Steampunk inspiration and resources

Posts tagged “Steampunk

Onwards and Upwards! To The Steampunk Journal and Beyond

Hiya Gearheads

I know, I know, I’ve been really quiet lately. For people who have been following me a while, you may have seen this happen before, and it’s a good sign there’s some sort of big announcement on the horizon…Today is no different.

I’ve been writing For Whom The Gear Turns for over three years and I have loved every minute. I’ve got over 500 posts under my stylish Steampunk utility belt, and in recognition of my hard work, I was recently approached by Matt Grayson of the Steampunk Journal. He was looking for a co-editor to help him run the world’s most popular Steampunk website, and when he made the offer to merge our sites into one super site I knew I had to accept.

You heard right folks, I’m moving on over to the Steampunk Journal!

Starting in February, you’ll be able to find my new articles posted at the Journal alongside updated versions of old reviews and articles you may have missed. For Whom The Gear Turns will stay up for a few months during the transition, but eventually I will move completely into my new digs at the Journal.

And I hope you’ll join me!

You didn’t think I’d leave you out in the cold now, did you? There are more ways than ever to hang with me on the interwebs and share in the growing Steampunk community. Pick your favorite or do all three; each has a different focus.

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  1. Follow the Steampunk Journal – It’s a WordPress site just like this one, so it is easy to subscribe via email or your WordPress reader. This site began within a few months of my own, but Matt and I cover very different topics. I love history, books, and movies, and Matt does interviews, music and game reviews, and photography, so we have a really complementary balance of all things Steampunk to offer! So if you are in it purely for the Steampunk, follow me at the Journal.
  2. Check out my new author page and subscribe to my newsletter. I’m still setting up this site and editing excerpts to share, but if you are interested in hearing about what is going on with my fiction writing and appearances at conventions, this is the best way to follow along. I won’t inundate you with emails, either. The plan is to create a monthly newsletter that includes excerpts and news about my book-length projects like No Rest For The Wicked, Riftmaker, and my blog-to-book project, The Steampunk Handbook.
  3. Pinmart artJoin the United We Steampunk, Divided We Fall group on Facebook! There are weekly threads devoted to fun topics and tips, plus opportunities to post links to items for sale. The goal is to act as means to get makers and writers in contact with the fans and bloggers they need to succeed, but there’s plenty of fun and silliness there, too! If your goals involve connecting with the greater Steampunk community, then I highly recommend getting in on the ground floor of this new group.

Thank you all for sharing this journey with me, I couldn’t have done it without you!

I’ve loved running my little corner of the internet, and I appreciate your ongoing support of my projects and writing. I spent weeks struggling with this decision, but ultimately I believe this is the best way to ensure the future of the content I’ve already created, and to reach the largest possible audience moving forward.

Was there an article I wrote or something I recommended that has really stuck with you? Do you have concerns about the transition or not sure how to keep getting the type of content you want? Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!


Glub glub in a Steampunk Sub

I have started work on the sequel to Riftmaker, and I am planning to include a super cool Steampunk submarine. I have been collecting images for inspiration so I thought I’d share the fruits of my labors with you. When possible, I have credited the artist but most of these images came via Pinterest so if you see something miss-credited or you know who was the brains behind a certain sub please let me know.

 


Quotable Quotes by Oscar Wilde

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1. I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.

2. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.

3. Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.

4. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.

Oscar cape5. The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.

6. Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

7. What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

8. A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.

9. When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.

Oscar red10. There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.

11. Work is the curse of the drinking classes.

12. Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.

13. True friends stab you in the front.

14. All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.

15. Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.

16. There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

17. Genius is born—not paid.

18. Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.

19. How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?

Oscar cape and hat20. A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.

21. My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s.

22. The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.

23. I like men who have a future and women who have a past.

24. There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.

25. Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.


Warring Worlds and Grinding Gears – a Beginners Guide to Steampunk Wargames (Andrew Knighton Guest Post #3)

Despite their destructive theme, tabletop wargames are full of creativity, from the professionals writing rules and sculpting miniatures through to the enthusiasts building terrain and painting figures. Whether you want to play at steam powered warfare, or just collect wild and fascinating toys, then there’s a steampunk wargame option for you.

Pop Sculpture – the Miniatures

Like pop music and self-publishing, wargames miniatures are the sort of art that has often been sneered at by high-brow culture. But the existence of the Beatles and Hugh Howie show just how misguided that sneering can be. As Patrick Stuart has argued on HiLoBrow, wargames miniatures are a form of pop sculpture, and one that allows more engagement by the audience than traditional sculpture. These tiny statues are designed to be modified, for you to change them through painting or conversion, to feel them in your hand, to play with them. The best are things of incredible artistry, especially in their tiny details, and they invite you to join in the creation, not just to stand and stare.

