1.- The interviewee
Madeleine Holly-Rosing is the writer/ creator of the webcomic Boston Metaphysical Society. Winner of the Sloan Fellowship for screenwriting, she is a TV and feature film writer. Madeleine was interested in the foreign service, but international competitive epee fencing stepped in her way… for fifteen years! With a marketing background, she has a BA in Politics, a MA in Arabic Studies and an MFA in Screenwriting, and works part-time as a spin instructor. She is an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy and historical military fiction and loves to mess with the physical laws of the universe in her stories just to annoy her rocket scientist husband.
2.- The interview
Dear Madeleine, it seems that you have always loved to write. However, you got a BA in Politics, a MA in Arabic Studies and an MFA in Screenwriting before converting this activity into your main occupation; and all this without forgetting your previous career as professional sportswoman! You have finally become an award-winning screenwriter and the Boston Metaphysical Society (BMS) is receiving recognition within the Steampunk scene.
Q.- It seems that Irene and I are not the only ones who consider the BMS universe really fresh and entertaining, as it was among the nominees to the Airship Awards of Steamcon IV. You have been invited to participate as panelist in Steamcon V, may we expect more panelings from you in Steampunk events this year?
Madeleine Holly Rosing (M).- I just received confirmation from SteamCon V that I’ll be a panelist there, but I was too late to become involved with the Steampunk Symposium on the Queen Mary in Long Beach in January, but I hope to reach out to the various conventions in the coming months and see if they’d be interested in having me..
Q.- Many people have heard about the electrifying webcomic, but the BMS is much more than that. The BMS was originally written as a TV Pilot and it has grown into a full universe, reflected in different formats (novellas, novelettes, comic) and, hopefully, in audiovisual media soon. Which have been your main influences in order to create the BMS world?
M.- The influences have been historical, science fiction and the supernatural. I first delved into late 1800’s Boston while doing research on Stargazer, the script which won the Sloan Fellowship. It’s a biopic about a Scottish immigrant by the name of Mina Fleming who started life here as a maid for the director of the Harvard Observatory and ended up becoming part of his team. She discovered over 10,000 stars and developed a new stellar classification system. What I find fascinating about that time was the class system which so rigidly defined who people were and their expectations in life. Obviously, what I enjoy doing the most is developing characters who challenge that system.
As for the science fiction aspect, I have been a huge scifi fan since my mother first read A Wrinkle in Time to me as a child. Plus, I enjoy the science behind the fiction. I do quite a bit of research on whatever aspect I’m focusing on. I try to be as accurate as possible, but this is fiction so some things have to give. Plus, it’s fun just to make stuff up then find a possible scientific basis for whatever steampunk gadget I’m creating. Usually, I find at least a hint of a scientific basis though in reality it might be highly improbable. But that’s part of the fun in creating this universe.
I’m sure people recognize the influence of THE X-FILES. In fact my tagline is “Before Mulder and Scully, there was Hunter and O’Sullivan.” That show was a very early inspiration, but I wanted to take it to another place and time. A place where they might have fun gadgets to help them yet society was a lot stricter. It makes for good drama and conflict which you can see in the very popular shows like DOWNTON ABBEY and SPARTACUS. I watch both of them and if you watch them you’ll notice most of the conflict is driven by class and/or gender, i.e., Master vs. Servant; Master vs. Slave, Husband vs. Wife.
Q.- Considering the members of the BMS comic I cannot help but remember the legendary graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Why have you chosen these specific characters?
M.- For one, they all lived during this very exciting time. There were a lot of technical and scientific innovations which grew along side occultism and spiritualism. Highly intelligent people believed in many of these things which were later disproved as pure fantasy. Houdini was instrumental in debunking seances though he might have appreciated their entertainment value. And there was a lot of conflict between these gentlemen which I did not have to create. This includes Granville Woods who also lived during this time period. He sued Edison for stealing his patents and won which was an amazing feat for an African-American gentleman at that time. I adore the character of Granville and I hope to bring him out of the depths of historical obscurity.
Q.- You said in a previous interview that Michael Fassbinder as Samuel, Scarlet Johansson as Caitlin, and Andre Braugher as Granville would be your dream cast for a BMS movie. Assuming freedom of choice, have you ever thought which composer would you choose to compose a soundtrack the BMS world?
M.- That’s easy, Bear McCreary.
Q.- I do not want to include any spoiler, but your readers are going to get hooked by paranormal activity, murders, trans-dimensional threats… there is no doubt that the BMS universe is open to the supernatural. Considering that the BMS is set in the late 19th century, has this approach required a lot of research about Occultism and Spiritualism in this period? Or perhaps about Physics?
M.- I read a lot about occultism and spiritualism from this period awhile back. So when I got to this project, I just needed to brush up on the subject. I’m an avid reader of not only history, but pretty much everything except for maybe sports stats. That could always change of course. However, I do a lot of technical and historical research. I’ll print out diagrams and sketch out details just so I understand it. And when I’m done I have the advantage of living with a rocket scientist. I’ll have him read it for technical accuracy though sometimes he has to do a little research himself. Occasionally, he’ll get so excited about a story I’m writing that he’ll go do a little research for me and send me the links. The fun part is when I’m writing I can just say, “Honey? Can you come here for a sec?” But ultimately the onus is on me to make the technical details as clear to my reader as possible and not overwhelm them. Which means I have to understand what I’m writing about.
