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Archive for November, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Odd bits of steampunk news to offer today (if anybody’s reading blogs and not frantically cleaning or cooking, or traveling for Thanksgiving or Chanukah.)

#1) The steampunk community lost one of its shining lights this week. RIP Richard “Doc” Nagy, also known as Datamancer. He was well known for his steampunk computer and laptop modifications as well as other steampunk items and art, and was killed this week in a car accident in California. The Lolitas send their deepest condolences to his friends and family.

#2) If you’re a steampunk artisan, author or performer, there are conventions to get involved in. There’s a call out for Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati, April 25-27 and one for Steamtopia, which will be in Detroit June 13-17, is just in the planning stages if you’d like to participate!

#3) This week in Geek History: Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865 & the world proceeded to follow her down the rabbit hole. (reposted from Think Geek.)

#4) As we move into the non-denominational gift-giving holiday season, be sure to remember your lonely, starving steampunk authors and artisans. Buy local when you can and be the cool relative who comes up with unique and handmade gifts. ūüôā

#5) Whatever you celebrate, remember to stay warm, stay safe and take joy in one another!

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Three Hundred Years Hence

By reading early sci-fi books, you gather wonderful steampunk ideas, as well as a Victorian and Regency perspective on their vision of the future. Contrary to what I’ve heard some people say, women have written Sci-Fi books for hundreds of years. Including several published in the Regency and Victorian eras. One example is Mary Griffith’s, Three Hundred Years Hence, the first utopia story written by an American woman. After its publication in 1836, many American authors followed her lead, and still do to this day.

Mary Griffith

In Three Hundred Years Hence, Mary Griffith envisioned a feminist future in the year 2135. She set the book in¬†Philadelphia, her¬†hometown. In some ways, her vision of the future is strange, at times not quite right, and in other ways it’s amazing. Keep in mind, she wrote this in 1835.

In her novel, the main character, Edgar Hastings, when¬†leaving on a business trip, as he walks to the¬†steamboat,¬†stops off at¬†a small farmhouse on his estate. There he falls asleep. A great thaw causes a bank of snow from the hill above to cover the farmhouse. His family never tries to dig out his body as they think he’s was on the steamship, which happened to explode. So they thought he died in the explosion with the other passengers.

Three hundred years later, his descendants, who still own the property, hire workers to cut a road through the hill. They¬†come to a stratum of ice. After the¬†workers cut through the ice, they discover the farmhouse. Edgar’s descendants step inside and that is when he thaws out and wakes up, still alive. But he thinks he’s in the wrong place for so much has changed in 300 years. He finds the¬†improvements taken place since his accident, amazing. Edgar‚Äôs descendants explain the improved conditions are due entirely to¬†the changes that took place¬†when¬†all poor females were given an education.

In Philadelphia, Edgar only recognizes five buildings still standing from his day: the Mint, the United States Bank, the Asylum for the deaf and dumb and Girard College, (still in operation and¬†the school’s buildings, shown in this drawing, still stand).¬†Of all those, only one of them, the mint, was demolished, the other three¬†still stand in 2013, almost two hundred years later.

In the book, Edgar’s¬†descendants inform him,¬†no one goes door to door asking¬†for donations to charities anymore. Now, each state runs its own¬†charitable institutions, except for those people volunteer to maintain with their own money.

The old market place used to be a roof supported by pillars with¬†stone pavement running the length of it, where women selling food and wares sat under the arch,¬†outside of the pillars, and yelled¬†through the streets, carrying fish and vegetables on their heads. Now it’s changed into a¬†two story, fire proof building of hewn stone.¬†On the¬†upper story, wooden, tin, baskets, and crockery domestic wares, as well as seeds and¬†garden utensils, are all kept clean and are neatly arranged. On the ground floor, under which runs a stream of cold, clear water,¬†are a variety of fruits and vegetables.¬†All the women clerks, selling the¬†produce, wear caps and¬†snow white aprons, and stand or sit by their baskets, no longer having to yell. In the butcher shop,¬†meat is no longer hung¬†in the open air. You just ask for a particular joint and a small door opens, two feet square in the wall and there hangs the part,¬†priced four cents a pound.

Steamboats due to all their boiler explosions and the deaths they caused were replaced in 1850. A woman invented a new power for the boats to run¬†on ‚Äď no steam, no heat, nor animal power,¬†no masts and no sails, and not condensed air, which was tried in Edgar’s time – but with enough energy to move the largest ship.

In China, the feet of their women are allowed to grow and they import their fashions from France. They also have made great improvements in the conditions of their lower class, all due to humanizing the treatment of women.

Tobacco is no longer grown,¬†due to the disgusting habit of tobacco juice.¬†(Not¬†due to the dangers of nicotine and cancer, which no one in the Regency era knew about.) Instead of copyrights for 14 years, as in Edgar’s time, they are held by the author, then by his/her family as long as they choose to keep it. Daniel Webster became¬†president in 1842,¬†(of course that didn‚Äôt happen).

Monopolies have become illegal. In 1848, the monopolies of roads are broken up and come under the state governments, then later, control of the roads all merge under the federal government.

In the rail cars they travel in, the seats are all¬†nice rocking chairs. The cars run silently¬†with little friction as the rails of the road and the tires of the wheels are of wood. They¬†also¬†come in a variety¬†of sizes ‚Äď some¬†small enough for only two or four passengers. They run by themselves and you just turn a little crank to bring the¬†machine to a stop.

Edgar’s descendants explain that as soon as women were considered of equal importance with their husbands ‚Äď as soon as they were financially¬†equal – all barbaric practices¬†of¬†the age disappeared. Women¬†exterminated all¬†wars¬†to abstain from shedding human blood except in self-defense or in cases of invasion. No more hangings, criminals are sent to solitary confinement.

