Interview with Author Michal Wojcik, Part 2

Welcome back to our continuing chat with Michal Wojcik, author of Strange Things Done, which is part of steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.

Read Part One here.


Airship Ambassador: When people read Strange Things Done, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?

Michal Wojcik: All the meaningful moments are packed towards the end of the story, so I’d rather not go into what I hope readers take away from that. But on a different level, there were quite a few important women involved in the gold rush (indigenous and from elsewhere) that got written out in the popular, romanticized image surrounding the event in Canada, leaving just the can-can dancers—which is the weirdest role to retain, because we didn’t even have can-can dancers during the gold rush. I’m hoping readers might come away want to learn more about them, because they really were amazing.


AA: At least there are can-can dancers today🙂 How long did it take to write, and rewrite, Strange Things Done? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?

MW: I wrote the first draft in about a week and revised it over the course of, hmm, a month or so. The only deadline was the cutoff date for submissions, and I had enough time to spare by the end of the process that I didn’t feel crushed by the pressure of meeting that deadline. The main stress was just coming up with an idea that worked; this was actually the third story I wrote to fit the theme after the announcement went out, and it was a relief just to finally write a story within the parameters that finally worked for me.


AA: It’s nice to hear that not everyone wait until the last minute, like, um, some of us. What kind of research and balance, went into creating the Strange Things Done world?

MW: Most of the research was already done before I even started; a big chunk of the history comes from books I’d already read; places I’d already been. I had another summer job at the Yukon archives inventorying documents from the gold rush era and early twentieth century. A lot of the atmosphere came out of old newspapers printed in and outside of the Yukon that I spent so many hours rifling through.


AA: That great that you had that kind of opportunity and experience to learn so much. What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel the Strange Things Done history?

MW: I took many details right out of first-hand accounts. The biggest source was Martha Louise Black’s memoir My Seventy Years. She was a remarkable woman, crossing the Chilkoot pass while pregnant just after her husband left her, carving out a life for herself and really making the territory her home. Tessa uses some of the details from Black’s life as a cover for her own journey.


AA: What are some memorable fan reactions to Strange Things Done which you’ve heard about?

MW: Not many, really. There was a review on calling it “an action story done right” that made me smile.


AA: With several works in print, what have your publishing experiences been like?

MW: So far, so good. Going in, I guess I didn’t anticipate how drawn-out the process would be from a finished draft to acceptance to publication, but I’ve never been disappointed in the final result. Three of my stories have even been illustrated, which was delightful and not something I ever expected would happen.


AA: How are new readers finding you – conventions, website, word of mouth, etc?

MW: I have a blog and a podcast, and I can only assume some people take a look at my fiction through those. Mostly, word just seems to spread when people like a story.


AA: For the aspiring writer, what lessons did you learn about having an editor, their feedback, and your writing?

MW: The editing process can vary wildly depending on the story and the editor. Some editors have a light touch; some really dive in deep and provide copious suggestions for changes. During the whole thing, though, you have to remember that the editing back-and-forth is more like a negotiation than a set of orders. Usually, suggestions have plenty of wiggle room. It can be a lot of fun, and the stories always come out better as a result.


AA: That good to know that it’s more of a negotiation. I have heard of several times that the authors stuck to what they believed in over the editor’s comments, and things turned out fine. Have you been on book tours and to conventions? What has that been like, and the fan reaction?

MW: I’ve never been on a book tour or been to a convention. For the last couple of years, the Yukon Comic Culture Society has hosted “Yukomicon” in Whitehorse, but other commitments meant I couldn’t go even when I wanted to.


We’ll break here in chatting with Michal. join us net time when he talks about life in the Yukon and other interests.

Keep up to date with Michal’s latest news on his website and Twitter.

You can support Michal and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.

Published in: on August 24, 2016 at 5:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Author Michal Wojcik

This week we are talking with Michal Wojcik, author of Strange Things Done, which is part of steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.


Airship Ambassador: Hi Michal, thanks for joining us for this interview.

