The Last Line

About us: What is The Last Line?

The Last Line as a writing group.

It all started with a conversation over a cup of tea in a marvellous little café in Whitby, during the October Goth Weekend 2009.

The excellent Matt Adams and I were talking about Steampunk literature and the ideas and visions that were circulating in the Steampunk community. The conversation covered a wide variety of books by authors old and new, but we quickly realised that there was a gap between what was published and the backstories, personas and anecdotes that Steampunks were exchanging on line and in conversation. “Wouldn’t it be great,” we both said, “if someone gave these people a chance to put their stories together in some form of compilation.” And there, due to the imminent closure of the café, the conversation ended.

But it was not forgotten. Far from it, despite having to dress for dinner (as every good Steampunk should), I could not get over the idea that we had indeed stumbled upon something important. Not something big or world changing, but important non-the-less.

That evening, when I met Matt again, I presented him with the title of the first compilation, a list of suggested titles for short stories and a synopsis of the backstory. Tales from the Asylum, the first communal writing project of what would become The Last Line had begun.

Within 48 hours of the idea being posted on line, all ten story suggestions had been snapped up. Synopses were sent in for acceptance and within 4 weeks the first drafts started arriving. The Last Line, as a writing group was in business.

Since then the first compilation has been published and the long hard journey of distribution begun. A second compilation has been started with over twelve writers, some from the first volume, some new and even some professional, have begun their stories. The great Steampunk communal writing project continues.


The Last Line as a publisher.

The origin of The Last Line has something of a grass roots feel to it, but one thing was certain from the word go. We were going to produce a professional product. This was important if the hard work of the contributors was to be valued.

To undertake this meant meeting certain standards and goals and, ultimately, for someone to take a financial risk; in a climate of economic recession, no financial risk could be viewed as small.

However, after a lot of research into ISBN numbers, cover specifications, print types, paper grades and numerous other things; the edited and compiled stories of the first book were ready to go to press. It has been hard work and a lot of stress and I am sure we have made a lot of mistakes in the process, but the sense of achievement was immense. There is real pride in what we have created, in such a short time and with almost no resources. But I will not expect the reader to take us on our own estimation, the reaction of people to the book and the quality of the writing, the positive reviews we have received will speak for us.

One comment in particular sticks in my mind. It was from a young(ish), professional and highly educated man; “It’s like a real book and everything!” That was the point I knew we had got it right.


The Last Line and Steampunk.

There has been, there still is, and I suspect there will always be a heartfelt debate about what Steampunk literature actually is. It was therefore, with considerable trepidation that I added the subtitle ”A Steampunk Compilation” to Tales From The Asylum. I expected someone to object, but so far it has been accepted.  In fact one reviewer has gone so far as to describe Tales From The Asylum as “The Steampunk Compilation!” Certainly several active members of the Steampunk Community have taken to describing the work as “by Steampunks, for Steampunks!”

I hope that is exactly what we have done. The aim of the book was not to create twelve short stories from a single Steampunk vision of the past, butto create a platform on which Steampunks could tell their stories, each with their own unique alternate history, bound together as a coherent whole. The fact that a story doesn’t include fashion goggles and steam driven super technology does not exclude it from the compilation or the genre. The result is a variety of stories exploring different social themes and scenarios and covering a considerable span of time from the early Victorian period onwards. The fact that they can be threaded together to form a single narrative proves that Steampunk is very much a Literary Genre and not thin veneer of style with no substance. The stories complement each other, appear to interact with each other, even though they were written in isolation in different parts of the world. There is enough of a coherent world view to bind them together.  The Last Line is about getting that message out; that all the Steampunk visions of the past, present and future may vary a little in the detail, but share common themes and undercurrents that are bigger and much more important to the community. 

I have said visions of the past, present and future, not simply the past. There is a place in the present for Steampunk; we, as a community, are creating that place. I, and a growing number of others, believe that there is a place for Steampunk in the future. Through it’s speculative fiction, Steampunk can imagine, even map out that place. And that is where we have tried to take the next compilation.

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