Tag Archive for Steampunk

“The Beacon and the Coward” is Published by Apex magazine (@apexmag)! Now for the real #history

I’m very proud to announce that my short story, “The Beacon and the Coward” is up at Apex Magazine: http://www.apex-magazine.com/the-beacon-and-the-coward/

This is a post-Civil War steampunk story loosely based on the first all-Black lifesaving station on Pea Island in the Carolinas, and of their most famous rescue. I have so much respect for these men of the Revenue Cutter Service (now the United States Coast Guard) and for what they accomplished. The original story is one of those tales where writers would have a difficult time retelling it because it was so amazing, no one would believe it. Truth IS stranger (and in this case, I think better) than fiction.  Read the fiction; read the ACTUAL history below.

Pea Island Station and her crew. Keeper Etheridge is on the far left.

Pea Island Station and her crew. Keeper Etheridge is on the far left.


Captain Richard Etheridge became the first African-American to command a Life-Saving station when the Service appointed him as the keeper of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station in North Carolina in 1880. The Revenue Cutter Service officer who recommended his appointment, First Lieutenant Charles F. Shoemaker, noted that Etheridge was “one of the best surfmen on this part of the coast of North Carolina.” Soon after Etheridge’s appointment, the station burned down. Determined to execute his duties with expert commitment, Etheridge supervised the construction of a new station on the original site. He also developed rigorous lifesaving drills that enabled his crew to tackle all lifesaving tasks. His station earned the reputation of “one of the tautest on the Carolina Coast,” with its keeper well-known as one of the most courageous and ingenious lifesavers in the Service.

On 11 October 1896, Etheridge’s rigorous training drills proved to be invaluable. The three-masted schooner, the E.S. Newman, was caught in a terrifying storm.  En route from Providence, Rhode Island to Norfolk, Virginia, the vessel was blown 100 miles south off course and came ashore on the beach two miles south of the Pea Island station.  The storm was so severe that Etheridge had suspended normal beach patrols that day.  But the alert eyes of surfman Theodore Meekins saw the first distress flare and he immediately notified Etheridge.  Etheridge gathered his crew and launched the surfboat.  Battling the strong tide and sweeping currents, the dedicated lifesavers struggled to make their way to a point opposite the schooner, only to find there was no dry land.  The daring, quick-witted Etheridge tied two of his strongest surfmen together and connected them to shore by a long line. They fought their way through the roaring breakers and finally reached the schooner.  The seemingly inexhaustible Pea Island crewmembers journeyed through the perilous waters ten times [emphasis added] and rescued the entire crew of the E.S. Newman.  For this rescue the crew, including Etheridge, were recently awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal by the Coast Guard.

Historian’s Office US Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security

And as an additional snippet of information:

Ellen Gardiner, wife of Newman Captain, Sylvester Gardiner, wrote in her journal years later: “I was tied to the mainmast of the ship with our three-year old son. I was singing to young Thomas, as I wanted the last thing for him to hear was his mother’s voice as we prepared to meet our creator, when from the tumultuous surf came the hand of salvation – the hand of a black man, Theodore Meekins.”

Touch of Love – Filming my Short Story (and yes, I’m super excited)

This week last weekend has been thrilling. We just finished up a two-day shoot for the short film, “Touch of Love.” I wrote the screenplay based on my short story of the same name.  It was first published in Daily Science Fiction in 2012 and then republished in a collection – Ten Tales of Steampunk, edited by Rayne Hall, this year. We set up a Facebook Page so people could stay updated as to the latest news.

It has been a fantastic experience and I am so grateful to have been able to work with some amazing and talented people – Julia Myers, Matt Winterhalter, Russ Allnutt, Jacob Smith, Andrew Mason, Jay Chandlier, N.Renee Brown, Sophia Reaves, and Kaitlyn Whitehead. (And I need to definitely include links so you can find some other examples of the awesome work they’ve done).

Not only was the experience great, but I think the final product will be great, and I learned so so much from these pros. I just don’t have enough superlatives. 🙂 If you get a chance, check out the stills (and other info) here – https://www.facebook.com/TouchofLoveMovie
Photo from the day-of shoot, taken via my poor little iPhone (which died several times from the cold)


Still from the actual footage


Baba Ali Research (Book Secrets): Open Sesame

Sesame PlantNotes from my time writing “Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn” and fun tidbits.

This is definitely a “Book Secret.”  :)  Most people know “Open Sesame” from their own experiences or childhood familiarity with the 1001 Nights (or Arabian Nights) tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. They are the magic words to open the treasure cave.  What is interesting is that those words, as a magical means to open the cave, first appeared in Antoine Galland’s 1700s translation of the 1001 Nights. They didn’t exist in any earlier oral or written variants of the tale.


Baba Ali Research (Book Secrets): Translations of 1001 Nights

Notes from my time writing “Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn” and fun tidbits.

Okay, I saved this in my “Notes” while doing research last year but I cannot find the original source. This is more than a little upsetting considering how awesome the short snippet I saved is. In January, I wrote a “Book Secrets” about which 1001 Nights to read and highlighted that the translations had all come from one of two sources.  What I didn’t get in to was the difference between the translations.

The text below shows a few lines taken from the different translations of 1001 Nights.  It is eye-opening to see the difference, not just in text, but in the context it gives.  I knew the Burton version was misogynistic, racist, and colonialist but I never realized exactly how horrible it was prior to seeing it laid out for me line by damning line.

Arabic original (Calcutta II manuscript):  فلما كان في نصف الليل تذكر حاجة نسيها في قصره فرجع ودخل قصره فوجد زوجته راقدة في فراشها معانقة عبداً أسود من بعض  لعبيد فلما رأى لهذا الأمر أسودت الدنيا في وجهه

Gloss translation of Arabic: ‘When it was in the middle of the night he remembered something he had forgotten in his palace, so he returned and entered his palace finding his wife laying in her bed embracing one of the black slaves, and seeing this, the world became black in his face.’

Edward William Lane (1838-1840): ‘At midnight, however, he remembered that he had left in his palace an article which he should have brought with him; and having returned to the palace to fetch it, he there beheld his wife sleeping in his bed, and attended by a male negro slave, who had fallen asleep by her side. On beholding this scene, the world became black before his eyes.’

John Payne (1882–4): ‘In the middle of the night, it chanced that he bethought him of some-what he had forgotten in his palace; so he returned thither privily and entered his apartments, where he found his wife asleep in his own bed, in the arms of one of his black slaves. When he saw this, the world grew black in his sight …’

Richard Burton (1885-1888): ‘But when the night was half spent he bethought him that he had forgotten in his palace somewhat which he should have brought with him, so he returned privily and entered his apartments, where he found the Queen, his wife, asleep on his own carpet-bed, embracing with both arms a black cook of loathsome aspect and foul with kitchen grease and grime. When he saw this the world waxed black before his sight . . .’ (2001: 5)

“of loathsome aspect and foul with kitchen grease and grime” ???  Where the **** did that come from? One could even have assumed, from the earlier translations, that she was sleeping with the slave because he was a comely youth.  Why would she sleep with someone loathsome and foul?!