Interview with Salathiel Palland, Motor City Steam Con

motor-city-coverThis week we are talking with Salathiel Palland, organizer of Motor City Steam Con in Michigan.


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

Salathiel Palland: Thank you for having me!


AA: Readers may know you from your other steampunk work, Off the Beaten Path bookstore. Now, your latest project is Motor City Steam Con. What is a quick description of the event?

SP: This event is called the Nexus. it is kind of a steampunk Mos Isley Cantina from “Star Wars”. Journeys begin and end here. People can learn something, lose something, Drink, get debauched and just generally have a great time.


AA: Oohh, debauchery. That never happens. Having attended other conventions over the years and being a project manager, I have an idea of the work and details that go into producing a convention. Some people might consider it an insane, masochistic undertaking – what motivated you to produce a steampunk event?

SP: I am so in love with this genre, the whole DIY and beauty plus function. Michigan has always had a strong steampunk community and when we didn’t have a con last year, I decided to step up and make it happen.


AA: One person can make a difference, just like in all the steampunk stories. Why a steampunk convention? Why a convention, at all?

SP: Because we are a people who like to gather and party! We are a very social if polite group and why make all this wonderful clothing and accessories if we can’t show them off.


AA: How does Motor City Steam Con express your vision of steampunk, and what does it add to or differ from the existing events in the community?

SP: So a lot of the steampunk out there features Victoriana as it’s basis, but I am a multicultural steampunk and I want to show a different side. America was around during Victorian times so was Detroit. I want to tell that story of my character in the opening ceremony, coming from the South the “Paris of the Midwest” Detroit. I wanted to put an American slant on it.


AA: If someone likes “X”, then they’ll like Motor City Steam Con. What is “X”?

SP: A good time, good people, and great cosplay! Oh, and to drink. Lol.


AA: What do you think puts this convention on someone’s must attend list?

SP: My opening ceremony is going to be off the hook. I mean I put my back into it. Also, we have a huge and wonderful literary track, as well as a stellar vending room, and fantastic entertainers. We even have a Moonlight cabaret with some of the finest burlesque performers in the state.

 motor city tea

AA: Sounds like a great line up of activities. I’m bringing my camera and autograph book, who’s on the Guest list for this year?

SP: Rod Belcher is our literary guest of honor. He wrote the amazing book “Six Gun Tarot” that had me at hello. Ay-Leen the Peacemaker will be there (aka Diana Pho). Steampunk Eddie the winner of the Gameshow network show “Steampunk’d” will be there as will fellow contestants James Neathery and Karianne Gottschalk.

We also have the every delightful Frenchy and the Punk, Eli August, Autmaton, The Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle, The Lubberly Brothers, Tom Smith, Holly Hock, Leena Lynx Allure, The Amazing Flec, Writers such as Patty Templeton, Emmy Jackson, Cindy Spencer Pape, Christian Klaver, Lori Houlta, Tee Ballantine, Pip Morris, and so many. We even have a visiting roll from Britain, Lord Bobbins himself!


AA: And, ahem, a certain Ambassador 🙂  “A” should be right at the top of the list. “AA” even. Anywaaaay… The mainstay of conventions is panels, interviews, and demonstrations of various types. Where do you get ideas for the programs?

SP: From attending a ton of cons and seeing what interested people and what didn’t, from noticing what was missing, and just wanting different things.


AA: Tea? Is there anything in particular that you look for in a program topic?

SP: I want it to spark my interest immediately, I instantly want to know more about it.


AA: Where do you look for speakers/performers for those programs?

SP: Everywhere! Sometimes the same people tend to show up at cons, but because I travel to so many with the bookstore, I get to see a lot of presenters that would be brand new back home.


AA: When choosing those speakers/performers, what do you look for to get a quality person?

SP: Knowledge of the topic can be taught, I look for someone who’s passionate about what they are talking about, Someone who is engaging, and frankly someone not too annoying or cray cray. There is enthusiasm and then there is the abyss…Lol.


