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stoneagearchitecturalEspecially for my friends who are in the cold snowy parts of the world, while I am here in Hawai’i suffering with a fan on to keep my room cool enough to sleep in… 😀

A quote from Godey’s Lady’s Book 1870 –

“A fireplace goes farther than anything else in giving to a room character and beauty. Every parlor, dining-room, and nursery, at least, should have one. In the cool weather of spring and fall, when the morning and evening air is a little sharp, or when a long cold rain-storm is making everything damp, moist, and uncomfortable, there is nothing more delightful, both for old and young, than a brisk fire upon an open hearth. With what beautiful rosy light and a gentle warmth, it fills a room, and how it laughs and dances and seems to say to every one, ‘be glad with me!’ And then, aside from its home-like beauty and good cheer, the depressing chills and miasma, the floating seeds of disease, will be seized by its friendly flames and whirled up the chimney before they have time to lay a finger on us.” – Sarah J. Hale

nadeausauctionWhat does a fireplace bring to a room in a novel. Do they gravitate toward it for warmth? Do they need the light to decipher a strange message? Perhaps they need to burn a document or piece of evidence?

Is it a stately marble creation with grand designs? Is there a dent in the copper plating? Would it benefit from some cleaning? What does that tell you about the occupants of the house?

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timemachine1Dickens On The Strand was earlier this month. It included a holiday parades of pirates, fellow Steampunkers, choirs of carolers, beggars, a host of other memorable Victorian characters and also the suffragettes. This picture of me next to H. G. Wells’ time machine as I’m wearing my Votes for Women sash is fitting. I went back in time on the strand as I marched with the Victorian suffragettes in the parade.

We sung: All I want for Christmas is the right to vote The right to vote The right to vote All I want for Christmas is the right to vote So I can govern my existence

votesMarching as a suffragette was a blast but the real suffragette movement was serious business and a long hard fight. Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage in 1897. The movement began with peaceful protest arguing that if women had to pay taxes they had the right to vote.

But because Fawcett’s progress through peaceful protests was slow, a lawyer, Richard Pankhurst, his wife, Emmeline, and daughter, Christabel, made a fresh attempt to gain the vote for women and formed the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903. They pursued civil disobedience for the cause. Suffragettes protested by chaining themselves to railings and eventually by smashing windows.

As you make your New Year resolutions tomorrow, think about these brave women of the suffragettes movement who resolved to gain us the vote and did so, both Suffragettes in England and also in America. They gave us a great gift, the opportunity to vote.

Consider adding a suffragette sash to your Steampunk costume. I’m going to continue to wear mine. Also consider making one of your Steampunk characters a suffragette – it worked well for Mrs. Banks in Disney’s Marry Poppins film.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 24 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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newspapers In my search for things to do during the winter months, I encountered and interesting note to Victorian housekeepers. So for our Steampunk folks, here are some tips on how to reuse your newspapers… just like they did way back when..

Peterson’s Magazine 1890

USES FOR OLD PAPERS. – Most housekeepers know how invaluable newspapers are for packing away the winter clothing, the printing-ink acting as a defiance to the stoutest moth, some housewives think, as successfully as camphor or tar paper. For this reason, newspapers are invaluable under the carpet, laid over the regular carpet-paper. The most valuable quality of newspapers in the kitchen, however, is their ability to keep out the air. It is well known that ice, completely enveloped in newspapers so that all air is shut out, will keep a longer time than under other conditions; and that a pitcher of ice-water wrapped in a newspaper, with the ends of the paper twisted together to exclude the air, will remain all night in any room in midsummer, with scarcely any perceptible melting of the ice. These facts should be utilized oftener than they are in the care of the sick at night. In freezing ice-cream, when the ice is scarce, pack the freezer only three-quarters full of ice and salt, and finish with newspapers, and the difference in the tie of freezing and quality of the cream is not perceptible from the result where the freezer is packed full of ice. After removing the dasher, it is better to cork up the cream and cover it tightly with a packing of newspapers than to use more ice. The newspapers retain the cold already in the ice better than a packing of cracked ice and salt, which must have crevices to admit the air.

so… let me know if you try any of these and how they work.

