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Archive for the ‘Victorian Technology’ Category

Today, November 6,  is a historical day. On this day, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States. Then, one year later, on this same date, November 6, in 1861,  Jefferson Davis became president of the Confederate States of America. So what better day to mention a part of actual Civil War history that would work well with Steampunk? I’m speaking of the Balloon Corp, also known as the Aeronautics Department.

Would you like to ride in my Union Corp balloon
Would you like to ride in my Union Corp balloon
We could float above the war together, you and I
For we can fly, we can fly

What could be more Steampunk than a balloon air force? This innovative department fell under the command of Professor Thaddeus Sobieski Coulincourt Lowe. The balloon corp soon led to the creation of the first aircraft carrier. Chief Aeronaut, Lowe, had a coal barge converted by covering the hull with a flat deck for inflating and launching balloons. Also the first aerial telegram ever sent was from one of the balloons to President Lincoln. In a demonstration for the President, while Lowe flew his balloon, the Enterprise, over the armory lawn across the street from the White house, he sent Lincoln a telegram, describing the aerial-view of Washington D C. All of this also led to the invention of a portable gas generating device that could be used anywhere. Professor Thaddeus Lowe invented a copper-lined wooden tank, mounted on a wagon filled with water and iron filings. When sulfuric acid was added, lighter-than-air hydrogen gas was produced. That hydrogen was then fed through a hose to a cooler before pumping it into the balloon. So the balloons could be inflated near any battlefield. The horse-drawn wagons were large and rectangular, each weighting about 1,000 pounds. They built twelve of these wagons to service the balloons.

That is one of the great things about Lowe as a Steampunk character or secondary character, he was not only a famous aeronaut, he was quite a scientist. The portable gas generators that filled his balloons and the compression ice machine that introduced “artificial” ice to the world are among his inventions. He’ was also known to be quite a showman and he wrote his own memoirs, Memoirs of Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, Chief of the Aeronautic Corps of the Army of the United States During the Civil War: My Balloons in Peace and War.

Maeve-with a confederate solder’s gun at a historic reenactment area at Dickens On The Strand in Galveston TX
“Give me your silk dresses or I’ll shoot.”

Not to be outdone, the Confederates made their own balloons. In 1862, 21-year-old, confederate  Captain, John Randolph Bryan piloted a hot-air balloon near Yorktown, Virginia. They inflated the balloon with the heat and smoke of burning pine knots soaked in turpentine. However, the hot air quickly cooled and grew denser so the South’s flights were of short duration. In the summer of that year, 1862, the Confederates got there own gas balloon. Known as the “Silk Dress Balloon”, it was a patchwork affair. Here is a link to view the fabric from one of the confederate balloons.

Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, in a letter published in Century magazine, wrote: “We longed for the balloons that poverty denied us. A genius arose for the occasion and suggested that we send out and gather together all the silk dresses in the Confederacy and make a balloon. It was done, and soon we had a great patchwork ship of many and varied hues.” It turns out this  fanciful tale was not true. The Silk Dress Balloon was sewn together from 40-feet of  purchased, multicolored dress silks. Inflated with city gas and moved to desired locations by railroad, the balloon made several flights A second dress silk balloon was constructed that summer and remained in operation until it was lost during the siege of Charleston. The rebels inability to generate gas in the field was their balloon corp’s biggest obstacle.

Another Steampunk vibe to the Balloon Corp is a slight Zeppelin connection. Ferdinand Von Zeppelin came to the U.S. in 1863, during the civil war, as an official observer of  Union troops in Northern Virginia. Before he returned home, he wanted to see more of the U. S.  He journeyed to New York City,  then up the Hudson, and across the state on the Erie Canal, then across the Great Lakes and out into Minnesota. There, he met  John Steiner, one of Lowe’s aeronauts, who had returned to his pre-war occupation of an exhibition balloonist. As Zeppelin flew with him, Steiner shared his dream of a navigable airship. The count credited the experience with marking the beginning of his own interest in aeronautics.

Please feel free to leave comments or questions.

~      ~      ~

Maeve Alpin, who also write as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 published books. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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With the Victorians’ fascination with death and mourning, ghosts blend in so well with Steampunk stories. When I think of ghost, I often think of a haunted Victorian mansion, lit by candlelight or flickering gas lights, secret passage ways draped with cobwebs, slits cut in the eyes of a potrait  where someone or something spies on the gents and ladies in the grand manor.

