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Across the U. S.from 1896 – 1897, many newspapers reported unidentified flying objects, often described as silver cigar shaped airships with space alien crewmen and pilots thought to be from Mars. If you are looking for inspiration for a 19th century Steampunk UFO tale these reports from the great airship scare should help.

The Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Call reported the first sighting on November 18, 1896. A witness named R. L. Lowery described an alien craft powered by two men exerting themselves on bicycle pedals. Above the pedaling men, under the main body of the dirigible lay a passenger compartment, Some witnesses reported the sound of singing as the airship passed overhead.

The November 19, 1896 edition of the Stockton, California Daily Mail reported Colonel H. G. Shaw claimed that when driving his buggy through the countryside near Stockton he came across what appeared to be a landed spacecraft with a metallic surface, with no features other than  a rudder, and pointed ends. He estimated the space craft was a diameter of 25 feet by about 150 feet in length. Three slender, 7-foot-tall space aliens emitting a strange warbling noise came out of the craft. The beings examined Shaw’s buggy then tried to physically force Shaw into their airship. The aliens were said to give up after realizing they lacked the physical strength to force Shaw onto the ship. They climbed back into their airship, which lifted off the ground and sped out of sight.

The Albion Weekly News reported two witnesses saw an airship crash inches from where they were standing. The ship suddenly disappeared, with a man standing where the vessel had been. The airship pilot showed the men a small device which had enabled him to shrink the airship small enough to put it in his pocket.

On April 10, 1897 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article reporting a witness, W. H. Hopkins, encountered a grounded airship about 20 feet in length and 8 feet in diameter near the outskirts of Springfield, Missouri.The spaceship was propelled by 3 large propellers and crewed by a beautiful nude woman and a bearded man, also nude.Hopkins attempted to communicate with the crew to ascertain their origins. Eventually they understood what Hopkins was asking and they both pointed to the sky and uttered something that sounded like the word Mars.

April 16, 1897 the Table Rock Argus reported a group of reliable witnesses saw an airship sailing overhead. It had a lot of passengers, including a woman tied to a chair and a man with a pistol guarding her.

The Center Farmer’s Advocate published the April 19, 1897 account of Alexander Hamilton of Leroy, Kansas, who along with his son and a tenant, sighted an airship hovering over his cattle pen. A red cable from the space ship lassoed a heifer, but got entangled in the pen’s fence. Hamilton’s attempts to free the cow were unsuccessful. He then cut a portion of the fence loose and the ship and cow rose off the ground and sailed away.

In 1897 the Washington Times speculated the airships were a reconnoitering party from Mars. The same year, the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch suggested these may be visitors from Mars, now fearful of invading the planet they have been seeking.

Here’s four sample of articles which appeared in the Chicago Tribune in 1897:

Mount Vernon, Illinois, April 15 — What appeared to have been the mysterious airship was seen here by more than 100 persons last night.

Carlyle, Ill., April 15 — The airship was spotted this evening travelling fast in a northwestern course.

Quincy, Ill., April 15. — The Wabash passenger train which arrived here at 10 o’clock tonight raced for 15 minutes with the alleged airship. They first sighted it near Perry Springs, 52 miles east of Quincy. All of the passengers saw it, but all they could see was two lights, one white, the other red.

Hillsboro, Ill., April 15 —the airship was seen in the western heavens by a number of reputable citizens last evening.

My favorite report is the UFO crash in Aurora Texas in 1897. A cigar-shaped airship plowed through a windmill, destroying it. The good folk of Aurora discovered a space alien inside, who died upon impact. They gave him a Christian burial. Someone stole the space alien’s tombstone but the state of Texas erected a historical marker at the cemetery, which reads, “This site is also well known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash was buried here.” The Dallas Morning News printed the story, stating an airship hit the tower of Judge Proter’s windmill, blew into pieces in a terrific explosion scattering parts of the UFO over several acres, wrecking the windmill and water tank, and destroying the Judge’s flower garden. The newspaper reported that the pilot, the only one in the spaceship, died upon impact and though his body was badly disfigured it was evident he was not an inhabitant of this world.

