Still Probably the Smallest Competition – Update

Olivia Libris here, author of ‘The Vital Chapter’.

Dear Readers,

I understand that some of you are busily engaged in the task of recreating the missing chapter of my book, in order to enter our diminutive contest.  I await your entries with eager anticipation, having completely forgotten my own version of events and having foolishly failed to save a copy.  May this be a lesson to us all.

One of Steampunk - Shrunk's intriguing room cases, at 1/12 scale.I’m delighted to inform you that The Case of the Missing Chapter itself (a one twelfth scale room in a carrying case) has now been transferred to its new owner – a story-teller par excellence, who took delivery of it yesterday.  

The competition, however, continues apace and you have only a few remaining weeks to enter.  See full details by clicking here.

One final note:  The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that a few more words were missing from the version of the story printed in last week’s post.  In Chapter 3, Harvey’s response to Algy when discussing a possible move to Africa was erroneously omitted.  This fault has now been rectified and the correct version of the conversation is reprinted below for your edification.

Algernon's younger brother, after a long balloon ride“Oh such adventures are just fine for a young fellow like yourself, my dear Harvey.  Nothing to hold you here, no family or obligations to consider.  I’m delighted for you, old boy.  Wouldn’t do for me, though.  There’s this old pile to keep up, the staff to consider, all the horses… and I couldn’t ask Josephine to up sticks and adjust to such a difficult climate.”

“Pah!  Loads of lovely ladies over there!” returned Harvey.  “They have a whale of a time.  As for this old place – sell it up and start afresh.  You’ll make your fortune.  Nothing to lose.”

“Well I’ll give it some thought,” Algernon replied, and promptly left the room and headed back to his study.

 

I look forward very much to reading your competition entries.  Please continue writing and sharing the information among your like-minded acquaintances.

Sincerely yours,

O Libris

P.S. Might I be vulgar enough to insert a brief mention of the splendid Steampunk Dolls House Etsy shop which can be found at this link, where many of Steampunk – Shrunk’s extraordinary one-off creations are available for purchase worldwide?

Probably the Smallest Competition in the World

Here it is, then: the competition to finish off the Vital Chapter saga.

It will be small.  I only do small.

The prize will be small – barely an inch wide or long.  The number of entries will be small, as my ability to publicise on social media is sadly lacking and Steampunk-Shrunk is rather, er, niche, to say the least.

However it will give you the chance to win a totally unique miniature book, which you will have helped to write, and it will be fun, for all of us.

Briefly, then:  I made a 1:12 scale room – a library – in a little case.  It was called The Case of the Missing Chapter and in the room was a very small book, containing the story of one Algernon  Cholmondeley, but with the vital chapter explaining the remarkable change in this gentleman’s fortunes carefully removed by a person or persons unknown.

Your task, dear reader, is to write that missing chapter!  Algy’s story, along with photos of the dolls, gadgets and settings I ended up making along the way, has been serialised on this website over the past few weeks.  It’s reproduced in its entirety below, to save you the trouble of hunting through the archives.

What to do, terms and conditions and all that jazz:

  • Write your own version of Chapter 4 (max 1000 words) and submit it either in the ‘Leave a reply’ box at the bottom of the page or via the contact form just above it.
  • It would also be very helpful if you would tag, share or otherwise notify one or two like-minded friends of the competition and encourage them to visit this site.  (I’m assured this is how savvy entrepreneurs drum up business.)
  • By entering, you agree that if you win or are a close runner-up, your name (real or pseudonym, as you prefer) and your chapter can be printed on this website, which is available for public viewing.
  • No copies of the winning chapter – other than the single prize edition – will be made or offered for sale and the copyright remains the author’s own.
  • Information you provide (name, email address etc.) will only be used for the purposes of this competition and will not be stored or passed on to anyone else.
  • One winner will receive a one-off printed copy of the completed book including their chapter at 1:12 scale (readable with a powerful magnifying glass).  No cash alternative, as this unique item will be, obviously, priceless.
  • Oh yes, closing date – almost forgot!  All entries to be received by Monday 21st August 2017.  Winner will be notified by 2nd September.
  • Phew!  I think that’s it.  I’m new to this sort of thing.

Should I receive any entries (told you it was small!) Olivia Libris  – the entirely fictional author of the book – will select the chapter that seems to her to fit best with the style, content and general silliness of the original and it will be printed for all to enjoy in a further post.

Here, then, is the story as it currently stands:

The Vital Chapter by O Libris
Chapter 1

Since the beginning of the year, Algernon Cholmondeley had been feeling somewhat out of sorts.

