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- There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you - Maya Angelou
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When you look back at history, or you create a retro-future like Steampunk, there are so many pieces of the world to consider. Something as simple as the stamp on an envelope had a detailed history of its own.
Again, I’m thankful to my old (and I’m not necessarily calling HIM old… cause… we’re about the same age) friend, Gannon for his amazing knowledge of postal instruments. So in his words,
“So this cover is an “adversity” cover. Commercially made envelopes were available in the South prior to 1861, but they became less available as the war progressed for a variety of reasons. People would make envelopes out of whatever they had on hand. Letters sent in envelopes hand made from sheet music, wallpaper, or (as in this case) old ledger paper. Sometimes, people would also “turn” the envelope by steaming open all the sealed edges and resealing them so that the original stamp and address were now on the inside of the envelope. That particular practice is not limited to wartime. Poorer people did this throughout the 19th century and sometimes even today.
“The stamps on this letter are referred to by collectors in the United States as “CSA Scott #7” (The Confederacy printed 14 stamps, of which 13 were actually issued.) This printing plate for this stamp was created in England by Thomas de la Rue & Co., which is still in operation as a security printer. They filled the order for however many stamps they were contracted to print, and then sent the stamps and the copper printing plates to the Confederacy. The stamps printed in England are referred to as “CSA Scott #6” (England) as are a different shade from #7 (CSA).
“About half of the English printed stamps and half of the printing plates were seized by Union forces as they tried to run the blockage. The other half got through. The Confederacy then used the plates to print new stamps until the plates wore out.
“This letter was sent from Richmond, VA, to Cheraw SC on January 11, 1863. Cheraw is a pretty small town, which had less than 1000 people in the 19th century. I am researching the addressee. It may be the sender was someone in her family who was at the Battle of Fredericksburg, but I am not sure.”
The second cover –
“This one has CSA #11 on it, the stamp most commonly seen on CSA mail. It was issued in 1863. Not sure what information I can get from it with an unclear postmark. I think it was sent from Fayetteville, GA to Augusta GA. It could also have been sent from Milledgeville. Either way, the letter is postmarked June 11. It is likely to have been mailed in 1864, because of the way the postmark is worn down. June 11 1863 is a possibility, but June 11 1865 would have been after the war.”
Another Interesting Fact –
“When you get an unused stamp from the CSA–other than the English printed ones–the gum on the back is really uneven. They were manually applying it with a paintbrush. Neat detail!”
I’ve been going through a little nostalgia lately…
Honestly it started because a lot of things happened last year – some good, some bad. Most importantly, I lost a family member in the later part of the year. It was a quick and peaceful passing for him and I was glad that was the case. On the other side, I was able to continue publishing my short stories and write more of both shorter and longer fiction.
During this time in my confusing and sometimes monotonous life, I started to reflect on Steampunk and my interaction with the fandom. That alone was enough to make me go looking for something sweet to much on.
But with the theme of ‘Favorite Things’ for the Steampunk month… I think this fits… So this post will be some of my favorite Steampunk Writing moments… I’ll put in my peeps later!
It may not be ground breaking but here we go:
Shanghai Steam was a beginning for me. My first accepted story in an anthology. And one of the best experiences with a group of writers. I had little or no real expectations of what it was like. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying any of it was bad, but boy was I on a stiff learning curve. Amidst the editing, we had to plan our release parties, update our websites. Through it all we had the help of our wonderful editors!
Recently I was able to meet up with one of our editors. On a family trip to Hawaii, there was just enough time to sit down for a meal together and talk shop. How amazing it was to find that we had more in common than I ever would have known with just our emails back and forth about the project.
And it was my introduction to the amazing art of James Ng… such detail and warmth in his work… and the imagination! Truly a pleasure!
Even with the other authors… I’ve remained in contact with most of them and it’s amazing to see what they’re doing in their careers… so proud to be part of such an amazing endeavor…
Steamfunk! was another early highlight. When I sat down to write the body of the story “A Will of Iron” I had a Johnny Cash song on my ipod, a song about a train… okay, so I have a bunch of songs about trains on my ipod… but this one gave the story a heart… a heartbeat really.
And the story of John Henry and his race against a steam driven machine… I really enjoyed the idea of a body as a machine… and thanks to editors of Steamfunk! for including my story in the amazing anthology that I’m so proud to have on my shelf!
Our association has continued through the years, with my participation in “the City” Cyberfunk anthology… I’m working on one to submit for their Dieselfunk anthology… so here’s hoping I do the idea justice.
The Steampunk Anthology from Witty Bard Publishing is another favorite!
