Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guest Blog by Steven Harper - Steampunk: The Resurgence - November 10, 2011

Please welcome Steven Harper to The Qwillery. The Doomsday Vault (Clockwork Empire 1) was published by Roc on November 1, 2011.


I blame Steve Jobs.

No, really. I'm not speaking ill of the dead. He just did such a fine job of getting us used to sleek toys that zip and zoom that we lost touch with how things really operate. It doesn't help that he also sealed his technology in an envelope of slippery glass and sleek steel, and locked his codes away like Mom's dark chocolates.

"Mustn't touch," he purred. "No need to see. No need to understand. Just use."

It's not just little computers, actually. Even larger machines like cars and bicycles joined the use-don't-touch conspiracy.

A while ago my car, a 2009 Cobalt, needed a new headlight. That's a simple job, and rather than pay a mechanic $50, I figured I'd handle it myself. I looked up the part on-line, bought it, and opened the hood. And discovered the entire engine compartment was covered with a giant sneeze guard. It was impossible to touch anything except the oil dipstick and the washer fluid intake. After some study, I figured out how the stupid thing was fastened down, but the fasteners required special tools to manipulate, tools I didn't own or even have a name for. I couldn't touch the engine of my own car.

But it goes on. You'd think that a bike, that most old-fashioned of transportation machines, would remain aloof from the conspiracy. But no.

Whenever my old ten speed of twenty years broke down--flat tire, rubbing brakes, chewing gears--I would haul out my toolbox, flip my bike upside-down in the driveway, and fix it with a screwdriver and wrench. This arrangement suited both of us well. Unfortunately, the old workhorse died on me a few months ago, forcing me to replace it with a $500 model complete with shock absorbers, disc brakes, and flick-of-the-thumb gear changers. A few days after I acquired this shiny new velocipede, the handlebars came unexpectedly loose and skewed in a half-circle, spilling me to the ground. Limping, I got out my tools to set things aright, but for the life of me couldn't figure out how to tighten the bars. Nothing. And I'd been fixing bikes since I was twelve.

Now angry, I took the temperamental pile of metal back to the bike shop and ordered them to fix it. The shop guy extracted from his tool collection a spidery widget I'd never seen before, inserted a long, thin leg into a deep hole on my bike, and tightened the handlebars. Without this specialized tool, there was no way for me to fix something as simple as my own bike.

And, as I've already mentioned, you can't get into most computerized machines.The vast majority of us can't assemble a motherboard, install RAM, or read code. Everything is sealed tightly away. The hands-off conspiracy has fingers everywhere.

As a result, we miss our machines. We miss being able to touch them, see how they work. My sons are fascinated with big train engines, with puffing pistons and roaring boilers, even though they've never in their lives ridden on a train. They like pounding nails and twisting screws. We all do.

Steampunk machines are BIG. They're real enough to touch. We can see how they work (even when they patently wouldn't work). Steampunk gives us computers the size of refrigerators and robots the size of trees, blimps the size of houses, machines with a connect-the-dots reality that we long for.

And if we can't get it in our real lives, what better place to find it than in a book?

About the Clockwork Empire Series

The Doomsday Vault
Clockwork Empire 1
Roc, November 1, 2011
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

In a clockwork Brittania, Alice's prospects are slim. At 21, her age and her unladylike interest in automatons have sealed her fate as an undesirable marriage prospect. But a devastating plague sends Alice off in a direction beyond the pale-towards a clandestine organization, mad inventors, life-altering secrets, and into the arms of an intrepid fiddle-playing airship pilot.

The Impossible Cube (Clockwork Empire 2) is presently scheduled for publication in May 2012.

About Steven

Steven Harper Piziks was born in Saginaw, Michigan, but he moved around a lot and has lived in Wisconsin, Germany, and (briefly) Ukraine. Currently he lives with his three sons in southeastern Michigan.

His novels include In the Company of Mind and Corporate Mentality, both science fiction published by Baen Books. Writing as Steven Harper for Roc Books, he has produced The Silent Empire series. He’s also written books based on Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and The Ghost Whisperer, as well as the movie novelization Identity, which he managed under a deadline of only three weeks. His numerous short stories have appeared, among other places, in all but one of Esther Friesner’s Chicks in Chainmail anthologies and in all of her humorous suburban fantasy anthology. Currently he’s working on The Clockwork Empire steampunk trilogy for Ace Book, and The Doomsday Vault, the first in the series, is due out in November, 2011.

Booklist calls his novels “fast, furious, and absorbing,” and “intelligent entertainment.” Strange Horizons says his work is filled with “fast-paced adventure filled with intrigue and populated with characters you care about,” and The Romantic Times writes that “Harper . . . creates a compelling universe.”

Steven currently teaches high school English in southeast Michigan. His students think he’s hysterical, which isn’t the same as thinking he’s hilarious. When not writing, he plays the folk harp, dabbles in oral storytelling, and spends more time on-line than is probably good for him.

Steven's Links


The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of The Doomsday Vault (Clockwork Empire 1) from The Qwillery.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

Do you have a favorite Steampunk novel or story?

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)  Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)  Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)  Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Thursday, November 17, 2011. Void where prohibited by law. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*


  1. Woo-hoo, I've been dying to read this book!
    My favorite so far is The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook. I just love the nanotechnology, it's fascinating.
    +1 comment
    +1 follower
    impy80 at hotmail dot com

  2. I'm just popping in to read the article because I'm actually reading this book right now. Totally loving it. And I particularly love Alice's mechanical cat!

  3. Steampunk is a new genre to me. I'm planning on reading from it soon.

    GFC follower

  4. My favorite steampunk novel to date was The Greyfriar. What an awesome book that was! I'm really looking forward to reading it's sequel The Riftwalker soon.

