In lieu of the usual monthly tea, Geek Bar will be hosting a party for steampunk author Alyson Grauer. On the Isle of Sound and Wonder, released by Xchyler Publishing, reimagines Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The party will feature a signing, a Q&A and a costume contest. It will be held at Geek Bar Beta on Saturday, November 7, from 3 to 6 pm.
Grauer served in the commedia dell’arte troupe “At Your Service” at the Bristol Renaissance Faire and hosted the nerd-themed Plan 9 Burlesque as Aly Oops. She graciously took the time to answer a few questions.
I know several people who segued from Ren Faire to steampunk. It seems like this may have been your route. Can you enlighten me about the transition?
Interestingly, it was more simultaneous than transitional. I joined the Bristol Ren Faire cast in 2012, just after I first got into steampunk as a literary genre and aesthetic. I attended Teslacon in Madison, WI in 2011 after several months of reading fantastic steampunk lit. And I was hooked! In fact, I’m now on the cast at Teslacon, too. I play a time traveler named Totes McCoates.
There’s something so fun and engaging about Ren Faire culture – as a patron, you basically time travel to the Renaissance and party with larger than life characters and historical (or semi-historical figures, or fantastical figures) in a fun, festive setting. Teslacon taps into that a little bit with immersion and a storyline. Folks in the steampunk fandom love details and love dressing up. There is so much freedom to be whom you want and look how you want and explore those concepts in your costume, your persona, even your taste in music and art. I find it all fascinating and really fun.
You have adapted Shakespeare’s The Tempest for On the Isle of Sound and Wonder and Frankenstein for the short story Lavenza, or the Modern Galatea. What do you look for in a classic tale to bring out a steampunk twist?
Well, I don’t want to make a habit out of adaptations but it’s what I’ve done so far… I am passionate about Shakespeare and found the challenges of The Tempest lended themselves to a new, steampunk fantasy world. I wanted to give the ideas and thoughts of Tempest their own world to stretch their legs and run around in. And in Lavenza – I love Frankenstein, and Mary Shelley is a complete hero of mine. I love the original novel and the history of that, and knew that I wanted to give Elizabeth Lavenza, Victor Frankenstein’s betrothed, a life of her own within Shelley’s story. A tale within a tale. It exists within and alongside the original novel.
Shakespeare’s Tempest takes place in a magical world. Steampunk, by and large, imagines a world of anachronistic science. How does On the Isle of Sound and Wonder straddle the two?
Sound & Wonder is set in a world like our own, but slightly off to one side from ours. The place names may seem odd but if you say them out loud they may become more familiar. The history of their world is like ours: riddled with war and international conflict. The main difference is that in Sound & Wonder, magic is a known fact. It is revered and feared, but a considerable number of people in the world dabble in it and perform magical feats on a daily basis. Corvina, the midwife, is one such person. For some in this world, magic and science go hand in hand, each enhancing the other. You need science to perform better magic, and vice versa.
Miranda is the only onstage female character in The Tempest. She falls in love and gets married off. Without giving too much away, how does Mira in On the Isle of Sound and Wonder diverge from Shakespeare’s limitations?
Mira is a survivor. She has done everything she possibly can to keep herself alive on the island, and having inherited her father’s brilliant scientific mind, she does pretty well for herself. She is a bit of an engineer, a naturalist, an astronomer, a hunter, a diver, and an architect. She is a little hard and tough – she is vulnerable, so she works overtime to make herself seem invincible. Romance isn’t really a factor, but fascination and curiosity certainly are. She wants to see the whole world, to learn everything.
Your Disney Odyssey posts at dreamstobecome.com follow you playing catch up with Disney films. What has been your most surprising discovery?
Actually, I have seen most of the films I am covering in Disney Odyssey. There are a few that will be new to me but most of then are old favorites of mine.
There have been a good amount of little surprises along the way – the history behind the “package films” of the 1940’s, for example, and the financial crises of Disney throughout those early decades. It’s also occasionally surprising to learn which films flopped at the box office – not always the ones you’d expect! I love learning all the little stuff that went into the films. It’s fascinating to look at the building of the Disney pantheon piece by piece.
What role does the ukulele play in your performing life?
My ukulele started as a challenge to myself after college – learn a musical instrument that I enjoyed playing. So I did! It’s silly and sweet and a little melancholy, and it makes people smile. I used it heavily at the Ren Faire in At Your Service – we wrote little jingles and earworm songs for our commedia shows. I have used it at Plan 9 as well, so I guess you could say that I definitely owe my uke a lot of thanks for boosting my performance experience!
Bonus question: When’s the wedding?
November 28! It’s going to be a heckuva party – we’ve invited our guests to come dressed in whatever era or time period they like. A time traveler-wedding, if you will.
Visit Alyson Grauer at http://dreamstobecome.com.
Geek Bar Beta is located at 1941 W North Ave, Chicago, IL.