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Project Runway’s Under the Gunn spin off had a Steampunk Challenge on the February 27, 2014 show. For those unfamiliar with this show, it was spawned from the glittery loins of Lifetime’s Project Runway. In this incarnation, notable mentor Tim Gunn (the fashion world’s silver fox) helps three Project Runway Alums to mentor their own designers… yes, it is just like that.

This week they open the episode at Travel Town in Griffith Park. If you are a Steampunk and in Los Angeles “GO THERE!” It’s just a hop, skip, & jump to the Autry Western Heritage Museum.. go NOW.

openingmaterials

Standing beside one of the steam trains at Travel Town, the designers are told they have an ‘avant garde’ challenge with the genre of fashion ‘Steampunk.’ Avant garde is the challenge that has stumped many a designer on the show, mainly because what is ‘fashion forefront’ to one person is not for another. Throw in the added concept of Victorian Retro-futurism and holy steampipes, Tim Gunn… you have some confused designers.

rawmaterialsThey’re given $300 dollars for fabric at Mood and TWO WHOLE DAYS to finish an outfit. (So far in the earlier six episodes they have not had such a luxury).

They’re set free on a table full of parts and clocks… to pull pieces to use in their designs.

wtfBut you can tell that earlier on, this may be a tough challenge for some of the designers. Some of them are excited about the challenge as they like the Steampunk ‘look’ and some have no idea.

One of the designers said they’d seen it before but just hadn’t known there was a name. Hey, that sounds like some of us… huh?

Early on, Natalia talks about ‘functional’ fashion and components and I’m happy. I know she’s going in a good direction.

During the middle of the show when they’re showing the construction and mentor critiques is confusing at times and sometimes my teeth are grinding together. I’m not sure that two days is enough. What I feared happening was the idea that oh look shiny stuff, throw this on! When I’ve talked to Steampunks about their outfits there has been a considerable amount of thought that has gone into their looks. And being part of the culture, they’ve had the chance to look around, research, play, experiment… stuff you just can’t do in two days, especially if you aren’t familiar with the source material.

When it’s time for the runway show, I’m confused about why they have the ‘same’ judges. Project Runway has had guest judges and celebrities before. The week prior they had the Costumer from “Pompeii” come in as a guest judge, but this week there is no such ‘extra’ judge sitting on the panel. No Steampunk fashionistas available? I highly doubt it, but then again, who to pick from the thousands of amazing Steampunk fans?

ashaOne of the judges likens the experience to Paris Couture. I’m not sold on it… but I’ll give you my takes on some of the outfits and you can let me know what you think… why not have some fun? What do you think?

Asha’s dress has some of the silhouette of Victorian fashion, but the neckline strikes me as odd along with the white lace-ish narrow skirt.

stephanieStephanie’s dress was called ‘costume-y’ and they mentioned that it looked like Disney, but here’s where I shrug…

Her belt looks like an exaggerated version of a Medici belt from the Civil War Era.

medicibeltSo really, is it costume or just the judges not really knowing historical fashion? It really comes down to (like every other week) the subjective POV of the judges. Especially when one calls the belt a ‘Mr. T’ belt.

oscarOscar’s outfit was panned earlier by another designer for looking too much like a Saloon Girl… okay, obviously they haven’t really seen much of the Wild Wild West… but we’ll pass on that for now. A judge mentioned that the clock at her center is a bit too spot on for them, but they loved the draping and the hat.

I totally agree that the man is fabulous in construction and I want the hat… NOW… err, please. But then again. I kind of like the clock where it is because Oscar mentioned how the shape and look of the dress was inspired by the train. And yeah… it kind of looks like the front of the train with the hardware there.

nataliaNatalia’s dress is inspired by the concept of a “Time Traveler’s Mistress” – the girl in me says.. Why can’t SHE be the Time Traveler? But that’s just me.

