The Bloody Red Baron

The Bloody Red Baron

I enjoyed Kim Newman’s novel Anno Dracula and his related graphic novel 1895: Seven Days in Mayhem enough that I decided to continue to his next novel in the Anno Dracula series, The Bloody Red Baron. As one might expect from the title and the cover, this novel is set in World War I and focuses on the conflict between Allied and German pilots, in particular Baron Manfred von Richthofen. That said, the cover of the Titan Books edition is a little deceptive because Richthofen doesn’t fly his famous Fokker triplane. Instead, he’s a vampire who’s been the subject of medical experimentation and literally can transform into a deadly flying weapon. Meanwhile, Edgar Allan Poe, who long ago became a vampire and immigrated to Europe has been sent to write Richthofen’s biography to inspire the German forces. Those same German forces are now under the command of Count Dracula, who has found a position in the Kaiser’s court after being deposed from the rule of Great Britain.

On the allied side, we follow the adventures of Edwin Winthrop, a protégé of Charles Beauregard, one of the protagonists of Anno Dracula. Winthrop goes on a aerial reconnaissance mission and is shot down by the Red Baron. As he fights to return to allied territory, he drinks some vampire blood to survive his wounds and gains some vampire strength. He then signs up as a fighter pilot with a personal mission to get his vengeance on Richthofen. In the meantime, vampire reporter Kate Reed is trying to learn about the allied pilots and finds herself entangled in the story’s events. The novel ends in a great climactic battle which involves biplanes, monstrous German flying aces, and airships. Dracula even shows up and tries to bring some medieval battle tactics into World War I.

I enjoyed the novel, but it never quite drew me in the same way as Anno Dracula did. That said, the Titan Books edition features a nice bonus. It also includes a novella called 1923: Vampire Romance. In this story, Edwin Winthrop recruits Genevieve Dieudonné from Anno Dracula to infiltrate a gathering of high-ranking vampires who have assembled to determine who will be the next vampire leader of Europe. Among the claimants to the title are the head of Hammer Films Seven Golden Vampires, Carmilla Karnstein’s long lost brother, and a nasty hunchbacked vampire. In the middle of it all is a young lady who wants to become a vampire and is smitten by Carmilla’s brother. The whole thing both sends up the vampire romance genre and plays tribute to an Agatha Christie locked-room mystery. To me, this seemed a much stronger successor to Anno Dracula.

The Titan Books edition of The Bloody Red Baron also includes annotations by Kim Newman detailing some of his influences, inspirations and references. A final bonus is a film treatment he wrote for Roger Corman loosely based on the ideas presented in The Bloody Red Baron. All in all, I had fun with Newman’s continuation of the Anno Dracula series and I’m interested in reading more in due course.

In the meantime, you can learn more about my vampire novels by visiting http://www.davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order

Research Trip Through Time

As I mentioned back in my post about visiting the Grand Canyon earlier this year, I’ve been invited to write a story for a steampunk anthology and the anthology must feature a crow or a raven in some prominent way. As it turns out, there are many ravens in Northern Arizona and the Grand Canyon. They’re all over the place and they talk to each other and they’re frequent visitors to the campground. Also, my novel Owl Dance features Professor Maravilla who retreats to the Grand Canyon in 1877 to study birds flying over the canyon. After some thought, I came up with enough of a story idea to pitch to the editor. Of course, a pitch is not a fully formed story. To make the story work, I needed to know a little more about the history of the Canyon at that period. Fortunately, I found John Wesley Powell’s book about exploring the Grand Canyon in the gift shop. His expeditions happened just about five years before my story was to be set, so it seemed a great resource.

John Wesley Powell was a geologist, who in the years after the Civil War, put together an expedition to study the geology of the Green and Colorado River basins. He assembled a team and they started up near the headwaters of the Green River just above the Gates of Lodore. As it turns out, my wife and I had camped just a few miles south of his starting point in 1993.

