Steampunk inspiration and resources

Posts tagged “Victorian era

Cosplay at the Asylum: Out and About

There were so many wonderful costumes during Weekend at the Asylum, so I decided to keep the costume contest participants for another post. Here are some delightful folks from around the convention.


The Cutty Sark and the English Tea Trade

The Cutty Sark MuseumIt is common knowledge that the Brits love their tea, but it is less common knowledge how this love affair all began. If you are looking for a fun way to explore that history, you should try visiting the good ship Cutty Sark near the waterfront in Greenwich.

The ship itself wasn’t built until 1869, but tea first came to the UK two centuries earlier. Here is a timeline from the Cutty Sark’s exhibits.

Timeline of Tea

IMG_0640In its heyday, The Cutty Sark was one of the most impressive vessels on the sea, and especially well-suited for transporting tea. The copper hull was not only beautiful, but was especially good at keeping sea water out of the cargo hold. It also had an amazing carrying capacity and was one of the fastest ships on the water.

In fact, it engaged in a historic race in 1872 against another transport called The Thermopylae. Both ships left Shanghai at the same time, and the Cutty Sark took an early lead. Unfortunately, she lost her rudder and had to stop for repairs. The Thermopylae ended up making it to England a full week before The Cutty Sark. This was the only time that both ships left from the same port at the same time, but the Cutty Sark later set a record for reaching Sydney in just 73 days.

I loved visiting the exhibits on the inside, especially the first floor where the interior and the displays were made out of tea crates. There is another gallery the next floor up that has interactive features and videos to help you get into the mindset of a sailor on the ship over its long history. I was also lucky enough to have the perfect weather to explore the deck, which has been restored to its former and shiny glory.

 


Steampunk Book Review: The Difference Engine

difference_engineA big part of my Steam Tour is finding out about the historical events and people who influenced the time period reflected in Steampunk books. I love the idea of alternate histories, and many times that is at the core of Steampunk novels, such as The Difference Engine by sci-fi greats William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.

If you are like me and you don’t have a good handle on the real history, I would recommend a quick glance at the wikipedia article about this book before you begin it. There is a great summary there of where and how the alternate history of the novel diverge from real events. I didn’t do this before I started reading and I spent a lot of the book wondering about fact and fiction.

 

Trial portion of the Difference Engine No. 1, completed 1832

Trial portion of the Difference Engine No. 1, completed 1832

In short, it tells the tale of the trajectory of the world if the computer age came in the 1800’s. The political structures all over the world are deeply effected by Charles Babbage’s completion of his mechanical computers (called Analytical Engines) in 1824, and there are numerous references to a fragmented United States (including a communist Manhattan) as well as historical figures such as Lord Byron, Ada Byron (the “queen of engines”), and Laurence Oliphant in different roles. The English politicial system has been completely dismantled and a meritocracy put up in place of hereditary lordships. The story is mostly told through the eyes of Edward Mallory, a “savant” who discovers the first huge dinosaur bones, giving him the nickname “Leviathan Mallory.”

There were a lot of things I really liked about this book. The descriptive language was excellent and Ned is a great character on whose coattails to ride through the adventure. I loved the shift in politics in response to technology and the parallels between then and now when it comes to the power of information. The authors clearly put a lot of thought into both logically and imaginatively extending the repercussions of the rise of computer technology long before we experienced it in our timeline.

Babbage later designed a simpler difference engine that was not built until the 20th century, on display at the Computer History Museum

Babbage later designed a simpler difference engine that was not built until the 20th century, on display at the Computer History Museum

On the whole, the story felt a bit fragmented because there are three distinct characters that get followed and the treatment is uneven. The first person you explore this world with is Sybil, and her story comes to an abrupt halt right as it gets really interesting. Then Mallory comes onto the scene and his story is great, but I couldn’t help but wonder where Sybil had gone to. Mallory’s tale comes to a head and he gets what he wants, but he is not actually the agent of change so even though there is a stand-off and big ‘splosions (whoo-hoo!) it felt sort of anticlimactic. Lastly, we trail Mallory’s one-time ally Laurence Oliphant for a little while on his political espionage. Each section was full of wonderful prose, but as a full story it ended up feeling kind of jerky and a bit too long.

That being said, I think it is definitely worth a read for the wonderful writing and imagination of the authors.

 

Have you read this book? What did you think?


