Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Sky Is Not The Limit: Interview with Laurie Green of SpaceFreighters’ Lounge

Long before The Galaxy Express fired a single thruster, Laurie Green of Spacefreighters’ Lounge, The Toasted Scimitar, and Take it to the Stars has been declaring with peerless gusto the splendor that is science fiction romance (I know. I said Kimber An was the #1 Cheerleader. You’ll just have to doublethink this one).

Laurie’s sites are complementary mixes of speculative fiction news, science features, and publishing/writing articles. An aspiring science fiction romance author as well as reader, she understands both the challenges of this niche market as well as the glories of the tales therein. Visit her sites often—you’ll find she often anticipates your every SFR need.

Recently, I set a course for Spacefreighters’ Lounge. As we sipped mugs of organic Ethiopia Yirgacheffe coffee, I picked Laurie’s brain about the SFR universe while watching the Oort Cloud birth a few comets. Here’s what she had to say:

The Galaxy Express: Three different blogs under your belt betrays an amazing amount of ambition. Please describe a little about each one.

Laurie Green: Thanks for asking. I always love to talk about my blogs.

Spacefreighters’ Lounge is named after a watering hole in P2PC, the SciFiRom I’m currently marketing. I created this blog as a hangout for other Sci-Fi or Fantasy writers who may need to jumpstart their muse. It has a lot of fun material for writers, links for research and inspiration—things like starship design, science e-mags, civilizations, military ranks, photos from space, other related blogs and helpful sites. I try to post regularly (except for my April and August crunch times at work) on the SciFiRom genre or writing topics, and I also post book reviews (but as a rule I only do them for books I really enjoyed reading).

Take it to the Stars is a joint blog hosted by me and my three IPs (indispensable peers) Barbara Elsborg (now a published author with Ellora’s Cave and Loose Id), Dawn Jackson and Arlene Webb. We discuss a little bit of everything, including commentary on the industry or writing in general.

On The Toasted Scimitar the central theme is Fantasy and I represent the Sci-Fi contingent. My co-bloggers include Merc (Abby Rustad), Ardyth (Ardyth DeBruyn), Spartezda (Maigen Turner) and SkipperZ, all very talented writers and/or authors who post insightful articles and book reviews. Posts and topics tend to follow weekly themes. We tried a couple of events last year including a cross-blog scavenger hunt and a Come in Character Halloween live chat that were both a lot of fun.

TGE: When did you first fall in love with science fiction romance? What are some of your favorite books/films/television shows?

LG: I’ve been a Sci-Fi fan as long as I can remember. I read most of the classics as a young adult, and got hooked on anything Sci-Fi like Lost in Space, the original Star Trek series and the original Battlestar Galactica series, and movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey. (I wasn’t much of a fan of the campier Sci-Fi stuff, though.) Later, I became a romance addict. I looked for books that combined the two genres, but the closest I found was Anne McCaffrey’s DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN. I read several of the books in her series and loved them, but I was still craving that big, sweeping Science Fiction Romance story that I could never find. When a summertime sleeper named Star Wars opened in theaters, I was in seventh heaven. I thought someone had read my mind.

A couple of my favorite SFR books include THE OUTBACK STARS by Sandra McDonald and GAMES OF COMMAND by Linnea Sinclair. In addition to the original STAR WARS trilogy, my favorite SFR movies include CONTACT and TERMINATOR. I’ve always had to defend TERMINATOR as a SFR. The short-lived romance between Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese was awesome. (I thank Heather for including Sarah and Kyle in her post “The Hottest Couples in Science Fiction (Romance)”.)

TGE: You don’t just read & watch science fiction romance; you write it. What inspires you?

LG: What I love about SciFiRom is that imagination has no limits, but the human element remains constant. In my work, I enjoy creating worlds, and even universes, where the history, politics, technology, environment, or cultural stigmas create fascinating conflicts the characters must overcome. My stories always focus on the characters, never the contraptions.

Many things inspire me from good writing of any genre to documentaries like The Universe series. Sometimes surfing the net will unveil something fascinating that sparks a great story idea. But many times, my ideas come from my dreams. It seems my subconscious mind writes novels while I sleep, and once in a while a plot or idea sticks with me into the conscious state.

TGE: Take It to the Stars has many informative posts about the challenges of writing science fiction romance and the effort it takes to get published. If you could share just one piece of advice with other aspiring authors, what would it be?

LG: Don’t give up. Getting published is tough, but if you write the kind of story you’d love to read, chances are there are a lot of other people out there who will want to read it too. Understand that meltdowns and rejections are just part of the process. Don’t let either discourage you. Use them to learn; you’ll be a better writer for it. For SciFiRom writers in particular, although our genre may be a tough sell, I believe the book industry is going to eventually catch up to the current trends in film, television and even e-publishing. I believe SciFiRom may be the next big thing.

TGE: Name three things you'd like to see happen in the science fiction romance world, as either a reader or a writer.

LG: 1) I’d like to see a lot more SciFiRoms that are truly quality stories with complex characters, compelling conflict, believable settings and feasible science fiction elements. That doesn’t mean the writer has to have a degree in physics, but it helps not be allergic to doing a little research and then applying a liberal dose of imagination.

2) I’d like to see a SciFiRom writer become a phenomenon and garner the attention that J.K. Rowling has with her HARRY POTTER series. I think Stephenie Meyer may be someone who’s heading that direction. I hope so.

3) I’d like SciFiRom to be recognized as its own genre or at least have its own space or marked subsection in bookstores. It’s hard for readers to buy books they might like if they can’t find them.

TGE: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the sites in which you participate?

LG: I’d like to invite everyone to stop by any or all of the blogs and say hello, join in the discussions, or just browse the subjects. Whether you’re a writer or a reader, I’m sure you’ll find something of interest on any of them.

Speaking of which, right now Laurie is hosting Science Fiction Romance Week at Spacefreighters’ Lounge! Join me over there (where you'll discover a little known fact about yours truly) and check out some of her fantabulous posts!

Laurie, it was fun chatting, and thanks for your art!

Joyfully yours,


Sunday, September 28, 2008


I had a dear friend visiting me recently. She’s a huge Vin Diesel fan and I love Sci-Fi, so we rushed off to the drive-in, eager dollars clutched in our sweaty hands to see BABYLON A.D. Take a look at the trailer.

