Apparently, I’ve made some readers curious about this work-in-progress by featuring Lennox in two Beautiful People link-ups. So, time for a full disclosure, eh?
First off, it’s not really steampunk. I dubbed it that before I understood what this genre actually meant. And what that term means is…actually a little crazy. Steampunk.com says the term can refer to a lot of tropes, from the Industrial Revolution aesthetic to a lack of technology altogether in favor of supernatural/paranormal aspects. Whereas Writersdigest.com defines the genre more generally as built around the idea that technology never advanced beyond steam engines. When I mentioned all this to Chris, he and I both thought it was a little silly to have an entire genre limited by steam technology and Victorian aesthetic. We continued calling the story “steampunk,” to convey the idea of anachronistic technology in the 19th century, and not because my story actually conforms to the genre.
After further research, we concluded that my story is actually a cross between alternate history, social sci-fi, hard sci-fi, with maybe a dash of steampunk thrown in (depending on which definition of that genre you like best). See why calling it “steampunk” is easier?
The story starts in 1891. The setting is the typical late-Victorian London with strict social norms, but with a twist: scientific dabbling is a popular hobby for the rich. And “secret” labs in the basement are an essential part of any grand house. Lord Fredericks is a brilliant, self-taught scientist, who can’t capitalize on his skills because he is also an aristocrat and not supposed to do manual or tradesman’s work. His ward, Susan, will inherit a fortune when she comes of age, but she can’t find an endeavor worthy enough to support because of the complacent attitudes in society. Henry is a doctor passionate for his work and research, but he can’t get the wealthy hobby scientists interested enough in his ideas to fund his experiments. (He is also torn between giving his services to the poor and needing income from his practice.) And Lennox is a young man who teaches classics at Cambridge, and therefore can’t get anyone to take him seriously as a scientist.
When Lennox comes to London to live with his grandfather, he hopes to meet influential men of science and to have opportunities to test his ideas and do further research. To his frustration, these hopes seem misplaced due to the strict traditions holding London society together—yet when he meets Lord Fredericks and another-influential-character-who-doesn’t-yet-have-a-name (I’m so organized), these five characters are drawn together to combine their ideas.
All the characters have scientific specialties (except the unnamed one; still working out his role and personality). Lennox’s is chemistry and maybe physics. He’s also an artist (though not a very good one, he says) because he learned to paint from his artist father. Henry’s expertise is biology (naturally); Susan’s is natural science of any kind, and she’s picked up a bunch of information about other sciences through reading and through helping Lord Fredericks with his own research. And Lord Fredricks is a jack-of-all trades, interested in nearly anything, but he specializes in electromagnetism and mechanical engineering.
Keep in mind that all this is subject to change—I’m still taking notes and playing around with concepts. Inspirations for this project have been Jekyll & Hyde (both the book and the musical), Batman Begins, Inception, The Prestige, the inventions of Nikola Tesla and other experiments with electricity and electromagnetism in the final decade of the century, photographs of clock towers and lamplit streets at night, and my own thoughts and theories about science and art.
Shots of the (secret!) character boards:
Lord Fredericks’s board:
I do not own these images! I use them solely for personal inspiration; no copyright infringement is intended.
One last thing: I’m not actively working on this story. It’s still in the concept/idea-gathering/note-taking stage. I fiddle with it when I get burned out on other projects. Or when inspiration hits. 🙂
Still, if anyone would like to know a little more about it or about these characters, leave a comment and let me know!