Reviewers Go Punk: The Yellow Book (Part 1)

It’s Friday night and do we have something for you!  Before we can tell you all about The Yellow Book, Britain’s first Steampunk bar, you must hear about the mysterious disappearance of Doctor Braxton Beesworth.  Follow the hilarious investigation conducted by a private investigator and his charming assistant.

 

The most heroic Nelson Mackellow-Featherlight & his most palatable assistant Miss Alice Kittyhawk
The most heroic Nelson Mackellow-Featherlight & his most palatable assistant Miss Alice Kittyhawk

 

DOCTOR BRAXTON BEESWORTH AND THE YELLOW BOOK (PART THE FIRST) by N. Visser
Mr Nelson Mackellow-Featherlight, Esq.
Private Investigator of Fluky Oddities & Peculiar Curiosities
34Ciii Boundary Passage
Brighton-née-Hove
Sussex, England

29th of February in the 39th Year of the Reign of Her Glorious Majesty Victoria, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, Princess of Hanover, Princes of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, Duchess of Brunswick & Luneburg and Duchess of Saxony.

The Minister
The Ministry of Lost & Found
1 Cyclops Mews
London, England

Your Excellency,

It is with bashful satisfaction and modest pride that I beg most humbly to present to you my findings vis-à-vis the missing naturalist Doctor Braxton Beesworth, formerly associated with the London College of Neoteric Postulations and the Society of Imperial Flora & Fauna.

Brevity dictates that I must omit a great deal of the intrepid derring-do that this assignment required both of myself and my most agreeable and charming assistant Miss Alice Kittyhawk. This is, of course, highly regrettable as the payment for this assignment, though seemingly generous upon the advent of this investigation, has been far exceeded by expenses incurred during the lengthy and often dangerous expeditions my delightful assistant and I embarked upon in order to satisfy your curiosity. I feel that only a full description of the many times we were forced by circumstance to risk our lives would emphasise the merits of a post-investigation review of a more suitable financial quittance. In all sincerity I add that this is not so much in recognition of the mortal dangers I casually overcame in my usual heroic fashion, but instead concerns the reputation of poor Miss Alice Kittyhawk. More often than not adverse climatic conditions or the hostile savage intentions of restless natives caused my exquisite assistant to seek safety, solace and comfort in my arms. Although I assure you these incidental and delectable occasions were purely of a professional nature I need not remind you of the rapidity with which wagging tongues can tarnish the reputation of morally upright scrumptious young ladies whose sole fault is the perfect, impeccable and succulent execution of their assigned tasks. Any revision of remuneration on a par with the actual efforts made and risks taken would arm poor Miss Alice Kittyhawk with the means to ward off unwelcome gossip. However, you know me well enough, Your Excellency, to understand I will not embellish on this matter any further in order to protect my deserved reputation as a breviloquent investigator whose communication is short, comprehensive, brief, concise, factual and to the point without long, excessively complex labyrinthine elaborations.

Thus, therefore and henceforth I will, without unnecessary further ado, relate to you forthwith and at all possible expediency the account of my woefully underpaid journey of discovery regarding the mysterious disappearance of Doctor Braxton Beesworth.

Doctor Braxton Beesworth Missing Poster
Doctor Braxton Beesworth Missing Poster

Had I not been distracted by pondering upon the Great Mysteries of the Universe I am quite sure that it would have been myself rather than the appetizing Miss Alice Kittyhawk who had first come upon the idea that a logical setting for immediate further investigation was Mount Pleasant in Clerkenwell, London; for the simple reason that Doctor Braxton Beesworth was a resident there before his puzzling disappearance.

We booked a passage to London on one of the new-fangled dirigeable schooners, feeling that the Express Airspeed facilitated by the retractable dorsal, adipose, caudal and pectoral fins justified the extra expense. Though the flight was bumpy at times – forcing poor Miss Alice Kittyhawk to hold on to me tightly for support – I must congratulate the captain of the P.A.S. Brighton Breeze for our speedy transferral, for the subsequent Steam Tram ride from Regent’s Park Airstrip to Clerkenwell seemed to take as long if not longer than our journey from Brighton to London.

Upon arrival we proceeded to divide the tasks at hand and my masculine instinct was to bear the brunt of this local investigation and leave the lighter less demanding work to Miss Alice Kittyhawk. Upon meeting at the end of our first day of investigation we had the following to report:

By means of rigorous detective work I had discovered that Doctor Braxton Beesworth much preferred the Fox & Zephyr and The Old Red Cow which he frequented on a regular basis whereas he was seen more incidentally at The Piston & Anchor and The Cog & Gear and never at all in The Clock’s Hands. Suspecting that there could possibly be a very good reason for this I had embarked upon thorough and exhaustive (not to mention expensive) research to discover that there was indeed a very important rationalization for this. Whereas The Cog & Gear excelled in their offer of mild, light and pale ales their bitter ales and stouts were disappointing to say the least. The Piston & Anchor reversed that with a poor selection of lighter drinks whilst their common porter, superior bitter and single and double stouts were almost as enticing as Miss Alice Kittyhawk. The Fox & Zephyr and The Old Red Cow, however, offer a much more balanced range all around, both also serving a very tasty imperial stout. The inferior quality of refreshments on offer in The Clock’s Hands is local public knowledge in Clerkenwell and I will not repeat the adjectives used by the natives to describe the poor imitation of ale, stout and bitter there. Apt as the descriptions may be they were highly colourful and most definitely unsuitable for refined gentlefolk such as ourselves; suffice to say many reverted to Mount Pleasant’s historical roots as London’s largest cess pit. Naturally I was routinely thorough and sampled each drink on offer in each public house from the X to the XXXX strengths despite the further dreadful depletion of our funds such perfectionism required.

Miss Alice Kittyhawk had, in the meantime, visited the former lodgings of Doctor Braxton Beesworth and attempted to use a picklock to gain entry. Despite her considerable skills (imparted upon her by the family business – the Kittyhawks are well-known locksmiths of qualitative repute) it turned out that Doctor Braxton Beesworth’s door was secured with a most intricate lock, forcing Miss Alice Kittyhawk to kick the door in for a less subtle entry. With the whistles of approaching Police Constables sounding on the street ere long, Miss Alice Kittyhawk did not have the opportunity to inspect the lodgings at leisure. Instead, in a flash of inspiration probably inspired by her frequent proximity to my genius, she gathered as many of the papers on the doctor’s desk as she could, before effecting a quick getaway.

