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Archive for the ‘Friday fun’ Category

I love cemeteries. Always have. In college, we had a particularly old one in the historic Texas town where I grew up. Sam Houston, once president of Texas, is buried there among the ancient tombstones and moss-covered monuments. Two of the most popular statues therein are those college students referred to as the Black Jesus, a bronze statue of Christ, and the Angel of Death, a quite beautiful statue of an angel whose crevices are stained with mildew. One, by the way, I would view quite differently now after BLINK (as Whovians would understand). We’d go there in the middle of the night, tripping on whatever psychedelic we had taken that night in the early 90s, and talk, dream, philosophize, etc. After reading Anne Rice my freshman year, my Gothic nature was both defined and solidified.

My fiction leans more toward the Gothic fantasy side of Steampunk than the highly technological science fiction side of Steampunk’s beginnings. Sure, my work has sprinklings of fantastic Steampunk technology, but the dark themes of my work almost always deal with death and loss in one way or another. From my Gothic short stories, like the erotic, Steampunk Chronicle’s Readers’ Choice Award-winning “A Kiss in the Rain” to my novels Avalon Revisited and The Zombies of Mesmer, when it comes to my taste in fiction, reading or writing it: the darker, the better.

Imagine my delight when I discovered the Cross Bones Graveyard in my research, home of “The Outcast Dead.” Stretching back to medieval times, the graveyard became home to the unwanted, the poor, and the working girls between the 16th to 19th centuries. Those too poor to be buried properly in hallowed ground at the nearby Southwark Cathedral, then known as St. Saviour’s, found their final resting place at Cross Bones. Many a prostitute throughout that time, including the infamous “Winchester Geese,” prostitues licensed to work by the Bishop of Winchester, from the 18th century, are among the hundreds buried in this tiny plot of land. In 1853, the graveyard was closed “on the grounds that it was ‘completely overcharged with dead’ and that ‘further burials’ would be ‘inconsistent with a due regard for the public health and public decency’.”

In 1990, a partial excavation was done at the site, removing some 148 skeletons. It’s estimated that’s less that 1% of all the 15,000 buried on those tiny grounds.

Situated on Redcross Way, it’s iron gates have become a colorful shrine to the forgotten dead as well as others lost by visitors. Glorious colorful ribbons and roses cover the entrance to this once-shamed place, telling its inhabitants and the world that every decent person is worthy of respect and remembrance, despite their livelihood or economic status.

The amazing Julie Mollins, the same reporter who wrote an article on me for Reuters in 2011, reported on Cross Bones and John Constable, the man who breathed life back into the graveyard with The Southwark Mysterys plays and monthly ritual honoring the forgotten dead.

Next month, I’ll be traveling to London in part to plan an O. M. Grey Tour of London for 2014, where I will personally take readers to the places found in my novels and short stories. On that tour that will take us all from Bedlam to Gray’s Inn Road to Hyde Park and beyond, the Cross Bones Graveyard will be one of the many stops in the Gothic borough of Southwark.

The Cross Bones Graveyard appears in my forthcoming novel The Ghosts of Southwark, the sequel to The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel which is available on Amazon, Kindle, and serialized on my blog for free, either in print or via podcast.

-_Q

Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.

Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com

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The lovely Lolitas of STEAMED! have asked me to contribute twice a month, and I am quite honored to do so. Initially, at least, my articles will revolve around the interesting historical tidbits of the Victorian Era that appear in my novels and stories.

One my favorite things about writing Steampunk is the research. It’s fascinating, really. So often in my fiction, I incorporate historical people or events or places or even technology. My imagination for technology is rather limited, I’m afraid, as my strengths as a writer are characterization, emotional depth, and dialogue. Technology and world-building are far down the list, so I work with what’s already there, although much of what I incorporate into my work has been all but lost to history. These little-known facts and events and gadgets find new life in my work. With that splendid thing known as creative license, I embellish and bend historical events and 19th century technology to fit the needs of my story.

Today, I’ll focus on The Air Loom: The Human Influencing Machine, something devised in 1810, even before the Victoria’s Reign began in 1837. While doing research on the notorious Bedlam (Bethlehem Hospital, aka Bethlem) Asylum for a guest post called “Lunatics in London” for Bitten by Books during a blog tour, I watched a fascinating documentary on the infamous hospital. Within, they introduced one James Tilly Matthews, the first documented paranoid schizophrenic. I was immediately fascinated by this person and his concept of The Air Loom, so I vowed to work it into my next novel.

