Mission Update - January

Obviously this comes a bit late, but it's something I've been thinking about for a while: I often want to post an update about how the work is going, but don't want to interrupt the integrity of the site with personal tidbits too often. So I'll post once a month to let you all know about new developments in my research, both in the real world and here on the site. I'll also be looking for feedback from my readers occasionally, as evidenced by the inclusion of the "What Should I Blog About Next?" widget in the sidebar. And for those who are wondering, I'll be posting on how to steampunk an RPG starting this Friday. It'll be a bit of a series, as the information I have on it would result in a monstrous single post. The Verne posts are because it was the great writer's birthday this month. I like to pay tribute to one of the reasons I got into steampunk when I can.

Speaking of interaction, if anyone can come up with a concise way of conveying what that sidebar is for so I don't have to spell out the whole question, I'd appreciate it.

January turned out to be an exceedingly eventful month for me:

I'll give my reading update first: I read Greg Broadmore's Victory! over the Christmas holidays, and it was laugh-out-loud funny for those who like a dry wit mixed with their satire of colonialism and gun culture. Brilliant work, and highly recommended. I also finished The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia, which was as good as I had hoped it would be from the preview chapter I read in Weird Tales over a year ago. I picked up a copy of A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and will be including it, among others, as reviews of steampunk precedents (I still need to put together that precedent reading list). I have also been updating the original reading list of primary sources with links to the annotated posts, and the audiobook list as I listen to the audiobooks, giving brief reviews of the quality thereof. I took a break from steampunk to read Joe Hill's Heart Shaped Box (which was like reading early Stephen King in many ways), and S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire, which is the worst piece of garbage I've read this year. Pure crap, unless he was writing an ironic satire of Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series, only substituting Ren-Faire pagans for Christians. If that's the case, then it's really funny. I listened to the audio-version of James Blaylock's Lord Kelvin's Machine, which is my second "read" of the short story (not to be confused with the novella released later, and now collected in The Advntures of Langdon St. Ives). Pining to see Sherlock Holmes in the theater, I read Mark Frost's excellent page-turner, The List of 7, which imagines Sir Arthur Conan Doyle adventuring with Jack Sparks, the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. It's a good bit of fun, with some excellent passages providing commentary on neo-Victorian fiction. I've started reading Emilie P. Bush's self-published Chenda and the Airship Brofman, as well as listening to the audiobook of Philip Reeve's Larklight, then comparing the story to the beautiful illustrations by David Wyatt in the hardcopy. I'll likely be finishing my read of Kenneth Oppel's Airborn after I finish Chenda. As you can tell from the list of possible choices for the "what to blog next" poll, I'm a bit behind on my annotations versus my reading.

The Steam Wars (Steampunk Star Wars) article came back again for further revision. Nothing too onerous, mostly detail work, but I still need to secure the permission from a few of the artists. Hopefully that doesn't tie things up.

I was asked to submit a chapter to an academic book on Fantasy and Fairy Tales. They had wanted a chapter on steampunk and had no submissions (I didn't even know there was a call for papers!). They found me via the blog, and asked if I'd write a chapter on steampunk. I've lead a charmed academic life so far - this is the second time I've had a request in a total of three publications since starting this project. The book will be released later this year, providing everyone involved meets their deadlines. The title of my chapter is "Steampunk: Technofantasies in a neo-Victorian retrofuture." I'll be focusing on how I think the combination of Technofantasy neo-Victorianism lies at the core of the steampunk aesthetic.

And finally, I applied for a full-time teaching position at Grant MacEwan University here in Edmonton. A few days after an epic three-hour interview, I was offered the position, and pending paperwork being signed, have taken it. I'll be starting July 1, 2010. I'll be teaching introductory English courses: 5 courses in the fall and winter semesters, with the spring and summer effectively off. So I'll be working hard on the dissertation from May to August, while focusing on my teaching the rest of the year. It's a permanent position, which is a real boon to my family, and ultimately my research, given how much time I'll have to devote to writing in the summer months.

I'll be presenting twice at the upcoming Greater Edmonton Teaching Convention on Thursday, February 25 at 1:00 on my Nemo research, and at 2:30 with "Steampunk 101" which should be fun - I'll be trying to work out some ideas on teaching steampunk in various curricula for that. I attended the panel on teaching steampunk at Steamcon 2009, and got the distinct impression that some of the attendees had wanted something a little more concrete. I'll be posting some ideas for teaching steampunk here as well. Feedback appreciated.

Until next month, a huge thank-you to my readers! January had the biggest numbers I've seen at the site yet, and February is already at half that amount, with more than half the month to go - an it's a short month! Thanks for making Steampunk Scholar the place to come for literary steampunk musings.

I have been tentatively offered the opportunity to teach a night class in Science Fiction at the University of Alberta in the fall. No guarantees on this, but I thought I should make my readers aware of it, in case any Edmontonians are interested in taking the course with me. I'll have further details later in the year.
I'm excited about the Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition next month, which I am definitely attending and presenting at. It's still up in the air for me as to whether or not I'll be able to make it to the Victoria Steam Exposition in Victoria, BC, May 22 & 23, which pains me, as it's the first big Canadian steampunk event. It's a purely financial thing...which is why I wish I could sojourn in the States while working on my research - lots of exciting events happening down there!


  1. As I haven't had the chance in any other forum, let me wish you my belated congratulations! Will you be teaching any upper-level classes at Grant Mac?

  2. Thanks Michael - and no, it's all intro level. A lament for others, but still exciting for me!

  3. Hi - thanks for the update - it's nice get a little bit of info about ther person behind the book reviews and scholarly discourse...

    I was pleased to read your Nemo essay in its new home at Verniana. Very interesting. I do have one question. In your paper, and elsewhere, I've seen it mentioned that the Nautilus language was something specifically invented by Nemo. Perhaps I am misremembering a bad translation, but I had always assumed that the language, being something Arronax could not identify, was likely some sort of Hindi or Urdu dialect, not literally an entirely new language... Do you know if Verne's text ever addresses this directly?

    Thanks, and congratulations on your upcoming teaching position...

  4. No, it's not a Hindi or Urdu dialect: in footnote 3, page 102 of Walter James Miller and Frederick Paul Walter's superb restored and annotated version, it states that the phrase "Nautron respoc lorni virch", which the first mate utters regularly after scanning the horizon, echoes the etymology of corresponding English, German, and Latin words, and likely means something like "There is nothing in sight." So it's unlikely that it's Nemo/Dakkar's native tongue (especially given that it's unlikely Verne had concluded that Nemo was Indian at this point). I couldn't find an exact passage relating to the language as invented by Nemo, but I'll keep digging.

  5. Congrats on the gig! I've taken a few screenwriting classes at MacEwan.

  6. Thanks Mr. Sable - btw, are you part of any of the steampunk forums? Would love to chat more than commenting on the blog allows!

  7. I post here as I don't know how to contact you other way.

    If you read French, I just want to draw your attention on this newbook about Steampunk :

  8. I don't read French at the level this book is likely at, but thanks very much for the link Cedric! As for contacting me, my email address is at the very bottom of the page.


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