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Can Jane Austen + steampunk spark girls' science fire?

Jordan Stratford wants to write a fun historical novel for kids that will give girls like his 9-year-old daughter strong role models in science and tech. He's turned to the Internet for help.

Mary and Ada, steampunk detectives.
Claire Robertson

"This is my daughter, who just turned 9. She's amazing, and I want her to grow up to be a mad scientist and to take over the world."

So begins writer Jordan Stratford's Kickstarter pitch video for "Wollstonecraft," the first of what he hopes will be a series of steampunky, historical novels for kids and young adults that will "inspire a generation of girls about imagination and science."

Writer Jordan Stratford's 9-year-old daughter, the future mad scientist. Jordan Stratford

Stratford says he wants to give young girls like his daughter "actual historical role models that show them that math and science and imagination are incredible tools that can shape their world." And he's chosen as his two heroines Mary Shelley, of "Frankenstein" fame -- the world's first science fiction writer, he calls her -- and Ada Byron, whom some regard as the world's first computer programmer.

Stratford imagines these two in their girlhood and has them form the Wollstonecraft detective agency, named after Mary's mother, the celebrated feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft. Their sleuthy adventures bring them into contact with other real people from the past, among them Charles Babbage, originator of the Babbage Difference Engine, a Victorian-era precursor to the computer, and Michael Faraday, discoverer of the magnetic field.

"If Jane Austen wrote about zeppelins and brass goggles, this would be the book," says Stratford, who offers up credentials that include producing, along with his wife, the first-ever Canadian steampunk convention and showing up in publications like "The Steampunk Bible."

With the viral video "Caine's Arcade," we've already had a striking example this week of how the Internet community can throw its support behind creative and promising kids, and Stratford's Kickstarter effort is another instance of this.

Stratford's already raised more than $23,000 in excess of his $4,000 goal. But if the books are to be a series, he may well need a lot more to pay the editor, illustrator, designer, publicist, and others that he's slated to receive funds.

As for his goal of providing girls with inspiration in the realm of science and technology, it's long been argued that women are underrepresented in these fields. "Women now receive only one in four sub-baccalaureate awards in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields, down from one in three in 1997," says a recent piece in The Huffington Post. And CNET commentator Ben Parr wrote recently about what he calls the male-dominated tech industry.

You can check out Stratford's Kickstarter pitch video below, and read more about the project on its Kickstarter page.