Read amazing details of the release of Prosperity by Alexis Hall. Swoon at the incredible $250 prize available in exchange for a brief comment. Sigh at the wonderful artwork…
Author: Alexis Hall
Cover Artist: Simone
Genre/Sub-Genre: Fantasy, M/M Romance, Steampunk
A breathtaking tale of passion and adventure in the untamed skies!
Prosperity, 1863: a lawless skytown where varlets, chancers, and ne’er-do-wells risk everything to chase a fortune in the clouds, and where a Gaslight guttersnipe named Piccadilly is about to cheat the wrong man. This mistake will endanger his life . . . and his heart.
Thrill! As our hero battles dreadful kraken above Prosperity. Gasp! As the miracles of clockwork engineering allow a dead man to wreak his vengeance upon the living. Marvel! At the aerial escapades of the aethership, Shadowlesss.
Beware! The licentious and unchristian example set by the opium-addled navigatress, Miss Grey. Disapprove Strongly! Of the utter moral iniquity of the dastardly crime prince, Milord. Swoon! At the dashing skycaptain, Byron Kae. Swoon Again! At the tormented clergyman, Ruben Crowe.
This volume (available in print, and for the first time on mechanical book-reading devices) contains the complete original text of Piccadilly’s memoirs as first serialised in All the Year Round. Some passages may prove unsettling to unmarried gentlemen of a sensitive disposition.
Prism recently reviewed Prosperity. You can find the review here. (review live at 9am CDT)
Hello, and welcome to the Prosperity Blog Tour, celebrating Riptide Publishing’s release of Prosperity. Thank you so much to Prism Book Alliance for hosting me. And, to you, dear reader, for stopping by.
I’m trying something a little different with this blog tour. I would very much like to invite you to join me over on Facebook at the Steampunk Flashgroup.
A flashgroup is sort of a Facebook pop up shop. It’s a short-term group that will be active for the length of the Prosperity blog tour. I’ll be over there all week, and a little bit after, talking about the book, giving away many, many things, posting exclusive excerpts of Prosperity and the upcoming sequels, answering any questions, and generally having a ball.
I do hope you will pop along and be part of the conversation.
I also have postcards showcasing the absolutely stunning Prosperity artwork. If you would like one, please join the group and drop me a message, and I will be delighted to send one winging your way.
Firstly, Alexis welcome back to Prism, you’re becoming a very welcome repeat visitor!
‘Prosperity’ is released today can you tell us what it’s about?
Gosh, um, it’s quite difficult to describe. I guess I’d call it a steampunk western with a Lovecraftian twist.
It’s set on and around the skymining town of Prosperity, which is a haven for vagabonds, chancers and criminals of all kinds, but most particularly for phlogiston miners with a skyclaim willing to brave the krakens who stir in the aether for a chance at untold wealth.
Basically it’s kind of a misfits-come-together-to-have-adventures type story. There’s the narrator, Piccadilly, who’s a guttersnipe and petty thief from the conglomeration of industrial cities in the north of England known colloquially as Gaslight. Milord (being only the most deadly and dandified motherswinker you’d ever hope to avoid meeting) is dying crimelord who has fallen on hard times. Ruben Crowe, his lover, is a defrocked priest. And then there’s Miss Grey, an opium-addled ex-governess who sees krakens, and a genderqueer skypirate.
There’s also: aetherships, whores, krakens, clockwork zombies, Dickens, love triangles, lesbians, frilly unmentionables, nineteenth century pseudo-science, opium, guns, explosions, and the crisis in Victorian faith circa eighteen sixty.
What attracted you to the genre of ‘Steam Punk’?
Ironically, I’m not a big fan of steampunk, or rather I’m quite choosy about it. This isn’t exactly a novel observation but the genre does have a nasty tendency to gloss over all the things that were really messed up about the nineteenth century, and I think that can be quite erasing or alienating for some people. So, I think, in a way what attracts me to the genre is what bothers me about the genre in that I tend to use steampunk to talk about elements of Victorian society that I find problematic but feel still have resonance today.
I have a very complicated relationship with the Victorians because I think they’re in that difficult history space where it’s not quite recent enough that it feels real but not quite distant enough that it feels like a safe fantasy space. Rationally I’m aware that the eras of history you see reflected in the fantasy genre are just as problematic but, because you don’t see as many echoes of them in the modern world, I’m a lot happier to read stories that, for example, uncritically accept monarchy as a sensible system of government or blithely ignore the fact most of the population of Medieval Europe lived in virtual slavery. But a lot of what was wrong with Victorian society is still wrong with modern society.