Keep in mind that modern day inks are different. If you choose to try these out please be VERY careful if you use newspapers around food. Be careful… Be safe…

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1883More on activities for cold winter nights! There are two activities detailed in this section of Peterson’s Magazine 1883 – December edition.

The first may look familiar… In my childhood we called it Telephone… but when I think about it now, Telephone wasn’t a good name for the game… after all who whispers to another person on the telephone… strange but true. The Victorian name for the game seems to fit the activity better!

CHRISTMAS GAMES.

CONFIDENCES is a capital game in its way. One lady whispers a remark to her neighbor about someone present. She would say, perhaps: “Young Mr. jones was coming home from a party last night, and lost his way in the fog, and had to leave his carriage, and walk home with two boys carrying lanterns.” And this is whispered hurriedly from person to person round the circle, and the amusing part of it is to discover how the story has become altered by being passed on in this manner.

Many games are played entirely for the amusement of children, and only joined in by the elders with that object. It is not always easy at the moment to hit upon something to please children, other than romping-games, such as “Post,” Blind Man’s Buff,” “Puss in the Corner,” “Hide and Seek,” “Magic Music,” “Oranges and Lemons,” “Throwing the Handkerchief,” etc. But these games, although very well for the nursery or for the play-room on a wet day, or for the garden on a summer’s day, occasion a good deal of noise when played in a drawing-room. Children are apt to become rough and quarrelsome when these boisterous games are indulged in for any length of time, and parents generally prefer to see their children amused and interested in a quieter way. “Shadows is a good game where with to amuse children, but it is best to play it in the school-room or in the dining room. The plan is to fix a linen sheet across the room, and to place a lamp on the floor behind it; the actors dance and perform a sort of pantomime, with much gesticulation and many quaint antics, and the shadows thus formed on the sheet are a source of great delight to the young spectators.

What games would your characters play on a snowy evening when kept indoors? Could you play these games in the public rooms on an airship? Hmmm… what do you think?

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childrenFirst, my apologies for my disappearing act. It was not my wish. Diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome in both my hands, I have done my best to recover the full use of my hands, but still have bouts of pain and I can’t feel my fingertips. So, I owe you folks posts.. and I will make them… just horribly late. So very sorry for the wait. – Raye

Since this is the winter, hopefully of much content for all of you… I wanted to post about Victorian Era entertainments and crafts. Hoping that if you do end up with some ‘snow days’ you might have something to occupy your time in a Steampunk way!

Peterson’s Magazine – 1865

PARLOR GAMES.
FOX and GEESE. – There must be an even number of players in this game, and a circle is to be formed standing two by two, so that those who are on the outside have each one person in front of them; these are called the Geese, and there must be some space left between the couples, to allow the one who is chased to run in and out of the circle. Two must be left out, one a Goose, and the other the Fox.

The Fox is to catch the Goose not belonging to the circle, who can run around the circle and also within it, which the Fox cannot be allowed to do; but when the Goose, who is pursued, places himself before one of the couples composing the circle, there will necessarily be three in the row, and as this is against the rule, the outside one of that three immediately becomes liable to be caught instead of the other, and must endeavor to avoid the pursuit of the Fox by darting within the circle and placing himself before some one of the players.

It is the object of the Fox to catch the player who makes the third one of a row and it is the object of each Goose to avoid the third place. The Fox can only catch the Goose as he stands the third in a row, or before he succeeds in escaping to a place of safety. If the Goose is touched by the Fox while in the position of third one in a row, or if touched in passing from this third place to one of safety, he becomes the Fox instead, and the other becomes the Goose again. It will be observed that the amusement of this game will depend upon the spirit and animation with which it is conducted. Great rapidity of movement is necessary.

While I was reading/typing out the instructions, it struck me that the game was still around when I was in school. Back then (in the 80s) we called it Safety Tag and played it in the school yard during PE Class.

Would this game occupy children in the common room of an airship? In a village in a remote part of the world after a long voyage? Aboard a submarine to entertain the families of crew?

