A Miscellany of Steampunk

THE SOLARIS ILLUSTRATED GAZETTE
-:: Providing The News To Her Majesty’s Empire & It’s Off-World Colonies ::-
- London, New York, Calcutta, Wubble . . . . January 9th 1874 -

We at The Solaris Illustrated Gazette are proud to announce the beginning of a new weekly series by our resident illustrative journalist, Lorelei Geist. Our readers may recall her unprecedentedly successful “War In The Aether” series exposing the true extend of the Martian Rebellion, the Ionian involvement in it’s instigation and the military atrocities committed by all sides, and unfortunate legal brouhaha that followed our publication of her reports.


As the result of ongoing sanctions relating to that publication and Miss Geist’s controversial political involvement with the newly liberated Princely States of East India, Her Majesty’s Government has requested that The Solaris Illustrated Gazette restrict any further publications of Miss Geist’s material to strictly non-political subjects.

As such, The Solaris Illustrated Gazette has commissioned Miss Geist to document the peoples of Her Majesty’s Empire – the great and the good, the lowly worker and the rising stars, Terrans and Off-Worlders – as part of her new series, “A Miscellany of Steampunkery”. Each week our readers will see a new example of those who make up our society and read a little of their story.

We are sure that Her Majesty’s Government will agree that there could be no political motive in such a innocuous and socially-improving endeavor.

A censored, Ministry approved anthology of the “War In The Aether” series is available for purchase directly from The Solaris Illustrated Gazette offices in London, New York, Calcutta, Johannesburg and Oslo.

N.B. The “War In The Aether” remains a restricted item within the Martian, Venusian and Ioian colonies. As such it cannot be shipped to any location therein.

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THE XENOBOTANIST

As the youngest and smallest of our off-world colonies Venus has developed a certain frontier romance about it, which visits to the planet’s make-shift settlements do little to dispel. Free from the impositions of the social class structures seen in more established colonies, the communities here can seem shockingly informal to the uninitiated. The small population is chiefly composed of scientists, artists and adventurers, most of whom are too intent upon furthering their own great works to worry to closely about social mores. One would normally expect such a permissive, isolated colony, without the benefit of any police or military presence, to have descended into brigandry, vice and excess; as happened in the early days of the colonies on Io and Mars. However on Venus this is not the case, instead one finds a peaceful, cooperative community free from troubles from outlaws or miscreants. Indeed, in its twelve year history, there has been only one recorded robbery.

No doubt you are now either shaking your head in disbelief or wondering how we can transplant the Venusian ways to our own troubled cities. Sadly, however, the cause of these peaceful ways is unique to Venus and unlikely to be implemented here. For in fact, the cause is the unique plant life found on Venus, and the atmosphere of the planet itself.

As you may recall, the first three exploratory missions to Venus were lost without sign or trace almost immediately upon their entering the planets dense and humid atmosphere. The purpose of those missions had been chiefly military, organised as they were to hunt for the Martian projectiles that had previously been seen heading towards that planet. It was only when Dr Otterthorpe of the York Institute of Aetheric Exploration mounted his scientific mission, against the advice of Whitehall, that a successful landing was achieved. Venus was found to be completely forested beneath the opaque canopy of its atmosphere, without any significant bodies of water and to their surprise the Otterthorpe mission found that they were expected.

Venusian plant life is sentient and highly advanced. Each species has specialised to perform specific tasks within their communities- plants have been found which can analyse sound, some act as eyes and lenses, others extract elements from the atmosphere or purify waste. In this way the forest functions in much the same fashion as a large city, thousands of tiny cogs working together to achieve greater goals. And some of the plants have made it their business to watch the events in space and on the other planets. The military missions to Venus, by both Martians and Humans, were treated as threats to Venusian peace and dealt with in much the same way as we would have dealt with attacks upon our own dear planet.

The Otterthorpe mission was judged to be peaceful in intent and as such the forest allowed them the opportunity to negotiate for access to the planet and its resources. The continuing success of the Venusian colony is a testament to their success. Every element of life on Venus for the Human colonists has been negotiated with the surrounding plant life by the resident Xenobotanists, chief of whom is Lauren Ormskirk, the subject of these week’s portrait.