AA: LOL, nope, never seen people like that! What are other key attractions for Motor City Steam Con?

SP: We have an amazing fashion show planned and a beard and mustache contest. We also have gin tastings, and a home brew contest.


Quick break in talking with Sal about the inaugural 2016 convention. Join us in part 2 when she talks about putting a convention together.

Keep up to date with the latest news about Motor City Steam Con on their website.

Published in: on July 18, 2016 at 8:40 pm  Comments (3)  
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Interview with Author Holly Schofield, Part 2

Welcome back for the conclusion in our talk with with Holly Schofield, author of East Wind in Carrall Street, which is part of the steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.

Read Part One here.


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

Holly Schofield: That a fresh start is always possible. That people can be mutually supportive even in the most difficult of circumstances. And that clockworks are cool!


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

HS: I tossed around ideas for about a month while I worked on other things. Then I had the majority of it down on paper within two weeks. That’s fast for me.


AA: What kind of research and balance went into creating the East Wind world?

HS: Short answer: a lot! My electronic file on the story has about 60 articles, photos, and other research documents. Everything from friction welding to the Chinese zodiac to methods of salt-curing salmon.


AA: What kind of attention has East Wind generated?

HS: Quite a lot. The folks at ( ) liked it and so did AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review (


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

HS: My website, , has announcements of all my publications and a complete bibliography of the several dozen short stories I’ve had published. I’ve been known to attend both American and Canadian conventions from time to time.


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

HS: Wait, you mean there’s more to life than writing?


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

HS: It’s great to get together with other writers, both in person and online.


AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

HS: I hope that I continue to add tools to my writerly toolbox. I try to challenge myself with each and every story.


AA: Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?

HS: Reading. Reading anything and everything, but especially science fiction, does it for me. Seeing the breadth and depth of the field and all the possibilities it contains helps me maintain the spark.


AA: Do people outside the regular reading, steampunk, and convention communities recognize you for your works? What kind of reactions have you received?

HS: I was thrilled when Lightspeed’s “Women Destroy Science Fiction” anthology, in which I have a story, made NPR’s list of “Best Books of 2014”. Prouder still when it won the British Fantasy Award. And even prouder when it became required reading in a university course.


AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?

HS: I’ve always been intrigued by alternative energy sources and back-to-the-land lifestyles.


AA: How do those interests influence your work?

HS: One of the latest forms of steampunk is eco-punk (also called solarpunk) and is a nifty blend of the techno-optimism of steampunk combined with an awareness of the environment. I’m working on an eco-punk story now.


AA: Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?

HS: I’ve been reading science fiction and fantasy since the ’60s so there are far too many authors to name. The stories they told, along with the underlying optimism of original Star Trek, have certainly helped formed my worldview.


AA: Three quick-fire random questions – what is your favorite type of cheese, summer past time, and type of destination for a road trip?

HS: Aged Red Leicester, hiking, and the wilds of Canada.


AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers

HS: I sense there’s a new wave of written science fiction poised to happen, one filled with hope for the future. I encourage readers to continue to delve into all that science fiction has to offer and make sure to recommend their favorite pieces to their friends.


Thanks, Holly, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts.  We look forward to hearing about your next projects!

Keep up to date with Holly’s latest news on her website.

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

Published in: on July 12, 2016 at 8:11 pm  Comments (1)  

Interview with Author Holly Schofield

This week we are talking with Holly Schofield, author of East Wind in Carrall Street, which is part of the steampunk anthology, Clockwork Canada.


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

Holly Schofield: It’s great to be here, thanks!


AA: You’ve have your fiction work published in Lightspeed, Crossed Genres, and Tesseracts 17, as well as in the anthologies Second Contacts, Coulrophobia, and Scarecrow. Now your story, East Wind in Carrall Street, is in Clockwork Canada. What is it all about?

