Steampunk inspiration and resources

Short Films and Promos

Steampunk Short Film: Magmanite

 

This little film tells an interesting story without using any words. It was made to promote a live action role-playing game called Magmanite in 2011.


A Very Unusual Duel

You can check out the rest of the Unusual Duel videos by Atlas Obscura here.


Take a Trip Down Memory Lane with the Earliest Footage of London

Yestervid is a super cool website that compiles footage from the earliest days of filmmaking. This montage features some of the oldest film and sound recordings around the city of London, and they have a map showing the exact location and camera angle for reference.


Steampunk Short: The Ouroboros Cycle Promo

I ran across this book promo for piece by G. D. Falksen the other day and I am definitely intrigued. The third installment came out in 2015.

Have you ever read anything by this author?


Steampunk Sourcebook: Jack the Ripper

On display at the Museum of London

On display at the Museum of London

Jack the Ripper is the world’s most famous serial killer, both because of the brutality of the murders and the fact that the crimes are still unsolved. I have seen many Steampunk works make reference to the Whitechapel Murders as a means of situating their stories in time, as well as Jack appearing as a character in movies and books. But with so many interpretations floating around, it can be hard to keep the facts straight, so here is a cheat sheet to help you get it right.

(I went on a Jack the Ripper tour while I was in London for my Steam Tour research and you can read about it here.)

The Murders

  • In 1888 there were a string of murders in the Whitechapel District of London. Due to the similarities between the victims, modus of the murders, and the proximity of the crimes they were attributed to the same killer. There are five women who are generally accepted as victims of the same serial killer, but there easily could have been more murders that were never discovered, or there could have been more than one murderer.
    • Murder #1: Mary Ann Nichols, killed sometime between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m. on August 30, 1888. She was an alcoholic, which led to her separation from her husband in 1882 and her inability to keep any other job than prostitute. Her throat was cut and her abdomen was mutilated.
    • Murder #2: Annie “Dark Annie” Chapman, killed at approximately 5:30 a.m. on September 8, 1888. After the death of one of her children by meningitis, she and her husband both became heavy drinkers and separated in 1884. Her husband was required by law to provide for her welfare, but he died in 1886 from alcohol poisoning. She tried to support herself through crocheting and selling flowers, but was also involved in prostitution.
    • Murder #3: Elizabeth “Long Liz” Stride, killed sometime between 12:35 and 1:00 a.m. on September 30, 1888. Her throat was cut and her abdomen was mutilated. The postmortem doctor identified the weapon as a thin knife blade, approximately 6-8 inches in length. Like the other victims she and her husband separated, but she was a prostitute before and after her marriage fell apart. She spoke Yiddish and Swedish in addition to English.
    • Murder #4: Catherine Eddowes (aka Kate Conway and Kate Kelly), killed a few hours after Elizabeth Stride on September 30, 1888. She left her first common-law husband, Thomas Conway, and her three children in 1880. Later, she took up with John Kelly and they lived together in a lodging house on Flower Street. The night of her death she was arrested for drunkenness and held at the Bishopsgate police station until approximately 1:30 a.m. Within minutes she was killed on her way home. Her face and her abdomen were mutilated, and a piece of her ear as well as her kidney was taken by the killer.
    • Murder #5: Mary Jane “Fair Emma” Kelly (aka “Ginger” and “Black Mary”) was killed November 9, 1888. It is believed that the increase in police patrols accounts for the lag between the deaths of Eddowes and Kelly. Her origin is less well-documented than the other victims, but sources say she was the widow of a coal miner with the surname Davies who died in an explosion around 1881. Like the other victims, she was a drinker and reportedly sang Irish songs while enjoying her gin, so it is believed she hailed from Ireland. Unlike the other victims, she was found murdered in her home around 10:45 a.m. and the time of death was set at between 6 and 8 a.m. that morning. Her body was extensively mutilated, the coroner believed the murderer took more than two hours to complete his task.
  • During press coverage, the killer was most often referred to as “The Whitechapel Murderer” or “Leather Apron” because of the aprons worn by butchers. The name “Jack” became connected to the murders after letters began to arrive at news outlets and signed by that name.
  • The five canonized Ripper killings occurred between August and November of 1888, but police continued to investigate a total of 11 murders that they suspected were linked up until 1891.

