Thursday, February 26, 2015

On the Brass Clock: Work in the City of Southwatch

By Vivianne Draper
By Vivianne Draper
This is the first in a series of interviews featuring Southwatch workers talking about their jobs. The interviews are recorded by a Windup Scribe, and presented here with a minimum of editing.

*We intend to publish the collected set as: “On the Brass Clock: Work in the City of Southwatch.”

Pipe Fitter

Well, Mr. Delbert’s shop was the best one, probably. I worked there as a young man. We put in our twelve hours, sure enough, and we was all hard-working lads. But there was breaks during the day, times when the work was slowed enough to allow a body to talk. 

Lunch time we’d set down, we’d all have our lunch and a pint together. Often times, Mr. Delbert himself would come out and join us. 

We did some fine work in those days—small boilers and such, for concerns that needed a bit of steam or apartment buildings that used them for heat. Well made, they was. I’ve heard tell some of them are still in service. Makes me proud, really, to think something I made been around that long.

I was fitter. Working with the pipes. Fitting them together, you see. Yes, that’s where the name comes from. 

I worked with all different kinds of pipe. Copper for water supply — slide the nut over, splay the end and crank her down so she seals, you see. Had to weld for the steam, though. High-pressure stuff was tricky, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly, and did a lot of good work. Both for Mr. Delbert and later for Mr. Corkington. 

Delbert had to close up when he couldn’t get the orders any more. Folks preferred the cheaper models from Mr. Corkington’s works. I was sad to see old Delbert go, but truth be told, I understood. Mr. Corkington was making them cheaper and they was better. That’s all there was to it, really. 

Corkington was putting in things like anti-bursting valves that we couldn’t match, not at that price.
So I went to work for Mr. Corkington. No question it was a harder-driving shop. No sitting down together for lunch — just grab a bite when you could. They had a little assembly line there, where they pulled each piece of work though and you did your bit on it, then passed it on to the next lad. If you didn’t get your pieces moving, you found yourself out on the street, that was sure. But the pay was better, so I didn’t mind so much that the work was harder.

But then there was Consolidated Boiler. Big affair down in the Steamworks itself. They was turning them out even faster than Mr. Corkington. In the beginning, they was about the same as Mr. Corkington’s work, quality-wise. We tried to keep up with them, finding places where we could be faster and better. Sped up the lines, we did, but it wasn’t enough. Mr. Corkington lowered our wages, trying to make it up, but in the end it was no good for him, either. He closed up. 

I drifted around a bit, did some odd jobs, took what work I could. Fitters are needed on repairs, and there was the occasional construction job, but nothing steady. 

I always kept a positive attitude, though. Foreman look for that. No one wants a long-faced lad on the site. 

When I got the chance to get on at Consolidated, I jumped at it, of course. It only paid half what Corkington had paid, but what choice did I have, eh? Go back to not knowing if I’d work one day to the next? 

Consolidated was hard work, too. No two ways about it. Working with them mechanicals, that was strange business. They was all somewhat manlike, even those that was built right into the line. Them were the ones that gave me the creeps — fastened to the works right there where a proper man would have his waist. Fastened to the line or walking about, them things don’t even stop to take a piss, so you keep moving to just to keep up with’em. 

The line was always getting faster, too. No time to stop and fix what’s wrong, just send it down and hope the QC inspector down there doesn’t see and have it come back to you. 

It seemed like every day there was fewer people. In the beginning, we’d have a rigger to help us when one of them big custom boiler jobs had to be moved across the factory. Now, we’re just supposed to move it ourselves with a few lifts and jigs. 

Then finally, they said they had a mechanical that could do the fitting, and I’m back to scrounge work. But I’m optimistic. Nothing accomplished without optimism, I always say. I’m trying to, what was that expression? Oh, yes, I’m trying to “Embrace change as a positive force in my life” like that office fella said when he came to give us our notice. 

So, though I may be an old mill rat, I’m looking out for the new and finding a place for me to fit in. I’m sure I’ll find it OK. I really am. 

Unfortunately, since this interview was taken, Mr. Quigly was scalded to death while attempting to repair a defective boiler in a Brockton apartment complex.

Eric James Spannerman is the author of Applied Natural Magic,  fourth book in The Darkside Codex.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Defining Steampunk(or not)

As I noted in a previous article, Dianna Gunn approached me with the idea of writing a few blog posts about steampunk.  I enjoy this genre both as a writer and as a reader.  I am happy to share ideas about this type of speculative fiction with a caveat: I am simply one author among many talking about how to create a story world in a genre I enjoy.  I welcome comments and observations from others who enjoy steampunk and all types of speculative fiction.

In 1987 K.W. Jeter coined the term “steampunk” in a letter to Locus magazine.  Jeter used the term to qualify the neo-Victorian writings that he, James Blaylock, and Tim Powers, were producing.  This term was in part a play on the term “cyberpunk,” which was a popular genre in the late 1980s.  Interestingly, this term was embraced for this type of speculative fiction and was applied retroactively.  Starting with the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, more and more historical works were included in the steampunk genre.  

In The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997), John Clute and John Grant comment that “every fantasy which deals with the Gaslight Period is labeled steampunk” (  For many critics the inclusive nature of the term seems to be a deterrent to recognizing “steampunk” as a legitimate literary genre.  Yet I would argue that the inclusive nature of the genre is really what makes it unique.  Steampunk is intriguing because of all of the elements that make it difficult to define.

Steampunk is still a work-in-progress; this is the first issue to be faced when trying to create a definition.  It is still evolving.  There are new stories to be told and new writers to be discovered that will add their distinctive voices to the mix.  New steampunk novels are being envisioned as I write this article (and as you read these words).  Perhaps these writers will add heretofore unimagined innovations to the genre.  How can a definition be created when those steampunk writers’ words have not yet been committed to the page (or the screen)?

The process of creating a definition for the term “steampunk” faces an additional challenge when we move beyond the pure literary term to embrace the other artistic and technological elements that surround it.  Although it began with the written word, the concept progressed beyond literature when craft aficionados, fashion designers, and inventors began to create aeronaut goggles, cog-and-rivet laced millinery, modern technology that has been transformed by Industrial Revolution sprockets and pipes, and other curiosities.  The “Do-It-Yourself” aspect to these items is a key component.  Craftsmanship and the ability to understand how the items are assembled—how the technology works—is a primary part of the aesthetic.  Items that are handmade, rather than mass-produced, are venerated.

Another challenge to defining the term deals with the social nature of “steampunk.”  With its emphasis on craftsmanship and the “do-it-yourself” philosophy, creators of steampunk crafts, fashions, and technology enjoy discussing and sharing elements of their creations.  Many fans of steampunk enjoy learning how things work and then putting this knowledge into practice.  For example, recently I read a post on Facebook which included a picture of a New York Fire Department steam pumper.  The post was shared in a group (where I am a member) called Steampunk Tendencies (  Several of the comments dealt with how much people enjoyed “seeing” the working parts of the engine.  Several commented on possibly building their own version of the engine.  This is a common theme with comments on this site, and on other such groups.  Not only is there an enthusiastic appreciation of a crafted item or piece of technology, there is a desire to create a similar one—with perhaps a few “tweaks” included to suit the personality of the artist/inventor.

