This marks the first time I’ve ever had a guest post on my blog. Not sure how often I’ll do it but I saw that J.M. here had a really awesome Steampunk novel released this week, and invited him to come talk about his release a little bit. The book is Penny Dreadful and the Clockwork Copper, and it is available now on Amazon here.
Here’s what J.M. Anjewierden has to say about Steampunk and Penny Dreadful:
Steampunk Month. What a time to be alive! While I’m mostly here to talk about my own new Steampunk novel I’m going to cover some other ground as well, so strap in.
First, who am I?
Well, glad you asked. I am J. M. Anjewierden, author extraordinaire, librarian defender of truly free speech, and possessor of the magnificent beard of mystery.
I have two books out this year, the first of which is ‘The Long Black,’ a Space Opera/Blue Collar story about a starship mechanic, but that’s not why we’re here today. Oh no. You want to hear about the other one, the newly released ‘Penny Dreadful and the Clockwork Copper.’
(Blurb) Viva-3 was built to discover secrets. But they made her too well. She’s the perfect spy: the lethality and persistence of the police clockworks in a body that can pass as human. What the Empire’s police don’t know is that she doesn’t have to obey their orders or her programming. She can think and decide for herself. And she’s doomed if they find out.
Viva is sent undercover with orders to unmask the city’s vigilante hero, Penny Dreadful. She is supposed to stop his one-man war against the criminals of Monte-Ostrum. It will be dangerous, but just maybe Dreadful will be more useful as an ally rather than an enemy… (End Blurb)
Penny Dreadful is, of course, a familiar term to any long-time fan of Steampunk, and literature in general. Most recently attached to a horror TV show, it originally was a term for the cheap mass produced stories sold for – of course – a penny.
So that is reason number one for referencing that in my work: The Penny Dreadfuls were the Pulps of their day, and I am firmly in the camp that the Pulps were the Golden Age of SF/F, and further that ebooks represent a chance to recapture the best parts of the Pulp Era. Especially since digital publishing frees the author from the limited publishing schedule of the major houses, often only one book per year. As with anything else, practice makes perfect, and an author who can put out five, six, or more books a year will generally be able to improve their product faster than someone limited to one new release each year.
As for the other reason, well, that requires I bring in my lovely editor, Miss CJ, whose day job is writing for the Chicks on the Right website. (Yep. I married my editor. Very much a time saver, assuming she doesn’t start to go soft on the parts I write none too good. I think we’ll be fine though, I married her first: Most authors who run into trouble with editors no longer editing harshly enough married them second.)
Miss CJ: Penny Dreadful came about – believe it or not – based on a character from a tabletop RPG we tried out with our gaming group. We spent several sessions playing “Airship Pirates,” an indie published steampunk RPG set in the world of the band Abney Park.
I came up with a character who was part of the nobility, but who tired of the tediousness of noble life and wanted to do something more than simply “be a noble.” Also – the character needed skills to serve on a crew of airship pirates. This character spun out into the vigilante, Penny Dreadful. It’s always sounded like a name to do something fun with (and if you read the book, you might also notice there’s also some clever pun work at play. Spoilers, sweeties). Also, it was hilarious during the course of our RPG campaign to have Penny Dreadful run into “fans” who’d read about Penny Dreadful’s adventures in penny dreadful novels.
- M.: Yep, Penny Dreadful started out as an RPG character. Honestly, I imagine there quite a few characters and series kicking around that started the same way.
There is an interesting thing to point out with RPG conversions, though. I’m sure you all know that video game movies are just about always rubbish, right?
Have you ever wondered why that is? True, part of it is simply that the producers and directors (and screenplay writers) often have no idea what makes the property tick, but it also goes back to what the medium does well, and does not do well. Video Games (like RPGs) derive a lot of their impact for the audience because of choices, and potential choices. Do I play a wizard, or a fighter? Do I sneak into the building, or go in guns blazing? Those choices give the narrative more impact, because the player will always wonder, what would have happened if…
With a film or TV series that element of choice is lost. Without it the power of the narrative starts to weaken, and that is dangerous because that strong narrative is often all that sustains the property through long bouts of (gloriously) gratuitous fight scenes.
That’s why, in my not so humble opinion, I find that the best adaptations of RPG characters and worlds pointedly focus on things other than the actual game campaign. They might be prequels, or sequels, or origin stories. They might also just take the setting and run with it in new and interesting ways.
In my case I adapted the origin story rather than the campaign arc. Yeah, at the beginning of the game the characters are on an airship working as Sky Pirates, (it is in the name after all) but that isn’t where they started. That is the story of Penny Dreadful and the Clockwork Copper.
Also, I stress to add, I adapted the backstory because I have no desire to steal the creations of Abney Park. They are one of my favorite bands, and their Steampunk is freaking awesome. Aside from having airships and pirates in said airships there is not much in common between the setting they present in their fun RPG and in my book.
In fact, while I already have a rough outline for the next book in the series, it has nothing to do with the campaign we played last year. That story will probably never appear in the sequels. Funnily enough, as a writer I have all those same choices and more as I do when playing a game, and those what ifs have siren calls…
One other thing I wanted to touch on, and I promise this is the last one, since if I indulge in any more tangents you’ll be here all day. (Or more likely not. Better I don’t wear out my welcome.)
Clockwork Copper, why call them that? Part of it is obvious, Cop(per) has been a nickname for the police for quite a long time, and applying it to an artificial policeman actually made out of metal was too good to pass up.
Of course, as the blurb notes, Viva-3 is a copper, but not a metal one. The first instinct would be to name them something else, but stop and think about it. Words persist long after the reasons for their original meaning is no longer relevant.
Heck, just look at the save icon in pretty much any program you use. When was the last time you actually had to put in a 3.5” floppy disk to save? Yet the icon persists.
So, yeah, referring to flesh and bone constructs as clockworks is silly, but no more silly than talking about Xeroxes, or using a floppy disk as the save icon.
As the joke goes, ‘Fiction is harder to write than reality. Fiction has to make sense.” That’s true in a lot of ways, but I find that adding a bit of that real life weirdness into books helps them feel a bit more real to the readers, and of course that helps you enjoy them more.
And after all, it’s my job to entertain you.
And this monkey intends to keep on dancing.