Michal Wojcik: Thanks for inviting me here.


AA: Readers may know you from some of your other short stories, such as Dreaming of Jerusalem, Iron Roses, and Ink Skin, which has appeared in On Spec, The Book Smugglers, Pornokitsch, and Daily Science Fiction. Now Strange Things Done is in Clockwork Canada. What is this new story about?

MW: At a basic level, it’s a secret history set during the Klondike gold rush. The hero is a member of a secret organization that recovers unusual artifacts, and she’s dispatched to Dawson City after a prospector discovers something unnatural in the permafrost.


AA: Why choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel?

MW: I was a big reader of Jules Verne and other old adventure stories of that sort when I was ten—I find myself going back to them for inspiration. There’s also something fundamentally appealing to me about how people envisioned and interacted with technology in the era, best seen by how authors like Verne and H.G. Wells tried to extrapolate the potentials and dangers of machines. It’s odd to play around in earlier visions of the future (or the imagined boundaries of technology at the time), but it’s also freeing to play in those collective imaginary spaces from past eras and measuring them against how things turned out in reality.


AA: Knowing how those things turned out also opens some opportunities to still play “What If” with history, and make some suitable tweaks to it for a story. What was the motivation for creating Strange Things Done?

MW: This was the first time I wrote a story specifically for an anthology call and didn’t try finding something suitable I’d already written; I’d tried my hand at steampunk (or other -punks) in the past but hadn’t had a go at the genre for a few years when I got around to writing Strange Things Done. I guess the idea of specifically Canadian steampunk fascinated me. After the call went out, I thought backing to growing up in the Yukon and being introduced to Robert Service’s poems about the gold rush in school, and wanted to do something with them.


AA: What can you share with us about the main characters, Tessa Fitzpatrick, Lady Amery, and Annabelle Leigh?

MW: Tessa is a practical person, young but pretty world-weary thanks to some sour experiences during her childhood in Alberta; she can imitate a high-class lady but she still thinks and speaks like a street urchin. Anabelle is the mentor figure, a tough woman who teaches her charges how to fight and make their way in the world; she sees their potential and knows exactly how to motivate them. And over both of them is Sabina Amery, who keeps her motivations largely to herself.


AA: Are there any objects or things which play a major role in telling the story?

MW: Lady Amery’s organization is primarily all about retrieving objects with unusual properties, and those objects also let her develop equipment significantly more advanced than anything else available at the time. Tessa carries special guns, knives, detection devices, and a kind of grenade called a “ferocient canister”, all geared towards facing the kind of opposition she’d expect when carrying out that retrieval.


AA: Any one of those items might be enough to engage steampunk readers. It was fun while reading to see what item might come up next. What are some of the interesting and important details within the world of Strange Things Done?

MW: It’s our world on the surface, more or less, but on the edges of most people’s experiences there are super-technologies and apparent magic vied over by clandestine organizations. It’s all hush-hush, sure, but the strange happenings threaten to break out at any moment and wreak havoc.


AA: Without giving spoilers, what interesting things will readers find along the way?

MW: There’s hard-talk in saloons and treks through a boreal forest that hides something ancient and monstrous.


AA: How did elements of your own life and experiences play into Strange Things Done?

MW: I grew up in the Yukon, and the gold rush is almost an ever-present feature in how others define the territory, though it’s often the gold rush as constructed by Jack London and Robert Service. My first summer job was as a walking tour guide in Whitehorse and we had to wear nineteenth century costumes to play up the image, but when I was off-tour I would read through the library there and actually learned a lot about the early history of exploration in the Canadian northwest; I brought a lot of that into the narrative. The other big key was the Yukon landscape, which takes on a personality of its own if you spend a lot of time in the wilderness.


AA: It seems like there is a lot of history there, even without the gold rush, and that the area is pretty amazing today. What kind of back story is there for Strange Things Done which didn’t make it into the final book?

