Phoenix Public Library is hosting Con-Fusion, a series of genre-themed mini-conventions at five library locations over five weeks. Each event will feature family-friendly activities and local authors, artists, artisans and performers. Themes include Adventure & Fantasy, Mystery & Horror, Space & Science Fiction, Romance & Poetry, and Westerns & Steampunk. I will be appearing a week from today at the May 20 event at the Ironwood Library in Chandler, Arizona. The Ironwood Library is located at 4333 E. Chandler Blvd, west of Interstate-10. The May 20 event focuses on the Weird and Wild West and will run from 10am until 4pm.
At the event, kids can learn about Native American art and use the same artistic techniques to make their own craft provided with partnership with the Heard Museum . Teens can make book page mobiles. Author panels will be held at 10:00, 1:00 and 3:00. Local author books will be available for purchase, and you may even be able to have the books signed by the authors hanging out in the “Author Lounge”. Local artists and artisans will have Western and Steampunk inspired merchandise for sale. Cosplay is encouraged, but because the event is being held at a public library, the organizers ask you to leave all prop weapons at home.
Among the speakers scheduled to appear are Jeff Mariotte, Bob Nelson, Marsheila Rockwell, Ronald C Tobin, Hal C F Astell, Dani Hoots, and Lori Hines.
I will be on two of the panels at the event. They are:
1:00pm – Mining the Past: How to properly punk the past. On the panel with me are Ronald Tobin, Hal Astell, and Clay Davis
3:00pm – Space, Steam & Spaghetti: A look at the takes on traditional “Western” tropes. On the panel with me are Dani Hoots, Hal Astell, Jeff Mariotte, and Lori Hines.
Although I won’t be vending at this event, Duncan Ritschof will be there with a selection of my books. Of course, I’ll be delighted to sign any of my books you purchase from Duncan. In particular, I know he’ll have my Wild West Clockwork Legion Steampunk series, which you can learn more about at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion
Last weekend, I was at Wild Wild West Con in Tucson, Arizona. One of the people I was on a panel with was K.W. Jeter. In 1987, Jeter sent a copy of his novel Morlock Night to Locus Magazine along with a letter that suggested there should be a collective term for “gonzo-historical” speculative fiction like his novel and the works of Tim Powers and James Blaylock. Given the popularity of cyberpunk at the time, he made the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that the three of them were “steam-punks.” Since that time, assorted authors have tried their hands at Victorian-inspired science fiction and fantasy including yours truly. However, in the early 2000s, steampunk became more than a literary subgenre. It became a whole movement of makers, musicians, and costumers. As I put the finishing touches on a batch of gonzo-historical stories for eSpec Books recently, I realized I’d never actually read any of the works by the man who coined the term Steampunk. I decided to dive into the novel Infernal Devices, which Jeter published the same year as his famous letter in Locus.
Infernal Devices opens when a mysterious man appears at the shop and residence of one George Dower. George’s father was a brilliant clockmaker who was also known for creating automata. When the famous clockmaker died, the younger Dower inherited the family business. Although George was capable of some basic work on watches and clocks, he lacked his father’s genius. The mysterious stranger, who George refers to as “the Brown Leather Man,” leaves a mysterious machine reportedly built by George’s father. Later, two more strangers appear at the shop. One is a man in blue-tinted glasses called Scape and the other is a woman named Miss McThane. They indicate their interest in devices built by George’s father. They also prove to be anachronisms, speaking more like people of the late twentieth century than people of the nineteenth. Later, George’s servant, Cref, catches them breaking into the house. It soon becomes clear they’re searching for the device left behind by the Brown Leather Man. This leads George on a quest to find out what the box is. His only clue is a coin depicting a fish-headed man left behind by the Brown Leather Man.
George eventually finds himself in a neighborhood of fish-headed people and meets the person who made the coin. When he returns to talk to the man who made the coin, George finds the man dead and is nearly killed himself. Escaping that fate, he comes across Scape and Miss McThane again and finds them in a church where George’s father had installed an automata choir and priest. They’re setting up a service for the fish-headed people. The man leading the service for the fish-headed people is a mysterious Lord Bendray. Eventually, George learns that Lord Bendray once was a patron of his father’s. Among the devices George’s father built for Lord Bendray was a machine that could destroy the world.