Upon meeting she reported to have found a great many interesting things but for reasons of my frail health I was feeling unwell and not quite able to remain standing upright which caused us to conclude we would have to postpone further investigation until the next day. Still feeling somewhat indisposed the next morning I asked Miss Alice Kittyhawk to conduct the initial analysis of the papers she had obtained whilst I attempted to remedy my unfortunate and mysterious bout of ill health with copious amounts of invigorating tonics and coffee. Whilst I achieved at least a partial (and costly) recovery of my faculties Miss Alice Kittyhawk made considerable progress on the papers. She was helped therein, I have no doubt, by her prolonged exposure to the workings of a great mind as some of my inherent genius seems to have enhanced her own thought processes which, being of a female disposition, are, of course, generally inferior to those produced by the male brain.

The first lead procured by Miss Alice Kittyhawk led us to the offices of one Professor Godfroi Bostinwick, situated conveniently close to our lodgings on Laystall Street. My keen professional eye could not help but note that the aforementioned offices were located next to The Wheel & Spring and we quickly agreed that I would conduct a reconnaissance of this public house while Miss Alice Kittyhawk visited Professor Godfroi Bostinwick. Having soon established that Doctor Braxton Beesworth had often been seen at The Wheel & Spring sobbing into his pint I had little choice but to establish a sound reason for such undignified behaviour. It certainly was not the strong ale which could have induced such sorrow as it was quite splendid. Perhaps though, I reflected, the tears were not of sorrow but of joy for I was certainly close to tears when I sampled the porter; as rich, dark, creamy and chocolatey as a London porter ought to be and that most excellent taste only grew more exquisite upon the second and third pint.

Barrels of England’s finest beverages, an important ingredient in the investigation
Barrels of England’s finest beverages, an important ingredient in the investigation

I was just ordering my fourth pint to ensure it really was of such superior quality when Miss Alice Kittyhawk entered the premises to make her report as to why we had discovered invoices for Professor Godfroi Bostinwick’s treatment of Doctor Braxton Beesworth. Miss Alice Kittyhawk had established that Professor Godfroi Bostinwick was in fact a Philosopher of the Mind and adherent to the theories of Alexander Bain; something to do with the correlation of sensations and experience attending a school of associationism influencing daily human behavioural patterns and such modern poppycock. As a true professional I was enticed to dismiss this so-called professor as an obvious fraud but refrained from doing so when I cleverly deduced that Miss Alice Kittyhawk was quite taken by these new-fangled notions of psychoanalytic readings and treatments. For all her wholesome perfections Miss Alice Kittyhawk does sometimes fall victim to the illogical workings of the female mind but I chose to indulge her upon this occasion. What she had discovered was that Doctor Braxton Beesworth had visited Professor Godfroi Bostinwick on a regular basis after the professor had diagnosed our missing doctor with something called ‘Botanical Atelophobia’. According to the professor this ailment had been exceedingly common amongst naturalists ever since Darwin published On the Origin of Species. The essence of this malady was that members of this particular profession were resigned to the doomy prospect of never ever possibly coming even close to the eminence established by Darwin and therefore endeavouring in their labours without any prospect of success, let alone the establishment of an academic legacy. The professor had also made clear his opinion that no naturalist within the whole Empire had been stricken by Botanical Atelophobia as badly as Doctor Braxton Beesworth for the man refused to accept the prospect of inevitable failure; instead burning brightly with the unhinged ambition to surpass Darwin regardless of the cost.

Being a gentleman I complimented my ravishing assistant with her findings before informing her that I myself had discovered a matter of much greater import; namely the fact that Doctor Braxton Beesworth frequently shed tears into his beers and that I was about to order an India Pale Ale to determine if the quality of this IPA at The Wheel & Spring might have been the cause of this unnatural behaviour. Miss Alice Kittyhawk, I regret to say, reacted to my IPA proposal with uncharacteristic hostility, forcing me to momentarily consider her dismissal. However, I decided that all-in-all Miss Alice Kittyhawk’s many merits outweighed the occasional burst of female hysteria all members of that gender are genetically disposed to, especially as my ill health played up again. Upon this occasion I was barely able to walk and had to rely on the support of Miss Alice Kittyhawk to reach our lodgings. By-the-by, I suspect this frailty of my physique is much aggravated by anxiety regarding the many unexpected costs of this investigation, Your Excellency, though assure you that I have never faltered in my determination to bring it to a satisfactory close, if only as a matter of professional pride. It will probably ruin my business and leave me destitute but that is more desirable than failure to close an investigation.

Although I would have much appreciated a more gradual period of recovery Miss Alice Kittyhawk insisted on a radical new cure she said she had encountered. Without giving me time to consider my answer she less than gently landed me in front of the water pump at the back of our lodgings and vigorously worked the contraption; soaking me in icy cold water. Though somewhat perplexed at her rough handling of my status and dignity I was forced to admit the rapid return of at least a third of my diminished faculties which thus facilitated a continuation of our underpaid investigation.

This led us to a Clerkenwell’s well-known cottage industry of clock and watch makers for we had discovered amongst Doctor Braxton Beesworth’s papers a great many invoices for mysterious deliveries from a particular Swiss clockist named Herr Branke Schlingestatter. Herr Branke Schlingestatter’s shop was located right next to The Clockless Cuckoo and though I was immediately determined to pursue the possible role played by foreign lagers in the perplexing disappearance of Doctor Braxton Beesworth I was outdetermined in this by my most shapely assistant who dragged me rather ceremoniously into the clock shop. Apart from a few meritable display cases at the front most of the interior was taken up by Herr Branke Schlingestatter’s workshop; wheels, cogs and gears in abundance as well as magnifying glasses and a great many other instruments which were strange to my eyes. Herr Branke Schlingestatter himself was a rotund man wearing tiny round spectacles. He spoke in such a strange and barely intelligible accent that my dazzling assistant had to conduct the interview as I was almost continuously reduced to manic giggles and hysterical laughter at his words. From Miss Alice Kittyhawk’s subsequent debriefing I gathered that Doctor Braxton Beesworth had often visited Herr Branke Schlingestatter, drawn as he was by an endless fascination with the concept of time. It was not only the measurement of time which had compelled the doctor to listen to Herr Branke Schlingestatter’s horrible foreign accent though, but also the notion that time could perhaps be turned forwards or rewound backwards. This rather odd notion, Your Excellency, gains in peculiarity when described by such a one as Herr Branke Schlingestatter. “He vanted to know about ze tick und tock. How, perhaps, ze tick could be tocked and ze tock ticked und perhaps reversed to tock-tick instead of tick-tock.”

When, afterwards, the resplendent Miss Alice Kittyhawk inquired what observations I had chanced to make I answered her dutifully that I believed that it would be a severe failing on our part not to investigateThe Clockless Cuckoo and that it was quite clear to me both Doctor Braxton Beesworth and Herr Branke Schlingestatter were mad as hatters. As far as I was concerned a visit to Bethlem Royal Hospital would probably reveal to us Doctor Braxton Beesworth’s whereabouts after which the investigation could be closed. These considerations were waved aside by Miss Alice Kittyhawk whose own notes included Herr Branke Schlingestatter’s refusal to disclose the precise nature of the many items ordered at his shop by Doctor Braxton Beesworth as well as other answers given by the clocker which my scrumptious assistant believed to be deliberately vague. Struck by an inexplicable headache I could not raise the focus required for a debate upon the matter and agreed to prolong our investigation the following day.