Green River in Northern Colorado

Powell and his team proceeded down the Green through the canyon lands of Utah until it met up with the Colorado. Along the way, he describes many adventures climbing up the mountains on either side of the river to measure elevations. At one point, he describes going up one cliff face almost too steep for him. He jumps and tries to pull himself up to the top, but can’t. Eventually, his partner has to climb above him, take off his pants and throw one end to Powell, so he can use them as a rope to pull himself to the top. What Powell didn’t really tell us in his narrative is that he’d lost one arm in the Civil War, making this an even more harrowing episode than I first pictured.

What actually proved very useful in this part of the book is that Powell describes the equipment he used at the time and how he used it. This gave me some nice detail to add to my story, since I imagine Professor Maravilla meeting some geologists in my story. Powell’s journey continued on into Arizona and he passed the Vermilion Cliffs, which I visited a few years ago.

Vermilion Cliffs

Powell’s party ultimately wends its way into the Grand Canyon itself. Of course these are the days before the Grand Canyon was anything like a tourist destination or even a household name. He describes traveling along the river and exploring many of the side canyons along the way. I learned that he named the area called “Indian Gardens” after a literal garden he found near the river. At this point in the expedition, they were running low on supplies and Powell describes helping himself to squash growing there.

The Grand Canyon in 2022

Powell’s views on Native Americans are both interesting to read and challenging. He was invited to hear stories and watch ceremonies that few non-Native Americans get to see today. He offers insights unique to his time period and advocated for the preservation of Native American culture. However, he also saw Native Americans as primitives and advocated for their education. Unfortunately, this would be part of the movement that would lead to the creation of Indian Schools which stripped many Native Americans from their homes, languages, and cultures. While my story doesn’t involve Native Americans living near the Canyon, Powell’s attitudes did help me better form some characters in my story.

John Wesley Powell would go on to become the second director of the United States Geological Survey a few years after his book was published. Lake Powell, an artificial reservoir in the Colorado River created by the Glen Canyon Dam is named for him. I appreciate the research trip through time I took with John Wesley Powell and the view he gave me of geology in the Wild West. Of course, the challenge of this kind of time travel is that while Powell can speak to me, I can’t speak to him and discuss the consequences of his actions and find out what he would do as a result.

You can learn more about my novel Owl Dance at: http://davidleesummers.com/owl_dance.html

Lovecraft Country

I first became aware of the TV series Lovecraft Country when it turned up on the Nebula Award Ballot for the 2020 Ray Bradbury Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The show looked interesting, so I watched a few episodes and was impressed enough to go out and buy the complete series on Blu-Ray. I finally had the chance to watch the whole thing and I’m pleased to say it lived up to my expectations.

Cthulhu thinks you should watch Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft Country is a TV series that blends Lovecraftian science fiction and horror with the all-too-real horror that is the experience of black people in Jim Crow America. In the first episode, Atticus Freeman joins up with his friend Leticia Lewis and his Uncle George on a road trip from Chicago to Massachusetts to search for his missing father. Set in the 1950s, Atticus has just returned from serving in Korea. He’s a fan of good books, including science fiction and horror. In the first episode, Atticus learns that his father disappeared in the vicinity of a small town called Ardham. As the series progresses, we learn that Atticus is descended from a slave and her owner. The owner, a member of the Braithwhite family, was a leader in a secret society known as the Order of the Ancient Dawn. Because he’s descended from the Braithwhites, Atticus has the ability to summon the magic his ancestors could. A distant cousin of Atticus, Christina Braithwhite, has already mastered the magical arts but has plans to use Atticus in a nefarious scheme. There are lots of puzzle pieces on the road to Atticus understanding his magical legacy and Christina trying to put her plan into action, which lead to individual episodes which take us back and forth through time and space.

