Thanks to everyone who entered to win a paperback copy of Past Lives #1: Rachel. Tomorrow the winners’ books will be mailed out! Here’s the roll call:
Amanda from Ontario, Canada
Emily from New Brunswick, Canada
Samantha from Nebraska
Christin from Texas
Emily from Maine
Mersaides from Oklahoma
Peter from New York
Keri from Massachusetts
Angie from Alberta, Canada
Natasha from Michigan
Jessica from Colorado
Emily from Massachusetts
Serquei from Washington
Ken from Massachusetts
Sophia from California
Leigh from Colorado
Bree from Michigan
Rachel from West Yorkshire, England
Kelli from Kansas
Cassandra from Massachusetts
Congrats to the winners and thanks again to all who entered!
Hugo is one of those I-don’t-know-how-I-missed-it movies. I saw the preview and loved the film’s look, its steampunk sensibility. Add Martin Scorsese, Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen, and I have no clue why I didn’t see this in the theater.
Anyhow, Hugo is a charming and gorgeous film. Set in early 1930s Paris, it tells the story of an orphan who lives in a train station, stealing food to survive and always staying one step ahead of the station master (Sacha Baron Cohen, who steals every scene.)
Hugo runs afoul of a toy maker (Ben Kingsley) while stealing parts to repair his late father’s final project — the Automaton, a clockwork-driven mechanical man. As Hugo and the toy maker come to an accord, Hugo realizes the old man is more than he seems. And together, they may help each other resume their purpose in a vast, mechanized, lonely world.
Rachel, the lead character of my book Past Lives #1: Rachel, speaks to you in a series of essays. The first:
“What are your thoughts on tradition?”
I’m an art major, so when I think of tradition, I think of the various schools of art: classical, romantic, photorealistic, etc. Some of those disciplines didn’t appeal to me. But my professors said you have to understand the past to go forward. Besides, in art, you’re never straitjacketed; creativity and innovation are paramount. But when you ask me about tradition, I think you really mean, what do I think about the Order? Do I feel bad that it collapsed, taking its rules and its bloodlines and its Great Houses with it, leaving telepaths and other psychics to shift for themselves?
The Order was the guiding hand behind Britain’s age of Empire. Imagine it: three hundred white men, all telepaths, held sway over one-fifth of the world. They did it with new inventions – steam-powered ships, telegraphs, dynamite. They did it by remaining in the shadows, allowing England’s nobility to believe they ruled in truth as well as name. And they did it by telepathically reinforcing societal rules that encouraged everyone to keep to their place. In other words, they taught the populace to emphasize and revere tradition. Not all traditions. Just the ones that kept them in power.
I can’t claim to know the whole history of the Order. Before the car crash that brought back memories of my past life as Cassandra Masters, I didn’t even know I was a telepath. I never dreamed I could read minds, force weaker people to obey me, even gather my psionic energy and throw it like a lightning bolt. And heaven knows uncovering the whole truth about the Order will take time. But I know telepaths first arose in ancient Greece. I know Queen Elizabeth I had telepaths for advisors and a telekinetic assassin. And I know that until about 1750, the Order was matriarchal.
Why matriarchal? Because before DNA testing, no man could ever be sure a child was his. So each Great House was headed by a mother or grandmother. But then the bloodlines started to die off. Gradually there was a shift in power – a generation where more male telepaths survived to adulthood than female. As the Order transitioned to all-male rule, British society tightened like a noose. Especially around the necks of the women. By 1870 they were too tightly corseted to manage even a brisk walk and mentally corseted, too. In a world where a 22-year-old unmarried man had his whole life ahead of him and a 22-year-old unmarried female was a failure (an “old maid”) the Order’s ruling class felt secure. They weren’t afraid the marginalized females in their midst would rise up to challenge them.
Except in 1870, one did. Cassandra Masters. I guess in those days I wasn’t too blinded by tradition. And now that I’ve come back as Rachel MacReady, I feel very much the same.
Part of plotting the Past Lives series was figuring out which steampunk inventions the Order created and used. Fortunately I came up with a specific use for goggles first!
|Can’t do steampunk without goggles|
I tend to be skeptical of new technology, so it was hard to put myself in the place of Cassandra Masters’s uncle Harry Fullbright. Harry, a very forward-thinking Victorian, has a home in Belgrave Square that’s filled with blueprints, inventions, and prototypes. Writing about Harry made me wonder how the breakthrough inventions of the Victorian Era were viewed. Here’s some of what I found:
- “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” — Western Union internal memo, 1876.
- “Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.” — Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.
- ”Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.” — Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872.
- “The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.” – Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinare to Queen Victoria, 1873.
- ”X-rays will prove to be a hoax.” — William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, 1899.
- “Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure.” — Henry Morton, president of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison’s light bulb, 1880.
- “Rail travel at high speed is not possible, because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” — Dr. Dionysys Larder (1793-1859), professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, University College, London
- “Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.” — Thomas Edison. American inventer, 1889
In the course of compiling these quotes, I discovered a rather well-known story about Queen Victoria refusing to believe in lesbians (“Such creatures do not exist”) is a complete fabrication. Many of my older reference books list it as fact. But click herefor the real scoop.