For our fantasy romance theme this month, we would like to give a big warm welcome to M.K Hobson to the site!
Hi there! I’m M.K. Hobson. My debut novel—THE NATIVE STAR—has just been released from Spectra. It’s a historical fantasy romance set in an alternate 1876 with magic, and it follows the adventures of small-town witch from California and a New York City warlock as they race across the United States to keep a powerful magical artifact from falling into the hands of vicious blood-sorcerors.
THE NATIVE STAR has a little bit of everything. Transcontinental railroad travel, zombie miners, giant slimy mutant critters, biomechanical flying machines, secret societies, and more. This wild conglomeration of narrative elements hearkens back to the 19th century dime novels I immersed myself in while writing. I read every pulp novel and adventure tale I could get my hands on, but I was particularly drawn to the novels of Horatio Alger. His tidy little morality tales about the triumph of “luck and pluck” were wildly popular back then, and are still absorbing reading today. There’s something inherently satisfying about a good, hardworking character overcoming obstacles and triumphing over lazy, slovenly opponents. (Less satisfying, of course, is the fact that the character is always a white boy, and his opponents are often anything but.)
But it’s not just his willingness to work hard that sets a Horatio Alger hero above all others; it’s his honesty, his character, and his determination to “play fair.” As Horatio Alger himself put it, “a manly spirit is better than the gifts of fortune. Early trial and struggle, as the history of the majority of our successful men abundantly attests, tends to strengthen and invigorate the character.”
Clearly, there are a lot of problems with the Horatio Alger myth. While it’s attractive to think that a person’s success in life is determined by his work ethic and personal integrity, it assumes an equality of opportunity that is not borne out by historical fact. But even though it’s a myth, it’s a very American myth. And it was part of what made me want to write a steampunk-inspired novel set in the bright and brazen United States. I was dissatisfied with the mephitic fogs and dingy gaslamps of Victorian London. Much as I love that setting, the underlying mythology is vastly different. 19th century London was the center of a declining empire, and the class structures were much more ingrained and inflexible. 19th century America, on the other hand, was an empire at the moment of birth—where a ragged newsboy could grow up, become a captain of industry, and exploit the newsboys who came after him!
That 19th century sense of boundless optimism and potential, darkened by a modern awareness of the consequences that we as a nation would have to suffer as the result of our heedless capitalistic drive to manifest our destiny—that’s what I wanted to explore in THE NATIVE STAR and (even more so) in its sequel, THE HIDDEN GODDESS. Toss in a few explosions, some two-fisted brawls, and some tender romance, and I hoped I’d have a dime novel for the 21st century—something at least as enjoyable as anything Horatio Alger ever wrote. I’ll leave it to readers to decide how I did!