What kinds of games would children in your stories play on long winter days/nights?

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paperbeadsI have some great friends.. old friends, but we won’t get into ‘how’ old… ’cause I’m NOT telling! Anywho, this old friend gave a beautiful necklace a long time ago made of paper beads.

Recently as I was talking to him about this series of posts he brought up the beads. His grandmother had made them as a child and had learned the craft from her mother, so he knew it was from the ‘right’ era. A little searching on the net brings up a love link for those who would like to make the beads for themselves.

Guide to Making Paper Beads

So here’s the crazy thought…

I’m one of those that sees crafts made of old books… and I wince. I love the idea of recycling, but I hate the idea that writing from another era might be lost forever when the book is consumed by the craft…

But, if you’re a writer (and most of us are) why not make these beads with your printed drafts?

Now, I know the concern may be someone opening up all the beads to read your work, but that’s a lot of unrolling… so don’t do it with your printed drafts if you’re worried, but I think it might be a nice way to recycle… or use those left over scrapbook papers!

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Florence_Stoker

Florence Balcombe Stoker

If you don’t have access to ShowTime and you’ve been wondering what Penny Dreadful is all about, let me clue you in. I enjoy the show and recommend it. Ethan Chandler a Wild Bill Cody type is hired by Sir Malcolm Murray and Vanessa Ives to find and rescue his daughter, Mina Hunter, kidnapped by Dracula. Dr. Frankenstein teams up with them as well. And Dorian Gray is added to the mix.

This is my third post for Halloween month, October, so it’s Bram Stoker and Dracula’s turn. It is not a proven fact but it has been reported by many Stoker biographers that he died of syphilis. It was a disease that plagued many in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. When dracula attacks someone he infects them with vampirism and it’s easy to see the possible connection with a disease like syphilis. It’s not hard to discern his guilt and concern over possibly infecting his wife and also in being unfaithful to a woman he loved. Bram Stoker married actress Florence Balcombe in 1878. She’d previously been engaged to Oscar Wilde. From all accounts they had a strong marriage and shared a deep love for each other. We can see those intense emotions in Jonathan’s feelings for Mina.

Bram Stoker

Some interesting tidbits on Bram Stoker s he was  Irish, while Dracula is Eastern European For that reason, you may not have noticed the author’s Celtic roots showing in the story but I assure you they are there. It is said he actually wrote his first draft of Dracula while he was a guest at Slains. The Slain castle in Aberdeenshire Scotland is often considered an inspiration for Dracula’s castle in the book.

On his mother’s side Bram Stoker happened to be a direct descendent of ’Manus O’Donnell (Manus ‘the Magnificent. He was an Irish clan leader who led a rebellion against Henry VIII in the 16th century. Bram Stoker drew on his lineage to write of a man with a great past as a warrior and ruler now displaced by the passage of history, living in the shadows, in other words it is also the story of Bram Stoker’s ancestry.

It has been said that as a little boy in Ireland Bram Stoker’s mother often told him stories including horror stories. They must have included Irish folk lore.There are many tales of dark vampiric fey in Celtic mythology. These dark fey are often extremely beautiful and seductive. The vampiric fey, the baobhan sith,  always roamed together as sisters. In Dracula, Bram Stoker’s description of the three sisters in the vampire’s castle seems similar to dark Celtic fey.

Two were dark, and had high aquiline noses, like the Count, and great dark, piercing eyes that seemed to be almost red when contrasted with the pale yellow moon. The other was fair, as fair as can be, with great wavy masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires. I seemed somehow to know her face, and to know it in connection with some dreamy fear, but I could not recollect at the moment how or where. All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips. It is not good to note this down, lest some day it should meet Mina’s eyes and cause her pain; but it is the truth. They whispered together, and then they all three laughed—such a silvery, musical laugh, but as hard as though the sound never could have come through the softness of human lips. It was like the intolerable, tingling sweetness of water-glasses when played on by a cunning hand. The fair girl shook her head coquettishly, and the other two urged her on. One said:—

“Go on! You are first, and we shall follow; yours is the right to begin.” The other added:—

“He is young and strong; there are kisses for us all.”

