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Steampunk has come to embrace so many varied arts, well beyond just fiction. I’d like to introduce you to a couple of the artisans who make the stuff that makes us all look so good.

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 Shoptroll: (aka Peter Vanslyke)

 

Where can shoppers find your products online?

www.shoptroll.net (but realistically I update the Shoptroll Facebook page way more regularly.)

 

What do you make? 

Riveted seam (no sewing) leather clothing. Mostly skirts, kilts, and pocket-belts.

(Note from Cindy: he also makes bodices, bracelets, gloves, shelves, benches, and just about everything you can make with wood, nails, rivets and soft leather. That’s me and the spouse in SP invasion of RFall our Shoptroll finery.)

 

Do you do this full time or is it a side job? 

Full time. 24-7.

 

How did you get into steampunk, personally and as an artisan?

I think, for me, the two’re inseparably linked. I love non-traditional construction methods (example: to make a skirt, I use rivets instead of thread). I see a great deal of the above in the overall steampunk aesthetic. Descriptions and images of things that at the first seem over-built, stylized, or overly ornamental can too be taken as, say, a plumber’s take on a message-delivery system. Using your knowledge or trade to solve situations that they may not at first seem applicable to…I love seeing that.

 

What’s the hardest thing about being a steampunk vendor?

Not going to panels when you’re at a con.

 

What is your very favorite thing about steampunk and the people involved?

If there is a defining aspect of steampunk, I’d call it creativity. No, really, bear with me as I “define” steampunk here. Every single steamo out there brings something to the table. Every. Single. One. At a comic or sci-fi convention, you have some great artists, writers, actors, cosplayers, etc., but for every one of those folk, there are at least a dozen fans or collectors. (Which, by the way, is great.) In steampunk, that ratio is reversed. Participants create their own character, or their own costume. They all add to the ambiance. most of us have *some* project or other we are working on, be it a light-up Nerf mod, a hover pack , a moving picture, a moving piece of poetry, an airship crew, a presentation, a new novel, knitting, we are all working on things, and most of us will happily enthuse, and share ideas to inspire and encourage one another. That, the building of this thing that we all enjoy together, that is probably my favorite aspect of steampunk.

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 Matt Sabins, of Sabins Gadgeteering Lab, LLC

 matt

Where can shoppers find your products online?

www.sabinsgadgeteeringlab.com

What do you make?

Custom costume props, accessories, and jewelry. My style tends towards Tesla-tech, usually with small glowing light effects to simulate strange energies of the Aether.

(note from Cindy: His wristbands and firefly necklaces are out of this world!)

 

Do you do this full timIMG_3955e or is it a side job?

Full-Time, my own business. I’ve tried pursuing conventional means of employment; it never really worked out for me.

 

How did you get into steampunk, personally and as an artisan?

My first exposure to steampunk was the tabletop role-playing game, “Mage: The Ascension” by White Wo Studios. There’s a Tradition of mages called the Sons of Ether whose mad devices and eccentric style were steampunk even before the term had really caught on, and they were my fast favorite. I really love the strange mélange of mysticism and technology that they represent, and I began to try making Etheric devices of my own to use as props. That was more than 10 years ago, and I’ve been refining my methods with what I could afford ever since.IMG_3667

 

What’s the hardest thing about being a steampunk vendor?

The hardest thing about being a vendor is coming up with product ideas that are original enough not to infringe on other copyrights, but that have sufficiently recognizable value to customers who migIMG_2985ht want to buy them. I often have to restrain myself from exuberant creativity and focus on making everyday stuff with a just a hint of mad science in them.

 

What is your very favorite thing about steampunk and the people involved? 

My favorite thing about steampunk is that it is primarily fan-driven. There isn’t a lot of popular source material in films and television with steampunk as the main focus. There’s plenty of room to get in on the ground floor as it picks up steam, so to speak. As for the people involved, I’ve found most are quite friendly and well-mannered, and they seem to really like my creations.

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 So now that you’ve met these two awesome creators, don’t forget to check out their work! Hopefully, these interviews will be a recurring feature, so if you’re an artisan, or know one who ought to be interviewed, send me an email at cindy@cindyspencerpape.com.