BABYLON A.D. stars Vin Diesel as, Toorop, a jaded mercenary, stranded in the dreary and desperate Eastern Europe of 2019, who dreams only of returning to his childhood home in Upstate New York. He gets his chance when a wily mobster, played by Gerard Depardieu, offers him a job transporting a mysterious package to New York City. The package turns out to be the innocent and child-like Aurora (played by the very lovely Melanie Thierry), and accompanied by her guardian nun, Sister Rebecca (Michelle Yeoh).

After an action packed start through the frozen wastelands and iniquitous dens of the future, the trio save each others lives a few times, while being pursued, betrayed and shot at.

[SPOILER ALERT...for those who care] Aurora turns out to be something other than what she appears, though I’m not quite sure what exactly she turns out to be. Sister Rebecca turns out to be a nun who can kick some serious butt, and Toorop reveals that he actually has a heart. Then Aurora’s evil mother (Charlotte Rampling) shows up and yells a lot. Toorop dies, but is brought back to life by a guy in a wheelchair. Aurora demonstrates the ability to survive point blank bombing, but still manages to die in childbirth. Poor Toorop gets stuck with the twins that aren’t even his own. The End.

If you’re thinking my synopsis is a bit of a mess – you’re wrong. That is EXACTLY how the movie played. I spent the final third of the movie exchanging confused glances with my friend and hoping that it would all become clear in the end. It didn’t.

Director, Mathieu Kassovitz, has publicly lambasted his own movie, calling it “pure violence and stupidity…like a bad episode of 24,” and has laid the blame on Fox’s doorstep, claiming that they took the movie and edited all sense out it. Fair enough.

The editing, especially of the final third, is an absolute disaster – rushed, confusing and just plain dumb. But Kassovitz, by distancing himself from the end result, isn’t being quite fair. He has to take his share of blame for the end result – it wasn’t just the poorly edited ending that made this film such a waste of my time.

Whose fault is it, for instance, that Vin Diesel delivers his lines as if he’s on an hourly dose of Quaaludes? Um – the director’s? Who made the decision to film the glorious Michelle Yeoh’s fight scenes in close-up and in the dark? Um – the director’s? Who allowed veteran (and extremely talented) actors, Gerard Depardieu and Charlotte Rampling, to chew the crap out of the scenery in their attempts to steal the movie? Lemme see – the director? Who thought the scene, in which the child-like Aurora and the very much grown-up Toorop almost get it on, would come across as anything other than very uncomfortable? Mr. Kassovitz? Who is responsible for the clunky and cliché-ridden dialogue? I suppose I have to blame that on the writers. Oh, lookee here – Kassovitz was one of the writers. And isn’t there supposed to be a producer riding roughshod on the creative talent? Again, Kassovitz is listed as co-producer.

It seems to be that this director is being very disingenuous when he lays the blame for this failure at someone else’s door. Stand up for your movie, Mr. Kassovitz! I mean - it sucked – but at least I’d still respect you if you were taking your share of the responsibility. Or you could even be defending it.

Take a page from director Uwe Boll. He’s been called the “Modern Day Ed Wood,” amongst a few more less polite monikers. The guy shoves one cinematic crapfest after another right out the door. (His last few movies average a stunning 2.6 on IMDb.) But, Herr Boll defends his crap with righteous indignation. In fact, he even challenged any ersatz Ebert to show up in the boxing ring where he would proceed to pummel him. Everyone thought it was a joke, but Boll—true to his word—really did show up and obliterated his challenger! I can’t see Spielberg doing that.

Kassovitz could take a page or twenty from Boll’s Teutonic book: Defend your baby, even if it isn’t the cutest in the crib. Having said that, BABYLON A.D. does have some cool stuff in it.

The first third of the movie hooked me big time, the action sequences were great, and I loved that you were using some excellent stunt people, instead of over-relying on the CGI wizards. Your leading man is a helluva sexy guy, your ingénue was a delight, and you hooked the uniquely talented Ms. Yeoh, as well as some other outstanding performers to act in your passion project. The sets and look of the film were great. I loved the setting – it was such a refreshing change for a Hollywood movie not to be set in the U.S.

There seemed to be a great story in there – somewhere. I wouldn’t even be annoyed enough to write about this film if I didn’t feel that it could have and should have been so much better.

Oh, well. I suppose I could wait for the director’s cut – if you ever get to do one. Somehow, I doubt it. Oh, I know what I’ll do. I’ll read the book instead!

Be seeing you!

Agent Z.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Spacefreighters' Lounge Hosts Science Fiction Romance Week

Ahoy there, mateys!

Spacefreighters' Lounge is hosting Science Fiction Romance Week starting Monday, September 29, 2008.

Join your host Laurie Green for lots of fun SFR revelry, interviews, discussion, and more!

(And if we're lucky, Agent Z might just make an appearance and dazzle us with her famous Fuschia Feather Boa Dance!)

See you there!

Joyfully yours,


Friday, September 26, 2008

Steampunk Forever

*Drum roll* After greasing the gears in our retired effluvium engine, it hath proclaimed:

* Jolly good, Agent Z, you’ve procured a most venerable copy of LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, Vol. 1!!

* Und herzlichen Glückwunsch, Kristen, you’ve just won a copy of CLOCKWORK HEART!!

* お祝いの言葉, Thea, you’ll soon be crossing the skies with a copy of STEAMBOY!

Winners, please email your name and address to sfrgalaxy “at” gmail.com, posthaste.

Many, many thanks to everyone who entered the drawing and for all who commented during our steampunk extravaganza. I also wish to acknowledge everyone who visited and/or linked to the features.

And, if this was your first time on The Galaxy Express, I hope you’ll join our merry crew again on future journeys. There's a vast pool of uncharted space ahead of us, and we're just getting started!

During this time, so many folks offered suggestions for steampunk gaiety that I decided to top off the week with their contributions. Believe me, no one will bat an eyelash if you fatten up on these wonderful desserts:

SFSignal reviewed another steampunk novel, THE AFFINITY BRIDGE by George Mann. Lou Anders, “editorial director of Prometheus Books’ science fiction imprint Pyr,” recommends the same, and also Nick Gevers’s EXTRAORDINARY ENGINES anthology.

