The Steampunk Drinking Game

Hail, fellow adventurers! To help celebrate steampunk (and Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine :-D), our friends at Bell Bridge Books have come up with the Steampunk Drinking Game!

Here are the rules: Pick out a steampunk movie or book of your choice. Beverage may be of your choice. For each item you come across, take the prescribed drink. (Best played with others who don’t actually plan to go anywhere afterward.) The last person standing wins!

  • Aether = 1 drink
  • Airship = 2 sips
  • Automaton = gulp
  • Bodice = 1 drink
  • Corset = down the whole shot
  • Gears = 1 sip
  • Goggles = three sips plus bite of lemon
  • Her Majesty and/or Queen Victoria = down the whole shot
  • Horse and/or carriage = 3 drinks
  • Inventor and/or mad scientist = 4 drinks
  • Inexplicable device = 1 drink
  • Mention of social rank (Duke, Marquess, Earl, Barron, etc.) = 4 sips
  • Parasol = 2 drinks
  • Presence of bioengineering = 4 drinks
  • Puff of steam = 1 drink
  • Raygun = chug
  • Top Hat = 3 drinks
  • Tesla coil = down the whole shot

Now, remember: drink responsibly, and definitely do not attempt to play the drinking game in one sitting with Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine!  According to our calculations, if you followed the Steampunk Drinking Game rules with JW&TCTM, you would end up:

  • taking 155 drinks
  • taking 1,115 sips plus 34 bites of lemon
  • taking 16 shots
  • and would have to chug your drink 12 times!

You know a book is full of steampunk when the Steampunk Drinking Game tries to knock you out with it!

So, I hope you responsibly enjoy JW&TCTM, and celebrate Steampunk!

-the Centaur

Pictured: coffee and pocketwatch from Pixabay, beer sampling by Paul Joseph, by way of Wikimedia Commons.

Women’s History Ongoing

A brief note: I had planned to write five articles for Women’s History month, but I can’t not do something thoroughly, and because real life sometimes intervenes, it looks like three of these (women scientists, computer scientists, and female soldiers) will roll off the end of the month. And that’s OK! Because women’s history is ongoing and isn’t confined to a month – but I do appreciate your patience!

Twelve Hours Later Returning to Print!

I’m happy to announce that Twelve Hours Later, the anthology with the very first Jeremiah Willstone stories (chronologically, that is, if that has any meaning in a heavily tangled time travel universe), is returning to print this Friday, March 24th!

The Jeremiah stories in here are from the “Plague of Gears” storyline detailing Jeremiah’s days in Liberation Academy, and include “The Hour of the Wolf” and “The Time of Ghosts” (shh, that one has SPOILERS for The Clockwork Time Machine).

My friends and colleagues at Thinking Ink Press worked with the editors and authors of Twelve Hours Later to bring this gem back into print. From the release announcement:

Back by popular demand, Thinking Ink Press is republishing the out-of-print steampunk charity anthology Twelve Hours Later: 24 Tales of Myth and Mystery. The brainchild of the Treehouse Writers, fifteen talented authors, artists, and poets, Twelve Hours Later was released at Clockwork Alchemy 2015 and features pairs of stories set within the same day.

Myth! Mystery! Intrigue! Dirigibles!

Support public libraries and explore the world of steampunk fiction. Twelve Hours Later, 24 Tales of Myth and Mystery will thrill you with round-the-world and round-the-clock adventure, weaving lore from ancient Egypt, Greece, Japan, and more into a steampunk tapestry!

  • A devoted nursemaid braves mythical Japanese spirits to save a child’s life
  • Daredevil adventurers tangle with a Chinese demon called the Lord of Death
  • A lady archaeologist battles thieves for possession of Egyptian hieroglyphs

Linked pairs of stories, set 12 hours apart, fill a 24-hour day with a whirlwind of steam, legends, spycraft, and the occasional forest demon!

Half the proceeds of the anthology will be donated to nonprofit organizations that support literacy, including the San Jose Library System. As you indulge your literary senses, you’re also helping to promote literacy!

