This week, Emily takes a brief hiatus from her ongoing Hamilton-related excitement (and, let’s be honest, all of those grad school things she probably should be working on) to make sure that you know about the awesomeness that is Sydney Padua’s The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.
Okay, real talk. I’ve spent basically all of my pop-culture-related free time this week being excited about Hamilton. Because Hamilton SO rewards the attention that you pay to it. And is completely wonderful. I kind of had to talk myself out of writing a Ten-Fandom-Commandments-style blog for this week (with due apologies to both Biggie Smalls and Lin-Manuel Miranda). But I’ve already told you to go listen to Hamilton.
This week, then, I find myself thinking about why fandom is important and why we invest in it — thinking about the importance of sharing things we care about and finding community when we get super excited together about silly French accents and inside jokes and all of the minutiae of the pop culture properties that we love. At the same time, Hamilton’s also gotten me thinking about the awesomeness of stories that inject silliness, modernity, and a whole lot of energy into eighteenth- and nineteenth-century history. So today I want to briefly alert everyone to a phantasmagorically awesome (and amusingly nineteenth-century-history-centric) graphic novel that I’ve just started to read this week: Sydney Padua’s The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.
There are very few things in this world that are cooler than steampunk-y alternate histories about kick-ass ladies in floral dresses having adventures and doing science. Especially when said alternate histories have a wickedly smart sense of humor, a high degree of research and footnoting, and a strong sense of the absurdity of Victorian life.
And, perhaps more importantly, when said alternate histories are about Ada Lovelace
*the SUPER smart daughter of Lord Byron who kind of invented computer programming*
and Charles Babbage
*the grumpy mathematician who basically invented the computer in the first place*
having lots of adventures.
I’ve only just begun reading Sydney Padua’s graphic novel The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage*: *The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer (which is based on her webcomic), but golly it’s delightful.
Not only does Padua show us the aforementioned geek duo getting super excited about Analytical Engines and differential calculus, but she’s also being wonderfully geeky with period-specific title pages and wonderfully researched footnotes and endnotes that maintain the book’s sense of whimsy while also providing awesome historical context. (Holy Mary Wollstonecraft. This book definitely has fun with moments in which truth is stranger than fiction. Ada Lovelace as a child apparently had a math tutor who was so conservative that he didn’t believe in negative numbers. Who knew that was even a thing??)
I haven’t actually gotten very far in The Thrilling Adventures yet. So honestly, this is less a review than a PSA. Because I can’t tell you much about it yet. But this book lines up SO WELL with my fandoms and with the collective interests of TTLP, that I just had to make sure that everyone else knew that they should be reading this in all of their free time!
We may return to this book at greater length when either Kazia and I has a chance to actually finish reading Padua’s fab book. But in the meantime, remember to take some time this week to get unironically enthusiastic about something silly — and maybe check out Lovelace and Babbage while you’re doing it!
…Because having lengthy conversations about Romantic poets and steampunk and theoretical mathematics is always a fine way to spend an afternoon.