Original piece by Gwendolyn Clare

Ink, Iron, and Glass draws heavily on the culture and landscape of Italy. I chose Italy as a setting in part because I’m Italian on my mother’s side (Sicilian and Neapolitan, to be precise), and I’ve done a fair bit of traveling there. But mostly I was tired of London.

Victorian London seems to be the default city for steampunk. Not that it didn’t have a lot to recommend it… Industrial smog so thick it no longer mattered if the weather was overcast. The Thames functioning more as an open-air sewer than as a river. And the ramrod-straight social mores, of course. What’s not to love?

Despite these alluring features, I wanted to explore a somewhat less-well-trod setting in Ink, Iron, and Glass. Elsewhere in the world, interesting things were afoot in the latter half of the 1800’s. While the British were still basking comfortably in the tail-end of their imperial era, the Continent was already struggling to redefine itself politically and socially. Italy, trapped between France and the Austrian Empire, was literally in pieces.

Enter Giuseppe Garibaldi. A general for the King of Sardinia, Garibaldi combined battle prowess and tactical knowledge with a passion for the idea of a unified Italy. He personally conducted many of the key military operations during the period of Italian unification, and he is to this day considered a forefather of the country. Here was one of those curious places in history where the actions of a single man changed the future for millions.

So, naturally, Garibaldi had to go. I set fire to his tall ships in 1860 with Archimedes mirrors, putting a halt to the Italian Resurgence before it ever really began. Ink, Iron, and Glass takes place thirty years later, in a divided Italy that still yearns for freedom. And there’s a setting I’m fairly sure you haven’t seen before.

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