Archive for October, 2012

As a Hollywood makeup artist who worked on the film Titanic and owns of one of the most popular makeup lines used along with Steampunk and Halloween costumes, as well as creator of the Bloody Mary comic books, I picked  Bobbie Weiner as the perfect person to blog about for my Halloween post on Steamed. I met Bobbie Weiner recently at Sparkle and Hustle in HoustonTexas.

Bobbie Weiner & Maeve Alpin

Bobbie Weiner & Maeve Alpin

Bobbie’ Weiner is the heroine of her own life. Her book, I Can Do This, describes her remarkable journey from a doctor’s wife and the country club life to a to a successful, independent business woman. She clearly has a Steampunk sprit, full of spunk and spit fire.

Bloody Mary’s story begins when her husband rode off on his Harley into the California sunset after telling her he wanted a new life, his  new life included an incredibly young wife already lined up for him. In her mid forties, for her first step in reinventing her life, Bobbie (Bloody Mary) enrolled in the Joe Blasco Makeup School for the television and film industry. Three days after she graduated she worked on a low budget horror film, Pumkinhead II. There the production assistant led her into an old barn where she painted a doll house replica of the set with blood and gore, to prepare it to be blown up. Her work on the doll house impressed the cast so much they nicknamed her Bloody Mary.

After Pumkinhead II, she worked as a makeup artist on a lot of short films and B-list horror movies. Then she got a  call for the TV show Renegae, staring Lorenzo Lamas. On that set she met and became friends with an English makeup intern, Josie. Bobbie’s big break came when Josie recommended her for the film Titanic, they needed her special effect makeup skills for the frozen, floating corpses.

During the Titanic shoot, on her day off, one of Leonardo Dicaprio’s stunt doubles asked her for blue and gold makeup to paint his face for the San Diego Chargers game. The next day he told her they were on TV and everyone wanted to know where they got the makeup. When she asked him what he usually used, he said markers and sharpies. That gave her the idea to start a sports makeup line. She attended a college trade show and left the convention with 46 orders for face paint kits.

About a year before Titanic came out she appeared on the morning show, Sun Up San Diego. The manger of the base super store for Marines and their families at Camp Pendleton heard her say her makeup never washed off, even as the actors lay in the water up to five hours at a time. He wanted her to make camouflage face paint for the marines. At that time the US military used a formula from 1918 full of castor oil. The men hated it so much they wouldn’t use it. At the advice of her father, Bobbie trademarked Sports Fan Face Paint, her name, Bobbie Weiner, and Bobbie Weiner’s Camouflage Face Paint. She was soon flooded with orders from the military. In 1999, she received the first of two gold medals from the U. S. Department of Defense, she was awarded the second one in 2002. These were Automated Best Value System medals, awarded to government contractors whose products meet stringent quality, price and delivery requirements.  Every U. S. solider who went to Afghanistan or Iraq had one of her camouflage makeup kits with them. By the early 2000’s Bobbie no  longer worked as a makeup artist for films, instead she supplied the film industry with her makeup. Anytime you watch a modern military movie in which camouflage is used, you can safely guess the makeup came from Bobbie Weiner.

The owner of Troma Entertainment asked her to speak and give a presentation at Comic-Con in San Diego. There she met the branding manger of Diamond Comics. When she told him she was creating a comic book, he asked her to send it to him when she was done.

When her mother became ill, She went to Florida to care for her. That’s how she met her comic book artist. She dropped in a local printing company to order business cards and asked the clerk if she knew any good animation artist. The lady recommended the artist who worked there, Tommy. Bobbie set up an interview and he presented eight black and white pages that were exactly what she was looking for. She sent the first prototype of Tales of Bloody Mary to Diamond Industries and they loved it. She printed 100 copies for a Horror Convention and sold every one. She also sold out at Comic Con 2003. In 2007 she licensed the name Bloody Mary and her 5th comic book theme to Six Flgs over Texas in Arlington, Texas and “Bloody Mary’s Circus of Fear” haunted attraction was born. She gives all proceeds from it to the Boy Scouts. She also licensed the name Bloody Mary to Universal Studios Orlando for their Halloween Horror Nights haunted house.

At a huge Halloween trade show in Chicago, Bobbie did a Titanic-style dead-person demo on stage. There, a writer from a horror magazine interviewed her and asked what was the best Halloween makeup. She told him hers was the best, Bloody Mary’s. She began making death makeup and blood. Her blood is the best , it doesn’t contain any sugars, so it’s not sticky and washes off with just soap and water.