It began when his prize peacock simply keeled over and died in the very centre of the drive on New Year’s Day.  By unfortunate circumstances, many guests were due at The Grey House for a party on that very occasion.  Carriages and steam-powered automobiles had been arriving for some time.  Each driver had been forced to swerve to avoid the bird, which was lurching around and staggering about in the most ungainly manner.  The screeching of brakes and the parping of horns and claxons provided an unwelcome accompaniment to the gentle welcome offered by Algernon and his delightful wife Josephine.

At four minutes past five precisely, the peacock stood still, made a feeble attempt to confound death by opening its once-splendid tail, fell to the ground and flopped untidily on the lawn which lay at the centre of the gravelled driveway.

“Did you know there’s a dead peacock in the middle of the drive, Algernon, old chap?” asked one guest after another as they arrived at the front door.

No seasonal felicitations.  No extended hand offering a friendly shake.  Not even enquiries into the health of the host and hostess.

Some delivered the line with concern, others with wry amusement, a few with puzzlement and still more with unconcealed hilarity.

Nor did it stop there.  Once inside the ballroom, the guests continued to discuss the deceased creature with gusto.  Ladies were heard to express wistful desires for a feather or two to adorn their hats, since the unfortunate possessor of these trimmings would no longer be in any need of them.

“A few of those exquisite breast feathers would set off my new gown quite wonderfully,” one lady was heard to say.  “Just the shade of turquoise I have been searching for.  I wonder whether it would be indelicate to ask.”

The gentlemen seemed more interested in how the bird would taste roasted with an apple and cranberry stuffing, but felt it unlikely that the cook would have time to prepare it for that evening’s banquet.
“Just drawing and plucking a bird that size would take a number of hours, I would imagine,” sighed a gentleman who looked to have consumed more than enough delicacies during the festive season, given the strain placed upon his waistcoat buttons.

Next the conversation turned to possible reasons for the creature’s demise.  The early arrivals were able to give those who had appeared more recently a fascinating account of the peacock’s final hours.  With many sound effects and gesticulations, they re-enacted the problems they had encountered during their attempts to negotiate the drive and park safely.

“Staggering about like a drunk, it was!”  announced Charlie Stammers-Bottington.  “Quite thought I was going to hit the beast.  First it veered one way, then the other, with never a glance towards my vehicle.  And you fellows must admit, it’s not an easy thing to miss.”

Others agreed readily that Charlie’s traction engine was indeed a very powerful presence on any driveway, and would be hard to ignore.

A man in a brown suit, whose brother-in-law was a veterinarian, said he’d heard the aforesaid brother-in-law speak of an outbreak of avian influenza, which had swept across the country from Prussia.  There was a general consensus that this was the most probable cause of death.
“It’ll probably spread to any other birds on the estate,” someone warned.

“Do you keep any other birds, Algy?” Henry Stuffingham called across the room.  “Probably best to have them shot and burn the carcasses.  Can’t be too careful with something like this, y’know.”

Algernon poured himself another glass of brandy and shook his head.  The conversation showed no sign of abating.  His attempts to instigate some lively parlour games fell – if not on deaf ears – on ears that were deaf to any subject beyond the accursed peacock.

Even at dinner, the subject refused – unlike its physical counterpart – to die.
“That roast bird’s a good size,” one wag remarked.  “Not a peacock by any chance?”

The raucous laughter which followed this rather weak joke was the final straw for poor Algernon.
He rose unsteadily to his feet and roared, “If anyone else raises the subject of that confounded bird this evening, they may consider themselves unwelcome in this house, both now and in the future!  Kindly do not allude to it in any way whassover – what sever – oh!  Just drat the thing, that’s all!”

He sank back into his chair, covered his face with his hand and began to weep.

There was the most awkward silence, which seemed to last for an eternity.  It was as if, deprived of their sole topic of conversation, the guests had been rendered quite mute.

Dinner was finished silently, apart from the clanking of silver on fine bone china, which sound now seemed extraordinarily loud.

As soon as was deemed prudent, first one couple then another made lame and hurried excuses for their early departure and left.  There was a veritable stampede for the door, so much so, that quite a queue of vehicles formed, waiting to leave.  All eyes within them stared balefully at the corpse of the peacock, but no lips moved.

It was unlikely that any of these people – his once dearest friends and acquaintances – would ever return, Algernon mused, glumly.  His name would, for all time, be inexorably linked to this bird.

“Oh Algernon?” people would say, “the chap with the dead peacock?”

Sniggers would follow.  He would be a laughing stock from that day forth.

 

Chapter 2

This unfortunate circumstance was, as has previously been intimated, only the beginning of a set of events which seemed to go from bad to worse.

