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If you don’t have access to ShowTime and you’ve wondered what Penny Dreadful is all about, let me clue you in. I enjoy the show and recommend it. Ethan Chandler a Wild Bill Cody type is hired by Sir Malcolm Murray and Vanessa Ives to find and rescue his daughter, Mina Hunter, kidnapped by Dracula. Dr. Frankenstein teams up with them as well. And Dorian Gray is added to the mix.

In honor of Penney Dreadful and Halloween month, October, I’m writing my three posts this month on Bram Stoker who gave us Dracula, Mary Shelley, who gave us Frankenstein, and Oscar Wilde who gave us Dorian Gray.

This post is for Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. “There is no such thing as an omen. Destiny does not send us heralds. She is too wise and cruel for that.”- from The Picture of Dorian Gray. It first came out as a serial story in July 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly, a literary and science magazine published in Philadelphia.

In Penny Dreadful, Dorian is the sexy character. No one, male or female, can resist him. Oscar Wilde wrote him as the corruptible sort that ruins many young men and young women’s lives. Many things can be said about Mr. Wilde, the main one is he could write. He was well skilled in the craft. As soon as I began to read Dorian Gray I noticed Oscar Wilde’s brilliant dialogue tags.

Lord Henry elevated his eyebrows, and looked at him in amazement through the thin blue wreaths of smoke that curled up in such fanciful whorls from his heavy opium-tainted cigarette. “Not send it anywhere? My dear fellow, why? Have you any reason? What odd chaps you painters are! You do anything in the world to gain a reputation. As soon as you have one, you seem to want to throw it away. It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. A portrait like this would set you far above all the young men in England, and make the old men quite jealous, if old men are ever capable of any emotion.”

Great writing is timeless. Without question, Oscar Wilde was a great writer. As shown above, he begins the story with a secret. The artist, Basil Hallward will not exhibit his exquisite painting of Dorian Gray. Later in the book it’s revealed it’s because he’s so obsessed with Dorian he fears people looking at the portrait will be able to detect his love for the man.

Dorian is incredibly attractive, easy going, and innocent. He falls in love with an actress in a second rate theatre who performs in several Shakespearean plays. When Dorian takes his friends to see one of her performances, her acting is off. She didn’t put her usual level of passion into her performance due to that fact that she’d fallen in love with Dorian and acting wasn’t important to her any more. Only Dorian was important to her. So he dumps her. He loved her because of her talent. When he comes home he finds the portrait has changed – there is a line of cruelty at the mouth. He recalls the day the picture was finished he thought it unfair the painting would always be so beautiful but he would age. He’d wished it could be the other way, he’d stay young and the portrait would age. Then Dorian discovered the actress committed suicide because of him and things slide downhill from there. The picture changes not only with each mark of age but with each sinful act he commits while Dorian appears as young and innocent as when he sat for the painting.

There is a quote from the book, “Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.” The intense raw pain of the author is something all three books: Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Picture of Dorian Gray have in common. In The Picture of Dorian Gray readers share the emotional split Oscar Wilde endured just like the two Dorian Grays: one a picture and one a man. The hidden picture is more real than the man. In the Victorian era homosexuality was not only considered repulsive by society it was a crime. While reading Dorian Gray we feel Oscar Wilde’s pain in having to hide his real self, the guilt he felt and the confusion of having desires considered at the time to be horrid and unnatural. The Picture of Dorian Gray was banned and also used against Oscar Wilde in his trail in 1895. Convicted of gross indecency, he was sentenced to two years of hard labor.  The intense pain embedded in the story is one of the main things which make the book so timeless and so great.

~           ~            ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 22 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Her latest Steampunk Romance is The Brass Octopus.

A Matter of Mourning

asadmomentNavigating the intricate social rules of Victorian Society wasn’t easy. The strict regulation of conduct for everyone within society must have been oppressive to say the least. To know that along with your sorrow and grief, you were responsible to the entire community to do ‘right’ must have been a heavy burden for anyone to bear.

