Frankenstein, Love & Broken Hearts – Part 2

Building an Iron Heart – Steampunk Fun and Artistic License

By MC D’Alton

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?

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

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.

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 which led to actual medical procedures 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.

But 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 to be a problem.

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.

So 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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Frankenstein, Love & Broken Hearts – Part 1.

WHAT kind of story is it?!?

by Melanie Page

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When my elder son started swanning around in tight fitting pseudo-Victorian, Steampunk attire, wearing retro leather goggles, I hoped he was just going through a phase. Little did I imagine that, a few years later, I would be publishing a novel in the Steampunk genre.

For the uninitiated, Steampunk is a relatively recent offshoot of the Sci-Fi branch of the literary family tree. It gets its name from the use of anachronistic, often steam powered technology that features prominently in it. It is a melange of speculative – or alternative – historical fiction, fantasy and others such as horror, romance or crime. The name was coined in the mid-eighties by a science fiction author who needed a way to distinguish works like his from those of traditional Victorian Era authors like Jules Verne.

Iron Heart Steampunk Iron Universe MC D'Alton Melanie Page

When MC D’Alton and I set about writing Iron Heart, we didn’t just need characters and a plot, we needed to build a whole world, a steampunk world, for them to live in. That was, for me, the most fun. We looked on the internet, that cornucopia of knowledge for the fertile mind, and came up with some images which gave us a springboard.

One such element was the unicarriage. In the first scene, Galena Tindale, fleeing from the angry mob (sans pitchforks), is accidently hit by the hero in his unicarriage.

Iron Heart Steampunk Iron Universe MC D'Alton Melanie Page Vulpine Press

We envisioned it as the body of a hansom cab, as one might find in Sherlock Holmes, with the head and neck of a brass horse as the cab, for the driver. The engine would be beneath it, steam powered of course, so he would need to top it up with water and slow burning fuel. Steam would pour artistically from the nostrils of the horse… We imagineered a single wheel in the middle of the front part with a dozen whirling hooves on it. That was awesome fun. There is such freedom in letting your imagination run away with you.

Of course, the main piece of retro-futuristic invention was the Iron (and later the other) Heart, but I would spoil MC’s fun by describing that. My other favourite invention was the Pocket Messenger. Just as today everyone would be lost without their smart phone, so in the Victorian Edinburgh of my fantasy, everyone has a small, elegant case, not much bigger than a cigarette case, into which one inserts a role of silvered paper. When the glass screen is inscribed using a black wax stylus, and the lid is closed, a chemical reaction, similar to old fashioned photography, instantly sends the writer’s message to the receiver. Simple, logical and oh, so cool.

And finally, there was the dirigible. They of course were and are quite real. But I did make a few changes. I used steam powered fans to propel them, making them more manoeuvrable and faster. They are also larger. Real dirigibles of the period would not carry my passengers in any kind of luxury.

Writing Iron Heart was the most fun I’ve had writing for a long time… And the nifty gadgets (worthy of James Bond’s Q, if I do say so myself) were largely responsible for that. If you happen to read Iron Heart, let me know what you think.

Pre Order your copy HERE

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A must read! Our first writers challenge winner.

Kayla stood poised on the rim of the Luna crater, scanning the bowl for anomalies.

The unfamiliar craft was almost hidden in the shadow under the ramparts. From the buckling on the stubby wing tip it must have been a rough landing.

Without hesitation she scrambled down the escarpment and headed for the ship. The long bounds felt painfully slow as she crossed the fine powdery surface. Her 190cm height and muscular build was an advantage here at least.

It was unlike any ship she’d seen. The surface glowed with a metallic green sheen and clouded glass bubbled in a semi-circle around the blunt nose. Three of the stubby wings extended at an angle halfway down the short cylindrical body. The damaged one had dragged against the stony ground near the rim of the crater.

Instinctively, she placed her hand on the oval pad forward of the wings. A woosh of sound heralded the opening of a panel easily large enough for someone her size. Kayla hesitated only a split second before fitting herself into the shallow compartment. Darkness enveloped her along with the hiss of air.

She barely had time to wonder if her impulsive action had been ill-considered when the inner door opened. She tumbled into a narrow corridor lined with cabinets. An airlock at the far end was only a step away and Kayla used another panel to trigger the opening.

