Foreword Jack Tyler
Steam Powered Camel Steve Moore
A Walk In The Park N.O.A. Rawle
The Betrothed David Lee Summers
Masquerade C.L. Zeitstück
Helena and the Pope Katie Alford
Tomorrow’s Afterthought William J. Jackson
Tea Time Bryce Raffle
Yggdrasil and Nanna Duel Alice E. Keyes
Cerberus Reconsidered Albrecht von Saarbruchen
Right On Time Karen J Carlisle
The Hooded Figure Jennifer Jobe
The Beachcomber J. P. Paradise
A collection of Steampunk tales of fantasy
and high adventure.
Cover design by Katie Alford. Copyright © 2015
“Steam Powered Camel” Copyright © 2015 by Steve Moore
“A Walk in the Park” Copyright © 2015 by N.O.A. Rawle
“Masquerade” Copyright © 2015 by C.L. Zeitstück
“Helena and the Pope” Copyright © 2015 by Katie Alford
“The Betrothed” Copyright © 2015 by David Lee Summers
“Tomorrow’s Afterthought” Copyright © 2015 by William J. Jackson
“Tea Time” Copyright © 2015 by Bryce Raffle
“Yggdrasil and Nanna Duel” Copyright © 2015 by Alice E. Keyes
“Cerebus Reconsidered” Copyright © 2015 by Albrecht von Saarbruchen
“Right on Time” Copyright © 2015 by Karen J. Carlisle
“The Hooded Figure” Copyright © 2015 by Jenny
“The Beachcomber” Copyright © 2015 by J.P. Paradise
All rights reserved by the authors.
These are works of fiction. All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in public domain, are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
A LITTLE OVER A YEAR ago, fed up with scores of writers’ groups that were terrorized by trolls, and mismanaged by self-important administrators who leaped with catlike reflexes to rein in anyone and everyone but those trolls, I decided to create my own. Thus was born Scribblers’ Den, a writers’ group under the umbrella of The Steampunk Empire. My only rule was play nice. Like any conversation you might have with a group of friends in person, discussions would be free to wander where they might, subject only to the control of those involved. Anyone attempting to bully, shame, or intimidate another member would be heaved unceremoniously out the door.
In the year since, 125 souls interested in writing or knowing writers and discussing The Craft with them have stepped up to the bar and joined the conversation. They have started 73 formal discussions, offered up over 3500 comments, and though three members have left voluntarily, I have not had to show one person to the door. The result has been successful beyond my most optimistic dreams.
A few weeks back, we had our first anniversary party, an on-line affair that followed the time zones around the world, and went on for the better part of two days. One of the festivities was a display of flash fiction skills organized by our own Alice E. Keyes, author of the Miss Winsome series. That was so enjoyable, and engendered so much camaraderie that the participants have agreed to assemble those stories in this collection for all to enjoy. Our writers travel the full range of steampunk, from romance to horror, from adventure to mystery, and some wonderful examples have been gathered here. So if you are a hardcore steampunk aficionado, or a curious reader thinking to dip your toe into the genre, welcome to our world, and know that you have a rare treat ahead of you!
And when you’ve finished, should you find that you’ve enjoyed the ride, consider this your invitation to visit our cozy Den, and perhaps join us, should you find it to your liking. Admission can be found at http://thesteampunkempire.com/group/scribblers-den. We hope to see you there!
~ Jack “Blimprider” Tyler
CLOUDS PARTED TO REVEAL THE desolate desert world of Arabia. Vast stretches of ochre yellow. Dunes that cooked in unforgiving heat. The sands were like waves frozen in time but the antithesis of an ocean. A sea of heat, where water is life. Thousands of miles to the northwest, in the English town of Sheffield, the rain was incessant. There were pitter-patter and glugging sounds, a damp chill to freeze your very being and everything was grey.
