out November 4th. She was once a professional archaeologist and is overly fond of tea.

Gail was kind enough to answer some questions about her latest novel and writing in general. So pour yourself some tea, button that waistcoat, and let’s get started!


Rachel Cordasco: Waistcoats & Weaponry is the third book in your young adult steampunk Finishing School series: can you give us an overview of this latest installment and explain how it fits into the series as a whole?

Gail Carriger: In this book Sophronia and her friends finally get to spend time away from their school, putting all their newly leaned spy skills to good use. There is a train heist, an accidental kidnapping, a renewal of old acquaintances ­(not all of them welcome) and, finally, some serious flirting. Also, I suspect someone throws food at someone else ­– in my books, they usually do.
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Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. grew up in the United States and Canada but he prefers to think of himself as British. He attended the University of Waterloo where he earned an Honors B.A. in English with a Minor in Anthropology. He has lived on Prince Edward Island, met the sheep on Hadrian’s Wall, eaten at the first McDonalds in Moscow, excavated a 400 year old Huron Indian skeleton and attended a sperm whale autopsy. Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders, Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War and Romulus Buckle & the Luminiferous Aether are the first three installments in his new steampunk series, The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin. He currently resides in California. Find out more at hos website and follow him on Twitter as @RichardEPreston

Airship Versus Flying Kraken Battle Tactics: A Steampunk Primer

by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.

Captain Buckle hurdled over tentacles, moving beneath dozens more that lashed back and forth in the darkness overhead. “Have at the monster, mates!” he shouted into the teeth of the wind, and slammed his axe down upon the joint of a thick, writhing arm. The blade sank deep into the jellyfish muscle beneath, sending up gouts of yellow blood. The tentacle snapped back reflexively, nearly tearing the axe out of Buckle’s hands as it whiplashed away.

(From Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.)

In Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War, the second novel in my Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin steampunk adventure series, the airship launch Arabella is caught in an ice storm and attacked by a flying alien beastie which resembles a mythical kraken. Kraken encounters with airships are rare but zeppelin crews, operating in earth’s alien-creature-filled post-apocalyptic skies, understand the tactics needed to handle of this kind of situation.

What follows is an airship vs. flying kraken battle primer, complete with Crankshaft Air Corps tactical notes, employing the Arabella incident an example.

Please Note: a gorgeous illustrated schematic of this battle sequence is featured inside the new Steampunk User’s Manual by Jeff VanderMeer and Desirina Boskovitch. The artist is Locus Award winner Jeremy Zerfoss. TOR.COM has an exclusive look at the illustration and an exclusive FREE ROMULUS BUCKLE SHORT STORY, “An Officer and a Gentleman,” on their website here.)

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REVIEW SUMMARY: A diverse, eclectic, and fascinating collection of steampunk stories.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Editor Sean Wallace has brought together stories from such writers as Cherie Priest, Ken Liu, Gord Sellar, and others, that push the boundaries of the steampunk genre in new and exciting ways.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A broad range of steampunk tales that range from fantasy to hard scifi, and folk-tale to alternate-history.
CONS: Grouping the stories into themed sections would have made the similarities and differences among the approaches more apparent.
BOTTOM LINE: A fascinating romp through the steampunk imagination. (And there are pterodactyls. Just sayin’.)

The twenty-five steampunk stories in Sean Wallace’s The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures reveal just how rich and varied the genre can be. From fantasy to hard scifi, historical fiction to diary entries, they show us a whole range of ways to conceptualize and understand our world and many of its alternatives. Included are stories about circuses and mechanical birds, shape-shifters and pterodactyls, “mechanika” uprisings and political intrigue. Oh, and lobsters and golems. You get the picture.
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I’ve been looking forward to the release of The Steampunk User’s Manual: An Illustrated Practical and Whimsical Guide to Creating Retro-futurist Dreams by Jeff VanderMeer and Desirina Boskovich ever since we did the cover reveal a few months ago. This is the follow-on companion volume to The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by VanderMeer and S.J. Chambers, which debuted a few years ago. Abrams is publishing this one, too, and it looks to be just as wonderfully produced and presented.

Here’s some more info about the volume, including the table of contents and a sneak peek at what you’ll find inside…
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We’re pleased to once again bring you an excerpt, this time from Chris Wooding’s new steampunk adventure novel, The Ace of Skulls: A Tale of the Ketty Jay (available this week from Titan Books)!