Algernon’s mother-in-law came down with a most tiresome condition, which seemed to involve a great deal of coughing – particularly during the small hours and after lunch – and it was decided that she would have to stay at the Grey House until she was well enough to return to London.

This lady had never been particularly well-disposed towards her son-in-law.  Now that her temper was rendered somewhat shorter, presumably by her malady and lack of sleep, she became quite vociferous in her criticism and complaints about him.

“Why ever didn’t you marry that boy from the East India Company, Josephine?” she would demand of her daughter.  “Much better prospects, I would have said.” or  “Oh my dear, are you still wearing that style?  Surely your husband could afford to buy you something a little less dated?”

Josephine busied herself with bathing her mother’s forehead and preparing herbal concoctions to ease her cough, and looked endlessly miserable.

Algernon couldn’t decide whether this was because she secretly agreed with her mother and was now regretting her marriage or because her mother’s criticisms of her beloved husband distressed her severely, although she was unwilling to contradict her ailing parent.

He considered asking his wife which of these was the case, in order to calm his tormented mind, but – if truth be told – his mood was now so low that he strongly suspected that it was the former, and could not bring himself to have his worst fears confirmed.

In February – in fact on February 14th – the parlour maid and Algy’s favourite groom eloped together.  Algernon was furious at the inconvenience caused by this selfish action. Why should servants run off to enjoy a future together without a second thought for those they left behind?  Now he would have to find replacements for them and the new staff would need to be trained in how matters were conducted at the Grey House.

None of the aforementioned events could be called catastrophic, but together they created a most unhappy state of affairs for Algernon and he became extremely downhearted. He took to hiding away in his study for long hours and even chose to have his meals there on frequent occasions.
“Algy, dear, please don’t punish me so!” entreated Josephine.  “I know mother can be rather tiresome and I understand that you are not in the best of humours, but I do miss your company at dinner.”

Alas, Algernon was deaf to the pleadings of his beautiful wife.  He simply became more introspective and silent.

Chapter 3

Image may contain: 1 personOn a bright morning in early spring, Harvey’s hot air balloon crash landed in the vegetable patch.  He’d been aiming for the meadow, but a sudden gust of wind in the final moments of descent blew him off course.

Harvey was Algernon’s younger brother.  Josephine had summoned him back from the Congo as her alarm at Algernon’s state of mind continued to grow.  If anyone could cheer her husband, it would be Harvey.

“What in the name of thunder is going on?” screamed Algernon, racing out of the French doors to inspect the damage to his property.

“Who the deuce has landed that damned contraption on my land?”

He grabbed his steam-powered plasma gun and was about to fire a volley of shots into the basket when he heard a jaunty “Hulloo” in the unmistakable tones of his brother.

That gentleman emerged rather unsteadily from the basket, pulled up his goggles to reveal a tanned, soot-smeared face and raced over to embrace Algernon, who had – fortunately – dropped his weapon and was standing and blinking in disbelief.

“My dearest boy!” Harvey exclaimed, grasping his brother’s hand in both of his own and pumping it up and down as if trying to start an engine.

“But Harvey…” stuttered Algernon.  “After all these years!  How?  Why…?”

At this moment, Josephine rushed up and warmly embraced her brother-in-law.

“Dearest Harvey, how wonderful to see you again.  Do come inside and have a cup of tea.  We’d just love to hear about all your adventures, wouldn’t we, Algy?”

“Um, indeed,” her husband responded weakly, absent-mindedly removing a broad bean tendril from his brother’s greatcoat.  “Yes, of course.  Do come inside.”

 

Half an hour later, they were sitting, sipping tea, around a blazing fire in the drawing room.

Harvey had brought with him a battered map of the diamond mine he had bought in Africa.

“Amazing potential!” he was exclaiming.  “Stunning gems in there.  Worth a king’s ransom!  By Jove, Algy, you should come out there with me.  We could run the place together.  Lord, you should see the engine I’ve got set up for the extraction process.  Such a beauty!  It simply can’t fail.  We’ll make millions!”

Josephine glanced at Algernon.  This was not quite the way she had anticipated that the discussion would go.

Algernon sat listening passively as his brother extolled the virtues of life in Africa.  It was difficult to read his thoughts from his expression.

Finally, he spoke.

“Oh such adventures are just fine for a young fellow like yourself, my dear Harvey.  Nothing to hold you here, no family or obligations to consider.  I’m delighted for you, old boy.  Wouldn’t do for me, though.  There’s this old pile to keep up, the staff to consider, all the horses… and I couldn’t ask Josephine to up sticks and adjust to such a difficult climate.”

“Pah!  Loads of lovely ladies over there!” returned Harvey.  “They have a whale of a time.  As for this old place – sell it up and start afresh.  You’ll make your fortune.  Nothing to lose.”