She has engineer’s for parents and something must have rubbed off on her because using clock parts she has literally created a workable pulley that lifts both sides of the front half of the skirt to reveal her underskirt. Way cool.

pulleyShe has now earned some points with her mentor and the head of the show. Go girl! I also appreciate her whole outfit. I like the shape of it that brings to my mind the silhouette of a Victorian Era outfit.

samThere was one outfit that confused me on the dress form, but once on the model, I think I got what he was going for…

the dystopian future that brought to mind Boneshaker’s fashions. 😀 Sam’s would have had more of my support if he’d chosen a different kind of goggle. But that’s just my personal choice.

nicholasI think this next outfit created by Nicholas was more suited to a Mad Scientist creation with the tubes and metallic fabric. The outfit brings to mind a lab coat patchwork that would make Tim Burton proud.

michelleAnother creation, this one by Michelle. I loved the stained glass look of the collar and the coat has a great flair to it in the back.

I do, however question the hair ‘tower’ they created for her head. Not quite sure I can forget that one. It must have given the model and horrendous headache. Poor thing.

blakeThe next design is from Blake, who described his inspiration as controlling time, wrapping around her.  The outfit looked like pieces of different items of clothing sewn together and a bunch of gears and metal pieces sewn or glued on.  I think with more time it might have become something with more ‘clarity’… is that the word I’m looking for? Yes, I think so.

shanThe last design was created by Shen. It is the outfit that WON the challenge. I’m not sure if I completely understand why it won. I was hoping to be more excited by the look of it, but perhaps its just not my idea of avant garde Steampunk fashion.

So… tell me… did you see the episode? What did you think?

Which outfits floated your dirigible? Which ones sank your submarine?

How many days would you think a Steampunk challenge should have had to create complete designs?

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I know Monday is book review day, but I just had to tell you about this short story that will make your mind boggle and your brain fall out. “Tucker Teaches the Clockies to Copulate” by David Erik Nelson is a surreal, hysterical, and dead-serious look at the nature of life, sex and robots.

Yeah, I said hysterical and dead serious. It’s both. I can’t explain how, but it is. Nuff said. You just have to read it.

Nelson’s steampunk world follows the long Civil War, where the mechanical Union troops stomped the south and then, after the war, the clockies, like all the other soldiers, had to find something else to do and somewhere else to live. Tucker is a drunken farmer in the west and gets it into his head to teach the robots how to do simple tasks like open doors and climb stairs. You can guess where it goes from then. Add in a Japanese doctor and a rabbi-slash-shopkeeper, and you have a fascinating town in the never-was.

Nelson’s take on steampunk is unique, and if you want to see something totally different from anyone else out there, this is well worth the read. On the other hand, if you like your worlds neat, tidy, and more or less happy (yeah, like mine, LOL) then it might not be your cup of tea. One way or the other it will make you think, and isn’t that what a good story is supposed to do?

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Hi all, I ‘m Maeve Alpin, one of the new lolitas who have climbed aboard the airship. On my last shore leave I shared my booty of Steampunk comics with you and as promised here are some more. Imagery can be very inspirational to a writer, so many of us pull ideas from our dreams or things that catch our eye. The collaboration of visual and literate art in comics inspires new ideas far beyond the illustrations and story lines. In addition to several comic books labeled as Steampunk, many others have Victorian, Dystopian, Dieselpunk, Weird West, or Alternate History ascetics. Here is part two of my list of some comic books you’ll enjoy.

1.     Steampunk by Chris Bachalo & Joe Kelly

The hero is Cole Blaquesmith, a poor 18th century fisherman. I love his period dialogue. He falls in love with Fiona, a kind, noble lady who helps the lower class. When she falls gravely ill he takes her to Doctor Absinthe, a mad scientist, who promises to cure her if Cole uses the Engine, a time traveling machine, to get him books on science and other objects from the future. Cole does so but when he returns from 1954, Absinthe breaks his part of the bargain and Fiona dies. Cole buries the Engine beneath Stonehenge and in turn Absinthe rips out Cole’s heart. A hundred years later, Cole wakes up in a coffin during the Victorian era to find that Absinthe experimented on him, his chest is a now a metal furnace and his right arm is a huge mechanical claw. He also discovers that London is ruled by Absinthe. There are two historical royals in Steampunk. Napoleon Bonaparte is referred to as Frances in issue six, because after Absinthe killed Josephine, Napoleon gives up his humanity to become a living computer controlling France’s weapons systems and soldiers. So he actually is France. Instead of being the queen, in this London ruled by Absinthe, Victoria works for him as an assassin until she joins the resistance and falls in love with Cole. She’s a brunette beauty, her hands are surgically grafted to her arms, and her main weapon is a metallic whip that makes one of those wonderful comic book sounds, SHRAAK. Laslo, another member of the resistance, is a very interesting character. He’s a black man who speaks with what I think of as 1960’s slang, such as “Don’t ask for details about my rumble with Faust. Don’t dig for more than I lay down.” He also wears a big Union Jack print scarf that belonged to his best friend, Rikk, who was killed by Absinthe’s assassin, Faust.

