Friday, April 29, 2011

A More Concise Definition of Steampunk

Yesterday I attempted to concisely define what Steampunk was in my post Steampunk Goodness. My friend Katie (who designed my jewelry in said post) said it was a very excellent definition, but that she knew of an even more concise one. She sent it to me. I agreed.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Steampunk Goodness



While more and more the word is making its way into popular vernacular, I realise that not everyone automatically knows what the heck it means. For example, when I say my debut YA The Friday Society (Dial, 2012), is a Steampunk Charlie's Angels without the Charlie. . . I imagine there are people out there going, "Charlie's Angels without the Charlie, sounds neat . . . but, uh, what the heck is Steampunk?"

Now, I might do a longer "history of" or "long winded definition of" later, but right now, since I have other stuff to talk about, I thought I'd do a very short definition here.

Steampunk is: contemporary science fiction set in a Victorian/Edwardian world.

Kind of like Jules Verne or H.G. Wells - except that Steampunk is a modern style. Modern authors writing as if they were back in the olden days. Verne and Wells were writing science fiction back in that period itself. So. Movies: think WILD WILD WEST, or THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, or, to a certain extent, the most recent SHERLOCK HOLMES. Books: LEVIATHAN (Scott Westerfeld), THE HUNCHBACK ASSIGNMENTS (Arthur Slade), and SOULLESS (Gail Carriger). Basically ask yourself, "If I was living in Victorian times, and I was capable of creating, say, a machine that could fly to the moon, what tools from that period would I use to get there?" So . . . steam, for one thing, clockwork pieces, winches and wires and pulleys oh my!

Here's an amusing Steampunk image (if anyone knows the name of artist, please let me know):

See - a carriage powered by steam and clockwork pieces, with Victorian gentlemen hunting a tiny rabbit with science fiction like weaponry.

There is more to the genre than just the science fiction, though it is the core of it. There's a lot about reflecting current society, discussing class structure . . . and of course . . . there are the pretty pretty costumes.

Because Steampunk has evolved from not just a literary movement but into also an aesthetic movement.

Which brings me to my first thing:

I'm doing a Steampunk con this weekend, the Canadian National Steampunk Exhibition, and to augment my costumes (pictures to be posted post con) I decided I wanted some gorgeous jewelry to go with them.

I got into writing Steampunk just in the last couple years. A very good friend of mine, Katie, who I grew up with, went to arts schools with (she was a dance major, I was a drama major) was in New Zealand for a few years and coincidental also got into Steampunk . . . into making Steampunk jewelry that is.

When she came back we were amazed to discover our parallel attraction to Steampunk. And we agreed to an exchange. I'd give her a copy of TIMOTHY, and she'd make me a necklace (I, uh, loved two of them so much that I just bought the second one :) ).

Here's me wearing them - so you get a sense of their proportions - along with some closeups of them. Aren't they amazing??? (one of them is reversible!)

If you do indeed think they are amazing, here's her etsy page. Here's her email as well: tempusluna AT Please check her out.


On the second Steampunk note, as I already said, I'll be at the Canadian National Steampunk Exhibition this weekend. I'll be attending just as any other fan on Friday night, watching performances and checking out the artists' stalls. But Saturday is when I'm doing panels and such. If you do plan on coming, please come up and say hi. I'm a nice person, and "hi" is just such a lovely word.

Here's my schedule:

Saturday April 30, 2011
Toronto, Canada

12 Noon: Roundtable Guest Autograph Session, Melville

Step right up! Step right up! Get your memorabilia 10-in-1 experience right here! Yes ladies and gentlemen, you will see the finest talent the CNSE has to offer, in one place, at one time, and ready to sign autographs! Merchandise will also be available for sale.

Participants: Professor Elemental, Maureen Jennings, Adrienne Kress, and more!