An interesting aspect of the Great Airship Scare was a rumor that the space ships were the invention of some genius who wasn’t ready to announce his creation to the public. Thomas Edison was widely speculated to be the mind behind the airships and in 1897, to quiet the rumors, he issued a statement denying all responsibility.

So start researching and writing some Victorian era UFO stories. I can’t wait to read them when they’re published.

~      ~      ~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 26 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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coverA few days ago, a new small press and a new Steampunk anthology took their first breaths… To help launch this new endeavor, I’ve put together a post to introduce the press and then the authors who have stories in the anthology. – Ray

 

First, a few words from the head of Witty Bard Publishing  about the company and the new anthology: 

My name is Anna Victoria Jones, I prefer to go by Victoria or V. I have been working in Marketing at a Fortune 500 company for about 3 years, prior to that I received 2 degrees in IT. I am back in college, pre-law, at the moment. I have always loved to read and write and I have stumbled into a lot of terrific indie authors over the years. I was shocked, however, that no one else that I knew had heard of them. I have also had a few friends go through a traditional publisher and they are seeing pennies of the profits and are not really seeing much in the way of promotion either. I looked around at publishing options and there really isn’t a middle ground.
I started Witty Bard Publishing, LLC (WBP) to bridge the gap between a total self-published author and a traditional large corporate publisher. I use my marketing knowledge and business skills to promote the authors that, otherwise, may go unnoticed by so many willing readers. WBP focuses on promoting and rewarding quality writing no matter the writer. The competitions we host are one way to do that very thing. My judges do not know the names of the stories or the authors while they are judging. This way there is no author bias on the part of my judges; they grade the writing on its own merits. My plans for WBP include continuing to host competitions, while also offering many other author services, including editing/proofreading, publishing, promotion, etc., more information on those services can be found on our website www.wittybardpublishing.com. My main goal is and will always be to help authors receive the notoriety they deserve.
WBPLogoI am very new to the Steampunk genre. It is something that has always interested me, but I have never become that involved with it. After I decided that I wanted to do competitions I was trying to decide where I should start and a friend suggested Steampunk. I started learning more about Steampunk and I found it super interesting. I have enjoyed reading all the amazing stories that were submitted. I am super excited to see so much interest from the Steampunk crowd! If there is enough interest so soon, I may do another Steampunk anthology with the next set of competitions.
I think that this anthology has turned out very well! I was super excited by the amount and quality of entries and all the interest within the community. There is such a huge amount of diversity between the stories and I think that everyone can find something they love in the anthology. I cannot wait to publish it!
I am always looking to meet new people and I would appreciate any suggestions for future contests. I am also accepting applications for future judging spots, feel free to contact me. 🙂
Happy Writing!
V

 I also had the opportunity to ask the other authors about their stories and writing…

 (the images below will give you an idea of where our authors hail from)authorsmap

1. Author Name – Website

Lee Parry – www.themire.co.uk

John Walton – www.facebook.com/john.walton.927543 

Seamus Sweeney – www.nthposition.com/author.php?authid=217 or scarfaceproject.blogspot.com

Ross Baxter – www.amazon.co.uk/Ross-Baxter/e/B0041DO99U/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_3

Nicole Lavigne – http://www.nllavigne.wordpress.com

Liam Hogan http://happyendingnotguaranteed.blogspot.co.uk

Ray Dean www.raydean.net

 

2. The first – Your story is published in the first “Witty Bard” Publication – how excited are you to be a part of this inaugural event?

Lee: Very excited. It’s the first competition I had entered and I was thrilled to have won.

John: Very, It’s always good to get in on the ground floor then you become part of the history

Seamus:  It is an honour to be considered worthy of inclusion. It is an exciting development and I am extremely impressed with Witty Bard’s professionalism and enthusiasm.

