Archive for May, 2012

Today we welcome back author Christine Bell.

Christine Bell is one half of the happiest couple in the world. She and her handsome hubby currently reside in Pennsylvania with a four-pack of teenage boys and their two dogs, Gimli and Pug. If she gets time off from her duties as maid, chef, chauffeur, or therapist, she can be found reading just about anything she can get her hands on, from Young Adult novels to books on poker theory. She doesn’t like root beer, clowns or bugs (except ladybugs, on account of their cute outfits), but lurrves chocolate, going to the movies, the New York Giants and playing Texas Hold ‘Em. Writing is her passion, but if she had to pick another occupation, she would be a pirate…or, like, a ninja maybe. She loves writing fun and adventure-filled romance stories, but also hopes to one day publish something her dad can read without wanting to dig his eyes out with rusty spoons.

The Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale

by Christine Bell

Very excited to be back here at Steamed! Doubly excited because the second installment of my Stormy Gale series came out on May 28th! I’m celebrating with a big contest, so be sure to read the end of this post for details.

The Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale starts off in Victorian London (in the steampunk tradition) but then takes us further back, to a time shortly after the Salem Witch Trials. Having grown up in New England, I’m fairly obsessed with this strange slice of American History. If you’ve ever been to New England during the fall or winter, the nights feel positively ripe for witches. The bare trees’ clawing silhouettes lit by a fat, milky moon that you almost expect to wink at you against from its perch in the inky night sky.  Man, it feels soooo witchy. I’m convinced that such an occurrence could never have happened in, say, San Diego. It required a perfect soup of events and the locale had to play a part. Aside from my proximity to Salem growing up, I also always felt that this phenomenon was both a fascinating display of vagaries of the human psychology and a heartrending tale of fear and loss. What better place for a story? And I always knew that if I did a time travel story that would be one of the places I’d take it. The most excellent part is that it feels like such a natural extension of the steampunk aesthetic. A dark, grey pallor hanging over a village in the wake of horror and mayhem. People not trusting one another or themselves. Throw into this historical period some gadgetry that shouldn’t be there and then sit back to witness the subsequent reactions of the townspeople as they search for a possible explanation.  It was like chocolate and peanut butter for the mind. Mmmm…Reeses.

*wipes drool*

At any rate, rather than be tied to the framework of the original trials thereby having to subject my characters to horrors I truly couldn’t stomach (I learned more than I ever wanted to know in my research and, friends, the word horror is an understatement), or being woefully historically inaccurate, I fast forwarded a handful of years. I found this allowed me to scale back some of the truly heinous behavior in an organic way as many of the townspeople would be more tentative at first for fear of making the same mistake twice still theorize that, if the stars aligned just right (or wrong, in this case), we could again fall victim to a similar situation.  I believe that is true. I believe that, in the right cauldron of fear and intolerance, the Salem Witch Trials could happen again because when people get into a pack state of mind? Well, we do stuff that is stone cold crazy sometimes. That’s the thing I kept coming back to. These people who had a hand in the atrocities. Were they ALL evil? I don’t think they were and I hope I did the townsfolk of Salem right in giving most of them some humanity, while still condemning the actions of many. So you tell me, steampunk lovers: Do you think something similar to The Salem Witch Trials could ever happen again? Do you think that steampunk and witches are a match made in heaven or do you like your chocolate sans peanut butter? And lastly, do you find the topic of Salem as fascinating as I do?

Check out an excerpt of the book, and don’t forget, stick around for the giveaway at the end!

The cold was relentless, and every frigid breath sent a bolt of pain through my chest. I huddled into the corner, curling myself into a tight ball. Only a few more hours until daylight. It would be warmer then. A rattling cough shuddered upward and I covered my mouth quickly with a trembling arm.

“Jayzus, will you stop with the bloody coughing, you inconsiderate bitch? I’ve been up half the night making the quid to buy you that loaf of bread, and this is what I get.” My mother’s voice was slurred as she called down from the bed.

Loaf, my arse. The crust she’d thrown me had barely been enough to bother chewing. If she’d made any coin on her back that night, she’d drunk the profits soon after. But I was sick, and my ear still rang from the blow she’d delivered the night before, so I held my tongue. The wind howled and sent an arctic blast under the rickety door. I tried to hold my breath, to keep it in, but it was no use. Coughs racked my body, ruthless in their intensity and seemingly without end. But even over the sound of my barking lungs, I could hear her shifting, moving…the impatient sigh, the muttered curse, and finally the bed rustling as she leapt to her feet.

