Daniel Durrant is touring the internet this week on a virtual book tour, supporting his debut novella. A Steampunk tale with elements of espionage and suspense, Climate Change is book those who love the genre are not going to want to miss. So when I found out I was going to be hosting Daniel, I had a simple question for him – I wanted to know what went into creating the world his characters lived in. What I received from him is a delightful piece titled:
This Animal is of No Use to Mankind
Climate Change is the first piece of Steampunk I’ve written, so the process was a steep learning curve for me. When the idea struck me I was tremendously excited – so much so that I drank several beers in something akin to the celebratory equivalent of a pre-emptive strike. But when the alcohol wore off, I realised something terrible; I had no idea how to write Steampunk.
After a short panic, I approached the problem like all good geeks: I would plan it first. The setting, at least, was easy; the quest to navigate the Northwest Passage provided that. Above all else, Steampunk is defined by technology, so I made that my next job. The “decay engines” I imagined effectively shaped the political landscape of my fictional world (and sometimes the geographical landscape, when they malfunctioned).
The development work was great fun; I wrote thirty pages of notes detailing every aspect of life in my re-imagined world. Then, realising I was enjoying it too much, I stopped and hit the last task – my characters.
The fact is this: you can have the best novel ever conceived, but without great characters it’s rubbish. Now, having drawn this very detailed alternative world, I didn’t know what the inhabitants would be like.
Our attitude and beliefs are the direct result of life experience. We’re all defined by the world we live in. The same needed to be true of my characters, but everything I came up with felt a bit “twentieth century” and just didn’t work.
Eventually I pinned down the problem. Yes, my characters would see advanced technology, but in the nineteenth century. They needed to see through Victorian eyes. The issue was how to portray that.
Then something – luck, fate, call it what you will – intervened, and I happened upon the Children’s Home Book of Natural History, dated 1855. This pocket-sized hardback has just 93 pages, each devoted to a domesticated or wild animal. The little engraving prints are lovely, but the real value is in the text.
There are too many gems to list here, but most precious amongst them are that “elephants are the most sagacious of all beasts”, that “a tame puma can make a suitable pet for children” (seriously) and that “a good dog is of more service than many idle men or boys”.
But best of all is the entry for the hippopotamus. A brief description is followed by the summary: “this animal is of no use to mankind”. Those eight words are a remarkably concise expression of the nineteenth century mind-set: “we can’t eat it, train it or wear it. Can’t even make glue out of it. It is worthless.” The Victorians saw everything as a resource to be used up.
Yes, Steampunk is all about twisting technology, but attitudes and beliefs must be twisted to match. Given the technological opportunity, would the Victorians have replaced slavery? You bet they would, and so my marionettes were born. Would new medical knowledge be used purely for good? No chance; in my world Edward Jenner makes his living from biological weapons.
Going right to the heart of the novel, what about the polar ice caps we worry about today? Merely a barrier to be destroyed; the environment was something to conquer, not cherish. That realisation defined my novel, and along the way, even provided the title. Perhaps fittingly, it was all inspired by a little book published in 1855. I rather like that.
Thank you Daniel! Now that we’ve read a little bit from his mind, let’s take a moment to get to know him a little better…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Daniel Durrant is a new author writing mainly in the horror and science fiction genres. His short stories have been published in anthologies in the UK and USA, and he is currently working on his first full-length novel. He lives on the Norfolk Coast in England.
And now let’s take a look at Climate Change and read an excerpt from it!
Edward Rankine, inventor and engineer aboard the battle-cruiser Dominator, has devised an ingenious plan to open the frozen Northwest Passage.
Believing he is performing a service for the benefit of mankind, Edward is appalled to discover there is a saboteur in his midst.
Working with a crew of ‘Jacks and Jills’, mechanically enhanced humans sentenced to a life of servitude, Edward is forced to battle on the icebound waters of the northern seas.
Not only does Edward have a mutiny on his hands, but he must also find a way to save the passengers aboard the Dominator, possibly abandoning his own noble ambition in the process.
Will Edward’s plan succeed in the face of adversity, or in failing to clear the Northwest Passage will he stumble upon something greater?
An Excerpt from Climate Change by Daniel Durrant… At the end of the excerpt is the giveaway information!
On the ride out, Edward tried to glimpse the modifications that were his design. All space forward was taken by three quadruple turrets. They began to pass the castle, but before the stern became visible, the ship was lost in a fog bank of her own making.
“She has decay engines?” Charlotte asked, watching steam engulf the superstructure.
“Yes, four.” He pointed at the cooling towers. “I can arrange a tour if you’d like,” he offered, hoping to impress.
“Yes.” She smiled. “I would.”
After hopping off at the loading pavilion, they pushed through the crowd and showed their papers to the Royal Marine manning the embarkation point. He directed them toward the nearest elevator, but as they approached, an enormous man began to close the gate.
“Hold, if you please!” Edward called, hurrying forward.
The giant hesitated, but dropped the latch at the signal of an expensively dressed woman standing beside him. The platform began to climb, but those aboard were unprepared. Near the guardrail, two men struggling with a huge portmanteau overbalanced.
Muscles battled gravity as the platform continued skyward. Gravity won. The luggage teetered on the edge before plummeting down, dragging one of the men behind it. They landed together. Clothes, trinkets, and blood dispersed across the unforgiving stone.
“Medic!” Charlotte yelled, running forward. “We need a doctor!”