MW: There are plenty of references to real people that I ended up cutting out—meeting characters that anyone without an interest in the Klondike likely wouldn’t recognize.


AA: Might there be more stories for Tessa, Lady Amery, or Annabelle? Maybe a place for those other real life people?

MW: I don’t have anything else planned for them, though I wouldn’t rule it out.


We’ll break here in chatting with Michal. join us net time when he talks about his writing process.

Keep up to date with Michal’s latest news on his website and Twitter.

You can support Michal and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.

Published in: on August 23, 2016 at 5:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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Steampunks: Welcome or Unwelcome?

In the steampunk documentary, Vintage Tomorrows, photographer Libby Bulloff says “When you walk down the street in a top hat and spats, you are causing a riot. You’re making a statement.”

What that intended statement is will be different for each of us, and it may be quite different from what any audience may hear for themselves. Some people will be interested and intrigued, some will perceive it all to be an amusing oddity, and some will give a “What the…?” reaction.


Lindsay Dowd by MI Geek Scene

At conventions and the smaller regional and local events, we wear what we wear for the event, to embrace the festive spirit, and honestly, to look totally awesome. Those event spaces can also be safe spaces for our attire as we are among like minded people, and usually among accepting venue staff.

Sometime, however, we aren’t always among other who might enjoy the fun nature of steampunk. Several years ago, I commented on how the front desk staff of the St Anthony Wyndham made it quite clear they didn’t want us nor the convention there. Their attitude showed in every thing they did with the attending people. Aetherfest is sadly over, at least for now, and one can only hope that the hotel’s front desk staff has changed over and provides better customer service.


Diana Vick, co-organizer of Steamcon

Another public event where steampunks weren’t made to feel welcome was in 2014 when security at the Westfield Plaza Mall in Carlsbad ejected a group of steampunks for “wearing apparel that disguises, obscures or conceals the face”. The mall operators never really made a public statement about it and while the situation made the news for a while, it died out as such news stories do.

In August 2016, Sarah Chrisman blogged about her and her husband’s experience at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC, Canada. In a nutshell, Sarah felt rudely denied admission to the park because of their everyday-wear, 1800s period style of garments. Apparently, there was sufficient feedback sent to Butchart Garden’s PR department, that they issued a public response. In summary, they said “No period outfits.”


Jaymee Goh, Silver Goggles blog

Regardless of the accuracy of Sarah’s account, or the brevity of Butchart’s response, the bottom line is that if you are in your finest steampunk-wear, you’ll be denied entry to the gardens. And Disney, and several theme parks, and some museums.

When in doubt, call ahead to see if there will be any problems.

Thankfully, these stories in the media seem like exceptions more than commonplace occurrences. From my own experiences, the vast majority of people like seeing steampunks and our attire. Some pay compliments, some want to get a picture with us, some want to chat and learn more.


Eric Larson, Teslacon, as Lord Bobbins

The hotel staff at the Madison Marriott West, home of the Teslacon convention, even get into the spirit of the weekend by adding some steampunk items to their workday attire.

When I fly around the country, I’ve taken to wearing at least a vest and dress pants, if not always a steampunk coat (even with those air vents, it gets HOT on the plane!), and my experience on almost every airline is that I feel treated with friendlier, if not better, service.

Lastly, I’ve been in full steampunk attire outside of the actual convention space – restaurants, stores, parks, etc – and while most people might have glanced my way but didn’t say anything one way or another, some people did pass along friendly compliments or inquired about what the outfit and event was all about. There was one time at Steamcon in Seattle, where a gentleman had follwed a group of steampunks back into the hotel, asked about what was going on, and wound up purchasing a ticket for the day.


Dr. Mike Perschon, Steampunk Scholar blog

What has been your experience?

Has your corset or top hat caused a riot in the streets?

Was there pandemonium and breathlessness caused by your polite mannerisms?

Did you find yourself surrounded by new fans and Facebook friends?


Share your stories below, and keep being awesome!


Published in: on August 17, 2016 at 8:55 pm  Comments (7)  
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