Tinsley Engineering’s visionary, Albert Townsend, was a typical grumpy Northerner who loved his vocation and calling; engineering. He wore a leather top hat, tweed waistcoat and a waterproofed cotton jacket. He unconsciously fingered his tool belt of measures, gauges, test equipment and probes as Quality was his middle name. Albert Quality Townsend was indeed his name, changed to reflect his great admiration for His Royal Highness Prince Albert.
The Prince’s great exhibition inspired this change and Albert was now so enthused by his love of practical engineering skills that he sought to use them for the benefit of the Empire.
‘Letters, Mr Townsend’ said the clerk.
‘Very good, Smith, put them on my desk.’ Albert looked at a book of logarithms and was calculating stresses for his next steam creation, a powered theatre that would hoist stage backdrops and move members of the audience on rotating pallets to get a better and ever-changing view.
A more equitable way to enjoy the music hall, he mused as he placed a log on the stove.
Steve Moore is a member of the Steampunk Empire’s Scribbler’s Den and lives in London, United Kingdom. This flash fiction story connects with his first novel ROYAL AMERICA available on kindle from Amazon. Steve is a member of Bellack Productions a collective of UK writers looking for other ways to get their message to the public. His website is www.royal-america.co.uk please dip in.
AS LADY CARMELLA WAS OUT walking one day, she met a fine gent striding her way. She thought not a moment before she flashed a coy smile.
He raised his top hat, “Shall we stroll for a while?”
“Don’t mind if I do, but we should first be acquainted.”
With no further ado, he produced his card (nicely hand painted).
“My name is Sir Walter Winston O’Hare, I collect whimsies, whatsits – things I deem fair.”
“Delighted, I’m sure. I’m Lady Carmella Mead, inventor of contraptions, whatever your need.”
He took a step backward, face aglow with delight.
“A Lady inventor, well, what a sight!”
She paused just a moment, assessing his features, sometimes gentlemen were the oddest of creatures.
“Well, I am what I am and there’s not a whole lot you can do.”
“That’s where you’re wrong mademoiselle; I am kidnapping you!”
He took out an old rag with chloroform upon it and she went out like a light before her hand touched her bonnet.
His accomplice sprang from the rhododendron bushes and loaded the lady on their cart with the gentlest of pushes.
“Away with you Jenson, to my workshop so quickly, if anyone sees us, this will get quite prickly!”
But a bobby on the beat had seen the villainous activity and soon dealt with the deed with the greatest proclivity.
“To jail with you both and I’ll lock the door tight! A lady’s a lady and you’ll treat her just right!”
Brit N.O.A. Rawle’s Grand Tour stopped in Greece where she now writes weird tales into the wee hours. www.noarawle.blogspot.gr
RAMON FOUND FATEMEH AT THE Voodoo shop. Even though she had trained as a doctor, she remained fascinated by religions from around the world and their healing practices.
“So when were you going to tell me you had been betrothed?” Ramon held up a copy of Lafcadio Hearn’s account of their adventures out west during the Russian airship invasion.
“I didn’t think it mattered.” Fatemeh shrugged. “Took you long enough to get around to reading the book.”
“I’ve been busy with the law practice.” Ramon enjoyed his work in New Orleans. His talents were especially well suited to solving disputes between the potpourri of people who inhabited the Crescent City. “So what do we do if this guy shows up?”
“We’ll think of something. We always do.”
Ramon wasn’t sure he liked the way Fatemeh held the Voodoo doll. He gently coaxed it from her hand, then led her from the shop out into the heavy summer air. The cicadas buzzed in the trees drowning out any hope of conversation. They walked down St. Ann’s Street to the levy. As they reached the top, the cicadas stopped, their buzzing replaced by the thrumming of a distant steam engine.
Ramon caught sight of a large steamship coming up the Mississippi, a Persian flag flying from its stern, but he couldn’t read the ship’s name. He turned to his wife.
She swallowed. “It’s called the Fatemeh.”
At that point, Ramon knew his troubles were just beginning.