Over the course of Infernal Devices, George Dower is shuffled from one adventure and set of colorful characters to another. As it turns out, George himself is rather drab and really just wants to get back to his own quiet life, but finds himself learning more than he wanted about his father’s legacy. One interesting element in the novel was that Jeter introduces a way for certain characters to glimpse possibilities from the future. I also gave characters a glimpse into the future in my Clockwork Legion series. Neither Jeter nor I give our characters a perfect view. In my case the characters only know possibilities might work. In Jeter’s, some characters have caught rapid-fire glimpses of the future. In both cases, seeing the possibilities has a profound effect on the relevant characters.
All in all, I found Infernal Devices a fascinating read. You can find a copy wherever fine books or ebooks are sold.
Today finds me in Denver, Colorado for the MileHiCon science fiction convention. I have several panels scheduled today. When I’m not on panels, I have a table in the dealer’s room. If you’re also in Denver, I hope I’ll get a chance to connect with you this weekend. While I’m at MileHiCon, my blog has reached a milestone. Today is my one thousandth blog post!
It seems almost inconceivable to me that I’ve written 1000 posts since I started my WordPress blog. My first post was called “Blog: The Magnificent Ferret” and it was published on March 12, 2009. The post’s title refers to some background art in the New Scooby-Doo Mysteries episode, “Scooby-Doo Meets Dick Van Dyke.” In the episode, Dick Van Dyke has purchased a circus and one of the sideshow attractions is Blog: The Magnificent Ferret. In the post, I reflect on how blogs can be like sideshow attractions. I hope this one has been a fun, interesting, and engaging sideshow attraction. You can read the original post here: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/hello-world/
In that first post, I noted that I had published five novels. In the thirteen years since, I’ve published seven more novels and I’m working on a new one. Among those novels were the complete Clockwork Legion series. Several of those novels have gone through multiple editions in that time. In a post a few days later, I noted that my daughters were six and thirteen years old respectively. Today, the oldest has graduated from university and works as a software engineer and the younger daughter is working on her geology degree. I started this blog about a year after returning to work as an observing assistant at Kitt Peak National Observatory. In that time, I’ve seen the Mayall telescope completely refurbished and repurposed, survived closures for pandemic and wildfire, and have seen several good friends move on to new jobs or retire.
The purpose of this blog has always been to provide news about my writing, where to find my short stories, and updates about my novels. I try to provide news of any appearances and places where you can find me. It also exists to provide insights into my writing. This includes reviews of movies and books that influence me along with a look at my job in astronomy and places I travel to. Some topics may seem familiar, but I hope I’ve also introduced you to some new books, movies, and places to consider visiting. My blog posts are typically a little over 500 words long, so it’s safe to say there’s a little over 500,000 words of material at this blog. That’s right around 5 novels worth of material at the length I typically write!
If you’ve found value in my blog, I hope you’ll visit http://www.davidleesummers.com and learn more about my novels and short stories. If you like my blog, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy reading one of my longer works as well. Also, you can show your support by joining my Patreon. There you’ll get more insights into my writing and some news about my books before I’m able to share it here. I’ve provided some sneak peeks at short stories and revealed covers there before I do here. What’s more, you’ll get copies of my ebooks as they’re released. Supporting my Patreon also helps to assure that this blog remains an ad-free experience. Learn more at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers
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.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the moms who appear in my fiction. In a very real way, I owe my start as a novelist to my mom. In 1993, I read The Magic Journey by John Nichols. One of the characters was a woman who grew up in a small New Mexico town, but left to make her own life elsewhere. Elements of the story reminded me of the stories my mom told about growing up on a homestead near Raton, New Mexico and moving out to California with her cousin in the 1940s. The confluence of ideas made me think I could tell a generational story set on an alien world. That story became The Pirates of Sufiro.
