A Preview of Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel

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Love Steampunk? How about robots? And what about fictions pretending to be reality? If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, you're likely to love the heck out of Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett, out from Abrams Books in October. Abrams was kind enough to send me a preview of the book, in unbound form, and it's spectacular. The creators of Boilerplate have meticulously inserted the robot into various phases of twentieth-century history, weaving his story into our own. The book expands on the original online avatar of Boilerplate.

A lovely foreword sets Boilerplate up as "the world's first robot soldier," created by Professor Archibald Campion in 1893 to prevent "the deaths of men in the conflicts of nations." Since then, Boilerplate has "charged into combat alongside such notables as Teddy Roosevelt and Lawrence of Arabia." Not only that, he's traveled to the South Pole, "saved Pancho Villa's life," made silent movies, and "hobnobbed with the likes of Mark Twain and Tesla." The book purports to tell the story of Boilerplate as "one of history's great enigmas, a technological breakthrough that languished in obscurity," until now.

Having created a fictional reality with my own fake disease guide, supposedly edited by a certain Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead, I really appreciate the work that went into this book. It's not easy to fabricate on this large a scale, especially engaging the historical context in an intelligent way. I've seen many people get it wrong. Here it's all done right. Guinan and Bennett get the large-scale context right, but it's the little details that really make it work, from the variety of period-accurate art and photos to the images of Boilerplate action figures and his appearance in comic strips.

You can preorder Boilerplate on Amazon. While you're waiting, though, here are some photos of the interior for the curious...

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