A collection of Sean McMullen's previously published stories.
Steampunk note: Marketed by ReAnimus Press as a collection of Sean McMullen's steampunk stories, but reviewers addressed the definition of 'steampunk' in this context. As the reviewer from Tangent Online noted:
However, those who adhere to a strict view of steampunk meaning Victorian-era, airship-flying, goggle-wearing, steam-powered adventure stories will be rather disappointed in this collection, I’m afraid. These stories can only loosely be termed steampunk by that definition. The author stretches the definition to any era where technology is used outside its norm, and the plucky gumption of invention is invoked.
The collection includes stories involving the pursuit of flight in the Dark Ages and the US-Soviet space race.
A balloonist in 1840s' London finds himself approaches by a baron with a strange secret, a secret that can only be revealed at high altitudes.
A librarian discovers a serial killer who is using reference materials as tools for murder.
'Sean McMullen’s “The Spiral Briar” is a nicely delineated historical fantasy, involving the fifteenth century and, as Rod Serling used to put it, “the boundary between science and superstition.”
'Because of what they did to his sister, Sir Gerald would be at war with the land of Faerie, if he could reach them, but the boundary between our world and theirs is too hard for mortals to cross, though elves, goblins and the like cross it at will to wreak their magic and mischief upon humankind.
'He is approached by Tordral, a master armourer also harmed by the denizens of Faerie, who knows that the way to cross worlds is by use of the nascent science, involving the harnessing of steam. Steam can be used to propel boats and to throw heavy objects, like rocks or cannonballs, but to explore these uses will cost money, which Sir Gerald has but Tordral doesn’t. They have a common enemy in Faerie, and Tordral gathers around him others who have been twisted and would like revenge as assistants in his experiments. Their common symbol is a briar rose in a pot, for reasons explained in the story.
'McMullen uses the familiar tropes of science and fantasy in an interesting meld; rather than using today’s scientific terms to explain the workings of Faerie, he uses what sound like authentic fifteenth-century terms in ways that would be consistent with both the science of the time and what in our world would be sheerest superstition but is nonetheless real in the story. And the people of the story act in ways consistent with the time as well.'
Source: Tangent (http://www.tangentonline.com/print–bi-monthly-reviewsmenu-260/221-fantasy-a-science-fiction/1219-steve-fahnestalk). (Sighted: 20/2/2014)
'The Art of the Dragon' tells 'a straightforward story about a giant metallic dragon that suddenly appeared in Paris and ate the Eiffel Tower. And then Notre Dame Cathedral and a number of British and Continental monumental works of art, including Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and St. Pancras Station. The narrator, Scott Carr, is an art historian with a doctorate, and he realizes what the dragon is doing, and at the climax of the story, why.'
Source: Tangent (http://www.tangentonline.com/print–bi-monthly-reviewsmenu-260/221-fantasy-a-science-fiction/1252-fantasy-a-science-fiction-augsept-2009). (Sighted: 20/2/2014)
An alternate history story in which scientists in the 1400s are given hints on how to improve their inventions.
'[A] woman scientist in the Dark Ages wants to fly even as her castle is under siege.'
Source: EscapePod review (http://escapepod.org/2014/05/13/book-review-ghosts-engines-past-sean-mcmullen/#sthash.6tmcYY34.dpuf)
An alternate history story in which Russian astronauts attempted to land on the moon at the same time as the American crew of Apollo 11.
A prequel story to McMullen's novel Souls in the Great Machine detailing the character Zarvora's journey towards becoming Highliber.
'As the story opens, it is 1943 and Louise Clermont is working as a decoder at the secret base in Bletchley Park. She is visited by a man who must be very important to even know that she works there. She had delivered a lecture at Oxford in 1931 and had shown calculations that had shown that a rocket such as the one in the Fritz Lang film, Woman in the Moon could be built. She is shown pictures of rockets being built by the Germans at Peenemünde and tells her visitor that they must be destroyed at all costs. To convince him, she tells him a story of something she witnessed in 1899.'
Source: SFRevu (http://www.sfrevu.com/php/Review-id.php?id=12958). (Sighted: 20/6/2014)
'Napleonic alternate history with a touch of the cthulhian terrors. A young officer, a code breaker, is despatched to a rural retreat in the English countryside, where some strange experiments are taking place which could revolutionise combat communication – taking it far beyond the use of semaphore signalling.'
Source: Best SF (http://bestsf.net/sean-mcmullen-electrica-fantasy-science-fiction-marapr-2012/). (Sighted: 20/6/2014)
'An entertaining novelette mashup of steampunk/Goth/Victoriana/aviation. An unfeasibly early steam-powered airplane is found, perfectly preserved, in a barn – if it had flown, the history of aviation, and the course of the last two centuries, would have been completely different.'
Source: Best SF (http://bestsf.net/sean-mcmullen-steamgothic-interzone-241-jul-aug-2012/) (Sighted: 20/6/2014)