Steampunk Inspiration (Part 2): Burning Man

In Steampunk Inspiration (Part 1), I discussed my family ties to a unique object of inspiration for my very first Steampunk story. I also hinted at the source of inspiration for my second Steampunk story.

For “Delia’s Heartthrob”, my entry in Naughty Hearts the Valentine’s Day release from the Naughty Literati, there was a specific source of inspiration. But before I get into that there’s a bit of very personal backstory.

While I was writing “One Cheek or Two?” I had a traumatic experience in my real life. I won’t discuss it except to say that at the time it was very difficult to write creatively. I’m a writer, it’s my job, so I had to force myself. The ideas were there, but I found it quite crushing to get them down on paper (or in the computer, rather). I wasn’t experiencing writer’s block; it was post-traumatic stress disorder.

Yet something very odd was going on in my freaked-out brain: my characters were waiting for me. Specifically the characters from “One Cheek or Two?”—Delia, Edward, and Sebastian—were waiting for me to write their stories. It was as if they were hanging out in the Green Room of my mind, smoking cigarettes (Sebastian) and drinking tea, conversing amongst themselves at a level of volume I couldn’t hear, lounging about, completely out of character like off-stage actors.

It was comforting knowing they were there, waiting patiently.

And then when I was ready, their stories started pouring out of me, a deluge of ideas, scenarios, characterizations. A whole series developed, actually. It was quite bizarre.

I knew I had to continue writing stories from the Ockham Steam-Works Laboratory, and began contemplating how exactly to do this—Search for anthology calls? Self-publish? Post as an extra feature on my website?

The Naughty Literati Valentine’s Day anthology, Naughty Hearts, was the perfect opportunity to continue the story of Delia, Edward, and Sebastian. But, hmm, Valentine’s Day…how could I make that unique?

Festivals As Inspiration: Burning Man

In August 2014, I went to Burning Man for the fifth time. The arts festival has a reputation for being a week-long, drug-fueled party for naked people. I suppose some people experience the event in that way. But for me, the main attractions are the artworks, the performance art, and seeing friends.

As an erotica writer I constantly get people saying to me “Oh, you go to Burning Man! You must get so much inspiration from being there”—implying, most likely, that somehow the candid nudity and sensuality inspire the erotic aspects of my writing. Actually, Burning Man has never inspired me in that way. However, it has inspired elements of plot and setting. The first such inspiration found its way into Hadrian and Sabina in the form of the festival of Osiris:

The colorful banners and costumes during the day and the flaming, noisy spectacles as night fell…

The theme for Burning Man 2014 was Caravansary and the Man was positioned in the middle of a souk, or bazaar, made up of tents. There were some excellent artworks spread across the Playa and Black Rock City. A few made lasting impressions upon me, and a couple of those gave me ideas for some sexy Steampunk machines in my latest Ockham Steam-Works Laboratory story.

Pulse and Bloom and Skull of Actaeon were interactive art installations that utilized electronic sensors to synch LED lights to a participant’s pulse, thereby visualizing human heartbeats. It was pretty amazing. Pulse and Bloom had the added component of mingling the heartbeats of two people at the same time for a syncopated effect.

Embrace was a large-scale wooden sculpture of two figures embracing (spectacularly set on fire one morning). Inside each of the figures was a glowing red heart hanging like a chandelier.

Festivals As Inspiration: Imbolc

But how to integrate all of this into a story? How could I bring Burning Man to an imagined Steampunk Newcastle? Elisabeth Waters my colleague at the San Francisco Area chapter of Romance Writers of America gave me an idea. At one of our meetings she told me about the Celtic festivals celebrating the seasons: Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. Imbolc is the festival marking the beginning of spring and occurs about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

That is, in February, kind of near Valentine’s Day.

And, thus, the setting and plot elements of “Delia’s Heartthrob” were born.

Naughty Hearts is now available, but if you want to get an introduction to the characters in “Delia’s Heartthrob”, their first story is “One Cheek or Two?” in the anthology Valves & Vixens: Steampunk Erotica. The two stories can be read as standalones, although I’d really like it if readers discovered the whole world of the Ockham Steam-Works Laboratory.

And I think Edward, Delia, and Sebastian would like it if you read about their lives outside the Green Room of my mind.

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  1. Pingback: Steampunk Inspiration (Part 1): A Naughty Device - Regina Kammer

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