|The Difference Engine|
Cover of first edition (hardcover)
|Author||William Gibson and Bruce Sterling|
|Genre(s)||Alternate History, Steampunk novel|
|Publisher||Victor Gollancz Ltd|
|Publication date||September 1990|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
The Difference Engine is an alternate history novel by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. William Ford Gibson (born March 17 1948 is an American - Canadian writer who has been called the "noir prophet" of the Cyberpunk subgenre Michael Bruce Sterling (born April 14, 1954) is an American Science fiction author, best known for his novels and his seminal work on the Mirrorshades The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom, the UK or Britain,is a Sovereign state located English is a West Germanic language originating in England and is the First language for most people in the United Kingdom, the United States Alternate history or alternative history is a subgenre of Speculative fiction (or Science fiction) and Historical fiction Steampunk is a subgenre of fantasy and Speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s A novel (from Italian novella, Spanish novela, French nouvelle for "new" "news" or "short story Publishing is the process of production and dissemination of Literature or Information &ndash the activity of making information available for public view A hardcover (or hardback or hardbound) is a Book bound with rigid protective covers (typically of cardboard covered with Cloth Paperback, softback, or softcover describe and refer to a Book by the nature of its binding. Alternate history or alternative history is a subgenre of Speculative fiction (or Science fiction) and Historical fiction A novel (from Italian novella, Spanish novela, French nouvelle for "new" "news" or "short story William Ford Gibson (born March 17 1948 is an American - Canadian writer who has been called the "noir prophet" of the Cyberpunk subgenre Michael Bruce Sterling (born April 14, 1954) is an American Science fiction author, best known for his novels and his seminal work on the Mirrorshades It is a prime example of the steampunk sub-genre. Steampunk is a subgenre of fantasy and Speculative fiction that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s
The novel was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1991 and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1992. Winners of the Nebula Award for Best Novel, awarded by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This page describes the award for best science fiction novel for other awards see Campbell Award (disambiguation
The novel posits a Victorian Britain in which the Industrial Radical Party, a political party led by a longer-lived Lord Byron (who never died in the Greek War of Independence, as he did within our world), has won power after the changes that occurred in British society when entrepreneurial inventor Charles Babbage succeeded in his ambition to build a mechanical computer (actually his analytical engine rather than the difference engine). Culture The Victorian fascination with novelty resulted in a deep interest in the relationship between modernity and cultural continuities The Greek War of Independence (1821–1829 also commonly known as the Greek Revolution (Ελληνική Επανάσταση Elliniki Epanastasi; Ottoman A computer is a Machine that manipulates data according to a list of instructions. The analytical engine, an important step in the History of computers, was the design of a mechanical general-purpose Computer by the British mathematician Charles The Difference Engine was an automatic mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial functions.
Before that occurred, the Duke of Wellington tried to prevent the acceleration of technological change and social upheaval, leading to a coup d'etat in 1830 AD, and his assassination in 1831 AD. The Dukedom of Wellington, derived from Wellington in Somerset, is an hereditary title and the senior rank in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. Technological change (TC is a term that is used to describe the overall process of Invention, Innovation and Diffusion of Technology or For the game see 1830 (board game. Year 1830 ( MDCCCXXX) was a Common year starting on Friday (link will display Year 1831 ( MDCCCXXXI) was a Common year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar of the Gregorian Calendar (or a After that event, the Industrial Radical Party proved to have the best prospect of government in the political vacuum that emerged, and the eclipse of the nineteenth century Tory Party and hereditary peerage ensued as a result. The Tories were any of a series of Political factions that existed in the Kingdom of Great Britain and later the United Kingdom, having its roots in the Hereditary peers form part of the Peerage in the United Kingdom. Insofar as radical social reform occurred, British trade unions were co-opted to assist the ascendancy of the Industrial Radical Party, much as the Labour Party of Great Britain did in the late nineteenth century in our own world. A trade union or labour union is an organization of workers who have banded together to achieve common goals in key areas such as wages hours and working conditions forming The Labour Party is a Political party in the United Kingdom. Founded at the start of the 20th century it has been since the 1920s the principal party of the The 19th century of the Common Era began on January 1, 1801 and ended on December 31, 1900, according to the Gregorian calendar However, Luddite anti-industrialist working class revolutionaries were ruthlessly suppressed. The Luddites were a Social movement of British Textile artisans in the early Nineteenth century who protested&mdashoften by destroying mechanized Working class is a term used in academic Sociology and in ordinary conversation to describe depending on context and speaker those employed in specific fields or types