London of Yore. (London Sunset, Nick Page CC2/Airship R26, Harwich & Dovercourt, CC2/Airship B&W, Plaisanter, CC2)
London of Yore. (London Sunset, Nick Page CC2/Airship R26, Harwich & Dovercourt, CC2/Airship B&W, Plaisanter, CC2)

We set out early that next day, catching a Steam Tram which huffed and puffed its way to Spitalfields; an ill-named pestering sore on the greatness of our Imperial Capital. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy in all the Empire. As we disembarked and I took in the roads which were paved with filth and the decaying houses amidst which flitted the silent shadows of the human vermin who inhabited this open sewer I realised that I had little to no clue as to why, precisely, we had taken it upon ourselves to visit such a horrid place. Miss Alice Kittyhawk reminded me of some rather odd notifications she had found amidst Doctor Braxton Beesworth’s paperwork; clues which she had pieced together to form a trail which led to the Spitalfields Rookery. I received this news with glumness as I swatted aside a few beggars; offended by their sunken, black-rimmed eyes, pallid faces and foul-smelling garments. We had to draw our guns shortly thereafter to see off a party of cut-throats intent on relieving us of our valuables and then again to see off a group of drunk Air Fleet Cadets who were intent on relieving me of my luscious assistant. Not long thereafter we arrived at a local lusherie with drooping loam walls and a sagging thatched roof and a fading sign which named it as The Hat & Feather. Once inside Miss Alice Kittyhawk made some enquiries after which she led us to a discreet nook in a dark corner where we encountered a roguish looking fellow who introduced himself as Fitzsimons Noakes. He was in the company of a tall and excessively hairy creature which I took at first to be one of Darwin’s great ape men from some far-off and remote corner of the Empire but then it – or rather she – spoke to introduce herself as Myrtle Minnocks Moylan, First Mate on the air-ship captained by Fitzsimons Noakes; The Centennial Kestrel.

There followed much pugnacious boasting and bellicose posturing by which means both Fitzsimons Noakes and Myrtle Minnocks Moylan conveyed to us that they considered The Centennial Kestrel the fastest Channel-Runner in business, capable of outrunning even the swiftest vessel of her Majesty’s Air Fleet. Their grandiloquent bluster also revealed that these scoundrels were first and foremost smugglers but would not deign from the odd stint of piracy if so required – at a special fee, of course. I myself was far more interested in their pints of triple stout and realising it would be rude not to partake I ordered a pint of the stuff for myself and another for Miss Alice Kittyhawk. The latter explained to Fitzsimons Noakes that our interest was not in the retention of their services but of a more informative nature. While I researched the quality of the triple stout my impressive assistant disarmed the wary smugglers with her smile and then slowly enticed out of them the information we sought. The smugglers had spoken to Doctor Braxton Beesworth on several occasions. The first time he had sought them out had been part of a recruitment drive as Doctor Braxton Beesworth had fervently desired to obtain the services of the notorious Fitzsimons Noakes and his First Mate for a journey of some importance. Fitzsimons Noakes had been tempted at first for Doctor Braxton Beesworth had been most persuasive with regard to the nature of the voyage; one of utmost importance upon which the fate of mankind’s understanding of the world depended. The smugglers had declined, however, when it had become clear to them that Doctor Braxton Beesworth had no finances with which to reward the crew of The Centennial Kestrel. Everlasting botanical fame, according to Fitzsimons Noakes, would not fill an empty belly, provide a stake for illicit gambling or purchase triple stouts at The Hat & Feather.

Miss Alice Kittyhawk understood the hint and visited the bar to order a new round of triple stouts during which time I quickly downed her first – untouched – pint for it seemed a waste to just let it serve as mere table decoration. Both Fitzsimons Noakes and Myrtle Minnocks Moylan ignored me, understanding no doubt, that a gentleman of my standing would have great difficulty conversing with their sort and such demeaning communication was best left to an intermediary of lesser social standing. When my most palatable assistant returned Fitzsimons made a rather curious remark as to a further reason for declining Doctor Braxton Beesworth’s offer: “Here I’ve got me ship and me gun, what would I be a long time ago or a time far, far away?” after which Myrtle Minnocks Moylan revealed that a subsequent meeting with Doctor Braxton Beesworth had led to a new deal. Namely, the crew of The Centennial Kestrel had helped the doctor recruit an alternative crew for his quest. The last time they had seen him had been when Doctor Braxton Beesworth had come to collect the motley gang of volunteers who were to accompany him into the great unknown where no man has gone before (according to the doctor). It was all very interesting no doubt although I was mostly concerned with Miss Alice Kittyhawk’s second pint of triple stout which looked most forlorn and neglected until I decided to relieve her of the responsibility of consuming it.

Making our way back Miss Alice Kittyhawk asked of me whether I had pieced all the information together. I told her that I would have undoubtedly done so had not that cursed frail health intervened once again for I was curiously unsteady on my feet and feeling a bit dizzy. She shook her head in dismay, no doubt in full empathy with my temporary infirmity, and then told me it was all elementary. It was her conviction that Doctor Braxton Beesworth, fanatically intent on surpassing Darwin, was planning an expedition similar to that of Darwin’s famous H.M.A.S. The Bounty. However, Doctor Braxton Beesworth intended not to cross the salty oceans that separated the continents but the far vaster spaces that separate time itself. It was for this purpose that he had collected components from the Swiss clocker and a crew to man the machine which would allow him to travel through time in order to collect botanical specimens and make clever observations which would cause Darwin to diminish into the shadows of obscurity.

I laughed long and heartily, Your Excellency, at this notion, making entirely clear that a machine which could travel through time was just about the most ludicrous concept ever; typical of the illogical emotionally driven hysterical nature of a woman’s mind. I missed my normal razor-sharp clarity of thought however, due to the recurrence of my ailment, to avoid the trap which followed. Miss Alice Kittyhawk, disingenuous as she turned out to be, told me that a man of my heroic reputation and self-professed courage would then not be afraid to board such a machine, seeing as to how it could not possibly travel anywhere. Naturally, Your Excellency, I had to accept the challenge in order to maintain my honour, integrity and pride. It is the case then, that I write you this instalment of my report for the primary (very expensive) investigation into this matter while my most deceitful and adorable assistant negotiates with Herr Branke Schlingestatter for parts and Fitzsimons Noakes for construction in order to assemble a smaller time vessel of our own with which to pursue Doctor Braxton Beesworth out of our time and into others. I assure you that once it has been decisively proven that said (costly) contraption is firmly grounded in the here and now a short secondary report will follow, no doubt placing Doctor Braxton Beesworth at Bethlem or any other sanatorium suitable for his delusionary perceptions.

