Songs of Steam Lungs by D. D. H. Lee


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Post May 24, 2005, 10:00:27 PM

Songs of Steam Lungs by D. D. H. Lee

A truly interesting tale--a spiritualized version of WWI-esque trench warfare, wherein, I believe, a soldier comes face to face for the first time against tanks and machine guns.<br><br>The battle part of it was a bit overwhelming at first, and I Had to re-read it to be sure that I had it all correct. The revisualization of the enemy soldier as a glowing-eyed demon in the shell crater through me for a loop. (Of course, this is fiction, it could really have been a demon.)<br><br>On setting, I was sure the writer knew where he was putting the characters, but wasn't always quite so sure myself. Some of this was caused by the personification of spirits in the machinery of war, I'm sure. Warfare, logically, is a surreal environment to begin with, but the redrawing of some of the scenery in the spiritual view obfuscated some of the details perhaps a little too much for my own tastes. I couldn't always tell what was what. (Maybe I wasn't meant to. It's hard to say.)<br><br>I was curious about the metal speaking to the men. The hero says he cannot hear the metal, yet when combat begins, he is fully in tune with it's desires. Perhaps this is a oneness that soldiers achieve with their weapons. I could not say.<br><br>I liked the protagonist. He was an engineer at heart in charge of a squad of snipers--a fish out of water among a net full of them. I also liked how his own special talents allowed him to "speak" to the advancing armor, stopping it. <br><br>As strange as it seems on the surface, I thought this tale of men speaking to the souls of their rifles and killing "fire-breathing" demons rang true and was believable. I don't mind being in the dark about the plot if I can sense that it's on purpose, that the goal will be reached. It was.<br><br>The only thing I thought might have been out of place or perhaps I just didn't understand was the title. If indeed this was WWI, then the tanks would not have been steam driven (unless I know far less about tanks of that era than I think I do). Is it possible that the protagonist himself was "Steam Lungs", and that was why this was part 1? If it was a parallel universe, of course, things are different. I suppose it all depends on your perspective.<br><br><br>I was a great fan of "For the Love of Chicken," and I was pleased with this one. It engaged my imagination, as well as the rest of my mind.<br><br>Nate
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Post May 25, 2005, 08:34:41 AM

Re: Songs of Steam Lungs by D. D. H. Lee

This one started wonderfully. I enjoyed the writing style and found the world building to be effortless. I was able to get a sense of key elements quickly without the story slowing down. <br><br>I think things took a bit of a turn on the way to the front. <br><br>Ultimately, Herman's characterization seemed a bit thin, so he came across as too device-y. Plus, he disappeared from the story. And our protagonist emerges as rather powerful when it seemed he lacked some of the abilities that Herman had. It might be that I misunderstand the distinctions between smiths and wrights and that the hero's sudden power is completely in line with being the latter. But I'm left wondering why it wasn't Herman who emerged from the trench to stop the advancing armor.<br><br>It wasn't clear to me why the outcast and specially trained snipers ended up mixed with the regular infantry. I didn't catch that they were hurting for soldiers. I loved the idea of a squad of marginalized snipers and wanted to see them in action, so I was disappointed when they ended up in a trench.<br><br>I also thought the ending suffered for the metaphorical language used, which while lyrical tended to wash out the action. I didn't get a really good sense of the horror of charging out of a trench at night to cross the killing field only to a tank for the first time (ever?--maybe not, someone does yell "armor" as if it wasn't alien). Be that as it may, I thought that a certain immediacy required for such an action was lost beneath the writing choices.<br><br>Overall I found the story compelling and look forward to Part II. This is clearly an epic in a bottle.<br><br>Dan E.

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Post May 27, 2005, 02:36:16 PM

Re: Songs of Steam Lungs by D. D. H. Lee

Thanks and thanks again for the commentary! To be honest, I was unsure about this piece since this was one of the more ambitious titles I was trying to get written down, so as a result I'm still a bit reluctant about how to make this story run, but I can see from the remarks that I'm doing something right, so I'm going to keep trying at it. There will be serious revisions as well, but... I just hope someone doesn't look back at Part I when compared with Part 2 and wonder why some of it just looks completely askew. :o<br><br>Just some things that I guess I wanted to point out (nothing asinine, I hope, just things that I wanted to make sure I'm acknowledging).<br><br>re: Demons<br>The whole thing itself was to suggest dehumanization, yes, but it was also combined with other things: mainly, I wanted to make mention of flamethrowers. Note to self: introduce the tool before you introduce the concept.<br><br>re: Narrator<br>I agree with the flatness. I was hoping to see if I could make the protagonist's analytic attitude become reflected through the way his narrations were portrayed, and that included making himself seem more like a reactive instead of proactive character. Perhaps I should emphasize his technical examinations...? I just don't want to go overboard since I know too much of it will turn a character from psychological to satirical.<br><br>Thanks again! -and expect a second part, er... in awhile (currently have a (HOPEFULLY) short writing project I'm working on).
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Post June 14, 2005, 10:20:09 AM

Songs of Steam Lungs by D. D. H. Lee

There are two elements which would prevent Songs of Steam Lungs (Part 1) by D. D. H. Lee from being called a standard Steampunk tale. 1) It is not set in the conventional Victorian/Edwardian quasi-history. It <br>therefore does not have the game of using historical persons in the story as main or minor characters. 2) It is set in a world closer to the period of the First World War, just a smidgen Post-Edwardian.<br><br>Yet in tone and theme it is very much a Gaslight Fantasy. Its world is familiar, as familiar as the earliest newsreels, and foreign, as foreign as a war worlds away.<br><br>In the essay Varieties of Steampunk Experience by Palaeogothica [www.geocities.com/9094/steam42.html, <br>www.geocities.com/9094/steam43.html] the nom de plume argues for two distinct forms of Steampunk. There are the Nostalgic stories that idealize the pre-postmodern world, and there are Melancholic stories <br>that are not idealized and illustrate the origins of our twenty-first century techno-society and the precursors to our ills and problems.<br><br>Songs of Steam Lungs easily fits the second definition. It presents a world changing from the elegant society demonstrated by the father’s war stories as a chevalier. The narrator’s story tells of much more gritty adventures, but it does more. It also illustrates the change from a Smith craftwork to utilitarian technology. The Smiths are presented as much closer to nature – people who coax steel out of iron and coal, who can hear the needs and ‘consciousness’ of metal. The <br>majority of the culture sees cold metal as just a dumb tool; they are followers of the True God. The narrator, a mechanic and bicycle maker, is between these two worlds. He is a Wright, and this allows him to not <br>only survive, but succeed on the horrific trenches.<br><br>I was tantalized by not only the tale, but the prospect of more to come as well.<br>
'Beowulf's dragon, if one wishes really to criticize, is not to be blamed for being a dragon, but rather for not being dragon enough, plain pure fairy-tale dragon.'
J.R.R. Tolkien, 1936.

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