I write ‘Nineteenth Century Science Fiction’, not exactly ‘Steampunk’
Let me first be clear, that I admire and enjoy Steampunk aesthetics. Valedictoria Scott would never have come into being and started having adventures, if it were not for Steampunk. My personal involvement with the genre began in 2012; I stumbled into it, when I wanted to take some swing dance lessons, and the class I found turned out to be taught by and for Steampunks. I enjoyed learning how to dance “Arthur Murray style” basic swing to all the kinds of music favoured by the Steampunks. And I felt very comfortable in the costuming. I even ended up acquiring two corsets of my own. The pinnacle of my half-year of Steampunk immersion, was attending an all-day concert where the band Abney Park was headlining.
All in all, I had a lot of fun, and rapidly imbibed the aesthetic of the movement. The dance classes lost their rental space about six months into my Steampunk adventure; with that, my active involvement did, sadly, wane. Yet I haven't stopped admiring the proudly-crafted beauty of ornate Victoriana, particularly when it invokes the Art Nouveau style. I love all those extra brass curlicues added to the imaginative machinery, not for any functional reason at all – but simply because it makes the device more beautiful. Moreover, what I like most about the idea of the genre, is that science fiction of the Nineteenth Century ran on a sense of optimism, and an unflagging conviction that Science, and Invention, and the Human Mind, were producing Magnificent Achievements, and would soon produce many more. Without question, the Future was going to be a Wonderful Place to Go … yes, in the literal sense that it would be Filled with Wonders, from patented health-promoting nostrums, to luxurious dirigible cruise ships. Automata would free humanity from all its most onerous tasks, thanks to the harnessing of Power (steam, electrical, or even cunningly spring-loaded).
However, Steampunk does not often take as positive an outlook, as the real Victorians held. The canon is largely informed by the bleak, noirish, essentially dystopian view of our future received from Steampunk’s depressive sibling, Cyberpunk (with which it shares a naming-tradition). Both rest upon a certainty that yes, there will be a great deal more technology, and it will inform the evolution of society … but not in a good way.
Now, it happens that I am fairly comfortable with watching, and reading, some pretty dark views of humanity and our possible futures. But in regard to the product of my own imagination, I find it very, very hard to “go dark”. There are dark moments of course, in each one of my novels and novellas, and a couple of my short stories are very dark indeed. But I find that I can’t, for long, keep up the pessimism, the nihilism, the alienation … the sympathy for a loner-antihero. Humour creeps in, any time I turn my back for even a moment. Irony, satire, puns and spoofs: humour will have its way with my writing, by any means necessary.
All about Valedictoria Scott
Under a different name, she started life as the heroine of a stage play I wrote in the late Eighties, which satirised another genre, that of the gothic romance novel. The play’s timing was off – we’d closed our own regional theatre company, and never found a compatible small theatre in Los Angeles, where we’d moved for my actor husband to try his luck. So, the play migrated to a file drawer. But it didn’t want to stay quiet there. A couple of years ago, it started to nag at me, that it really thought it belonged in the Steampunk realm. I decided to give it a chance, let it out, and started rewriting it as prose fiction.
Sure enough, that first story took to the Steampunk aesthetic like a duck-shaped hot air balloon might take to the skies. Valedictoria’s world quickly filled with ornate, quirky details, from the Heatherrow Airship Port outside the City of Londinia, to mechanical onion-peelers … a Sub-Oceanic Airtight Carriage, to Dixon’s Dark-Defying Goggles. And Valedictoria herself turned out to be anything but an alienated loner. She’s feisty, self-confident, ambitious, independent. She seems, most significantly, to be a product of her time: an alternate-history version of 1870s Victorian England, a place still bursting with optimism and joyful inventiveness. In Valedictoria’s experience, science may turn out to have some inconvenient, jeopardy-generating results; but she won’t stop believing that those are simply anomalies, and that the benefits will, ultimately, much outweigh the drawbacks.
Given the claustrophobic uncertainty of the times (2020), I decided that the best way to broaden Valedictoria's contact with the world at large (and mine, as well), was to -- for now -- publish her adventures as Ebooks, using Smashwords as the distributor. The first adventure (Valedictoria Scott and the Unexpected Legacy) went up online on 31 August. The second adventure, (Valedictoria Scott and the Scotian Adventure) goes up 30 September. The third (Valedictoria Scott and the Diplomatic Mission) goes up 31 October. The fourth (and last, for now: Valedictoria Scott and the Secret of Triumphia) goes up 30 November. After that, for a while, I'll be focused on re-releasing all the Elfin Scots novels in print, with new covers (and at last, releasing the fifth one in that series!)
Here on the website, I'm also now in the process of posting a great deal of corollary material that I hope enriches the experience of following Valedictoria's adventures. These "extras" include some of her own paper memorabilia (a poem by her school roommate Boudicca Flattish; a love note from one of her first admirers; a personal letter from the scullery-maid who had the job before her; her leaving-certificate from the boarding school where she was educated; and more!) Elsewhere on this site, I've posted information about telematrixator programming (the television of Valedictoria's alternate, progressively-scientific time); and a Ladies' magazine article by Mrs. Larper, proprietress of The Windswept Inn, the spa hotel where some of the Scotian Adventure action takes place.
Soon to come: The Barkingmede Ventures Ltd. Tea Catalogue (the company where Valedictoria gets her first secretarialist job); a couple of chapters of a Geography Textbook (which provides much additional detail about various regions of Valedictoria's world); a memoir by a member of the Ravensdale family; and four weeks' worth of synopses of Valedictoria's favourite daytime drama, "Outposters" (a romantic saga of Roman and Pictish life in ancient Britannia); and more!