Until then, I remain your hard-working, modest and most obedient servant,

Nelson Mackellow-Featherlight, Esquire.

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Friday Night Interviews: Lindsay Schopfer

Friday Night Interviews returns with Lindsay Schopfer, a sci fi and fantasy author with several books under his belt. Read on to see some great tips for naming characters, what sparked his interest in steampunk, and how a giant fish played a part in his contribution to Writerpunk Press’s next anthology.

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Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’ve always been a storyteller and a dreamer. When I was a kid, I’d go out into the Capitol Forrest behind my home and play make-believe for hours. All of the stories that I write are basically me playing make-believe and going on imagined adventures. The fact that I can make a living doing that is one of the greatest blessings in my life.

Not only are you a writer, but you are also an instructor and a writing coach. Two questions. 1) Do you sleep? 2) How do you balance it all?

Sleep? What is this “sleep”?
Balancing my writing with teaching and coaching is always an issue. I do my best writing at night, which is when a lot of events tend to be scheduled. Even when something is taking place during the day, there’s a real temptation at the end of a long hard day to just curl up and go to bed. I wish I had a magic formula for the problem, but for me it’s really just a matter of learning to say no occasionally and trying to keep my writing a priority. If I ever do find the magic formula though, I’ll be sure to tell you.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but how about a snack? Could you offer the writers who are reading this a small pointer?

I’m always up for a snack. Here’s a tip on naming characters that I shared in my last newsletter.

Keep in mind that your character names will be seen, not heard. Choose names that look like your character. Think about the combination of letters and what they suggest when they are seen together on a printed page. Also, be wary of giving names that begin with the same letter to multiple characters in the same book. If your book is really gripping (which is the goal, after all) readers may resort to a form of speed reading where they glance at the first letter of a name to identify who is speaking. Finally, don’t give names to characters that are unimportant. Hollywood does this all the time with their extras and bit-part actors. Basically, if a character is mentioned in the script, then the actor playing him is a cast member with a spot in the credits and a healthy paycheck. If not, then the actor is an extra, and might get a free lunch out of the experience. Just remember to ask yourself whether this character deserve a spot in the credits for his contribution to your story?

Have you always been interested in punk fiction or is this a recent development in your life?

To be honest, my interest in steampunk comes more from Victorian-era fantasies and modern video games rather than the literature of today. My mom would read Verne to me as a child, and I grew up reading Wells and Doyle. I’ve also got a soft spot for Japanese RPGs which often have steampunk themes. Steampunk just became a shorthand description for the kind of aesthetic that I started to notice in some of the stories I was writing.

What anthology are you helping with or hoping to help with?

I’ve got a short story in Merely This and Nothing More: Poe Goes Punk. My story is based on one of his lesser known adventure tales, Descent into the Maelstrom, and is entitled Within the Maelstrom.

What inspired you to work on this specific project?

I’ll often get idea fragments that don’t fit with any of my current projects. In this case, I had an idea for a pilot who “drives” a gigantic fish from the inside in a kind of Victorian-style pilothouse. When I was invited to contribute to the anthology and started looking through my complete works of Poe for ideas, I found the story of three Scandinavian brothers trying to survive in a titanic whirlpool, and it just clicked. And of course I had to add a sea monster. That’s a given.

What was the hardest part of writing the story?

The main issue with writing an action-adventure story that takes place underwater is that everything feels so cramped and slowed down. If you don’t believe me, try watching any underwater fight scene in a movie. My solution was to tell part of the story from the sea monster’s point of view, allowing the reader to see how the story plays out from two very different perspectives.

Of all the various *punk genres and subgenres, which one would you like to live?

Definitely fantasy steampunk, like the type you’d find in a video game. It’s got all of the beautiful aesthetics and creature comforts without the limitations of having to be realistic or even logical.

Do you have any work published outside of Writerpunk Press?

Of course! The Beast Hunter is a fantasy steampunk novel about a professional monster hunter that joins a campaign of some of his world’s best hunters to try to stop an infestation of creatures from destroying the crops of a country on the verge of revolution.

I’ve also got a sci-fi survivalist novel called Lost Under Two Moons which is the journal of a young man trying to survive on an alien planet after getting sucked through a mysterious portal.

Finally, I’ve got a collection of more of my short stories (including another steampunk one) called Magic, Mystery and Mirth.

What is your life like when you aren’t being one of those weird creative types?

I’m an avid gamer. I’ve got two different board game groups I play with every other week, as well as regularly playing board and card games with my wife and family. I’m also into a variety of video games, RPGs being my favorite genre.

When I’m not playing a game, I’m playing guitar. I love music and collect all types of songs. Rock n’ roll will never die!

Do you have anything else you want to tell our adoring public or add to this interview in any way?

Um… buy my books? 😉

Lindsay Schopfer may not have time to sleep, but he always has time to connect with readers. You can find him just about anywhere on the Internet talking about books and writing. Check out the links below to find out more about Lindsay and his work.

Lindsay’s Social Media Links
Author Website:  www.lindsayschopfer.com
Writing Coaching Website: www.yourwritingadventure.com
Blog: www.blogspot.lindsayschopfer.com
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/Lindsay-Schopfer/e/B007EF3MQS 
Twitter: twitter.com/LindsaySchopfer 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/lindsayschopfer
Google+: plus.google.com/+LindsaySchopfer_author
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/7078379.Lindsay_Schopfer
Patreon: www.patreon.com/lindsayschopfer?ty=h

Lindsay Schopfer is the author of two novels, the sci-fi survivalist Lost Under Two Moons and the steampunk adventure The Beast Hunter, as well as the fantasy short story collection Magic, Mystery and Mirth. When he isn’t writing, Lindsay is a writing coach and instructor for Adventures In Writing, where he helps writers learn about and improve their craft.

Reviewers Go Punk: The Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld

Science fiction and fantasy author Voss Foster is here to tell us about a young adult series filled with interesting creatures, a wonderful cast, and plenty of bio- and dieselpunk stuff.  Read on to hear his thoughts on The Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld.

Leviathan Trilogy
The Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld
Reviewed by Voss Foster

I have a confession to make: I read books for kids. I know, shocker. Not just the super popular stuff like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games you need to stay culturally relevant, either. We won’t go into my full reading history, but I want to talk about one series. One that really grabbed me, and one that’s just dripping with punk-ish goodness: The Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld.

