From Persephone Wright

Is Etta Candy, Wonder Woman’s friend in the upcoming movie, a former suffragette?

If you’ll forgive us some speculation, we’d lay even odds that Wonder Woman’s right-hand-gal Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) will be revealed as having an action-packed past as a radical suffragette.

The character of Etta Candy was first introduced in 1942.  A creation of Wonder Woman auteur William Moulton Marston, she was originally the confection-loving de facto leader of a group of spirited young sorority women known as the Holliday Girls, who frequently assisted Wonder Woman in her battles with Nazi spies and other WW2-era evildoers:

The upcoming Wonder Woman movie, however, takes the bold creative step of shifting WW’s “origin story” back a few decades, to the First World War.  In this continuity, Etta Candy is fighter pilot Steve Trevor’s secretary; Trevor’s crash landing on the hidden Mediterranean island of Themyscira is, of course, how the Amazon princess who is to become Wonder Woman is first introduced to “Man’s World”.

Both of Etta’s brief appearances in the theatrical trailers released so far play to her traditional strengths as a feisty comic relief sidekick.  In the first trailer she answers Wonder Woman’s question – “What is a secretary?” – by saying “I go where he tells me to go and I do what he tells me to do”.  WW, clearly a little perturbed by this, replies “Well, where I’m from, that’s called slavery,” which deeply impresses Etta.

The second trailer features another comic coda in which Wonder Woman is trying on an elaborate early 20th century ensemble complete with a flowered hat and a voluminous skirt.  She’s baffled as to how a woman is supposed to fight while thus encumbered; Etta replies that they mostly fight with their principles, but that she herself is “not opposed to engaging in a bit of fisticuffs, should the occasion arise.”

In a WW1 context, and given the fact that this incarnation of Etta Candy is English, it’s very easy to speculate that she may have been a suffragette before joining the armed services.  With the outbreak of war, Women’s Social and Political Union leader Emmeline Pankhurst performed an abrupt political about-face; rather than fighting the government for the right to vote, she told her many followers, they must support King and country for the duration of the crisis.

This was a controversial move and some radical suffragettes refused to comply, but others agreed that “Votes for Women” would become meaningless if England itself fell to German aggression.  In the Suffrajitsu graphic novels, protagonist Persephone Wright, formerly the leader of Mrs. Pankhurst’s covert security team, also joins the war effort:

field-agents

The movie version of Etta is a principled English feminist “not averse to fisticuffs”; here’s hoping that she’ll surprise (and delight) her audience by proving to be a suffragette action heroine in her own right.

 

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New guest reviews of “The Pale Blue Ribbon” and “The Isle of Dogs”

Suffrajitsu.com is pleased to present these two guest reviews of the Kindle Worlds stories The Pale Blue Ribbon and The Isle of Dogs, reviewed by Val Brown, author of the Toupie Lowther – her life website.

Click on the cover images below to visit the Kindle Worlds sales pages for each story!

PBR cover

THE PALE BLUE RIBBON  by John Longenbaugh

A new, sparkling novella that opens up into an upper-class  time frame wherein the young sportswoman  “Miss Toupie”  innocently falls in love with a charming young man. They become engaged to be married, but her engagement ring is villainously stolen. Sadly the charming young man rapidly  shows an unadmirable side to his character: to her amazement he declines to seek out the villain, declaring that the ring was of little value and refusing to contact the police!

However,  “Miss Toupie” is made of mightier stuff and she decides to turn detective and search for the mugger herself. Needing to know how  to defend herself if needed, she prudently enrolls at the famous  “Macpherson’s Gymnasium and School of Arms” – Fencing for Gentlemen”. Quickly becoming skilled to an extent that amazes the great MacPherson, she sets off fearlessly into deepest east end London, locates her villain and finally discovers  the terrible  truth …

Hovering  around the  reality of the real-life Toupie Lowther – who was, indeed, a noted sportswoman with both blade and racket – the  author of this novella successfully merges her real life  character into a thoughtful,  vigourous and likeable  heroine.  Polished and dramatic, this a great new read.