Because authors Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, and Oscar Wilde pulled deep from within and wrote emotion and human pain into their stories we can connect with the horrors they created. We feel what the monsters feel. We can see bits of ourselves in these monsters …and that is what makes them scariest of all.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 22 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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At Apollo Con I attended the Amusements and Diversions in the Age of Steam – Magic Lantern show – by fantasy artist, Theresa Mather.

She showed us a photographic history of Victorian entertainment and oddities A popular fair attraction In the mid 19th century was the platform carousel with a circular floor rotating around a pole in it’s center and operated manually or by ponies. The carousel went steamed in 1861. Thomas Bradshaw created the first steam-powered mechanical carousel, (I call them Merry-Go-Rounds). That carousel and others of it’s day spun much faster than modern ones. It’s a wonder people were able to hold onto the horses during the ride. it was a thrill ride of it’s day. A high-point of early fairground art was the elaborate decorations created by Italian designers and craftsmen imported at the showmen’s expense and they even included lavish center organs.

The first Steampowered carousel inspired Frederick Savage to try his hand at making similar machines using the expertise at his agricultural engineering works at Kings Lynn.Savage’s first steam powered ride was a bycle carousel, the Velocipede. Savage also competed with several manufacturers to try to make carousel horses gallop and created their first platform galloper in 1885. The same year Messrs Reynolds and King designed the overhead crank system. By the end of the 19th century crank-action gallopers were a popular ride. The steam engine connected to a spinning top that in turn linked to the platform.One  variant used galloping cockerels rather than horses.

In 1880 the partnership of Frederick Savage and William Sanger gave birth to another novelty ride, Sea on Land. Replicas of seafaring vessels were pitched and tossed by mechanisms beneath their hulls. Then a patent taken in 1888 introduced the Steam Yachts the ultimate mechanized swing ride. William Cartwright of Bromwich first succeeded in building a set using upright cylinders. The Steam Yacht rides used huge boats able to carry 20 or more people at a time.They even named the ships after giant ocean-going liners like the Lusitania, Mauritania. Cymric, and Celtic, although Olympia and Titanic proved short lived names..These rides were gorgeous in full swing as the boats had lavishly painted bottoms.

Savage also created the Razzle Dazzle ride, with seats and an outter wall it tilted side to side as it spun around. By 1885 Savage made the ride Tunnel Railways, a locomotive pulled carriages on a circular track with a tunnel. Frederick Savage enjoyed prominence as the pioneer of the steam roundabout but several engineering firms  along with some amateurs. Robert Tidman of Norwich, Thomas Walker of Tewkesbury and William Howcroft, of Hartlepool, all emerged as competitive manufacturers of steam powered rides by the 1880s.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

 

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We recently had a fun event in Houston for the local Steampunk community. The Brass Ball, a DJed dance with multiple musicians and vendors was held Sunday July 27 at Mimms Martini and Wine bar on Montrose. You can see photos of the Brass Ball here in the blog post.

This event had me thinking about Houston saloons in the 19th century. The main choice of drink in the saloon was whiskey, also called rotgut, sheep-dip, cactus juice, coffin varnish, and tarantula juice. In those days cowboys and western gents could partake of more than just a drink in a saloon. In 1839, a local Houston, Texas newspaper decried the town’s houses of ill repute. The newspaper was probably either The Houston Morning Star, a daily newspaper founded April 8, 1839, or the Telegraph and Texas Register, a weekly newspaper that included local, state, and national news, established July 10, 1839. The Houston Morning Star was actually printed in the office of the Telegraph and Texas Register.

In Houston Land of the Big Rich the author, Geroge Fuerman, statesbrass ball 2 that from 1880 to World War I Houston’s vice area was on old Howard Street. In the early 1900’s the brothels in Houston used a practical bookkeeping system based on towels. One was given to each customer and at the end of the night the madam counted the brass ball 5towels and paid the girls accordingly. There’s a story about a Howard street brothel in those days that caught on fire. The madam fled the burning house by taking the outside stairs but when she looked up she saw the porter jump form a second story window with his arms loaded with towels. She exclaimed, “Thank God. He saved the books.”