Researching Victorian Society is always fun… this subject matter is more interesting than it is ‘enjoyable.’ I did want to share some of the inspiration

mourningWife for Husband:
First Mourning – 1 year, 1 month: bombazine covered with crape; widow’s cap, lawn cuffs, collars
Second Mourning – 6 months: less crape
Ordinary Mourning – 6 months: no crape, silk or wool replaces bombazine; in last 3 months jet jewelry and ribbons can be added
Half Mourning – 6 months: colours: grey, lavender, mauve, black-and-grey

Mother for Child:
First Mourning: 6 months: black with crape; no linen cuffs and collars; no jewelry for first 2 months
Second Mourning: 4 months: less crape
Ordinary Mourning (there is no period for this)
Half Mourning: 2 months: colours: grey, lavender, mauve, black-and-grey

Parent for son- or daughter-in-law’s parent: (yes, it goes into THIS much detail)
First Mourning: (nothing mentioned)
Second Mourning: (nothing mentioned)
Ordinary Mourning: 1 month black
Half Mourning: (nothing mentioned)

halfmourningDaughter for Stepmother:
First Mourning: 12 months, as for mother if still at home: 6 months if not living at home (Black with black or white crape (for young girls); no linen cuffs and collars; no jewelry for first 2 months
Second Mourning: (nothing mentioned)
Ordinary Mourning: (nothing mentioned)
Half Mourning: (nothing mentioned)

The list is extensive…

How would you fare under these rules? Would you be able to alter your entire wardrobe and dressing style for these periods of mourning?

The ugly duckling is a favorite fairy tale of mine. I’ve seen the ugly duckling plot in a lot of books and films. I use it in The Brass Octopus.brass octopus

The so called duckling was always beautiful,l she was just with the wrong family. If she’d been with a family of swans no one would have ever used the word ugly. That’s what happened to my heroine Piety. Her verbally and emotionally abusive mother called her ugly. As she grew up, Piety protected herself by trying not to bring attention to herself – dressing drably and throwing herself in to her work. She’s the head librarian at London’s library. The story is set in the Victorian era. So a  prim and proper Victorian librarian transforms to an enticing beauty. What makes my version different?

I’m going to get to that. First, let me tell you about the hero. Blake Blackmore is a bad boy, a rich rogue who spends his nights gambling and womanizing. I’m sure you’ve already guessed, once he meets Piety he’s willing to give all that up for her.

Now, back to the earlier question. What makes The Brass Octopus different is – in The Bras Octopus, Piety lives in an alternate dimension in which inventions depicted in Jane Loudon’s book the Mummy have been created. So even though it’s Victorian London, there is some advanced technology for the era, woman wear pants, and tinkering or inventing gadgets is a favorite pastime for proper Victorian ladies along with decoupage, scrapbooking, and hand painting china. Piety’s sister, Polly, has  created a beauty machine called The Brass Octopus.

Blurb: Spinster Librarian Piety Plunkett is happy alone with her books, until her sister Polly transforms her with a bras octopus beautifying machine. With her new look, the librarian catches the lusty attentions of London’s most notorious rogue. Blake Blackmore enjoys the favors of beautiful women from the brothels of London to high society’s most fashionable debutantes but only the spinster librarian consumes his mind night and day. Piety insists she will not wed but devote her life to her position as head librarian, but Blake will stop at nothing to win her. He takes matters into his own hands and tutors her in carnal pleasure in three passion filled lessons. Now that she is sharing her body, instead of just her books, Piety is shocked yet pleased at how naughty she can be under Blake’s personal tutelage. But if anyone finds out about what goes on in the library after closing time, her reputation would be ruined. Is that Blake’ ultimate plan?

Excerpt:

“That is why we cannot waste a moment more.” Polly dropped her arm from Piety’s shoulders and grabbed her sister’s hand, pulling her into the dressing room. “Wait until you see my latest invention.” She pointed to a large brass octopus standing in the corner.

Held on a brass stand, its bottom was fashioned in the shape of an x, with a thin straight pole to the back of the head jointed to another rod so it could be adjusted. Two molded eyes on the side of its head stared at her. Eight long arms reached out from the tiny body beneath its gleaming head, and directly underneath stood a brass stool.

“This will make you even more beautiful than you are.” Polly walked over to the brass sea creature and reaching up, she patted its large head.

“Is it the pregnancy? Is that what has caused you to lose your mind?”

“This machine is fabulous.” Polly gestured to her to sit on the stool. “Try it.”