Boy is there a lot to stand and stare at. Infamy Miniatures have a growing range of steampunk figures, punking up everyone from Nikola Tesla to a monstrous Mr Hyde, with a gun-toting Oscar Wylde on the way. Demented Games have a wheeled version of Dickens’s Dodger. Artizan Designs have masked and sinister policemen. Games Workshop have several steampunk figures in their fantasy range, including the dwarf gyrocopter and the spectacular Empire Steam Tank.

If you want to collect tiny steampunk statues, then miniatures manufacturers have you covered. Just follow a few links, pick something you like, and start collecting.

Bring on the Battles

What about the games themselves?

The most popular steampunk wargame is Privateer Press’s Warmachine. Set in the steampunk fantasy world of the Iron Kingdoms, its armies centre around massive steampowered war robots guided by magical warcasters. You can play as a Soviet-style empire, religious fanatics, or even piratical freebooters, each with their own distinct steampunky aesthetic. For someone new to wargaming, Warmachine has two big advantages. It scales well, letting you start out small, and there are lots of players so you can find someone to learn with – just ask at your local gaming shop or on Privateer Press’s online forums.

The downside of Warmachine is that its rules are built around a particular brand of miniatures. If you want to collect a wide range of steampunk soldiers then there are plenty of other options. Military history publishers Osprey have a set of steampunk rules designed for small scale skirmishes – again ideal for a beginner.

The Joy of Making

“But I already have plenty of steampunk in my life,” I hear you cry. “Why bother with wargames?”

I’ll give you three answers.

The first is that you might not want to bother. After all, you could be working on your costume. But you were interested enough to read this far, so hopefully that answer isn’t the one you’re after.

The second reason is the one that applies to anything steampunky – because you can never have too much steampunk. And with wargames miniatures taking up so little space, why not fit a few into your life?

But the real reason is the third one – because wargames, like all the best steampunk activities, let you be creative. They let you take things that are already in the world and turn them into cooler things. Maybe you’ll buy an awesome miniature and make it even more awesome by painting it in your favourite colour scheme. Maybe you’ll buy an OK figure and make it amazing by adding extra bits, converting it into a model of you in your steampunk costume. Maybe you’ll gather up a bunch of old gears and bits of wood to build a miniature steampunk factory to fight over. Wargaming opens up all these creative possibilities, and then gives you a way to play with your newly made toys.

Because it might look destructive, but wargaming is an incredibly creative hobby, and another great way to get your steampunk on.

Want to read more? Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the Steampunk gaming series!

cover artAndrew Knighton is a steampunk author and freelance writer. The first book in his Epiphany Club series is available for free on Amazon Kindle. He blogs about board games for Boardgameprices.com, and about all things steampunk, science fiction and fantasy at Andrew Knighton Writes


Let’s Go Adventuring! A Look at Steampunk Roleplay Games (Andrew Knighton Guest Post #2)

So much of steampunk is about taking on the role of a different person. Inventing a name, a history, a costume, even a whole new personality. If you want to take things further, to live out that character’s life and undertake their adventures, then maybe it’s time to go one step further. Maybe it’s time to try a steampunk roleplay game.

Playing in Other People’s Worlds

Tabletop roleplay games (RPGs) have two big advantages over the computer versions. One is that they’re more social – you can play with a group of friends, rather than losing yourself alone in the glow of a screen. Secondly, they let you play characters you invent, rather than the ones the computer program designers have created for their story. This gives you more freedom, more flexibility, and the chance to play out the life of your very own steampunk character.

Fundamentally, you need only a few things to play. First, a group of friends. Second, a volunteer from that group who will run the game. They’ll describe the world, craft the adventure and play the people the heroes meet along the way. Third, a rule system, and whatever accoutrements it requires. And lastly somewhere to sit and play.

Many of the best games are simple to play and come with their own world for you to explore. Lynne Hardy’s Cogs, Cakes and Swordsticks is perfect for a steampunk occasion. Set in the Empire of Steam, a version of the Victorian age full of marvellous inventions and top-notch afternoon tea, it’s simple to play and doesn’t need lots of equipment, meaning you can play in your favourite teashop, or coffee house should there be no such hostelry in your area.

If you’d like something with more rules or a fantasy feel then Privateer Press’s Iron Kingdoms transports you to the same setting as their steampunk fantasy wargames. Years of development mean that there’s a rich pre-made world to explore, and the high fantasy setting lets you play as anything from a powerful magical warrior to the controller of a steam-powered robot, living a life of action and adventure.

There are as many settings as there are games, from the weird west of Deadlands to the steampunk colonialism of the classic Space 1889, so you can pick a flavour of world that suits you.

Playing in Your Own Worlds

Alternatively, many steampunks prefer to roleplay in their own invented worlds, or to invent those worlds and then invite their friends to come and explore. To do this you can take a specific game and strip away the setting, adapting any rules that don’t suit your needs. It’s a very steampunk approach, tinkering with the mechanics of a game. There are also games designed for you to create your own worlds.

