This week we are talking with Sarah Hans, editor of Steampunk World and Steampunk Universe.
Airship Ambassador: Hi Sarah, thanks for joining us for this interview.
Sarah Hans: Thanks for having me!
AA: There is quite the list of published works on your website, including An Ideal Vessel in The Crimson Pact: Volume 1, Among the Stars in Time-Traveled Tales, Volume 1, and Shadows of the Darkest Jade in Whispers From The Abyss, Vol. 2. Among your editing credits are Steampunk World and the upcoming Steampunk Universe. What is the theme behind each one?
SH: Most of my short stories are horror, though many of them also contain steampunk elements. Steampunk World and Steampunk Universe are decidedly not horror, though there are definitely some dark stories included. Steampunk World is a collection of multicultural steampunk stories from around the world. Steampunk Universe is a collection of steampunk stories about disabled and aneurotypical characters.
AA: As the themes are different, what is the goal for each anthology?
SH: My goal with both anthologies is the same: to broaden the representation of steampunk characters in the hopes that steampunk fiction will more closely represent our wonderful, diverse steampunk community.
AA: That a great concrete way of being inclusive. What got these projects started? Why create them?
SH: I’ve been involved in steampunk cosplay and the community for about 6 years. During that time I also started writing and selling short stories. Steve Saus at Alliteration Ink asked me whether I had any ideas for short fiction anthologies, and I proposed Steampunk World. It was the inevitable collision of my two great loves, steampunk and short fiction! I was inspired by the amazing multicultural steampunk looks I saw at conventions like WindyCon and TeslaCon for Steampunk World. The inspiration for Steampunk Universe hits a little closer to home, because not only am I a person with a disability, but I’ve dedicated my career to teaching students with disabilities. I’ve seen the incredible technological advances changing the lives of disabled people firsthand, and it made sense to explore what steampunk technology could do for disabled people in an alternate history setting.
AA: With your background, then, you bring experience and perspective, which will be valuable in setting the feel and voice of the anthology. Why specifically choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel for these stories to tell?
SH: Because of my involvement in the steampunk community and my success writing steampunk short stories, it felt natural. Like, of course I should edit a steampunk anthology!
AA: There are eighteen authors contributing to Steampunk World. How many are you expecting in Steampunk Universe, what can you share with us about their backgrounds, and what we can expect from them?
SH: Currently there are 16 authors involved in Steampunk Universe, but just between you and me, a few more might be added before the end of the Kickstarter. Some of the authors self-identify as disabled or aneurotypical, myself included. Others are POC or LGBTQ. I’m really excited to have big names like Ken Liu, Jody Lynn Nye, and Maurice Broaddus involved, and of course I’m thrilled to have some returning authors like Emily Cataneo and Malon Edwards. One of the best things about editing an anthology is also discovering new voices, and I can’t wait to bring you stories by Matthew Bright, Suna Dasi, and other writers you may not have read just yet.
AA: This will be GREAT! How did you find everyone? Was there an open call and selection process?
SH: I started by inviting most of the authors who had submitted to Steampunk World. Then I held an open call. The call lasted about 12 months. That means the writers whose stories had already been accepted had to let me sit on their stories for a year! I gave them the option to sell the stories elsewhere, which a few of them did, but a lot of people really wanted Steampunk Universe to be the first publication of their story. I can’t tell you what an honor and pleasure that is.
AA: It says a lot about what they think of you and the project. Without giving spoilers, what interesting things will readers find along the way in each anthology?
SH: Each anthology ended up with a secondary theme that developed based on the stories I received and selected for the anthology. The secondary theme of Steampunk World was definitely anticolonial. A lot of the stories are about indigenous people overthrowing colonial regimes, which I think is wonderful because steampunk can have colonial overtones. The popularity of the anthology reflects a desire by readers, writers, and steampunks to subvert that narrative. I’m still working on Steampunk Universe, but so far the secondary theme is, I would say, finding the ability in disability, making your disability part of your unique identity, finding strength and gifts that other people might not possess as a result of it. It’s shaping up to be a really powerful statement about the experiences of disabled and aneurotypical people, the hardship and trauma that we endure, but also our adaptability and optimism in the face of great struggles.
AA: Those are very engaging themes and I’m sure people will have plenty to think about after reading teh stories. What are some of the objects which help tell a story?
SH: One of the things that makes a story “steampunk,” for me, is the inclusion of cool gadgets and technology. In Steampunk Universe we’ll have everything from steam-powered hearts to exoskeletons, as well as a steampunk visor that helps a blind girl to see. There’s even an entire spaceship!
AA: How many more stories were there which just couldn’t be squeezed into the final book?
SH: I received 75 submissions, in total, for Steampunk Universe.
AA: Wow! Any plans for a third volume?
SH: Nope. This will be my final foray into steampunk anthologies.
We’ll pause in chatting with Sarah while I get deal with pending reading withdrawal, knowing there’s no ‘planned’ next book.
Join us for part two when she talks about being a writer as well as an editor.
You can support Sarah and our community by getting your copy of Steampunk World here. Be on the look out for Steampunk Universe!