David Lee Summers is the author of the Clockwork Legion steampunk novels. Learn more at http://www.davidleesummers.com
EARL DORIAN GADESBI KNEW THAT sacrifices were needed to bring about change. Jesse Anderson had known as well. Jesse would understand.
“Dorian,” Chancellor Mulvaine greeted coldly, “Still dressed for a masquerade, I see. Did you ever collect your friend’s bloodied mask from my ballroom floor, or is it too dark a souvenir?”
When Dorian declined to honor that with a response, Mulvaine motioned for him to be seated, “Tea?”
The earl had not removed his hat, ornate golden mask, or even his cape from his person. Though, as one of the two leaders of the people’s revolution that had come to his masquerade ball, Gadesbi could hardly be motivated by propriety. Mulvaine poured the tea, eager to gloat, “I must know, why a masquerade?”
“You see people only as the masks you use to oppress them. We thought it fitting.” Dorian replied in a quiet tone, still standing. The darkness of the cast iron teapot, as the earl had surmised, had managed to artfully conceal the powdered arsenic. Dorian had somewhat wondered to the flavor of arsenic, and now was as good a time as any, as they say. When Mulvaine eyed him warily, Dorian took a sip before watching his enemy do the same.
“You shot an unarmed man.” Dorian hissed, voice wavering, “Coward.”
“Silly boy,” Mulvaine laughed, swaying. “Who were you to change this world?”
Famous last words. As the old man dropped to the floor, choking, Dorian laughed, lurching forward as the effects of the poison began to turn on their master. “You fool!” Dorian choked, still cackling. “You killed the nice one!”
The golden mask clattered to the floor.
Xanthe CL Zeitstück is both born of fiction and a fluent speaker thereof. They represent the glitch that becomes of reality and fantasy colliding in a shower of absurdity and clock-related puns. They hope you’re forced to forget which reality is called ‘fiction.’
KNEELING BEFORE THE SON OF God, the pope closed his eyes. In his hands, he clutched the book of the Great Lord. His spirit soared as a voice whispered to his soul.
“Most devout of all the Lord’s children, open your eyes. Look upon his messenger.”
The pope opened his eyes. In a flash of glorious purple light, the most beautiful angel he had ever beheld appeared. Her hair was dark brown, her eyes as blue as the ocean and her skin as delicate as a spring blossom. She held a spear, the tip of which glowed with the Lord’s power.
“Blessed child.” The angel placed her hand on the pope’s head. “I, the great angel Hel, bring a message. Our Lord and God hath decreed his book on earth is lacking. I am tasked with delivering unto you, a book worthy of his name.” From the folds of her golden robes, the angel drew forth a book, offering it to the pope.
Uttering prayers of gratitude, the pope took the book of his Lord and God, releasing the unworthy version to the floor.
“Devoted servant, continue thy work in delivering our father’s words to all his precious children.”
And so it was that the sacred stories of the great goat that farted a thousand mice and the drunken man who vomited one hundred barrels of pure wine was made known to the world.
As the pope opened the book, the angel grinned and, in flash of purple light, vanished.
K M Alford is a writer of Steampunk, Sci-f and Fantasy and is the author of Atlantis and the Game of Time which can be found at . Her blog can be found at .
EVEN IN HIS DREAMS, THE sparkling ocean tide of ideas flowed. Unimagined innovations rose, the Future as sea foam, curling back into the Present, crashing on Time’s Beach.
Roman numerals dropped sequentially along their rods: ticking, calculating, thinking. Difference Engine performed its simplest task.
4:30 AM. Arise, Samuel Stockwell.
“Letters?” His first response to the dream sounded out before his eyes could see the light of the lantern. By instinct, he scratched a rough chin, working his way up to his blond hair while the other hand scoured the work table for the goggles.
Samuel stretched, regretted it, and made for the coffee. His eyes saw not the gray pot, the furnace or the brand new steam hammer. They perceived the subconscious calculus of the Dream State, imagination and reality in union.
