Thaddeus S. C. Lowe and the Steampunk Space Race

So I’ve got this problem see? A little over a year ago I had the idea for a story. Like many of my story ideas it was crazy, weird, and difficult to catagorize into a specific genre. (By the by, I’m petitioning for “crazy, weird, and difficult to categorize into a specific genre” to be it’s own genre, but so far, no luck.)

The basic premise of the story was this: wouldn’t it be neat if there was a space race between the North and South during the American Civil War?

Don’t laugh. It’s not as outlandish as it sounds.

Okay, yes. It’s exactly as outlandish as it sounds. But the the idea was to write a story that seemed believable, a kind of non-fiction account of an alternate history of the Civil War with a dash of steampunk thrown in for good measure.

I wanted to make the story as believable as possible, so I started doing some research into the flight technologies of the era, which were mostly limited to balloons and maybe a few gliders. Almost immediately I stumbled across a gentleman named Thaddeus Sobieski Coulincourt Lowe, a pioneer in the field of aeronotics and head of the Union army’s balloon corps.

When I read Mr. Lowe’s story something clicked in my head. “That’s my guy,” I thought. “He’s the one I’m going to build this story around.”

Why? Well, for starters his name is Thaddeus Sobieski Coulincourt Lowe. If that doesn’t scream EPIC right in your ear then I don’t know what will.

Thaddeus was a self-made scientist and balloonist. He rose from humbled beginnings and eventually became recognized by the scientific community as an expert in his field. When the Civil War started, Thaddeus demonstrated how the use of balloons could greatly enhance the army’s ability to gather inteligence regarding the movement of enemy troops. Despite stiff competition from several other noted baloonists, Thaddeus was eventually offered the position as head of the Union balloon corps where he served until 1863 at which point questions about the effectiveness of the balloon corps were raised, and Lowe resigned in disgust. A few short months later, Thaddeus recieved a letter from a mysterious gentleman who claimed to represent the interests of the Southern forces which proposed Lowe come to work on a project of far larger scope: the building of a device which would “gain far greater heights than a balloon ever could.”

No, wait. That last part didn’t actually happen. I made that up. Because, hey, I’m a writer. That’s what I do.

The problem is that, to a certain extent, I’m writing about real people in real history which means…deep breath, I can do this…research.

I mean really, I graduated high school for a reason you guys.

And sure, I could just go ahead and fabricate whatever I want to. I mean it’s not like anyone’s going to get bent out of shape that my book about space flight during the Civil War is historically inaccurate, but…darn it if these Civil War balloonist guys aren’t the kookiest, craziest, most egotistical nutcases you’ve ever seen in your life. Even if I wanted to just make it all up, I don’t think I could make up anything as interesting as what actually happened.

I’m still planning to go ahead with the book, but it’s going to take me longer than I initially expected. I’m going to have to dig up all the facts I can about Thaddeus S. C. Lowe and his wacky contemporaries. Something about this is starting to smell a lot like work.

But you know what? I’m kind of looking forward to it.

14 responses to “Thaddeus S. C. Lowe and the Steampunk Space Race

  1. I’d so read it, I love the Civil War, bit of a fanatic about it if truth be told. And your idea just sounds so much fun!

  2. I actually love doing research. Love it. My problem is I could spend forever reading historical stuff.

    I like your idea, I love your MC.

    The thing that always blew my mind was that submarines were invented at this time “for” the war effort (with disaster after disaster, which makes for good stories and body count).

    • Actually I’m being a little melodramatic about the research thing. In truth I find it all quite fascinating. It’s just the fact that it slows me down, that gets to me. I’m more of a “jump into it and see where it takes you” kind of guy. But for this book I’ve already got an outline, and I’ve still got more research to do.

      • When you get rich and famous, hire me to be your research bitch…just realize I may end up going off on tangents of correlational stuff 🙂

  3. If they can have books like “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” AND “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”, then I don’t see why you would worry about your idea. No, I am not joking or teasing. It’s a good idea.

    Research. Yep, you really have to do it. Unless you know anything about a certain subject, you have to research. Hence why I can’t write any stories about living in New York City. Never been. And don’t want to do the research.

    • To me, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (and its kin) felt like kind of a gimmick. I mean it was a good gimmick, seeing as how I bought the book myself, but I didn’t think it was meant to be taken all the seriously. As far as Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter goes, I can’t comment because I haven’t read it. It might be closer to what I have in mind.
      I really think there’s a compelling story that can be told here in spite of the weird angle I’m taking. I don’t want it to get swallowed up in foolishness.

      • I have not read any of them, so I can’t say. Just the titles along made me wonder at why anyone would do it….

        But your actual plot sound feasible. And I honestly don’t thing foolish is really up there. 🙂

  4. I have often thought how very it would be to see someone from the past react to the present like George Washington or Thomas Edison or an ancient king. Kind of a reverse of you idea.

  5. how very interesting – ooops

  6. Research is one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing for me. Dig in and have some fun!

  7. Cool! I love Steampunk! And some of the Victorian-era fashions, especially from ~1875 to 1885. Sounds like it would be fun to write! Good luck!

  8. Research is necessary sometimes. Is there a way to avoid it?

  9. So true that history is often weirder than anything we could make up. It’s inspiring. Especially names like Thaddeus Sobieski Coulincourt Lowe.
    Your novel is going to be awesome.

  10. Pingback: Quitting Time « Albert Berg's Unsanity Files

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s