This dark, dystopian Steampunk, alternative history, comic book series debuted in 2000 and ran for twelve issues. The dialogue, characterizations, plotting, and art are exceptionally good.

2.     Girl Genius by Phil & Kaja Foglio

The lead character, a young lady, Agatha Heterodyne, is a hapless student of Transylvania Polygnostic University. When her locket is stolen it sets off a chain of events in which she discovers she is a powerful Spark, talented at creating and repairing electrical and mechanical devices. The story involves the traditional Steampunk components of an alternative history, the industrial revolution, a wonder kid, and mad scientists. It’s a whimsical, fun, highly enjoyable read recommended for ages ten to adult. Girl Genius has won many awards recommended for ages ten to adult. Girl                                                                                                                                                                                   Genius has won many awards, including a Hugo for Best Graphic Story in 2011.

3. Gotham by Gas Light by Brian Augustyn & Mike Mignola

One of DC’s Elseworld comic books, set in 1889, Gotham by Gas Light, features a Victorian batman. Shortly after Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City from a visit to Europe, a murder takes place in Gotham in the style of Jack the Ripper. After a bloody knife is found under Bruce Wayne’s bed, he’s arrested as Jack the Ripper. While in prison, he figure out Jacob Parker is the real Jack the Ripper. After escaping jail with Alfred’s help, Batman finds the Ripper just as he is about to kill his next victim. A chase ensues and they come to a stop at Bruce Wayne/Batman’s parents graves. When Bruce Wayne/Batman’s mother rejected Jacob Packer’s advances he began murdering women who resembled her, to silence the laughter he hears in his head. It also turns out that he had hired the assassin who killed batman’s parents.  Packer attacks Batman, but Commissioner Gordon shoots him dead and Batman disappears into the shadows.

4.     Hellboy by Mike Mignola

Hellboy is a demon summoned to earth by Nazi occultist. As a supernatural hero he fights resurrected Nazi scientist and other biomechanical creatures. He has a giant stone hand, the hand of doom, and superhuman strength, healing, and endurance. He also comprehends ancient and magical languages and carries items to battle supernatural forces in his utility belt such as horseshoes, herbs, and hand grenades.

5.     The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 1 & vol 2 by Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neil Illustrator

Like fan fiction from popular Victorian novels Captain Nemo, the invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,  Allan Quatermain, Mina Murray, John Carter and other well known characters form a type of Victorian era justice league. Fu Manchu has stolen the only known cavorite in existence, a fictional substance created in H. G. Wells First Men On The Moon.  Professor Moriarty orders the league to retrieve the cavorite but doesn’t divulge that he plans to use it to build an airship to bomb Fu Manchu’s Limehouse lair, that explosion would also destroy London. The league triumps over both Fu Manchu and Moriarty. Volume 2, continues as the League fights the Martian invasion from H. G. Wells War of the Worlds.

          6. Jonah Hex – Jimmy Palmiotfi & Justin Gray, Luke Ross Illustrator

“When  a man knows there’s no place in Heaven waiting on him, then he’d best be wise to cozy up to the devil. And so, Jonah took it upon himself to dispatch as many sinners as Hell could accommodate… and never look back.” The art work is well done, truly brilliant. Though Jonah Hex can be classified as Weird West, Westernpunk, or Cow punk, it is first and foremost a western about a mysterious, stranger riding into town and righting wrongs in a lawless land. In the comic book series, Hex, the wild west bounty hunter is transported to the 21st century where he fights crime as a post-apocalyptic warrior.

