Airship Ambassador: Hi Marian, thanks so much for joining us to talk about your latest book.
Marian Womack: Thank you for having me.
AA: First, what was the motivation for creating THE BEST OF SPANISH STEAMPUNK ?
MW: Spain is currently a very fertile breeding-ground for steampunk: the ‘institutions’ are in place; there is a flourishing literary community, as well as conventions in Barcelona, Valencia, Fuenlabrada etc. Off the back of this I decided to publish a couple of Spanish-language paper anthologies, and then thought it would be a good idea to spread the love a little: I wanted to use material from the anthologies, but then also to open the collection for newer writers, and then translate the whole thing into English, which is still in most cases steampunk’s ‘mother tongue’.
AA: It’s really encouraging to see how strong the interest in steampunk is other countries.There is a great statement in the summary which could be used as a goal not only for this book but also many other great steampunk stories. Would you share more with us about how you came to this idea and how the stories in this book support that vision?
Steampunk offers an invaluable opportunity to re-evaluate our world, and the choices we have made that have brought us to the positions we are facing today. Steampunk is a canvas on which to re-imagine what could have been, and show us what we could become.
MW: The tendency of Spanish steampunk is to be more overtly political (Spain is a fairly recent democracy, younger than I am), and a lot of Spanish writing engages with political realities, so to think about steampunk as a speculative political mode was perhaps obvious, especially in the midst of what has been so far a seven-year economic crisis. We are also, as a species, having to confront potentially apocalyptic changes in our environment, and that comes across quite clearly in Spanish writing.
AA: The summary description of the book also talks about the authors writing from the margins, exploring themes of scientific advancement, history, and culture. Could you expand on that a bit more?
MW: Spain is a country that has apparently ‘had its moment’ historically: our Golden Age fizzled to an end in the seventeenth century. So when you come to speak about steampunk, which as a genre is quite clearly identified with the ‘winning’ countries in the various nineteenth-century colonial projects, then Spain doesn’t naturally fit into that paradigm. And also we have authors in the anthology from Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, which are all countries that have tended, in recent history at least, to be exploitees rather than exploiters.
AA: The stories are grouped by themes in the table of contents. Were those themes chosen ahead of time or did they arise naturally from the stories which were submitted?
MW: A natural process. I wasn’t surprised to receive (given my answers above) stories with a political twist, so a few groupings were obvious and perhaps deducible from the off, but most of them arose from the reading and anthologizing process.
AA: Let’s talk a little more about the ideas behind those themes. What did you want the stories to convey about “on politics: freedom, social awareness, inequality, “the woman question””?
MW: I had no desire to force an agenda. The stories convey what they want to convey. As a group, I’m sure they convey the current interest in Spain in the artistic portrayal of political issues, which have become ever more significant in general discourse.
AA: And “on technology: science & machines, spain & the industrial revolution”?
MW: Spain had an industrial revolution, which very few people know much about: it wasn’t an epoch-making or culture-transforming revolution in the sense that the British Industrial Revolution was, but it did cause great changes on a local level (you still see the mines if you travel round the Basque Country). I thought it was interesting to have a couple of stories that looked at the general question of industrialization from a more oblique perspective.
AA: And “on metaliterature: steampunk & our cultural myths”?
MW: Something that did surprise me was to receive a number of stories that dealt with other literary texts: we had rewritings of Alice in Wonderland or Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant, for example. On one level we’re used to steampunk dealing with the cultural currency of Victorian history (mechanical Jacks the Ripper, mechanical Queen Victorias etc.), but Victorian literature (Alan Moore aside) isn’t such an obvious fit. It was pleasant to have such dialogues with the literature of the past, not just with the past itself. So this was a section that came together out of nothing, and it’s always gratifying when that happens.
AA: Why choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel?
MW: Why not? It’s a genre we like, and to publish a couple of anthologies was more an organic decision rather than an editorial choice.
AA: The authors came from at least seven different countries. How did you find them to include on the project?
MW: It was an open call for submissions. There were one or two authors I approached directly, but 90% at least of the contents of the book came via the open call. One thing I am sad about is that we had so few countries represented: I think we could have publicized the call for submissions outside of Spain more effectively.
We’ll break here in talking with Marian.
Join us for part two as she talks about the authors, the process, and reactions to this project.
Keep up to date with Marian’s latest news on her twitter feed.
Also, check out her page at The Steampunk Museum.