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  • Kathryn Hedges

Gloriously Different: A Steampunk Retelling of a Tale from the 1001 Nights


Note: I'm sharing this wonderfully original Steampunk tale here because of the Steampunk roots of Splendid Colors--my company would not exist if I hadn't been recruited to create Steampunk Christmas decor. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


The most popular Steampunk setting is London during the Industrial Era, which can be difficult to separate from that period's historical baggage. though there are many notable exceptions. One exception I just discovered is Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, a Steampunk reimagining of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (with elements of Aladdin and Clever Morgiana). We know immediately this isn't a piece of Victorian Orientalism when it opens with our Muslim protagonist in London dealing with yet another incident of casual prejudice, though too proud of his cultural heritage to assimilate into British culture. Yet instead of following the common "fish out of water" trope, he soon returns to his homeland after the death of his father where the plot takes off as Ali bin-Massoud tries to solve the riddles of his father's legacy while pursued by members of the Forty Thieves. He must use his cultural legacy of both mechanical artificers and magicians to survive and complete his quest.


You can also get the original narrated version of the story via Audible and the updated Kindle e-book too.


Co-author Day Al-Mohamed meticulously researched both the original versions behind the Arabian Nights story we know and the physical setting of the story, as well as incorporating Baba Ali's Muslim values. This gives the novel an immersive depth that is very satisfying to read. The characterizations are fully rounded as well. The seamless integration of magic and mechanical marvels is beautifully done, and the 12th-century Arabic manuscript of inventions has a historical basis. Her blog includes many behind-the-scenes entries on research on everything from airships to authentic stick combat styles (dating back to the Egyptian Empire) but spoilers are unavoidable, so beware if you haven't read the story yet.


This tale is also a fascinating glimpse into a cultural setting unfamiliar to most Americans. If you're interested in exploring Arab folklore before the sequel comes out, here are her recommendations: http://dayalmohamed.com/wordpress/2014/08/06/read-more-arab-folktales/

Authors


Day Al-Mohamed is author of the novel Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn: A Steampunk Faerie Tale, editor of the anthology, Trust & Treachery, and a regular host on Idobi Radio's Geek Girl Riot. Her stories have appeared in Fireside Fiction, Apex Magazine, and GrayHaven Comics. She is a Docs in Progress Fellowship alumna and a graduate of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop.


In addition to fiction, she also works in comics and film. Day's short story, "The Lesser Evil" was nominated for the WSFA Small Press Award for Best Short Fiction of 2015. However, she is most proud of being invited to teach a workshop on storytelling at the White House in February 2016.


A disability policy executive with more than fifteen years of experience, she presents often on the representation of disability in media, most recently for the National Bar Association, at New York Comic Con, and at SXSW. She lives in Washington DC with her wife, N.R. Brown. You can find her online at DayAlMohamed.com and on Twitter @DayAlMohamed.


Award-winning author and editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. In 2014 she joined forces with husband Mike McPhail and friend Greg Schauer to form her own publishing house, eSpec Books (www.especbooks.com).


Her published works include six novels, Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, and Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo collections Eternal Wanderings, A Legacy of Stars, Consigned to the Sea, Flash in the Can, Transcendence, Between Darkness and Light, and the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Gaslight & Grimm, Side of Good/Side of Evil, After Punk, and In an Iron Cage. Her short stories are included in numerous other anthologies and collections.


To learn more about her work, visit www.sidhenadaire.com or www.especbooks.

For a lively (and spoileriffic) book talk by the authors, visit the online Steampunk tea salon of Madame Askew and the Grand Arbiter.

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