As it turns out, there are several moms throughout the Space Pirates’ Legacy series. Suki Mori’s mom appears in Firebrandt’s Legacy and storms off to Epsilon Indi 2 to rescue her daughter from a crime boss. The Pirates of Sufiro opens with Ellison Firebrandt’s mother appearing for the first time in years. She’s on a quest to end piracy and while she could have taken him off to trial and possible prison time, she chooses to maroon him in space with just enough fuel to reach an uninhabited planet where he can make a home. Once they reach Sufiro, Suki becomes a mom. Her arc echoes my grandmother’s story. Like my grandmother, Suki was portrayed as a strong woman who helped build a homestead, but sadly died far too young. Despite that, Suki’s daughter Fire grows up to become a historian and also raises a son. Fire continues as an integral character in Children of the Old Stars and Heirs of the New Earth. You can learn more about the Space Pirates’ Legacy books at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#pirate_legacy
As a parent, one of the scariest things to imagine is harm coming to one of our children. For most of us, the last thing we can imagine is deliberately hurting one of our children. This is one reason the legend of La Llorona here in the Southwestern United States is so terrifying. It tells the story of a mother who drowns her own children, then immediately regrets it and drowns herself. The legend inspired the vampire Mercy in my Scarlet Order vampire novels. In this case, Mercy fed on her children when she became a vampire. In an attempt to make peace with her conscience, she becomes a mentor to two younger vampires. I’m planning to explore Mercy’s character more in the third Scarlet Order novel, which I’ve been working on. You can learn more about the Scarlet Order vampire novels at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order
Three moms make prominent appearances in the Clockwork Legion novels. The first is Ramon’s mom, Sofia Morales who appears at the end of Owl Dance and the beginning of Lightning Wolves. Ramon inherits his wisdom and compassion from her. Later, in Owl Riders, once Fatemeh Karimi has married Ramon, she becomes mom to a precocious daughter named Alethea. Among other things, Fatemeh passes along her ability to listen to owls and understand what their verbal and nonverbal communications mean. In the final act of Owl Riders, we meet Fatemeh’s mom in Persia and learn where Fatemeh gained many of her healing gifts. I’m in the process of proofreading the new edition of Owl Riders and have been enjoying spending time with Fatemeh and her family again. You can learn more about the Clockwork Legion novels at http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion
Even my horror novel, The Astronomer’s Crypt has a mom. Astronomer Dr. Bethany Teter is a mom-to-be. She’ll do everything she can to protect her unborn child, which is a challenge when the storm of the century blows up on the mountain where she’s observing, drug traffickers arrive, and a monster from the dawn of time appears. She does a good job looking out for herself, but she also has allies in her husband and a friendly ghost who watches out for the mountain’s astronomers. You can learn more about the novel and watch a short film based on the novel at: http://davidleesummers.com/Astronomers-Crypt.html
Since this is the day before Mother’s Day, I suspect you already have any gifts for the moms in your life. However, I’m sure many moms out there would love more ebooks on their readers. Following the links will tell you how to find them. I hope you’re able to celebrate Mother’s Day with a special mom. I’ll be celebrating with my wife and remembering my mom.
When people first learn about my books, one of the first questions they ask me is whether they’re stand-alone novels or part of a series. In fact, most of my books are part of series because I think it’s fun to continue to explore the consequences of the actions a group of characters take across several volumes. That said, I also believe that each book in a series should stand on its own. In other words, if a reader has never encountered a book in the series before, they should be able to jump in at any point in the series and not be lost. Moreover, when they reach the end of the book, they should feel they’ve had a satisfactory journey without having to buy another book. I want them to buy the next book because they like the characters, not necessarily because I left them with a cliffhanger.
In my Clockwork Legion steampunk novels, I achieved that by introducing an alien traveler called Legion who has the good intention of wanting to keep humans from destroying each other by meddling in human affairs. Legion starts by encouraging the Russian Empire to “unify” Earth by taking over the North American continent. That story became Owl Dance and the story is essentially resolved in the book. In Lightning Wolves we explore consequences of the war. The Arizona desert becomes an even more lawless frontier than it was before and miners go head to head with cattle rustlers. Meanwhile, we find the Russian invasion is still happening in California. Again, those events are resolved. In the third book, The Brazen Shark, we see the Japanese worried about powerful Russian neighbors and what happens when a samurai force steals a Russian airship for their own political aims. The fourth book, Owl Riders, returns to Arizona and the consequences of leaving a mining machine in the hands of the Apaches.
My hope is each book can be read on its own, but you get a little more out of the story if you read the whole thing. One of the ways I know whether or not I succeeded is by handing a later book to a new reader and asking them whether they were able to follow along or if there were points that lost them. Of course, you can learn more about the Clockwork Legion series at: http://www.zianet.com/dsummers/books.html#clockwork_legion.
Right now, my writing focus is on my Space Pirates’ Legacy series. The first book, Firebrandt’s Legacy, is very much a standalone story telling the adventures of Captain Ellison Firebrandt and his band of swashbuckling space pirates. I’m working on rewriting the second book of the series, The Pirates of Sufiro. It tells how Firebrandt influenced his children and grandchildren’s generation to become heroes. The third book, Children of the Old Stars, is about Firebrandt’s grandson, John Mark Ellis, who goes on a quest to understand an set of beings called the Cluster who destroy starships for no reason people can understand. In the final book, Heirs of the New Earth, those ships have taken over Earth and the galaxy is about to be changed forever.
