Spring Heeled Jack
I can’t remember if I spoke about this while I was doing it, but a while back I spent a school year in some classes. Yeah, I added four more English/literature classes to the odd number I have taken over the years. Oddly, it was probably the first time I had ever read any Shakespeare but that isn’t the point of what I am going to spend my time on today.
Really what brings this all up was my wife stopping at the library yesterday. One of the ones we frequent has a book shelf in the entryway that they use as a drop off point for free books they have weeded from their collection. Sometimes you can find some gems and others there isn’t much that anyone might want. It’s all a matter of timing to catch the good ones when possible.
To add to the useless paragraph above, she ended up coming home with six books yesterday. She picked them up for me because they looked steampunky and thought I might want them. If not then she would read them cause they looked vaguely interesting to her too.
To get to the point… The books are the six-book run of Mark Hodder’s Burton and Swinburne series (not sure if there will be more in the future). As luck would have it, I have only read the first book The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (Pyr 2010). I figure I read this one shortly after it had come out (probably in 2013). Of course, that is long after it would have come off the shelves in your average bookstore (ended up ordering it through a library).
I liked the book.
For those who may not know or understand, Steampunk as a movement and genre is sort of an alternative history of the Victorian era. There are some straight alterations where the age of steam is almost exactly identical except for minor changes. And then there are the more fanciful changes (similar to what you might find in my Black Medallion story, this one is loosely based on the ideas within Steampunk). Mark Hodder’s series has some loose ties to the Victorian era but the divergence that comes about loosens those ties fairly quickly. At least as far as the story plays out.
But there is something more prominent for me within the story itself. The language and attitudes of those within the story lend themselves to a different time and different place. This is a good example of how the words we use to tell stories have an effect on the story as a whole.
Which brings us back to where I started this thought process today. It was in a short fiction class that I read the story The Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad 1899). Leaving out all the cries of colonialism and such that people might have about the story, we look at the mindset and the ideas presented.
At the time, the instructor for the course didn’t agree with my assessment that it is a Steampunk story. But here’s the thing, this is the type of story that historical Steampunkers draw inspiration from. The clothes and the ideas of the time are part of the whole movement. Sure we have changes that reflect more modern sensibilities but that is part of the alternative history of the movement.
My sense and mental images of all of this were formed when I read the Mark Hodder story. My brain in turn forms the connections and I see the similarities to the other stories within the worlds created.
We won’t always agree on the ideas presented to us in what we read, but there is always something we can take away from it all. Our minds expand by forming connections between new ideas and old thoughts we have already ingested. The process never ends and you never know when you will find something new that sparks the next idea.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.