“Well I’ll give it some thought,” Algernon replied, and promptly left the room and headed back to his study.

“Glad you sent for me, old girl,” Harvey told Josephine.  “I see what you mean.  He does seem rather out of sorts.”

“Oh Harvey, I’m so worried about him!” Josephine cried.  “It is so good of you to have come all this way.  I’m sure it will cheer him up to have you around.  Perhaps you could go riding with him tomorrow, if you’re sufficiently rested.  He’d very much enjoy that.”

“Riding?” asked Harvey.  “You mean horses?  Oh no.  What Algy needs is some adventure.  Give me a day or two to get the balloon sorted out and I’ll take him for a trip in that.  That’ll do him the world of good. You see if it doesn’t.”

Chapter 4: MISSING

Chapter 5

Algernon lifted his telescope to his eye and scanned the horizon.  Just one small smudge of grey over Middlesex.  It was high in the sky.  A less practised eye would have missed it altogether, or mistaken it for a wisp of cloud.

“Pirates at four o’clock,” he called.  “Prime the machine.”

Sure enough, as they moved closer, the unmistakable shape of a steam galleon became clear – smoke belching from her filthy funnels.

“Machine’s primed and ready, Sah!” barked a voice from below decks.

“Good work, Mister Capon.  Keep tracking them.  I’m going to turn her around so they can’t see our profile.  Wait for the order to fire.”

“Aye, Sah!” came the same clipped voice.

Like the rest of the crew, Edwin Capon was proud to serve under Admiral Algernon Cholmondeley.  Their airship was the envy of the fleet and the scourge of the pirates who had, for far too long, held the airways to ransom.

 

Too late, the commander of the pirate vessel – one Sydney Strangefellow – saw what lay ahead.

“Put her about, boys!” he croaked, his fear only too obvious to his crew.

“A trap!  That’s the Algernaut!”

“God save us!” screamed one of the men – an optimistic fellow with a high regard for the generosity of his Maker, since he and his shipmates had spent their lives ruthlessly terrorising the high skies.

Panic broke out on the vessel and men ran helplessly hither and thither.  They knew – every black-hearted villain of them – that nothing, let alone their old rust-bucket of a ship, could withstand the weapon now fixed of upon them.

 

“And … FIRE!” shouted Algernon.

There was a flash of turquoise blue as the plasma gun loosed a volley of shots towards the pirate vessel.

The end was quick.  An explosion of blinding white light and then – nothing.  Not so much as a nut or a bolt remained of the incinerated galleon.

A cheer went up from the crew of the Algernaut and a door opened from a cabin below decks.

“Why the cheers?” asked a soft, sweet voice, as Lady Josephine emerged.  “Have you clever boys destroyed another pirate vessel?”

“We have indeed, your ladyship,” smiled the midshipman, bowing his head deferentially.  The Admiral spotted it miles off.  They didn’t stand a chance.”

“Well jolly good show,” smiled the lady.  “I’ll go straight away and prepare some tea for all hands.  And I’m sure I can find some particularly delicious cake as well.  You boys certainly deserve it!”

“You spoil us, my dear,” said her husband, who had come below to share the good news with her.

“Not at all,” laughed Josephine.  “Thanks to your splendid invention and your excellent crew, the skies above London have never been so safe.”

“Three cheers for the Hadmiral and ’er ladyship!” barked Edwin Capon, and the crew’s enthusiastic cries could be heard far below, in the city that owed its safety to Algernon Cholmondeley.

Do please enter and encourage your friends to do likewise.  You can use the ‘Leave a reply’ box under this post, or here’s a contact form, if you’d like to keep your entry just between ourselves…

What Happened After The Vital Chapter

Here it is at last – the final part of Algernon’s story:

 

Chapter 5

Algernon lifted his telescope to his eye and scanned the horizon.  Just one small smudge of grey over Middlesex.  It was high in the sky.  A less practised eye would have missed it altogether, or mistaken it for a wisp of cloud.

“Pirates at four o’clock,” he called.  “Prime the machine.”

Sure enough, as they moved closer, became clear – smoke belching from her filthy funnels.

“Machine’s primed and ready, Sah!” barked a voice from below decks.

“Good work, Mister Capon.  Keep tracking them.  I’m going to turn her around so they can’t see our profile.  Wait for the order to fire.”

“Aye, Sah!” came the same clipped voice.

Like the rest of the crew, Edwin Capon was proud to serve under Admiral Algernon Cholmondeley.  Their airship was the envy of the fleet and the scourge of the pirates who had, for far too long, held the airways to ransom.

 

Too late, the commander of the pirate vessel – one Sydney Strangefellow – saw what lay ahead.

