Wild Wild West Con 9

Next weekend will find me at Wild Wild West Con 9, which is being held at Old Tucson Studios in Tucson, Arizona from March 5-8. Click on the title to get more information about tickets, the venue, and places to stay.

Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention (WWWC) is America’s first and only Steampunk convention and festival that takes place in a western-themed town and amusement park. Not only that, it’s the largest Western-style Steampunk Convention in the United States! The organizers have created many successful events since 2011 and I’m pleased to be returning for the ninth time!

The event takes place within Old Tucson, the famous movie studio and amusement park built in 1939 and featured in over 300 movies and TV shows. For the weekend of WWWC, Old Tucson is transformed into America’s only Western-style Steampunk Theme Park! Concerts, street performers, special events, panels, workshops, rides, games, and much more are here for your enjoyment!

I will be participating in panel discussions and I’ll be sharing a booth in the Stage 2 Barn with Diesel Jester and Drake and McTrowell. Among the three of us, we’ll have a wide range of steampunk novels and short story collections along with science fiction, fantasy, and horror books, plus other assorted treats as well! Be sure to make the trek out to the barn and see us there. As for where you can find me on panels I’ll be at the following places:

Friday, March 6

11am-Noon – Sheriff’s Office – Weird Westerns: The Greatest Genre Nobody Ever Heard Of. David B. Riley and I will be on hand to introduce you to weird western fiction. We’ll talk about movies, books, and television that contributed to the growth of the Weird Western and give you some ideas about where you can find it today.

3-4pm – Chapel – Authors of Steampunk. Diesel Jester, David Lee Summers, CI Erasmus L. Drake, and Sparky McTrowell are several of the authors attending Wild Wild West Con. We’ll discuss how we were drawn to Steampunk, what we do and what we see as trends in the field.

5-6pm – Chapel – Steampunk Mystery Fiction. CI Erasmus L. Drake, David B. Riley, Diesel Jester, and I will talk about the ways steampunk and mystery go hand in hand. What makes a good steampunk mystery? Can you just hand Sherlock Holmes a pair of goggles and call it steampunk?

9-10pm – Cholla Room of the Westward Look Hotel – Authors After Dark. Leanna Renee Hieber, Diesel Jester, CI Erasmus L. Drake, and I hold a no-holds-bard reading and discussion of steampunk writing not suitable for the younger crowd.

Saturday, March 7

11am-Noon – Sheriff’s Office – Advance Weird Western Panel. David B. Riley and I continue our discussion of weird westerns. We’ll explore the perceived lack of popularity of these books and stories and why they keep being published anyway.

1-2pm – Chapel – Magic in Steampunk Fiction. David B. Riley, Dr. Sparky McTrowell, Diesel Jester and I talk about the ways magic and fantasy can be explored in steampunk. What makes it different than more traditional magic and fantasy? Does adding magic to your steampunk make the world your building richer?

Sunday, March 8

2-3pm – Courtroom Center – Drake and McTrowell’s Hot Potato School of Writing. CI Drasmus L. Drake and Dr. Sparky McTrowell host their game show-style presentation where Diesel Jester and I will team up with members of the audience to create wild steampunk adventures.

Weird Westerns as Fairy Tales

Today finds me at the 2nd Annual Steampunk Invasion of Bookmans on Speedway Blvd in Tucson, Arizona from 10am until 4pm. I’ll be signing my novels plus I have a couple of anthologies including my stories. The link takes you to more information. If you’re in Tucson, I hope you’ll drop by. There will be other authors, tea dueling, craft panels, movies, raffles and more.

Last night, I watched a 2010 New Zealand-South Korean film called The Warrior’s Way. It tells the story of the greatest swordsman in the world who defeats his enemies, but doesn’t have the heart to kill the enemy clan’s last princess. The_Warrior's_Way_Poster He flees with her to the heart of the wild west. There he finds a desolate, broken town. At one end of town is a traveling circus that stopped and put down roots. In fact, many of the town’s residents are the circus performers. Our hero, Yang, discovers that he prefers making beauty to constant destruction. Despite that, western outlaws and assassins from his country have other thoughts. The movie has elements of acid westerns, which I’ve discussed, and weird westerns which I write. Filmed on green screen with Geoffrey Rush’s narration, the story has a distinctly fairy tale quality and perhaps that’s the best way to describe The Warrior’s Way.

My Clockwork Legion novels straddle the boundary between steampunk and weird westerns. A “weird” western is basically a western story with some element of science fiction, fantasy, or horror. I’ve heard it said that westerns are America’s mythology. There are numerous stories of daring and villainy and they often are metaphorical for the American experience in much the way classical mythology provided metaphor for the lives of those in classical civilization. With that in mind, I’d argue that weird westerns are a uniquely American brand of fairy tale.

Wikipedia defines a fairy tale as “a type of short story that typically features folkloric fantasy characters, such as dwarves, elves, fairies, giants, gnomes, goblins, mermaids, trolls, or witches, and usually magic or enchantments.” The American Heritage Dictionary says a fairy tale is “a fanciful tale of legendary deeds and romance.” I think it’s clear that many westerns include tales of legendary deeds and romance. If you throw in any of the characters such as Wikipedia mentions, you’d easily have a weird western. Furthermore, I’d argue that America has often mythologized its innovation and technology to the point that they really fit alongside the magical and supernatural elements found in classical fairy tales, especially when those ideas are carried to extremes not realized in history.

