Twisting history

If you read steampunk novels, graphic novels, or watch steam-flavored movies (Adele Blanc-Sec, anyone?), you know that the history therein is a mixture of reality, alternate reality, and the neverwas but could-have-been. And that’s why we like it!

Now and again I’ll get reader letters that say how much the person enjoyed the history in my stories … but did I know this or this detail isn’t quite correct, and perhaps I could change it in the next edition? Which produces a moment of doubt on my part—that little voice that wonders, You know this isn’t real, right? That Prince Albert actually died in 1861, even though he’s dancing with the Queen in Devices Brightly Shining in 1894. That while the Dunsmuirs were a real family, there wasn’t an earl among them named John, and the real John didn’t marry a First Nations princess. I have simply twisted history in order to create a world that seems real.

Craigdarroch Castle photographed by Shelley Adina
Craigdarroch Castle photographed by Shelley Adina

One could, of course, make up the whole thing. But doesn’t it invite you in a little deeper if you vaguely remember there were Dunsmuirs in Canada during the late 1800s, happily being mining and forestry barons and building lovely castles in the young capital of Victoria? Did you know that one of their castles, Hatley Park, has been used as a movie set numerous times, most notably as the school for young mutants in the X-Men movies? It gave me quite a start to see a place I recognized in that alternate world, too. I’m clearly not the only one who does this! So naturally, young Weepin’ Willie’s titles—I beg his pardon, Lord Wilberforce Albert John Dunsmuir—are Viscount Hatley and Baron Craigdarroch, both the names of actual castles built by the real family. (This photo is of Craigdarroch Castle, which I used on the cover of A Lady of Resources.)

A party

For more on twisting history and building a world that is almost reality, and should you tire of watching certain political events, I invite you to join us on Friday, January 20, for “What Was and What If,” a party on Facebook! History will meet fantasy and readers will meet authors, including me. Join us as we talk about our favorite historical fantasy books, chat, play games, win prizes, and have fun!


Facebook Event:


Friday, January 20th, 6-11pm EST – I’ll be in the gas lamp’s spotlight at 8:30 EST

Saturday, January 21st, 9-12pm EST


How about this lineup?

  • A. W. Exley, author of the steampunk Artifact Hunters series and Serenity House, a series of Edwardian fairy tale retellings.
  • Melissa McShane, author of The Extraordinaries series, featuring Regency mages.
  • Anne Renwick, author of the steampunk Elemental Web Chronicles.
  • Charlotte English, author of The Tales of Aylfenhame, Regency romances that blend fantasy and fairy tale.
  • Jacqueline Garlick, author of the steampunk Illumination Paradox series set in an alternate-history England.
  • Elliot Baker, author of an upcoming historical fantasy set in 17th century Europe and Africa.
  • Nicole Zoltack, author of time travel romances.
  • Shelley Adina, author of the steampunk Magnificent Devices series
  • Jamaila Brinkley, author of Regency historical fantasy romances.
  • Bec McMaster, author of Victorian and steampunk series such as the Dark Arts and London Steampunk books
  • Laura VanArendonk Baugh, author of Japanese historical fantasy, the Kitsune Tales series
  • D.R. Perry, author of Prohibition-Era paranormal fantasy
  • K. Bird Lincoln, author of Japanese historical fantasy

We look forward to your company!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *