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.
These are just a few of the exclamations you might hear in Grandeur. You can find more in Willa Snap’s first illegal memoir: Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy.
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.”
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.
A History of the Growth of the Steam-Engine, by Robert H. Thurston, A.M., C.E., 1907. (free download)
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Willa Snap’s first illegal memoir: Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy.
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Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy
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.
—International Rubery Book Award
It started innocently enough, just a few lines of text.
Then this happened!
The Masquerade (Balticon 52): Willa Snap’s Clockwerk Dress.
Jessi won Best in Class for Presentation, and Dith took a ribbon for Workmanship!