I’m working as hard as I am to make The Pirates of Sufiro the best book I can because I don’t want people who start with Firebrandt’s Legacy to lose interest and stop. That said, I think a reader could jump into Children of the Old Stars or Heirs of the New Earth and understand what what’s happened without reading the earlier novels. In fact, I just had a lot of fun reading those two novels again. It’s not uncommon for me to pick up a book I wrote a few years before and cringe at some of my word choices or directions I sent my characters, but for the most part, I thought these books still held up. Of course, you can leap into this series right at the beginning by picking up Firebrandt’s Legacy at: http://hadrosaur.com/FirebrandtsLegacy.php. If you want to leap ahead and see how well Heirs of the New Earth stands on its own, I have a few copies of the first edition available at half off the cover price at: http://hadrosaur.com/HeirsNewEarth.php. I hope you’ll join Firebrandt and his heirs for their exciting adventure.
In my last post, I mentioned that I had the attitude of being a temporary employee at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Much of the reason I adopted that attitude in the first place is that then and now, I see myself first and foremost as a writer and editor. When I returned to Kitt Peak in 2008, I feared my writing output would fall off because of my job’s demands. I’m pleased to look back at the previous decade and realize that I actually produced more novels than in any previous decade.
In a very real way, the 2010s were the decade of the Clockwork Legion. These are my steampunk novels that chronicle what happens to Earth when a microscopic alien swarm arrives on Earth in 1876 and begins tampering with events in hopes of avoiding a worldwide catastrophe. Instead of averting catastrophe, the alien sets off the Russian invasion of the United States. Fortunately, a healer named Fatemeh Karimi and a disgraced sheriff named Ramon Morales are there to set things right.
The first novel was published in 2011. Although the original publisher changed focus, the series was picked up by Sky Warrior books and a new edition came out in 2014 quickly followed by the second novel, Lightning Wolves. In that novel, our characters find themselves caught between the miners of Southern Arizona, the Apache Nation, and the Clantons, all while the Russians continue their invasion from the first book.
In 2016’s The Brazen Shark, our characters travel to Japan and then to Russia where they bring the story of the alien’s visit to a conclusion. In 2018, I published Owl Riders, which is set ten years later and looks at the world in the aftermath of the alien’s interference and returns to resolve the conflicts set up in the second novel.
At this point, I don’t plan for the Clockwork Legion to be a series limited to the books created in the 2010s. I want to tell more about Ramon and Fatemeh’s adventures, but they are paused while I work on some other projects. In the meantime, you can learn more about the Clockwork Legion novels by visiting http://www.davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion
The Clockwork Legion series wasn’t the only one I worked on this past decade. I also wrote a second book in my Scarlet Order vampire series. 2012’s Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order was actually a prequel to Vampires of the Scarlet Order. The Scarlet Order is a band of vampires who use their preternatural powers to fight as mercenaries. Dragon’s Fall tells the story of how the Scarlet Order was formed. We first meet Alexandra, a former Greek slave who becomes a vampire thief. Then we travel to King Arthur’s court where one of his rivals becomes a vampire and initiates the Holy Grail quest in hopes of finding redemption. Draco fails to find redemption through the Grail, but he meets Alexandra in his on-going quest. You can learn more about this novel at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/dragons_fall.html
Dragon’s Fall wasn’t my only excursion into horror. In 2016, I released The Astronomer’s Crypt, which imagines astronomers, drug dealers, ghosts, and Apache demons colliding during a terrible storm at an observatory in Southern New Mexico. Of course, this novel does pull a lot from my job at Kitt Peak National Observatory and I probably wouldn’t have been able to write it if I had not returned to telescope operations. On the surface, The Astronomer’s Crypt is a haunted house story inspired by the very labyrinthine Mayall building at Kitt Peak. However, it also imagines what might happen if different layers of existence hinted at through ancient stories collided with our contemporary and comfortable reality. You can learn more about The Astronomer’s Crypt and watch a cool book trailer at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/Astronomers-Crypt.html