Can a definition be achieved for a literary genre/cultural phenomenon that is still evolving?  Rather than trying to create a definition, I suggest that it is more useful to consider the principles that writers, readers, and artistic creators of steampunk practice and endorse.  The visual markers that constitute the “look” popularly understood as steampunk are only a part of the story; people continue to give fresh resonance to the term with every story, book, movie, craft, fashion design, and piece of technology they create.

Chris Pavesic lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Her short story, “Heart and Mind,” is currently available for free on Kindle Unlimited. Her first steampunk novel with Musa, The Caelimane Operation, was published in January, 2015. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.

Learn more about Chris Pavesic on her
blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Steampunk Musings Pt. 6: Volder's Workshop

This necklace is actually a USB Key!
Today's steampunk artist is a little bit different from the others hosted here so far. Every steampunk artist works hard to make their pieces functional as well as beautiful, but Volder has truly taken this to the next level with his incredible steampunk USB keys. As a writer, I'm doubly fond of creative USB keys--if it's also an art piece I'm way less likely to lose it--and his are certainly the best I've ever seen.

Please give Volder, creative mind behind the amazing Volder's Workshop, a warm welcome.

1. How did you discover steampunk?

Once, I was surfing the Internet and accidentally saw unusual design and interesting execution of goods. That was the beginning of my impetuous love of steampunk.

2. Why do you think steampunk has become so popular?

To my mind, everyone is fed up with monotonous strict style of today.

I wanted to create regular household items, but in a new, unusual style that combines: techno, military, vintage, retro, fantasy, etc. and use in one product a variety of materials.

3. What inspired you to start creating steampunk art?
And this is a Zippo!

As I can remember, I always wanted to create, but the inspiration has come to me only after 45 years of life, when I first saw steampunk art.

Immediately I had a lot of ideas, demonstrated ability and knowledge that I had not previously noticed in myself.

4. How long does it usually take you to create a piece?

The creation of my work takes different amounts of time. Everything happens when inspiration strikes.

Sometimes the work is very easy and understandable (2- 3 days), but sometimes it takes months for the implementation of the planned project ..

5. Out of all the pieces you've created, what's your favorite?

I have many favorite works, but probably the most popular are those works that have been made on a big creative euphoria! One of that works is my first work - USB flash drive "Doctor Web". There were many other works, but the first is still the most memorable!

6. Who's your favorite steampunk artist?

From steampunk artists, I was most impressed and inspired by works of Rafa Maya, Kazuhiko Nakamura, and Eric Freitas.

7. Are you working on anything exciting right now?

Every project is new and exciting for me.

Ideas are in the queue!

I always work!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

An Excerpt from The Southwatch Register

A Morning Spent in Commerce at Street Level
- by Tarek al-Baz, writing for The Southwatch Register

Can you spare a little?” asks of me the man with a noticeably irregular gait and shoulders made lumpen by the self-made crutch beneath one arm, the other hand (twisted, a knot of fingers about the cup of a palm) outstretched in hope of a coin; yet who, it must also be noted, appears well able to negotiate his way through the tightly-packed throng at this intersection of Brick- and Bakerstown.

I shoo him away, and he tugs at a slovenly cap in apologetic deference as I pass—but the coin purse on my belt is faintly tugged. Anticipating just such a move, I see that once malformed hand slip with clever dexterity into the pucker of stringed leather, strong fingers spreading it open and darting in, leaving it just ever so lighter as the beggar hobbles on, back turned, seeking a more kindly donor. One might hardly have noticed.

Hoy!” I call, and magically his crutch lifts, shoulders straighten, and on fleet steps he vanishes into the crowd like a fish slipping between reeds.

A quick check of my purse reveals it three and one half shillings down. I could have baited the hook with pebbles, of course, but I considered myself to be making a purchase: of experience. I did not begrudge him his prize, it was a lesson bought cheap; and, as the cunning “beggar” ably demonstrated via his escape, Competent Negotiation is an essential when one sets foot within the Arastro street market.

In any case, the terms of my agreement with The Register dictated eight competent men in plain dress be within sight of my person at all times. One of them would be sure to collar the thief, and hand him off to an officer of the law to settle his account.


It is a difficult thing to trade with a man whose face you cannot see. Difficult to trade fairly, that is, not always your fellow man’s goal. At street level, where the poorer side of Bakerstown’s commercial district fades into some of the less insalubrious twists of the Bricktown slums—and, of course, beneath the smother of the Dark Cloud—bare-faced trustworthiness would seem unlikely in the extreme. However, one would be surprised.

These clogged and over-shadowed arteries at the foot of towering giants are, for half a day, sheltered. Not just stalls are set up: first, strong cables are drawn tight through the air down the length of each street; then, each enterprising rival collaborates with his peers as long tarpaulins of tarred and treated canvas are flung across the line. Secured against the walls to either side, a peaked roof is formed like the long tents of a military field barracks, defence against any residues descending from the city’s sole blight.

Lamps and braziers are hung from the cables to light the gloom; stalls are at last erected, laden down with goods of many a kind and many a quality; thus, protected just enough from the open air, open trade takes place. Hawkers and hucksters and browsers and bargainers put aside their ever-present masks and meet eye to eye, and the man on the street is free to evaluate the worth of not just the produce, but its producer.


And what producers, what produce! Every brand of person in the world line the routes, their calls a chaos of accents and entreaties, their dress a riot of distracting, enticing colours—and Southwatch’s native under-classes are present too, as mundane to the eye as are their wares. At first glance, it seems anything is there to be had, though with no rhyme or reason in the moment.

Along Fourth Baron’s Way, I pass: self-made clothiers, offering every material and aping every style; a chrome ornamentor, making obviously discarded goods shiny and “new”; a used-book seller (I pause here a good ten minutes, jostled and cursed by the crawling crowds, and depart with one of my own early pseudonymous works: the dangerous Philip Amberville, Barren of Southwatch, tatty but rare, mine for pennies); and more.

Paste jewellers, whose “rare trinkets” are replaced from beneath their stalls by identically imperfect siblings as fast as they can be sold; a metalmonger—twin of the ornamentor, but touting more honestly second-hand pots and kettles; crystal charmers, selling good health in a glittering stone, or protectives against everything from the likes of my thieving beggar to the fallout from the Dark Cloud itself (though no doubt far less effective than the sheets strung overhead); and more.

And more; and more.


I am far from the finest-dressed Sunsider here, chancing his luck shoulder-to-shoulder with more common citizenry (perhaps because I am wiser). I see others descended from Society, drifting like swans amidst fowl, preening at the attention they receive from all sides—little thinking of themselves as targets at a shoot, rich meat for the taking. Yet there is more to the Arastro than trivial things for tourists and those who would prey on them.