In the midst of this story about secret societies and magic, we are taken on a tour of the all-too-real racism of 1950s America along with a time-travel sequence to the Tulsa race massacre of 1921. H.P. Lovecraft himself was a master of weird storytelling, who introduced us to unforgettable monsters from shoggoths to the mi-go to Great Cthulhu. He was also an avid amateur astronomer who conveyed both the wonders and the terrors of the cosmos. Unfortunately, he was also a racist. He wasn’t simply a casual of-his-times, misguided white person, but actually someone who wrote letters supporting Hitler’s ideas and poetry about the inferiority of black people. So, I found it interesting to see a story that placed black people front and center in a Lovecraftian world, seeking to understand it and keep it from destroying them even as they’re dealing with real world problems.

My favorite character in Lovecraft Country proved to be Atticus’s Aunt Hippolyta. Hippolyta is a woman who wants to be an astronomer, but lives in times when being black and a woman are both serious impediments to her desires. About midway through the series, she finds an orrery built by the Order of Ancient Dawn. Because of her interest in astronomy, she’s able to unlock secrets about the orrery that elude others. She travels to an observatory and goes on truly fantastic journey.

I was sorry to see that Lovecraft Country wasn’t renewed for a second season. Although the first season ends at a satisfying point, I would enjoy following these characters on more adventures.

Black Dossier

Back in June, when I started the third arc of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I also picked up a copy of their graphic novel Black Dossier. This chapter in the adventures of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is set in 1958, but it was released before Century: 1910, which I’d read and discussed in June. This graphic novel starts out as a straightforward adventure story. Mina Murray and her companion Allan Quartermain Jr. have set out to steal The Black Dossier, which contains the entire history of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen from its beginning. Because it’s set so much closer to the present than other League stories, the identities of famous literary figures who appear in the graphic novel are hinted at rather than revealed outright to avoid charges of copyright infringement. So, for example, Mina enlists the help of a master spy named Jimmy, who is an ancestor of Campion Bond and works for someone called “M.” So it’s not too hard to figure out who’s who.

Once Mina and Allan obtain the black dossier, they begin to read. The first section is a description of documents written in the time of the Big Brother government of post-World War II England. I suspect most people know that Orwell’s novel 1984 was originally titled 1948, but the publisher insisted on the change so it would be seen as science fiction rather than satire. From there, we move on to a whole series of documents which parody works ranging from depression-era pornography to Shakespeare to Jack Kerouac.

I’ll admit, when I first started reading this book, I was a bit put off by the dense pages of prose that followed the more traditional graphic novel format. I looked up the history of this particular project and learned that Black Dossier had not originally been intended to be a graphic novel as such, but a sourcebook for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Once I realized that, I settled in for a more time-consuming read and plowed through the prose. And really, the problem was not that the prose itself was difficult, but because it was presented in the pages of a graphic novel-sized volume with limited page count, some of the sections were presented in tiny type that often spanned the width of the page, making it physically difficult to read – at least for a dude in his 50s trying to find the right distance to hold the book from his progressive lenses.

Once I soldiered through that slight difficulty, I was rewarded with parodies of numerous works both classical and modern detailing the Elizabethan origins of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen up through their exploits in World War II. Along the way, we learned about some of the league’s members, such as Virginia Woolf’s immortal Orlando who periodically changes genders, Shakespeare’s Prospero, and Lemuel Gulliver. We also learned how the Queen of the Faeries, Glorianna, formed the League, how Mina met Captain Nemo, and the truth behind Allan Quartermain “Junior.” Among my favorite moments were following Orlando’s adventures as he/she took part in the founding of Britain beside the Trojan soldier Brutus from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain. I also loved the section where P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster get mixed up in a tale of Lovecraftian horror. For geeks like me, there’s a lovely cutaway diagram of Nemo’s Nautilus from these stories. Also, as a fan of Gerry Anderson’s television shows, there was a nifty cameo of Robert the Robot and Fireball XL-5. Of course, because this is set in the main graphic novel story, neither one is mentioned by name.

Black Dossier isn’t the book to pick up for a quick Sunday afternoon read. It takes some work to get through, especially if you’re not familiar with all the source material. I found myself looking a few things up along the way. Still, it rewarded me with a look back at some great books I have read and introduced me to a few books I need to read.