Piety scratched her head. “It’s good the Queen encourages all housewives to develop their creativity by crafting gadgets like the ones in Loudon’s book, to make life easier for them and their families, but I fear you’ve taken it too far.”

Each of the eight burnished arms held something in the suction cups attached on the end, where hands would be on a human. An open tin of rouge in one arm, the second, grasped a cosmetic brush and powder puff, in the third lay a tin of powder, an unwrapped silk paper container of red lipstick in the fourth, the fifth arm clutched a small bottle of hair oil, the sixth held a hairbrush, while the seventh grasped a fancy glass container of French perfume and the eighth arm lay empty.

Polly took Piety’s spectacles off.

“I need those.”

“For reading. You don’t need them right now or at the ball. You’ll be dancing, not reading books.”

She sat on the stool with the octopus behind her. “What is this?” Her upper back rested against its small, brass body.

“You will see. Just sit still so the machine can work its magic.” Polly pressed the ruby button on top of the octopus’s head.

The clanking, churning sound caused an on-edge sensation in Piety. As the hand holding the oil moved toward her, she grew shaky. She braced her toes on the floor, ready to lunge off the stool and make a run for it. The hand holding the oil reached her head, tilted slightly, then straightened after pouring some of its contents on her hair. Her scalp tingled from the warm liquid.

“It tickles, but feels quite nice. What does it do?”

The hand clutching the brush in its suction cup moved toward her. Piety grimaced, fearing it might hit her. She let out a pent up breath, relaxing her neck and shoulder muscles as the brass octopus brushed her hair, spread the oil to her roots and through the strands, and then swept her hair into a pile on top of her head.

“It helps it curl.” Polly grinned as she shoved a wayward blonde strand of her hair out of her face.

The octopus’s hollow head, which ran along the brass pole in back, rose, separating from its body, then swung forward, hovering over Piety. It lowered, inch by inch, until it dropped over her head, covering her hair and forehead.

“This is daft. It has swallowed me.” She cringed as tiny things, she didn’t know what, gripped sections of her hair and twirled it. “What is happening?”

“It curls hair better than any lady’s maid.”

“I do not want my hair curled by a brass octopus.“

“It’s guaranteed to bring out the beauty in everyone. Isn’t it marvelous?”

Before Piety could answer, the arm clutching the powder puff dipped it in the large round tin held in another arm. She had to shut her mouth as the octopus powdered her face.

From inside the octopus’s head, it squirted liquid on her scalp. “It sprayed me.”

“I have always liked your hair, but you say it’s drab. Now it will be a different color. That should make you happy.”

The octopus seemed to be baking her scalp. “Why is it hot?”

“It’s battery-powered rather than clockwork. I needed it to heat to curl hair fast and tight.”

“A battery. Like the galvanic one in The Mummy that resurrected Pharaoh Cheops?”

“Smaller and not as strong. It’s just a lead-acid battery. Remember when Father took us to the seashore for holiday and we flew in the balloon-coach? It’s the same type of battery that powered the lights on in the carriage at night.” Polly flashed a toothy grin at her sister. “It doesn’t bring anything alive except your hair.”

“How fabulous,” she said with full sarcasm. “My head itches.” She wished this would all be over soon. “What color will it be?”

“We won’t know until it’s finished, but whatever it is will be the best color for you.”

“Of course, everyone knows if you need beauty advice, just ask a brass octopus. Polly, my only sister or not, I shall kill you when I escape the clutches of this confounded contraption.”

Contest: Win a trade size copy of my Steampunk Novel, To Love A London Ghost. Sexton Dukenfield, premiere phantom hunter, stumbles into Ceridwen, a phantom warrior woman of an ancient Celtic tribe. Not only does he find her intriguing as a piece of the puzzle of the missing spirits, but he’s also haunted by her sultry sensuality. On a mission through the bustling narrow streets of London, to a dreary match factory, and even to the Otherworld and back, to stop a genius scientist and his phantasm debilitater machine, the ghost and the ghost hunter also seek the secret to freeing the boundaries of life and death.

~           ~            ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 21 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Her latest Steampunk Romance is The Brass Octopus.