Ordinary people buy and sell ordinary things, livelihoods are made, and the pressing needs of small but modest lives are satisfied. Some lament that precious value be recycled this way, instead of added to the limitless coffers of factorymen or lining the pockets of more respectable shopkeeps. It “diminishes industry” they say (I have heard them say it).

I disagree. I say the Arastro is more the pulse of healthy commerce, evidence that the heart still beats, the beast still lives. The difference is only in who rides the beast, and whom is ridden down by it.


A footnote: on my departure, I was impressed to learn that the cunning thief eluded all eight of my hired watchmen. Two were led on quite a merry chase and returned from it battered and bruised, having been set upon by my teacher’s allies around the corner of an alley. See the Arastro: barter, deal, risk making a loss; but should you enter into the negotiation of backstreets, always do so knowing what price you are willing to pay.

Andrew Leon Hudson is the author of The Glass Sealing, third book in The Darkside Codex.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Steampunk Musings Pt. 5: The Steampunk Buddha

There has never been a better time to love steampunk than right now.

The internet as a whole and particularly Etsy have made it possible for anyone with the passion and technical skills to build a career making steampunk art. Within a few hours of roaming the internet you'll find more steampunk stuff than you'll ever be able to afford, and if you're anything like me, you'll want everything you see.

Out of all the things I've seen during my journey through the land of steampunk, the one I want most is a steampunk teddy bear created by today's guest, The Steampunk Buddha. 

As you can imagine, I was thrilled when she agreed to do this interview.

Please give The Steampunk Buddha a warm welcome!

1. How did you discover steampunk?

My husband and I like a lot of Sci-Fi movies so we were never strangers to Steampunk really. A lot of horror movies have Steampunk under tones. Frankenstein, is an example of the mixture of horror and steampunk styles we create. I think between the two of us, we just sort of fell in love with the Steampunk look and style when we moved to the town that we live in now, and saw the full-size replica of the Ezekiel Airship.

2. Why do you think steampunk has grown so popular over the last few years?

I think as technology progresses, a lot of us want to see some of the older styles come back. Seeing the inner workings of a watch for instance, seems way more interesting than looking at a circuit board and wires.

3. What inspired you to start creating steampunk jewelry/art?

As I stated before, when we moved to our town and saw the Ezekiel Airship, we were very inspired. I have a very unique style and have a hard time finding jewelry that suits my preferences. I've always been creative and made my own items, and costumes.

4. How long does it typically take to create a piece?

I spend at least an hour on each design or picture. I double dome all of the necklaces with resin which takes 2 days. In all, each necklace takes around 3 days to make. The Teddy Bears and Hats take around 5 days to make.

5. Out of all the steampunk pieces you've created, which one is your favorite?

My favorite Steampunk necklace that I've made is the Steampunk Mermaid necklace that has gears floating up from here like bubbles. I also really like the little faux metal bookshelf hat.

6. Who's your favorite steampunk artist?

Each artist has their own personal style, so I can't put down one personal favorite, but I do really like the darker Steampunk styles.

7. Are you working on anything exciting right now?

We are currently working on adding steampunk lamps, light fixtures, and more to the shop.

Check out The Steampunk Buddha today!

Do you have a favorite steampunk artist you'd like to see featured here? Let me know about them in the comments below!

Thursday, February 05, 2015

A Lecture on the Morghanti

Professor Edmund Cowley is recognized throughout the Empire as a leading authority of the subject of fae psychology. His eight-volume Introduction to the Study of the Fae Mind is recognized as the definitive work on the subject written by a human, and is used even by some fae authorities.  These article is distilled from his remarks at a recent lecture at the Royal Academy

The first and most important thing to remember about the fae is that they are not human.

This seems obvious, given that they are by definition another species. But given the close physical resemblance between humans and fae, it is easy to forget that they are not merely unusually tall, unusually long-lived people.  They have climbed a different evolutionary ladder, developed under different pressures, and present a dramatically different constellation of strengths and weaknesses. To encounter a fae is not just to encounter a "strange human."  Rather, to encounter a fae is to encounter The Other in the most profound sense.

I propose that it is in the area of the mind in which humans and fae display their most dramatic differences. In addition to their well-known gifts for magic and illusion, the fae have a dramatically different set of cognitive processes and emotional responses. Given these differences, it is not surprising that they also present a dramatically different set of mental disorders.  It is one of those disorders which I've been asked to address tonight, the disorder that the fae refer to as the morghanti.

I must begin by acknowledging that when we speak of the morghanti, we are dealing with a very thin skein of data. The fae are reluctant to speak of it, even among themselves.  This is especially true for the dark fae, for whom any sign of weakness is socially dangerous.

I was fortunate in my studies in being able to obtain the cooperation of a few fae healers, who shared details of a few cases with me under conditions of strict anonymity, in hopes that I could offer some insight to heal their patients. In a very small number of cases, I was consulted by the suffering fae directly. Unfortunately, as I shall relate, we were unable to do anything for any of our patients.

Loosely speaking, the morghanti is an obsession.  The object of the obsession may be a place, another fae, a project, a physical object or in extremely rare cases, a human. However, regardless of the object, the effect on the afflicted fae is single-minded focus on the relationship with the object. An afflicted fae will abandon all other goals and relationships to support this morghanic bond. In this respect, it is much like human addiction to alcohol or certain drugs. However, the morghanti is not satisfied by anything as simple as consumption of a substance.  The bound fae feels compelled to focus all their efforts on the object.

If the object is a place, they must live there. This is normally the most benign of morghanic attachments, and the one most likely to go unnoticed by others. However, in one case I studied, the victim was living on a slowly-collapsing limestone stack in the Ipateus Sea.  Once, it had been an outcropping along the coast, but over the long years of the fae's life, the shoreline had retreated, leaving the isolated and shrinking rock formation. Despite this, the fae was only able to leave the place for a few weeks at most. I visited this particular sufferer, and found myself stranded on the rock for ten days because rough seas made it impossible for a boat to hold a safe position off the rock.

If the object is another fae, they must be together and the afflicted fae must share in every aspect of the object's life. The afflicted one will take on the goals of what I like to refer to as their morghanic partner as their own. And they will do almost anything to assure the success and safety of this partner.

If the object is a project or quest, they will put in years, decades or even centuries of focused effort in attaining their goal. In the course of my researches, I once discovered a fae who remained focused on an obscure problem of alchemy for over 175 years, a fact I verified by spending twenty straight months searching original source archives by hand.

Humans are more problematic. Sometimes, the mere presence of the human object is enough. It is believed that the stories of the fae kidnapping humans and keeping them in the Seelie or Unseelie courts may represent this kind of binding. In other cases, the bond with a human manifests much like that with another fae, as an intense need to share in and support the life and projects of the object.