DEBUNKING:

The first thing all ghost hunters do is try to find logical causes for reported paranormal activity.

  • Animals:

Look for small, furry, scurrying creatures. Sneaky varmints like mice are good at hiding. They cause strange noises and knock things down without being seen. Victorian London had a lot of mice and rats and such. Also ghostly noises in walls, attics, and basements are often caused by varmits of some type.

  • Houses:

Victorian homes had hardwood floors which cause house popping noises to often sound like phantom footsteps. Also air trapped in water pipes cause loud banging at random times. Doors opening or closing by themselves can be attributed to a house which has a good seal. Opening or closing an exterior door can create suction, so an interior door will move when the exterior door moves. Having two or more windows open can have the same effect on interior doors. Also if a gush of wind enters through one window and exits through another, the reduced air pressure may cause doors to open or close.

  • Food, Drink…Sunspot:

Cynical or logical Victorians often cited sunspot and strong drink as causes of ghost sightings.  In Dickens’ The Christmas Carol, Scrooge questioned if the ghostly vissage of Jacob Marley was caused by what he’d eaten earlier that day. “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are.”

Victorian Ghost

Victorian Ghost – Aetherfest

  • Modern:

Compass - The simplest piece, which fits in perfectly with Steampunk. During any type of paranormal activity, a compass will spin wildly.

KII Meters – read electromagnetic fields. If the meter spikes on these small, handheld devices, it reflects a change in the magnetic field, which along with other evidence can give proof to paranormal activity.

Mel Meters – measure both EMF and temperature. They allow paranormal investigators to record the temperature right where it’s at. After Gary Galka lost his oldest daughter Melisa, in a car accident, he created the Mel meter, named after her, to communicate with her after death as it helped his healing process. The model numbers in the Mel-8704 are the year of her birth and the year of her passing.

Recording Devices – to pick up EVP, electronic voice phenomena (White Noise). EVP began in the 1950’s when Fredrich Jurgenson, a bird watcher and retired opera singer, recorded bird calls near his home in  Switzerland on a reel to reel. When he listened to the tapes he heard voices on them, though no one else had been there. An ancient Viking burial ground happened to exist in the area he recorded at. After discovering this he continued EVP research and wrote the book, Voices From the Universe.

  • Victorian & Steampunk Alternatives:

Recording Devicesto pick up EVP prior to 1950:

Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville – invented the phonautograph in 1860 –Records Sound, but Doesn’t Reproduce It  – you’d have to fix that in your story.

Thomas Edison invented the Phonograph,  1877 when he made his first sound recordings on sheets of tinfoil. In 1888, he developed a solid wax cylinder record.

Victorian Ghost Hunting Gear:

Ectoplasm Kit – In the Victorian era, ectoplasm was defined as a substance exuded from a medium while in a trance. Ectoplasm formulated into the shape of the spirit the medium was in touch with at the time. Ghost hunters carried a collecting set and chemistry equipment to gather and test any ectoplasm.

Electroscope –  Electroscopes, which pick up static electricity have been around for centuries and could have been used in placce of an  EMF meter, which along with other evidence could prove paranormal activity.

Victorian Ghosts - Comicpalooza 2013

Victorian Ghosts – Comicpalooza 2013

Victorian alternatives to communicating with the dead:

Seances – Engrossed in spiritualism and Gothic novels, many Victorians, haunted by ghost, held table rapping séances

Ouija Board – a popular board game, patened in 1890 http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/WebOuija.html

Steampunk Ghost Hunting:

Steampunk Ghost Hunting Gear

Steampunk Ghostly Tales

And last but not least – GHOSTLY STEAMPUNK READS:

4105jhfVChL__The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker
by Leanna Renee Hieber

There is no unusual machinery in the story so I would not call it steampunk but still if you like steampunk you will like it. It’s set in Victoria England in London and involves ghost and gods. The characters are strong and haunting. It is a strangley beautiful paranormal/romance that I loved and I highly recommend it.

untitledGhost by Gaslight – edited by Jack Dann & Nick Gevers

This collection of seventeen Steampunk ghost stories, one has mummies, is outstanding. The authors are representative of some of the best speculative fiction authors of our modern time. It offers quite a variety of superb steampunk ghost stores. There is something for everyone in this anthology and you will be sure to claim a few as your favorite steampunk short stories. I loved it.

