Category Archives: MultiCulturalism in Steampunk

Steampunk India Interview in DESIblitz Magazine

The Steampunk Universe anthology, edited by Sarah Hans, is gaining momentum; more news to follow very soon!

Meanwhile, I spoke to Fatima Farah of Indian magazine DESIblitz about my background and what inspires me when writing inclusive Victoriana fiction: Suna Dasi Talks Short Stories and Steampunk India 

 

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Filed under Articles, Articles by Others, Books, Culture, Diaspora, Diversity, Hidden Exclusion, History, India, MultiCulturalism in Steampunk, MultiCuturalism, Music, Steampunk, Uncategorized, Victorian, Victorian PoC, Victoriana, Women, Writing

In Pictures: Indian Women through the Ages’

An extremely evocative cross section of Delhi’s photography exhibition ‘Indian Women through the Ages’, taken between the 1850s and 1950s, is available on the BBC website .

The image below shows a Muslim dancing girl, taken in 1900. I can only wish the full range of pictures are available online or at least in a book of the exhibition.


So many Victorian writings and imagery from the Raj focus on the men of the culture. It was partly because of selective and biased writing, though there was a plethora of intrepid British women travellers who broke with convention by going into the Deep Interior by themselves and writing about their experiences. It was also common for Western photographers to not be allowed entrance in women’s quarters, daily affairs or sections of a household.

Fred Bremner, another famous Victorian photographer from Scotland, captured hundreds of people and daily Indian situations. Some of these were on display in a Scottish National Portrait Gallery exhibition ‘From Lucknow to Lahore’ in 2012-2013. They were fascinating, but it was his wife who let into several courts and zenannas to take images of the women and there was only one photograph taken by her in the exhibit. My keenest wish is for all of Mrs. Bremner’s photographs to become available one day!

 The Begum of Bhopal, photographed by Bremner’s wife, as featured on the Portrait Gallery’s exhibition poster.
From the ‘Picturing India with Bremner’ article on the Traveller’s India website: “Fred Bremner married around 1902, and his wife — he does not disclose her name — ‘gifted with good taste, was greatly interested in the art of photography and gave every attention to reception room duties as well as applying her hand to use of the camera on the occasion of photographing a Purdah [i.e. ‘behind-the-veil’ lady whose face… men are not allowed to look upon’. She even assisted Bremner in photographing noblewomen. ‘The Begum of Bhopal was visiting Simla and Her Highness expressed a wish to Mrs. Bremner that she would like some photographs of herself to be taken at Bhopal. All arrangements were made and during the summer… we found our way to Bhopal, which was a long and somewhat weary journey from Simla. However, all went well, resulting in my wife securing some photographs of Her Highness in State dress which gave her every satisfaction’. Bremner also noted that ‘on several other occasions Mrs. Bremner had the pleasure of photographing Indian ladies of the Harem’. “

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Happy 150th Birthday, Anandibai Joshi! 

Happy 150th Birthday, Anandibai Joshi! Born on this day in Kalyan near Mumbai, she was the first Indian woman to get a Western medicine degree in 1886.

  


She was born in 1865 in an extremely orthodox Brahmin family in Maharashtra. As a nine year old girl she was married off to a widower who was almost thrice her age. However, he appears to have been a more forward thinking fellow than his peers at this time (and aside from the deeply problematic custom of child bridehood): Gopalrao Joshi was a postal clerk. When his wife at age fourteen expressed she wanted to study medicine he supported her. It seems her drive to do so came after their first child died, ten days after birth, because proper medical resources were not available.

This was a time when women’s education wasn’t thought of or if it was, sneered at. Gopalrao seems to have been an exception to the rule: he married Anandi specifically on the condition that his wife be educated, whether her family had traditional misgivings or not.

She sadly died at the very young age of twenty-one, yet she opened the gates for many young women in India who wanted to move beyond solely dedicating their lives to a domestic status.

  

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For Steampunk Hands 2015: The Raj Revised: Steampunking History

Pyjamas. Shampoo. Candy. Doolally. Loot. Bungalow. Cushy. Junk.
These words are all part of daily English speech. (Doolally being a personal favourite.)
They wouldn’t have been part of the English language had they not been assimilated during the British presence in India during the 1900s.

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It’s a perfect way to detect how interwoven the two cultures are. The impact of the Raj is a ripple in the global historical pond that hasn’t stilled to this day.
India, the Jewel in the British Crown, the spice in the English economy, the Empire its Empress never set foot in. This is where Steampunk India comes in.
Steampunk is partly based on an avid love of history. Many Steampunks pride themselves on incorporating historically accurate aspects of the Victorian Era in their costuming, events or building projects.The genre has come quite a way from being mostly Western-centric, with costumes that only reflect the fashions of London society during a certain period, with personas and narratives that are predominantly culturally relevant to Caucasian participants.