Museum Junkie

I think the seeds to my writing steampuMotor Musternk were sown very early in my life. My parents did a lot of car travel, and I would loudly demand to visit every museum we passed along the way. Most of them were small, historic houses and such, and even as a child I wallowed in learning about how everyday life worked in different time periods. Moreover, I wanted to experience everything I could. Yes, I whined until I got to ride in the carriage. I was the schoolkid who volunteered to churn butter. I wanted to see and feel and touch. Only now is some of this early experience coming in handy as I write.

My two local steampunk groups are big on museum visits. With Capitol Steam out of Lansing, I’ve invaded the Michigan Historical Museum and the RE Olds (as in Oldsmobile) museum as well as having tea in a historic mansion. With the Detroti area Steampunk group, we annually visit the Henry Ford Museum and its outdoor counterpart Greenfield Village and we’ve also dropped in on (in costume, of course) the Detroit Historical Museum. Not only are these adventures a load of fun, but every single time, I still learn something new.

So any favorite museums? Or other fun methods of research?

A_and_B_class_VR_locomotivesWhen the first railroads were built in the United States during the Victorian Era, there were a number of considerations for positioning rail lines.

Farms and industrial buildings closer to ports had more of an advantage to make money. The ease of transporting their products gave them advantages over others situated inland.
Transporting products by carts and wagons took time, and limited the amount of things you could move.

Once steam power was developed and transformed into various modes of transportation, it made the length of time needed for travel shorter… and transporting merchandise more efficient.

Then again, it also made transportation that much more dangerous. A broken wheel on a wagon could stall transportation, but an exploding furnace in a train engine could cause mass panic and gruesome injuries.

trestleThe same could be said for the road and tracks. A cart broken in the road can be easily moved to the side, or other vehicles can go around. A train broken on the tracks stalls transportation in both directions. Or, if the tracks are damaged, the delays in service would be nearly insurmountable.

If you’re incorporating rail travel in your Steampunk stories there are a few things to consider:

Whether you’re using an existing railway or creating your own and plunking it down in a location…

What is the purpose of the railway? Passenger, Cargo [live or merchandise]
What kinds of cars travel on your railway? Sleeper, Economy, Cargo, Baggage
What are some of the location considerations? Hills, Rivers, Mountains, Valleys, Desert, Plains
What are some of the outside elements that could affect travel on the railway? Civil Unrest, Military presence, Outlaws, Town
Who works on the railway? Engineer, Porter, Servants in Private Cars, Cooks, ??

photoSo, bring on the Steam travel!!!

Last weekend was more than just labor day. Last Saturday, August 30th, was Mary Shelley’s birthday and also Frankenstein

Diana Vick - Steamcon

Diana Vick – Steamcon

day. So I thought I’d mention two of my favorite writers, Mary and Jane, again — the two teenage girls in the regency era that gave so much to the sci-fi genre.

Jane Loudon

Jane Loudon

I love reading sci-fi and steampunk and I hear statements sometimes about women being new to sci-fi. Of course women were among the pioneers of the genre. Frankenstein was the first mad-scientist subgenre book and many consider it the first work which can logically be labeled sci-fi. Mary Shelley wrote it when she was 19. Shelley also wrote, The Last Man, the first written work  of the sci-fi subgenre of a sole survivor of earth. A still popular plot, often used in books and movies two hundred years later. Jane Loudon’s novel, The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century was the first book about a mummy brought back to life, a popular plot to this day. She wrote it when she was 17. However, there’s a lot more to Loudon’s contribution to sci-fi. In the regency era, a time when the word sci-fi wasn’t even used, she understood what futuristic sci-fi was meant to be.