Bobbie gave the key note address on opening day for the 7-Eleven International Convention. She brought people up on stage and transformed them into frozen, dead zombies. She began selling her makeup kits in all the 7-Elleven stores.

In 2002 a funeral director approached her about providing funeral makeup and she reformatted her makeup line, The Other Makeup, to make women look younger, into an additional line, Bloody Mary’s The Final Touch for funeral homes. She also sells jaundice powder and embalming filler for filling in wounds, surgery scars and bullet holes. People also started buying those products to look like real corpses in haunted houses.

Her line of products even includes Bloody Mary’s Bloody Mary Mix and Bloody Mary Hot Sauce. Every year she develops new products from spray blood to tattoo cover kits to living statue makeup kits as seen in the video above.

Her makeup is thought of as essential in creating certain Steampunk personas. Her metallic makeup foundation perfects the popular metallic Steampunk robot look. Her bullet hole, gash, and bite prosthetics are often used, as well as her fairy ears and fairy makeup kit. With the choices she offers, you are sure to find a product of hers to enhance your Steampunk look. or your Halloween costume for tonight.

But the  most important thing to remember about Bobbie Weiner is her advice, “Never let your age be an obstacle. I don’t care how old you are.”

Happy Halloween,

Maeve Alpin

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When we made berth along the river, I snuck back to the engine room and gathered my things. It was time. I couldn’t go on like this anymore, not with so much weighing on me. With a sad glance toward the engine that I’d put so much blood and sweat into, I hoisted my pack and set off toward the bridge.

Everyone else was off, doing whatever assigned chore the captain had set them on. Only she remained, standing on the deck, hands clasped behind her back as she stared out over the water. My toe caught on a raised board and I hissed in a breath, breaking the fragile quiet.

“Lolita Seleste, I wondered how long it would take before you came.”

Maybe it was the stupid pain in my stubbed toe, but I really didn’t understand her words. “Ma’am?”

“You’re leaving. I’ve known for a while.”

Oh. “It’s not forever. At least, not if you’ll take me back when I’m ready.”

She still hadn’t turned around, but her fingers flexed as if trying to hold onto something–something that wasn’t there. “It has to do with whatever you found when I sent you on shore leave with Lolita Cindy, doesn’t it?”

“How did you…” I winced at the admission.

Her sigh was heavy and full of the kind of disappointment I’d never hoped to hear again after I left home. “There are a great many things that happen on this ship, Lolita. Few occur without my knowledge. And of course we’ll be happy to have you back, whether as a permanent member of the crew or not.”

There was no way in the world she knew how much it meant to me to have a place I could come back to, one where I was welcome, appreciated even. “Thank you, ma’am.”

Finally, she spun on her heel, her eyes meeting mine. The glimmer of tears there made me stop breathing. “I always knew our paths would only travel together for a time, Seleste. It is my sincere hope that they cross again.” She nodded toward the corridor. “Safe journeys.”

A strange part of me wanted to hug her–an urge I’d never had in regard to our stoic captain, but she wasn’t my captain anymore. I nodded at the dismissal. “To you as well, ma’am.”

And then I strode down the corridor, past my beloved engine room, and departed the airship Steamed.


I love this blog so very much, and it was with great difficulty that I spoke to Suzanne about my need to pull back from posting. I’m at the point where I’m stretching myself too thin, and since I write more than steampunk, it was getting harder and harder for me to keep my posts here even remotely interesting and still stick with the genre.

So, I’m moving from regular Lolita status to guest/fill-in Lolita. That means I will be back, and maybe I’ll even manage to keep up the silly little story I’ve been building into the beginning of my posts, but I won’t be here every other week anymore.

I do hope if I’ve entertained you that you’ll check out my published work. Badlands  is out now, and the sequel (Clockwork Mafia) comes out in April. I’m also still (periodically) hanging out on Twitter and Facebook, and my e-mail “door” is always open.

Again, a huge thank you to Suzanne for having me. Another to all of you for tolerating and upon occasion even liking some of my ramblings. Safe journeys to each and every one of you, no matter where life is taking you 🙂

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Today we welcome Ay-leen the Peacemaker, aka Diana M. Pho.

