Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guest Author and contest: Leanna Renee Heiber

*Please give a warm welcome to Leanna Renee Heiber. We asked her to come by Bite Club during the Dracula Event to educate us on the Victorian Era and share her thoughts on the possible connection between Dracula and steampunk. She will also be giving away 2 books in the Strangely Beautiful series to 2 readers (one each) and details will follow the post. So, without further ado...

Dracula and… Steampunk? What could these two things have in common other than the 19th Century? Hear me out. And for those of you who are wondering what the heck Steampunk is, here goes: it’s a blending of historical fiction with science fiction and the fantastical. Generally speaking, Steampunk is set in the 19th century era of steam power (hence the steam), but with a bit of alternate history or anachronism thrown in to give it an edge, like a steam-powered computer, cell-phone, airships, tanks, space-ship etc. (hence the punk). Jules Verne is the original Steampunk.

Since I’ve a background in Victorian literature and I write what we call ‘Gaslight Gothic’ fantasy/paranormal with my Strangely Beautiful series, and my upcoming Magic Most Foul series is also Victorian-set and fantasy/paranormal, my ‘Gaslight Gothic’ style has been embraced by Steampunk citizens and readers as under the general parasol of Steampunk, though my work tends to lack the gadgets inherent in the genre. I was asked to speak here today on your book pick (which happens to be one of my all-time favourite novels), about how Dracula might relate to this exciting, imaginative genre.

Broadly, those who love Steampunk love it for the Victorian-ness. Love it for the
manners, the restraint, the sexual tension, the fabulous clothing, the gaslight and the
misty, mysterious streets, the grit and the grandeur, the industry, ingenuity, the pride and
the troubling prejudice, the romanticism and sensuality, top-hats and fine lace amidst
crippling poverty and the burgeoning of social movements– maybe I’m just speaking
for me, but that’s why I love writing about the Victorian era in general. It’s full of rich
complexity, secrets, the cruelties of Colonialism and Imperialism, the dichotomies of
the roles of women, all wound up with a tightly corseted undercurrent of passion at its
core. If one loves 19th century fiction written by modern authors who dwell there, one
generally holds the literature of the time period dear as well; its own literature the best
history lesson of the time period. So thus, if one enjoys the flair of the 19th century,
they likely enjoy the direct products of it. And there’s no more intriguing product of the
Victorian age than Dracula.

Another delectable thing about Steampunk is the atmosphere and the richness of detail.
Good Steampunk novels are rich in atmosphere, in their setting, details, costuming and
gadgets so much so that these elements become like characters in the book itself. That’s
definitely true for Gothic fiction, and true for Dracula. Castle Dracula is a character
in and of itself; we all have an emotional reaction to that place, a distinct thought of
what that Castle is, looks like, feels like, smells like, sounds like, exists like. I try and
do this in my Strangely Beautiful books too; to make Victorian London a foggy, ghost-
filled persona pressing dramatically onto the story itself. In historical fiction of any
kind, it’s all about the details. Because when you’re immersed in a classic novel like
Dracula, while sometimes presented in nearly a different language in its vernacular,
the sweeping imagery and rich settings are so compelling in their descriptions, they
translate to our modern minds like an exquisite film, refusing to let our mind’s eye go.

Steampunk is fantastical and often infused with the Paranormal, it is a genre that
encourages inspiration and innovation, and also can have a darker vein. Stoker too
challenged his society and his readers with tales of something otherworldly, fantastical,
out of its time and place. Count Dracula is his own, immortal, alternate history. Also
Steampunk often enjoys a narrative style that is self-conscious, aware of its reader. That’s certainly the case with Dracula, being in epistolary form of diary and letters. (Here’s where I get to excitedly say that my upcoming YA Victorian paranormals; the Magic Most Foul series- Nov, 2011- are done epistolary in homage to this, my most beloved of novels.)

So with all of this connective tissue, while Dracula doesn’t have brass goggles, airships
or clockwork hearts, it does have plenty of steam, Victoriana, atmosphere and the
fantastical. And it will remain one of my most beloved treasures, I hope it will remain
one of yours too.

Happy hauntings, and strangely beautiful blessings! I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to
be here.

