Steampunk Gadgets: Enhancements

 

Having spent the better part of the last three years reading, researching, and writing steampunk, I have seen a LOT of interesting steampunk themed gadgets. Everything from steampunk styled computers and USB drives, to ornately designed costumes and props. Many of them have given me some ideas, not just for stories, but for some creative projects, should I ever get some free time to begin pursuing hobbies.

I am focusing on devices that enhance, or replace, body parts. My first attempt at capturing this type of device on paper was with a pirate that had only one eye. The other was replaced by a device that was able to sense movement, and body temperature. The idea at the time was that the technology was still new, and was not without its problems. If someone moved too quickly or too slowly, the eye had trouble registering it. The idea came to me while doing some research online, and coming across several photographs like this:

mechanical-eye

While not strictly Steampunk, photos like this inspired me to give Captain Drayton a dodgy artificial eye.

 

In a traditional historical adventure, my pirate would either wear an eyepatch, or simply allow the world to see his empty eye socket. But in a steampunk, or science fiction adventure, there are so many more options.  I am writing about a character in my WIP that ran afoul of some dangerous men, and lost a hand to them. Rather than accept a life without a hand, she now has an elaborate device that allows her close to full functionality of her old hand. The idea for that was inspired by the numerous costumes incorporating steampunk, or clockwork, prostheses. Depending on how the history of the world you create has developed, there is potential for some exciting replacement body parts for your characters.

steampunk-arm

Just about everyone has seen this photo floating around online. It was one of my inspirations for a character in my newest project.

In another project, elaborate prostheses inspired one of my characters to develop advanced automatons, which then leads to questions about the morality of creating machines that closely resemble humans. Is it right? Do automatons think and feel? If one is destroyed, is it a murder, or destruction of property?

Tying into my last post, photographs can be a great jumping off point when coming up with ideas for writing projects. just putting yourself into the mind of the person in the photo, imagining what they are thinking. Perhaps figuring out the logistics of how the prosthesis functions. Does it operate through the muscular contractions of the remaining portions of the limb? Is it powered via other means, such as clockwork? Or does it require the owner to operate buttons and switches for it to work properly?

With a goal to do more than just create steampunk prosthetics, I wanted to learn more about how they work and what the actual abilities and limitations of the devices are. Below are a couple of the websites I found while researching. Hopefully those interested in the topic will find them as informative as I did.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/prosthetic-limb.htm

https://www.humantechpando.com/how-does-a-prosthetic-leg-work/

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Writing Prompts

steampunkskyline

Create a world from a picture.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Or so I have heard. Occasionally I find myself at a loss for how to proceed in a given story, and I have found that sometimes a little writing prompt can help to get the creativity flowing again. Sometimes it involves looking at websites that offer writing prompts for those truly in need of inspiration (this includes me far more often than I’d like); sometimes I set up “what if?” scenarios in my head, and try to write my way into or out of the situation I create (Once I successfully got myself off of an imaginary deserted island); But the type of writing prompt I enjoy the most is the simplest: find a picture and write about it.

I find a picture to be the easiest way to get into the heads of my characters. I can more easily develop them if I can relate to them. I am more easily able to relate to them if I can visualize them. Or, at the very least, their world. This photo gave me a bit of inspiration earlier today, because it shows a world that is easy to create, to imagine; a world of two levels.

The first level is the easiest to see. It is a world of rooftops. Bridges and walkways connect the tops of the buildings, allowing a society to exist that may never need to visit the world below. Airships fly so close above the people, that they can almost reach out and touch the hulls of the ships as they pass overhead. It is not such a stretch of the imagination to envision lush rooftop gardens, forming lovely parks for those that live up above to spend their days, enjoying the fresh air. It is an existence available to those that can afford it. Tycoons and politicians overlooking the city, quite literally. It is an enviable life. However, this type of lifestyle belongs only to a privileged few. For the rest of the city, a darker existence awaits.

On the ground is the undercity. The laborers, the impoverished – they live here. It is a perpetual dusk, due in part to the shadows of the buildings that tower above them. Thick black smoke from factories contribute to the darkness of the world below. Men go from home, to work, to the local pub, and finally back home each day, their only respite from their bleak existence in the bottom of a mug. Women that can afford to, stay home, venturing out into the noxious dark to purchase the goods needed on a daily basis. Those that cannot afford to stay home go to the work houses each day, toiling away at machines from dawn to dusk.

The sooty fog that persists in the undercity obscures the poorly maintained buildings, the illicit activities of those not fortunate enough to find a legitimate means of earning a living. Law abiding citizens keep their heads down, try not to draw attention to themselves. What law enforcement there is spends most of their time following the more suspicious characters that stick to the alleys and quiet streets.

Those that live above are blissfully unaware of the suffering of those that live below. They don’t see the thick smog that flows through the streets below, nearly a liquid, it is so thick. No, the people above see themselves as living so high in the sky that they are looking down at the clouds below them. It is an existence that is to be envied, and they cannot imagine any other type of life.

The visual of the picture gave me some great ideas for stories, I may actually use a couple of them as I continue writing. Does anyone have any other writing prompt ideas they use when they need to help get the creative juices flowing?  I’d love to hear them.