Panic warred with the need for breath and I buried my face in my sleeve. It was no use. A moment and one swift jerk later, I was on my back staring up at her, silhouetted in the silvery moonlight. Her hair was a wild mass around her shoulders as her mad, almost feverish eyes burned into mine like coals. She gripped my shoulders, nails digging deep through my threadbare nightshirt. Her hot, foul breath washed over my face as she screamed, “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!”

Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. The mantra ran through my aching head as she shook and shook

and shook… My vision blurred and faded. Then I was Bacon, shivering on the stone floor of Ipswitch Jail. My mother’s features morphed into those of a crone, her sneering mouth twisting into a gaping maw, her nose a disfigured hook.

“Wake up, love. It’s all right now,” a gentle voice crooned in my ear.

Warm, familiar fingers replaced the icy talons on my shoulder. I surfaced, sucking in a breath that made my chest ache with remembered pain. My teeth chattered as I tried to speak. “We need more wood on the fire. P-Please.” The pitiful weakness of my voice sickened me and I turned my face away to peer out the window into the gray light of morning.

“Shhh. Give me one second. Let me hold you.”

Annnd, end scene! Now, if you want to enter the contest, all you have to do is comment on this post. Tomorrow at 8:00 pm EST, we’ll pick two random winners. One will receive the Stormy Gale gift pack which includes a digital copy of the series, a set of Stormy Gale trading cards, pen, magnet and a $10 Amazon or B&N gift certificate so you can load up on some more steampunk! The second place winner will get a digital copy of The Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale in whatever format they prefer.

~Christine Bell

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In writing Steampunk, which can be referred to as historical sci-fi, we have the advantage of living about a hundred years into the future of the time period our books are set in. Though we have to research science, mechanics, and history for our stories, we have leeway in knowing more about the future than our characters, since we actually live in it. I think that’s so cool. Also, it’s always good to know more than your characters. Sci-fi writers however, often find the science in their stories pre-empted by new discoveries. That was the subject of a panel I attended last weekend at Comicpalooza. Larry Niven, author of the award winning Ringworld series, who’s been writing for over fifty years, and Timothy Zahn, best known for his Star War novels, who’s been writing for over thirty years, made up the panel on Future Tense, Present Tense.

Green Lantern at Comicpalooza 2012

Photo taken at Comicpalooza 2012 – Larry Niven retooled the Green Lantern universe for DC Comics

About the same time Larry Niven began writing, Nasa started sending up probes. Due to discoveries made by the probes, Niven had to make adjustments to the science in his stories. He was working on books set on Mars at the time, and based on new information from the probes, he had to keep changing Mars, which he found annoying, especially since it was a series.

Nasa has done more to mess up science fiction writers’ stories than any other government agency. Saturn use to be the only planet with rings, now they all have rings.  Then there’s Pluto. The little planet that wasn’t. All the stories which mentioned it have been discredited since it’s no longer a planet.

Larry Niven said, “The problem with anticipating is you can anticipate, but the universe will take everything in a different direction. Predicting the near future is a dangerous game.” Speaking of predictions, Timothy Zahn’s favorite theory on the Mayan’s is they were counting down to the re-release of the hobbit. Makes sense to me.

Larry Niven commented on people thinking sci-fi writers are ahead of the scientist. “They’re not ahead of them at all, they’re following them, looking right over their shoulder. The writers are basically trying to write stories more interesting than the scientists’ articles. Sometimes they get something the scientists don’t and sometimes it’s just not there, like the canals on Mars.”

When a fan asked Niven about his thoughts on Space X’s recent success with the Dragon capsule, he was delighted it reached the space station and added, “Maybe we will get cheaper space ships. It’s obvious we need space travel, it’s the reasons for it that keep changing. We use to want rocket ships to go to the moon, now we need them to stop the next asteroid impact.”

Photo Taken at Comicpalooza 2012 - Timothy Zahn is best known for his 9 Star War novels

Photo Taken at Comicpalooza 2012 – Timothy Zahn is best known for his 9 Star War novels

Timothy Zahn noted the current emphasis in science on gene splicing and nanotech fusion. He feels the challenge in writing sci-fi stories about them is that a lot of times physics is simple in concept but not in execution.