“Put her about, boys!” he croaked, his fear only too obvious to his crew.

“A trap!  That’s the Algernaut!”

“God save us!” screamed one of the men – an optimistic fellow with a high regard for the generosity of his Maker, since he and his shipmates had spent their lives ruthlessly terrorising the high skies.

The steam-powered plasma gunPanic broke out on the vessel and men ran helplessly hither and thither.  They knew – every black-hearted villain of them – that nothing, let alone their old rust-bucket of a ship, could withstand the weapon now fixed of upon them.

 

“And … FIRE!” shouted Algernon.

There was a flash of turquoise blue as the plasma gun loosed a volley of shots towards the pirate vessel.

The end was quick.  An explosion of blinding white light and then – nothing.  Not so much as a nut or a bolt remained of the incinerated galleon.

A cheer went up from the crew of the Algernaut and a door opened from a cabin below decks.

“Why the cheers?” asked a soft, sweet voice, as Lady Josephine emerged.  “Have you clever boys destroyed another pirate vessel?”

“We have indeed, your ladyship,” smiled the midshipman, bowing his head deferentially.  The Admiral spotted it miles off.  They didn’t stand a chance.”

A touching moment for the valiant couple“Well jolly good show,” smiled the lady.  “I’ll go straight away and prepare some tea for all hands.  And I’m sure I can find some particularly delicious cake as well.  You boys certainly deserve it!”

“You spoil us, my dear,” said her husband, who had come below to share the good news with her.

“Not at all,” laughed Josephine.  “Thanks to your splendid invention and your excellent crew, the skies above London have never been so safe.”

“Three cheers for the Hadmiral and ’er ladyship!” barked Edwin Capon, and the crew’s enthusiastic cries could be heard far below, in the city that owed its safety to Algernon Cholmondeley.

The Case of the Withdrawing Room

It’s a tiny room – just 8 inches wide by 6 inches high, and a mere 3 inches deep when the case is closed.  As it’s at 1:12 scale, that equates to the same number of feet in our measurements.

That suits her ladyship very well, though.  She can withdraw to this secluded space and make her plans in private.

As her songbird warbles mournfully above her and the light of her lamp flickers on the table, she puts down her parasol,  loosens her corset, sits on the leather-upholstered chair and takes up her journal and pen.

Her ladyship has a dream.  She wishes to become a tinkerer.  Certainly there are social mores which frown upon such behaviour from a lady in her position, but she finds following her husband and his acquaintances around the grounds, while chatting politely to their dull little wives, incredibly tiresome.

She has persuaded one of the gardeners to tutor her in the rudiments of welding and metalwork, and by patiently dismantling clockwork machinery, she is teaching herself to build simple gadgets.  The lamp was one of her first.  It’s simple, but effective, switching on when the attached clock shows that dusk has fallen.

Her latest invention sits on the shelves beside her chair.  It is a jewel-encrusted mechanical insect which scuttles about the room.  Certainly it isn’t yet perfected, but the one thing her ladyship’s life has taught her is endless patience.

There is a short video tour of the room on my Instagram feed.  Can’t load it here, for some reason.

The room has attracted considerable interest and several people have expressed a wish to buy it.  If it doesn’t sell, it will be on my craft stall in Glastonbury on June 17th, as will copies of her ladyship’s journal.

Heart of Glass – Part 2

Hello.  It is me, Bjørn again.  I was telling you in the previous post how my life was saved by Dr Oskar Kopp and how I started to work as his assistant, while secretly wishing to study and become a great man like the Doctor himself.

One day I was brave enough to tell him of my dreams.  He sat silent for some time and then a strange expression crossed his face.
“Bjørn, my boy,” he said, slowly, “you have not the heart, or the brain, for greatness.  To do work like mine you need a strong, strong heart.  You need a keen, keen brain.  You are a good boy, but alas, you have neither… as things stand.”

Those last three words hung in the air, as if they held a promise.

“If you ver villing, though, zis could be altered.  Wat if I ver to offer you a new heart and a new brain?  You have seen ze marvels I can do.  It would be ze most glorious experiment, in ze name of Science!  If you ver villing, you could become a showcase of mein art!  Your mechanised brain and heart on display for all to see ze vunders of ze clockverk body.  You could achieve anything once zese adjustments had been made.  You’d be as great as me.  Maybe greater…”

Eagerly I agreed.  My weak heart, which had almost killed me once, would be replaced with a dependable clockwork mechanism, encased in a glass dome, so that all could wonder at its strength, and at my master’s skill.  I would be a walking advertisement for his abilities.  He explained less about the alterations to my brain, but I was led to understand that my ability to learn, to reason and to imagine would be considerably enhanced.