Following this success, the Babbage computers become mass-produced and ubiquitous, and their use emulates the innovations which actually occurred during our information technology and Internet revolutions. Information technology ( IT) as defined by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA is "the study design development implementation support The Internet is a global system of interconnected Computer networks The novel explores the social consequences of an "information technology" revolution in the nineteenth century, such as the emergence of "clackers" (a reference to hackers), technically proficient people skilled at programming the Engines through the use of punch-cards, such as Théophile Gautier. See also Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier ( August 30, 1811 – October 23, 1872) was a French Poet, Dramatist
In the novel, the British Empire is more powerful than it was in our world, thanks to the development and use of extremely advanced steam driven technology in industry. The British Empire was the largest empire in history and for over a century was the foremost global power. A steam engine is a Heat engine that performs Mechanical work using Steam as its Working fluid. In addition, similar military technology has enhanced the capabilities of the armed forces (airships, dreadnoughts, and artillery); and the Babbage computers themselves. Britain, rather than the United States opened Japan to Western trade, in part because the United States became fragmented, due to interference from a Britain which foresaw the implications of a truly United States on the world stage. The United States of America —commonly referred to as the For a topic outline on this subject see List of basic Japan topics. Counterpart successor states to our world's United States include: a (truncated) United States; the Confederate States of America; the Republic of Texas; the Republic of California; a Communist Manhattan Island commune (with Karl Marx as a leading light); British North America (analogous to Canada, albeit slightly larger in this world); Russian America (Alaska); and terra nullius. The Confederate States of America (also called the Confederacy, the Confederate States, and CSA) formed as the government set up from 1861 The Republic of Texas was a sovereign Nation in North America between the United States and Mexico that existed from 1836 to The California Republic, also called the Bear Flag Republic, was the result of a revolt by Americans on June 14 1846, in the town of Sonoma Communism is a Socioeconomic structure that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless Society based Manhattan Island, in New York Harbor, is much the largest part of the Borough of Manhattan, one of the Five Boroughs which form the City of New York Country to "Dominion of Canada" or "Canadian Federation" or anything else please read the Talk Page Alaska ( Аляска Alyaska) is a state in the United States of America, in the northwest of the North American continent Terra nullius ( English pronunciation ˈtɛrə nəˈlaɪəs Latin pronunciation ˈtɛrːa nʊlːˈiʊs is a Latin expression deriving from Additionally, all land in the Americas are colloquially referred to as America (Viz: Sybil:Do you know anything about Texas, Hetty? Hetty: A country in America. The Americas are the lands of the Western hemisphere or New World, consisting of the Continents of North America and South America French own it, don't they?).
Napoleon III's French Empire holds an entente with the British and Napoleon is even married to a British woman. Napoléon III, also known as Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (full name Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte) (20 April 1808 9 January 1873 was the first President In the world of The Difference Engine, it occupies Mexico. The United Mexican States ( or commonly Mexico (ˈmɛksɪkoʊ () is a federal constitutional Republic in North America. Like Great Britain, it has its own analytical/difference engines, especially used in the context of domestic surveillance within its police force and intelligence agencies. Surveillance is the monitoring of Behavior. Systems surveillance is the process of monitoring the behavior of people objects or processes within systems for conformity Police are agents or agencies usually of the executive, empowered to enforce the law and to effect public and social order through the legitimatized use of force An intelligence agency is a governmental agency that is devoted to the Information gathering (known in the context as " intelligence "