ToLoveALondonGhost_200To Love A London Ghost by Maeve Alpin

When Queen Victoria orders Sexton Dukenfield, premiere phantom hunter, to track down England’s missing ghost he 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. Though they both burn with desire, it’s difficult to quench their fiery passion since Ceridwen is so translucent. Every time Sexton touches her, his hands pass through her misty body. 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.

If you live in Houston Texas, I wanted to share that I will be at one of my favorite haunts this weekend, Space City Con. Friday night, 08/02/13, I’m presenting a Steampunk Ghost Hunting panel from 7pm – 8:30pm. Please drop by if you can.

~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 18 published books, including four Steampunk Romances. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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The lovely Lolitas of STEAMED! have asked me to contribute twice a month, and I am quite honored to do so. Initially, at least, my articles will revolve around the interesting historical tidbits of the Victorian Era that appear in my novels and stories.

One my favorite things about writing Steampunk is the research. It’s fascinating, really. So often in my fiction, I incorporate historical people or events or places or even technology. My imagination for technology is rather limited, I’m afraid, as my strengths as a writer are characterization, emotional depth, and dialogue. Technology and world-building are far down the list, so I work with what’s already there, although much of what I incorporate into my work has been all but lost to history. These little-known facts and events and gadgets find new life in my work. With that splendid thing known as creative license, I embellish and bend historical events and 19th century technology to fit the needs of my story.

Today, I’ll focus on The Air Loom: The Human Influencing Machine, something devised in 1810, even before the Victoria’s Reign began in 1837. While doing research on the notorious Bedlam (Bethlehem Hospital, aka Bethlem) Asylum for a guest post called “Lunatics in London” for Bitten by Books during a blog tour, I watched a fascinating documentary on the infamous hospital. Within, they introduced one James Tilly Matthews, the first documented paranoid schizophrenic. I was immediately fascinated by this person and his concept of The Air Loom, so I vowed to work it into my next novel.

In my Steampunk teen romance The Zombies of Mesmer, we visit the horrible Bethlehem Asylum. Although set in 1880, my Bedlam’s halls contain the misery and pain seen in the hospital in Matthews’ time there. After being released from a three-year stint in a French prison for suspicion of being a double agent, Matthews returned to London and proceeded to accuse the Home Secretary of treason in a rather dramatic and publicly disruptive way. Matthews was committed to Bethlem Asylum in 1797 as a lunatic. Fortunately for Matthews, a resident of the hospital for over a decade, he had a relatively cushy room there and ended up drawing plans for the renovation of Bethlem Hospital among many other helpful things. In 1810, he wrote a book called Illustrations of Madness in which he illustrated the influencing machine in great detail both in design and description of purpose. Matthews believed that scientist spies, experts in “pneumatic chemistry,” had set up near Bedlam and was tormenting him by means of rays emitted from The Air Loom.

The Air Loom was a piece of advanced technology, but in the early part of the industrial age advanced technology often meant enormous machinery, rather than the increasing minutarisation that characterise the 21st century. The Air Loom was enormous. The mechanism stood seven metres tall and occupied a footprint of nine square metres, and it was constructed from oak with machined brass fittings.

It was surrounded by barrels that fed noxious gases through oiled leather pipes into the main body of the machine. The gases were derived from substances including ‘gas from the horse’s anus’, ‘seminal fluid’, ‘putrid human breath’ and ‘effluvia of dogs’. (Source)

The machine’s rays exacted such horrendous tortures onto Matthews’ mind like “kiteing,” where ideas were forced into his brain; “thought-making,” where thoughts were removed and replaced by others of the scientist’s choosing; and Lobster Cracking, where “the external pressure of the magnetic atmosphere surrounding the person assailed was increased, ‘so as to stagnate his circulation, impede his vital motions, and produce instant death’.” Other torments included “lengthening of the brain,” “thigh talking,” “fluid locking,” and “bomb bursting.”

Read more about this fascinating machine and see images of The Air Loom, built by artist Rod Dickinson using Matthews’ illustrations at http://www.theairloom.org.

