Thursday, October 27, 2011

Interview with Steampunk Author Tim C.Taylor

Tim Taylor is in the house! (No, not the wacky sitcom fixer upper.) Tim C. Taylor is a fantasy Author. 
He creates new worlds and is inviting us in! 
So grab a ticket and enjoy the ride!

Hi Tim, I was looking at your newest project Last Man Through the Gate. I love the name Codrin. How do you choose a name for your characters?

 Hi Lynn, thanks for having me. Where do the names come from, eh? Well, an old technique for creating fantasy worlds is to take one or more real historical societies, and then steal the bits you want for your story, such as names. The idea is that because they are based on real life, these stolen names and concepts will have a consistency that the reader picks up on, and so transfers a sense of believability to your fictional world. After all, one of the thrills for readers of fantasy and science fiction is to be immersed in another world. They must be able to convince themselves that world is real, or the book collapses.

I’m sure it’s the same for your readers, Lynn, who enjoy being transported to the Mississippi of the 1880s. Even the wackiest conspiracy nuts will believe that Mississippi in the 1880s really did exist (I think). I have to work harder to give the reader reasons to believe my world could exist. On the other hand, I get the advantage that I don’t have to check for historical accuracy, and I can change the world to suit my story.

JK Rowling used this technique of plundering the real historical world with her Harry Potter books. Many of her spell incantations borrow loosely from Latin: expecto patronus, and that sort of thing. I’m certain that a better Latin scholar than me would explain how Rowling’s Latin is grammatically wrong, but that’s not the point. Readers pick up on the consistency — and a sense that this is archaic language — and that adds another nugget of believability to the world of Harry Potter.

And so back to Codrin. His world is a rough analog of the Balkans in 1914. His people —the Shrebs — are a composite of Serbs, Jews, and the wider Slav peoples. For the Shreb characters, such as Codrin, I’ve picked real Balkan names, mostly Bulgarian and (as with Codrin) Romanian. I hope that gives a sense of consistency.

I might be out of the loop but what exactly is steampunk?

 It’s one of those dreaded things: a sub-genre. Normally that term means books that no one actually wants to read other than a clique of rather strange people, the kind you wouldn’t want your son or daughter to bring home as their new best friend.

The publisher, Tor, has a three word definition: Victorian science fiction, though they take pains to point out that Victorian is to be taken very loosely. In other words, it’s a fictional setting that uses often wildly imagined inventions and anachronistic technology, and then revels in punkishly mixing them together. Steampunk is beginning to influence wider culture. At the moment, the bus I get into Bedford has an advert for a new film: The Three Musketeers. In the background of the advert are airships. That’s steampunk.

Codrin’s world in Last Man Through the Gate is set approximately in 1914, on the eve of the First World War. Politically it is similar but technologically very different. For example, there is no coal in Codrin’s world. The industrial revolution is taking a very different path, using as its power source a strange substance called ‘flek’. Flek is powerful enough to punch a hole between dimensions and we get to see an abandoned American space craft at one point. On the other hand, the soldiers carry muskets and underwater diving involves upturned, weighted barrels and holding your breath. Very dangerous!
With your novels not only do you create fantastic characters, but complete worlds! Tell us about Codrin’s home.

 Codrin is a professor of linguistics at Sruno University, the principle place of learning in the Dual Kingdom. The book describes it as follows:

Sruno University was situated in the Vengrian half of the Dual Kingdom. That crazy, ramshackle kingdom was still staggering into modernity out of a much earlier age. The complexity of a country with fourteen official nationalities was addressed by a simple relationship: the Celips dominated the Vengrians who, in turn, bullied the Shrebs. The other nationalities defined themselves in relation to the three main peoples of the Dual Kingdom.

Codrin is a Shreb, and his position as a university professor means that his family is about as far up the social hierarchy as they can go.

Except he loses his post. Nothing that he has done, just political bickering and he is caught in the crossfire. Suddenly things don’t look so rosy for him. It’s a long way down to the bottom of the social order for his two young daughters who have never known hardship. So he uses the last of his money to pay for passage through the dimensional gateway to the colony on the other side. He goes first to establish a job and lodgings; his wife and daughters will follow.

How does it differ from Earth?

I’ll pick one aspect, though it has many consequences. The polar regions of Codrin’s planet are covered in poison clouds that grow in winter and recede each summer. Codrin’s people call these clouds the Stain. Every year, the extent of the Stain grows a little. In hundreds, maybe thousands of years, a day will come when the entire planet will be engulfed in poison. Already, some regions have been abandoned, and great seasonal migrations of people have begun.

The Stain is not all bad, though. It precipitates flek, a powder that combusts in clean air. This flek (which is Yiddish for stain) is fuelling an industrial revolution and boosts psychic powers in people.

As you know, I write Romance, does Codrin have a love interest?

His love is for his wife, Anita, and his two young daughters. Codrin is separated early on from his family. He is driven to extraordinary actions by a compulsion to find them, and is haunted by the question of whether he did the right thing by them to gamble everything on starting a new life in the colony across the Gate.

What is the most asked question you get from fans?

 That’s easy! How do I come up with ideas?

The answer is that I like to write the kind of stories that I enjoy reading. I like fantasy and science fiction where there are some big ideas behind the story, and I get the sense that the world where the characters act out their story joins-up behind the scenes.The Lord of the Rings is a good example of this, though perhaps an extreme one.

So I enjoy coming up with world-building ideas, and that’s why I have far more ideas than I have years in which to write them.

Thanks Tim it was great talking to you again! I love Harry Potter and LOTR! 'Til next time!

Contact Tim at: | Twitter: @TimCTaylor

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  1. Lynn, hi -

    I'm stopping by on the Halloween Hop.My favorite scary book is The Haunting of Hill House and my favorite creepy movie is Pumpkinhead.I will be dressed up as a horror writer posing as a software developer.

    Happy Halloween!

  2. I'm thinking about trying out this novel. I haven't read much steampunk other than jules verne novels.

    My favorite Halloween movie is probably Rocky Horror Picture Show, but my favorite Scary movie is Nightmare On Elm Street!

    Come check out all kinds of Writing, Movie and other Miscellany over on WRITE READ WATCH. I’m also looking for authors and nanowrimo failures and winners to write guest blogs for November! Any takers! Lolsz. Enjoy.

  3. I don't understand anikocarmean's comment. How can you tell the difference between a horror writer and a software developer? :-)

  4. lol! Hi Tim! I just started a Halloween blog hop. You had to state your favorite book or movie and what you are dressing up as for Halloween.
    Sounds like anikocarmean's is going as themselves perhaps? ;-)