Dear readers, tonight with us are two people from a steam-powered London. They are here to tell us about dead-eyed assassins, murderous pirates, wingless flying machines, and perhaps even creatures from beyond this Earth.
Tell us a little about your early life.
Charlie: I was born in at the family estate in Lincolnshire, but we don’t go there very often. We mostly live at our townhouse in Pimlico. I went to Harrow School and Oxford, though they are both beastly insistent on making a chap study.
Gladys: I was born in a one-room shack in Sydney, just downwind of the Chippendale slaughter houses. It was hot – but only in the summer, autumn and winter. The spring floods would cool things down, but.
Charlie: My father is Third Lord of the Admiralty and I my mother is a lady detective. I expect this is why we lived in London so very much.
Gladys: My dad drank himself to death after mum died of consumption. My Auntie Madge looked after me, until I got onto the stage via singing on street corners for coins.
What do you do now?
Gladys: I’m on the stage. I sing, I dance. I was queen of the music halls back in Sydney — not that there was much competition. I came to London to seek my fortune, then found out there’d been a gold rush back home. Could have made a packet, without months in bloody steerage. I worked a while as a conjuror’s assistant – that’s how I got involved in all of this nonsense to begin with.
Charlie: I’m a reporter, now, but I used to do… What do you suppose one would call it?
Charlie: Yes, that’s right. Basically nothing.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
Charlie: The conjuror Gladys works for vanished. Not vanished into thin air — nothing surprising about a magician vanishing that way. Kidnapped. Gladys was looking for him. And I was hunting for a murderer…
Gladys: As you do…
Charlie: …and we decided to work together to solve our respective crimes.
Gladys: He helped me with money, transport and connections. I helped him by grabbing him by the lapels and pointing him in the direction of clues.
And did these mysteries connect in some way?
Charlie: Indeed. They turned out to involve a conspiracy concerning giant Bats from outer space.
Gladys: Thanks for being the one to say it, Charlie. It sounds less ridiculous when you say it in an Oxford accent.
Charlie: But the Bats were only part of the problem.
Gladys: Their human enemies were a handful, too. Cure worse than the disease, as my Aunty Madge always used to say.
Charlie: She said a rather lot, didn’t she? And not all of it helpful.
Gladys: I reckon you and her would of got along like a house on fire.
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
Gladys: We were chased by giant rodents, threatened by Bats, held captive by pirates, falling from a skyrocket… But those things were so odd, they were just like bad dreams. The part when I was most frightened was when I was being chased by an old man armed with a stick. That’s commonplace enough that I actually felt it. How about you, Charlie?
Charlie: For me, the most frightening moment came when I was thrown out of a submarine and almost drowned.
Gladys: Sounds terrifying.
Charlie: You threw me.
Gladys: I remember.
What is the best thing about living in Steam-Age London?
Charlie: Truly, it is a golden age. The development of caloric steam power means that travel across the city is fast and efficient — which makes it terribly easy for a chap to get to his club.
Gladys: And that makes it a golden age?
Charlie: Certainly. What do you like about London?
Gladys: The tea’s better than in Australia. Food’s pretty good too. Smaller portions, but.
Charlie: Golden age!
What is the worst thing about Steam Age London?
Charlie: That would be that beneath this Golden Age for some, the common man faces grinding poverty, dreadful accommodation and appalling working conditions.
Gladys: Isn’t that my line?
Charlie: Of course, that is nothing compared to the dire situation in Ireland…
Gladys: I like you, Charlie, but you are just bloody rubbish at being an aristocrat. Anyway, worst thing is dodging idiots on steam-tricycles.
Charlie: Quite bothersome.
Tell us a little about your friends.
Charlie: My oldest friend is Roldo. He has a steam monoplane, you know. He has a lot of interests… flying, aeronautics, aviation. Now that I think of it, he has only one interest. Extremely unimaginative … But he did save our lives.
Gladys: Roldo is a nice, and your mad bloody parents were surprisingly helpful. But I’m closer to my Scottish friend, Michael Campbell.
Charlie: Yes. Ah… how close?
Who do you really hate?
Gladys: Lord Grimsdale. Evil old man who thought he was a hero. Wicked people who know they’re wicked are nothing compared to people like that.
Charlie: He tried to destroy the Earth. Or possibly it was the Moon, I’m a little unclear. Hard to forgive something like that.
Gladys: You were awfully quick to forgive those submarine pirates.
Charlie: They were pirating for a good cause.
What’s your favourite drink and relaxing pastime?
Gladys: I like a nice cup of tea — strong, hot, and sweet. None of your ‘another finger sandwich if you please Lady Trombone-Whittershaw,’ nonsense.
Charlie: But Mother said that you …
Gladys: I make exceptions for friends’ mothers. What’s your answer?
Charlie: Drink? Moet and Chandon, though Veurve Clicot will do in a pinch. And I’m quite fond of sport – pugilism, ocean bathing, mountain walking, velocipede racing, pedestrianism and so on.
What does the future hold for you?
Gladys: Crazy adventures might lend amusing anecdotes, but they don’t pay the rent. I’m still going to make my name on the London stage, and see if I don’t.
Charlie: I plan to devote my life to the cause of Irish Home Rule.
Gladys: Of course he does.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
Charlie: Not me. Life’s an open book, don’t you know. Not counting my brother joining that cult, of course, that’s just between us.
Gladys: And I owe a large debt to a man imprisoned in Bedlam.
Charlie: That the chap who thinks he can see the future?
Gladys: Thinks he can go there, Charlie. Thinks he can go there.
BG Hilton is an Australian SF author. He lives with his wife and daughter in part of Sydney which was once the terrible slum where one of his protagonists grew up, but is now pretty nice. His work has been published in Pseudopod, Antipodean SF, Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, and James Gunn’s Ad Astra. Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys is his first novel.
You can find Gladys and Charlie on the pages of Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys.
Dear readers, join us next week to meet a criminal mastermind, a supervillain cyber-terrorist. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.