By Anna Blackwell (July 2020, age 12)

    Glen Alken walked down the cracked concrete roads of the crumbling city of WellingHall. Beside him his faithful dog, a Doberman Pinscher with the simple name of Tucker, walked beside him.

    It was the year 2007, only a year ago the Great War ended. In the year 1712 scientists began using steam to power machines. Later on in time, scientist tried using internal combustion but it ended up in complete failure and disaster.

    For centuries later people used steam for most of the worlds technology, but in the year 1992 Muslim terrorists got their hands on the secret American blue prints of combat wolves (large steam powered walkers) with these blue prints they made millions of these death machines and used it against America.

    The Americans called the British, Canadians, French , and Germany for backup. While the terrorist called their backup from places like China and the Korea.

    And so World war I occurred.

    Glen Alken had been a war recruit in the American army making him a seasoned warrior in the art of combat. But by the time the war had ended America was a disaster. Glen had found Tucker among the ruins of New York City. Since then the two have been together after Glen quit the army and entered the torn world as a mercenary.

    He and Tucker had found their way to WellingHall which used to be a tall proud city but was now mostly ruins, only a few buildings were in one piece.

    Slinging his rucksack over his back, he continued on down the road, Tucker following . A thick mist was high in the air, blocking most of Glen’s vision of what was ahead.

    A lady, holding a girl's hand stepped out of the mist . Glen smiled a little to himself as the girl politely waved to him. Tucker wagged his tail at the two. Farther up ahead the city seemed more populated than at the beginning of the city, many of the men standing around stepped protectively closer to their families when they noticed on Glens belt was a weapon, a clockwork gearsword .

    “They have a good right to be scared.” Glen thought to himself. “Someone with a gearsword is not to be messed with.

    A gearsword is not dissimilar to a chainsaw, though gearswords are clockwork and lighter and less clunky, making them easy to use. To use one was simple. All you had to do was wind it up like a clock and place the brake on, then once you have to do a bit of action just release the brake.

    A lady wearing a pretty red dress stepped away from Glen in slight fear. Glen gave her a warm smile to tell he wasn’t going to hurt her. She only stepped more away.

    “Maybe Tucker is frightening her.” Glen thought to himself.

    Just then a loud racket came from ahead. Tucker began to growl, Glen put his hand on the hilt of his GearSword. “That’s no steam carriage.” He said. Suddenly a with a noise louder than 50 fireworks together, a large machine came out of the mist like a bullet. It had the appearance of a pirate ship, but it had giant tank treads to move it and two hideously large spinning blades were at its’ front.

    Glen and Tucker jumped out of the way just in time before the giant ship could have crushed them. Just then it stopped right in its tracks. Glen noticed a man standing on the prow of the vehicle.

    “No one move or you're as good as dead.” He shouted at the frightened citizens. Then with a wave of his hand a horde of men leaped out of the ship onto the ground, the man followed after them.

    “I am Black Eye the Mighty and I will have to ask all of you to hand over your valuables.”he said a evil glint in his eye. “How about you pretty girl.” He said pointing at the lady with the red dress, her face turned pale and she backed off.

    “Come now prettiness, I am not gonna hurt you.” He wickedly said walking toward her.”Just give me your valuables, like that ruby necklace you have there.”

    Glen advance over to Black Eye shouting”she is not doing that swine!”

    Black Eye turned around to face Glen”Who do you think you're talking to blonde?”Anger deep in his voice.

    “Nothing but a scoundrel,” Glen said.

    “Oh really!” Black Eye shouted drawing his ray gun and fired at Glen. It was a near miss, Glen felt the heat of the ray zip past his neck. He drew his gearsword. “Away to me, Tucker.” He ordered at Tucker who launched himself at the nearest thug. Releasing the brake Glen jumped at Black Eye who drew his own sword.

    The two had a rough struggle until Glen was finally on the ground but just before the strike fell the lady who Glen tried to save, hit Black Eye on the head hard with her hat.

    “ You clam faced…” Black Eyed shouted turning towards the lady pushing her backwards but it was just the distraction Glen needed with a swipe he cut Black Eye’s left eye. He roared in pain.

    “Mercy I implore you !” Black howled. “Don’t slay me Please!”

    “If I don’t will you never come here again?” Glen asked angrily.

    “Yes, yes, yes! I won’t come back!” Black Eye whined.

