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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2010-12-13 05:28
Subject: [books] Steampunk, in the original Klingon
Security: Public
Tags:books, steampunk
I have finished reading The Log of the Flying Fish: A Story of Aerial and Submarine Peril and Adventure by Harry Collingwood [ Project Gutenberg ]. It's, um, quite a book. And definitely a book of its times. 1887, to be specific. Absolutely science fiction.

The Flying Fish is an airship/submarine of extremely advanced technical prowess. Four gentleman adventurers who happen to meet more or less by accident set out aboard her to have adventures and claim what might be claimed in the name of dear old England. They visit the bottom of the English channel, the North Pole, various locations in Africa, Mt. Everest, the Indian Ocean and whatnot. Classic adventure fiction of the day.

The plot meanders through a series of episodic adventures then stops without ever achieving much of an overarching anything. The prose, by modern standards, runs to the dreadfully purple, though still quite readable and entertaining in its way. The technology and other skiffy bits range from pleasingly convincing to ridiculously laughable.

The embedded cultural assumptions are amazing, to the point of feeling ridiculously stereotyped. For instance, there's an entire chapter of one character lecturing the others on how greedy and foolish laborers have through the evils of unionization caused the poor investors to be unable to realize the appropriate return on their capital, and why this is driving jobs out of England. Upon discovering a herd of unicorns, the characters grab their guns and go unicorn-hunting. The East African sequence late in the book is an appalling example of colonialist literature — cringe-inducing almost beyond measure.

Still and all, this is steampunk in the original Klingon. If you want to read Victorian adventure set aboard a fantastic and impossible airship, as written by a Victorian adventure writer, Collingwood is your man.

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Amy Sisson
User: amysisson
Date: 2010-12-13 14:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Reminds me of reading The Wonderful Electric Elephant by Frances Trego Montgomery. There's a couple traveling in a powered contraption shaped like an elephant, and the book is very much a product of its times. I have but haven't yet read the sequel, On a Lark to the Planets, in which the electric elephant travels offworld.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-12-13 18:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Sadly, the Montgomery does not seem to be available on Project Gutenberg.
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User: chaos_israel
Date: 2010-12-13 15:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

>...steampunk in the original Klingon.

I am now imagining a Star Trek/Wild Wild West crossover. With Shakespeare.

Thanks. I think.

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Twilight
User: twilight2000
Date: 2010-12-13 15:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And then there's Kipling and Verne and Gernsback and Wells - just for amusing competition :>
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nojay
User: nojay
Date: 2010-12-13 15:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
They were later than this story, which is middle-period Victorian (1887). Kipling wrote in a later period when the greedy expansionism of Rhodes and co. had been subsumed by the effort of running what had been claimed for the Empire. Collingwood's characters sound nothing like Kipling's bureaucrats or Verne's aloof scientist-adventurers but they were of their time.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-12-13 15:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yeah, but we know about *them*. Collingwood was new to me...
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Elf M. Sternberg
User: elfs
Date: 2010-12-13 16:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's hard to take seriously the purple prose of Collingwood's "Middy of the Slave Squadron." The very first sentence reads,
"Phew!" ejaculated Mr Perry, first lieutenant of His Britannic Majesty’s corvette Psyche, as he removed his hat and mopped the perspiration from his streaming forehead with an enormous spotted pocket-handkerchief.
Are we sure Collingwood isn't pulling Swifties on us?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-12-13 16:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh, there's some damned fine Swifties in Flying Fish, too.

Plus usage oddities, at least to my modern eye. Like "either" referring to any one of four people. To me "either" requires a two-value choice.

And the vocabulary. Oi. "matitudinal bath", frex.
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Elf M. Sternberg
User: elfs
Date: 2010-12-13 16:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I especially like that one of the fellow crewmen is named "Mr. Futtock." I wonder how many of his readers even knew what a futtock was. It's the rib of a wooden ship.
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oaksylph
User: oaksylph
Date: 2010-12-13 17:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Another original Klingon piece for giggles: John Ames Mitchell's "The Last American." Persian voyagers in the late third millennium explore the ruins of Merika, a once-great empire, destroyed by overdevelopment and environmental catastrophe. Date: 1889.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-12-13 18:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thanks! I shall check it out.
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