Western Steampunk Adventure and Espionage! Five Things That Inspired ‘Buffalo Soldier’

Image: Melanie R. Meadors

This week we welcome back author Maurice Broaddus to tell us what inspired him to write his new steampunk novella from Tor.com, Buffalo Soldier! Not only does this book have a fantastic cover, but it has some very interesting origins. Read on!

In the alt-history novella, Buffalo Soldier, former espionage agent, Desmond Coke, stumbles onto a plot within his homeland of Jamaica and gets caught between warring religious and political factions. All parties vied for control of a mysterious boy named Lij Tafari. Wanting the boy to have a chance to live a free life, Desmond assumes responsibility for him and flees to the United States of Albion. Hijinks ensue…in the form of assassins and giant steam-powered robots. Here are five things that helped inspire the story:

1. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I love westerns, with Clint Eastwood’s movies topping my list of favorites of the genre (to be honest, For a Few Dollars More is my favorite of the “Man with No Name” trilogy). Though the stories are completely different, in the novella, there are characters who fill out the titular roles. Our hero, Desmond Coke, swaggers through the story in the role of the Good. Our mercenary, Cayt Siringo, brings the Badassery. Our mysterious business mogul, Garrison Hearst, rounds out the cast as the Ugly. All in a standoff in the nation-state of Tejas.

Buffalo Soldier, diverse SF/F
Image: Tor.com

2. Inglourious Basterds. There is a scene in Quentin Tarantino’s movies that I adore for both its seeming simplicity and its layered complexity. British Army Lieutenant Archie Hicox goes to a tavern with Hugo Stiglitz and Wilhelm Wicki. They meet an undercover agent, the German film star Bridget von Hammersmark. The tavern is filled with soldiers. They draw the attention of Gestapo Major Dieter Hellstrom. All of them sit around a table, surrounded by soldiers, and have what on the surfaces seems to be a simple conversation. In reality, they are being interrogated, where the slightest mis-step, wrong gesture, faulty accent, or any incongruity to their story may give them away and things end in a bloodbath. Tarantino ratchets up the tension so much it’s practically another character sitting alongside them. There may be a scene in the novella that nods to this.

3. The Steam Man of the Prairie and the Dark Rider Get Down: A Dime Novel. Joe Lansdale’s novella has the Traveler of Wells’s The Time Machine running amuck in the Old West after having damaged the space-time continuum. A team piloting a giant, steam-powered robot hunts him down. As a nod to one of my favorite steampunk stories ever, there are giant robots rampaging through this story.

4. “Black Indians.” I became intrigued by how many people claim to have “Indian blood” in them. Researching (and worldbuilding) are my favorite parts of writing and my research led me to the Seminole tribe. I immediately thought of them as an entry point for me re-imagining the First Nations Confederacy as a place for Desmond and Lij to potentially call home.

5. My nephew. Can I geek out about my nephew? Sure I can! My nephew is on the autism spectrum and was part of the inspiration for Lij, the young boy Desmond has taken responsibility of to protect from the various interests pursuing him. My nephew’s heart is so full of love and his infectious laugh can rattle the walls (I almost wrote a scene where Lij keeps trying to hug everyone despite the gun battle going on based on some of my nephew’s antics). The little guys is amazing and I wish the whole world was filled with more like him. Plus, we both love comic books, thus the origins of Lij’s love of stories in the novella.

Westerns, steampunk, and Taratino movies all set to a reggae soundtrack (at least in my head), Buffalo Soldier has its roots in a lot of stuff, and hopefully makes for an intriguing story.

About Buffalo Soldier:

Having stumbled onto a plot within his homeland of Jamaica, former espionage agent, Desmond Coke, finds himself caught between warring religious and political factions, all vying for control of a mysterious boy named Lij Tafari.

Wanting the boy to have a chance to live a free life, Desmond assumes responsibility for him and they flee. But a dogged enemy agent remains ever on their heels, desperate to obtain the secrets held within Lij for her employer alone.

Assassins, intrigue, and steammen stand between Desmond and Lij as they search for a place to call home in a North America that could have been.

Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy and science fiction stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her work has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and she was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. Melanie is also a freelance author publicist and publicity/marketing coordinator for both Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse. She blogs regularly for GeekMom and The Once and Future Podcast. Her short story “A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, available April 12, 2016.