I finished the decade by returning to a series that really had its genesis way back in the 1980s while I was still in graduate school. In the 2000s when the series was with Lachesis Publishing, I was asked to create a name for the series. On the fly, I came up with “The Old Star/New Earth Series.” I never really liked that name because it didn’t really capture what the series was about. I’ve now reinvented the series as “The Space Pirates’ Legacy” and my last book of the 2010s was a new first book in this series, Firebrandt’s Legacy. It tells the story of a space pirate named Ellison Firebrandt and his band of buccaneers as they pillage ships for Earth’s benefit. I’m currently working on rewriting the first book I ever wrote, The Pirates of Sufiro, which is also the second book of this series. I hope to release the new edition in a few weeks. You can learn more about Firebrandt’s Legacy at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/Firebrandts-Legacy.html
Looking back, that’s seven novel in ten years. I spent most of the 2000s as a freelance writer and wrote four novels. So, at some level, I needn’t have worried about about the observatory lessening my output. That said, I do find as the decade ends that I’m writing fewer short stories and poems now than I did at the beginning of the decade. One of my goals for this coming decade will be to spend more time on some of my shorter works again. Also, one of my first goals of the decade is to finish re-releasing the rest of “The Space Pirates Legacy” series. Concurrent with that, I hope to begin work on a new novel. I haven’t decided for certain what that will be. I’d love to visit Ramon and Fatemeh again. Also, The Astronomer’s Crypt was always meant to be the first book in a trilogy, so I may return to that world for a while. Either way, this promises to be another fun and productive decade.
To me, steampunk and Christmas go hand in hand. Steampunk is all about Victorian-inspired fantasy worlds. What’s more, Victorians in England and America gave us many of the trappings of the modern secular Christmas. Thomas Nast in New York gave us wonderfully detailed renderings of Santa in his workshop, using such scientific gadgets as telephones and telescopes to fulfill his mission of figuring out who was naughty and who was nice. In the meantime, Charles Dickens unleashed a series of ghosts on miserly Ebenezer Scrooge.
So, when I wrote my first steampunk novel, Owl Dance, it seemed natural to include a scene about Christmas. It’s a simple scene. Ramon Morales and Fatemeh Karimi find themselves in a poor part of San Francisco with little money. Ramon gives Fatemeh a simple gift. Always curious about other people’s religions, Fatemeh asks Ramon how people celebrate Christmas. He tells her many people celebrate with song. She then asks Ramon to sing a song of the angels, anticipating their travels to Los Angeles after the holidays. You can learn more about Owl Dance at http://www.davidleesummers.com/owl_dance.html. If you’ve already read and enjoyed the novel, remember there are three more novels in the series. You can find out about them at: http://www.davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion.
Music is an important part of this scene because I see music as an important part of both Christmas and the steampunk aesthetic. That said, I don’t own a lot of Christmas albums. Because I grew up in a Christian family, we sang Christmas carols in church and would go out caroling. The one album that was an important part of my family’s Christmas tradition growing up was A Tennessee Ernie Ford Christmas Special. It’s just chock full of a lot of the old traditional carols sung reverently in Tennessee Ernie Ford’s booming bass voice that made the song “Sixteen Tons” a hit back in the day.
In one fun bit of trivia, I learned not too long ago that while Tennessee Ernie Ford did indeed hail from Tennessee, he actually became famous while he was working as a radio announcer for KFXM in my home town of San Bernardino, California after World War II.
A more recent favorite album is Abney Park’s Through Your Eyes on Christmas Eve. As I mentioned in my recent post Music Through the Ages,Abney Park’s songwriter and lead singer, Robert Brown, has a great understanding of older songs. The album’s title song is a new one that longs for the innocence of Christmas as seen through a child’s eyes. The rest of the album is filled with some great classic Christmas songs given the band’s signature treatment, which can include some minor key weirdness to offset the sweetness of the season and some unabashed playfulness with the classic songs. You can find this album at their website: http://abneypark.com/market/.
Whether your Christmas is more secular or sacred, I hope you have a wonderful one. If you celebrate a different winter holiday, may it be a blessed and peaceful time. If you don’t celebrate anything, I hope you at least have some time to relax enjoying what you love best. Happy Holidays!