Blinking at the brightness of what must be the pilot’s cockpit, Kayla stepped forward. It was hard to see detail, even with the sun visor on her helmet retracted.

“May we be meeting?”

The deep husky tone startled her and she spun around, knocking against one of the consoles. A large gloved hand steadied her.

“Do not alarm.”

He was beautiful. Her heart clashed against her ribs. And not human. So large he made her feel small, even in the bulky suit. He was humanoid, whatever that meant. Two arms, two legs. Beautifully muscled as befitted his large size. One head. Smooth and hairless with a central ridge of bone that extended from his nose over his forehead and splayed into three over the large skull.

He wore a close-fitting suit in a metallic green reminiscent of the coating on the ship’s hull but above that, his skin had a similar tint with an undertone of yellow. His eyes captured hers and she stared at them, hardly believing the vivid swirl of blue and green, again with that hint of yellow.

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His deep rumble reverberated through her. “You are good?”

Kayla gasped as she registered his words. “You speak English?”

His wide mouth curved up. “Not so good. You have many transmissions.”

“That’s how you learned? Listening to our radio transmissions?”

The was an infinitesimal movement of his broad shoulders. “Some.”

“Where are you from?”

Again that wry lift at the corners of his mouth. “It is far.”

Kayla pulled off her helmet and glanced around at the cockpit, noting the two seats. “You have a co-pilot?”

“She is gone.”

“Gone?”

His forehead drew together, wrinkling against the shallow ridge of bone. “I think…passed.”

“Passed away? You mean dead?”

A slow nod. “I think…yes.”

A female. Something tightened in her chest. “She was special to you?”

“I don’t think…”

Kayla searched for words. “Partner? Lover?”

Again that slow nod. “Love. Yes, I know that word. No, not love. So…partner?”

The tightness eased. How odd. He was a stranger. An ALIEN. “How long have you been alone?”

“Many cycles.” He gestured at the sky through the window bubbles. “It is far.”

There was an element of pain in those words that made her wonder. “Will you go home now?”

“Home. I cannot go home.” His liquid eyes flared with something dark. “I stay here perhaps?”

Kayla thought of the team back at the base. It was an international team. But an alien might stretch the friendship. “Is your ship repairable?”

“Perhaps.” The resigned expression on his face suggested otherwise. He touched the symbol on her sleeve. “And I am not to be welcome.”

“You come in peace?”

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He glanced down his body. “In one piece. I think.”

Kayla dragged her gaze away from the snug fitting fabric outlining his magnificent body. “I mean…you don’t wish to harm us?”

His large hands spread to indicate the interior of the ship. “With what? Is nothing to harm.”

“And you don’t have anywhere else to go?”

He shook his head, his jaw tight.

“Perhaps you should come back to the base. We need to report what’s happened.” It hit her somewhere deep in her gut. He would be wanted down on earth. First Contact. Often talked about, but this was it. Not some invading alien race, but a single man in trouble. Vulnerable.

“You have many partner, lover at this base?”

“No one special. Work colleagues.” She tapped the symbol on her sleeve. “Scientists.”

“You also are alone?” His voice seemed deeper somehow, the eyes swirling gold.

Breath stalled in her throat. “Yes.” It was true. Men found her size intimidating. They might respect her work as a geologist, but they didn’t ask her out. She’d made friends in the team here in the last eight months, but no-one special. Ever.

He stepped closer. “We are alone together.”

For a moment she wondered if it was his language skills at fault. The warmth in those strange eyes told her otherwise. He found her attractive. An odd flutter began deep in her gut. She pointed at her badge. “I am…my name is Kayla.”

“Iya, Kayla. I am Gorish.” His large hand thumped the odd shaped symbol on his chest.

“Gorish.”

“You, me. Lovers?”

That flutter deepened to a heavy pulse low in her body. It was definitely appealing. “Perhaps friends first.”

“Friends. I like.”

“I think I would like it too.”

His thin lips curved up in a smile. “We are good?”

Warmth flooded her body, her heart thumping steadily and a little fast. “Yes. We are good.

“Those amazing eyes glowed “Together.”

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