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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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Nautical Steampunk Attire

Nautical Steampunk Attire

Airships and Trains weren’t the only steam powered transportation the Victorians used, steam driven ships were a big part of the era. Keep in mind the nautical theme of one of the, if not the, most famous Victorian sci-fi books, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Perhaps the greatest historical steamship episode of the Victorian era is the battle of the  Ironclads during the American Civil War, the southern Merrimac and the northern Monitor,  shown in this youtube video:

Ironclads was the name given to steam powered warships protected by iron or steel armor plates.  By the 1880’s ironclads were equipped with the heaviest guns ever mounted at sea and more sophisticated steam engines, these ships developed into modern day battleships.

Another interesting steamship episode from Victorian history is the steamers that tugged the cigar shaped container ship, known as Cleopatra, which held the obelisk, called Cleopatra’s needle, all the way from Egypt. There were three steamers in all, the Olga beset by a storm rescued the survivors of the Cleopatra crew, six drowned, then they had to abandon the container ship, leaving it to drift in the Bay of Biscay. The Fillitz Morris rescued the cylinder and towed it to Northern Spain. From there the Anglia towed Cleopatra to Gravesend. Five days later Cleopatra was pulled up the Thames. On September 13, 1878 the obelisk was erected on a pedestal on the banks of the Thames. The names of the men who drowned due to Cleopatra’s journey are commemorated on the pedestal. The pedestal is also a time capsule representing Victorian Britain, it contains British coins, a railway guide, some daily newspapers, several bibles in different languages and a dozen prints of the world’s most beautiful women. You can see the obelisk here.

Here’s a fictional excerpt of the arrival of Cleopatra at London, from the Steampunk Romance, As Timeless As Magic:

The ship towed a long cylinder, about 200 hands long and about 30 hands wide, across the rippling blue water as the sun peeked through the clouds in the blue–gray sky. Heru was sure it was a royal boat when the whole crowd cheered at its approach.

“Oui, I’m dressed like an ancient Egyptian to commemorate the obelisk.” Now he understood. He fit in with the occasion. That ship hauled something important from his country to be erected along the bank of the river.

His eardrums ached with the bang of the soldiers’ sticks, weapons that blasted into the air, again and again, in praise and fanfare to the long white ship puffing steam out of the tall black pipe and tooting a loud horn. He clamped his hands over his ears.

Men in tall, black, pipe-like hats rushed forward with tools in hand and cracked open the lengthy cylinder. Using a cable from a towering machine, shaped like a barrel with wheels and cogs spinning and rocking, the men hoisted free what lay inside. The crowd all stepped back. As the tall machine clanked, rumbled and puffed steam, it lifted the obelisk to a standing position. The throng cheered.

Heru recognized the type of monument at once. “Oui, what you call obelisks are built in pairs to stand on either side of a temple, the priests use them to tell time by the shadows cast, but there is no temple and there is only one.” Confused, he shook his head.

“Egypt gave it to England in 1819, but neither Parliament nor the king, later the queen, could cover the expense of shipping it, until General Alexander took up the cause.” She cocked her head. “Sir Wilson, who, not to be crude, but honestly, is as rich as they come, paid all the costs of its voyage. They shipped the other one, its twin, to America.”

“America?” It must be another country that didn’t exist in his time, and now they too had an obelisk from Egypt. “Amazing.” The column carved out of a single piece of stone tapered into a pyramidion at the top. He peered at the beautiful hieroglyphics engraved on it.

“Not as amazing as all poor Cleopatra has been through.”

“Cleopatra?” Who or what was Cleopatra? Since he didn’t know anything or at least very little about the future he’d landed in, he shrugged as he watched her lips curve into a smile.

“The watertight cylinder. The first ship that towed her got caught in a storm and six men drowned. Cleopatra drifted in the ocean alone, until a different ship rescued her and brought her to a Spanish port. Then,“ Felicity pointed to the barge in the river, “that ship, the Anglia, brought her and the obelisk she carried, which everyone is calling Cleopatra’s needle, here.”

“This Cleopatra’s needle’s journey to England is almost as unbelievable as mine.”

“I doubt your adventure is more exciting than the obelisk’s.” Felicity set her hand on her small but defined hip.

“You would be surprised.”

