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A Passage from a Steampunk Novel

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A character in the novel Clementine is said to have dreamed "of his own ship -- and of the clouds, drafts, and passages over the Rockies. He dreamed briefly of Seattle, the walled city filled with gas and peril, and of the giant Andan Cly who had tried to help retrieve the Free Crow when first it was stolen. He also dreamed of a skittering of black birds, shifting their weight back and forth on a tree branch, their tiny claws gripping and scrapping the wood."

In the next paragraph we learn that the sound those birds were making was an intrusion into the dream of a real world event, one to which the dreamer awakens.

There's a lot going on in this passage, and it's deftly done.

Clementine is part of the Clockwork Century collection of novels by Cherie Priest. Its an alternate history based in part of the notion that dirigibles became a key means of transit across the North American continent in the second half of the 19th century, while the Civil War waged on and on.

The character in question is a free black, and the captain of an outlaw dirigible -- a sky pirate. So the name he gives his craft, "Free Crow," is itself of symbolic weight.

Read that passage again, and see how the vessel the Free Crow  is transformed in his mind into those black birds, which in turn make the scratching sound, which in turn ... etc.


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