The Cogsmith’s Daughter

I’m reading Kate Colby’s Cogsmith’s Daughter, and it’s well-done, but there’s a bit of worldbuilding that is niggling at me. See, it’s steampunk mixed with a sort of post-apocalyptic scene, where a bunch of survivors of a great flood are living in the desert around a huge ship.

So far, so good.

In fact, you should buy it and read it if it’s remotely down your aisle of stuff you like. Kate writes well and I have yet to encounter an out-of-place comma or tyop. So my compliments to her, or her editor, or both, on turning out a splendid product.

The protagonist, a likeable character named Aya, is part of a plot to gain revenge on the king. I can tell you that, because that’s in the book blurb, so I’m not posting spoilers here.

Part of that is she gets a lot of new clothes made for her.

That’s where the thing is breaking for me. See, silk normally comes from silk worms, right? You just don’t usually have bolts of it lying about.  Maybe they have some storerooms full of cloth. However, eventually the silk and cotton and velvet is going to wear out or you run out of it.  Cloth degenerates, just sitting about. For instance, see this article about temperature, light, humidity influencing the deterioration of fabric, especially heat. Metal in heat (such a ships in the middle of deserts) would be quite hot inside, and the higher the temp, the faster the deterioration of cloth.

So, yeah. Unless you have fields of cotton (and there’s no reason to believe they have this, though there are farms, but it’s not a commodity mentioned) and an industry around spinning and dyeing and weaving, after a few hundred years, no more cotton.  Same deal with linen (made from flax which grows in super wet conditions). Same deal with silk. That leaves you with wool.  I do believe there are sheep in the story, which means there’s mutton and wool. Maybe there’s goats, too.  Now, wool is a fantastic type of cloth for making stuff, but it doesn’t evoke the luxury of silk or velvet. I do see that they make wool velvet– see here for a nice-looking 40s coat of wool velvet— and I suppose that may be the velvet we’re hearing about in the book.

Anyway, there it is. That’s the part that’s bugging me. You’re saying, “Seriously, logistics, Matt? That’s the part you’re taking away from the book? Who cares??!” I know, it’s stupid.  OTOH, it’s also a steampunk genre, which is fantasy/sci fi that can’t make up its mind which one it is anyways, and the rest of it is a fancy bit of worldbuilding that I like. I can see Kate carefully setting up the conflicts and I’m pretty sure that the thing isn’t going to go the way the protagonist thinks it’s going to go.  I’m still cheering for her.  41% of the way through, and it’s a good read, except for my logistics nitpicking.

There’s probably a 12 step group for such a problem, though I’m not sure I’m going to join it. Good news: I just googled it and there is definitely no 12 step program for nitpicking. There probably should be…