Leanna Renee Hieber
For more about me and my books, please visit my sites:
Twitter: www.twitter.com/leannarenee
Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/lrhfbfan
Blog: www.leannareneebooks.blogspot.com

For more about Steampunk check some of my favourite haunts:
Brass Goggles: http://brassgoggles.co.uk/blog/
Steamed! http://ageofsteam.wordpress.com/
Beyond Victoriana: http://beyondvictoriana.com/

*And now for the contest details! Leanna is giving away one copy of Strangely Beautiful book 1, THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER, and one copy of Strangely Beautiful book 2; THE DARKLY LUMINOUS FIGHT FOR PERSEPHONE PARKER to 2 lucky commenters (U.S. only please). To be entered into the contest you must answer one of the following questions: What about the Victorian era attracts you the most? OR Why do you think steampunk is making such an impact on current fiction books? 

Please leave your book preference in your comments! 

The rules:
*This contest will run until October 25th at midnight.
*contest open to US residents only
*must answer one of the contest questions
*please leave a contact email if one is not included in your profile


Jen said...

Dracula and steampunk make far more sense than Mr Darcy and vampires ever did!

Alas, I am not from the US, but I think the appeal and impact of steampunk is its romantic sense of adventure and sweeping romance, and again the romance of innovation, risk and invention. This strange marriage of inverse restraint and progress is a heady combination! Contemporary life seems so stark and dry in comparison.

Carrie said...

I still dont quite understand steampunk so on the victorian era queation I say it is the innocence of the period that draws me to that era.

Anna (VampChix) said...

Did you happen to see the new episode of Castle last night? I was so excited to see a steampunk theme! At the end of the episode, Castle was even messing around with a steam powered mechanical arm, that not only looked super cool but it actually worked...so fun!

Michele Hauf said...

I love the definition: Steampunk is when goths discovered brown.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

@Jen - I couldn't agree with you more!

@Carrie - its okay, Steampunk is one of those things that once you're exposed to it, you know it when you see it, an interesting blend of sci-fi/fantasy and 19th century aesthetics. And I agree about the innocence that's intriguing, particularly since so many ideas everyone thought they knew were being challenged by industry and science.

@Anna - I know! Totally cool! There are a lot of people who equate Firefly with a Steampunk aesthetic and I think there's merit to that, so Nathan Fillion is clearly onto something. Very fun.

@Michele - *grin* I've heard that too. However I am a goth who refuses to discover brown so I'm bringing my Victorian Gothic traditionalism into the arena every time. Call me resistant to evolution. :)

Anonymous said...

I love the dresses in the Victorian era. Steampunk puts a twist to the innocent Victorian times. I love the inventions in the so called alternate Victorian era.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Sue, the dresses are my favourite part. I'm known for attending conventions dressed fully in Victorian regalia. :)

Eric M. Edwards said...

I'm well behind the times - but then that should be fine considering your subject - so I've missed the whole "steampunk" development.

That said, I'm not certain it means all that much. Everything which it encompasses has already existed in sf well before the coining of the term. From Verne to the present, the blending of science fiction with the late gothic romance, has drawn generations of admirers and writers to its gaslight flame.

Hardly surprising that both the brass-piped wonders of Jules Verne and the moulding, aristocratic grave robber of Bram Stoker, could continue to coexist comfortably. Dug up by various authors and thrown together in divers incarnations.

The steam I understand, but I remain unconvinced of the punk outside of helping to form a snappy marketing title; it doesn't seem to feature in a central way as it does in many cyberpunk novels. Dystopian visions and low-life characters aren't absent, but they don't form enough of a cognizant whole in the genre to warrant the punk being mixed with the steam beyond, in my opinion, simple word association.

But then a rose is a rose is a rose, and what's in a name after all; this must hold true even if it's a dead one, whose petals are individually affixed by means of brass rivets to a stem wrought from hammered bronze.

Good luck with the new series,


whitewolfreads said...

Considering I have a degree in English Lit. I definitely love Victorian literature.

I would prefer The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker.

Thank you for the giveaway!

spettolij AT gmail DOT com

lydia storm said...

I love the whole Steampunk vibe, the mix of Victorian fashion and architecture with the fun gadgets. Anything seems possible.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

@Eric - well said all around. I definately agree with you and think the name has more of marketing in it than meaning. I would like to see that rose of your imagining, sounds enchanting. Affixed rose petals certainly would have changed Disney's Beauty and the Beast...

@jm - huzzah for English Lit! Thanks for stopping by!

@lydia - that's definately one of the aspects I love about the genre. The Victorians also thought anything was possible, they were conquering the world, so mixing that bold spirit with the fantastical does indeed capture that spirit.