Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Afterword from "Tales From The Clockwork Empire"


It is a noted fact that most inventions however innocent their initial purpose, are soon converted to, and developed for, the killing of one human being by another. Take
Dr Guillotine’s Cucumber Slicing Device. Excellent for cutting thin slices of vegetables for aperitifs and side salads. Also excellent for removing 20,000 heads from their shoulders during the French Revolution. Take the Wright brothers introducing us to powered flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. This opened up the possibilities for intercontinental journeys, airport waiting lounges and in-flight packaged meals. However, ten years after it’s first flight the aeroplane was dropping bombs onto the enemy in the trenches. Probably not on the Wright brother’s ‘ten most useful things to do when man can fly’ list.

Well, the same can be said of the submersible. There are records showing
William Bourne, an English innkeeper and scientific enthusiast, proposed the idea as early as 1580. From his drawings one suspects he was really thinking of ways of reusing the empty beer barrels in his cellar but it was quite a practical design. Sadly it ended at the drawing board stage as few people could see the advantage of being submerged in a pond in the 16th century. However, by 1775 David Bushnell had invented the Turtle, the first submersible to be used in war. An American patriot, Bushnell tried his new invention against the Royal Navy. In fact the Royal Navy seems to have been the brunt of early submariner attacks as the inventor Robert Fulton, assisting Napoleon, was having a bash at them twenty-five years later using his Nautilus submarine.

So you realize I have taken certain liberties with 19th century history… though it is fair to say that it is more speculation than pure invention. Lord Dashwood’s description of the automata in the Mechanical Museum in Princes Street is quite accurate. There was an ingenious chess-playing manikin called the Turk but it was a conjurer’s trick, built by Wolfgang von Kempelen to impress the Empress Maria Theresa. Certain historical events did, and were, happening. The Victory had just completed a three-year refit. France and Britain had explorative forces hunting the Rosetta Stone in Egypt. Napoleon stood on the shores of France and contemplated turning the British Isles into his world fortress.
Tsar Alexander, having succeeded to the throne after his father had been accidentally struck with a sword, strangled and trampled to death, entertained the high society of Imperial Russia at his Winter Palace while looking over his shoulder for possible assassins.

The 17th and 18th centuries were the pinnacle of clockwork mechanism and can be truly considered the age of the mechanical machine. By the 1850s steam power had replaced clockwork and the Victorians became the masters of the steam age. The fine and intricate clockwork was replaced by the awesome power of hydraulics, pistons and boilers. The delicate precision mechanisms of clockwork motion had been replaced by the size and power of steam engines. In short, the Victorians had steam coming out of their ears.

But what if that age of steam had been delayed and the inventions of clockwork had continued unheeded. Such are the devices that the characters of this chronicle employ and develop.

Copyright Ian Duerden and Markosia Enterprises

"Tales from the Clockwork Empire" is available at Amazon, WH Smiths, Waterstones and all leading booksellers from April.

Digital instalments are available now on Comixology, Graphicly and Sony PSP.