Thursday, July 9, 2015

An Unsubstantiated Chamber by William J Jackson

Today I'm pleased to welcome William J Jackson to the blog to talk about his new book and the steampunk genre! 

First a little about the book...

Railroad City, Missouri used to be the mecca of right, of trust, of technology. When an alien element triggered the creation of paranormals, a small crew known as the Guild of Honor formed. Their actions changed the world, and moved it from Industrial Age to a time of speed and wonder.
1886: two years after the heroes are dead, victims of a jealous America. Two years of military rule in the Rail. Paranormals have gone from amazing curiosities to a dying breed. In this miasma of pain and cruelty, where good is deemed evil, a startling series of murders occurs. Can the killer be caught who leaves no bodies, no weapon, and no crime scene? Pushed into this mess is Professor Flag Epsom, the man who can see the past. Coupled with a violent femme fatale, can these two paranormals work together to find the killer, or will they end one another?

Get a copy here...

Amazon & Author Website



My first book is for sale on Amazon. An Unsubstantiated Chamber is the first in a series taking place in an advanced Victorian era city in the West called the Railroad City (locals call it the Rail). Nestled in southwestern Missouri, the tale brings together two unlikely protagonists who seem like antagonists, against an evil menace while the Rail is gripped in the leash of the American military. As a chase story, it is written to be direct and fast paced, not long.

Steampunk would be the book’s main genre, but what is that, you may ask? Doesn’t sound like action, ring of romance or drip with mystery. Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction. To put it bluntly, I prefer to see it as science fiction in reverse; let’s explore a more advanced yesterday and its effects rather than the future. While most of this genre hails from Victorian England and America (mine being the latter) there is a burgeoning set of steampunk tales in other countries, and not necessarily the Victorian era. Wherever there be steam power…

While my peculiar blend of punk forms a literary compound with classic four color comic books, the research is still a requirement. For this I went into what I would term the basic insight. What is the Victorian Age? How did they speak, dress, move, work, play? What I used for the first book still holds for others. Ernest Freeberg’s The Age of Edison, Thomas Schlereth’s Victorian America and the Metropolitan Corridor by John Stilgoe have been crucial to information on the expanse and change brought by trains, industry and more. Two of those books are a little old, but old fits the time. If you want to get the historical aspects correct, you can’t ignore the history. After all, when heroes and villains aren’t battling, they have to grab meals, ride a carriage, buy things, etc. You want the feel to be right.

Slang helps, and the Victorian period has loads. Since one of my protagonists is Scots-Irish, he has a bit of Old World slang I researched, some Western terms he picked up, and words he makes up because, well, that’s Flag’s thing. Writing is one two parts research/data, one part free imagination.

Now, the technology! Let’s go back a tad to short versions. Two years before the novel, I was writing short stories of the Rail, still believing I would never write a full novel (surprise!). The Rail began as a tabletop roleplaying game twenty years further back, and fermented in my mind. I knew I wanted fast trains, had a man in steam armor, and more. But then Flag Epsom came into my head as easy as a bird can fly. Due to my ever-present love of the Six Million Dollar Man, I quickly noted the value of a steam-powered bionic man. But adding to it the literary archetype of the Guy You Love To Hate, and a paranormal power to see the past (replacing the bionic eye bit) made him more human, more interesting. That’s also the power of thinking outside the box. Many folks think, say, only romantic notions to do romance. But I got one of my best steampunk characters from a 1970’s show that now may be more appropriately dubbed atompunk. As for the steam prosthetics, they had to be steel. But, I wanted them to make Flag a little uneven, bulky. I wanted the engine to make him always hot, so he wears, at best, a thin long coat suitable only for spring, even in winter. The gears clink. The springs make tension creaks. Why? Because it adds depth, it adds reality. Then I figured the geniuses making them gave him better versions every six months, while his mood stayed poor. After all, he is half a man, and no fake limb can make him feel whole.

Negatrite powers many devices in the Rail, gave people paranormal abilities (the comic book part). So, the military has large ironclads that fly in the air on steam engines imbued with the stuff. This is like a Civil War ironclad, turned upside down and much larger. My intention here was to convey power, a dark power overhead. It’s a common steampunk trapping, and I like it. It is one of the easiest ways to display a bloated empire placing an aerial boot heel over the face of the populace.

While the Rail hosts airships as fire engines, masked men, cheaper implants and revolvers that fire explosives, I use them only when it fits the tale, and hopefully that shines through. Wanna race with Epsom and Astin? If you do, let me know how you like the Rail and its unique ways.

About the author

William J. Jackson lives in yesterday and tomorrow. He has only the vaguest awareness of the present, and when he does, he writes. As fan of history, nature, comics and science fiction, Jackson merges these hobbies into the Legacy Universe, his fictitious saga of the denizens of Railroad City, Missouri. When not writing, he travels through time, stares at birds, and works and lives in historic Salem, New Jersey with his darling wife and family. 

Follow William here...