Maeve Alpin & Pirate - Space City Con

Maeve Alpin & Pirate – Space City Con

Keep steamships, sea ports, and nautical settings in mind for your Steampunk tales. Also, if you live in the Houston Texas area there’s a great opportunity for maritime research and fun, Saturday, September 15that the Houston Maritime Museum. Here’s a invitation to all who can come.Please join me for an afternoon of nautical Steampunk fun at the Houston Maritime Museum, tie down the date of 09/15/12 at 3:00 PM. Don steampunk attire if you wish, in the fashion of a day at a Victorian yacht club or airship pirates may feel free to become maritime pirates

Captian Jack at Dickens On The Strand 2012

Captian Jack at Dickens On The Strand 2012

for the day, or a member of the Nautilus crew. All Steampunk garb and characters are welcomed as well as modern garb. Board the guided tour of 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. Free parking is a shore thing at the large lot beside the museum. Museum admission is $5.00 per age 12 up, $3.00 for children 3 -11 and children under 3 are free.

Maeve Alpin

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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 we welcome Steampunk author Seleste deLaney who’s going to talk about a subject near and dear to my heart.

Seleste deLaney started on her career path as a young child. Stories of talking animals soon gave way to a love of superheroes and science fiction. Her first foray into the world of romance came at age twelve when she envisioned a sweeping epic love story of two people thrust together and torn apart again and again by fate. As she recalls, the plan was for them to admit their love on his deathbed. But, as is often the case with pre-teen girls, a story of that depth gave way to other pursuits, and sadly it is completely lost other than vague memories.  After that, she occupied herself with short stories for a while, and then poetry until after she had earned a degree in chemistry, spent time as a high school teacher, and became a mother of two. Then she delved into writing fiction once more.  She never lost her love of the fantastic, and her stories now always reach into other realms. The worlds and people she creates occupy as much of her time as the real world, and she is most fortunate to have a family that understands her idiosyncrasies and loves her anyway.

Gun-Modding for the Artistically Challenged

by Seleste deLaney

For the Romantic Times convention, I dressed as a steampunk vampire hunter for one of the balls. I was supposed to have a crossbow, but that plan fell through at the last minute and I was in need of weapons. Since they had to fit in my suitcase (and I am bad at spending money), I bought a cute little derringer from Etsy. But it was so cute and so little (and didn’t fire darts like it should), I decided I should have a second one and set about modding it myself.

Now I’m preparing to dress as Ever, my heroine from Badlands, for FanExpo in a couple weeks and she’d probably laugh if someone handed her a derringer. I checked out Etsy and found a fabulous gun…for $70 plus shipping. Now this isn’t to say the gun isn’t worth that. The thing is gorgeous (and big). But there’s that thing about me not liking to spend money coupled with the fact that my son had the base weapon on his loft in our basement.

So yes, I decided to give it another go. Only this time, I’ve learned a few things.

1)     The first thing I learned is practice weapons are good. Get some cheap ones and see what you’d do if you were just winging it.

2)     Apparently the cheap guns (non-Nerf) don’t hold onto the paint as well, so don’t expect your practice ones to hold up well.

3)     Basecoats are a beautiful thing. For the new one, I sprayed everything with a light brown Krylon to start. It’s a good color because even if it shows through, it kind of looks like it should be there.

4)     Paintbrush variety if you’re hand painting is good. I don’t like to take the guns apart, so spraying only works as a basecoat for me.

5)     I suck at detail work. When I mentioned artistically-challenged, I meant it. I don’t have the patience for detail work. What that means is:

  1. Embrace what I can do. I like adding a little bit of gold rubbing on places where more artsy people would do some detail work. It still adds interest without making me cry or pull my hair out.
  2. Work around what I can’t. The really nice lines between the raised pieces? I can’t do it in black because I will screw them up, but a slightly darker brown just for a bit of contrast will work.
  3. Strive for perfect imperfection. A lot of modded weapons have a “worn” look to them. Artsy people have to try to get that by doing extra steps. The artistically challenged people have it easier. If we try to make ours perfect, odds are it’ll have just enough imperfections to fall under this header. WIN!

6)     Don’t forget a finish coat. After all the paint is very dry, spray it with clear coat. If you’re adding little baubles, I’d spray before AND after. (Might be wrong, but if the bauble pops off, hopefully that way it won’t take all the paint with it)

7)     Don’t rush the drying process. For RT, I only had a couple days and things weren’t “finished”. For FanExpo, I’m getting it done well over a week in advance so I have time to let it sit before I touch it again.

