With each anthology we release at Sirens Call Publications, we enjoy sharing the inspiration behind the stories contained within them. Our recent release, Bellows of the Bone Box is a combination of two fantastic genres – Steampunk and Horror. The authors have decided to share their inspirations of their story or talk about what Steampunk means to them. Today we feature an inspiration piece from Alex Chase, who contributed Edward Vincell of the 37th Platoon to Bellows of the Bone Box…
Alex Chase is a full-time student and coffee enthusiast who spends the majority of his waking hours wrapped up in his own head, even when in class. His short fiction has been featured in several Siren’s Call Publication releases. When not scribbling about the latest killer, creature or catastrophe his mind concocts, he can be found reading or playing video games.
The Twists and Turns of a Mechanical World
What is Steampunk to me? That’s a good question! I actually don’t read, write, draw, or even think about Steampunk that often, and perhaps this is because of my love of Cyberpunk. The greatest extent of my exposure can be summarized by the animated film Atlantis and Wild Wild West, featuring Will Smith.
This is both a good and bad thing. On one hand, I have no idea if fans of “mainstream” Steampunk (if that exists) will enjoy what I wrote. On the other, it means I had license to do pretty much whatever I wanted because I had no guidelines to govern what my story would be.
In the most literal sense, Steampunk is all about the gears – both those in the machine and those in the mind. I feel that the main characters of any work within the genre should have some notable or advanced understanding of what it is that makes this topic so unique. That doesn’t mean they have to change the world with their inventions, but they should at least be well versed in engineering, machinery, and other such things.
It also has a bit of a noir feel to me. There’s something in the grinding, probably rusted gears that says grit to me. We’re not talking the old school, black-and-white, back alley crime kind of noir, of course, but there should be a degree of political intrigue, betrayal, and abandonment. Gears are cold, unfeeling, and don’t mind biting your hand off if you stick it between their teeth. When I write Steampunk, my worlds reflect this heartlessness.
Now, that brings us to the big question: what does Steampunk actually mean?
As far as I see it, Steampunk is supremacy over nature. The devices featured throughout the genre offer both escape from and mastery of everything in sight, whether one’s airships are allowing a character to rule the skies or a prosthetic attachment is compensating for natural weakness. Steampunk offers power to the characters that we do not have – it allows our imagination to take us to reaches of the Earth that we could not otherwise venture. Whether the plot is realistic by dealing with war and other such things, or if it’s utterly fantastic and taking us to forgotten underwater cities, it is a genre of action and adventure (ignoring the action and adventure genres, of course).
That is why Edward Vincell of the 37th Platoon starts on a massive airship in the sky and ends in an underground factory – because if we have the technology to take us to such places, we should use it to do so. It is costly and difficult to do that, though, so I used my imagination instead. The aforementioned reasons are also why I used The Cold War as the background of my story.
Just to offer clarification on my opening: To me, Cyberpunk is an expression of mastery over human nature, as opposed to the natural world around us. However, I’ve got a lot more planned for this genre, so I’ll leave such discussions for another time.
I’ve always loved machines, frankly. There’s something about the mechanical intricacies, the cold, calculating beauty of a device at work that captures my interest far more than most other forms of innovation. Perhaps it’s the unfailing precision of their motion, or maybe it’s the rust and oil that adds such a unique flair to each component when the machine has reached its operational limit. Or, perhaps, it’s simply that I identify with them well – after all, oil is not so different from ink, and the gears of my mind are always turning, ready to see who or what next dares to put their fingers near my teeth…
The Steampunk and Horror genres are masterfully combined in the twelve stories contained within Bellows of the Bone Box. Each of the authors has transported you to an age where steam is the dominate means of power and has woven a tale that will fascinate, or possibly scandalize you.
In this volume, you will find clockworks, pneumatic tubes, airships, and leather worn out of necessity – not vanity. Can an engine be powered by human blood; should it be? What about body modification; what happens when the mechanical meets the biological and goes awry? Does the heart rule the machine, or does the machine consume the humanity that once existed within it? What of airships, regeneration, or hallucination; is it safe to trifle with such things? Should technology that can rift time and dimensions be researched; and if that research proves fruitful, should it ever see the light of day?
Packed full of intrigue, imagination, and horror, lovers of Steampunk will have a hard time deciding which of the twelve is their favorite!
Featuring the talents of:
Brad Bass, Paul Boulet, Laura Brown, Vivian Caethe, Alex Chase, Megan Dorei, O.M. Grey, Tarl Hoch, Gavin Ireland, Kirk Jones, Kate Monroe and Christofer Nigro
The following is a snippet from Alex’ Edward Vincell of the 37th Platoon in Bellows of the Bone Box –
“I told you, I’m an engineer, not a gunsmith,” Edward sighed, glancing up at a poster of Armin Jenko before clamping the goggles back over his face. His bangs were plastered to his forehead with sweat; he was glad he’d taken off his cap. “Might I suggest equipping the proper safety attire? Unless, of course, you wish to go blind.”
Ophelia snapped a mask on. “All I’m suggesting, Ed, is that your talents could end our voyage months ahead of schedule, if you’re up to the challenge. You had to be aware that this wasn’t merely an exploratory expedition. We’re at war, and like it or not, you might have to build weapons. Maybe even use one.”
He grunted and focused on the blinding light of his blowtorch for a few moments. There was something so precise, so pure, about the way he handled his tools that many felt he’d turned the craft into an art. Edward was in the process of constructing an enhanced thruster design that would utilize their aether supplies much more efficiently.
Quiet, by most standards, Edward Vincell was stationed aboard the foremost aerial vessel of The Associated Republic of Cordelli’s army. The ARC, as most called it, formed after the assassination of Shane O’Harris, leader of the anti-communism movement, in 1953 by Soviet renegades. It was comprised of the countries of North America, certain portions of Europe, Greenland, Iceland and surviving Japanese that were living on islands in the Pacific Ocean. The name of their newly found society was adopted from the word ‘cordial’ for unknown reasons.
Ivan Novgorod, the Premier of Russia at the time, formally denounced these actions but utilized the international focus on political threats to secretly fund projects of a highly advanced scientific nature. In 1959, Russia announced the completion of a device that would allow others to harness aether, a mysterious substance of untold mechanical and cosmological power.
Novgorod perished in a test of aether-based weaponry, so the position of Premier of the Soviet Union had been filled by Roman Kosvenko. The new Permier declared he was creating an army that would utilize such highly destructive weaponry and was going to spread the glory of the mother country all over the world.
Now, in 1967, Edward was trying to keep his head out of the line of fire while serving in the thirty-seventh platoon. He looked up once more and wondered what prompted Armin Jenko, a scientist, to get involved with espionage and warfare.
“Edward? Hello?” Ophelia tapped him on the shoulder. The blowtorch clicked off.
“I’m not a gunsmith,” he repeated cautiously. “I wouldn’t dare to end the life of another human being.”
“Yes you would!” She glared, “If it was a matter of life or death, you know you would want to live. You’d kill, if you had to.”
Come back tomorrow for another piece of inspiration from one of the authors in Bellows of the Bone Box!