Welcome to the Clockwork Jungle Book: our collection of twenty fabulous steampunk animal tales. We’ve got an origin story from Jay Lake, and a tale of the end of the world from Sara Genge. Stories set in London, China, Alabama, Castle Frankenstein, and the moon. We’ve got snakes and dinosaurs, elephants and wolves, bees and fish, birds and goats, and yes, even a monkey or two.
“I want you to know that it’s constantly surprising, often mind-blowing, and well-worth the read. Plus, there’s this woodcut of a wolf riding a unicycle that you MUST see…” –Faithful reader C. S. E. Cooney
“…whimsical, beautifully written and presented… full of beautiful, fascinating stories.” Last Short Story.
“This was a flawless issue Shimmer.” SFRevu.com
Shweta Narayan’s story, “The Mechanical Aviary of Emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar,” has been reprinted in Jeff VanderMeer’s Steampunk Reloaded: Volume II.
172 pages, available in either the lovely print version or the economical electronic. Buy yours today!
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Table of Contents
Shedding Skin; Or How the World Came to Be, by Jay Lake
Now, this one time Snake was foraging in the trees of Old Man Spark’s garden. He hadn’t eaten for three days, and he was hungry. You meatheads know the feeling, like when your mama ain’t made a bowl of mush since yesterday morning. Likewise you brassbodies, how when the lube tube is drained dry.
So here he was, Snake, with a body like an iron river, plates folded in on one another and clattering hard as he slid between the shining trunks looking for what wasn’t there no more. You see, Coyote had gone and hidden all the coal.
The Jackdaw’s Wife, by Blake Hutchins
It started as an innocent gleam amid the rust-frosted junkpiles of Theo’s Yard on the edge of the Great River. In this place and others like it, the denizens of the city of Ferae discarded their industrial leavings and unwanted oddities. Jackdaw pushed the goggles up on his sleek, black-feathered brow and clacked his equally black beak in wonder.
“What is it?” asked Badger.
The Student and the Rats, by Jess Nevins
Once upon a time, a student lived in a sprawling, ruined house in Ingolstadt. His name was Victor, and he was obsessed with discovering what made people live. He played with human parts and was eventually successful.
But before that happened, Victor played with rat parts.
The Mechanical Aviary of Emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar, by Shweta Narayan
Now Akbar-e-Azam, the Shah-en-Shah, Emperor of the World, who is called the Light of Heaven, has built markets and mosques and schools for his people of flesh and of metal and for the eternal glory of God. But he commissioned the mechanical aviary for himself and only himself. Not even his favorite wives could enter — only the Emperor, his slaves, and the Artificer, who is herself a bird of metal.
Kay’s Box, by Marissa Lingen
Kay’s human made things.
Most of the things he made didn’t work, and then he would swear and sob and shake. And Kay would amble over to the broken thing his human had thrown down, and he would turn it over and over in his slender, clever hands. When Kay did this, his human nearly always stopped crying. Then Kay would go to the human’s tools and find what he needed to make the thing right so that his human would stop crying.
Otto’s Elephant, by Vince Pendergast
Otto looked at the elephant’s joins, its rusted flanks, and its mud-splattered underside. “Now I know you’re making sport of me. That’s just the master’s tractor, and I’m its driver.”
“Tractor?” The old man let out an astounded breath. “No insult to you, my boy, but do you really have no idea of what a special creature you ride?”
Otto, doubtful and curious in equal measure, leaned in closer to the old man. “What do you mean?”
So the old man began his tale.
The Monkey and the Butterfly, by Susannah Mandel
Once there was a parlor Cat, who lived with an elegant Lady in —- Square. She had lovely long locks, brilliant gray eyes, and the most delightful plump little white breast. (At least, so had the Cat, and if you told me that her Mistress did too I would have no reason to doubt you; but this story is little concerned with Ladies and Gentlemen, for it takes as its subject primarily the smaller — but far more interesting — people who share their homes and sleep upon their hearth-rugs.)
Message in a Bottle, by James Maxey
When the bulletship passed over the south pole of the moon, … Cyrus announced, “There’s a city down there.”
Fifty miles below, in the shadow of a crater, a glass dome twinkled in the starlight. Beneath the dome were the dim outlines of avenues and buildings and dull gray fields. For the first time since they’d been shot from a mile-long rifle dug into the heart of a mountain, flying into space in the belly of an oversized bullet, Nathan felt as if his impending death might not be a senseless one.
The Clockwork Cat’s Escape, by Gwynne Garfinkle
The clockwork cat was running down, but its owners refused to visit the cat-maker’s shop to buy a new pet. Again and again they wound up the cat.
No matter how often they turned the key, the cat’s heart ticked ever more slowly. Its gray pelt of fine wires, which once had felt like fur, was rough and uneven from years of petting. Its whiskers had long since snapped off. Its metal claws were dull. Its meow sounded like plaintive tin.
The Wolf and the Schoolmaster, by James L. Cambias
When I returned to Totenburg after three months in the hills, the changes astonished me. Most of the damage of the War of Restoration was gone. Where there had been blocks of ruins, machines were digging foundations for new towers of glass and steel.
I steered my steam unicycle through the streets, hoping for enough pressure to make the climb to the castle. As I chugged past a group of old women bringing baskets back from the city market, I gave them a nod and salute. “Good morning, Citizens!”
They stared at me, a little fearful. I didn’t mind. Before the restoration they would have cowered in terror, and they would have been right to do so. The Baron Von Tod occasionally turned us wolf troopers lose on civilians when he thought they looked rebellious, or when he was in a bad mood, or just bored.
