Please welcome Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders will be published on July 2, 2013.
ROMULUS BUCKLE, STEAMPUNK AND THE FEMALE SWASHBUCKLER
Hi everyone! My name is Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. and I am a newly published author. I’d like to thank Sally for giving me the opportunity to do a guest blog on the venerable Qwillery—I am thrilled! My steampunk adventure novel, “Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders,” comes out from 47North on July 2nd, 2013. It is the first installment in my Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin series. Book two, “Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War,” hits both the wooden and digital bookshelves on November 19th, 2013. My agent pitched the series as a ‘steampunk Pirates of the Caribbean’ and I think that is accurate as far as tone, although later books will plunge into much darker territory—both story-wise and character-wise—than the current film series does. This series is an ode to the great adventure films, to the fun Saturday afternoon movie serials, to the legacy of Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood and Indiana Jones. The story takes place 300 years after an alien invasion and near-complete annihilation of earth (a few aliens, generically referred to as ‘Martians,’ live among the small populations of surviving earthlings: the Martians are zebra-striped but essentially humanoid). The world is locked in a new ice-age where electricity no longer functions, and the human race is rising once again, powered by steam engines, taking on a Victorian style and ethos (there are reasons for this, too complicated to get into here.) The series revolves around the adventures of a war zeppelin crew, led by Captain Romulus Buckle, Lieutenant Sabrina Serafim and Lieutenant Max (a female Martian). In the first book, the crew must brave alien beasties, miasmas of poisonous gas, forgewalkers and a minefield of other obstacles to rescue their clan leader, Balthazar, from the prison of the powerful Founders clan who kidnapped him.
What is steampunk? That is a common question. It is a recently recognized and labeled subgenre of science fiction, one which tends to focus on the Victorian/Edwardian era and fantastic worlds powered by steam engines. I would argue that this steampunk ‘time zone’ embraces a wider swath of history (it can be plugged in anywhere, really – mine is set in the far future) and tends to take place between the late 18th century and the end of the First World War. This time period provides ripe fuel for the storyteller: the industrial age vs. agriculture; exploration vs. colonialism; man vs. machine; Darwinism vs. religion; female repression vs. female suffrage; ideal love vs. hedonism, and on and on. Science, technology and medicine took huge strides forward during this time, accelerating towards the beginning of the 20th century, and the western world believed that mankind (and womankind) was finally on its way to achieving its utopian potential—until the Great War shattered this illusion, and cast our forefathers into a deep and bitter disillusionment which still clings to us today.
Now—on to Romulus, Sabrina and Max. Two of my three main characters are female and I experience great enjoyment writing for them. Sabrina and Max are professional zeppelineers, swashbucklers, young but highly experienced and capable. Both are brave, loyal and profoundly damaged. The girls are as deadly as the boys in a fight—pistols or swords—and they command the respect of their brawny, pied and independent crew. Max and Sabrina are orphans (their father, Balthazar, has adopted them along with six others, including Romulus) and their personal histories are tragic, complicated, and … secret. My world is one where the sexes operate on an equal footing, though the Victorian-veneered males are still very male and Victorian-veneered females still very female. When earth was destroyed and humanity was fighting to survive, the women stepped into place alongside the men in the firing lines and have never left. The elevation of women to combat roles during times of extreme peril is a common phenomenon throughout the histories of human societies (Soviet Russia during the Nazi invasion, for example). I wanted to write strong women, real people with their own talents and flaws. Love stories will emerge as the series progresses—and something of a love triangle between Romulus, Sabrina and Max—but my women (and Romulus) do not seek romantic love for personal fulfillment; it sneaks up and traps them unexpectedly, as it does to so many of us, and since they are youngsters (Max’s age is unknown, but they are all essentially new adults) they make the same heady, blind, love-twisted mistakes we all make as youths. But the trials and tribulations of romance do not appear until much later in the series. For now, my females are hosts to all manner of hopes, obsessions and fears, leaping from zeppelin to zeppelin, sword in teeth, fighting for the people and dreams they hold most dear.
About The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin
Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders
The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin 1
47North, July 2, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 456 pages
In a post-apocalyptic world of endless snow, Captain Romulus Buckle and the stalwart crew of the Pneumatic Zeppelin must embark on a perilous mission to rescue their kidnapped leader, Balthazar Crankshaft, from the impenetrable City of the Founders. Steaming over a territory once known as Southern California – before it was devastated in the alien war – Buckle navigates his massive airship through skies infested with enemy war zeppelins and ravenous alien beasties in this swashbuckling and high-octane steampunk adventure. Life is desperate in the Snow World – and death is quick – Buckle and his ship’s company must brave poisoned wastelands of noxious mustard and do battle with forgewalkers, steampipers and armored locomotives as they plunge from the skies into the underground prison warrens of the fortress-city.
Captain Romulus Buckle must lead the Pneumatic Zeppelin and its crew of never-do-wells on a desperate mission where he must risk everything to save Balthazar and attempt to prevent a catastrophic war which could wipe out all that is left of civilization and the entire human race.
Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War
The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin 2
47North, November 19, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook
The frozen wasteland of Snow World—known as Southern California before an alien invasion decimated civilization—is home to warring steampunk clans. Crankshafts, Imperials, Tinskins, Brineboilers, and many more all battle one another for precious supplies, against ravenous mutant beasts for basic survival, and with the mysterious Founders for their very freedom.
Through this ruined world soars the Pneumatic Zeppelin, captained by the daring Romulus Buckle. In the wake of a nearly suicidal assault on the Founders’ prison city to rescue key military leaders, both the steam-powered airship and its crew are bruised and battered. Yet there’s little time for rest or repairs: Founders raids threaten to shatter the fragile alliance Buckle has risked everything to forge among the clans.
Even as he musters what seems a futile defense in the face of inevitable war, Buckle learns that the most mysterious clan of all is holding his long-lost sister in a secret base—and that she holds the ultimate key to victory over the Founders. But rescuing her means abandoning his allies and praying they survive long enough for there to be an alliance to return to.
The fabulous covers for the Romulus Buckle novels are by Eamon O’Donoghue.
Richard Ellis Preston, Jr. is fascinated by the steampunk genre, which he sees as a unique storytelling landscape. Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders is the first installment in his new steampunk series, The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin. Richard has also written for film and television. He lives in California.
Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter @RichardEPreston