Original piece by Gwendolyn Clare

To accommodate all the fun tropes of the steampunk genre, you have to be a little forgiving when it comes to the laws of physics. So I figured, why not be very forgiving? That’s how I arrived at the scientific discipline of scriptology.

A scriptologist can write a new world into a book, and in so doing create a pocket universe consistent with that description. Assuming the scriptologist hasn’t forgotten some critical property like time or oxygen, they can then open a portal to that world and interact with it as if it were real. Objects that exist inside a worldbook can be carried into the real world, and people born inside a scribed world can travel to Earth.

Even though scriptology is pure fantasy, I designed it to function as a science. I wanted to explored its implications — not just the ways it can solve problems, but also the ways it can generate them. Like any real technology, scriptology itself is neutral, and whether that power becomes beneficial or destructive depends entirely on who wields it.

As a scientist myself, I was keen on portraying the scientific process in a realistic fashion, and that turned out to be more of a tightrope walk than I’d expected. Truthfully, research is often composed of 10% intellectual work and 90% precision tedium — and that’s if your methods actually work, which is far from guaranteed. So from the standpoint of writing craft, it was a challenge to honestly portray the frustrations, setbacks, elations, and just plain long hours involved in science… all while making it exciting for the reader. Whether I succeeded is for you to decide.

I also wanted to illustrate the obsessively passionate relationship most scientists have to their chosen field. One of my favorite real-life mad geniuses is Rudolf Diesel, who nearly killed himself in a laboratory explosion while trying to invent an ammonia-based combustion engine. It was during his year-long convalescence afterward that he envisioned the petroleum-based engine which to this day bears his name. (And which, it should be noted, changed the world.)

After such an accident, a saner person might have lain in bed thinking, “Golly, that was a close one. Perhaps I should retire from this futile and dangerous endeavor.” But not our Diesel.

Ink, Iron, and Glass is my love letter to the mad scientists of the past. I wanted to give the intelligence and resources — and, yes, also the lack of self-preservation — of an inventor like Diesel to a bunch of teenagers.

Because that’s going to end well.

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