Interview with Author Rati Mehrotra, Part 2

Airship Ambassador: What kind of research  went into creating the Komagata Maru world?

Rati Mehrotra: I read and researched a fair bit before writing the story. Luckily there are extensive articles and photos of the Komagata Maru incident available at – a website that was funded by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada under the Community Historical Recognition Program. I also had to do some research on steam technology, since I’d never written steampunk before.


AA: What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel the Komagata Maru history?

RM: I tried to stick as closely as possible to what actually happened, and who the main players were. Of course, I took a lot of liberties, both with the characters as well as with the timing of various events. But, for instance, the racist headlines Gurdit Singh’s son reads out to him are actual headlines from a Canadian newspaper at that time. I wanted to be able to immerse the reader into what these men were going through, and the odds they faced.


AA: How long did it take to write, and rewrite, Komagata Maru? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?

RM: The actual writing took me only four days – a sort of record for me. I had very little time. The deadline was looming, and I had this story all ready in my mind. It was only a question of giving it voice.


AA: What kind of attention has Komagata Maru generated?

RM: A lot of people have told me that it’s an important story. I think so too. Not because I have written it – not at all! But because we should remember our history. The Komagata Maru incident was not some isolated event, but the result of a deliberate policy of the Canadian government to keep out certain ethnicities so that Canada could remain a “White Man’s Country”. Let us not forget the past, and let us not repeat it.


AA: You have a number of published stories, now. What have your publishing experiences been like?

RM: For the most part, very pleasant. I have been quite fortunate in my editors. It’s wonderful to be able to see the stories I’ve written make it all the way to publication – print or online. The pro short-fiction market is highly competitive, and a sale always delights and astonishes me.


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

RM: All of the above! I blog at and I also try to go to one or two conventions a year. But most new readers probably find me through my various published stories.


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

RM: Learn to listen, but also believe in yourself. Make those edits that you truly think will make the story stronger. For the rest, explain politely why they will not work. Remember that the editor has the same goal as you, to make your story the best possible read it can be!


AA: Have you been on book tours and to conventions? What has that  been like, and the fan reaction?

RM: No book tours yet! Hopefully that will change in 2018 when my novel Markswoman is published by Harper Voyager. But I have been attending SFContario – the Toronto Science Fiction Convention – for a few years now. The first time, I felt like a complete outsider – an imposter, if you will. Now, I am more comfortable. I am part of the Toronto specfic writing community (whether I believe it or not). I also enjoy going to the readings and book launches sponsored by Exile Editions. It’s a great way to meet readers as well as other writers.


AA: What do you do to keep a balance between writing  and the rest of your life?

RM: I have a very packed life! I have two kids, and I work full-time from home. There is no ‘balance’. There is only stealing the time whenever I can get it. I think many women writers with kids have to deal with guilt, and I am no exception. Writing is my time, and there are always so many other things to do.


AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

RM: I do! And this has been life-changing for me as a writer. I didn’t realize how isolated I was until I had a real live crit group of my own. I meet with my crit group every month, and we workshop our stories, exchange market information, and generally cheer each other on. For those who do not have crit partners, I highly recommend joining an online workshop like Critters. Feedback is very important, and friendship even more so.


We’ll stop here in our chat with Rati. Join us next time when she talks about writing and other interests.

Keep up to date with Rati’s latest news on her website and on Twitter.

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

Published in: on May 31, 2016 at 7:27 pm  Comments (1)  
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Interview with Author Rati Mehrotra

This week we are talking with Rati Mehrotra, author of Komagata Maru which is part of the steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.


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

Rati Mehrotra: Thanks for inviting me, Kevin.


AA: You have a number of stories already in print, including those in AE–The Canadian Science Fiction Review, Apex Magazine, and Inscription Magazine, along with having your debut novel, Markswoman, due to be published in 2018. Right now, though, your story Komagata Maru is in Clockwork Canada. What is it about?

RM: It’s an alternate history story about the 1914 Komagata Maru ‘incident’, in which a shipload of Indian men were denied entry at Vancouver port. In real life, the ship was forced to return to India, under exclusion laws designed to keep out Asian immigrants. In my story, something else happens!


AA: No spoilers, but I totally loved that ending! Why choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel for this story?

RM: Because of the freedom it gave me and my protagonists. They use steam technology to defy authority and gain a new future for themselves. It was what I wished had happened, instead of what actually happened. I have never written steampunk before, but it seemed perfect for this particular story.


AA: That’s how most of my steampunk story ideas turn out, too. What was the motivation for creating Komagata Maru?