Ross: Very excited, its always great to get a piece published and even better when its with an outfit like Witty Bard.

Nicole: Very excited. It’s a fun theme and I am looking forward to reading the other stories in the anthology. Doubly excited because this is also my first publication.

Liam: It’s always lovely to see one of my stories find a home, and being part of a “first” makes it extra special, hopefully Witty Bard can go on to many more anthologies, and I can say I was there at the start.

Ray: Love the energy of it all. Our publisher was so on the ball and things just kept rolling along. I hope to keep a strong working relationship with Witty Bard!

3. Is this your first Steampunk story?

If yes – what prompted your foray into the genre?

If no – did this story take you in a new direction within the genre?

Lee: No — I had previously self-published a novel that had significant Steampunk elements. It was more tongue-in-cheek and straight-up comedic than my novel. The novel had similar elements (as the short story’s protagonist was a supporting character in the novel)  but was far heavier and dramatic than the short story.

John: I am currently busy with a series The Voyages of the Black Thistle No1. This is a back story of one of the devices and some of the characters. Which will eventually form a companion volume. So to answer your question, not a new direction but an opportunity.

Seamus: Not really, but it is my first published one. Various threads in Irish history have acted as my inspiration. One is a chap called Henry Joy McCracken, who was one of the United Irishmen who, inspired by the French Revolution, rebelled in 1798. McCracken was a Presbyterian mill owner in Belfast. It is one of the ironies of history that the movement for Irish independence was initially led by Ulster Presbyterians, who would in later times be the bulwarks of Unionism. Reading about that period in history and subsequent events, there are many other roads that things could have gone down. There was much sympathy between Catholic communities and “dissenter” ones, well into the 19th Century we read of the communities helping each other to build churches and meeting houses. Also, as someone raised and educated in the Republic of Ireland, little of the industrial heritage of the whole Island was taught to us. I was also inspired by a book called “Jacquard’s Web” which essentially described how the loom invented by Jacquard in the early 19th century was a form of early computer. So, somewhat in the spirit of Gibson and Sterling’s “Difference Engine”, I postulate mass computational technology arising much earlier, but using spinning/weaving technology. I retain, at least in broad terms, the social structure of those industries, with cottage-based spinning giving way to industrial processes as the 19th Century continued. And also it is very much a muscle-power based industry.

I’ve written three of these “flaxpunk” stories so far, of which “An Honest Ulster Spinner” is the middle story chronologically. The first story deals with Henry Joy McCracken with various other twists. It probably has more exposition than the other two, and another speculative fiction element which I won’t give away here. In “real history” McCracken was executed  after the 1798 rebellion; that doesn’t quite happen in my timeline! The third follows Caroline, the daughter in “An Honest Ulster Spinner”, many years later. I’ve submitted both to various outlets so we’ll see what happens. They are standalone stories but with some overlap.

Ross: No. I’ve got a Steampunk Novella published with Phaze.com, available on Kindle. However, it’s Steampunk with a difference – it is erotic Steampunk written for a (very) mature audience (!)Writing erotic Steampunk pays well, but is a very narrow genre. The story in Witty Bard is more mainstream, and has allowed me to play a bit.

Nicole: It is the first Steampunk story that I have completed. I’ve read a few Steampunk stories and really enjoyed the juxtaposition of technology with history. Plus, it’s fun and the costumes look cool.

Liam: Ahem. I may have squeaked in by the narrowest of margins in definition terms. But that’s okay. I seem to have predated steam by (quite) a bit, and it’s rather less punk than others in the anthology! I tend to write all sorts of styles, depending on the seed-idea for the story – some horror, some sci-fi, some urban fantasy. And now, a little bit of Steampunk.

Ray: My first published story was Steampunk and so are a few of the other stories that are published or in the process of publication. This story is the first one that I’ve written that was set in my ‘hometown’ – The Hawaiian Kingdom/Sandwich Islands.

