Set it in Space and Shovel Coal into it (SiiSaSCii) is a series of science fiction stories with a steampunk theme. Written by the Sheffield SFF Writers’ Group, there are 21 stories in total with “Attack of the Atomic Airships” also available as a full length novel of around 70,000 words.
It’s interesting that the Introduction to SiiSaSCii tells us that the stories held within the covers are not entirely steampunk. Written by Ian Sales – an award winning British Science Fiction writer – the seven pages cover the rise of steel during the Victorian era and notes that steampunk only takes the desirable elements of Victorian life and exploits that while ignoring the dirt and grime of real life. Following from that, we get a breakdown of the stories.
Each story is based in the same alternate reality, much like steampunk, and they’re written in chronological order.
Kingdom Come – set in 1833 – is the first story and tells of an Ironclad called HMS Kingdom. It rushes you straight into the action with a sea battle that gets your heart racing. Subsequent stories vary in pace, and each include characters or inventions without trying to make them out as absurd or sensational. They’re a part of the world and as such aren’t described in minute detail. They’re mentioned almost in passing, such as Tane-Mahuta. The story forces you to accept a tangible God with multiple limbs and you do this easily.
Each story progresses through the years with the final chapter ending in the year 2306 where people are living off world where religion is frowned upon and money is the ultimate God.
Set it in Space and Shovel Coal into it is an entertaining read by the Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Group. The fact that it covers such a broad expanse of history, present day and the future means that there’s something for everyone.
It’s a little rough around the edges, such as spelling errors, missed words or repeated phrases. For example in the diarised section of Red Moon, the author starts the journal log with “We are going have woman in space”. You have to bear in mind that the authors are all enthusiasts. They have regular jobs and do this out of love for writing and a love of science fiction.
The small band of writers have done a fine job turning their hand to the world of steam. As Ian Sales mentioned in the foreword, there’s not a great deal of steampunk in the book, but there are some entertaining names such as Air Group Captain Sebastopol Valiant. Couple that with metal covered galleons, airships and clockwork Egyptian taxis and that should qualm a steampunks yearning.
You can buy Set it in Space and Shovel Coal into it for just £3.08 from Amazon to download onto your Kindle and is inclusive of VAT. That’s a splendid price for a 377 page book, so if you’re the kind of reader that enjoys dark fantasy, steampunk, science fiction and historical fiction then this book is ideal. Especially if you only have the time or attention span to read a few pages at a time.
Writing quality: 3.5
Value for money: 5