Here’s what the book is about:

The intrepid crew of the Ketty Jay have been shot down, set up, double-crossed and ripped off. They’ve stolen priceless treasures, destroyed a 10,000-year-old Azryx city and sort-of-accidentally blown up the son of the Archduke. Now they’ve gone and
started a civil war. This time, they’re really in trouble.

As Vardia descends into chaos, Captain Darian Frey is doing his best to keep his crew out of it. He’s got his mind on other things, not least the fate of Trinica Dracken. But wars have a way of dragging people in, and sooner or later they’re going to have to pick a side. It’s a choice they’ll be staking their lives on.

Cities fall and daemons rise. Old secrets are uncovered and new threats revealed. When the smoke clears, who will be left standing

Read on for an excerpt!

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[GUEST POST] Eric Brown on What Steampunk Means To Me


Eric Brown is an award-winning writer and cornerstone of the SF community; a regular contributor to the Guardian’s SF book reviews and a much-respected novelist. Jani and the Greater Game is his first Steampunk novel and – in true Brown style – it’s going to be a must-read both for fans of his previous work, and for readers interested in the new wave of Steampunk and alt-history. Engaging, enthralling and evocative, Jani and the Greater Game is redefining the world of Steampunk.

What Steampunk Means To Me

by Eric Brown

I read steampunk at its very inception, long ago in the 1980s – Tim Power’s The Anubis Gates, K.W. Jeter’s Infernal Devices, and the works of James P. Blaylock – back when the sub-genre wasn’t even graced with a sobriquet but was lumped in with the catch-all term of Fantasy. Little did any of us realise, at the time, what a thriving genre it would become, nor what a lifestyle sub-culture these and other novels would spawn. (There is even, as I sit typing, a Steampunk-themed café seven miles north of here in North Berwick, East Lothian).

To me, in the Eighties, these and other novels occupied a strange hinterland between SF and Fantasy. While fantastical, they didn’t much partake of the occult or the overly magical; and while ostensibly SF, they weren’t tied to the rigorous rationality of Hard SF. They were great adventure romps which played fast and loose with the conventions of science fiction and fantasy; they had their cake and ate it.
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It’s time another Book Cover Smackdown! This time around, covers of forthcoming steampunk titles go head-to-head. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Pass artistic judgment!

Tell us:

  • Which of these covers do you like the most?
  • What works and what doesn’t work with these covers?
  • Do any of them make you want to learn more about and/or read the book?

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Watch the “Steampunk Girl” Music Video Now!

Joshua Westbury did an amazing kinetic typography video for John Anealio‘s “Steampunk Girl” song.

If you like it, you can download the “Steampunk Girl” song — as well as John’s entire Laser Zombie Robot Love album — for free!

Listen and watch below…
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Here’s the cover (designed by Galen Smith) and synopsis for the beautiful and upcoming steampunk book The Steampunk User’s Manual: An Illustrated Practical and Whimsical Guide to Creating Retro-futurist Dreams by Jeff VanderMeer and Desirina Boskovich, coming out in October 2014.

Here’s the synopsis (larger cover version appear below):
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Chris Wooding is a London-based author of sixteen books which have been translated into twenty languages. He’s won various awards and has been published around the world. He also writes for film and television. This month, Titan books published The Iron Jackal, the latest book in his steampunk series Tales of the Ketty Jay.

What Is Steampunk, Anyway? – The Changing Fortunes of the Ketty Jay

By Chris Wooding

About six years ago, I had an idea for a story called Retribution Falls, about a ragtag bunch of inept sky pirates, all of them refugees from their own pasts, hanging together because they had nowhere else to go. I wanted to tell the tale of how a crew came to be forged from the most unpromising materials, and how this insignificant bunch of semi-alcoholic dropouts would go on and change the world.

But if I wanted to put pirates in the sky, I needed to put ships there, too. Among the fighter craft, huge frigates ploughed through the clouds, bristling with cannon. In order to keep them aloft, I needed aerium, an ultralight gas kept in ballast tanks, capable of lifting the largest loads.

Slowly, surely, the world began to be built around aerium. The land’s politics and history revolved around the struggle for aerium resources. The mindset of the civilisation was shaped by it. And what I ended up with was a world with a level of technology roughly approximating the dawn of the 20th century, except that the science of flight and aircraft manufacture was far more advanced. All of this was basically an excuse for me to write a ton of badass aerial dogfights, with machine guns blazing, while listening to Iron Maiden’s Aces High at full blast.