Ay-leen the Peacemaker (Diana M. Pho) is a fandom scholar, activist, blogger, and general rabble-rouser. She edits the multicultural steampunk blog Beyond Victoriana. In May 2012, she earned her MA in Performance Studies from New York University and works for Tor Books & Tor.com. You can also find her on Academia.edu and Twitter.

What Do You Do with an MA in Steampunk?

by  Ay-leen the Peacemaker (Diana M. Pho)

After four years of college, with plenty of knowledge in what a well-known musical has termed a “useless” degree (though, technically, more than in English – I double-majored with Russian), I arrived at the classic Quarter-Life Crisis. I’d been in the Real World, yet was second-guessing myself. Was my career path where I wanted it to be? Was this where I envisioned myself when I left my alma mater? Compared to my peers, after the economy died, I was lucky: working in publishing at a secure job with solid prospects. But something since undergrad came into my life that had reminded me how much I missed academia. Steampunk.

Last year, then, I embarked on my own intellectual pursuits and enrolled in the Master’s Performance Studies Program at New York University (but what is performance studies, you may ask? Read this for your best answer, trust me.) What I conducted was cultural analysis behind steampunk performances – from steamsonas & cosplay to musical albums to plays to Maker objects and art pieces. I was known as the “Steampunk Expert” by my cohort mates, which wasn’t an unusual moniker to have considering that my colleagues included stage actors, dance company directors, a practicing shaman, several Occupiers, and an African princess.

I’m not the only academic into steam, either. Mike Perschon’s steampunk pursuit of a Ph.D in Literature was one of the inspirations for my return to school.  Jaymee Goh, my intellectual comrade-in-arms, was already in an MA program before me, and she’s now in a Ph.D program at UC Riverside. Dr. Dru Pagliassotti and Cory Gross’s early analysis about steampunk helped me focus my own ideas, and others like Dr. Catherine Siemann, Martha Swetzoff, James Carrott, and Austin Sirkin have all served as sounding boards and mentors. According to Academia.edu, there is a growing interest in steampunk scholarship.

Most importantly, though, academic presses are seeking steampunk too. The Journal of Neo-Victorian Studies has also done articles on steampunk and dedicated a special issue on it; the guest editors for that issue, Dr. Brian Croxall, and Dr. Rachel Bower just closed a call for papers for a proposed anthology.  Fashion Talks: Undressing the Power of Style and Steaming into a Victorian Future are two anthologies that have graciously accepted my work; in a “publish or perish” realm of the academy, this is pretty good for a fresh MA grad.

But why steampunk and why now?

Please indulge my little theory. Renown theorist and anthropologist Clifford Geertz noted in 1980 what he termed “the reconfiguration of social thought.”  Namely, he thought that instead of analyzing the world as a series of “texts” (The book! The website! The film! The “details” of a particular incident existing solely by itself) or as a series of “social dramas” (The event! The ritual! The “bigger situation” that a text may be found in), scholarly analysis is breaking down to mingle both methods. Geertz argues that scholars are looking at more than texts, but the context of that text. In other words, “a division between those who study individual texts (historians, editors, critics–who like to call themselves humanists), and those who study the activity of creating texts in general (linguists, psychologists, ethnographers–who like to call themselves scientists),”[i] does not exist anymore. Thus, basically, humanists, scientists, and artists are gleefully playing in the same sandbox.

Geertz’s observations were made more than 30 years ago, and yes, academic thinking has evolved to become more interdisciplinary. Steampunk, which covers everything in the Academy plus the kitchen sink, fits in with this development in philology.

Steampunk enables “brainy” factions to co-exist in harmony, sitting together like the lunchtime cafeteria table you wished you had in high school. The hard sciences in physics, engineering, and robotics beside colleagues in the literature and history without resorting to fisticuffs. The musicians, artists, fashion designers, and indie filmmakers flit between the tables, and the other two groups are inspired by them instead of waving them off as being the shallow or impractical fields. Then there’s the occasional anthropologist or media studies professor or sociology documentarian hovering around the borders of the room, shooting their latest series of talking heads for their own cultural analysis.  Steampunk represents so much to so many, because it acts as an umbrella for so many other intellectual pursuits.

