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Archive for December, 2011

Today we welcome Anna-Marie York from SteampunkFamily.Com

Anna-Marie York writes adventure stories for www.steampunkfamily.com.

A New Year’s Resolution, with brief discussion of William Morris, Steampunk Anti-Hero
by Anna-Marie York

If you are considering a resolution for this new year, consider this one:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

These are the words of William Morris, an unlikely steampunk hero. Like other steampunk heroes, he was born in the nineteenth century (b. 1834, d.1896). Unlike steampunk favorites Jules Verne and Nicola Tesla, Morris lived out his life in England, a subject of Queen Victoria. He was a writer of prose and poetry, a painter, designer, manufacturer, and activist, and his fabric and wallpaper patterns are so popular they are still available today. He was associated with the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and a founder of the Arts and Crafts movement.

When steampunks discuss our influences, Morris is seldom mentioned, and for good reason. The man was a luddite. He worshipped nature and abhorred the gears and pistons of industry that so fascinate us today. He once wrote, “Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the leading passion of my life has been and is hatred of modern civilization.” He looked back to the Middle Ages as the ideal era of mankind, and both his visual art and poetry is redolent with nostalgia for those bygone days. He loathed mass-produced, commercial crap and longed to return art to every day life. He was a hands-on designer, learning block printing, tapestry weaving, calligraphy, illumination, embroidery and other arts himself before teaching the employees of his decorative arts firm to execute his designs. He spent his life trying to bring art back to industry.

Now we’re getting somewhere! A do-it-yourselfer with nostalgia for a bygone era, appreciation of more primitive, hands-on technology. He and his friends even dressed up in costumes from the era they admired and took pictures of each other. Sound familiar?

So back to our new year’s resolution, courtesy of William Morris, steampunk hero.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

This is a steampunk impulse, to be sure. It is the spark igniting a thousand case mods. The challenge is to bring the steampunk aesthetic into your everyday life. And although I encourage you to become an artist, and to support artists, I don’t mean to suggest a rarified state only to be achieved by the fantastically talented or super wealthy. As Morris said “…I do not want art for a few; any more than education for a few; or freedom for a few… ” Like Morris, I believe art and beauty are goals everyone can reach.

Let me leave you with a simple example. This is an object that is useful for dental hygiene.

Although it is useful, it is in no way beautiful. So why should you look at it every day? You shouldn’t have to. You probably have your shoved in a cupboard under the sink. My sink has no cupboard, so I did this.

The bottle is either from a thrift shop or pulled out of the recycling. The glass on top once admonished me not to mess with Texas, but two minutes with a razor blade fixed that. So, rather agitating my spirit by staring at a hideous plastic advertisement every morning, my eye is soothed by an object I know to be useful AND believe to be beautiful.

Happy New Year, Steampunks.

~Anna-Marie York
www.steampunkfamily.com.

Morris Wallpaper copyright Victoria and Albert Museum

Case Mod by Pith Helmet Provisions

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from Everyone at Steamed!

 

Design by Urban Threads.

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Today we welcome Andrew Mayer, author of the Society of Steam Trilogy.

Andrew Mayer was born on the tiny island of Manhattan, and is still fascinated by their strange customs and simple ways.  When he’s not writing new stories he works as a videogame designer and digital entertainment consultant. Over the years he has has created numerous concepts, characters, and worlds including the original Dogz and Catz digital pets.  These days he resides in Oakland, CA where he spends too much time on the internet, and not enough time playing his ukulele.

Steampunk is coming to town

by Andrew Mayer

Have you seen the latest Jusin Bieber video? A breakdancing Santa Claus is breaking it down in Victorian underwear, and Justin is there to meet him in a gear-studded vest with a mechanical glove.  It is, for better or worse, absolutely steampunk.

And according to some very irate (and some very gleeful) nerds, it’s also supposedly the end of steampunk as we know it. And I’m here to say that while they may just be right, but it also may also be the dawn of something new.

Of all the people who seemed to be the most gleeful at the genre’s imminent demise, the ones who amuse me the most are fantasy fans. They rub their hands together with joy, claiming that steampunk is getting too watered down and too mainstream.