With a delicious sense of anticipation, I lay on the slab, allowed him to cover my face with a cloth soaked in some sleep-inducing substance  – and later awoke as you see me now.

Certainly now my mind and heart are stronger, keener than they were.  I can work harder, faster, better and I hold information and make deductions at lightning speed.  All this, the Doctor expected.  Perhaps he feared it slightly.  Yet he found a way to maintain his dominance.

Clockwork must be wound.  Each day my heart must be wound up or I will cease to function.  The winding mechanism has been set into the centre of my back – where only he can reach it.  In this way,  he ensures that I remain his servant.

Oh yes!  I can’t blame him.  He could not risk creating a monster who would overpower him.  Each day I must stand meekly before him while he winds, and winds, and chuckles gently to himself.

I am grateful to Doctor Kopp.  Yet I must think of myself too.  Am I destined to be subservient to him for the rest of my life?  Also, he is an old man.  Who will wind my heart when he is gone?  I must make plans.

It is indeed fortunate that in my ‘adjusted’ state, I no longer require sleep.  That secret room, the alchemist’s study, with its ancient spell book and equipment is my domain while he sleeps.  There are spells in the grimoire he has barely glanced at – spells that could create my freedom…

Bjørn, Dr Kopp and the Alchemist’s Study have now left the Steampunk Dolls’ House and moved on to a new home.  However there are many other figures still available there and at Rune Smith of Glastonbury.

Here are the links:  Steampunk Dolls House online Etsy shop

Rune Smith of Glastonbury

 

Heart of Glass – Part 1

Steampunk Anomaly 'Bjorn the Heart of Glass' Dollshouse Scale 1/12thI am Bjørn.  People call me Heart of Glass.  People pity me.  Or they are fearful.  Or disgusted.  A few show curiosity tinged with admiration.
“How does it feel,” they ask, “to be part man, part machine?  Do you have feelings?  Do you hate your employer for what he has done to you?  Do you seek revenge?  But then, do you have powers and skills the rest of us lack?  Is it glorious to become part machine?”
So the questions go on, and I am grateful to the enquirers. They are better than the ones who simply shudder and turn away, shaking their heads.

Let me tell you the story – my story – from the start.

Fire, Steamboat, Stoker, Boiler RoomI encountered Doctor Kopp when he saved my life.  I was a boiler-man on an icebreaker in the Northern seas.  For long, long shifts I shovelled coal into the great, ravenous furnace that powered the ship.  The owners worked me hard and my body – always thin and long and rather weak – was close to breaking point.

This day I was shovelling, then there was blackness and the next thing I knew was the Doctor bending over me anxiously, pushing up and down on my chest and giving a triumphant cry of “Ja!” as I blearily looked up at him.

It seemed I’d lost consciousness.  The chief stoker had run onto the deck and asked if there was a doctor amongst the passengers.  Doctor Kopp had rushed to my aid.  He tells me that without his intervention, I would have died then and there.

They wanted to put me back to work, but the good Doctor insisted I was to be allowed to rest for some days, until he pronounced me fit to work.  He had my meagre possessions moved to his cabin from my hammock in the engine room.  He cared for me, fed me and mixed potions to strengthen my body.

Dr Oskar Kopp

Soon I began to feel better, but still he would not let me return to work.
“Your heart, my boy!” he would exclaim. “It is sickly. It is not fitted for zis verk. Leave zis ship. I vill give you verk. You vill be mein assistant! You vill say yes!”

I did say yes.  Of course I did.  I had the chance to stop shovelling coal into that great gaping hell hole of a furnace; to become assistant to an eminent doctor.  I owed this man my life, and now he was offering me the opportunity to work with him.  Maybe I could learn from him, study hard, gain qualifications…  I could not express my gratitude and delight.

So when the ship docked at Newcastle, I left beside the doctor and travelled with him to his laboratory.

My jobs were menial, it’s true.  I cleaned his equipment, ran errands, acted as receptionist for his patients.  All this I did without complaint.  Also I saw the amazing work he did – creating mechanical limbs, weapons that were grafted onto the very bodies of their operators, even clockwork mechanisms to regulate irregular hearts.  The man was a genius!  Also I occasionally glimpsed the work he did in his private study after dark – the alchemy from that ancient grimoire, but this he tried to hide from me.

Ah!  But now I must stop!  The Doctor has retired to bed.  I have no need of sleep.  I too have secret work to do at night, so excuse me now.  I will continue my story soon.

 

Bjørn, Dr Kopp and the Alchemist’s Study have now left the Steampunk Dolls’House and moved on to a new home.  However there are many other figures still available there and at Rune Smith of Glastonbury.

