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Friday, Aug. 30, 2013

Lisa Is a Steam-Punker with Spunk

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Since moving to Milwaukee to study at UWM, the city has inspired Lisa Walker England. A writer with fantasy leanings, Walker England had her creative subconscious influenced by Milwaukee's architecture and inventive, Midwestern work-ethic. Years later, she created Rise of the Tiger, an illustrated Steampunk-fantasy serial. The Shepherd Express contacted her on the outset of her new project, Aurelia: Edge of Darkness.

 

How has the industrial (and post-industrial) landscape of Milwaukee provided inspiration for your works?

Industrial landscapes give me a new world to explore in my fantasy stories. After I got tired of writing about castles and sprawling kingdoms, I wanted something grittier, driven more by human ingenuity. Aurelia is nowhere near a “Steampunk Milwaukee,” but at some point, something in my brain just clicked: “What if I wrote epic stories about people and environments in a city like this one that I love so much?”

 

Within the Steampunk genre, there seems to be a fascination with the capabilities of science before nuclear reactors and computers came along. What do you find so intriguing about steam-power?

I guess it's my love of old things. As an only child, I accompanied my parents to antique shops and historical sites. I also love medieval fantasy and science-fiction, and when I finally realized that people were telling science-fiction and fantasy stories with steam-powered, Victorian-type gadgets, I got really excited. Steampunk brings the past and the future together, which is incredible. So many genres are located squarely in one dimension or the other. Steampunk embraces both.

 

"Aurelia's" storyline and characters develop in a modern, unorthodox fashion. Can you explain its interactive element?

Everything about this project has been unorthodox. The artists, actors, and other creative friends who share this journey with me are pioneering new types of storytelling, and I think our work perfectly fits that “maker” spirit behind Steampunk! Aurelia is essentially collaborative. The storytelling is improvised and told by actors who role-play Aurelia's “citizens” through video posts, blog entries, and photos. I regularly release “Calls to Action,” which are plot twists that call the actors to respond in character. Actors can also spin their own subplots and work with each other to connect with other characters. Anyone can join the show and act, too.

 

As you transition from an illustrated serial to a web-interactive series, what excites you about taking on a new medium?

Watching the actors bring the world to life has been a transformative experience for me. I'm pretty sure I cried—and laughed with joy—as I watched those first videos, when my world came to life before my eyes. Just yesterday, a couple actors asked a question that sparked a whole new twist on an upcoming plot-line. It was like the fog split, and I saw a vision of something even more amazing than I had planned.

 

How can readers interested in your work experience these sci-fi sagas?

Rise of the Tiger is available online as a 48-episode serial at http://riseofthetiger.com. Aurelia can be viewed at http://theatrics.com/aurelia. Anyone interested in joining can simply click the “Participate” button in the upper right-hand corner.

 

 

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