Niven feels the moral of the story is know more than your characters. Timothy Zahn pointed out even after some of Niven’s stories were invalidated by new scientific discoveries, they still were reprinted several times. Zahn feels authors need to write the story well enough so it will stand up even if the science in it doesn’t.

If you think of those 19th century authors who inspired Steampunk, such as H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, the stories are as wonderful now as when they were first written even though the science in them is obsolete. Though I read the book forty years ago, I still sometimes think of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles and the telepathic Martian woman who fell in love with an earthman because when she was with him he thought only of her. I’m even happier books like that were written now that I know there are no Martians, because I still got to know some through the imagination and talented writing of sci-fi authors.

What I love about sci-fi is that fanciful glimpse into a future where no matter what comes against us, we humans find a way to overcome it. In Steampunk we’re able to go back to a time, simpler in many ways, but riddled with extreme injustice to children, women, minorities, immigrants, and the poor, and we’re able to make it better. Our stories remind the readers that society has learned some things and improved. I don’t care too much about how far we advance scientifically, if society can become fairer, kinder, more peaceful, I’ll be happy with that.  Present tense, past tense, I just hope the common sense reflected in sci-fi writers’ heroes will take hold on society. Then mankind really will have a bright future.

~ Maeve Alpin

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Puttering amongst my old berth in the back of the cargo hold, I stumbled upon a scrap of paper. Since I hadn’t had the chance to sneak into the captain’s library, I salivated over the opportunity to read something not written  in the log book. I examined that piece of paper so long and so hard that my head began to throb with the implications. Even as I rubbed at my forehead in an attempt to dull the ache, I continued to stare and plot.

It’s there. Right there. If only I could–

“Lolita Seleste! Why aren’t you at your post?” The captain, Lolita Suzanne, rounded the stack of crates that towered over me, anger writ in the pinching of her brows and the tight line of her lips. I was in trouble.

“I came here for my break and–”

She pointed toward the ladder, not deigning to speak until I started that way. “You specifically requested boiler duty. If you want to make yourself indispensable to this ship, you cannot shirk your responsibilities.”

“Yes, Captain.” I still clutched the paper in my fingers as I climbed. This was, by no means, the proper time to ask, but if I waited I would lose any chance. “Captain, I believe part of the reason for my daydreaming is that I’m unaccustomed to so much time confined. Some time on the ground would do my state of mind a world of good. Re-focus my attention.”

She tilted her head, eyeing me in a most discomfiting manner. “Aye, Lolita Seleste. I can see where that might be of some benefit. The ship will touch down tomorrow in order for the crew to participate in something called #steampunkchat. Foolish beliefs about romance and airships. Nonsense really, but it will provide you the opportunity you’re looking for. You may accompany Lolita Cindy on her errand.”

Not at all what I had in mind. “But, Captain–”

“She is attending the World Steam Expo. Surely, someone with aspirations such as yours could benefit from joining her.” The captain tilted her head toward the crumpled paper in my hand.

My lips twitched, and I had to fight the urge to smile. “Aye, Captain. I surely could.”

“Dismissed.” The instant she turned away, I raced toward the boiler room. Then her voice pulled me up short again, “Oh and, Lolita Seleste, do make sure you dress the part. I will not allow any of my people to present our dirigible or crew in a negative light.”

“Aye, Captain.” She’d as much as told me to blend in. Surely she wasn’t giving me permission to… No. Preposterous…


In case you haven’t figured it out, I will indeed be attending World Steam Expo in Dearborn, Michigan, this weekend, along with fellow Lolita Cindy Spencer Pape. If you happen to be there, I’d love it if you found me to say hi on Saturday or stopped by the Local Authors panel we’ll be part of on Monday at one. (I will have a limited supply of Badlands buttons and chapter books as well as postcards with discounts for ebooks at the Carina Press website.) In addition, don’t forget about the last #steampunkchat before the summer hiatus. It’s tonight at 9PM Eastern time. The topic is romance in steampunk, and I’ve heard rumors there will be book giveaways!

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Having spent all day today (Tuesday) working on the final edits for Moonlight & Mechanicals, coming in October of this year, I’m definitely in a steampunk state of mind. Earlier this week I drafted proposals for two new steampunk romance novels, so I’m on a roll, which feels awfully darned good!