In addition, the breakdown of the any sort of dominant “master narrative” – whether it be in pop culture, media technology, or social thought – is one of the pillars of post-modernism today. Fredric Jameson once critiqued post-modernism as being a mish-mash of empty gestures that do not parody, satire, or do anything beyond shallow entertainment: borrowing for the sake of borrowing without any deeper meaning.[ii]

Instead of casting off the cultural trends as being meaningless, however, I believe today’s blending of signs and symbols is a philosophical – and materialistic – bending of our place in time. Our mish-mash has meaning. Time itself is a human invention, and unilateral time is a modern Western concept. Despite the popularity of heritage brands, past scientific techniques and inventions – even the cut of our clothes and a renewed appreciation of our localized histories – we are not simply “going back to the past.” Instead, we are letting the past resurface, filtering through the glory and the debris through out actions and our creations. We are twisting time to suit our needs.  We are re-materializing bits of our pasts, piece-meal, through the cultural objects we create and the ideas we can revitalize.

Critics occasionally accuse scholars of over-intellectualing frivolous notions or ephemeral cultural trends. I don’t think it is overanalyzing, though, when I say that steampunk scholars are interpreting the signposts. The idea of genre-blurring is becoming more prevalent now than ever before; moreover, however, in today’s world, this blurring is part of an inevitable transition away from the old structural formations within modern society. Steampunk may be casually summed up as “retrofuturistic science fiction” but the ability to fantasize is necessary to create ideas about the future. As cultural theorist Lauren Berlant summed up in her recent work Cruel Optimism: “…the energy that generates this sustaining commitment to the world of undoing a world while making one requires fantasy….”[iii]

Scholars contribute just as much as any other person involved in the steampunk community, but more than just acting as thinkers. The steampunk scholar has to be a doer.

Steampunk is a verb now, (or, rather, has always been), and I stand by that to emphasize that an academic in steampunk is typically more than just an academic stuck in the ivory tower. They are also on the ground, interacting: socially, creatively, emotionally, and physically, as well as intellectually.

But the practical (for steampunk and the real world is partially rooted in the utilitarian) question remains: what do you do with an MA in steampunk?

Anything you can imagine, I suppose.

~Ay-leen the Peacemaker (Diana M. Pho)Founding Editor of BeyondVictoriana.com A Multicultural Perspective on Steampunk

Blogger for Tor.com

Twitter: writersyndrome
Steampunk Empire 


[i] Clifford Geertz. “Blurring genre: on reconfiguring social thought,” HyperGeertz. http://hypergeertz.jku.at/GeertzTexts/Blurred_Genres.htm. Accessed: October 21, 2012.

[ii] Fredric Jameson. Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992),17.

[iii]    Lauren Berlant. Cruel Optimism. (Durham: NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 263.

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Steampunk Greek Gods – photographed by Foodbyfax at DragonCon 2010

Steampunk writers and readers love clockwork automations but they go back much further than you may think. They begin as long ago as ancient Greece, third century B.C. with Ctesibus, the first head of the library in Alexandria. He invented the hydraulis a water organ and the first keyboard musical instrument, the ancestor of the modern pipe organ. Clocks are a big part of Steampunk and his, the clepsydra, kept more accurate time than any clock until Dutch physicist, Christiaan Huygens invented the pendulum clock in the 17th century AD. If Ctesibus invented such a marvelous clock, what else could he, someone, or others have created to technologically revolutionize ancient Greece? Does your muse have you thinking about togas? What about a Steampunk and Greek mythology? Steampunk Greek Goddesses.

Asian Steampunk at Aetherfest 2012

But before Huygens came along with his swinging pendulum, a Chinese monk, Su Sung, created atowering clepsydra in 1092 AD. It stood five stories high, and was operated by a large water wheel, which acted very similar to a modern clock escapement. It most likely was the first mechanical clock. Every fifteen minutes the water wheel turned, then all the other cogs and gears, which opened and closed doors that released the automata. Here is a scale model of Su Sung’s clock. Just imagine, historical China and Steampunk, what a perfect combination for an exotic, adventure tale.

Let’s go through the mist of time from China to Japan back when Shoguns ruled and to the invention of karakuri dolls, the ancestors of modern robots.The dolls were crafted of paulownia wood with gear wheels to move the joints, and whale whiskers were used as the springs in the mechanism.

Just think, Shoguns, robots, and Steampunk, who could ask for more.

I hope you find this information interesting and aslo helpful for anyone who’s writing a Steampunk story set much further back than the 19th century.

Maeve Alpin

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Today we welcome a special guest Doctor Q of the Artifice Club.