CoKoCon 2022

I’ll be celebrating Labor Day Weekend at CoKoCon 2022 in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area. The convention is being held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Phoenix Tempe in Tempe, Arizona. CoKoCon is a traditional science fiction convention with panels, an art show, a dealer’s room, gaming and room parties. The author guest of honor is Joseph Nassise, who I have been proud to share a dealer’s table with at Phoenix Comic Con a couple of times. We also shared a table of contents in an issue of Cemetery Dance Magazine. The local guest of honor is the multi-talented Linda Addison. She’s a poet, storyteller and winner of the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers of America. The artist guest of honor is Ave Rose, who is an automation maker and a jewelry designer. You can get all the details about CoKoCon on their website at: https://www.cokocon.org.

Hadrosaur Productions will have a table in the dealer’s room and I will be on several panels through the weekend. My schedule is as follows:

Friday, September 2

7:30pm – Fiesta Ballroom – Cryptids During the Pandemic. While humans were staying home during lockdown, did Bigfoot come out to play? Panelists discuss these mysterious beasts and how they differ from other mythical monsters. On the panel with me are Joseph Nassise and Avily Jerome.

Saturday, September 3

1:00pm – Coronado Room – To See New Earths. I’ll introduce Kitt Peak’s planet-hunting detector, NEID, and discuss its role supporting NASA’s TESS mission, hunting for Earth-like planets outside the solar system.

6:00pm – Coronado Room – Writing Speculative Poetry. I’ll join Linda Addison and Beth Cato to discuss the craft and market for speculative poetry, and maybe we’ll even share some of our work.

Sunday, September 4

2:30pm – Fiesta Ballroom – Mapping the Universe. Kitt Peak’s DESI instrument is engaged in a five-year mission to make the largest 3D map in the universe. How does it work? What are some things we’ve learned along the way? And what do we ultimately hope to learn?

7:30pm – Fiesta Ballroom – Historical Fiction Meets Fantasy. What is the proper proportion of facts with fiction when writing historical fantasy? What resources can authors turn to. What are the perils and joys of research? On the panel with me are Beth Cato, Bruce Davis, and Dani Hoots.


If you’re in the Phoenix metro area this coming weekend, I hope you’ll drop into CoKoCon and say “hello.”

Bubonicon 53

This weekend, I’m excited that Bubonicon will return in person. The convention will be held at the Albuquerque Mariott Uptown from August 26-28. This year’s theme is “After the Plague Years, Plagues and Pandemics in SF/F.” The author guests of honor are are Rae Carson who wrote the Rise of Skywalker novelization and Keith R.A. DeCandido who wrote the Serenity Movie novelization. Keith R.A. DeCandido also wrote All-the-Way House, which is volume 4 of the Systema Paradoxa series. My Breaking the Code is volume 3.The artist guest of honor is Chaz Kemp, who did the covers for the current editions of my Scarlet Order Vampire novels. The toastmaster is A. Lee Martinez, author of Constance Verity Destroys the Universe.

Among the other attendees this year will be Jane Lindskold, George R.R. Martin, S.M. Stirling, Ian Tregillis, Robert E. Vardeman, Walter Jon Williams, and Connie Willis. Hadrosaur Productions will have a table in the Flea Market. Several other familiar faces will be there with great products, including Who Else Books, Ashelon Publishing, and 7000 BC Comics.

I’ll be on the following panels at Bubonicon:

Friday, August 26

4pm – Main Room – Steampunk Versus Alternate History. Science fiction never blinks at incorporating events and icons of history but when it comes to Steampunk, an argument is bubbling in boilers about what makes something “steampunk” and what makes it “alternate history.” Why are authors hesitant to combine history with their fantasy? Where is the line (if any) between “steampunk” and “alternate history”? On the panel with me will be Reese Hogan, Ian Tregillis, and Carrie Vaughn. Chaz Kemp will be moderating.