Isle of Dogs cover small

THE ISLE OF DOGS by Michael Lussier

A new novella that will grip your imagination, The Isle of Dogs features the amazing all-fighting, all-women battalion of bodyguards – known widely as “Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons” – in a mystery tale of blackmail, villainy and kidnapping.

Shocked by the sudden suicide of a former Amazon, the Bartitsu babes search out and uncover the evil “Grex Canum“;  a strangely secretive sodality with  grim headquarters in a public house – the Anne Boleyn – situated on the aptly named Isle of Dogs in east London.

The fighting Amazons arrive on a dark night, primed and battle ready for the assault on the Anne Boleyn. They are led by Miss Persephone Wright (always known as Persi) – star of the graphic novel Suffrajitsu and a skilled champion with foot, fist and her deadly malacca fighting-stick. The Amazon Army  soon attacks and holds the first and second floors of the Anne Boleyn, and finally Persi, along with Katie Brumbach the muscular heavyweight wrestler and the swordswoman Toupie Lowther – readily armed with her holstered and  loaded Bisley Colt (and recently prey to the blackmailing Grex Canum herself) – fight their way up to the secret top floor, finally  bursting into  the black heart of the Grex Canum.

A good read that will keep the reader entranced by the action, The Isle of Dogs is smoothly presented with a fine unravelling of dramatic action.  The incorporation of real life Amazons, trained in the application of the art of Bartitsu and fearful of no brutal opposition adds style as well as imagination to this well thought out and captivating novella.

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Why Persephone Wright rejects the “White Feather” campaign

White Feather

In the third book of the Suffrajitsu trilogy, Christabel Pankhurst is shown encouraging the women of England to hand white feathers to “every man you see who is not in uniform”.  What was the meaning of this campaign, and why does Persephone Wright reject it?

In real history, the “White Feather” campaign was initiated during August of 1914 by Admiral Charles Fitzgerald and the author Mary Augusta Ward.  Within the context of nationalistic fervor at the outbreak of the War, their plan was simple; in order to reduce “malingering”, which was the then-current term for avoiding military service, women would hand symbols of cowardice to young men in civilian clothes, with the object of humiliating them into joining the Army.

Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, who had by then suspended their “Votes for Women” campaign and thrown their efforts into supporting the government for the duration of the war effort, became enthusiastic proponents of the White Feather campaign.

It’s impossible to judge how effective the campaign actually was, but it quickly became highly controversial.  Notably, members of the “Order of the White Feather” were criticized for indiscriminately targeting any man who was out of uniform, including those who were engaged in crucial public service occupations and those who had been honorably discharged from the Army due to injury or illness.  The government responded by creating various lapel badges, including the “King and Country” and “Silver War” badges, to indicate that the wearer was not a malingerer.

White Feather 2

Compounding the controversy, soldiers who were “at home” (on leave from active service) were also frequently handed white feathers if they chose not to wear their uniforms while in public.  One such was Private Ernest Atkins who was on leave from the Western Front and who was presented with a white feather by a girl sitting behind him on a tram. He responded by slapping her with his pay book, saying: “Certainly I’ll take your feather back to the boys at Passchendaele. I’m in civvies because people think my uniform might be lousy, but if I had it on I wouldn’t be half as lousy as you.”

As the War dragged on and especially as news of the horrific conditions faced by soldiers filtered back to England, the White Feather campaign began to lose popular support.

Although the campaign was briefly revived during the Second World War, the effort was by then widely perceived to be in infamously bad taste.

In the fictional universe of Suffrajitsu, protagonist Persephone Wright rejects Christabel’s encouragement to support the White Feather campaign on ethical grounds, stating that “A man who’s been shamed into service isn’t a volunteer at all”.  This is particularly significant in that Persephone had previously been among the most ardent supporters of Christabel’s “Votes for Women” movement during the pre-War period.

 

 

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Edith Garrud’s role in the Suffrajitsu stories

Jujitsuffragettes-1
Edith Garrud (uppermost) demonstrates a jiujitsu armlock on one of her suffragette students.