I did find some saloon information from other Texas towns. In the early 1870s in Lampasas Texas a gunfight broke out in the saloon between state police and outlaws. Three officers were shot to death in the saloon and a fourth was fatally wounded while trying to escape.

There’s even a Texas saloon story involving Jesse James. The brass ball 9outlaw lived for a time in the area of Granbury Texas. He fell in love with an 18 year old saloon girl and began to settle down. In those days if a saloon patron was upstairs with a saloon girl when his wife came to drag him home, the barkeep would send the man down the husband escape, which was the outside stairs. The saloon girl Jesse loved had to run down the husband escape one night but she wasn’t fast enough to escape a bullet in her back. Some people say the saloon girl still haunts the empty up stair rooms around the square in Granbury.

I’m glad to report the Brass Ball at Mims was old fashioned fun and great music without any wild west shenanigans or shootouts but there were some card tricks.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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A few years ago, at the beginning of another NANOWRIMO insanity laced journey, I took a look in a Steampunk Thread on one of the message boards.

“What is Steampunk?” Someone asked.

“A story set in a time period when they used Steam Power.” Was an answer.

“OMG,” replied someone else, “so you can’t use electricity?!”

I think I still have a scar on my forehead from the impromptu head-meet-desk reaction.

So today, I thought  I’d share a couple of fun FYI videos I found online.

Are there better videos out there? Sure… but I thought these two served a purpose.

1. How Steam creates Electricity in Four Steps

2. A Steam Turbine video produced in England in the 1940s. Simple, Easy, & Quick.

Hope you’ll enjoy viewing these short videos…

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I recently worked a temp job where my co-workers sent a group email once a week when the food trucks came to the area. Everyone was always so excited about lunch on those days. It was the one time they all went to lunch together. In a large group they’d walk over to where the food trucks parked to try out the different ones. Some of the most popular food trucks in Houston, where I live are Yummy’z Kitchen serving American classics, the waffle bus with their gourmet waffle sandwiches, and FoodGasm offering everything from burgers and lobster rolls to wings and waffles and deep-fried Oreos. I love the food trucks that come to the Houston Highland Games each year where I get cultural delicacies such as haggis, bangers and mash, and scotch eggs and Irn – Bru to wash it all down. I haven’t got my granddaughter to try haggis yet but I did get her to each a scotch egg. She loved it. And everyone loves food trucks. Here are some great photos of actual Steampunk food trucks. It might surprise you to know food trucks aren’t new. And, yes, they go back to Victorian times. They were called lunch wagons then.

In 1887, Walter Scott, a Rhode Island pressman at the Providence Journal, made extra money selling homemade sandwiches and coffee he carried in baskets to co-workers. This little side business did so well Scott upgraded to a horse-drawn wagon with walk up windows on each side. There, he served fresh sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, sweet pies, and steaming coffee. Scott’s customers, these late night regulars and shift workers, were the rough and rowdy kind. He often had to hold their hats as collateral until they paid for their sandwiches.  Sometimes he even had to collect  payment with a club. It seems selling sandwiches in the Victorian age wasn’t for the faint of heart.  Still, his business boomed. Soon copy cat lunch wagons popped up giving him some local competition.

A Massachusetts wagon owner,  T.H. Buckley, discovered building lunch cars was more profitable than operating them. Commercial production of lunch wagons began.  The leading advantage of Buckley’s design, No. 22,743, Patented Aug. 22, 1893, was a series of windows extending  around the wagon and a door on either side of the wagon. The row of windows in the upper portion of the wagon body added a light and airy appearance. Buckley’s wagons also had large wheels to maneuver over the cobblestones, overhangs to keep patrons out of the rain, decorative murals, frosted glass and shiny fixtures, as well as ice boxes and cook-stoves.

The united States post Office honored these early lunch wagons with a 29 cent Lunch Wagon stamp issued on April, 12, 1991.