He also finds that slavery is abolished and the rights and privileges of African Americans are respected and all without a civil war. The government, rich in resources, and rich in land, sells the land, and with that money, they indemnify the slaveholders for their loss of property. (Keep in mind she is writing this twenty-six years before the civil war began).

Three Hundred Years Hence is just one example of Sci-fi written by a woman, many years ago. Women have been reading and writing Sci-fi and utopia novels for¬†hundreds of years and will continue to do so far into the future.¬†We modern women, in reading and writing sci-fi, are simply following an¬†old tradition. This link¬†will take you to an interesting list of science fiction books by female authors that were¬†published before 1923. It begins¬†with Lady Mary Wroth’s, The Countesse of Mountgomeries, Urania, published in 1621. This link is to an amazing post on nine women who shaped sci-fi.

Please feel free to comment below. All comments welcomed.

~      ~      ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes 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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The Dead Flower Case

Today I’m boosting the signal for a new steampunk adventure game: The Dead Flower Case, because it sounded cool, and because it’s fun to help out other steampunk enthusiasts. ūüôāposter_dimoso-thedeadflowerscaseThe campaign for the Steampunk adventure game The Dead Flower Case for IOS, Android, Mac and PC is finally live on Kickstarter at http://kck.st/1bj3nGo.

Created by adventure game veterans of Mando Productions, the game’s distinctive style is based on the Steampunk sculptures of acclaimed Belgian artist Stephane Halleux, whose character Mr Hublot is also the main hero of an Oscar-nominated short movie.

The Dead Flowers Case is a 2.5D murder/mystery point and click adventure, set in a mechanised, retro-style dystopian world in which workers take Nevrovitamin pills so they never have to take a break. All plant life has long since been eliminated, leading police to investigate why some dead flowers have been found next to the body of a murdered factory worker. Players will have to use tools, interrogate people and use two archaic machines to solve the case.

A video presentation of the title is available at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1981824375/the-dead-flowers-case

Generous backers of the game have the chance to receive exclusive artworks, collector’s boxes, limited edition 3D-printed statues of the game characters (at a much cheaper price than Stephane’s sculptures), signed by the artist, as well be part of the production as beta testers, and even go to Paris to meet the team.

The Dead Flowers Case opens on Kickstarter
Steampunk-style murder/mystery adventure coming to PC, Mac & Tablets

Paris, FR – 11 November 2013 – Independent game developer Mando Productions today announced that their highly anticipated title The Dead Flowers Case is now open for backing on Kickstarter. Mando Productions, led by the creative minds behind best-selling classic adventure game Syberia, has teamed up with acclaimed Steampunk sculptor and artist St√©phane Halleux, to bring his amazing universe of characters to life in a point and click murder mystery adventure for PC, Mac and Tablets (Android and iOS). St√©phane Halleux is also the creative force behind ‚ÄėMr Hublot’, recently shortlisted in the Best Animated Short Film category in the 86th Academy Awards.

Backers of the project will have a chance to own bespoke items from the game including artbooks and limited edition character statues signed and authenticated by Stéphane Halleux himself. They’ll also have a chance to meet the artist and the game developers in Paris.

The Dead Flowers Case is set in a fantasy mechanised ‚ÄúSteampunk‚ÄĚ alternate reality in which flowers and plants have long since become extinct and the world runs to (apparent) mechanical perfection. However, this precise order of things is thrown into chaos when the body of a senior employee at a car factory is found dead at his desk. The only clue to his murder are the dead flowers placed by his side. From this point, the player assumes the role of detective, exploring the game‚Äôs world, questioning its strange and colourful citizens, and uncovering more clues that will eventually unravel the mystery as to who committed the terrible crime. The game‚Äôs 3D characters are all fully rendered in real-time 3D by the game engine against pre-designed, highly detailed backdrops.

‚ÄúThe Dead Flowers Case is a humorous and visually arresting murder mystery that we‚Äôre developing in the best traditions of classic point and click adventures so well-loved by fans of the genre,‚ÄĚ said Michel Bams, Co-Founder of Mando Productions. ‚ÄúBy merging Stephan‚Äôs amazing and striking visual designs with some of the best game developer talent in the business, we‚Äôre confident that we‚Äôre creating a unique and memorable game that will be a hit with fans of the genre. Our aim is to create a vibrant gameworld by rendering all the characters in real time 3D against the highly detailed environments.‚ÄĚ

To develop the game Mando are asking for $290,000. Donations can be made in sums ranging from $1 to $10,000 and investors will receive a range of items that includes T-shirts, soundtrack, limited edition 3D figurines, the chance to be part of the beta test and even a journey to Paris, depending on the level of investment made.

For more information about the game visit http://bit.ly/DeadFlowersCase

See the Kickstarter campaign on http://kck.st/1bj3nGo

Follow the developers on Twitter @MandoProd or like the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Dead-Flowers-Case/540216469377677

About Mando Production
Founded in 2010, Mando is an independent game development company. The team of around twenty people is led by industry veterans Michel Bams et Olivier Fontenay. The company works on creative and original projects for digital distribution. Previous products include Yéti on fury, Hills of Glory 3D, Babel Rising and Babel Rising 3D (PS3, XBox, PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, Rim, Windows 8), Cardboard Castle, Hills of Glory : WW2, Babel Running.
http://www.mandoproductions.com

Media Contact
For more information please contact
Valentina Ciolino, dimoso
valentina@dimoso.com +44 (0) 207 033 2660

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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‚Äô 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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