The first thing that came to me about this story was a group of friends—two males and a female—walking through a forest at night and stumbling over a periscope in the forest floor. I had visions of an underground metal bunker with winding tunnels and oppressive machinery. In my mind, this mechanical beast was and is something alive, something tyrannical and sinister just as the mists are, both of which I wanted to be living, breathing characters throughout my story. Then, while browsing for inspiration through online photos of Steampunk gadgets, I came across a picture of a metallic heart on a chain (actually, while lecturing Dr. Sandner’s undergraduate class on what makes Steampunk Steampunk). Thus, the SafeHeart was born and the plot took hold from there. After that, I became fascinated about the idea of someone writing a letter, as a form of penance, to a dead person and for whose death the letter writer felt personally responsible. Perhaps it works, perhaps it doesn’t, but either way I had a blast with it.
This story took me in several different directions. I forever find myself surprised by what comes out of the end of my pen as if someone else loops the ink across the page. For me personally, I write everything out longhand in a journal then later transfer those words to the computer because I find considerably more inspiration, freedom, and intimacy between myself and a blank page than I ever could with the glaring, impersonal screen of the computer.
The elements that make my story Steampunk start with the atmosphere—the 1890’s eerie, mist-obscured cobblestone streets of neo-Victorian London—and continue with the costumes, gadgets, steam power, alternate history and whirring, mechanical creatures. The skeletal Myst creatures came to me in a nightmare, which I incorporated into another short story called “Dreamer” and reinvented, Steampunk style, for this narrative. They still scare me!
At first I felt limited by the genre of Steampunk, thinking that it somehow prevented me from writing the story I wanted to tell—that of three friends finding a hidden, underground lair—but the more research I did on Steampunk, the more I realized the infinite possibilities such a subgenre entailed. I like what Mike Perschon, the Steampunk Scholar, says of Steampunk—that it is more aesthetic than genre, like a coat of varnish you paint over Fantasy and Science Fiction. That definition threw wide the doors of what I could do as a writer with Steampunk. That said, what slowed me down the most was the Victorian voice and assuring that the voice stayed consistent throughout the narrative.


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