More than most creative genres, Steampunk is placed to be truly multicultural, truly inclusive.
I have a fascination for the Victorian Era, a love for maritime history, and direct hereditary ties to the exploits of the British East India Trading Company. As a result I have an avid wish to see more India in Steampunk.
In particular more Indian India, as it were.
In general I want more of Africa, of China, Malaysia, Borneo, Argentina and other non-Western countries, specifically expressions of and representations by the people of each nation. Women, people of all colours, LGBT folk; it is deeply important to further a more egalitarian expression of race and gender, both within the context of events and performance and by authors of diverse heritage and persuasions.

The photo collage below forms an example of where Steampunk inspiration could be found. All these images are from the late 1800s – early 1900s. Clockwise starting top Right: An Indonesian Sarong Weaver. A Malaysian woman in Nonya attire. A young Berber from Tunisia. Araucanian Indians and gauchos, Chile. A young girl, Borneo, possibly from the Kayan tribe.

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Collaborating with others for multiculturalism is vital.
One such collaboration took place last year. I was involved in two events for The Clockwork Watch Transmedia Project created by Yomi Ayeni. Through comics, interactive events and a website featuring a fictional Gazette of the world, Yomi has created a Steampunk milieu where Indian culture plays a more prominent role.*

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(From Clockwork Watch: The Arrival by Yomi Ayeni & Corey Brotherson. Artwork: Jennie Gyllblad.)

As part of the year-long celebration of the 300th anniversary of Longitude in 2014, the Royal Museums in Greenwich organised two interactive events, featuring some of the characters from the Clockwork Watch comics: I played the role of Tinku Ranbir, wife of eminent Indian scientist Chan.
The second event, titled ‘Clocking Off Late’, featured a piece called ‘The Tinku Diaries‘. Tinku’s character occupied the floor of the Maritime Museum that houses the permanent exhibition ‘Traders: The East India Company and Asia’. Visitors to the gallery were introduced to Tinku and instantly submerged into the Clockwork Watch story which merged with the actual history of our world. Artist and musician Ziazan played a mischievous spirit, flitting in and out of the narrative, introducing the public to elements of the created world.
A selection of diary entries scattered around the displays for visitors to find were protectively snatched from them by Tinku’s companion,Thomas, (played by Philip Whiteman) coiling tight the spring of mystery and intrigue that winds the Clockwork Watch.

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(Left: Ziazan carrying a special edition of the Clockwork Watch book. Right to Bottom: Tinku at her desk. A diary extract featured in the fictional London Gazette on the Clockwork Watch Site. Tinku speaks to a museum visitor whilst Thomas looks on, ready to usher the lady away should things get too personal.)

Yomi’s request to create the diaries as an original composition of my own allowed free reign to show an intimate glimpse of Tinku’s mind and experiences. Tinku’s predicament became very immediate to me during this creative process; an Indian woman in a Western environment, trying to carve out a meaningful place for herself while preserving her own values and integrity.
Her diary was also the perfect vehicle to include titbits from the East India Company history and acquaint visitors with a deeper look under the surface. I further incorporated some of the artifacts and paintings that are permanent features of the exhibit, in order to mix fiction with history, as is the Steampunk wont.
In her diary, Tinku mentions a Wadia Sahib. She is referring to Jamsetjee Bomanjee Wadia, (c 1754-1821), Master Shipbuilder at the Bombay Docks. His portrait by J. Dorman is part of the Trader’s Gallery collection:

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The diary ‘extract’ is an original piece of fiction, written especially for Yomi Ayeni. There is a possibility it will eventually be included in the greater Clockwork Watch narrative. It was a true pleasure to write. Both the diary and the event it was part of form a great example of Steampunk used as a Classroom.
As part of Steampunk Hands 2015, The Tinku Diaries will be exclusively published to the Steampunk India website at the end of February. Date to be announced.

* http://www.clockworkwatch.com

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Filed under Acting, Comics, Diversity, Events, MultiCulturalism in Steampunk, Steampunk Hands, Steampunk Hands Around The World, Writing

Roger Whitson, PhD. on the 19th Century, Digital Humanities & Steampunk.

