Fairy Tale Fridays: A Spotlight on Azarbad the Aeronaut by J. Woolston Carr, A Fairy Tales Punk’d Author

Fairy Tales Punk’dAn Illustrated Mythpunk Anthology is available now for pre-order and will be released Dec 10. J. Woolston Carr not only contributed a funny tale to the collection, but also illustrated several of the stories.

What is the title of your story in Fairy Tales Punk’d? Tell us a little about it!

The title of my story is “The Second Mission of Azarbad the Aeronaut”, a steampunk pastiche of the 1001 Nights Sindbad the Sailor. Set during the 19th century Crimean War, the prisoner Sarah Hazard is interrogated and reveals the mission of the Persian Captain Azarbad, who has been enlisted to aid a British airship investigate a secret Russian weapon called the Roc.

Did you start with an existing story and punk it, or create something from scratch? Did you discover any cool resources along the way?

The story is a reimagining of the Second Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor. I changed his name to Azarbad the Aeronaut so I could retain the alliteration. I also added the character of Shaheen the clockwork falcon. I found Azarbad wandering about alone talking to himself rather boring, so I wanted to introduce a character with which he could share his adventures. Although the falcon wasn’t in the original Sindbad stories, there is an unrelated character in the Arabian Nights named Sindbad who has a pet falcon, so I sort of adapted that.

I set the story during the 1850’s Crimean War, to place it in the Victorian steampunk era. While the conflict was between Great Britain and Russia, much of the territory they fought over involved the Middle East and Persia, and I wanted to give a little nod to prejudice and imperialism.

My source of inspiration is the 1885 translation by the Victorian writer and explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton. Burton was a Victorian polyglot who learned at least 26 languages. In 1885 he published The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights Entertainment in 16 volumes of tales for an adult audience. It is a foundational European text for the Arabian Nights stories, though critics admonished his attempt to recreate classical Arabic speech by using archaic English. For example, the Second Voyage of Sindbad the Seaman begins:

“She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Sindbad the Seaman’s guests were all gathered together he thus bespake them: ‘I was living a most enjoyable life until one day my mind became possessed with the thought of travelling about the world of men and seeing their cities and islands; and a longing seized me to traffic and to make money by trade.’”

I rather enjoy the stylized text. It reminds me of author and artist Howard Pyle’s retelling of the King Arthur and Robin Hood stories, which were some of my favorite books when I was a kid.

Burton’s translation is acknowledged for its copious footnotes on Arab culture and lifestyles, much of which Burton experienced firsthand.

By the way, I consider Burton to be an archetype steampunker. He spent very little time in England because of his travels and exploration. He was never well accepted in polite Victorian society because of his liberal (for the time) and scholarly writings on sexuality (he wrote a popular translation of the Kama Sutra). Mark Hodder wrote an interesting series of steampunk books called “Burton and Swinburn” featuring Richard Francis Burton as the main character.

Have you always been interested in fairy tales, or was this your first time working in the mythpunk genre?

This is my first story working with fairy tales, but they have always been a fascinating inspiration as pure fantasy and depiction of cultural norms. I worked for 10 years in the Dallas Public Library Children’s Center, which houses a huge collection of fairy tales and myths that I would delve in to as time permitted.

What is your absolute favorite genre to write and why?

Steampunk fascinates me because of the historical anchor to the 19th century. Most stories I write have some connection to a historical period or event.

Where can people find out more about you and your previous writings?

You can find out more about other stories I’ve written at the J. Woolston Carr Facebook Page and my Blog Behind the Story: Author J. Woolston Carr


My short story contributions to anthologies include a horror story set after the Indian Rebellion against the British in 1857 called “The Four Butchers of Cawnpore” in All Dark Places 2, a mystery set in the world of Jules Verne called “The Ghost of Captain Nemo” in 20,000 Leagues Remembered, and a steampunk adventure with intrigue and fencing set in 19th century New York called “The Grand Assault” in Gears, Ghouls and Gauges.

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss my story!


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