Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Sacrifices of Automated Tabulation

I mentioned that I have a new story in Steampunk Tales, The Sacrifices of Automated Tabulation. I also promised that I would tell you where the story came from and what Steampunk is.

There are lots of different ways to cluster fiction, stories or novels with similar conventions, tropes, etc are in the same genre. (Western, Romance, Mystery etc) Genres can in turn be split into subgenres. 'Steampunk' is a subgenre of science fiction. There is an adequate definition on the wikipedia page, but the name comes from 'Steam' the primary motive force of the Industrial revolution and 'punk'. From punk. Like punk rock. It was a play on a subgenre of the early nineties known as cyberpunk, 'edgy new fiction' where people would plug right into computers, or have augmented neural pathways; cybernetics.

In general steampunk stories are science fiction placed in the past or in an alternate present where steampower and antiquated weapons are the rule of the day. There are a number of essays out there on the steampunk movement (there are steampunk bands, bars, retro-future steampunk devices, etc) but to me it is fun when it reminds of the Jules Verne novels I read as a child or the Flash Gordon serials I would watch late Saturday night, just before the stations signed off for the night (that was before infomercials). Old-fashioned people, with old-fashioned equipment, setting off into the future. You see its influence a lot in contemporary scifi, look at Stargate Universe...the ship is old, cranks, clicks..

There are those that would then split Steampunk into more discreet clumps. Were I to be such a splitter I would agree that my story, The Sacrifices of Automated Tabulation, which, did I mention, is out in the latest issue of Steampunk Tales (click on the name) anyway, TSoAT would fall into the Steampunk genre 'Gaslight Horror'.

So where did it come from? Well, I wanted to try a Steampunk story, I had been thinking about it for a while. And I thought how well the story arc of my first published story, Outsourcing Blues would fit. Man against machine. The age of computers harnessing the power that haunted the dark outside the camp-fire light. That sort of thing. So, I did it. I kidnapped Toni and slipped her into the wayback machine and sent the story from 2008 to 1890, with all the associated changes in norms, theme etc. Antonia Farragolo is given a complete body makeover, but her kick-ass attitude just wouldn't leave. Oh, and for once the graduate student wins out over the thesis advisor. That NEVER happens in real life.

I hope you enjoy it. Steampunk Tales, the iPhone app and penny dreadful for the 21st century. How cool is that?


  1. Read your story in Steampunk Tales this morning. I purchased the pdf version, and am making my way through the stories. I particularly liked the pace of your writing - and the whole tale kept me guessing. Why is she locked in the room? What is going to happen to her? I enjoyed the ending - but wanted to know more about the guy in the basement (no spoilers!). What's his story?

  2. Hey Anonymous,

    I'm glad you enjoyed the story! and thanks for stopping by. Neil Gaiman had once written a short story that appeared in Fragile Things, Other People, I think. In it the narrator is treated rather poorly and when his turn comes about, he repeats the process. Part of Colund's inspiration. Also the march of progress at all costs. He's just the sort of modern business type that will execute the statement of work (SOW) at all costs.