Food Time Line is a great source for 19th century foodways for Steampunk stories – authentic saloon menus are even listed and a recipe for a pioneer birthday cake as well as Queen Victoria’s favorite foods. Also click here for some great Lunch Wagon images.

If you enjoy eating at food trucks keep that in mind when writing stories set in the 19th century. Have your characters stop by a food wagon or create a character who owns a food wagon.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space, which is as crazy and as entertaining as it sounds. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Maeve Alpin will be making several appearances this month at the Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention in New Orleans and at Comicpalooza in Houston.

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

space

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for what the ship looks like and the layout?

Hmmmm….I don’t know.

Maybe I need to watch Firefly for inspiration. Again.


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

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Today, November 6,  is a historical day. On this day, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States. Then, one year later, on this same date, November 6, in 1861,  Jefferson Davis became president of the Confederate States of America. So what better day to mention a part of actual Civil War history that would work well with Steampunk? I’m speaking of the Balloon Corp, also known as the Aeronautics Department.

Would you like to ride in my Union Corp balloon
Would you like to ride in my Union Corp balloon
We could float above the war together, you and I
For we can fly, we can fly

What could be more Steampunk than a balloon air force? This innovative department fell under the command of Professor Thaddeus Sobieski Coulincourt Lowe. The balloon corp soon led to the creation of the first aircraft carrier. Chief Aeronaut, Lowe, had a coal barge converted by covering the hull with a flat deck for inflating and launching balloons. Also the first aerial telegram ever sent was from one of the balloons to President Lincoln. In a demonstration for the President, while Lowe flew his balloon, the Enterprise, over the armory lawn across the street from the White house, he sent Lincoln a telegram, describing the aerial-view of Washington D C. All of this also led to the invention of a portable gas generating device that could be used anywhere. Professor Thaddeus Lowe invented a copper-lined wooden tank, mounted on a wagon filled with water and iron filings. When sulfuric acid was added, lighter-than-air hydrogen gas was produced. That hydrogen was then fed through a hose to a cooler before pumping it into the balloon. So the balloons could be inflated near any battlefield. The horse-drawn wagons were large and rectangular, each weighting about 1,000 pounds. They built twelve of these wagons to service the balloons.

That is one of the great things about Lowe as a Steampunk character or secondary character, he was not only a famous aeronaut, he was quite a scientist. The portable gas generators that filled his balloons and the compression ice machine that introduced “artificial” ice to the world are among his inventions. He’ was also known to be quite a showman and he wrote his own memoirs, Memoirs of Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, Chief of the Aeronautic Corps of the Army of the United States During the Civil War: My Balloons in Peace and War.

Maeve-with a confederate solder’s gun at a historic reenactment area at Dickens On The Strand in Galveston TX
“Give me your silk dresses or I’ll shoot.”

Not to be outdone, the Confederates made their own balloons. In 1862, 21-year-old, confederate  Captain, John Randolph Bryan piloted a hot-air balloon near Yorktown, Virginia. They inflated the balloon with the heat and smoke of burning pine knots soaked in turpentine. However, the hot air quickly cooled and grew denser so the South’s flights were of short duration. In the summer of that year, 1862, the Confederates got there own gas balloon. Known as the “Silk Dress Balloon”, it was a patchwork affair. Here is a link to view the fabric from one of the confederate balloons.

Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, in a letter published in Century magazine, wrote: “We longed for the balloons that poverty denied us. A genius arose for the occasion and suggested that we send out and gather together all the silk dresses in the Confederacy and make a balloon. It was done, and soon we had a great patchwork ship of many and varied hues.” It turns out this  fanciful tale was not true. The Silk Dress Balloon was sewn together from 40-feet of  purchased, multicolored dress silks. Inflated with city gas and moved to desired locations by railroad, the balloon made several flights A second dress silk balloon was constructed that summer and remained in operation until it was lost during the siege of Charleston. The rebels inability to generate gas in the field was their balloon corp’s biggest obstacle.