2015/01/img_0909.jpg Thanks to Roger Whitson PhD. at Washingon State University for the link to his Third Year Pre-Tenure talk on The 19th Century and Digital Humanities, in which some of my fellow Steampunks and Steampunk India are featured:

2015/01/img_0908.png (Extract). “[Slide 13] ….I contrast this sense of technology and empire, which sees Western society as the center of the world communicating to its margins with the rise of multicultural steampunk – which fractures the Britishness of steampunk and searches for historical alternatives. This is what I call a digital appropriation of Victorian elements that are manipulated into different cultural histories. On the left is Suna Dasi, who says on her website “as a steampunk afficiando, I found myself wishing for more roles occupied by Victorian women in the steampunk fiction I was reading: women who were less hampered by the framework of the society damsel. Being of Indian heritage sparked the desire to see Indian women break out of their mother of pearl cages and into steampunk adventures.” Several steampunk designers look to different historical frames when imagining technology. The top right is an illustration taken from descriptions of submarines in the Shakuna Vimana (a 1700 BCE Sanskrit manuscript that imagines magical flying machines that decimate enemy cities). Indian steampunk is taking inspiration from these sources. On the bottom right is the Asian steampunk designer James Ng, whose exhibited his blueprints for Chinese steampunk airships at numerous different conventions and art exhibitions.” The full transcipt of talk and slides can be found at http://www.rogerwhitson.net.

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Steampunk Hands Around the World 2015 – Thoughts on this year’s theme, by Suna Dasi

The time is upon us again. The time to give a show of Hands and make a global statement for Steampunk everywhere. To celebrate and enjoy all its different forms, expressions and cultural interpretations.
Last year saw the birth of this new initiative by Kevin D. Steil and the central theme revolved around Friendship and Community.
This year’s theme is Steampunk: Our Playground, Our Classroom, Our Workshop.

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(Image from http://www.logicmgnt.com)

Steampunk India is happy to be a participant again this year and will contribute through releasing exclusive fiction during February.
It was written for The Clockwork Watch Transmedia project as part of The National Maritime Museum’s celebration of the Longitude Act, thereby perfectly combining the whimsy of Steampunk, its historically overlapping points with Maritime and East India Company history and presenting this to the public through interactive events and exhibitions.

For details, follow the Airship Ambassador’s blog, which will be the hub for announcements of activities, events and participants.
All aboard the Dirigible of Diversity, break those boundaries and catch that horizon!

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https://airshipambassador.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/announce-hands-2015/#comment-3561

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Comic Crossover from Broadsword creators featuring Steampunk India!

It has been some time in the making but it is here at last: Comic artists Jim Balent and Holly Golightly’s comic Crossover collaboration, featuring a merge of the well known characters of Tarot: Witch of The Black Rose and School Bites comics…

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To generate an environment in which all characters meet, they used a trope very much at home in Steampunk: time travel.

And here is where Steampunk India gets a feature: the time machine is piloted by Indian mechanic Soona Day (a version of Steampunk India’s Suna Dasi).

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In in spite of her engineering skills, the machine malfunctions and its passengers find themselves in a hairy – or perhaps one should say scaly? – situation in another dimension.

Suna Dasi: “I am thrilled with the Crossover comic and the manner in which Jim Balent and Holly GoLightly have made room for yet another diverse, strong female character of colour in amongst the regular faces! I very much look forward to see where the narrative takes the characters next.
The artists have been extremely generous with their characterisation and I am tickled to the highest degree that Steampunk India has become a (minor) part of the Broadsword canon.”

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The first section of the Crossover comic is available on

http://www.bscdigital.com

The comic is part of the Tarot: Witch of The Black Rose Reading Library as Tarot#90.

Related links:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Balent
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holly_Golightly_(comics)
https://www.facebook.com/broadswordcomics
http://www.steampunkindia.com
http://www.facebook.com/SteampunkIndia

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Bollywood Style Fiction Giveaway With Susan Kaye Quinn and Sonali Devi

Two authors writing diverse fiction have teamed together for an excellent Giveaway. Below they explain in their own words the whys and wherefores of their writing.

“Sonali Dev and Susan Kaye Quinn met in a most unusual place: Library Journal’s Top 10 E-Romance List for 2014. Sonali’s A Bollywood Affair and Susan’s Third Daughter both made the list with their Bollywood-themed romances – something that was so cool, it cried out to be celebrated!

2015/01/img_0823.jpgA BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR by Sonali Dev

Synopsis:
Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.

Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.

THIRD DAUGHTER (The Dharian Affairs #1) by Susan Kaye Quinn

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The Third Daughter of the Queen wants to her birthday to arrive so she’ll be free to marry for love, but rumors of a new flying weapon may force her to accept a barbarian prince’s proposal for a peace-brokering marriage. Desperate to marry the charming courtesan she loves, Aniri agrees to the prince’s proposal as a subterfuge in order to spy on him, find the weapon, and hopefully avoid both war and an arranged marriage to a man she does not love.