From my point of view, it’s all jealousy and glass houses. After all, while steampunk may have its tropes of gears and goggles, fantasy has had decades to commit far worse sins. Anyone remember Tom Cruise as the elf-boy in Legend? How about the shelves of gift stores in malls across the world that are sagging with “adorable” dragon figurines? And we’ve just survived a decade of Harry Potter with light plastic wands and vibrating nimbus brooms, and yet somehow fantasy seems to have thrived, with Peter Jackson about to send us back to Middle Earth for two more films.

But success does have its cost, and the truth is that Fantasy had been splashing around in the mainstream (and doing mostly a poor job of it) for almost forty years before it found the more genuine “gritty” aesthetic that powers so much of the modern day genre (like Song of Ice and Fire). And even so, for every gritty elf assassin, there’s a Galadriel Barbie doll.

So fantasy fans, may you mock us for Justin Bieber, but remember that it wasn’t all that long after Tolkien had finished his genre-defining masterpiece that Leonard Nimoy (still sporting his Mr. Spock hair cut) sang about Hobbits in a video that definitely feels a very, very long way from Bag End…

Besides, this isn’t the first time that we’ve heard that steampunk is “over”. It isn’t even the first time this year. Back in January there were plenty of folks claiming that its appearance in thousands of gear-encrusted tchotchkes on Etsy was proof of the apocalypse. And yet, somehow, in the last year we’ve not only gotten Justin Bieber interested, but there’s also another Sherlock Holmes film, a steampunk spinoff for Warehouse 13, and books of all types (from Romance, to my own superhero benders and beyond). There’s even more movies on the way. And every time the things take a new twist or turn, thousands more people ask the all-important question, “Hey, what is this steampunk stuff all about?”

So, while people want to see the mainstreaming of steampunk as the beginning of the end of a genre, having it appear in a huge mainstream video is probably the end of the beginning. It’s understandable that people are feeling a sense of loss. You always do when something you love grows up. And it’s always more fun when you and your friends “own” something that nobody knows about than it is telling your parents why there’s a clockwork doll hanging out with the breakdancing Santa. But, as we’ve seen with other genres, that can also be the moment of greatest opportunity as well.

Steampunk may have started out with the grit intact, but if it’s going to stick around it has to show a softer, more family-friendly side as well. Seeing that happen as it enters in the mainstream isn’t a sign of failure, it’s an opportunity for more people to discover the charms of our neo-Victorian aesthetic, and that means it’s going to stick around for just a little bit longer, even if we have to endure plush zeppelins and plastic goggles.

But that success goes both ways, and the longer steampunk lasts in the mainstream, the more likely it is that people will push the edges of the genre as well, finding ways to create something that you will love more than you thought possible.

– Andrew Mayer
www.andrewpmayer.com

twitter: @andrewmayer

facebook: www.facebook.com/societyofsteam

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Happy Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah from everyone at Steamed!

May your nights be full of fun, friends, light, and latkes.

 

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‘Tis the season, so I’m posting this again, like I do every year.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

12 Air Pirates

11 Painted Ladies

10 Clock Hands

9 Ray Guns

8 Pairs Brass Goggles

7 Aviator Caps

6 Cogs and Gears

5 Mad Scientists

4 Flying Cars

3 Top Hats

2 Pretty Corsets

And an Airship in a Pear Tree!

 

Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens.  Her debut novel, INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, releases August 2012 from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

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~The Following Post is About a Story Intended for those Over 18~

The Lords of Aether is a gay steampunk serial. Authors Charlie Cochrane, KC Burn, Jaime Samms, Jason Edding, Stephani Hecht, Z.A. Maxfield and Lex Valentine weave a world of machines and Victoriana with the paranormal and gay rom to bring you a story filled with intrigue, excitement, love, lust, machines and mayhem. The story advances each week with a post from one of the authors. This serial will be as rich as any novel with characters, plots, sub-plots and layers to every scene and post.  Visit the site at  http://lordsofaether.com or the trailer at http://youtu.be/m0FhyaW8vvo.

 

The Lords of Aether 

by Lex Valentine

The Lords of Aether is a gay steampunk serial written by authors Charlie Cochrane, KC Burn, Jaime Samms, Jason Edding, Stephani Hecht, Z.A. Maxfield and Lex Valentine. Our intent is to weave a world of machines and Victoriana/Edwardiana with the paranormal and gay rom to bring you a story filled with intrigue, excitement, love, lust, machines and mayhem. The story advances with each post from one of the authors, typically posted on Fridays, but more often if the story is flowing. *wink* This serial will be as rich as any novel with characters, plots, sub-plots and layers to every scene and post.