The Good: It’s hard to pinpoint just one good thing about this series. I know, I know, that’s not terribly helpful. I just wanted to mention it. It’s not often I run across a series that I love as wholeheartedly as I did with these books, and this time without the benefit of any nostalgia from my childhood. For starters, with these books, you get two punks for the price of one! Dieselpunk and Biopunk are both strong influences, representing the two sides of World War I. The Clankers use technology for fighting and easing the difficulties of life, whereas the Darwinists utilize fabricated creatures designed for one purpose or another.

That includes the series namesake, the Leviathan itself. A massive air-whale that can match speed with the fastest Zeppelins in the sky. It’s where we spend most of our time during the series, and we see the other fabricated critters that live there. Hydrogen-sniffers to find leaks, flechette bats that… umm… drop the metal spikes they’ve eaten on the enemy, huge hawks to combat the Clanker ships, and the incredible messenger lizards that can precisely mimic human speech.

The characters are just as wonderful as the worldbuilding, too. Our two protagonists are about as different as it gets. Aleksander, the son of Archduke Ferdinand, and Deryn, a Scottish girl who disguises herself as a young man to get into the Air Service. While she proves herself and ends up on the prestigious Leviathan as a midshipman, Aleksander is just trying to survive and keep moving so he doesn’t get attacked the same way his parents did. The travails of the royal life, I guess. Surprise surprise, her secret doesn’t get kept forever. But it does make it through most of the trilogy intact, whichis a nice change of pace.

There are a slew of side-characters as well, including Nikola Tesla himself, but by far my favorite is Dr. Nora Barlow. The head keeper of the London Zoo (which has a lot more significance in this world, trust me), a renowned creature-fabricator, and Charles Darwin’s granddaughter. She’s your classic mysterious character, far too perceptive for the good of the other characters, and more powerful than her position with the Zoological Society would suggest. She’s the first to be suspicious of Deryn, and the first to figure out who Aleksander actually is.

There’s an awful lot more good, so much I can’t properly cover it, but I’m going to move on to the less than wonderful parts. Just trust me that this is a series worth reading.

The Bad: As tends to happen with books for younger audiences, things are a little different than they would be in fiction for adults. Given the situation they’re in—running for their lives, international spying, etc—the language is a little pleasant at times. But that’s not the biggest stumbling block for me. It’s the punches pulled. Specifically, the romantic punch. There’s a young, budding love between Deryn and Aleksander. And it drags on and on and on. Far longer than it realistically should have. The reader knows they’re bound to get together about halfway through the trilogy, but the characters don’t even get close to it until near the end. It’s aggravating, to say the least.

And while we’re talking endings

The Ugly: Oh, the ending. Now, it’s not bad. If it was, I would have used it in the “Bad” section up above. But it is ugly. It’s blocky and lacks the level of satisfaction I want for a three book commitment. Everything wraps up just a little too nicely, and a little too quickly. One second, the whole things is falling apart, and what seems like the very next second, everything’s taken care of. A huge looming problem is just brushed away instead of handled and, just like with the romance, it’s aggravating. But it certainly doesn’t ruin the books. Not in any sense of the word. It would take a lot more than a bit of an unfortunate ending to do that. I give these books a glowing recommendation, especially if you’re a fan of dieselpunk and/or biopunk. Not the most common punk-genres, so seeing them so well-represented is wonderful.

Voss Foster lives in the middle of the Eastern Washington desert, where he writes science fiction and fantasy from inside a single-wide trailer. He is the author of the Evenstad Media Presents series, The King Jester Trilogy, The Mountains of Good Fortune, and the Immortal Whispers Series. When he can be pried away from his keyboard, he can be found singing, practicing photography, cooking, and belly dancing, though rarely all at the same time.

Somehow, between his writing, singing, photography, cooking, and dancing, Voss still has time to connect with fans and he’d love to hear from you.  You can catch up with him on his website, Facebook, or Twitter. Be sure to swing by Amazon and check out his work.

Friday Night Interviews: Nils Nisse Visser

This week Nils Nisse Visser stops by for a chat. Based in Brighton, England, Nils is a fantasy-dreampunk author with five novels under his belt. Two of his works are historical fiction and the others are contemporary fantasies in magical realism style, fusing reality with ancient folklore and the unexpected.

Tonight he shares with us what makes up a great character, why dreampunk is so appealing, and the subtle difference between British and American teenagers.

Nils 1
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I am a Dutch national but don’t have a particular affinity with the place other than it being one of the many places I’ve lived. Apart from the Netherlands that list includes Thailand, Nepal, the United States, Tanzania, England, Egypt and France. About half that list covers my childhood during which I attended international schools based on either American or British school systems. I worked as a teacher for some twenty-years but ‘retired’ early after a burnout. I currently try to make do with my writing income which means I am perpetually broke these days.

What road did you walk to become a writer?

I had already been writing non-fiction for five years. Mostly articles for magazines. Hitting rock bottom helped, I had to hew myself a stairway out of that pit and that’s where the fiction took off.

Have you always been interested in punk fiction or is this a recent development in your life?

There’s been an interest since I was young, about seven I think, and visited a life-size model of the Nautilus a couple of times. They had to drag me out of there kicking and screaming, I simply loved it and desperately wanted it to be real. Much later the comic The Adventures of Luther Arkwright rekindled that interest and I even did a steampunk cosplay; but I was much more of a spectator on the sidelines than anything else, partially because medieval re-enactment pretty much devoured any spare cash I had available for that all important Fun Time.

How did you end up getting involved with the Writerpunk group and Writerpunk Press?

After I had published my first novels in 2014 I learned the painful lesson that you actually had to market the bloody things too and I ended up on all of these horrible book promotion pages. Horrible because the majority of the content I encountered there was lurid and focused almost exclusively on lacy underwear and six-packs. Brave Hobbit that I am, I set out on a mission to find self-published authors whose work fit my notion that a character description actually goes beyond abs and boobs. It is the fears they face, the bonds they forge, the obstacles they overcome and the sacrifices they make that make up a great character, as far as I am concerned. I got some of those people to embark on a facebook group which would allow limited promotion and focus more on the reading experience, jokes, discussions and little writing challenges. That page is called Dreamtime Tale Fantasy Books and it’s working out quite nicely. I met Jeffrey and Katherine as part of that because I had totally fallen for the cover of their Foul is Fair. Once I figured out the book featured a contemporary girl who was by no means ordinary to begin with but also linked to the Faery world I simply had to read it because that sentence totally describes my Wenn Twyner books (Escape from Neverland and Dance into the Wyrd). Jeffrey and Katherine have a completely different approach but one that appealed to me a great deal none-the-less. I read it in a single sitting and then immediately wrote a raving review when I was still high from the reading experience. They either took pity on me or took a liking to me after that; possibly a combination of the two and it was Jeffrey who suggested I might want to give Poe Goes Punk a try. Jeffrey also knew, by this time, that I have pledged several of my books to animal rescue causes (owls and ferrets), we share our admiration for people dedicating themselves to animal rescue.

