Guest Post: David Lee Summers
I am pleased to have a story in the Gears and Levers anthology alongside Chris Wong Sick Hong's "The Festival of Flame." My story is called "The Pirates of Baja" and like Chris's story, it adds a certain element of multiculturalism to the familiar steampunk gadgetry and historical action. "The Pirates of Baja" is set in 1876 and tells the story of a one-time sheriff who is hired to go aboard a ship and hunt pirates from Mexico. It turns out, the pirates have an unexpected weapon—a deadly submarine boat.
I've been a fan of steampunk since long before it had a name. I grew up watching Robert Conrad and Ross Martin in The Wild Wild West. I was a fan of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I don't think it's any surprise that both of these influenced the creation of my story. What's more, my dad was a history buff and that rubbed off on me. When I began thinking about a steampunk submarine story, I started researching real submarines of the period. I learned that a Spanish inventor named Narcis Monturiol i Estarriol had invented a submarine that was, in many ways, superior to the one described by Jules Verne. His submarine was propelled by a chemical reaction steam engine and the engine's exhaust was oxygen. As long as the submarine had fuel, it produced air to breathe! Unfortunately, Monuriol i Estarriol never found any investors and the submarine was largely forgotten.
Although steampunk is often associated with Victorian England, I feel there's a whole world of possibilities in this historical sub-genre of science fiction. Colonial powers were colliding all around the world, creating a seemingly endless array of story possibilities. Mechanical innovation was not limited to England and the United States as Monturiol i Estarriol's submarine demonstrates. Piracy is an occupation of desperate people and there were many such people in Mexico after the country gained its independence from France. It seemed logical that an intelligent pirate in Mexico might attempt to put a Spanish invention to his own use.
What's more, the sheriff who hunts the pirates is not exactly the Hollywood image of a Western lawman. His name is Ramon Morales and he's a Latino whose family lived in New Mexico for generations. He's inspired by the real-life lawman Elfego Baca, who was once known to have single-handedly held off twelve Texas cowboys
when they tried to break their friend out of jail. Ramon's girlfriend is a Persian healer named Fatemeh Karimi who frequently gets into trouble because of her desire for peace and a future where humans live in harmony with nature. Ramon and Fatemeh's adventures are explored in depth in the novel Owl Dance.
I am honored to be part of the Gears and Levers anthology alongside authors like Chris Wong Sick Hong. I hope you'll check it out. If you care to learn more about my writing, including my wild west steampunk novel, Owl Dance, drop by my website at http://www.davidleesummers.com.