Damage to the Boston Elevated Railway from the molasses flood.
Growing up in Boston, I heard stories from my parents and grandparents of the molasses flood when a huge tank of molasses burst sending waves of the sticky stuff down streets, engulfing everything .
It turns out that tomorrow 15 January 2019 is the centennial of that most bizarre tragedy. Mental Floss has a good article about it.
On Thursday, 22 November, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. While, I’m guessing, no other country celebrates giving thanks for what one has on the Fourth Thursday of November (Even Canada celebrates Thanksgiving in October, which I’ve always attributed–perhaps wrongly–to the shorter growing season in the Great White North.), most cultures have some sort of thanks giving holiday.
Google has published an interesting article using the plethora of data they acquire through people asking questions like, “How do I cook a turkey?” or maybe, “Where can I buy a pre-cooked turkey?”, if they were caught short with the unusually early Fourth Thursday in November this year. However, a couple of interesting trends emerge from Google’s analysis. First, pretty much only the northeastern US actually roasts turkey. I grew up in Massachusetts where those religious refugees, the Pilgrims, apocryphally celebrated the first Thanksgiving, and I can’t think of preparing turkey any other way than roasting. What Google categorizes as “Fried”, I have to think must be deep-fried, and I would like to watch that happen, if only for the potential pyrotechnics.
Apple pie, another New England tradition, falls to third place behind pumpkin and pecan. Pecan I’ll leave to the southerners. I don’t even like nuts in my fruit cake. The number one Thanksgiving pie is pumpkin, which I know some people (like my wife) love. I find the very idea of making a pie from the same slimy thing I carve up for Halloween disgusting.
All of this is a long-winded introduction to a blog post I wrote almost four (four!) years ago: As American As Apple Pie?
As I was writing this afternoon, I discovered that this paragraph had appeared on my computer screen:
“And what about me, Nicodemus?” asked Jane. “This is the second time in this book series that I’ve been locked in a dungeon!”
I didn’t mean for Jane Boffin (née Faraday) to suddenly become so meta, but there it was. I’ll go back tomorrow, repair the broken fourth wall, and rework the scene, toning down Jane’s impertinence just a bit. (She is imprisoned in a dungeon after all.)
This book (the third I’ve written in the Airship Flamel Adventures series) has been listed on my NaNoWriMo page as having the working title of “There Be Dragons Here”. Although that phrase is encountered in the novel, the story has evolved away from the pirate-y connotation that phase implies. I’m still deciding on a final title. There will be dragons though.
Today, Sept. 22, is the great British scientist Michael Faraday’s 226th birthday.
Faraday’s contribution to science are many, and it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that before Faraday, electricity was batteries, and afterward, it was Edison and Tesla and all the motors, transformers, and generators they unleashed upon the world.
Faraday’s relationship to science can be summed up in two images: First, Faraday at work at the lab bench in the basement of the Royal Institution, and second, Faraday presiding over a Christmas Lecture–specifically designed for the layman, and for children in particular.
Professionally, I work in a field that is the direct descendant of Faraday–electrochemistry–so Faraday has always been a bit of a hero for me. For more information of Faraday’s life and contributions, see here. I’ve even written Professor Faraday into one of my novels as a major character, “The Secret Notebook of Michael Faraday“.
Right about the time that diesel locomotives were gaining ground on the older steam locomotives, some railroads redesigned their steam engines. By streamlining their design, the railroads hoped to keep the steam engines running. In some cases, the re-design was made so that the older steam engines would match the look of the diesel locomotives. In others, doubts about the power that could be obtained from diesel engines was the reason. For whatever reason, the result was a collision between traditional engineering design and the leading art movement of the time, Art Deco, to create some amazing examples of railway design.
A description of all that the Art Deco Movement encompasses would take much more than a single blog post. (See the Wikipedia article for a good introduction though.) Suffice to say that Art Deco is in a way a reaction to the earlier movement, Art Nouveau. While Art Nouveau features themes from nature and sinuous curving design elements, Art Deco encompasses more severe geometric forms. Art Deco’s features celebrate the exuberance of the future and its new technologies. One word that is often used to describe Art Deco is streamlined, and that is the exact reason for the redesign of steam engines in the late 1930s: to make them look fast and luxurious. Ironically, little if any performance improvements were realized as the additional weight of the streamlining offset any advantage in lowering wind resistance.
This page is based on a talk I gave at the 2018 Clockwork Alchemy con entitled “On-Line Research for Steampunk Novels”. During the course of writing my novels, I’ve discovered a number of great on-line resources that I found extremely useful in researching the Victorian Era, its technology, society and history, and of course, its cockeyed offspring Steampunk.
This list should be helpful for writers of both historical fiction and fictional history as we all want to get the details right–except when we don’t. Because my steampunk novels revolve around Victorian Britain, this list is starting off biased in that direction–but there are plenty of other ways to write steampunk.
I’ll keep the link to this list at the top of the front page of the blog and I invite you to leave your favorite on-line resource in the comments, and I’ll add it to the list (with appropriate credit, of course!).