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 Paul Boulet, whose story The Vampyre and the Clockwork Man can be found in Bellows of the Bone Box…
When not crouched away in dark coffeehouses or jazz clubs, Paul productively contributes to society in the guise of a consultant and corporate serf, specializing in managing technology and software development projects. In sharp contrast, his restless imagination and background in literature and linguistics draws him to more creative pursuits. He currently shelters as an invading flatlander, hidden in plain sight along the trackless reaches of Southern Wisconsin with his wife and indeterminate number of house pets. His primary influences include Lovecraft, Herbert, Orwell, Faulkner, Pynchon, Coleridge, Tennyson, Baudelaire, Thucydides, Herodotus (of Halicarnassus) with an honorable mention to Sophocles without whom he would not know what to call the Sophoclean Hero. You can find him on Twitter, but quite frankly he’s yet to tweet anything.
Spiritless inspiration: Some background thoughts behind The Vampyre and the Clockwork Man
This story started with Arnold – a true statement in more ways than one. The story of Arnold Paul is itself legendary among the vast legacy of vampiric legends. A casual Wikipedia search will supply the details (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Paole). For all the “true believers” out there, poor Arnold’s tale is an actual historical account. Perhaps it’s legitimate evidence of an undead reality or easily dismissed when considering some odd characteristics of human decomposition known to that region. So, in the truest sense of the revisionist nature of Steampunk fiction, it seemed right to liberate Arnold from his troubled unrest among his rustic native people. After being cast out as some kind of vampire/leper, a pragmatic creature like Arnold would have certainly deemed it wise to secret himself away on an airliner and allow it to supply him with a sustainable procession of fresh and vulnerable victims.
Already firmly affixed into vampiric history, cursed Arnold was further galvanized into literary history by the popularity of like myths among the authors of the 19th century. But that is itself another legend within a legend, this time, a literary legend. One dreary day in the summer of 1816, some of the time’s greatest literary minds gathered at a Swiss villa by Lake Geneva. I’m sure the villa’s owner, Lord Byron, was his typical Dionysian self, entertaining Percy Shelley, young Mary Wollstonecraft (later to be Shelley) and the author/physician John William Polidori (among others). The legend goes that they were all up late reading horror anthologies (perhaps not unlike Bellows in many ways) when Byron issued a challenge. Who among them could write the best ghost story? I’ve never heard of the criteria for determining the winner though Mary W. Shelley’s Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus emerged as the most famous story that came as a result. Not to mention its obvious contribution to popular culture for almost 200 years. But not to be overly dismissive, the other entries were not without their own (although lesser) impacts. Byron’s incomplete contribution has become known as, A Fragment of a Novel, which is as accurate as any title could be. Though originally attributed to Byron’s authorship, John Polidori later expounded upon the fragment into a complete story entitled, The Vampyre, a Tale. Before embarking on the main text, he offers some context in the form of an Introduction to the tale (which I presume to have been added by JWP as the Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, edition 1819 names no other contributors).
“In the London Journal, of March, 1732, is a curious, and, of course, credible account of a particular case of vampyrism, which is stated to have occurred at Madreyga, in Hungary. It appears, that upon an examination of the commander-in-chief and magistrates of the place, they positively and unanimously affirmed, that, about five years before, a certain Heyduke, named Arnold Paul, had been heard to say, that, at Cassovia, on the frontiers of the Turkish Servia, he had been tormented by a vampyre, but had found a way to rid himself of the evil, by eating some of the earth out of the vampyre’s grave, and rubbing himself with his blood. This precaution, however, did not prevent him from becoming a vampyre himself; for, about twenty or thirty days after his death and burial, many persons complained of having been tormented by him, and a deposition was made, that four persons had been deprived of life by his attacks” (JWP from the publication mentioned above.)
But Polidori’s vampire was very unlike humble Arnold. In contrast to the folk tales of the 18th century, these Romantic authors took the vampire out of his humble, pastoral settings and thrust them into the heart of the erudite, wealthy, hedonistic and, often times, corrupt ranks of European royalty. Vampires were no longer relegated to being a kind of plague, infecting livestock and troubling good townsfolk. The vampire’s ascendance continued through the 19th century when Bram Stoker gave us the famous Count in 1897. But in many ways, it all started with Arnold.
I’m very pleased to retell a portion of Arnold’s story in The Vampyre and the Clockwork Man. His name will surely continue to be invoked as long as vampire stories are told. As per the real Arnold Paul, perhaps breathe a quiet prayer that his eternal rest is less purgatorial than what he endured in life – and whatever he may have suffered in-between.
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 of Paul’s The Vampyre and the Clockwork Man in Bellows of the Bone Box –
Nightmare spaces swell between the first flickers of waking thought and the underlying layers of the subconscious; like cancerous tumors and the clutter behind locked doors and the filth that slips beneath sewer drains. An interloper that accumulates in the tucked away recesses of unused crawlspaces and the eroding remains of forgotten purpose. If left unmolested, it can assume a heatless state, seemingly content to merely subsist. Left to fester on the surface of dark secrets; like Catholic guilt or undiverted self-loathing. It will only become active when provoked, stabbing up through the seams of consciousness and invading the waking mind. As when hunger stimulates salivation; the emergent ache a forewarning, pointing toward the inevitable. Addiction to sustenance; the constraint of physicality, the dread yet needful bane of existence. Running its course, dependency supplants the will to resist. It gnaws at the psyche and eventually begins its purposeful march toward longing. The kind of longing that’s destined to become intolerable longing. Irresistible. Passing the thresholds of decided abstinence, desperation makes for the desperate acts of desperate men. It is the progenitor of motive, father of consumption, mother of innovation. The fundamental exception to all moral imperatives against which the conscious only poses pathetic arguments. Gnawing pangs of guilt tighten, making for a poor rival to the incontestable force of hunger. And yet, guilt sinks deeply into the self perceived weakness of dependency. No matter what the system of ethics, morality surely calls for defiance if remediation is impossible. Inadvertently impossible because of its own essence, by the nature of its being. The will can attempt to struggle, deny dependency as it may. Deny being. Deny self. Deceive self. But necessity ultimately overrules, either consume or expire. The will’s failure is merely a matter of time. Moral success can only be measured in proportions; resisting longer than the last time or failing to resist as long. Failure to convince the self that resistance is becoming easier when the reverse is true. When all hope for remediation is abandoned, hope of absolution dies with it. Each failure to resist mounts upon another, after another, after another to unbearable weights. Ethics then dictate that existence is immoral. The wrong-doer should be punished by frequency and degrees per each wrongful act; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. The grand corollary of corporal punishment, and capital. Lacking a judge, jury or executioner, the responsibility falls solely to the self. Guilt summons the judge to court, conscious rallies the jurors and the will dons the black hood and hefts the axe. Prior to execution there’s nothing but the ceaseless fixation on the tragedy of being, the swelling accumulation of guilt’s oppression and the ever sinking depths of swelling hunger. Another term of resistance. The foreknowledge of inevitable failure.
Incandescent lights spark and warm like fanned embers. Startled, a skulking patch of nightmare space slips away, fleeing toward shadowy recesses at the heights of lofty steel arches. The wheel of a pressure hatch turns, breaking long held seals…
Come back tomorrow for the last inspiration post from the authors of Bellows of the Bone Box!