Editor and science fiction and fantasy author Brandon Black released his new steampunk anthology Cairo by Gaslight on Tuesday. Black brought together a host of writers and poets from New Orleans and around the US to create this second of his combined steampunk and gaslamp fantasy anthologies. The first, New Orleans by Gaslight, was released in May of 2013.
For those of you wondering what exactly steampunk is, think of H.G. Wells and his time machine, beautifully carved of rich woods and precious metals, or Emmett Brown’s time-travelling flying steam train the from the Back to the Future series. Imagine bustled women in Victorian gowns and men in top hats wearing brocade vests sporting pocket watch chains. Next, think of all those details in an Egyptian landscape where this new book is set.
This new Cairo-themed anthology holds eleven short stories and two poems. The featured short stories were written by the likes of Ellipsis-published author Gary Bourgeois, and horror writer Jay Wilburn, whose work has appeared in Zombies: More Recent Dead alongside that of author Neil Gaiman and who has also been published in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Volume Five. Black himself gives high praise to short-story writer David Ducorbier, calling him a “talented newcomer”. The list of short story writers goes on. The book also features poems by Dionne Cherie and Hope Erica Schultz.
Black pointed out that new Orleans was declared the “Steampunk Capitol of the South” by the Steampunk Tribune. “New Orleans’ local steampunk movement continues to grow,” said Brandon, “gathering both increased numbers of enthusiasts and greater activity. The number of steampunk groups in the Greater New Orleans area has increased dramatically in recent years. Groups like the Adventurers’ League of G.E.A.R.S., Steampunk New Orleans, Steampunk Americans, Louisiana Airship Steam Society, and Louisiana Steampunks demonstrate a thriving, growing culture of steampunks in the New Orleans/Baton Rouge area. And this outgrowth is not limited to just clubs; Black Tome Books’ efforts in publishing steampunk anthologies, Airship Isabella’s live-action performances and New Orleans Steamcog Orchestra’s steampunk-styled music all demonstrate an abiding local love of steampunk culture that is only growing ever brighter.”
When asked why Brandon chose Cairo as the city setting for the second of his steampunk anthology series, he asked that his written Introduction be used as an answer, so, please enjoy this excerpt from the book, Brandon Black’s Introduction to Cairo by Gaslight.
“Let us begin with the matter of why an editor living in New Orleans should commission an anthology of stories set in Cairo, Egypt.
“At thirty degrees North latitude, Cairo is, if not a twin of New Orleans, She is at least a sister city. Like New Orleans, She is a major international port, an exotic destination for travellers from the world over and a cultural centre for all the many varied peoples around Her. She is a hinge, a nexus, a centre for trade and communication connecting Europe and Africa with Judea and Arabia, the Mediterranean and Turkey. If New Orleans is the City of Sensual Delights, then Cairo is the City of Intrigues, although She certainly isn’t any slouch in the sensual delights department Herself. As New Orleans is fed by the winding waters of the Mississippi, the longest river in North America, so is Cairo watered by the sacred flow of the Nile, longest river in the world. And like New Orleans, Cairo is a city called home by many people of varied and different complexions.
“Cairo is a city of minarets and mysteries, of travellers and their tales and of journeys begun and journeys ended. Cairo sings of a fabled past where Pharaohs built magnificent edifices such as the Great Pyramids, unmatched statuary like the Great Sphinx and one of the first advanced civilizations on Earth at a time when Western Europeans had not yet managed the written word. Egyptian civilization was literally made fertile by the Nile, nurtured and nursed by it, its sacred waters providing the agricultural foundation that would lead to empire. And like New Orleans, Cairo is a gate and home to powerful gods and ancient spirits birthed in Mother Africa. Founded with the planet Mars rising, the oldest name for Cairo is Khere-Ohe, “the Place of Combat,” as legend proclaims it the site for a cataclysmic battle between Horus, God of the Sun and Sutekh the Destroyer.”
In his Intro, Black calls the Cairo of his anthology a “different” Cairo. He delves into the fictional city his writers have created, rich in the steam-powered gizmos and Victorian-era stylings of the steampunk genre.
“…This City of a Thousand Minarets dwells in a world where Napoleon led his troops through Her streets mounted on a clockwork steed and the Battle of the Nile was fought between airships. This Cairo is one of an infinite progression of Cairos, all seen through the lens of steampunk fiction. Steampunk makes an ancient and exotic locale all the more ancient, and certainly, all the more exotic. Floating temples drift lazily overhead, exchanging places throughout the city in an architectural ballet. Elaborate palaces filled with untold riches are populated by the rulers of the city, be they Sultans, Ottoman governors, British Lords, Mohammedan caliphs or French airship admirals. This Cairo is not only home and port of call to steamships travelling up and down the Nile’s waters, but her towers are home or at least, a temporary roost, for airships travelling to and from India, Ethiopia, Capetown, Cameroon, Singapore and far Cathay.”
In an anthology format, writers will let their own minds take flight in the creation of a setting and story. Cairo by Gaslight is no exception. This is not just one fictional Cairo, as the editor details in his Introduction.
.”..Among these infinite alternate Cairos are ones where the Khedive of Egypt threw off the yokes of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire to join with the great air pirate tribes of North Africa and turn Cairo in a Mecca for air piracy. Sky smugglers traffic both in the new mechanised wonders of the Age of Steam and in talismans and artefacts of unknown and unfathomable mystic power from antiquity. Other Cairos see a long and bitter cold war between Britain and France turn Egypt into the front line of a European proxy war. Further afield lay Cairos that witness the struggles between Carthage and Rome reach all the way into the nineteenth century.”
The By Gaslight anthology series books are published by Black Tome Books, founded in 2013 by author and editor Brandon Black. Black Tome Books is a small New Orleans press specializing in the production of fantasy and science fiction literature. Black says the ultimate goal for his press is to “work as closely as we can with people in our local literary community to build New Orleans up as a cultural center, not just for the consumption and enjoyment of contemporary speculative literature but one for its creation and development as well, a place where local, emerging authors can find support and meaningful, constructive criticism and begin to grow careers in the arts as creators of poetry and fiction.”
For more information on Cairo by Gaslight, click here.