I’m so excited to sit down with Lilith Saintcrow for this month’s interview. She first wowed me with her Jill Kismet series, so when I found out she was releasing a Steampunk series, my delight was immeasurable. Here’s the blurb for The Iron Wyrm Affair:
Sorcery. Seduction. Deduction.
Archibald Clare is a detective of truly uncanny abilities-a mentath, capable of feats of deduction and logic that border on the supernatural. He is also abruptly, uniquely, the only unregistered mentath left alive in Londoninium. Someone has murdered the others and, if not for the timely intervention of the Prime sorceress Emma Bannon, there would have been no one left to stop… whatever is coming.
Mentaths and sorcerers are dying-or worse, being seduced into betraying Queen and Country. Bannon and Clare must uncover treachery, conspiracy, and sorcery of the blackest hue. And in a Britannia where magic has turned the Industrial Revolution on its head, time is short.
The game is afoot…
DF: The thing about Lili is she makes “boring” fascinating. Check out her blog for all sorts of smart discussion. If I name a fantasy subgenre, you’ve probably written it, and you’ve done a lot with vampires and werewolves. Why Steampunk? And how does your experience in those genres shape your Steampunk?
LS:They introduced themselves with their names full-blown, actually. I can’t pick a favourite–on the one hand, I like Emma because she’s so very strong and fragile all at once, and the tension between what’s expected of her as a woman in that time period and society versus the fact of her sorcerous talent and will makes her fascinating. Archibald, on the other hand, is a far more approachable character, despite the fact that his brain is built for logic and deduction. He has trouble with his emotions, and that difficulty makes him very human for me, much easier to identify with than Emma.
I have to say that my favourite characters are often secondary. In this case, Sigmund Baerbarth the half-failed genius sort of bloomed and took over a far larger role than I thought he would, and I enjoyed to the hilt every scene he arrived in. So as far as who I most enjoyed out of this particular book, it’s him. In the second Bannon & Clare book, Red Plague Affair, I think my favourite character is a hunchback. So you never can tell.
LS: I have two more Bannon & Clare books; we’ll see what happens after that. The next, as I’ve said, is Red Plague, and it grew out of the historical facts of the 1854 cholera outbreak in London. Plague and epidemiology fascinate me; human responses to mass outbreaks and bioweapons fascinate me too, in a sort of unhealthy trainwreck way. So that was all boiling inside my head while writing it.
It’s actually the book afterward, though, where things get really interesting…
LS:Right now the question I’m rarely asked is about writing women in quasi-historical settings. There’s a certain amount of tension there. Women have gotten the short end of the stick historically, and it’s important to be honest about that. But using misogyny in history for shock-jock value or to propagate current misogynistic attitudes is repugnant in the extreme.
I’m often annoyed by anachronistic attitudes in plenty of historical fiction; far more interesting in my mind is to show historical attitudes one may not agree with and to show their flaws and (dubious) merits clearly. Of course every work of historical or futuristic fiction really says far more about the author’s present than anything else. It’s a balancing act, and one I wish more interviewers asked about, because I think each author’s individual answer for each individual book would be absolutely fascinating to hear about and discuss.
DF: ::makes note to self for future interview question:: Thanks again.