Sunday, 24 January 2016

Full Steam Ahead with The Brazen Shark by David Lee Summers

In my continuing attempt to promote other authors, rather than just give you updates and waffling about my own tales, it is my honour to welcome David Lee Summers whose latest book in the Clockwork Legion series, The Brazen Shark, is now available on Amazon. His guest post is an enlightening insight into steam under the waves.
Full Steam Ahead with The Brazen Shark by David Lee Summers

My love of steampunk should come as no surprise since I’ve been in love with nineteenth century technology as long as I can remember. It all started when my dad introduced me to steam locomotives. Their operating principal was simple, but they were powerful and capable of traversing continents. As early as the 1850s, steam locomotives had been built with top speeds around 80 miles per hour. My dad started his railroading career as one of the last generation of steam locomotive machinist’s apprentices.

In 1983, I took a job as a research assistant at Maria Mitchell Observatory on Nantucket Island. There my appreciation of nineteenth century technology increased. We observed variable stars on a telescope built by Alvan Clarke and Sons, the premier telescope builders of the nineteenth century. On that telescope, which had a windup clock drive, I collected data on distant stars, which I published and ultimately presented at Harvard College Observatory. Not only did I work with the telescope, but I maintained the observatory’s chronometers, which were nineteenth century windup clocks which kept more accurate time than my digital watch.

As a fan of nineteenth century technology, it will probably come as no surprise that I enjoy the works of Jules Verne who in turn liked to explore the technology of his day and imagine what it could accomplish. As a child I remember watching Disney’s version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and marveling that Verne imagined a nuclear powered submarine way back in the 1800s. Then about five years ago, I read a good translation of the novel and discovered that Disney’s Nautilus is not the same as the novel’s. In the novel, Captain Nemo’s vessel is driven by batteries and actually had no air supply other than what was in the cabin when it dove below the waves. Other than its size, the Nautilus was actually a rather ordinary submarine of its era.

If you want to see submarine technology at its height in Verne’s time, you have to travel from his native France to neighboring Spain. There in 1864, an engineer named NarcĂ­s Monturiol i Estarriol built a submarine powered by a chemical-reaction steam engine that vented directly into the cabin. Zinc, manganese dioxide and potassium chlorate heated the steam engine’s boiler and breathable oxygen was released as a by-product. The result was a practical submarine that could remain submerged as long as it had a fuel supply. However, Estarriol received no backing from the Spanish government and had to abandon his submarine for lack of funds.

In my Clockwork Legion series, I imagine a Mexican engineer in 1876 who takes Estarriol’s design and expands on it. When we first meet Captain Cisneros in Owl Dance, he wants to sell such a submersible to a government as a warship. The healer Fatemeh Karimi convinces him that there are more interesting commercial and scientific uses for such a craft. When we meet Cisneros again in The Brazen Shark, he’s given the submarine the arms of an automaton so it can repair ships. Because it looks a little like a squid, he gives the submarine the Spanish name Calamar.

So, how does Captain Cisnero’s Calamar stack up to Captain Nemo’s Nautilus? Read The Brazen Shark and find out!

The Brazen Shark is available in paperback at (US) and (UK)

The Brazen Shark ebook is available at (US) and (UK)

Find David Lee Summers on his website:

1 comment:

  1. What a fascinating concept for a steam-powered submarine! One that provides its own air supply. Truly incredible. How shortsighted was the Spanish government. Just think if Spain had had those subs during the Spanish-American War. Might have been a different outcome. I'm putting "The Brazen Shark" on my reading list.