1. First off, how about an introduction to Steampunk, for those who may not already be aware?
One of the exciting things, to me, about Steampunk is that it is not easy to define and even those who are "into" Steampunk don’t always agree. Most agree that it began as a literary style that blended the Victorian-era with science fiction. I see its roots in Victorian science fiction, think Jules Verne or H. G. Wells. One modern work that is often cited as an example of contemporary Steampunk is The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. A more recent one is Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. The genre is expanding, though, from strictly science fiction to include fantasy and paranormal. One of my favorite examples of this is the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, which includes vampires and werewolves. While traditionally set in Victorian London, Steampunk settings are now sweeping across the Atlantic and including the U.S., particularly the Wild West.
Steampunk is also an aestetic that marries bustles, corsets, and top hats with leather, buckles, and high tech weapons. My favorite way to introduce people to Steampunk is to tell them to enter "steampunk" into Google Image search. A picture is worth a thousand words, and doing this will give people a very quick idea of Steampunk.
There is so much more…for those interested, a little searching on the Internet will yield podcasts, blogs, stores, and Conventions.
2. Steampunk, as a genre, has been gaining momentum in recent years. What inspired you to do a Tarot deck based on Steampunk?
Steampunk is a beautiful match for tarot. One thing that is so attractive about Steampunk is that it is not strict history. The Victorian era was filled with things that many of us don't desire, such as colonialism, racism, and anti-feminism. Yet, it also had a sense of empowerment, discovery, and possibility. There was hope and optimism regarding the future. In the setting of Steampunk worlds, we can change the past (in a way) by focusing on the positives and playing "what if?" Tarot readings are very similar. We start with our life as it is and use the cards to explore "what if?" We find ways to accentuate the positives in our live, overcome challenges, and change negatives…or at the very least, find creative ways to cope with what we, perhaps, cannot change.
3. The art for The Steampunk Tarot is breathtakingly beautiful, designed by Aly Fell. How did the two of you begin your collaboration?
While I was working on the card descriptions, I started looking at artists’ portfolios online. My main concern wasn’t a specific style at this point, as I wasn’t sure what would be best. Mostly I was looking for artists that had an affinity for the Steampunk aesthetic and hoping I fell in love with one. I looked for several months and was beginning to despair of finding the perfect match. Then I saw Aly’s "Judith" (which later became our Queen of Cups and cover for the kit box) and loved it immediately. I looked at his portfolio and liked what I saw. So I wrote to him. I can only imagine what he thought of some strange woman writing to ask him to illustrate a tarot deck. Luckily he liked the idea and agreed. He was my first choice, and it sure seems like it was fate that we work together.
I sent him the descriptions, which he used to make sketches. He sent the sketches to me, which I either approved or suggested changes. Sometimes he would say that I’d asked for too much, that he could not fit it all in the image, so I’d have to rethink the image…or sometimes he had suggestions. Only one card gave us trouble. That was the Strength card. We went through a few different revisions with that one, but I feel we got it right in the end!
4. The deck is in the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition. Why did you decide to follow this tradition, rather than differentiate?
This deck stays fairly close to the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition and imagery; this is intentional. Although I’ve worked on many decks and feel that all of them have something to offer, I wanted this deck to be one suited to MY reading style. I wanted a working deck that I could read with. I wanted my dream deck. Because I am so grounded in this, the RWS tradition, I wanted to follow it closely. Also, I wanted anyone familiar with RWS cards to be able to pick up any one of the Steampunk Tarot cards and know, without having to read the titles, which card it was.
That said, there are differences, of course. For example, in the Nine of Swords, there is a woman with bound hands and blindfolded as in the RWS image. However, instead of having her standing with swords in front of her, our lady is seated in a chair fitted with mechanized swords whirring back and forth in front of her, making escape almost impossible. The man in our Four of Cups is not sitting under a tree as in RWS. Instead, he is in an office, staring with boredom at three cups while an ornate fourth cup sits on a shelf behind him.
I love the tarot for its structure. I think that having a firm foundation allows the conscious mind to relax and settle so that one’s intuition is free to work its magic. That is one reason I like decks that have a strong RWS feel but still bring enough difference to the table so that it feels fresh and inspires the subconscious in exciting ways.
5. What can users of the deck expect from The Steampunk Tarot?
The first thing they can expect is a magical tool that is carefully crafted to help them be even better readers.
The second thing they can expect are seventy-eight absolutely stunning pieces of art.
The third thing they can expect is the best book I’ve ever written. This project, more than any other that I’ve ever worked on, felt like "me." I made a deck I wanted to read with and I wrote a book that I wanted to read. I had fun with it. In true Steampunk fashion, it is eclectic, sometimes going off on interesting tangents. I write about things that I never talked about before, like the idea of a tarot reading as a mesocasm. One of the spreads is a complex yet effective creation called The Difference Engine.
In short, users can expect to go on a wondrous, magical adventure.