3pm: Steampunk Young Adult Fiction with Adrienne Kress

The author of Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate, Alex and the Ironic Gentleman, and a contributor to Corsets and Clockwork, will share her thoughts on writing steampunk for younger readers. Plus, she will preview her upcoming new steampunk series, The Friday Society. Moderated by: Liana K

4pm: How I got into Steampunk, Beaufort West

By accident or by design? Hear how established pros in costuming and literature found their way into the theme of steam.

Panelists: Alexandra Gerlach, Adrienne Kress, J. M. Frey, Kenneth Shelley

6pm: Steampunk Literature, Beaufort West

What's good, what's not; what's required reading and what are some hidden gems you may have missed. Our panel of experts shares its reading lists from the varied perspectives of an academic, a reviewer, and a writer in the genre!

Panelists: Mike Perschon, Nancy Overbury, Adrienne Kress

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ad Astra report (and pics) - 2011 edition

Yes . . . it's that time of year again . . .

Time for our annual Ad Astra report! (echo echo echo)

For those of you who don't know, Ad Astra is a nice intimate SF/Fantasy con here in Toronto, with a very literary bent. This year was their 30th anniversary and the list of Guests of Honour included:

• Ben Bova • Kathryn Cramer • Julie Czerneda • Ellen Datlow • Dave Duncan • Scott Edelman • Eric Flint • Ed Greenwood • David G. Hartwell • Tanya Huff • Don Hutchison • Stephen Jones • Guy Gavriel Kay •Todd McCaffrey • Shawna McCarthy • Tamora Pierce • Howard Tayler • √Člisabeth Vonarburg • Peter Watts

But, of course, I was also there, and truly I am such a huge draw that they don't even have to mention me on the front page of the website for people to know I'll be there and that is why they come to the con.


That's the reason.


So . . . let us begin!

I arrived very close to 11am which coincided with my first panel, one I'm on every year and which never gets tedious: Young Adult Writing. Of course it helps to share a panel with the amazing Tamora Pierce (who aside from being a brilliant writer is a brilliant panelist - she says the best one-liners ever), and getting to meet the delightful Sarah Zettel and of course hang out with the usual suspects: Lesley Livingston and Rob St. Martin.

I wound up moderating the panel, though I hadn't been meant to, and we discussed what made a successful YA story (in conclusion, the same thing that makes a successful story period) and why did we choose to write YA (in conclusion, because the story we wanted to tell happened to be YA).

Quickly I then moved on to discussing the nominations for the Constellation Awards (Canadian SF/Fantasy awards given out at the Polaris Convention), and then got to have a quick break for lunch, where I hung out with the posse: Lesley, Guy Gavriel Kay, Caitlin Sweet, Steve Perry, Nadine Bell, Russel Winkelaar, and Martin Springett (who later signed two absolutely gorgeous prints of his for me, which I can't wait to frame and put on my wall).

Then Lesley and I flew off to discuss book trailers on a panel and then it was time to jet off to the mass signing, where I had the distinct pleasure of signing an Aero Chocolate Bar wrapper for someone's daughter - the father explained that he was sad he hadn't brought the daughter's copy of ALEX along and that's when Lesley suggested I sign the wrapper. Also he mentioned that ALEX had surpassed Neil Gaiman's CORALINE as her favourite book. Which means I only need around 30 million or so other readers to do the same in order to finally topple the king. So doable.

After that, it was dinner time already. And then Lesley, Caitlin and I did a joint reading which was wonderfully well attended and in general rather hilarious. We were all feeling a wee bit silly (panelists and audience alike). I read a bit from my short story THE CLOCKWORK CORSET in the CORSETS & CLOCKWORK anthology, which I think went really well. It's a lot of fun reading something in the first person and in my most charming British accent (RP, for those of you curious which one).

Then it was off to J.M. Frey's launch of her debut novel TRIPTYCH which was packed to the rafters. She had these awesome cookies shaped like 1950s style UFOs and a great UFO cake. And the amazing Liana K had crafted these fabulous blue alien ears and I was quick to nab a pair for myself. J.M. did a lovely reading and then we got our books signed. It's amazing watching someone launch their first book, the emotions are pretty strong and you know you are in the process of witnessing someone's dream come true. Needless to say, I got a little verklempt.