The Lords of Aether is a gay gentleman’s club, but the actual “lords” are the characters the story focuses on. They are members who met and became friends (and lovers) through the club. The authors take you through their lives and the mysteries they become involved in so expect some hot sex, tender love scenes, violent encounters, dark secrets, twists and turns and inevitable cliffhangers.

I’m Lex Valentine and I’m the person who dared to voice this idea of a serial story to some friends. Luckily, I have cool friends who really liked the idea and jumped on board right away, giving this idea wings, feet and flesh and blood.

To build the world of the Lords of Aether, we set ourselves up with a private Yahoo group where we brainstorm and vet our posts before they go up on the site. We toss out ideas like a line of children throwing garbage at a wall to see what sticks! Seriously though, since none of us have ever written steampunk before, we thought this would be a good way to figure out how to do it. We started by choosing a time period of turn of the century. Then we decided whether we wanted this to historically accurate (our world) or some kind of alternate world. We decided on it being a sort of alternate world because we decided to include the paranormal in the story. Werewolves, vampires, and magic are all allowed and we already have been bouncing around a sub plot involving lycanthropy.

Once we settled on the kind of world we had, we moved on to details such as the city and information about the club. Then we each worked on characters. After coming up with one or more characters each, I put together an initial post that had two of my characters meeting at the club. This spawned ideas in the other authors and relationships between characters began to grow out of our discussions about the initial two posts (by myself and Z.A. Maxfield) and the subsequent posts we have planned. There’s a missing person and this leads to the introduction of basically all the main characters and our bad guy who is written by Jason Edding.

It’s been great fun watching and being part of the process of tossing around ideas and watching what they spawn and how they end up. It’s amazing what you can create when you have so many different views on something. My perspective on my characters and storyline shift with each idea the others come up with for their characters and storyline. And of course, we have to fit all the pieces together like a puzzle which makes it a challenge and exciting at the same time.

KC Burn got very enthusiastic about the idea and has been really getting into the plotting, but I’ll let her tell you about the process from her perspective.

When I was invited to join the Lords of Aether authors, I was thrilled by the chance to branch out into a new genre (a little scared, too) and excited to be working with authors that I admire.  I’ve read a few books in the past that could loosely be called steampunk, but it’s been a while and I’ve never tried writing it.  I grabbed several recent releases to try and figure out what the current trend was.  I have to admit, I was surprised by the number that also had paranormal elements.  I had assumed the development of fantastical inventions using Victorian technology to be the primary focus of steampunk, but the inclusion of the paranormal provides even more possibilities for our new world. 

Writing in any sort of collaboration is new to me.  I’ve tried once, but it devolved into a mess of bad puns about a werewolf butcher and his “meat.” Amusing, but not viable.  If it were just me, the storyline I have planned for my two characters might deviate as I wrote, but they’d more or less end up where I intended.  Already I can see that my ideas are merely a tentative framework on which to build.  I might have thought I knew who was going to end up romantically involved with whom, but already those initial ideas are in flux.  Having a group of talented authors you can rely on to assist in brainstorming?  Awesome.  The combination of ideas into a big, exciting story where I don’t know the ending?  Pretty damn cool. 

Charlie Cochrane is finding the whole experience of organising plot and characters in advance a highly novel one. A confirmed “seat of the pantser”, she’s learning an awful lot, while at the moment only contributing advice on whether a word is anachronistic or not.

She created the loyal but ill tempered club steward, Savage Beare, and will be contributing snippets from his history of the club (a work he has in progress but will probably never find a publisher for.)

For Jaime Samms, a die-hard pantzer, same as Charlie, the whole idea of planning ahead is like asking her to give up chocolate, or…coffee! She says it’s not impossible, but sometimes makes for a grumpy-ass author who’s greatest challenge so far has been accepting the Zen of the delete key. Here’s what Jaime says about her experience with the LOA and group world building.