7.     Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Cardboard Box by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Retold by Murray Shaw and M. J. Cosson, Sophie Rohrback and J. T. Morrow, Illustrators

Released in March of this year, Graphic Universe adapted this classic tale to comic book form for ages nine and up. When a woman receives the gruesome package of two human ears, Holmes and Watson are on the case. Clues at the back of the comic book reveal the process Holmes used to pull the facts together and solve the mystery. The Adventure of the Cardboard Box by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was first published in Strand Magazine in 1892.

We can look forward to the future of Steampunk comic books offering even more diversity, but there should be something for every Steampunk reader among these fourteen comic books listed in part one and part two of this post. Many of these comic books are out of print and if you have trouble finding the ones you like at your local comic book stores, try your local library or the inter-library loan program. Happy reading.

~Maeve Alpin

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Considered the starting point for the modern era of Steampunk comics, Bryan Tallbot’s 1970’s Luther Arkwright series is set in a parallel world where the English Civil War has been prolonged. Speaking of Bryan Tallbot, his Grandville series is total Steampunk. I’ll begin with it, followed by six more for Part 1. Part 2 will follow in another post later in the month with additional Steampunk Comic books.

 1. Grandville by Bryan Talbot

The author and artist, BryanTablot, was inspired by a 19th century illustrator, who drew anthropomorphized characters in costumes of the period and used the pen name J J Grandville. The story takes place in an alternate world where the British lost the Napoleonic War and a Scotland Yard Inspector, a badger, investigates the murder of a British diplomat. The events of 911 and a conspiracy theory are woven into the plot. The cast is made up of animals garbed in Victorian clothing, there are a few humans now and then, maids and bell hops, who are called doughfaces, which I find hilarious. Grandville is smart, interesting, well plotted and the art is incredible.

2. Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez

Set in 1878, in the city of Mechanika, known as the city of tomorrow. Lady Mechanika, part human, part machine, with no memories of her past, searches for her identity. Her enemy, Blackpool, a mad scientist experiments on humans, removing body parts and replacing them with machine parts. It’s pure Steampunk and has a strong female as the lead character.

3. Ruse by Mark Waid (2nd half of the series written by Scott Beatty)

This Victorian/Mystery comic series is set in the fantasy town of Partington on planet Arcadia. Simon Archard, a Sherlock-Home-type detective uses his master mind, while  his partner, Emma Bishop, a strong woman in mind and body, does everything else required to solve crimes. The one line cover tag sums it up: He’s the World’s Greatest Detective. She’s even better. The banter between Emma and Simon is witty, wry, and hilarious. I think Ruse holds a special appeal to women and I absolutely love it.

4. Scarlet Traces by Ian Edginton, Art by D’Israeli

The premise is genius. It takes place in England in the early 1900’s, just ten years after the War of the Worlds when the Martians were defeated by microscopic germs humans had been immune to for centuries.  British scientist adapt the highly advanced Martian technology to everyday life. Carriages running on robotic spider legs like the Martian vehicles replace horses and homes are heated and lighted by a version of the Martian heat ray. Two English spies take on a case of a missing girl and uncover so much more. Stempunk fans will love the Victorian/Edwardian London setting, the utilization of alien technology, and the H. G. Wells connection, as well as the dark, dystopian tone.

5. The Clockwork Girl by Sean O’Reilly and Kevin Hanna

This is a story of star crossed lovers from two different houses. Sounds familiar? One of the two fantastic castles is built by a grafter as a monument to the science of nature while the other is built by a tinker as a tribute to the science of technology and machines. The tinker creates a clockwork girl named Tesla. You will even find two quotes of Nikola Tesla within the story. Though different, several images of the little clockwork girl and the monster boy are reminiscent of scenes from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. As the Clockwork Girl is an obvious nod to and inspired by William Shakespeare, Nikola Tesla, and Mary Shelley it has to be good, and it is.

I fell in love with the characters, Tesla, the clockwork girl and Huxley, the monster boy. I imagine everyone who reads this will do the same. It’s a heartwarming story, brilliant in its simplicity, and it is not only suitable for adults but also children as young as grade school, say seven years old on up.

The dedication in the front of the book sums The Clockwork Girl up best, “To love and those who purse it relentlessly.” It’s a fun, fast, fulfilling read.

