Book Review: “The Difference Engine”, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling

I had wanted to read The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling for some time. It is widely regarded as one of the first novels to bear the description “steampunk” when it was published in 1990, and rightly so, as the book contains many of the themes and plot devices that have become common in steampunk literature.

The novel takes place in an England in which Charles Babbage has succeeded in building his mechanical computer—the “Difference Engine” of the title, although the machine more resembles his more advanced “Analytical Engine”. This event serves as the catalyst to careen the world off onto another timeline, and the authors imagine all the consequences and consequences of consequences that occur to change British society. For example, the anti-technology Tory party loses a national election, prompting the prime minister, Lord Wellington, to stage a coup to retain power. In the subsequent counter revolution, the Radical party comes into power and replaces the hereditary House of Lords with peerages awarded to savants for scientific merit.

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Thirty Days Later is Coming!

30-days-later-cover

Do you like steampunk and cliffhangers? Adventure and intrigue? Dragons and Sasquatches? Then you’ll like the forthcoming anthology Thirty Days Later, Steaming Forward: 30 Adventures in Time, featuring pairs of stories by favorite steampunk authors who have appeared at the Clockwork Alchemy steampunk convention!

Thinking Ink Press is proud to announce we will publish Thirty Days Later in time for Clockwork Alchemy this Memorial Day. Edited by AJ Sikes, BJ Sikes, and Dover Whitecliff, Thirty Days Later is the sequel to the steampunk anthology Twelve Hours Later: 24 Tales of Myth and Mystery, a charity anthology to promote California literacy programs, and Thinking Ink Press is proud to donate half the royalties of Thirty Days Later to promote literacy.

I’m honored to be included in this year’s anthology.  My stories involve a Victorian astronomer who makes a world-changing discovery.  Or does he?  Only his more sensible assistant knows for sure. Or does she?

Thirty Days Later will launch at Clockwork Alchemy in San Jose, CA over the Memorial Day weekend.  Stay tuned for more news!

Encyclopaedia Caledonica–Airships

Note:  From time to time, I will be posting selections from what I’m writing, or entries from various fictional sources on background information on the world of my book series. (Are these blogs canon?  Sure.  For now, at least.)  I’ll denote them by using the Fiction tag and coloring the text blue.

The entry in the Encyclopædia Caledonica (1876 Abridged Edition for the British Public) for the “Airships” is as follows:

AIRSHIPS—The airship is the pinnacle of development of the art of air travel, having progressed past balloons (which lack the ability to travel in a desired direction, other than that provided by the caprice of the winds) and aerostats (which are merely tethered in place to the ground). Airships are thus equipped with means for both propulsion and navigation through the air.

History. It may be considered that the airship as a technological advance overcame many Continue reading

Fall First Page Critique Blog Hop

I learned about this from Miss Alexandrina’s blog, and thought it an interesting and useful idea.  We offer up a first page for critique and in exchange, critique the five works above and below ours on the list in return.

So here’s mine:  It’s the first 250 words or so from my present NaNoWriMo work-in-progress, which has a working title of “The Secret Notebook of Michael Faraday”, a prequel to my recently published steampunk adventure novel.

It was unlike anything the boy had ever seen.

He had seen large buildings before, of course. Being from the City, he had grown up in the shadow of the great dome of St. Paul’s, and had even ventured inside once at the end of a morning service when the vergers would not notice a poorly dressed boy. The tall spaces of the great cathedral amazed him, but that building was made of stone, and sat squarely upon the ground. This building was made almost entirely of glass and seemed to soar.

“Come along, Nicodemus,” said Mr. Dalrymple, the boy’s master. “Let’s not dawdle. We have lots to see today.”

The boy, staring slack-jawed and wide-eyed at the wonders before him, could only manage, “Cor…”.

“Nicodemus!”

“Yes, sir,” said young Nicodemus, and followed along behind the man.

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations was the wonder of London all through the summer of 1851. Since being officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen in May, almost 5 million people had visited and been marveled by its exhibits. Housing the Exhibition was, of course, the Crystal Palace, a enormous building almost a third of a mile long and over 120 feet high.

Nicodemus and his master stopped under the great dome at the center of the building. The space stretched as far as Nicodemus could see in either direction. “What’ll we see first, Mr. Dalrymple? It’s so big!” exclaimed Nicodemus, still straining his neck to look around at everything at once.

