The question I was chewing over on my way home from work was, "If the boiler blew on an airship and it was no longer producing steam, how long before it would start sinking?" Chapter One of my book has this very scenario and the aforementioned ship started dropping almost instantaneously; however, today I was mulling this over and wondering if I was creating a lifelike scenario. Considering the model of a hot-air balloon, it does not require constant infusions of blasts to maintain its balloon, so one would surmise that an airship could stay in the air for a certain amount of time before starting to descend.
This is just one of the many, many issues to research as I embark on this considerable task of bringing the genre of "historical steampunk fiction" to life. Alas, a quick google search has told me that there are nine hits for the term, so clearly I am not the only person who has envisioned this particular genre. As I define, it is steampunk with clear answers for both the steam and the punk - whatever mechanical/scientific/steamy apparatus appears in the story has a reason for being there and plausibly works. Granted, from what I have read so far, a working airship as steampunk envisions it is in all reality not possible for a variety of reasons: the weight would be too much for it, a steam engine would not be efficient enough, lugging fuel around would add too much weight, etc.
I was particularly intrigued by a post on www.flyingkettle.com that states there are two types of envelopes for an air machine: rigid and soft. A rigid envelope for an airship would most likely render it unflyable while a soft envelope would result in a vessel so affected by every gust of wind that it could only fly in mild weather and not over great distances.
So in summary, I have a burgeoning list of topics to research, everything from nautical terms to opium production in Turkey. But the pressing question now is bring the airship Horizon to life and figuring out exactly how it is she works.
To the library!