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 Laura Brown, whose story Clockwork Doll can be found in Bellows of the Bone Box…
Laura Brown is a writer and artist from Hampshire, England. A lover of literature and the arts from a young age, she also writes under the pen name ‘Blackavar’, and writes for online magazine, EGL Magazine. She has been writing since she could hold a pen, but since the summer of 2012 has become a fiction author and begun to live the dream. A self-proclaimed Goth, bookworm, geek and rabbit enthusiast, she loves all things strange and unusual.
Steampunk and the Clockwork Doll
Clockwork Doll was my first attempt to write a Steampunk story, although I’m very familiar with the genre and the associated fashion/aesthetic. I love the imagery that it has produced, from literature, to artwork, to clothing, and even video games, but it was something of a challenge to take this very different concept, and apply it to creative writing for the first time. I had to think carefully about what sort of world I wanted to present, what subject matter I wanted to explore- both horror and Steampunk are surprisingly broad genres. In the end, I settled on creating a Steampunk environment, in which something frightening occurs—basic but effective. This is the wonderful thing about horror; it slips and creeps into every genre imaginable, lurking in the shadows.
In the end, I went for a rather basic setting—an alternative Victorian London, with an early, but advanced Underground system and the introduction of automatons. It is a world that is beautiful and crafted, gleaming and polished… but as with reality, even this London has its dark side. I really loved the idea of something that seemed so fragile, innocent- harmless even—being revealed as something sinister and disturbing… and that was how the clockwork dolls came about. I remember labouring over the ideas for some time while at my desk at my “day job”, but gradually, something creepy began to emerge, and the story began practically writing itself.
I think there’s something of a debate about what constitutes “Steampunk”, because the genre has become so broad and extensive. On the fashion side of it, it appeals very strongly to the Goth and alternative subcultures, yet remains stand-alone, a movement in its own right. Aware of how expansive Steampunk can be, I’m sometimes hesitant to try and describe it, but on a very basic level, to me, Steampunk literature is usually stories that take place around the Industrial Revolution or Victorian and Edwardian eras, and is greatly influenced by the earliest science-fiction novels, such as the works of HG Wells and Jules Verne. The play and creativity in inventing new technology that runs on alternative power sources such as steam or clockwork is at the heart of the genre, but it’s so much more than that. As with Gothic, a whole aesthetic and particular gold-bronze imagery has sprung up around the movement; making it a little difficult to define, but also extremely creative.
The possibilities become almost limitless with Steampunk. You can take it down the gritty route of realism, but it also blends well with fantasy. As Bellows of the Bone Box shows, it can easily take a darker shade of gold, and produced nightmares of its own. Essentially this “old fashioned” science-fiction is the heart of Steampunk (a total opposite to cyberpunk), the wonder and the imagination. It can stretch out into alternate worlds and even alternate histories. The rules can even be applied to different time periods- look at Dieselpunk, Atompunk or Decopunk for example. The paths it can take, and the stories that can be told are countless.
Ultimately, however, alongside that bronze, gleaming imagery and the inventive, curious science-fiction, exploration is the key with Steampunk. It can be exploration into new worlds, new frontiers; social, political, historical, technological. It can be delving into the centre of the earth, the mind of a madman, or the heart of a machine. Steampunk is an exploration, a creative sensation. It can even explore in the deep recesses of darkness…that is the appeal of Steampunk, both as a reader, and as a writer.
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 an excerpt from Laura’s Clockwork Doll in Bellows of the Bone Box –
At night, the Underground outshone the streets above. As daylight fled, gaslights glowed into life, yet could never vanquish the darkness on the streets of London. But the Underground… Oh! What a marvel! Its construction had been bought forward and completed earlier than expected… now a warren-like network of underground tunnels laced beneath London’s streets and buildings, inhabited by a number of small, gleaming locomotives, more elegant and streamlined than their earth-bound predecessors.
They were works of art in their own right, engineered for efficiency and purpose, but crafted for beauty. Veronica had often admired their long bronze carriages, always glowing with their own gaslights and looking somewhat jewel-like when they smoothly came to a halt at the equally beautiful platforms.
For although this was underground, light was captured, reflected and re-gifted by walls of bright, burnished bronze and silver, and white marble floors. Had the lamps been of a harsher light, perhaps the effect would have been overly dazzling, but instead, commuters, travellers and visitors were welcomed into London’s very heart and body by the warm glow of the sub-loco stations.
Tonight, Veronica was more grateful than ever for the light. Her short walk from the Kensington Library to the steps that slipped beneath ground-level had been fraught with anxiety and, by her own admission,paranoia. She had looked over her shoulder the whole way, startling at any new shadow or movement, not that there had been many. She had been somewhat alarmed to discover the station unmanned – only the automatic ticket-guard for company, which had punched a hole in her ticket mechanically and granted her access to the platform with a whirr of gears. As she took a seat on a platform bench and attempted to compose herself, she told herself that it wasn’t altogether out of the ordinary for the station to be this quiet at this time of night. Veronica had been unfortunate, having been required to stay at the library far later than usual for an impromptu inventory imposed by the unsympathetic Head Librarian.
Really, it was quite improper to demand that a young woman such as Veronica stay so late and then return home with no chaperone in the middle of the night. But then, it was also beastly to expect her to do so with the… incident… only a few weeks behind her.
Veronica straightened her skirts and her hat and folded her hands neatly on her lap. Her thoughts began to stray to that awful night… oh Mr. Cromwell, her employer, was truly an awful man. She recalled his apathetic words and manner… “A young lady such as you has no business in Whitechapel after all, Miss Dawson; you have only yourself to blame.”
Thank you for visiting everyday for the past few days as we featured many of the authors in Bellows of the Bone Box and their inspiration behind their stories!