Savage Worlds is well suited to pulpy action adventures. It has simple mechanics and characters can be created quickly to let you get started. It’s designed for action adventures, and to be used in many different settings, so if you want your characters to face lots of fights and chases it could be perfect.

If you want something more sophisticated, or less dominated by combat, then Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System) remains the benchmark for an adaptable system. As well as the core rules there are several supplementary books providing ideas and rules specifically for steampunk games, giving you a huge variety of options to choose from.

Playing at Making Worlds

Another generic game, Microscope offers a whole different way of playing. This is a roleplay game in which you invent the world as you go along, playing out scenes from its history, deciding what the great events are. You could explore the history of an alternate Victorian age, or spend time developing a steampunk empire that lasted a thousand years. Anything goes, you don’t even need dice, and it lets everybody share in the worldbuilding.

Living the Life

If you really want to live your character’s life then you could go full-on and try live action roleplay (LARP), in which you not only imagine your character’s life but dress up and act out their adventures. LARP is run by local groups getting together and creating their own games, so if that interests you then search for a group in your area, or see if there’s a game in the schedule at a nearby convention. It’s a lot of fun, but a lot more effort than sitting playing at a table.

So what are you waiting for? Go grab a character sheet and a nice cup of tea – it’s adventure time!

Want to read more in this series? Check out Part 1 and Part 3!

cover artAndrew Knighton is a steampunk author and freelance writer. The first book in his Epiphany Club series is available for free on Amazon Kindle. He blogs about board games for Boardgameprices.com, and about all things steampunk, science fiction and fantasy at Andrew Knighton Writes


Board Games and Steampunk- A Perfect Combination (Andrew Knighton Guest Post #1)

Steampunk and board games have a lot in common. They’ve both taken off enormously as subcultures in the past twenty years. They’re both slightly outside mainstream awareness in English-speaking countries. They both have dedicated fan bases, people who will travel hundreds of miles or even to different countries to indulge in whole days dedicated to their hobbies.

And of course there are the steampunk board games.

Let’s Stick Some Gears On It!

It’s fairly easy to give a board game a little bit of steampunk flavour. Forbidden Desert by designer Matt Leacock is a great cooperative game in which you dodge sandstorms and try not to die of dehydration while you rebuild your ruined airship. It’s only a little steampunk – that airship could as easily have been a helicopter like the one used in its predecessor Forbidden Island. Yet that eccentric looking airship, that touch of gears and steam, does make the game more satisfying, as you slot together the parts of this tiny plastic toy on your way to victory or defeat.

Or look at Mission: Red Planet by Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faidutti. A game about mining Mars could as easily have had a science fiction setting as a steampunk one, but the eccentricity of that steampunk setting makes it more interesting and evocative. I’d rather play an eccentric Victorian industrialist digging up the red planet than a game that tries for the realism of Andy Weir’s The Martian – wouldn’t you?

A touch of steampunk can help a board game to stand out in a crowded market. But there’s also a deeper connection at work here.

Hands Up Who Wants To Be Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Pause for a moment and think about what’s similar between steampunk and board games. Now you’ve probably guessed what I’m about to say – that both steampunk and board games are great ways of letting us be creative, while taking control of a corner of our lives.

Nigel Pyne’s Oddball Aeronauts, a simple fantasy card game with more than a little steampunk flavour, illustrates this beautifully – not least through its beautiful illustrations. A handful of cards lets you take control of an airship in a desperate dogfight. Will you try to board the enemy, or attempt to outfly them before loading your guns? Will you use your Cannoneers, your Marksmen or your explosive Fuse Bots? And what’s with those bulbous bits on the bottom of the pirate airship – the view from their must be fantastic!

Like steampunk, most board games encourage you to imagine yourself in another world, one full of strange sights and amazing characters. As well as evoking something entertaining they give us control of parts of our lives, whether through costume making, story writing or plotting a strategy for the board. We’re free to find excitement and make important choices without risking real consequences. That’s wonderful and liberating.

Of course, the same could be said about a game like Reiner Knizia’s Modern Art that, fantastic as it is, is firmly anchored in the real world. But the best steampunk games connect theme and mechanics, evoking a core aspect of steampunk in a way few others things can.

The Gears Turn

Many of the most popular board games are those known as Eurogames. Influenced by Germany’s huge gaming culture, designers like Reiner Knizia and Klaus Teuber use ingenious rules that encourage players to construct systems within the game. Whether you’re creating a kingdom, running a factory or establishing a trade network, success in these games comes from taking different game elements and connecting neatly together. In effect, you’re building a machine.

And again, if you know anything about steampunk, you can probably predict where I’m going with this.

