Steampunk inspiration and resources

  • IMG_8475
  • Cowboys and Aliens (2011)

Latest

Has Steampunk Steam-Peaked???

Hiya Gearheads

As I comb the innumerable Steampunk websites that have closed down in order to find those few genuinely active people for my resources page, it is making me pretty depressed. It feels like half the sites I go to  are either sitting idle without new material for a year or two, or have their closing announcement right there on the front page. What’s even worse are the trolls who think it’s fun to post nasty comments about how “Steampunk is dead” on those announcements.

How is Steampunk’s Pulse Rate These Days?

As I look through my own website stats, I am sorry to report that Year 3 will probably fall short of Year 2’s readership. My normal summer lull is even lull-ier than in previous years even though my peaks in the winter and spring were at an all-time high. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this has more to do with my trickle of posts while I get my life together rather than anything to do with Steampunk as a whole, but it isn’t a good sign. (Though on a happier note, this site just passed 3,000 followers!)

On the other hand, when I searched Amazon for “Steampunk Books 2016” I got a listing of over 2,900 titles. I’m sure some of the things in that list aren’t actually books, but it certainly gives me hope. When I looked at the “Hot New Releases” section for Steampunk, there were 15 out of the top 20 coming out in just August alone! I also have been contacted recently by several new Steampunk authors who are looking for reviews, so I don’t think that the literature at least is going anywhere anytime soon.

 

IMG_8475

Teapot Racing at the International Steampunk Symposium

 

IMG_8520Then, there are the conventions. I don’t know the exact numbers for either Steampunk World’s Fair or the International Steampunk Symposium that I attended to this year, but Steampunk certainly didn’t seem “dead” at those events! (Unless of course I was surrounded by zombies…) Thousands of people went to these and other conventions all over the country, not to mention the world, in 2016 alone. And at these cons, hundreds of vendors sold their wares and dozens of bands played Steampunk-themed music. Yep, no resuscitation needed there!

 

I also decided to also take a quick mosey through YouTube. When you search for Steampunk there, you get a whopping 844,400 results! Of course, the stuff on YouTube doesn’t go anywhere just like the websites, so many of these could be outdated. On the other hand, does a fantastic short film have to be “new” to be great? Does a step-by-step guide to modifying your nerf gun really need to be updated? Not so much. Alright, videos devoted to Steampunk? Check.

Oh yeah, and of course there was Steampunked, a TV show for Steampunk artisans, just last year.

The Reports of my Death have been Greatly Exaggerated…

Based on these findings, I’d say that Steampunk is alive and well, and trolls just gonna troll no matter what. The biggest trend I have seen in Steampunk lately is to make it more inclusive. Collections like the upcoming Steampunk Universe will feature a number of stories about people who are considered “other” and the way steam technology effects their lives. I’ve attended a panel on the ethical treatment of women in science fiction, and it is clearly a topic near and dear to the hearts of many. And of course, the push to break out of the bounds of the English-speaking sphere and include the rest of the world’s cultures and settings in Steampunk stories.

And let’s not forget, 2017 will mark the 30th Anniversary of the word Steampunk. I expect we will see a resurgence of interest as this special anniversary is celebrated across the world and I hope you will join in on all the fun!

I’ll be putting out a formal call for submissions later this year, but to celebrate Steampunk’s birthday I want to throw a little party. I’ll be looking for folks who are interested in doing guests posts for the celebration and (fingers crossed) an anthology of short stories, so if you are a writer keep your eyes open for the submission windows.

What do you think, is Steampunk slowing down? Leave a comment!

 

Steampunk Crowdfunding Aug/Sept Edition

It’s official, summer is ending. I was out for a walk with my little canine buddy, Gadget, and we saw a yellow leaf drift from a tree and glide oh-so-poetically to the street. Perhaps the Kickstarter community is preparing for hibernation (or more likely, the first days of school) so there are only two projects to showcase this time around.

Here’s What’s Going on Right Now

Publishing

A Foretold Affair, Ends Sept. 16

Watch the video: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gbpatch/a-foretold-affair/widget/video.html

A Foretold Affair is a steampunk-fantasy Visual Novel being developed by GB Patch Games. The project features one long journey with variations based on the player’s choices.

Buffalo Seer is an eccentric Abnormal who wants nothing more than to use the magic ability within them: future seeing. However, even within their society where everyone has a special power, future seeing is considered dangerous and advised against.

