|Photo by Fishdecoy|
The west, to me was gunfights, Louis L'Amour, cowboys (sans range wars--boring!), Indians, and pioneers, all wrapped up in bloodshed and fierce determination.
So when Wild, Wild West (1999) came out, I was horrified. Yes, I watched reruns of the original and I was okay with it, but I preferred Gunsmoke. More than the bad script and less-than-stellar acting, the cheesy Southern bad guy, it was the technology that bugged me. I liked the idea of simple times where people relied on stuff that was handmade and had to get by using their wits rather than throwing machinery into the mix. I hated history after the Civil War, where there were cotton gins, steam trains, and factories everywhere. I wanted cowboys pushing cattle into vast stretches of prairie and mail-order brides who traveled by stagecoaches.
And yet . . . I was enamored when I sat in the theater and watched The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) brought us the Nautilus, the flashy car, and especially the silver-plated Winchester repeaters. I went with a friend and as soon as I saw the rifle I whispered, no doubt a gleam in my eye, "A Winchester. It's beautiful." Because like some kind of weird-o, I was fascinated by historical guns.
|Photo by Ben41|
|Photo by Gunmaster45|
Okay, this post wasn't supposed to be about guns. It was supposed to be about why I strayed from traditional westerns into steampunk. The tipping point.
Well, it was LXG that did it. Something about that gung-ho American 'cowboy' Tom Sawyer and the way Quatermain was told by a witch doctor that Africa would never allow him to die. You can see how this fed my special brand of crazy, inspiring me to write a novel with legends and steampunkery. When I began The Treasure Hunter's Lady, it surfaced around Romy, the tomboy daughter of a famous British adventurer. Couple her with a devil-may-care cowboy, which stuck to my western-loving roots, and breathe a little magic on it. It very much took me away from conservative stand on westerns and opened a whole new world.
I brought in airships, designated a band of law enforcement that watches over the airships, named some electromagnetic guns of my own (the Bennett Special, a character favorite called the Lighthouser .745, and the MacAvoy rifle), invented an automobile called Eidolon, and much more reliable than the mail system, created a wireless telegram machine referred to as a 'gram. All of this before the last novel, which is set in 1890.
I have difficulty imagining that I'll ever return to straight historical romance, but I once said I'd never write any kind of novels where there was impossible technology in the 1800s. You see how that turned out.