Saturday, August 27

1pm – Main Room – Why I have Done Young Adult Fiction. Writers discuss why they have done or currently are doing Young Adult novels. What is the appeal? Are there things that can be done in YA fiction that can’t be done in so-called adult novels? How do you approach writing for the YA or Middle School market? Do you have to write the tales differently? How do you avoid talking down to young readers? What makes a tale good for YA as opposed to adult SF/F? What can other genres learn from YA in terms of story, theme, or vision of the future? Why should other writers read YA works? On the panel with me will be Rae Carson, Darynda Jones and Emily Mah. Betsy James will be moderating.

3pm – Cimarron/Las Cruces Room – Snack Writes: Writing Exercises. Josh Gentry will be moderating this panel where he gives three writers a prompt and then 5 minutes to write something. Then the writers read what they have and audience also gets to read their writing. Also on the panel are Robert E. Vardeman and Jane Lindskold.

4:25pm – Main Room – Mass Autographing. The authors of Bubonicon will be on hand to autograph your books.

Sunday, August 28

10am – Main Room – Ray Bradbury: Beyond Green Town and Mars. I’ll be moderating this panel discussing Ray Bradbury’s short stories not under his Green Town or Mars mythology. Why was the platform of a short story so alluring to him and why should readers return to reading them? What were some of his works that are even more relevant today? What was it about his language, his plot timing, and the genius of his work? Is he as lyrical in his stories as the writing in his few true novels? On the panel are Lou J. Berger, Sheila Finch, Wil McCarthy, Patricia Rogers, and Connie Willis.

12:30pm – Main Room – Editing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Come and hear stories about edits which went above and beyond clarity and reason. Writers discuss different editing styles they’ve encountered, and talk about some of the good and bad experiences they’ve had with editors. (Names will be withheld to protect the innocent!) On the panel with me will be Jane Lindskold, Jim Sorenson, and Sarina Ulibarri. C.C. Finlay will be moderating.

2:30pm – Salons A-D – 50 Minutes with David Lee Summers. I will read a selection or two from my stories including my novella “Breaking the Code.” I’ll also likely discuss a little of what’s new in my astronomy life.


If you’re in Albuquerque this coming weekend, I hope to see you at Bubonicon 53!

Return to the Grand Canyon

In May, my youngest child celebrated her 20th birthday. As a geology student at Northern Arizona University, she asked for a trip to the Grand Canyon as her present. Unfortunately, all the campsites and hotel rooms were already booked when she made her request, so we booked a date at the earliest chance we could get a campsite for three nights in a row. That proved to be the second half of July, which is often the hottest time of the year to visit the canyon. However it proved to be much nicer than the heat wave we’ve been enduring in Las Cruces, New Mexico. We stayed at the Desert View campground on the eastern side of the park on the south rim of the canyon. As with all of the canyon, it’s quite a picturesque location. A notable feature is the Watchtower, a building designed by architect Mary Colter in 1932. Unfortunately, climbing to the top of the Watchtower has been prohibited since the beginning of the 2020 pandemic, but the area around it is still wonderful.

Desert View Watchtower at the Grand Canyon

The Watchtower has a gift shop and rangers are available for questions. Early in our stay, we consulted with the rangers about some good trail options for our abilities and gear. As the title implies, this wasn’t my first visit to the Grand Canyon. I’ve visited five times before and hiked into the canyon most of those times. I even hiked all the way to the Colorado River along the Tanner trail in July 1983. That was a challenging hike that took three days in very hot, dry conditions. We certainly weren’t up for that challenge on this trip, but the rangers did make some very good suggestions. We took two of them.

The first of our hikes took us out to Shoshone Point. This hike takes you through a pleasant, wooded trail up to a large picnic area on the rim of the Grand Canyon. According to the National Park Service website, this is the one place at the Canyon you can reserve for a private event, such as a wedding. The area provided great views. I enjoyed hiking out to a nearby hoodoo and taking some photos from there.