    “Then leave.” Glen said” and order your men to let my dog go.” Tucker was at the moment too at the mercy of Black Eye’s thugs.

“Alright I will.” Black Eye said still clutching his left eye waving with his right hand at his men to drop Tucker.

    Letting Black Eye get up, Glen patted Tucker as he ran up to Glen. Black Eye walked over to his ship but once he looked back at Glen a tricksters glint was in his right eye.

    “You have made a enemy for life.” he said a chuckle at the back of his throat.

    Glen didn’t take his eyes of the ship until it totally disappeared. He helped the lady up.

    “Thank you stranger.” She said.

    “Please call me Glen.”


The End


Book Review: Lord of the World

Review by Godfrey Blackwell

Title: Lord of the World
Author: Msgr Robert Hugh Benson
Publisher: Novelbooks
Godfrey's Rating: 5 stars our of 5
Summary in a Sentence: A dystopian near-future novel about the rise of socialism, atheism, and ultimately the Antichrist; 1984 and Brave New World combined from a Catholic perspective and more accurate/prophetic than either work.

This is a novel that's been recommended to me many times and after finally reading it, I can't believe I didn't read it sooner. This work is a MUST READ for everyone, even moreso than the classics 1984 and Brave New World (which I think are very important) for its Catholic perspective which allows for a deeper understanding of all that is happening in our world.

As suggested above, where 1984 is a cautionary tale that depicts a world that "might have been", Lord of the World presents a prophetic description of what is happening to a certain extent in our current times. It is powerful because of its accuracy -- indeed Msgr Benson's nighmare world is daily becoming more reality before our eyes -- helps one understand the modern world, be forearmed against its blandishments, and is also encouraging to the Christian reader worn down by the events of our time.

The novel follows two main storylines, one that follows Father Percy Franklin, an English Catholic priest (for the Catholic perspective on things going on) and a parallel story following Oliver Brand an influential Labour MP and his wife Mabel (for the atheist/socialist perspective). At the beginning of the novel the world is on the brink of world war and catastrophe, when the enigmatic Julian Felsenburgh enters the world stage, saves the world from disaster and is ultimately elevated to a sort of ruler of a one-world government.

Having been written by a Catholic priest, Lord of the World describes a world where secularism and godless humanism have triumphed over traditional morality, yet without any graphic or salacious portions (as found in Orwell's and Huxley's works) to disturb the reader. The only barrier to younger readers is that the text is rather dense and it is serious reading.

The characters are very balanced and real, there are no caricatures and Msgr. Benson deals fairly with the anti-Catholic characters. The work does an amazing job of explaining theological truths and portraying Catholic worship and mental prayer without seeming to be too preachy. The work does tend to drag in a few sections of lengthy exposition (as was the style in the early 1900s) but on the whole, despite not having a lot of "action" is still a very engaging work. I cannot recommend it enough.

For those like me who don't have a lot of time to read, but can listen while commuting, Audible has a version read by Simon Vance which is excellent aside from Mr. Vance's pronunciation of Ecclesiastical Latin.



By Godfrey Blackwell

     Colonel John Blackdowne was an interesting character. Father Percy Grey watched the massive retired army officer over his glass of port as the officers of the CSS Pembroke, a packet air steamer out of Hamilton, lingered over cigars in the officer’s mess. Colonel Blackdowne was muscular and almost brutish in appearance, with heavy brows, a rugged angular jaw, and rough hands like a miner’s. Yet he was dressed impeccably in the latest style with a yellow waistcoat, silk cravat, and frock coat nearly the shade of Father Grey’s port. Colonel Blackdowne spoke in a subdued manner between puffs of his cigar and Percy knew that he greatly understated such exploits as the officers could pry form him — for Percy knew well this retired officer’s career.

     Colonel Blackdowne had most famously commanded the miraculous victory at Paardeberg where British and Canadian troops, outnumbered and outgunned with only infantry faced a force accompanied by a pair of steam walkers with volor air support. Against all odds, the Imperial troops had won the day and turned the tide of the Great African War.

     Many had thought he’d go on to great heights in the service of His Brittanic Majesty, yet at the age of forty-five he’d suddenly retired. And now here he was on a packet steamer headed back to the Dominion of Canada as the fellow passenger of the Catholic priest who’d taken the cheapest and fastest way over the Atlantic to report to the Archbishop of Québec on the news he’d received about the rumblings of renewed anti-Catholic republican sentiment in Napoleon IV’s French Empire.