Over at The Walrus Said, Janet reviewed THE ALCHEMY OF STONE by Ekaterina Sedia.

Author Gail Carriger reported that her steampunk tale is due out in November of 2009 from Orbit.

Cherie Priest posted on her Web site that she has two, count ‘em, two steampunk books coming out: THE BONESHAKER (2009, Tor) and THE CLEMENTINE (2009, Subterranean Press).

Adrienne Kress is also working on a steampunk flavored project.

While perusing the latest ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, I ran across a review for IGOR, a steampunk fantasy film from MGM.

Thea of the bodacious review site The Book Smugglers recommends HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, an animated tour de force by Hayao Miyazaki.

Fantasy Debut’s Tia Nevitt passed on info about a cool videogame ARCANUM whose tagline is “Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura” (gave me goosebumps!).

Debut SFR author Jess Granger pointed out that Disney’s ATLANTIS offers a rainbow of steampunk elements, as does the videogame SYBERIA.

Lastely, after this week’s showcase, if you’re now hopelessly enamored of steampunk, you can join The Gaslamp Bazaar and immerse yourself to your heart’s content.

As for now, strap on your safety harnesses as we set course for the planet Osiris. I heard via the galactic grapevine that next week, Agent Z is going to make a drop here at The Galaxy Express. Because of radio interference the message was garbled…all I can tell you is that it involves a recent science fiction film with romantic elements and some guy whose name sounds like “Tin Weasel”...?!

Joyfully yours,


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Steampunk It!

Steampunk is indeed the new black, and not just in books and film. Steampunk is also an “artistic and design trend” that’s been popular for decades (unless you count the whole Victorian age, heh!). Devotees of steampunk fashion & accoutrements are just as devout as their literary counterparts. And of course, most of the time they’re one and the same.

Want to invest in your own steampunk ensemble? You can! Just head on over to the Vintage Victorian Steampunk Apocalypse. Need a steampunk laptop to accompany your new duds? No problem—here’s how. Experiencing digital clock fatigue? Give a whole new meaning to the question “Do you have the time?” with this snazzy steampunk watch.

Is your STAR WARS action figure collection looking a tad frumpy around the edges? Fret no more, because you can always steampunk it! Concerned about the effects of global warming? Well don’t worry about trying to keep up with the Joneses—lead the pack with a striking steampunk Soviet gas mask.

And because words can only invoke the beauty of steampunk to an extent, here are bunches of links and scandalously great images that will astonish and inspire you.

More delectable Web sites that give it up for steampunk:

Brass Goggles

The Steampunk Workshop

The Gatehouse

Boingboing, “A directory of wonderful things,” has a mouth-watering steampunk archive.

Here are 15 (More) Creative Works of Steampunk Art and Fashion: From steam tanks to cufflinks.


From Solar Flare: Science Fiction News comes a piece about artist Rob Jones.

And feast your eyes upon the amazing work of Eric Freitas:

Now, lest you think just anything can go steampunk, umm...

Steampunk Lego!

Steampunk pinups!

Steampunk ghostbuster!

Chrono displacement device!

Lacy steampunk earth-moving machine!

The Blimp Bag! The Steampunk Boot!

Joyfully yours,


P.S. Don't forget the contests! And thanks to Gail Carriger for the last two links.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Splendor of Steampunk: Visual Media

There’s no denying that steampunk is a highly visual art form. Even the written word invokes strange and fantastic images that leaves one’s brain cells dizzyingly dazzled. Now that we know what steampunk books can accomplish, we’ll cast our periscope toward the silver screen, television, and beyond.

Despite steampunk’s niche status, there’s still a wide range of styles, tone, and story content. Rarely can one book or film or steampunk raygun epitomize an entire subgenre. How dare someone even try? I mean, honestly, who goes there? Er…but in this case, one single scene actually does invoke the power and might of steampunk.

I’m referring, of course, to that last scene in BACK TO THE FUTURE PART III. If you’ve seen it, you knoweth of which I speak. That moment captures the glamour, the spirit of innovation, and sense of wonder that steampunk can convey. It’s almost too perfect, and I will be the first to admit the occasional tear has pricked my eyes as that scene unfolds. It’s a great homage.

Now some of you may be horrified at the suggestion that BACK TO THE FUTURE III represents the whole of steampunk, but there’s no need to get steamed. ;) I’m jesting—mostly. The above is simply my experience of a definitive steampunk moment, when the subgenre made yet another indelible mark upon my soul. (CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG did it for some fans, and power to them, I say.) My real point is that steampunk, brought to life on the big screen, possesses a majesty all its own.

Once Upon A Nautilus...

One seminal film was 1958’s THE FABULOUS WORLD OF JULES VERNE (thanks to SFSignal for the info). Check out this amazing trailer:

Other steampunk/steampunk influenced fare includes CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, THE WILD WILD WEST, STEAMBOY, and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. (Actually, in this case, forget the movie. Just go straight to the graphic novel.)

For an extensive list of films, television shows, and video games that “are steampunk-related either through narrative or by thematic context,” click here. Another swell feature on steampunk in film is the io9 article Scifi Movies Finally Catching Up to Novels and Going Steampunk.

There are, of course, short films that harness the steampunk steam, such as THE MYSTERIOUS GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS OF JASPER.

And last year, The Heliograph presented this Poll: Best Recent Steampunk Movie.

Also, there's Steampunk Media: Jules Verne’s Movies, Part I.

And here’s a bit about THE WILD WILD WEST, also courtesy of The Heliograph (scroll down).

While gorging on posts at The Heliograph, I also discovered GOGBOT 2008—a steampunk film festival in the Netherlands! Do drop in should you be in the neighborhood.

Game On!

Steampunk has also infiltrated the multi-billion dollar videogame industry. Games with a strong steampunk influence include:

BIOSHOCK – Deftly mixing elements of the ‘punk and horror, this stunningly original game swept both the critics and gaming fans off their feet last year. Even if you’re not into games, you can’t argue with the lush production value:

With visuals like that, it’s no wonder BIOSHOCK is currently in preproduction for a big budget film by Gore Verbinski (the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN trilogy) in 2010.

