starlady: Holmes + Watson, steam + punk (steampunk heroes)
Also known as the Holmes steampunk AU, aka the [livejournal.com profile] holmes_big_bang fic.

Title:
The Flying Empire
Wordcount: 35K
Rating: Teen
Pairing(s): Holmes/Watson
Warning(s): Some violence (guns).
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain in the United States; no disclaimer is intended, implied, or necessary.
Notes: I owe a mountain of thanks to [personal profile] darthneko, who produced the amazing accompanying art despite computer troubles galore at the eleventh hour--please do take the time to leave a comment on DA if you like it as much as I do! Many thanks as well to [personal profile] naraht for the incisive beta, and the Baedeker's. More info about the background for this fic can be found at this post, which has major spoilers. (The title comes from an early story treatment for Laputa: Castle in the Sky.)

Summary: Holmes takes a case that leads him into contact with Countess Ada Lovelace as well as direct conflict with a controversial but well-placed officer of His Majesty's Aery, to Scotland and back to London via the skies above.


The Flying Empire on the AO3.


View the art directly under the cut! )
Created using the Fanfiction Header Builder
starlady: Holmes + Watson, steam + punk (steampunk heroes)
Holmes Big Bang steampunk AU meta and background post, ahoy! 

This post contains major spoilers for the entire story, which I unreservedly recommend that you read first.

Meta, with extreme spoilers )
starlady: a circular well of books (well of books)
These notes are about 75% verbatim. Large ellipses are marked. I can't guarantee accuracy in name spellings, and since I was sitting at the back on the floor I didn't see many of the audience questioners (marked "Q"), so none of them are described. Any questions, feel free to ask! I will do my best to clarify.

The Politics of Steampunk )
starlady: steampunk snow goggles  (wrangling)
Catching up on various things I ought not have let slide (see icon). In the meantime, a review.

Priest, Cherie. Boneshaker. New York: Tor Books, 2009.

This might be the first year ever that I have actually read the majority of the novels up for a Hugo Award, and I have to say, Cherie Priest's dark steampunk fantasy is a strong contender for the top honor in my opinion.

I suspect that at this point introduction may well be superfluous, but I shall introduce the book anyway: Boneshaker is the inaugural volume set in Priest's Clockwork Century, a reworked C19th in which the Civil War has lasted 20 years, with no end in sight, driving all sorts of mechanical innovations along in its wake. At the same time, in Seattle, just before the Civil War began, an unfortunate consequence of the Klondike gold rush in the person of the mad inventor Leviticus led to the Blight, a poisonous yellow gas that seeps from the ground of the ruined city and turns those who come into contact with it into 'rotters.' Sixteen years later the former Briar Blue lives with her son Ezekiel in the Outside, the settlement that surrounds Seattle's walls, but when Zeke goes in to learn about his own history, Briar has no choice but to follow him, catching a ride on the airship called Naamah Darling.

Steampunk in Seattle )
starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
I am posting this now before it gets any older.

I went to a.k.a. music on Valentine's Day (seriously, a.k.a. is one of the best music stores I've encountered, particularly given its size, and it has a great location too--right between The Book Trader and Brave New Worlds comics) and they had both of the CDs I had been lusting after.

The first is Infernal Machines by Darcy James Argue and Secret Society! I have two words: steampunk jazz. Yes, you read that right, and let me just say, damn is this some fine music. I don't know very much about jazz at all, which frustrates me quite a lot, but this is excellent music, and the thematic content makes it even better.

The second is People Are Soft by The Swimmers, a local Philly band. I bought this CD for the single "Hundred Hearts", and the whole album is really good. Style-wise I would say they are somewhere between The New Pornographers and...crap, the comparison just went out of my head. I will add it back in if I think of it. 

Franz Ferdinand has a new song, "The Lobster Quadrille", for the Alice in Wonderland soundtrack. I like the song, and as a sidenote, I am completely psyched for the movie. Did everyone see the shots of Alice on the battlefield in armor? Yes? Okay, then you know why.


Can we have fanfic about these cat herders now? Please?

Speaking of Holmes (no, okay, I wasn't, but whatever), I really want this shirt. T-shirts with classic book cover art, the purchase of which provides books to communities in need? That sounds like a win-win scenario to me.
starlady: A typewriter.  (tool of the trade)
I have written before about how much I'm looking forward to N.K. Jemisin's debut novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, yes? Yes! Well, Jemisin ([livejournal.com profile] nojojojo) is offering an autographed copy of THTK and a divine tuckerization in the third book of the trilogy at [livejournal.com profile] helptheproject, which is cool, yes? Yes!

