Hello readers of ParaYourNormal! First off, many thanks to Kirsten for a this guest opportunity.
We’re talking about magic in Steampunk, following from yesterday’s interview with Gypsy Elaine Teague. As a fiction author, I focus less on the practical and ritual elements of magic, emphasizing instead the fantastic and other-worldly qualities. That said, I’m careful to ground my fantasy in tradition when writing about magical phenomena.
For my Steampunk horror story, The Three Blind Men, I researched the Maya mythos surrounding shapeshifters known as naguals or nahuals. The mythos incorporates totem animals with birth dates, symbols and times of power, and shapeshifting. Those afflicted by/gifted with nagual power were viewed in both positive and negative light [Tweet this!], with one’s personality determining the course of one’s behavior when in animal form. In my story, two naguals act as protector and defender of an alternate history Chicago, where a third nagual has set up shop to destroy the city. And more than shapeshifter magic is at work.
In my version of 1933 Chicago, a mysterious troupe of hobos on bicycles serve as messengers to the city’s gods. While inspired by the Roman god, Mercury, instead of being fleet of foot and wearing winged boots, my messengers, called Bicycle Men, can barely stagger two feet without falling over and haven’t bathed since the last time it rained. They suffer in this condition as penance for committing suicide. Their duty is to convey communications between the city’s deities who exist behind the aether veil, a curtain-like substance that we know as reality. For the Bicycle Men, however, the aether veil can be lifted just like fabric and conceals mystical passageways behind the city. On these paths, the Bicycle Men travel across Chicago in the time it takes you or me to walk a few blocks. That’s a good thing, too. Because that not-so-benevolent nagual is out for their flesh and blood.
In another dark but far less blood-soaked tale, titled His Frozen Heart, my wife and I wrote an origin story for Ebenezer Scrooge that employs the hallmarks of Victorian-era mad science: an infernal device, resurrection, and grave-robbing. The magic in His Frozen Heart is based largely in the technofantastic nature of Steampunk. We left out extended explanation of how the infernal device worked, giving just enough details to paint a picture and letting the reader’s imagination fill in the blanks.
We relied on Steampunk’s association with Victorian aesthetics to do a lot of the work, too. The Victorians were famously interested in all things occult, with mediums and fortune tellers a common sight among all levels of society. [Tweet this!] Drawing on the notion of communion with the spirit world, we wrote Ebenezer’s origin tale to be one of lost love and the attempt to regain it, no matter the cost. Our doomed protagonist proceeds on that course until the true cost is made apparent to him. By then, of course, the damage is done, and the stage set for Scrooge’s entrance as a miserly gnarled old man at the beginning of Dickens’ story.
The Three Blind Men appears in Machina Mortis: Steampunk’d Tales of Terror by KnightWatch Press
His Frozen Heart appears in Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology by Xchyler Publishing
Writing as AJ Sikes, Aaron has had three stories published in anthologies by independent presses this year. In addition to Steampunk, Aaron writes weird/dark fiction. He has also written Steampunk book and theater reviews, crowdfunding reports and convention reports, and served as Managing Editor for the Doctor Fantastique’s Show of Wonders website. Visit Aaron online at http://www.ajsikes.com or find him in the Twitterverse @SikesAaron