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Author Topic: "Missing" Machines in Steampunk fiction.  (Read 1570 times)
Stormcat
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« on: February 21, 2018, 10:28:12 pm »

So, I've been writing my little steampunk story for a while now, and I've realized something. Other than the standard "Airships and Automatons" I'm having a little trouble coming up with gadgets for my story.

For a genre that's all about "old made new", I'm having trouble getting the musty bits out. Sure, household appliances could be made steampunk in this setting, but I'm still searching for device ideas outside the domestic sphere. I've looked through countless real gadgets and figured out how to turn them steampunk, but what I need is some newfangled things. Ideas for devices that do not yet exist in our world, but might exist in a fictional one.
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Fairley B. Strange
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« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2018, 10:37:27 am »

Without giving away too many of my own creations, I like to look at the 'traditional' Steampunk elements fitting into daily life and the little changes they might make to the wider aspects of a straight-Vicwardian society.

E.g. Tesla beats Edison - so no messy power-lines in the streets and between buildings, but also with the radio transmission of electrical power, isolated villages or even campers in the forest can access electricity to power gizmos almost anywhere.

Or: Domestic steam-engines and boilers are more commonplace - so  not just mechanical kitchen appliances, the offshoots are room heating, perhaps local electricity generation, evaporating distilled water, or perhaps steam-cleaning the carpets.

If steam-cars replace horses, what happens to all the stables? How do gardeners feed their roses?
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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2018, 05:50:43 pm »


E.g. Tesla beats Edison - so no messy power-lines in the streets and between buildings, but also with the radio transmission of electrical power, isolated villages or even campers in the forest can access electricity to power gizmos almost anywhere.


Tesla always beats Edison.  Unfortunately in our reality he just didn't use a big enough stick!
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« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2018, 09:52:28 am »



 Binoculars, trams,  lifts,  cctv camera, sirens,  alarms,  [am I sounding a little  weird and subversive],  rag and bone  wagons,  lamplights
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Stormcat
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« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2018, 01:18:54 am »



 Binoculars, trams,  lifts,  cctv camera, sirens,  alarms,  [am I sounding a little  weird and subversive],  rag and bone  wagons,  lamplights

But those are all inventions that already exist. I'm trying to create fictional machines which don't exist outside of the pages of my tale.
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pakled
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« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2018, 05:35:12 am »

such as...?

If it helps the plot, advances the story, or is just a 'neat idea,' that's probably what you're after. I have a rough thing I use, the question 'wouldn't it be neat if they made a machine that...' fill in the blank with something that's strenuous or tedious enough to be automated, clockworked, or steamed...pneumatic elevators to get to the next scene, a kitchen gadget that can turn deadly (available in any level of technology...Wink, or a dastardly means of escape...


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RJBowman
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« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2018, 06:59:23 am »

Look at advanced devices used by soldiers, doctors, etc.; specialized equipment used in various professions; cool devices from science fiction; superhero's weapons and gadgets. Can you conceive of a way that their function could be duplicated with the technology of a century ago?

Alternately, what bits of modern or fantasy technology found their way into the 19th century? Maybe the Martian tripods were dismantled and their secrets discovered, or Barsoomian devices were studied and replicated, or microchips were invented a century earlier. How would these developments affect the tools and weapons that were used in that historic period?

Has anyone published a role playing game supplement of steampunk gadgetry? It seems like an obvious and much needed resource.
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2018, 06:03:44 pm »

You could look into actual Victorian Era Sci Fi illustrations and texts. Victorians thought of the future in a very different way than we do. Even us Steampunks are very biased about how things are done since we have 20/20 hindsight. The way airplanes look, for example, without being engineers, most people will intuitively know what an airplane should look like. If the wings are too small for example, even an eneducated person can tell if it will fly or not.

But Victorians had no such instincts. To them, an ornithopter suit for a fireman was just as viable as Davinci's "Air Screw" helicopter. Any concept for future technology looked odd and out of proportions with modern technology.  For them a viable television would be some sort of dark room with a projector screen and some sort of phonograph horn connected to a telegraph/telephone line, more like a cinema, which was the modern audio visual technology of the day.

~~~

Also you could look into modern technology that did not become popular. For example, when I was a chiild in the 1970s, we had a Sanyo colour TV with a remote control.  Back in those days there were no infrared LEDs for remote controls. You had to use other methods to transmit information over the air. I guess people don't remember now, because there were not that many TV sets made like that, but the remote worked with ultrasound.

The remote had two tuning forks inside that looked more like very large steel nails (they were visible through a mesh screen on the front of the remote). When you pressed a button to change the channel, a spring trigger would be released and hit the nail. To the human ear it just sounded like a loud "clack" sound, but what you could not hear was the actual ultrasound tone which would be picked up by a microphone on the TV set. You could only turn the channel dial in one direction. The other button turned the TV on and off.

In the latter case the receiving end was an electric microphone, but in theory you could have another set of tuning forks on the receiving end. If the "clack" sound was loud enough, it could be picked up by an acoustic horn, and the receiving a tuning forks would oscillate ever so slightly to the same frequency

In turn, the forks could be connected to a mechanical amplifying mechanism - and a trigger (perhaps made with weights or a winding spring mechanism) to do whatever you need to do. So now you have an acoustic-mechanical remote control.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2018, 06:42:38 pm by J. Wilhelm » Logged

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