4. Hopefully your muse has continued to draw upon more Steampunk inspiration, are you planning to write more Steampunk stories? Short or novel length?

Lee: I am writing another short story set within the same universe for a similar competition, and I am also working on a second novel — again, set in the same universe.

John: Oh Yes – both

Seamus: I would like to explore this flaxpunk world more. I would see it developing as a series of vignettes and episodes, getting a sense of everyday lives lived in a specific world. At the start of 2014 I had notions of writing a story a month along these lines but things haven’t gone entirely to plan!

Ross:  If the right idea comes along, then yes. I find it very hard to write Steampunk, and need a great idea to help me carry it.

Nicole: I have another Steampunk short story in the works right now that will be quite different from Stolen Cargo.

Liam: Absolutely. I’m going to try my hand at a proper Steampunk short story, for Steampunk Trails – Steam punk meets the Wild West. Lets see if they like it.

cover

Ray: Have a bunch in the process of publication and I’m always working on more… both short and novel-length.

So… how do you get your copy???

1. Use any of these links to find a format to order:

2. Reply to this post and I’ll select a random participant to receive a KINDLE copy of the anthology 

– to be considered, please have your ‘comment’ completed by end of  Monday May19, 2014

 

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I teach a lot of online writing classes and do a lot of workshops. One of the things I encounter most is the assumption that in order to be “steampunk” a story MUST be set in Victorian London.

While you’re free to set you story here, this isn’t so. It’s not so much where your story is set as the setting itself. It’s in the aesthetic, the culture, the technology, the very feel of the story–things which trancend mere location.

My Aether Chronicles series is hardly set in London, they’re set in America (and Faerie), though they are set in an alternate version of the year 1901.

But the year your story is set is not a prerequisite either. Your story can be set in whatever year or city you want as long as it has that 19th century feel — and of course steam tech.

Your steampunk story can even be set in the future.

space-pirate-captainI’m not talking about a futuristic world where something happened and the world had to start over and has become steampunk (though that would be amazing.) No, I’m talking about honest-to-god futuristic steampunk with spaceships and the like.

Yes, this is possible. People have even considered it. Just google Steampunk Star Trek if you’re curious.  (Technically, IMHO Firefly is a Space Western, not steampunk, but feel free to watch it over and over again for inspiration like I do.) 

This idea of futuresteam, or steampunk in space, comes down to more than corset-laced spacesuits, steampunky outfits, and neat gadgets. However, these are important, too, in keeping up your aesthetic (another key element of a steampunk story.)

steampunk space suit 2One of the most important elements in making this work is the technology. So, perhaps steam-powered spaceships aren’t actually plausible yet in real life, but the tech needs to be present in your story for it to work in a way that’s most believable in the context of the story and preserves the basic elements of what makes tech steampunk. See my post about steam-powered spaceships here. 

This tech is going to be an important integration, since this is one of the things that really makes your story steampunk and not just a story dressed in steampunk.

steampunk-gearAnother element would be blending your futuristic tech with the steampunk aesthetic. This is where the phrase the future as imagined by the past comes in handy. This would also be where you’d add in your corsets and rayguns and fun tech. Keep these elements constant and consistent but you don’t need to keep hitting the reader over the head going look, it’s a steampunk story, but at the same time, you don’t want the steampunk elements to fall away as you get into the action and adventure. A few really amazing details can go along way in keeping up your steampunk throughout the story.

Future steam doesn’t necessarily need to be on a spaceship either. Perhaps we’re on Earth or some other planet with skyscrapers and flying cars. Or maybe we’re in an underwater city.

But the future can still be steampunked–after all, the future is yours. 

Suzanne Lazear writes Steampunk tales for teens.  INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, and book two, CHARMED VENGEANCE are now available from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

 

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I’ve been mulling over a Steampunk space adventure for a very long time, but for many, many reasons hadn’t really developed it. 

space

When I started to finally work on the project, one of the first things I started researching was the actual probability of steam-powered spaceships. Even if it wasn’t actually viable right now, I wanted to come up with something possibly feasible, or at least something I could explain, since I have a habit of writing female MCs who know, or want to know how things work — which means I need to know. I love science, but I was more into chemistry than physics.