So I think there’s something cathartic for me in carving out a corner for myself in a subgenre that centralises a historical period so profoundly alien to my personal beliefs.
– whilst in this area you called ‘Sand and Ruin and Gold’ Cyberpunk and I referred to it as Dystopian and Alternate Reality, do you think the number of sub-genre labels are beginning to become confusing to readers and do we need so many?
Um, gosh, I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought about it, he says cluelessly.
I guess what The Rise of The Ebook TM has done in general is blur the line between genre, subgenre and tagging. I mean, genres exist, at their most basic level, to help readers find what they’re looking for and, ideally, to ensure that what you get, when buy a book, is what you wanted. When your primary means of supplying fiction is limited by physical space, that obviously also limits the degree of granularity you can apply: you can probably have a section called SFF and, within that, maybe divide your SF from your F, but you can’t really break it down into steampunk, cyberpunk, elizabethanpunk, grimdark, tolkeinesque, and so and so forth. I’m not sure that would be entirely helpful for a browsing reader either – when I’m in bookshop I choose books very differently than I do when I’m online. Obviously, I’m a sample size of one, but I tend to be a lot more tactile and impulsive in shops, whereas on a site as vast as Amazon, I’m searching quite specifically for quite particular things.
So, uh, in short I think subgenres are, to a degree, just another form of tagging. I think AU and Dystopian and cyberpunk and even fairytale are all labels you could apply to Sand and Ruin and Gold, and I think they all tell a reader potentially something both useful and accurate about the text. And I think that’s quite a positive thing, rather than a confusing one.
But then I don’t tend to have much personal investment in the categories under which my books are marketed or perceived as inhabiting. I might think a story I’m writing is fantasy or romance or cyberpunk but if the publisher markets it as fish, then it’s probably fish. And if an individual reader decides it’s a deck chair, then it’s a probably a deck chair.
I have to ask you about the language in ‘Prosperity’. How do you select the wonderful archaic words you integrate?
Messing around with language – as I learned with the phonetic Essex in Glitterland – is always a bit of a gamble. You’re kind of asking a reader to take it on trust that familiarising themselves with something unfamiliar is going to be worth their time. And, err, obviously that’s quite a personal and subjective judgement so it’s important to try and meet people half way. If you’re asking someone to do a difficult thing for you – when they could, y’know, read any one of a gazillion other books out there – you kind of want to ensure that you make doing that difficult thing as easy as possible. But something that’s come with experience (if we can call three books experience… let’s try and control the delusions of grandeur here) is that halfway is never where you think it is. It’s further away. So you need to reach out more, always more, than you think you do.
My first draft of Prosperity, for example, was written fully in cant and in dialect. I had a ball with it, and it was readable, but only if you made a pretty intense academic study of it. Every draft since then has been about finding ways of making the text more accessible. I’ve written this book so many times it’s fucking ridiculous, but, weirdly, I’ve never felt like I’ve lost anything. I think you just assume somehow that making broad-scale changes to a text is a compromise, but editing has taught me that basically there aren’t really compromises, just improvements. And rhythm conveys – or can convey – just as much as actual words.So, in essence, my two guiding principles of writing books in non-standard can be summarised as:
Reach out more and less is more. Except when you’re reaching out, in which case more is definitely not less, and is, in fact, probably not enough.
And I … can see I probably don’t have a future in teaching creative writing, or giving advice to aspiring writers.
In terms of choosing which cant to use, there were a few things I tried to keep in mind. Obviously I tended to pick words that I thought were cool or funny or interesting, but I also tried to re-use the same terms so a reader might feel they were entering into a language that could become theirs, rather than just being constantly hit in the face by a stream of unfamiliar words. I also tried to ensure that the archaic or dialectal words were strongly contextualised so that if a reader didn’t know it, or couldn’t trace the derivation, they still had a pretty good chance of figuring out what it meant. So you might not recognise straightaway that “glims” means “eyes” but once you’ve read “he had these pale wolfish glims what stared through folk like they was glass to him” it’s probably fairly clear.
Was it a conscious decision to meld the archaic with more contemporary language and create a kind of lingua franca for this story and location? If so do you look at each story you write in terms of what language suits that story? Or does it happen as you begin to write?