Several Suffrajitsu reviewers have asked why Edith Garrud, who was the real-life jiujitsu instructor of the suffragette Bodyguards, seems to have been downplayed in the graphic novels.  Can you comment?

Tony Wolf: First of all, I should say that I’ve been learning about Edith Garrud’s life and martial arts activities for the past decade.  In recent years I’ve written a number of articles about her, contributed to mainstream newspaper, magazine, TV and radio profiles on her life and even wrote her biography.

Edith’s role and position in the Suffrajitsu series are mostly due to the fact that I prioritized the relationship between Persephone Wright and her uncle Edward, who was the founder of Bartitsu and the owner/manager of the Bartitsu Club. Their relationship had actually been established long before I started writing the Suffrajitsu stories, during an ongoing world-building conversation with other Foreworld Saga writers including Mark Teppo and Neal Stephenson.

Given that Persi was Edward’s niece and protégée, it made sense to turn the Bartitsu Club into the Amazons’ headquarters and to position Bartitsu as their fighting style.  That choice also offered a much wider scope for the fight scenes, in that Bartitsu actually included kickboxing and stick fighting as well as jiujitsu training.

Edith Garrud
Above: Edith Garrud training Amazon Judith Lee in the finer points of the womanly art of self defense.

So what happened to Edith Garrud?

She’s right there doing exactly what she did in real life – teaching the Amazons jiujitsu.  She makes a cameo appearance training Judith Lee in Issue #1 and then Persephone lists her along with two other real-life suffragettes, Flora Drummond and Gert Harding, who will take care of things in London while the Amazons try to rescue Christabel Pankhurst in Austria.  Persi also later refers to Edith’s own security team, the Palladium Irregulars, who will escort Christabel back to London after the rescue.

Who were the Palladium Irregulars?

In real history, Edith taught a women-only self-defense class at the Palladium Academy, which was a primarily a dance school.  Those classes were probably attended by suffragettes and may well have formed the early nucleus of the Bodyguard’s training, but we don’t know for sure.

The Palladium Irregulars are our fictional elaboration of that idea.  In the world of Suffrajitsu, they serve as a sort of reserve unit that can be called on to reinforce the Amazons in times of crisis.

But why isn’t Edith part of the Amazon team?

I should mention that, historically, Edith wasn’t actually a member of the team.  She specifically served as their jiujitsu instructor, rather than as a bodyguard herself.

That said, she was originally part of my fictional Amazon team, along with several other amazing Edwardian-era women who sadly don’t appear in the published version of the story. As I was writing the first issue, it became obvious that there were just too many Amazon characters to do justice to in the amount of space I had to work with.

The commission from Jet City Comics was for a trilogy of 24-page stories.  The requirements of writing an action/adventure storyline within those strict limits – only so many pages per issue and panels per page – meant that there wasn’t space to include many people I’d been hoping to pay homage to.  So, with a heavy heart, I had to remove and merge characters until the team was down to a workable size that offered a diversity of viewpoints, while keeping the focus on Persi as the main protagonist.

Given that one of my priorities was to shine a light on some lesser-known figures such as Flossie Le Mar, Toupie Lowther and “Miss Sanderson“, I was OK with Edith’s eventual role and position in the graphic novel.  I can understand that some readers still wanted to see more of her, though.  I’d encourage them to read the biography Edith Garrud: The Suffragette who knew Jujutsu and also the Kindle Worlds Suffrajitsu novella, The Second Story Girl, in which she plays a more prominent role.

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Suffrajitsu: A Graphic Novel Celebrating The Fighting Spirit Of The Suffragettes (Konbini)

Journalist Kate Lismore of Konbini recently interviewed Tony Wolf on the inspirations and process behind the Suffrajitsu graphic novel trilogy:

Money shot

Kate Lismore:  What inspired you about the Suffragettes to create your comic/graphic novel?

Tony Wolf: I’d been fascinated by the real-life history of Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons for many years, so when Neal Stephenson and Mark Teppo asked me to contribute a graphic novel story to their Foreworld Saga franchise, I jumped at the chance to get creative with that theme.

