My professional background is in sales and marketing. Anyone with traditional training in this field will be familiar with an invisible creature called the “so-what” parrot. It sits on your shoulder and chirps “so what?” whenever you tell a customer anything. The aim of the construct is to remind you to always explain the benefits of a product, rather than the features.
I developed the ideas behind Climate Change with the Steampunk equivalent perched on my shoulder. I now own a “what-if” parrot. This (probably mechanical) bird kept squawking “what-if?” every time I scribbled down an idea. It made me consider each idea properly; namely, if it were true, what would have changed as a result?
While twisted technology is the heart of Steampunk, I was determined that Climate Change should feel believable. Aiming to twist attitudes and values to match, I wondered what the Victorians would have wantedto do had different technology been in their grasp. That thought gave birth to what would become a critical element of the novel: the marionettes.
The abolition of slavery remained a contentious issue in the Victorian era, with many people – quietly, at least – insisting it was a mistake. Would the Empire have seized a chance to replace slavery by other means? I think they would have, provided they could find a way to sell it to themselves. Distressingly, I didn’t have to fashion a methodology. The system I describe in Climate Change is not my invention. It exists today.
Under North Korean law, individuals convicted of certain crimes (mostly political) become state property – literally. They legally cease to be a citizen, with all their rights forfeited. They even lose their name, which is replaced by a number. The state is then free to use these people as it sees fit.
It took only the slightest of nudges to push this concept into my world. In Climate Change, all serious crimes result in a life sentence – served not in jail, but through a lifetime of mindless servitude, the result of the marionisation process.
Brain surgery (and a bit of Steampunk implantation) creates the nearly-perfect servant; a person with no will of their own. The puppets, as they are derogatively referred to, are given tasks like a computer is given programmes. Like computers, their capacity is limited. Similarly, I decided they would follow instructions without any conscious thought, an attribute which is decidedly double-edged.
The concept felt good, but was lacking one last thing – a name. Since the creatures depend on external control, “marionette” was an easy term to coin. It was nicely nineteenth century, and slang would soon shorten that to “puppet”. But humans are marvellous at inventing new terms; to feel authentic, something more colloquial was required.
I nearly chose Adam and Eve, but it didn’t seem right. I didn’t think the Victorians would mock the bible, even in my alternative world. Nicknames are generally as simple as possible. That provided my answer.
In British English, “Jack” is the default way of referring to a nameless man – Jack of all trades, Jack Tar – and of course, Jack the Ripper. About five seconds after that I actually giggled with delight. If marionised men were Jacks, then women could only be Jills.
Finally, my marionettes felt complete, the result of a twisted mix of influences that could only exist in Steampunk. Where else could you go from the abolition of slavery to North Korean atrocities to old English nursery rhymes in one hit? Or perhaps Steampunk simply twists the writer. That might explain it.
In a world driven by steam and power-hungry Industrialists, can one man change the course of history?
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?
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.
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