Tag Archives: Steampunk

A Steampunk Martial Art – Girardoni Kata

Parkour Gun KataSince posting my article on the Girardoni gun, ‘Steampunk Warfare – The Real Deal’, I find myself inventing a whole new martial art to accommodate the weapon.

As a writer, I love the way a simple decision can drive the development of a whole story world. In this case it is the adoption of a certain gun mechanism, but it could equally be a political, institutional, religious, technological, hierarchical or social idea, just as our response to these things change the real world around us.

A story world must hang together logically for the whole thing to feel real to the reader. To give your story an ‘other-worldy’ feel, just turn a social norm on its head and follow the logical consequences of that decision.

The other day, I took the family to see the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, UK. The Mary Rose is a Tudor warship built on the cusp of a military revolution – the introduction of cannons. She was originally designed in 1510 as a floating castle, from which bowmen and musketeers could help in the boarding and capture of enemy ships. She was refitted in 1536 with heavy cannon as a floating gun platform. The refit was only partially successful: she was so top heavy she could not turn with her gun ports open, because she leaned over so far they were under water. She tried the maneuver in battle in 1545 and promptly sank.

The museum clearly shows how the introduction of new weaponry changed the entire nature of offensive and defensive warfare during the ship’s lifetime. I highly recommend visiting the Mary Rose museum if you ever get the opportunity, it the best museum I have ever been to – 19,000 artifacts and everyone original.

I reckon, if the Girardoni gun system had continued in use, it would only have been a matter of time before a martial art was invented to accommodate the continuous reloading and firing of two Girardoni pistols used simultaneously.

I have researched the art of Gun Kata, invented for the film Equilibrium – but the moves mainly revolve around visually impressive, but totally impractical, stances for the camera. I have also researched Gun Fu, invented by the Asian cinema as a visually entertaining alternative to kung fu action films. Neither of these ‘disciplines’ serve any practical purpose other than to visually entertain – which is fine, we are all in the entertainment business, but they are particularly difficult to transpose into prose.

To satisfy literary demands, and still achieve the cool feel I’m after, I have had to invent my own martial art with which to populate my new novel, Coggler’s Brood.  This is a new departure from the weapons of Gaia’s Brood, and a fitting extension of the story world, so I am particularly excited.  I have called this new martial art, Girardoni Kata, a Steampunk Martial Art.

Based around Gun Kata, the moves are all practical ways in which to continuously reload, cock, and fire, two Girardoni pistols simultaneously, while taking on a large number of opponents in close quarter fighting.

Here are two of the basic moves:

A standing six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen or sixteen point star, where the gun wielder aims and fires toward opposite points of the star, whilst rotating either clockwise or anticlockwise.  The practitioner reloads the breach block with parts of their upper body, killing their opponents with deadly accuracy.

A crouching six or eight point double-rate-of-fire star, where the gun wielder fires in a predetermined pattern, without accurate aiming, whilst rotating in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction.  The practitioner reloads the breach block with parts of their lower body, arms, and legs.  The objective here is to fire as fast a possible to create such a hail of bullets that the enemy are cut down and killed as they fall through the deadly curtain of lead.

All I need now is for some kind soul to make up a pair of mirrored Girardoni pistols with working breaches and cocking hammers, complete with gun holsters, so I can practice  my Girardoni Kata moves – I’m just not a good tinkerer, except with words.


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Writing Workshop – The MacGuffin

The MacGuffin is a device use by script writers, particularly in action and adventure films, to advance the action and maintain the audiences interest.

The term coined was by Alfred Hitchcock. He generally used it as a device to hold together the first part of his film. What is it? Anything which all the characters are interested in obtaining. In Psycho the MacGuffin is the $40,000 which has been stolen. The pursuit of this money provides the motivation which holds all the characters together in the first part of the film without giving away the whole plot. Hitchcock generally only used it as a device to hold together the first act. Ultimately, Hitchcock said the MacGuffin is just not important ‘It is nothing.’ Who for instance remembers the $40,000 in Psycho?

The Coen brother always use the same MacGaffin in each of their films: money, and it is always a red-herring. In their film ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ which is one of my all time favourite movies, three convicts break out of prison to retrieve a large stash of money. We learn later that the money was a hoax, but it keeps the film moving and gives everyone a purpose until the true objective is revealed.

In the film Safe, which I watched last night, the MacGuffin is a little girl who knows something. The protagonist and most of the Antagonists have no idea why the girl is important or what secret she knows, all they know is that their enemies are pulling out all the stops to find her, so she becomes important to them too.  Not until three-quarters of the way through the film do they discover what the chase, and the rising body count, is all about.  A clever script, I thought, and a theme I would like to use in a future story.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas also use the MacGuffin as a device in their films.  In the original Star Wars movie, Lucas says R2D2 was the MacGuffin, which he used to hold the first act together in the classic Hitchcock way.  Spielberg, on the other hand, has a different view of the MacGuffin. For him, the MacGuffin must always be the ultimate prize.  Here the device is used to motivate the characters throughout the whole film.  The best examples are from the Indians Jones Series: in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, the MacGuffin is the Ark of the Covenant; In The Temple Of Doom, the holy stones; In The Last Crusade, it is the Holy Grail; In the Crystal Skull it is the skull. In fact, Spielberg likes the MacGuffin technique so much he is happy to have more than one. Not only will he have an overall MacGuffin, but he will have minor MacGuffins in each act of the film.

A MacGuffin is normally an object, but could be a person, that all the characters are interested in and that propels the action forwards. It could be the main objective of the protagonist and antagonist which drives the action throughout the entire film. It could be a step on the way to the main objective or it could be totally unrelated to the main objective and be completely forgotten by the end of the film. It’s purpose is solely to provide focus and move the action along. It’s a technique which readily transposes to writing.

In Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows you could say that the Horuxes and the Hallows are MacGuffins. They provide the necessary focus and motivation to propel the action forwards.  In my book Gaia’s Brood, the MacGuffin is Eve Swift’s journal.

A MacGuffin can also be a useful fix if you are editing and you realise your story just doesn’t hang together. Is there an object/person already in the story which can be turned into a MacGuffin (even if it is a complete red-herring) or can you introduce one. Look for ‘shotgun’ objects. By that I mean have you focused on an object in a part of the story but not used it – like the proverbial shotgun hanging behind the bar in a western: if it is shown it must be used by the end of the film, but nothing says you need to reserve it for the end of the story. If the pursuit or desire of the object will hold together the first act, by all means use it as a MacGuffin, secure in the knowledge that you are following in the footsteps of the greats.

So when you are next planning your adventure or action story, consider whether you have a MacGuffin or whether you need one. How many MacGuffins do you need? One overall object to provide a focus for the entire story or several steps along the way, or both. How about one to propel a (sub) story along, or maybe a total red-herring?


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