Given that I’d never actually written a graphic novel before, it was a bit of a leap of faith on Neal’s part to get me involved, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.  He actually makes a guest appearance in the first story, as a well-dressed villain …

Beyond that, though, I just think it’s awesome that a group of women in Edwardian England – “King Edward’s on the throne, it’s the age of men!” as Mr. Banks sings in Mary Poppins – actually risked their safety and freedom, over and over again, to improve the lives of future generations.  The fact that some of them were also kick-ass martial arts-trained bodyguards is the icing on the cake.

Constables copy

Lismore:  What is it about comic book genre that makes moments in history more accessible/engaging for people?

Wolf: I think it’s the appeal of a dramatic character-based narrative over “dry”, academic history, although I love the genres of modern, popular historical nonfiction that are bringing so many amazing stories to light.  History is everything that ever happened before now – there’s a lot of very cool stuff in there.

I’m hoping that the Suffrajitsu trilogy, along with the new Suffragette movie, will serve as a kind of edutainment.  It’s astounds me that so few people know about the radical suffragette movement.  It was an incredibly complex, dramatic and interesting period in recent British history, and yet women’s suffrage is mostly remembered as meek ladies waving placards, Emily Davison being hit by a racehorse and a funny song, also from Mary Poppins.

Obviously, there was a huge amount that, with the best will in the world, I simply couldn’t fit in to a 66-page action-adventure graphic novel, but I tried to communicate certain key points.  For one thing, lots of progressive men supported the suffragettes – the newspapers nicknamed them “suffragents” – and lots of conservative women vehemently opposed them, especially as the protest campaigns became more militant.  Two male supporting characters, Edward Barton-Wright and Vernon Kell, represent the suffragent perspective in my stories.

There was also a great diversity of opinion among the suffragettes themselves.  For example, Christabel Pankhurst, the daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst who led the radical Women’s Social and Political Union, became a strident nationalist during the First World War.

She was a very fierce and intelligent strategist and she campaigned for young men to be shamed into entering the armed forces, by having young women hand them white feathers, symbolic of cowardice.  That was extremely controversial at the time, similar to Internet shaming campaigns today. In the Suffrajitsu stories, Persephone Wright, who has been one of Christabel’s loyal bodyguards, takes serious ethical issue with the white feather business.

Pankhursts

Lismore:  Your series focusses on the Amazons and their work protecting the other Suffragettes, how much were you able to take from real life accounts and how much were you able to create for Suffrajitsu?

Wolf: Almost all of the main events in the first issue are very closely based on real-life accounts.  Sometimes people hear that Suffrajitsu is an “alternate history” story and jump to the conclusion that the central premise is fictional, but no – there really was a secret society of martial arts-trained women who protected the leaders of the radical English suffragettes!

I think a lot of people are surprised to hear about this because they assume that, if something that awesome really happened, it would be common knowledge by now.  Unfortunately, though, as with many interesting social phenomena of the very early 20th century, the Amazons were virtually forgotten in the cultural chaos of the First World War.

It sometimes also happens that people go the other way and assume that Suffrajitsu is supposed to be a verbatim documentary, but the reality is that the story was always intended to combine history and fiction at many levels.

Almost all of the characters are fictional representations of historically real people, the major exception being my main protagonist, Persephone Wright, who is the leader of the Amazon team.  Persi is partly inspired by a number of real women,  including Gert Harding – the young Canadian who led the Amazons in real life – and Edith Garrud, who was the team’s martial arts instructor.  Edith also makes a cameo appearance in the graphic novel, and she’s received quite a lot of press over the past couple of years.

Persi is her own woman, though.  She’s what would have been called a “bohemienne”, basically an artistic, free-thinking Edwardian hippie chick, who also happens to be highly trained in the martial arts.  She’s bisexual and, like many people during the early 20th century, she’s heavily addicted to cocaine, which was prescribed by doctors as a wonder-cure for all kinds of ailments.  In Persi’s case, it was “melancholia”, or what we’d think of as depression, arising from a trauma that occurred when she was seventeen.  So, all together she has a pretty complicated life, but fundamentally she’s a person with a very strong drive to protect other people and to fight for what she believes in. Literally, when necessary.

