Steampunk: An alternate-history science fiction genre that frequently features anachronistic technology.
Jeff Provine, a composition professor based in Norman who has written steampunk, alternate history and Web comics, is working on several comic-book stories for Grayhaven, including the story “The Sun Flared Up,” available now in the “Grayhaven Steampunk Anthology.”
The story has its beginnings in the true events of an 1859 solar storm.
“In history, the sun pounded the Earth with enough (electromagnetic force) to make the aurora borealis visible from the Caribbean and telegraphs tap without operators,” Provine said in an interview with The Oklahoman. “The story takes it further, following a town of survivors who hide in the mines of West Virginia. Necessity is the mother of invention, so they adapt to survive with wondrous steampunk technology.”
Provine first got the idea for the story when researching the storm for a blog post.
“GrayHaven is one of the few publishers to have open calls for submissions to their anthologies,” Provine said. “I happened across an announcement for it, so I sat up past midnight outlining a proposal for my story. The story had been lingering for quite some time in my mind after learning about it in research for my alternate history blog, This Day in Alternate History.”
Provine was teamed with artist Eduardo Xavier for this project by GrayHaven.
“GrayHaven carries the line ‘By Creators, For Creators!' in its About section, which sums up the spirit of the house well,” Provine said. “Comics is a very difficult industry to break into, and GrayHaven has taken it upon themselves to welcome new talent through their open calls in their anthologies, giving volume to so many unheard voices.”
Provine says those looking for an antidote to today's mass-produced culture may find something to enjoy in steampunk fiction.
“So much of our society today is mass-produced and disposable,” Provine said. “Steampunk looks back on a time when people put a lot of effort into the few possessions they had and made use of every material available. It's a chance to be inherently unique with handcrafted costumes and machines.”
Provine, who also created the “Ghost Tour” at the University of Oklahoma, said he enjoys working with the elements of a bygone era, and the freedom that the hybrid genre provides.
“The ‘steam' in steampunk is the most obvious as people typically think of gears and goggles, but it is the ‘punk' that makes it so much fun,” he said. “It borrows from cyberpunk, bringing the sense that anything goes. Steampunk draws in the craftsmanship, materials and, to a certain extent, decadence of a bygone time of leather, iron, and custom construction.”
Provine has a steampunk novel underway, featuring former Vice President Aaron Burr.
“I'm also prepping a new Web comic entitled ‘The Cat who Grew Thumbs,'” Provine said. “It's The Odd Couple meets Garfield.”
Provine has been creating comics for over a decade, starting on the Web comic “The Academy” when he was in college. He said today's comics scene in Oklahoma continues to grow.
“Comics in Oklahoma are exploding, and it's great,” Provine said. “We've got a lot of talent and smart, determined folks working to see that talent realized. I'm excited to see where it goes.”