Steampunk is indeed multicultural. I had the chance to explore a slice of the Spanish side of the genre, through a conversation with Marian Womack, a writer, a prolific translator and the founder of small press Ediciones Nevsky, in Madrid. Marian has just released The Best of Spanish Steampunk, a collection of Spanish steampunk short stories recently released. Joining us, is writer Joseph Remesar, one of the author of the collection.
FB: The Best of Spanish Steampunk encompasses voices from the Spanish speaking world at large. What was the reasoning behind this choice?
MW: Thank you for asking this question, as in fact we would have liked to have many more writers from Latin America. It was an open call for submissions, but we received very few contributions from outside of Spain. Perhaps it was our fault, a problem of communication and spreading the word… In any case, the idea behind the project was to showcase Steampunk written in Spanish, from all over the world. Steampunk communities around the world are in touch through new technologies, and are very active in keeping lines of communication open. It makes no sense right now to circumscribe ourselves to one country. Instead of one country, one language was the raison d’être.
FB: What can you tell us about the Steampunk scene in Spain? Is it there to stay, or just a trend?
MW: The scene is alive and well! We are going through what seems a flourishing period, with very active associations, like Steampunk Madrid, who were recently featured in a cultural programme on state television; well-established cons, like the one in Barcelona; and even cultural commentators like Elizabeth Roselló, who theorises the rise of the movement in the Spanish context. Not a trend! Definitely here for the long term! I think that Steampunk is also a genre which embeds itself in a society quite firmly: it has so many aspects, from maker culture to literature itself, and they are all mutually reinforcing.
FB: Joseph, as one of the featured authors in the anthology, can you tell us more about your own personal experience with Steampunk?
JR: I have been living in London for seven years. I was born in South American in the 1960s and spent my childhood travelling. It is precisely because of this that I developed an interest in fantasy literature, especially that of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Mark Twain and Henry James. Obviously, I find the city of London and the Victorian age a rich source of fascination and interest. Steampunk is everywhere here, in the Tube, in the train stations, in the infrastructure, even in the fashion.
In 2013, I published “El Dirigible” (The Airship) in Spain, which is a steampunk novel based on an alternative London with a Latino Scotland Yard Inspector as the main character. Next year I collaborated with others steampunk Anthologies as “Crónicas de Tinieblas” (Sportula) and Retrofuturismo (The Best of Spanish Steampunk) published by Marian.
In this time, I developed a personal relationship with K.W. Jeter and his wonderful wife Geri, both had been in London, which help me to understand that what was originally a genre has today become a movement that encompasses much more than books.
I am working now on a sequel novel, “El Sumergible” (The Watercraft), that it will be published this autumn. I think that steampunk is my genre.
FB: The anthology has received very good reviews in the Spanish press. Has this had an impact on your future literary projects, perhaps?
JR: Great impact. My short-story “Prey´s Moon” is a spin-off of my steampunk novel. A starting point because I would like to be published in UK and USA. For me, Steampunk is the hottest SciFi counterculture, and it is ready for multiculturalist. This anthology is just the beginning of my road as a writer outside Spain. Barcelona won the bid to host the 2016 Eurocon Science Fiction Convention and my Machiavellian plan is be there with my very best. Be published in English is a priority.
FB: Marian, The Best of Spanish Steampunk is only one of the many projects realised by your indie press, Nevsky Prospects. I understand that you are very much a cultural exchange between countries. Can you tell us more about your raison d’être?
MW: We started out translating Russian books into Spanish, and the immediate impressions one might have of Russian literature, all the heaviousity you imagine when you think about Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, were things that we wanted to fight against right from the start; a part of this idea is shown by the fact that in our first year of existence we published two Soviet Martian science-fiction novels. Basically, from the beginning we have tried to “normalise” genre literature, take it out of its occasionally self-imposed ghetto, and introduce it into the mainstream. There are only good and bad books; there are no other labels that really matter. Since then we have expanded a little bit in the languages we publish, but our aims remain the same, we have published authors ranging from Booker-prize winning novelists to nineteenth-century travel writers, satire and social realism, memoir and weird fiction. And, you know, Steampunk.
FB: What’s in the future of Nevsky Prospects?
MW: We want to expand. We want to publish more Spanish authors, and are about to open our very first general call for submissions. We are also interested in starting up a line of books in English, showcasing the best Spanish slipstream writing. But we will also remain true to our roots: we have a number of interesting Russian books coming out in the next few months, including more work by Anna Starobinets, one of the best sci-fi writers we have been privileged to get to know. I think that you have to keep on looking for ways to innovate, to cross borders and boundaries and give people things that they don’t yet know they want but which will soon become indispensable to them.
FB: Thank you very much to both of you for speaking to us!