Our representations of the Amazons’ confrontations with the police are very faithful to the historical record, with only minor tweaks for storytelling purposes.  That includes the spectacular “Battle of Glasgow”, in which 30 suffragettes brawled with squads of police constables on the St. Andrew’s Hall auditorium stage, in front of an audience of 4000 shocked spectators.  Again, yes, that really happened.  However, there’s an event at the end of the first story that is a radical departure from history, and that event really spins the adventure off into the Foreworld universe.

That said, the second and third stories are also shot through with historically real characters and locations.  Even our main villain was directly based on a real person, although he’s much more powerful and successful in the story than he was in reality – which is a very good thing!

Riot

Lismore: Often the term “feminism” is considered a very loaded term; how do you think young men and women can reclaim this and make it more positive?

Wolf: I think that feminism is ideally a position of positive advocacy.  For literally as long as I can remember, I’ve understood that all people deserve equal rights and responsibilities, regardless of race, religion, gender, etc.  I worked for several years as a women’s self-defence instructor, which enlightened me to some extent as to the power imbalances that still play out every day, everywhere, and I do what I can to redress those imbalances when I have the chance.

The serious risk with any “-ism” is that it mutates over time into a parody of itself.  The worst case is that an originally positive, dare-I-say common sense position can degenerate into a kind of dogmatic, conformist control mechanism that supplants individuality, open-mindedness and critical thinking.  “Be careful what you hate”, and so-on.

I’m about half a century old now, so young people should feel free to ignore my opinions, but it does give me pause to hear about student activists agitating for “trigger warnings”, “safe spaces” and so-on.  I appreciate the sentiment, but I have to say that previous generations, from the suffragettes through to the women’s liberationists and other social activists of the ’60s and ’70s, did not typically portray themselves as victims, except as a tactical choice.

Frankly, students should be seeking out challenges rather than demanding to be protected from ideas that they don’t like.  These trends trouble me because I want to be able to respect and support these young men and women as the next generation of social progressives.

So, that’s me being all curmudgeonly.  My best advice for the younger generation is to be skeptical, imaginative, curious and honest.

Suffragette that knew jiujitsu

Lismore:  How did you learn about the Amazons? Despite learning about women’s suffrage in school I’d never heard of them before.

Wolf: I first learned about the Amazons as a teenager, reading a book on martial arts history which included an anecdote about young London “society girls” shinnying down drainpipes and sneaking off to secret suffragette jiujitsu classes in the dead of night.

The “secret society” aspect – the idea of this cat-and-mouse game between guerilla suffragettes and the police, playing out in the streets at the height of what was almost a state of civil war – struck a very romantic and transgressive chord.  I experienced something similar a few years later, during the massive and frequently violent social unrest that erupted during the South African Springbok rugby team tour of New Zealand, when anti-apartheid protesters clashed with rugby fans and police.

When the Internet came along I became seriously involved in reviving Bartitsu, which is an eccentric “mixed martial art” for ladies and gentlemen that was founded in London right at the turn of the 20th century.  As I was researching Bartitsu I started to come across more and more information about the suffragette bodyguards.

I included chapters on the Amazons in several Bartitsu-themed books I produced between 2005-2008, and then I wrote the book Edith Garrud: The Suffragette Who Knew Jujutsu, which was intended to interest young teenagers in herstory and in learning self defence. The Amazons were also featured in a Bartitsu documentary that I co-produced in 2011, and I’ve advised on quite a number of articles and academic theses about them over the past few years.

Suffrajitsu three covers

Lismore:  You’ve released the trio of Suffrajitsu comics, are there any more adventures in the works?

Wolf: I’d love to do more, and I’ll never say never, but Suffrajitsu was commissioned as a stand-alone, self-contained trilogy.  That said, the idea of Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazon team obviously cries out for expansion beyond what I was able to do in one graphic novel.