FINAL FANTASY (the series) – With ever-present airships and retro-futuristic designs, practically every FINAL FANTASY game has placed its proverbial finger in the steampunk pie. But, it was FINAL FANTASY VI that really ratcheted up that groovy mechanical aspect. It remains one of the highest-rated iterations of the long-running series, which is currently gearing up for number 13.

EDGE OF TWILIGHT – Currently in development and slated for release next year for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, this third-person platformer promises to deliver, “a unique post-apocalyptic, steampunk fantasy world that has been split into separate realms of Day and Night.” Regardless of how the final product turns out, this game’s production artwork is certainly steeped in steampunk and looks beautiful. Take a gander here.

So there you have it: Steampunk eye candy of every color and taste. Sparkly, too!

But wait! Before we depart for tomorrow’s galactic depot, there’s more! I also have another giveaway to announce! From Katsuhiro Ôtomo, the creator of AKIRA, comes STEAMBOY. Featuring exquisitely-detailed animation, this director’s cut DVD can be yours for the nominal price of...a lucky comment!

To enter, leave a comment for this post. Share your signature steampunk moment, or a favorite film. (Or just say konnichiwa!) The contest is limited to U.S. residents. The deadline for the drawing is Thursday, September 25 at 9 p.m. EST.

Joyfully yours,


Monday, September 22, 2008

Steampunk Is The New Black

Hope you enjoyed the first segment of steampunk week here at The Galaxy Express.

Right now we’re going to narrow the focus to discuss the steampunk stories that are currently branding their thermological mark on the world. As a literary genre, steampunk is poised to spill beyond its niche market gasbags to become a major trend.

Let us count the ways:

* It’s stylish, involving lots of shiny brass and oversized rivets.
* It offers stories for everyone, whether you prefer the dark and dangerous territory of steam-powered inventions, the heady inner workings of an analog computer, rousing airship battles, romance and witty banter, or insightful commentaries on human nature.
* Steampunk is like a sponge—it easily absorbs other genres such as mystery, romance, action/adventure, and horror—yet still retains its signature form.
* More people know about it thanks to this NY Times article.
* Lots of folks have been blogging about steampunk and spreading the buzz.
* Steampunk is showing up in more books and films, which are the subjects of my next two posts.

For the love of steampunk!

Let’s check out some recent developments in literary land:

Jennifer Jackson and Donald Maass of the Donald Maass Literary Agency have been busy with steampunk projects. Jackson represented Jay Lake for his debut novel MAINSPRING, and ESCAPEMENT hit bookstores earlier this year. Maass represented S.M. Peters for WHITECHAPEL GODS.

And Juno editor Paula Guran is obviously onto something because she recognized the wonderful story of Dru Pagliassotti’s CLOCKWORK HEART, which has garnered excellent reviews. These only scratch the surface of steampunk books on shelves right now, with more to come.

Earlier this year, two agent blogs—Colleen Lindsay’s The Swivet (“Steampunk is fashionable. Who knew? (We did.)” and Nathan Bransford in This Week In Publishing—picked up the NY Times article about the steampunk subculture. The increased exposure in newspapers, magazines, and blogs is making people sit up and take notice. All this week I’ll be embedding links to everything steampunk (er, almost everything. If I linked to every last Web site or article, we’d be here all year. Not that you’d mind, though, right?! ;)

When I read Colleen Lindsay’s post, I decided I wanted to pick her brain about the steampunk genre. She graciously agreed to an interview. Colleen is an agent at FinePrint Literary Management, and you can read more about her extensive publishing background here. She also runs The Swivet, a blog you should bookmark This Minute if you consider yourself a serious SF/F fan. Or even if you’re not that serious. (The pictures of Stinkboy alone are worth the trip!)

The Galaxy Express: At AgentQuery.com, you're the only agent whose name pops up when one searches for "steampunk." Clearly, you're a fan! Which steampunk story affected you the most and why?

Colleen Lindsay: I'm the only one? Okay, well, I may be the only agent who's actually broken down the genre into so many sub-genres and listed them but I'm absolutely sure that if you query most of the agents who represent speculative fiction, they'd happily accept a well-written steampunk query.

When you say steampunk story, I'm going to assume that you mean novel. I don't read much short fiction. (Ducks as a dozen anthologies are hurled at her.) I find that I like having a chance to get to know the characters and live with them longer than I can in any piece of short fiction, so - unless someone I know and trust (like Ellen Datlow) points me at a story s/he thinks is particularly strong - I stick to novels for pleasure.

That being said, there are a lot of steampunk novels that have really stuck with me: The Whitechapel Gods by newcomer S.M. Peters is a really extraordinary novel. I think that if more people knew about it, they'd be pleasantly surprised. His world-building is on par with China Mieville. I particularly love the idea that in his alternate version of London, people are dying of a disease called "the clacks", a disease that slowly turns a human being into a clockwork machine. It's really good stuff. One of the best steampunk series out there is by Greg Keyes, his Age of Unreason series (beginning with Book One, Newton's Cannon), which takes place in eighteenth-century Europe and America, and features an alchemically-obsessed Isaac Newton and Benjamin Franklin.

A number of YA and middle-grade authors are writing excellent steampunk. Philip Reeve's Hungry City Chronicles, beginning with Mortal Engines, is one of the most imaginative alternate worlds I've read in ages. Entire cities move around the earth, London being the largest and most dangerous, chasing and devouring smaller cities in order to absorb all of their resources. This is really mind-bending stuff for a middle-grade book. Also, YA author D.M. Cornish's Monster Blood Tattoo is an utterly compelling, sort of Dickensian-steampunk about an orphaned boy. I read it in one sitting, and then I read it all over again.

A lot of what has been called "The New Weird" is just a different spin on steampunk. It may not be set in Edwardian or Victorian England, but it has all of the other relevant elements in place: a recently industrialized society in an urban environment where elements of thaumaturgy or alchemy have taken the place of technology. One great (and sorely overlooked) steampunk novel is Alex Irvine's gorgeous The Narrows, a novel set in WWII Detroit, in a Ford factory where Henry Ford is creating golems instead of cars, intending to use them to help the Nazi war effort. It's an amazing book! Jay Lake's recent novel Mainspring is epic steampunk in the best sense of the word, a world where the Earth's rotation is controlled by gears like a wind-up clock...and the clock is slowing down, placing the entire world in peril. What a brilliant imagination.

