Science fiction and fantasy writer Nisi Shawl is best known for her short stories, such as the ones contained in Tiptree award winning Filter House. But Shawl’s recently turned her attention to steampunk and is currently working on a steampunk novel, Everfair, set in the Belgian Congo.
She says of it, “Everfair was a dare I gave myself. In 2009 I attended World Fantasy and was assigned to appear on the ‘Why Steampunk Now?’ panel with Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Michael Swanwick, Liz Gorinsky, and Deborah Biancotti. Which got me wondering how come I didn’t much care for the stuff. I’ve loved reading early British fiction for decades, and old metal implements get me all moist, so steampunk ought to have been my speculative subgenre of choice, right? But the pro-colonialism, the implicit—and sometimes explicit—backing of Britain’s Victorian Empire? That, I simply could not stomach. Though I searched, I found very few examples of what Doselle Young calls ‘cotton gin punk,’ but the intersection of people of color and industrial technology seemed a natural one to me. So during the panel, after pointing out some ways to make the subgenre more inclusive, I announced to everyone in the room that I was going to write a steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo. Swanwick rolled his eyes and grimaced, whereupon I added ‘and I will make you beg to read it!’