Last year I organised a project that brought together four other writers who have produced further adventures set in the Suffrajitsu milieu, incorporating many characters from my stories.  I gave the writers advance access to the graphic novel scripts plus a detailed “world guide”, as well as editorial feedback. Their short stories and novellas are now available as e-books via Amazon.com’s Kindle Worlds, which is a platform for licensed fan fiction set in numerous fictional universes, including the Foreworld Saga.

Incidentally, we have an open invitation for writers to contribute their own Suffrajitsu stories via the same scheme, and I hope more people do join in.  I enjoyed every bit of the process of developing the Kindle Worlds stories – it was both humbling and deeply satisfying to have others playing in my sandbox!

Bwang

Lismore:  Is there much collaboration between your storylines and Joao’s illustration? How did you decide on your strong visual aesthetic?

Wolf: There was a great deal of collaboration over about 12 months, all by email as Joao lives in Brazil and I’m currently based in Chicago, USA.  I wrote the graphic novel script as if it were a screenplay, with detailed “stage directions”, etc., anticipating a close collaboration with the artist.  Likewise, there was a lot of email collaboration with BOOM! Studio in Seattle, who handled the colouring, lettering etc.

The visual aesthetic was very much a team effort.  Joao Vieira has a superb sense of dynamic action and a real flair for illustrating the Edwardian period, plus expertise in framing and “camera angles”, and our colourist, Josan Gonzales, found exactly the right palette.  I had strong ideas about certain things – the Art Nouveau covers, etc. – and, because I also work as a fight choreographer for theatre, TV, feature films and video games, I had definite opinions about the Bartitsu action scenes.

I sent Joao a large number of character, item and location reference photographs, which I’d compiled during my years of academic research. Some of those are just little personal touches, like a brandy flask which is shown at one point, which is based on a flask I inherited from my grandfather.

Myself and my wife, Kathrynne, who is an actress, posed for some further reference photographs, and there are also “guest appearances” by my parents and my son Josh, who appears as a back-alley Soho hooligan in the third story.

I also had the chance to revise the script in certain areas, in response to what the art team was doing.  I was delighted with the look of the comics.  I’m sure this is old hat to experienced graphic novel writers, but there was something magical about having the scenes that I’d been visualising brought to life on the page.

Shield wall

Lismore:  If there’s one lesson that today’s society, particularly young women, could learn from the Suffragettes and the Amazons, what do you think it is?

Wolf: To have the courage of their convictions.  The group of domestic violence protesters who creatively disrupted the red carpet premiere of Suffragette had the right idea.  “Deeds, not words” was the suffragette battle-cry, and I think that has a particular resonance today, when so much of our daily lives are lived in virtual space, bouncing tweets and likes and shares back and forth.  The Internet is a fantastic tool, but if you want real-world change, you have to get out there and do it.

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Suffragette feature film teaser trailer

The teaser for Sarah Gavron’s upcoming feature film Suffragette is pleasingly close to the opening scene of Suffrajitsu #1, in which politician William Cremer’s anti-suffrage speech is juxtaposed with activist Persephone Wright’s protest by vandalism:

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“Carried Away”: A Suffrajitsu story by Ray Dean

Carried Away cover smallWe’re pleased to be able to present this interview with Hawaii-based writer Ray Dean, whose short story Carried Away is now available via Amazon’s Kindle Worlds.

Inspired by the Suffrajitsu trilogy, Carried Away features several principal characters from the graphic novels, including Persephone Wright and Flossie Le Mar, as well as introducing a new protagonist, Tressa Boniface.  Tressa’s journey from timid maid to confident suffragette is marked by sometimes violent class and gender conflicts, new friendships and cases of mistaken identity,  weaving in and out of the world of haute couture fashion circa 1913:

As a proper Edwardian Englishman, Lord Arnold Smythe has no time at all for the radical women’s suffrage movement. He becomes infuriated when his wife, Lady Roslyn, shows an interest in the cause.

Meanwhile, young Tressa Boniface, a serving girl in the Smythe’s household, can’t see what all the fuss is about. Why should women not be the equals of men? Tressa’s curiosity and sense of natural justice inevitably send her to a suffragette rally, and then into physical danger.

Will Tressa’s new-found friendship with Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons – a secret society of female bodyguards – teach her the courage she’ll need to rise above her station?