The Suspects

  • Historians and hobbyists alike have speculated over the identity of The Ripper, and some sources say as many as 500 different people (including at least one woman) have come under suspicion. Many of these people were not suspects during the actual investigation and that is far too many to talk about here to I will only highlight the most well-known and/or plausible.
  • According to some, Jack’s identity was already discovered in 2014—or was it? A silk shawl that supposedly belonged to one of the victims underwent DNA testing starting in 2007. In 2014, a book by Russell Edwards detailed the findings of scientist Jari Louhelainen, who claims to have definitive evidence that identifies Aaron Kominski as the notorious murderer.  Kominski came under suspicion in 1888 at the age of 23 and died in a mental institution 30 years later. Unfortunately, Louhelainen made at least two major errors in his analysis that were brought to light in October 2014, rendering the conclusions useless. The search continues.
  • Others think that the Jack the Ripper conspiracy went all the way to the highest levels of government. Spoiler alert! In the 2001 Johnny Depp flick called “From Hell,” Jack is in fact Prince Edward “Eddy” Victor, aka “grandson” to queen Victoria. According to the theory, Eddy impregnated a low-class girl (and a Catholic no less!) and to avoid the scandal, the queen ordered the matter be “taken care of.” Annie Crook and her royal offspring are spirited away by the royal physician, John Gull, but her friends like Mary Kelly are making too much noise about the disappearance and must be silenced. The serial killer who hates prostitutes is created to cover the real scandal and claims many victims.
  • Others actually suspect John Gull himself as the murderer because of the precision of the cuts made to the victims and the fact that Jack was never caught points to some kind of conspiracy in the minds of many enthusiasts.
  • One of the more likely suspects is Seweryn Klosowski (aka George Chapman), a Polish-born Jew who had only been in Whitechapel a short time before the murders began. In 1903 he was convicted on three counts of murder and hanged for killing his wives. This would seem to make him a very good suspect indeed, but he killed his known victims with poison, not brutality, and serial murderers rarely change their modus operandi.
  • John Pizer was arrested in 1888 for the murders, but was later let go because he had alibis (including talking to a policeman) during two of the five canonical murders. The Sergeant who arrested him, William Thicke, allegedly had personal animosity against Pizer and no evidence whatsoever. Pizer sought reparations from at least one of the news outlets that reported he was the murderer. Thicke was later accused as being The Ripper in a letter sent to The Home Office, but this was likely a hoax and was never followed up on by the authorities.

batman-gotham-by-gaslight-000Jack the Ripper in Literature

  • Gotham by Gaslight (1989) pits Jack against Batman in Gotham City.
  • In the Steampunk Chronicles series by Kady Cross, Jack is a character.
  • Ripper (2012), by Stefan Petrucha, follows the quest of young man from New York City to find his father in London, but instead finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation.
  • Ripper (2012), by Amy Carol Reeves, is about a young woman who is volunteering at a Whitechapel hospital and has visions of the Ripper’s murders before they happen.

PosterJack the Ripper in Other Media

  • Ripper Street” is a BBC show about rebuilding Whitechapel in the wake of the Ripper killings. It began in 2012 and the third season is airing as of now (January 2015). (Review coming soon!)
  • Time After Time” (1979) Jack the Ripper uses H. G. Wells time machine to escape his own time and is pursued by Wells to San Francisco, CA.
  • From Hell” (2001) Johnny Depp and Heather Graham star in this film that takes its name from one of the famous Ripper letters that were sent to the press.
  • Progress” is a webseries that operates in an alternative Victorian London where there is already a steam-powered internet. You can watch the first three episodes for free at progresstheseries.com.
  • A game for Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows entitled “Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper” was released in 2009.

SH vs JtR game

Did I miss and Ripper references, books or movies you know? Please leave a comment so I can add to my list!


Steam-powered Internet? Now That’s What I Call “Progress”

I was just putting the finishing touches on my Jack the Ripper Sourcebook for Steam Tour and I ran across an intriguing webseries called “Progress.” This “period cyber-thriller” takes place in an alternative Victorian London. A hacker uses the steam-powered internet to investigate a coded message written by Jack in an attempt to save the lives of his intended victims. It was originally an Indiegogo campaign in 2013, but even though it fell short of its funding they have made the first three episodes of the intended 10-part series in hopes of courting a larger production company.

The trailer is below, and you can watch the chilling episodes (and perhaps make a donation?) at their website.


Get Ready to Celebrate Halloween all Month Long with ForWhomTheGearTurns!

model: Candace Miller Photographer: Richard Fournier

model: Candace Miller Photographer: Richard Fournier

That’s right folks, it’s time for a monster mash. One popular way to “punk your steam” is to add elements of the supernatural to the tales from history, offering explanations that incorporate ghouls such as vampires and werewolves rather than what the history books say, as well creating brand new narratives where monsters play a role. Also, the Victorian era saw the birth of Spiritualism, the belief that spirits of the dead could and often did communicate with the living. All Hallows Eve, which has now been shortened to Halloween, celebrates the creepy and costume, and Steampunk seamstresses and seamsters, make-up artists and makers the world over use it as a chance to showcase their talents and share their knowledge.

