I’ll let you in on a secret here, some authors are occasionally known to partake of a nip or two of rum. Also, sometimes these same authors will engage in late-night chats with another author who may or may not have also partaken of a nip of rum or two. Such conversations can wander around many a subject and things may be said that when the light of day cuts through the curtains the following morning are lost in the throbbing hangovers which belie just how much rum constitutes a nip…
Writing, late a night, can be a somewhat solitary endeavor, so when these conversations, over a nip or two of rum, spring up they are bound by the sacrosanct laws of immutable agreement. Those being that no matter what is discussed any agreement struck between parties is held to be struck, even if you don’t remember doing so. Though that said, no author I know personally would abuse this unspoken agreement between scribes.
Now all this may seem rather random, though if you have been here before I doubt that surprises anyone, but the product of one of those late nights with a nip or two of rum and a half remembered conversation came to light this afternoon when I notice that most estimable gentleman of Smuggling folk Nil Nisse Visser had posted something on Facebook in which he had ‘tagged’ me.
If you tuned into the British Steampunk Broadcasting Cooperation earlier this week for Tales at Almost Bedtime in which Daren Callow read chapter 11 from “Fair Night for Foul Folk”, you may have picked up on Black listing innovators of airflight.
Amongst others, Black named MaeYaBee Tu-Pa-Ka from Mark Hayes’s most commendable novel “Maybe”, and also one Peter van Haelen. The original Peter van Haelen was the main character in Piet Visser’s 1901 “De Vliegende Hollander” (Flying Dutchman).
Piet was my (Nils) great-grand-uncle and I decided that gives me a vague right to mess about with his creations. Van Haelen was a daft inventor and innovator, so a Steampunked version was tempting. Further information about Steampunked van Haelen’s background is revealed in two short stories, ‘The Skirring Dutchman’ in Writerpunk Press’s “Taught by Time” Anthology (due out in 20/21), and ‘Learning the Ropes’ that appears in the HD Pirate Special (Hot off the press!). The stories are narrated from opposing perspectives but take place in the same setting, a few weeks apart. Van Haelen makes a personal appearance in both, at the helm of a ghostly airship…
With gratitude to my great-grand-uncle Piet Visser, and thanks of course to the fine folk at #HarveyDuckman for including “Learning the Ropes” in the Harvey Duckman Pirate special, now available online: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08FZV3HT2/
After my first reaction of ‘how awesome is that’, I had a few moments of trying to remember if Nils ever told me he intended to throw MaeYaBee Tu-Pa-Ka’s name into his story as one of the fathers of airships. Which was about the point I recalled a conversation between us, late at night, with a nip or two of rum inside me, in which Nils asked me if he could do so, because he enjoyed ‘Maybe’ so much. I’d said yes of course. Vanity alone would have impelled me to do so.
MaeYaBee, for those who have never read Maybe, is a Polynesian engineer who signed on to an expedition with notable explorer Edward West (notable not so much for his discoveries as his lack of them). MaeYaBee’s new ship mates struggled with the pronunciation of his name and over time they started to shorten it to the nearest Anglican equivalent word ergo ‘Maybe’.
While MaeYaBee signed on as just a box standard shipping hand, he shown a remarkable affinity for mechanics and engines and soon became the defacto engineer on the voyage. He and Edward West became firm friends, with a mutual respect built between them and when West returned to England he set MaeYaBee up with his own engineer shop in Cheapside, where MaeYaBee fell in love, married and sired a daughter, Eliza who he raised on his own after the death of his wife. The novel itself opens on the sad occasion of MaeYaBee’s funeral. With Eliza in morning, and looking for someone to blame for her fathers murder, just as Benjamin West ( son of Edward who disappeared fifteen years before) and his former manservant Mr Gothe arrive at the cemetery, things get complicated at that point…
MaeYaBee is a character in the background of the novel, as his funeral is the starting point. But his life and his life’s work are central to everything that happens to Eliza and Benjamin. He was a genius and his great passion throughout his years in London was airships of which he built many models and designs. In the Hannibal universe (Maybe is set some 150 years before the Hannibal stories) he is the defacto father of British Airpower, despite not being British himself. So he fits nicely into Nils Blacklisted airship engineers in his smugglepunk universe. Which was why, he says with the fog of rum impaired memory, he wanted to use the character as a reference, and why I was more than happy for him to do so.
Of course, then I had forgotten all this until Nils posted the above on Facebook, so it was a genuinely awesome surprise to stubble upon this some six months later when the esteemed Darran Callow read Nil’s story for the BSBC. (I went and listened of course, and was impressed by how calmly Darren managed to get his tongue around MaeYaBee Tu-Pa-Ka, which can’t have been easy when you come across a name like that in the text your reading, beside sit not like I know how it pronounced…) Coming across this post genuinely made my day, its lovely to find your creations have wondered off into someone else’s imagination.
I can also heartily recommend joining the BSBC (who really should start a you tube channel so I can link it.) As its a bloody marvelous idea, created as a response to COVid canceling all those wonderful steampunk festivals I normally fail to get to anyway. Full of readings, interviews, music and other steampunk delights.
Clicking on the banner below should take you to there Facebook group if your interested in joining them.