Review: Morgan and West Parlour Tricks at Ed Fringe 2014

I know it is cheesy, but I love magic shows. I remember snuggling under the covers in my parents’ big bed in order to watch them on TV when I was a kid, and I still get a kick out of seeing them as an adult. Not the overwrought, super dramatic ones, mind you. I like my magicians a bit cheeky and out to have a good time, and Morgan and West definitely delivered.

The description on their website is utterly fitting: “Time travelling magic duo Morgan & 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 & West might just blow your mind.”

Me and Mr Morgan after the Aug 14 performance

Me and Mr Morgan after the Aug 14 performance

I saw some great tricks that I have never seen before, and their concept of Victorian-era time-traveling magicians is hilarious and oh so Steampunk. I won’t go into details because I don’t want to ruin the fun for people want to go and see them at Fringe and on their tour, but let me just say the diary trick still has my head spinning. Their onstage chemistry is great, and make sure to queue up early before their show so you get a chance to interact with them while you are waiting in line.

One tip for you Fringe goers. Try to sit in the front half of the theater. I was sitting in the back and the sight lines were fine, but I could hear a msucial act going on in a different venue and it was a bit distracting and they deserve your undivided attention.

Get your Fringe Fest tickets here: tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/morgan-west-parlour-tricks

They will be appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe Fest now through Aug 25, but if you can’t make it all the way up to Scotland never fear! They start their UK tour in September with their show from last year’s Fringe (plus 30 minutes of new content in case you caught them last year). Check out the dates below, or visit their website for more information: www.morganandwest.co.uk/

11th September Chipping Norton

A Grand Adventure

Chipping Norton, Chipping Norton Theatre, 7.45pm show.

Book Tickets
12th September Uppingham

A Grand Adventure

Uppingham, Uppingham Theatre, 6.45pm show.

Book Tickets
13th September Uppingham

A Grand Adventure

Uppingham, Uppingham Theatre, 6.45pm show.

14th September Braintree

A Grand Adventure

Braintree, Braintree Arts Centre, 4pm show.

Book Tickets
19th September Chorley

A Grand Adventure

Chorley, Chorley Little Theatre, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
20th September Reigate

A Grand Adventure

Reigate, Harlequin Theatre, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
30th September London

A Grand Adventure

London, Pleasance Islington, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
3rd October Taunton

A Grand Adventure

Taunton, Quay Arts Festival, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
10th October East Grinstead

A Grand Adventure

East Grinstead, Chequermead Arts Centre, 8pm show.

Book Tickets
11th October Great Yarmouth

A Grand Adventure

Great Yarmouth, St. George’s Theatre, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
16th October Harrogate

A Grand Adventure

Harrogate, Harrogate Theatre, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
18th October Salford Quays

A Grand Adventure

Salford Quays, The Lowry, 8pm show.

Book Tickets
19th October Brighton

A Grand Adventure

Brighton, Brighton Comedy Festival, 4.15pm show.

23rd October Colchester

A Grand Adventure

Colchester, Colchester Arts.

Book Now
25th October Southampton

A Grand Adventure

Southampton, Hangar Farm Arts.

26th October Lyme Regis

A Grand Adventure

Lyme Regis, Marine Theatre, 6pm show.

Book Tickets
29th October Cardigan

A Grand Adventure

Cardigan, Theatr Mwldan, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
30th October Builth Wells

A Grand Adventure

Builth Wells, Wyeside Arts Theatre, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
31st October Stourport

A Grand Adventure

Stourport, Civic Hall Theatre, 8pm show.

Book Tickets
4th November Inverness

A Grand Adventure

Inverness, Eden Court, 7.30pm show.

Book Tickets
8th November Reading

A Grand Adventure

Reading, South Street Arts, 7pm show.

Book Tickets
12th November Aberdeen

A Grand Adventure

Aberdeen, Lemon Tree Theatre, 7.30pm show.


The Concept Art for Adventures of Victoria Clarke Will Definitely Get Your Gears Going

My blogger buddy Bia Helvetti just pointed out this amazing movie-in-the-making and I couldn’t wait to share. According to the website for Adventures of Victoria Clarke:

“Stylistically, “Victoria Clarke” borrows heavily from the world of Steampunk, and its sub-culture sometimes referred to as Dieselpunk. Unlike traditional steampunk, which is Victorian-based, we are rooted in the pre-WWII world of Hollywood, and so borrow technology from World War I and Art Deco design influences. However, because Victoria’s family is solidly rooted in Victorian London, fanciful technologies, the designs of Edison and Tesla, and the writings of HG Wells and Jules Verne heavily influence both the design aesthetic and story elements.

