Friday, April 2, 2010

Idea Development for Callarion at Night

L.T. Host asked about this on Tuesday, and though I already answered it during my last round of questions, I figured I'd use this iteration to go into a bit more detail about the process of how the current steampunk version came into being.

If you'll recall from my February post on this topic, I developed CALLARION AT NIGHT originally as a short story called "Moriah, Child of the Rowan." What's unusual about Moriah is that several core facets of her personality haven't ever changed from the original 2005 version, when she was just a half-nymph tracker in a fantasy kingdom. Her name also never changed, which is definitely odd for me -- seeing as the hero of SON OF MAGIC (which was called RoseFire, The Wizard's Plan, The Desert Rose, and Journey Through the Wizard's Kingdom -- in semi-reverse chronological order) was variously named Glace, Conner, Christian, and Gwyn at some point before I finally decided on Swain in the most recent rewrite (and he's going to be renamed Finn in the next write-through).

So there I was a year ago, SON OF MAGIC being read by betas, and trying to come up with a new idea. I remembered Moriah and her story, and started in with writing the thing. SON OF MAGIC had developed into a proto-steampunk work, with steam cannons and airships and steam-powered carriages, so I decided to push the idea several steps farther. I gave Moriah a long-barreled six-shooter analogous to the Colt Single Action Army revolver (commonly called a Colt .45), and started in on my research.

I discovered that the "rules" about steampunk revolved around dystopian societies that had hyper-advanced steam technology capable of doing everything we can do with contemporary tech like semiconductors and the like. My villains were already kind of Nazi-esque in their hatred of half-nymphs and half-satyrs, so it wasn't that hard to push them even further in a direction similar to the Holocaust. The Brothers of Purity, my psycho religious order, came about because I was trying to find a logical reason for the humans of the city to buy into the racism.

Yes, I know the Nazis didn't need to use religion to get people to buy into their worldview, but the specific way my society developed it did require it. The Brothers of Purity, by the way, are loosely based on the Spanish Inquisition. I found it odd that combining the Nazi and Inquisition ideologies weren't actually all that hard.

Anyway, the other "rule" about steampunk is that the mechanics must be steam-powered and be dominated with iron, copper, brass, and wood. None of the modern plastics or carbon fiber (plastics become big in the 1950s; and carbon fiber is well beyond the 1800 to 1920 timeframe most steampunk falls under). This was simple for me to pull off -- state the machines have copper, brass, wood, or iron parts and bing bang boom you're done.

When it came to the mechanics of the period themselves, I had to do a lot of reading about tanks, automobiles, naval and aerial vessels in order to ensure I used the right proportions for the machines. I've read dozens of websites and not an unsubstantial amount of books on the science behind steam engines and what was possible to do with them. I'm still on the hunt for a decent book about clockwork gadgetry, so if anyone has any suggestions that's much appreciated.

Crafting a city similar to one in the late 1800s also meant that the architecture needed to keep pace. I've stared at a lot of pictures of London, Stockholm, New York, and San Francisco of the late 1800s in order to get the description of the buildings correct.

In the case of the Quayside district of the city, I tried to figure out how the poor would try to put together their own homes. The decision to use shipwrecked wooden vessels arrived out of necessity, and the thought that "what would a forward-looking people do once they developed steel ships? Probably reuse parts of the old wooden ones for something else."

For Marketplace I studied the old Victorian-era shops with the big storefront windows. Lowtown and Woodsedge were based loosely on the slums, and Academe is based off the universities that have been around for hundreds of years.

The people and their occupations evolved from the parts of the city I developed. Some of the storyline evolved from there as well. Purity began in Lowtown because the preachers promised a better life to the poor when the half-breeds were gone, and they played on the "fear of the other" that seems ever-present in today's debates about illegal immigrants.

All of that color went into developing the city that would operate around Moriah. She herself became the daughter of an Archduke and a Princess instead of an Ambassador and a Princess because I needed to give her a larger pedigree to have it make sense for her to lead a rebellion. I know what you're going to say -- it's possible for someone to be an average person and lead a resistance movement -- but Moriah's family name needed to mean something to the people of the kingdom. Why? Because then she started off more visible to the populace as an example of the thing the villains wanted to destroy.

I think I'm going to end here before this post becomes too long. If you folks are all interested in finding out more about my thought process in developing the world and ideas that swirl through CALLARION AT NIGHT, then let me know and I'll do another post.

Until then, HAPPY EASTER!!!


Elisabeth Black said...

This was cool to read. Steampunk is such a fascinating genre.

Charmaine Clancy said...

Wow, you've put a lot of work into this post - it's been helpful because I was confused about steampunk fiction. Thanks.

L. T. Host said...

Wow, thanks for the answer!

It never ceases to amaze me the sheer amount of thought you've put into your world. Kudos :)

Susan R. Mills said...

Interesting stuff. Happy Easter to you, too!

Joshua McCune said...

With no modern tech, how is one supposed to build a Steampunk Time Machine?

Matthew Delman said...

Bane --

By studying every possible version of Wells's The Time Machine ever made.

Yes, even the craptastic one with Guy something or other as the Time Traveler and Jeremy Irons as a Morlock. Them's the rules.

(also you get points for replicating the Hot Tub Time Machine title with Steampunk)

Andrew Rosenberg said...

I have some Nazi types too...GMTA!
Sounds like you did a lot of research. Should make an interesting read. When will you send me more stuff?