So today is the first of the Valves & Vixens inspiration posts. Today I have the great joy of welcoming Crysta K Coburn to my blog. Her story is the second in the anthology and in terms of heat levels the sweetest. Now I love steampunk but I adore it when stories aren't set in the 'traditional' places. The Waiting Future is just one of these stories but I will let Crysta talk about it herself in far better words than I could ever do!
The Waiting Future
By Crysta K Coburn
Blurb: Meiji era Japan (late 1868 to mid-1912 by Western reckoning) was a time of rapid modernisation that many people resisted. The future had arrived, however, and waited for any brave enough to seek it
I can't say where it started, but I have been in love with Japan for most of my life. (I earned a bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies with an emphasis on Japan, minored in Japanese, and spent the summer of 2003 in a Japanese study abroad program in Shiga Prefecture.) It's a country with a long, twisting history of pride, battle, triumph, defeat, always trying to stay ahead and on top of the game while simultaneously pursuing paths of peace, beauty, and elevating nearly every aspect of life to a form of art. Japan is dazzling!
The joy I find in steampunk has come to me much more recently. I've always loved fantasy and history both, and steampunk is a beautifully creative marriage of the two. What has sort of annoyed me about it, though, is that so much steampunk revolves around the same era and location in history: Victorian England. (One could even narrow it further to the city of London.) But the world is vast with thousands of cultures and ages of history, and the end of the 1800s in Japan, the Meiji era, is practically real-life, historical steampunk. Men in kimono with guns and top hats; women in dresses and corsets that they don't totally understand and are wearing improperly (Russia is also guilty of this). Why was no one touching this?
I am not a seamstress, though I have made a few costumes in my time. My art is writing, so naturally, writing is how I chose to contribute to the genre of steampunk which I enjoy so much. When I sat down to pen my own steampunk story, I didn't really know anything about Victorian England or London, then or now. Aside from a surprisingly lovely four hour layover in Heathrow, I've never been to England. So I went with what I do know, and that is Japan.
Having an unusual setting isn't enough to carry a story, though. I wanted unique characters. I chose for my heroine to have albinism for a few different reasons. First, you don't see many main characters with albinism, and I think that should change. Second, pale skin is prized in Japan, sometimes to the point of illness due to vitamin deficiency. Third, this is a time when Japan was essentially emulating Western Europe, specifically England. A person with white hair and blue eyes is going to be extra alluring to someone who is already enamored with Western people and culture. Albinism doesn't define Yuki, and it isn't the sole reason Fukui is attracted to her, but there is definitely an influence there on both of them, and I think it's an interesting element to throw into the mix.
I really enjoyed the time I spent immersed in old world Japan, and I hope to revisit it soon.