It really was. Prosperity is set on the margins of a Victorian world (literally in the sky), so I wanted the language reflect both that sense of freedom and that sense of otherness. For me, Prosperity is very much a book about boundaries – ideas of self and gender and society and power and morality and religion (also also sex and skymonsters) – and most of the characters in it are, in some way, self-created, pulling away from the expectations and restrictions of their society to find love and happiness on their own terms. And precisely because of that I wanted the language to have at least a flavour of modernity to it – hope, if you like, for a less repressive future where, y’know, love is love and it’s okay to be who you are. I’m very much aware that this is still a work in progress, but I think we’re doing slightly better than the Victorians.
I know it sounds a little weird to be using an archaic dialect to hint at modernity but slang is, by its nature, the language of the moment, so – in an odd way – it doesn’t necessarily matter what the moment is. Dil’s cant is a real mishmash of things: high-falutin phrases he’s picked up from books or overheard in conversation, various bits of 18th and 19th century thieves cant, a few dialectal phrases from the north of England, some modern slang (he uses shagging and banging and snogging, for example) and – honestly – just words I’ve made up or brought back because they make some kind of linguistic sense of me.
Motherswinker is perhaps the most obvious of those. Swink is actually an obsolete Old English word meaning labour (there’s a line is Spenser about sweating and swinking I think) but in a lot of Renaissance and Restoration bawdy ‘to labour’ often takes on a sexual connotation. One can assume swink – if it hadn’t fallen out of common use – might have followed a similar trajectory which, by a roundabout route, gets us to motherswinker as a potential insult. The other one I really like, and feel is genuinely lacking in modern English, is likerous. This is an Anglo-Norman variant of the Old French word ‘lecheros’ which was taken fully into English as lecherous and retains that same meaning. Likerous sort of side-stepped and became associated both with delicious things and having a taste for delicious things. It’s a very sensual word, about very sensual things – it appeals directly to appetite rather than aesthetics, if that makes sense. So I feel the modern implication is that if someone is likerous (to behold, and in temperament) they are arousing more than they are beautiful. Basically sexy-ugly.
Oh, God, sorry I’ve rambled forever. As for the chicken/egg story/language question, I think it’s sort of connected. I like to find the right voice for the story, but equally the voice shapes the story.
How did you choose the name ‘Piccadilly’ for the narrator?
I chose Piccadilly because I wanted Dil to have chosen his name and it’s kind of a cool-sounding word. I have a bit of a weakness, actually, for characters named after places – there’s also Anstruther Jones, who’s in one of the follow-up stories, and I’ve actually got a character called Tobermory in one of my other novels, although he was named after a Saki story, not the town in Scotland (or the womble).
Like Piccadilly-the-character, when I was growing up a lot of the places in the south of England sounded strange and magical to me – Fleet Street, Mayfair, Piccadilly Circus – and my sole access to them with them was via a Monopoly board. I think, like Dil, it took me until about the age of maybe 18 to figure that Piccadilly Circus was not, in fact, y’know … a circus.
My favourite character is Byron Kae just wonderful any hints as to the inspiration behind them? I really admire the pronoun change, but I did start off thinking they were two…
Pronouns for the genderqueer are obviously quite personal – I went with ‘they’ in the end because, for me, it seems the most neutral, uh, gender-neutral pronoun. And because Byron Kae is very connected to their ship, Shadowless, I thought that hint of duality worked regardless.
I don’t think they have any one specific inspiration. There was kind of a lot stuff going into them, like I wanted my genderqueer character to enter explicitly into a tradition of romance heroes – hence the dashing skycaptain thing. I also wanted them to be magical because tall ships, to me, are kind of magical. And they would up being half-Asian because I didn’t want to ignore the reality of Victorian colonialism, and I specifically went with China rather than Indian because I felt it was less talked about, and I felt that was a shame. Also dialogues of colonialism can be quite gendered so I though it all tied in nicely.
This did, unfortunately, mean I wound up with a magical genderqueer half-Asian which I’m aware could be seen as a problematic. But I thought about it for a while and realised I was talking myself into a situation in which I could never write a character who was both non-white and possessed of mystical powers and, since I write a lot of characters with mystical powers, that felt white-washy. So I decided to stick with it.
I was so impressed with how you set the scene/era /genre from the very start of ‘Prosperity’ by retaining the 18th/19th century titling convention, of summing up the contents of each chapter. Were there any particular works prose or poetic which inspired you to use this stylistic device?
