About The OWSCyCon Fantasy Blog Tour
As part of the OWS CyCon 2019, we asked our fantasy authors to write about what makes their world, or the world of another author unique. Each of them has come up with very different answers which reflect their writing processes, their research methods, and their views on world building. We hope you find these insights interesting, and that they maybe give you some new things to think about when you pick up a new book, or even start writing your own.
My insights will be posted on Debbie Manber Kupfer’s site “Paws4Thought”
After reading this interview, be sure to check out the responses from our other fantastic writers:
Spiritualism, Odic Force, and No Rest for the Wicked By Phoebe Darqueling
Anyone who spends time honing the craft of writing knows that there really are only a handful of types of plots. The creativity of an author and uniqueness of a book really comes through in the details, and we all draw from different inspiration. I for one just adore the “bad science” of the 19th century and often use it as a jumping-off point in a lot of my work, but especially in the Mistress of None series. The people who came up with the things we think of now as quackery were completely convinced of the validity of their findings (or at least were really good at convincing others), which means there is some kind of logical framework in place.
I often describe No Rest for the Wicked as historical fiction with a paranormal twist. All of the historical facts are true, but ghosts are real, and unfortunately for the main character, they are also very chatty. Spiritualism was all the rage in the 1870s, especially in America following the Civil War. People were extremely worried about the outcome of the souls of the departed soldiers, who usually died far from home. In those days, a “good death” meant to be surrounded by family members. Many soldiers carried photos of their loved ones and made promises to each other to spread them around the bodies of the fallen.
Spiritualist beliefs are at the root of much of ghost lore, though many of the “facts” about how ghosts operate have evolved since then. For instance, a popular trope in contemporary ghost stories involve a haunted house. Ghosts in popular literature and movies today are usually angry or sad, and most often tied to a particular place. And while Victorian era homes were also a popular backdrop, spirits to them were much more mobile. Mediums potentially acted as conduits to any deceased person, even those who were resting comfortably beyond the grave. A séance may have been conducted in the home of someone who died, but often they were done in the medium’s parlor.
In the Mistress of None series, I wanted to blend these sets of beliefs. My ghosts can go anywhere they want, but they are limited to traveling at the same speed as the living. They may still be among us because of a surprising or tragic death, or because they have some kind of business that needs finishing before they can let go of existence. The cohesion of the ghost is determined by a number of factors, such as time since death and strength of their resolve.
Which brings us to our second piece of 19th century “science.” Though you have likely heard of hypnotism and Mesmer’s “animal magnetism,” you’ve probably never heard of Baron Carl von Reichenbach. He was a German industrialist who became enthralled with the study of sleepwalking and night terrors. He went from town to town around his mining holdings around the Danube to talk to families about these afflictions, and came up a theory about the ways sunlight and moonlight affected the brain. As his study evolved, he proposed what he called Odic Force (named for Odin, the “all father”), a type of energy on par with electricity and magnetism. But unlike the other energies, Odic Force permeated everything. Different substances acted as conduits and dampeners, and only specific people could sense its presence and see the different colors it would manifest. This is where we got the term “sensitive” for people like mediums who could communicate with the dead, though Reichenbach himself didn’t use it in this way. For him, it was all about energy exchange and invisible forces, but I was immediately struck by the possible connection to how ghosts might work. In the world of Mistress of None, my ghosts are made up of residual Odic Force, which they use to draw in aether (another wonderful 19th century invention) and form a body. Through concentration, or more often very strong feelings like rage and despair, they can pull in additional energy from things around them and become more solid. This is why the temperature can drop in a ghost’s presence and it feels cold to walk through them. I decided to take von Reichenbach’s ideas one step further and apply it to mediums. Even if you’ve never participated in a séance yourself, you’ve probably seen them portrayed in movies and tv. Inevitably, the people seated at the table take each other’s hands before the ghost will appear. So in No Rest for the Wicked, Vi has to be very careful of making skin to skin contact with people, and the energy can pass through anyone she is touching to anyone they are touching. She has an abundance of Odic Force coursing through her, which can attract ghosts and make them more solid as they draw from her. There are also certain substances that can inhibit the transfer of energy and reduce a ghost to a puddle of mist until they can pull themselves back together. Vi’s troubles all begin with ghosts, but as the series progresses she discovers many different facets of her relationship with Odic Force.
Even though more recent research has poked holes in the beliefs and findings of the people in the past, it’s a wonderful resource for inspiring fiction. If you are interested in different beliefs and studies done surrounding the spiritual world, I highly recommend Spook by Mary Roach. She has a wonderfully accessible writing style and covers a huge range of topics.
And if you want to read about a 19th century con woman who can speak to the dead, you should check out No Rest for the Wicked. There are reviews, excerpts, and more guest posts over on my website, where you can also grab a free copy of The Steampunk Handbook by subscribing to my email list. It’s designed to be a resource for readers and writers who love the steam era as much as yours truly, and it’s full of chapters on history, culture, and recommendations for books and movies.
About Phoebe Darqueling Phoebe Darqueling is the pen name of a globe trotting vagabond who currently hangs her hat in Freiburg, Germany. In her “real life” she writes curriculum for a creativity competition for kids in MN and edits academic texts for non-native English speakers. She loves all things Steampunk and writes about her obsession on SteampunkJournal.org. During 2017, she coordinated a Steampunk novel through the Collaborative Writing Challenge called Army of Brass, and also loves working with authors as an editor. You can also find her short stories in the Chasing Magic and The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales anthologies so far, with three more short stories coming out before the end of 2019. Her novels, Riftmaker and No Rest for the Wicked, are available now. She’s an equal opportunity Star Trek, Star Wars, and Firefly fan, but her favorite pastime is riffing on terrible old movies like in Mystery Science Theater 3000. Meet Phoebe Online OWSCyCon2019 Author Booth: https://owscycon.ourwriteside.com/forums/topic/phoebe-darqueling-fantasy-booth/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorPhoebeDarqueling/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/GearTurns Author Website: https://www.phoebedarqueling.com Author Blog: https://www.phoebedarqueling.com/blog-posts Get the Latest News by Joining Phoebe’s Newsletter https://www.bit.ly/SteampunkHandbook