Doctor Q is the co-founder of the Artifice Club, Media Editor of the Steampunk Chronicle, DJ, Writer, and Track Director of the Alternate History Track at Dragon*Con.  When not spinning tunes, planning shows, reading comics, and enjoying all the many facets steampunk has to offer all, he is hard at work in planning, scheming, and rarely slowing down.  He lives in Decatur, Georgia, with his lab partner and Burlesque Star Talloolah Love and their four-legged kids.

Welcome to Steamed! Would you please introduce yourself?

DQ: Hello, gentle readers, I am Doctor Q. I dabble in many things, but am likely most known for my skills behind a turntable as a DJ or also behind a microphone as a producer and event organizer for the steampunk community in the southeast. I am the Media Editor for Steampunk Chronicle, Director of the Alternate History Track for Dragon*Con, and Co-Founder of The Artifice Club.

Oh, Dragon*C0n! I hope to attend that one day. So, can you tell us a little about your work and how you got into it?

DQ: I put together shows, perform in others, and also edit and help get content up on an online paper. But of all I do, I love being part of the scene in general and am happy to be part of it in any form or fashion. I got started via my lovely better half and co-Founder, the talented Talloolah Love. In 2008, she wanted to do a Clockwork Doll number and her requirement was I get on stage with her to introduce the act, as I had loved steampunk since before there was a word for it and simply stalked it from afar. So she pushed me onto the stage and provides the inspiration for almost all of our Artifice Club shows.

Since then, I’ve been part of a number of fantastic teams. I’ve helped a number of conventions, and the fantastic folks in the Club have put on some incredible events for the past two years.

The clockwork doll number sounds amazing.  Who or what are your biggest influences?

DQ: First and foremost, Emmett Davenport. She runs the Clockwork Cabaret radio show and podcast is among the coolest gals I know. Her Clockwork Ball events were what inspired us to start the Club. Her radio show also inspired my own growing taste in music.

As a DJ, in addition to Emmett, I’m also inspired by DJ Fact.50 (aka Josh of Vernian Process), as well as DJs like Earworm, Dean Gray, and some of the talented Electro-Swing DJs across the pond like Parov Stelar and Max Pashm.  And last but not least, some of my other favorites include DJs Vourteque, Tommy Toony, Spider, and Swivel.

What’s one thing you know now you wish you would have known when you started?

DQ: That’s a tricky question. I have been fortunate enough to be around a great group of creative, amazing people. It’s been success after success, and so I really have no complaints, regrets, or worries. I knew going into this scene that it would have all this creativity and my hope was that it had open, supportive, and kind people to help promote the scene as a whole. And overall, I have been right at almost every turn. I like being constantly surprised with how big this whole scene has become and how it continues to grow, so I suppose I’d really wouldn’t have done things any differently.

That’s really great. Can you tell us about your latest project?

I’ve got two projects coming down the pipeline. First is Fascination – an electro-swing night here in Atlanta I’m trying to get off the ground. I’m a huge fan of the scene they have there in Europe and the UK and thought that my city would love it as much as I do, so I hope it’ll be success. I’ve got a classic swing DJ, DJ Moose, along with fellow electro-swing DJ Vourteque alongside me, plus burlesque acts between sets from Lola Le Solei, Fonda Lingue, and Ursula Undress should make it quite a night!

The other wild night is the end of the year bash from the Artifice Club – The Imperial Secret Society Speakeasy! With The Emperor of the Red Fork Empire as our MC, music from `Till Someone Loses and Eye, The David Tyberg Trio, and Christ, Lord, and topping it off with burlesque from Talloolah Love, featuring acts from Lola Le Solei, Fonda Lingue, and Chicago’s own Peal Pistol. It’s going to be a helluva night.

Wow, that sounds fun. I wish I lived closer. Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

Sure thing. No matter where you are, just because you’re not in the southeast doesn’t mean you can’t join the Club. The Artifice Club is an organization for all artists, makers, costumers, performers, and those patrons who enjoy being immersed in such creativity. We are even starting up new chapterhouses outside of Atlanta. Do you not have a scene in your city yet? Well we’d be happy to offer up our lessons learned and walk you through having your own Artifice Club event near you. Happy to share, just drop us a line!

That’s a great idea. Where can our readers find out more about you?

Feel free to follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheDoctorQ

I post my set lists there, as well shout out on upcoming gigs, talk about music and such, and more. If Liking Pages aren’t your thing I also have a personal page, but I’m all over the map on that one.

Or you can follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DJDoctor_Q

I kind of ramble all over the place on twitter when I’m actually on it, which sadly is touch and go – but it is my favorite of the social networks.

