Buckle and the City of the Founders is my post-apocalyptic steampunk
novel about an airship
crew, the first installment in the Chronicles of the
Pneumatic Zeppelin series. Steampunk is
all about gadgets and some of my favorite gadgets in the Romulus Buckle universe
are the hats.
Hats, you say? Bowlers,
belfries, piths and stovepipes? Why,
yes. A zeppelin officer in the Snow World is much defined by his
or her Victorian-inspired topper and the hat is not only fashionable but
practical as well.
In my book, Captain Buckle wears a black
felt John Bull top hat elegantly festooned with steam tubes and small gizmos
such as a water compass, altimeter, mercury barometer, inclinometer,
thermohygrometer and banks of brass-geared devices that function fully only
when he is “plugged in” to the airship’s high-pressure steam spur lines. Once plugged in, Buckle’s hat can, at the tap
of a finger, lower a myriad of lenses and magnifiers to augment his goggles, display
an intricate clockwork artificial horizon or provide illumination.
The much-sought-after Snow World milliners and hatters who
design headgear for zeppelineers are also talented inventors, for they must
construct their steam-powered instruments in miniature (a clunky, bulky hat is unacceptable),
and are often asked to include built-in surprises such as single-shot weapons
or spring-loaded knife-flingers (Buckle has yet to use his topper as a weapon,
but you may safely assume that it harbors some concealed devices which may pop
up later in the series). Because of the
tethering nature of the steam spur lines, zeppelineer officers
and midshipmen tend to “plug in” only on longer voyages when they serve long
watches on the bridge. And since the
world is now locked in an ice age, the steam-infused hats radiate a comfortable
level of warmth—no small bonus when one is stuck inside the open-flanked
gondola of an airship running through freezing skies at eighty knots.
Welcome to the fantastical, perilous Snow World, where even
the pretty hats can be dangerous. --Richard Ellis Preston, Jr