An altered version of The Air Loom appears in my forthcoming novel The Ghosts of Southwark, the sequel to The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel which is available on Amazon, Kindle, and serialized on my blog for free, either in print or via podcast.

-_Q

Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.

Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com

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two of our tour guides dressed the part

two of our tour guides dressed the part

42nd airborne battalion at the Houston Maritime Museum

42nd Airborne battalion at the Houston Maritime Museum

Recently with the help of the Steampunk group, the 42nd Airship Battalion, I organized an outing to the Houston Maritime museum. The tour included over 150 model ship exhibits, spanning the age of exploration to the modern merchant marines and several models of steam powered ships from the Victorian age. As you can see from the photos we all had an amazing time.

Steampunk outing at the Maritime Museum

Steampunk outing at the Maritime Museum

The museum exhibits included models of steam paddle ships. Riverboats conjure images of fun and adventure and are therefore a perfect setting for a Steampunk story. Paddle boats were highly popular in the 18thcentury for navigating well in shallow waters as well as up river against fierce currents. Prior to the development of the railways they were a favorite ways to travel. The interiors of the antebellum riverboats were luxurious with elaborate crystal chandeliers, lush hand carved furniture, oriental rugs, and so much more.  Of course one needs drama and trauma in any novel and there is plenty of opportunity for that on a steam paddle ship.

at the Houston Maritime Museum

at the Houston Maritime Museum

Fire is always s a great disaster for fiction. At the museum I learned the double steam stacks towered so high to keep sparks as far away from the wood boat as possible. Still sometimes an ember would hit the ship. Wood and paint are highly flammable so fire, panic, and catastrophe would ensue. If you want something even more dramatic, the boilers sometimes exploded in a huge, ear splitting, blast of fire and smoke, resulting in the deaths of many passengers and leaving even more injured.  Body parts were literary blown off.  In 1830 the US Congress funded research to end boiler explosions. Here is a website that even list River Boat demise with the reason and year of the loss.

The museum also had an exhibit on the Texas Navy which served the Republic of Texas when it stood as a separate country from 1836 into 1845 after gaining independence from Mexico. The idea of combing the wild west with Victorian nautical influences thrilled my muse. You can see more of these valiant fighting men in tiny but feisty ships on this youtube video.

To me the most important Victorian submarine was the Plongeur, simply because when Jules Verne saw it at the Exposition Universelle in 1867, it served as his inspiration for the Nautilus. However, the museum’s model of and news clipping about the confederate submarine the H. L. Hunley intrigued me. This combat submarine, named after its inventor Horace Lawson Hunley, was the first sub to sink an enemy warship. However, the Hunley itself sunk three times in its short career. The second time it sunk, Horace Lawson Hunley was among one of the men who drowned. After the Hunley’s successful attack on the screw sloop, the USS Housatonic the sub sank for unknown reasons and was lost.

Speaking of the confederacy and the U.S Civil war the museum included models of the ironclad ships, the rebel Merrimac and the union Monitor. Ironclads refer to steam powered warships of that era, protected by iron or steel armor plates. By the end of the U. S. civil war the Union was building triple turreted ironclads with twenty inch mounted guns. By the 1880’s ironclads were equipped with the heaviest guns ever mounted at sea and more sophisticated steam engines. Modern day battleships developed from these ironclad ships.

If you have a maritime museum in your local area, I encourage you to visit. Organize a Steampunk outing there if you are able, I guarantee you it’ll be a lot of fun and I’m sure you’ll gather inspiration for your Steampunk writing. After all, it’s sad to think of this, but if  Jules Verne had not attended the Exposition Universelle in 1867 and seen the Plongeur, we might not have 20,000 Leauges Under The Sea, which readers enjoy to this day, over 140 years after it was first published.

There may well be an exhibit at your local museum just waiting for you to discover it and gain inspiration for your next book.

Maeve Alpin

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Nautical Steampunk Attire

Nautical Steampunk Attire

Airships and Trains weren’t the only steam powered transportation the Victorians used, steam driven ships were a big part of the era. Keep in mind the nautical theme of one of the, if not the, most famous Victorian sci-fi books, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Perhaps the greatest historical steamship episode of the Victorian era is the battle of the  Ironclads during the American Civil War, the southern Merrimac and the northern Monitor,  shown in this youtube video:

Ironclads was the name given to steam powered warships protected by iron or steel armor plates.  By the 1880’s ironclads were equipped with the heaviest guns ever mounted at sea and more sophisticated steam engines, these ships developed into modern day battleships.

