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.

Purchase your copy of Applied Natural Magic today and enter the contest below to potentially win some of the other TDC books!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Steampunk Musings: The True Appeal of Steampunk

Steampunk Desktop by Jake Von Slatt
Last week I spent quite a bit of time researching the steampunk aesthetic while hunting for interesting artists to feature here on the TDC blog. I found some amazing artwork and a lot of beautiful jewelry, but the pieces that stood out to me--the pieces that originally drew me to steampunk--are the ones that happen to serve a purpose other than looking good.

The piece that drew me into the world of steampunk

The first steampunk piece I ever saw was a steampunk keyboard much like the one shown above. As a writer, I've always been drawn to "old school" methods of writing. The idea of writing with quill and ink lends a romantic quality to writing lost when you're on a computer, and the mechanical clicking of a typewriter is almost meditative when you're on a roll.

On my journeys through the internet I've found many different steampunk keyboards, each with their own unique twist. Some models simply replace their modern keyboard keys with typewriter keys and leave it at that. Others replace the entire keyboard frame with a brass one. These brass frames are often engraved and can be quite expensive.

The true appeal of steampunk

Steampunk as a genre is all about what the Victorian era would look like with all kinds of crazy steam powered gadgets. As an aesthetic, steampunk is all about creating functional technology using materials readily available during the Victorian era.

At first, I wasn't drawn to steampunk by the great stories. I was drawn in by the potential for functional art, the many different pieces of technology that can be modified to fit the steampunk aesthetic. The more I explore, the more I'm amazed by the creativity of steampunk artists.

But steampunk isn't just about the art. There's an incredibly friendly culture built around it, along with many great novels and a massive amount of short fiction. Oh, and if you pay attention you'll notice a steampunk influence in many different movies and even some video games.

The truly amazing thing about steampunk is the endless possibilities. There are dozens of steampunk communities with different activity levels both online and offline. Steampunk events are held all over the world every year--there's actually a free steampunk street fair held every summer in my city, along with several steampunk groups hosting their own events.

Between the wealth of steampunk fiction, the number of steampunk events and the many different online steampunk groups, you have almost endless opportunities to make friends, discover amazing artists and authors, and even make interesting things yourself.

How deep into the steampunk world would you like to travel? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Meet Chris Pavesic, Author of TDC 5: The Caelimane Operation

1. What about the Darkside Codex world made you want to write The Caelimane Operation?

I was interested in the world because of its steampunk foundation.  After I read through the Darkside Codex, I was drawn to the following passage:

“The Caelimane's journey through history transformed a simple nature goddess into the preeminent deity of the kingdom—much to the disgust of the Seelie Court. . . Unlike the humans of Southwatch, the Seelie do not worship in golden temples. Instead, they worship Dione in the old, traditional fashion, using altars of rough stone slabs where they sing hymns to the goddess in gratitude for her life-giving warmth.”

This idea of cultural and religious appropriation seemed full of possibilities.

2. What aspects of Southwatch are you exploring in The Caelimane Operation?

One of my main characters, Catherine, is a member of the Caelimane Temple.  Through her, readers learn about the Temple bards who are sent out at regular intervals to spy on the populace.  There is a complicated system in Southwatch that includes a type of interdependence between the organizations that run the city.  A certain amount of corruption is inherent in the system as people maneuver for advancement within their respective organizations.  Yet balance must be maintained for the system to remain in place.  Thus the network of spies fulfills a vital role in trying to maintain the status quo.

Catherine’s investigations into multiple attacks on rural Caelimane Temples take her outside of the city, so readers will also learn more about the countryside surrounding Southwatch.  I introduced the idea of Travelers, who are groups that journey from town-to-town putting on performances for a living.  As a bard, traveling with one of these groups provides a perfect cover for Catherine.

In the novel, I also explore some of religious and cultural differences between the human denizens of Southwatch and the fae.  One of my main characters, Devyn Du Chein, is a retired investigator for the Seelie Court.  He is recruited by The Caelimanes to help probe the attacks on the rural Temples.  During his investigation, he attends a New Sunrise Celebration hosted by members of the Seelie Court who are trying to blend in with the aristocracy in Southwatch. 

