Friday, 9 August 2013

Kickstarter Spotlight: Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens

In past Kickstarter Spotlights we've looked at tabletop games, card games, video game pitches and franchise reboots. What we've not done is something non-interactive or driven purely by the strength of its story, so here's today's subject.

Clockwork Universe is to be an anthology of tales which are exactly what it says on the tin, a mishmash of Girl Genius and War of the Worlds. Set in a universe where technology went the way of the boiler rather than moving onto AC/DC currents, your common or garden steampunk civilization covers a good chunk of the globe. With Victorian sensibilities, clothing, aesthetics and attitudes; they're none too happy when a alien civilisation opts to make first contact and soon a full scale war erupts. 

If this sounds like it's embracing more than a few overused tropes and generic fantasy details from that short description, that's intentional. As the kickstarter page advertises, this is a collection of stories "inspired by the classic science fiction adventure tales of the nineteenth century." As such it seems to be trying to capture the feel and approach of much older tales in terms of its setting if not also its narrative. Admittedly, they might also have that but I can't see a modern day author truly capturing the style of H.P. Lovecraft or H.G. Wells.

The authors involved themselves are a major selling point of the crowd funding project. Those involved consist of some talented and fairly well known people, many of which have been major awards for their works. The more recognisable names involved are Bradley Beaulieu, writer of The Winds of Khalakovo, Scott Lynch, writer of The Lies of Locke Lamora, and Gail Martin, writer of The Chronicles of the Necromancer series. Others also involved have had some definite experience with steampunk settings and dark fantasy, notably Caitlin Kittredge for her ongoing Iron Codex series. All involved have had books of relatively high opinion or acclaim to their works, one i'm personally exited about being involved is Ian Tregillis after reading The Coldest War
As a result of the level of talent behind the book, there's a decent chance we'll be seeing content of a high enough quality that you can judge the anthology by its cover.

The odd thing is about this project is it's already funded, and its later stretch goals don't look too interesting overall, yet i'd still recommend backing it. Many of the rewards involved would be of interest to anyone wanting to pick up the anthology, which range from being gifted copies when it is distributed to having their names put in the books. Many of the highest and moderately high tier rewards are still available, namely those above $250. Also, a number of rewards offer other books the authors have been involved with, which is a obvious but good bonus for a literary kickstarter project.

If there is one problem to criticise beyond the usual potential problems which come with printing and distribution, it's the lack of detail and shipping date. The actual synopsis is only bare bones. There's little to actually give any real indication of what the setting will be like beyond the vaguest of terms or why it might stand out from other settings trying to emulate classic science fiction. Furthermore the actual shipping date is quite late, close to ten months from now at May 2014 meaning you would be left waiting a long time to get your hands on a copy as a backer.
Other problems mentioned on the page also emphasis the potential of an author being forced to leave the project. As such if you're only backing it due to one person you might end up disappointed a few months down the line.

In fairness you only have to contribute $15 to gain an ebook copy and with all that talent involved it's an easy thing to back. It's a project i'd suggest looking at if the basic idea of seeing Martian walkers fighting steam powered warships is enough to pique your interest. Just make sure to read everything before you support it.

The Kickstarter page can be found here and the publisher's website can be found here. Links to the author's websites and further details on their works can be found on the main page.

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