Another interesting steamship episode from Victorian history is the steamers that tugged the cigar shaped container ship, known as Cleopatra, which held the obelisk, called Cleopatra’s needle, all the way from Egypt. There were three steamers in all, the Olga beset by a storm rescued the survivors of the Cleopatra crew, six drowned, then they had to abandon the container ship, leaving it to drift in the Bay of Biscay. The Fillitz Morris rescued the cylinder and towed it to Northern Spain. From there the Anglia towed Cleopatra to Gravesend. Five days later Cleopatra was pulled up the Thames. On September 13, 1878 the obelisk was erected on a pedestal on the banks of the Thames. The names of the men who drowned due to Cleopatra’s journey are commemorated on the pedestal. The pedestal is also a time capsule representing Victorian Britain, it contains British coins, a railway guide, some daily newspapers, several bibles in different languages and a dozen prints of the world’s most beautiful women. You can see the obelisk here.

Here’s a fictional excerpt of the arrival of Cleopatra at London, from the Steampunk Romance, As Timeless As Magic:

The ship towed a long cylinder, about 200 hands long and about 30 hands wide, across the rippling blue water as the sun peeked through the clouds in the blue–gray sky. Heru was sure it was a royal boat when the whole crowd cheered at its approach.

“Oui, I’m dressed like an ancient Egyptian to commemorate the obelisk.” Now he understood. He fit in with the occasion. That ship hauled something important from his country to be erected along the bank of the river.

His eardrums ached with the bang of the soldiers’ sticks, weapons that blasted into the air, again and again, in praise and fanfare to the long white ship puffing steam out of the tall black pipe and tooting a loud horn. He clamped his hands over his ears.

Men in tall, black, pipe-like hats rushed forward with tools in hand and cracked open the lengthy cylinder. Using a cable from a towering machine, shaped like a barrel with wheels and cogs spinning and rocking, the men hoisted free what lay inside. The crowd all stepped back. As the tall machine clanked, rumbled and puffed steam, it lifted the obelisk to a standing position. The throng cheered.

Heru recognized the type of monument at once. “Oui, what you call obelisks are built in pairs to stand on either side of a temple, the priests use them to tell time by the shadows cast, but there is no temple and there is only one.” Confused, he shook his head.

“Egypt gave it to England in 1819, but neither Parliament nor the king, later the queen, could cover the expense of shipping it, until General Alexander took up the cause.” She cocked her head. “Sir Wilson, who, not to be crude, but honestly, is as rich as they come, paid all the costs of its voyage. They shipped the other one, its twin, to America.”

“America?” It must be another country that didn’t exist in his time, and now they too had an obelisk from Egypt. “Amazing.” The column carved out of a single piece of stone tapered into a pyramidion at the top. He peered at the beautiful hieroglyphics engraved on it.

“Not as amazing as all poor Cleopatra has been through.”

“Cleopatra?” Who or what was Cleopatra? Since he didn’t know anything or at least very little about the future he’d landed in, he shrugged as he watched her lips curve into a smile.

“The watertight cylinder. The first ship that towed her got caught in a storm and six men drowned. Cleopatra drifted in the ocean alone, until a different ship rescued her and brought her to a Spanish port. Then,“ Felicity pointed to the barge in the river, “that ship, the Anglia, brought her and the obelisk she carried, which everyone is calling Cleopatra’s needle, here.”

“This Cleopatra’s needle’s journey to England is almost as unbelievable as mine.”

“I doubt your adventure is more exciting than the obelisk’s.” Felicity set her hand on her small but defined hip.

“You would be surprised.”