Unable to be swayed, Seer finally gains permission to look into their own future, only to receive an unbelievable revelation. Not only have they left Abnormal society, they’re married to someone they’ve never met before. With visions of happiness in their mind, Seer leaves everything behind and ventures to the part of the land fraction where those without magic live: Normal society. Seer is going to convince this stranger that they are meant to be together no matter what it takes, even if it means tagging along on an adventure.

A Foretold Affair

In only a few days Seer will learn just how far away that pleasant future is.

My Favorite Reward: A $10 pledge gets you a full digital copy of this visual novel

Find out more

A Marine Veteran Publishes a Novel, Ends Sept. 26

Chronicles of Detective Dilan Strife: Sociopaths can be Geniuses too

Set in a chaotic fantasy world where two cities are at war while the largest, and most industrially strong city, Therant, is maintaining a neutral presence in the lands of Charmarion. You will be submerged into a dank universe where technology and knighthood clash to make ends meet. One man’s way of life is going to change the world they live in drastically.

Dilan Strife LogoDilan Strife, an ex soldier for Dekon’s Royal Shield, is a well known private detective for Grim Findings Inc. where he is often sought out to solve mysterious murders. His boss, John Grim, is a peculiar fellow that finds the oddest of jobs, and this new mystery for Dilan is going to be one of his toughest ones to date…

My Favorite Reward: For just one measly dollar you get a PDF of the finished book! (But remember, you can always pledge more at any reward level, so if you want to support the project but don’t need the extra rewards you can do that, too!)

Find out more

Find Out More About ‘The Sea Is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia’ Anthology

This is a reblog from one of the co-editors of a recent anthology I have been dying to check out. This is the intro so you can get a taste, or you can skip to the full transcript of her presentation here.

Recently I went to a conference held by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at UC Berkeley, entitled “Making Southeast Asian Culture: From Region To World.” Thanks to Dr. Gui Weihsin, I was on a panel on literary transformations in Southeast Asia.

I wouldn’t really say I’m a Southeast Asianist. In my main blog, I describe myself as being involved with UC Riverside’s SEATRiP program not by research, but through my creative pursuits. I DO study Southeast Asian history and cultures, but that is because I write stories that are meant for a Southeast Asian audience. So when Dr. Gui invited me to submit an abstract for this conference, I wracked my brain trying to think of a good usable topic (that could, in the interests of an academic career, transform into a publishable paper) and thought of something completely different, but completely untenable, and he said, “why not just talk about your book? You edited it, you know the field, you’d be the only steampunk specialist there, and it’s Southeast Asian literature.”
I can do that?
And turns out, of course I can, which put me into the position of speaking as an academic about a book I personally edited. I was very uncomfortable because on the one hand, Dr. Gui was right, it IS Southeast Asian Literature (we’ve got one white woman in the entire Table of Contents; white women are very diverse these days) and I AM an expert on the field and it IS a great opportunity to tell people about the book, but on the other hand, I have been taught, in so many ways, that being proud of my work and what I’ve done and talking about it is kind of big-headed, arrogant, and kinda rude. But I have the support of many lovely people here at UCR, including my adviser, so I wrote it, and made a very nice Powerpoint (which I’m not actually putting up here).

My Interview with Author E.C. Jarvis and her 4th Steampunk Book Release

The Destiny

This week I got the opportunity to pick the brain of author E. C. Jarvis as part of her launch for The Destiny, so you get your Monday post one day early! In 2015, I reviewed Book 1 of the Blood and Destiny series, The Machine, and Jarvis’ new book is the fourth and final installment in that series. If you missed it, you may want to read the review for The Machine, otherwise, let’s get started.

PD: How did you first find out about Steampunk? What do you like about it?

ECJ: Have you seen the awesome stuff Steampunk Aficionados come up with? What’s not to like? I admire the aesthetic, beautiful bustles, gorgeous gears, amazing machines, men dressed up in smart suits with top hats. The style gives so much potential for great adventure stories. I’m not much of a crafter, but I do love to write, so writing was really the only outlet I had to explore the endless possibilities of the world.

I didn’t know very much about it until the start of 2015 when I came across a short story prompt on Writing.com. They wanted a steampunk story with the idea being that something has to happen before the onset of winter. I rarely get inspired by such prompts but this one set something off which snowballed. The story grew and took on a life of its own as a few of my close friends encouraged me to keep going. Here we are, four books later and I guess it was just the right time for me to take writing seriously.

PD: Tell us a little about the world you have created for your series.

ECJ: It is initially set Sallarium city in the Republic of Daltonia. The city is very loosely based on Victorian London but with a steampunk twist. There is a central Hub which houses a secret Machine and our female lead, Larissa, is nothing more than a store clerk with an unusual necklace. There is a lot of travel across the books. We go from one end of the world to the other and back again, so lots of airships and sailing ships and trains. The characters grow and change as the landscape grows and changes.