Great games connect their theme and mechanics, so that the rules evoke the atmosphere. The tense, careful building of poker hands in weird western card game Doomtown: Reloaded (which also features its share of steampunk mad scientists) evokes a Wild West shootout in a way that rolling dice never could. In the same way, the building up of moving parts in a Eurogame perfectly evokes the inventiveness and machinery that are central to steampunk.

This is what a game like Alex Churchill’s upcoming Steam Works does. Not only are you playing the role of steampunk inventors, but you’re doing it by connecting together the game’s components as you put together the components of your machines. Can you think of a more perfect way of evoking mad science and oddball invention, short of building your own tesla coils?

There are also options if you’d prefer to play with a pre-built machine. The World of Smog: On Her Majesty’s Service, by Yohan Lemonnier, has dials and gears on the board that turn as part of the game. It’s a game whose very board evokes a machine in motion.

Where to Start?

If you’re not already a gamer but you want to start – and I heartily recommend that you do – then your best bet is to pick something simple and straightforward. Oddball Aeronauts has a reputation as being accessible as well as fun. Smash Up: Awesome Level 9000 is only 1/4 steampunk, but it’s a lot of fun, and if you like it then you can mix it in with the original game and its other variants. Forbidden Desert is straightforward and an interesting challenge, and has the advantage of being cooperative, making it easier to work out how to play as a group.

And if none of those appeal, or you just want to look for more options, then check out the steampunk game list on Board Game Geek, the internet’s single best repository of board games information and discussions.

Because what could be more perfect than a bit of steampunk where the gears really do turn?

Want to read more in this series? Check out Part 2 and Part 3!

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cover artAndrew Knighton is a steampunk author and freelance writer. The first book in his Epiphany Club series is available for free on Amazon Kindle. He blogs about board games for Boardgameprices.com, and about all things steampunk, science fiction and fantasy at Andrew Knighton Writes.


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.


Music to Steampunk By: Clockwork Quartet

You gotta love any song with a typewriter as part of the percussion section! It is a melancholy subject but a very good song.


So You Thought the Victorian Era was Chaste? Check Out These Pictures…

Okay, okay, these lovely burlesque dancers are still pretty modest by today’s standards, but I find the primness of the steam era often overshadows the diversity of human experience. People were engaging in all kinds of behaviors and enjoying many different forms of entertainment back then the same way they do now. I ran across this collection of photos on The Daily Mail, and I couldn’t wait to share them with you! (For the Daily Mail article click here.)

In case you haven’t checked my About the Author page yet, I first learned about Steampunk because I have a friend who is a burlesque dancer and she was in a themed show a few years ago. She taught me both about burlesque and Steampunk before I saw her show and I am definitely hooked on both now. Going to see a burlesque show is not at all the same as going to a strip club. The word has its roots in the italian word, burla, meaning “mockery”, and has more in common with a vaudeville show than a seedy bar. Though it is true that people remove their clothing for the sake of entertainment, you will often see jugglers, magicians, comedians, singers and dancers in addition to the main event. The tone of a burlesque strip tease is also totally different than say, a lap dance at a bachelor party. Burlesque dancers actively engage the audience and solicit applause for each piece they remove before they will move on. There is a flirty exchange between dancer and onlookers, and I have seen several acts that are totally tongue in cheek and are as much about making the crowd laugh as it is about undressing.

If you have never been to a show, I absolutely encourage you to see one. I have been to several shows in two different countries and it is always a great time.


Steampunk Book Review: “Warlord of the Air”

Warlord of the Air coverI recently learned a totally amazing word. “Vellichor” was invented by John Koenig to mean “the strange wistfulness of used bookstores, which are somehow infused with the passage of time…”  I am sure many of you have experienced this even if you didn’t have the word for it. I have been away from the United States for a year now, I am definitely in used bookstore withdrawal. I miss going on my little treasure hunts for science fiction and fantasy books, and of course, Steampunk books in particular. It seems an especially apt word for today’s review of a book that is also focused on the passage of time (or in fact, times).

I managed to pick up a yellowing copy of The Warlord of the Air just before I left America, and I have been carting it around from country to country. I finally got a chance to read it on a long day of travel as I was leaving Sofia, Bulgaria and it was well worth the wait. This is the first in Michael Moorcock’s A Nomad of the Time Streams trilogy, which were published between 1971 and 1981.

The tale is framed as a story that was told to Moorcock’s fictional grandfather of the same name, who recorded Bastable’s adventure while on holiday on a tiny island in 1903. He sees Bastable for the first time when he is forcibly ejected from a ship where he had stowed away, and is left to fend for himself. As much out of boredom as charity, “Moorcock Sr.” takes the stranger under his wing and invites him to come back to his hotel for a meal. After some coaxing, Bastable starts to tell him about his life, and they end up locked in the room for three days while the story is recorded.

