A Steampunk Carol…

23 Jul

Next up on the GSP Legends Promo is Steven R Southard.



 Growing up in the Midwest, Steven R. Southard always found the distant oceans exotic and tantalizing. He served aboard submarines and now works as a civilian naval engineer. In his stories, he takes readers on journeys of discovery in many seas and various vessels. Steve has written in the historical, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and steampunk genres. 

His book we are highlighting today is A Steampunk Carol.


That stuffy Victorian inventor, Stanton Wardgrave, is back again, eight years after inventing holograms and meeting the American Josephine Boulton. Married now, with a son and daughter, he’s dealing with rather too much balderdash and poppycock this Christmas Eve. Conversing with his dead father? Expecting three visitors? It all seems so very Dickensian. But he knows he’s not at all like that Ebenezer Scrooge fellow…is he? What, this story asks, would Christmas be without a bit of steampunk in it?


Stave 1

To begin with, Stanton Wardgrave was dead. At least, Stanton Wardgrave III was dead, a fact known for certain by Stanton Wardgrave IV ever since 1867. This established truth rendered it all the more disconcerting for the younger Stanton to see the deceased man standing before him now.

“Father? No! It can’t be you!” Stanton gaped in terror and astonishment. The background behind the elder Wardgrave was ephemeral and indistinct, but Stanton was too shocked to notice.

“Why not? Don’t you believe your own eyes? Your own ears?” The deep, ringing voice could not be mistaken.

“I’m asleep. I must be having a dream,” Stanton pinched himself. “That’s the very thing. I drank wine after dinner, and I’m dreaming about you now. Yes! There’s more of wine cask than pine casket about you.”

“Clever, but in this case precisely untrue.” The elder Wardgrave didn’t smile.

Stanton took a closer look at his father. This must be a dream, or nightmare, and his brain must be quite well pickled by drink not to have noticed it earlier. “Father, you’re shot with holes!”

Two sections of the elder man were missing, large circular swaths cut from his body. The left side of his chest and the right upper quadrant of his head were gone, with the cloudy gray background visible in the gaps. Yet the man stood without apparent discomfort.

“Oh, that,” the partial man looked down at his breast. “I removed those parts of me while I lived. I daresay I didn’t even notice them gone at the time, let alone miss them. I certainly miss them now, wandering the afterlife with the ethereal wind gusting through my ribs and chilling my skull.”

At that moment, a breeze picked up and the older man winced. Stanton even heard a whistling noise as air sped and swirled through the crevices.

“But that’s beside the bloody point,” the father said, aiming a finger at Stanton. “The same sections of you are missing too, son.”

Stanton looked down in alarm and felt his chest and head for wholeness and continuity. Everything seemed connected and in place.

“You don’t see it now, of course,” the elder man chuckled. “You’re still alive, more or less. But I’m here to advise you this state of affairs is unacceptable. Something must be done. As to that, you will be visited by three beings this night.”

“Three . . . beings?” Stanton snorted. “You mean ghosts, Father?”

“Not ghosts, confound it all! Entities. Personages. Call them what you will. You will receive three visitors.”

“Three visitors,” Stanton repeated. “This all sounds rather familiar. It’s like the famous yarn written by that Dickens bloke. What the devil was it called?”

“Charles Dickens, the writer chap? Oh, he’s now with us; the dead, of course. But he wrote fiction, son, and you’re living a real life. Each has—or should have—elements of the other, but surely you know the difference.”

“See here, Father. You’ve cast me in the most unsavory role of that Ebenezer Scrooge bloke. But I’m no miser, as you know full well. I give sizeable sums to charity.”

“This isn’t about money.”

“What, then?”

“The visitors will make it all clear, my son.” The senior Wardgrave began to fade from view, becoming dimmer with each passing second.


“Listen to the visitors, son. Listen.”

He vanished.

Stanton blinked and tried to sit up. A wave of nausea seized his stomach, and his head pulsed with pain. By minimal degrees he found he could attain a sitting position, though he swayed a bit.

What the devil am I doing in my laboratory? Soft moonlight streamed in the windows and gave the tables and equipment a dim, silvery appearance. On the table sat his holographic apparatus. Stanton winced, partly from his headache and partly from recalling how hard he’d struggled to improve the device. True, the public loved holograms, and he’d earned a second fortune from selling the machines. But holograms worked only with the Stanton’s patented focused light dynaphoter rays aimed into a mist, like steam or smoke. He’d not yet discovered a way to form a holographic image in the open air.

On the table before the couch on which he sat rested an empty bottle of 1868 port. Stanton groaned. He must have drunk the wine while puzzling over his hologram dilemma and fallen asleep.

Asleep. Asleep to dream the strangest . . . no; a nightmare, it was. Father was there, he thought. Warning him. Some Dickensian nonsense or other.

Well, no harm if I lie down a bit longer . . . three visitors, indeed . . . balderdash and poppycock. . . .






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