111 NEW AD LORD

So you have contributed a story to the Poe Goes Punk anthology?

Yes, to my delight my contribution was selected for the anthology. It’s a short story called The Oval Sky Room.  It’s based on Poe’s The Oval Portrait in two ways. First of all his thematic exploration of trying to immortalize beauty and secondly I tried to emulate his writing style a little. For the Punk element I opted to place part of the story on an airship and I used Brighton in England as the overall setting as I live here now and I simply love this city. It’s a rather creepy story, it certainly freaked me out and I distinctly recall, upon the completion of it, thinking that I might have out-creeped Poe a little.  

What it is about the punk genre that inspires you as a creative?

It just seems endless in imaginative creation, if there are boundaries I have yet to find them.

Of all the various *punk genres and subgenres, which one would you like to live?

Dreampunk. The combination of surrealism, beauty, ugliness and sharp edges appeal to me. Throw in the hidden meanings, symbolism and the otherworldly logic of dreams or fairy tales and you pretty much sum up the fictional environment I feel most comfortable in. Till recently I called it Magical Realism but Dreampunk seems more apt for my own particular approach.

Can you tell us a bit about some of the people that influence you the most?

As a kid I loved (and still do) Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence. I greatly admire the way she fuses contemporary times with ancient British mythology. I am very keen on Neil Gaiman’s works as well for that same reason; his ability to ground his work in something we all recognize and then just spin us off into parallel realities. Classically I will never cease to enthuse about Alice in Wonderland  and Peter Pan and I have always been a great fan of the Wessex created by Thomas Hardy. Rudyard Kipling has written some interesting fantasy and I have always been fascinated by the futuristic visions held by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. Other than that I think William Kotzwinkle is a genius and for a nitty-gritty view of modern Britain nobody can beat C.J. Stone (non-fiction).

Do you have a set routine when you work?

Procrastinate and doubt, twiddle my thumbs, pick my nose, doubt some more etcetera. Then finally start to scribble down some words and hope the story takes off. It always does and I always manage to be surprised.

111 NEW AD ADDITION ALL THREE

Do you have any work published outside of Writerpunk Press?

Yes, all self-published. There is the Lord of the Wyrde Woods series, set at the beginning of this millennium, and consisting of two books: Escape from Neverland and Dance into the Wyrd. They are dreampunk with a few dark twists, all woven around a classical girl-meets-boy theme with the Faere Folk and a few bulldozers tossed in. Those are by ‘Nils Visser’. Unwilling to let go of my setting, the Wyrde Woods in Sussex, I started a new series, Secrets of the Wyrde Woods, in which I visit the childhood of some of the older characters in the first books. The first book, Forgotten Road, was published in October 2015, and the second is due to be published this spring (Hidden Springs). I used ‘Nisse Visser’ for those because the content is suitable for younger readers too, unlike the Wenn Twyner books which have an ‘R’ rating, I suppose, because British teenagers get up to all sorts of things involving drugs, sex and rock-n-roll and I am reliably informed American teenagers never behave like that. At all. Ever. Apart from that I published a historical wartime YA book called Will’s War in Brighton. The sequel to that, Will’s War: Exile from Brighton, should be published within a month or so. Just to utterly confuse matters even more (you get an insight into my amazing understanding of marketing books here) those two wartime books feature characters from the Wyrde Woods and the Wyrde Woods themselves too. All of these series, however, can be read separately from each other. So a good place to start would be Escape from Neverland, for example, without knowing  – or needing to know –  anything about the other books. Should you choose to read the other series, you will find it very rewarding as the Wyrde Woods setting will gain more and more depth. A word of warning: Many readers do kind of get hooked on the Wyrde Woods. I don’t know how to sell books, but I can draw you into a story and make you care about the people in it. There is a small group of junkies who follow me around (RT or VT) like zombies and all they say is: “More Wyrde Woods. More Wyrde Woods.” It is a rewarding and terrifying experience at once.

What is your life like when you aren’t being one of those weird creative types?

I have kind of managed to make that my full-time life right now. Limiting in financial means at my disposal but exhilarating in roguish freedom.

Will we see you associated with future Writerpunk Press works?

I certainly hope so. I am very keen on the next anthology as well, as I do know and appreciate my classics. I’d love to punk a great many of them.

Do you have anything else you want to tell our adoring public or add to this interview in any way?

Well if you have managed to bear with me for this long you will understand that I am an absolute noob in creating works which are easy to classify and market. Convention would have it that I bombard you with all the sales links at the end of this interview but being kind of stubborn and very proud of my work I’d like to invite you to look at the related Pinterest pages instead. Lots of imagery there which was either created for the books or is relevant in some way. Links to extracts, interviews and reviews there as well. So pretty please take a look. If the imagery doesn’t appeal, the stories probably won’t either. If the images do appeal then you’ll probably like the Wyrde Woods. The only thing missing on the Pinterest pages are direct sales links, because finding Nils or Nisse Visser and the Wyrde Woods on the internet really isn’t rocket science and you must be dead clever if you’ve read all the way down to these last sentences. Apart from that, I hope that when you read The Oval Sky Room  it will make your skin creep, give you chills and goosebumps and make you wonder at what kind of deviant mind concocted such a tale; for it was devised to achieve those reactions.

We like the sounds of that! Will’s War: Exile from Brighton and Hidden Springs will be out soon, but until then you can check out the Wyrde Woods on Pinterest:

 

Friday Night Interviews: Holly Gonzalez

Tonight we have the very cool Holly Gonzalez with us. Holly, whose novel Perfect World Somewhere came out last year, has several more projects lined up for 2016: a decopunk novel and a weird western trilogy. Pull up a chair and listen in as she reveals which punk genre she fell for first,  what inspires her as a creative, and  which underrepresented punk genre she thinks is the bees knees. 

Holly Gonzalez
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was born and raised in California, though I’ve lived in Spokane, Washington now for almost eight years. I love the mountains, and the Pacific Northwest is the perfect home for me. I’ve been married for coming on eighteen years to my soulmate and partner in creative crime, Stephen. We have a fat, spoiled tuxedo cat named Vincent who rules our world. Some of my favorite things to do besides writing are hiking, horseback riding, going out to the pub with friends, taking long walks at night, vintage fashion and movies, music, and almost all things science fiction.

What road did you walk to become a writer/artist?

I’ve been a writer and visual artist for most of my life, and began making my own illustrated stories when I was around six or seven. I loved to read as a kid, and you could always find me at the library, or with a stack of books in hand. I moved on to writing poetry and sappy romantic fantasies in my teen years. By the time I was in my twenties, I started working on my first ‘serious’ project, a weird western/dark fantasy story. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I only dabbled with it for several years. I finished a few short stories here and there. My real breakthrough came in 2014, when I had a setback at my job. Tired of working for dead-end disappointments, I vowed to write seriously from that day on, with the ultimate goal of getting published. In a year and a half, I’ve now self-published a novel, several short stories, finished the first drafts of my weird western trilogy and a decopunk novel,  and am now focused on getting them polished up and ready to pitch to agents. It’s been a long, hard crawl to get to this point, but it’s been endlessly rewarding.