Maeve Alpin & Pirate - Space City Con

Maeve Alpin & Pirate – Space City Con

Keep steamships, sea ports, and nautical settings in mind for your Steampunk tales. Also, if you live in the Houston Texas area there’s a great opportunity for maritime research and fun, Saturday, September 15that the Houston Maritime Museum. Here’s a invitation to all who can come.Please join me for an afternoon of nautical Steampunk fun at the Houston Maritime Museum, tie down the date of 09/15/12 at 3:00 PM. Don steampunk attire if you wish, in the fashion of a day at a Victorian yacht club or airship pirates may feel free to become maritime pirates

Captian Jack at Dickens On The Strand 2012

Captian Jack at Dickens On The Strand 2012

for the day, or a member of the Nautilus crew. All Steampunk garb and characters are welcomed as well as modern garb. Board the guided tour of over 150 model ship exhibits, spanning the age of exploration to the modern merchant marines and several models of steam powered ships from the Victorian age. Free parking is a shore thing at the large lot beside the museum. Museum admission is $5.00 per age 12 up, $3.00 for children 3 -11 and children under 3 are free.

Maeve Alpin

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One of the questions writers get most often is, where do you get your ideas? Now as much as I’d like to be a smartass and answer that I get them from my local tea shop with biscuits on the side, cream and two sugars, I know that’s not right. It certainly doesn’t help you understand what it’s like, which for whatever reason, is fascinating. The truth is that writers’ brains are rather like Tesla Coils.

Sparks of ideas are everywhere in the air. I’ve talked with many writers and while we’re all different, we’re all the same in the fact that anything can generate an idea. Reading the back of a cereal box, a snippet of conversation in an elevator, stumbling across an interesting fact in a magazine article or during a visit to a place on a child’s field trip. Heck, I even got an idea once for a novel while sitting in a college botany class and I found out aphids are born pregnant (which started me on a whole story set of messing with cross-DNA hybridization and what would happen if you crossed aphid DNA with human DNA for an easily reproduced, cheap source of workers.) But I digress. As a writer you simply look at the world differently.

Our brains are somehow wired at just the right frequency to pick up that spark of idea out of the ether and created an electrical connection with it. (Which, I believe, is a valid reason why so many writers can pick up the same story idea at the same time, and yet each story will turn out differently.) From there the light and intensity of those ideas grows to such a degree that it is perfectly obvious to those around us if we don’t release those ideas we might potentially explode. Hey, it’s either that or talk these stories and characters out of our heads to a therapist which would require us to take on yet another day job just to pay for the numerous sessions. It’s simply much easier to write it down!

The pulse of energy and light you see is the resulting book. It’s the result of amplifying those ideas, letting them bounce around, connecting with other particles of ideas until they are finally released. While I tend to plot, like Marie-Claude does, I usually only have bits of the ideas. The book isn’t fully formed in my head until I begin writing it only because as the characters grow and change they add extra things that I didn’t think of before which deepen the story. In some ways I discover things about the world I’m writing in (regardless of how much research I’ve done previously) that I didn’t know before.

For instance, in my current book, The Hunter, I didn’t realize the whole historical dynamic of the Hunter/Darkin relationship. Sure my characters are modern Victorian Hunters, but when I started peeling back where they’d come from, how the Book of Legend they are seeking came to be and why it was scattered across the globe, a whole history (which you may never even see in the stories) started to emerge. It’s a legacy that impacts my three brothers and echoes the past relationship of the three brothers back in the Dark Ages who originally scattered the book to protect it.

So you see, in many ways, writers’ brains are like Tesla Coils. We store ideas, gather them from the air and release them in short, powerful bursts people can actually identify as books. But the proces of gathering those ideas, storing them up, working with them is always ongoing. That’s why writers often carry something to jot notes down because ideas can hit anywhere and any time. I even knew one writer who had a waterproof diving tablet so she could take notes in the shower.

And while writers can convey those ideas in a brilliant display of light called a book, we also need a receptor, a reader to make the transfer of those ideas complete. So see, you the reader are an integral part to how a writer’s brain is like a Tesla Coil. What can I tell you? Writers are just on a different frequency.

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All-in-one computer created by Mr. Steampunk Jake Von Slatt

My word processing transmittal machine (nee computer) and I have a love-hate relationship. I want to love it, but it hates me. Which means after seven years (good Lord, has it really been that long) that it has been requested by the family that I search for another word processing transmittal machine and Internet accessorial unit for our domicile. (Read, the family wants a new computer with a better Internet hookup, yo.)