1872

1872

 

Halloween has always held a special place in my heart, and in fact I launched this blog on October 31, 2013, so October is also my countdown the my first blogging birthday. Join me all month long for reviews of Steampunk movies and books that feature monsters and witches, costume construction tips from the sessions I attended at Weekend at the Asylum, LARP-ing games to give you an excuse to dust off your costume early, and other spooky fun surrounding the history of ghost stories and the practices of Spiritualism.

Do you have a scary or supernatural Steampunk story or photos of your Halloween creations that you would like to see appear on this blog? Send them my way at ForWhomTheGearTurns@Gmail.com. I can’t guarantee that I will post everything I receive, but I would love to get some submissions from readers. Make sure that you include the name you would like your creation attributed to as part of your email.

 

 


Steampunk Book Review: Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences 1)

phoenixrising cover

I’ve read a few books lately as part of my research for my Steampunk travel zine that I have only been luke warm about: Around the World in 80 Days, The Other Log of Phileas Fogg and The Difference Engine. So you can imagine my utter joy at finding a book that I can’t say enough good things about, and that book is Phoenix Rising.

Published in 2011 by co-authors Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, Phoenix Rising is the first of a series that now numbers five novels and several volumes of short stories about the mysterious Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. It chronicles a newly formed partnership between a Kiwi field agent with a taste for explosives, Eliza D. Braun, and a stiff and proper bookworm/mechanical genius, Wellington Books. Down in the archives of the Ministry, unresolved cases go to languish in the gaslight. That is, until Braun is exiled to those hallowed halls after her, er, enthusiasm (spelled d-y-n-a-m-i-t-e) gets the best of her on a mission in Antarctica to bring back the kidnapped Books. Braun’s former partner was working on something big, and now that case is simply being filed away, something Eliza cannot allow. There is a malevolent power rising in England, and their symbol, the phoenix, seems to be popping up around every turn…

This was a great, action-packed read. There is just the right mix of tension, both sexual and political, and awesome gadgets to satisfy your Steampunk needs. I thoroughly enjoyed the unfolding of the two main characters as they discovered each other, and I look forward to finding out more through their eyes in the next installment, The Janus Affair (check out the trailer below!).

 


Review: Victorian Vices at Ed Fringe 2014

The Durham-based company, Another Soup, has two back-to-back shows this year at the Space on Niddry St. Both are promenade musicals, meaning that the actors move in and out of the audience to give them an immersive experience. I have never seen a show like these before and I thought the approach was interesting, though better suited to Sweeny Todd and the String of Pearls than to a Picture of Dorian Gray. In Sweeny Todd, the ‘ladies of the night’ and other patrons of Mrs. Lovett’s shop wend their way through the audience going through purses and trading hats with members of the crowd, which was engaging and silly fun during a tale of gruesome murders. But the side characters in Dorian Gray were aristocrats (though similarly gin-soaked by the end) which didn’t lend itself to the same treatment, and the larger crowd made it difficult for a short person stuck in the middle of the pack (ie, me) to see most of the action.

The lighting situation was also more favorable to Sweeny Todd, and faces were never lost behind the shadows of the audience, where Dorian Gray could have benefited from even one light in Dorian’s chambers when tall patrons between the single bank of lights and the small but lovely set sometimes totally obliterated the well-executed efforts of the cast. The audience is expected to stand and move about during the shows, as well as occasionally dancing with the actors, something I wish I had known before spending the whole day at the National Museum of Scotland and then seeing the shows one after the other. By the time I got home my feet were killing me! So be prepared if you are planning to see them both. (People with health issues are welcome to sit during the performances but they will definitely miss some of the action.)

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

So let’s take them one at a time.

Sweeny Todd and the String of Pearls is adapted from a serialized tale called The String of Pearls: A Romance, which took place in 1785 and was first published as a serial in 1846-47. The story has been adapted for stage and screen many times over, but in case you aren’t familiar with it, here’s the short version. Sweeny Todd is a barber on Fleet Street in London. He kills his victims (sometimes through breaking their necks and sometimes giving them too close a shave with his straight-edge razor) and then disposes of the bodies by giving them to his neighbor, Mrs. Lovett, to bake into meat pies at a time when meat is very scarce in the darker corners of the city. In Another Soup’s version, the story takes place in the 1850s during the Great Stink and the Cholera epidemic of 1858 but the main plot is still the same. Depending on the adaptation, Todd and Lovett are business partners, friends or lovers, and in this version they are most decidedly the latter, sometimes carrying on their affair while the main action of the show takes place elsewhere. It is Todd’s affection for Mrs. Lovett, who commits the first two murders, that leads him to help her with the cover up and makes him her “supplier” for her meat pies. Business is booming so Lovett needs an assistant, which eventually leads to their discovery and downfall.