As for the other world powers, Germany remains fragmented, with no suggestion that Prussia will eventually form the core of a unified nation as it did in our own world in 1871 AD, which may be due to French subterfuge analogous to that pursued in the case of the fragmentation of the United States noted above. Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany ( ˈbʊndəsʁepuˌbliːk ˈdɔʏtʃlant is a Country in Central Europe. Prussia ( Latin: Borussia, Prutenia; Prūsija Prūsija Prusy Old Prussian: Prūsa) was most recently a historic state Year 1871 ( MDCCCLXXI) was a Common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar of the Gregorian calendar (or a Common As also noted above, Japan is awakening after the British ended its isolation, and look set to become one of this world's leading industrial and economic powers from the twentieth century onward, as they did in our world. For a topic outline on this subject see List of basic Japan topics. In some respects, though, this alternate Victorian era is more humane than our own world's equivalent was. For example, due to Lord Byron and Lord Babbage's intervention, the Irish potato famine never occurred here, and there is no mention of agitation for Irish home rule or Irish independence from this British Empire as a result. The Irish Home Rule bills were bills introduced in the British House of Commons during the late 19th and early 20th centuries intended to grant self-government and
Among other historical characters, the novel features "Texian" President Sam Houston, as an exile after a political coup in Texas, a reference to Percy Bysshe Shelley (as a Luddite), John Keats as a kinotropist (an operator of mechanical pixelated screens), and Benjamin Disraeli as a publicist and tabloid writer. Texas ( is a state geographically located in the South Central United States and is also known as the Lone Star State. Samuel Houston ( March 2, 1793 July 26, 1863) was a 19th century American statesman politician and soldier Texas ( is a state geographically located in the South Central United States and is also known as the Lone Star State. Percy Bysshe Shelley (August 4 1792 – July 8 1822 ˈpɝːsɪ ˈbɪʃ ˈʃɛlɪ was one of the major English Romantic poets and is widely considered to be among The Luddites were a Social movement of British Textile artisans in the early Nineteenth century who protested&mdashoften by destroying mechanized In Digital imaging, a pixel ( pict ure el ement is the smallest piece of information in an image Benjamin Disraeli 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, KG, PC, FRS (born Benjamin D'Israeli; 21 December 1804 &ndash 19 April 1881 was
Under the Industrial Radical Party, Britain shows the utmost respect for leading scientific and industrial figures such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Charles Darwin. The Radicals were a parliamentary political grouping in the United Kingdom in the early to mid 19th century who drew on earlier ideas of radicalism and helped to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, FRS (9 April 1806 &ndash 15 September 1859 (ˈɪzəmbɑrd ˈkɪŋdəm brʊˈnɛl was a British Engineer. Charles Robert Darwin (February 12 1809 &ndash April 19 1882 was an English naturalist, who realised and demonstrated that all Species of life Indeed, they are collectively called "savants" and often raised to the peerage on their merits, causing a break with the past as regards social prestige and class distinction. The Peerage is a system of Titles of Nobility in the United Kingdom, part of the British honours system. Meritocracy is a system of a government or another organization wherein Appointments are made and responsibilities are given based on demonstrated talent and Ability These new patterns are also reflected in the educational sphere; classical studies have lost importance, and are replaced by more practical concerns (such as engineering, accountancy, etc).
The action of the story follows Sybil Gerard, a political courtesan and daughter of an executed Luddite leader (she is borrowed from Disraeli's novel Sybil); Edward "Leviathan" Mallory, a paleontologist and explorer; and Laurence Oliphant, a historical figure with a real career, as portrayed in the book, as a travel writer whose work was a cover for espionage activities "undertaken in the service of Her Majesty". The Luddites were a Social movement of British Textile artisans in the early Nineteenth century who protested&mdashoften by destroying mechanized Benjamin Disraeli 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, KG, PC, FRS (born Benjamin D'Israeli; 21 December 1804 &ndash 19 April 1881 was Sybil or The Two Nations is an 1845 novel by Benjamin Disraeli. Palaeontology redirects here For the Scientific journal, see Palaeontology (journal. See also Laurence Oliphant (1691-1767. Laurence Oliphant (1829 Cape Town - December 23, 1888, Twickenham The following is a partial list of current intelligence agencies.  Linking all their stories is the trail of a mysterious set of reportedly very powerful computer punch cards and the individuals fighting to obtain them.