I’m also excited to be attending and speaking at the World Steam Expo in Dearborn, Michigan this weekend, and have been mulling over my costume options for days. (okay, maybe weeks–I love playing dress-up!) There are some wonderful main author guests, including Gail Carriger, but I’m delighted to be part of a local author panel on Monday, with the fabulous Seleste DeLaney, Steven Harper, and David Erik Nelson. Hopefully we can show the world that southern Michigan is a force to be reckoned with in the steampunk world. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll think about dropping by and saying hello. I hope to have a full report from the Con for my next blog.

The icing on my steam-covered cake, however, is the upcoming release of Book 3 of my Gaslight Chronicles series, Kilts & Kraken from Carina Press. The book releases on Monday, June 4, but you can preorder it now at Carina, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. It’s also available as part of Carina’s anniversary collection: Editor’s Choice: Volume I.

Here’s the blurb, for your enjoyment, and a tiny little excerpt to whet your appetite. (Calamari, anyone?)

Kilts & Kraken

by Cindy Spencer Pape

Blurb: Magnus, Baron Findlay, longs to bring the wonders of the steam age to his remote island home, but his hands are full fighting the vicious kraken ravaging the coast. When he’s swept to sea during battle and washes up on the shore of an isle in the Hebrides, he is near death.

 Struggling to establish herself as one of the first female physicians in Edinburgh, Dr. Geneva MacKay is annoyed when The Order of the Round Table sends her north to care for an injured highlander. To heal him, Geneva escorts the handsome warrior home, just in time to defend the villagers from another onslaught.

As the attacks escalate and they work together to fight off the threat, neither Geneva nor Magnus can resist the overwhelming attraction between them. But as their relationship deepens, a new threat arises – from within the village itself…

(PG excerpt: book is hard R)

The darkness tried to drag Magnus back into its depths and he had little will to fight. It was comforting, this darkness, warm and free of pain. You’ve struggled enough, it seemed to whisper, let go.

He would have, but for another voice, one not as subtle but far more sweet. “Come now, sir. Open your eyes for me.”

Magnus tried. The rich, feminine voice held the soft burr of a lowlander, with educated overtones. How had such a one come to his island? How had he not known? He was laird of Torkholm, and all who came here had to be approved by him.

“Who are you, sir? Won’t you at least wake and tell me your name?” Soft, cool fingers stroked Magnus’s forehead.

He moved his lips to answer the lass. From the silkiness of her touch and the sweet scent of her leaning over him, he might have thought her an angel, but he knew better. Dead in battle or not, he’d have never ended up in Heaven. A valkyrie, perhaps? The Valhalla of his Norse ancestors was a far more likely fate for him than the vicar’s pearly gates.

“His heart rate and breathing are weaker,” the sweet voice said. “I’m worried, Alice. He didn’t wake at all last night. Though his wounds haven’t festered, he seems to be losing strength.”

“He’s in God’s hands,” said another female voice, a little older, a little deeper, and oddly familiar. A door opened and closed, but he still felt the touch of strong, feminine hands, the fingers laced with his own.

At long last Magnus was able to unglue the lashes on one eyelid. The light in the room blinded him for a moment, but his vision adjusted and soon he was able to see. A woman sat by his bedside, her flowing hair the color of his favorite roan stallion. Her fingers tightened on his as she realized he’d woken. “T-Torkholm,” he gasped between lips as cracked as a mud path on a hot day.

The lass—pretty in a strong, country sort of way—pressed him down when he tried to sit. “Your hip is injured. Don’t move.” With her other hand, she held a water-filled sponge to his lips. “Only a little to start with.”

The cool liquid felt wonderful on his parched lips, but a single sip was all he could manage. He blinked again, this time both eyes focusing on her. “Magnus Findlay.” His name seemed to be dragged from his lips. Pain seared through him from more places than he could name, and he’d never once felt this weak. What was wrong? Why hadn’t the island healed him, as it always did?

He blinked again and the answer swam into focus, for a moment at least. This was a strange room—one he’d never seen before. Magnus sagged back against the woman’s arm, and let her ease him down to the pillows. The darkness began to close in again. One thought registered, ringing through his brain.

He wasn’t on Torkholm. He was going to die.

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I’d like to thank everyone who entered the contest.  I was so impressed by everyone’s ideas and creations.

Think Geek donated some of the prizes–and I thank them for their awesomeness.