Here are the links:  Steampunk Dolls House online Etsy shop

Rune Smith of Glastonbury

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sir Ernest Buckleton-Tweedy – Airship Pilot.

Oh yes, I’ve been tinkering around in airships since I was a boy.  Had an uncle, don’t you know, who owned one and allowed me to go along on some of his journeys.  Goodness me, they were rough old machines in those days!  I remember having to move the rudder by manhandling a length of wire.  Cut your hands to ribbons, that did.  So I fixed up a little device that linked directly to the compass and the anemometer.  Far better.  The old boy saw what I’d done and was pretty impressed; kept me on as crew.

I thoroughly enjoy tinkering with the machinery even now.  Just take a look at my clockwork air-pressure measurement device here.  Dashed proud of that, if I say it myself.

A chap doesn’t like to brag, but I designed and built my own dirigible from scratch, y’know.  Steam-powered beauty of a machine, she is.  Now I regularly navigate to the Americas in her.  Off on another trip next week, as it happens.

I commissioned that woman – Mrs Steampunkle, or whatever she calls herself these days – to make me a new leather coat and helmet.  Made a dashed fine job of it in my opinion.  Good and thick with the fleece collar.  It can be bitter when you’re flying over Cape Horn, don’t y’know.

Anyway, can’t hang around here dilly-dallying all day, pleasant as it’s been to chat to you.  I need to go and sort out my provisions for the trip.

Toodle-pip.

 

Ernest – like the rest of the Steampunk- Shrunk figures – is a one-of-a-kind 1/12 scale figure with a porcelain head, hands and feet and movable limbs.  His coat, helmet, goggles and air-pressure gadget were handmade in Glastonbury, England.

He is no longer for sale, as was been bought as a gift for an aviation enthusiast.  I’m told there’s even a chance he may get the chance to fly in one of this gentleman’s remote-controlled aircraft.  Ernest would love that!  Other figures, including some more aviators, can be found at The Steampunk Dolls’ House (online) or, if you’re visiting Somerset, at Rune Smith of Glastonbury.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alchemy

Vell I ask you, if you were to come into possession of an ancient grimoire vhich contained (along wiz ze normal recipes for creating ze philosophers’ stone und cures for varts) a spell entitled ‘How to Traverse Time’, vouldn’t you be a little intrigued?  Vouldn’t you give up a successful career to explore ze secrets it offers?

Of course you vould.  Just as I did.

I had a huge laboratory, back in zose days.  Mechanical construction vas my bread-und-butter.  Alvays zer ver young men vanting automatons, adjustments to zer contraptions and votnots.  Fraulein Vorzington, my young assistant, vas quite excellent at such sings.  I left her to it.  For me, reading ancient texts vas far more important.  I had zis strong feeling zat vun day, I vould discover zat for vich I searched.  Und here it is – ein dusty old volume, standing on my small table in my tiny, dark garret.  Viz zis book, I vill conquer time itself!

Doctor Oskar Kopp and his alchemist’s study is one of my favourite 1/12 scale creations.  It started as a simple cardboard case, less than the length of a 12 inch/ 30 cm ruler, but now contains his glass and copper still (much distillation goes on in alchemy), arcane diagrams and jottings, a shelf filled with dusty jars of dubious substances and a table which holds his microscope, apparatus and more bottles.  Then, of course, there is the doctor himself, with his plasma- and aether-sensitive binocular eyepiece, not to mention the infamous grimoire.  Yes, it does contain that spell, although you might have difficulty reading it, since the pages are less than 2 x 3 cm.  I’d also advise caution, should you manage to read it.  The ancient book uses Roman numerals, you see, so if you were to attempt to consume one hundred and eleven of the mushrooms, for example, rather than the specified three, the results could be catastrophic.  In fact, even three is pushing things rather…

The Case of the Alchemist’s Study will be on display on my stall at the Glastonbury Craft and Vintage Fair on Saturday 29th April, 2017.  Other Steampunk – Shrunk figures, rooms and accessories are available at Rune Smith of Glastonbury, at 1 Monarch Way, off Glastonbury High Street and online at the Steampunk Dolls’ House (where you can find Dr Kopp’s erstwhile assistant, Lucy Worthington and one of her automatons).  The jar labels, posters and cover for the spell book are courtesy of the wonderful Betsy at Chocolate Rabbit Graphics. 

Ruby

Hi, I’m Ruby.  They’ve asked me to explain to you what steampunk is, because loads of people are like, ‘What’s that?’