“Facing a Modern World” was inspired by a pencil sketch made by King David Kalakaua and a Samurai from Japan that the king had inspired during his Around the World trip. It was only the first one accepted to other Witty Bard anthologies and I truly enjoyed working with the crew at WBP!
The crowning achievement of this story was having my story read aloud on a radio show broadcast from the UK. I was thrilled that they felt the story worthy of such a lovely transformation and the actor that literally breathed life into my words was truly gifted. I was on the edge of my seat excited and my heart was pounding almost loud enough to drown out the music that came before… So thanks to the folks at Frome and The Green Door for including me and having me as a guest on the show for an interview!
There might be more ‘radio’ in the future… always working on more to share… so keep an eye/ear/feeler out…
So much more has happened since then… but these are some of my earliest involvements in Steampunk and continue to influence my writing life and my personal one as well…
New anthologies coming up… and at Kawaii Kon 2016, I’ll be in the Steampunk panel for the third year! So come and see me… hang out.. ask questions… More favorite things!
Having been a Postal Child myself (Three generations of my family have worked for the USPS), stamps and anything else involved in that kind of correspondence have always fascinated me. Historical stamps and other postage ephemera can give you a brief snippet of personal history in a time long gone by. It’s a romantic idea in many ways.
For those who grew up in a digital world, you might not understand the thrill of a penpal letter or a postcard from a friend on vacation. The tangible rasp of the edge of a stamp under your fingertip, the bends or smudges of postal machines, the frustration of a rubber band mark on a precious envelope. My grandparents had a long standing exchange of letters during his service in WWII, her letters ended with a bright red lipstick kiss and scented by perfume.
Emails offer none of those exasperations and pleasures, but in the Victorian Era… the post was just beginning to be regulated by the governments of their respective countries… and the lure of written communication was pure. They had no expectations of speed as we do in the modern era, that is to say that their understanding of ‘fast’ is nothing like ours, and maybe, there is a little romance in that too. To understand that the distance crossed only made the messages more dear to the receiver… and in turn the wait for a response.
A friend of mine, that I’ve known probably since Kindergarten (my memory starts to get fuzzy that far back *cough*), is an avid collector of stamps and other postal instruments. So I called on him to give us a taste of some of his Favorite Things (in his Victorian Era Collection)
The following from Gannon Sugimura:
This is a postal card mailed from Lihu`e to Kapa`a on Kaua`i. The cancel date reads “Jan 17 1893”.* Having a card mailed on a red-letter day in history is bonus enough. But this is one of several that was mailed that day to multiple locations on that island on the same day, with a cryptic message on the back as shown. (It was also signed not with a name but with a cypher or perhaps a monogram.) It is tempting to think that this card had some sort of connection to the events of the overthrow of the Monarchy, but that is just speculation.
*If this date doesn’t ring a historical bell, no worries, that’s what you have us for… January 17, 1893 is the day that the Hawaiian Monarchy was overthrown for the final time.
There will be more of his collection during the month… Mahalo, Gannon!
Aloha from the Sandwich Islands… from the Hawaiian Kingdom!
Back in the Victorian Era, Hawaii was it’s own kingdom. And much of its distinction as a melting pot began, in my opinion, during that ‘Victorian’ Era. And one of the biggest reasons for the influx of immigrants was the Sugar Plantations. Oh, Hawaii has had other plantations, including cotton and pineapples, but Sugar was literally king.
When a new race of immigrants came over to work in the plantations they lived in designated areas among others of their race. Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and more found their way to the shores of the Hawaiian Kingdom and found a home grouped in little clusters of single story cottages. I have a direct connection to that history as some of my ancestors arrived in Hawaii for the express purpose of working in the sugar fields.
So, what does this all have to do with ‘My Favorite Things’ in Steampunk? Well, inspiration of course! I love to use Hawaii’s history and that of my family, and bring it to blend and cogitate (if you will) in the mind of my muse. In an upcoming story, set for an anthology I am very privileged to be a part of, I brought together a group of men from a number of different ethnic groups to stop a catastrophe from happening during the time of King David Kalakaua. Their cultures, languages, and experiences, rather than driving a wedge between them, their differences provide the missing pieces to a solution that otherwise would have been out of their reach.
My knowledge of the History of Hawaii is by no means perfect… I’ve spent many an hour in the State Archives, the Mission Library, and Bishop Museum adding to the tidbits of information filed away in my grey matter and file folders in my computer. I’ve also been an interpreter at several historical sites in Downtown Honolulu. All of those facts jumbled in my head, it’s not an easy place to navigate, but you can find some crazy stuff tucked in the corners if you dare to look.