At the outset, Bastable is on a peace-keeping mission for the British army in 1902. He and a few other officers are invited into the sacred city of Teku Banga to negotiate with the king who reigned over this millennia-old society. They are led into the labyrinthine Palace of the Future Buddha and drugged by their host. When Bastable realizes the trick, and the others flee the chamber where they are eating with the king, and soon become lost in the tunnels under the palace. Something happens to him in the pitch-blackness and he loses consciousness.

Airship PericlesWhen he awakes, he simply believes that there has been an earthquake, but the truth is far stranger than he could have imagined. The city around him lies in ruins, but this is old destruction and his clothes hang off him in aged tatters. Eventually, he finds out that he was been somehow transported to the year 1973, but no 1973 that you or I might recognize. The British Empire has continued to grow and flourish in the absence of WWI, spreading “civilization” throughout the globe. But as Bastable finds after joining the Airship police, the peace is only surface-deep and in many places terrorists and rebels are trying to throw off the yolk of oppression.

Alternate histories are some of my absolute favorite stories to read, and this one did not disappoint. It was fairly short, but also very insightful, which is an excellent combination. Moorcock has a unique perspective on history, both real and invented, and I definitely recommend that you give his work a try. I recently started reading a new compilation of short stories called The Time Traveler’s Almanac, and I was also thoroughly delighted by Moorcock’s Pale Roses.  I look forward to getting back to the States in a few months, where I can resume my hunt for the rest of Moorcock’s books in the series.

Have you ever read anything by Moorcock? What did you think?


Music to Steampunk By: Ghostfire


“What is Steampunk?” Video Collection

There almost as many definitions of Steampunk as there are Steampunk enthusiasts, so here just a few of the short videos floating around youtube that try to answer the question, “What is Steampunk?”


A Very Unusual Duel

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


Music to Steampunk By: Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band

“Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band combines the rich musical history of the circus and the vagabond peoples of Europe with the raw energy of avant-garde jazz, the burning heat of funk and the irreverence and fun of today’s Vaudeville for a sound that is somehow familiar yet like no other. Label them anyway you like! Call them avant world fusion, call them experimental big band, call them gypsy steamfunk, call them circus noise! They may be tough to sum up, but it’s easy to tell you they’ll show you a good time and they’ll get a crowd dancing!” Read more

You can catch their next show on March 16 at the Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey!


Featured Artist: Remedios Varo

There is some debate about whether or not something can truly be called “Steampunk” if it was created before the term was coined in 1987. Personally, I like to include all kinds of things under that umbrella if they feature motifs and styles that would appeal to Steampunk fans no matter when they were made. Remedios Varo was a Spanish artist who lived from 1908-1963, and her beautiful artwork could certainly fit into the Steampunk canon even though it predates the movement by decades. She is clearly influenced by Gothic and Surrealistic styles, as well as by the works of other Spanish artists such as Pablo Picasso and one of my personal favorites, “El Greco” who was active during the late 1500s and early 1600s. Here is a sampling of her artwork to inspire your own creations.


The Pandora Society » The Symposium Ambassador Program

A great opportunity and discount for people planning ahead for the 2016 International Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati. I’ve already got my room reserved! Will I see any of you there?

The Pandora Society – Elements of the Past & Elements of the Future » The Symposium Ambassador Program.


Steampunk Book Review: The Poison Belt

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One of my all time favorite literary characters is Professor Challenger, who I’m afraid is forever doomed to be overshined by Conan Doyle’s better known protagonist, Sherlock Holmes. Challenger is every bit as smart as Sherlock, but is both more pompous and more energetic than the great detective, and I find myself laughing out loud at his over-the-top confidence and sharp wit on a regular basis while reading.

The Poison belt came out in 1913, and centers on the same cadre of adventurers from the first book. They are having a reunion at Challenger’s country home a few years after their great discovery of the The Lost World. Unfortunately, what is meant to be a lovely weekend is interrupted by nothing less than the end of the world as we know it. It begins with what appears to be an infectios disease, but Professor Challenger riddles out the truth, that aether is to blame.

book coverThe prevailing theories during the “steam era” about the medium that makes up our universe all centered on aether. It fills those empty spaces between everything, and influences the effects of light and gravity. During the story our planet passes through a belt of this mysterious substance that is totally antithetical to animal life, and there is no telling how long we will be subject to the effects of the this poison belt. Our heroes watch as one by one the people in the fields, the birds in the sky and the horses pulling carriages all drift into their final rest, while they attempt to prolong their own lives for a few precious hours within an oxegenated environment.

pb-04I don’t usually like to give away the endings or twists in the books I review, but it is evident that the human race must somehow survive considering the reader is in fact both human and alive, but while reading the protagonists see no means of escape and spend much of their time reflecting on the meaning of life and human beings’ place in the universe. This may seem a depressing subject matter, but Conan Doyle does a good job of keeping the meloncholy in check and balancing it with the banter of the characters and the giddiness that comes from the aether entering one’s system.

