Gail Carriger is best known for her whimsical steampunk fantasies, specifically the bestselling Parasol Protectorate novels, which have been translated into graphic format, multiple languages and possibly a TV-series. Her latest project, Crudrat, is a departure from her usual Victorian adventure novels, and is a full cast audio production that quickly achieved the funding it needed via Kickstarter. We caught up with her to find out more about this new project.
Starburst: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Gail Carriger: I write very silly steampunk comedy of manners for adults and young adults, with the occasional foray into science fiction.
Tell us about Crudrat.
It is my little baby steps into science fiction and it’s sort of the young adult sci-fi that I wish I had been able to read when I was a young adult. It’s about a girl who’s an outcast on a space station, and in this particular far future they use children for child labour; similar to the way they used children during the Industrial Revolution in English cottons mills. She’s one of these crudrats, a cleaner on a space station. The book begins when she officially grows too big and as a result they’re considering of expelling her from the space station to die.
So she goes on an adventure to save herself and in the process gets involved with various fuzzy aliens and stuff like that.
Why the departure from comedy steampunk to Young Adult focused sci fi?
I love Young Adult literature, it’s my favourite to read, and I also love space opera, as well as hard sci-fi. When I was a kid, it took me a really long time to learn to love science fiction. I felt like there wasn’t an entry for me as a young female reader and so I decided that I would write that book myself. I was also writing the Parasol Protectorate books at the time and that series really took off, so this one got a little bit left behind. I missed it and I wanted to bring it to life and rediscover it. I felt like Kickstarter and an audio book was a really good way to introduce it to people in a manner that I would have loved to have it as a kid. I was a big fan of audio books growing up.
How does your knowledge of history, especially the Victorian era, affect this work?
Quite a bit. A lot of the aspects of the alien culture in Crudrat draws on ancient civilisations. I’m interested in the regression in fashion, so even though this is the far future book, some of the clothing has Victorian influences on it. You picked up on something that I’m only just realising; this book owes a little bit to The Water Babies because of that kind of chimney sweep/outcaste/dirty child discovering themselves vibe to it.
What would you say the central themes of Crudrat are?
I would say it’s a pretty classic young adult book in that it’s a voyage of self discovery about finding your place in the universe. It’s also an exploration of the skills that someone can develop that can then be utilised in a different context, if you think outside of your own world view.
What are your influences?
Probably a lot of the classic tough girl fantasies that I read growing up. Tamara Pierce, for example. I know she’s not all that popular in the UK, but hugely formative on me, because she writes very tough, very smart young women in fantasy settings. I wanted to write a book like that, but science fiction.
Crudrat will be a full cast audio, why does it need to be produced in this format?
I was raised without television so a lot of my childhood was spent listening to audio books. I’ve pretty much listened to books on tape my entire life. Almost everything I write is meant to be read out loud, and I always read my books out loud to myself. I have a strong kind of casual voice that lends itself to audio production. The other reason is that I love the vibrancy of full cast, rather than just one narrator. Not that a single narrator can’t be marvellous, they certainly can, but I think Crudrat lends itself to multiple voices and a musical score. Dan my producer was super excited to go ahead with it.
Where do you see yourself in the steampunk community as it grows?
I think any subculture will, as it gets bigger, naturally faction, that’s just humanity for you. My favourite parts of steampunk are the whimsical aspects and the reinvention of etiquette and politeness, with people being kind to one another. I also love the intellectual salon side of it with people sharing their knowledge and sharing their skills, teaching each other how to make these amazing and ridiculous objects and costumes.
Personally I would love to see that side of steampunk dominate, but I’m not very optimistic about it. I’m fortunate that I only seem to encounter that side of steampunk, though that might be because I’m usually a guest of honour, so I’ve only really seen the best side of it.
If you were stranded on a desert island, and you could only bring one book with you, what would it be?
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
Futurama or The Simpsons?
Tea or Coffee?
Holmes or Watson?
Space Travel or Time Travel?
Truth or Beauty?