Blixt: The Next Generation

The icon for this blog is a red foxhead seal that dates back to 1997, when Tove & Anders Gillbring, Åke Rosenius and I launched the Sverox magazine as De gamla rävarna/the Old Foxes*. The four of us entered Sweden’s RPG business when it was in its infancy, so we are kind of the Traveling Wilburys of our gaming community. For practical reasons, we formalized the Sverox venture as the alliance Rävspel with the foxhead logo. We also published a few games together around the turn of the millennium, e.g. an edition of Western; Gondica; and Lemuria.

Twenty-two years later:

I am busy launching a line of small-scale English RPG-PDF products at DriveThruRPG (link >>> ). I am a prolific writer, but I simply cannot draw pictures. Therefore, I have enlisted the help of my artistic adult daughter Elin; she will finish what I started by illustrating my texts. Elin is a great manga and Marvel fan, and currently a student at an art school.

Hence, the Old Fox and the Young Tiger have joined forces as Team Fox.

The Tiger is currently busy doing her first illos for me. Stay tuned to this blog for further news about when her artwork goes live.

* “An old fox” is a positive Swedish idiom denoting a seasoned veteran who knows how to play the game.

Steampunk and the Dark Man’s Burden

Colonialism is a frequent backdrop to my stories, regardless whether I write dieselpunk or fantasy, stories or role-playing games. Since I have one foot in Europe and one in India, I have had the unusual experience of seeing that phenomenon from both sides. Some of the elders of my Indian clan, all of them sadly departed by now, participated in the liberation struggles in the 1930s and 1940s, whereas others served in the British Indian army and fought the Japanese. All had much to tell me and I cherish those memories. And here in Europe it is hard to avoid the “white man’s burden” narrative of colonialism; it appears in all kinds of popular culture.

So I write about characters from both sides of the fence and let them explain by themselves how they relate to an authoritarian colonial order − make no mistake about it: colonialism is getting a stranger’s fist punched in your face, even though the force of the blow may vary depending on what nation does the colonizing and when.

“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.” − From The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

Scene from the US conquest of the Philippines circa 1900. Artist: Vasili Vereshchagin

Colonialism often gets soft-pedalled in steampunk. SM Stirling’s alt-history Indian Raj in Peshawar Lancers is an illustrating example: the author unsuccessfully strives for a Kipling-ish mood in a tall tale (featuring airships, evil cults, etc) in which romanticized British and French adventurers save a colonial regime, and incidentally its native subjects, from Russian machinations, while Indian nationalists appear as terrorists and Afghan tribesmen resemble pseudo-Orcs. Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine approaches the same issues in a less rose-tinted manner, for example by an unflattering portrayal of the English protagonists’ harsh attitudes toward First Nation Americans.

So this is the above-mentioned burden of colonized peoples: to be amusing sidekicks, expendable femmes fatales, and devious adversaries to white protagonists, or to be background witnesses to the plot-shaking actions of Americo-European heroes. It reminds me of Arthur Conan Doyle’s use of foreign characters in his fiction, for example devious or temperamental Italians and South Americans, or the predatorial savage in The Sign of Four. Such aliens are strange to behold and difficult to comprehend, thus becoming menacing outsiders to white insiders − them versus us, the psychological curse afflicting colonial settlements everywhere.

However, all is not gloom. In Steve Turnbull’s novellas about Anglo-Indian sleuth Maliha Anderson, Indians are full-fledged protagonists in his steampunk Raj and Ceylon. And I approach colonialism with a critical mindset in my dieselpunk novel The Ice War, in which, for example, Eurasian spy Johnny Bornewald faces widespread racism, and is at times able to exploit that sentiment, because those contemptuous Europeans presume that he is an ignorant yokel.

Podcast: Funderingar kring ång- och dieselpunk

Summary in English: A Swedish podcast about what is steam- and dieselpunk. My debut in podcasting.

Den gångna helgen var min dotter Elin och jag på Silwersteam, en steampunkkongress i Eskilstuna. Där blev vi ombedda att delta i Fandompodden #49 som tar en titt på företeelserna ångpunk och dieselpunk. Bland annat använder jag Miyazaki-filmerna Howl’s Moving Castle och Laputa som exempel på vad de två genrerna kan erbjuda, och förklarar varför jag gillar att författa dieseläventyr. Länk till podcasten >>>

Artist: Ian McQue

Podcast: Sorgeveden till Hjältarnas Tid

Summary in English: A Swedish podcast about my most recent Swedish RPG project.

Rollspelspodcasten Syndikatet intervjuar Krister Sundelin om Sorgeveden, en kampanjmiljö som han och jag håller på att utveckla till fantasyrollspelet Hjältarnas Tid. Han förklarar bland annat hur vårt samarbete har utvecklats från Lemuria (länk >>> )  2004 tills nu, och hur det kommer sig att Ronja Mellin illustrerar både Hjältarnas Tid och Järn.

Klicka på länken nedan för att gå till podcasten och lyssna. (Tyvärr kan jag inte lägga upp MP3-filer här pga tekniska begränsningar hos WordPress.)

Samtalspodcast: Krister Sundelin

Dieselpunk Engineering Lab

Dieselpunk is characterized by, among other things, fanciful machinery and vehicles. Those gadgets must, however, originate in some place. Well, here it is: the archetypical dieselpunk engineering lab with, where you see Doctor Zarkov being busy with developing the repulsor device. (Those are used in cloudships in my novel The Ice War.)

Artist: Colton Dubell. Click on the picture for a much larger version.

Oriental Dieselpunk

This chap could be an adventurer in a Hongkongese action movie placed in the 1920s, a dapper Indiana Jones of the the Orient. Also, I could easily out him in my equally action-packed Ice War or Lemuria 1930s timelines. Unfortunately, I know little of Chinese script so I have no idea what the labeling says. The artist is also unknown.

Dieselstyle jet-glider

Artist Mike Doscher has made several great-looking pieces of dieselpunk art.

Here is a jet-glider in a German Luftstreitkräfte livery from 1918. It would easily find its place in any of my three dieselpunk worlds: Alba (i.e. The Ice War), Lemuria and Patchwork World. Also, it would not have been inappropriate in the recent movie about Wonder Woman in World War One.

Click on the picture for a larger version. I’ll introduce a few more of Mike’s paintings here at future occasions.