Hoodoo at Shoshone Point

Just before we left for the Grand Canyon, I received an email inviting me to submit to a steampunk anthology. I don’t want to share too many details yet, partly because I don’t think believe this is a completely open call and partly not to jinx my own chances. What I will share is that ravens need to be part of the story. At first, I was a little uncertain what I would do with ravens. While camping, I remembered that in Owl Dance, Professor Maravilla set up an outpost at the Grand Canyon to test his ornithopters. We then revisit this outpost at the beginning of Lightning Wolves. What’s more, ravens are all over the place at the Grand Canyon. So the trip actually helped me get the ball rolling on thoughts for a story proposal.

Raven visiting our campsite

The steampunk/historical vibe helped us choose our other hike. We decided to try the Grandview Trail to Coconino Saddle. This is one of the older trails and back in the nineteenth century was used by miners who worked at the Last Chance Mine on Horseshoe Mesa. The first part of the trail takes you 1000 feet down into the canyon over the course of a mile. If you do the math, that tells you that the trail averages a 20% grade in that section. Talk about an intense work commute! The mine at Horseshoe Mesa actually produced rather pure copper ore. However, it was so difficult to get out of the canyon, that the mine was never all that profitable. So the owner build Grandview Lodge up on the rim. This was one of the earliest tourist destinations. Soon after it was built, though, the Grand Canyon Railroad went in to carry visitors from Williams, Arizona to the El Tovar Lodge on the rim. Unfortunately, the El Tovar Lodge is a good 27 miles from Grandview! In the end, the Grandview Lodge closed and no longer exists.

The steepness of the Grandview Trail actually helped give us a nice view of the canyon’s geology. It also proved to be a nice trail in that not many people hiked it. We started about 8:30am and we out by 11:00am, at which point, the day was getting very hot. Still, it was a nice way to experience both some spectacular views and some of the canyon’s history. The photo below shows me just a little beyond Coconino Saddle with the canyon behind me.

Hiking Grandview Trail

Time will tell whether the inspiration I took from this trip to the Grand Canyon will result in the sale of a new story. If you want to see how the Grand Canyon has inspired other steampunk stories I’ve written, don’t miss the first two volumes of my Clockwork Legion series, which are available in print, ebook, and audio! Get the details at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion

Giants of Iron and Steam

Back around 2008, when I first learned that the weird westerns and alternate history I had been writing overlapped with steampunk, I decided to see if I could find some music to put me in a good frame of mind for writing. I tend to prefer instrumental music while I write, but I’m happy to have music with lyrics while I’m getting settled into write. I remember naively typing the phrase “steampunk music” into Google just to see what would come up. I found several discussion boards talking about a band called Abney Park and their album Lost Horizons, which was brand new around that time. I bought a copy of the album and fell in love with the music written by the band’s lead singer Robert Brown. Over the years, I’ve snapped up pretty much every album they’ve produced as they’ve been released. I have especially appreciated that Brown has released purely instrumental versions of some of the albums, and yes, they do work as great background when I’m writing.

As time went on, I discovered that Brown is not only a talented songwriter, but a capable storyteller. He’s written three novels set in the world he’s developed through the songs. In 2020, Brown even recorded an audio version of his novel The Toyshop at the End of the World. Given that he performs all the time as lead singer of a band, it should come as no surprise that he performed the book well. So, I was excited to hear that Robert Brown had brought his storytelling and musical talents together into a musical called Giants of Iron and Steam. I gather Brown had hoped to debut this as a live musical, but logistics have not worked out. So, he decided to release it as an album and I recently gave it a listen.

The musical opens in the distant future of his novel series. Two men enter the laboratory of Dr. Calvin Calgori, pushing an older woman in a wheelchair. The two men talk about trying to get to the truth of some matter. To find the information they need, they must use an invention by Dr. Calgori, which will allow them to view the distant past. They peer into the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800s as a railroad is being established between a lumber mill and the nearby mountains. We’re soon introduced to a lumberjack named Robert Winters and his daughter Effie who live deep in the mountains. They look forward to the railroad because that means Robert won’t have to float logs down the river. The railroad will support Charles Foster Quinn’s lumber mill. Quinn’s son, Aaron, doesn’t want to succeed his father in the family business. Instead, he wants to be an engineer on the new railroad. Aaron soon meets Effie, which stirs more division between the young man and his father.

