Jean-Christophe Valtat’s AURORAMA Launch at Clover Club

1. Samuel Sobek, toy-maker and steampunk fashionista; member of the Steampunk Meetup Group. I especially liked his flip-up shades. 2. Nathan Ihara, a publicist with Melville House, in a dapper hat.

Last night Melville House took over the backroom of Clover Club to celebrate the launch of Aurorarama, Paris-based Jean-Christophe Valtat’s latest novel. Set in an alternate-universe arctic circle — in steampunk 1908, within the fictive polar city of New Venice — Aurorarama blends sci-fi, romance, and frigid skylines with repressive regimes and intrigue.

1. Dennis Johnson, publisher and editor-in-chief of Melville House, looking publisherly. 2. Nathaniel Keats, graphic designer and owner of a very fine tie; member of the Steampunk Meetup Group. Obviously, I envied his vest.

Melville House coordinated the launch with New York’s Steampunk Meetup Group, organized by Katherine Moseley and Brandon Herman. So, there were more than enough well-dressed ladies and gentlemen to crowd the room, wearing everything from dresses they’d made themselves to vintage threads they’d scavenged; unfortunately, this made yourstruly feel not a little bit underdressed.

Meetup-member Samuel Sobek, finely dressed in flip-up specs and — I believe that fancy tie’s called — an ascot, explained that he did not take off his hat despite of last night’s unseasonable warmth because, in the nineteenth century, to be without a hat was like walking around with your fly open. (This made me reflexively check to see if I were zipped.) Nathaniel Keats, another member of the steampunk meetup, looked sharp in his pinstripes and tie. Both are excited to read the book, which will be discussed next month in the group’s book club.

1. Katherine Moseley and Brandon Herman, organizers of the Steampunk Meetup. 2. Jean-Christophe Valtat, author of Aurorarama, who was kind enough to let me blind him with my camera and humble me with how and how fast he wrote the book — in English, a second language, and within four months. Writing in English, he said, made it quicker and easier for him to complete the novel; he didn’t obsess over his place within the tradition, and the story came as if in a trance.

Valtat is already planning the followup to Aurorarama, which will draw on the history of the Grand Guignol theater — think nineteenth century drama enacting the equivalent of slasher flicks, complete with audience splattering special effects — and feature La Salpêtrière, the infamous French hospital where madwomen were treated for uppitiness and hysteria.

–Jake Davis salts most things, and is a Dish contributor.

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