Steampunk inspiration and resources

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Steampunk Writers, I WANT YOU! The Submission Window Opens NOW

Oh man, oh man, oh man! I am ecstatic to announce an exciting new opportunity for anybody who loves Steampunk and story-telling. I’ve been going back and forth about what sort of project I wanted to do to celebrate the anniversary of Steampunk, and once I discovered the Collaborative Writing Challenge I knew I’d found a match made in heaven.

(Please note: I am still interested in creating a collection of short stories in 2017 as well as this collaborative novel. Read more about it here)


The CWC runs projects to bring authors together to create a collaborative novel. I just had my submission accepted for their 6th Project, a fantasy called Esyld’s Awakening, and I was so impressed with the organization and the whole idea of collaborative fiction that I signed up to coordinate Project 7. I love the idea of pulling together several voices to celebrate Steampunk together, and I hope you will join me!

You can get all the details on the CWC website, but here’s the quick explanation for how it all works.

  • Writers submit a potential first chapter by Dec. 2 and the CWC staff chooses the three they think has the most potential to grow into a full novel. Anyone who signs up (see below) gets a chance to vote on which first chapter they think is the strongest.
  • Starting now, writers sign up to be a part of the collaboration and soon will be asked to sign up for chapters they’d be interested to write based on the schedule (first chance starts the week of Dec. 30). There are usually 4-5 people trying for each chapter, but lots of people sign up for more than one as well.
  • When it is their turn, each participant gets to read the first chapter, as well as the one the is right before the one they signed up for, and they get 5 days to attempt to write the next one. Everyone has access to chapter summaries, character profiles, and notes about places and objects to help them along.
  • At each step, I’ll choose my favorite chapter and handle the first round of editing for continuity to make sure the voice and flow of the narration all works together.
  • And eventually you’ve got a 30 chapter book written by dozens of people! You don’t have to be experienced, just eager to join in on the adventure🙂

Pinmart artI absolutely encourage anyone who enjoys the genre to give it a shot. It’s simple to sign up here, and you’ll be contacted soon about the schedule (which goes from Dec-Aug) and which chapters you’d like to try. Anyone who attempts a chapter, even if it is not chosen, gets a free e-copy of the completed book and a chance to buy 2 copies at cost. As a bonus, I am going to send one of my spiffy United We Steampunk, Divided we Fall pins to anyone who has their chapter chosen.

If you’d like to try submitting the first chapter, the submission window is open now! (See details in the graphic below) Remember, it will need to read like the opening chapter of a novel, not a standalone short story. So feel free to hint at things even if you don’t know all the details yourself to give your fellow writers different directions to go in. As we all know, Steampunk is a very wide genre, so don’t feel constricted by the Victorian era, the British Empire, or specific trappings of the aesthetic.


Feel free to connect with me on my Facebook author page or on Twitter (@GearTurns), or leave me comments and questions below.

Looking forward to building something great together!

Find the Best Steampunk Game for Your Favorite Platform

I’ve been carting around the same old Xbox 360 from place to place for years now, and it’s been even longer since I got a game that didn’t have “Lego” in the title (though I do love that style of game play…) so I’m not personally able to recommend that many games. But, I found this quick video that recommends 10 games for Steampunk fans and I thought we all could benefit.

Booze, Glorious Booze: The Aviator

3579cf1bf2f126c8bb3b306d202a6cf4This yummy little concoction, either called ‘Aviation’ or ‘The Aviator’ depending on the source, is as pretty as it is tasty, though you probably don’t have the ingredients on hand.

The name comes from the distinctive “sunset” look you get from the purple cocktail and the deep red of authentic maraschino-soaked cherries. No, not those weird sugary things you used to get in your Shirley Temple that are made by brining the fruit, but a delightful burst of dark cherry flavor laced with a kick of maraschino liqueur.


The other special ingredient you won’t find in your average home bar is crème de violette. Flower-flavored liqueurs were all the rage during the steam era, but fell out of favor somewhere in the 20th century about the same time that floral breath mints gave way to mint ones. Crème de violette could still be found in France and sometimes in the formerly French-occupied areas of the American South, but for the most part it became almost impossible to acquire for several decades. In 2007, an entrepreneur named Hans Alpenz started to import the liqueur to the US, and the recipe for Aviation was dusted off in high-end bars all over the country.