Gorgeous computer desk created by Bruce & Melanie Rosenbaum

I am happy to oblige them. Lo and behold, I came upon some most excellent specimens. Such as the all-one desktop computer built as a mod by Jake Von Slatt  or the utterly amazing full sized, wow-my-eyes-couldn’t-get-any-bigger-version by Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum (who have completely done their house in steampunk finery which gives me yet more ideas for modifying the attic which will be our rec room/bar/guest room once the damn plaster dust settles (have I mentioned how much I hate sheetrocking?).

Incredible Datamancer.net HP Laptop

But then I absolutely fell in love with a laptop, which could not be finer in it’s steampunkery and clockwork-loving goodness. No, I know it looks like an incredible music box of some sort, but Datamancer.net has created this laptop that not only fully-functions, but literally has a clockwork mechanism that uses a key to turn the computer on! Talk about taking it to the next level. No simple switches here.  Clearly, if I want a computer with such steampunk savvy, I shall have to buy hubby a bandsaw for father’s day, learn to craft with brass and copper (beyond just using solder to fix copper pipes) and dip further into my creativity.

Damn, you know, if I could only sew a computer this nice, I’d do it. But really, I’m thinking that pleats, buckles and brass buttons, with a fringe of lace aren’t going to do too well. *sigh* I suppose we all have our own talents. That’s why I’m going back to the keyboard. I have books to write.

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150 years later Charles Babbage’s life’s work is finally made a reality as his Difference Engine is built using period materials.

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One thing I am fascinated by are flying machines and how they so easily—and quintessentially—fit into the steampunk genre.  After all, what’s steampunk without airships?

Dupuy Lome Dirigeable

Jules Verne enchanted us all with balloon travel in “Around the World in Eighty Days” and “Five weeks in a Balloon.”  Who wouldn’t want to travel in a helium filled balloon?   But aircraft get even bigger—even today, such as blimps and dirigibles, which are used for tourism, camera platforms, advertising, surveillance, and research. It’s not that far off to think of them on an Airship from the Golden Compasseven grander scale, such as passenger ships as elegant as the Victorian steamers, transporting people from one place to another with speed, elegance, and spectacular views. 
steampunk airshipThey could be grand and elegant passenger ships of gleaming wood and polished brass, or could be patched and clunky cargo haulers, or these vessels could be filled with the most fearsome people to haunt steampunk skies—air pirates!   

 

But ships aren’t the only things that can fly.  I’m also fascinated250px-Leonardo_Design_for_a_Flying_Machine%2C_c__1488 with the idea of personal aircraft—such as the idea of “detachable wings” – small powered gliders with wings reminiscent of a Da Vinci sketch.  One could almost imagine a ruffian in his leather aviation cap and brass goggles soaring through the sky on such a contraption. 

skysurfingHoverboards also enthrall me.  A steampunk teen could easily be dodging the police on some sort of brass and wood flying skate/surfboard powered by rockets, the sun, or who knows…

Finally, we can’t forget the flying car—whether it simply floats or has giant purple bat wings.  This is yet another fabulous, flying machine that could find a home in a steampunk world. 

Don’t even get me started on floating cities. 

What’s your favorite flying machine—fictional or fact?  Do you wish you could fly out the window on a red dirt devil?  Soar the skies in a giant airship?  A poster will be chosen at random on Friday to receive a bag of “productivity pixy dust” to inspire you and a small sparkly tiara. 

Happy Dreaming!

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jules_verne_middle_ageJules Gabriel Verne

February 8, 1828 – March 24, 1905

Jules Verne was born and raised in the port of Nantes in France. His father was a prosperous lawyer. In order to continue his father’s practice, Verne moved to Paris, where he studied law. His uncle introduced him into literary circles and he started to publish plays under the influence of such writers as Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, whom Verne also knew personally. Verne’s one-act comedy The Broken Straws was performed in Paris when he was 22. In spite of busy writing, Verne managed to pass his law degree. During this period Verne suffered from digestive problems which then recurred at intervals through his life.

In 1854 Charles Baudelaire translated Edgar Allan Poe’s works into French. Verne became one of the most devoted admirers of the American author, and wrote his first science fiction tale, ‘An voyage in Balloon’, under the influence of Poe. Later Verne would write a sequel to Poe’s unfinished novel, Narrative of a Gordon Pym, entitled The Sphinz of the Ice-Fields (1897). When his career as an author progressed slowly, Verne turned back to stockbroking, an occupation which he held until his successful tale Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863) in the series VOYAGES EXTRAORDINAIRES.