Or you can also become a Fan of the Artifice Club on Facebook (or join our Group), Twitter, or tumblr.

–Doctor Q

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I twisted the wrench, securing the new equipment in place. The gauges and dials all read in the green. The ridiculous machine that shouldn’t have even been possible was working perfectly.

Another Lolita–I didn’t know her name, to me she has always been “the annoying one”–stepped up and frowned, tapping the instrument. “This isn’t right.”

A heavy sigh escaped me before I could stop it, but once it was out I felt better and vowed not to stifle my exasperation again. “The captain told me to make it work, and it works.”

“But it’s not right,” the annoying one insisted, tapping it again. “Anyone who knows engines will question not only its purpose but its effectiveness and–“

Calmly, I wrapped my fingers around her wrist and pulled her hand away from my invention. I might have applied a bit more pressure than necessary, but I was done playing nice with her. “And anyone who knows this ship will see that it works and, at the end of the day, that is what the captain wants. Why don’t you go about your business and do your job. I’m sure you will perform it exactly right.”

Scowling, she spun on her heel and stalked out of my engine room.

Before the door hit her skinny backside, I muttered, “I’m sure you’ll remember where to find me when you break something else.”


When writing steampunk (or any fiction for that matter), there is an issue of terminology. Often there is a proper term and a common term that an author has to decide between. When writing non-fiction, of course one should err on the side of the “correct” word. But, with fiction, an author isn’t necessarily dealing with an expert. Not everyone who enjoys science fiction is a rocket scientist (or even understands any math beyond–hopefully at a minimum–some basic algebra). Not everyone who reads historical fiction is necessarily an expert in that era or even a history buff at all. Most people who are drawn to fiction are drawn to the story. Therefore, when choosing terminology, it’s often in an author’s best interest to select things that are recognizable to a general audience.

Take, for example, Clockwork Mafia. The history of organized crime in the United States traces back to Italy and Sicily where “The Black Hand” operated. It was essentially an extortion racket wherein the group would offer “protection” for a fee. This is similar to what most people know of the early mob in America. The name traveled with the “business.” The term mafia came into use in the late nineteenth century and was used in the US, but didn’t become popular until prohibition. 

Now, in the world of the Badlands, history has been tweaked. To that end, when organized crime came into the story, I had no problem whatsoever with using the word mafia. (My editor did cut “mob,” but I was okay with that.) I honestly would have argued had it been suggested that I change “mafia” to “The Black Hand.” Granted, the latter has this dramatic flair that speaks of dark evil and all sorts of foul deeds, but to the average non-history-buff, the term would have been meaningless. Everyone knows what the mafia is, and since these are steampunk romances we’re talking about the focus is supposed to be on the couple.

Anyone who knows my work knows that I aim for balance but, at the end of the day, I could either slow down the pacing of the book to explain to the average reader what The Black Hand was, or I could let the word mafia speak for itself. I chose the latter because it works and serves the purpose. 

And, considering the word was used often in print by 1891 in the states, it’s actually not wrong either. 


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In it for the fiction

Steampunk means a lot of different things to different people. No, I’m not talking about the definition of the genre. Guest Lolita Karina Cooper did a brilliant job of that a couple weeks ago. But it’s different from other genres of fiction in that it’s spawned music, fashion, decor, and all kinds of other things.

Coming to steampunk via the fiction, I continue to be amazed that there are people who identify themselves as steampunks who don’t read the books. There are those who are into steampunk for the music, for roleplaying, for the clothes and even for an entire lifestyle. I’m not sure any other subgenre of fiction can say that. Culturally speaking, I find it a fascinating phenomenon. Some of it I like, some of it not so much. The music, for me, varies from band to band. Some of it’s just not to my taste. I’m not going to listen to something just because it says steampunk. I love the clothes and jewelry, but then I’ve always had a taste for vintage and odd bits and pieces. I’ve also really enjoyed most of the people I’ve met in the southern Michigan steampunk scene.

My first love in the steampunk, however, remains the literature. I’m a writer and a reader, far more than I’ll ever be any other part of the lifestyle. Although I really do love the clothes…

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Alright, I know we’ve already featured Clay and Susan Griffith’s third book in the Vampire Empire series, THE KINGMAKERS.

We already know this series is made of awesome.

