I once received a rejection letter from a small press publisher because my work wasn’t “sufficiently Steampunk.” The editor told me that they’d gladly publish my work if I’d just add a bit more of what they were looking for, and I declined saying that it wasn’t my style. It was all a lie though; I had no idea what “Steampunk” was. My inner nerd went into spasms thinking there could be some new and awesome genre out there to which I wasn’t privy, so I turned to the internet as we all do when looking for answers.
My image search spawned sepia pictures of oddly dressed men wearing brass rimmed goggles and layers of soot. There were lumbering airships tethered to the sky by patchwork balloons and smoking cities straight out of a mechanical fantasy. There were fan sites and societies and authors specializing in Steampunk that had been writing for decades and it all hit me like a bitch slap. Where had I been? I read, I watch TV, I use the internet; I’ve glued myself to pop culture and yet I couldn’t define “Steampunk” without Wikipedia’s help.
I dove in thinking that I needed to catch up, and at first, I was a bit disappointed. Most of the fiction I read seemed to be too centered on the premise; the story took a backseat to the genre. Authors would spend copious amounts of time describing the setting as if I’d become enthralled by the theme alone. The stories were all the same. They’d encompass a misbegotten land, usually a chain of islands, choked by pollution and the tyrannical rule of this or that emperor or king. There were always airships and brass pipes and steam powered contraptions with a complete disregard for practicality. And the characters all shared an odd commonness; they felt like cartoons. I’d start reading, doing my best to picture human characters, but eventually, their exaggerated mannerisms would destroy my mental constructs and replace them with painted two-dimensional beings.
I ended up thinking that Steampunk was the literary equivalent to anime. But as it turns out, that’s just because I hadn’t been reading the right stuff; I hadn’t found A.L. Davroe. In reading “The Krie Seekers”, I found that Steampunk can be just as captivating as any other genre as long as it’s centered on a strong story line with plausible character development. I’ve since disavowed my previous notion that Steampunk was nothing more than an odd esoteric fad that’d fade into the past like the age of antiquity that gave it birth, and I plan on reading more. As a side note, I’m definitely a fan of anime, it’s just that when I read a novel, I’m looking for something else.
I’ve decided to write a three part series on emerging styles as they apply to indie authors, and this is the first.
Part One: Steampunk, and A.L. Davroe
It’s been said that the hardest part of writing a short story or a novella is keeping it short. Sure, it’s easy to spew out a few thousand words and dub it as a short story, but the artistry lies in the ability to do it well; to fit genuine characters and germane plot into those few thousand words. A.L. Davroe does it masterfully. She has managed to fit a book’s worth of plot into a novella, and most impressively of all, she even squeezed in a believable romance. At face value, I suppose that doesn’t seem like an impressive feat, but it is. The best romantic relationships are the ones that start off as anything but. I won’t go into how that relates specifically to Davroe’s story because doing so would be too much of a spoiler, but the way this particular relationship is handled by Davroe is worth mention.
The story, the plot it’s self, is paramount in Davroe’s writing; the Steampunk theme is secondary. There are still plenty of airships and brass pipes and black clouds of noxious pollution, but all those aspects are where they belong: in the setting. Her characters act like humans, even though a few of them aren’t, and it was easy for me to picture them as such. And Davroe’s style is fast paced and vivid. I read “The Krie Seekers” in one sitting as the day passed quietly around me; I kept clicking the page forward button on my Kindle in total satisfaction.
I’m admittedly ignorant when it comes to Steampunk so I can’t say for sure whether or not Davroe brings something new to the genre, but I think she might. The city in which this story takes place, Dormorn, is cast almost like a character all of its own. She writes that the city has a heartbeat, which is punctuated throughout the story, and that type of personification came across as something truly fresh and novel. When I asked Davroe about this, she said “The CITY STEAM vignettes are meant to be little peeks into a world where the dominant world power has rejected the reigning god (Ehleis) and chooses instead to believe in their own power of creation. In this way, man himself is a god and the mechanisms that he creates are his children.” How awesome is that? In reading the story I felt it; almost as if Dormorn were sentient with long reaching pipes as a root system and billowing clouds of smoke as breath.
Anyway, I can’t recommend this book strongly enough. I’d usually include a synopsis of the book at this point, as I have in past segments, but I don’t want to give away too much. In short, the “Krie” and the “Seekers” are both supernatural beings that share a murderous, albeit symbiotic, relationship. The story of their fated struggle is juxtaposed against one of love and hate, of action and drama, and I loved this book. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should read it. Here’s the short synopsis off of Amazon: As the citizens in the Windward Empire’s capital city of Dormorn sleep, two lawmen recruit a pair of Seeker sisters to assist in a hunt for the blood-thirsty Krie that have been terrorizing the city.
Please take the time to follow these links:
Her blog/website: http://www.aldavroe.com/
Her Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/ALDavroeFanPage
Her Twitter account: https://twitter.com/aldavroe
Her Goodreads account: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5212441.A_L_Davroe
And most importantly, the Amazon page for THE KRIE SEEKERS: http://www.amazon.com/Krie-Seekers-City-Steam-ebook/dp/B00BUQK7OM/