Engines of Night Anthology by John Paul Catton

Engines of Night Anthology

Engines of Night Anthology by John Paul Catton (Dimensions Unknown #1)
English | 2020 | Fantasy | ePUB | 525 KB

Futures that never were … Yesterdays that are yet to be …A Spiritualist medium is hired to contact a deceased inventor with a shocking secret in Steampunk London …Sinister angels haunt the trenches of World War One … The darkness of the 1977 New York City Blackout conceals the awakening of an ancient evil entity …Six visions of alternative histories, plus four bonus stories, await you in this landmark issue!

This collection of novelettes and short stories is divided into two sections.

The first, entitled “The Futurist Manifesto”, is comprised of a number of alternative-history science fiction (with elements of pulp fantasy and horror) stories and novelettes that share themes, settings and sometimes characters. Steampunk, Dieselpunk, Atompunk; call them what you want, labels are not to be taken seriously.

The second section, “Word Salad”, contains short stories (written and published at various times during my writing career) with a more personal approach that have no related themes.

Walking through the cafe towards his table at a sedate pace, with an entourage of statuesque men and women following, was a figure he noted with resigned recognition. Of course. It had to be her.

She came closer, her eyes fixed upon Gregory. She wore a pale blue Battenberg city gown and touring hat, and carried a furled, carnation-colored parasol and matching lace fan. Her face was delicate, compact and fringed with immaculately coiffured, reddish-gold hair.

Lady Florence Padbury, the head of Imperial Counter-Intelligence, seated herself in genteel fashion at his table. “Mr. Gregory,” she said, “let’s try to behave like the ladies and gentlemen we are reputed to be.”

He breathed in deeply and attempted to match her confidence. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“First, there is something I wish you to see.” She waved a kid-gloved hand to the left, indicating the massive stone slab that dominated the cafe, fringed by ferns and palm leaves on either side.

“This is Mr. Garfield’s new memorial, that portrays the great automobile race of 1845. It fascinates me. You see the bas-relief of the Cugnot automobile’s steam turbine viewed from the front, and behind it, the mufflers and goggles of the driver and navigator. Carved in stone. Does it not seem dreadfully absurd, Mr. Gregory? Does it not seem a contradiction in terms?”

“I do wish you would get to the point,” Gregory said with a cough.

“A stone automobile, sir, that is my point. It is a logical contradiction. Marble is cold, brittle, silent, mineral. Automobiles are fast, noisy, warm, metallic.”

“The world is full of statues of the human form.”

“True, but we have had hundreds of years of becoming used to the convention of human sculpture. We do not find it queer to see a stone human figure and expect it to move and walk.”

Gregory indicated the swarthy fellows standing behind him. “Oh, I don’t know. Your bodyguards are doing a pretty good job.”

“And there’s always the tale of Don Giovanni, ma’am,” one of the bodyguards added with a slight bow.

Lady Padbury tapped the spike of her parasol on the flagstones. “We need a new way of seeing, Mr. Gregory. A new way of expressing this world of metal, of steam, of speed, of power. When I was a child, I remember my tutor showing me the daguerreotypes taken by Mr. Danelek from his hot-air balloon. The farms and the factories, the forests and the aqueducts. It was like looking at a completely new world. Soon construction will be finished on the Blackpool Tower, and this new world view will be available to all.”

“Unless the French beat you to it, with that replica they’re planning.”

Lady Padbury smiled.

A nervous waiter drew near and placed afternoon tea upon the filigreed ironwork of the table; scones, wafers, almond and vanilla slices, and crustless tomato and cucumber sandwiches cut into triangles. The waiter gave a nervous glance at the smiling men behind Gregory, bowed, and beat a hasty retreat.

“You should eat something, Mr. Gregory. You need to keep body and soul together.”

There was silence while Lady Padbury daintily poured tea into two china cups and applied marmalade and clotted cream to the scones.

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