How “The Galatea’s Captain” Throws a Wrench in the Machine

October 27, 2013

Hello, beautiful dreamers!

Anka here, back to talk to you about Steamed Up, DSP’s newest steampunk anthology!

“The Galatea’s Captain” was the first steampunk story I ever completed (and one of my very first completed stories in general, because I’m a total loser). I got a bit experimental with it, so my process, I think, makes for a kooky little anecdote:

Basically, I decided a) I was going to submit a story to the anthology, b) I was going to Google a list of steampunk tropes and include them as many as humanly possible, and c) I’d spice it up with my own individual flavor. It was a fun and challenging experience!

Immediately, I knew that I’d do the lattermost by including lots of characters of color. Most steampunk stories tend to be set in Victorian England, with white English characters, which can make sense, but as a person of color, I wanted a character like me, with various strengths and vulnerabilities, tossed into a setting that intrigued me.

Here’s an excerpt from “The Galatea’s Captain” so you get a quick look at the plot and my protagonist, Kamil, who’s recently lost a limb and commissions the help of a brilliant tinker to fill the emptiness in his life:

The frigid air of Alba, capital city of Camlaan, sends a phantom ache through Kamil Ramses’s bad leg. Despite the chill, a light sheen of sweat begins to mist across his brow when he steps out of the horse-drawn carriage the Duchess of Althea had reserved for them.

Seeing his pinched expression, she hooks his right arm in her left and says, “Oh, Mr. Ramses, please do not tax yourself! I just knew we should have brought along your chair!”

He winces. Ever since his arrival in Camlaan, he’d been sequestered away in the Altheas’ sprawling estate, stuck convalescing in the wooden wheelchair its master had commissioned on his behalf. The cane he now holds, made from ironwood and embellished with gold, is also a gift from the wealthy old couple, but he prefers it immensely. It allows him some autonomy, at least.

“Don’t worry, Your Grace, I’ve become quite accustomed to this by now,” he replies after a moment, smile stilted. If he could, if it would serve to allay her doubts, he would pat her hand.

Instead, he gazes out at the harbor ahead of them. The sea breeze tickles his nose, whipping his long, dark swath of hair around his narrow face in spite of the cord around it. No boats are visible on the water, hidden by the colossal bodies of anchored airships, comprised of various woods and metals, fantastical figureheads carved into their bows. Their colorful sails billow in the wind, blotting out the gray sky above.

Although he misses Siro, his homeland, rather intensely, Kamil admits to himself that Camlaan has many virtues, many incredible, beautiful sights. Perhaps when he recovers, he can pay proper homage to them. If he ever does.

“Shall we continue?” The duchess’s hesitant voice disrupts his reverie.

He flashes her another smile, disarming this time. “Yes, I’m ready now.”

She beams up at him through the netted veil of her hat. Elaborate silvering curls encase her round face, contrasting starkly with the black lace of her gown. Her small hand remains a chaste weight on his arm as she guides him into the heart of the harbor, humming all the while.

“What can you tell me about this Air Pirate Talos?”

So there we have it! An injured philosopher from another land, a “pirate” who ends up not much of a pirate at all, and all of the assorted people who get sucked into their affairs! I hope you’ll read Steamed Up and “The Galatea’s Captain”, and that you enjoy them if you do.

While we’re on the topic, what are some of the things you’d like to see in steampunk that break out of the standard mold of the genre? What settings beside Victorian England? What sort of characters? Did any of the authors in Steamed Up do something in their stories that surprised you? Do tell!

It was a pleasure talking with you all today. Don’t be a stranger! Remember, you can find me, my stories, and links to social networking sites I haunt on the Dreamspinner Press website. Steamed Up is available in ebook and paperback formats.

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