Queen Victoria sits upon a mechanical throne in a gas-driven airship which hovers invisible over Piccadilly Gardens.
A construct powered by Faraday's lightning has taken her place in London. The real Queen prefers Manchester now, where her riches are made in creaking cotton factories and other, darker, stranger, hidden places.
But she is bored and needs a book to read.
Springheel Jack, the Queen's spy and sometime-lover, digs deep into Mancunian tunnels finding strange beasts within; the city's criminal underworld of rippers and thieves who sport mechanised limbs and practice the dark arts of the secret cabals.
Gallant and dashing, he strikes them aside with his cane, his flashbang top hat and his rapier wit, following the gaslight signals to the home of Lord Blackwell, scribe and bookkeeper. If he makes it out alive, the Queen has promised him a dirigible of his own and his next jaunt will be to the moon.
Lord Blackwell, half man half robot, drinks a draught of crude oil and takes in the aspect of his new book display.
Before him lie bizarre tales of courageous inventors, foolhardy scientists and brass-plated romance. It pleases him. He beholds the future in all its rusty, creaky, electric beauty and commands the reanimated corpses that he calls his staff to open up shop for business.
Springheeled Jack will be with him soon and he expects a hefty return for all his hard work. He smiles and flakes of rust fall from his lips.
He names it Steampunk, and the future, he thinks, is a bright, brassy one.
The Five Favourite Steampunk Long Stories as Chosen by the Honourable Lord Blackwell of Manchester
At the start of the Civil War, a Russian mining company commissions a great machine to pave the way from Seattle to Alaska and speed up the gold rush that is beating a path to the frozen north. Inventor Leviticus Blue creates the machine, but on its first test run it malfunctions, decimating Seattle's banking district and uncovering a vein of Blight Gas that turns everyone who breathes it into the living dead. Sixteen years later Briar, Blue's widow, lives in the poor neighborhood outside the wall that's been built around the uninhabitable city. Life is tough with a ruined reputation, but she and her teenage son Ezekiel are surviving - until Zeke impetuously decides that he must reclaim his father's name from the clutches of history.
The Difference Engine
William Gibson, Bruce Sterling
The computer age has arrived a century ahead of time with Charles Babbage's perfection of his Analytical Engine. The Industrial Revolution, supercharged by the development of steam-driven cybernetic Engines, is in full and drastic swing. Great Britain, with her calculating-cannons, steam dreadnoughts, machine-guns and information technology, prepares to better the world's lot ...
When George's father dies, he left George his watchmaker shop... and more. But George has little talent for watches and other infernal devices. When someone tries to steal an old device from the premises, George finds himself embroiled in a mystery of time travel, music and sexual intrigue. The classic steampunk tale from the master of the genre. With a new introduction by the author, and an afterword by Jeff Vandermeer.
"... a page-turning, pulse-pounding read" - Kirkus reviews
"WORLDSHAKER is a punchy, thought-proviking novel, a pacy adventure story" - Caroline Horn
A Victorian scientist develops a time machine and travels to the year 802,171 AD. There he finds the meek, child-like Eloi who live in fear of the underground-dwelling Morlocks. When his time machine goes missing, the Traveller faces a fight to enter the Morlocks' domain and return to his own time. THE TIME MACHINE remains one of the cornerstones of science-fiction literature and has proved hugely influential.
This blog post was written by Dave Hartley.