It’s a nice, short little book which is widely available for free download because it is no longer in copyright. The Mister and I read it in a matter of hours and we both really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to read the next Challenger title, The Land of Mist.


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?


Spotlight on Traders: Empire Edibles

I had a wonderful time talking to traders like Claire “Skip” Peacey (pictured below) and giving out bumper stickers at the 2014 Weekend at the Asylum, and I am planning to do more of these spotlights like the one I did for Doctor Geof earlier this year.

Empire Edibles stall at the Castle Market

Empire Edibles stall at the Castle Market

Empire Edibles close upOur steamy business this time is all about delicious food. As you can see, this booth featured beautifully packaged goodies with a Victorian theme. Flavors like absinthe and rose are front in center in a variety of chocolates and cookies, and Steampunk author Kit Cox (aka Major Jack Union) helped Miss Emily Ladybird to design the packaging and presentation. If you are planning a Steampunk event in the UK, or you need something special for a wedding, you should definitely keep Empire Edibles in mind.

Links:

Empire Edibles official site There is a note on the homepage that says the website is being revamped, but there is lots of information there in the meantime.

Empire Edibles Etsy shop

Empire Edibles Facebook page


This is my 300th Post!

My, how time flies when you’re having fun! Earlier this month I surpassed 40,000 views and 1000 likes, so thanks a lot for all of your shares and tweets about my articles. I started this site 18 months ago, and I keep finding great stuff to write about. I thought reaching my 300th post would be a good opportunity to compile links to my most viewed and shared articles in case you missed them the first time around, plus my personal favorites.

Enjoy!

Most Viewed

Van Helsing review

Brothers Grimm review, and since it was posted the Fairy Tale Guide/Drinking Game to go with the film has also been very popular

My Artwork

Steampunk Movies and TV

Review: Dolls of New Albion at Ed Fringe (including links to listen to the album for free! I listen to it all the time, it is an amazing soundtrack.)

 

Most Shared

Steampunk Sourcebook: Captain Nemo

Steampunk Scrapbook Paper: “Steampunk Botanica” and “Memories Documented”

Music to Steampunk by: Lindsey Stirling

Steampunk Assemblage Clocks (by me!)

Steampunk Sourcebook: The Statue of Liberty

 

My Favorite Five Posts and Pages

Making it to the Party Early Does NOT Make it Your Party, an editorial about bullying and inclusivity

A Few Thoughts About Steampunk and War, an open response to a Beyond Victoriana article which advocated that you can’t have Steampunk without violent conflict in the story.

The Tips for Makers Series, insights about using different kinds of materials from my own work as well as sessions at Weekend at the Asylum V

How to Punk Your Steam series, exploring different ways to “punk” the Victorian era.

Steampunk Sourcebooks series, fun facts and interesting information about topics related to Steampunk and historical figures

 

Thanks again for your support!


Steampunk Sourcebook: Charles Darwin

Student Days

  • young-charles-darwinCharles Robert Darwin was born in 1809 in Shropshire, England. He was the fifth born of Robert and Susanna Darwin’s six children. Both his paternal and maternal grandfathers, Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgewood, respectively, were famous for their abolitionist activities at the end of the 19th century.
  • He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh but became fascinated by the non-human world of biological studies. His first animal kingdom of choice to study in detail was marine invertebrates, but he also learned taxidermy from a freed slave named John Edmonstone in his early days at University.
  • Darwin was first introduced to the concept of evolution during his tenure with the Plinian Society, a club devoted to natural history at the University of Edinburgh. Darwin became deeply involved after his appointment in 1826, and was later elected to the council.
  • He worked for some time at the University museum classifying plants before his neglect of his medical studies annoyed his father so much that papa Darwin sent him to Christ’s College on the road to become an Anglican parson. But rather than steering him away from the natural sciences, Charles found a passion for beetle collecting and met several supporters of Natural Theology. This philosophy is about using reason to understand the nature of God (or the gods) and his/their creations (nature).

