There are a few characteristics that set my mystery series Galvanic Century apart from what might otherwise be considered “generic” steampunk.
Edwardian vs Victorian
The series, thus far, runs from 1912 to 1914, right up into the Great War, making it an Edwardian rather than Victorian series. The fact that Queen Victoria is as yet alive and has recently celebrated her platinum jubilee has not changed the social differences between the eras. The inhabitants of my fiction still consider themselves Victorians.
In truth the dividing line between Edwardian and Victorian culture is a messy one because cultural transitions weren’t sudden and shocking; for our purposes the Victorian mindset ended in the mid 1890s when the Queen’s public appearances grew less prominent and she exerted less of a magnetic personal presence. This is reflected well enough in Galvanic Century – nobody sees her much anymore, and while the label doesn’t exist, the English of the series are very much Edwardian in nature.
It’s still very much a time of transition between two worlds… morals are more lax, and it’s a time of great technological innovation, though in the Galvanic Century the shift is the last great gasp of steampunk before the diesel and atomic ages.
A largely secular world
It’s important to remember that genre is itself more a marketing tool than an academic taxonomy. There are rigorous definitions, and there are useful ones. I market Galvanic Century as historical science fiction, a “what if” technology had taken a different path, “what if” scientific laws had worked the ways the Victorians believed them to.
There’s no magic in the Galvanic Century, but there is pseudoscience. Electricity, magnetism, the fundamental forces of the universe behave as the Victorians believed they did. It’s a different science that has made possible a faster general advancement.
Historical Accuracy in a World that Never Was
It’s entirely an artifact of my love for research, but despite the above changes, history progresses much as it does in the real world. The same historical figures exist and serve much the same function. I do extrapolate the effects of more efficient and faster-developing technology when it comes to things like social change. Women are finding an equal footing earlier as the innovations in transportation, communication, and labor-saving make it all more possible.
At the same time, of course, industry and empire are finding the exploitation of colony and workforce more effective and efficient, leading to stronger resistance, leading to even faster social change.
Stories are Still Stories
Galvanic Century is not an exercise in worldbuilding. It’s a setting for stories. It’s a context. Not for plot, but for character growth and evolution. It’s about two detectives, Jame Wainwright and Alton Bartleby, learning through playing at being detectives that the way they interface with the world is harmful. It’s about noblewoman Aldora Fiske coming to a place of peace with the fire in her soul and the demands of her station.
What started out as simple detective stories has grown and evolved as I’ve grown and evolved and learned to see the potential in my own fiction, in storytelling as a whole.
Hey, free books!
Want to see how it all began? Leading up to my guest appearance at the Chicago Steampunk Expo I’m giving away the first two ebooks – Bartleby and James and A Gentlewoman’s Chronicles free to everyone who signs up for my author mailing list. They’re a far cry from what the series has turned into by the time you get to Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken and Lighter than Aether, but still, I feel, worth the read.
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