Building an Iron Heart – Steampunk Fun and Artistic License

By MC Dalton

So, one of the most important questions I had to ask myself (and one which Mel reminded me of a lot) was how far are we allowed to speculate within our universe, (the one we have created for the characters in our book) when it comes to the impossible in the real world?In reality, it is not. But in the world of steampunk, imagination, and speculative science, it is. This is where a writer is allowed a wee bit of creative leeway. It’s not that hard to imagine once you’ve been sucked into our Victorian-Age Edinburgh with its dirigibles and mirror messengers, steam powered unicarriages, and dynamo driven electricity, not to mention the delicate invention of a heart lung machine, which Galena Tindale our heroine has built.

As it turns out, if you’ve managed to build a kick-ass believable world, it will become your oyster!

This bring me to the core of our plot; a man with a soul of gold, but a heart of iron. Ah, the heart. Or hearts, for there are two, the rotting, corroded iron beast devouring our hero from within, and the beautiful golden heart which was needed to replace it.

I had so much fun returning to my anatomy and physiology books. Add the freedom of imagination to the perfect creation of God, and voila! Magic! I spent hours imagining, sketching, planning, building (in my head) the heart which had saved Beauden the first time and the one needed to save him the second time.

To accomplish this feat, I read up on a great hero, Dr. Chris Barnard, a South African surgeon who achieved the unbelievable. His ground-breaking scientific and medical explorations and transplantations combined with research and led to actual medical procedures of using swine and bovine tissue. He replaced the sickly diseased parts of the human heart and inspired me to build the golden heart.

So with a teaspoon full of imagination and a sprinkle of faux engineering we created…

The iron heart, like a biological human heart, has four chambers and valves which separate each chamber through which the blood passes. By using speculative science based on modern medicine, where prosthetic hearts have been implanted, we are able to convince the reader that Dr. Augustus Somerton, our hero’s father, has discovered how to fuse metal and human tissue. Therefore, Beauden’s Aorta and Inferior Vena Cava are able to connect to the iron monster in his chest.

There was the problem of his immune system rejecting the large foreign body, but this is not an anatomy and physiology tome, it is a steampunk romance. So I decided to imagine, or really stretch my artistic license and allow this to not happen.

So how did this iron colossus work?

“Her eyes and her finger followed the intricate lines which connected the four chambers of the heart…”

Now what we did not have, which a biological heart does, is tissue which expands and contracts, nor do we have awesome little biological batteries which excite these muscles, and in so doing pump the blood.

We created the possibility that the electrical conduction which takes place within a real heart can also occur in our man made heart. We accomplished this by showing the reader that Beauden was confined to sleeping on a large magnetic bed, which eased the strain the iron heart put on his body, and also recharged his heart, so to speak.

So how did we fit this piece of metal genius in Beauden’s chest?  We made it clear that the heavy iron heart remained within our heroes’ chest cavity, by means of a boned support system built by the ribs removed from Beauden’s chest. Dr Somerton, his father, then designed a whale boned corset for him to wear continually.

Then we had to make sure to answer all the questions connected with a human carrying a lump of metal inside their body. Metal corrodes. How would this corrosion affect Beauden? Iron poisoning was our solution. We wanted a monster, by allowing the iron heart to reach the end of its life, we gave our hero his monstrous appearance. His skin is cyanosed, his eyes have an accumulation of iron in the sclera, he is constantly weary and incapable of exertion. His heart has betrayed him and he is dying.

How to restore him…. The golden heart is shaped similarly to the real flesh and blood pulmonary pump found in humans. It is essentially an exo-skeleton for the bits of sinuae (swine) tissue which have implanted on the inside walls of the heart. Now you may ask how is this possible?

We have previously mentioned, Dr. August Somerton’s experiments and the fact he had implanted an iron heart into his son already proving this science to be plausible, within our universe. We further substantiate this theory by showing you Beauden’s workshop and his own inventions, creating limb for amputees, and a hand which would eventually use his father’s medical advancements to connect metal to tissue.

Differing mixtures of gold were researched and a certain creative flair added to show that this heart would not corrode, was not too heavy and of course who could ignore the old cliché, ‘A heart of gold’,  which hinted subtly at our hero’s true demeanor. And then to keep it where it belonged … a sling to hold the heart in place, inside his chest cavity was designed and so too a filigree rib cage to replace the removed bones.

So, there you have it, the speculative medicine and science of how we built the Iron Heart. We hope you will enjoy the journey with us.

 

 

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