An Interview with Kevin Mowrer

Recently, I stumbled across an amazing art project, Frahnknshtyne by Kevin Mowrer. His blog, filled to the brim with spectacular Steampunk art, is a treat to visit. We were able to catch up recently, and I got to ask him all about him and his awesome project.

How did you come to be such a talented artist?

Thank you for the compliment.

You’re welcome!

I have always been drawing, painting and making things in some form for as long as I can remember.  I think most creators create because it’s always been who they are.  I am classically art trained with degrees in painting, design and sculpture and grew up in a house with a mother who wrote children’s stories. I’ve spent over 25 years professionally developing properties and stories, designing products and producing entertainment for a variety of clients and companies.  I feel quite lucky that I’ve gotten such interesting opportunities to shape art and story in so many different forms of media.  I’ve received two Emmy awards for TV shows I created and hold a number of other awards for products and even several patents.  Basically, I have this crazy patchwork background that cuts across lots of different media and it’s that background that all seems to come together in the kinds of art and stories I like to create.

Please tell me a bit about Frahnknshtyne. How do you explain it to people who are unfamiliar with your work?

The Frahnknshtyne development that I am posting on my blog is all part of a grand experiment a good friend of mine suggested I try.  Since I develop properties for a living, industry dogma suggests keeping it deeply secret while it’s being developed. Maybe it’s the risky anarchist in me but I’m openly posting the art and a bit of the story work on the development of Frahnknshtyne for the Steampunk web community to view as I make it instead of waiting until it’s all done and produced or published. Well, the response and interest have been far beyond anything I could have imagined.  The site has been picked up in many places, clubs and blogs around the world and the interest and enthusiasm from the Steampunk community has been humbling and thrilling.  I think the best benefit so far has been the number of truly interesting and genuinely good people I have been corresponding with or met.  There’s something magically vital about people who are into Steampunk.

What similarities and differences are there between your story and the source material?

Well, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is, of course, a story informed by her time that also expresses some timeless human themes and fears.  My Story of Frahnknshtyne is about some of the issues and challenges of our contemporary world set in a Victorianesque time and place.  Science fiction and speculative fiction can both be great vehicles for exploring topics that otherwise would be too “on the nose” or polarizing if set in present circumstances. Both stories are also about the failure of a father.  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein tells us about a father who makes a son but does so coldly for scientific ego.  My story is actually a tale of two Fathers.  One who fails his brilliant inventor son because of addiction and another adoptive father who coldly wants to control his inventions.  Probably the biggest difference is that it is the brain of my Dr. Frahnknshtyne that ends up in the monster (no, this isn’t a spoiler for the story. There’s several big secrets that only the book and beyond will reveal).  Actually, the monster is more of spectacular clockwork being who becomes a dark and unexpected hero.   It takes a monster to fight monsters and the world of my story is chock full of monstrous people and things created as a result of a misuse of “Aether” the life force taken from humans.  My story also features wonderful infernal machines and mysterious technology than Ms Shelley’s story.

Is there any significance to the alternate spelling you are using “Frahnknshtyne”?

Yes, I wanted the name to be pronounced in a particular way and I wanted Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to have it’s own clear air.  Because my story isn’t a retelling, I wanted the audience to be able to remember it as different but inspired by the original.

What attracted you to Steampunk? What does Steampunk mean to you?

I have been into Steampunk since before it was steampunk.  I’ve always loved speculative fiction, I love making mechanisms and mechanical things from scratch and I personally collect and own interesting items from Victorian to craft style for my own home.  From a storytelling standpoint, for me, Steampunk provides the amalgam of so many of the elements and ideas that interest me all wrapped up in a genre that let’s me comment on bigger issues and challenges we face today.  I am also a world builder both visually and narratively.  The possibilities I believe lie within the genre of Steampunk I feel are chock full of the potential to take audiences to places they’ve never seen or imagined yet feel like they could have been or could be.

Do you have a personal Steampunk philosophy?