Equally cool, Jemisin has also posted her awesome, awesome story "The Effluent Engine" on her website as part of A Story for Haiti. Do yourself a favor and go read it now. Seriously, it is awesome, and not just because it is lesbian steampunk; I truly think that this story is perhaps the example par excellence of both steampunk and alternate history done right. (For context, [personal profile] naraht has an interesting post about [alternate] history and oppression here.)

Speaking of steampunk, everyone knows about [personal profile] dmp and her DW, Beyond Victoriana, right? It is always fascinating, but in particular I want to read the early 20thC Chinese novel mentioned in the last post. Maybe when I grow up I can translate it.


I just spent an hour shoveling. I'm told it's the second-most snow ever in our neck of the woods, though I'm sure that here in Jersey we got more than the 28.5 inches recorded at the Philly international airport (or maybe it just feels that way. This snow is heavy). As compensation, the purple and pink sunset over the fields behind my house was lovely. I was planning to go to the Dinotopia Family Day and see James Gurney at the Delaware Art Museum tomorrow, but I cherish my doubts as to whether the plows will come through in time. We'll see.
starlady: Gryffinclaw: "Don't believe what you're told. Double check."  (question everything)

Oh, I heard it through the starlady.

Which song was this lyric from?
Get your own lyrics:


# Canadian sff author Dr. Peter Barnes was beaten and detained at the U.S. border this week, and now he's being sued for assaulting a border patrol officer. As the Cobell lawsuit proved earlier this week, fighting Uncle Sam takes time and money; think about donating, if you can.

# Cat Valente smacks it to literary fiction in this post at her LJ ([livejournal.com profile] yuki_onna). I think she says some very perceptive things about literary fiction, which is a genre all its own (just like vanilla is a kink!), and its genre rules, and how these rules contrast with sff's.

# A post on tag wrangling 101 by my fellow wrangler [livejournal.com profile] akamine_chan. I've been putting in my Yuletide sweat equity wrangling Yuletide fandoms lately--as I said in our chatroom, if tag wrangling is a degree in fandom, Yuletide is a Ph.D. (I might be getting us an icon that says that, actually). We need more wranglers to join our steampunk crew, please think about joining! It helps to be detail-oriented and slightly obsessive, I've found.

# Via my sister, American history, but with cats. (Read "U.S." for "American".)

# Speaking of Cat Valente and of steampunk, her steampunk story "The Anachronist's Cookbook" is now available on her website! Unlike many steampunk writers, CMV does not ignore many of the genre's problematic tendencies.
starlady: (revisionist historian)
Epigraph: Small Beer Press is having a book sale! Everything they've ever published, as well as their forthcoming titles, are discounted, and portions of all sales this month will benefit Franciscan Children's Hospital in Boston. I don't know about you, but $5.95 for Kalpa Imperial is way too good to pass up.

Westerfeld, Scott. Illus. Keith Thomas. Leviathan. New York: Simon Pulse, 2009.

This is not the steampunk book I'm looking for, but it comes close.

Let's back up. It's the end of June, 1914, and Prince Aleksander of Herzhegovina is forced to flee for his life after his parents' assassination in Sarajevo (yes: his parents are that Archduke and Archduchess) along with only a few trusted retainers in...an imperial scout walker. (Yes, all the scenes in the walker reminded me of The Empire Strikes Back.) Meanwhile, British commoner Deryn Sharp takes on the name Dylan and passes herself off as a boy to become a midshipman in His Majesty's Air Service, winding up aboard H.M.S. Leviathan, the pride of the bioformed fleet. Alek and his retainers (including Count Volger, who is made of awesome) are making desperately for Switzerland, where they can wait for Alek's grandfather, Emperor Franz-Josef, to die so that Alek can make his bid to set aside the fact that his parents' marriage was morganatic and claim the throne. Deryn and her ship, in the company of the diplomat, zookeeper, Darwinist (she engineered the Leviathan) and diplomat Nora Barlow, are also making for Switzerland en route to their mission in Constantinople.

Leviathan is a cracking good read, and the illustrations by Keith Thomas are fantastic. More books should be illustrated, period. Westerfeld knows how to write suspense, and both Deryn and Alek are appealing protagonists (though Deryn is slightly more awesome than Alek, I have to say. It's not his fault, though; princes are sheltered). Equally appealing are Count Volger, who is one of those rare people who embody all the virtues of the aristocracy and few of its vices, and Dr. Barlow, who has a thalacine (aka a Tasmanian tiger) and who calls Lord Churchill "Winston" when she insults him. And as a Darwinist--aka a genetic engineer--she is known by her bowler hat, which practitioners wear in honor of the man himself, who in Westerfeld's world discovered not only evolution but DNA, and how to manipulate it.