6. Ignition City by Warren Ellis, Art by Gianluca Pagliarani

In a dieselpunk/alternative history, washed up space heroes live in Ignition City, a rough and rowdy settlement cut off from civilization on Earth’s last spaceport. Ignition City has a strong woman for the main character, Mary Raven, a space pilot and daughter of the famous spaceman, who stopped a Martian missile plot. She heads to the spaceport to discover how her father died and who killed him. It has colorful language and a Wild West tone. There are aliens, ray guns, and the marshal flies around in a rocketeer type outfit. It’s a fun, action packed read.

7. Iron West by Doug Te Napel

A rugged, old west cowboy hero, Struck, robs banks, cheats at poker, lies to women with promises of marriage, and runs away at any hint of trouble. Yeah, this bad boy is a real charmer. Still when some old prospectors dig up robots, who in turn dig up a whole army of metal men that go on a rampage killing humans, our hero comes to the rescue of his woman and his town. Of course he has to, he’s set for a lynching and the sheriff gives him no choice but to help or to hang. Struck has some help himself from an elderly Native American gentleman and Sasquatch. Yes that’s right, Big Foot himself. This comic book is a blast, so much fun. Iron West will make your day.

You can see that though only a few comic are labeled Steampunk, several have Victorian, Dystopian, Dieselpunk, Weird West or Alternate History ascetics. We can look forward to the future of Steampunk comic books offering even more diversity and choices for readers.

With other titles to tell you about, I’ll continue the article on May 16th with more Steampunk Comics. Even with those mentioned above, there is something for everyone’s taste. Happy reading.

Maeve Alpin draws on her love of ancient times, alternative history, and happy endings to write Steampunk/Romances. Please visit her website.

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Today is the last giveaway in Christmas in August.  We have a few things open.  Thank you so much for entering.  We have some winners here

Enclave (Razorland #1)

By Ann Aguirre

Okay, so Ann Aguirre’s YA debut isn’t Steampunk, but there’s a lot for steampunkers to love in this book–even if you don’t usually like zombies, dystopian, or even YA.

In some distant (or not so distant) future Deuce’s world is an underground labyrinth of tunnels and a series of strict rules in a society where the death rate is so high children aren’t even named until they are fifteen.  Deuce is a huntress, her job it to brave the tunnels outside the enclave and avoid the monsters known as “Freaks” to bring back meat for the group.  She’s assigned a partner, Fade, who’s different from the other members in the enclave and entertains notions considered “dangerous” by Deuce–such as perhaps those in charge of the enclave are lying.  When the previously-thought-to-be-mindless Freaks develop intelligence, the elders ignore Fade and Deuce’s warning.  When the two of them are exiled, the only place left for them to go is topside. 

I love Deuce, because she’s a very smart, level-headed, practical heroine (and she’s badass, but out of necessity, because as a huntress, that’s her job).  Even though this book is YA, because of Deuce’s maturity and all the action, I think this book might appeal to those who might not usually pick up a YA, even if you’re not a dystopian/post-apocalyptic fan.

The world building is fantastic and well thought out.  I loved reading about the culture and customs developed by Deuce’s tunnel-dwelling society.  Unlike many stories in this genre, ENCLAVE isn’t depressing, but hopeful.  However, it is gritty — survival is life in Deuce’s world and they fight for it daily.  There’s a ton of action including some great (though gruesome) fight scenes against the Freaks (zombies, but they’re not described in the usual way, so if you usually avoid zombie books, you might give this one a try anyway.)  When she and Fade go topside I love how they react to what’s left of our world and I thought their reactions and thoughts to things we take for granted but they may have never seen or even heard about was fantastic. 

Overall, this was a face paced, well written book with great characters and some terrific dialogue.  I read this in two sittings and was completely sucked into the world Aguirre created (and usually I avoid books with Zombies.)

So, what’s your favorite dystopian/post-apocalyptic book?

I have a previously read ARC to give away to one lucky commenter.  It’s been read by more than me, but it is an ARC, with the CD in the back AND it’s SIGNED.  All you have to do is comment below.  Open internationally.  Contest closes September 10th, 2011 at 11:59 PST. 

Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens.  Her debut novel, Innocent Darkness, book one of The Aether Chronicles, releases August 2012 from Flux. 

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