Now, I won’t pretend that my homemade gun is going to rock as much as the one on Etsy, but I also didn’t spend $80 on something I may break or forget while I’m in Canada. Plus, my kids are going to want to play with it, so better it’s one of their toys in the first place.

Do any of you have advice for novice modders? Or horror stories? Or want to smack me over the head with a tesla because I’m being silly?

~Seleste deLaney

http://www.selestedelaney.com

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Got swag?  I’m running a contest over at my other blog.

Now, back to today’s post.

Kickstarter.

All the cool kids seem to be doing it.  It’s a grass-roots project incubator allowing the average person to seek investors for projects.  Investors usually get some sort of limited edition goodies for contributing towards the project’s goal.

There’s some neat steampunk projects going on right now. This is just a sampling…

Steampunk: History Beyond Imagination is a museum exhibit slated to open in October at Muzeo in Anaheim, CA,

The exhibit will introduce visitors to an era in which science and industry were combined to launch mankind into the 20th Century (and beyond) – to become a world where ordinary human beings could do the impossible. Historical pioneers like Charles Babbage and prominent personalities like Nikola Tesla will also be revealed for their contributions to the development of incredible technological advances.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/aeronautproductions/steampunk-history-beyond-imagination-museum-exhibi/widget/video.html

The League of S.T.E.A.M is seeking funding for Season II of their webasode series.

We will spend the money to purchase essential equipment to meet the various production needs we will face throughout the season, as well as provide opportunities for us to film in new and exciting locations for our audience to enjoy. We will create new equipment to help us tell our thrilling stories, and because of our team’s history of making functional props, we can guarantee you’ll be able to see this equipment in person at our live show ventures.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/leagueofsteam/adventures-of-the-league-of-steam-season-two/widget/video.html

Ever wanted an intergalactic transporter?

Chico Urban Artists Collective (CUAC) is building a 28 foot steampunk-style spaceship that we’re calling the Intergalactic Transporter (Mutant Vehicle) using a retired 1981 firetruck as the platform vehicle. The upper deck will be a dance floor, lower deck will be a chill space to hang out, and the exterior will provide additional seating and bike parking. It will be an interactive participatory conceptual art experience.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1905360854/intergalactic-transporter/widget/video.html

A Victorian Knitting Primer

The Ladies of Mischief is a collective of talented ladies who want to take the knitting and steampunk world by storm, combining the two genres into one amazing work of fantastic imagery, story telling, and creative artistry.

We have started up a blog filled with exclusive patterns, stories, journal entries, photographs and more. Please stop by to read up on each of the Ladies and follow all of their adventures.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2082319929/needles-and-artifice-a-victorian-knitting-primer/widget/video.html

There’s also a Pipe Organ Backpack!

I plan to make a light-weight, fully functional, small-scale WEARABLE pipe organ! I have a passion for strange instruments and I hope to create one of my own. My ultimate goal is to not only create this instrument, but to also document and share instructions on its design so that others can build them in the future. At the end of the project, I will post the instructions online for free.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1461644610/functional-pipe-organ-backpack-the-borgan/widget/video.html

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Today in celebration of National Steampunk Day, we, the Lolitas of STEAMED! offer up ten things you can do to get into the spirit of things:

10. Wear goggles to work (or if you’re already at work and have missed the opportunity wear them out to dinner). You’ll be amazed at the curious looks and questions you get, which is a perfect time to talk steampunk!

9. Try wearing a corset. That’s on the outside, please.

8. Wear a hat. Top hat, aviator cap, newspaper boy slouchy cap, bowler, it all counts!

7. Unplug and read a steampunk book – by lamplight. Okay you can use a candle if you must, but instead of watching the television tonight, why not escape into a great piece of steampunk fiction?

6. Talk with a British accent for the day. You may even call your boss, “Old Bean” unless of course, he or she is younger than you.

5. Use phrases like “My word”, “How splendid”, or “Please excuse me while I wind my gears,” or “Where did I park my aeromachine?” “Drat”, “Most peculiar” or even “Fire the mechanical monkies!”

4. Drink a cup of tea. Crumpets, clotted cream, jam and little fingers sandwiches are optional.

3. Learn to waltz. Waltz anyway. Why walk when you can waltz?

2. Go read Girl Genius (it’s updated every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at http://www.girlgeniusonline.com under comic. Warning: it is addictive, especially if you start at the beginning).