A New Sunrise Celebration, while not religious, contains a tribute to the goddess.  Many of the fae celebrations contain aspects that honor Dione.  New Sunrise is celebrated during the last two weeks of the Twelfth month when the spring flowers bloom in all of their glory; its intent is to bring together extended families and friends.

Much like the humans have appropriated the worship of Dione and changed it to suit their own needs, they have started celebrating New Sunrise.  Their gatherings, however, have little to do with the fae and their ways.  The human aristocrats of Southwatch simply add enough “fae touches” to their parties to make them seem exotic. 

Finally, readers will have a chance to see how the undead impact a steampunk world.  Are they the result of dark fae sorcery, or something much worse? Readers will have to delve into the novel to find the answer.

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

It is much harder to write in a shared world, but I enjoy the challenge.  When I come up with what I believe to be a “good idea” for my story, I have to consider whether or not it fits into the shared world.  When working on The Caelimane Operation, I would spend hours pouring over the Darkside Codex to see if what I wanted to do would contradict something else established by another author.  I think I almost had the bible memorized by the time I finished my first draft.  Of course, every novel published adds to the world of the Darkside Codex, so it is a never-ending cycle of new ideas and creativity.

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

Without a doubt my favorite in the novel is Devyn Du Chein.  When I started writing, he was not going to be a main character.  By the time I reached the end of the chapter where he was introduced, I had to go back and re-write it from his point of view.  He was the most interesting character in the room.  I hope my readers feel the same.

5. What is your background as a writer?

I have been writing for years and publishing short stories and poems in non-professional and regional publications.  Last year I decided to pursue writing as a profession.  My first professional sale was to Penumbra eMagazine, where my story, “Going Home,” was the featured story.  The issue was a tribute to H.G. Wells, one of the authors who has influenced the steampunk genre.

6.  How do we find you online?

I occasionally blog at and Tweet @chrispavesic
You can also find me on Facebook at

Don't forget to enter this great giveaway:

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!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

For The Love of Steampunk

When I was offered a chance to work on The Darkside Codex, I only had to hear two words to jump for joy: steampunk series.

I didn't know a lot about steampunk at the time, but I knew three things: I absolutely love the steampunk aesthetic, steampunk fans tend to be fantastic people, and I'm eager to further explore both steampunk fiction and the subculture that have grown up around it.

What exactly is steampunk?

I could just say "steampunk is a genre of speculative fiction which has inspired a massive DIY movement", but that doesn't really tell you what steampunk is, so here's the definition:

1. A subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam power of the 19th century and taking place in a recognizable historical period or a fantasy world.

2. A subculture inspired by this literary and film subgenre.

Since science fiction author K.W. Jeter coined the term steampunk in the 1970's, steampunk has grown from a small subgenre of fiction into an entire culture. The Victorian era is already one of the most fascinating time periods in history—especially aesthetically—and throwing technology into the mix only makes it more interesting.

Today there are dozens of steampunk artists, hundreds of articles about DIY steampunk crafts, and many more steampunk novels and short stories. You can even find steampunk conventions in various cities.

Have you only recently started exploring the world of steampunk?

If so, I have great news: I'm just getting started on this journey too, and I plan to share each and every step with you. In fact, every Tuesday for the rest of the year I'll be sharing awesome steampunk discoveries, focusing primarily on beautiful artwork and awesome crafts—since fabulous fiction is already all over this website.

To keep up to date with all the awesome steampunk gear I find, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter by typing your email address in the box right underneath the cover of The Caelimane Operation.

And if you already know some awesome steampunk artisans, let me know in the comments below! I'm always happy to take suggestions.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Celebrate The New Year with Awesome Steampunk

Things have been quiet here on The Darkside Codex blog for a while, but that isn't because we've been sitting on our laurels doing nothing. Many different things have been going on behind the scenes. We've been busy preparing for the release of The Caelimane Operation by Chris Pavesic, the next installment of The Darkside Codex series, organizing a multi-author blog tour and giveaway. We've also been working hard to plan a spectacular year here on The Darkside Codex blog, a mix of steampunk primer, interviews with amazing authors and interesting characters, and fantastic videos showcasing The Darkside Codex stories. We'll be announcing all of the upcoming TDC events in more detail soon, but for now you can start the year off right with this book trailer for Daniel Ausema's The Electro-Addictive Moth Flame and the giveaway below: a Rafflecopter giveaway