The Steam Powered Anoraks
In our modern world of Science fiction consisting of teleportation, time travel, laser guns and the like, it is easy to forget the pioneers of this genre, John Wyndham, H.G Wells, Jules Verne and of course the brilliant but often overlooked Marmaduke Whimiscal.
He wrote his books around the time of Verne and is often looked upon as ‘the English Verne’.
His book ‘The Extinction of the dodo’ asked questions of society, that still need answering today and who could forget The Pluto trilogy consisting of “Rocket ship to Pluto’ ‘Oops it has not been discovered yet’ and the nail-biting conclusion to the series ‘It wasn’t a real planet anyway’
Recently, whilst sorting through some old family papers and documents, his Great-Great-Grandson came across a complete first draft of a previously unknown work by Whimisical. It has been edited and presented here for its first ever publication.
Please remember that the text is over a hundred and thirty years old and a lot of the ideas presented, although ‘old hat’ today were unheard of at the time.
Here published for the first time is the lost novella
The Steam Powered Anoraks
I approached Fussington Manor with anticipation, it was hard to ignore a summons by telegraph from Lord Fussington. I rapped my cane on the ceiling
“Faster my man, faster, a summons from Lord Fussington, should not be treated lightly.” I shouted, although I was a good friend of the scientifically minded lord, I could not be late for this meeting.
We had met a few years previously at the launch of his global newspaper. He had used the meeting Room at The Peculiar Club in Mayfair, I had known Lord Fussington by sight and his reputation of course, for his inventions and his horticultural endeavours. There had been nearly three hundred people crammed into the room.
Lord Fussington had taken to the lectern at one end of the room and called the meeting to order.
“Gentlemen,” he had begun, “I need investors for my newspaper venture. With the new transatlantic telegraph cable in place and functioning, news from America can reach us within hours of it happening. Add to that, the fast steamships steaming to the colonies, we could have bi-monthly newspaper distributed around the globe. I ask you to imagine that, gentlemen. News only two months old reaching every friendly port in the world.”
I asked him what he proposed to call this newspaper.
“Well, if you think of all the collection points of news as nets catching the information as it happens and we are interconnecting these nets of information, I propose to call it ‘The Internet’
“Can we not go further?” Someone had interjected.
“How?” Asked Lord Fussington.
“Why don’t we put a telegraph point in our subscriber’s homes and have the news Morse-coded straight to them?”
“A terminal in everyone’s house giving information on demand? Don’t be ridiculous. Anyway,” said Lord Fussington, “I need ten thousand of investment, so one hundred pounds will give one percent of the company.”
A loud voice had ridiculed the idea . “What a stupid idea, I shan’t be investing one farthing, do you hear, not one brass farthing.” We had all turned to see the source of this outburst.
“I hadn’t expected you to, Blabberford, is there anyone else present willing to invest in the future?”
I had invested in ‘The internet’ and it had made me a rich man. We had stayed good friends, meeting occasionally at our respective London clubs, this was the first time for several months he had invited me to his home. I wondered what he had to discuss with me, perhaps it was another investment, I know he had been working on a scheme involving a group of unemployed navvies sitting on benches giving out directions for the canal and railway networks they had built. I must admit I was not overly convinced that his Sat-navvie network as he called it, would be a success.
We pulled on to the gravel outside the hall, I alighted from the carriage and rang the bell.
The door was opened by what I can only describe as a mechanical butler. Dressed in a morning suit, the large automaton hissed and puffed as though trying to get his breath. Eventually in a rasping voice he spoke, “Good evening, may I ask who is visiting Fussington Hall.” His speech was punctuated by sparks emerging noisily from an exhaust port somewhere in his lower back.
“Richard Fosdyk, I replied. Who on earth or rather what on earth are you?”
The strange man replied, “I am Henry the mechanical butler my technical name is a wired analytical numerical kilowatt energy robot or the acronym wan…”
“Yes, Yes, I get the idea. I’m here to see Lord Fussington.”
“His Lordship is expecting you, if you could please follow me.”
We set off towards Lord Fussington’s laboratory. I walked slowly behind him down the corridor studying the amazing automaton.
He made a thuurrrrrpppp sounding noise and one of the fiery ejections, shot upwards from his exhaust and ignited my hair. I quickly patted my hair out and learnt to jump violently to one side at the first sign of sparks. Without any more personal fires we reached the room where Lord Fussington carried out his many experiments. The butler announced my arrival in his mechanical voice and with lots of whirring, clanking and puffing retired from the room.
“Fosdyk, how kind of you come at short notice.”
“Not at all, My Lord,” I replied. “It was worth the trip just to make the acquaintance of your magnificent servant, where on earth did you get him?”
“I built him myself, his brain is a Babbage mechanical difference engine, his phrases are recorded on a wax disc and he has all the names of my associates that he matches up to the name you give him, to make the announcements. I called him Henry.”
“How is he powered?” I asked
“Steam, hence his fiery outbursts.”
“Yes I noticed that he ignited my hair. I’m still smouldering”
“I am sorry here’s a card for my wig maker, pop it on my account old boy.
“Could you not have made him electrical”
“Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to invent an electrical brain, so the mechanical one must suffice.”
“As much as I am honoured to be invited to your home, to what do I owe the privilege?”
Fussington handed me a copy of that months Internet newspaper, an editorial article had been circled I read it with interest.
AMERICANS CLOSE TO BREAKING THE TIME BARRIER
An American upstart called Michelson has succeeded in measuring the speed of light. Other leading academics have previously stated the key to time travel is speed. Obviously now they know the speed of light they will keep building bigger and bigger steam engines until one travels fast enough, They obviously won’t let the fact that they haven’t broke the speed of sound yet stop them. We need a British Scientist to take up the mantle and break the time barrier first.
“Lord Fussington, I know it is our own publication but you do have to take a lot of what is in the internet, with a pinch of snuff. Only the other month, the editor ran a story where a man had a kidney stolen.” I explained.
“Really, a kidney, how did that happen?”
I told him what I had read a few months previously “Apparently he visited a local butcher’s emporium to buy his dinner for that evening, Two young ladies asked him for assistance and led him to a backstreet public house where he was hit over the head and when he awoke he found his meaty comestible, a kidney was missing.”
“Yes, Yes.” replied my host, “but have you read that, we must build our own machine, to that intent I am building a machine to travel through time.
“Do I have to go into details? The Physics are very complicated,” Lord Fussington explained.
I looked at my watch. “Perhaps not then, as the Trafalgar club are opening a vintage bottle of Port later and I wanted to be there….”
“Right I wont bother then, but I will tell you that I intend to name said machine ‘The Anachronistical Machine’ and we will be known as ‘Anachronisticnaughts’
I was unsure about both names. “But Lord Fussington, surely Time machine and perhaps Time-naughts or even Chrono-naughts.”
“Oh no that title would be too crude and obvious. Definitely The Anachronistical Machine….. but perhaps a better name for for us could be Anoraks.