 Also during this period he met Honorine de Viane Morel, a widow with two daughters. They married on January 10, 1857. With her encouragement, he continued to write and actively try to find a publisher. On August 3, 1861, their son, Michel Jules Verne, was born. A classic enfant terrible, he married an actress over Verne’s objections, had two children by his underage mistress, and buried himself in debts. The relationship between father and son improved as Michel grew older.   

In 1862 Jules Verne met Pierre Jules Hetzel, a publisher and writer for children, who started to publish Verne’s ‘Extraordinary Journeys’. This cooperation lasted until the end of Verne’s career. Hetzel had also worked with Balzac and George Sand. He read Verne’s manuscripts carefully and did not hesitate to suggest corrections. One of Verne’s early works, Paris in the Twentieth Century, was turned down by the publisher, and it did not appear until 1997 in English.   

             Jules_verne                  

 Jules Verne’s stories caught the enterprising spirit of the 19th century with its uncritical fascination with scientific progress and inventions. His works were often written in the form of a travel book, which took the readers on a voyage to the moon in From the Earth to the Moon (1865) or to another direction as in A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864). Many of Verne’s ideas have been hailed as prophetic. Among his best-known books is the classic adventure story Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).

Hetzel read a draft of Verne’s story about the balloon exploration of Africa, which had been rejected by other publishers on the ground that it was “too scientific”. With Hetzel’s help, Verne rewrote the story and it was published in book form as Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon). Acting on Hetzel’s advice, Verne added comical accents to his novels, changed sad endings into happy ones, and toned down various political messages. 

From that point on, and up to years after Verne’s death, Hetzel published two or more volumes a year. The most successful of these include: Voyage au centre de la terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864); De la terre à la lune (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865); Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 1869); and Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (Around the World in Eighty Days), which first appeared in Le Temps in 1872. The series is collectively known as “Les voyages extraordinaires” (“Extraordinary voyages”). Verne could now make a living by writing. But most of his wealth came from the stage adaptations of Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (1874) and Michel Strogoff (1876), which he wrote together with Adolphe d’Ennery.

cc64726ff11b8d2eIn 1867 Jules Verne bought a small ship, the Saint-Michel, which he successively replaced with the Saint-Michel II and the Saint-Michel III as his financial situation improved. On board the Saint-Michel III, he sailed around Europe.

In 1870, he was appointed as “Chevalier” (Knight) of the Légion d’honneur. Verne became wealthy and famous. He remains the most translated novelist in the world, according to UNESCO statistics.

On the BOOKS page of this blog is a list of many of Jules Verne’s 54 novels.

 

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You may think you’ve never read a Steampunk book or seen a Steampunk movie, but there’s a good chance you have. Find out more about Steampunk. It’s been around. You may even be WRITING IT!2509601257_24429a39c9

230111411STEAMPUNK is defined by Wikipedia as “subgenre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominenece in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. These include works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used – usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era London – but with elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” of such technology as dirigibles or analog computers; these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or a presumption of functionality.”

Steampunk Fiction focuses on real or theoretical Victorian-era technology, and includes steam engines, clockwork devices, and difference engines. The genre has expanded into medieval settings and often dips into the realms of horror and fantasy. Secret societies and conspiracy theories are often featured, and some steampunk includes fantasy elements. These may include Lovecraftian, occult and Gothic horror influences. Another common setting is “Western Steampunk” (also known as Weird West), a science fictionalized American Western.

Historical Steampunk Fiction usually leans more toward science fiction than fantasy, but a number of historical steampunk stories incorporate magical elements. For example, Morlock Nights by K.W. Jeter (who invented the term Steampunk) revolves around an attempt by the wizard Merlin to raise King Arthur in order to save the Britain of 1892 from an invasion of Morlocks from the future. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers involves a group of magicians who try to raise ancient Egyptian Gods in an attempt to drive the British out of Egypt in the early 19th century.

Fantasy Steampunk Fiction Since the 1990s, the steampunk label has gone beyond works set in recognizable historical periods (usually the 19th century) to works set in fantasy worlds that rely heavily on steam- or spring-powered technology. 

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