It is the Xenobotanists’ role to listen to the forest, negotiate the terms for any change or expansion and to accompany exploration parties as translator and guide. The exceedingly humid atmosphere and oppressive temperatures on Venus requires all its inhabitants to adopt a mode of dress that would be considered quite scandalous in the civilised regions of Earth and the other, colder off-world colonies. Very little is required for a successful expedition into the Venusian forests- food and water can be obtained readily upon request from the correct tree or shrub, there is no need for machetes or axes as the trees will simply step aside to clear a path, and as there is no animal or insect life within the forest, and the weather is constant, the need for tent or shelter is quite removed. However, small personal communicators are worn to reduce to the risk of parties being separated by the low visibility within the forest mists, and heavily waterproofed scientific recording devices are carried by all colonists.

The forest itself maintains the peace within the colonies, allowing the Human inhabitants to be free of concerns regarding security or law enforcement. A message can cross a hundred miles of forest in a matter of minutes and anyone breaking the laws of the Venus can be caught just ass quickly. The one robbery every committed on Venus was attempted by a man who was found, suspended 50 feet from the ground by vines and creepers, only three minutes after the crime was discovered.

Some would no doubt find it unnerving to place such authority in the hands, or rather leaves, of an alien intelligence, but here on Venus, amongst the preoccupied scientists and dreamy artists, the system is most successful.

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————————————–

THE NAVIGATOR

No doubt our loyal readers have noticed the many weeks of empty space. The Solaris Illustrated Gazette offers it sincere apologies for the absence of our tresident illustrative journalist, Lorelei Geist. We are told that the reasons for her absence are a thrilling and meandering tale involving temporary blindness, shanghaied aetherships, mistake identities, abducted diplomats, catastrophic difference engine failures and missing cargo liners, ultimately culminating in our reporter finding herself marooned on a mountain top somewhere in the Northern Appalachians. Unfortunately, like so many of Miss Geist’s “adventures”, the full details cannot be published at this time, by order of Her Majesty’s Government.

However, Miss Geist has submitted the following report and image along with a flimsy promise to fulfill her obligations by providing the rest of the “Miscellany of Steampunk” in the near future. We at The Solaris Illustrated Gazette eagerly awaiting further submissions, preferably in conjunction with a justification of the shocking state of Miss Geist’s expense account.

Whilst the lives of our off-world brethren are indeed fascinating we should not forget those wonderful individuals who make up our society closer to home. Recently I found myself at an airship port located high in the Appalachian mountains without any means of transportation. However, I was fortunate enough to be invited aboard the Airship Cassandra by the resident navigator Lunabelle Fleet, for what would prove to be very unusual voyage.

Airship docks and ports are very best places to meet the most intriguing people, Miss Lunabelle Fleet being a prime example of the unique individuals employed in the airship trade. Unlike the traditional shipping trade, which remains mostly a male domain, the airship trade has taken full advantage of lighter frames of our fair sex and only a very foolish captain would reject a new crewmate for the sole reason of being female. It is also fairly common for crews to contain many members from unusual or unexpected backgrounds, as the airship trade has yet to develop the traditions and customs associated with our more established methods of transport. On any airship dock one can expect to meet gentlemen turned captain, artists working as engineers and musicians acting as deck hands.

However, upon meeting a navigator, one expects that the individual concerned will be capable of navigation, or at the very least able to read a map and distinguish north from south. In this area Miss Fleet is unique, as never before have I encountered a navigator who is completely incapable of navigation. Fortunately for Miss Fleet, the wonders of our modern age are readily embraced by the airship community, and her father, the famous L.V. Fleet, happens to be the inventor of the NaviGatrix. Equipped with Barometron, Altimetron and AviariForm Antennae, the NaviGatrix is capable of transmitting readings to the ship’s helm via radio signal, thus providing all the services of a human navigator.

Regrettably the NaviGatrix had ceased to function several weeks before I was invited aboard the Airship Cassandra. This fact only became apparent after our voyage took us passed the same small village four times in the course of two days. It was at this point that the captain explained that the title of “navigator” is more honourific than fact, and that Lunabelle Fleet is in fact better known for her dancing than her directional knowledge. Fortunately for the crew, Miss Fleet’s dancing skills far surpass those of of mere opera and ballet dancers, and she is able to earn enough money to keep the Airship Cassandra on its merry meandering way.

Thus it was that I came to spend three weeks aboard the good ship Cassandra, attending a great many impromptu dance recitals in a wide variety of towns and viewing the glorious countryside of the Northern Appalachians from the comfort of the airship’s deck. (Frequently the same area of countryside from several different directions. I am told that we finally reached New York solely by accident.) If you are lucky enough to have the Airship Cassandra stop in your town, I urge you to attend any performance Miss Lunabelle Fleet should stage, as you will doubtlessly never see another performance of its kind again… mostly likely because the ship is unable to find its way back to you.

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