As is the case with special objects in several novels by Gibson, the punch cards are to some extent a MacGuffin. A MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin) is a Plot device that motivates the characters or advances the story but the details of which are of little or no importance
During the story, many characters come to believe that the punch cards are a gambling "modus," a program that would, theoretically, always allow the user to place reliable bets. This is in line with Ada Lovelace's penchant for gambling (in both the novel and actuality). Augusta Ada King Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 London England &ndash 27 November 1852 Marylebone, London England born Augusta Ada Byron, was the only Only in the last chapter is it revealed that the punched cards represent a program which prove two theorems which in reality would not be discovered until 1931 by Kurt Gödel. In Mathematical logic, Gödel's incompleteness theorems, proved by Kurt Gödel in 1931 are two Theorems stating inherent limitations of all but the most Kurt Gödel (kʊɐ̯t ˈgøːdl̩ (April 28 1906 – January 14 1978 was an Austrian American Logician, Mathematician and Philosopher Ada Lovelace delivers a lecture on the subject in France. Augusta Ada King Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 London England &ndash 27 November 1852 Marylebone, London England born Augusta Ada Byron, was the only
Defending the cards, Mallory gathers his brothers and a policeman to fight the revolutionary Captain Swing who leads a London riot during "the Stink", a major episode of pollution in which London swelters under an inversion layer (comparable to the London Smog of December 1952). Captain Swing was the name appended to some of the threatening letters during the rural English Swing Riots of 1830 The Great Stink or The Big Stink was a time in the summer of 1858 during which the smell of untreated Sewage almost overwhelmed people in central London In meteorology an inversion is a deviation from the normal change of an atmospheric property with altitude The Great Smog, also referred to as the Big Smoke befell London from December 5th to December 9th 1952.
After the abortive uprising, Oliphant and the pseudonymous former Sybil Gerard meet at a cafe in Chablis. Chablis is a town and commune of the Yonne département in France. Oliphant informs her that he is aware of her true identity, but will not pursue it, although he does want information that would compromise her seducer, Charles Egremont MP, now regarded as an obstacle to the strategies and political ambitions of Lords Brunel and Babbage. Sybil has longed for the opportunity for vengeance against Egremont, and the resultant political scandal destroys his parliamentary career and aspirations for a merit lordship. Oliphant also encounters a Manhattan-based group of feminist pantomime artists, uncannily similar to contemporary feminist performance artists involved in debates over US National Endowment for the Arts funding in the late eighties and early nineties in our world. Feminism is a discourse that involves various movements theories, and Philosophies which are concerned with the issue of Gender difference, advocate This article is about Performance art For other uses see Performance (disambiguation The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA is a United States federally funded and donation assisted program that offers support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence
After several vignettes that elaborate on the alternate historical origins of the world of The Difference Engine, Ada Lovelace delivers the aforementioned lecture on Godels Theorem, as its counterpart is known in our world. She is chaperoned by Fraser, and castigated by Sybil Gerard, who is still unable to forgive Ada's own father, the late Lord Byron, for his role in her own father's death.
At the very end of the novel, there is a dystopian depiction of an alternate 1901 AD from the vantage point of Ada Lovelace. A dystopia (from the Greek δυσ- and τόπος alternatively cacotopia, kakotopia, cackotopia, or anti-utopia) is the vision of a society Year 1901 ( MCMI) was a Common year starting on Tuesday (link will display calendar of the Gregorian calendar (or a Common year starting Throughout the novel's latter sections, there are references to an "Eye", which appears to be a metaphor for Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon- the concept of omnipresent surveillance technology initially mooted for nineteenth century prison architecture, and the subject of contemporary concern about its intrusions against human rights and civil liberties from authoritarian western societies who use the development of information technology to monitor, regulate and police their populations, as Michel Foucault noted in his Discipline and Punish (1977). Metaphor (from the Greek: μεταφορά - metaphora, meaning "transfer" is language that directly compares seemingly unrelated subjects Jeremy Bentham ( IPA: or) (15 February 1748&ndash6 June 1832 was an English Jurist, Philosopher, and legal and Social reformer The Panopticon is a type of Prison building designed by English architect Jeremy Bentham in 1785 Surveillance is the monitoring of Behavior. Systems surveillance is the process of monitoring the behavior of people objects or processes within systems for conformity A prison, penitentiary, or correctional facility is a place in which individuals are physically confined or interned and usually deprived of a range of The term architecture (from Greek αρχιτεκτονικήarchitektoniki) can be used to mean a process a profession or documentation Human rights refers to the "basic Rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled thumb| |Broken Liberty Istanbul Archaeology Museum Civil liberties are freedoms that protect the Individual from the Government. Michel Foucault ( (15 October 1926 – 25 June 1984 was a French philosopher, Historian, Intellectual, Critic and Sociologist. Discipline and Punish The Birth of the Prison is a book written by the philosopher Michel Foucault. Human beings appear to have become digitised ephemeral ciphers at the mercy of a sentient artificial intelligence, implied to be as a consequence of this world's accelerated development of information technology. In Cryptography, a cipher (or cypher) is an Algorithm for performing Encryption and Decryption &mdash a series of well-defined steps