If a fae is prevented from the fulfilling their bond, the consequences are devastating. The earliest symptoms of separation from the object of the morghanti are listlessness and something like depression. A fae with magical aptitude will often find that their powers begin to fade, as the magic, and indeed their entire personality, seems to be turning inward. Symptoms include lassitude, lack of appetite, and numerous aches and pains. They may also descend into madness, experiencing hallucinations, paranoid fantasies, and extreme anxiety. In the final throes, some become violent, lashing out at those around them with renewed power and focus before their death.

These final throes can be terrible to witness. I remember one such maddened fae, whose morghanic partner had perished, despite his best efforts. In the advanced stages of withdrawal, he became delusional, was pursuing the healer and I though the Thorn Forest, wielding a magic-infused blade and intent on murdering us both. And yet, even in that advanced state, I believed is was possible to cure the poor unfortunate’s condition, and I was still attempting concoct such a remedy as I ran. 

The origins of the morghanti are mysterious. Current theory holds that like human mental illnesses, the morghanti is an unhealthy exaggeration of an important or even necessary mental state.  Among humans, a necessary realism can become depression, concern for safety can become anxiety or even paranoia. With creatures as long-lived as the fae, the mental focus necessary for pursuing long-term goals can become morghanti. What is not understood is how this normal, healthy focus can become the mental illness that consumes the lives of many fae.

There is still no reliable cure. For centuries, fae healers have tried various combinations of natural cures and intricate spells, to no avail. A few have even tried various synthetic treatments, either alone or in combination with more traditional means, but these have failed as well.

It was because of the promise shown by one of my compounds that I was able to set up a relationship with several fae healers, under conditions of strictest anonymity. Unfortunately, I was able to offer only minor relief, and that proved temporary. Within less than six months, with all my pateints, the morghanti had resumed its course with the same or greater force.

Sometimes, of course, the morghanti lifts of its own accord, vanishing from the life of the sufferer as suddenly and as mysteriously as it came. It's in the hope of this that the families of the afflicted offer prayers and sacrifice, often for hundreds of years, usually to no avail. And yet, the hope remains.

And so my hope remains as well, for a reliable and replicable cure for those who suffer from this illness.  They have inspired me with their tenacity and their ability to adapt to whatever circumstances they are driven. That is, perhaps, why I feel so compelled to continue the work of finding a cure, despite numerous setbacks and disappointments. I feel that I would be abandoning something of myself if I abandoned my attempts to find a cure for the morghanti.

Eric James Spannerman has been a farmer's son, a US Air Force officer, a technical writer, a computer support specialist and a business analyst, as well as being a writer of speculative fiction. He currently lives near Des Moines, Iowa with his wife and daughter. Applied Natural Magic is his first book.  

Purchase your copy of Applied Natural Magic today.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Steampunk Musings Pt.4: Steam City Treasures

Are you prepared to meet another fantastic steampunk artist? If you're anything like me, your mind says YES and your wallet says NO. Personally, I've taken to hiding my wallet--or at least the credit card--because I just can't stop exploring these amazing websites.

Today's guest is the creator of a lovely shop called Steam City Treasures, Rachael Layne. Please give her a warm welcome!

1. How did you discover steampunk?

For many years, I loved Steampunk fashion but never knew exactly what it was. I discovered it online while browsing different types of fashions. I fell in love with the style and starting doing as much research as I could and finding out everything I could about. Of course, I still do this daily.

2. Why do you think steampunk has grown so popular over the last few years?

I believe as more people discover it, they share it with others, and then those people share it, and so on. I believe Conventions have also played a major role in helping people discover as well as share their love of all things Steampunk. Another reason I believe is that it creates another world for people to be free and creative in without being judged and to socialize with others that share in the same interests.

3. What inspired you to start creating steampunk jewelry/art?

I previously owned a store where I made and sold bead jewelry and art only. After a few years, I realized that it didn’t peak my interests or my creativity. It was around the same time I had stumbled onto Steampunk, and I decided that I should sell the type of things that I had much more interest in. I found that once I started creating Steampunk items, I was able to create a much better product to sell as I was much more passionate about the Genre and the Culture.

4. How long does it typically take to create a piece?

It depends on the size and the detail of the piece. Some can take an hour or two, while other pieces can take anywhere from a few days, a week or even a month. It also depends on my amount of free time to work on pieces. I’m a mother to a 4 year old, a wife, a full-time college student and I own and run 2 of my own businesses.

5. Out of all the steampunk pieces you've created, which one is your favorite?

Hands down, it would have to be my “Octo Buddies”, the little Octopus Figures that I create. Each one has its own personality, even when I create two that are of the same style, they each still have something unique to them.

6. Who's your favorite steampunk artist?

There are actually two artists that I greatly admire. As far as traditional art, my favorite artist is Brian Kesinger. His “Tea Girls” portraits have always been favorites of mine. When it comes to non-traditional art, Thomas Willeford creates some of the most beautiful and amazing pieces out of leather that I have ever seen, which makes him one of my favorite artists as well.

7. Are you working on anything exciting right now?

Always! I’m constantly scouring the internet and other sources for inspiration and new ideas to play off of. I enjoy coming up with and trying out ideas of new things to create on a daily basis. As of right now, there’s mostly jewelry and “Octo Buddies” in my shop. However, I am in the process of expanding my little store here in Ashland, KY. Some of the new items I have coming soon are muffs, bustles, goggles, top hats, masks, new jewelry and so much more! I’m extremely excited to create these new items and to put them in the store.

You can find Rachael at Steam City Treasures.

What do you think about Rachael's work? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, February 02, 2015

Congratulations to our fantastic winners!

It's official! The contest is closed and our winners are well on their way to reading great steampunk!

In third place:

Jana Leah, who takes home two of The Darkside Codex books

In Second Place:

Alex  Delrae, who will be taking home three of The Darkside Codex books



And our big winner:

Cynthia Borgmeyer Clubbs, winner of a $10.00 Musa gift card & three TDC books.

Expect to see more giveaways here in the future!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why Charles Dickens Isn't The Father of Steampunk

Dianna Gunn approached me with the idea of writing a few blog posts about steampunk. I enjoy this genre both as a writer and as a reader. I am happy to share ideas about this type of speculative fiction with a caveat: these blog articles are not ultimate, end-all-be-all definitions of the genre. Steampunk is still a work-in-progress. It is still evolving. There are new stories to be told and new writers to be discovered that will add their distinctive voices to the mix. I am simply one author among many talking about how to create a story world in a genre I enjoy. I welcome comments and observations from others who enjoy steampunk and all types of speculative fiction.