M.E. Brines’ article Are Steampunk Spacecraft Really Feasible? was very thought provoking, though I was looking for something more akin to the spacecraft I was familiar with, such as  the Enterprise  or Serenity. 

The hubby proposed I look into nuclear submarines and that technology, or even Project Orion, which was a nuclear-propelled spaceship proposed in the 60’s (which Brines’ article also mentions.)

A recent party yielded the idea of Solar Sails. Now this was a very interesting idea.

Okay, I think I could figure out an interesting power source that fit into the definition of Steampunk–especially if I added that amazing all-purpose element aether.

But what about the carbon dioxide? Bingo. Spaceships use lithium hydroxide to break down the excess carbon-dioxide, so that definitely could have potential. Not to mention some hydroponics in the ship’s garden.

As for what the ship looks like and the layout?

Hmmmm….I don’t know.

Maybe I need to watch Firefly for inspiration. Again.


Suzanne Lazear writes Steampunk tales for teens.  INNOCENT DARKNESS, book one of The Aether Chronicles, and book two, CHARMED VENGEANCE are now available from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

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uniforms Lolita Cindy here, phoning this one in. I’ve got a hard deadline in two days and on the third, I’m headed off to Pandoracon to participate as a panelist on the writers’ track. So wish me luck!

On another note, the spouse and I have officially joined the ranks of the HMS, RAF Defiance, based out of Royal Oak Michigan. I’m joining the crew as resident naturalist, and the tall, dapper gent with me is Rear Admiral Pape, currently aboard on part of a hush-hush diplomatic mission. The real story is, since his jacket came with that insignia, he had to come up with a story to match it, so he didn’t usurp the authority of Captain Sir Benjamin Despard, who so kindly welcomed us aboard.

Creating uniforms from scratch was a fun, long-term project for us. We assembled them piece by piece, either from thrift shops or clearance sales. Here’s the break-down.

Mine: skirt (split riding skirt) clearance from Recollections. (That they happened to have one clearance piece, my size, even in short, still amazes me.) This formed the basis for my uniform. Jacket was from Torrid, also clearance mail order. Corset, underneath, is my old Corset-Story basic black. White blouse underneath, straight out of my closet, black tie filched from one of the offspring. My standard steampunk boots are vintage Salvation Army My hat was $8 at an Army surplus store, and I picked up the hatpin there too. It’s a French parachuting insignia. The ribboned medals I’m wearing are from Spectra Nova and others are from random thrift finds. Total cost of uniform, roughly $100, over the course of 6 months or so, and most of the parts can be worn separately, the coat even in real life.

The hubby is wearing a vintage Detroit Fire Chief’s coat, found at the local antique mall for about #30. His US Navy pants, $7 or so at a thrift shop. Medals again are random thrift bits, and his Royal Canadian Mounted Police hat was all of $20. White shirt, black tie, black boots, straight out of his closet. The goggles were bought so long ago, I don’t remember where or how much. Total cost, maybe $70.

We’ll be rocking these as representatives of the Defiance at Pandoracon. I hope this post sparks an idea or two for anyone who’s been hesitant about costuming. Get creative. Thrift shops are your friends!

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This Memorial Da981656_613954288623576_410594702_oy weekend, I was Up in the Aether–at the brand new convention in Dearborn, Michigan. Although there were holdover staff and guests from World Steam Expo, which folded, this was an all-new con with all new staff. It wasn’t perfect. We had plenty of growing pains, some visible to attendees, more that weren’t. You know what, though? I had a blast. My favorite place was the vendor’s room, of course, which was chock full of goodies ranging from $5 to thousands. Of course I picked up a few goodies to augment my wardrobe–I’m only human.

