The Department of Curiosities Book Launch Blog Tour
All Hail The Gadgeteer?
(A glimpse to the background of The Department of Curiosities)
Welcome back! Some of you may remember Karen J. Carlisle from one of my steampunk interviews. She's a fabulous steampunk author, cosplayer, and a generally swell lady. Her upcoming novel is a steampunk adventure, titled The Department of Curiosities. I'm participating in her book launch tour before the Department is released to the public. A major part of the story features steampunk makers called gadgeteers and their various creations. Karen agreed to participate in a Q&A session that would cover this part of her novel. Check it out and have fun!
Q: What is the basic premise of The Department of Curiosities?
A: Miss Matilda Meriwether (she prefers ‘Tillie’) is a twenty-year old on a quest to clear her father’s name of treason. While acquiring the latest item in her quest, she encounters one of Queen Victoria’s secret departments. Tillie has to work out who she can trust as she uncovers uncomfortable truths, clandestine secret societies and discovers secrets - about the Department of Curiosities, the Queen and her past.
Q: Would you mind giving a brief definition of a Gadgeteer?
A: A Gadgeteer is a member of a group lobbying to repeal Queen Victoria’s Mechanical Permit Restriction Act, which requires anyone owning or using a mechanical (gadget) to have a Mechanical Ownership and Operation Permit. These are issued directly by the Queen, effectively restricting the use of mechanicals to the rich, or the well-connected.
Some call them anarchists. Some call them opportunists. They’ve been implicated in smuggling mechanicals into Britain.
Q: Do Gadgeteers serve a sociopolitical role in your novel?
A: Gadgeteers are capitalists. They disagree with Queen Victoria’s established laws to control mechanicals - a potentially lucrative industry. They provide a catalyst to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of industrialisation for profit versus for the benefit of the people. They represent the interest of profiteers/capitalists and how far they will go for profit.
In my alternate history, Queen Victoria has slowed industrialisation in Britain by restricting it. This leaves Europe (and the rest of the world) to move forward (with great opportunities for Australia). This is the opposite of our traditional history and will create various issues in later books.
Q: What types of gadgets do these individuals create?
A: The Gadgeteers, as a group, don’t actually create much themselves. They are more of a pro-mechanical(gadget)-money collective; organisation is too structured for them. There are individual engineers, scientists and creators within the Gadgeteers but, as a rule, the group is more geared toward promotion, accumulation and profit than creating mechanicals to make life easier or safer.
Q: I heard the black market plays a role in this story. Will you fill in some details?
A: The black market has been hinted at in my previous series.
In ‘From the Depths Below', a smuggling operation is discovered in Scotland. In Viola’s other adventures, there are hints of people either acquiring mechanicals or making their own. The black market is hinted at in The Department of Curiosities, and will be investigated in the next book of the series, Against the Empire. I mentioned Australia before… Australia is a long way from Britain, and ‘neutral’ as far as Europe and America are concerned. As a result, it has attracted scientists and inventors from all over the world. South Australia (being a free settled state) has become a ‘think tank’, known as the Conceptualisation Co-operative, or ‘The Co-operative’ for short. Many of these inventions may – or may not – make their way to British shores… But that would be telling.
Tillie learns more about this in the next book.
Q: How are Gadgeteers connected to the steampunk genre?
A: Steampunk is two basic things: ‘steam’ and ‘punk.’
Steam: The Gadgeteers promote mechanicals (mostly steam powered, as electricity has been restricted throughout Britain and Europe – but that’s a whole other series!).
Punk: Traditionally punk is railing against ‘the system’ or ‘the government’ or ‘the establishment’. We get it a lot in female characters pushing the boundaries of the Victorian Society’s restrictions on women, and other characters, such as LGBTIQA or people of colour. This is what I like about steam‘punk’, and where it taps into traditional SF themes.
The Gadgeteers are against Queen Victoria’s establishment, but not necessarily for such humanitarian reasons.
Q: Do Gadgeteers reflect issues or conflicts in our current time period?
A: The Department of Curiosities is set in 1883, five years before my earlier series, The Adventures of Viola Stewart. By the final story in the AVS series, ‘The Illusioneer’, they are protesting in Europe, trying to gain support to push their cause into Britain. In The Department of Curiosities, they are just beginning to be noticed.
As I mentioned above, The Gadgeteers want to change the system. They want money and (their own) power. Unfortunately, this is a common ethic in our current society. The Gadgeteers provide a way for me to explore how something that could be useful (mechanicals aiding people) can be twisted into something potentially malevolent. Greed is not necessarily good. And will our heroes oppose The Gadgeteers’ capitalism as a growing part of the ‘system’?
Then there’s the steampunk staple – is technology inherently good or bad – or is it how it’s used. The Gadgeteers promise and promote mechanicals as helpful, but all good villains know they can be used for nefarious purposes!
I’m a bit of a technophobe. I love it when my mechanicals work and make life easier… but you won’t find Alexa or Google Home in my home. I don’t trust it that much…
Q: Why did you create this subclass of characters?
A: The Gadgeteers is less a subclass of character, and more a collective of agitators with a common goal and dubious morals. They were created to show the shadowy and monetary side of technology.
Q: What lessons can readers learn from Gadgeteers?
A: Technology can be good or bad. It depends on how you use it. Commerce is not inherently evil, but capitalism and the pursuit of money for its own sake can become destructive and divisive.
Q: Should we know anything else about this part of your book?
A: Fun fact: My first ever recorded song was written about The Gadgeteers.
Richard Ryall, of The Littmus Steampunk Band (Aussie steampunk band) had asked if I’d write some lyrics for him. The Gadgeteer was written after I’d finished writing ‘The Illusioneer’ and was writing notes about them for The Department of Curiosities series.
You can hear a snippet on my webpage (and buy a copy there too!) Check out: https://karenjcarlisle.com/product/song-the-gadgeteer/
How capitalist is that?
That's the end of our Q&A! I learned quite a bit from Karen and you probably did as well. It made me feel pretty excited for her new book. I'm going to leave some useful links and a nice bio. Leave a comment if you have anything to say about this Q&A. Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I'll see you guys next week.
Karen J. Carlisle Bio
Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of speculative fiction – steampunk, Victorian mystery and fantasy.
She graduated in 1986, from Queensland Institute of Technology, with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Optometry, and lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.
Karen first fell in love with science fiction when she saw Doctor Who,as a four-year old. This was reinforced when, at the age of twelve, she saw her first Star Destroyer. She started various other long-term affairs with fantasy fiction, (tabletop) role-playing, gardening, historical re-creation and steampunk – in that order.
She has had articles published in Australian Realms Roleplaying Magazine and her short story, An Eye for Detail, was short-listed by the Australian Literature Review in their 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes?’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.
She writes full-time and can often be found plotting fantastical, piratical or airship adventures, and co-writing the occasional musical ditty.
Karen has always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.
She is not keen on the South Australian summers.
The Department of Curiosities will be released 22nd May, 2019.
If you want to follow the rest of The Department of Curiosities book launch blog tour, check out the links on my blog post: www.karenjcarlisle.com/DOC1bookblogtour
You can sign up for my newsletter at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/
Pre-orders are available on Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/books/view/934976
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Or support me on Patreon (for less than a cup of coffee a month and you get cool rewards!): https://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle
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