 And, the number one thing you can do is. . .

1. Try the Steampunk Drinking Game. Pick out a steampunk movie or book of your choice. Best played with others who don’t actually plan to go anywhere afterward. Beverage may be of your choice. For each item you come across, take the prescribed drink. Last person standing wins.
Aether = 1 drink
Airhship = 2 sips
Automaton = gulp
Bodice = 1 drink
Corset = down the whole shot
Gears = 1 sip
Goggles = three sips plus bite of lemon
Her Majesty and/or Queen Victoria = down the whole shot
Horse and/or carriage = 3 drinks
Inventor and/or mad scientist = 4 drinks
Inexplicable device = 1 drink
Mention of social rank (Duke, Marquess, Earl, Barron, etc.) = 4 sips
Parasol = 2 drinks
Presence of bioengineering = 4 drinks
Puff of steam = 1 drink
Raygun = chug
Top Hat = 3 drinks
Tesla coil = down the whole shot

Celebrate Steampunk!

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I’m going to be teaching Writing Steampunk Aether to Zephlin again, this is revised version of the class I taught last November (which was great fun) and a beginner/intermediate overview class covering the basic nuts and bots of writing Steampunk.  It runs July 5 – July 29, 2011 via a private email loop classroom.  The cost is $20.   More info here. 

 

Writing Steampunk Technology

The trick to writing about technology and your gadgets is to only reveal to the reader what your character might actually know.  Otherwise, it can pull us out of the story, feeling like both an author intrusion and an info dump.

For example, a society lady may give no thought to how something works, only noting that it might be noisy, messy, or shiny.  But an inquisitive child or a scientist might analyze its workings or even come up with improvements in their heads.

But at the same time, this isn’t a license to info dump or spend paragraphs waxing poetic about steam engines (even if it is in character).  Keep in mind – does the reader need to know this and does the reader need to know this now. 

Your technology should be showcased in your steampunk novel, but at the same time, you don’t need to point out or dissect every, single detail.  This screams “See, my novel is steampunk, look, look” and can take the reader out of the story.  Again, think about what your particular character would actually notice, what they may actually know about a particular item, its uses, origins, and inner-workings.

Also, your technology needs to be integral to your world building.  If you can take the tech out of your story, and it still stands, it’s not truly steampunk.

However, it may still have steampunk elements, and if you’re okay with this, then by all means, go for it.  Otherwise you may need to rethink your tech and world and brainstorm on ways to make it stronger.

Here’s a starter list of Steampunk tech here.

How is your tech integral to your world?

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This is the last week of Steampunkapalooza.  Thank you so much for participating.  We have some good stuff for you this week.

First off, we have some winners to announce.

We have a copy of Ren Cummin’s Reaper’s Return:

VVB

Now we have the Gail Carriger prize pack, which includes a copy of Blameless and and autographed fan.

Elmo Adams

Congrats.  To claim your prize please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail

Didn’t win?  Win a copy of one of Leanna Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful books or another swag and book bag from RT.

Today we welcome YA author Kady Cross.

In her other life Kady Cross is a USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 books. She is lucky enough to have a husband who shares her love for the slightly twisted, and all things geek, and a houseful of cats with whom she shares her darkest secrets.  When she’s not listening to the characters in her head she’s either trying to formulate the perfect lipgloss or teaching herself to solder. She has a weakness for all things girly, sugar skulls, and boots. Her love of books and makeup borders on addiction – from which she never, ever wants to be cured.

Steampunk Tech and Teens

by Kady Cross

First of all, I just want to say thank your for having me here today!

My book, The Girl in the Steel Corset (Harlequin Teen) comes out on May 31st of this year. It’s a Steampunk young adult novel about a girl named Finley Jayne, who has extraordinary abilities that often land her in deep trouble. This time is no exception, as she flees her job after beating up her boss’s son. She runs straight into the path of Griffin King, Duke of Greythorne and his friend Sam Morgan. Both young men as every bit as extraordinary as Finley, though in their own ways. There’s also Emily O’Brien, the technological genius of the group, and cowboy Jasper Renn, who can draw a gun faster than most people can blink. Together the five of them will uncover the plans of a criminal mastermind named The Machinist, while Finley seeks Griffin’s help in becoming less of a danger to herself and those around her.