And of course, probably my favorite modern steampunk novel, China Mieville's Perdido Street Station, which I think can reasonably called a modern classic.

TGE: How would you characterize the current market for steampunk books? What kind of steampunk stories would you like to see from querying authors?

CL: I think that there's still a strong market for well-written steampunk. The key to a good steampunk novel - as with any genre novel, of course - is that it can't rely on gimmicks and tropes. It actually needs to be a good book as well, with a great story, memorable characters and meticulous world-building. You wouldn't believe how many queries I get in a day that are simply a mish-mash of elves, wizards, demons and thieves all thrown together into an unremarkable quest story, where the whole of the world that the characters inhabit takes place inside the walls or gates of one city or kingdom. Because the rest of that world doesn't matter? Can you imagine living your real life like this? Of course not. So why would anyone want to read an author whose storytelling was so myopic?

TGE: Is there anything else about steampunk you'd like to share?

CL: Yes. I'd say three things: One.) Search out the classic steampunk writers of the 80s and 90s: Tim Powers, K.W. Jeter, Michael Moorcock, etc. Read and study them and see why their books were considered so innovative. Two.) Read broadly and outside your comfort zone. If you normally don't read comics or manga, make it a point to check out some of the great steampunk-themed sequential art that's available: Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa, Pumpkin Scissors by Ryoutarou Iwanaga, Iron West by Doug TenNapel. There's so much great resource material out there. Just go crazy and enjoy yourself. Three.) Remember when you're writing your steampunk that what agents and editors want to see is your words, your storytelling, your imagination, and your writing ability....what they don't want to see is your homage to your favorite already-published writer.

Thanks again, Ms. Lindsay, for your knowledge and insight. I can hear the resounding crash as all of our TBR piles overflow with those steampunk titles!

More book bonanza:

You can also listen in about where steampunk is headed by clicking on over to Readercon's Steampunk panel - the podcast.

Here are Ten Steampunk Novels You Ought To Read.

To that list, I’d add the following:

LARKLIGHT (great for youth, too, if they can pry it out of our hands) by Philip Reeve, and the STEAMPUNK anthology.

This being a blog about science fiction romance, it behooves me to mention that the following books have a splash of romance (albeit mostly non-traditional ones):

* LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (graphic novel) by Alan Moore
* CLOCKWORK HEART by Dru Pagliassotti
* MAINSPRING by Jay Lake
* THE ALCHEMY OF STONE by Ekaterina Sedia. (My esteemed colleague Janet from Absolute Write told me that “It's steampunk and romance is involved although it’s not the axis around which everything rotates. It is also very, very fine writing.”)

If that’s not enough and you’re determined to plow through practically all of the published steampunk novels—and I wouldn’t blame you one whit—see this wikipedia listing for an extensive list of literary works.

There’s even Steampunk for Kids & a Clockwork Girl comic book.

The Steampunk Pipeline:

Naturally, I cast my brass telescope to the future to get a jump on the next round. I discovered the following from this post at Dear Author:

Campbell-Award winning author of CARNIVAL Elizabeth Bear’s ALL THE WINDWRACKED STARS, BY THE MOUNTAIN BOUND, and THE SEA THY MISTRESS, a Norse-influenced post-apocalyptic steampunk noir fantasy series, to Beth Meacham at Tor, in a very nice deal, by Jennifer Jackson at the Donald Maass Literary Agency (World).

From The Swivet:

Dexter Palmer's THE DREAM OF PERPETUAL MOTION, set amidst a steampunk metropolis and the rise of the mechanical future, the tale of a decades-long love affair thwarted by an evil genius obsessed with inventing the perpetual motion machine, to Michael Homler at St. Martin's, by Susan Golomb at the Susan Golomb Agency (NA).

Tim Aker's HEART OF VERIDON, a steampunk fantasy thriller, to Mark Newton at Solaris Press, via Joshua Bilmes at JABberwocky Literary Agency. (via Solaris website)

I thought this sounded rather smashing: Tor editor Liz Gorinsky is currently working on two steampunk novels.

And let’s keep our fingers crossed for these steampunk scribes:

Gail Carriger, who stated in the comments section of this Dear Author post that she writes steampunk. She also posed the question Steampunk: A Symptom of Social Rebellion?

Author Ciar Cullen is working on a steampunk. Click here to read about her progress.

Warning: Awesome free reads ahead!

Experience plucky, fun, uproarious steampunk adventure at GIRL GENIUS

Steampunk Magazine is about “Putting The Punk Back Into Steampunk

Lastly, you'll have hours of reading pleasure with FREAK ANGELS. (Click here for a brief Geeks of Doom article about FREAK ANGELS’ launch.)

Of course, who wouldn’t want a little bit of steampunk heaven for his or her very own? The Galaxy Express is here to deliver. One lucky passenger will win a paperback copy of the first volume of Alan Moore’s LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. Another lucky one will win a copy of Dru Pagliassotti’s CLOCKWORK HEART!

To enter, leave a comment for this post. Contest is limited to U.S. residents. The deadline for the drawing is Thursday, September 25, 2008, at 9 p.m. EST.

If you’re of a mind, let’s have some fun with it. If you owned a steampunk airship, what would you name it?

Joyfully yours,


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Welcome to the Retro-future of Steampunk

What is steampunk? I'm so glad you asked.

When I think of steampunk, I envision brass goggles, punch cards, Victorian fashion, difference engines, airships, and Captain Nemo’s elegant submarine. Just cast your eyes below to see what I mean:

Steampunk is everything hip about Jules Verne & H.G. Wells, yet it also suggests the terror of living in a steam powered culture. Either way, these retro-futuristic stories just keep getting better.

A subgenre of SF & Fantasy, steampunk also has elements of action/adventure, horror, mystery, and romance. You’ve encountered it in books, film, and television shows even if you didn’t know its name. It’s also a fashion & cosplay trend, as you might have noticed while attending your last comic book convention or Halloween party.