Q.- As illustrator, Emily Hu is key to the success of the BMS comic. You send her the script and she sends you back three pages a week; then you get back to her with the edits, and she submits the edited pages and three new pages the following week. Do Emily’s illustrations influence your own perception of the BMS universe?
M.- I agree that Emily’s art is key to the success of the comic. She has done an amazing job. However, it is a two-way street.The art hooks people in, but it’s the story that makes them stay. As for her illustrations influencing my perception of the BMS universe, it’s actually the opposite. Part of the process is sending her photos or other reference material to help her visualize the world as I see it. She pretty much renders the world as I’ve written it and does a terrific job. However, she has taught me a lot about sequential art. Every once in awhile, Emi will ignore how I’ve structured panels and will come up with something better. Which I think is great. I’m glad she’s comfortable enough with our relationship to do that and it’s pretty exciting to see something better or different than I imagined it, but it doesn’t influence how I perceive the world.
I’ve been working in this universe for quite awhile now so it’s something that lives with me daily.
M.- Actually, you are the first person to call BMS Steamgoth, but I would agree with you completely. Particularly since the story is going to get darker with each issue and the storyline contains paranormal elements.
Q.- We have recently announced our attendance to one of the most important goth festivals worldwide –‘Decimononic at Wave Gotik Treffen (Part I’)– and published a blog post about Steamgoth: ‘Steamgoth in a nutshell (1 of 6).- Intro: The darkest side of Steampunk’. Besides, we are writing a blog post about Steamgoth jewelry… as you know this brief interviews’ series focuses on Steampunk jewelry, but this time we would like to ask for your help: would you dare to describe Steamgoth jewelry with a single word?
Q.- From your point of view, which influences should Steamgoth jewelry have?
M.- Like steampunk, I think Steamgoth jewelry should echo the past yet embrace the future in design and materials. One of the things which draws people to Steampunk/Steamgoth jewelry is that they are usually handcrafted and unique pieces. I’m particularly fond of watches/timepieces and I like to be able to see the gears and how they work. I believe many people are looking for pieces that have history or at least evoke the past.
Q.- Which materials would suit jewelry inspired by Steamgoth?
M.- Pewter, rubies, emeralds, silver, brass, bronze, gold, copper (with touches of iron), platinum and even carbon fiber. I don’t think an artist should limit themselves to what was only available during a particular era.
Q.- As you know, Victorians were fascinated by the occult. May this became a fertile breeding ground for Steamgoth jewelry designers? We think so. Is there any traditional amulet or talisman that you would like to see ‘reformulated’?
M.- I’ve seen a lot of brooches with profiles of skeletons and the like, but that seems too Halloweenish to me. My personal tastes are rather minimalist, so I’d like to see maybe an ankh reformulated.
Q.- Madeleine, would you tell us about your future projects?
M.- I’m currently working on a BMS short short story which will be included in an anthology from ATOMEKA PRESS coming out in July. In addition, I’m working on a non-BMS fantasy novel for middle-graders and another BMS novella. Plus, I’ve got some rewriting to do on a TV Pilot and the third issue of BMS. So, my plate’s pretty full.
Q.- Is there anything else you would like to add?
A.- I have an online Q&A coming up on www.goodreads.com through the Webcomic Wonderland Group on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 3:00 p.m. (PST) if anyone is interested. In addition, please nominate/vote for the comic and/or the novellas at the Reader’s Choice Awards (Steampunk Chronicles) at Reader’s Choice Awards. Please visit the website at BOSTON METAPHYSICAL SOCIETY to learn more about the webcomic, the novellas and the print editions.
Also, I will have a table at WonderCon in Anaheim at the end of March where I’ll be selling print copies of Chapter One and Chapter Two. And I hope to be at the GasLight Gathering in San Diego in May. So, if you’re there, please stop by and say hi.
My short, short story THE CLOCKWORK MAN will be published in eSteampunk magazine in February. Please check this wonderful steampunk magazine.
Disclaimer.- The opinions or statements expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of Decimononic.
3.- Next interviewee!
On the 15th of March we are publishing the interview for Angélica Pinho, aka Angélica Elfic, born and raised in Portugal. Since childhood, she has created clothes and accessories for her because often she could not find what she liked. Later on this led her to create the brand Elfic Wear, an alternative clothing shop, where she could bring to life her own characters. The fantastical worlds of Tim Burton, Final Fantasy, Hans Zimmer, Einstein and other personalities she admires, are her greatest inspirational references. Steampunk is one of the styles she likes more because, in her own words, ‘here I can combine engines, gadgets and bring to life more elaborated stuff’.
Remember that all the published interviews are available for your delight: ‘Steampunk jewelry tonight with…’ the brief interviews series by Decimononic.