Here are the winners!

Steampunk Goody Bag

Susan–weaponry from The Rescues of Rosie Crumb

Here is “the weaponry used by my amazing heroine Rosie Crumb in my series of steampunk inspired books called The Rescues of Rosie Crumb. Rosie is a unique heroine: feisty, feminine and fantastic at gunplay. Hopelessly in love with a local farmer who was a hired gun in his previous life, daughter to the billionaire Baron of Boron, this motherless young woman has learned to take care of herself and still finds time to travel the country rescuing and being rescued. Her adventures take her from a finishing school in Boston, MA to the perilous world of the chinese underworld in San Francisco. Along the way she is able to manufacture some interesting gadgets that come in handy during her adventures. Saving runaway horses, trains and children are all in a days work for this western heroine and until she lands the man of her dreams she will keep on with her wild ways.”

Teresa Luong– parachute lantern

“This is a miniature…parachute lantern. You can hang it around your neck. So, literally it’s a necklace! Just flick the switch at the bottom and the flame flickers on. It can’t burn you because there is a transparent cover around the flame. You can’t feel any of the heat either. The cover keeps it cool. It’s a pretty powerful lantern despite the flame size. You can use it as a torch to light your way through darkness or just for decorating. ”


Captain Jules’ Extraordinary Telescope Ring

Jack Baillot—prescription googles & iPhone case

“I was online one day when I saw a Steampunk laptop. Since then I’ve been determined to turn all my electronics Steampunk. I don’t yet have covers for my laptop and Nook to try it on, but I did for my Ipod. Therefore, I glued gears and a clock face to the back of the cover. I don’t suppose everyone will agree, but I feel that all Steampunk users need a lot of clocks. Not just any clocks, but ones that are spinning with a wonderful array of gears.

The goggles I made in a copy to the ones worn by the pilots in my books. This, however, I even better then theirs as these have my own eye glass prescription in them. All I need now is the airplane so I can try them out.”


MindyOsculater Prognosticator

“How many times has a woman (or man) kissed a frog instead of their prince/princess? The Osculater Prognosticator eliminates the guesswork out of who is kissworthy of YOU! You simply enter a room of people at a party, let’s say. You take out your handy dandy Osculater Prognosticator and press the key button on the machine. First a white light comes on to scan you, press the key button again and then a solid red light will come on with flashing red lips just to let everyone know YOU are looking for the right person. You scan the people at the party with the Osculater Prognosticator until the solid red light starts blinking and the person your machine is pointing at is your PERFECT MATCH. The gage/grip also gives you a visual percentage of the match between YOU and you perfect partner. No more guess work & kissing Mr. (or Ms.) ICK.”


Wrist Monocular

Kelli Collins- Steampunk version of the Bladerunner blaster (made by her hubby, she said she didn’t need a prize, but I’m going to give her one because it’s so gosh darn cool –she can always give the prize to him)

“…I thought you might like to see this Steampunk version of the Bladerunner blaster. It’s the hubby’s all-time fave movie and weapon. The blaster was made by him (photo taken by me). All hand-fashioned, nothing machined.”


Grand Prize – ARC and Innocent Darkness prize pack

Stephanie Trujillo – Frosting Gun

“…A girl with steam punk attire holding a cupcake laser/frosting gun.”

Stephanie also drew this awesome cupcake cannon:

Congratulations to all the winners, please contact me at suzannelazear (@) yahoo to claim your prize.

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Today we welcome author Dave Freer who’s new steampunk YA, Cuttlefish, releases in July from Pyr.

Dave Freer is the author of a bunch of sf/fantasy novels some of which blundered onto best-seller lists. He’s collaborated with Eric Flint and Mercedes Lackey on various books. He lives with his wife Barbara and a selection of dogs , under the semi-benign rule of three cats on a remote island off the south coast of Australia. I think he calls what they do ‘an experiment in self-sufficiency.’ Other people call it ‘chaos and messing about in mud and small boats’. He was an ichthyologist, so they have plenty of fish. It’s supposed to be good for the brain. On the other hand diving – which he does a lot of – is supposed to be bad for it. Much about him is explained by this combination. He’s fond of adrenalin, books and strange food, not necessarily together or in that order. You can read more at  http://davefreer.com/


by Dave Freer

Tsss….p, clickety clack, tsss…p, clickety-clack, bang. Tsss… p.