So, there are some very cool things in this book, if you haven't guessed that already. I think one of the best things about steampunk is the space it opens up for potential critical engagement with history as it actually turned out, and Westerfeld does some of that in here, though he leaves some of the most critical insights, such as the environmental benefits of an empire run not on coal but on bioengineered animal power, by the wayside. That said, I'm uncomfortable with the fact that Alek's status as a protagonist renders the reader complicit in the narrative's imperial sympathies. Deryn and Alek are both unequivocal in their condemnation for the war, as is the narrative, which is sort of the easy way out--hands up if you think the loss of millions of lives was a good idea. Yeah, I didn't think so--but neither they nor the narrative are critical of the idea of empire per se. This is related to my other major problem, which is the book's lack of a clear antagonist. Also, tired incipient romance subplot is tired. Still, these caveats aside, the clear division between the Darwinist and Clanker powers, and the incipient hybridization of both Deryn and Alek, not to mention the sheer awesome that is Dr. Barlow and Count Volger, are more than enough to keep me interested for the next book, Behemoth. It's almost certainly going to have dragons, too.
starlady: A typewriter.  (tool of the trade)
To take the last item first, I've more or less reconciled myself to the fact that this is the year I read just about every Diane Duane novel I care to, which is why I got the second book in the Feline Wizardry sequence, To Visit the Queen, from ILL and finished reading it today.

Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been? )

Yeah. I wish I'd read this book before I'd written all those papers on Duane in college: this is the essence of what I love about her writing.

The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt is in all respects a far shallower but far more superficially thrilling book than To Visit the Queen; what connects them for the purposes of this post is that both traffic in steampunk, Hunt far more deeply and sustained than Duane. Essentially, in a very, very alternate sort of England (in which a very, very alternate Aztec Empire once ruled the subterrannean depths of the Continent and terrorized those realms on the surface in the last ice age), two orphans, Molly Templar and Oliver Brooks, are each pursued by people out to murder them and must go on the run from the law far beyond their kens of the capital Middlesteel and the Birmingham-analogue Hundred Locks.

I enjoyed this book, though Hunt generally sacrifices characterization to pacing and development to wit. There are enough ideas in here for two or three novels, and in some ways I was disappointed by the rather slapdash adaptation of historical phenomena such as communism and the French Revolution into Hunt's world, but it's all immensely entertaining, and for sheer cheerful mayhem, and his willingness to bring about apocalpyse now in his book, Hunt need bow to no one. The Court of the Air is sadly perhaps the worst copy-edited book I've read in years, which set up another barrier to unalloyed enjoyment, but there's enough redeeming features in here--particularly the mechanical lifeforms called steammen, and their Steamman Free State, and their King Steam, who is something like a Tibetan Lama (indeed, it doesn't seem an accident that the steammen dwell high in a mountain kingdom)--that I will be seeking out the next book set in this world, The Kingdom Beyond the Waves, which debuts today and follows Amelia Harsh, a female Indiana Jones, who for all her brilliance and daring just can't seem to get tenure. One sympathizes.
 
starlady: An octopus solving a Rubik's cube.  (original of the species)
Five Dreamwidth invite codes remain to me: leave a comment to claim one.


I have never read Nabokov, and it strikes me that starting with this book (1969) is entering the master's oeuvre through the back door. Well, I liked it, though having scraped it up out of Michael Chabon's Maps and Legends, in which Chabon calls it "proto-steampunk" or something similar, I came to it with perhaps unusual expectations.

The book follows the exploits of one Van Veen, and his cousin (secretly sister) Ada Veen, and their eight-decade love affair, around the world by aeroplane, helicopter, zeppelin, ship, and practically every other manner of transportation possible, including clockwork carriage. On Nabokov's "Antiterra," Louis XVI emigrated to England, which annexed France in 1815; the predominant religion in America is apparently Hinduism; Judaism is a recently-invented offshoot of Christianity (which is mostly Greek Orthodox); Russia has mostly upped stakes to America, while what we think of as "Russia" is the province, roughly equally, of Tartars and Mongols; President Lincoln remarried after his first wife's death late in his second term; the black discoverers of Mississippi form the establishment in the South; our "Terra" is the collective dream (or nightmare) of psychiatric patients and prophets, madmen all; and clockwork technology was perfected by the eighteenth century and rejected in religious fervor by the nineteenth, so that in 1888 Van and Ada's mother films a movie at their ancestral home of Ardis Hall.

...the dissimilarities only confirmed the live organic reality pertaining to the other world; )

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