Download a Free Romulus Buckle Story from The Steampunk User’s Manual!


In discussing Steampunk fiction and wondering how to show readers an example of “thinking big,” one way was to illustrate a high-octane action scene. Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.’s Romulus Buckle series always tends to “go big” in terms of being fearless in that arena, so we thought a scene involving an airship and a giant squid made a lot of sense to include in the book. The books partake of an old-time pulp sense-of-wonder but with modern underpinnings. We’re also happy Preston’s been generous enough to offer his latest short story set in that universe for free to readers for two weeks (Update: three weeks!), in conjunction with The Steampunk User’s Manual’s release.

Thinking big can also, of course, be conceptual or about innovation or experimentation and we cover that in the Storytelling chapter as well. In addition to Preston’s diagram we’ve included words of wisdom from Nisi Shawl, Amal El-Mohtar, and more—some of which originated right here at

Find out more about the story and how to download it below!

In the short story “An Officer and a Gentleman,” set in the world of The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin steampunk adventure series, the young Lieutenant Romulus Buckle faces his first great test under fire when his armed trader airship Bromhead is attacked and boarded by pirates.

The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin steampunk series follows the adventures of a war zeppelin crew across the skies of a post-apocalyptic California. Humanity has barely survived total extinction during a brutal alien invasion and has built a new Victorian-based, steam-powered civilization out of the frozen ashes of the old world. With war imminent, Captain Romulus Buckle and the crew of the Pneumatic Zeppelin must navigate a perilous, unknown landscape filled with treacherous enemies and alien beasts on a quest to defeat an evil power so profound it defies the imagination.

Desirina Boskovich Jeff VanderMeer Jeremy Zerfoss Steampunk Users Manual

Click to enlarge. Art by Jeremy Zerfoss

The giant kraken vs. the airship battle scene in Romulus Buckle and the Engines of War is a direct homage to the famous giant squid (polyp) vs. the Nautilus submarine battle in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. Both Verne’s novel and the 1954 Disney film adaptation, with its grand, stormy, otherworldly vision of the attack, have been favorites of mine since an early age. And since my Romulus Buckle series is full of airships, ice storms and flying alien beasts and is nautical and swashbuckling at heart, this kind of duel fits the world scenario perfectly. It was, frankly, impossible for me not to do it.

Download the story “An Officer and a Gentleman” from Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.’s site here!


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