Twelve Hours Later will be released on Friday, March 24th, and is available for preorder on Amazon. So get a copy and find out what happens … Twelve Hours Later!

-the Centaur

Auditions are Underway!

phonograph-v1-small.png

Great news, fellow adventurers! Auditions are now underway for the very first Jeremiah Willstone thrilling radio dramatization, “Jeremiah Willstone and the Choir of Demons,” based on the story of the (almost) same name published in Aurora Wolf magazine!

Stay tuned for more exciting news as this aerograph cylinder whirs its way towards an access point on the electromagnetic Internet near you!

-the Centaur

Pictured: a remixed picture of a wax-cylinder Edison phonograph, picture taken by Billy Hathorn and edited by me under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Buzzymag Interview: The Backstory of JW&TCTM

For those interested in how Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine came to be, I’ve hoisted from the archives the following article from BuzzyMag where I was interviewed by Jean Marie Ward at Dragon Con 2014:

JMW: What kind of challenges are you bringing to that Steampunk story?

Dr. Anthony Francis: I was inspired to write this story by coming to Dragoncon and seeing all these people with all these gears and stuff and all the stuff on their costumes. I’m like, how would that possibly work? What if that possibly worked? Wait. Could I design a reason why people would be wearing goggles because they have ray guns that have a lot of ultraviolet? Could I design a reason why there’d be all these tubes where they maybe have gas powered things like with compressed air. So I started building this up and I started writing a small amount of story on this. I’m like, but how did they get that in the early 1900’s, slightly after what in our world would be the death of Queen Victoria? Technically Edwardian rather than Victorian, but you’ll have to read the book to see more of that. But it started to bother me. Like, how did they get in this early 1900’s time frame with all this technology that we don’t have and then it occurred to me. What if some of the scientists didn’t die, like [Riemann], and if we’d had something like modern antibiotics so he didn’t die [of, I think,] tuberculosis or pneumonia, I can’t remember which at this time. And then what if other people didn’t die? What if Mary Shelley didn’t die? I was researching feminism at the time and I had found out that there was a feminist movement in the early 1800’s that died out when Mary Wollstonecraft gave birth to Mary Shelley and died subsequent to the childbirth and then when her husband published her biography, it had the backfire effect of trashing her reputation so women’s rights were set back about a hundred years.

To learn more, go check out the interview at BuzzyMag, fellow adventurers! Or to read the book that was the ultimate product of this thought process, get Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine wherever fine books are sold:

-the Centaur

Pictured: a location from Dragon Con. Or, perhaps, one from JW&TCTM … can you spot it?

Guest Post at Magical Words

Want to know more about the process of writing a novel? Check out my guest post at Magical Words!

Putting It All In

One of the most important pieces of writing advice I’ve received is “put it all in.” If you’ve got a great idea, don’t save it for a great story: put it in the story you’re working on now. I can’t tell you how many times in the past I had a great idea that I felt I “wasn’t ready to tell,” but I can tell you that those stories almost never get told.

When I started writing a steampunk novel, I questioned what to put in it. I knew my protagonist was a young female soldier from the Victorian era, but what else should go in the story? Some things seemed obvious …

To find out more the rest, take a look at the post, or to find out more about Jeremiah, check out The Clockwork Time Machine wherever fine books are sold:

-the Centaur

The Willstone Family Mint Julep

800px-Mint_Julep_im_Silberbecher.jpg

One of the fun things that Bell Bridge Books does for authors is to find ways to connect them to readers. While brainstorming about Jeremiah Willstone and the Clockwork Time Machine, one thing they suggested was to find something fun in the books – like an activity, a recipe – or a drink. Well, as it turns out, there’s a cocktail in JW&TCTM: the mint julep.

It was worth the wait. The mint julep was precisely as she remembered her grandmother’s: sweet sugar, sharp bourbon, the tang of mint fresh-picked from the garden, all served icy-cold in a tall Collins glass. It was like a sudden flash from another universe, another time, and Jeremiah felt a pang of homesickness—and forgotten loneliness; her grandmother was long gone, and Jeremiah realized she was more than a decade into the project of redeeming her mother’s good name. After a long sip of mint-muddled bourbon, Jeremiah marshaled herself and spoke.

