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In Search of Setting

16 Jun

I’ve finished the first two chapters of Residue (working title). Not bad for a week, eh?

However, I am giving my setting some second thoughts. Dru Pagliasotti has graciously sent me a link to an article he wrote on Steampunk and it entailed some of the clichés in the genre.

I am guilty of one: setting the story in Victorian London. What can I say? I love England and since I am a great Jane Austen fan, I imagine it as the epitome of elegance for my characters to go there and immerse themselves in the Season.

So, should I change it? I can. I’ve only written a few pages. But then what should I change it to?

Right now, I am considering Paris. That place where fashion was born, the courtesans were powerful and painters gather on the Montmartre. It has a little something, doesn’t it?

I ran it by my Mum and she also had a few suggestions: Dublin, Vienna and Prague. Obviously, having lived in Dublin, I could easily transport the story to that place. It will always have a special place in my heart. Vienna and Prague I have never visited and know little about.

What do you guys think? Steampunk Egyptians? Highlander air pirates?

Or should I stick to London?

Steampunk novel opening excerpt

12 Jun
London, 1888
Chapter 1
Usually, the only enjoyable aspect of the Season was the underground boxing matches. Men were never as agreeable as when they were bloody, sweaty and out of breath. But there was no boxing tonight. Instead, they had been invited to a ball. Everyone who was anyone was present. Unfortunately, every nobody in the radius of 50 miles had bribed a way in as well.  Many miscreants weaseled about the room, begging for a dancing partner. Siobhan MacKenzie beheld the spectacle from the safety of a secluded corner. A light tap on the shoulder made her turn. Her dearest friend and accomplice, Cecilia Stayn. They exchanged a curtsy and a knowing smile.

 “I just arrived. Please tell me I did not miss the compulsory debutante blunder,” Miss Stayn said.

Cecilia had an everlasting smile. Golden locks escaped her fashionable hat and she wore an exquisite red gown with plunging neckline. Siobhan often envied the looks of her friend, especially her fair complexion and light figure. In contrast, Siobhan was rather freckled and curvaceous – though many suitors admired her for it. Sadly, her lack of fortune had prevented them from showing a serious interest. The world could be a mercenary place and in the industrious London, the marriage market mostly consisted of snobs and factory workers. Siobhan was a respectable woman and her father was a devout clergyman. As such, she visited the poor for charitable purposes and had her reputation to think of. Now, as a 25-year old singleton, she was considered a spinster, though she had not lost her bloom; her fiery hair attracted attention wherever she went, though some Englishmen treated her unkindly due to her Irish ancestry. But, having been born and bred in Yorkshire, there were no traces of an Irish accent. She had been brought up a true English lady. Her governess had seen to that. She remembered the many hours of punishment she’d endured at the hands of that woman.

“I am very curious about this scientist we were promised to meet. If it weren’t for him, I would have stayed at home.”

“Gregory Striker? The inventor of the dirigible?” Cecilia asked.

“Yes, indeed. The most brilliant scientist of our time. Allegedly, he will show us his latest discovery. Can you imagine? An exclusive.” 

Siobhan glanced at the door. Sadly, it did not open. She rather hoped for an introduction; perhaps his genius would rub off on her. Siobhan’s genius was in designing her own wardrobe. Most dresses she wore were of her own making and she amused herself by adding brass trinkets to her hats, gloves and belts. She also favoured feathers, beads and unusual colour combinations. Her style was far more conspicuous than her friend’s.

“I wonder what sort of discovery it will be. Everyone expects such great things from him it’s bound to be disappointing,” Cecilia remarked.

But Siobhan had faith in his abilities. Secretly, she hoped it would aid their personal pursuits. A few months ago, a mermaid washed ashore and caused quite a stir. Politicians struggled to decide the best cause of action. Should she be treated as a human or as a fish? Being both, they sent her to the zoo – to be seen by all the world and make them rich. A tradesman invaded the chamber and brutally shot the mermaid; he later claimed that selling mermaid tails would be a lucrative business. The man was executed but that was not the end of it. Local fishermen started hunting for other mermaids. Siobhan and many others feared for the their safety and sympathized with her plight.

As such, they formed the Alliance for Protection of Mythical Creatures and campaigned for equal rights. But the government did not act and snatchers captured dozens of creatures. Their tails were said to be worth thousands a piece. With the black market overrun by their criminal activity, the Alliance started fighting back. The hunters had now become the hunted. Siobhan, Cecilia and her fellow-hunters were committed to their training. They had a club house underground for shooting practice, fencing spars and meetings. Siobhan her favoured weapon was a brass whip that slithered around its target like a snake. Her father did not know she was a Protector. Nor that she wore trousers, suspenders and boots. She did not feel the need to justify her actions to him. Men went boxing. She went hunting. Few encounters with snatchers had a violent conclusion. Protectors always brought their pistols and snatchers were but impoverished fishermen; most could be dissuaded from their present course with a beer.

Still, some were more reluctant to surrender their cargo. Protectors were fast, strong and well-equipped. Vanity caused the occasional hunter to retaliate against them; but without any weapons or wits about them, fights were brief and easily won. Siobhan was still caught in reverie when the doors swung open and a gentleman tall, dark and frowning entered the room. There was no mistaking his authority; he walked with confidence and a sort of intellectual greatness. His dress fashionable and sophisticated, he exuded strength. This was no man to be trifled with. A woman’s lapdog winced and crawled underneath the pillow.

“He does not look like a scientist. Who is he?” Siobhan whispered to her friend.

The stranger found himself the centre of attention but moved through the crowd with the grace of a panther, his dark eyes lively and calculating.

The host, a chubby fellow whose name Siobhan never remembered, hastened to his side to bid him welcome.

“How glad I am you are here, Prof. Striker. We’ve been expecting you.”

The stranger raised an eyebrow.

“I’m not Mr. Striker. Sorry to disappoint you.”