One of the key elements to any Steampunk story is the technology. It’s simply not Steampunk if you don’t have some kind of science or machines. What I wanted to do with The Girl in the Steel Corset is create technology that today’s savvy teens can relate to, but still stay true to the Victorian ‘feel’ of the story. When we first meet Griffin King, he’s riding a velocycle at night. A velocycle is basically a motorcycle — a big, fairly heavy motorcycle with lots of brass and sometimes wood. However, they’re steam-instead of having a gasoline engine. It’s a somewhat plausible mode of transportation, plus it’s a lot cooler than a horse — unless it’s an automaton horse, of course.

A third piece of tech is the Aethernet — a computer built out of an old type writer, a mirror and some other bits of scrap — is a tongue in cheek reference to the internet. This is what Griffin uses to research the ‘cases’ he undertakes. He’s able to patch into Scotland Yard and look at their records, which comes in very handy when looking for info on villains, or doing Aethernet dating. 🙂

I also have such things as mechanical hearts, automatons, metal body parts and a life-size steel panther. There are dirigibles too. In fact, Griffin owns his own airship — the equivalent of a private jet.  There are many more gadgets in the book, and certainly much more science and technology, but I don’t want to give it all away.

The Girl in the Steel Corset is set in a world where innovation runs wild and anything is possible. It’s also a world being changed by evolution. The wellspring of life has bubbled up from the center of the earth and slipped to the surface, taking some humans to the next stage of development. These people have amazing and often terrifying abilities that they don’t understand themselves. For me this is the quintessential them of being a teenager — that of feeling like an outsider, or that people (especially adults) don’t understand  or respect you. My characters are figurative freaks, and literal ones as well.

So now I have a question for you: what kind of technology would you like to see in a Steampunk novel? If you’re not certain, how about telling me how you would evolve if you lived in Finley Jayne’s world.

~Kady Cross

http://www.kadycross.com

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First off, we have three copies of Tim Akers Horns of Ruin to give away. 

Gail Gray

Giada M.

Tina

Congrats!  Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize.  Didn’t win?  We still have up for grabs a book by YA author Ren Cummins, a prize pack of goodies including a copy of Blameless and a fan autographed by Gail Carriger, and your choice of one of Leanna Renee Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful books. 

Today we welcome Steampunk author Philippa Ballantine. 

Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the co-author with Tee Morris of Phoenix Rising: a Ministry of Peculiar Occurrence novel coming out soon from Harper Voyager. It contains airships, archives and large amounts of derry-doing. Find out more at ministryofpeculiaroccurrences.com

 Steampunk and gadgets and gears. Oh my!

By Philippa Ballantine

One of my favourite quotes about our upcoming book is from Warp Core Sci-Fi If James Bond wore a corset and drank Earl Grey it might be something like the adventures in Phoenix Rising.

The joy of gadgetry that can be found in the Bond movies is something that my co-author Tee Morris and I wanted to include in our series—after all we too are writing about a government organization, even if it is one in the nineteenth century rather than the twenty-first. So the tech support that Q gave the secret agents in MI5 might well be found in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences—but powered by boilers and steam. Interestingly, since the term boffin wasn’t coined until much later, we invented a term for those that make gizmos—we called them clankertons.

Steampunk is a rising genre in fiction that can be dark and dystopian, or fun and optimistic. It can be set in the Victorian age, or on a distant planet—it doesn’t really matter. Steampunk is about many things, but above all its trademark is technology powered by steam—often fantastical and improbable. One thing that is constant however is the gadgets. Some are be used to keep humanity oppressed, others are just loads of fun.

For example a steam-powered listening device is in the Ministry’s arsenal. It’s larger than our own modern devices, but looks a lot more amazing, with valves and brass. It’s also far larger, which gives our agents some difficulty getting it into the opera.

A joy of working in steampunk as an author, is that you can get inspiration from things that might have been and imagining what might of happened if they had been made. A particular favorite machine in the genre is Charles Babbage’s difference engine. This device was made in the first half of the nineteenth century and was a mechanical calculator. However, one device that Babbage never got the funding to build was the analytical engine. This would have been a mechanical general-purpose computer, and could have been revolutionary for Queen Victoria’s empire.  Steampunk often takes this particular device and plays with what the resulting social and political change might have been. In our novel, it is used by the Archivist of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences to keep track of the files…and also to make a spiffing cup of tea.

