The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, with its head office located at the heart of the Empire, London, is here to solve these mysterious happenings that leave normal law enforcement officials baffled.
Located in a secret location near the river Thames, this is the Ministry that protects all citizens of the Empire from the occult, the paranormal and from secret societies bent on bringing down Old Blighty.
We take only the best, the brightest and the bravest men and women from all the dominions and outposts of civilisation. They are here to protect every one of the citizens of the Empire from threats that would haunt their dreams…if they but knew.
Steampunk (which IBM has recently picked as its upcoming trend) is a wonderful return to the days of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Within the 19th Century where industrialization and science was daring to think of the fantastical, steampunk offers a great escapism into swashbuckling adventures and expeditions of deering-do. Sure, it sounds very romantic and that is what steampunk is to us — a romantic’s look at what is possible. We love the possibilities of this genre, and still marvel at what makers create within it.
Perhaps our favorite aspect of writing in the genre and seeing what makers create within it are the gadgets and their stories. As Thomas Willeford of Brute Force Studios told us once, “Every gadget should have a story behind it.” We were unconsciously doing that in Phoenix Rising, but in The Janus Affair and the third installment (presently called Dawn’s Early Light) we went all out to give the inventions a bit of back story. One “grand invention” has been mentioned across the first book and short stories, so readers and fans have watched it being built since 2011. Pretty exciting, and we love creating back stories for the technology. It makes it feel more tangible—more real.
Two people we have to thank for introducing us to steampunk are Jared Axelrod and J.R. Blackwell. Shortly after J.R. posted several photographs on Flickr, we were hooked. Through them, we started looking deeper into what the genre was, and discovered we already knew about it but didn’t know that was considered “steampunk.” Tee had been wanting to write in the genre for years, and with Pip an idea took hold.
One of the markers of steampunk are the wonderful gadgets and accessories. It is hard to chose a favorite from our series, but one of them has to be the analytical engine Books has created for his Archives. We see in the third book just how cool it is, but we do love that monster. It’s just a blast to play with and see what it can do. From Tee’s own physical collection, he has an Omnicron inspired by the television show Voyagers! which could slip into the steampunk genre. Good times with Phineas Bogg!
We certainly enjoy writing our own series, and have loved journeying into steam with a cast full of fun characters. Maybe the one we’ve really enjoyed dealing with the most was Lord Bartholomew Devane, from Phoenix Rising. The man was a complete and utter cad, and he even weirded us out a bit. When Tee was working on his scenes he thought he couldn’t go any darker with him, and yet he surprised himself. He was truly despicable and a villain that, we hope, gave readers the creeps.
One of the perils of writing steampunk however is when 19th Century purists criticize us for lack of accuracy. Tee has a simple reply:
So what was the giveaway out our historical inaccuracy? The Ministry of secret agents investigating the paranormal? the secret society called The House of Usher? Or a hidden fortress in the middle of the Antarctic wasteland?
We’re writing fantasy, but to be steampunk there does have to be some basis in history. At some point though, the past must step aside for the science fiction that we’re weaving, and even then the science does not necessarily have to be hard science. It can be extremely speculative as science of the time was. If you’re wondering what we mean by speculative, do yourself a favor and watch Dark Matters on the Science Channel. The stuff that scientists got away with…WOW…..
It is one of the real challenges of writing steampunk. There are some writers who tend to use the 19th Century as a backdrop and keep their works free of major characters (real or fictional) and historical events. Then there is what we do where we revel in the history of the time and start playing with alternative historical timelines and consequences. We think the challenge comes to when we stop research and get to being creative. Eventually, you have to stop with the deep dive and tell your story.
Yet, there is a lot of real joy in writing steampunk. If you’re not having fun in this genre above all genres of speculative fiction, then there is a good possibility you are taking it way too seriously.
Balancing out that tension between reality and fiction can be quite the challenge. In the case of what Tee is currently writing, it can be one event in history that you build on and run with, the outcomes and circumstances creating a series of events that will drive your fiction forward. You as the writer and the creator of this word must make the call on when you have enough research and when you are ready to move forward. Research can be a fickler mistress and can be all-consuming, and you really need to be disciplined with it. No one wants to be wowed by how much you know about geology, explorers, or science of the time. Readers want a good story that features compelling characters. That is why they pick up your books, and that is why they want more when they’re done.
Perhaps what steampunk allows is opportunities to revel in retro, but at the same time make subtle commentary on many levels — political, social, or even personal. We have been really enjoying the trip through history and then giving it the fantastic spin. It’s just a great ride.
Our own adventures with the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences are voyaging on into the future. We have signed for another two books, which will be so far four novels in total. The release date for book three is not yet released, but there is always something brewing in the Archives with our Parsec-winning podcast Tales from the Archives. We are also proceeding forward with an anthology that we are planning for March of this year that will be a bridge between The Janus Affair and Dawn’s Early Light. Finally, Tee is working on the first spinoff of the Ministry which is called Codename: Darkwater, the novel coming from the Parsec-nominated short story, “Darkest before the Darkwater.”
We hope you will join us—if you have tried steampunk or not, it is quite an adventure. If you do not have the books, then please enter the draw. We are giving away a signed two book set of the hardback versions of our novels.