Abducted into a secret world, eleven-year-old Willa Snap takes readers on an imaginative journey through a place filled with mechanical people and fantastical machines. There’s wit and passion in the dialogue as author Richard Due delights with the first installment in the young adult series of IDIOT GENIUS novels, “WILLA SNAP AND THE CLOCKWERK BOY.” Don’t miss heart-stopping escapes and time machine-building dragons as Due weaves and winds a thrilling, and highly satisfying, novel.
As you may have guessed, given the titles, these articles are not for the faint of heart. Not a subscriber? Luckily, the summaries, available here and here, are free as the wind. Unluckily, they’re even more daunting than you could possibly imagine. Need proof? Here’s an excerpt from one of the summaries:
We show that a dynamic interplay within the macaque frontoparietal network accounts for the rhythmic properties of spatial attention. Neural oscillations characterize functional interactions between the frontal eye fields (FEF) and the lateral intraparietal area (LIP), with theta phase (3–8 Hz) coordinating two rhythmically alternating states.
What the heck was that, right? I’m afraid the problem here is what’s called sesquipedalian prose—that’s an unfortunate side effect of what happens when scientists attempt to talk to each other in public. But we’re going to give them a pass, because where would we be without scientists? We’d be in a world lit by fire, that’s where: Imagine a world without YouTube videos, without iPhones—without steam-powered tarantula cabs! How would people in the Steamwerks burg get to work? Or . . . werk?
Okay, so what’s this sesquipedalian prose, you ask? The prose part is easy—that’s just a fancy way of saying writing. Sesquipedalian is a little harder. It comes from the Latin word sesquipedalis, which means, literally, a foot and a half long. And Latin, in case you’re wondering, is a mostly dead, mostly moldy language that’s still occasionally mined by our friends the scientists for making up new words that are just as difficult to digest as the original Latin, but I digress.
Now, back to those articles. What they’re saying is that human consciousness only focuses on small samples taken from everything we see. For example, if you were looking a big, beautiful garden, full of thousands of plants and petals and leaves, you might notice only the bee over there that just started flying your way.
That’s exactly how Clockwerks view the world! Especially older Clockwerks. After all, the older the Clockwerk, the less complex the BrainBox. That means fewer rpm, less processing power, less memory—less everything, really.
But why take my word for it? Here’s Tiffany Widderchine explaining to Willa Snap how Clockwerks reduce the need for massive memory storage by sampling only a portion of what they see. I’ll spare you Tiffany’s reversed DLP projector analogy by starting right after Willa gets it:
“Einstein’s hair! I see it! But wouldn’t recording all those bits of light need tons of memory? I thought Clockwerks didn’t have much in the way of storage.” “That’s true, a Clockwerk’s eyes do generate a lot of information, but the Clockwerk doesn’t have to save all of it to see where it’s going or remember where it’s been. And when it does decide to save something, it only needs to take a little snapshot. Think about it. We’re not all that different. Nobody remembers EVERYTHING they see.”
And there you have it, right from the heir apparent to the great Thiphania Widderchine, who, as everyone who’s anyone knows, was born in 1161 CE and abducted in 1203 by the Black Fez for building a highly dangerous thinking barn. Safely stowed in Grandeur, Thiphania built the very first sentient compact BrainBox, powered by her son’s #3 mainspring and housed in Torsicus Widderchine, one of the first bipedal sentient Clockwerks with free will.
“I have been at work for some time building an apparatus to see if it is possible for personalities which have left this earth to communicate with us.”
Thomas Edison, The American Magazine, 1920
“If our personality survives, then it is strictly logical and scientific to assume that it retains memory, intellect, and other faculties and knowledge that we acquire on earth . . .”
It was Edison’s belief, at the time, that people were composed of millions upon millions of infinitesimal immortal entities, and that, when we died, these entities continued to exist.
No plans for Edison’s “Ghost Machine” have ever been found. But it’s clear that he was very interested in communicating with the dead.
Did Edison build a ghost portal like the one Willa Snap encounters in Idiot Genius? Is there a Ghost Factory in a hidden city located Somewhere in the Southwest of America? We may never know. But one thing is certain: if he had, it’s a sure bet the Black Fez would have paid him a visit!