When Lex first asked me to join this adventure I wondered if my friend had lost her mind, momentarily or maybe mistaken the email address her email program fill in the autofill space, because I’ve never written steam punk in my life. About as close as I’ve got to the genre has been Howl’s Moving Castle, and nary an alpha male has stepped foot in my stories, like, ever. As far as writing historical goes, I might have written something set in the eighties once. And by eighties, I mean 1980’s. But, she assures me it’ll all be okay. At least I have the gay angst romance angle covered.

I am most curious to see how closely my character, Alexi will resemble his bio by the time I’m done with him. I’ll tell you, it was tough writing a bio for a character I hadn’t met yet. Already, he’s morphing into something I hadn’t anticipated when I wrote his life story. Between me and this blog, I think he reflects my own view of this whole venture in that he’s young and inexperienced, and kind of feels like he’s gone and stepped into the deep end of the pool to play with the big kids and left his floaties at home. Good thing he’s an inventor who specializes in boat building…

As for Stephani Hecht, she had pretty much the same take on this idea as everyone else.

When Lex approached me about the idea for a steampunk collaboration, my first thought was, “How in the hell am I going to do this?” Not only don’t I write historicals, but the closest I ever got to anything Steampunk was the one time I watched Wild, Wild West and that was years ago.

Then I found out what other authors were already on board for the project and I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Plus, I met Lex last year at RT and I knew what an awesome person she is, so I considered it an honor that she thought to include me in this wonderful endeavor. Now, I find myself looking forward to bringing my characters to life and watching as they interact with the other author’s creations. In the meantime, I’m going to make sure that I watch Wild, Wild West at least ten more times, plus I’m going to be reading every steampunk novel I can get my greedy hands on.

Now, the interesting part of all this has been getting turned down by my pal Z.A. Maxfield for this project only to have her go ballistic with ideas for it over lunch at Don Ramon’s. I guess I made her fall in love with my character Anthony Banning which gave life to her character Shelley Jefferson. And the plotting and brainstorming in person over chips and salsa was amazing.

The experience has been a positive one overall and the world building seems to come easier with more hands to do the building rather than the chaos you’d think would ensue when so many creative hands get into the pot. And we’re having fun which is the main reason to do something like this. We’re gaining readership daily and the wait for installments keeps them on the edge of their seats wanting to know what’s next. You can’t fast forward to the end with this story!

We’d like to thank the Steamed gang for having us and letting us talk about our new venture. We’re so glad Suzanne offered to have us here.

Readers 18 and older can read Lords of Aether at http://lordsofaether.com.

~Lex Valentine

 

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Yes, it’s that time of year again…

A Steampunk Night Before Christmas
© 2009 Suzanne Lazear

‘Twas the night before Christmas and the whole ship was quiet,
Too quiet for the likes of this seasoned air pirate.

The airship was festooned with frippery and green,
With nary a brass polished surface to be seen.

Their stocking were hung by the crow’s nest with pride,
Along with homemade cookies and rum for Santa to imbibe.

I didn’t have the heart to tell the crew
That Santa wouldn’t approve of what we do.

Sure, we stole from the rich, and gave to the needy.
But he’d probably think taking a cut was too greedy.

It didn’t matter that they had hearts of gold,
Only that it was stolen goods we bought and sold.

Suddenly, portside there arose such a clatter,
That I grabbed my spyglass to see what was the matter.

The deck became filled with curious crew,
As I climbed the rigging for a better view.

The sky that had moments before been silent,
Had erupted with a commotion both grievous and violent.

The black ship portside was one that even we dread,
And it looked as if it were attacking a small red sled

Driven by a fat guy and flying brown deer,
I polished the spyglass to ensure my vision was clear.

“Dread Pirate Fred’s attacking Santa, let’s help him, quick,”
Shouted my trusty first mate old Salty Nick.

What could I do but help out the sled?
“Come on, crew, let’s teach a lesson to Fred.”

I climbed down the rigging.
“There are cannons to load,
Christmas to save,
And pirates to goad.
Let’s kick up our speed,
And give up a fight.
Even we know
Robbing Santa just isn’t right.”

With a cheer, I manned the helm, going full speed ahead,
Nick loading our cannons to aim at the Dread Pirate Fred.

“Don’t worry Santa, help will arrive,
Salty Nick, man the cannons, prepare to take a dive.”