To Rule the Skies — Now available!

I am happy to announce that my debut novel To Rule the Skies is now available.

140814 COVERgradient2Set in a Victorian world in which events happened slightly differently, To Rule the Skies is a story of airships and scientists, robber barons and airpirates. I plan this book to be only the first in the Airship Flamel Adventures series.

Professor Nicodemus Boffin, late of the University of Edinburgh and protégé of the great Michael Faraday, serves as the Scientist General of a semi-secret British institute to further scientific knowledge and technological advancement for Queen, Country, and Empire. Boffin and his crew travel the world aboard their advanced airship Flamel on a voyage of discovery. In desperate times, however, Flamel is called upon to perform “extraordinary duties”. Boffin is tasked to search for the cause of the sinking of HMS Bellerophon, the Royal Navy’s flagship which was secretly carrying a huge gold shipment from the Canadian gold fields to London. He must uncover who or what is behind the disaster before tensions between long-time transatlantic enemies, Britain and the United States, bring the two nations over the brink to all-out war.

To Rule the Skies is available at Amazon for the Kindle,  iTunes for iBook, and Smashwords in many ebook formats.

Paperback version coming soon!

To Rule the Skies–Anteprologue

In anticipation of my upcoming novel To Rule the Skies, I present its Anteprologue, a little teaser which takes place immediately prior to the beginning of the novel, and introduces a few important characters and a bit of the world in which the novel takes place.  Enjoy!

Professor Boffin turned from his conversation as Lord Clarendon entered the room. He had expected Clarendon to attend the retirement dinner for the Captain, but he had not expected the person who followed him.

“Elizabeth!” he exclaimed, ignoring his benefactor and father-in-law altogether as he rushed to his wife. “What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to see you before you flew off. Father says that Flamel is to depart in the next couple of days.”

Boffin looked quizzically at Clarendon. “Is this true, sir? I’ve heard nothing of new orders.”

“I apologize, Nicodemus. I heard of it just before leaving Newton Hall this afternoon. I’m afraid all the details have not coalesced as yet. I am still waiting to receive the details from the Admiralty. Anyway, when I mentioned it to Elizabeth, she insisted upon accompanying me here to Croydon.”

Although Professor Nicodemus Boffin was the Expedition Commander of Her Majesty’s Research Airship Flamel, it seemed to him sometimes that he was the last to hear when Flamel was ordered on what was termed “extraordinary assignments” for the Government. And Boffin did not like the feeling of his position being ignored and disrespected. His wife saw the irritated look on his face and took him aside.

“Nicodemus, do not worry about what orders you may be receiving.”

“Why? Why am I the last to know? Do they not respect me at all?”

“Let tonight be an enjoyable time. For the captain.”

Boffin’s troubled visage softened. He could not resist his wife’s combination of logic and honest sentiment. He looked at her face, turned up to his with one eyebrow raised hopefully.

“Yes, of course, dear. Tonight is in celebration of the captain. I shall not let what may come tomorrow interfere with the festivities. But I do have some matters that I must discuss with your father before dinner.” Continue reading

Nigh comes the Anteprologue!

I am putting the finishing touches on a stand-alone Airship Flamel piece.  Chronologically, it comes immediately prior to the beginning of my upcoming novel To Rule the Skies.  Think of it in the same vein as the Doctor Who webisodes between seasons or the Marvel One-Shots that give more background to various characters in the Marvel Universe.  The problem is:  What to call it?

Even though it’s a prologue to the novel, I can’t title it “Prologue”, because the novel already has a Prologue.  There doesn’t seem to be a word that means “the chapter before the Prologue”.

So, I’m inventing one–Anteprologue.

It’s analogous to the ultimate, penultimate,antepenultimate, preantepenultimate series (I just discovered that last one).  And I like chewing through stacked prefixes (so long as they make sense like “hemidemisemiquaver”–a 64th note).

Which reminds me of two favorite and, I believe, useful words in German:  vorgestern and übermorgen which mean, respectively, “the day before yesterday” and “the day after tomorrow.”  I don’t know if any other languages have these useful words.  English apparently did at one point–ereyesterday and overmorrow–which are direct parallels of the German words.  They’re cited as being first used in the 1500s, and seem to have immediately not caught on.

So, watch for my Anteprologue on the overmorrow or so!