Before the term “cosplay” came into common use, I always loved Halloween as one of the times I could create a costume and become someone else for a day. Nowadays, pop culture conventions also provide a fun excuse to dress up. Of course, most people who dress up for conventions make costumes based on their favorite television shows, movies, or comic books. A creator has already designed the costume and it’s up to the fan to make their own version. Likewise, most commercial Halloween costumes are also based on these same mass media heroes. However, novels can also be a great source of costume ideas and they often provide a wide latitude of ways to interpret characters. This can be especially useful if you’re looking for materials you can grab from a thrift store or something you can create with some simple make-up effects.
I have been known to dress up in outfits inspired by my novels. Back in 1993, I went to a Halloween party dressed as a Rd’dyggian (pronounced Red-dye-chian) from my Space Pirates’ Legacy novels. The Rd’dyggians are aliens with orange skin and a purple mustache-like array of tentacles under their noses. On top of that, they like to wear long, flowing robes. I was able to create a version using some face paint, hair dye, and some odds and ends from the closet. I didn’t match the Rd’dyggians from my novels perfectly, but I was close enough that my friends who had read the novels understood what I was supposed to be. Those who hadn’t read the novels still understood that I was some kind of alien.
I will note that when I first got into science fiction fandom, costume contests were a big part of conventions. You can still find contests, but an important element several years ago was that most of the people who dressed up created costumes based on favorite novels they’d read, rather than favorite visual media. This allowed them a lot of creativity in how they interpreted their costumes. These days, most of the literary-inspired costumes I see are at steampunk conventions.
As a steampunk author, I often dress up for the conventions I attend. It’s rare that I dress up as a specific character from my novels, but I do like to wear clothing like I describe in my novels. Here I am from an event last week, where I went to Ruidoso to speak about my Clockwork Legion Novels to the Fortuitous Book Club. The club at the recommendation of my dear friend, Margo McKee, read my novel Owl Dance. What’s more, Ruidoso is in Lincoln County, the heart of Billy the Kid Country. So, while I didn’t dress as a specific character from the novels, I did put on an outfit that said Wild West steampunk. Most of the outfit is just western wear, which is easy to find in New Mexico, but topped up with a pair of goggles and a cool steampunk looking watch. Of course, my outfit also evokes the feeling of the old Wild Wild West television series starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin, which was one of the inspirations for my series.
If you’re looking for an original costume this Halloween, or want to find something new and unique for a pop culture or science fiction convention, I encourage you to look no further than the pages of your favorite novel. See what it inspires you to create. If you want to look at my novels for inspiration, click the links below to learn more about the series:
Today, I’m thrilled to be at El Paso Comic Con. It’s a great event hosted by the owners of my terrific neighborhood comic shop, Zia Comics. This year, El Paso Comic Con plays host to such guests as Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, and Marina Sirtis of Star Trek: The Next Generation. You can find me in the dealer’s room at booth A30. Be sure to stop by and say hello. This year, El Paso Comic Con is especially exciting because I have a brand new book out just this week!
My novel Owl Riders is now available. This is the fourth novel of my Clockwork Legion series. The novel is set eight years after the events of The Brazen Shark and the alien Legion has left Earth. Legion may be gone, but the alien swarm left a legacy of humans who believe in their own limitless potential.
When Fatemeh Karimi married Ramon Morales, she neglected to share one small detail. She was already betrothed to a merchant named Hamid Farzan. She had no interest in Hamid or an arranged marriage. She wanted to live life on her own terms. Eight years after marrying Ramon, she assumed Hamid had long forgotten about her, as she had him.
Settled in New Orleans, Ramon works as an attorney, Fatemeh owns a pharmacy, and they’re proud parents of a precocious daughter. Out west, Apaches armed with powerful battle wagons have captured Fort Bowie and threaten Tucson. Businessmen with an interest in a peaceful solution ask Ramon to come west and settle the conflict. Meanwhile Hamid arrives in New Orleans and he has not forgotten Fatemeh or her vows to him.
Now, the famed Owl Riders must assemble once again to reunite Ramon and Fatemeh so they can tame the Wild West.
Many familiar characters from previous Clockwork Legion books are back, including Billy McCarty, Larissa Seaton, and Captain Cisneros. Perhaps my favorite new character is Ramon and Fatemeh’s daughter, Alethea. She was a blast to write and definitely includes elements of both of her parents.
A few historical characters make appearances as well, including Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Lozen, and Lafcadio Hearn. What’s especially fun about including such familiar characters is that they become anchor points in the story. People know who they are, but you can see how they’ve changed in response to this alternate history I’ve created for them to inhabit.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab a mechanical owl and take flight! You can get your very own copy of Owl Riders at: