Steampunk has a wonderful tradition of making stuff up. It’s one of the things I love about the genre and the makes that seem to go along with it, not that I’m personally any good at those.
My making is done with words, it’s all description, but I still have to understand and envisage it right. Which means that I also have to know my MacGuffins from my Rube Goldberg machines.
So what is the difference?
According to Google, a MacGuffin is “an object or device in a film or a book which serves merely as a trigger for the plot.” So in my books, the big MacGuffin is the Aether, but also CAMM in Shades and DMAC, in Echoes. In films MacGuffins you’ll see include The Case in Pulp Fiction, The Holy Grail in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade, the Tesseract in the Avengers movies, the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark. These things exist all over.
A Rube Goldberg machine, on the other hand, is “a deliberately complex contraption in which a series of devices that perform simple tasks are linked together to produce a domino effect in which activating one device triggers the next device in the sequence. The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor of such contraptions, Rube Goldberg.” (Wikipedia)
Rube Goldberg machines are used in a car ad that was so impactful I remember the ad, but not the car. In films, my favourite Rube Goldberg machine is the breakfast maker in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
So MacGuffins and Rube Goldbergs, fun and fascinating objects, look out for them.