Clockwork-Legion

If you want to experience my brand of American fairy tale, you can check out the Clockwork Legion Series:

Also, coming soon will be my short stories “Reckoning at the Alamo” which will appear in Lost Trails, Volume 2 from Wolfsinger Publications and “The Jackalope Bandit” which will appear in the anthology Den of Antiquity published collectively by the members of the Scribbler’s Den writing group on The Steampunk Empire. Do you have a favorite American Fairy Tale? If so, let me know about it in the comments!

Windows into the Past

I enjoy looking at old family photos. It’s an opportunity to recall good memories and sometimes even get a glimpse of those relatives I wasn’t fortunate enough to know personally. Unfortunately, my maternal grandmother died during the Great Depression. My mom barely knew her own mother. Given that my grandmother died in the 1930s, it’s not surprising, most of the photos of her are portraits. Back in those days, few people went around shooting pictures with their cell phones! Still, I’m fortunate enough to have two candid photos of my grandmother as a girl and young woman.

Tabitha Seaton

My grandmother moved to the small town of Des Moines, New Mexico with her family before statehood. In the photo above, my grandmother is on the mule to the right. I’m guessing the photo was taken right around the time of New Mexico’s statehood. I wonder whether my grandmother was just out riding for fun, or if she was doing chores. To me, the photo looks like something right out of a Sergio Leone Western with the stark landscape, simple buildings, and even laundry drying. This next photo was taken only a few years later.

Chemistry Class

This is a photo of a chemistry class at Des Moines High School in 1917. My grandmother is the young woman second from the left. I enjoy the juxtaposition of these two photos. Remember, that chemistry lab is in the very same dusty small town where my grandmother was out riding on a mule.

Even though my grandmother grew up at the beginning of the 20th century, New Mexico was still very much part of the wild west, but even in the wild west, high schools had chemistry labs. SummersOwlDance It’s just another one of the reasons I’m attracted to steampunk stories. It may seem fanciful to imagine mad science or incredible technology in Victorian times or the wild west, but in fact, it wasn’t so far from the story my family lived. My novel Owl Dance starts out in rural New Mexico, in a town not so different from the one my grandmother grew up in. The book is available at Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

Revenge of the Wild Wild West

I apologize for my absence from the blogsphere the last couple of weeks. I sailed into a perfect storm of writing deadlines and astronomy job responsibilities that kept me off line for much of the last couple weeks. Now that I’m on the other side, I can report that my latest wild west steampunk adventure, Lightning Wolves, is now turned in to the publisher and I’m awaiting edits. Also, we were able to test out a new high resolution camera on the Kitt Peak 2.1-meter telescope. The results of those tests look like they’ll result in a new scientific publication. So, although I’ve been absent, I’ve hardly been idle!

Wild Wild West Season 1 Fortunately, the last few days have not been all work and no play. I was able to take some time to enjoy a couple of good books and a couple of a good videos. As I searched through my video collection, I came across my set of the television series The Wild Wild West. There’s no question that the show had a strong influence on my flavor of wild west steampunk storytelling. The problem with The Wild Wild West is that while it started strong, later incarnations never really lived up to the promise of the original series. In fact, the series itself was strongest in its first, black-and-white, season. As the show went on, network censors demanded that the violence be toned down and it was played more for laughs than for action. Still, the original series did pretty well throughout its four-year run. The real problem came with the sequels.

When I speak of sequels, the first thing most people will think of is the 1999 movie with Will Smith and Kevin Kline. Thing is, I’m one of a handful of people I know who actually kind of like the film. Of course, the operative words there are “kind of”. The humor in the movie falls flat more often than not, but I enjoyed the visuals and thought when they played it for action more than laughs, it showed real promise.

The movie wasn’t the only attempt at resurrecting the series. There are two sequels that many people don’t know about. These are the TV movies The Wild Wild West Revisited and More Wild Wild West that starred Robert Conrad, Ross Martin, and a host of guest stars, many of whom appeared in the original series. These films, which were broadcast in 1979 and 1980 respectively, should have been great, but like the 1999 film were played more for laughs than action and those laughs often didn’t work out as well as expected. The thing I love most about these films is that they were shot at Old Tucson Studios near the observatory where I work. The scenery is gorgeous.

Fortunately, the Wild Wild West saga isn’t limited to film. I recently discovered a limited comic book series that was published in 1990 by Millennium Comics. 1990 was the year I got married. I was in graduate school and starting a new job. I wasn’t exactly following comics closely during that time, so it’s perhaps not surprising I missed it! I recently came across it and picked up a copy of the series and I’m glad I did.

Wild Wild West Comics

I found that the comic series did a great job of capturing the spirit of the first season of the series. Not only is Dr. Loveless here as the villain, but he’s accompanied by Antoinette and Voltaire, his assistants from the first season. One of the things I wish they had done even in the original series was to have folded in a little more real history. This comic series brings in several historical figures who conspire in an elaborate plot to assassinate President Grant. The artwork was a little disappointing at times, but the story more than compensated for it. This was nicely done and I wish Millennium had produced more of these.

What’s more, the weird western and steampunk worlds have brought us some worthy successors to The Wild Wild West. I’m currently reading Cherie Priest’s Ganymede which is set in Seattle and New Orleans. Although one might not think of New Orleans as the west, it was certainly featured in The Wild Wild West. Of course, I’ve also enjoyed the Miles O’Malley stories of David B. Riley, which are now collected in an omnibus edition entitled The Devil Draws Two.

I hope Lightning Wolves also proves to be a worthy successor. I’m still in that afterglow of finishing the novel where it all seems wonderful and I fear it’s all terrible. Fortunately, it’s now in the hands of a great batch of editors and beta readers, who will help me whip it into shape while I start thinking about the directions the next book will take.