My Brother: Psychologist By Day, Steampunk Author by Night


My brother is an associate professor of linguistics and psychology at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  He’s smart.  I have only a rudimentary understanding of the work that he does; I know that it has to do with psychology and I know that it has to do with linguistics.

Here’s a fun fact I learned from him: when you say “um” before a sentence, it actually helps the listener focus on what you’re saying, so you shouldn’t necessarily try to eliminate your “ums” while giving a speech.

I used to think of us in terms of yin and yang: him the science guy and me the crazy artist.

Then I got an email from him back in April of 2011.  We were talking about MacBooks, and he casually mentioned to me that he was writing a fiction book that he intended to self-publish.

Good for him! I thought.  Exercising his creativity!  Go ‘head!

Now…I had no idea how far he’d gotten with this book.  I’m thinking this is going to take him a year or two to get to a final draft, let alone publish it.

Less than a month later, I get another email from him, this one addressed to the whole family.  The book is now out and available on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents.

I clicked on the link and my jaw dropped as I saw the cover of the book with the name “D. Girard Watson” on it.

I read the synopsis:

The Gold Engine is a fast-paced, steampunk vision of an alternate reality. 

Steampunk?  I didn’t even know he liked steampunk.  Apparently, nobody in the family knew either, except my sister-in-law and her parents, and they probably only knew because they live with him. 

I kept reading:

Imagine a universe in which electricity doesn’t exist, but gold powered engines enable faster than light travel. The horse and buggy are the primary mode of ground transportation, but humanity has established colonies on planets light years away from Earth.

David Marr is a student of natural philosophy and a mechanical genius. He’s happy spending his days drinking, annoying his peers, and building his masterpiece: a difference engine that can solve any mathematical problem. His life is turned upside down when war erupts between the U.S. and Spain. His father is dead, his advisor is kidnapped, and enemy agents want both David and his knowledge of mechanics…

What the fuck?  How did he knock this out so fast?  How did he juggle being a college professor, husband, and dad, and still bang out a fucking novel?

In any case, The Gold Engine is great, and I’m not just saying that because he’s family.  Once I got into the story, I forgot that he’d even written it; I was totally invested in the characters.  It was a surreal experience, because it showed me a side of my brother that I’d never really seen before.  The story moves quickly; I pretty much blew threw it.  I was disappointed when I reached the last page.  I wanted more.

I didn’t have to wait long.  Five months later – five fucking months later – he knocks out a sequel!

gold eater


This one is as good as the original, if not better.

I’m still waiting for him to write the third, but I think he’s busy with work now, so it may be a while.

Go to and get these books.  They’re super cheap and fun to read.  And bug my brother to write that third book.



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