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Monday, March 8, 2010

Blatant Author's Plug: Erotic Steampunk Novel


Okay, it's not a new book deal or anything impressive like that, but I did just have a submission accepted and published for "SteamyPunk.net", a site dedicated to erotic steampunk.

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that relies on the trappings of the Victorian Age for background and style, using clockworks, steam power, and other 19th century technology in place of our nifty and infallible computers. "Wild, Wild West", the original 1960s tv show, was an early example, as was the hideously bad recent movie of the same name. Other examples in popular culture include "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", "The Golden Compass", "Starlight", and the Disney flick "Atlantis". Among SF literature, arguably the first modern steampunk novel would be William Gibson's "The Difference Engine", although there are elements of the fanciful genre in his later "Diamond Age: A Young Lady's Primer".

Think airships, HG Wells, Jules Verne, lots of polished brass, leather, corsets, clockworks, trains, that sort of thing, and you've got the idea. Technology rendered in beautiful artistic fashion, not the dull, sleek, utilitarian feel we have in our designs today.

What's the draw? That's easy enough. A yearning for a more cultured and civilized age, more brass and iron and less plastic. More florid language to say more delicate things more subtly. Pretty clothes, manly men, leather and lace.

So why the hell would I write a novel (or at least start one -- we'll have to see if it's popular enough to continue) in this quaint, yet foppish genre? Partly for the challenge -- the English language of the 19th century is a delicious mix, challenging but fun for the purposes of dialog. Credit Steven Brust for cluing me in to the art with his masterful The Phoenix Guards and its sequels, in which he puts forth the exercise in such an agreeable and entertaining manner. True, he uses the archaic forms of Dumas -- the whole thing is an ode to The Three Musketeers -- and I'm a century or so later, but the draw is the same. English used to be a lot prettier than it is now.

The other reason is the fact that some of the first "legitimate erotica" I was ever exposed to, outside of Penthouse Variations, was a couple of beat up, dog-eared copies of reprints of authentic Victorian erotica, the Pearl. Also, to a far lesser extent, was the Marquis d'Sade's Justine. Between them both, they introduced me to the historical aspects of porn. So Edward Lane's Argosy is, in a way, a revisiting of and homage to those early experiments in erotica -- only with a flashy, steampunk sort of universe.

For story background (and all of this will be brought up in exposition along the way) the novel is in a slightly different timeline in which the Prussians managed to develop a workable airship that was used in a few decisive battles of the Franco-Prussian war, so there are airships everywhere, and airpower, not naval power, is the determining factor to the Great Empires of the age. But that's not where the differences end -- in Edward Lane's universe, there are significant changes, including:

The colonization of California by the Chinese in the 1500s. The resulting state is known as Near Cathay, and it had a profound effect on just how prepared the Native Americans were for European conquest. As a result, Mexico was never conquered by the Spanish, but instead made an early alliance with the Dutch. Our nation of Mexico is the Empire of Atlan, and uses Dutch, not Spanish, as it's language.

In 1492, instead of merely ejecting the Jews and the Muslims from Spain, Isabella and Ferdinand give them new lands in the New World; the island of Cuba is now the Sultanate of Morisco, and the island of Hispaniola is the tropical homeland of dispossessed European Jews that enjoy effective self-rule under the Spanish flag.

The success of Aaron Burr's abortive attempt to capture New Orleans and much of Louisiana as part of his personal empire -- in Edward Lane's world, the Louisiana Empire stretches from the Rio Grande along the Caribbean coast, includes all of Florida and about half of Georgia, and most if not all of the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and east Texas. It's ruled from New Orleans by Emperor Maximilian II, grandson of Aaron Burr and relative to Napoleon. The Empire has had several nasty border wars with the nascent United States of America over who controls the Mississippi valley, and vexes the Republic by readily arming Indians and African Americans. In fact, the quasi-state of Cherokee exists on America's borders (most of the Southern Appalachians, up to the Virginia state line) because the Louisianans sent troops. They're also backing the Kingdom of Oklahoma, a gunboat-state of Louisiana that becomes strategically vital because it has the richest Helium reserves in the world -- and that makes a big difference in an airship battle.