If you get technical, this exact cocktail wasn’t recorded for the first time until 1917, so most precisely it’s a drink that could possibly show up in Dieselpunk setting more than a Steampunk one. Still, crème de violette was definitely popular during the steam era, and the Victorians were no strangers to manned flight, so I think it deserves a home here in my Booze, Glorious Booze series.

Bottoms up🙂



Steampunk Crowdfunding September 2016

It looks like I was right that we’d see a bunch of new projects now that they “back to school season” has passed. There’s a great variety of Steampunk projects on Kickstarter this month. I’m going to have trouble deciding who gets my pledge🙂

What’s Going on Right Now


Children of Sin (Manga), Ends Nov. 11

Watch the video:

It is a time of darkness where clockwork powers the world. Evil permeates society causing great mayhem, and man’s morals are questioned. Kain, tortured by his past sins, seeks to earn redemption by saving mankind. But can he, whom the gods no longer praise, redeem himself?

The Seven Deadly Sins have taken corporeal form in our world:

  • Pride is an orphan, who along with his brother, got adopted by a high class assassin.
  • Envy is a rich girl who was shipped off to dancing school.
  • Greed was a street urchin who had to become a thief to survive.
  • Wrath worked at a steel plant that made the cogs that turn the town.
  • Lust is a high class French stripper who seems to be in the wrong place at the right time…. all of the time.
  • Gluttony is a baker from the Netherlands who takes a bite out of his problems.
  • Sloth is an ex-opium addict and just so happens to be Greed’s older sister.

Then there is Depression who has lived her whole life in a cemetery.

Kain, the last piece of the puzzle, runs away after betraying his students. Now that he has escaped the Darkness’ great hold on him, he looks to reverse all the evil that he and his followers have caused. Azrael, his mysterious butler and bodyguard, is put into his service to help control the chaos, but he has an agenda of his own…

My Favorite reward: A $10 pledge gets you a digital copy of book 1.

Find out more


The Adventures of Steam Hammer,  Ends Oct. 7

Your adventure takes place in Victorian London 1892, but dark deeds are afoot, the streets seem eerily quiet but you are soon to realize why, the dastardly Professor Rattwurm is attempting to enslave the fine English folk with his army of clockwork automatons raging havoc all over town.

The Skillington Arms - A good place for the locals to hide out!

The Skillington Arms – A good place for the locals to hide out!

Using this new-fangled steam power and some state of the art 19th century gadgetry along with the guidance and expertise of Doctor Obadiah Springhorn you should be more than capable of victory.

As you look around the Springhorn’s command centre in the Airship ‘Horndenburg’ you will see the other weapons which will be at your disposal in the full game, but our demo ‘drops’ you right into the action and sees you kitted out straight away with three beautiful weapons, the Steam Hammer, the Steam Cannon and the Magnetic Beam.

My Favorite Reward: For a pledge of 15 GBP (about $20) you get the exclusive founder’s edition of the game

Find out more

Tragedy of Progress, Ends Oct. 18

Watch the video:

Tragedy of Progress is a Steampunk Tabletop RPG-Skirmish game which allows players to create custom groups of characters and compete, or sometimes cooperate, with others.  Our models are what make us stand out when compared to currently available tabletop miniatures games. We will be offering a selection of 3D printable miniatures players can purchase for a low cost and print themselves, either at home on their own 3D printer, or at a publicly available printer, which can be found in more and more in public libraries.

The most important fact about Tragedy of Progress is that the game itself will be free to play for everyone. All the necessary rules, instructions, and items (such as basic dice) will be posted online once the game is complete and will be freely available for download and use.

My Favorite Reward: 15 CAD gets you all of the terrain you need to play the full game

Find out more

 Costumes and Accessories

Steampunk Wolf Accessories, Ends Sept. 27

Steampunk Wolf  runs a successful online shop as well as an Amazon Handmade StoreSteampunk Wolf is ready to expand our brand. We are offering some amazing costume accessories to potential pledges, many in time for Halloween.


My Favorite Reward: $20 pledge gets you your choice of geeky fingerless gloves in a variety of fandoms.

Find out more

Other Fun Projects

Filigree in Shadow, Ends Oct. 6

My dearest friends,

As the Curator at The Mysterious Package Company I have told many stories, but today I don’t want to tell you a story. Rather, I want you to experience one! It is a story about a house and its many guises: a family residence, a clinic, an illusionist’s abode, and a club of ill repute. This house harbours a type of madness, a mystery that taints the lives of all of its inhabitants. It began with secrets and shame, but where will it end?

