We are at it again! Kicking off the year with a brand-new campaign: Full Steam Ahead!
While we are not the first to explore the realm of dieselpunk, it is fair to say there isn’t a lot out there. And I can say with full confidence no one else has gone in this direction! Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk takes a look at the mechanics that keep the tech running and even mod it out beyond its original capabilities, striving for efficiency and peak performance or just keeping things going.
The other two books funding through the campaign are Grimm Machinations – the sequel to Gaslight & Grimm, bringing you even more steampunk faerie tales; and A Cast of Crows, a Poe-inspired steampunk collection created in conjunction with the Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival.
Over the course of the campaign, we will be featuring these spotlights so you can get to know our authors—and the projects—better.
eSpec Books interviews Aaron Rosenberg contributor to Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and John L. French and Forgotten Lore Volume One: A Cast of Crows, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail.
eSB: Grease Monkeys is a collection of dieselpunk stories, a genre that doesn’t seem to get as much attention as its older sibling, steampunk. What challenges did you face transitioning from one to the other? What did you find similar, and what was different?
AR: Dieselpunk is interesting in that it’s a whole different aesthetic to steampunk, both visually and tonally. You’re dealing with gas and oil rather than steam, so machinery is taken to the next level, which also means that it integrates into the world differently. Part of that is the noir aspect and how that plays out. Everything in dieselpunk is gritty, more iron and steel and less glass and brass, but there’s also a certain “can do” attitude that carries through it all, with people struggling through adversity and persevering through sheer will.
eSB: What was your favorite aspect of writing for this collection and why?
AR: It’s not a genre I’ve played in much yet, and the particular focus on the people who make things work behind the scenes was also really interesting to me. I like stories that don’t focus on the obvious heroes (or villains) but look at the people who are just as integral but less in the spotlight.
eSB: No spoilers, but what was your inspiration for your story and did you introduce any Easter eggs for either the dieselpunk aspect or your own body of work?
AR: There are strong hints of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Boys in mine, I’d say. But also, there was a Batman story at one point about his mechanic, and that was the first thing I thought of when approaching this, the person who’s responsible for keeping something like the Batmobile running.
eSB: Are there any interesting details that you incorporated in your story to harken to the historic period of the genre? Are you the kind of ’punk who reveals in the period-appropriate technobabble, or do you dig deep into the research to include period-accurate touches?
AR: Oh, I had way too much fun coming up with character names based on diesel terms! Both heroes and villains. Even the featured headquarters and its various areas are all pulled from that. I think it’s the little touches like that which really bring a story to life and also help ground it in its setting.
eSB: Is this your first time writing for a themed anthology? If so, how did you find the experience? If not, what draws you to them?
AR: Ha, no. I’ve actually lost track of how many themed anthologies I’ve been in, but certainly a few dozen. I love it. It’s having those constraints which forces you to be more creative with your work, to find ways to push against the limits and really write something new and original while still staying within the guidelines.
eSB: A Cast of Crows is unique in that it is a key part of the upcoming Tell-Tall Steampunk Festival, a first-year event kicking off with a Poe theme. What challenges did this present when choosing what to write?
AR: Well, it’s a themed anthology but that theme is far more focused than, say, a genre or a time period. This had to be a Poe story, first and foremost. Then it had to be steampunk. There were also a few elements we were required to include somehow, in order to connect to an activity at the event. Lots of constraints, lots of guidelines—which just made it that much more fun.
eSB: Did you base your story on your own previous literary setting or did you embrace the Poe connection? Or hey, did you do both?
AR: I’m a huge Poe fan, have been since high school, taught various Poe stories and poems in college, so I was absolutely going to focus on that aspect and try to make sure my story fit. At the same time, this isn’t a pastiche. I wasn’t trying to copy Poe’s own style, just write something that would work as a spiritual successor.
eSB: No spoilers, but what was your inspiration for your story and did you introduce any Easter eggs for either the Poe aspect or your own body of work?
AR: In addition to liking Poe in general, I love the M. Auguste Dupin stories, so I immediately started thinking about those as my primary source of inspiration. But I also incorporated some elements, at least stylistically, from “The Masque of the Red Death.” And I have nods to a few other Poe stories and poems in things like names and costumes.
eSB: Did either of these projects inspire you to continue writing with the characters you created, or in the same universe?
AR: I would love to do more tales about Phillipe Huron, my detective in my Cast of Crows story “A Heavy Air,” or Lily Jeffries, the main character in my Grease Monkeys story “Nobody’s Hero”! Or just to tell more stories in the worlds I created for each of them. For Cast of Crows, it would be fun to do more detective/police procedural stories, even if he weren’t in them. For Grease Monkeys, I’ve set up an entire league of heroes and any of them would be cool to explore more.
eSB: What advice would you give aspiring authors considering participating in a themed anthology?
AR: Think about the theme and the obvious things it means, suggests, presents—and then think about the less obvious ones. Turn it on its side. Inside out. Poke and prod it. Find a spot or an aspect or an interpretation you haven’t seen done before, or one you have but still feel has room to explore, and then start thinking about what kind of story that presents to you. Everything should flow from the theme, but there is a flow, it has to be organic, rather than being forced.
eSB: What other events are you doing this year—dieselpunk, steampunk, or otherwise?
AR: I’ll be at Farpoint February 10-12, Origins Game Fair June 21-25, Shore Leave July 7-9, and possibly Heliosphere April 28-30.
eSB: What are some of your other works readers can look for?
AR: My urban fantasy novel Yeti Left Home, the first in a series about a mild-mannered Yeti in Minneapolis-St. Paul and the things that happen to him, comes out from NeoParadoxa Press on February 1. My SF comedy series The Adventures of DuckBob Spinowitz, starting with the novel No Small Bills, is available from Crazy 8 Press. The first four books in my Anime-inspired epic fantasy series The Relicant Chronicles are available through Falstaff Books. O.C.L.T., the occult thriller series I write with David Niall Wilson, is over at Crossroad Press. Cases by Candlelight, a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories I did with Christopher D. Abbott and Michael Jan Friedman, can be found on Amazon. And my first fantasy pirate mystery adventure novel, Deadly Fortune, and its upcoming sequel Weather Gap, are with Eldros Legacy.
eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?
AR: I mentioned Yeti Left Home and Weather Gap above, those are both done and releasing this year. I’m writing the second Yeti novel, the final Relicant Chronicle, and a cryptid novel this year as well. Oh, and the second Holmes collection, More Cases by Candlelight, will be out this fall as well.
Aaron Rosenberg is the author of the best-selling DuckBob SF comedy series, the Relicant Chronicles epic fantasy series, the Dread Remora space-opera series, and—with David Niall Wilson—the O.C.L.T. occult thriller series. Aaron’s tie-in work contains novels for Star Trek, Warhammer, World of WarCraft, Stargate: Atlantis, Shadowrun, Eureka, Mutants & Masterminds, and more. He has written children’s books (including the original series STEM Squad and Pete and Penny’s Pizza Puzzles, the award-winning Bandslam: The Junior Novel, and the #1 best-selling 42: The Jackie Robinson Story), educational books on a variety of topics, and over seventy roleplaying games (such as the original games Asylum, Spookshow, and Chosen, work for White Wolf, Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Flight, Pinnacle, and many others, and both the Origins Award-winning Gamemastering Secrets and the Gold ENnie-winning Lure of the Lich Lord). He is the co-creator of the ReDeus series, and a founding member of Crazy 8 Press. Aaron lives in New York with his family.
Learn more about Aaron Rosenberg here:
Website * GoodReads * Amazon Author Page * BookBub * Wikipedia
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