    This looks like an intersting new serires- I'm going to have to check into this one! :)

    +1 email follower
    +1 comment
    debbie at burdeen dot com

  5. Souless is my favorite so far.

    GFC Anne38

  6. I love several steampunk books - Soulless by Gail Carriger (actually, all of her Parasol Protectorate series) and The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook. Can't recommend them highly enough!

    +1 comment
    +1 follower
    +1 Tweeted (!/RebeLovesBooks/status/134708792247074816)


  7. steampunk is a new genre to me.. so I would love to read something of this genre. count me in :p.. I like the cover
    GFC: blackwolf

  8. @Rebe, I'd have to say that those are my two favs too! The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger and The Iron Duke series by Meljean Brook. I haven't read Iron Sea yet but I just got it today.

    I've also heard such great things about this book! and it's on my wishlist. I am determined to read it especially now that I heard that there is a mechanical cat :)

    Thanks for a very thoughtful post. It's true, our world is no longer do-it-yourself any more.

    GFC: erin

  9. I don't have a favorite steampunk story but I am interested in reading some, like Meljean Brooks' The Iron Duke.

    I'm glad to see I have another book to add to my must have list.

    +1 comment
    +1 follower

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  10. Omg! That cover looks sooo cool!!!! XD
    Anyways, I guess you could say that the only steampunk book i have ever read would be Clockwork Prince, but Im not sure if it fits into the category.
    Im looking to expand my reading list in that area, though. Would love to win :)
    +1 comment
    +1 follower
    gothiclove95 (at) hotmail (dot) com

  11. Steampunk is a new genre for me but it sounds like something I'd like. Thanks for the contest!
    GFC Follower

  12. I have read quite a few awesome steampunk stories, but my two favorites are Steamed by Katie MacAlister (a rollicking good time) and Vampire Empire: The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith (absolutely fabulous story with really scary vampires).

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com
    GFC follower

  13. My favorite Steampunk series is the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld. Awesomeness.
    +1 comment
    +1 gfc follower

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  14. My favorite Steampunk so far is Flash Gold by Lindsay Buroker. But this one might be my *new* favorite!

  15. My favorite so far is Clockwork Angel, but I've got The Iron Duke and Soulless waiting on my bookshelf and I hear they're pretty good, too!

    +1 comment
    +1 GFC follower
    +1 Shared on FB:

    jwitt33 at live dot com

  16. I have not read enough Steampunk to have a favorite. I should read more of it.

    I follow: Mary Preston


  17. Once again The Qwillery has shared with us a wonderful post. Thank you Steven Harper for taking the time to share with us and for the awesome giveaway opportunity. I have only read one Steampunk novel "The Strange Case of Finley Jayne" I was not aware of its Steampunk status at the time, but as I was reading it said to myself - this is what they are talking about :)
    +1 comment
    +1 follower
    +1 tweeted =!/ZDz59001/status/134830911425482752


  18. I haven't read a lot of Steampunk yet, but my favorite so far has definitely been Soulless by Gail Carriger.

    +1 comment
    +1 blog follower
    +1 twitter follower (@sara_UFblog)

    Sara M
    sara_UFblog [at] yahoo [dot] com

  19. I think Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is a very good example of great steampunk novels for someone just starting to read them.

    Thanks for the giveaway.

    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

    +1 for comment
    +1 I Follow via GFC.

  20. Well, I don't really understand what steampunk is. It's a new genre for me. But I'm so curious and planning to read it.

    Thank u for the giveaway^^

    +1 comment
    +1 follower
    +1 share on facebook

  21. my favourite is "souless" by Gail Carriger ...
    love the story and the female character....

    thx 4 the giveaway ^^

    +1 comment
    +1 follower
    +1 FB share link!/nurmawati.djuhawan/posts/102412873208287


  22. This is new genre for me, but I want try. I read this article in link my friend, so i want give a try..^^

    Filia Oktarina


  23. I haven't read a lot of steampunk yet. Just started Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century series. I need to explore this genre more.
    linda at gordonvalley dot com
    + follow email, GFC, Facebook

  24. There are a lot of good ones out there but one of my favorites is Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.

    +1 gfc follower
    +1 comment

    thegirlonfire27 at gmail dot com

  25. i have just started reading steampunks.. have some favs so far in Gail Carriger and Meljean brook..

    +2 - comment, and a follower

    alainala At hotmail DOT ca

  26. I have never read steampunk before but I would love too!!

    GFC: Maegan Morin

    megnate at telus dot net

  27. Top of my list of steampunk favorites are Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, and Meljean Brook's The Iron Duke (looking forward to reading Heart of Steel soon, too!).

    Great post & giveaway, as usual! Thanks for the opportunity!

    +3: comment, follower, retweeter, notoriously late contest-enterer... ;)

  28. There are many :) I love steampunk in all its forms (books, comics, films...) so it is very hard to choose...although if you forced me I'd say Whitechapel Gods by S.M.Peters (mostly beacuse it's fresh in my mind since I've recently read it).

    thanks :)

    +1 comment
    +1 follower


  29. i am totally new to steampunk, but i am really curious about it. especially All Men of Genius By Lev Ac Rosen.

    gfc: yto

    witchvela at web dot de

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. I haven't read a whole lot of Steampunk to this point but am about to go on a tare through a bunch, including some Cherie Priest, Stephen Hunt, and George Mann. So presently, as a favorite, I think I'd have to pick The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. A bit less "genre" perhaps, but The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton is also fantastic.

    Thanks so much for the giveaway!

    +1 comment
    +1 GFC follower Spaz