     “Colonel Blackdowne,” Father Grey said. “You’re far too humble, good sir. In fact, I can’t help but wonder at a war hero of your esteem travelling on a packet air steamer.”

     Blackdowne took a puff on his cigar before responding. “And you father? The secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury not on a private volor?”

     The retired colonel was very well informed, another surprise. It was Percy’s turn to delay by taking a sip of port. In fact, the Catholic Church’s finances were in dire straits and even more so in the British Empire. This was not public knowledge; it was, in fact, a closely guarded secret.

     “I try to be responsible with the faithful’s contributions.”

     “Most admirable,” Colonel Blackdowne said.

     “A frugal priest, that’d make a stuffed bird laugh!” Captain Cavendish, the air steamer’s skipper laughed loudly and the company moved on to other topics.


     In fact, Fr. Grey knew that the colonel was aboard on some sort of mission of his own, not merely sightseeing in his retirement. Percy had overheard — well, if he was honest about it, he *had* been listening in on a conversation that wasn’t wholly his business — when Colonel Blackdowne’s passage was arranged. ‘Was arranged’ was accurate, for Blackdowne hadn’t booked it himself; there had been a soft-spoken lady making the arrangements with the first mate.

     Blackdowne had seemed very protective of the lady and unhappy that she was making the arrangements herself, but aside from a brief comment in that regard held his tongue. It seemed that there was some very important cargo that the colonel was accompanying.

     As Father Grey took in the frigid night air, wrapped in his furs out on the gondola’s viewing gallery, he couldn’t help but wonder greatly at what the cargo might me. He finished the last of his cigar and threw it overboard to fall into the Atlantic far below and with a sigh reached for his breviary.

     He had just stepped inside to pray his office when he saw Jones, J. the second engineer’s mate, clattering up the staircase from the hold. Such was his mad rush that he nearly bowled the priest over.

     “Mr. Jones, what’s the matter?” Father Grey said, grabbing a handrail to steady them both.

     “Begging your pardon, Father,” the engineer’s mate puffed in his heavy Welsh accent. “But it’s that colonel, he’s gone orf his chump!”

     “What nonsense is this?”

     “I think he’s going to blow up the ship!” Jones rushed to an intercom station and grabbed the handset. As he began cranking, Father Grey grabbed his arm.

     “Where is he?”

     “In the hold, Father.” Then Jones began jabbering into the intercom.

     Father Grey rushed down the stairs, nearly tripping on first his cassock and then his furs, which he cast aside. As he neared the main hold, a trio of sailors had already taken up positions to either side of the entry hatch, armed with spanners.

     “What’s the meaning of all this?” Father Grey demanded.

     “‘e’s holed up in there,” Jones, D., another Welshman said. “Jones — the other Jones, said he’s got a bomb.”

     “Yes, he did say he thought the ship would blow up.”

     “Said he heard it ticking,” Jones, D. said.

     “Hmmmm, now what …?” Ticking; that reminded the priest of something. Something from that meeting he overheard.

     By now, several other ratings were coming clattering down the passageway from either direction, these ones armed with pistols and one with a scatter gun.

     “Is he armed?” Percy asked.

     “Pretty, sure,” Jones, D. said.

     Percy took a deep breath. “I’m going to go speak to him. There’s got to be more to this. Colonel Blackdowne isn’t some lunatic; I know enough of the man to be sure of that.”

     “Father, I can’t let you do that,” the officer leading the reinforcements said. “I’ve seen plenty of blokes crack up after the wars.”

     “Nonsense,” Percy said and leapt through the portal before the sailors could stop him.

     “Don’t come any nearer!” Came a voice from behind a stack of crates.

     “Colonel Blackdowne, it’s me, Fr. Grey,” he said, moving cautiously forward.

     “Father, what are you doing here? You really ought to mind your prayerbook.”

     “And let those sailors poke you full of holes?” Percy continued forward but stopped at the corner of the boxes as he heard the click of a hammer being pulled back.

     “I mean it Father. I can’t let anyone, not even a priest …”

     “You know it would be an excommunication to shoot me?”

     There was a long pause. In the silence, Percy could hear the quiet whirring of gears and a very soft tick-tock; surely the sounds Jones, J. had heard.

