It’s possible you’ve heard that after ten glorious months, “And Their Souls Were Eaten” is just about to have its final release posted. It’s an interactive serial story that ran for ten months with (roughly) weekly updates.
The total word count is around 370,000 (you get about a quarter of that per read-through) so I’m feeling QUITE pleased with myself right about now. (I’m also apologising to my kids quite a bit and promising that when I’ve finished my next two deadlines it’ll all calm down quite a bit.)
Steampunk never tries to be accurate or even plausible historical writing, although a good steampunk writer will have a solid reason for every change they make (for instance, this story has airships because airships are awesome).
While writing “Souls” I amused myself by adding a bunch of real historical people into the story. For the more famous ones, I disguised them by using their lesser-known names for a while. I happily shifted people around the world for my personal amusement, and fudged their ages a fair bit.
There are therefore very mild spoilers for these characters. Feel free to go and read the entire story first. And don’t think they’re safe from death just because they’re real people. At least two are 100% doomed no matter what. The only question is… which two? You’d have to PM or email me to find out (email@example.com). Or just read the story a bunch of times, and see who doesn’t survive.
In (VERY roughly) chronological order:
*Charles Dickens. Because how could I not include the most famous writer of serial stories?
*Genevieve Deringer (yes with one ‘r’) is a fictional member of the real Deringer family (who invented Derringer rifles).
*Thomas Molyneaux was a British Heavyweight boxer (of African descent) and extremely famous and successful. I don’t think I ever named him, but I had Nox rescue him from a soulless man in an isolated forest encounter (and then had far too many characters, so it remained a random encounter).
*The exiled King Charles X of France (yes, he was in Austria for a while, and died of cholera).
*Fairy Fay is fictional, but her name was taken from a woman who may or may not have been killed by Jack the Ripper. (This is also why she calls a character “Jack” at the end. The idea is that “Jack” would have become Jack the Ripper.)
*Ada Lovelace (and the Earl of Lovelace). Because steampunk. She really did try and invent a flying machine as a teenager (and wrote a book about it) and had her first child in 1836.
*Isabella Bird. Was chronically ill and told to travel “for her health”. She was a deeply Christian woman and a suffragette. After attempting to ride side-saddle up a volcano, she rode horses “like a man” forever after.
*Madame Cama. Like Isabella Bird, she was a suffragette (although her main focus was independence for India) who had at least one marriage and seemed to do rather better when it was over. Sadly, she and Isabella never actually met.
*Harriet Tubman, our third suffragette, was certainly not travelling Europe in 1836, not least because she was about 14 at the time. But one of her many awesomenesses was being a suffragette, so I borrowed her—in part to acknowledge all my North American readers (who had to suffer through British English this story, poor dears).
In fact, Michael Bay and I had a chat just last week over tea and cocaine and he apologised for stealing my idea that every work of historical fiction must include Harriet Tubman. (We’re cool now, although he still says the “Choices That Matter” app should be teal and orange instead of black and white.)
*Alexandre Dumas. When I was a teenager one of my best friends lived on “Dumas” street, and although we were aware of the writer we were rather more amused by alternate pronunciations of his name. The more I research the Victorian Era, the more I realise it wasn’t nearly as white-white-white as it is often portrayed. I only discovered last year that Dumas was a black man.
*Adah Isaacs Menken. This fascinating Creole actress and poet was one of Dumas’s many mistresses.
*Selika Lavevski was a very well-known and skilled equestrian circus performer, and drop-dead gorgeous to boot. Yep, I bet you thought I made all that up. I didn’t.
That studio photo was taken from here.
*Gustave Eiffel, long before the Eiffel tower was built.
*The French Fencers: Joseph Bologne and Chevalier d’Eon really were famous late-1700s fencers; an African man and a person who switched genders at least once. They’re only in one very minor (but badass) scene. Yes, Joseph was also a virtuoso violinist!
*Coenraad Van Houten and his father, who were real Dutch chocolate innovators (and who were smart enough to guard their secrets).
*Captain Ching Shih was a real and very successful Chinese pirate with an enormous fleet.
*Princess/Queen Victoria, who took the throne just after her eighteenth birthday in 1836. She was a fan of Charles Dickens.
I’ve probably forgotten some people, so let me know if you think you noticed someone!
I absolutely recommend googling all of these complicated, successful, diverse and talented people. They are well worth getting to know.