Hello. I am Dave Freer. I am what you get when you find an eight year old trying to distill rust behind a garage full of Victorian-era tools and old chests full of the relics of Empire, and you do not do the wise and merciful thing. If I remember rightly my father, on discovering I planned to conquer the world (doesn’t everyone?) with this, gave me an elderly woodcut-illustrated encyclopaedia, on the grounds that I might as well do it properly. In doing this he made a terrible mistake because he unlocked the elderly green cupboard at the back of the garage, and forgot to lock it. Not only (cue evil cackle) had he handed me the key to early 20th century science and technology, but a trove of books which I guess belonged to my grandmother or great grandmother.  Being an amoral little brat, who would rather read than breathe (yes, I do know what I speak of. No one sings hymns to breath until they can’t), I read them all quietly. Kipling to Bulldog Drummond to Jeffrey Farnol. I’d long since exhausted the inadequate books I was allowed at in the house, and my parents were of the barbaric kind that only went to the library once a week. Being hyperactive and sickly (the breathing part, remember) was a dreadful combination. It meant I had to do a lot in my head. It meant I got sent away to boarding school (Stalky and Co. would have felt just at home there) to a high altitude, dry climate and time travel back to 1890 as to how things were done. In a country where steam loco’s still pulled the rattling leather and teak carriages, and the train smoked and steamed and clickety-clacked its way up over the mountains. Where the attitudes, and the racial discrimination were still Victorian (it wasn’t all fancy mustachios and clockwork and brass-buttons). Soot stained everything and smuts would get in your eye if you undid the brass catches and lowered leather-strapped windows and looked out. Just a whiff of coal-smoke takes me right back there. And thus was born a love-hate relationship with steam, grafted onto a great deal too much Victorian/Edwardian swashbuckling and romantic reading, added to a scientist with an inborn touch of Heath Robinson in his odd inventive mind. The question is not why do I write steampunk, but why did it take me so long?

So more-than-thirty years on I still haven’t grown up a lot, but at least to point where I think conquering the world would be tedious (well, not so much the conquering part, but the bit that comes after, where you have to change its diapers), but I still love inventing strange machines… in a kind of alternate history powered by coal. With, naturally, a bit of swash, some buckle, and a little romance. The boarding school stuff did sort out the lungs in the greater part, helped the hyperactivity by letting me become a danger-sports nutter… but didn’t change the reading a bit.  I come from a commercial fishing / diving background, so that was what I ended up doing at University. I am, technically speaking, an ichthyologist-turned-writer, and I still dive…

Only diving is incompatible with steam… isn’t it?

Which is where we come to the idea of a coal-fired submarine, and a story about it.  One of the thins that always worried me about steam-punk is that big picture of what a world of steam-power would do to the ecology. If you’re worried about global warming in our world… well, given the huge amounts of soot also produced by a coal-fired world, and what happens when you put little black spots on nice white snow or ice, we’re well off.  Black carbon (aka soot) is a major problem in our world (not in the first world so much as in the third world), and in any real steam punk scenario… the world will get warmer. And ice is going to melt. Methane will come bubbling out of the arctic seas, and the tundra.

And people will be just as stubborn as now in the face of disaster.  CUTTLEFISH’s steampunk world has got a lot warmer. The British-German Empire not only survived this, but actually survived better, by going back to direct Imperial rule and having a strong military to deal with all. Of course that didn’t stop London flooding. Or the pride of the Empire not abandoning the capital, but making it into a new Venice, with canals where her streets once ran, and the basements, lower floors and myriad tunnels all flooded.

Or not. When the emergency was over, people thought life would go back to normal. To parliaments and elections. And when they didn’t, well, there was rebellion. And the rebels needed somewhere to be. To hide and to be safe. The tunnels weren’t all water-filled. There was air trapped down there. And some of those flooded could be pumped dry, with airlocks that could allow them to flood again if anyone came looking.  They did need a way in and out though. A lifeline.

Submarines, in a world where oil is just not easily available.

