Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So... slightly tipsy....

Which means I'm going to leave the offer of the free book up until dear sober husband is awake and can gently remove it from the internet.

In the meantime, I thought it might be relevant to folks to read something I wrote about why I wrote it in the first place.

(Please Note: I am borrowing this particular concept and phrase from John Scalzi and his website:

"The Big Idea" behind Suncatcher: Seven Days in the Sky 

I wrote this story because someone else didn’t.
I read an interview with an author who claimed her story was a feminist steampunk adventure. The idea was thrilling to me, and I bought it without any further research. Friends, let me tell you, I was sorely disappointed. It was not the novel I was looking for, but I could not move along.
Frankly, I am not good at letting go, and I admit it. But there was more to my disappointment than bad mental habits or regret at the money I had “wasted” on a self-published work of badly copy-edited second wave feminism. I hadn’t realized just how much I wanted to read a feminist steampunk adventure alive to the nuances of race and class within Victoriana until it wasn’t there. Woe was me! Alas and alack!
I complained so bitterly to my friends about it—the friends who are on my Facebook page, anyway—that one of them suggested I write a feminist steampunk adventure, then.
Well, the night before I had just pounded out my entry in the Scalzi-Wheaton Scary Scary Painting contest—the first time I had written much more than Facebook posts since my first manuscript got rejected by the post office. (No, really. It came back after its last publisher rejection looking like a forklift had used it for target practice. The blood red “Always use a zip code!” stamp across the body of text just added to the horror effect. I cried. I hate horror movies.)
Anyway, that particular evening I was feeling feisty. Those long disused writer muscles (did I mention I have two very young, exciting children?) were begging for another go… so I wrote a scene. Feminist, eh? Well, two smart, funny women. Talking… to each other, about something besides a guy. Steampunk… well, what’s more steampunk than airships?
Two women talking on an airship. A friend who is a really beautiful writer about normal things once mentioned that you should start a story with a need. One woman... needed... the other. Because… pirates! Airship pirates are steampunk, right?
So in about two hours I tapped out a thousand word scene: two capable women (sisters, it turned out, because sisters need each other) on an airship talking about the economic impracticality of sky pirates, their approximate distance to the relative safety of the walled city of Miami, and a colorful imperative involving a cucumber.
Feeling tired but triumphant, I posted it to my Facebook page. Almost immediately, I had a dozen comments that boiled down to “That was great! But then what happened?”
I had no idea. But I wanted to find out, too. (Because really, there was no simple explanation for why three pirate ships would want to attack a solar collecting airship. It’s not like they had a footlocker full of gold doubloons on board. Gold is too heavy to store in the sky…the fools!)
Now, to give you an idea of my personal headspace, this was around day 47 of the Gulf Oil Spill, a year after the Swine Flu epidemic (we live in Queens, one neighborhood away from a school that got closed) and my family had narrowly missed being victims of the housing bubble—but only because I had spent two and a half years reading doomer blogs and scaring myself witless. I am a firm believer in facing one’s fears, but how do you face a fear of the terrible, unknowable future when you are held hostage to it by two small, sweet little boys who will have to live in it?
You make art, of course!
If these two sisters were going to have any more scenes, they needed to live in a world. Because I am terrible at alternate history—I have trouble unknowing what I know—I needed a future. And personally, to combat my own sleepless nights, I needed a future to believe in that had the chance for better, even if it wasn't easier. So I made one.
I imagined that the things I feared most had happened in and to America, and then let my characters—an almost middle aged Pakistani-American professor and her loved ones—free in it.
While they use goggles (to tap into the aethernet, a virtual  reality) and ride in airships (solar powered), a lot of the Victorian/steampunk element in this story is window dressing. And yet, when you get past the rich velvet and shining brass, what I find most appealing in steampunk is the sense of DIY hope.
I tried to write a feminist steampunk adventure, but I ended up writing… well, a story about Admiral Parentheses (Pari) and Dr Radicand Jones in a future that is post peak oil, post plague and post environmental catastrophe. But it is not, ultimately, a future post hope.
(Also: it has ninjas, ancient Sufi poetry, paramilitary pentecostalists, and a clever monkey named Joshua in it. But I had you at ninjas, right?)

1 comment:

  1. Argh, sober husband didn't have time. Our scatteredness is your gain: free book still available until he takes it down/I feel motivated to figure out how to take it down. (At the moment, not feeling that motivated.)