#261: Research

I am almost certainly going to write a young adult steampunk novel this year, set mainly in Australia. At the moment, I’m in the research stage – very carefully not writing the plot until I know the world. I’m reading up on convicts, bushrangers, crinolines, gold, shipwrecks, Victoria, Australia’s inland lake (which doesn’t exist), manners, steam trains, and so on.

Wikipedia is really useful for getting an overview, and showing up the areas of my greatest ignorance. TV tropes are good for getting more familiar with the genre (I am of course also reading steampunk fiction). Cracked is good for mad science. Here’s some of what I’ve discovered so far (much of it will need confirmation from more reliable sources):

Rollerskates were invented some time before 1743 and were mildly popular in Victorian times (inline ones, at that).

Approximately 20% of Australia’s transportees were women.

The “Welcome Stranger” was the name given to the largest alluvial gold nugget found in the world, which was too big for any scales.

In 1824, permission was granted to change the name of the continent from “New Holland” to “Australia”

Ned Kelly was hung in 1880, the same year as a major exhibition in Melbourne.

Before being officially named Melbourne, the town had several interim names — including Batmania, Bearbrass, Bareport, Bareheep, Barehurp and Bareberp (in June 1835).

Modern scientists are working on making:

a) Mice that travel (and breed) at super speeds.

b) Monkeys that glow in the dark.

And then there’s this story: 

The Loch Ard departed England on 2 March 1878, bound for Melbourne, commanded by Captain Gibbs and with a crew of 17 men. It was carrying 37 passengers and assorted cargo. On 1 June, the ship was approaching Melbourne and expecting to sight land when it encountered heavy fog. Unable to see the Cape Otway lighthouse, the captain was unaware how close he was running to the coast. The fog lifted around 4am, revealing breakers and cliff faces. Captain Gibbs quickly ordered sail to be set to come about and get clear of the coast, but they were unable to do so in time, and ran aground on a reef. The masts and rigging came crashing down, killing some people on deck and preventing the lifeboats from being launched effectively. The ship sank within 10 or 15 minutes of striking the reef.

The only two survivors of the wreck were Eva Carmichael, who survived by clinging to a spar for five hours, and Thomas (Tom) R. Pearce, an apprentice who clung to the overturned hull of a lifeboat. Tom Pearce came ashore first, then heard Eva’s shouts and went back into the ocean to rescue her. They came ashore at what is now known as Loch Ard Gorge and sheltered there before seeking assistance. Ironically, Tom Pearce was the son of James Pearce, captain of the ill-fated SS Gothenburg.[1]

And here’s a pretty pretty picture taken from http://brassbolts.blogspot.com/ today.

Published by Felicity Banks Books

I write books (mainly adventure fantasy for kids and young adults), real-time twittertales, and a blog of Daily Awesomeness. @Louise_Curtis_ and http://twittertales.wordpress.com. My fantasy ebook is on sale at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/278981.

15 thoughts on “#261: Research

  1. A couple of interesting ones you may or may not have already read:


    http://manybooks.net/titles/vauxjother090600111.html (although this is 1812, much of it would have continued on into the late 19th century). I have another different one (printed) if you want to browse it for some fun words. Most of early Australian slang (and a lot of the slang we think of as typically Australian) is in this, from old London lower class slang.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_federation (Interesting to note that NSW and Qld were only just in favour of Federation, but Victoria was overwhelmingly in favour).


    1. W: Thank you very much! I cut and pasted all of them into my “to be researched” file.

  2. Melbourne was founded by John Batman, who took the incredibly unusual step of trying to legally rent the land that it sits on from the local Aborigines (He spoke several Aboriginal languages).
    This got him in trouble with the Governor, who wasn’t a fan of the notion that Aboriginals could own land.

    This, interestingly, has also made him a villain in recent times (more so than the people who shot Aborigines and took their land).
    I can’t quite understand why this is.

    Batman was already famous at that time for capturing the notorious bushranger Matthew Brady (captured by Batman, not bad) during his time as a professional Bounty Hunter.

    …Now go back and read that sentence again so as to fully absorb the Badass-ness of it…

    So say what you will about Melbourne, it is a city founded by Batman.

    (Actually, a friend of mine is in the electorate of Batman, where I believe votes are cast by punching one of two badguys…)

  3. Oh, and I’m forever calling Melbourne Bearbrass from now on. It’s so much more badass sounding, and *totally* in line with the arty, cultured vibe Bearbrass is aiming for.

  4. Really, W?
    Given the choice between ‘Batmania’ and ‘Bearbrass’, you think the SECOND one sounds more Badass…?

    1. Ben: I though most of them had an amusing implication of nudity. . . but apparently I was the only one who thought of that.

      1. Ben: I based mine on an early Chinese toy – easier to make (in my mind, at least). I’ll be working my way up to something more correct eventually, so thanks for the links.

      2. (…You are aware that you posted your reply for the ‘Steam Engine’ one in the wrong place again, right?…)

      3. Ben: nope, wasn’t aware. that wasn’t me, though; the site was doing odd things.

  5. Bearbrass works better for me because it doesn’t rely on modern popular culture (modern here being post-1930) to inform a 19th century coinage. Bearbrass is badass because it has bear, which is obviously a badass kind of animal, and brass, which is totally Vernesque and therefore proto-steampunk (yes, that’s a stretch but I don’t care).

    I also love the idea of a city of 4 million (or so) having a name that sounds more like a tiny little hamlet somewhere in the Yukon. Oddly enough, tiny little hamlets in the Yukon tend to have ironically large-sounding names like Dawson City.

    1. W: Hmm. I’m certainly thinking about using “Bearbrass”, because youd do make excellent points.

  6. I love the story of Edward Hargraves, who may or may not have found a hell of a lot of Gold, got paid by the government a large sum of money anyway and created his own town (Noraville, Central Coast, NSW) and was paid a large pension for the rest of his life (even though by all accounts he was independantly very wealthy)….Where did all that gold go? no one is sure…

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