We flew through the air quickly, with all our might,
Fred’s crew had the sleigh on board, a terrible sight.

Santa looked frightened, a gun to his head,
“Give me those presents,” growled the Dread Pirate Fred.

Even the reindeer had been rendered immobile,
By a few of Fred’s men in a black dirigible.

Santa shook his head, “If you take them, they will be missed.
Certainly, you all shall make my permanent naughty list.”

“I don’t care,” the pirate growled.
“We just want those gifts,” his crew avowed.

“Unhand those presents,” I called, dashing through the air.
The cannons fired, aimed only to scare.

The reindeer bucked, trying to get free.
Fred sneered, “Captain Sno, you don’t scare me.”

Quickly, we secured Fred’s ship and dastardly crew,
But Fred still had Santa—there was only one thing to do.

Fred and I grappled across the deck, precariously,
Nick making sure Santa and the reindeer went free.

“You can’t rob Santa, it’s just not right,”
I yelled as I punched Fred when he put up a fight.

“Now, now, cease that,” Santa said,
Causing me to stop punching Dread Fred.

“Now Dread Pirate Fred, trying to steal presents in wrong,
but Captain Sno, punching him won’t stop him for long.

Christmas is about sharing and caring, not fighting and stealing,
and doing what’s right, not wheeling and dealing.”

Fred and I looked at each other, hanging our heads in shame.
The jolly old man had a good handle on our game.

Both crews made sure the gifts all went back
Into Santa’s giant red velvet sack.

Cook fed the reindeer carrots, and Santa cherry pie.
I looked at the Dread Pirate Fred and gave a sigh.

“Why did you do that? That’s low even for you,
to attack Santa and take his presents on Christmas Eve, too.”

“Those presents would fetch prices that are sky high.”
But the look on Fred’s face told me that was a lie.

“There are better ways of getting a present from Santa’s sack
then trapping the reindeer and staging an attack.”

“You’re one to talk,” Fred replied.
Nodding slowing, I looked at my crew, and I sighed.

“I’m afraid, Santa, neither Fred nor I have been very good this year,
but please, don’t forget our crew, they could use some good cheer.

They don’t meant to be bad; they’re just following orders.
They’re good men at heart, not drunkards and cavorters.”

Santa said, “Thank you, captain, for rescuing me,
I think I my sleigh might just hold an extra present or three.

You too,” he added to Dread Pirate Fred.
I shook my head. Was that what he actually said?

“Fred and his crew tried to steal your gifts to sell,
now you’re giving them presents as if all were well?”

Santa winked. “Now, Sno, remember what Christmas is all about.”
Getting in his sleigh, he gave his reindeer a shout.

“Just try to stay off the naughty list, the both of you, from now on.
Now, I have to be off, to get these delivered before dawn.”

Both crews looked up as Santa took off.
“Merry Christmas, Santa,” my voice went soft.

With a wink of his eye, and a flick of his hand,
Presents flew out of his sleigh; onto the deck they did land.

“Thank you, Santa,” the crews did shout.
“There’s not one for me,” Dread Fred did pout.

“All I’ve ever wanted is a present from Santa, just one.”
I scoffed. “But not enough to stop having all your plundering fun.”

“Stop it you two,” Santa added with a call.
“But I didn’t forget you either, no, not at all.”

Two more presents floated down from the sky.
Turning mine over in my hands I looked up. “But why?”

Santa just smiled. “Just remember what I said.
And for once, Sno, can you just stop plaguing Fred?”

With a hearty laugh, the sled flew up through the sky,
Both crews waved, tears in their eyes.

“A present for me?” Fred’s eyes gleamed.
I knew deep down, he wasn’t as dreadful as he seemed.

Taking a box from my pocket, I said, “And here’s another.”
Giving it to him, I smiled. “Merry Christmas, brother.

I’m sorry I plague you, but it’s so much fun.
Let’s make next year a much better one.”

Nodding, Fred said, “For once, Sno, you’re right.
I think this should be the last time that we fight.”

Santa sped by, doing one last turn.
“I hope there’s a lesson tonight you all learned.

Merry Christmas to you, and remember my lads,
no one says air pirates have to be bad.”

 

Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens.  Her debut novel, INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, releases August 2012 from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

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