What I took to heart was an overarching tone of ‘rollicking.’ I wanted this to be fun, because the prompt was over-the-top, and I didn’t want to take it way to seriously and have to do research. I didn’t want to go for an over-the-top parody, either, and I think I kind of skirted the line with it. This piece is about a year old.
The main characters are based entirely on myself and Tristan Tinder, but with easy renaming conventions like one of many ways to mis-parse my name and a shortened version of Tristan’s opposite in Tristan and Isolde. I am never terribly opaque in how I rename friends into characters.
There’s a lot of info-dumping in the first part, because I wasn’t sure how to expose the world in fewer than several thousand words. But I got to refer to people being zombies as “an unusual and cannibalistic form of pica,” and that really amused me. As did having Montreal overrun by zombies. I kept thinking about all the bitching that would happen because New Orleans gets sexy vampires, and Montreal is stuck with zombies. Horrible stupid Americans hogging all the nice things, etc.
Also I had been briefly torn between zombies and Bonhomme as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, but zombies obviously won. Zombies also won because I wanted to make the threat obvious without a ton of explanation, and thought Bonhomme might be too regional. That’s why the devastation was mentioned in Montreal instead of Quebec City, as well. Montreal is a bigger city, so more people know where it is and it can also be inferred that more people were there to be eaten by zombies. That also let me imply that everything along the St Lawrence had fallen to zombies.
The story is set in a sort of steampunk Victoria because, well, that’s where I was living and that was the prompt, but also because islands have it easy in terms of escaping zombie epidemics and Esquimalt is already a naval base. I also associate this area of the world irrevocably with steampunk, because the first instance of steampunk dress that I encountered in real life was the Steampunk Expo held at the Empress, after which I went on a brief tour of the Olympic Peninsula with Tristan, while reading the first actual steampunk novel I’d ever picked up, which was set in Seattle. I’d encountered steampunk before, of course, in the form of the comic Girl Genius and numerous aesthetic references, but hadn’t had much personal contact with it.
Now, of course, I am convinced that everyone setting steampunk things in London or other major cities in Europe is Doing It Wrong. Ada Lovelace, for example, lived in Surrey. Explosions and rogue mechanical devices entertain me a great deal more when I picture them ravaging the peaceful English countryside than when I picture them as London’s menace-of-the-week (next week: aliens). But the North American West lends itself to steampunk really well in that around the time it is usually set, the West was just starting to be settled. Steampunk technology would make more sense as part of inherent infrastructure in the West.
Obviously, these are just my ramblings, and I’ve read really well-done steampunk set elsewhere. My favourites, though, are the ones where the runaway technology are a part of daily life, which is usually an invented place.
“When you can’t, add some guns,” is one of my favourite lines that I have ever written, and encompasses many of my feelings about writing in general. Something not working? Make it worse. Hero half-dead? Whoops, spontaneous regeneration and also an afterlife. Four separate mythical canons involved? Add another. Many of my favourite things to write end with me cackling off into an obscenely complicated sunset.
The engineering things mentioned are in no way based on science. They are based on mental images of dark workrooms and too many gears and arc-welding torches.
The pacing at the end was really off: everything happens too fast, as opposed to the beginning where it’s just information and talking. I wanted some acceleration in plot, but didn’t manage to execute it the way it was in my head. It could all use a good overhaul, possibly with a bulldozer. But it was ridiculously fun to write.