For me, steampunk is a genre of speculation, whether it is set in an alternative version of Victorian England, in an alternative American West, in a future where steam power rather than electrical current runs the world, or in a fantasy setting where steam power is in mainstream use. The technology in steampunk novels and short stories has been called “retro-futuristic” by some enthusiasts; this is a way to describe modern technology and inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them using the technology of their time. It owes a debt of gratitude for its creation to such authors as Jules Vern, Mary Shelly, and H.G. Wells: Their works are speculative, and some critics refer to them as writers of steampunk novels. (This can be debated—and has been on many a steampunk blog forum.) In terms of world-building, though, the genre owes an even larger debt to Charles Dickens and his depiction of Victorian England.

In the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, John Clute (2014) writes:
It is as if, for a handful of sf writers, Victorian London has come to stand for one of those turning points in history where things can go one way or the other, a turning point peculiarly relevant to sf itself. It was a city of industry, science and technology where the modern world was being born, and a claustrophobic city of nightmare where the cost of this growth was registered in filth and squalor . . . These recall not so much the actual nineteenth-century as a nineteenth century seen through the creatively distorting lens of Charles Dickens, whose congested, pullulating nineteenth-century landscapes . . . were the foul rag-and-bone shop of history from which the technological world, and hence the world of sf, originally sprang. Somewhere behind most steampunk visions are filthy coal heaps or driving pistons (

To Clute’s definition I would add an emphasis on the idea of the “turning point.” Victorian literature is filled with examples of a culture on the verge of reinventing itself. In the 19th century, Britain had moved from a primarily agricultural system to one based in manufacturing. Technological change was a way to improve the standard of life for all citizens. The lower class were abandoning the farms and moving to the cities in droves in search of a better life. The country was in the throes of the first industrial revolution in world history. The smokestacks from the mills and engineering works pumped noxious chemicals into the air. The buildings were covered with soot, pitted, and eroded by fumes. In this situation, is it no wonder that some people looked to the past and life in the small towns and countryside as a panacea? Yet those who would abandon the overcrowded cities and new technology seemed to forget the poverty and starvation of those who had previously lived the pastoral life. It was a culture being pulled in two opposite directions and this was reflected in the literature of the time.

In the Victorian Era the nostalgia and idealization of the past mixed with the ideas that industry and innovation were the only ways to improve the human condition. Modern day steampunk works have the same diametric opposition that the Victorians explored, especially those who look to the novels of Charles Dickens as inspiration for world building. For example, the city of Southwatch, from the Darkside Codex, is bisected by a toxic stew of chemicals and pollution called the Dark Cloud. In the lower parts of the city, the Steamworks and other industries emit the chemicals that make up the cloud. In the areas above the Dark Cloud—called sunside—the air is pure and pollution free. The “claustrophobic city of nightmare where the cost of . . . growth was registered in filth and squalor” first described in the novels of Charles Dickens forms part of the inspiration for Southwatch; above is all light, clean, and healthy, while darkside everything is dark, gloomy, and dangerous. Those who are wealthy live sunside while the poorest citizens live down below. And the fae magic that keeps the Dark Cloud centered in Southwatch protects the nearby pastoral countryside from the toxic pollution—for now.

Yet the poor people do not abandon Southwatch. For all its grime and toxic air, it is where they can earn a living. It is quite a choice for the darksiders: leave the city and have no means to support themselves and their families or stay and slowly be poisoned. This is part of the reason for the high level of unrest in the city.

Those who live sunside have issues as well. They are constantly fighting for money and prestige. One misstep can plunge a family into poverty. To lose position in the city could mean banishment below the Dark Cloud and an exposure to the toxic atmosphere. What are they willing to do—to sacrifice—to stay in the light?

As a writer, this type of tension leads to multiple story inspirations. To miss-quote another English author: From this city of nightmares, what dreams may come?

Steampunk writers (and readers) owe a debt of gratitude to Charles Dickens for his vivid descriptions of London and other cities during the Victorian Era. More than any writer listed in this article, he helped to create the background setting for the genre. Yet it is important to remember that his works have only influenced the genre; he did not write any steampunk novels (unless I am completely miss-remembering Bleak House and Little Dorrit.) Thus—as I stated in the title—Charles Dickens cannot be called the father of steampunk. Perhaps he could be its great uncle?

Chris Pavesic lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Her stories, “Going Home” and “The World In Front of Me,” have been published in Penumbra EMag. Her first novel with Musa, The Caelimane Operation, will be published in January, 2015. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.

Learn more about
Chris Pavesic on her blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Steampunk Musings Pt. 3: Meeting Scarlett Algee

Have you spent much time thinking about steampunk this week? I know I have, and so has the phenomenal artist featured here today, Scarlett Algee.

Deciding what I like most about Scarlett is difficult. It might be the clockwork pendants, the brass necklaces or the brass blood earrings(you'll have to check out her website below if you want to see that last one). Or it might be the fact that she was a pleasure to work with.

Please give Scarlett a warm welcome.

1. How did you discover steampunk?
My first encounter with steampunk was actually the PC game Arcanum. I wasn’t really sure what steampunk was at the time--I don’t think I’d actually heard the term--but there was something in that mix of tech and Victoriana that spoke to me. My first encounter with steampunk after I became familiar with the term was S. M. Peters’ novel Whitechapel Gods, which remains one of my solid favorites.

2. Why do you think steampunk has grown so popular over the last few years?
At some point, steampunk as a literary genre became steampunk as a fashion subculture, and as such, it’s much more visible. When I browse the steampunk groups I belong to on Facebook and Google+, the images of crafts and jewelry are vastly outnumbered by drawings, paintings, and cosplay images. When steampunk stepped past the bounds of “Victorian science fiction” and entered the realm of “fashion statement,” it became much more real, on a visceral level, to many more people--myself included.
To draw on steampunk’s historical basis, the Victorian era saw significant leaps in science and technology, much like current American society. I think that’s another reason steampunk and its trappings--gears and cogs, clocks and compasses--are gaining popularity. They’re a representation of the human drive towards progress.

3. What inspired you to start creating steampunk jewelry/art?

In the beginning, it was sheer practicality. My father died in 2012, and I spent part of that year ill and in hospital, so I had to give up my job--but I still needed to pay the bills. A dear friend of mine, who knew of my love of Victorian history and fiction and my beginning interest in steampunk, pointed me toward Etsy and its many, many steampunk-themed listings, and said, “Look, you can do this.” I spent a few months learning jewelry-making basics and collecting supplies, made my first sale in May 2013, and I haven’t slowed down.

4. How long does it typically take to create a piece?
Oh, it depends. Earrings are easiest--I can make a pair of earrings in fifteen minutes. For a bracelet or necklace, if the design is clear in my head, that’s about an hour of work. If epoxy is involved, as when I’m working with cabochons or layered metal pendants, it’s an hour of construction plus about three days for the glue to bond permanently. I do create custom pieces, and those take the most time by far. You have to have regular communication with your buyer, keep them updated on every little change. Turnaround time on custom jewelry, for me, is about three to seven days.

