H. G. Wells, Secret Agent humor steampunk novella, coming in July 2015

I’m happy to share the cover of my upcoming humor novella, designed by the very talented Jay O’Connell:



H. G. Wells is a Victorian-era James Bond who must defend England and the world against time travelers, alien incursions and interdimensional threats (if he can learn quickly on the job, and survive the human foes he encounters, that is!)

During his missions, Wells will alternately team up with Anton Chekhov to foil an assassination plot against Prince Nicholas Romanov of Russia, oversee the construction of the giant antenna designed to detect alien invasion fleets (or, as we know it, the Eiffel Tower), rub shoulders with the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, Marie Curie, Jules Verne and Annie Oakley, and risk everything to encourage cooperation amongst the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies.

This humorous steampunk novella is filled with Easter eggs and British pop-culture references, from The Beatles and Ian Fleming to Douglas Adams and Dr. Who.

What makes this story different:

Every single named character, from the titular Herbert Wells to the lowest gate guard, is based on a real historical personage who could have conceivably been found at the time and place of the story (which spans from 1887 to 1889.) Although the individuals the characters are based on happen to be real, the story is riddled with intentional anachronisms.

Wells, who is the newest agent of a Torchwood-like organization, wears a Babel Fish translator device, travels in the yellow submarine, and rubs shoulders with some of the most iconic individuals from the late nineteenth century.

Here’s a brief sample. Wells is at a party at the Hermitage Palace in St. Petersburg.


Back in the Armorial Hall, Wells sought to soothe his bruised ego with strong spirits. He approached one of several bars set up for the guests. He waited for the bartender to finish serving a glass of sparkling wine to an attractive blonde.

“Have you got any gin?” Wells asked.

The bartender shook his head. “Vodka,” he said curtly. “Seven different flavors.”

“Obviously,” said Wells. “Very well. I’ll have a vodka mixed with a shot of the Kina Lillet you’ve got over there.” Out of the corner of his eye he noticed the blonde watching him with interest. Perhaps this day wasn’t entirely ruined yet. “This mixture is my own invention; I’m going to patent it when I think of a good name. Make sure it’s stirred, not shaken. Wouldn’t want the drink to be weak.”

He turned toward the blonde and flashed his best smile. “My name is Wells. Herbert Wells.”

The blonde giggled and walked off, carrying her glass. Wells sighed as he watched her go. Things really weren’t working out in the way he had imagined. He waited for his drink, composing excuses for Ministra MacLean in his head. His first mission for the Ministry was shaping up to be his last.

Wells took a swig of the proffered cocktail and coughed violently. The drink turned out to be far more potent than he had anticipated.

“You should have added lemon to that. I take a slice whenever I have to drink Cognac. Makes the vile stuff taste almost tolerable.”

Wells looked up at the man advising him, and swallowed the biting remark he was about to make. Standing in front of him was the heir to the Russian throne.


Readers familiar with Ian Fleming’s work may note that Wells is trying to pull a James Bond here. I couldn’t have him order a Martini because this drink hadn’t been invented yet in 1887, but Fleming was very helpful in that he wrote the line, which I steal wholesale, where Bond orders what becomes known as a Vesper Martini.

There are lots of Easter egg moments in the story where dialog or exposition are a nod to some pop culture or historical reference. For those interested in seeing if they caught them all, I’m providing a complete list of annotations after the story, which will also include some relevant images as well.


H. G. Wells, Secret Agent is slated for the release as an e-book in July.



2 Responses to H. G. Wells, Secret Agent humor steampunk novella, coming in July 2015

  1. Widdershins says:

    My favourite ‘alt’ HG Wells has to be from Warehouse 13, c’mon, Jamie Murray! … but I am a sucker for magnificent cover art 🙂 … what’s with the smiley face though?

  2. Alex Shvartsman says:

    Warehouse 13 was fun! I hope you like my version of Wells as well. I wanted the cover to convey that the story was humor, and rather silly at that, not to be confused with the more “serious” shade of steampunk. As such, I asked Jay if we could incorporate a smiley face within a gear into part of the cover. I think it captures the tone of the novella perfectly 🙂

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