The Last Man is set in the 21st century and written in first person. The writing is elegant with marvelous description. Verney tells the story of his life. Through mistakes of his father, he and his sister, Perdita,  are cast out of a happy life into one of poor lonely orphans.  He forms a plan of vengeance against the people who brought this ruin. The main culprit was the king, who is dead. When the king’s son, Adrian, comes to Verney’s town he sets his plan in motion. However, Adrian turns out to be a great supporter of Verney’s  late father. Verney rises from his life of despair and longing with the help of Adrian, who becomes his lifelong best friend.  This circle of six friends: Verney, Perdita, Adrian a poet and intellectual , Raymond a hero nobleman (who marries Perdita) , Adrian’s sister, Idris  (who marries Verney) and Evadne, a Greek princess, have many ups and downs in their lives. Eventually, most end up married with children and quite happy and settled. But Perdita’s husband, Raymond, cheats on her with Evadne.  So Perdita leaves Raymond. A war between the Greeks and the Turks break out and Raymond fights in it as does Evadne. She dies on the battlefield and Verney finds her body and buries her. As Raymond is on his death bed from mortal war wounds, Perdita goes to him and forgives him. When he dies, she kills herself. Soon after this an epidemic begins. It’s unknown what causes it or how it spreads. It goes from country to country. For a long time England is untouched by it. Due to the plague and several natural disasters in different parts of the world, England is filled with immigrants. Then the symptoms reach a patient in a hospital in London. In the year 2096 the few survivors of the plague in England decide to leave and find some untouched part of the world. Verney, Adrian, and their families are at the forefront of this group.

They sail from England, leaving it depopulated. The group decides to pass the hot months in the icy valley of Switzerland. As they journey there Idris, Verney’s wife. dies from the plague. By the time they arrive in Switzerland it, like every other place, is empty of people. After seven years the plague ends. Thinking danger has passed they leave the alps to go into Italy and pass the winter in Milan. Then they  spend the summer in a villa by a lake. There one of the children is struck with a sudden fever and dies. They burry the child and sail their skiff toward Athens. But a storm overtakes the ship . Everyone is drowned in the shipwreck except Verney.

Verney enters the town of Ravenna near where the wreck occurred. He sees oxen, dogs, horses, birds, and other animals but no men among them. After staying a while in Ravennna, he heads to Rome, the capital of the world, the crown of man’s achievement. He finds pens and paper and writes a book about his life, which is the book – The Last Man.  He leaves it in the ancient city of this world as a sole monument of Verney the LAST MAN. He then leaves Rome to sail around the shores of deserted Earth.

The Mummy! 1828 2nd edition - title page

The Mummy! 1828 2nd edition – title page

Jane Loudon’s novel, The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century was published anonymously as a trilogy in 1827, and again in 1828.  In the regency era, a time when the word sci-fi wasn’t even used, she wrote of the future in a way no one had before. Instead of just taking her own time period and moving it into the future, making few changes except for utopian or dystopian ones, she built an actual futuristic world with advanced technology, futuristic clothing, and a different type of government. Jane Loudon was the first sci-fi author to actually world build.

The gadgets in her future world all spring from the regency era when the high-end technology of the day was steam and balloons. Two of Loudon’s characters, Edwin and Dr. Entwerfen embark on an expedition to the tomb of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu), to shock him back to life with a galvanized battery. Their dialogue when leaving for Egypt and realizing they have too much baggage for the balloon touches on some of Loudon’s interesting futuristic inventions. She even envisioned a certain type of space flight as a fashionable mode of travel. Here’s a short excerpt:

“The cloaks are of asbestos and will be necessary to protect us from ignition, if we should encounter any electric matter in the clouds; and the hampers are filled with elastic plugs for our ears and noses, and tubes and barrels of common air, for us to breathe when we get beyond the common atmosphere of the earth. “

“But what occasion shall we have to go beyond it?”

“How can we do otherwise? Surely you don’t meant to travel the whole distance in the balloon? I thought of course, you would adopt the present fashionable mode of traveling, and after mounting the seventeen miles or thereabouts, which is necessary to get clear of the mundane attraction, to wait there till the turning of the globe should bring Egypt directly under our feet.”

“But it is not in the same latitude.”

Then the doctor explains the box he wants to bring on the balloon contains his portable galvanic battery and his apparatus for making and collecting the inflammable air. It also holds a machine for producing and concentrating quicksilver vapor – the power to propel them onward in place of steam. It even has laughing gas for the sole purpose of keeping up their spirits.

Another change in everyday life in the future is fast mail delivery. Letters are placed inside balls and fired from steam cannons. Every town and district have a woven wire suspended in the air as a net to catch the ball and a cannon to send it off again when the letters for that neighborhood are extracted. A smaller wooden ball with a hole in its side to making whizzing noise as it sails through the air is sent before each mail ball to alert people to keep out of the way.

Also Stage balloons are used to make fast deliveries. One of the characters receives a collection of ballads, at least three hundred years old, sent from London by stage balloon that morning. They are on rag paper since asbestos paper used in the 22nd century had only been invented for two hundred years.