5. Out of all the steampunk pieces you've created, which one is your favorite?
All of them! But if I had to pick one in particular, there’s a pocket watch-style necklace in my Etsy shop called “Timelock”. It’s the most expensive piece I’ve created, and I spent about two weeks waiting for all the parts to arrive, but it allowed me to combine some challenging elements: a watch casing, a clock face, a few gears, an antique map scrap, an old postage stamp. I was even able to work in real vintage pocket-watch winding keys, which I think provide a nice touch.

6. Who's your favorite steampunk artist?

Hands down, Justin Gershenson-Gates of A Mechanical Mind. Not only does he craft exquisite clockwork pendants, but he uses things like watch parts and automotive light bulbs to make the most amazing sculptures I’ve ever seen. I’m especially fond of his spiders and insects, they’re just gorgeously delicate.

7. Are you working on anything exciting right now?
I’m always working on something. I’ve started working with cameos; right now I’m working out designs for new necklaces, and making plans to add cufflinks and hairpins to my shop listings. I also write in my spare time; I’m in the process of turning two “steampunk light” short stories into ebooks, I’m on the sixth draft of a novella with steampunk elements, and Sanitarium Magazine has just picked up a horror story of mine that’s a sci-fi take on Jack the Ripper, with a planned release date of January 20th. I’m definitely keeping busy! 

You can find Scarlett at Copperwalk Designs. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Poetry of Southwatch Volume 3, an excerpt

excerpt from The Poetry of Southwatch Volume 3

by Professor Thumbswedge

We begin this third volume on the poetry of our great city right at the moment when the steam engine's effect began to be felt in the city. And so it is fitting to begin with a new poetic form, which has come to be known as “steam poetry.”

What is steam poetry? It began among the dock workers, as a way to pass the time while loading and unloading ships. Unrefined and ignored by the literati, it developed its own patterns and striking beauty, something only discovered much later when recent poets have revived the forms.

The first steam poets are unknown today, folk poets who made up their lines as they worked. The poems spread along the docks, acquiring alternate lines and verses. The first recorded lines we have begin with the well-known statement, “The ship is gone, the sea is cold, my love.” Other early efforts yielded “Seven crows and seven masts / and thunder in the hold” and its many variations and “Swing the boiler low, feed on my heat.”

In this final example, the true beginnings of steam poetry can be seen. The metrics and rhythms changed somewhat over the years without straying too far from those first examples. But the central conceit of the steam poem is conceit. (Overly clever? That's what you get when it's the third volume of an in-depth look at the poetry of a single city...) Arrogance. Boastfulness.

The steam poets couched their greatness in lines. They boasted of their muscles, their great strength, their, ahem, prowess. And steam engines were often the basis of their boasting. Or rather, the comparison to themselves, which always found the machine to be lacking.

“Feed it fuel and watch it burn / but not as hot as me. / Bellows blow and children slave / to give it industry. / While I curl my burnished arm / and towers bend down to see.”

There is a definite sense of defiance in the best of these poems, a sense that the people in Aerie owe much to the workers below. A sense that they might be strong in their riches up above, but they lust after the real strength of the people working.

As we will see over the course of this volume, that same sense will carry through to later street-level poets, as they struggle to stake out their places in a city of mechanicals taking their dock jobs, taking their factory jobs, even taking their scribe duties. It will play out in an increasingly sophisticated way, from the starving artists of the Underground to the artist colonies in the White Cliffs.

For now we will end with one more snippet of a steam poem, before moving on to the full poems themselves in the pages that follow.

My boiler burns, intense and strong
too hot for hot, young blood.
They say slow down, they say enough
you'll burn up in your place.
I say I'll burn, so bright and fierce
that all will know my death.

Daniel Ausema is the author of the second story in The Darkside Codex, The Electro-Addictive Moth Flame.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Steampunk Musings 2: Meeting The Tinker's Daughter

The Tinker's Daughter has made jewelry for over 15 years and started making steampunk jewelry over 10 years ago, making her one of the earliest steampunk jewelry makers. She's created a huge variety of steampunk artists, including steampunk notebooks and jewelry boxes. I'm extremely excited to announce that today she's decided to grace us with her presence here on The Darkside Codex Blog. This will also be the first of several artist interviews here on The Darkside Codex blog, so check back often!

Please give Barbara Pearson AKA The Tinker's Daughter a warm welcome.

1. How did you discover steampunk?

One of my jewelry suppliers does a monthly newsletter. About 11 years ago they had a brief article on steampunk and I had never heard of it. I began searching the internet and there were only a few websites at the time but I found some very interesting descriptions of “steampunk” along with some excellent examples of steampunk art and jewelry.

Back then steampunk was just hitting the east coast after gaining popularity in Europe. I was intrigued. I had been a jewelry maker for over 4 years and wanted to try something totally different. Steampunk spoke to me on many levels.

2. Why do you think steampunk has grown so popular over the last few years?

The genre has a broad appeal I think. The older generation of aficionados are attracted to the historical, Victorian elements with a sense of nostalgia of a time when elegance was appreciated. The younger generation is attracted to the sci-fi and fantasy elements. For any age it offers an alternative reality that begins with a Victorian setting and then drops little surprise gadgets and inventions that by rights should not be there, like Captain Nemo’s submarine.

3. What inspired you to start creating steampunk jewelry/art?

Prior to becoming a jewelry artist I was an antiques dealer specializing in vintage jewelry. I developed a love and appreciation for the artistry of previous generations. I also found it sad to have to throw away lovely little odds and ends of broken jewelry that were considered past repairing. In steampunk jewelry I found a medium in which I could repurpose these pieces along with other found treasures. I have over the years developed my own style of one-of-a-kind pieces that merge steampunk, fantasy, and gothic elements. I especially love the Victorian gothic elements that evoke the Penny Dreadfuls of the era and the ornate quality so inherent to the Victorian era.

4. How long does it typically take to create a piece?

I generally work on several pieces at once. I generally begin by opening my storage containers of all my lovely objects, bits, and ephemera and plucking out those that catch my eye. I basically make a mess on my dining room table and then play with various ideas. Over the course of a day or two I usually will create anywhere from four to twelve pieces. Generally I shuffle things around the first day, sleep on it, wake up with new ideas and revisions, make changes, and do the final assembly the following day. There have been a few pieces that took several days by themselves because of time needed to complete the assembly process (at times a bit more complex than others).

5. Out of all the steampunk pieces you've created, which one is your favorite?

My current favorite is a multiple chain with a pendant of embossed, patinaed Eastlake style brass that is topped with a lovely little Frozen Charlotte head crowned with a tiny brass and rhinestone crown. Suspended from the bottom is a tiny throne embellished with rhinestones. My past favorite was constructed of an arc cut out of part of a vintage clock face patinaed in verdigris and sandalwood, topped with brass bat wings, an ivory and black cameo of conjoined twins’ skeletons set in ornate brass, and embellished with vintage clock hands fanning out from the bottom. Another past favorite I just have to include because it was one of the hardest to part with was a lovely little Wizard of OZ cuff done in a steampunk style.