PD: Did you research anything interesting to make these books happen, or is it all from your imagination?

ECJ: The majority of it is from my imagination, but I did have to do some specific research in parts. I’m no engineer or scientist, but I knew that the machine in the book should be a steampunk equivalent of a nuclear fission reactor. As much as I would have liked to go and grab a doctorate in nuclear fission, it turns out you can’t just go pick one of those up on a whim. So I had to resort to some basic research on Wikipedia articles and other useful places that google sent me to. I just hoped the police would take “I’m a writer” as a good reason for my internet search history. I had to make the dialogue for the characters when discussing the machine as fluid and “realistic” as possible. It would have been easy to just have them say “it’s like a big boiler but more complicated,” but that would have been lazy work.

In book two there is an “incident” with a volcano. In the first draft I had written that someone had set off a bunch of explosives which caused an eruption. Upon doing a little bit of research I found that such a scenario simply wouldn’t work. Volcanic eruptions are caused by a buildup of pressure that suddenly releases. So I rewrote that section to that effect. I’m sure most readers would neither know nor care about such things, but once I’d found that the real physics of my world were wrong, I knew I had to do something about it.

Similarly, I gave myself a crash course in airship design and handling, steam train operation, nautical terminology, military protocol, regal protocol, and a few other elements that I’ve forgotten about.

PD: Were there any cool tidbits or “deleted scenes” that didn’t make it into the books?

ECJ: There is an antagonist throughout the series that you don’t really discover as an antagonist until book two. In book four I started writing chapters from his point of view to try and give some insight into his character, but they weren’t really working, so had to be cut. Other than that I tend to write a fairly clean first draft, meaning that not a lot of altering goes on in the editing.

That said, the character of the Cleric wasn’t included in book one until I was almost at the end of writing it. Once he popped into the world I knew I wanted to make much more of him so I went back over the book and inserted him into a lot of scenes, including the very first pages. It added a dimension to the story that I never knew was missing.

PD: What is your main character like? Did you make her up from scratch or is she based on a real person?

ECJ: Larissa is so many things. She’s smart, determined, romantic, strong, and witty. Sadly though, she is very naïve, to her serious detriment. I put her through an awful lot of pain and suffering, but she still comes out the other side hopeful and strong. She’s probably a composite of a lot of people. I wanted more than anything to avoid the trap that some writers fall into when writing a female lead. It’s very easy to write a strong woman who is a complete bitch that readers end up disliking. I wanted people to feel for Larissa, to sympathize when she felt pain and to cheer when she did something awesome, and ultimately to root for her to win the day. I wouldn’t say she is based on me – the character of Cid is much more like me… is it odd that I identify with a surly old man more than a heroic young woman? In fact, don’t answer that.

PD: If you could give your younger self one piece of wisdom about writing or publishing, what would you tell her?

ECJ: You’re better than you give yourself credit for.

PD: This is your fourth and final release in this series. Obviously the work of promotion never ends, but how does it feel to get the last installment “done?”

ECJ: Odd. For a long time I just wanted to be done with the stories. They felt like a bit of a burden in the end, but now they’re gone I feel lost. It’s like some weird relationship that I really miss now it’s over. I did – rather unintentionally- leave a little wiggle room for maybe a fifth book, but despite missing the daily visit to the world in my head, I’m in no rush to go back there. Maybe one day.

PD: What’s next for you as a writer?

ECJ: I have my other series to finish, one third and final book which is about fifteen percent written already. After that I have a few other projects in mind. I’ll never stop writing, it’s like a lung, I can’t cut it out without causing serious detriment to my health. Whether I’ll pursue agents and publishers in the future depends on how my other works go. Self-publishing is very rewarding, but the marketing and promotions are a lot of hard work. It’s a commitment and a vocation and the thrill of it is wearing off a bit. Maybe I’ll feel differently after a break. Who knows?

Find E.C. Jarvis on Amazon

 

Penny Dreadful Comes to Netflix

That’s right friends, you can now watch Penny Dreadful with Netflix rather than curse at your cable package for not carrying Showtime. I started it last night and it was amazing. Plus, the perfect thing to get me into a spoooOOOoooky mood for the world’s best holiday, Halloween! In only the pilot I already came face to face with vampiric ghouls and a very mad scientist obsessed with animating the dead.

In case you’ve never heard of this lovely little ode to the gory and the gothic, check out the trailer.

