Heart fire; and Steampunk: imagined histories and technologies of science and fantasy

Carol Ryles

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Heart Fire

The novel Heart Fire addresses steampunk’s darker side from the perspective of rebellious commoners battling a demon-haunted scientist and deadly automatons.

In the city of Forsham, all people are born with magic of varying degrees. The upper classes have been bred to have potentially destructive heart-magic, while the lower classes are supposedly left with weak and manageable skin-magic. Disaster strikes when factory owner, Sir Mathias Grindle – a mage without power – consorts with demons and attempts to elevate his position by eliminating all heart-magic.

Ju Weatherton is a commoner with too much magic who vows to overthrow the mages who suppress her. She joins forces with an outcast shapeshifter and a misfit dandy when another shapeshifter turned to stone in a human woman’s womb tricks her into facing Sir Mathias’s demons. Meanwhile Sir Mathias’s soul-stealing automatons terrorize Forsham’s skies, tearing out people’s heart-magic to transplant it into machines to provide them with perpetual motion.

The novel explores class oppression, Otherness, the use and misuse of technology in a pseudo-Victorian otherworld alongside the themes of friendship, trust, love, loss, grief and betrayal.

Steampunk: Imagined Histories and Technologies of Science and Fantasy

With reference to James P. Blaylock’s Homunculus, China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station and Ekaterina Sedia’s The Alchemy of Stone, this exegesis explores the writing of Heart Fire as a steampunk text from the perspective of a writer in the genre of fantasy. It argues that steampunk is not limited to texts representing steamdriven machinery, but also includes fantastical texts that rely on pseudo-Victorianism often set in imaginary worlds characterized by anachronism, pseudoscience, technofantasy, magic, hybridity and imagined events inspired by science fictional history as well as real history.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


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