6. Who's your favorite steampunk artist?
I love the intricate leather armor and corsetry of Brute Force Studios because that is something I cannot make for myself and also the lovely hats from Blonde Swan (again something I can’t do for myself). In music I am a true fan of Abney Park, although Steam Powered Giraffe is quite good as well.

7. Are you working on anything exciting right now?

I recently ventured into doing some multi-media pieces using stencils with texture paste, die cuts, alcohol inks, and lots of great embellishments on trinket boxes and journals. I also began doing embellished picture frames just because I love to repurpose things and give them a new life. I am also working on some ideas for some more ornate and formal Victorian body jewelry and I recently added Steampunk and Fantasy earrings for gauged ears.

You can discover the rest of Barbara Pearson's work at The Tinker's Daughter Etsy site.

Who's your favorite steampunk artist? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!

Friday, January 16, 2015

TDC Book Five: The Caelimane Operation Release & Giveaway

The fifth TDC book is out!

Southwatch is a steampunk city divided: the rich live in the luxurious airships of the Aerie, while the poor eke out an existence in the pollution-choked streets below. From one extreme to another, idealistic professors, devious aristocrats, mechanicals and fae all struggle for the future of the city they all share -- or just try to survive.

The Caelimane Operation by Chris Pavesic is the latest story in The Darkside Codex, a series of stand alone stories which take place in Southwatch. Released January today, this is one story you won't be able to stop reading.

About The Caelimane Operation:

When the Temples to the Goddess north of Southwatch are burned and followers of Dione are murdered, Hierocrat Catherine, a bard of the Caelimane Temple, sets out to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. With only the help of a traveling group of minstrels and a retired fae investigator, Catherine must solve the mystery before more people are killed, but will she succeed when she finds herself pitted against members of her own Temple, rogue members of the Seelie Court, and a seemingly unstoppable army of undead?

And here is how the story begins:

Prologue: Jackson

“We should turn north, sir,” Corporal Ben Jackson urged as the shadows started to lengthen. “If we hurry, we can be inside the capital city borders by nightfall.”

He glanced up at the surrounding trees, tall oaks for the most part, with a birch or an ash here and there. To the west, where the sky glowed with the departing sun, the branches and leaves were outlined in yellow light like the converse of the unifying dark lead network of stained glass. To someone like Jackson, more accustomed to patrolling fields swept clean from the Dark Cloud devastation that still surrounded the towering city of Southwatch, the sight of so much living vegetation was unnerving.

“Are you afraid of the dark, Corporal?” Lieutenant Reginald Daniels asked with the hint of a smirk.

Jackson did not respond directly to the question. He was experienced enough in the Army to know that no good came from answering an inquiry of this sort. Newly appointed officers like Daniels loved testing their men with these types of abstractions, and Jackson did not want to spend the foreseeable future on night patrol outside the borders of the city when they returned to Southwatch from their current mission.

“Just concerned about the mounts lasting, sir,” Jackson lied. “We’ve been riding hard since we left the garrison, and it’s been a while since I’ve wound the clockwork.” He patted the side of his horse’s neck almost as an afterthought to lend credence to his reply. The mechanical tossed its head in close approximation of a real horse. It neighed, the gentle sound echoing a bit too loudly back from the trees. Somewhere, an animal crashed off though the underbrush, startled by the noise.

“There is no need to be concerned, Corporal. Thalaker’s Mounts are the original all-terrain vehicles.” Daniels smiled at his own humor. He sat a bit straighter in the saddle and brushed a bit of dust from his left sleeve.

Although following the same general pattern, the material in Daniels’s uniform was of higher quality than Jackson’s own—a creation from a tailor that serviced the families in the Aerie. It wouldn’t do to have an aristocrat wearing something that was standard issue, after all. Jackson favored his superior’s outfit with a bitter glance. The cloth and tooled leather were probably worth more than his annual salary.

“And we’ve barely put the mounts to the test,” Daniels continued. “I’m sure the clockwork will hold until tonight.”
“The test, sir?” Jackson asked. He didn’t like the sound of his superior officer’s comment.

“Need to Know, Corporal, but I can guarantee you won’t see the inside of St. Louis tonight. We have other duties.” He spurred his horse down the path. “Quickly, now, before the light deserts us completely.”

Jackson glared at his superior officer’s back, suppressed anger in his eyes. He didn’t believe the “Need to Know” explanation one bit; the commander of the Southwatch Army unit, Lt. Colonel Randall Fitzgerald, wasn’t the sort to send out men on a mission with so little information, or even normally to send them this far outside the borders of Southwatch. Fitzgerald might be a bit lax when it came to some things, but he was not one to put his soldiers’ lives at risk unnecessarily. And this was beginning to feel dangerous. He suspected Daniels was making some sort of a power play and dragging him along for the ride.

This was typical behavior of aristocrats who joined the military, and Daniels came from a family that lived in the Aerie, albeit in one of the lower airships without the best view of the sky. Still, it was a lot higher in the city than a low rank solider like Jackson could ever hope to attain. He doubted if he and his family would ever live above the Dark Cloud, the toxic stew of chemicals, pollution, and dust bisecting the city. But there was nothing to be done for it. The order had been given, and honor bound him to obey.

Ten minutes more of hard riding found them approaching a small, overgrown side road, now no more than ancient double ruts cut into the ground. Daniels swung them onto it, slowing their pace to accommodate the new terrain. The road carried them up and across a rising series of fields like steps. There were many deep breaks of evergreens on the rising slopes at either hand. They finally topped a long ridge where the path split; to the east, the road descended into a dark wood, finding its way among trees that were centuries old. To the west, the fields had been cleared and gradually sloped even higher. A building stood on the apex. The upper reaches still held the sunset and glowed with a delicate cool pink.

Daniels dismounted. He checked the position of the sun. “Just enough light left, I think, for a quick reconnaissance. We will continue on by foot from here, Corporal,” he said. “You take point. We are heading for the Temple of Dione at the top of the hill.”

The ground was damp and muddy, pulling at their boots when they lifted their feet to take a step. There was no sound except the chirping of small insects in the grass. The old cobblestones from the path were scattered, making footing even more hazardous, and Jackson threaded his way through. He could just make out the outline of a burned wall and spire, all that was left of the Temple.

Jackson felt a momentary sadness seeing the Temple in ruins. Like many others in Southwatch, he was a follower of Dione and a member of the Caelimane Temple. He may have been a bit careless of late in attending services, but that was more about his distrust of the clergy rather than his faith in the Goddess. He still believed in Dione; he believed in her light as a shining salvation. To see one of her Temples reduced to this burned state didn’t fit into his concept of divinity.

He considered what it must look like inside—the stone altar scorched, the pews overturned, broken, and blackened—and he wondered if anyone had been inside when it burned. Had this happened during the night when the Temple was deserted or during a full service? Had the people been able to evacuate in time, or had they been trapped inside?