     “You did convert to Catholicism, didn’t you? That wasn’t mere rumour? And … ah yes, you know Lady Acton, don’t know?”

     He could hear Blackdowne stiffen. “What do you know about her?”

     “John, enough of this foolishness,” came a quiet, muffled voice from the same crate wherein the clockwork sounds originated. “And let me out of here. This is all so ridiculous, going to Canada to die and letting you risk your life.”

     Father Grey stepped around the corner and Colonel Blackdowne lowered his multibarreled hand cannon. Percy looked at the crate.

     “Are you going to open it?”

     With a sigh and a shrug of his massive shoulders, the retired officer took up a crowbar and wrested off one side of the crate. As it was moved aside, the padded interior was revealed with a sturdy chair in the centre holding what at first appeared to be a life-sized doll of exceptional craftsmanship and beauty. She had real human hair the colour of wheat that could be seen below a miniature top hat of black silk with its heavy veil pulled back above an exquisite mask that might have been the finest pearl or porcelain.

     But it was not a mannequin for the whirring and ticking came from within her torso and as Father Grey approached and knelt next to the chair a hand came up to the lips in an unmistakable gesture of embarrassment.

     “Oh father, please don’t do that,” came a soft female voice with a tinny tone from the unmoving mouth.

     “Mary Frances Acton,” Fr. Grey whispered, involuntarily crossing himself.

     The gloved hand moved from the perfect lips of the mask up towards the eyes. Percy could see bright blue and very human eyes from those sockets.

     “I know, I’ve become a monster, trapped in this —“

     “Oh no, my child,” he said softly, quickly standing. “No, that’s not why I crossed myself at all. I simply couldn’t help but marvel at the breathtaking feat … I am sorry. There had been rumours, but I had no idea.”

     It had been well known in Recusant circles that Lord Acton’s eldest daughter, Mary Frances, had been born with the hideously painful and debilitating Ehrenfrucht’s Syndrome. She had been bedridden and hidden from the public eye for years, only the family chaplain allowed to see her. Then she had completely disappeared and though Fr. McIsaac had clearly been sworn to secrecy, rumours began to circulate when a Japanese, rumoured to be a Karakuri puppet master was spotted on the family estate along with the legendary surgeons Livingstone and Charcot.

     Karakuri were very lifelike clockwork marvels that could perform basic tasks like serving tea, and Percy had heard some stories of newer creations that could walk and talk. But this was something else — a new clockwork body had been constructed for the youngest Acton daughter. But …

     “You said you were going to Canada to die, my child,” Fr. Grey said.

     “I can’t go on like this. I was meant to die, God wanted me to die.”

     “God wills not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live.”

     “Then why did He give me Ehrenfrucht’s Syndrome?”

     “Why did He give you a family that could afford and acquire the magnificent expertise to give you a new body?” Father Grey asked.

     “A new and beautiful body,” Colonel Blackdowne added softly.

     “This isn’t a body, it’s a coffin,” she said. “Must I continue like this?”

     “It is not required to take extraordinary steps to preserve life. I take it that your plan was to wait for your gears to wind down, hidden in Canada, and have Colonel Blackdowne prevent anyone from winding the life-giving mechanisms?”

     He looked to Colonel Blackdowne, who nodded. His eyes glistened with tears.

     “It would not be a sin to let nature take its course. But it would cause your parents great grief. Look at what lengths they’ve gone to for you. And I believe there is more for you to do.”

     “And to suffer?” She asked.

     “Yes. We all must suffer.”

There was a very long pause.

     “Will you hear my confession, Father?”

     Father Grey took his small travel stole from his pocket, kissed it, and with the violet side facing out draped it over his neck. Colonel Blackdowne strode quickly out of the cargo hold and the priest pulled a small crate over so that he could sit next to Mary Frances.

     “Bless me Father, for I have sinned, I confess to Almighty God and to you Father …”


     A little over two hours later, Father Percy Grey was again back out on the viewing gallery in his furs, now with Colonel Blackdowne next to him, puffing on a cigar. All had been explained to the crew and the furor had finally died down. Mary Frances Acton had been installed in the Captain’s cabin and the crew was abuzz with excitement. The giant screws propelling the great brass airship pushed her onwards through the night.

     “Do you think she’ll choose to live, Father?” Colonel Blackdowne asked.

     “Time will tell, Colonel, but I have a good feeling about it.”