According to Garden and Gun’s The Southerner’s Handbook, “the mint julep may be the most iconic cocktail in America” after the martini. Originating in the early eighteen hundreds, it was perceived as a drink of the elites – because you needed a heck of lot of money to offer someone a drink, much less one served with ice, in a pewter cup, prepared by a servant, so it arrived frosted, all prior to refrigeration! But in modern times the mint julep is a drink for the masses, perhaps best known for its association with the Kentucky Derby, which in turn shot from regional to international prominence because of Hunter S. Thompson’s groundbreaking article of gonzo journalism, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.

But all that history takes us away from the damn drink, and while Jeremiah Willstone’s family originated in England with Mary Wollstonecraft, they very definitely became Southerners when they emigrated to America (where the real-life Mary Wollstonecraft had hoped to travel one day, if she’d lived longer). It took a little work to interpolate what the Willstone family’s mint julep might be like, but then I realized, since Victoriana is a century up on us, their drinks might be a mix of old and new. And so:

The Willstone Family Mint Julep

8 mint leaves
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
2.5 ounces Kentucky bourbon
Selzer water
Crushed ice
1 Julep Cup (traditional) or Collins Glass (modern)
1 mint sprig
Put the mint leaves in the bottom of the glass and top with the sugar. Muddle them together until the mint leaves begin to break down. Add a splash of seltzer to dissolve the sugar. Fill the glass 3/4 full with crushed ice and pour in the bourbon; top off with selzer. Stir, then garnish with the mint sprig and serve!

This recipe is a combination of ones from Garden and Gun’s The Southerner’s Handbook, updated slightly through comparison with one by Alton Brown to make it stronger and sweeter and to incorporate the more modern selzer water that the Victorianans would not be afraid to use. Contrariwise, the Garden and Gun one uses hot water instead of seltzer water, a good old Southern trick to make sure that the sugar completely dissolves – so Grandma Mark Willstone just might have poured a “little drop” of hot water on her mint and sugar before muddling it … and pouring in that crushed ice.

Enjoy.

-the Centaur

Pictured: a mint julep, from Wikimedia Commons by CocktailmarlerOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link.

A Day Without Women Would be the End of the World

5ef96d03cb1820c79272ae79625681d2.jpg

Today, March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day that began commemorating the anniversary of a women workers strike – and so perhaps it’s also being celebrated as A Day Without a Woman, another strike designed to call attention to how important women are to our society. But, science fiction writer that I am, I couldn’t help but think of literal day without women. One could think of it as an inversion of the story of Y the Last Man – except of course it would mean the end of the human world. Whether you believe the story of Genesis or the Mitochondrial Eve hypothesis, our species originated from a single mother – but new species arise when old ones go through population bottlenecks, so the children of X the Last Woman might not be a humanity that we recognize.

But, proponent of woman’s rights that I am, I can’t also help but think that science fiction scenario is precisely the wrong way to think about women. It reduces them to the role that they serve for our species. It’s no more appropriate to reduce a woman to her womb than it is to reduce a man to his sperm – and the reduction is considerably more damaging to women, who’ve suffered millennia of discrimination at the hands of societies that often treat them like second class citizens, if not property – at least since biblical and Roman times, and possibly for all of human history.

The History of International Women’s Day

Well, in the early 1900s, women who were tired of that treatment banded together into unions like the International Ladies’ Garment Worker’s Union, organizing a series of strikes demanding better conditions and equal pay, starting with one on March 8, 1908. That strike might have been overshadowed in the history books by the much larger Uprising of the 20,000 in 1909 – but the Socialist Party of America was struck enough by it to commemorate it with a Woman’s Day in 1909, which blossomed into an international celebration by 1911. In 1914, International Women’s Day was held again on March 8, and it’s been held there ever since.

Any doubters of the power of women to change the world should remember this: International Women’s Day kicked off the Russian Revolution. Leon Trotsky once said “we did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution” – but it did, when women went on strike and took to the streets of Saint Petersburg, demanding “Bread and Peace” – an end to World War I, to food shortages, and the rule of the Russian czars – and kicking off the February Revolution. In the end, Nicholas II abdicated – and the newly instituted Provisional Government granted women the right to vote on July 20, 1917.

