I stumbled upon the retrofuturistic genre known as dieselpunk while searching for a fresh idea for Nanowrimo 2014. I’d always enjoyed steampunk, but I wanted to try something a little more obscure. Needless to say, I’m always drawn to the road less traveled when it comes to my writing and art.
I discovered the gritty and alluring world of diesel soon enough, and let’s just say that the Nano project I’d intended to be a standalone, quickly-completed novella spawned into the largest and most momentous project of my creative life thus far–the series in progress I’ve titled collectively as “The Family Of Earth”.
This quaint title actually hails from a direct quote in the first completed novel in the bunch, “Perfect World Somewhere”. During a legal interrogation, a ten-year-old boy named Clarence Fairpoole is asked to explain why his people still resist, refusing to surrender to the enemy forces of the Kaezer. His answer is matter-of-fact, and childishly simple: “It’s just how things are. I like the way my mother explained it. She said that we’re all a family, the family of Earth. Sometimes, families fight. But everyone’s connected to each other, no matter what.” I felt this quote summed up the theme and feel of the entire project, and thus the name stuck.
It all began from complete scratch in November 2014. After choosing dieselpunk as the genre, I next looked at ideas for the setting. Dieselpunk is a rather broad and encompassing topic, but in general it involves blending elements of science fiction and futuristic perspectives with historical themes and settings, specifically the early decades of the twentieth century. Most devoted Dieselheads consider the relevant time period to be between the latter part of World War 1, near the development of the diesel engine, and ending at the Atomic Age in the 1950s. I’ve always loved the Jazz Age of the 1920s, and the more glamorous side of the 1930s, so I chose these decades as the historical sources for my story. This turns out to be the age of art deco, which has always intrigued me as well.
For the futuristic bit, I drew upon the whimsical technology ideas so popular in steampunk, and projected what this might evolve into when applied to the realm of flappers and speakeasies. Vintage sci-fi classics like the silent film Metropolis, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, The Rocketeer, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow provided amusing and exciting references for what people at the time thought the future would be like. I captured the look and feel I wanted from these, then applied the same fantastical notion which steampunk does–in that the technology is mostly impossible in reality. But in this imaginary universe, it works. Just because. A little SF/fantasy/suspension of disbelief is all it took. I wanted to expand into the more space opera side of things, rather than the usual pulp and military fare of most existing dieselpunk material. And with that, the world of my ‘decopunk’ story was born.
The usual advice for authors is to ‘write what you know’. Well, it so happens that I know the hospitality industry really damn well, having worked in it over a decade. Specifically, I work in the hotel business. I thought long and hard about it, and it hit me…why not write about a hotel in space? An orbital facility of unequaled style and luxury, bearing the look and feel of the posh grand hotels of yesteryear, such as the famous Plaza Hotel in New York. It so happens that I presently work in a historic hotel which was built in 1914, and was at its heyday in the 1920s. This provided more inspiration. The Royal Crown Orbital Plaza and Resort came to be, with a little help from my day job.
The setting became more specialized when I began brainstorming character ideas. The classic role of the elevator operator popped into my mind. “Going up, sir? Or going down?” Lo and behold, I hit upon the idea of a space elevator, which would carry guests between Earth and the orbital hotel. Space elevators are a plausible yet currently unrealized type of theoretical transport. Of course, this is a ‘punk’ universe, and if I want it to work, it can. Five gem-themed space elevators, each a swanky miniature version of the hotel itself, grew out of this development. The largest of these I decided would be the Ruby, and soon I began referring to it as the Ruby lift. Pleased with the result, I chose to base most of the story aboard it, as it would be a more contained environment than the immense structure of the Royal Crown itself.
While I was bouncing ideas off of my husband, I came up with a catchy phrase–“Ruby Descent”. He loved it, and persuaded me to use it as the title. The rest is future-history.