As a way of getting the creative juices flowing, and getting some more content onto this blog, we did a little "flash fiction challenge" to each write a short story in one hour. Anna suggested that we make the theme of the challenge "steampunk stories". Godfrey, Albert, and Anna all participated and we'll be posting the stories each Friday for the next three weeks.

Anna's suggestion was a great one and really got us going. It was great to finally write a completed work after quite some time away for all of us. Steampunk was the perfect subgenre -- it is very quirky, and romantic, with low demands for scientific realism but high potential for adventure.

Wikipedia accurately and succinctly defines the genre: 

Steampunk is a retrofuturistic subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century British Victorian era or the American "Wild West", in a future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.
You simply can't go far wrong with a setting like that. Not only do we love the Victorian aesthetics, but writing of a more innocent, optimistic, and idealistic setting than our own age is very refreshing. Fun adventures and weird contraptions are the order of the day and we hope you'll enjoy our stories as much as we enjoyed writing them!

It's certainly a subgenre that deserves more attention from us in the future.



By Godfrey Blackwell

This week we're going to be kicking-off some steampunk-themed posts including a series of stories over the next few Fridays, so I thought it would be good to share a piece from an aborted (but very fun project) I started then stopped (for good) a few years ago. The model is actually mostly Victoria Miniatures "Victorian Guard" parts with some Games Workshop "bitz" (robotic arm and gun are Adeptus Mechanicus pieces).

This model was a boatload of fun to model and paint and I did model up a full squad before realizing it was not realistic to build an army of these guys. However, the "New 40K" has expanded options for small games so I should finish the squad for such small games.


Medieval Plumbing

By Godfrey Blackwell

I recently thought that Witch World by Andre Norton might be worth trying for the leisure component of my reading. It was recommended to me by a friend as "an oldie but a goodie" especially as an example of mixing futuristic tech with a medieval setting as I've been fond of in my own work. Certainly, older sci fi/fantasy can be trusted not to have the immorality or "advanced" liberal themes that's all too common among today's offerings. It's not a bad book, but one line early on really caught my eye:

Medieval the hold of Estcarp might be superficially, Simon discovered, but the dwellers therein had some modern views on sanitation. He found himself introduced to water which flowed, warm, from a wall pipe when a simple lever was turned, to a jar of cream, faintly fragrant, which applied then wiped off erased all itch of beard.

Well, firstly, the opening comment about "views on sanitation" is just more of the old "medieval people didn't wash" nonsense that I addressed in "Hygiene in the Middle Ages". I'll give her the benefit of a doubt that maybe in the '60s decent research wasn't as easy to come by as it is now. So I won't rail against her. BUT, it is noteworthy that at least some real mediæval castles had even more sophisticated plumbing than Norton's Estcarpians and their "modern" sensibilities.

By the 13th century, important castles with permanent bathrooms had hot and cold running water (for example, Henry III's palace at Westminster had this amenity). More humble castles at least had water for washing and drinking at a central drawing point on each floor. Hand washing was sometimes done at a laver or built-in basin in a wall recess (certainly at the entrance to the great hall at least), with waste water carried away by a lead pipe. Castles also made use of rainwater from gutters or a cistern to flush the latrine shafts. Not as sophisticated as the modern toilet, perhaps, but certainly indicative of "views" on sanitation that were not to be sneered at by superior modern folk.

With a tip of the hat to Joseph and Frances Gies' Life in a Medieval Castle for some of the information in this post.



By Albert and James Blackwell

Here's something a little different for our readers ... the Blackwell children recently acquired new MacBook Airs for school, and have been making great use of iMovie and Photo Booth. Here is a fun short film that Albert and James collaborated on.


July Update

Dear readers:

We've admittedly been a lot quieter around here than we expected ... one would have expected that "lockdowns" and "social distancing" might allow us to be more productive, but we've managed to keep ourselves busy and for a homeschooling family, having government schools closed didn't free up a whole lot of time.

As always we've got several irons in the fire and are plugging away at trying to finish them. You will probably see more videos posted and to that end we've set up a YouTube channel: Swords & Space TV 

We will be linking uploads to this blog, of course, so you can either just wait for those postings or subscribe to the YouTube page separately. 

On a final note, something seems to have gone wrong with our sidebars. We are looking into what's wrong and hoping it doesn't require an entire site redesign!
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