A Garden in Bloom, by Genevieve Valentine
The day Pieter van der Rijsen received news that he had made his fortune, he commissioned the garden. He had never been outside his own home to see the world and had no wish to see it, except for letters from his offices abroad and the view of the street from his dining room window; but being acquisitive by nature he wanted an enclosed garden as lavish as those in Babylon.
All metalworkers in the country were put to work, and still it took a year. The tin daisies were ready first, and they were planted as soon as the beds were marked. Later came the copper crocuses and brass pansies, lead reeds, nickel clover, iron mums, platinum roses, rhodium honeysuckle. The mums were cast from molds, the roses hammered together petal by petal.
And How His Audit Stands, by Lou Anders
“Clampton steam engine number twenty-three oh six, pre-incorporeal name Jones, John Luther. ‘Luther’ for short. Always an unreliable locomotive. Made a break for it last night under the distraction of a fire at L and N Station, headed south on the Queen and Crescent Railroad. You’d better get started on its trail at once.”
Birmingham rose, tucking the folder under an arm. Under the guise of his best poker face, his heart sank at the task ahead.
“And Birmingham,” said Smyth-Pebbles as the ranger reached the door, “the Phlogiston Flask is returned intact this time, or I’m afraid this will be your last ride on the Crown’s authority.”
The Story In Which Dog Dies, by Sara Genge
There must come a time, O Best Beloved, when the World will end. This is mostly a sad thing, but it can’t be helped. The World must end and that’s that.
This is the story about Last Man and Dog. In fact, I’m afraid this is The Story In Which Dog Dies. I’m telling you now, O Best Beloved, because I don’t want you to cry later on. Most stories about the End have dying things in them. Again, there’s nothing to be done about it. That’s what the End of Time is all about.
A Red One Cannot See, by Barbara A. Barnett
Philbert pressed his snout against the glass. The Bénédict’s windows were angled out so that one could watch the sea passing beneath the dirigible, but Philbert fixed his gaze further in the distance, where the island was coming into view.
“It will be a lonely ride, lémur-homme,” his mentor had told him before his departure — the human mentor who had taken him from the island years before and given him the name Philbert. “Have you not thought that there might be a reason so few of your kind return to the island?”
The Fishbowl, by Amal El-Mohtar
The Fishbowl wasn’t a bowl at all, you know. It was a tank that spanned a whole wall in Doctor Montrouse’s laboratory. It made up the wall, in fact, from ceiling to floor. He kept it immaculately polished — or rather, I did. That was part of my morning duties, that no speck or smudge on the reinforced glass might impair his view of the fish.
They were so beautiful, those fish. There were twelve of them, each a little bigger than a man’s fist, and colored in motley enameled patterns of red and blue and gold. They moved very slowly, sometimes swimming, sometimes floating through the dense amber liquid that, along with the thick glass of their tank, helped muffle the clickings and whirrings of their gears. They looked like ballroom masks, like jewels, and smelled of clove and frangipani whenever we drew them out for minor adjustments.
His Majesty’s Menagerie, by Chris Roberson
From where he stood on the sandy banks of the Periyar River, Tippu Sultan could see the remaining survivors of the forces of Rajah Keshavadas, the Dewan of Travancore, making a last, desperate stand against the Khudadad invaders. Over the shouts of the defenders, and the bark of musket-fire, and the whistling fusillade of the Khudadad rocketmen, Tippu could hear the strange, wheezing growl of the clockwork tigers, and the clatter and crash of their vicious brass jaws.
The Emperor’s Gift, by Rajan Khanna
Zhen had always loved the pandas.
At first, they’d been a distraction. On the days when Zhen asked about her mother and Syam couldn’t find the right words, he would take her to the preserve and together they would watch the pandas, and the world of pain and grief and mourning would retreat for a while.
The Clockwork Goat and the Smokestack Magi, by Peter M. Ball
Attend — in the darkest streets of Unden there lay a coal-filled fen known as Moloch Alley, a place filled with men who possessed souls with the consistency of smoke, stained and dirty, willing to drift with the whims of the wind and disappear, poof, when the storm winds whistled between the looming factories. A cold place, and a mean one, the air thick with black smoke and men cursed with black lungs and wicked coughs and few hopes for the future.
And into this alley walked a clockwork goat, trip-trapping, tick-tocking, marching stiff-legged and determined down the soot-stained cobblestones. It walked into the darkness until it arrived at the copper door of the Smokestack Magi’s home, a portal laid flush with the bellowing red brick chimney of a smelting house, as though one could walk through it and into the roaring furnace beyond.
The Giant and the Unicorn, by Alethea Kontis
In the beginning, the Toymaker fashioned the Box. In the second year, he scattered his power throughout the Box and made the heaves and the stars. In the third year he cast the cogs and wheels, the grasses and the trees. In the fourth year he formed the animals: the bear, the fox, the dragon, the griffin, the monkey, and the unicorn. In the fifth year he forged the Giant, in his own image, so that the Giant might rule and maintain peace over this great land. In the sixth year he uploaded Sentience and Symbiotics; he breathed life into his creations and set them free. He looked down upon his work and knew it was good.
In the seventh year, spent from his task, the Toymaker lay down and died.
Mockmouse, by Caleb Wilson
“I’m hungry,” said Mouse.
“Me too,” said Mouse.
“When can we eat?” said Babymouse.
“Our food stores are empty,” said mouse.
“Woe!” said Mice.
At that moment, the small plank Mice had dragged across the entrance to Micehall split apart and in strode Mockmouse. Mockmouse was built of rubber and tooled titanium, with red beads of ruby for eyes shining in the dark of the crawlspace.
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