I’m odd enough to like my story devices and machines to at least possibly work.  On the face of it… coal as a submarine fuel about as stupid as you can get (hey, no wonder I liked it). Coal just isn’t a great calorific fuel compared to gasoline or even diesel. It uses a lot of oxygen to burn, and if there is one thing you don’t have spare on a submarine, it’s air to breath.  It was quite well reported that when the snorkel on diesel submarines stopped (by a wave in the cut-off valve for example… the big diesels pulled so much oxygen out of the air as to burst ear-drums with the sudden pressure change. And it’s a lot harder to damp a coal fire as fast as you can switch of a diesel.  So I thought about a coal dust diesel engine… one story I read somewhere had the snippet of information that Rudolf Diesel originally wanted to use coal-dust and not oil (which would work). Only – well coal dust burns, but is very abrasive. Your submarine would work as well as a diesel-oil one, but it would also need a lot more fuel and impossiblium liners for the cylinders… So I started looking for alternatives. Steam engines are quite inefficient and the one thing a submarine can’t be is that.

But Stirling engines are a lot more efficient. And there is no reason they can’t be coal-burning.  Any source of heat will do for them. And… Stirling engines are quiet. And… it has been done. Not with coal, but with a Stirling engine. I’m not going to bore you with how they work — its an external combustion engine. I got around a lot of the other issues by running the air input through a compressor/buffer system for the snorkel, and then focussing on the next problem. Submarines are small. Not much room for coal…

That was the big issue – refuelling submarines – during WW1 and WW2.  And they ran on a fuel that doesn’t take as much space.  Now submarines had another problem, pre-nuclear submarine… A round torpedo shape is best for diving and pressure. But a V-shaped hull is what you need on the surface, which is where they had to be to run their diesel engines. So they had two hulls – an inner -torpedo shaped, and an outer giving the V shape for the surface.

So… what goes faster and uses less fuel to do so than a surface vessel, but is still a boat?  A hydroplane — a essentially flying over water with as little ‘wet’ area as possible, with the hull (or foils) designed to create lift, not just buoyancy.

If you look at the cover to CUTTLEFISH – you’ll see that design in action, with the outer false hull pushed out on struts to make the submarine into a trimaran Hydrosailer. It’s a boat that can run underwater, steam on the surface, or hydrosail, skimming above the surface. It’s a real steampunk fantasy… and it might even work.

It’s a good vessel for sailing into a swashbuckling adventure with.

–Dave Freer


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Hi all, I ‘m Maeve Alpin, one of the new lolitas who have climbed aboard the airship. On my last shore leave I shared my booty of Steampunk comics with you and as promised here are some more. Imagery can be very inspirational to a writer, so many of us pull ideas from our dreams or things that catch our eye. The collaboration of visual and literate art in comics inspires new ideas far beyond the illustrations and story lines. In addition to several comic books labeled as Steampunk, many others have Victorian, Dystopian, Dieselpunk, Weird West, or Alternate History ascetics. Here is part two of my list of some comic books you’ll enjoy.

1.     Steampunk by Chris Bachalo & Joe Kelly

The hero is Cole Blaquesmith, a poor 18th century fisherman. I love his period dialogue. He falls in love with Fiona, a kind, noble lady who helps the lower class. When she falls gravely ill he takes her to Doctor Absinthe, a mad scientist, who promises to cure her if Cole uses the Engine, a time traveling machine, to get him books on science and other objects from the future. Cole does so but when he returns from 1954, Absinthe breaks his part of the bargain and Fiona dies. Cole buries the Engine beneath Stonehenge and in turn Absinthe rips out Cole’s heart. A hundred years later, Cole wakes up in a coffin during the Victorian era to find that Absinthe experimented on him, his chest is a now a metal furnace and his right arm is a huge mechanical claw. He also discovers that London is ruled by Absinthe. There are two historical royals in Steampunk. Napoleon Bonaparte is referred to as Frances in issue six, because after Absinthe killed Josephine, Napoleon gives up his humanity to become a living computer controlling France’s weapons systems and soldiers. So he actually is France. Instead of being the queen, in this London ruled by Absinthe, Victoria works for him as an assassin until she joins the resistance and falls in love with Cole. She’s a brunette beauty, her hands are surgically grafted to her arms, and her main weapon is a metallic whip that makes one of those wonderful comic book sounds, SHRAAK. Laslo, another member of the resistance, is a very interesting character. He’s a black man who speaks with what I think of as 1960’s slang, such as “Don’t ask for details about my rumble with Faust. Don’t dig for more than I lay down.” He also wears a big Union Jack print scarf that belonged to his best friend, Rikk, who was killed by Absinthe’s assassin, Faust.