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World Traveler

  • In 1831, at the age of 21, Darwin joined a scientific expedition. It was only meant to last for two years, but in the end it lasted until 1836.
  • After some delays, the HMS Beagle embarked from England on December 27. The expedition circumnavigated the globe, and visiting far-off places with diverse ecosystems helped to further Darwin’s theories. He was not the official naturalist on the journey, but maintained a private collection.
  • The most well-known part of his journey was his stopover in the Galapagos Islands, but the fossils of extinct giant sloths on the South American mainland did just as much to fuel his new take on evolution theory as the famous finches.
  • Important Dates:
    • January 6, 1832: The Beagle makes it first stop on Tenerife Island, but the crew is not allowed to disembark because of the fear of cholera.
    • January 16, 1832: 23 days in the Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of Senegal, which at the time was a French colony.
    • February 28, 1832: All Saints Bay, Salvador, Brazil. Darwin and the Beagle’s captain, Robert FitzRoy, get into a heated argument about abolition after seeing enslaved Africans.
    • August 1832: During a survey of the Patagonian coast, Darwin found the fossil remains of huge creature that he could not identify. Experts back in Cambridge found them to be the bones of giant sloths. He also sent several teeth, beetles, and other smaller animals periodically from the expedition.
    • December 18, 1832: Darwin has his first encounter with native peoples.
    • March 1833: Falkland Islands. This area had only recently come under British control and the Beagle did survey work for the government. Darwin was intrigued by seeing a completely new set of fossils and decided to do comparative studies of all the specimens he had found so far.
    • May 1833: Darwin acquires an assistant, Syms Covington. Now that someone else was in charge of stuffing the specimens, Darwin was free to continue his detailed observations.
    • November 1833: Darwin spent time on and off the sea for a stretch of a few months and completed overland exploration and fossil collecting. His most compelling discovery was finding the bones of a giant ground sloth that were clearly below a seashell deposit. He was puzzled by how this could be possible, as the movement of the earth’s crust through plate tectonics and the number of times the earth underwent climate change were still unknown to science.
    • February 1834: Darwin turns 25, and FitzRoy names the highest peak in the area Mt. Darwin in his honor.
    • September 1834: Darwin is ill for several weeks with a fever. He stays at the home of a former classmate in Valapairiso, Chile.
    • February 20, 1835: A massive earthquake hits the region where Darwin’s group is studying and after investigating the island of Quiriquina he found that several land masses moved inches or even feet during the quake. This supported the theories of Charles Lyell, whose work was an important point of debate at the Plinian Society.
    • July 19, 1835: The Beagle takes on provisions in Lima, Peru, to get ready to cross the Pacific Ocean.
    • September 15, 1835: The Galapagos Archipelago is sighted.
    • November 15, 1835: The Beagle arrives in Tahiti.
    • December 21, 1835: Arrival in New Zealand.
    • January 12, 1836: Arrival in Australia.
    • February 5, 1836: Arrival in Tasmania.
    • April 1, 1836: Arrival in the Cocos Islands, Indian Ocean.
    • May 31, 1836: The Beagle sails around the tip of Africa and anchors in Simon’s Bay.
    • August 6, 1836: After years at sea, the Beagle finally sets it sights on England.
    • October 2, 1836: The ship arrives in Britain and Darwin heads directly for home after four years, nine months and five days.
  • Darwin published his first book, widely known as The Voyage of the Beagle, in 1839.

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Competing Theories of Evolution

  • Transmutation/Transformism: It got its name from clchemy and the attempts to change a base metal into gold. It was first introduced by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in his book Philosophie Zoologique (1809). In this theory, it was believed that “nervous fluid” drove organisms to greater and greater complexity. The idea that later generations could inherit the traits of their ancestors was also important, but focused more on individual change than any sort of larger, species-wide shifts.
  • Eugenics: The word arose in 1883, but the idea of improving the human race through controlling our breeding and research on the topic started much earlier in the 1800s. For instance, the castration of lunatics and criminals in order to keep them from passing on their unsavory traits was advocated for long before Darwin’s theories were published, but it was Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, who first coined the phrase. It gained popularity during the early 1900s, but lost favor after it was used by Ernst Rudin to justify the Nazi’s racial politics. Nevertheless, several countries adopted eugenics policies, starting with the United States in the early 1900s and ending with Switzerland in 1975.
  • Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation: This book was published anonymously in 1844. It applies the theory of transmutation to all things, including the solar system. It concluded that Caucasian people were the pinnacle of creation, and that God’s direct intervention was not necessary for species to change. Darwin would later regard it as the work that made people open to his theories. Prince Albert is said to have read it to Queen Victoria to get her up to speed with scientific knowledge. After his death in 1871, Scottish publisher Robert Chambers was revealed to be the author.
  • On the Origin of Species: Darwin had planned to release his treatise after his death, but he got word from Lyell that another Naturalist, Alfred Russell Wallace, was about to publish similar theories. Wallace was actually the one to accurately describe natural selection, and sent Darwin a short paper on the subject in 1858. Their theories were presented jointly at a Linnean Society meeting but did not receive the attention that was expected. Darwin could not attend due to the death of his young son by scarlet fever. His book was completed and published November of 1859. By the end of the 1860s, most scientists were in agreement that evolution had taken place, but there was no agreement as to the mechanism. The majority still believed that God was behind it, not natural selection.

