by Alex Grosset, Arts and Entertainment
23/7- What would our society be like if not for the discovery of Blackwood? That’s the question posed by author Clement Aldridge Kene in his new novel, The Gutted Earth.
The book takes place in a fantasy world, in the fictional land called Almeria. In it, humankind finds itself on the verge of a world dominated by steam based technology, only to discover such a thing would be unsustainable for more than a few years.
“The only reason our own technology has been able to develop along steam based lines is Blackwood,” said Kene in a press release. “Blackwood isn’t a naturally occurring substance, but an alchemically created one. Now, imagine a world where Blackwood didn’t exist…we’d quickly find that a steam based society could not last more than a few decades. Entire forests would be leveled for wood, coal mines depleted. Where would the world turn?”
Kene writes that his first instinct was to imagine a purely electric based world, but that idea was scrapped.
“With electricity, you’d still need a fuel source to produce it,” said Kene. “So I did some research and found a real world analogue, in Sarnwain’s recent developments with refining oil.”
In the book, humanity develops the ‘internal combustion engine’, and technology develops along oil based lines. The results are horrific.
“We know from our own failed attempts at developing oil based tech that fuel combustion is less than savory,” said Kene. “Imagine a world where everyone has an auto powered not by the soothing pops and bubbles of a boiler, but the grating, thunderous boom of a mechanical beast burning oil and coughing thick, soot ridden smoke into the air.”
What makes the novel even more disturbing, Kene warns, is that the world imagined in his book could be something that actually happens in the next two hundred years.
“Blackwood, theoretically, is a renewable resource. The problem is, the alchemical process has been lost; no one knows how to make more. And we’ve all heard the rumors that, as our influence spreads across the globe, so does the need for Blackwood. Blackwood may burn clean, and it may burn slow, but it won’t burn forever.”
The Gutted Earth will be released serially, and makes its debut next month in Stories of the Strange Monthly.