Movable houses are another change in the future. One of the characters, Edric, sees a house slide out of place and glide along the road. A lady at the window blows a kiss to someone in another house as she passes by. When someone wants to go into the country for a few weeks they take their house with them, which saves the trouble of packing and allows everyone to have all their little conveniences about. There are grooves in the bottom of the houses that fit on the iron railways. Propelled by steam, they slide on without much trouble but it only works for small houses as large ones aren’t compact enough.

More futuristic marvels are feather-fans hung from the ceiling, circulating aeriform fluid. Also they use tubes in the houses to suck out stale air and bring the fresh air in. And the most stylish coats are made in a machine. At one end it strips the wool off a sheep, then weaves it so a ready to wear coat comes out at the other end of the machine. Also Bridges are movable and steam-powered to rotate in all directions and to adjust to whatever height is needed for the different waterways. Even streets are modernized, they are warmed by pipes of hot air so no one perishes of cold.

She envisions a lot of technological advancements in agriculture including a steam-powered lawnmower and a mechanical milking machine. Also when the sun doesn’t shine enough to make hay they use a burning glass to make it. When it doesn’t rain enough for the crops they use an electrical machine to draw down clouds to cause rain on the fields that need it.

She also shares a glimpse of futuristic fashion: “The ladies were all arrayed in loose trousers, over which hung drapery in graceful folds; and most of them carried on their heads streams of lighted gas forced by capillary tubes into plumes, fleurs-de-lis, or in short any form the wearer pleased; which jets de feu had an uncommonly chase and elegant effect.”

There are also political changes from the Regency era to the 22nd century. After undergoing a revolution, and even a period of democracy, England returns to an absolute monarchy but as a matriarchy. All rulers are queens and the candidates are single women of the royal family between the ages of 20 and 25. There is  a law that the queen cannot get married. In the towns, the men in the country 21 years on up, in groups of 10,000, choose a deputy to represent them in London. The queen is elected through the majority vote of these deputies.

The main characters in The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century come from two families with their eyes on the crown: the Montagues and the house of the Duke of Cornwall. The Montagues have two sons, Edmund, a national hero and Edric, an intellectual. The Duke of Cornwall’s family has two daughters Elvira and Rosabella, who are the next in line to the throne if anything happens to Queen Claudia. Edric’s father has arranged for him to marry Rosabella but he reuses. Edric is fascinated by the idea of reanimating the dead. His friend, Dr. Entwerfen tells him that since the ancient Egyptians believed the souls of their mummies were chained to them in a torpid state till the final day of judgment, there is every reason to believe that by employing so powerful an agent as a galvanic battery of fifty surgeon power re-animation may be produced. Edric is too squeamish to touch a dead corpse’s flesh but he’s willing to touch a mummy as it swathed in wrappings. He and Dr. Entwerfen go to Egypt and resurrect the mummy, Cheops. But the mummy runs out of the pyramid, hijacks their balloon, and flies back to England. When he flies over Queen Claudia’s coronation pageant, his balloon gets tangled up with all the other balloons crowding he sky. His balloon gets torn and falls to the earth landing on and killing Queen Claudia. The story continues with political intrigue, a secret birth father, and love triangles, all with a little help from the wise Pharaoh, Cheops, who has the most common sense and perception of anyone in the book.

The similarity between awakening the mummy and awakening Frankenstein back to life and the similarity of the two main male characters, hero and intellectual as in in Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, is no coincidence. Jane Loudon uses them as a parody to show her own view point. Her political, social and religious beliefs differ greatly form Mary Shelley’s.

The next time you are writing, reading, or watching a movie or TV show with a mad scientist or sole survivor on earth plot or a mummy brought back to life plot or awesome world building for the future take a silent moment to thank Mary Shelley and Jane Loudon. And if you’re at a con or other event and someone says something like women are new to Sci-Fi or girls don’t know anything about sci-fi, you might just want to remind them that women have been reading and wiring Sci-Fi for over two hundred years.

~      ~    ~

as timeless as magicbrass octopusMaeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 20 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Her latest Steampunk Romance, a re-release, As Timeless As Magic, is free on Amazon today - free from 9/3 – 9/7. Maeve’s brand new hot Steampunk romance The Brass Octopus comes out today, 09/03/14.

