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Monday, October 5, 2020

Fantasy author Jeri Westerson: The Clockwork in Steampunk

The Clockwork in Steampunk and Clockwork Gypsy 
By Jeri Westerson 

Clockwork, devices, goggles, and gears. Why are these things important to the steampunk aesthetic? And what is steampunk anyway?

I had to answer these questions myself when I embarked on my gaslamp fantasy/ steampunk series. I was interested in the aesthetic, which also involves a fanciful wardrobe of top hats and leather aviator-type garb added to lots of ruffles and corsets for the women. And since steampunk stories were usually set in a fantastical Victorian London, it naturally lent itself—at least it did so to me—to the fascinating world of magicians in this time period, where séances and the investigation into the next world compelled and enthralled, and science was still crossed with a certain level of mysticism, where maybe magic was a real possibility. I wanted to use a magician who summoned Jewish daemons to pepper his act with real magic.

My magician, Leopold Kazsmer is of Jewish/Romani heritage and ashamed of both to give him an interesting backstory that has everything to do with his current situation as a man who often helped out Scotland Yard when the crimes involved something more supernatural in nature.

In the first book in the Enchanter Chronicles series, THE DAEMON DEVICE (just released in audio), it sets the stage and introduces the characters who will help Leopold Kazsmer, the Great Enchanter, on his quest—a Jewish daemon who helped raise him when his father was killed; a living automaton of mysterious nature; his friend who died and was returned against his will as a ghost; and a secretive and special inspector from Scotland Yard, Mingli Zhao…about whom Leopold is wary…and besotted.

Steampunk can be characterized as a sub-genre of science fiction where it is set in a Victorian London that never was, in a world powered by steam…and often a little magic. So why is clockwork such a powerful device in the genre?

In my newest entry in the series, CLOCKWORK GYPSY, a Romani man has been slowly changed, bit by bit, gear by gear, into a clockwork man, and is naturally a bit peeved by this. He’s bent on revenge and he thinks he knows who the culprit is and goes on a rampage in order to kill him before his own mind is completely taken over by gears and pistons. Let’s face it, it’s scary, the whole idea of your body being consumed against your will with technology. But as we look at the late Victorian world, there is no greater technology than clockwork.

In fact, clockwork men or automatons go back far earlier, when clockwork itself was invented and refined. In seventeenth-century Japan, artists there created whole scenes of “puppets” generated by clockwork mechanisms, performed in automata theaters.

French engineer Jacques de Vaucanson created his Flute Player in 1737, who could perform twelve songs. He also created the Digesting Duck, who could quack, flap its wings, eat, and…well, digest and leave behind the result. 

There was Turk, the chess-playing automaton in 1767. There were several writing automatons who could write poetry and draw pictures. One in 1774 was made by Swiss clockmakers. Joseph Jacquard in 1801, essentially invented the computer when he built a loom automaton that was controlled autonomously with punched cards, much like early computers in the 1960s. 
Because clockwork is precise—and looks to all the world as if enchanted—is it too far to assume that they could be run by magic?
by Jeri Westerson, illustrated by Robert Carrasco
October 31, 2020
Page count 280 
Five illustrations to come
$15.99 print/ $.99 ebook
ISBN 978-0-9982238-5-8, print
ISBN 978-0-9982238-7-2, ebook
A diabolical plot is afoot to kill thousands by connecting England’s railway lines to a deadly curse. The beautiful and mysterious Mingli Zhao, Special Inspector to Scotland Yard, enlists the help of Leopold Kazsmer, the Great Enchanter, who uses his skills with summoning Jewish daemons to perform true magic to help solve supernatural crimes. Meanwhile, a Hungarian Romani—part man, part clockwork—will stop at nothing to kill the man he believes is responsible for his hell of an existence that is slowly grinding his mind into the nothingness of gears and pistons. It’s a race against time for Leopold to stop the fiendish plot of the railway barons, fight off a plutocratic society of goblins, struggle to gain the romantic attentions of Miss Zhao…and discover the identity of the Clockwork Gypsy before he kills again.
Series Book Trailer: 

About the Author:
Los Angeles native JERI WESTERSON is the author of twelve Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Mystery novels, a series nominated for thirteen national awards from the “Agatha” to the “Shamus”. Her fifth novel BLOOD LANCE was named one of the Ten Hot Crime Novels for Colder Days by Kirkus Reviews, and her sixth, SHADOW OF THE ALCHEMIST, was named Best of 2013 by Suspense Magazine. For BOOKE OF THE HIDDEN, her urban fantasy series, Publishers Weekly said, “Readers sad about the ending of Charlaine Harris’s MIDNIGHT, TEXAS trilogy will find some consolation in Moody Bog.” The fourth and final in the series, THE DARKEST GATEWAY, releases October 2, 2019. Jeri also writes the humorous SKYLER FOXE LGBT MYSTERIES under the pen name Haley Walsh. Jeri’s short stories were included in several mystery anthologies, including Shaken: Stories for Japan (for the 2011 Earthquake Relief Fund). Jeri was also featured on two local NPR shows, “My Awesome Empire” and KVCR-Arts. She has served two terms as president of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, twice president of the Orange County Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and as vice president and California Crime Writers Conference co-chair for the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

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