September 15, 2014

Author Guest Post: Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon by David Barnett

Hey everyone! Today I have an awesome guest post by the author on why he chose to write steampunk! Read on for more details on the book and to read this thoughts! Don't forget to enter my giveaway for your chance at winning a copy of the book!

Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon (Gideon Smith #2)
Author: David Barnett
Genre: Science Fiction/Steampunk
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Tor Books


Nineteenth century London is the center of a vast British Empire, a teeming metropolis where steam-power is king and airships ply the skies, and where Queen Victoria presides over three quarters of the known world—including the east coast of America, following the failed revolution of 1775.

Young Gideon Smith has seen things that no green lad of Her Majesty’s dominion should ever experience. Through a series of incredible events Gideon has become the newest Hero of the Empire. But Gideon is a man with a mission, for the dreaded Texas pirate Louis Cockayne has stolen the mechanical clockwork girl, Maria, along with a most fantastical weapon—a great brass dragon that was unearthed beneath ancient Egyptian soil. Maria is the only one who can pilot the beast, so Cockayne has taken girl and dragon off to points east.

Gideon and his intrepid band take to the skies and travel to the American colonies hot on Cockayne’s trail. Not only does Gideon want the machine back, he has fallen in love with Maria. Their journey will take them to the wilds of the lawless lands south of the American colonies—to free Texas, where the mad King of Steamtown rules with an iron fist (literally), where life is cheap and honor even cheaper.

Does Gideon have what it takes to not only save the day but win the girl?

David Barnett's Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon is a fantastical steampunk fable set against an alternate historical backdrop: the ultimate Victoriana/steampunk mash-up!

Why Steampunk?

Why steampunk? A good question. I never intended to sit down and write a book that could be neatly categorized as “steampunk”. However, it is set in 1890, it has airships and advanced steam-powered technology, it has a smattering of the supernatural, it has a divergent alternate-history timeline.

So yeah, I suppose you’d probably call it steampunk. It’s a funny old thing, though, steampunk, isn’t it? And I’ll tell you why. For starters, a lot of people who identify as science fiction/fantasy readers don’t like steampunk. Some of them hate it with a vengeance. Steampunk is the whipping boy of SFF, or so it feels sometimes. I’m not really sure why this is.

Some people have told me that they dislike steampunk because it essentially celebrates the Victorian British Empire, and everything that was wrong with that – enforced colonisation, whether military, cultural or otherwise, a society that was highly intolerant – women had few rights and couldn’t even vote, homosexuality was illegal, the rich ran the country, the poor were ground into the dust, people of colour were either seen as savages in far-off lands to be civilized or destroyed, or as little more than slaves, or at the very least third class citizens.

So not a lot to like. And those who don’t like steampunk say it’s because steampunk, if it doesn’t actually celebrate these issues, is complicit in them by using that sort of world as a backdrop.

To which I say... well, we don’t actually live in much of a utopia ourselves these days. Some of us might not have it too bad, and some of us might close our eyes to those who don’t have the same privileges, but there’s a lot to be dismayed about in the modern world. But novels in a contemporary setting don’t get the same brickbats as steampunk.

And some fantasy worlds aren’t that great, either. Sure, you could sit around the Shire all day whittling branches and making up songs, which is pretty idyllic on the face of it, but there was lots more heavy stuff going down up Mordor way. It was no cakewalk, I’m sure.

The future? Don’t talk to me about the future. It’s full of cannibal rape monkeys fighting over water and oil as the world catches some virulent sniffle and goes to hell in a handcart. You think that’s going to be any fun?

I do, however, see the point with the arguments against steampunk, to an extent. That fantasy world? We can make whatever we like happen there. The bad guys can be defeated. The power of story is all. Everything can be rosy in the garden. The future? It hasn’t happened yet. We can take those dystopian SF stories as cautionary tales, amend our behaviour before it’s too late, create a better world.

The Victorian era? It’s already happened. We know what happened, we saw it. We read about it in the history books. We can’t make the bad things better from our vantage point down the years.

But that doesn’t mean our characters can’t try.

Yes, the world of Victorian Britain wasn’t a very nice place unless you were very rich, very white and very male. But it was filled with people, just like our less-than-perfect world today is filled with people, and not all those people have the same ideas, or agree with everything that happens. Some of those people try to change things, and the only way they can do that is from within.

Not all steampunk characters have to be landed gentry with double-barrelled surnames on jolly adventures merely for the sake of it. Some of them can be appalled at the world they live in – and perhaps, as in the case of Gideon Smith, this is something that happens gradually, over the course of a number of books.

Some of them might have the drive and desire to change things, or at least fight for those who don’t have it so good.

Why steampunk? Because the Victorian era is only just beyond the realm of living memory, so we can fully imagine their society, which wasn’t a million miles from ours.

Why steampunk? Because, that said, it was a world of wonders, of great innovation, of exploration. There were still corners of the map in shadow, where dragons might well lurk.

Why steampunk? Because utopias make for boring reading. Because a good person in a bad world learns more about themselves and others, and becomes a better person, the sort of person who might well make a difference.

Why steampunk? Because we can’t change the past, but we can learn from it.

Why steampunk? Because, why not? 


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