Friday, June 17, 2011

Mummies & Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate

Something that crossed my mind today, while contemplating a paper on biopolitics in steampunk (because why WOULDN'T you want to think about biopolitics in steampunk, what with the mechanization of society leading to further exploitation of marginalized bodies and questions of who profits off / pays for the progress of the 19th century?) and which texts I'd tackle the idea with (toss-up between Priest, Lowachee and Carriger, but Gail's series is the only one which looks to have an ending at this point) when I found myself thinking about the mummies in Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate books. 

I fucking love these books to death -- they're a light read, they're engaging, they're funny, and they have some serious issues going on which are quite thoughtfully engaged with. What with the glorification of mad science in steampunk, I love how this is a text in which it is openly acknowledged that science is every bit a tool of power and oppression and harm as religion is, where you know what? mad science isn't all that because sometimes it's wielded by fucking assholes and I don't think this is ever explored enough. Carriger's books manage to have this dark undercurrent even while being a funny comedy of manners  on top. 

But (as there always is in these things) one thing does bother me, and it's the plot device surrounding mummies from Egypt, introduced in Changeless


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Extended Deadline: The Omnibus of Dr. Bill Shakes, June 30, 2011

Matt, Lia and I have decided to extend the submission deadline to widen the range of submissions we have received. Here is a list of the plays which we haven't seen many adaptations of:

All’s Well That Ends Well
As You Like It
Love’s Labours Lost
Measure for Measure
Merchant of Venice
Merry Wives of Windsor
Much Ado About Nothing
Twelfth Night
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Henry VI, Part I
Henry VI, Part II
Henry VI, Part III
Henry VIII
King John
Richard II
Antony and Cleopatra
King Lear
Timon of Athens

I, for one, would like to re-iterate the following from the submission guidelines:

"This is not intended to be a series of mash-ups, like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, but rather re-inventions of the classic Shakespearean stories and sonnets."

"Do not simply throw automatons into Hamlet or Steampunk technology into Richard III; consider how such technological changes may reinterpret the original stories. Saying it another way: What new insight will your Steampunk version of Shakespeare bring to the Bard’s original works?"

"10,000 words or less on one scene, act, or aspect of any play from Shakespeare’s canon."

"Integrate Shakespearean language as best as you can within the context of the story; it’s not required that you include some of Shakespeare’s original lines, but it is encouraged."

Much of this means that:

1) You frankly shouldn't, adapt entire plays into steampunk. Not only does this do the Bard injustice, but you'll run out of space really quickly.

2) The addition of steampunk elements has to mean something beyond shiny. How does the addition of technofantasy / anachronism change your reading of the play? For example, some Taming of the Shrew productions play it straight, but others choose to use body language to subtly change the relationship between Katherine and Petruchio. Since you have all this meta-staging prose to play with, don't waste it on props and staging backdrops... get us into your chosen protagonist's head instead.

3) When steampunking the Shakespearean play of your choice, think very carefully about what tropes you will be using. Are automatons in place of human protagonists absolutely necessary to steampunk your Shakespeare? Are there key phrases you use to add atmosphere which can be expressed some other way? Should airships be front and center? Remember that steampunk involves technofantasy, anachronism, and evocation of a past time period. This does not have to involve stuff we more or less constantly see associated with steampunk.

4) The editors have varying perspectives on how close to the language the stories should be. A well-written story is a well-written story, but integration of the original lines takes skill. Adapt the lines, but keep true to how Shakespeare wrote it. (Two of the editors are hardcore Shakespeareans.)

5) The application of the steampunk aesthetic shouldn't change the plot. Re-interpretations and re-inventions doesn't mean veering away from the original spirit and plot of the plays. You're to bring insight into the Bard's work, not using his work as a launching point for your own stories!

Hopefully this gives ya'll more guidelines on what we're looking for.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Transcript: “Scarcely English, but British, of Course, by Descent”: Eurocentrism and Orientalism in SM Stirling’s Peshawar Lancers

I presented this over at SPWF recently for the academic track. Here's the transcript I was reading off, in all its unpolished glory. It needs more tweaking (thanks, Martha, for your helpful comments to give more background on the novel at the beginning!) but I think I hit my major spots with this one for now.