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SunLit Interviews

Take Sherlock Holmes and the steampunk genre, then give it a twist

Author Alex Acks grew up on the great detective stories. In this series of novellas capped by a short story in "Murder on the Titania," the short one was toughest to write.

Alex Acks is a writer, geologist, and sharp-dressed sir. Their biker gang space witch novels, “Hunger Makes the Wolf “(winner of the Kitschies 2017 Golden Tentacle Award for best debut) and “Blood Binds the Pack,” were published by Angry Robot Books under the pen name Alex Wells. Under their own name, they’ve published “Murder on the Titania and other Steam-Powered Adventures” and “Wireless and More Steam-Powered Adventures” with Queen of Swords Press. They’ve had short fiction in Strange Horizons, Crossed Genres, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed Magazine, and more, and written for Six to Start’s Superhero Workout Game and Racelink.

The following is an interview with Alex Acks.

Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit


What inspired you to write this book?

My mom read every Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to my brother and I when we were kids, so I grew up with a deep love of the great detective and the sooty, gritty London he occupied. Several years ago, I was in a little writing group with some friends where we set ourselves a novella challenge—I’d just started reading some steampunk, so I decided to try to write something in that mode. Sherlock Holmes stories already mix readily with the steampunk subgenre (just look at the Guy Ritchie movies), and then I thought… what if Sherlock was queer, and a woman, and from the western US, and interested more in justice than law? 

Who are your favorite authors and/or characters? 

Favorite authors are N.K. Jemisin, Naomi Novik, and Sit Terry Pratchett. Probably my favorite character of all time is Sam Vimes from Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books—but obviously, I also really love Sherlock Holmes. 

“Murder on the Titania” by Alex Acks.

Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit? 

Of the excerpts I’ve commonly used, it’s probably the silliest, and that’s why I love it. Captain Ramos and her second-in-command Simms are ridiculously fun to write banter for.

What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?

Definitely writing Simms being Done Forever All The Time.

What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why? 

The book is a set of linked novellas—and one short story. That short story was absolutely the most difficult thing to write, because I have a hard time writing anything short!

What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book? 

How different ciphers work, like the kind you could use to send messages through apparently innocuous newspaper advertisements.

What project are you working on next?

I’m currently writing a novel that is basically The Great British Bake-Off in space, because I needed a mental break and wanted to write about people being supremely nice to each other.

Buy “Murder on the Titania” by Alex Acks.
Excerpt from “Murder on the Titania” by Alex Acks.


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