Actually, that was quite a late addition. I’m really bad at chapter breaks, and especially when I’m writing found narratives I tend to just, well, write them as narratives. But, obviously, this isn’t helpful as readers need to be able to navigate the text so basically I got a quite late in the day request from my editor to maybe add some chapter breaks please. And I wasn’t sure how to do that without sacrificing the found narrative style, so I decided to apply a historical-seeming chaptering convention that – if I’m being honest with myself – is actually strictly more 18th century than Victorian. I was kind of channelling Henry Fielding, who was himself, I think, taking the piss out of that device in Joseph Andrews.
Can you tell us a bit about the short stories you have written in Prosperity universe and when we can obtain them?
Oh yes, the next set of stories is coming out in January. You can either get them as a full anthology (which is called Liberty & Other Stories… ahhh d’you see, subtlety is not my strong point I’m afraid) which includes, as a bonus, some pages from the Journals of Mrs Miranda Lovelace, the first aethermancer. And I’m just realising this makes no sense whatsoever without the context of Prosperity, but it’s totally cool, okay? Or you can just pick and choose from among the stories depending on what, er, tickles your fancy.
Shackles is all about how Ruben and Milord first met. Squamous with a Chance of Rain is about Miss Grey’s journey from respectable governess to opium-addled, kraken-seeing navigator. Cloudy Skies and Starless Climes is sort of a prequel and a sequel at the same because I can never do anything straightforwardly. But you get Byron Kae’s backstory and a little bit about them and Dil in the present. Finally Liberty continues the narrative, following through some the implications of the events that take place in Prosperity – and there’s cameos from Dil and Byron Kae and Miss Grey which, I hope, will serve as a farewell and godspeed for those characters.
Oh, there’s one more thing as well, although the details haven’t been released yet. There’s a spin-off story called There Will Be Phlogiston, well I say story, it’s practically a novella as it comes in about 40k words, but that’s about Byron Kae’s half-sister who has one scene in Cloudy but … I felt I couldn’t leave her unstoried. It’s also going to be freeee so watch this space.
I have been so impressed since ‘Glitterland’’s release at the way you master so many styles and genres. Do you have a favourite and why?
I prefer genre to straight (so to speak) contemporaries, which is kind of commercial suicide because it means I have nothing even approaching a brand. But, for some reason, when I write contemporaries I seem to end up writing terribly serious books about terribly serious things, and making myself miserable and vulnerable for weeks. But when you write genre you can have a lot more fun with the whole thing, and have cracktastic worlds and larger-than-life characters and things. And you can still tell stories about things that are important to you, it’s allows you to keep a little bit of distance from them. Also you can have krakens.
Could you and would you tell us about any more works in progress you might have?
I’ve got some more contemporaries coming out with Riptide next year.
I’m currently working on a pitch, which I think is pretty exciting but it’s still very early days so I might just have to smile mysteriously for now.
I’d like to thank Alexis once again for making time for us in his busy schedule.
Thank you very much for having me ☺
I sincerely look forward to any and all of your new releases, and be assured I shall be letting our readers know about them as and when. I shall also be including ‘Likerous’ as often as possible in conversations
About the Author:
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garrett.
He did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.
He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car.
He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.
- Website: quicunquevult.com
- Blog: quicunquevult.com/blog
- Twitter: @quicunquevult
- Goodreads: goodreads.com/alexishall
Authors L.A. Witt, Alexis Hall, and Cornelia Grey come together on a Steampunk book tour to celebrate the releases of Precious Metals, Prosperity, and Circus of the Damned.
Join us on adventures through the lawless, untamed, kraken-infested skies! Trek the snowy wilds of the Klondike in the company of a Mountie! Visit a soul-stealing circus where entertainment is at your own risk! Riptide’s Gaslamp Fortnight will tempt you with the steampunk and gaslamp worlds of Cornelia Grey, Alexis Hall, and L.A. Witt.
And Gaslamp Fortnight is featuring a fabulous giveaway! Comment on the tour stops for a chance to win a $250 gift certificate to Harlots and Angels Steampunk Corsetry and get your own custom corset or personalized steampunk gear.
The Gaslamp Steampunk tour is offering $250 gift certificate to Harlots and Angels Steampunk Corsetry and get your own custom corset or personalized steampunk gear. Each new post you comment on earns you an entry into the drawing, so be sure to check out the rest of the tour schedule, too!
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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