If you are looking for literary merit — theme, symbol, social and/or political commentary, or relevance of any sort — Wilkinson College English Professor James Blaylock, cautions that you won’t find it in his latest novel, The Gobblin’ Society. He is however, hoping readers will have a good time reading it, “maybe along with a glass of wine or something to drink.”
The Gobblin’ Society is another of Blaylock’s signature Steampunk stories featuring a series of recurring characters brought together by threads of adventure, humor, and more than one mystery.
“[This] story of an eating society, came out of a passing interest in weird Victorian-era men’s clubs. As readers will quickly discover, the book is intended to be a fun, slightly goofy, romance for people who like neo-Victorian tales of that strange sort.”
Langdon St. Ives, one of the book’s protagonists, is a 1880’s Victorian scientist and a member of the Explorers Club which have figured in Blaylock’s short stories and novels for over a decade.
“If they have any interest in the coastline around Broadstairs in Kent [England], I’ll say that this is a careful approximation — the smuggling, chalk cliffs, old houses, and Margate Harbor. Readers of Edgar Allen Poe will find that I borrowed some Poe lore that might or might not be true.”
Known as one of the literary pioneers of the Steampunk movement, Blaylock’s first Steampunk story, “The Ape-box Affair” won the World Fantasy Award in 1986, and he likes to think that his books and stories pass the test of believable faux Victoriana.
“My earliest such story was published in the late 1970s — the first domestic example of what would ten years later come to be called Steampunk. Two writer friends of mine, K.W. Jeter and Tim Powers were also writing it, all three of us publishing it into the early 80s. By the time it became a subgenre of science fiction, the three of us had moved on. I picked it back up a decade later after reading James Norman Hall’s brilliant collection of historical short stories titled Doctor Dogbody’s Leg and realized that I missed writing pseudo historical stuff.”
When asked about his favorite excerpt of The Gobblin’ Society, Blaylock says, “Probably Alice’s (the wife of Langdon St. Ives who over time, throughout Blaylock’s stories, has evolved into the protagonist of the Langdon St. Ives adventures) musings about her past in the third chapter, titled “Snartlegog,” which is regional English slang for a mayfly.” However, he claims he had the most fun writing the first chapter, in which (he asked me to warn readers) might be somewhat unpalatable, although “in good fun.”
Blaylock says he has more stories up his sleeve.
“The Covid-19 virus turned most of us into stay-at-homes, which has given me time to write. I had already gotten into the habit of writing outdoors during the summer preceding my fall sabbatical, starting around five in the morning, when there’s no one to bother me but squirrels and possums. I try to get a little done every day.”
Which is wonderful news for Langdon St. Ives fans!