(This is an excerpt from the opening of “Absinthe Heroes”, the first Steampunk rock opera. I wrote it some years back, but I was just re-reading it and wanted to share.)
MAYOR (As NARRATOR): It’s a very busy day in the Halls of Government, as the massive and trundling beaurocracy slowly wends its weary wheels to the tasks of tomorrow’s great Fair-Day. But where is the Mayor? Off alone, by himself, with a glass of brandy. Approximately a glass of brandy. Certainly less than fifteen glasses of brandy.
MAYOR (Switching from NARRATOR hat to MAYORAL hat): You must be sadly mistaken. Never would I consume an intoxicant within the sacred precincts of the public trust. I am simply sitting here, drinking this sarsaparilla which looks, smells, and tastes fairly precisely like a bottle of foul old fine-and-dandy. But I can prove it’s sarsaparilla. Primus, I would never drink within the Mayoral manse. Secondus, if I’d had this many glasses of andy-pandy, I’d be sufficiently soused so as not to give a tinker’s daughter about yet another grandandglorious day for yet another grandandglorious civic function wherein I shall pretend, with all the remaining earnestness I possess, which is possibly zero, that the world is a brighter place and things are improving.
I would like to make permanent change – well, I would like to open the door for permanent change, but the stars are not yet aligned, and we have many sacrifices yet to make.
I am a humble man; my office is a glorious one, but my person is of no real importance–I’m not even a cog in the great Watchmaker’s humblest timepiece; I’m merely a piece of a fragment of one of the ticks of its second hand. I serve my purpose; I serve.
That word – from the Latin “servus”, meaning a servant or, perhaps more accurately, a slave. I hear that word too often these days – “It is my pleasure to serve”: I’ve heard this from newspaper-men, carpet merchants, and door-to-door purveyors of brushes and devices to ward off female hysteria.
That phrase had meaning once; now it means ten per cent off with a purchase of three or more. It was the phrase of governors, of generals; now it thuds from the lips of the invariant mercantile class.
Science came so quick! Democratizing Science, giving its universal suffrage of convenience to sundry and all. One minute, sweat-shops; the next minute, they’re flooding into the good theatres to watch magic lantern shows involving Gallic women who have misplaced unfortunate segments of their petticoats.
But I serve. I serve, as did my father before me, and his before that. I must see the good; I must find advantage for my constituents. So I’ve encouraged this Science; it will come, so best to see it come soon. Competitions I have sponsored, grants granted, accolades spilled from te mayoral tower upon the mechanists and engineers.
Given enough time, and enough force, mankind will break through the constraints of long ages. Perhaps science is the lockbreaker. This servant hopes so.
I hope for a better time.
Not that hope really counts for much, in the end.