Steampunk inspires artists, engineers, architects, and inventors to visually stunning heights. But it’s much more than all of that, of course.

Steampunk is a state of mind.

There are reasons galore behind the popularity of “retro-alternate-19th-century science fiction”. Steampunk is quixotic fashion paired with innovative inventions. In fact, the concept of inventions that debut far ahead of schedule represents one of the most fascinating aspects of the genre. Steampunk science is far from cold, modern, and sterile. It’s warm, flashy, and larger than life. New collides with old to the point that the inventions are characters in and of themselves.

Steampunk—and its subgenre clockpunk—enables the audience to fantasize about being that first person to invent a clockwork automaton or steam powered rifle. But no matter how surreal, the technology means nothing without a riveting tale to give them life. There’s no limit to the places a steampunk adventure can take you. Characters explore the shadowy corners of 19th century London, traipse through exotic lands, soar across the untamed skies, and even venture into the nether regions of space.

For an exceptional discourse on the steampunk genre, visit Voyages Extraordinaires, which presents “A History of Steampunk”:

Part I - From Scientific Romances to Silent Films
Part II - The Victorian Atomic Age
Part III - The Birth of Steampunk
Part IV - A Genre Comes of Age
Part V - Putting the Punk into Steampunk

(Thanks to SFSignal for the links.)

But if you really want to take the plunge, The Aether Emporium is “...a one-stop resource and archive for all things Steampunk.”

Since, stylistically, steampunk is one of the most romantic subgenres of SF, The Galaxy Express is hosting a week-long celebration this week for your reading pleasure. There’ll be commentary and links galore—a refresher for some, an introduction for others.

I know you’re itching to ditch this locomotive to board one of those fancy-schmancy zeppelins, but don’t leap out the airlock just yet. Stick around for some steampunky giveaways later this week!

Joyfully yours,


Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Three Greatest Emporiums of SF Collectibles

I feel giddy!

Recently, I made one of my routine trips to the library (an invaluable resource these days for entertaining a voracious reader toddler). I usually check out the “Friends of the Library” sale section because my local branch has a sizeable offering.

Lo and behold, someone had donated a rather large collection of vintage SF books! What a find! The books were in great condition. As excited as a puppy in a bin full of squeaky toys, I searched through every box for some new reads.

Here’s what I found:

RETURN TO THE STARS by Edmond Hamilton



That library trip was the latest in hundreds of forays I’ve made over the course of my life into various venues wherein I searched for accessories to feed my science fiction appetite. Even before I could drive, I would pester my parents and friends to transport me to yon emporiums that stocked comic books, manga, roman albums, soundtracks, action figures, and more.

Every time I’d enter one of these geek-a-licious bazaars, it was as if every bit of tension left my body. I’d be in heaven. Some days it was just a window shopping trip; other days I would walk out with another model from GATCHAMAN or a back issue of STARLOG.

Hours would rocket by as I fingered stacks of dusty, musty books, flipped through graphic novels, or gaze longingly at imported anime VHS tapes with ticket prices that soared north of $100.00 (or $1600.00, in the case of one laserdisc collection I badly wanted for years and years). That’s a lot of money when you're only making $3.35 an hour, but maybe if I....

Oh, did I just flashback to 1986? Oops!

Anyhoo, this recent find reminded me of all the times I had the pleasure of exploring the amazing world of SF collectibles. It was as if, DARK CITY-style, I relieved all of the trips as though they were rolled into one. Shoot, I even dream about shopping in such book stores.

So I thought we’d blast to the past to visit the first three stores that mutated me from SF fan to SF fanatic. These were the stores that set the bar for all others. Even the glories of Comic-Con International fail to overshadow the impression they made upon me.

The good Doctor has lent me the use of his TARDIS for the jaunt. Jolly good, and all that—so let’s be off!


Alas, Mr. Big Toyland is no more, but the memory of my two visits there will live forever. Mr. Big Toyland gave new meaning to the phrase “packed to the gills” because of the precarious way inventory was packed nigh up to the ceiling. Every stack of models was one leaning tower of Pisa after another. Toys, everywhere. It was also my first exposure to those shiny, eye-popping die-cast robots. Sensory overload doesn’t even begin to cover the experience.

This store was run by a couple who would stalk you extend numerous offers of assistance as you browsed. Especially if you were a child or teen—you’d get the lion’s share of their attention. (And they say customer service is a lost art!)

After my first visit, I walked out of Mr. Big with a whole pile of UCHUU SENKAN YAMATO roman albums, barely leaving enough for other customers. Later I’d carry them around in high school and I must have had an expression of pure bliss on my face because several people asked me had I changed my hair or something.

I used to watch various anime shows on Channel 25 WXNE-TV. Here’s the commercial that made me salivate once I learned Mr. Big Toyland carried imported Japanese anime items:

Doesn’t get any better than that! Oh, wait a minute, yes it does...


These days, I can point you to the store’s Web site, but of course, the Internet was barely a glint in TRON's eye when I first entered those hallowed halls.

On second thought, with its scuffed, dark concrete floors, exposed pipes, and vast array of barely-organized merchandise, it was more like entering a smuggler’s den. I remember having to always hug my purse close to my body to avoid knocking over shelves placed so closely together it was like trying to navigate the alleys of the Death Star.

Then there was the start I got every time I sauntered past the Han Solo life-size cardboard standee that guarded the back wall for years and years. Naturally, That’s Entertainment also boasted precariously stacked products, including a pile of SF/F related board games. Yes, I bought a BATTLE OF THE PLANETS board game there!

To this date, with its impressive collection of graphic novels, imports, used & new SF books, and action figures, That’s Entertainment is my Favorite. Collectibles Store. Ever.

MAN FROM ATLANTIS – Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA

Er, except now it goes by the moniker of "Tokyo Kid." But Man From Atlantis is a lot cooler, don’t ya think? At this point in time, I have my own car, so I expanded my radius to include any collectibles/comic book store I could track down. A friend turned me on to the adventures of Harvard Square, and the discovery of Man From Atlantis therein completed my troika.

