Congratulations are in order for longtime Queereka reader H.B. Kurtzwilde, whose novel Chocolatiers of the High Winds has been nominated for a 2013 Lambda Literary Award in the LGBT Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category. We like it when good things happen to our readers! And since Kurtzwilde’s main character is both a dude who likes dudes and an atheist, we thought it would be fun to chat with him a little bit.
Rachel for Queereka: So, about that book of yours.
H.B. Kurtzwilde: Yes?
R: I would be pleased as punch to hear you talk about it a bit!
HBK: Well, it started life as a web series for Circlet Press. I have a history of committing serial fiction, and Cecelia Tan was doing an experiment. It was a book I got to write just for fun, working with an editor I admire. Where’s the down side, right?
R: Cecelia Tan is aces.
HBK: I wanted to just do this adventure story. She just pointed me at my word count and let me do whatever I wanted.
R: Is steampunk your usual stomping ground, fiction-wise?
HBK: Oh, law no. That was a huge risk, when I decided on this project. I wanted to see if I could, but there was a major question. I’d never done it before. Fiction-wise, I’m all over the map. Space opera, cyberpunk, I’ve got a ghost novella coming out later this year, so there’s your paranormal. I did some good old-fashioned bodice rippers, once upon a time. I must live for danger or something. But Cecelia trusted me, so I gave it my best shot.
R: How does your protagonist’s atheism relate to the setting you chose for your story?
HBK: Well, it’s an alternate history, so Mayport Titus grew up in a New Amsterdam that was retained as a colony by the Dutch. These kinds of ideas are just lying around, that maybe God isn’t there. I think he might have just picked them up, lacking evidence to the contrary. He does hypocritcally attend church, but so does everybody else. For Mayport, atheism is just there, the framework through which he sees strangers and the new cultures he meets. And the old ones he lives in, for that matter.
R: Does he claim ideological kinship with, say, the deism that the Enlightenment produced in the American intellectual sphere? There’s a pretty strong case to be made that a lot of modern agnostics’ philosophical framework looks pretty darn similar to what our illustrious founding fathers handed down.
HBK: I think that’s not far off the mark. There are these themes of not believing, but there’s also this cynical nature to the ways religion can be exploited. I think that’s one of the real dangers that still needs more examination. Of course, being who I happen to be, I have opted to examine it in the format of an adventure novel. It’s certainly one of the dangers our FF’s tried to limit, from the very start.
R: The time when most steampunk is set–the Victorian/Edwardian cusp, as it were–was when the Western cultural conception of “sexual orientation” began to jell. Given that, how does Mayport view his own sexual identity?
HBK: Ha! My solution was to just play fast and loose with the rules. Mayport sees himself as a man of ill repute, with dangerous habits and unusual proclivities. And he’s very proud about all of that, as well as the reptutation for fighting and spending far too many hours alone with his business partner, Joseph Thiervy. It’s certainly indecent, but that’s definitely part of the fun.
R: The Oscar Wilde model, I see.
HBK: Well, as before, where’s the down side? 😀
R: How do other people react to his habits and proclivities?
HBK: It runs the gamut from total acceptance to attempted murder. About average, I’d guess. Then again, I live in the south, so average is as always a relative term.
R: I am familiar with that cultural bias, yes. Do you have any plans to revisit this universe and explore more or different themes? Obviously I am perpetually pulling for more lesbian genre fiction.
HBK: This was written as a stand-alone, but I’ve been wrong about that before. For lesbian fiction, I’m hoping to include some in an upcoming anthology I’ve been invited to edit for Circlet. We’re doing a collection of genre fiction on the them of rock bands to be title Like a Rolling Stone. That’s still months down the pipeline, so all I can say is that my hopes are very high, on that score.
R: I’m excited to pick up the book–where’s it available to your greatest benefit?
HBK: I’m a big fan of supporting ye olde bookseller, ordering through them if you’re going for the print edition. There’s a sale on at Circlet Press if you’re quick.
Q: Good to know, good to know. Thank you for having this lil chat with me! Good luck with the Lambdas 😀
HBK: You’re welcome, and thank you for speaking with me.
H.B. Kurtzwilde is transmale and a hardcore nerd, atheist and happily, legally married to a transfem lady. Before we talked about the book, we talked about his incorrigible affection for the Zerg, and may or may not have discussed the proper term for Stockholm syndrome as pertains to a Starcraft race. He blogs at H.B. Kurtzwilde’s Writing Bunker.
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