While Steampunk is an alternate reality/history of the Victorian Era, history can be the rich fertile soil for so many stories.
What events in history inspire you?
(Pictures are property of Ray Dean and come from behind the scenes of the film Picture Bride)
A call went out on the “Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action” Blog for stories about a character named ‘Anabelle Flagstaff’
Created by the Pulp Guru and Fedora-Rockin’ Bossman, Tommy Hancock,
Miss Flagstaff has some amazing potential for fun stories… So lucky me I’m up first…
Click on the picture to go to the Flash Fiction story, or click on the link to read “Beneath the Surface”
eBook Release Date – September 25, 2015
One of the unique aspects of this anthology was the ‘World’ created by Editor & Creative Force, Milton Davis.
The first time I ‘met’ Milton Davis was when I found an anthology call for something called Steamfunk! I had just finished writing a story for Shanghai Steam and eager for another challenge, I wrote a story about John Henry, an American Folk Hero who bested a steam-driven engine in the time of locomotives.
When he put out the call for “The City” – a Cyberfunk Anthology, I was curious.
What is it about: ‘The City. No one knows how it began or when it will end. No one knows how we came to be here, 20 millions souls, 1500 different species all crammed together in plascrete and biosteel. No one’s been in or out of the city in 20 centuries. Some have their theories why, some don’t care. But no matter who you are, or what you are, you have a story, don’t you?’
He set out a 17 page manifesto full of information about ‘The City’ – it’s denizens and the science of the world. Part of the beauty of it was to use the information about this world and/or some of his characters and build a story to start filling ‘The City’ with life! I thought about a number of the characters… some of the descriptions of the types of people in the canon, species and vocations. I brainstormed a few different stories, but as I read the pages over and over, a name stood out in my mind.
Unlike some of the other characters that had more of a bio, Ben was mentioned once in connection to a group called The River Rats
River Rats, as they are called by inhabitants of The City (and they have accepted that name, believing it a title given by The River) – roam the River and protect it from being “defiled” by anyone trying to hop into or drink from its pristine, clear as glass waters. The River Rats, who come from all walks of human, alien and A.I. life, are zealous and vicious in their protection of their “Deity.” The leader of the River Rats is Brother Ben Willard, a former elite Perimeter Patrol officer, who has now given his life completely over to the care of The River.
And that paragraph is where I started…
And when I thought to bring in a Techsorcist:
Techsorcists possess spiritual powers of divination, minor healing (physical, and psychic) and spiritual cleansing
I looked for a name to embody the kind of power and healing that I saw in my head. And I found the name Ife.
The name originates from Yoruba and means ‘love.’ What a wonderful name for someone that envisioned as full of love for the people of the City, especially those that protect and nurture the River.
For an excerpt of my story… please visit this previous post – Washed Pure, Washed Clean
Ben waited just inside the doorway, letting the neon lights spill in like overflow, sparkling of the layers of clothing he wore to stave off the cold. He waited in his own pensive silence with his eyes trained on the outside world for the first elusive glimpse of the Techsorcist.
She was a ripple of darkness beneath the shadows, a shimmer within the neon that sparked and sparkled as if life fairly breathed with magic. And there she was. Soft strides marking even intervals of the ground with no sound beyond the heavy beat of his blood pumping through his ears.
With a start he realized she was standing before him, waiting for a word of greeting.
He was a spokesman, a man of fine voice, and a leader of multitudes, yet in her petite presence he struggled for his thoughts and stumbled over his words. “We-welcome, Ife.”
She smiled and nodded, hiding her eyes from him for a moment. But when she raised them again he felt a tremor of energy roll over him and her eyes, he was almost certain it had been a trick of the light, a reflection of something behind him that flickered like fire. “And I find you well, Ben Willard?”
-Washed Pure, Washed Clean by Ray Deen. From The City Anthology. Coming soon.
My story “Facing the Modern World” was a part of the Airships & Automatons anthology with Witty Bard Publishing. The story describes a fictitious meeting between King David Kalakaua and a Japanese Samurai regarding the pressures of defending their island nations against other countries… in the early beginnings of a Steampunk world.
The actor is a very talented man by the name of David Riley. He truly breathed life into the characters and gave the narrative a lovely reading.
The first part of the story was broadcast on August 14, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. Hawaii time, but you can listen to the broadcast here.
The Green Door Podcast page – just click on the August 14 show and you’ll hear part 1 and an interview that we did over the phone!
This Friday, part two will be on at the same time – Hawaii 10:00 a.m. or UK 21:00
So, Mahalo to the folks across the ‘pond’…. Looking forward to Friday!