Edward knelt down and grabbed the man’s wrist, but found no pulse.
“We shan’t need one, I’m afraid.” He shook his head.
“Don’t trouble yourself, Miss,” a marine said. “He’s only a Jack.”
“A Jack?” Edward removed the man’s woolen hat. The scalp beneath was fashioned not from flesh, but metal. A bundle of wires trailed down under his collar. He stood, and looked around. Free from distraction, it was obvious; the stevedores moved with the stilted gait of the converted.
“You bloody fools!” The woman from the elevator barged past them, directing her staff to clean up. “Don’t touch that!” she shouted, as a maid picked up an ornate music box. She snatched the item away, and passed it to the tall man.
“Can I be of assistance?” Edward offered.
“I very much doubt it!” His offer seemed to feed her anger, but then she calmed. “It was a gift from my father,” she said, perhaps trying to justify her outburst. “Excuse us.”
“Lady Holden,” Charlotte murmured, as they climbed aboard another elevator. “I see she’s every bit as charming as her reputation suggests.”
The name seemed familiar, but Edward had no chance to enquire about it.
As they stepped aboard, a young man burst through a service door, charging toward them.
“Stop!” someone hollered, but the man paid no heed. He dashed for a loading ramp, but a gunshot ended his journey. He collapsed beside them, blood erupting from his chest.
Marines ran forward with guns drawn, but had no more targets.
“Sir? Madam? Are you alright?” An officer lowered his weapon, and stepped forward.
Edward looked at the would-be escapee. Blood spread unchecked until it hit the edge of the plank under him. Acting like a miniature dyke, the caulking carried it to the gunwale drain.
“Yes, we’re fine. Thank you, Lieutenant,” Charlotte replied.
A rhythmic hammering sound finally drew Edward’s attention from the body. Looking up, he saw Captain Fitzjames approaching. Standing nearly seven feet tall on his pneumatic legs, he strode forward to join them.
“I must apologize,” the Captain said. “Hardly an appropriate welcome, Miss Redpath.” He smiled. “It’s a pleasure to see you again.”
“Captain.” She nodded. “I was most grieved to hear of your injury at the battle of Buenos Aires.”
Redpath? Charlotte Redpath? Edward tried hard to keep his face blank, but knew he’d failed. Charlie? Stunned, he shook his head.
“Chance hit from a shore battery, but the objective was achieved. The Argentine Navy was completely destroyed.” Shrugging, he tapped the brass thigh tank. “The admiralty insists my uniform should be tailored to hide them, but I believe it does the men good to see that officers share the danger with them.” He turned to Edward. “Doctor Rankine, I presume?”
“Yes, Captain.” As a civilian, Edward had no protocol to observe, but pulled himself upright nonetheless. “It’s an honor, sir.”
“Hmn. Frankly, I don’t care for what you’ve done to my ship, Doctor. The loss of the aft turret concerns me.” He frowned, but then a narrow smile crossed his lips. “However, I must admit I’m curious to see the system in action.”
“Sir, look at this.” Kneeling beside the body, a Marine pulled the man’s shirt open. A small tree was tattooed on his sternum.
“Creationist!” Fitzjames growled. Air hissed from a bleed valve as he stamped a foot. “Lieutenant, organize a search-”
“Sir, we have another one!” Two Marines exited from the nearest elevator, dragging a man between them. “Caught him in the engine room, sir. Chief Engineer said he was tampering with the vortex transducers.”
“You are aboard a vessel of the Royal Navy,” Fitzjames said, clipping off each word. “Sabotaging a ship-of-the-line carries a mandatory life sentence. Take him for marionisation.”
“No!” The man sagged down between his captors. Only their grip prevented his collapse. “Captain, I beg you!”
“I’m sorry, son. It’s too late for that.” He hesitated. “Be grateful we have a good surgeon. It won’t hurt.”
Listening to him scream as the Marines hauled him away, Edward wondered if the dead man hadn’t been the luckier one. At least he couldn’t suffer any more.
“Captain, chance seems an unlikely explanation for this,” he said, trying to focus. “We have to consider that someone has leaked details of our mission.”
“You’re suggesting there’s a traitor aboard the Dominator?” Fitzjames snarled.
Thinking himself the target of the Captain’s anger, Edward took a step back.
“Damn it, you’re right. Too much coincidence.” He called the officers close. Through clenched teeth, he ordered an immediate departure. “We don’t want a panic. Keep this quiet, but place double guards on all restricted areas.” Surrounded by his entourage, he walked away, still issuing orders.
“You’re Charlotte Redpath?” Edward asked.
“The last time I checked, yes.” She looked down at herself.
“You might have told me.” The daughter of one of the wealthiest industrialists in the world, and he’d taken her for some grubby scout. Edward shook his head, feeling dizzy. He couldn’t take much more of this. As if the expedition alone wasn’t terror enough, trouble had struck before the ship could even sail.
“I’m sorry, Edward.” She touched his arm. “Don’t sulk. It wouldn’t have been nearly so much fun.”
“Oh, Miss Redpath?” Fitzjames turned back. “As I said, this is a vessel of the Royal Navy.” He gestured at her filthy clothes. “Sponsor or not, Her Majesty’s rules dictate a dress code.”
It’s a Giveaway!!
Sirens Call Publications will be giving away digital copies of Climate Change by Daniel Durrant to 5 (five) lucky winners! Follow the link to enter for your chance to win!