“Do you know what happened here, sir?” he couldn’t help asking.

Daniels paused a moment, staring off into the distance, his face reflective. “This is what we need to determine, Corporal.”

Jackson scanned the area as they approached the ruins. The shadows of the evening were beginning to stretch outward and obscure the small details of the landscape. The ground here was dry and level. The smell of the fire, a mix of charred oak and a sickly sweet odor he couldn’t identify, still lingered in the air. Even their footsteps seemed to fall like stones dropped into water, muffled and dying away in ripples. Then the wind picked up, flattening the grass in the courtyard. A few of the ornamental trees in the yard of the Temple creaked and groaned in chorus, the movement of the leaves and branches making shadows jump and dance across the ground.

A thin trail of blackened grass started about ten yards away from the building and led toward it in a straight line. Daniels knelt next to it and scooped up a handful of earth and ashes. He examined them, lifted them to his face to smell, and then sifted the ashes and dirt through his fingers as the wind bore it away in a puff of dust. “Definitely some sort of an accelerant was used here. Probably splashed over the building and then the arsonist used this as a safety zone to start the blaze.”

“Were there people inside, sir? When it burned?” Jackson didn’t know why he asked; he didn’t think Daniels would even know, and indeed his commanding officer appeared to be ignoring the question. It was just a desire for comfort, perhaps, so he wouldn’t have to envision the worshipers caught in the flames, crying and shrieking to the Goddess for mercy. He shook his head, as if to clear it of the images, and found he was sweating.

You have to stop being so spooked, Jackson told himself. It’s only an empty shell of a building. Even if people died in there…you have to go up there and investigate. That’s all. Don’t give Daniels a reason to write you up when you get back. Don’t give him the satisfaction.

A huge white owl circled above the crumbling Temple spire, unhurried, powerful, and silent.

Daniels dusted off his hand against the leg of his trouser. “Take a look around the perimeter.”

They had almost crossed the courtyard when the wind shifted, blowing in from the dark forest. The stench was horrific. Jackson covered his mouth, and Daniels was struggling not to gag. It was the fetid reek of carrion.

“Respirator!” Daniels barked, pulling on his own. Jackson fumbled with his protective breathing apparatus, managing to snap it into place after a few frantic seconds. He took a deep breath, grateful for the clear air that flowed into his lungs.

A shadow arose from the dark of the wood. It came at them with startling speed, almost seeming to sprint up the hill. As it drew closer, the last gleams of light fell upon its maggoty-white, glistening skin. Black, gelatinous fluids seeped from pustules that covered its face and arms. It bared its teeth and spat specks of ichor with a burbling growl.

It was the shambling wreck of a human being. It was one of many.
They emerged from the shadow of the forest and charged up the hill en masse, ten…fifteen…twenty… Jackson stopped counting and drew his weapon a scant moment after Daniels barked a command to attack. They fired their pistols into the advancing horde with no effect.

“Rapiers!” Daniels yelled, throwing his pistol to the ground and drawing his secondary weapon. He activated the electrical field, and sparks flew. Jackson followed suit.

They fought with their backs to each other. Their electro-rapiers flashed in the dim light. Fluids gushed from the undead creatures, the flesh taking on a creamy consistency and turning black where their blades sliced and burned. Pieces of the creatures fell in all directions. Limbs were everywhere, crawling on the ground, unattached fingers squirming. Howling with harsh tones, thrashing in agony, the undead fell at their feet, the bodies still flaying with wild movements.

Daniels fell to his knees, shrieking and covered in blood, overwhelmed by the sheer number of bodies charging him. Cold, fish-white hands rent his limbs. Some were more decomposed than others, bones visible in places as they staggered forward, mouths gaping. The eyes were as dark as the pavement on the lower streets of Southwatch; there was no human thought or feeling in them.

Jackson was panting from the effort, now. His respirator could barely keep up with the increased breaths. He took one hit, then another. He felt the sting of torn flesh as the undead carved away chunks of his body. He cried out in pain. The sharp white teeth, behind the full lips of blood dripping mouths, clamped together like those of wild beasts. A flash of anger filled him that his body would be taken in bits and pieces by these things to feed them—it was not acceptable. That his living flesh was no more than so much meat to be torn and slashed by their ravenous maws spurred him into a frenzy of unthinking attack. He thrust his rapier forward, overbalanced, and fell to the ground screaming as a dozen maggoty-white bodies swarmed over his fallen frame.

The men’s cries of agony silenced. Soon, only the wet sounds of flesh being torn and dragged could be heard

Purchase your copy of The Caelimane Operation today & enter the contest below for a chance to win some of the other TDC books!


 a Rafflecopter giveaway Find Chris Pavesic and the other Darkside Codex at the following locations throughout January: The Dabbler on Thursdays For Whom The Books Toll on a Musa Monday The Girl and the Clockwork Cat at regular intervals Sloane Taylor's Blog Cartesian Theatre and, last but not least, The Darkside Codex Blog all year round You'll find more chances to win great books at all of these locations!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Meet Eric James Spannerman, Author of TDC #4: Applied Natural Magic

1. What aspects of Southwatch are you exploring in TDC 4: Applied Natural Magic?

I’m interested in how the city works. My main character, Charles Woodridge, starts out with conventional ideas about his world and how to succeed in it. The reality he encounters turns out to be far removed from what he expected. The story deals with what he does about that.

2. What about the Darkside Codex world made you want to write Applied Natural Magic? 

I was intrigued by a place where the contrast between rich and poor is as stark as it is in Southwatch. I was also interested in the “mashup” aspects of a world where robots exist side-by-side with fae, and science and magic are both taken for granted as normal parts of reality.

3. Is it easier or harder to write in a shared world?

On the whole, I find a shared world easier to write in. By making certain aspects of the world “fixed,” the shared world gives me a solid jumping-off point for the story I do want to tell. I also enjoy interacting with the other authors and talking about the world – especially the parts that are still under construction.

4. Who's your favorite character? And why?

Like most of my readers, my favorite character is Charles’ lab assistant, Mira Trevarias. I admire her resourcefulness, her utterly realistic view of the world, and her never-say-die determination. Especially when they’re contrasted with her pain and loneliness. She’s a complicated stew, and that’s what makes her interesting.

5. What is your background as a writer?

I was originally trained as a journalist, and I’ve written professionally for most of my working life. I was a Public Affairs Officer in the US Air Force, and a technical writer for several companies after that. My foray into fiction is only a few years old, and Applied Natural Magic is my first book.

6. How do we find you online?

Right now, the best place is my Facebook page, Eric Spannerman. Sometime in January, I plan to start a blog.

7. Are you a Darksider or a Sunsider?

I’ve got a complicated relationship with both. On one hand, I admire the Sunside ideals of refinement, civilization, and gracious living. On the other, the implicit and overt violence used to maintain power is hard to stomach. And while I revel in the freedom afforded by the Darkside, there’s also no question the place terrifies me at times.

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