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

Captured surreptitiously but posted with permission during Sweeny Todd

The music was played by a live band including an accordian that sometimes was in the thick of it with the actors. The enthusiasm of the cast was infectious and the singing was well blended and balanced. I enjoyed having the sound come from all around me when the actors were sprinkled throughout the crowd. Todd and Lovett were very well cast and did a splendid job, as did the playful smaller parts. Unfortunately, if you are right next to the band you lose a lot of the lyrics, which were in general much stronger writing than the dialog. The music is clearly the focus of the show, but when the actors don’t have mics it can be hard to follow.

For the best experience, I would suggest that you stand near the corner of the room where the two sets come together so you can get the most out the singing but still hear the music clearly. Be prepared to move during the show and come back together in a different configuration. I loved this aspect because it allowed people who had not had as good of a vantage point in the beginning to see more of the show later. So even if you start out at the back, be patient and you will get a chance to see, plus more of a chance to interact with the side characters. The crowd for this show was smaller than for Dorian Gray, and I think the group of 30 or so in the audience is the right size for the venue.

_2014VICTORK_AJXAfter about a 30 minute break where we rested our feet by sitting on the stone steps outside, we went back in for round 2. The Picture of Dorian Gray was the first show I found on the Ed Fringe docket to write about for Victorian and Steampunk inspiration and I was the most excited to see it. Sweeny Todd I had seen as a musical before, but never Dorian Gray and I was intrigued. The story centers on Dorian, a lovely youth seduced by the delectable debaucheries of the Victorian age, his mentor, Lord Henry Wotton, and the painter of his portrait, Basil Hallward. Upon seeing his portrait, he wishes that he could always stay as young and beautiful as it is, and in wishing makes a pact with the devil. Dorian falls in love with an actress, but later rejects her when she wants to quit the stage, which leads to her suicide. When he later looks at the portrait, it has changed and started to become ugly to reflect the decay of his soul while he remains the same.

The three main male roles were perfectly cast, though I think the strain of so many performances was starting show in their voices (and who can blame them!). The music and especially the female chorus voices were lovely (and the “sisters” steal the show), though they sometimes overpowered the male soloists who were singing very low in their ranges, which makes it harder to project in a room without very good acoustics. They were all very true to their roles and stayed in character, even when I saw one audience member start to giggle in Henry’s face during a dramatic moment in the closing number. So, well done to the cast for making the most of a less than ideal situation.

The crowd was larger, and I think on the whole taller, which meant I could not see nearly as well as during the first show. At least half of the action takes place right in front of the band, and so directly in front of a bank of stage lights which also made it harder to see. I would love to see this show again staged as a traditional musical where I could get all the action from start to finish. (I think the best place to stand for this one is near the free-standing gas lights on the near wall as you enter the space.) Because I knew the basic story already (though I haven’t read the original yet) I wasn’t surprised by the turns of events, but I didn’t feel that the dialogue did enough to move Dorian from one stage of his thinking to another. I would have liked to see him first fall in love with his painting and then become jealous rather than his first reaction to be disdainful. I also liked that the homosexual undertones were brought to the forefront, but I found the scene where Dorian and Basil kiss to feel strange and I expected to see Basil more swept up and given hope rather than saddened. But on the whole the acting was very good even if the actors made different choices than I would have.

If you only choose one Victorian Vices show to see, I would say go with Sweeny Todd for the dynamic staging and charismatic Todd and Lovett. Dorian Gray was very well done, it just didn’t work as well in the space. If you have comfy shoes, they are great to see back-to-back for a great night of entertainment. The soundtracks for both shows will be available soon, and I highly recommend them!

Both shows are running from now until the 23rd, so don’t miss your chance to taste a little vice.

Get tickets here: tickets.edfringe.com

Learn more about Another Soup at their website: www.anothersoup.co.uk


Gearing up for Steam Tour: Morgan and West Magicians

Morgan & West: Parlour Tricks »

Category Comedy
Genres Magic, Cabaret
Group Corrie McGuire for Objective Talent
Venue Pleasance Dome
Times 19:00
Suitability U
Duration 1 hour

_2014MORGANW_PVTime travelling magic duo Morgan and West present a brand new show chock full of jaw-dropping, brain-bursting, gasp-eliciting feats of magic. The dashing chaps offer up a plateful of illusion and impossibility, all served with wit, charm and no small amount of panache. Be sure to wear a hat – Morgan and West might just blow your mind. ***** (ThreeWeeks). Buxton Fringe Comedy Award Winner 2013.

more »

Here is a taste from their youtube channel.