What is The Faraday Cage?
A collection of five Steampunk stories set in a world where Tesla discovered the key to anti-gravity. From there, the sky is no longer the limit, and the people of the steam-era take to space.
Voidships features the classic steampunk tropes of steam-powered dirigibles, spacecraft, even giant mechs. But in keeping with the “Hard Steampunk” ethos, these are all derived from the root technology of Tesla sails. Voidships technology is beautiful Victorian engineering, but practical rather than fanciful. Where possible, voidships have panelled walls and baroque furniture, but in the greasy engine rooms and shipyards decoration gives way to grime and ugly practicality.
Fashion is true to the period, but with the world’s attention turning to the space race, technological acoutrements have become the mode. Every character does not wear goggles with cogs glued on, but the lower classes will often wear the tools of their trade as a badge of pride, and the upper classes parrot this, affecting all manner of decorative scientific instruments and the necessary accessories to carry it all. Fabrics mimicking the texture or look of Tesla’s antigravity sails are also popular.
What did I Think of The Faraday Cage?
This collection was my first brush with the Voidships universe, and I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of anti-gravity with steam-era elements. I decided to treat each of the five stories separately below, but in general, I thought this was a great read.
The Haemophage by Rob Harkess:
On a mining base in the Asteroid Belt people start dying by having their blood sucked out but vampires are a myth, aren’t they?
I thought this was a pretty cool mystery, but I think I probably would have liked it even more if I was more familiar with the world to begin with. I struggled to find the Steampunk elements in this story of a mining station in space. It didn’t feel like a complete story so much as the first few chapters of a novel. All the same, I liked Harkness’s style and I would read more of what he has to offer.
Taking the Cure by Peter Smalley:
A health-spa pleasure cruise to the Moon and back goes very wrong and only a young ensign can help.
For a story about a boatload of people on a rest cure, it was really exciting!
Iron Curtain by Virginia Maybury:
A London patents clerk is employed to build a low-gravity playroom for the Tsar’s child, but Russian politics can be lethal.
This was my favorite story in the collection. I have been jonesing for Russian-inspired Steampunk and this one gave me my fix. Besides being well-written, it also addressed on of science fiction’s bedrock themes: the wide-reaching and unforeseen side-effects of technological innovation.
Dear Prudence by Katy O’Dowd with Steve Turnbull:
The author of an Agony Aunt column falls for the heir to a massive fortune, but how can they overcome the intense family feud that stands between them?
This was a cute story, and a nice addition to the collection to add variety to the tone.
The Computationer by Steve Turnbull:
A brilliant Swiss-born girl, dragged by her family to Perth, Australia, sets off in search of a downed flyer to rescue its Babbage analytical.
This was my runner-up for favorite story in the collection. Clearly, I’m a sucker for multi-cultural Steampunk! But in all sincerity, this is a really fun story in a setting you won’t find in most Steampunk fiction.