There are two new Celtic countries, the largely-Irish Kingdom of Curitur (Prince Edward and Cape Breton Island), and the largely-Welsh/Scottish Kingdom of Bripobal (most of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia). Interspersed with the Celts, who made the journey in the 1300s (fleeing the Norman invasion of Ireland and the eternal struggle between the English and Welsh) following the trade routes of the Norse (who possess two tiny settlement/states within the kingdoms). The two new nations fought bitterly to establish themselves in the New World, but after a few generations they managed to Celtify some of the Native Americans and maintain a separate Celtic culture, untainted by foreign invasions. The two kingdoms weren't even on European maps until 1539, when Irish lords, fleeing the re-conquest of Ireland by Henry VIII, enlisted mercenaries of the kingdoms to their cause. When a fleet bearing 5,000 eager young warriors from Curitur arrived in Ireland, they surprised the English and their allies. It was the strength of the new recruits that allowed the King of Curitur to have one of his allies crowned King of Ireland. The lesson was a hard one for the English to learn, but the two new Celtic nations, heavily Catholic (where not outright Pagan) made oppression of the subject Celtic populations of Wales, Cornwall, and Scotland a far more costly endeavor.

Not only did the Celts colonize a part of North America, but the Norse continued their expeditions into Vinland. Though they lost their earliest settlements, they persisted up the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes, where they established several strong settlements. By 1891 (the time of the novel) they have three small kingdoms with very vague borders, one in N. Michigan/Minnesota, one in lower Wisconsin, and one at the strategically important region where Detroit/Windsor are now. These three small kingdoms mostly ply the iron trade and have become very wealthy supplying the needs of the US and European powers -- all those trains and clockworks, y'know. They have recently become a little problematic, as the United States tries to complete its conquest and control of the Ohio Valley against the Louisianans and the British (who still hold Ontario and parts of Quebec).

There are other big 19th century Empires here, namely the French, the Prussian-Saxon, the Russian, and (of course) the Anglo-Dutch Empire. The Spanish Empire, confined mostly to South America, is crumbling rapidly. The England that Edward Lane lives in includes a conquered Wales, but not Scotland or Ireland, and a conquered Netherlands and the Channel Islands. The Anglo-Dutch Empire holds most of India, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. Since the advent of airships of war, the powerful British navy isn't as impressive without the British Aerofleet, the third-largest air-fleet in the world. The combination of air and sea power really shake things up.


Anyway, that's some background. As far as characters go, Edward Lane is a well-educated gentleman burglar in this world who breaks into the wrong house and ends up on an erotic adventure. You are invited to attend.

UPDATE: Chapter Two: The Ape In The Jar, is now published at steamypunk.net. Also, I've begun posting it chapter-by-chapter (but one month behind steamypunk) on Literotica.com.

Monday, March 1, 2010

For the collector: Alan Moore's Lost Girls



There’s porn and then there’s erotica, and which is which is definitely tied more to who you are and what you like than any objective standard. Some say it’s only porn if you have your dick in your hand – but that covers a lot of territory, especially for some people. Erotica can be hung in a museum and paid a lot of money for, or bound in leather and paid a lot of money for, or released in an exclusive collector’s edition DVD box set and paid a lot of money for, whereas porn is cheap, if not free, these days.

But there are places where the two overlap – where the possession of a piece of porn is artful enough by design to be erotica. One such case is the divinely illustrated Lost Girls trilogy, in which comic book icon Alan Moore (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V For Vendetta, The Watchmen, From Hell, Swamp Thing, et. Al.) scripts a delightfully dirty examination of the sexuality of three fairy-tale heroines (Wendy, from Peter Pan, Dorothy, from the Oz books, and Alice from Alice in Wonderland) at different phases of their life, all meeting by happenstance at an Austrian hotel on the eve of WWI.

I couldn’t do it justice to describe the tale in detail – the art is a gorgeously rendered, simply drawn sensual explosion like an erotic opium dream by Melinda Gibbie, and Alan Moore’s language makes love to your brain – but it warrants a firm “Check It Out!” as one of the erotic artistic high points of this brave new century. It also warrants a warning for the sexually conservative: the tale isn’t completely “sex positive”, it’s unabashedly dirty. There are strong and suggestive themes of coercive sex and sex with children, but considering the context and the masterful presentation such issues are expository, not exploitive. There is a heavy element of fantasy, here, both sexual and mythic; those who believe that sexual impulses spring full-formed from your groin when you turn 18 and not before will be disappointed.

Whack to it or put it on your coffee table, this is a must-have piece of erotic literature for the serious collector.