The Mysterious Package Company has a number of tricks up our collective sleeve with this, our seventh curated postal narrative experience. It has more points of customization than any other experience we offer and all-new personalization techniques that will entwine the recipient even more closely with the story than ever before…

My Favorite Reward: For a $15 pledge you can get a collection of stickers from different stories they’ve done in the past.

Find out more

Music to Steampunk By: “Secret” by The Pierces

The Pierces, unlike many musicians I showcase here, did not set out to be a Steampunk band. But, this song has a delicious creepy cabaret vibe to it that puts me in the mood to write. Enjoy!

My Interview with Jeff Mach, Creator of the Steampunk World’s Fair


Jeff Mach started the Steampunk Worlds Fair in 2010, and continues to oversee this amazingly successful event as well as other special interest conventions. I interviewed him as part of the Steamfest Gazette, and now that my backers have had their copy for a while I thought I’d share my conversation with you all as well. Steampunk World’s Fair 2016 was amazing and I’ve already got my room booked for SPWF 2017. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Now, on with the interview!

PD: Which came first, your love of Steampunk or your knowledge of large-scale event planning?

JM: The events definitely came first, and I’m glad I had that experience.  We’ve always created events with a focus on tremendous entertainment. They say that every word in a poem should matter; we feel that every minute in an event should matter.  This meant that we wanted to have lots of stages and lots of opportunities available to our attendees, which really helped change the way people saw Steampunk events.  It was very rare to see that much music or entertainment at Steampunk events when we got started; you’d usually see a lot of panels. Panels are wonderful, but Steampunk culture is so much more broad than what you’ll find through conversation alone!

Just one of the many talented performers at SPWF 2016

Just one of the many talented performers at SPWF 2016

PD: Tell us a little about your event and the inspiration behind it.

We had a simple idea: We wanted to try to give people an opportunity to experience EVERY aspect of Steampunk creativity we could find, and we wanted to be accepting of ANYONE who wanted to attend, regardless of how they dressed, or how involved they were in the Steampunk community.  We wanted a place where anyone who enjoyed Steampunk could feel at home.


PD: What was your biggest mistake, er, “growth experience” when you first started holding SPWF?

JM: I took time off from managing the event in year two, when I was busy getting married.  I don’t regret getting married!  But I should have run that event, no ifs, ands, or buts.

img_9343PD: What are some strategies for people to use, or avoid, when it comes to increasing attendance at special interest events?

JM: Have a clear harassment and consent policy!  It will help increase your attendance with people who want to see a safer fandom, and decrease attendance from people who don’t. It’s a win-win.

PD: What is your favorite thing about Steampunk in general, or your Steampunk event in particular?

One of our mottoes is “”We don’t make imaginary worlds. We make real worlds that come from imagination.”  Steampunk is based on literally endless whimsy and creativity.  You’ll rarely find any two Steampunks whose Imaginary 19th Centuries are the same – and yet we ALL respect each other and we all respect each other’s views of that universe.  It makes me happier than I describe.

It’s also what inspired me to create Glimmerdark.  I wanted to make a Faerie universe, but not one which obeyed or imposed any single set of rules for how it came about.  I wanted to see if I could take Steampunks freewheeling acceptance and apply it to a fantasy event.  (Of course, Glimmerdark is multi-genre – so we do expect and hope to have quite a lot of Steampunks there, too.  It all works together!)


 PD: You also got a chance to bring Absinthe Heroes to life at this year’s fair. What was your inspiration for writing this Steampunk opera, and who is your favorite character?

Part of it was simple: There was almost no other Steampunk musical theatre at the time, and I felt that Steampunk culture could use a theatrical tradition.  I figured I’d do my part to help prime the pump!  I was a playwright long before I started doing events, and I felt that, with the resources of a festival behind me, I could really produce a show worth seeing.

Favorite character?  Ah, c’mon, that’s like asking about a favorite child!  But I will say that I can’t imagine not falling in love with an Evil Chocolatier.

 PD: I know Absinthe Heroes was funded through a Kickstarter campaign because I contributed to it :) Do you have any advice for other people who are developing their own crowdfunding campaigns?