Research into the time period often throws up remarkable inventions that you might not know even existed, and giving them just a little ramp up. Before setting forth on this adventure I was not aware that there was in fact something called a steam-powered motor-bike. The sequel to Phoenix Rising has our heroine racing through the English countryside on a souped up version of what actually existed. Indeed, the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang can be counted as steampunk because of that particularly amazing car.

Finally, as an author you can just let your imagination take flight in steampunk. Just create devices out of wild and fun imaginings. Automatons, of the clockwork or steam variety, are a staple gadget of the genre. For example Paul Guinan’s Boilerplate is about a steam powered robot and his adventures with famous people of the era. Inserting this comical looking robot into historical pictures eventually lead to it becoming a book and optioned by JJ Abrams to be a movie. Not bad at all for a collection of pistons and boilers.

Gizmos, gadgets, the wild and the possible all embroider the steampunk world of fiction. They provide a vital ingredient of ‘what if’ and twist the history of the Victorian era into all kinds of interesting shapes. They can also be jolly good fun!

 

 ~Philippa Ballantine

http://www.pjballantine.com/

What are your favorite Steampunk gadgets?

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First, I’d like to announce the winners of George Mann’s Ghosts of Manhattan:

FredTownWard

Elijana Kindel

Barbara Elness

Congrats!  Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize. 

Didn’t win?  You can still win books by  Mike ResnickTim Akers,  or Ren Cummins, or a prize pack of goodies including a copy of Blameless and a fan autographed by Gail Carriger.

Today we welcome YA Sci-Fi author Beth Revis

Beth Revis‘ debut novel, Across the Universe, is out now. A former high-school English teacher, Beth can’t help but blog about writing, grammar, and publishing at Writing it Out. She is the founder of the new popular dystopian blog, the League of Extraordinary Writers and blows off steam by trying to come up with something witty in 140 characters or less, lusting after books on GoodReads, or wasting time on Facebook.   Beth Revis lives in rural North Carolina with her husband and dog, and believes space is nowhere near the final frontier.

The Top Five Things to Come from Steampunk and the Top Five Things I’d Like to See

 by Beth Revis

I’ll admit: I’m a noob when it comes to steampunk. Sure, I’ve read (and loved) Gail Carringer’s work, flirted with Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan, and I lust after the costumes, but as for seriously diving into the genre? I’ve worshipped from afar. That said, here’s the top five steampunk things that I adore…and the top five things that I want to see (so if all you steampunk-aphiles out there know of where I can find it, please let me know!).

First, in reverse order, the top five things I love from steampunk:

5. The “Punked” episode of Castle

I am a hardcore Fillionite, so, of course, I’m a fan of Nathan Fillion’s latest show, Castle. One of the very best episodes so far as been “Punked,” in which Beckett and Castle’s mystery takes them into the world of Steampunk NYC.

4. Steampunk Cakes

Cake Wrecks has a whole page dedicated to the awesome steampunk cakes that have been made over the years.  But I have to admit—my very favorite one is this little beauty:

I mean, come on! A cake that looks like a steampunk squid? Win.

3. Treasure Planet

I admit: I love me some Disney. And one of my all-time faves has to be the wonderful and under-appreciated movie Treasure Planet. A futuristic/steampunk/sci fi/awesome retelling of Treasure Island, this movie features not only a cool storyline, but an amazing soundtrack (don’t worry; it’s not a musical) and a great bad guy.

2. The Steampunk Mac

Let’s see how much of a nerd I can prove I am with this post. I love Nathan Fillion, Disney, and…I’m also a Mac FanGirl. But what would make me even more of a Mac FanGirl? If I could have this Mac:

 

Image credit: http://steampunkworkshop.com/daveveloz.shtml

1. The Costumes and Gadgets

Come on. Come on. The gadgets. The gadgets. And the costumes.

 

Image credit: http://steampunkcostume.com/

 Now, the top five things I’d like to see:

5. Steampunk Star Wars

Why can’t I have this? Holy wow, think of how cool it could be. Steam blasters instead of lightsabers. And dude! Think of it: Darth Vader Steampunk. Amazing. This has so much potential.