Other activities abounded, though. There was an airship combat room. An airship-to-airship combat video game to test out. There were more bands than I can remember. There was a Mr./Ms. Steampunk pageant. And of course, there were lots of panels–history, costuming, food, DIY, and, of course, steampunk fiction. That’s where I came in. Yep, I was in charge of wrangling the authors (and, incidentally, one film crew.) Yes, that can be an awful lot like herding wet ferrets. In this case, though, everyone pl467982_613348448684160_218185869_oayed together pretty well. Guests of honor included Pip Ballantyne and Tee Morris, Scott Lynch, Elizabeth Bear, and Steven Harper. Other panelists were me, David Erik Nelson, Christian Klaver, and Colleen Gleason, plus the makers of the steampunk movie, “Wars of Other Men.” We had lots of great panels and even a few attendees showed up.

Yep. A few. Here’s where my learning curve on steampunk conventions kicks in. Science fiction conventions are about the product: the books, the movies, the games, and by extension, the creators of the above. Romance cons are even more so. But steampunk conventions are not about fiction. They’re about being steampunk. Make your costume, make your food, learn your history and dance to the music. Only a rather small percentage of the con-goers give a rat’s butt about the books. This strikes the average author as very odd, but the solid truth is that a lot of folks who identify as steampunk Don’t Even Read. (gasp) No, I don’t mean they’re illiterate. I just mean that fiction isn’t their recreation of choice.

Huh.   Well, having come into steampu967225_3198677542531_491994324_onk via fiction, that just bloody well hadn’t occurred to me. So what to do next year to keep fiction as a viable part of the convention, and draw in more bodies to the literary panels. I have ideas, but not enough. More suggestions would be more than welcome. One thought is to run the writing panels as DIY models–where there are hands-on exercises and the attendees come out with some kind of product. One is to have fewer panels, so the audience isn’t diluted by too many options. More advance promo of the authors would also be a plus. Maybe integrate some of that into the main programming of the con itself. Mostly, though, I’m just going to have to work my butt off to come up with something. I have confidence in the steampunk community that we’ll pull something off. After all–we build worlds. Surely we can build an audience. 🙂

In these photos, you’ll see me, my spouse, and my younger offspring. The grand-spawn was also in attendance, which was fun. Thanks to the captain and first mate of the Airship Valkyrie for the props: deck gun, tentacle, and the Aerodrome Authority chalkboard. All three black top hats are from Blonde Swan, leather skirt, kilt and suspenders are from Shoptroll, and red men’s corset and my green silk outfit are from Ties that Bynde.

 

 

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Two months until CHARMED VENGEANCE (book two in my YA fairytale steampunk series THE AETHER CHRONICLES) releases! ~launches cupcake cannon~

Have you pre-ordered your copy yet? Seriously, I love this book even more than INNOCENT DARKNESS and I hope you love this book too. There are some new characters who I just adore. We also meet Noli’s brother, Jeff, the air pirate.

Unlike book 1, which takes place mostly in the Otherworld (faerie), book 2 takes place mostly in the mortal realm. This means MOAR STEAMPUNK. There are airships, air pirates, explosions, and cake. (No cake was harmed in the making of this book.)

Anyway, I made a short video with me reading an excerpt from Chapter One of CHARMED VENGEANCE. I hope you like it! (I’m pretty technologically awkward, so the video’s not fancy.)

I have all sorts of fun things in the works for Book 2’s release–giveaways, twitter chats, signings, a blog tour. There will even be a read-along of INNOCENT DARKNESS in July to get everyone ready for CV! I’ll keep you updated. (The AC facebook page or my author page are always good places for updates.) In the meanwhile, I have to get back to my book 3 edits…

~S


Suzanne Lazear is the author of the YA Fairytale Steampunk Series The Aether Chronicles. INNOCENT DARKNESS is out now, CHARMED VENGEANCE releases 8-8-13. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and a menagerie of pillow-pets.

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