Well don’t be put off by the long words (‘cos I learned them specially, lol) but it’s a kind of retro-futurism.  Yeah, I know.  Took me a while to get my head around it, but there’s these old stories that were written like years and years ago, by Victorians and that.  HG Wells and Jules Verne and people.  And although they’re set in those times, they’re about the future – things like exploring to the centre of the earth or time travel and cool stuff like that.

Well some modern people thought it would be fun to imagine a world like those old people wrote about was really coming true.  It’s as if time took a different turn and instead of us getting into nuclear power and smart phones and everything, people had found clever ways to use the olden days technology like steam and clockwork.  I think it’s dead cool.

Those old stories I was talking about, yeah?  Well they had all sorts of terrifying monsters and stuff that the heroes had to battle against with their amazing steam-powered weapons, so steampunk is into that, too.  Loads of the guys go and buy nerf guns and do them up so they’re metallic and look really awesome, to protect themselves against all the evil stuff.  I know – bit weird – but boys and their toys, y’know?

Steampunk isn’t much like real Victorians, because they were quite dodgy really – no women’s rights and like exploiting the working classes and anyone who wasn’t British.  We learned about them in history.  So steampunk people have a motto about being splendid to everyone.  We kind of take the best of Victorians (like how good they were at inventing and building awesome machines and everything) and ignore all the bad bits.

I got into it when I read Northern Lights.  That’s by Philip Pullman and it’s what The Golden Compass film is based on, but I liked the book better.  And now there are loads of good steampunk writers about and we have conventions and festivals and balls and everything.  You might want to try reading stories by Nimue Brown or Phoebe Darqueling or go to some blogs like The Curious Adventures of Messrs Smith and Skarry or Cogpunk Steamscribe.

Anyhow, got to rush.  I’m off to a steampunk fair with Charles.  His costume looks awesome.  Oh, and if you want to check up on some of the others, go to The Steampunk Dolls House.  I might join them there sometime.

Diary of a Tinkerer: The Final Steps

Finally my furnace was burning away merrily and Inferna the Twisted Firestarter was safely ensconced in her cage (with a large DO NOT FEED sign in case anyone felt tempted to give in to her endless wheedling and eyelash fluttering).

Huge clouds of steam billowed from the copper pipe my assistant and myself had fashioned from something called a ‘jumbo drinking straw’ and a supply of copper tape normally sold, apparently, to deter slugs from entering plant pots.  The twenty-first century will forever remain a puzzle to me.

“So what do we need now, Henry?” enquired my companion.
I made a list of the items required for the machinery, valves, gauges and pipework and a rough sketch of the way I intended to fit them together.
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” she nodded. “I’ll do a trawl of the charity shops on the High Street. If we have to spend money, at least we can be sure it will go to a good cause.”

Money.

I must confess that much to my chagrin, I am reduced to relying on the kind lady’s charity, since my own – not inconsiderable – fortune remains locked in my own time.  Even if I had managed to bring some with me on my time-travelling adventure, it would doubtless have suffered the same fate as myself and been reduced to one twelfth of its natural size, rendering it quite useless in my present surroundings.  The dear lady is quite phlegmatic about the expenses, however.  She insists that the total cost of building my engine room has been less than five pounds.  That seems quite a large sum to me, but she insists it is a paltry amount in her age.
” Besides,” she smiled. “Once you’ve powered up your device and headed off into some other dimension, or whatever you do, the engine room will still be here and I can sell it at a profit.”
I agreed that this would be an excellent solution and would prevent me from feeling aggrieved at causing her to be out of pocket.

Beaming broadly, she returned from her shopping expedition and tipped a collection of items on to the table.  I had to admit she had done well.  There were narrow gauge steel tubes, various jewellery beads and fittings, a wooden memo box with a picture of two children and a rabbit peeling from it (excellent housing for the machinery, once the picture was removed and it had been painted and burnished), some metal devices for inflating footballs and a heavy-duty metal nut and bolt set.

I began work at once.  Within a few hours my engine was chugging merrily and the machinery was in perfect working order.

So – if all goes to plan – this will be my final entry in my diary for the year of 2017.  I have said fond farewells to my able and accommodating full-sized assistant.  I have made all the necessary calibrations and am shortly to plug my heavily rebuilt portable time-machine into the engine to charge it.  Hopefully, I will then depart for my own world and be restored to my full size, with many a tale to tell.

Farewell.

Assistant’s note:  I am pleased to report that Henry’s departure was successful – although I do rather miss him.  By some strange space-time anomaly, a lifeless but otherwise perfect version of Henry, as he looked when he first arrived in my cottage, has remained behind and is offered for sale at the Steampunk Dolls’ House (click for link).  The engine room will also be offered for sale, either at the shop or on my Steampunk – Shrunk! stall at the Glastonbury Craft and Vintage Fairs held once a month.  Contact me for details.