Jeanette Bennett

The Blog of JEANETTE M. BENNETT - Indie Author from the Scablands of Eastern Washington

Friday, March 15, 2013

What is Steambunk?

In my book Walking a Fine Timeline I have a character named Dr. Wendell Howe. When Dr. Serendipity Brown and her assistant, Sherman Conrad, get stuck in the year 1851, they run into a gentleman in a top hat and frockcoat calling himself Dr. Howe. They assume he is a native, until he recognizes Serendipity as the inventor of time travel. She has not announced her invention to anyone, save Sherman. How could Howe know who she is unless he himself is from the future?--Serendipity’s future!

Wendell tells them he is a Temporal Anthropologist from the 27th century. Temporal Anthropologists are trained to fit so well into their chosen time period of study that they no longer fits in their own. Wendell can’t stand 27th century clothes and wears a frockcoat in 2660. He even shaves with a straight razor. What necessary future technology he has with him is carefully disguised to look Victorian.

A lot of people have told me Wendell is steampunk. Purists would beg to differ. Steampunk is Victorians with futuristic things like computers and rockets created with Victorian technology. Think H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. Wendell is just the opposite. He is a man from the future with Victorian things like pocket Bibles and glasses that are really a computer and camera using 27th century technology. He is faux-Victorian. Wendell is what I call “steambunk.”

I wrote a story called “The Spirit of Tea,” which features Wendell throwing a tea party for the Wild Bunch (the real Wild Bunch, not the warm fuzzies of popular culture) and living to tell the tale. I was surprised when it was accepted into Gears & Levers 2: A Steampunk Anthology. So I guess steambunk is now an “official” subgenre of steampunk.

I invented the term just as I invented Temporal Anthropology. I have since learned a few other people who never heard of me have also invented Temporal Anthropology. Let’s face it, it’s a no-brainer term. What else would you call someone who travels into another time to study another culture? And even though Wendell is from England, Victorian England is a totally different culture than 27th century England (or even 21st century England.)

Perhaps all those folks who show up to steampunk conventions in carefully recreated period Victorian garb and not the pseudo-Victorian that is true steampunk are really steambunk.

Now here is the kicker. After I wrote my book I ran across a forgotten novel called The British Barbarians by Grant Allen. Published in 1895, the exact same time as H.G. Wells The Time Machine, it is also a time travel story. While Wells has a Victorian inventing a time machine and traveling into the future, Allen has a man from the 25th century travel back to the Victorian Age and try to pass himself off as a native. By the way the time traveler, Bertram Ingledew, talks he appears to be an anthropologist. He later admits he has come back in time to study the barbarians of Victorian England. Allen never uses the term Temporal Anthropologist but that is what his hero is. (Just goes to show you, no matter how clever you are, someone else has already came up with the idea.)

So if H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine is steampunk, then Grant Allen’s The British Barbarians is steambunk. There you go, my newly invented term has a long and illustrious history.

Grant Allen - the first steambunk author?
(He stole my idea 113 years before I invented it.)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Support Your Local Indie Author

Okay, I don’t like bugging people because you all have lives of your own, but if you read my book and like it, please tell someone. Put a review on Amazon, Good Reads, SmashWords or your own blog. Then let me know about it so I can put it on my website.

Now you are saying “I don’t know how to write a review.” You don’t have to be a literary major with a detailed critique. It doesn’t have to be long. A few sentences are fine. It also doesn’t and shouldn’t be over the top like “the greatest book I ever read.” Just give your honest opinion. What would you tell a friend if you recommended the book to them?

The New Yorker sure as heck won’t review an Indie author. We are rebels, an underground movement fighting the establishment. And when you support an Indie author instead of some big publishing house telling you what to read, then you are a rebel, too. We don’t have the backing of mass media, we need a grassroots campaign.

Most people probably assume I am self-published because no publisher wanted me. It’s just the opposite. I never submitted my book to anyone. I have heard too many horror stories. The New York Publishers are using practices that would not be tolerated in other business community, like contracts a lawyer couldn’t understand (you have to get a specialized one) or tricking writers over the phone into “signing” verbal contracts (legal in New York.) Even if they play fair the best you can ever hope for is 8% of the profits (and that’s only if you are a superstar.) I’m a small town girl who is used to being treated fairly. I decided I didn’t want to deal with these guys.

Another problem is I’ve heard so many authors complain about how they get rewritten by publishers--not to make a better book but to sell more copies. They don’t recognize their book anymore. Throw in some S&M scenes and some zombies. I have heard of many authors being turned down with “we love the book, but we don’t think the general public (who we think are morons) would like it.” I am willing to rewrite to make a scene better, but not to make it “sell better” to people who watch slash films.

Thanks to Print On Demand and ebooks, authors can circumvent the big boys to get to the readers. The good news anyone can publish now. The bad news is anyone can publish now. There is a lot junk out there from writers who don’t bother to get an editor and polish their first draft. So Indies need reviews, word of mouth, to let other readers know what is worth reading.

If you don’t like my writing, that’s fine. It just means you prefer a different genre or style. (If everyone liked the same thing I would have to write about sparkly vampires.) However, I do want you to support the Indies you do like, since they are in the same boat as me. At least hit the “like” button on their Amazon page.

Be part of the Indie Uprising. Viva la Revolution!