This boutique is small on space, but heavy on the anime. The nature and quality of the commodities are first-rate. Clean and well-lit, Man From Atlantis presents an array of anime DVDs (videos & laserdiscs when I first visited, natch), models, and other necessities such as Lum key chains and DRAGONBALL wall scrolls.

To this day, I can’t count how many times I’ve been there. It’s all a big, wonderful blur.

To me, the mark of an exceptional collectibles store isn’t the rows upon rows of glossy manga or Square Enix toys. It’s also that inch of dust on Marvel's pocket-novelization reprints from the 70s, or the paint-chipped edges of assorted, loose He-Man action figures available for $3.00 each or two for $5.00. The sign of a great store is when they care enough to continue displaying that SPACE: 1999 playset far past the expiration date. Then there’s the rare find, a set of pristine comics or rare import soundtrack to the kooky Japanese Spider-man show.

Sure eBay makes finding this stuff easier now, but there's still something about just stumbling across a real find—something you've never known even existed, but somehow you've always wanted!

When the ambiance alone compels me to indulge in a lifetime’s worth of nostalgia, my euphoria could power a thousand suns. Thanks for reliving the journey with me.

While we’re on the subject, take a moment to introduce your treasured finds and favorite collectibles store (plus, name the city/address in case the rest of us are lucky enough to visit it someday)!

Joyfully yours,


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Calling All Space Wenches!

Over at Genreville—Publishers Weekly’s sparkly new genre blog—SF/F review editor Rose Fox writes about “The Next Big Thing: Space Wenches.” The piece made my head explode with John Williams-type fanfare, especially when she wrote about the excitement of reading about such a character desiring to “...find true love while seeking revenge and plunder among the stars.”

In the post, not only does Ms. Fox demonstrate her esoteric knowledge about Grace O’Malley, but she discusses her interest in reading stories about “she-pirates”—wait for it—in space! Has she got her finger on the pulse of science fiction romance, or what?!

Except...there aren’t that many. Luckily, a few visitors commented with book recommendations (and in my case, a shout out for Space Pirate Queen Emeraldas). Apparently, we can count the existence of this character in literature on practically one hand. It boggles my mind that with all the thousands (millions?) of romance and SF titles published since seemingly time immemorial, there haven’t been at least 100 involving female space pirates. Well, okay, perhaps that expectation’s a bit high. How about 10-20?


My sentiments exactly. If you know of such a character, please head on over and add your recommendation to her list. I did my own search, and found SOL BIANCA, another anime offering. But that’s film, not print. Then I stumbled upon the comic LESBIAN PIRATES FROM OUTER SPACE—that’s got to count for something, right?

You might also remember we gabbed about Super Vixens! in our favorite science fiction romances, but there was hardly a female space pirate among that list, either. Ms. Fox’s post also made me realize that I’ve been existing on the equivalent of bread and milk when it came to female space pirates. In other words, it’s one of my favorite character types but I haven’t actually embarked on a steady diet of them. I’m in love with the idea of “space wenches” more than any actual product. Oh, gosh, now I’m really bummed.

So naturally, my thoughts are running rampant with speculation about why this anomaly exists:

* Characters like female space pirates, a.k.a. anti-heroines, threaten to overshadow/overpower the hero and therefore many readers would shun them.

* Pirates are not nice people, even if by story’s end they’re no longer a villain. A cutthroat female space pirate character might be perceived as a threat to readers of both genders, but for different reasons. Men might feel emasculated and women might have difficulty identifying with a character that crushes gender stereotypes beneath her black leather boots without even breaking a sweat.

* Some people don’t even realize real female pirates existed, let alone would be interested in reading about fictional ones plundering the cosmos.

* Aside from their cutthroat reputation, space pirates in general might be considered too over the top/campy characters.

* Science fiction romance is still a niche market.

What say you, my intrepid passengers? Why do so few of these characters exist? Is the female space pirate character that bizarre of a concept? Or is the timing—culturally, socially—just not right?

Whatever the reason, we can hope that some day, in a bookstore near you or me—or online, or in a library—we’ll have our pickings of indomitable female space pirates.

Joyfully yours,


Monday, September 15, 2008

Hot Off The Press!

I'm happy to announce that the Queen of All Blogs, a.k.a. Kimber An of Enduring Romance, has launched a new venture, Young Adult Science Fiction. YA SF is a niche market that’s long overdue for some action, and I predict this blog will become a lightening rod for the genre.

In other news, Sandy Wickersham-McWhorter’s THE WINDS OF FALL was released 9/12/08 in e-book format! Details here. Congratulations, Sandy! Also, there are still romance editor appointments available at Midwestern Dreams, the first annual Mid-Ohio Writers Association conference. Registration is open until October 10, 2008.

During my last round up, I neglected to mention that debut author Jess Granger has a Web site and a blog where you can learn about her upcoming futuristic romance release, path to publication tidbits, and craft related posts.

Lastly, Jumpdrives & Cantrips is back in action after a summer hiatus. Welcome back, Sara!

Joyfully yours,


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Something Daring This Way Comes

"Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken." -- Frank Herbert, DUNE

While creating a post dedicated to the 2176 series, I came across a review of Susan Grant’s THE SCARLET EMPRESS by the renowned Mrs. Giggles—one that examined the 2176 series in terms of its relation to the SF and Romance genres. My mind churned with reflections about her ideas and so I decided to dedicate an entire post to them.

While neither the review itself nor the merits of THE SCARLETT EMPRESS is the focus of this discourse, you can read the complete review here. I’m going to excerpt parts of it to discuss the evolution of science fiction romance. So fill up your bowls at the salad buffet and ready your notebooks.

Giger visits the buffet

Mrs. Giggles writes:

I have no objections to Kyber and Cam as characters because they are intelligent (give and take some annoying concessions to the romance novel formula where the characters have to do some silly things to justify coming together). I do wish there is some element of uncertainty or suspense in the relationship.

For a romance to succeed, obviously the hero and heroine must be together at some point. However, I’m an advocate for this subgenre to raise the romantic stakes. This element could be expressed any number of ways, but my take on Mrs. Giggles statement is that raising the stakes might involve tweaking some or all of the expected romance conventions regarding relationship development and dynamics.