The musical felt like a cross between The Pajama Game and Paint Your Wagon. The former is the story of workers at a pajama factory fighting for better wages and working conditions, a theme which comes up in Giants of Iron and Steam. The stage version of Paint Your Wagon focused on the miner Ben Rumson and his daughter’s forbidden romance with a young man named Julio. Unlike those musicals from the 1950s, Giants of Iron and Steam is more honest about the history of labor and race. Plus there’s a dandy mystery as we figure out what the people from the future want from this story of the past.

I felt several personal connections to this story. Aaron learning to be a railroad engineer reminded me of my dad teaching me how to drive a locomotive. Robert Winters talking about the dangers of taking logs down the river reminded me of stories about my great grandfather, who apparently did take logs downriver in his youth, and was seriously wounded at one point. Finally, at one point, Robert Winters reflects on Shakespeare’s The Tempest and sees himself as Prospero to Effie’s Miranda. Given that I actually do have a daughter named Myranda, I’ve opportunity to reflect on The Tempest and definitely felt the parallels.

Giants of Iron and Steam is sold along with the script for the musical, so you can read along as you listen. You can learn more at: https://abneypark.com/market/musical-giants-of-iron-steam-c-83/

If you’d like to look into my steampunk old west, which also tries to present an honest look at history go to http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut

As a writer and an avid reader, I find myself subscribed to the newsletters for several publishers. One of those is Seven Seas Entertainment, which translates Japanese manga and light novels into English. In their latest newsletter, they mentioned a forthcoming light novel which caught my eye simply because of the title: Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut. According to Seven Seas, the novel tells the story of how a space race between two global superpowers led to the “Nosferatu Project.” After sending dogs into space, one of the superpowers decides to send vampires into space before sending humans. This seemed right up my alley! Effectively it’s an atompunk alternate history with vampires. After a little more searching, I discovered the light novel series inspired an anime of the same name and the anime had recently been released in the United States via Funimation.

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut

In the world of this story, the space race is between the Zirnitra Union of the East and the United Kingdom of Arnack in the West. The reason these countries arose instead of the superpowers we know from our history is never discussed. The UZSR has a red flag with snakes. The United Kingdom has a flag with stars and stripes, so it’s not hard to guess who stands in for whom. This world also contains vampires who live predominantly in Eastern Europe. These vampires aren’t the monsters of our mythology, but simply another race of people who happen to be sensitive to sunlight, have pointed ears, and sharp teeth. They eat normal food, but they can gain an energy boost from drinking blood. It’s almost as though Neanderthals survived into the modern world. In the alternate world of the anime, the vampire legends arose as a kind of propaganda to stir hatred and revulsion of vampire kind, and to justify invasions into their lands. It becomes a rather clever way to discuss hatred and bigotry without invoking the all-too-numerous examples we can draw from our real history.

In 1960, the UZSR recruits a vampire to be trained as a cosmonaut. This vampire is the Irina Luminesk of the title. She’s to be trained by Lev Leps, a reserve cosmonaut candidate. Lev was supposed to be one of the regular cosmonaut candidates except that he has a temper and attacked a man who abused one of his fellow cosmonaut candidates. The anime follows Irina’s training along with Lev and Irina’s growing affection for one another. As a fan of the world’s space programs, I found it delightful to see space craft based on early Soviet designs, rather than the oft seen American designs. Characters in the story seem to have historical parallels as well. Party Chairman Fyodor Gergiev is clearly based on Nikita Khrushchev. Lev Leps is basically Yuri Gagarin and his chief rival Mikhail seems based on Gherman Titov. One fun thing I noticed is that while the writing on shops and containers in the anime appears to be in Cyrillic script, the words are actually in English.

