In a nutshell, Steampunk is historical fiction crossed with science fiction. But of course it’s not really that simple. The history is that of the Victorian age, while the science is for the most part steam driven. To tell the truth, it’s a little hard (and a lot complicated) to try and explain, so I’m not going to try. If you’re really interested, check out this article from the Huffington Post it's really good.
Now, without further ado, here’s my story from last week’s workshop:
“Damnation!” Lord Montague cursed as the spring he’d been trying to insert in the delicate piece of machinery went flying.
“Geoffrey!” his lady wife admonished him.
He looked up, his irritation sliding into embarrassment. “Sorry.”
“We had an agreement. You are only permitted to work on your inventions in the parlour if you take care with your language.”
“I said I was sorry,” he said, becoming irritable once more. “Now where did that d--” He glanced at his wife’s frown and quickly corrected himself. “Where did that spring go?”
“Here it is, papa,” said his daughter Marion, from where she was sitting near the fireplace attending to her embroidery. She gave an unladylike giggle. “You see? It has become tangled with my hair comb.” Her needlework lay forgotten in her lap as she reached up to extract the spring.
“Marion, I do wish you’d leave those combs in your hair,” said Lady Montague.
“I cannot help it, mama,” Marion said. “They simply will not stay put. Why, this spring works much better.” She proved her point as she demonstrated the difficulty she had removing it from her hair. Wincing, she finally freed the comb, the spring attached, as well as several strands of honey blond hair.
“Papa,” she said, working the spring free of the comb and handing it to him. “You have invented so many wonderful things, could you not invent a hair comb that will stay in my hair?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” her parents said, both at the same time.
Marion pursed her lips but let the subject drop. This was not the first time one of her suggestions was dismissed out of hand, nor would it be the last, she supposed. But the idea of somehow using a spring along with a comb so that it would stay in her hair would not leave her.
Several day late, an opportunity finally presented itself for her to experiment on her own. Her parents were attending the opera, and as the Italian sopranos tended to give Marion a headache, she begged off and was allowed to remain at home with Tilly, her maid, for company. This was doubly fortunate for Marion as Tilly had begun keeping company with the new footman not a fortnight ago and the girls were quick to seize the opportunity before them. Tilly could visit her paramour whilst Marion worked uninterrupted in the parlour.
Marion often sat quietly in a corner of the parlour under the guise of writing letters or doing needlework while her father was busy at his work table. Her attention, however, was not on what she was doing but rather on what her father was doing. She was intelligent and quick witted, and knew far more about mechanics than either parent would have guessed.
Her first attempts at improving a hair comb proved unsatisfactory at best. Attaching a spring to the comb was not much of an improvement, and the spring would become tangled in her hair requiring more patience than she feared she was capable of to extract it. She tried various combinations of various tiny gears and the spring, but the resulting comb was rather large and unwieldy.
“Damnation!” she exclaimed as the silver comb of her latest attempt went flying and hit the stone of the fireplace. Had her mother been within earshot, she would have fainted dead away at the language coming from her daughter. A knack for inventing was not the only thing Marion had inherited from her father.
The force with which the comb hit the stone had bent it at almost a forty-five degree angle. Marion picked it up and turned it around in her hand.
“Hmm. I wonder.”
Fired by new ideas and possibilities, she worked well past the time she should have, which is why when her parents returned they found her asleep at the work table, surrounded by the detritus of her work.
“What is all this?” thundered her father.
Her mother was too overcome to speak, and plunked herself down on the settee, fanning herself furiously.
Marion raised a sleepy head, a thin winding wheel from a watch stuck to her cheek. “Oh, hullo father, mother. How was the opera?”
“Never mind that,” her father said, picking up one of her discarded pieces and turning it around in his hand curiously. “How many times have you been told--what is this?”
“I call it a hair clip,” Marion said proudly. “You see how when it is closed it looks like a pair of lips? But it’s made from a pair of combs - comb, plus lips - clip.”
“How ingenious,” her father murmured. He glanced at several of her prototypes made with straight pieces of metal, some made with different sizes of gears, some with winding wheels from watches coming together. “And what of these?”
“Oh, those,” Marion said offhandedly. “Those were just prototypes, not very efficient for holding hair.”
“No, but they would be perfect for holding other things in place. Show me how you made these,” Lord Montague said eagerly.
Lady Montague stared at the pair from where she sat on the settee, appalled at the turn things had taken.
She had not been keen on having children, but Geoffrey spent so much time on his inventions she thought a child would help fill the void. When she gave birth to a daughter she couldn’t have been happier. A son would have most likely followed in his father’s footsteps, but a daughter - a daughter would have none of that kind of interest. A daughter would be sweet and gentle and keep her company in the long evenings while Geoffrey tinkered with his bits and pieces.
She sighed heavily and rose to her feet. “I’m going to bed,” she announced, unsurprised when she was ignored.
Maybe I should get a dog, she thought, closing the door behind her.