The evolution from Sussex Steampunk Tales to Sussex SMUGGLEPUNK


From Sussex Steampunk Tales to Sussex SMUGGLEPUNK

Time Flight Chronicles book 1: AMSTER DAMNED follows the adventures of Private Investigator Alice Kittyhawk in her attempts to locate missing botanist Dr Braxton Beesworth. She soon discovers that the shady world of temporal displacement is full of pleasant and unpleasant surprises. 

The next planned book in the series: BRIGHTONESQUE posed a problem in that Alice grew up in Brighton & nearby Rottingdean and as such would have a massive backstory there. This led to the decision to explore her younger years first to establish her roots.

We first meet Alice when she's six, seen through the eyes of Yard Pilkin, a clerk and poet from London adjusting to a new life on the Sussex coast. Alice is nine when the novella ROTTINGDEAN RHYME ends.

(background image here by Lee Roberts CC by 20)

The next novella, THEM THAT ASK NO QUESTIONS,  reveals that eleven-year-old Alice now lives in the Brighton slums and relates her struggle for survival in this harsh new environment, this time from her perspective. Crucially, she hints at wanting to become a smuggler's apprentice for the Rottingdean Free Traders.

Short stories are a great way to do a bit of world building. I was lucky enough to receive numerous invitations to participate in anthologies, and this allowed me to expand on what someone recently called the Visserverse. Jewels From the Deep is told from the perspective of a London criminal, but features Yard Pilkin, Alice Kittyhawk, and her friend Lottie Carnell. The Skirring Dutchman is told from the perspective of a young midshipman. Alice makes a very brief, and unnamed, appearance.  A similar brief unnamed appearance takes place in Nemesis.

Deception by the Sea is told from the perspective of Ernest Willoughby, the Chief Constable of Brighton encountered in the short story Limbs and the novella THEM THAT ASK NO QUESTIONS. Alice is referred to and takes part in the story behind the scenes, not appearing directly. Lottie, on the other hand, does. Lottie also features as main character in a story not depicted here entitled The Oval Sky Room. The short story Sea Voyage on Wheels is told from the perspective of Alice, and features many characters from the other stories. It links in with the main storylines of the Visserverse, but is simultaneously aimed at a younger audience.

FAIR NIGHT FOR FOUL FOLK was intended to be another novella, but developed into a novel. The first chapter can now be read on this website. The story sees Alice spreading her wings beyond Rottingdean and Brighton, to explore Hastings and Rye (Sinneport), as well as Pevensey and Alfriston.

WAGES OF SIN is a short story that takes place during FAIR NIGHT FOR FOUL FOLK, but from the perspective of a secondary character in Sinneport (Rye), allowing for an in-depth exploration of the Mairemaid Inn in Sinneport, as well as the characters of Tess Hawkhurst, Nell Hawkhurst, and the infamous smuggler chief Scylla the Mairemaid. This story was much influenced by Russell Thorndike's Dr Syn.

As Fair Night for Foul Folk & Wages of Sin developed, several things became clear. Although I had so far categorized the tales as 'Steampunk' the Steampunk aspects in the stories played second fiddle to the smuggling lore Sussex & Kent are rich in and which I was stealing in large quantities, as well as regional Sussex identity, language, and culture. Hence 'Smugglepunk' in order to acknowledge these important ingredients. Secondly, as I was visiting locations in and around Hastings and Rye, I was absolutely delighted with the potential these places had as setting - based both on their historical smuggling roots as well as the legacy of authors such as John Ryan and Russell Thorndike. Taking Ryan's 'Sinkport', and Thorndike's 'Dr Syn', the town of 'Sinneport' was born, and where better to turn to next than the (in)famous Mermaid Inn where members of the Hawkhurst gang once caroused with their weapons openly on the taproom tables? 

I didn't think they'd say 'yes', but both Rye Museum - which runs the 13th century Ypres Tower, and the owner of the Mermaid Inn responded enthusiastically to my request to invade their premises with a small army of pirates, smugglers, privateers, free-booters, and steampunks (as well as photographers). The resulting two day photo shoot is still yielding new treasure daily, and I've barely had a chance to digest it all, other than that it certainly supports the launch of Smugglepunk as sub-genre of Steampunk, as well as offering new inspiration to further expand Visserverse. And so it continues to grow.