In my Steampunk teen romance The Zombies of Mesmer, we visit the horrible Bethlehem Asylum. Although set in 1880, my Bedlam’s halls contain the misery and pain seen in the hospital in Matthews’ time there. After being released from a three-year stint in a French prison for suspicion of being a double agent, Matthews returned to London and proceeded to accuse the Home Secretary of treason in a rather dramatic and publicly disruptive way. Matthews was committed to Bethlem Asylum in 1797 as a lunatic. Fortunately for Matthews, a resident of the hospital for over a decade, he had a relatively cushy room there and ended up drawing plans for the renovation of Bethlem Hospital among many other helpful things. In 1810, he wrote a book called Illustrations of Madness in which he illustrated the influencing machine in great detail both in design and description of purpose. Matthews believed that scientist spies, experts in “pneumatic chemistry,” had set up near Bedlam and was tormenting him by means of rays emitted from The Air Loom.

The Air Loom was a piece of advanced technology, but in the early part of the industrial age advanced technology often meant enormous machinery, rather than the increasing minutarisation that characterise the 21st century. The Air Loom was enormous. The mechanism stood seven metres tall and occupied a footprint of nine square metres, and it was constructed from oak with machined brass fittings.

It was surrounded by barrels that fed noxious gases through oiled leather pipes into the main body of the machine. The gases were derived from substances including ‘gas from the horse’s anus’, ‘seminal fluid’, ‘putrid human breath’ and ‘effluvia of dogs’. (Source)

The machine’s rays exacted such horrendous tortures onto Matthews’ mind like “kiteing,” where ideas were forced into his brain; “thought-making,” where thoughts were removed and replaced by others of the scientist’s choosing; and Lobster Cracking, where “the external pressure of the magnetic atmosphere surrounding the person assailed was increased, ‘so as to stagnate his circulation, impede his vital motions, and produce instant death’.” Other torments included “lengthening of the brain,” “thigh talking,” “fluid locking,” and “bomb bursting.”

Read more about this fascinating machine and see images of The Air Loom, built by artist Rod Dickinson using Matthews’ illustrations at http://www.theairloom.org.

An altered version of The Air Loom appears in my forthcoming novel The Ghosts of Southwark, the sequel to The Zombies of Mesmer: A Nickie Nick Vampire Hunter Novel which is available on Amazon, Kindle, and serialized on my blog for free, either in print or via podcast.

-_Q

Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.

Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com

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Steampunk lego

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Happy Valentines Day from all the Lolitas at Steamed!

This comic is from the folks over at I Wish I Had A Penguin Friend

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Steampunk Lolitas: Deborah Schneider, Elizabeth Darvill and myself at Steamcon!

by Marie-Claude Bourque

With my new brand new goggles!

What is Steampunk style? I am probably the last one to know. That’s why when I headed for Steamcon in Seattle, I didn’t really know what to expect, expect for a bunch of brass goggles and a few corsets.

Steamcon 09: The Airship Pirate look?

So it’s with my own corset (laced tight and rescued from the Romantic Times Convention) that I sat down in the lobby of the Seatt;le Marriot  and sipped my venti nonfat latte doing what I like best (after writing) and… people watched.

I was glad I had read about all the various Steampunk spin-off  in Suzanne Lazear blog post at Steamed! Dieselpunk, Monsterpunk, Oilpunk, Clockpunk, coompleted with Steampunk fairies, I think I saw it all.

Steamcon 09: A Victorian Gentleman (courtesy of Chadwick Ayers) 
Steamcon 09: Steampunk Fairy (courtesy of ChadWick Ayers  

What striked me the most was that really all goes. As you long as you have your goggles on, you are good to go. I did expect the clockwork and victorian look but I have to say that I was surprised by the intrincacy of it all and by how well dressed everyone was.

I saw plenty of victorian ladies and gentlemen in full regalia, top hats and elaborate googles and ornate canes, beautiful skirts and expensive corsets (mine is a cheap one, be warned) but also feather in upswept hair, parasol and yes, fans! So many things I want (need?) to buy!!!

Steamcon 09: Dieselpunk? 

Beside the victorian look, was also the western look. Think of the movie Wild Wild West, with variation on steampunk  guns, cowboy hats. Some were on the goths or dark side with black and spooky outfit closer to MadMax that is probably what they would call Dieselpunk. And some ladies had on simpler dresses that wouldn’t have been out of place in Anne of Green Gables.

Steamcon 09: More Airship Pirates! 

All in all, I think the rule is to let your imagination run, and yes get those goggles and that corset! Can’t down too many lattes with it on but your waistline may thank you!

Steamcon 09: A Steampunk Gun! (courtesy of Chadwick Ayers)

 Steamcon 2010 is on! Get your tickets as soon as they come on sale! I bet they will fly really fast! (yep, stood in line for four hours  to get mine!). I’ll be there 🙂

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