 

Q: What was it that first attracted you to writing stories set in the Edwardian era of the Foreworld?

R.D.: My favorite Amendment to the US Constitution is XIX, Suffrage for Women. It was first introduced to Congress in 1878 and was approved in 1919. Add my love of Edwardian Era clothing and culture and a teen-age background in martial arts and dance … when I saw the opportunity to write for this exciting world, I had to do it!

Q: What were the greatest challenges in writing this story?

R.D.: I admit, my prior understanding was that Edwardian ladies were more sedate in nature. My primary memory of ‘falling in love’ with the Edwardian era was Jane Seymour playing the character of Elise McKenna in Somewhere in Time. Now, I had to educate myself on this ‘other side’ of female nature … the kick ass side!

Q:  So which resources did you use?

R.D:  The Suffrajitsu website has so much information!! And Tony Wolf is a great resource as well. He was so wonderful to help answer my questions and really helped me as we fine-tuned my story.

Q: What were the most interesting discoveries you made during your research?

R.D.: The barbaric way that women were treated in the guise of ‘protecting their femininity.’

Every story that I uncovered as I read book after book about the suffrage movement, spawned more ideas. I know I have more stories to tell. And I’m still soaking up more research as I go.

Q: In what ways would you say the themes of the Suffrajitsu series are relevant to us today?

R.D.: Bravery and courage. I’m a Western fan as well, and one of my favorite quotes is from John Wayne – “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”

These women knew that the way wasn’t going to be easy. They were fighting not just the conception that they were the ‘weaker sex’ and that this kind of fight was ‘unwomanly.’ They faced men with clubs that weren’t afraid to use them and they risked so much to make a stand for what they wanted, what they felt was their right.

I have a kick-ass group of lady friends and I hope that we carry forward the same ideals as the Suffragettes and stand up when others would run for the hills. Courage, the real deep-in-your-heart, steel-in-your-spine courage, will never go out of style.

Q: Do you have any philosophies or advice you’d like to share with aspiring writers?

R.D.: Do it. Jump in and swim. (Okay, the ‘swim’ thing is an odd thing since I can barely keep my head above water …) But really, do it. Take yourself seriously or don’t expect other people to do that for you. Be kind to your fellow writers; we all struggle. We all need encouragement, so don’t pass along negative feelings. And be willing to ‘look’ at what you’re writing. Do what you need to do to better your skills. And WRITE … lots and lots of writing!

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

R.D.: I’m not a one genre woman. I’ve always been an avid reader with varied tastes and as I’ve developed my writing through short and longer fiction, I’ve found myself writing for a number of different genres. I’m also a book junkie. The annual Hawaii Library Book Sale is my crack. I love to find all sorts of great books. I haunt the history section  and the war books. I have entirely too many books and it’s not a joke when I say I use stacks of books for night stands beside my bed.

 

More of Ray’s stories are available via Amazon.com …

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“The Isle of Dogs”: a Suffrajitsu novella by Michael Lussier

Isle of Dogs cover small

We’re very pleased to be able to bring you this interview with Michael Lussier, whose new Suffrajitsu-inspired novella The Isle of Dogs is now available via Kindle Worlds.

Isle of Dogs is a dark, hard-edged mystery/revenge drama that pits Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons against an insidious new enemy:

“London: July, 1913.

The body of a young socialite is pulled from the Thames, her suicide note hinting at blackmail, conspiracy and corruption in high places.

Meanwhile, a mysterious street gang is moving through the East End with military precision. leaving a trail of murder and mutilation in its wake.

Enter Persephone Wright and her outlaw band of Bartitsu-trained suffragette Amazons, who will stop at nothing to avenge a fallen comrade …”

Q: What was it that first attracted you to writing stories set in the Edwardian era?

M.L.: Style and personal taste have a lot to do with it.  I’ve always been a voracious reader, and there was something about Victorian and Edwardian literature that enchanted me when I was young.  I grew up reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, the Brontës,  Bram Stoker, G. K. Chesterton, Baroness Orczy, H. G. Wells, Arthur Machen, Kenneth Grahame, and Oscar Wilde.  I even enjoyed – god help me – that occult oddball Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

Q: And what was it about the Foreworld Saga?

