These features as a way for the Ministry to highlight artists, musicians, writers, and makers of all variety. With so many talented individuals to choose from, we know it is a challenge to feature every clever creative worthy of note, but perhaps we might endeavour to introduce to you a new name in our community of steam and cog, or perhaps remind you of one artisan’s successful efforts to bring the past that never was to the here and now.
In this week’s Æther Feature Leanna Renee Hieber talks about Gaslight Fantasy and its place with steampunk.
Leanna Renee Hieber here, your favourite perky Goth and Gothic Novelist here to talk to you about why I do what I do.
Ministry fans, you may know me from heading off the recent Ministry Protocol anthology with my story, “The New Recruit”
I’ve made a career in Gaslamp Fantasy with seven full-length novels, many novellas and short stories to my name. Gaslamp Fantasy can be considered under the grand parasol of Steampunk but is distinctly different and as I’m often called to explain the specific delineation, here’s the distillation:
Steampunk distilled: A Steam-powered (generally 19th Century aesthetic / setting / alternate history with Science Fiction where technological elements are advanced / different than the time period’s actual capacity and function as an underpinning of the world-building and reality of the story. May or may not be alternate history.
Gaslight Fantasy distilled: The same as above but with traditional Fantasy elements involved in the world-building rather than technology/gadgets. Magic and the paranormal powers this world as much as steam or instead of steam. May or may not be alternate history. (My books are not alternate history in that my books take place in a ‘realistic’ Victorian era where paranormal things happen parallel to average society or outside of society’s direct understanding, but the basic tenets of history stand.)
I primarily write Gothic, Gaslamp fantasy because I love the chance to dive into another world that is in some ways familiar to us, it being our history, but is wholly another world because it’s a time in which we’ve not lived ourselves. The fantasy aspect is important for me because I like showing history in a new light. Paranormal and fantasy aspects allow me to utilize the era in ways that are unique, boundary-breaking and just plain fun. My mind defaults to a Fantasy world-building vocabulary and interest and not a Science Fiction one. The aspects of the occult and Spiritualist movements were their own pseudo-science indeed, but I’ve found that especially in my current ETERNA FILES saga that just released from Tor, the magical, fantastical underpinnings of the tale allow for my tone and true voice to flow in their natural habitat.
I’ve been obsessed with both classic fantasy and classic Victorian literature since childhood, so it felt utterly natural for me to blend them. Considering the paranormal elements already present in great Victorian literature, drawing fantasy and paranormal elements into this historical time period was seamless for me, especially in the Gothic style in which I write. I think many writers write what they want to read, that’s certainly true for my three series, the Strangely Beautiful saga, the Magic Most Foul saga and the current Eterna Files series; I took all my favourite styles and elements from different genres and blended them into my books. Thankfully, considering the Victorian obsession with ghosts, neo-classicism, the occult, psychic phenomena, Spiritualism and more, my uses of Greek Mythology, mediums, magical, mystical elements and a ton of real-life London and New York haunts all work in tremendous concert.
In terms of what has influenced me as a writer, none have inspired me so much as Edgar Allan Poe. The intersection of Gothic, fantasy, mystery, genre-defining and genre blending stories, he remains my earliest and most profound influence, along with Lewis Carroll, who helped anchor my interest in fantastical Victoriana. I will always think of Narnia and Lord of the Rings as similarly changing my life. Narnia first, then Tolkien cemented my love of fantasy forever. Authors like Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, who can blend the edges between fantasy, paranormal and horror, continued to inspire and influence me. Then Harry Potter came along and re-ignited my creative fire like nothing had done since childhood.
The word fantasy says it all. It is fantastic. It is full of dreams coming true, but not in the easy way- in a way readers feel they have earned. We want to experience fantasy because of the journey involved. In some ways we can more accurately mirror real life by putting ‘real life’ into extreme and improbable circumstances, thus forcing out real truths in ways that are so much more easy to stomach, the results of which can nestle into our hearts with lasting magic that no other tales can quite deliver. That’s why I do what I do. And I hope you’ll join me for the adventure!
About Leanna: Award winning, nationally bestselling author, actress and playwright Leanna Renee Hieber graduated with a BFA in Theatre, a focus in the Victorian Era and a scholarship to study in London. Having adapted works of 19th Century literature for the stage, her one-act plays have been produced around the country. Leanna’s Strangely Beautiful saga, beginning with The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, hit Barnes & Noble and Borders bestseller lists, won three Prism Awards for excellence in the genre of Fantasy Romance as well as myriad regional awards and remains in development as a musical theatre production. This currently out-of-print series will re-issue in new revised editions from Tor/Forge in 2016. Leanna’s Magic Most Foul saga, beginning with Darker Still, hit the Indie Next list as a recommended title by the American Bookseller’s Association, was a Scholastic Book Club’s “Highly Recommended” title. Some of her Strangely Beautiful and Magic Most Foul characters continue into The Eterna Files, a new Gaslamp Fantasy saga now available from Tor. Her short stories have been featured on Tor.com and have been featured in anthologies such as the acclaimed Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, Willful Impropriety and multiple “Mammoth Book” anthologies. Her work has been chosen for national book club editions and translated into many languages. A proud member of performers unions Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA, Leanna works often in film and television on shows like Boardwalk Empire. An enthusiastic Goth girl, lover of corsets and long walks through graveyards, she resides in New York City with her real life hero and their beloved rescued lab rabbit. Visit her at http://leannareneehieber.com, http://twitter.com/leannarenee and http://facebook.com/lrhieber