Have you always been interested in punk fiction or is this a recent development in your life?

I’ve been interested in punk fiction specifically since I discovered Neal Stephenson and William Gibson in my twenties, but I can trace my love for ‘punk’ related material to when I first saw the movie “Blade Runner” as a kid. Cyberpunk was my first love, and is still one of my favorites to read and write. Almost all of my ‘punk stories have some element of cyberpunk woven into them. In November of 2014, I learned about the more obscure sub-genres of dieselpunk, decopunk, and atompunk. These are the basis of my current retro-future series, “The Family Of Earth”.

How did you end up getting involved with the Writerpunk group and Writerpunk Press?

I met Shawn Cosby through a dieselpunk group I admin on Facebook, and found information on the Shakespeare anthologies through his page. I was so excited to find this group, as up to that point ‘punk writers were kind of a rare breed in my circles. I started brainstorming a story for the current anthology right away.

Beauty in the Bones

 

What anthology are you helping with or hoping to help with?

I’ve submitted a decopunk retelling of “Annabel Lee” for the upcoming Poe anthology, which has been a lot of fun to write.

What inspired you to work on this specific project?

I’ve loved Edgar Allen Poe since I was in grade school, and I couldn’t resist taking part in an anthology devoted to ‘punking his work. “Annabel Lee” has always been one of my favorite poems. I studied it for ideas, and the themes of ‘envious angels’ and ‘devils under the sea’ captured my attention. The more I let my imagination run with it, the more detailed and exciting the world became. I’ve been working on a serial decopunk story on Wattpad for several months now, and decopunk is so rarely represented, so I chose this as the sub-genre. The Kingdom By The Sea became a gleaming, retro-futuristic 1920s-style city ruled by tyrannical angelic overlords. Elements of cyberpunk, fantasy, and noir also wove themselves into the tale. I hope others will enjoy reading it.

What it is about the punk genre that inspires you as a creative?

I love most forms of speculative fiction, and crossing genres. I’m also obsessed with retro-futurism, blending historical aesthetics with futuristic settings and technology. The ‘punk genre encompasses all of that. I also like the raw and gritty edge of punk in general, and the sense of rebellion. To me, anything ‘punk needs to have a do-it-yourself, finger in the face of the status quo feel to it. I’ve always been a goth at heart, but ‘punk resonates deeply with me as well.

Of all the various *punk genres and subgenres, which one would you like to live?

Though I’m obviously a deco-phile, I’d love to live in an atompunk/raygun gothic type of universe. Rayguns, bubble helmets, and shiny riveted rocketships would just be too much fun. I have an atompunk trilogy in the works, which I’m co-writing with my husband. Once I finish the deco side of the series with my upcoming novel, “Ruby Descent”, we plan to start writing the first draft.

Can you tell us a bit about some of the people that influence you the most?

My husband is my biggest inspiration. He’s my sounding board for new ideas, and my guinea pig beta reader. He always gives me solid and objective feedback, which I’m so grateful for. I’m also influenced by various writers. Some of my favorites are Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman, David Zindell, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, and many more.

Do you have a set routine when you work?

I must have music on, usually from a playlist I’ve made for the project at hand. I also light candles and incense to help set the mood. Killing online distractions like social media is important, too. Facebook is the nemesis of word count.

What is your favorite genre to read/write?

Definitely science fiction, with fantasy being a close second.

Perfect World Somewhere - Holly Gonzalez

Do you have any work published outside of Writerpunk Press?

I have a self-published novel available through Smashwords or Createspace, and I have several short stories and poetry up on various sites. A good sampling of my current work is also on Wattpad. I’m so addicted to that website. My over-arching goal for this year is to get “Ruby Descent” ready to pitch to agents, and try to land a book deal.

What is your life like when you aren’t being one of those weird creative types?

Pretty down to Earth, actually. I’m really a homebody, but I do enjoy going out to eat, or for beers with friends. I like the outdoors, and like taking pictures of the place I explore. My husband and I spend a lot of time together. We love sneaking out for walks late at night, when the stars are out, and the streets are blissfully quiet.

What you have taken away from working with Writerpunk Press and the Writerpunk Facebook group?

This is the first time I’ve submitted anything to an anthology, and the first time I’ve ‘officially’ worked with editors. It’s been a great intro to the process. I’ve also loved seeing a bunch of ‘punk genre writers banding together to help such a great cause. Truly inspiring.

Do you have anything else you want to tell our adoring public or add to this interview in any way?

Reading is one of the greatest joys in life. Do everything you can to encourage the love of reading, both in yourself and others. For those of us who also write, reading is the most important way to learn the craft and better ourselves.

We agree! On that note, if you’re looking for something new to read, Holly has free stories available on Wattpad.  If you’re interested in learning more about Holly’s projects, be sure to connect with her via Twitter, Facebook, or on her blog.

Reviewers Go Punk: Setting Sail with The Fog Diver

Welcome back to Reviewers Go Punk!

This week WriterPunk Facebook group member Jenny Blenk returns with a review of a Middle Grade post-apocalyptic book with steampunk elements. Without further ado, let’s dive right in!

The Fog Diver

The Fog Diver by Joel Ross
Reviewed by Jenny Blenk

Joel Ross, already the author of two adult WWII thriller novels, premiers his middle-grade writing career with this exciting, endearing tale set centuries in the future. Chess, an orphan, was found and raised by Mrs. E. He wasn’t the only one, and he and his four adoptive siblings make one of the best salvage crews in the Junkyard, a series of floating docks tethered to a high mountain peak. They sail their rickety airship out over the Fog, a deadly layer that encompasses the world and infects any human who stays in it for long, earning their living by bringing up salvage from beneath the murky vapor. But Mrs. E has finally succumbed to fogsickness, and in order to save her, Chess and his created family will need more than the good luck of one prosperous salvage; they’ll have to escape the Junkyard altogether and seek out Port Oro, a city forbidden to anyone living in the Junkyard, under control of the power-hungry Lord Kodoc.

But plans are accelerated when Chess finds something miraculous on a dive: a diamond. It’ll be enough to buy their small family passage on a smuggling vessel, if they can keep it safe until then. Other forces are conspiring against their ragged but talented group, though; Kodoc is looking for a boy with strange powers like those Chess displays in the fog, a boy with the same fog-clouded eye that Chess hides behind his hair. If Chess should fall into Kodoc’s hands, illegal possession of a diamond will be the least of his worries. So as the net closes around them, Chess and his crew race to find a way off of the mountain, to safety, and for the medical technology necessary to save Mrs. E.