M.L: I am particularly drawn to the Foreworld because there are still huge areas of Edwardian society that have rarely been explored outside of academia. Suffrajitsu is a breath of fresh air, in that regard.  It isn’t so much historical revisionism as it is a shadow history of people who were shoved to the margins because they were poor, foreign, queer or female.

2) Can you describe some of the challenges in writing The Isle of Dogs?

M.L.: The amount of research that needed to be done was staggering.

I never imagined that I would spend more than a couple hours of my life studying Burke’s Peerage or exploring the links between C. & E. Morton’s Bloater Fish Paste and the Millwall Athletic Football Club.   Poor naïve bastard: I sacrificed whole days and weekends to these subjects.

3) What were the most interesting discoveries you made during your research?

M.L.: My story concerns the activities of a revived Hellfire Club, so I spent quite a bit of time researching contemporary attitudes toward sexuality.

There is a misconception that the Victorians were essentially prim, high-minded eunuchs.   This isn’t even remotely true.

Q: So what were they?

M.L: Several popular music hall songs of that period that are far filthier than anything I’ve ever heard in a bar or machine shop.  I’m not talking ‘saucy’ or ‘bawdy’.  Eskimo Nell and Kafoozalum are vulgar, profane and ribald on a level that surpasses Lil’ Kim and Too $hort.

I also came across an obscure genre, which I call Erotic Biography.  Probably the best known examples are Walter’s My Secret Life and The Romance of Lust.  These are explicit memoirs which detail an anonymous gentleman’s sexual development and experiences over the course of many years and several volumes.   They portray Victorian upper-class sex as ravenous, male-oriented, compulsive and predatory.  Maids and serving girls were obliged to observe the droit du seigneur, prostitution was commonplace, pregnancies were disowned, any female age nine and above was considered fair game.  These stories are Dickensian in a really disconcerting way.

4) In what way(s) would you say the themes of the Suffrajitsu series are relevant to us today?

M.L.: Suffrajitsu is the intersection of many fascinating underground streams.  Feminism, ‘mixed martial arts’, drug addiction, homosexuality, violence against women, police intimidation and institutional intolerance.  These are issues and subjects that are still incredibly pertinent to 21st century readers.

Q: What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

M.L.: Read as much as you can, and study the techniques of your favorite authors.  Sit down and write every day.  Don’t worry about quality at first – no piece of writing is ever very good before the first revision.  Find an editor and listen very carefully to his/her advice.  Take your reader feedback with a grain of salt.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

M.L.: When I was young, there was a truism in advertising that declared the most coveted market demographic to be men between the ages of 18 and 49.  This is no longer true, although for the most part nobody in power wants to admit it just yet.

Women are emerging as a very powerful consumer block.  They represent 60% of the world’s population and 78% of gross domestic product.  I’ve seen reports that suggest that women will soon control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the United States.   They are, for the most part, better educated and more media savvy than their male counterparts.

Additionally, young women are entering into fields that were once considered male-only; music, law, video gaming, martial arts, etc.

As the economic clout of women grows, so too will the visibility of their issues and interests.

Having spent so much time with Emmeline Pankhurst recently, I cannot help but wonder how she would seek to leverage this power in pursuit of equality in a country where the Violence Against Women Act can barely make it through Congress.

Bio

Michael Lussier has been a machinist, an orderly in a psychiatric hospital and (on one occasion only) a celebrity babysitter.  He is the author of Sherlock Holmes and Bartitsu, which can be found online here. As a general rule, Michael hates to talk about himself.

twitter: @Decervelage

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Suffrajitsu #1 launches today!

Sufffajitsu Book 1 cover largerBook 1 of the Suffrajitsu trilogy launches today via both Amazon.com and comiXology!

Set in London during early-mid 1914, the story follows the adventures of Miss Persephone Wright and her team of Amazons – the most radical of Edwardian England’s women’s rights activists – as they battle for the right to make their voices heard …

 

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