Babbage made the Engine numerically, but a mind thinks in words. Why not add a second set, alphabetical? No, syllabic, to shorten the section. An Intelligent Engine.
Coffee went down his throat in one vicious gulp. Samuel felt the burn, but fought against its bite to sound the alarm.
“Links! I know how we can improve on Babbage’s machine. Grab the boys, dismantle Difference, eh, Two! We still have those syllable dyes for the automatic printer?”
Men building steam heaters ran like wild to break down the machine in order to make a better one.
The Blue Silence made Samuel Stockwell a genius, and every day, he pushed into the sea foam.
William J. Jackson is the creator of the Legacy Universe, where steam meets superheroes. He writes in many of the punk genres, and blogs about it at therailbaron.wordpress.com.
ANNABEL FLOPPED DRAMATICALLY INTO THE leather armchair in a way that managed to look both awkwardly painful and the very height of comfort. Her ecru dress was spattered with dried blood, none of it hers. Jonathan was staring at her.
Ignoring him, she took a sip of tea and let out of a sigh of pleasure.
“Earl grey,” she said, practically purring.
“Now?” Jonathan exclaimed.
“Now,” Annabel affirmed. “I’m not killing any more zombies today. I’m simply not. It’s been a long, hard day, and it’s tea time. The zombies can attack later.”
“Right,” Jonathan scoffed. “Good luck explaining that to the zombies when they barge their way through that door. ‘Sorry, zombies. You’ll have to come back later.’ Somehow, I don’t see that working.”
Annabel shrugged off the jibe, settled more comfortably into the chair, and helped herself to a biscuit.
“But how did the zombies get onto the airship in the first place?” she wanted to know.
“They must have boarded when we landed a few days ago. They could have stowed away in the cargo hold,” Jonathan theorized.
“And gotten out of the cargo hold when Mr. Lockwood went and opened it earlier this morning,” Annabel finished.
They gave Lockwood an icy stare. Lockwood, for his part, did his best to look contrite, to both Annabel’s and Jonathan’s satisfaction. Annabel reached for her cup of tea, and Jonathan slapped her hand away. Actually slapped her hand away! Her mouth opened in an expression of shock, and moral outrage, and…
“Never mind that,” said Jonathan, “What are we going to do about the zombies?”
“What are you going to do about the zombies?” Annabel countered. “I’m going to sit here and enjoy a nice cup of Earl Grey. You’re going to deal with the zombies.”
“Impossible. I can’t even use my pistol. Hydrogen,” he reminded her. “The slightest spark could send us up in flames.”
Annabel sighed. She was exhausted, but this conversation was quickly becoming more tiresome than the thought of dispatching some thirty-five ravenous undead cannibals with her bare hands.
“Sword?” she asked.
Jonathan set off to find one, and having done so, handed it to Annabel.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Annabel answered. “Just open the door, and then get behind me.”
She sighed, then apparently deciding it might actually be worth her trouble to get out of her chair, did so. “They’ve interrupted me at tea time. I almost pity them.”
“I do pity them,” Jonathan muttered. Then he opened the door.
Annabel flopped back into her chair. Her ecru dress was now a red dress, though she hadn’t taken the time to change. Jonathan and Lockwood were staring at her. She took a sip of tea, ignoring both of them.
“It’s cold,” she said, and both gentlemen retreated to the back of the room.
Bryce Raffle: Writer of steampunk, horror, and fantasy. Look for his debut novel, Dead London, soon. www.bryceraffle.com #DrinkTeaKillZombies
THE CROWD HOLDS ITS BREATH as Yggdrasil cleanly eats her biscuit seconds after Nanna. The Tiffin Master says, “Yggdrasil’s won. She’ll wear the blue gown to Höðr ball.”
The crowd hesitates in their applause. Nanna, a five-year champion of Aphrodite’s annual competitions, lost. Goddesses sitting on Yggdrasil’s side applaud.