The story is based in history, yet features fantastical machines, characters and events that only exist in the alternative reality of our created world. The tone is fun, retro and sexy, and punctuated with periods of intense comic book style action.”

The film was partially funded through a crowdsource website called Indiegogo, but they were short of their goal so proceeding has been slow. The website was last updated in June though and reports progress on the screenplay as well as the amazing images above. The plan is to make not only the movie, but a graphic novel series as well. I really hope to see more progress on this enterprise, it looks amazing and the character of Victoria sounds really interesting. Here is another blurb from the site about how she is more than just a pretty face:

Victoria Elizabeth Clarke was born to British industrialists Byron & Meredith Clarke, in London England, on June 26, 1897. As a young woman she was sharp-minded and strong-willed, preferring her father’s factory floor over the private tutors and boarding schools of London society.Despite her proclivity to skipping classes, she grew up with a fine formal education, learned to play piano, cello, and to speak several foreign languages fluently. She also discovered that she had a talent for learning the inner workings of complex machinery, and loved to spend late evenings in her father’s workshops creating mechanical toys from the various spare parts she found.The Great War was a formative and prosperous time for the Clarke family. With war comes opportunity, and the family’s privileged status protected them from the dangers and hardships of life as their industrial empire moved into the design and manufacturing of highly secret and experimental weapons technologies for the British government. At the end of hostilities, Clarke’s Amalgamated Industries had been so instrumental in the war effort that King George V awarded Byron a knighthood.
Picture

Only months later, Clarke would become embroiled in an incident that would rock British society and destroy the family’s empire. In August of 1919, after World War I comes to a close, Byron Clarke announced that he would turn his company’s focus away from weapons development and towards technologies that would revolutionize the Western world. His decision was not popular with the British government, some in parliament calling him a traitor and suggested seizing his company’s assets, which contained technologies coveted by the military.
Picture

But Clarke pressed forward, and at a special event to demonstrate a device capable of transferring power wirelessly across vast distances, the device malfunctioned, resulting in the tragic death of Sir Byron and his wife, and inflicting a near-fatal injury to his daughter Victoria. Evidence suggested in-fact, that a saboteur had caused the disaster. It appeared that Clarke had made powerful enemies, perhaps even within the British government itself.Devastated and heartbroken, the injured Victoria retreated from British society, liquidated her family’s entire assets, and closed Clarke Industries. It is said that she ordered the destruction of all military related patents and vowed to never again use technology to develop weapons of death. Victoria would recover at the family estate in Switzerland with the aid of longtime family friend and the company’s chief engineer, Aldo Erstfelda.By the winter of 1919, the recovering Victoria disappeared from England society entirely; many believe having remained at their private estate in Switzerland to live out her life in peace and anonymity.The truth of the matter is quite different.”
Check out more at the website, http://www.victoriaclarkeadventures.com/ 

Gearing up for Steam Tour: Weekend at the Asylum

I think I may have just snapped up the last affordable room in all of Lincoln last night as I made my arrangements for Europe’s largest Steampunk Convivial, Weekend at the Asylum. If you were thinking about going but you are still on the fence, make sure to get your tickets ASAP! They sold out of the Saturday only wristbands in the last day or so, and the Empire Ball was already sold out weeks ago. I am sorry to miss the ball, but I did get tickets for Lady Elsie’s Fashion Gala (a formal fashion show followed by dancing and socializing) as well as a burlesque event so your favorite Steampunk Roving Reporter will be able to bring you plenty of shenanigans well into the evening during the convention, which runs Sept 12-14. I will be tweeting and posting all weekend, which is also the last weekend of Steam Tour.

The website for the event run by the Victorian Steampunk Society is woefully short of details, but you can get event descriptions and buy tickets here.

Going to be at convention and want to meet, and maybe even pick up youth very own airship bumper sticker? Leave me a comment and we’ll be in touch!

Bumper Sticker to go with my Steampunk Zine!

Bumper Sticker to go with my Steampunk Zine!

 


Steampunk Book Review: First Men in the Moon

2012-09-08-16-51-19I have yet to meet an H. G. Wells book that I didn’t like, and First Men in the Moon is no exception. His scientific romances are always full of interesting concepts and he was all for turning Victorian ideals on their heads even during his own time.