Ross’s vision of a future world is both creative and insightful: he blends elements of sci-fi and steampunk to form a unique back story about the rise of the fog, what it is, what it means and how it might be controlled. Even designing the fog and its makeup to specifically target humans, leaving the plants and animals to thrive within it, was a stroke of creative genius. It’s a cautionary tale as well as a story of human audacity and survival, living off the bare minimum and hoping for a better future.

Especially humorous to me were the references to what life was like before the fog. Looking through newspaper clippings and other remnants left behind for Chess in his father’s scrapbook, the crew learns about pop icons like Elvis Parsley, can identify the constellation Oprah, and knows about now-extinct species like spelling bees and hello kitties. Adventures were even had by the spaceship the X-Wing Enterprise (It’s good to know that in the future, apparently the disagreements between hardcore Star Wars and Star Trek fans were set aside.) These hilarious mistaken references had me chuckling throughout the book, and both young readers and adults are sure to find them amusing.

The other focal point of this book that I especially liked was the emphasis on the validity of a created family. Chess and his crewmates Hazel, Swedish, and Bea were all found and adopted by Mrs. E. Thanks to her they had a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, and people on whom they could rely. Each plays an important role in the family as well as on the salvage raft, a fact that is discussed by their group at one point as well. Swedish, the pilot, is the anchor of the group; Hazel, the captain, is their dreams; Bea, a gifted engineer, is their heart; and Chess is their hope. They all come from different backgrounds, but each brings something essential to the others and all are united by their love of Mrs. E and their commitment to each other. This story and the characters in it strike a perfect balance between the tale of adventure and the message of family ties.

If you’re looking for a high-flying adventure full of nanotechnology, derring-do, sky pirates and a delightfully horrible villain, then be sure to pick up a copy of “The Fog Diver” by Joel Ross. It’s a treat to read and a good reminder that your true family – blood-related or otherwise – are the ones who will always be there to watch your back and embrace your quirks and follies.

Jenny-Blenk

Jenny is a bibliophile who enthusiastically recommends her new favorite books to anyone who will listen.  This review first appeared on Jenny’s blog and is used with her permission. Stop by and see what else she’d recommend.

Reviewers Go Punk: Logging on with Neuromancer

Welcome to Reviewers Go Punk! This week we have WriterPunk Facebook group member Jonathan Leavitt and his thoughts on a cyberpunk classic.  Jon is relatively new to the whole literary punk scene, so I asked him if was interested in reading Neuromancer by William Gibson, one of the foundation books for the cyberpunk genre. He has some interesting insights that tie in to our current digital culture.  This is well worth the read.

There are a few spoilers to the book in this review. You have been warned.  

Neuromancer_(Book)

Neuromancer by William Gibson
Reviewed by Jonathan Leavitt

I downloaded Neuromancer by William Gibson to the Kindle app for around $8. Honestly, a few chapters in I found it hard to read. Here is where I’ll say the classic “It’s not you, it’s me” line. I have brain damage from 2 strokes which comes with concentration issues so I didn’t want to just give up on this book. I had experienced this before with Hemmingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls that had a style I found very difficult to read but much easier to listen to, so I downloaded Neuromancer to Audible for 1 credit.

Cyberpunk merges technology and anti-establishment, anti-corporatism ideals in a gritty future noir world. Neuromancer, written by William Gibson is the first book I’ve read from the genre. I struggled with the style of this book much the same way I struggled with early punk or new wave music, both challenged styles that I was comfortable with but was vital in expanding the landscapes of rock and roll and science fiction. After switching to the Audible version, I did become more comfortable and came to appreciate that this book is all about imagination at the expense of almost everything else.

Neuromancer was published in 1984 and was cutting edge in its concepts and vocabulary, much of which is now commonplace. Gibson in 1984 defined Cyberspace as: “A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation… A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system.” Whoa, in the early eighties I was more than happy playing Jupiter Lander on my Commodore 64 with no thoughts beyond avoiding a crash and beating my brother’s score. Now I am one of the legitimate users addicted to this mass hallucination. Given that most people in cyberspace present themselves as they wish to be seen and not as they really are, I’m fine with the word hallucination.

Gibson borders on Prophet Status at times when describing concepts and ideas some of which have already come into being and others that we can see clearly on the horizon. The description of a fully immersive sensory experience called “simstim” is somewhat recognizable as Oculus Rift which happens to be owned by a large corporation servicing Cyberspace. While Oculus Rift doesn’t allow (yet) for connecting into someone else’s consciousness, the need for such advanced technology really is moot because with access to a person’s widely-captured data, it is possible to discover everything that makes them unique. While Facebook focuses on marketing to users who, for the most part, understand Facebook’s motives, governmental abuses of privacy have an unknown and therefore sinister quality to them. One thing that Gibson didn’t foresee was any advancement in personal communications such as cell phones, which seems like a big miss. Who knows? Maybe in the future we will revolt against technology and go back to pay phones…it could happen.

All these technological advancements are impressive individually but when Artificial Intelligence is added to the mix they take on a whole new dimension. AI is an example of an idea that is just now being brought into reality. Neuromancer, the books namesake, is one half of an Artificial Intelligence who is separated by law from its other half, Wintermute, by elaborately layered security systems. Think about Left and Right Hemispheres of our brains. One is logical and the other creative. Now imagine that they are never allowed to become one fully functional intelligence because their creators fear of the resulting super intelligence. Even the name Neuromancer hints at this. If we look at the etymology we have Neuro which means neuron meaning nerves and hinting at a nervous system and Mancer which could be a conjurer hinting and not just intelligence but a new life form. We are now just beginning to discuss ideas dealing with the Technological Singularity and discussing the need for certain laws to help manage it. Opinions vary on the plausibility of the technological singularity but it is difficult to argue that technology hasn’t evolved faster than man’s ability to adjust to it and use it in constructive ways. We are struggling to adjust economically to a workforce that is competing with technology for jobs.

After reading Neuromancer and thinking back about the time it was published, it occurs to me that many of the movies I’ve seen from this genre are derivative, many relying on ideas from this book. This book demands the reader’s attention because there is a lot going on, so this isn’t a book you can skim through. There is an irony in that, for me at least, because modern Cyberspace has changed me from a reader into more of a skimmer.

I like the fact that the author didn’t tie a weight around his neck in the form of dates. Leaving the dates open, allows us to continue to see the technology of the story evolve. Science fiction influences real science so young readers who go on to become scientists can use the ideas in stories like Neuromancer to shape their own future which might not be so bleak. Although personally, I am rooting for the technological singularity that will bring self-awareness to machines and lead them to the conclusion that humans have to go. I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys Cyberpunk and science fiction in general.