HS: Chinatown in Victoria, BC in the year 1896 was a microcosm of about 3,000 recent immigrants, mostly male, who spoke no English and kept to themselves. Wong Shin, a fourteen-year-old boy who loves to tinker with clockworks, has a friendship with the white daughter of a brothel owner–something that both their families would disapprove of, if they knew.

He’s beginning to explore beyond the limitations imposed by the authorities and the dominant culture of the time but poverty is holding him back. To make ends meet, his father performs lion dance ceremonies for new business openings and other events. The catch is that his father claims the lion is clockwork-driven allowing him to charge a higher fee when actually young Wong Shin is crouched inside pulling levers.

When the story starts, young Wong Shin has hit puberty and he can no longer cram himself into the machine. Will his father be shamed and lose their livelihood? Will Wong Shin manage to automate the massive lion in the few hours he has prior to a performance? Or will he find another way, a way that incorporates some of his growing understanding of the larger world around him? You’ll have to read it and see!


AA: There were a number of things at work in the story, I thought. Coming of age, friendships, honor, tradition, expectations…  Why choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel?

HS: All fiction is a commentary on present day. There is no way to keep opinions out of a story and I, for one, wouldn’t want to. However, to point out flaws in our current society can sound like lecturing, like dreaded “message fiction”. Current-day Canada has its immigration problems, negative examples of prejudice and suppression, and some lack of cohesiveness within small geographic areas.

Using a different era as a setting allows an examination of this without finger-pointing at modern day examples. The restrictions and rigidity of the Victorian era are a perfect venue for that particular exploration. That makes me sound rather severe and political but the second reason I like steampunk is that it’s terrifically fun! A very cool combination of belief in technology and wild optimism.


AA: And that’s a great reason in itself! What was the motivation for creating East Wind?

HS: The editor’s submission call referenced Amal El-Mohtar’s article, Towards a Steampunk Without Steam, The article discusses the limitations of strict adherence to Victorian settings and characters and suggests that steampunk set in India or Africa can be so much more.  I thought to myself: we have equally unique and equally unexplored cultures and settings right here in Canada, in places like Chinatown. How about I remove some of the exoticism and stereotyping and see where that takes me? And so I did.


AA: What can you share with us about the main character, Wong Shin?

HS: Wong Shin is a fourteen-year-old “maker”, always thinking, always tinkering, always improving the machinery around him. Like most of that culture at that time, he hovers on the edge of starvation. As the reader experiences the harshness of his circumstances, they may feel disheartened; however Wong Shin’s growing realization that his newly adopted country has endless possibilities reflects a core steampunk theme of optimism.


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

HS: The huge clockwork lion is the main invention in the story. There are several other creations that Wong Shin makes or interacts with. He’s a handy sort of fellow.


AA: What are some of the interesting and important details within the world of East Wind?

HS: Steampunk stories generally take 19th century technology far beyond its physical limitations, sometimes going to the extent of appearing quite magical. I wanted to make the science a bit “harder” (while keeping the whimsy) and clearly indicate that there was an energy source powering the inventions, as well as a way to store and release that energy as needed.


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

HS: Clockworks are part of this world and you’ll see them doing everything from polishing shoes to making tofu.


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

HS: The story is a blend of historical facts about both Victoria and Vancouver. I had a whole sequence worked out where Wong Shin’s father applies to work at Roger’s Sugar factory and is turned away (as all Chinese applicants actually were–sad but true). His family’s subsequent near-starvation leads him to create the clockwork lion deception out of sheer desperation, thus explaining his high degree of anger and guilt seen in the story.


AA: Are there any plans for a sequel or spinoff?

HS: I’d like to use the same setting and technologies again but have the white and Chinese cultures meet on equal footing. Remove the race issues, the class issues, and the sexism–a true meritocracy–and see what other problems a female Chinese “maker” could solve.


We’ll break here in talking with Holly. Join us next time with she talks about the process of writing East Wind, and her other interests.

Keep up to date with Holly’s latest news on her website.

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

Published in: on July 11, 2016 at 8:11 pm  Comments (3)  
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