Third Daughter is the first book in the Dharian Affairs Trilogy (Third Daughter, Second Daughter, First Daughter). This steampunk-goes-to-Bollywood (Bollypunk!) romance takes place in an east-indian-flavored alternate world filled with skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue. And, of course, kissing.

~*~

ROMANCE AND INTRIGUE: BOLLYWOOD STYLE

This short Q&A with Sonali and Susan talks about marrying for love and writing romance!

Q: Marrying for love is a modern, and in some ways Western, concept, but arranged marriages have a long and complicated history. How does your novel tackle the subject of arranged marriage?

Sue: Third Daughter is set in a fantasy world, but it’s a blend of cultures in the real one, including being an analog to India (both current day and some of the past). In the Dharian Affairs world, royal marriages have a history of being arranged for political purposes, but the general population of the countries marry for love. This leaves the titular Daughters with varying conflicts between marrying for duty and marrying for love – some embracing their arranged marriages, some fighting against it. The marriage dynamics of the three daughters in the trilogy (Third Daughter, Second Daughter, First Daughter) drive much of the story – along with political intrigue and skyships, of course!

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Sonali: In India where I grew up arranged marriages are still very much a part of the fabric of the culture. Having said that, one of the most interesting and unique things about Indian society is how diverse it is within itself. While you still have communities and families who will give the marrying person absolutely no say in whom they marry there are those who don’t believe their parents and families have any say when it comes to whom they choose to marry or live with, and then there is the rest of the sizable population who falls somewhere between those two belief systems. In A Bollywood Affair, Mili is from a tiny village from a very orthodox family and it is perfectly natural that her family would arrange her marriage. She would expect that. It wouldn’t even strike a girl from her background that she could choose for herself. The age at which she was married isn’t usual, though, but there is a reason why her grandmother gets her married that young. As for her being in love with her husband, again, the conditioning to be devoted to your husband is so ingrained in the culture that it would be strange if someone like Mili didn’t love someone she believed was her husband.

Q: Whether set in a fantasy world or the modern one, romance is romance! There are many romance tropes – star-crossed lovers, lovers thrown together by circumstance, enemies turned lovers – what kind(s) of romance tropes does your novel contain?

Sue: My books are really a blend of romance and adventure, although the first book is a classic “lovers thrown together by circumstance” as Aniri (the Third Daughter) goes undercover in accepting a marriage proposal from the barbarian prince in the north in order to spy on him and determine if his country truly has the rumored flying machine that would upend the political dynamics in both their countries.

(Example of a Steampunk flying machine, artwork by Chanmeleon)

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Sonali: Although I didn’t set out to write it that way, several readers have pointed out that A Bollywood Affair is a Worldly Rake and an Ingenue Virgin trope. And now that I think about it, there’s truth to that.

Q: Are you planning on writing more romances in this story-world? If so, tell us about it!

Sue: The Dharian Affairs trilogy is complete, but I’ve enjoyed writing in this east-Indian steampunk fantasy romance world so much, I’ve decided to do a follow-on trilogy from the point of view of a new character—a female tinker who has a grand invention that may change the world, but also is caught between the spy she might love and the spy she can’t resist. Those books likely won’t be written for a year or two, but I will cycle back to writing in this world in the future!

Sonali: The Bollywood Bride comes out next year and it’s the story of a Bollywood star who comes home to Chicago after ten years to escape a scandal in Mumbai and comes face to face with the man she betrayed for stardom. And then there are two more stories I’m working on in the same series. Which isn’t a series in terms of continuity or overlapping characters but because the stories are set in the same world and either the hero or the heroine work in Bollywood.”

WIN BOLLYWOOD PRIZES

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Paperback of Third Daughter (The Dharian Affairs #1)
The Dharian Affairs Trilogy in Ebook
2 Paperback copies of A Bollywood Affair
Handwoven Pashmina shawl from India
Sticker Henna Tattoos
Indian bangles (bracelets)
(all physical prizes are US ONLY; ebook is INTERNATIONAL)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Clocking Off Late: A photo impression from the event.

An impression of the 13th of November’s Clocking off Late Presents: The Tinku Diaries, a collaboration between The National Maritime Museum Greenwich (Katherine McAlpine, Richard Dunn), Clockwork Watch: The Transmedia Experience (Yomi Ayeni) and Steampunk India (Suna Dasi as Tinku Ranbir).

Here we see Tinku at her business, welcoming visitors to the East India Trade Gallery and answering individual questions from members of the public.
Her trusty assistant Thomas (played by Phillip Whiteman) is ever by her side, or hovering near in case he is needed.

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The Clockwork Watch London Gazette Latest

A background article for the Clocking Off Late Nighttime Event at The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich on the 13th of November.

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Tickets at http://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/events/clocking-off-late

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