My publisher loved it when I showed it to them. But they told me one thing: for God’s sake, don’t ever call it steampunk. It’s a death sentence on the bookshelves. Call this book steampunk, and nobody will buy it.
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Here is the table of contents for the upcoming Steampunk World, a multicultural steampunk fiction anthology, which features cover art by James Ng:

Here’s the project description as it appeared on Kickstarter:

Steampunk is fascinating. There’s something compelling about the shine of clicking brass clockwork and hiss of steam-driven automatons. But until recently, there was something missing.

It was easy to find excellent stories of American and British citizens… but we rarely got to see steampunk from the point of view of the rest of the world.

Steampunk World is a showcase for nineteen authors to flip the levers and start the pistons and invite you to experience the entirety of steampunk.

And here’s the table of contents…
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Table of Contents: THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF STEAMPUNK ADVENTURES Edited by Sean Wallace

Sean Wallace has posted the table of contents for his upcoming anthology The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures, coming August 2014 in the UK and October 2014 in the US:

Here’s the table of contents…
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We’re pleased to bring to you today an exceprt from Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.’s ne wsteampunk novel, Romulus Buckle & The Engines of War, sequel to Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders.

Here is the book description:

The frozen wasteland of Snow World—known as Southern California before an alien invasion decimated civilization—is home to warring steampunk clans. Crankshafts, Imperials, Tinskins, Brineboilers, and many more all battle one another for precious supplies, against ravenous mutant beasts for basic survival, and with the mysterious Founders for their very freedom.

Through this ruined world soars the Pneumatic Zeppelin, captained by the daring Romulus Buckle. In the wake of a nearly suicidal assault on the Founders’ prison city to rescue key military leaders, both the steam-powered airship and its crew are bruised and battered. Yet there’s little time for rest or repairs: Founders raids threaten to shatter the fragile alliance Buckle has risked everything to forge among the clans.

Even as he musters what seems a futile defense in the face of inevitable war, Buckle learns that the most mysterious clan of all is holding his long-lost sister in a secret base—and that she holds the ultimate key to victory over the Founders. But rescuing her means abandoning his allies and praying they survive long enough for there to be an alliance to return to.

And here is the excerpt. Enjoy!
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Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. is a science fiction writer who loves the zeitgeist of steampunk. Although he grew up in both the United States and Canada he prefers to think of himself as British. He attended the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, where he earned an Honors B.A. in English with a Minor in Anthropology. He has lived on Prince Edward Island, excavated a 400 year old Huron Indian skeleton and attended a sperm whale autopsy. Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War is the second installment in his new steampunk series, The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin. Richard has also written for film and television. He currently resides in California. You can find him online at his website Richardellisprestonjr.com and on Twitter as @RichardEPreston.

What is Steampunk?

by Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.

What is Steampunk?

Lately, steampunk is experiencing a boost in the public eye. Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker novel is heading to the big screen, Parisian fashion has grabbed hold of steampunk’s retro-exotic look, the movie Sucker Punch reveled in the aesthetic and a murder in the steampunk subculture briefly perplexed the writer/detective team in the tv series Castle. But while most people do recognize steampunk’s highly visual elements they still don’t realize that it belongs to a literary subgenre of its own. And this subgenre has spawned sub-subgenres, such as dieselpunk, alchemypunk, clockpunk and so on. Steampunk wears a coat of many colors in a nebulous universe and as such tends to defy specific definition. I like to think of it as the “brave, new, dystopian old world.” My own steampunk definition follows as: “a subgenre of science fiction which tends to involve stories set in Victorian/Edwardian England or its empire where steam power and fantastic machines have become the norm.”
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Interactive Classics with a Spec Fiction Twist

By Ellie Ann Soderstrom, the Director of Publishing for Noble Beast.

Noble Beast is a publisher of enhanced digital books, and we’ve decided to go on a huge adventure. You see, we adore great fiction, like the classics. Let me rephrase that: classics are insanely phenomenal fiction. They’ve lasted the test of time for a reason, and we would love to publish them. But we only sell speculative fiction. So what do we do?!

We turn those classics into speculative fiction titles, of course!

