Airship Ambassador: Hi Alex, thanks for joining us!
Alex Bledsoe: Appreciate you having me here.
AA: Readers may know you from one of several ongoing series, including the Tufa novels, Eddie LaCrosse, and Memphis Vampires. There’s also a couple of hundred short stories, one of which is The Omai Gods. What is it about?
AB: It’s set in a vague preindustrial past, and is about a warlord who lands on a Pacific island where the natives have giant statues of their gods, that turn out to be alien robots. The natives use them to fight back.
AA: Giant robots would get any steampunk’s attention. Why specifically choose steampunk for this story?
AB: I was invited to contribute to the anthology, so the non-western steampunk aspect was a given. That in itself was an intriguing challenge. I’d also worked with the editor before on another anthology and enjoyed it.
AA: How does The Omai Gods express your vision of steampunk, and what does it add to the existing works in the genre?
AB: I don’t know that I have a genre ‘vision’; this is my first real foray into it. I’m drawn to the genre for the way it recaptures the ineffable sense of wonder you still find in Verne, Wells and even some Lovecraft.
As for what my story adds, I’m not sure an author can ever truly evaluate that; it’s for readers to say.
AA: What are the Omai based on?
AB: They were inspired, fairly blatantly, by the Easter Island statues. I didn’t have time to do the research necessary to really make them Rapa Nui characters, so I invented my own culture, which was really freeing. It meant I could make up all the details.
AA: The Easter Island statues have always been fascinating, and even more so when I learned that they have full bodies. Just because those stone statues haven’t moved yet … What are the key themes in The Omai Gods?
AB: The importance of standing up for yourself and your people, the willingness to sacrifice for the greater good, and the way friendship and love spur us to have more courage than we might think.
AA: Looking behind the scenes, what did you do to increase the reader’s mental or emotional connection to the characters? How did you keep them as relatable yet still grounded in the circumstances of the story?
AB: Mainly, I didn’t try to write any faux native-speak; the characters talk the way we talk, which is how they’d hear it in their own language. That, hopefully, lends an immediacy to the story.
AA: Are there any objects which play a major role in the story?
AB: There are the title characters (well, not really “characters”), the Omai gods themselves. They are alien robots left behind eons ago, yet still remain functional.
AA: When including giant robots, I don’t suppose there’s much room left in a short story for more. What kind of back story is there for The Omai Gods which didn’t make it into the final book?
AB: There’s a whole backstory of how <CHARACTER> originally found the robots and figured out how to turn the machinery on, which is referenced but not explained. There’s the story of how General <CHARACTER> ended up lost after losing his last battle. And there’s the relationship of <CHARACTER> and <CHARACTER>, who have grown up together.
AA: When people read The Omai Gods, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?
AB: See, I think that’s something the author can’t, and probably shouldn’t, ever say. I’ve written enough novels and stories by now to know that whatever themes I think I’m working with, a reader is likely to find something entirely different. And that’s okay: once you finish the book, it’s no longer yours, it becomes the reader’s.
AA: Are there any plans for more adventures? Maybe about those <CHARACTERs>?
AB: I don’t know. I might try to expand it at some point, maybe to a novella.
AA: What kind of research went into creating The Omai Gods world?
AB: As I referenced above, not much, certainly not enough to actually set a story on Easter Island. I’ve followed recent archaeological discoveries about the moai, so I had the broad strokes already in my head.
AA: What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel The Omai Gods history?
AB: There are references to past events, to things that were left unresolved and must now face a resolution because of the story. At the end, we go forward in time so that the main events of the story become part of the protagonist’s history.
We’ll pause here in chatting with Alex. Join us for part two where he talks about his writing process.
You can support Alex and our community by getting your copy of Steampunk World here.