This dark, dystopian Steampunk, alternative history, comic book series debuted in 2000 and ran for twelve issues. The dialogue, characterizations, plotting, and art are exceptionally good.

2.     Girl Genius by Phil & Kaja Foglio

The lead character, a young lady, Agatha Heterodyne, is a hapless student of Transylvania Polygnostic University. When her locket is stolen it sets off a chain of events in which she discovers she is a powerful Spark, talented at creating and repairing electrical and mechanical devices. The story involves the traditional Steampunk components of an alternative history, the industrial revolution, a wonder kid, and mad scientists. It’s a whimsical, fun, highly enjoyable read recommended for ages ten to adult. Girl Genius has won many awards recommended for ages ten to adult. Girl                                                                                                                                                                                   Genius has won many awards, including a Hugo for Best Graphic Story in 2011.

3. Gotham by Gas Light by Brian Augustyn & Mike Mignola

One of DC’s Elseworld comic books, set in 1889, Gotham by Gas Light, features a Victorian batman. Shortly after Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City from a visit to Europe, a murder takes place in Gotham in the style of Jack the Ripper. After a bloody knife is found under Bruce Wayne’s bed, he’s arrested as Jack the Ripper. While in prison, he figure out Jacob Parker is the real Jack the Ripper. After escaping jail with Alfred’s help, Batman finds the Ripper just as he is about to kill his next victim. A chase ensues and they come to a stop at Bruce Wayne/Batman’s parents graves. When Bruce Wayne/Batman’s mother rejected Jacob Packer’s advances he began murdering women who resembled her, to silence the laughter he hears in his head. It also turns out that he had hired the assassin who killed batman’s parents.  Packer attacks Batman, but Commissioner Gordon shoots him dead and Batman disappears into the shadows.

4.     Hellboy by Mike Mignola

Hellboy is a demon summoned to earth by Nazi occultist. As a supernatural hero he fights resurrected Nazi scientist and other biomechanical creatures. He has a giant stone hand, the hand of doom, and superhuman strength, healing, and endurance. He also comprehends ancient and magical languages and carries items to battle supernatural forces in his utility belt such as horseshoes, herbs, and hand grenades.

5.     The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 1 & vol 2 by Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neil Illustrator

Like fan fiction from popular Victorian novels Captain Nemo, the invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,  Allan Quatermain, Mina Murray, John Carter and other well known characters form a type of Victorian era justice league. Fu Manchu has stolen the only known cavorite in existence, a fictional substance created in H. G. Wells First Men On The Moon.  Professor Moriarty orders the league to retrieve the cavorite but doesn’t divulge that he plans to use it to build an airship to bomb Fu Manchu’s Limehouse lair, that explosion would also destroy London. The league triumps over both Fu Manchu and Moriarty. Volume 2, continues as the League fights the Martian invasion from H. G. Wells War of the Worlds.

          6. Jonah Hex – Jimmy Palmiotfi & Justin Gray, Luke Ross Illustrator

“When  a man knows there’s no place in Heaven waiting on him, then he’d best be wise to cozy up to the devil. And so, Jonah took it upon himself to dispatch as many sinners as Hell could accommodate… and never look back.” The art work is well done, truly brilliant. Though Jonah Hex can be classified as Weird West, Westernpunk, or Cow punk, it is first and foremost a western about a mysterious, stranger riding into town and righting wrongs in a lawless land. In the comic book series, Hex, the wild west bounty hunter is transported to the 21st century where he fights crime as a post-apocalyptic warrior.

7.     Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Cardboard Box by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Retold by Murray Shaw and M. J. Cosson, Sophie Rohrback and J. T. Morrow, Illustrators

Released in March of this year, Graphic Universe adapted this classic tale to comic book form for ages nine and up. When a woman receives the gruesome package of two human ears, Holmes and Watson are on the case. Clues at the back of the comic book reveal the process Holmes used to pull the facts together and solve the mystery. The Adventure of the Cardboard Box by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was first published in Strand Magazine in 1892.

We can look forward to the future of Steampunk comic books offering even more diversity, but there should be something for every Steampunk reader among these fourteen comic books listed in part one and part two of this post. Many of these comic books are out of print and if you have trouble finding the ones you like at your local comic book stores, try your local library or the inter-library loan program. Happy reading.

~Maeve Alpin

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