Image credit: http://www.oddee.com/item_96830.aspx

4. Roman Steampunk

There’s a lot of steampunk centered in Victorian times, but I think it would be cool to explore the Romans. In all honesty, it seems as if the Romans came pretty darn close to steampunk on their own. Push them a bit more in that direction—we could have a whole steampunk alternative history…

3. Steampunk not based in Europe/England

This is going to be my most serious request—does anyone know of some cool steampunk that’s not based in Europe, especially not based in England? I would sincerely love to read that…

2. Steampunk Fairytales or Superheroes

There’s a wide field of possibilities in this one. What if Tinkerbell tinkered with steampunk? Hansel and Gretl’s witch could be an automaton. Cinderella’s clockwork winds down at midnight.

Or take it another direction—what about superheroes? Gail Carringer blended paranormal with steampunk—let’s see superheroes blended with steampunk. Superman’s strong as steel because that’s what he’s made of. Or the X-Men—a wind-up Wolverine? Maybe even this…

 

Image credit: http://steampunkcostume.com/

1. More Steampunk YA

The number one thing I most want to see more of is steampunk for teens and kids. Scott Westerfeld  is doing great work with Leviathan, but I’d love to see more of this. Does anyone else have any steampunk YA or MG suggestions?

 

~Beth Revis

http://www.bethrevis.com/

http://acrosstheuniversebook.com/

So, who’s got some suggestions for Beth?  I know you all do…

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If you were to tell the story of this gal what would it be? Is she an airship pirate, or military general?

What is the eye piece for? Does it replace her own eye or is it an add on to detect automatons passing for humans? Did she steal that fancy coat?

And what about those wires on her left shoulders?

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It honestly doesn’t take much to make someone into steampunk gush enthusiastically about a fantastical hand-crafted ray gun or stunning hat, but when it comes to reading, there is a comic that combines the best of steampunk with the best of entertainment – Girl Genius.

Now, if you are into steampunk, you probably know all about it. You probably even know that their inventive comic series has now spawned a delightful novel that hit the top 20 on Amazon on Girl Genius Day, Jan. 12th, but what you might not know is that from a writer’s perspective, Girl Genius is damn brilliant writing.

What makes it work? First you’ve got a fun, smart, quirky main character who is an underdog. That makes Agatha Heterodyne sympathetic from the start. But add into the mix that she’s enamoured with the son of her deadliest rival for control of Europa (not that she knows that in the beginning when she meets Gilgamesh Wulfenbach), that she’s being hunted, and that she discovers her role as the last heir to a great mad-inventive legacy and you’ve got a character mired in a great bundle of internal and external conflict. Story developer Kaja Foglio further amps up the tension by adding in a third main character/love interest who competes with Gilgamesh (and has known him from the past when they were in school) and a coniving blonde cousin to Agatha who wants to kill her and take over as the fake Heterodyne heir.

The action is packed to the brim. The visuals, courtesy of Phil Foglio, are dynamic and fun. The inventions are mad and brilliant. And every Monday, Wednesday and Friday they post up the next page (which is not nearly enough for we true addicts of the Girl Genius). And every page ends with a fabulous hook that lures you on, keeps you addicted and makes you want to flip pages faster than a steam-powered airship engine could.

But what really makes it all hang together better than super rubber bands, is the inventive world the Foglio’s have created. It’s familiar (set in a Europe-like fascimile of the Victorian era) and yet it’s very otherworldly with airships, creatures and villians enough to make this a very bumpy ride for our characters. (Conflict is essential to good story-telling, btw.)

I first found Girl Genius when I was doing research on steampunk, because I didn’t really realize that’s what I’d been writing. I’d just been toodling along in my own story in my own little Victorian world.

The comic has ever page posted since Monday, Nov. 4, 2002. WARNING: These are addictive. And I mean that sincerely. I spent four to six hours a day for three days straight reading them all. I then had to invest in the entire series of comic books for my children who were reading them over my shoulder…once you drink of the genius tea, you will not be able to walk away. And if you wish to indulge, you have been amply forewarned (and encouraged). They are at www.girlgeniusonline.com (click on the comic to get to the latest installment. If you wish to start at the beginning click start and it’ll take you to where it all began.)

I adore Girl Genius because it’s smart and fun. I adore the characters because they are flawed and delightfully human (even if they are cartoons). There is romance and adventure as promised, and definitely lots of mad science. And I can’t wait to read their novel Agatha H. and the Airship City.

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