We’re proud to announce another book award for Richard Due’s Idiot Genius series—this time from Writer’s Digest (for middle grade & young adult). This is the 5th time Idiot Genius has been recognized this year. We’re so proud we typeset a new first page!
In Idiot Genius you’ll run into a number of odd expressions. Some are specific to particular neighborhoods (or burgs, as the locals in Grandeur call them). In the Clockwerk burg, for example, it’s common to hear gears and spindles! Sadly, outside the Clockwerk burg, you might come across name-calling that’s downright mean, like wobblepot! or Oily Cog! (There’s nothing more offensive to a Clockwerk than being called a Cog.)
Willa Snap arrives in Grandeur with a few exclamations of her own, like totally bean!—something she and her mother enjoy saying when they spot something amazing. And Nut Yippee! which Willa yells like others might yell Geronimo! Nut Yippee was a real peanut candy introduced in the 1930s by the Squirrel Brand Company. Willa adopted the saying from an engraved slab of granite in Squirrel Brand Park, across the street from her old house in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In no time, Willa starts picking up Grandeurisms so quickly it’s hard to tell which ones are from her new friends and which ones she’s making up on the spot. Luckily, it isn’t hard to figure out where these sayings came from. But just in case . . .
This is the kind of thing someone might say after making a big discovery that’s been sitting right out in the open. It comes from Sir Isaac Newton, the 17th-century English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and theologian, who often told a story about how seeing an apple fall from a tree inspired him to formulate his theory of gravitation.
A person might say this after seeing something unexplainable, and possibly dangerous. It comes from Benjamin Franklin, 18th-century Founding Father, printer, inventor, and diplomat. After retiring from the printing business, Franklin began experimenting extensively with electricity, which he called electrical fire.
This one comes from Nikola Tesla, the 19th-century Serbian-American inventor, who, before inventing the alternating current (which powers most of the world), invented the Tesla coil, an electrical resonant transformer circuit. (Yeah, what he said.) Someone might shout Tesla’s coil! after seeing or learning something fantastic and unexpected.
This one doesn’t need a lot of explanation. Just check out the hair! Einstein was the German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity. E=mc²!
A person might yell this one during a heart-pounding, completely unexpected, moment. It comes from the bongo-playing American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, who, in 1959, gave a talk titled There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he laid the foundation for nanotechnology.
First, it’s worth mentioning that most inventors and innovators who are credited with being the “first” to invent something are almost always not the first: they just got the credit for it.
Remember the Black Fez Axiom:
“History is always older.”
Telling the difference between science and what looks like magic has never been easy.
Take the Age of Sail, for example. Even though air is invisible, it was easy for people to understand what made ships move through water. All they had to see were the sails filling with air.
The same was true for the first steam-powered ships, which used giant paddle-wheels to propel themselves through the water.
But all that changed in 1836, after Swiss inventor John Ericsson proposed towing a barge carrying members of the Royal Admiralty around the Thames River using twin marine screw propellers powered by a steam engine.
The people watching the event from the shore were not only amazed, but highly confused. Where were the sails? Where were the paddle wheels? Certainly some black magic must be at work! Spectators, and even some able seamen, posited “flying devils.”
A John Ericsson propeller. circa 1840s
Ericsson’s first propeller ship was a steam-powered tugboat, the Francis B. Ogden. It was 40 feet long, 8 feet wide at the beam, drew 3 to 5 feet of water, and was capable of towing a barge at 7 mph—which is exactly what Ericsson did. But afterwards, the Lords of the Admiralty he’d invited for the ride were completely unimpressed—they even told him they didn’t care for his design!
Ericsson took his second ship, the Robert F. Stockton, a much larger oceangoing vessel, to America, in hopes of getting a better reception. Which he did.
Early steamships still relied on sails for long voyages.
There is plenty to like about this novel. It is full of fun, and clearly the product of a quirky, inventive mind, ideal for children’s writing. Willa is a smart, likeable child with no prejudices. She, her genius mother and practical father (no problem with gender stereotypes here) are kidnapped and taken to a world where they experience bizarre encounters with a variety of unlikely entities. The narrative is often very witty and the absurdity of the story is what carries it along. The pace is fast and the plot farcical in places which is what children will like about it. This would appeal to the 10-12 age range, although a certain amount of intelligence is assumed, otherwise too many of the jokes would be missed.