Matt's Note: This interview is cross-posted from Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders.

 

By Matthew Delman, Chief Editor of Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders


Monique Poirier came to the attention of Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders when she penned a guest post for a favorite site of mine -- Beyond Victoriana -- about moving past the stereotypes that Native Americans tend to face in Science Fiction. Her insightful and educational article about integrating her heritage as a Seaconke Wampanoag into her Steampunk costuming was ... well ... insightful, and so I realized that she needed to be featured here in an interview. So without further ado, here we ask Monique about the alternate history she created, what bothers her about the portrayal of Native Americans in Speculative Fiction, and about her way-cool raygun.

 

(All images are courtesy Monique Poirier, via BeyondVictoriana.com)


Doctor Fantastique's: Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Monique Poirier, I come to you from the year 1983, and I'm
an author of fantasy, science fiction, and steampunk. I'm also an avid
gamer, a costumer, a maker, a reader, and an activist. I'm a member of
the Seaconke Wampanoag tribe.


Have you always wanted to write?


I'm not sure it's a case of having always wanted to write so much as
always having written; I've been writing for fun and adventure since
childhood.


What drew you to Steampunk?

I've long been a fan of alternate history and fiction not of this
world; I became aware of steampunk through costuming, but fell in love
with it as roleplay and literature – my great love is worldbuilding
and character histories in those constructed worlds. Steampunk is just
very conducive to that, having a lot of 'new genre' territory to
branch into and feel out; it's not as stifled by genre conventions as
many other Speculative Fiction avenues right now, and that's fun.
Also, quite a lot of Steampunk is just so heartstoppingly gorgeous in
an aesthetic sense.


In your cosplay, you’ve created an alternate North America where a
Confederacy of tribal nations holds much of the territory in the U.S.,
Mexico, and several Pacific Islands. What made you decide on the areas
controlled by the Confederacy in your alternate timeline?


I'll admit that as of right now a lot of my maps are totally fudged; I
wanted the city of Boston to be mostly-period for my first novel (set
in AU 1868), but I also wanted the majority of North America to be
under NDN governance. I built my time line around these two facts,
working backward and forward an incorporating real and altered
historical events that were of particular interest to me. My costuming
follows my writing more than the other way around, at this point.


Tell us about the raygun you created. What did you end up making it out of?


It's made of a vintage binocular case that I found at a thrift store,
some loomed beadwork that I made by hand, some vinyl tubing intended
for aquariums purchased at a pet store, and a plug and play el wire
kit procured from ebay.


People tend to file Native American SpecFic under “Weird West.” You
noted in your guest post at Beyond Victoriana that this bothers you to
no end because not all tribes lived West of the Mississippi. Are there
any other big sticking points that you have with the Native American
characters that exist in fiction?


In all fiction, or specifically in steampunk? This is a pretty
wide-ranging question as it stands. I'd like at this interval to make
the audience aware of several TV Tropes pages:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MagicalNativeAmerican
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NobleSavage
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NubileSavage
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheSavageIndian
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IndianMaiden
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Brave

and also of Sherman Alexie's poem 'How to Write the Great American Indian Novel'
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/how-to-write-the-great-american-indi...

I'm not sure that I can fully answer the question without making this
interview into a thesis, so I'll leave those there and ask that anyone
who has further questions or recommendations of literary depictions of
NDN's done right address them in the comments; I've love to have a
discussion about this.


What are you reading right now?


I am loathe to admit that at present, I'm not reading any fiction;
between work, sleep, chores, preparing for events, and research I've
spent most of my pleasure-reading time on clicking around the
blogosphere. Jha's Sunday Linkfests (link :
http://fantasyecho.livejournal.com/tag/links ) are especially
diverting.


Why did you choose Tecumseh’s Rebellion as the divergence for your
alternate history?


I didn't really – it's just the alternate historical piece that's most
recognizable in the formation of my alternate time line and thus the
one that I most often mention offhandedly. The real points of
divergence in my time line are the success of a trans-isthmus canal
from Old Cairo to the Red Sea in 1003, thus allowing Europe to benefit
from the scientific breakthroughs of the Islamic golden age and
bringing scientific process and thought to the forefront of Western
development, and scientific philosophers of the Nahua Empire
developing techniques of immunization against cholera (which are
extrapolated to other illnesses) at some not-really-demarcated time in
the early part of the 14th century. These facts are ultimately
responsible for Tecumseh's capacity to be successful in his Rebellion
and nation-building efforts.


Where can we find your fiction?

All the fiction that I currently have published is published through
Circlet Press ( link : http://www.circlet.com ) - my story Concerning
the Ars Mechanica appears in the anthology Like Clockwork, and is
probably of the most interest to steampunks. I also have short stories
in Like a Prince and Like Butterflies in Iron.


What are you working on right now?

Right now I'm working on the first of at least two (most probably
more) novels set in the universe I've described above. The first is
set in Boston 1868, the second in Chicago 1874.

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