RM: I had been researching the Komagata Maru ‘incident’ just before I read Clockwork Canada’s call for steampunk stories. It was like pieces of a puzzle falling into place. I knew exactly what I wanted to say, and how to say it. The 1914 incident still resonates in parts of the community today. It is part of our history. When that ship was sent back to India, the fate of its passengers was sealed. It was met in Calcutta by a British gunboat and placed under guard. Nineteen of the passengers were killed by gunfire and many of the rest were imprisoned. There are plaques in both India and Canada in memory of these people. This story is my own kind of memorial.


AA: What can you share with us about the main character, Gurdit Singh?

RM: The character is based on the real Gurdit Singh. He was a Singapore-based merchant and community leader who wanted to challenge the exclusion laws by hiring a steamship to sail from Calcutta to Vancouver. His aim was to open the door for immigration from India to Canada.

The main character of my story is also a ship engineer, a devout man and a true leader, whom everyone naturally follows, because they trust and believe in him.


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

RM: The ship of course, which is much more than it appears to be…


AA: How did elements of your own life play into Komagata Maru?

RM: I suppose the most obvious fact is that I am of Indian descent myself. I chose to immigrate to Canada, much as the characters of my story did. I am, of course, more fortunate than they were. Canada in 1914 was a vastly different country from what it is today. So was India.


AA: What kind of back story is there for Komagata Maru which didn’t make it into the final book?

RM: The story is almost exactly as I wrote in the first draft. Sometimes I revise stories quite extensively, and there are pieces that don’t make the final cut. But not this one.


AA: Are there any plans for further adventures of the Komagata Maru?

RM: Not at the moment. I rarely re-visit my short stories. And I do think some things should be left to a reader’s imagination. And my own. As long as I don’t write about them, I am free to imagine all sorts of possible futures for Gurdit Singh and his men.


AA: When people read Komagata Maru, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?

RM: That there is no ‘them’. There is only ‘us’. At one point, Gurdit Singh looks at the ocean and thinks how it is the same body of water, given different names in different parts of the world. Naming it does not change its nature. And he thinks about how God is like that too.


We’ll stop here in our chat with Rati. Join us next time when she talks about research and writing.

Keep up to date with Rati’s latest news on her website and on Twitter.

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

Published in: on May 30, 2016 at 7:55 pm  Comments (2)  
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Steampunk Music – Response

The following is reposted with permission.

The original post on Facebook is here.


By Paul Alborough


Everyone else, read on…

I don’t usually weight in with things like this, but I can’t resist on this occasion. After the internet based kerfluffle regarding Abney Park, BB Black Dog whoever else- I was fascinated to watch Steampunk get it’s knickers in a twist yesterday (no easy task when those knickers likely made out of brass plates and cogs).

I feel it’s only right to say that I don’t think Robert Brown was laying into the music of Dale Rowles and the like- In his defence, I saw he was more aiming to create a distinction between the vintage sound of some bands, compared to other groups who go their own path. Robert is a really nice bloke by the way, (he gave me loads of advice when I was starting out as the Prof) so don’t have a go at him personally. Yes, he has a reasonably large ego, but then again, so do I- and anyone else who fronts a massive rock band should have. Dont get too upset if he is outspoken, I don’t want my musicians to be shy and retitiring, I want them to shout loudly about things. Even when they might be wrong. A bit of hearty debate is totally healthy for Steampunk says I.

Of course, one could equally argue that it’s not the influence of vintage music or even subject matter that creates a Steampunk band. I’d argue that I couldn’t give a toss if you are singing about Steamships and Victorian frocks, so long as your attitude is right and you have a connection to Steampunk, however tenuous. it was Dale‘s band who stepped up and organised an amazing Steampunk event in Wales after a music festival got cancelled and has done loads for this little community including booking the likes of me and encouraging new folks to join the scene. That is, as far as I’m concerned all that Steamy Punks should be about.

Loads of my fave SP bands don’t really have a lot of cogs or a vintage sound: Frenchy and the Punk, Gaslight Troubadors, Mysterious Freakshow, even Nathaniel Johnstone don’t seem that vintage sounding. Who cares? They are all awesome.

I should also say, for the record, that I never set out to make steampunk music. Far from being a purist, I am a chancer who happened upon a comedy character just at the right time and it opened up a world of lovely new friends and amazing artists of all sorts to collaborate with. I don’t have any particular interest in historial Victoriana or creating a vintage sound. I don’t really listen to much Steampunk music or live in a house made of cogs (although I dearly love the bands when I get to see them live). I am more interested in telling stories, creating Hip Hop for nerds, making people laugh and ensuring that I can make a living by appearing at parties in a silly hat. Professor elemental and Steampunk in general is a lovely way to do that and long may it continue…

Huge respect to anyone putting on events, making stuff, volunteering dressing up as Steampunk Boba fett, or making weird music that doesnt really fit in anywhere else. Steampunk is where you belong and you are totally welcome.

Right. That’s enough of that. I’ll pop the kettle on. Who fancies a cuppa?

Published in: on May 29, 2016 at 8:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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