Of course, the vampire Irina is the focus of the show. We watch as she trains to be every bit as capable as the human cosmonaut candidates, even when many of the scientists testing and training her buy into the superstitions about vampires. I found myself cheering as she overcame her fear of heights to master parachuting. Given that she’s treated as an animal by many of the scientists and politicians, there’s a real tension about whether or not she’ll survive her first space flight and I won’t spoil things by saying whether or not she does.

It’s a shame this anime came out so close to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I suspect many will shun it because of a perceived connection with Russia even though I suspect no such connection actually exists. In some ways, the series is actually rather critical of the Soviets and their treatment of those countries they took control of. What’s more, one of the themes of the anime is that people can change and become better. In a very real way, it reflects the spirit of Yuri Gagarin who said, “Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!”

I enjoyed the anime enough that I decided to pre-order the light novel so I can get to know the characters better. It will be released on June 23. While waiting for the light novel’s release, you can check out my vampire novels at http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order

The Ghost Ship

Now that I’ve finally caught up with my long-term project of getting all my books back into print, I’m starting to set my sights on some new writing projects. I’ve had an idea for a steampunk short story sitting on the back burner for some time now and hope I can work on it this week. To get my mind focused on steampunk again, I decided to listen to an audio steampunk story on my long commute to work last week. The story I listened to is The Ghost Ship by Madeleine Holly-Rosing and it’s set in the world of her wonderful comic, The Boston Metaphysical Society.

The comic and the audio book are set in an 1895 that’s just a little different than the one we know from history. You’ll find rudimentary steam-driven computers, airships, and a United States ruled by the wealthy of “the great houses.” In the Boston of this world, ex-Pinkerton Detective Samuel Hunter, medium and spirit photographer Caitlin O’Sullivan, and scientist Granville Woods investigate supernatural mysteries. I’ve been reading the comic since it began and I was excited when Madeleine Holly-Rosing announced that she planned to release a long-form audio story set in the world of the comic.

In the audio story, a mysterious, derelict ship sails into Boston Harbor. Anyone who tries to board is attacked by spirits and soon meets their end. Samuel, Caitlin, and Granville are brought in to try to find a way to end the menace of the mysterious ship. To do so, they must first find out what ship has actually arrived. When getting aboard the ship proves too perilous, they turn to Boston’s new library where Caitlin discovers more restless spirits and a young man who bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the spirits on the ship. It soon becomes clear that the ghost ship’s very presence may create a scandal for at least one of the great houses. The audio drama is told in eight half-hour episodes and features the voice talents of Emily C.A. Snyder as Caitlin O’Sullivan, Ryan Philbrook as Samuel Hunter, and Martin Davis as Granville Woods.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when hearing a favorite comic translated into audio. I was pleased to say that all the main characters sounded very much like I imagined they would sound. The supporting characters had distinct voices and the action was easy to follow. The serial nature of the audio story felt very much like an adapted comic adventure, even though this story only appears in audio. The piece was well produced by Eddie Louise and Chip Michael. It would be delightful if Madeleine was able to bring us more audio adventures set in her world. At this point, it appears that the best way to order your own copy of The Ghost Ship is to pre-order a copy through the Backerkit site set up for the recent Kickstarter campaign. It’s at: https://the-ghost-ship-audio-drama.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders/396663 and you can get updates on the audio book at at https://bostonmetaphysicalsociety.com/the-ghost-ship-audio-drama/

I’m happy to say that her story has, indeed, put me in the mood to work on a story in one of my own worlds. I’m already plotting my own machinations. My story won’t have ghosts, but I do have some automata and at least one airship disaster planned. Now, it may be a little while before you get to read that story, but I do have something planned for tomorrow. Sheriff Chuck Davis from my novella Breaking the Code finds himself in the world of the fae, paying an unexpected visit to Queen Titania’s Court. Learn more about him and the novella tomorrow, June 8, at Deby Fredericks’ blog: https://wyrmflight.wordpress.com/