I'm thrilled to report that I've just acquired a fantastic new steampunk tale, Mark Hodder's Burton & Swinburne in The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, the first of a planned new series. It's also the first Victorian-set steampunk I've acquired, (as opposed to Weird West, 1920s era America, or a secondary-world fantasy settings). I have been looking for a Victorian novel that would stand out from the crowd, and I was immediately drawn to the way in which Mark justified the steampunk elements of his uchronia, which all descend from a certain key change in our own history (rather than simply being used as set dressing). The worldbuilding is exceptionally well thought out, and I can't wait to, pardon the pun, spring it on the US in fall 2010 (or thereabouts; it's not scheduled yet). Here's the book description:
It is 1861, and the British Empire is in the grip of conflicting forces. Engineers transform the landscape with bigger, faster, noisier and dirtier technological wonders; Eugenicists develop specialist animals to provide unpaid labour; Libertines oppose restrictive and unjust laws and flood the country with propaganda demanding a society based on beauty and creativity; while The Rakes push the boundaries of human behaviour to the limits with magic, sexuality, drugs and anarchy.
Returning from his failed expedition to find the source of the Nile, explorer, linguist, scholar and swordsman Sir Richard Francis Burton finds himself sucked into the perilous depths of this moral and ethical vacuum when the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, employs him as “King's Spy.” His first mission: to investigate the sexual assaults committed by a weird apparition known as Spring Heeled Jack; to find out why chimney sweeps are being kidnapped by half-man, half-dog creatures; and to discover the whereabouts of his badly injured ex-friend (and new enemy), John Hanning Speke.
Accompanied by the diminutive and pain-loving poet, Algernon Swinburne, Burton's investigations lead him back to one of the defining events of the age: the brutal assassination of Queen Victoria in 1840; and the terrifying possibility that the world he inhabits shouldn't exist at all!
Mark Hodder is the creator and caretaker of the BLAKIANA website (www.sextonblake.co.uk), which he designed to celebrate and revive Sexton Blake, the most written about detective in English publishing history (thought to be the second most written about character in the English language). It was on this website that he cut his teeth as a writer of fiction; producing the first new Sexton Blake tales to be written for forty years. A former BBC writer, editor and web producer, Mark has worked in all the new and traditional medias and was based in London for most of his working life until 2008, when he relocated to Valencia in Spain to de-stress, teach the English language, and write novels. He has a degree in Cultural Studies and loves history, delusions, gadgets, cult TV, Tom Waits, and assorted oddities.