Back to the bar after, and then, back home.

I returned on Sunday to sit on two panels, Why Professionalism Matters and Getting Your First Novel Published. They were both well attended, especially the latter. I've noticed that the publishing panels are always packed and I think it might bode the conference to consider doing a day of writing/publishing workshops. I think people would just love that.

But I digress.

After that it was lunch with Steve Perry, Caitlin Sweet and Peter Watts. All just such lovely people.

Then home.

Then I went to see JANE EYRE with my friend Heather that evening (quite good, actually).

NOW . . . picture time:

Me and Lesley posing with the ARC for CORSETS & CLOCKWORK (we're both in it)

Guy Gavriel Kay signing a fabulously worn copy of one of his books.

Caitlin Sweet, Me and Lesley at our reading. We move around a lot and make funny expressions while talking, so it was tough to get a shot of us all still. Needless to say this is the best and most flattering of the lot . . . yes, THIS is the most flattering shot of the three of us.
Le sigh.

Kenneth Shelley and Ashley Regimbal-Kung all Steampunk-ed.

One of the stone angels from Dr. Who.

At the TRIPTYCH book launch:

The amazing UFO cake made by the amazing team at The Sweet Escape.

Ed Greenwood in the alien ears.

Me posing "angelically" in the ears.

Lesley posing "devilishly" in the ears.

Me and J.M. Frey with her book.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Finishing A Book . . .

. . . writing one that is.

Sunday night I put the finishing touches on the first version of THE FRIDAY SOCIETY and sent it off to my editor at Dial.


And it occurred to me, we all have our different responses to that moment. That metaphorical typing of "The End" at the finish of a manuscript.

Some writers feel a sense of loss, a kind of postpartum depression, which I can relate to as that's how I feel after a show I'm in comes down. Some feel the need the jump into the next thing, whether it's an anxious feeling of "what now??" or an elated feeling of "ooh, and now . . .!".

Well, for me . . . I feel . . . awesome.

I often compare my writing process to another activity I undertake frequently: exercise. I know I need to do it. But in the moment before, I want to do anything but. I finally convince myself to do it, and as I'm doing it I usually feel a lot of pain. Once in a while though, I feel great, really strong, really sure of what I'm doing. Most of the time . . .pain, hard work, struggle, a sense of "I'm never going to make it." Then, when it's over, I feel so proud of what I've done. I feel physically fantastic and mentally I feel a great sense that what I did was exactly the best thing I could have done for me. Also I feel exhausted.

So when I finish writing a book, the first thing I feel is a massive weight off my shoulders. I feel light, I feel elated. Okay, let's be honest, I feel a little giddy. I also tend to sleep really well that night. I relish the time I now have to do other things in my life. I finally picked up a book for the first time in ages (my relationship with fiction changes drastically in the final moments of writing a book and I can't read a word of it . . .for many complicated and ridiculous reasons). Sometimes I panic - "Adrienne! You can't just sit here! You have a novel to write!" And then with a fabulous relaxation I remember, "Actually, no, no I don't."

My life is filled with projects, so the lack of writing a novel doesn't leave an empty spot for me. Instead I feel incredibly proud of myself. And stunned too.

Many of you who follow this blog know the story of how I became a writer, and how it wasn't exactly the expected path for my life. So the fact that I have now completed 5 novels, blows my mind. So yes. I feel proud.

And of course a little scared, as I am nervous what my editor is going to say (just because I finished writing a book, doesn't mean the book is any good - and when you're so closely tied to something, it gets really hard to be objective about it after a while), and I anticipate the hard work when the edits come back . . .

But right now, I just feel awesome.

Now that I've shared :) I was hoping others of you would too. We are all individuals and how we write and how we feel differs widely. So, how do you feel when you complete a writing task (doesn't have to be finishing a book)? I'd like to know.