When I was making my list of books to read I repeatedly called this one First Men on the Moon by mistake, but truly it is a tale of going deep inside the Moon to visit a strange, insect-like race that inhabits its Swiss cheese like interior. During Wells time, astronomers already knew that the Moon was made up of material similar to that of the Earth, but they also knew it was only about 1/3 the density. Their highly logical, though we know now totally wrong, conclusion was that the moon must be filled with tunnels that ran deep into the sphere. (In case you are interested, we know now that the Moon was basically made from an impact way back in Earth’s infancy, long before water had condensed on the surface. A large portion of the crust of the Earth was thrown into space and reconglomerated into a new sphere, leaving our iron core behind. The core of the Earth accounts for the difference in density.)

People first reach the moon thanks to an ingenious new metal called Cavorite, which is so named for the Doctor Cavor who creates it. His concept is that there are materials that are “opaque” to difference electromagnetic forces like light, and gravity is another such force. By combining different metals and chemicals, he is able to create a metal sphere that carries himself and the narrator off on their adventure to a Moon far different from what the Apollo astronauts found. Wells explanations of the natural history of the moon and its various species is especially enchanting if you have any biology in your background because the system of their society holds together with a totally inhuman but wonderful logic all its own.

1901-Cavorite-via-Dan-WolfeI would definitely recommend this book, it was a fast and interesting read. I thought his portrayal of the detached and socially inept scientist Cavor was especially interesting, as well as seeing how the narrator and Cavor both interpret the same events differently.

By the way, did you know that many of Wells books are no longer under copyright, so you can get them for free? I read my copy on a Free Books app for my Surface, but you can also find them many places online.

Want to read more of my book reviews? Check out these: The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack, The Iron Jackal, The Clockwork Angel, The Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau.


Gearing up for Steam Tour: My Steampunk Edinburgh Fringe Fest Itinerary!

Profile pics 056-001I admit it, I am actually wiggling in anticipation of how awesome Steam Tour is going to be. I booked all my shows for Ed Fringe, ordered my Britrail pass and I am dreaming of all the delicious pub grub in my future.

So here’s the plan for week 1:

 

 

 

_2014JEKYLLH_T7_thumb۞ Jekyll and Hyde
Main Theatre @ Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall
Headlock Theatre

  • Sat 9 August, 21:30

And after the performance, let’s meet up for a cocktail at the Jekyll and Hyde Pub nearby! I’ll wear my goggles so you can find me, and I’ll bring some “My Other Beep Beep is a Whoosh” airship stickers along for purchase, just one pound per awesome bumper sticker to show off your steamy side 🙂

Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls۞ Victorian Vices – Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls
Niddry – theSpace Above @ theSpace on Niddry St
Another Soup

  • Mon 11 August, 18:00

_2014VICTORK_AJX۞ Victorian Vices – The Picture of Dorian Gray
Niddry – theSpace Above @ theSpace on Niddry St
Another Soup

  • Mon 11 August, 20:00

 

۞ Whisky Tasting
Bennet’s Bar @ Bennets Bar
Bennets Bar

  • Tue 12 August, 14:00

Dolls of New Albion۞ Dolls of New Albion: A Steampunk Opera
Venue 45 @ theSpace @ Venue45
Clockwork Hart Productions

  • Tue 12 August, 22:45

 

 

 

_201421STCEN_P3۞ 21st Century Poe: Moyamensing
The Vault @ Paradise in The Vault
Marty Ross

  • Wed 13 August, 17:50

۞ City of the Dead Haunted Graveyard Tour
Outside St. Giles Cathedral @ Black City of the Dead Signs
Black Hart Entertainment

  • Wed 13 August, 21:00

NPG Ax27656,Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle,by; published by Herbert Rose Barraud; Eglington & Co.۞ Arthur Conan Doyle Experience
The Sanctuary @ Arthur Conan Doyle Centre
Arthur Conan Doyle Centre

  • Thu 14 August, 14:00 (x2)

 

 

 

 

_2014MORGANW_PV۞ Morgan & West: Parlour Tricks
KingDome @ Pleasance Dome
Corrie McGuire for Objective Talent U

  • Thu 14 August, 19:00

 

۞ Dorian
Upstairs @ Greenside @ Nicolson Square
The Egg Theatre Company

  • Fri 15 August, 10:20

_2014DRACULB_PN۞ Dracula
Pleasance Beyond @ Pleasance Courtyard
Action To The Word

  • Fri 15 August, 21:20

And in addition to the various performances and lectures, there are also several art shows that I can’t wait to check out including Urban Twist: Papercut Artwork and Craft Scotland Summer Show.