[GUEST BLOGGER] Viola Carr on Science in the Electric Empire Series

This guest post is part of the official blog tour for Viola Carr’s The Devious Dr. Jekyll. Below, you’ll find the author’s links, information about her books, and the guest post.


Viola Carr also writes as Erica Hayes:



The science in my Electric Empire series is…well, let’s be honest. By modern standards, it’s not particularly scientific.

The Diabolical Miss Hyde and its sequel, The Devious Dr. Jekyll, are set in an alternate version of the 1850s, where someone’s invented the electric train forty years before its time, electric arc-lights illuminate the streets, and unlikely clockwork machines run rampant. Walk the alleys of Eliza Jekyll’s London, and you’ll meet brass automata, electric velocipedes, aetheric handguns and omnibuses powered by electrical coil engines that apparently suck their power from nowhere.

Eliza uses gadgets and substances in her crime scene investigations that look suspiciously like magic – which is illegal in her world, but never mind, right? What’s more, alchemists ply their wares in respectable shops on the high street, and sorcerers and scientists alike are searching for the secret to immortality. Some, perhaps, have found it.

My concept for the technology in this series was simple: what if the “science” in 19th century science fiction was real? What kind of scientific principles would need to be true?

What kind of science, for instance, would mean that The Invisible Man really could be invisible? How could Dr. Frankenstein bring a stitched-up composite corpse to life? What about Dr. Jekyll’s famous potion?

In the original Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, there’s no magic. Jekyll crafts his potion with something he calls “transcendental medicine”, and his colleagues ridicule him for it. But Jekyll is a consummate scientist – he refuses to accept old beliefs. He’s driven to see for himself. And “transcendental medicine” involves substances that transmute matter from one thing to another; the idea of matter having a living force of its own.

So okay, we’ve got alchemy with a scientific bent. That covers the potions. But how can I make these odd electrical gadgets work?

Simple answer, familiar to many steampunk readers: aether.

It’s an old concept, dating from the days when natural philosophers argued over the nature of light, and begged the question: in what medium does light travel? How can there be light in a vacuum – or is some strange unseen substance filling the spaces?

Aether, of course. The magical substance of light waves. So if the universe really was filled with aether…and the energy of the aether could somehow be extracted…

All utter nonsense, I know. Light isn’t a “wave” that needs a medium. The idea of aether lasted up until the time of Einstein, whereupon it died a quick and painless death at the hands of quantum theory. And since the late 1800s, we’ve had these minor inconveniences called the Laws of Thermodynamics, which specifically forbid free lunches and extracting energy from nothing.

But hey. I worked on the principle that this is my alternate version of the 1850s – so anything that got discovered or invented after that is fair game. In Eliza’s world, you can get a free lunch…

But wait a second. All this energy being sucked from the aether to power omnibuses and pistols and electric trains…what if it does come from somewhere? Has anyone asked what happens if the aether gets depleted?

Probably not. In that way, Eliza’s world is very like our own: most ordinary people have only a basic idea how the technology they’re using every day actually works. And in Victorian times, most people believed implicitly that “progress” – new inventions, science, the Enlightenment – was always good. Even if it meant breaking a few things along the way.

After all – as I imagine Henry Jekyll thinking, right before he quaffs that first beaker of potion – what harm ever came from inventing something new?

Viola Carr
The Diabolical Miss Hyde (Electric Empire, Book 1)
HarperCollins Voyager (US & CA: 10th February 2015; AU: 26th February 2015; UK: 12th March 2015)
Buy (US Kindle Edition) Buy (US Paperback) Buy (UK Kindle Edition) Buy (UK Paperback) Buy (CA Kindle Edition) Buy (CA Paperback) Buy (Worldwide)

In an electric-powered Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with inventive new technological gadgets. Now, a new killer is splattering London with blood, drugging beautiful women and slicing off their limbs. Catching “the Chopper” could make Eliza’s career – or get her burned. Because Eliza has a dark secret. A seductive second self, set free by her father’s forbidden magical elixir: wild, impulsive Lizzie Hyde. When the Royal Society sends their enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she’s a sorceress, Eliza must resist the elixir with all her power. But as the Chopper case draws her into London’s luminous, magical underworld, Eliza will need all the help she can get. Even if it means getting close to Lafayette, who harbors an evil curse of his own. Even if it means risking everything and setting vengeful Lizzie free…

Viola Carr
The Devious Dr. Jekyll (Electric Empire, Book 2)
HarperCollins Voyager (AU: 19th October 2015; US & CA: 27th October 2015; UK: 3rd December 2015)
Buy (US Kindle Edition) Buy (US Paperback) Buy (UK Kindle Edition) Buy (UK Paperback) Buy (CA Kindle Edition) Buy (CA Paperback) Buy (Worldwide)

Solving the notorious Chopper case was supposed to help crime scene physician Dr. Eliza Jekyll – daughter of the infamous Henry – establish her career in the chauvinistic world of Victorian law enforcement. But the scrutiny that comes with her newfound fame is unwelcome for a woman with a diabolical secret: her dark and jealous shadow self, Lizzie Hyde. And there is the mercurial Royal Society agent with his own secret to hide, Captain Remy Lafayette. Does he want to marry Eliza or burn her at the stake? It’s impossible, however, for Eliza to push Remy away when he tempts her with the one thing she can’t resist: a bizarre crime to investigate. And although Eliza is uncertain about Remy, Lizzie isn’t. Lizzie wants to steal the magnetic and persistent agent and usurp Eliza’s life. As the search for a bloodthirsty torturer dubbed the Pentacle Killer draws Eliza and Remy into a terrifying world of spies, art thieves, and evil alchemy – where the price of immortality is madness or damnation – only Lizzie’s dark ingenuity can help Eliza survive. Eliza and Remy must race to thwart a foul conspiracy involving the sorcerous French, but they must also overcome a sinister enemy who i the vengeful Lizzie, who is determined to dispose of Eliza for good.

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