Steampunk has come to embrace so many varied arts, well beyond just fiction. I’d like to introduce you to a couple of the artisans who make the stuff that makes us all look so good.

 ***

 Shoptroll: (aka Peter Vanslyke)

 

Where can shoppers find your products online?

www.shoptroll.net (but realistically I update the Shoptroll Facebook page way more regularly.)

 

What do you make? 

Riveted seam (no sewing) leather clothing. Mostly skirts, kilts, and pocket-belts.

(Note from Cindy: he also makes bodices, bracelets, gloves, shelves, benches, and just about everything you can make with wood, nails, rivets and soft leather. That’s me and the spouse in SP invasion of RFall our Shoptroll finery.)

 

Do you do this full time or is it a side job? 

Full time. 24-7.

 

How did you get into steampunk, personally and as an artisan?

I think, for me, the two’re inseparably linked. I love non-traditional construction methods (example: to make a skirt, I use rivets instead of thread). I see a great deal of the above in the overall steampunk aesthetic. Descriptions and images of things that at the first seem over-built, stylized, or overly ornamental can too be taken as, say, a plumber’s take on a message-delivery system. Using your knowledge or trade to solve situations that they may not at first seem applicable to…I love seeing that.

 

What’s the hardest thing about being a steampunk vendor?

Not going to panels when you’re at a con.

 

What is your very favorite thing about steampunk and the people involved?

If there is a defining aspect of steampunk, I’d call it creativity. No, really, bear with me as I “define” steampunk here. Every single steamo out there brings something to the table. Every. Single. One. At a comic or sci-fi convention, you have some great artists, writers, actors, cosplayers, etc., but for every one of those folk, there are at least a dozen fans or collectors. (Which, by the way, is great.) In steampunk, that ratio is reversed. Participants create their own character, or their own costume. They all add to the ambiance. most of us have *some* project or other we are working on, be it a light-up Nerf mod, a hover pack , a moving picture, a moving piece of poetry, an airship crew, a presentation, a new novel, knitting, we are all working on things, and most of us will happily enthuse, and share ideas to inspire and encourage one another. That, the building of this thing that we all enjoy together, that is probably my favorite aspect of steampunk.

 ***

 Matt Sabins, of Sabins Gadgeteering Lab, LLC

 matt

Where can shoppers find your products online?

www.sabinsgadgeteeringlab.com

What do you make?

Custom costume props, accessories, and jewelry. My style tends towards Tesla-tech, usually with small glowing light effects to simulate strange energies of the Aether.

(note from Cindy: His wristbands and firefly necklaces are out of this world!)

 

Do you do this full timIMG_3955e or is it a side job?

Full-Time, my own business. I’ve tried pursuing conventional means of employment; it never really worked out for me.

 

How did you get into steampunk, personally and as an artisan?

My first exposure to steampunk was the tabletop role-playing game, “Mage: The Ascension” by White Wo Studios. There’s a Tradition of mages called the Sons of Ether whose mad devices and eccentric style were steampunk even before the term had really caught on, and they were my fast favorite. I really love the strange mélange of mysticism and technology that they represent, and I began to try making Etheric devices of my own to use as props. That was more than 10 years ago, and I’ve been refining my methods with what I could afford ever since.IMG_3667

 

What’s the hardest thing about being a steampunk vendor?

The hardest thing about being a vendor is coming up with product ideas that are original enough not to infringe on other copyrights, but that have sufficiently recognizable value to customers who migIMG_2985ht want to buy them. I often have to restrain myself from exuberant creativity and focus on making everyday stuff with a just a hint of mad science in them.

 

What is your very favorite thing about steampunk and the people involved? 

My favorite thing about steampunk is that it is primarily fan-driven. There isn’t a lot of popular source material in films and television with steampunk as the main focus. There’s plenty of room to get in on the ground floor as it picks up steam, so to speak. As for the people involved, I’ve found most are quite friendly and well-mannered, and they seem to really like my creations.

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 So now that you’ve met these two awesome creators, don’t forget to check out their work! Hopefully, these interviews will be a recurring feature, so if you’re an artisan, or know one who ought to be interviewed, send me an email at cindy@cindyspencerpape.com.

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