Weekend at the Asylum: The Markets
Europe’s largest Steampunk convivial was the host to several markets and tons of talented traders and craftspeople. There was one open to the general public in Castle Square, but the rest were only available to convention attendees. It was fun to be at the open market because of the opportunity to see all the “normals” mixing with the Steampunk crowd, but the closed markets were a great opportunity to visit booth after booth without being overcrowded.
I got a chance to talk to lots of people and collect several business cards, so I will do some posts on individual folks and businesses where you can get some stuff to add extra steam to your own cosplay. For now, here are some pics of the general hub-bub and the kinds of things you could purchase as part of the convention. Even with the pounds to dollars conversion I found the prices for vintage and handmade goods to be very reasonable. I picked up a utility belt, some art supplies and lovely lace collar for less than 50 GBP total.
Steampunk Book Review: War of the Worlds
To help me get ready for the H.G. Wells Sourcebook I am going to write for Steam Tour: An American Steampunk in London, I decided to read several of his scientific romances. I read the Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau several months ago, but it is always interesting to read an author’s whole canon in quick succession. My goal is to read War of the Worlds, First Men in the Moon, Tales of Space and Time and The Door in the Wall at minimum before the ezine comes out, but if you think I am missing something even better than what is on that list let me know!
My experience with War of the Worlds was a bit backwards, because I read League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 2, and the events of that book are closely related to Wells classic tale, and very faithfully adapted it turns out.
Like many of Wells books, this story started as a serial in magazines rather than as a novel from the beginning. The serial ran during 1897 and it was later compiled into a book in 1898. It is divided into two parts, The Coming of the Martians and Earth Under the Martians. The name of the Surrey-based narrator is never revealed, and he tells the harrowing adventure through his eyes as well as through his brother’s account of what happens to London itself when Martians descend and start an invasion.
One thing that I love about Wells stories is how much of the scientific knowledge of the times he includes in his tales. For instance, the arrival of the Martians is preceded by strange explosions visible on the surface of the red planet, and it takes the Martian pods several weeks to arrive to the outskirts of London. It then takes over a day for the metal to cool down enough for the pods to open. In the meantime, people have started to gather and even sell refreshments around the first pit where they crash-landed. I love that detail, and I absolutely believe it would happen that way. Soon, the festival atmosphere turns to terror when the Martians assemble their deadly heat ray, our narrator only escaping because he had been sent on an errand and was not in the pit with the scientists who first try to make contact. Through a series of near-misses and some quick thinking, the narrator survives the first wave of attacks by the be-tentacled Martians and their huge fighting machines, and tells the story of (in his view) the apex of society falling to pieces in the face of a cold and calculating enemy. He is surprisingly pragmatic about the whole affair, often likening the human race to insects or rodents who are disturbed by the machinations of people. This is not true of most of the people he meets on his way though, and there are several different kinds of madness worked into the narrative.
This is a tale of invasion, but also of devotion between a husband and wife, which took me by surprise. I have only just started to look at Wells personal life, but he carried on a number of affairs during his second marriage after divorcing his first wife, so the commitment shown by the narrator seems inconsistent with what I know of the author.
The first time I ever heard of War of the Worlds it was the story of its broadcast on Halloween 1938. The accounts vary, but in the days following several newspapers reported a wave of fearful folks who believed a real invasion was taking place. They opted to present 40 minutes of the hour-long tale as a series of simulated news bulletins, and this coupled with a lack of commercial breaks added to the realism. There was a disclaimer at the beginning of the show, but anyone who tuned in late could have gotten the impression that they were hearing something that was going on in real time. Most likely, the newspaper accounts of a panicked populace were blown out of proportion because of the competition between traditional print media and the new radio technology. (What?! The news was sensationalized? Never!)
I can definitely see why this book has been adapted and re-adapted several times and in different media. The aliens and their technology remains alien and stands the test of time better than say, First Men in the Moon. It is definitely worth a read, not just because it is a classic but because it is a genuinely interesting social commentary that transcends the time in which it was written.
Have you read it or seen a movie version? What did you think?
Steampunk Book Review: Clockwork Prince (Infernal Devices 2)
After I read Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, I knew I had to continue the journey. I just had to find out more about Tessa and her mysterious ability to change into anyone, living or dead, just by holding something they owned. And what was the origin of the tiny titan, the clockwork angel, that seemed to come to life just in time to save Tessa’s?
The Clockwork Prince picks up only a few weeks after the events of the last book. Charlotte’s grip on the Institute is tenuous in the wake of the discovery that Tessa’s brother had been a spy in their midst. The Council gives them only two weeks to locate Mortmain, the man who claims to have “made” Tessa and shaped her ability (not to mention he intends to marry her for a still as yet unknown reason). They may have recovered the volatile volume that gives warlocks the ability to bring clockwork to life, but Mortmain has already perfected his technique and it is only a matter of time before the clockwork army makes its move against the Shadowhunters.
As Tessa tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered life she finds comfort in Jem, a kind soul destined to die young from addiction to a drug that both cures and kills him. She has to find some way to to take her mind off Will, Jem’s brother from another mother and resident blue-eyes heart throb, who has done his best to push her away. If only her heart didn’t pitter patter faster every time he entered the room…
Their search for answers about Mortmain, not Warlock nor demon but a human with a vast web of downworld allies, takes them to the countryside. Will, Jem and Tessa don’t expect to find anything at his old homestead, but they are met with both an automaton with a warning and the past that Will has been desperately trying to flee. Somehow his family has become intertwined with the enemy, but a vow he made long ago makes him powerless to help them.
The Council also declared that Tessa and any untrained servants at the Institute needed combat training. The Lightwood family is all too happy to provide the stoical Gideon and sarcastic Gabriel to assist in the training, and of course, to do a little spying. If only the Lightwoods were the only ones inside the hallowed halls working against them…
I had a great time reading this book. There are a lot of teen romances out there, and even a lot of teen romances between teens with super powers, but I think Clare crafts and especially robust and heart rending narrative and weaves it throughout an exciting story in a way that does not feel at all forced. I didn’t get my questions about Tessa or the angel answered, but of course I didn’t really expect to, that is for the final installment 🙂 She does get to eliminate some possibilities, which makes me wonder even more what the truth will turn out to be.
I will definitely be picking up the third book, The Clockwork Princess.
Albert Robida (1848-1926) was a french illustrator and science fiction writer. You can find a good article about his life here. Below is a small sampling of this prolific artist’s work.