Garbage Day: Announcements and Steampunk

I think it’s time for another Garbage Day. It’s been awhile, and I’m definitely overdue. For those who are new to my blog, Garbage Day is the one day of the week where I allow myself to ramble on about nothing in particular – often sharing announcements, upcoming plans, and other items that don’t warrant an entire post on their own. You know – taking out the garbage.

First item of business this week is the expansion of Qwendellonia Publishing. Full disclosure, I started the company up to publish my own works and nothing more, but as time goes on, I’m seeing the potential for something else there, a chance to publish some “different” works. With that in mind, we’ve brought on some new authors and negotiated deals for some older works to keep our release schedule busy until the new year. 

Our first release following The Corridors of the Dead will be a fantasy erotica work by newcomer Lily Ortiz called The Witching: Jubilation. We think it offers something a little different, just as I’ve wanted to do with the company. Here is the cover, which represents my own first attempt at making a cover:

It releases on December 7th on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. After that, look for weekly releases right up until the new year featuring works by William Reynolds and a few other yet-to-be-announced authors. I’ll do a proper post introducing Lily in the near future, but for now we’re glad to have her on board.

We also have a logo, finally! Props go out to the ever-hustling Ryan Bibby. Expect to see this or our simpler logo on future works, including the cover above, which just missed the cutoff but will feature the Qwendellonia logo.

If that’s not enough marketing for you (and why should it be??), we’re currently hashing out the final marketing and pre-ordering details on The Corridors of the Dead. Watch this space for more information in the coming days.

On to other matters. I’m working my way through Soulless, by Gail Carriger, and while I intend to eventually put a full review up on Amazon and Goodreads, I’ve been pondering the nature of just what steampunk means these days.

What is it really about? No, seriously. I mean, I get it, I read The Difference Engine. It was a very clever offshoot of cyberpunk, which was already one of my most beloved genres when I read The Difference Engine. Cyberpunk deals in how advanced technology can grind down the human spirit, leaving people as little more than cogs in the machine of a relentless monster. Sound familiar? I think we’ve seen a bit of that recently. Steampunk was a twist on this idea,a parable about the dangers of technology developing too rapidly when society is not prepared for it. Neat idea, and something that could be applied to just about any era. Hell, I would go so far as to say the Assassins Creed video game series operates on the same premise these days, showing advanced, forbidden technology, the insanity that it wreaks on the men and women who would use it for their own gain, and how it crushes humanity under its heels.

These days, I’m a little baffled about what we’re to take from the genre. Soulless just barely uses it, and as little more than a coat of paint. This is a problem that I have with the book overall – everything is a coat of paint, or more accurately a pretty dress that signifies very little. Yet the book is happy to advertise itself as a Steampunk story.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, another book that I’m currently reading, uses the concept a little more overtly, and you can see the hints of what Steampunk was once about, from the people who have been victimized by the Boneshaker to the bizarre community that as grown in the shadow of a ruined Seattle, but it misses an opportunity to really explore what that means. It becomes more of a Point A to Point B plot-driven action story that misses out on an opportunity to show exactly how this thing has impacted the characters on an emotional level. Oh, sure, we see that the once-influential family has moved to the outskirts of the ruined city, but we don’t see a convincing connection between their emotional state and the technological terror that’s changed everything. In fact, they seem to simply soldier on.Not to mention that the setting doesn’t even matter – you could tell a similar story set in modern Seattle.

So again I ask – what does Steampunk mean these days? Has it become a primarily visual form, which explains some of the limitations that I’m seeing in these novels? I suppose that’s possible, in the same way that Cyberpunk devolved into “cool gadgets” and “advanced 3D GUIs” with little commentary on the human spirit and how it related to that technology – a trend that the Matrix, of all things, nicely changed right before it drove a dagger into the heart of the genre with the sequels.

What I get from it now, instead, is a group of people who want to revel in anachronistic fashion. Don’t get me wrong, I think the fashion side of it is fun – I did wear a Steampunk costume for Halloween this year. But this new version is a case of style over substance, which is unfortunate given the opportunities that the genre once presented. If this is the case, perhaps Steampunk has passed me by; at the very least, I am going to be more cautious about which authors I will read in the genre.

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8 Comments

  1. The Difference Engine is one of my favorite books of all time. Especially since they implement certain historical details I didn’t know before, such as Lady Ada. It also doesn’t hurt that William Gibson is one of my favorite authors (and Bruce Sterling is pretty damn good too).

    And congrats on the expansion of Qwendellonia Publishing. Look forward to reading whatever new books that are going to be published soon.

    BTW, did you use the term “Garbage Day” from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2?

    • I loved The Difference Engine. I was a BIG fan of Gibson at the time, though. I’ve cooled a little bit on him since then, but overall he still gets a big thumbs-up if for nothing else than what he brought to the genre.

      Thanks a lot! I’m nervous about where this is all going, but it’s worth a shot.

      Hah, yes indeed I did sir. I like to throw in little nods like that from time to time.

  2. I’ve read both Soulless and Boneshaker. I’m now trying to finish Perdido Street Station in which I see no evidence of steampunk and wonder how it got the label. It’s an entertaining read … oh wiat, there was just a machine in the last chapter … first one with 1/2 the book read.

    I thought it meant going back in time and using older tech. But now I’m not so sure.

    • Ah China Mieville! Love his stuff. Keep putting off Perdido Street Station, but from what I know of it, that steampunk label is definitely a bit baffling. I know that he varies his genre and approach in each book, but that book doesn’t sound anything like steampunk.

      I think some of it is about the theoretical world of the future that was imagined during that era – just as some people are starting to set their stories in the imagined future of the 50s. I like that aesthetic, even if it’s hard to pull off. But steampunk definitely had a different definition back in the 90s.

  3. Like your idea of expanding your publishing company–and–since I’m part of Indie community I’m taking in the gratitude on your tweet today and giving it right back! Thanks for all your great posts

  4. Once more with feeling…I like your idea of expanding your publishing company–and–since I’m part of the Indie publishing community I’m taking your tweet and giving it right back! Thanks for all the great posts…

  5. Congrats! I like the direction you’re taking your small press in.

    Personally, I think most of the appeal of steampunk is in the “alternate history” angle. Boneshaker did this nicely, with the different Seattle and the ongoing Civil War.

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