JM: Always, ALWAYS have a plan BEFORE you start.  Always have an idea of how you’ll get your ideas out to people, and have a clear vision of what would make it worthwhile for other people to contribute.  YOU know why your project’s going to be fantastic and why, once it’s funded, it will succeed.  But other people don’t!  You have to explain it to people who don’t live in your own head.  Too often, people run a crowdfunding campaign on the basis of, “Trust me, this will be THE BEST” – and that’s just not going to help unless the people reading it already know who you are.  And even then, having a clear vision and a structure to what you’re doing will really help people decide that backing you makes sense.

Steampunk Movie Review: Metropolis (1927)

I had a unique opportunity to see this amazing silent film as part of a summer film festival that was being put on by the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. The theater was built just a year after Metropolis debuted, making it the perfect setting to really experience this early sci-fi classic. I’ve seen it listed before on Steampunk lists, so once I found out it was going to be shown on the big screen with a brand new score, I knew I had to see it.


Many of the films that end up on Steampunk movie lists are there for purely aesthetic reasons, so I was very surprised to see this one there based on the posters. This highly stylized film has a very Art Deco feel, which makes perfect sense for when it came out. So in this case, Metropolis is part of the Steampunk canon, not for how it looks, but for the message it was trying to convey and where that message intersects with issues near and dear to the Victorians, and the echoes of ideas first put forward by H. G. Wells in The Time Machine.

metropolis-1927-original_2In addition to seeing the film itself, there was also a great lecture by a professor of film studies before it started. After the staggering number of propaganda films leading up to and during WWI, Germany was left with the means to be a real force in the new medium of film. Their major company, Ufa, created a number of big-budget silent films in the hopes of entering the market and to compete with Hollywood. Unfortunately, they overstretched their means and were soon in debt. They turned to Hollywood for financial support which gave rise to a company called Panufamet. They traded away the rights to most of their country’s movie screens for some much-needed cash and a promise of at least one German film in American theaters every year.

When Metropolis was made, it was meant to be the big budget blockbuster of German cinema that year. Due to a funny quirk of the early days of cinema, it was actually cut down from its original 2+ hour run time to only 90 minutes when it came to the states. Movies all had a 30-minute stage show at the beginning in those days, and they didn’t think the public could sit through more than a total of 2 hours of entertainment. During WWII, the original film was lost (likely melted down for the chemicals) and only the cut down version lived on. Luckily for film lovers, in 2008 someone recovered an almost intact 16mm version of the movie and it was restored. There are still a few scenes that are missing, but it more or less back to its original greatness. (If you’ve got Netflix, you can watch the full two and a half hour version)


The film is set in a futuristic and highly industrialized city. The rich and powerful live on the surface and enjoy pleasure gardens and endless leisure, while the majority of people toil deep underground and never see the sun. The movie is based on a play that was written by the director’s wife, Thea von Harbou, but as a Wells’ fan I noted distinct parallels with the future of the human race according his books, as well as derivative works like Morlock Night. According to The Time Machine, at some point the human race becomes divided and evolves into to completely separate species. The Eloi are delicate and childlike, their minds long ago turned to philosophy and issues of the mind. The Morlocks are the workers who were forced to live without the sun, and became monsters afraid of the light. Metropolis paints the picture of the step in between our present and that terrifying future.

The story centers on Freder, one of these elites who doesn’t know anything about the horror going on beneath the city. A young woman named Maria enters the pleasure gardens with dozens of dirty, malnourished children and demands that the frivolous people look at their brothers and sisters. She is kicked out of the garden, but Freder is so taken with her and her message that he follows her deep underground. He sees firsthand what the workers are put through and witnesses a terrible explosion that kills many people.

Metropolis-metropolis-1927-15539873-1500-1124.jpgMeanwhile, his father, who controls all of the factories, goes to see an old rival. The mad scientist has been cooking up something special, and automaton that will herald the ruin of the modern age.

This movie was highly stylized and a wonderful departure from the same old types of movies you’ve watched. The scenes can come off as borderline absurd to our eyes, but considering it is 90 years old I think it stands up really well. The plight of the working man and his transformation into a machine himself at the hands of the oppressive upper class is a struggled that first emerged during the Victorian era, and is presented in a large and impressive scale by the visionaries behind this amazing old film.

The History of Labor Day

I was at a funeral this past Monday so I didn’t post anything, but it made me wonder about the origin of Labor Day in general. I borrowed this excerpt from the US Department of Labor’s website. You can read the full article here.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

A Nationwide Holiday

Women's Auxiliary Typographical UnionThe form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

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