If you like the sound of The Three Musketeers battling aliens, Moby Dick in space, The Jungle Book Shapeshifters, and Pride and Prejudice Coven, then keep reading.
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Amazon has the cover art and synopsis of the upcoming novel The Return of the Discontinued Man, the upcoming Burton & Swinburne Adventure by Mark Hodder. Jon Sullivan is the cover artist. The designer is Jacqueline Nasso Cooke.

Here’s the synopsis:
(A larger version of this cover plus a series cover gallery posted below.)
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George Mann is the author of the Newbury and Hobbes and The Ghost series of novels, as well as numerous short stories, novellas and audiobooks. He has written fiction and audio scripts for the BBC’s Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. He is also a respected anthologist and has edited The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction and The Solaris Book of New Fantasy. His latest book is a collection of Newbury and Hobbes short stories titled The Casebook of Newbury & Hobbes, out now from Titan Books.

We had the opportunity to ask George about Newbury and Hobbes, his influences and the treatment of women in Victorian times and what’s next for the series.


SF SIGNAL: Hi George. For folks who do not know what the Newbury & Hobbes stories are about: give us the elevator pitch.

GEORGE MANN: Oh, blimey! I tend to think of them as ‘fantastic Victoriana’. Mystery novels with a supernatural or occult twist, furnished with the trappings of the steampunk genre. How’s that?
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BOOK REVIEW: Odd Men Out by Matt Betts

REVIEW SUMMARY: In his debut novel, Matt Betts successfully mashes up a whole lotta things that wouldn’t usually go together.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Entertaining and fast-paced Civil War era alternate history mashes up steampunk, zombies, and pop culture references.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Amusing pop culture references are smoothly and slyly put into the narrative; the story is wildly imaginative, yet feels plausible; dialog is fun and at times laugh-out-loud funny.
CONS: Light on world building and characterization; short chapters made it hard to keep track of everything that was going on; final action sequence was predictable.
BOTTOM LINE: A fun and entertaining mash-up that’s not without a few issues, but shows that the author has plenty of potential.
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Here is the book trailer for David Barnett’s alternate history steampunk thriller, Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, described thusly:

Nineteenth century London is the center of a vast British Empire. Airships ply the skies and Queen Victoria presides over three-quarters of the known world—including the East Coast of America, following the failed revolution of 1775.

London might as well be a world away from Sandsend, a tiny village on the Yorkshire coast. Gideon Smith dreams of the adventure promised him by the lurid tales of Captain Lucian Trigger, the Hero of the Empire, told in Gideon’s favorite “penny dreadful.” When Gideon’s father is lost at sea in highly mysterious circumstances Gideon is convinced that supernatural forces are at work. Deciding only Captain Lucian Trigger himself can aid him, Gideon sets off for London. On the way he rescues the mysterious mechanical girl Maria from a tumbledown house of shadows and iniquities. Together they make for London, where Gideon finally meets Captain Trigger.

But Trigger is little more than an aging fraud, providing cover for the covert activities of his lover, Dr. John Reed, a privateer and sometime agent of the British Crown. Looking for heroes but finding only frauds and crooks, it falls to Gideon to step up to the plate and attempt to save the day…but can a humble fisherman really become the true Hero of the Empire?

David Barnett’s Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl is a fantastical steampunk fable set against an alternate historical backdrop: the ultimate Victoriana/steampunk mash-up!

And now, the trailer…
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[GUEST POST] E. Catherine Tobler Says You Got Your Steampunk In Her SciFi


E. Catherine Tobler is a Sturgeon Award finalist and the senior editor at Shimmer Magazine. Among others, her fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Her first novel, Gold & Glass, is now available.

You Got Your Steampunk In My SciFi

by E. Catherine Tobler

Why steampunk? Someone always asks. And then usually: wait, what’s steampunk? Because quite often the person asking about my book, Gold & Glass, doesn’t have a wider knowledge of the genre in which I write — they’re genre curious and want to know what exists beyond science fiction (“Oh, rockets.”) and fantasy (“Oh, elves.”).

When I explain that steampunk is often a beautiful mash up of Victoriana or the Old West, with technology that rarely reaches beyond the steam-powered (The Wild Wild West and Adventures of Brisco County leap to mind), they often look at me with doubt. Goggles? Top hats? Trains filled with hidden weaponry? Shiny metal doohickeys? And then I bet them that I can see steampunk elements in their favorite science-fiction. No way! they shout. Yes way.
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