The hall’s doors open with a crash and a man, with a perfectly tied cravat, enters. “Yggdrasil cheated. Her parasol contains a time-turning contraption!”
“How dare you…” begins Yggdrasil, reaching for her parasol.
“Stop her,” yells a woman.
The Tiffen Master’s reacts too slowly. Yggdrasil presses the blue jewel on the tip of her parasol’s handle.
The scene reverses three minutes.
Yggdrasil remembers the day she challenges Nanna to a duel. Nanna, obviously bragging, brought out her dress during a tea hosted by the three Fates. It was the same design and cloth as Yggdrasil’s dress which she’d kept a secret.
The Fates conclude – Nanna’s destiny is to wear the gown. Yggdrasil irritated, takes a deep breath and extinguishes the fireball she wanted to throw at Nanna’s dress. She devises a plan instead. Before the argument ensues, Yggdrasil challenges Nanna to a duel.
She wobbles the biscuit in her hand. It splashes on her cup and the table.
The door opens, the well-dress man says, “Yggdrasil cheated…”
The Tiffen Master says, “Yggdrasil lost horribly.”
Yggdrasil points her parasol at the man’s cravat and says, “And, I’m stuck wearing yellow.” She smiles while hatching another plan to thwart Nanna.
Alice E Keyes: Writer of Steampunk and fairy tales. Her debut novella is Miss Winsome and the Scientific Society – a Steampunk dime store novella.
KLAUS AND GRETA BOARDED THE steamship, relieved to be departing Germany. War was imminent; France, Germany, and Norway had armies on the borders. The trip to Ireland was cold, and long. The ship arrived in Wexford.
Years ago Klaus’ uncle had moved to Thurles. To get there, Klaus bought a counter-gravitation “cycle” with side car.
“I do not like this machine, Klaus. It looks unsafe.”
“We are German. We love machinery,” replied Klaus. Greta insisted on driving, showing off her boots, pistols holstered in each. They sped on to their destination.
Uncle Konstantin’s castle had an arched stone bridge. On the other side stood an imposing three-headed horse. The rider fired his weapon. Greta dove into the river. Klaus and the cycle were caught in a net.
“Klaus, what an inconvenient surprise!” exclaimed Uncle Konstantin. “I am in the middle of important work. I am helping the Ordobalians take over earth. Konstantin looked at the grey skinned, three eyed guard,
“Why?” shouted Klaus.
“Control of Australia,” said Konstantin. “Imagine experimenting on wallabies and koalas! Where is your lovely wife?”
“Vazkraz, take the Rottweiler-iguanas,” said Konstantin, “Find Greta. Mind the hounds do not eat your horse!”
A crash at a laboratory window distracted Uncle Konstantin. Greta slipped in through the door, firing both pistols at Uncle Konstantin; he fell, tranquilized.
“Klaus,” said Greta. “Fine vehicle, the counter-gravitation cycle. Let us ride back to Wexford in haste. Perhaps Ireland is not for us.”
Albrecht enjoys bicycling, has studied physics and metallurgy, and practices swordplay as taught by the Renaissance masters.
STEAM HISSED; SCALDING LIQUID SPAT from the joints. Saffie grabbed another damp rag and pressed it against the rattling pipe. Liquid seeped into her thick leather gloves. She winced as heat wrapped around her hand.
“Roland, we haven’t got all day.” She glared across the room at her brother, cowering behind a bench.
Roland swallowed and approached the contraption. He glanced over the array of buttons and levers on its panel, brushed his hand through his hair and grimaced. “Which one, Saffie?”
“The red one. Push the red one!”
Roland slammed the oversized red button, ducked to avoid another surge of pressurised vapour and backed away from the contraption.
The pressure eased under Saffie’s palm. “Hand me the wrench.”
Roland asked as he plopped the wrench into her outstretched hand. “Will it still work?”
A final wisp of steam escaped from the coupling as Saffie tightened the nut. She nodded.
“It should suffice.”