Well, I have a personal storytelling philosophy that I find fits well with Steampunk.  Here’s my soapbox rant about what I love to see in stories.  It may seem a bit old fashioned but I like to think of it more as timeless and human-truthful. I believe in the unrealized and often unsuspected power and heroism of the everyman or woman.  I believe in the power of the questing and honestly inventive mind to find answers to the hardest questions as well as play and create new possibilities in inventive ways.  I believe that one person or small groups of people can make huge change happen given the right mix of opportunity and need and I believe that the truth of change is that it often begins with someone who didn’t sign up for the job yet rises to the role.  These things and other ideas that I feel strongly about all can live quite vividly within Steampunk because of it’s ability to rethink history through the focus and rise of characters who are most often marginalized by situation or standing.  Steampunk also brings inventive things and hands-on technology into the stories often as key elements in the struggle.  This just fits the stories and worlds I am interested in creating.

What’s in the future for Frahnknshtyne?

I am carefully crafting the story and world of Frahnknshtyne and am not doing so on someone else’s schedule.  When it’s ready, I plan to publish the story somewhat like Dinotopia in that the book will be fully illustrated so that the audience can really see the world and the wonders and adventures within it.  Before that book is done, because I am doing a certain amount of this development open to the Steampunk community, I will be posting images throughout the process on the blog.  I am also considering printing 2 or 3 limited edition Gicle´ folios and individual prints of the ongoing artwork as I go and possibly a sketchbook for one or two of the “con’s” I’ll be attending.  There’s been some inquiries by other artists about possibly making real life versions of some of the designs being developed in the art and I may do one or two of those collaborations because of how thrilling it would be to bring some of it to life to actually hold and share and because it would be fun to share this developing world with other creatives.  If the audience finds the story interesting enough and if there is the right partner who comes to the table, I’d like to see Frahnknshtyne on the big screen one day.  Whatever happens, I already consider this grand experiment and this development a success and am truly grateful for all the interest and support from the Steampunk community.

To see all of Kevin’s work please visit his blog. I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed by what you see there!

The Best in Steampunk Blogs

Because so much of the Steampunk community is based on the internet, there’s a considerable amount of blogs floating around in the aether. But some are particularly outstanding and contribute to the community within their own focus. Today’s post is a tribute to their hard work, a bit of recognition for the best in Steampunk blogs, as picked by me.  These blogs are true resources to the Steampunk community, from the veterans to newcomers, which gives unparalleled insight into the subculture.

Music
Sepiachord– written by Mr. Jordan Bodewell, Jennifer Dowling, Marcy Monroe, C. Lee Vermeers, Lauren Goldberg, and Matthew the stowaway. Sepiachord brings what now has to be thousands of musicians to the attention of the Steampunk community. Their Sepiachord Song of the Day, interviews, and CD reviews provide a valuable resource to uniting an independent and worldwide retrofuturistic music scene.

Fashion
Steam Fashion at Live Journal– written by the contributing members of the community. Steam Fashion is created by of contributors who love Steampunk fashion. It’s a great resource for those learning about Steampunk fashion or wishing to show off their latest ensembles and outfits. There’s also lots of makers who post their latest merchandise available for purchase.

Community
Captain Robert’s Live Journal– written by Captain Robert of Abney Park. So many people that are now into Steampunk were brought into the lifestyle by Captain Robert and Abney Park. Captain Robert’s blog is a hub for insightful articles and posts that casts a wide and accepting net across the definition of Steampunk. No matter what your view of Steampunk, from cosplay to lifestyle and everything in between, Captain Robert’s blog is sure to be of interest to you.

Literature
Parliament and Wake– written by James Schafer and Kate Franklin. Parliament and Wake is on the cutting edge of web published fiction in the Steampunk genre. It’s a series of uncompleted books that takes place on the Edges – fantastical worlds that exist just beyond our perception. The stories are unique and definitely worth visiting often for a different take on Steampunk fiction.

Art and Gadetry
Steampunk Workshop– written by Jake Von Slatt and Meredith Scheff. Right behind Captain Robert, Jake Von Slatt’s work in functional Steampunk art brings many into the fold with the undeniable draw of the “ooh, shineys” he creates. His blog highlights his creations, his personal Steampunk adventures and philosophy, and goings on in the Steampunk community at large. For Steampunk makers, the Steampunk Workshop is an absolute must for frequent visitation.

Home Decor
Steampunk Home– written by Sara Brumfield. Those who dream of taking their love of Steampunk to the next level and remodeling their home in the aesthetic need not look any further than the Steampunk Home for inspiration. Featuring home décor from artists around the world and pieces for every aspect of home modification, this blog finds the very best in a variety of Steampunk styles.