At first, International Women’s Day was celebrated for decades primarily in socialist countries, but as it progressed, its focus changed more and more to focus on women in general – to the point that to hide its origins, some people even made up stories that International Women’s Day had an older history going back to 1847. But it’s wrong to distort history: we should no more strip International Women’s Day of its Soviet roots than we should try to hide that Sputnik launched from Tyuratam.

Like orbit, gender equality respects no boundaries and is held back by no creed, and the United Nations began celebrating IWD as part of International Women’s Year in 1975 and giving it themes in 1996. Depressingly, many themes seem to recur, such as struggles against violence against women and struggles for gender equality – just as women marched for equality in 1908. Perhaps that’s why we needed A Day Without a Woman – to remind us of what we’d be missing in a world without them.

Whether you took part in A Day Without a Woman or are just now finding out about it, it’s a good time to think back not just on the women in your life, but to think about them not just in their roles as women – as wives or mothers or daughters or sisters – but as people who are individuals, full members of our society with equal standing with all others. That’s not to say that there’s not a lot to celebrate about women in their roles as women (or men in their roles as men, or others in their role as others) – but we should never reduce or restrict any individual to their role based on their gender.

Reflections in Victoriana

Jeremiah Willstone would be shocked to hear that in 1908 women in our universe were leading some of their first major marches for women’s rights – and not just because, in her universe, 1908 was the year Jeremiah, as a female Senior Expeditionary Commander, led a mammoth military strike force in pursuit of her uncle and his stolen airship at the beginning of The Clockwork Time Machine.

She’d be surprised because in her universe, her great-great grandmother Mary Wollstonecraft wrote a book called The Equality of Man, a magnum opus which kicked off a women’s Liberation movement that spread like wildfire all over the world – and, as I am fond of saying, “with twice as many brains working on problems, Jeremiah’s world is more advanced in 1908 than ours is today.”

In our world, of course, Mary Wollstonecraft did not write The Equality of Man; she died a decade earlier, from complications in giving birth to Mary Shelley, future author of Frankenstein. We’ll talk about how Mary Wollstonecraft’s death was a great lost opportunity – and how she inspired the world of Victoriana – in a future post!

-the Centaur

Pictured: Princess Hyacinth by Alphonse Mucha, a picture I have always admired for the strength and unconventional depicted in the figure, a daughter of a blacksmith in a ballet with ties to Czech lore. Image credit thanks to the users of Pinterest.

Adventures in Women’s History

Screenshot 2017-03-07 12.33.35.png

Jeremiah’s world is one in which women’s liberation happened a century early, so, with twice as many brains working on hard problems, they’re more advanced in 1908 than we are today – but that doesn’t mean we’re not trying! In March, the people of our universe celebrate Women’s History Month as a way to highlight the important parts of our history that might otherwise be forgotten, and so this month on the Adventures of Jeremiah Willstone I’m going to highlight various figures in women’s history and how they inspired various characters in the Jeremiah Willstone series.

We’ll be talking about women’s liberation pioneer Mary Wollstonecraft and how she inspired Jeremiah Willstone; women scientists Emmy Noether and Marie Curie and how they inspired Doctor Jackson Truthsayer; computer scientists Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper and how they inspired Georgiana Westenhoq, and women soldiers Kristen Griest and Chantelle Taylor and how they inspired characters like Jeremiah and Natasha Faulkner-Jain.

I’ll also talk a bit about Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day, and the whole notion of “history months” and how Bayes Rule helps us understand why singling out one group for recognition, which to some people seems prejudiced and unfair, really can be a fair thing if that group has been unfairly treated!

Stay tuned!

-the Centaur

Making a Point…

20130527_125311-motion

I told someone: “Jeremiah comes from a world where women’s liberation happened a century early, so, with twice as many brains working on problems, they’re more advanced in 1908 than we are today.” His response: “Oh, you’re making a point, aren’t you?”

Yes. Yes I am…

-the Centaur