What is Steampunk? It’s a lot of things. It’s four Englishmen traveling across India in a huge, steam-powered mechanical elephant (Jules Verne, The Steam House, 1880). It’s fantastic airships, goggles on top hats, arcane gadgets, waistcoats and parasols. It’s Victorian England if the technologies of Victorian England never faded. It’s mechanical computers, spinning propellers, clanking machines made of gears, iron, and brass. It’s London lit by gaslights, mysterious villains, and mad scientists with diabolical powers. It’s fun! So, grab your aviator scarf, don a pair of long evening gloves, pocket that watch that turns back time, and come join us.
Authors and series mentioned in this article: Richard Due (Idiot Genius), Stefan Bachmann, Peter Bunzl (The Cogheart Adventures), Alan Gratz (The League of Seven), Patrick Samphire (Secrets of the Dragon Tomb), Marcus Alexander (Keeper of the Realms), Emma Trevayne, Joel N. Ross (The Fog Diver), Brian Selznick, Philip Reeve (Fever Crumb)
As you slowly crack open the book, so do you creak open a door—only to find an eye staring back at you!
At time of launch, I had the worst time getting printed paperback copies of Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy from Amazon’s press. A lot of little changes happen during the final weeks of getting a book to press, and time was getting short. With only a few weeks to go, every time I’d submit a change, I’d get an email from Amazon’s press telling me I’d set my book for bleeds (a graphic that runs off the page), only my book had no bleeds. Which was not the case, so each time I’d refer them to page 142, the first page of The Eye in the Door, where there’s a very obvious bleed.
It got so bad that there was a moment when I began to fear I might have to cut the graphic in order to make the book launch. Something I was loath to do. It’s a fun little bit of typesetting, one where the eye, which is set within the inner margin of the page, slowly appears as you open to the first page of that chapter, mimicking the opening of the door—and revealing an eye staring back at you.
In the end, they’d always approve it, but I’d lose four to five precious days each time I made a change. And I desperately needed to have a lot of paperback copies for a bookstore signing I’d scheduled for the book’s launch. It was a real nail-biter but the books did get to me just in the nick of time.
Signed paperback edition of Idiot Genius: Willa Snap and the Clockwerk Boy. Shipping included.
For an added personal inscription, Email me at Care_of_Finder@icloud.com and let me know who the book is for. (i.e. “for Emily” “for the Walton family” “for my Idiot brother” etc.)
*This offer is currently only available to people in the US.
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!
In the very back, a little higher than everyone else, sat the largest and oldest cat I’d ever seen. He’d been white once, maybe. His ears were tattered and a single snaggletooth protruded past his raggedy cheek.
Standing in the hallway was a man enveloped in steam. I say man, but honestly, that was up for debate. His leather coat seemed normal enough, but the cloak draped over his shoulders was studded with small steam pipes puffing away at regular intervals. WAS THIS GUY STEAM POWERED? In one hand he gripped a brass-topped cane, in the other, a clipboard covered with gears. Perched on his head was a top hat mounted with aviator goggles. A monocle—a monocle!—adorned his left eye. He must have had a good twenty pounds of brass gadgets strapped to him. And I couldn’t have told you what a single one of them did.