References in Steampunk Literature

  • In The Strange Affair of Spring-heeled Jack (2010) by Mark Hodder, Charles Darwin is the villainous force behind a mysterious plot in an alternate timeline where Queen Victoria was assassinated in 1840. In the world Hodder created, the Technologists and Eugenicists (with Darwin as their leader) are at war.
  • In the Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfield, Darwin not only discovered the forces behind evolution, but also its building blocks, DNA. In this alternate version of events, The Darwinists use genetics to creating living weapons in their war with the “Clankers,” who use technology.
  • If you like graphic novels, you can follow Edgar Allan Poe, Abe Lincoln, and Charles Darwin as three children with incredible destinies who find themselves kidnapped by a dimension-traveling cowboy in Charlie Darwin or the Trine of 1809. Hurried away to meet the Princess of Avalon – they discover just how extraordinary the world really is!
  • Many books use references to Darwin as a way to situate their stories in time. For instance, his name is mentioned in The Difference Engine as being among the new privileged class of intellectuals collectively called “savants.”

Steampunk Book Review: Clockwork Princess (Infernal Devices 3)

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Even though all three of Casandra Clare’s Infernal Devices books came out between 2009-2013, I didn’t get around to reading the third one until now. This is not to say that I wasn’t excited to find out the conclusion, but I didn’t get a chance to pick it up before I left the English-speaking world for a spell. You can imagine my elation when I found an ample English language section in a local Sofia, Bulgaria bookstore the other day and Clockwork Princess was waiting for me! Even though it comes in at 507 pages, I tore right through it in a couple of days. It is a totally satisfying wrapping-up of the plot lines from the first two books.

Clockwork-Princess-alternative cover

Alternative cover design featuring Nina Dobrev

The book begins with a confrontation between the London Institute and the giant worm demon that Benedict Lightwood has become due to his affliction with “demon pox.” His sons, Gabriel and Gideon, as well as Will’s shadowhunter-in-training sister, Cecily, accompany Will, Jem and Tessa to the Lightwood estate. In the interim since events of Clockwork Prince came to a close, the Magister and his automaton army seem to have vanished, leaving little for Will to focus on besides the engagement of his best friend, Jem, to the love of his life, Tessa. The battle is a welcome distraction until at the end when Jem collapses due to his long-standing illness.

It turns out he has been taking his drugs far too quickly in an attempt to be worthy of Tessa’s love, and he has burned out his entire year’s supply in a matter of weeks. The Magister has bought up all of the remaining drug in the entire city, leaving the shadowhunters at his mercy if they want Jem to live. Tessa is the key to the Magister’s nefarious plot for domination over the shadowhunters he believed have wronged him, but her actual purpose is still a mystery. On top of the threat from the outside, trouble is also brewing for the head of the London Institute, who didn’t turn out to be as compliant and meek as the Consul believed she would be. Internal politics, passionate romance and the threat of utter annihilation combine into a great climax for a wonderful trilogy.

Clockwork Angel Review (Infernal Devices 1)

Clockwork Prince Review (Infernal Devices 2)


The Adventures of Mark Twain (1985) is an 80s-tastic way to Learn About this Great American Writer

I was born in the 1980s, but a little too late to really remember its pitfalls (like huge hair and shoulder pads) or its triumphs (the advent of the music video, and of course, Steampunk) first hand. Luckily for us, this was a time when tons of weird, wonderful and sometimes experimental television and movies were being made, which captured some of the essence of that era. The 1970s and 80s saw a revival of a film technique that was pioneered by Thomas Edison’s manufacturing company in 1908: clay-animation. You can see their film, A Sculptor’s Nightmare, here.

Humpty Dumpty Circus 1897The very first stop-motion film of all time, which employed moving toys, was made in 1897. Samuel Langhorn Clemens, better known by his pen name, Mark Twain, lived until 1910, so it is entirely possible that he saw the first clay-animation film and probable that he saw earlier stop-motion films as well.

Characters

The-Adventures-of-Mark-Twain-airshipThe Adventures of Mark Twain was made in 1985 and is a trippy clay-anmation sojourn through the works of Mark Twain. There is a little bit of biographical information, but mostly it is a chance to showcase his contributions to literature. The viewer is swept away along on an airship adventure along with some of Twain’s best-known characters, Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher. Twain was born near the passage of Halley’s Comet in 1835, and always said he believed he would leave this world again the next time it passed in 1910 (he died the day after it returned), so the film revolves around him trying to keep his “appointment” and visiting some of his greatest works along the way.

Mark-Twain-Mysterious-StrangerThough it may seem morbid that he is racing to his own death, the film is wonderful combination of stunning visuals, abstraction and humor, which totally downplays the seemingly morbid plot line. Though I should warn you that even though this is an animated film, and so you may be thinking it was made for kids, the depiction of “The Mysterious Stranger” is pretty terrifying. Adults would get much more out of this movie than kids, especially if they have read any Twain at all.

The-Adventures-of-Mark-Twain-Adam and EveI thoroughly enjoyed this film, which came out on DVD in 2006. When it was originally released in 1985 it had a very limited run, so I wouldn’t be surprised if few people even knows it exists.