For instance, as a rule I don’t expect the hero and heroine to meet in Chapter One. I don’t expect them to be together every single second or under contrived circumstances unless the story truly calls for it. I don’t expect an author to tell me that the hero and heroine are “fated” for each other except in unique situations (e.g., it’s embedded in the worldbuilding). Authors, please avoid sabotaging the conflict you’ve established between hero and heroine and more importantly, ensure you’ve added enough to begin with.

I expect SFR to experiment with darker shades of romance. I expect there to be very real physical, emotional, or psychological consequences for the couple, unalterable and unavoidable. I expect more sexual tension than actual sex. And if an author can manipulate me to the point that I start to doubt the HEA, even better. That kind of strong romantic tension means I’ve become emotionally attached to the couple.

Mrs. Giggles goes on to write:

Ms Grant does one thing I've never seen many (or is that any) futuristic author has ever done: she plunges her story into a turbulent conflict that is comparable to a decent science fiction sociopolitical action drama…she inexplicably skirts around actual scenes that could have made the story more actualized and gripping and instead relays these scenes… There are other problems that could have been fixed by more pages and more space for the story to develop.

I’d argue that this is an issue of commerce over art. I’m betting many authors wouldn’t take expository shortcuts if they had more word count freedom. I’m an advocate for higher word counts in science fiction romance, because not only am I reading a romance, but I expect complex worldbuilding and a “political” plot too. Even just an extra 50-75 pages can make a world of difference for some stories, especially those spanning across numerous worlds or involving multi-layered political systems.

Then Mrs. Giggles points out:

...priority screw-ups in that it allows silly games of the heart to take more prominence over restoring democracy and freedom to the whole world....

Science fiction romance isn’t the only subgenre that struggles with “priority screw-ups.” Romantic suspense stories often demonstrate the same struggle—capture the serial killer or consummate the relationship? Not an easy call for an author to make. (Romantic suspense author Allison Brennan—who allocates more space to the suspense arc than the romance one in her books (darn well, too, I might add)—posted an insightful piece related to this in her Romancing the Blog post.)

Another side of the coin is this: Given an average word count, would some stories benefit from an “economy of style” with regard to the romance to avoid glossing over the political plot elements? In order to accomplish this, should science fiction romance authors experiment with the execution of the romance? I think they should. I’ve read SFR that is every bit as romantic as a non genre romance, but the delivery is different, ranging from scene staging to vocabulary usage.

For example, devices such as introspection is good because it helps readers engage with characters, but too many passages of it might force intriguing plot material to the sidelines. I’ve read books—including SFR but also other romance books—that featured numerous passages of introspection that covered the same ground.

These passages neither moved the relationship forward nor introduced new information. In fact, I found them so repetitive that I wondered if either the author or the editor purposefully planned it that way because of the belief that readers wouldn’t remember anything from one chapter to the next. On the other hand, perhaps certain conventions are so embedded in the collective unconscious that they go unnoticed.

Or, maybe it’s a little of both.

I expect SFR to challenge the conventions of both romance and SF. The job of a science fiction romance author is to integrate them both without losing the essences of either parent genre or worrying about pleasing every last reader.

As I discussed previously, science fiction romance fans have different expectations. The science and worldbuilding should be accessible but also believable. An HEA is expected, but the author should make both the characters and therefore the reader work hard to reach it. And done compellingly, a little romance goes a long way...especially in science fiction romance.

Mrs. Giggles writes:

But at the heart of its problem is an identity crisis: the authors that contribute to the series still try too hard to keep to a formulaic set of rules instead of allowing their creativity to rip unconstrained by the restrictions of the genre. (Since the subgenre is pretty much dead, which means the formula doesn't quite work anyway. Why try so hard to follow it then?)

With all due respect, Mrs. Giggles—dead, schmead. Why write SFR then? Because despite market limitations/pressures/cycles, there are always authors who heed that artistic call—and then there are the fans who answer it.

But there are a few other reasons. First, we can reframe how we categorize the subgenre. Recognize that genre categories exist largely to organize our purchasing behavior. How a reader defines a book and how a bookseller defines a book might at times constitute different elements. Perhaps some of the challenges in the SFR market lie not in the books themselves, but in finding the right path to the fans.

Second, there are readers who peruse and purchase science fiction romance no matter what else is the new “it” genre. In order to satisfy this need, sometimes we turn to fan fiction or even the work of aspiring authors—but publishers, wouldn’t you rather we spent our cash on your science fiction romance books?

Third, even within a strict definition, enough authors have shown SF and romance can be integrated, and integrated well. Even if one considers a book flawed, the seeds are often there. But I agree that more challenges lay ahead. With that in mind, I’ll step up to the plate and propose a few strategies for resolving science fiction romance’s “identity crisis”:

* Err on the side of art and skew SFR stories to the SF side. Sexy romps are great, but longtime readers—the ones who will sustain the genre through every market cycle—aren’t in it just for the sex. Too much of anything gets boring, and who wants that?

* It’s time for a new identity. Either drop the term “Futuristic” altogether, or start actively using “Science Fiction Romance” to differentiate books that swing more towards SF. (“SF Romance” or “Speculative Romance” is fine too if publishers think one too many words on the spine will impact overhead costs and/or the sky to fall.)

There’s nothing wrong with the term “futuristic” in and of itself, but it has a reputation for being “SF lite.” Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. But I don’t really hear about “mystery lite,” “suspense lite,” or “fantasy lite”—why keep perpetuating that negative connotation when it comes to science fiction and romance? Ladies, embrace thine frontal lobe here.

* Maintain the beloved Happily Ever After, but it must fit the story. Not every
ending will call for a wedding or babies. Keep it real.

* Here are a few suggestions about covers.

* Shelve SFR books in the romance section regardless of publisher because that’s where the books will more likely find readers willing to try something new. It’s also where the sales are. Because SF is diversifying so much now, and because of the potential strength of online/viral marketing, SF readers who also enjoy romance with their genre fiction will follow the buzz across the aisle.

* Resist any talk of “identity crisis” or SFR as somebody’s stepchild. Instead, let’s talk about science fiction romance in terms of identity integration (y’know, like what Sybil accomplished). Harness the power of the Internet to accomplish this feat.

What do you think? Agree, disagree, have ideas of your own? Hit me up!

Joyfully yours,