However, PYR sent me a lovely finished copy–and I want to give it to one of you. Want to win it? Tell me in the comment box below why you need this book. Feel free to be creative.

One entry per person. Open internationally. Closes October 14, 2012 at 11:59 PM PST.

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Today we welcome the incredible Kiki Hamilton.

Kiki Hamilton is the author of the YA historical fantasy series THE FAERIE RING. Book 1, THE FAERIE RING and Book 2, THE TORN WING are both out now. Book 3, THE SEVEN YEAR KING releases in May of 2013.


Writing Historical Fantasy

by Kiki Hamilton

Thanks for inviting me over to STEAMED! Though I’m not a writer of steampunk fiction, I do write historical fantasy (THE FAERIE RING (2011) and THE TORN WING (2012) )which has some notable similarities with steampunk, such as life in the Victorian era.

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is how much research do I have to do for my books?  The short answer is A LOT! The longer answer is that I do spend quite a bit of time researching Victorian England, as well as British faerie lore, but luckily, I find it fascinating. The goal of any writer who sets their story in the Victorian era is to make the reader feel like they’ve stepped back through time (or taken a time machine…) and are walking the foggy, cobblestone streets of the past along with the characters.

How does one accomplish that?

In my case, it’s a combination of setting, character definition (which includes description, dialogue, backstory and behavior), weaving  fact with fiction, as well as using language that is suitable to the time period.   I’ll share some brief thoughts on each of those below:


Setting can be much more than the physical attributes of the scene. In some instances, setting can almost become a character within the story. Setting is an opportunity to set a mood. Here’s an excerpt from THE FAERIE RING that I like:

“The World’s End had a packed house tonight. The wooden plank floor of the pub was slick with spilled ale and the rich, yeasty smell of beer hung thick in the air. A row of sailors sat shoulder to shoulder along the wooden bar, hunched over their drinks as though fearful their glasses would be snatched away. Big mirrors lined the walls, etched with the names of ales or whiskeys, reflecting the bright lights in the room as well as the cloud of tobacco smoke. Barmaids and prostitutes, with their skirts partially tucked up in their waistbands, worked their way through the thick crowd milling between the full tables, smiling and joking with the customers. The tinkling notes of a piano were a backdrop to the cacophony of accents that clashed above it all, like an instrument with several strings out of tune.”

Hopefully, the reader can see the interior of the pub, along with the patrons, can smell the spilled ale, can hear the notes of the piano and feels immersed in this world.

Character Definition

This is a critical part of any story.  Characters need to be described in a way that is suitable to the era. Character definition is an opportunity to further immerse the reader into another era. Dress, language,  backstory and motivations each play a part in creating  a mental image for the reader.  Tying each of those to the time period reinforces the setting and mood you’ve established.

Weaving Fact with Fiction

For me, this is one of the most enjoyable parts of writing THE FAERIE RING series – finding ways to weave actual history with the fantasy story I’m telling.  I like to think of the books as ‘what if…’ stories which is similar to the alternate timelines that many steampunk novels employ.

Anachronistic Terms

Using language that is suitable to the timeframe is an important piece in creating the world of your novel.  Using language or terms that are too modern for a Victorian setting (anachronistic) is one of the fastest ways to pull your reader out of the ‘dream’ and remind them that they’re reading and not living your story.

So, that’s a quick look at some of the considerations I put into writing historical fantasy.  Hope you found it interesting and helpful! Any others we should add to the list?

~Kiki Hamilton







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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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First off, the winner of the book CUTTLEFISH is:


If you enjoy reading steampunk, you’ve probably read Mark Hodder (Burton and Swinburne series).

His new book A Red Sun Also Rises which releases in December 2012 from PYR is independent of the Burton and Swinburne books, but is just as fascinating and creative.

This is a tale exploring good and evil and how nothing (or anyone) is as it seems.  Aiden Fleischer is a bookish priest and Clarissa an outcast hunchback who are transported to an alien world. There they encounter the Yatsil, a supposedly peaceful race of mimics. Then the red sun rises, bringing with it the forces of destruction.

Hodder’s twisted take on an alien version of Victorian London is vivid and imaginative, while the psychological twists and turns push the genre with amazing results.

But don’t take my word for it. PYR will graciously give away three ARCS of A Red Sun Also Rises to give away (North American only) and I’ll give away my own ARC to an international winner. Contest closes October 7th at 11:59 PM PST.

If you lived on an alien world that could shape itself to any place  in any time, which would you chose and why?


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