 

 

Booze, Glorious Booze: Absinthe

absinthe_robette_poster“The green fairy” first twinkled into existence in 1792 in the hands of a French doctor named Pierre Ordinaire (yep, his name was basically Pete Normalguy but with a better accent). He was looking for a delivery method for wormwood, which at the time was thought to have healing effects. By 1797, Ordinaire sold his recipe to a Swiss father and son team, who eventually moved production to Pontarlier, France in 1805. Absinthe production rose to as high as 400 liters a day over the following decades and mostly in service to a growing demand by elite imbibers, but this was nothing compared to the demand create by the “absinthe fever” that took over mid-century Bohemia.

absinthe_edouard_pernot.htmDuring the 1850’s, many artists and writers turned to this spirited spirit to find their muse, and by the 1870’s people from all walks of life were drinking it. In addition to being a jolly good time, absinthe was also used to fight off bacterial infections. In those days the water quality for the average French urbanite was very bad, and people added alcohol in order to “purify” before drinking. Believe it or not, wine was actually more expensive than absinthe, so many poor people saw it is the economical choice. Adding water to absinthe also has the strange effect of making it cloudy, so absinthe-water would be a delightfully minty green color.

One American city started a long-lasting relationship with absinthe as well. New Orleans embraced the green fairy as early as 1869, and within a few years was known as the “Absinthe Capital of America.” Special absinthe cocktail lounges opened all over the city, and local brands like The Green Opal and Legendre were born. At a bar called The Absinthe Room, the owner installed a special fountain that dripped the diluted alcohol over lumps of sugar and into waiting glasses. These lounges attracted several notable end of century figures such as Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Oscar Wilde.

If you didn't have a fountain, you could put sugar on a special spoon and drip water through it to achieve the same effect

If you didn’t have a fountain, you could put sugar on a special spoon and drip water through it to achieve the same effect

While something that calls itself absinthe is available in the US, the truth is that it’s missing the special ingredient: wormwood. Though many European countries do not restrict its sale, the original recipe for absinthe is considered toxic by the FDA. I tried some old world absinthe during my travels and I didn’t think it was all the special, personally. Maybe I needed to be drinking alone and staring at a canvas or something, but my muse was pretty mute. Absinthe tastes very strongly of anise, so if you aren’t a black licorice fan I’d stay steer clear.

Have you ever had a run-in with the green fairy? Leave a comment below!

 

Steampunk Movie Review: Cowboys and Aliens

ca_wp7_1920

A lot of the movies that I put under the umbrella of Steampunk get that title because of more or less aesthetic reasons. The City of Ember, for instance, is technically a post-Apocalyptic future, but the people rely on a level of technology akin to the 1900’s. Cowboys and Aliens falls on the other end of the spectrum. Instead of looking Steampunk, the very essence of the story is an alternate history with a futuristic twist, which makes it qualify in my book. It’s also an awesome mash-up that expertly uses some of Western’s best tropes and integrates horror movie principles flawlessly.

cowboys-and-aliens-fullThe film opens with sweeping shots of the seemingly empty landscape. Cut to Daniel Craig, dirty, bleeding, and with no memory of how he ended up in the middle of the desert with a funky metal contraption on his arm. Within a few minutes, he establishes his unadulterated badassery and his status as the consummate cowboy – a gruff loner with a quick draw and sledgehammer fists. But all he has are disturbing flashes of the dead eyes of a beautiful woman staring at him to tell him who he is or where he came from.

Enter Harrison Ford, an ex-military man turned cattle rancher who now spends his time bullying the townsfolk. His son takes his shenanigans one step too far and winds up in jail. (You see what I mean about classic Western tropes?) The big showdown between Ford and the sheriff seems imminent and then BOOM! Aliens attack! They blow stuff up and use these wicked grapplers to take hostages and whisk them away. Suddenly, the people who were at each other’s throats are pulled together in their quest to get their people back and retake their little patch of earth from the invaders.

The film is based on a graphic novel by the same title, and the director, Jon Favreau, was committed to both the spectacle of a comic and making a damn good Western. The special effects are great and the gritty realism of the cinematography and acting grounds what may seem like a goofy concept and makes it feel like it really could have happened. This is a great adventure film and I strongly recommend it for fans of science fiction and old movies alike.

Cowboys-Aliens-cowboys-and-aliens-27262052-1920-800

 

I Can’t Be the Only One who Wonders How Victorian Women Used the Toilet…

Using the bathroom is hard enough in my Steampunky tu-tu, but I couldn’t imagine how someone would do it in a full on bustle. Luckily, when I was looking into just that question, YouTube came through🙂

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,027 other followers

%d bloggers like this: