Interview: Steampunk Author Cherie Priest

There are tons of great new books in speculative fiction being released today–get your credit cards ready! I’ll be spotlighting a few over the next days.

First up is Cherie Priest, whose new steampunk, DREADNOUGHT, releases today from Tor Books, following up last year’s Locus-winning BONESHAKER. I had a chance to ask Cherie a couple of questions as I put together my new Fiction Affliction column for (more on that below).

To what do you attribute the “rebirth” and growing popularity of steampunk?
CP: There’s been something of a perfect storm over the last few years, wherein the “makers” movement has collided with environmentalism, and a general new millennium’s sense of reevaluating what’s important. I’ve often thought (and sometimes said) that if steampunk has an underlying philosophy, it’s “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” because that’s what it does – it re-purposes things that have been discarded, and turns them into objects of beauty or functionality. 
I mean, look: No two steampunks ever arrive at an event wearing exactly the same thing. They very often make or remix their own clothes and jewelry (or buy handmade/custom made items), rejecting the 20th-century tendency for everyone to own more or less all the same stuff.  They decline to participate in mass consumerism/mass production when at all possible – focusing upon artisan culture, desiring quality objects rather than disposable ones. 
It’s a very timely and modern message, despite the fact that it’s often presented in terms of stylistic nostalgia.

What attracted you to the alt history genre, and what’s your favorite aspect of your Clockwork Century world? (Okay, that’s two questions!)

I grew up (primarily) in the Southeast, where alternate Civil War ending speculation is something of a regional pastime, so when I began noodling with my own steampunk/alternate-history world-setting, it seemed like an obvious place to start.  I was drawn to the idea of a universe where the trappings of steampunk were symptomatic of the place and time – not just accessories to it; I wanted to tell stories wherein there was a very good reason for the “advanced” Victorian technology, and the Late Unpleasantness was the perfect linchpin upon which to hang it.

But probably my favorite thing about the Clockwork Century, as it sprang up in response to all these narrative demands, is that it isn’t too much history – which is to say, it isn’t hobbled by the facts.  A woman can go nuts trying to account for every tiny detail as it might have been changed in another time line, and I didn’t feel like going nuts. I just wanted to have fun with it. So I cherry-pick the interesting or useful bits of history and either ignore or hand-wave away the parts I don’t want to use. The Clockwork Century works for me because it’s a playground and not a textbook. 

Great stuff! Dreadnought, the second Clockwork Century book, releases today. To see all the science fiction (including steampunk) books being released between September 28 and October 31, check out yesterday’s Fiction Affliction column on A new one will run each day this week–others will focus on new releases in Urban Fantasy, Epic Fantasy and Young Adult Paranormal, and I’ll update the links as they become available. Be sure and leave a comment!

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

3 thoughts on “Interview: Steampunk Author Cherie Priest

  1. Love the Clockwork Century term. The idea of recycling could be very big, and zany too. Like what do you do with the pizza boxes? Where do you put the food scraps when your chickens turn vampire and no fox, raccoon or squirrel within 20 miles is safe, not to mention, the “owners”?