Allow me to introduce myself: I’m T. Aaron Payton. (At least, you can call me that. I’ll explain that cryptic statement at the end of this entry.)
I write things, and the thing I wrote that currently concerns us is The Constantine Affliction, an ahistorical science fantasy novel that looks like steampunk if you squint at it just right. Though if pressed I’d probably call the book a “gonzo historical,” to use a phrase that K.W. Jeter mentions in the same famous letter where he coined the word “steampunk.”
The novel is set in Victorian London, though I took significant liberties with history and geography (forgive me, citizens and scholars of that great city). Yes, it’s yet another streampunk-ish novel set in London in the late 1800s, but I like to think it’s a bit different, because it largely concerns a plague, “The Constantine Affliction” of the title. This plague kills some of its victims, but for those who survive, it has another effect: it changes their sex.
Transforming men into women and women into men, especially in a culture with gender roles as sharply divided as those in Victorian England, has some intriguing effects on the fabric of society, and exploring those effects was fascinating fun. If that isn’t sufficiently gonzo for you, I’ve also stirred in the extravagant plots of not one but two mad scientists (don’t worry; there’s also a sane scientist), clockwork brothels, electrified walkingsticks, a crusading lady journalist, an alcoholic gentleman detective from a prominent family, river monsters, and at least one serial killer.
Now for that revelation I promised. This is T. Aaron Payton’s first novel; which is to say, it’s the first novel to appear under that byline. But, I confess: T. Aaron Payton is a pseudonym, and the person behind that pseudonym has, in fact, written another book or two — though none remotely like this one. Come back next Thursday, and I will reveal my true face. (Or name, anyway.) In the meantime, feel free to speculate wildly, secure in the knowledge that I will neither confirm nor deny your suspicions.