A bell tinkled on the wall behind them.
“And just in time, it seems,” she replied.
Saffie peeled off her gloves, tossed them onto the bench and examined the contraption.
Liquid whispered along the pipe into a large copper plated cistern sitting atop a large oak box. Gauge needles flickered as the pressure started to rise again. The contraption jiggled rhythmically. Saffie flicked the switch next to the red button. A steady stream of auburn liquid poured from a side spigot, filling a copper pot.
Saffie straightened her skirts and smiled. “Fetch the good china for our guests, Roland.”
Karen J Carlisle: Writer, artist, chocoholic and tea lover. Debut novella: Doctor Jack. What if a secret society used The Ripper to gain control of The Empire? www.karenjcarlisle.com
THE FIGURE FOLLOWED ITS PATH to a quaint bench nestled under a rather large tree. No one dared to visit such a figure as its portentous air loomed within the park. But one day a brave little boy did what others could not and sat by the hooded figure’s side.
A note was clutched in the seated figure’s shimmering fingers and a key in the other. With audacity, the little boy took the note and bore his attention to the details in which the note was intended:
“Dear father, you took explicit care of me when I was a mere thought in your mind. You first placed me on paper then crafted my very limbs and body with care. You toiled over my inner workings to the point of teary exhaustion. Then one day you gave me sight, then thought and with it ideals. Time is unkind besetting your absence.”
It only took the precocious young lad to discover the figure’s operation. Hidden beneath the cloak was a marvelous clockwork lady. The little boy found a place in the shape of a heart and turned the key only three times and with a click, the key locked and turned causing the automaton to come to life.
The little boy took her hand and said with a soft voice, “Come, I will take you to your father.”
The cemetery was only a few steps away as they found the very stone baring the clockwork lady’s maker, Pierre Jaquet-Droz.
Jennifer Jobe: I began my journey at the age of three, as I’m told. A burgeoning artist, I began to draw in detail with my little hand from fantasy to sci-fi. Whilst these fanciful things were brewing in my head, I began to realize the prospects of such fields through artist’s eyes as to where I would end up next. Writing became the next step in the creative process.
IT WAS WINDLESS OUT ON the flats, the air still as it often is in early morning. The beachcomber picked his way across the expanse waving his mech-detector back and forth across the surface. It resembled a wide, flat gramophone trumpet from which a long flexible rubber hose trailed into an earpiece strapped to the side of the beachcomber’s head. It was designed to pick up the sound of any buried mechanical movement and was an instrument of his own devising.
After some time, as the sun had climbed steadily into the sky, he finally picked up a signal; a gentle ticking under the mud. He whipped an entrenching tool out his heavy backpack and began digging. Within ten minutes he had uncovered it and lifted the object from its grave. It was like a metallic oval pebble that fitted neatly into his palm He poured clean water from a canteen over the thing to remove the sand and mud. As the sunlight struck its brass surface it began to stir. Legs unfolded from within, thin antenna sprung out of the head and started feeling around the beachcombers hand. A segmented tail unfurled and suddenly flipped forward, driving its point deep into the beachcomber’s hand. He gave a howl of pain, flinging the mechanical creature away and sunk to ground where he moved no more. The creature righted itself, took a bearing off the sun and scuttled off across the sands to commence its mission started eighty years before.
J.P. Paradise: Wage slave, serial procrastinator and occasional author. One novel published, half a dozen others in various stages of undress wondering whether they will ever see the light of day.
A collection of Steampunk tales of fantasy and high adventure. Denizens of Steam is a short fiction anthology, curated by members of the Scribblers' Den. It includes stories from Steve Moore, N.O.A. Rawle, David Lee Summers, C.L. Zeitstück, Katie Alford, William J. Jackson, Bryce Raffle, Alice E. Keyes, Albrecht von Saarbruchen, Karen J. Karlisle, Jenny Jobe, and J.P. Paradise, and an introduction by Scribblers' Den founder, Jack Tyler.