Another Steampunk vibe to the Balloon Corp is a slight Zeppelin connection. Ferdinand Von Zeppelin came to the U.S. in 1863, during the civil war, as an official observer of  Union troops in Northern Virginia. Before he returned home, he wanted to see more of the U. S.  He journeyed to New York City,  then up the Hudson, and across the state on the Erie Canal, then across the Great Lakes and out into Minnesota. There, he met  John Steiner, one of Lowe’s aeronauts, who had returned to his pre-war occupation of an exhibition balloonist. As Zeppelin flew with him, Steiner shared his dream of a navigable airship. The count credited the experience with marking the beginning of his own interest in aeronautics.

Please feel free to leave comments or questions.

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Maeve Alpin, who also write as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 published books. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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Maeve Alpin at the Weird West Fest booth at Space City Con 2013

Maeve Alpin at the Weird West Fest booth at Space City Con 2013

Who doesn’t love a good western romance, add Steampunk to the mix and you have a real winner. AMC’s hot T. V. show, Hell On Wheels, is now in it’s third season, set during the Victoria era at the end of the Civil War. Cullen Bohannon is it’s tall, dark bad boy hero, played by Anson Mount. Many women consider him one of their favorite male characters on TV. The popularity of this show leaves no doubt that 19th century American men, in well fitting jeans and well worn cowboy boots, make hot heroes. There are great westerns like Hell on Wheels and there are also great westernpunk shows.

The greatest example of a  westernpunk television show is The Wild Wild West. All the 19th century high tech spy gadgetry made it Steampunk. Even though James West and Artemus Gordon didn’t fly on an airship, they lived in the luxury compartment of a steam powered train.

Nineteenth century locomotives were bigger than life with huge grills in front and towering smoke billowing out. Their long, powerful iron bodies were adorned with decorative brass, gleaming in the hot western sun as they cut across the wild, spacious west. They emitted an orchestra of musical sounds, including the steam whistle and the chuffing noise of the train. All of these things add to the ambiance and settings of Westernpunk stories.

There are several western states Steampunk stories are set in, Texas is one.  As a Texan I can say lots of weird, fantastic, and strange things occurred in Texas in the 19th century and are great inspiration for Westernpunk tales. You may not know but it was a Texan, Jacob Brodbeck, who built and flew the first flying machine. The first take off occurred in 1866 in Gillespie County, Texas. It ran off a powerful clockwork motor and a series of gears. This large motor didn’t build up enough power for the airplane to take off on its own. Brodbeck built a ski-jump type ramp on the side of a hill near Fredericksburg, he’d take his flying machine to the top of it, and as it gained speed sliding down he’d start the motor. He could fly for three or four minutes with power, then he’d glide to a landing.

Comicpalooza 2013

Comicpalooza 2013

Another weird piece of Texas history is the alien UFO crash of 1897 which took place in Aurora Texas.  A cigar-shaped UFO plowed though a windmill, destroying it. The good folk of Aurora discovered a space alien inside, who died upon impact. They gave him a Christian burial. Someone stole the space alien’s tombstone but the state of Texas erected a historical marker at the cemetery, which reads, “This site is also well known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash was buried here.”

The Dallas Morning News printed the story and it can be read online. It stated an airship hit the tower of Judge Proter’s windmill, blew into pieces in a terrific explosion scattering parts of the UFO over several acres, wrecking the windmill and water tank, and destroying the Judge’s flower garden. The pilot, the only one in the spaceship, died upon impact and though his body was badly disfigured it was evident he was not an inhabitant of this world. That sighting and crash was part of the airship scare of 1896, in which UFOs of similar descriptions were reported throughout the U.S. including in Ohio, Iowa, Texas, Arkansas, and California.DSCN0372

Also Texas was its own country for a while, with its own president and its own money. Texas wanted to join the U.S. but what if it didn’t? What if Texas stayed a country? As for that idea, think of all those places in the U. S. originally owned by Spain and France. It reminds me of the Steampunk book, The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming.

Then there’s the shoot-em-up wild west. Would the addition of Steampunk weapons make it more lawless or less?  Obviously it would depend on who had the biggest, baddest guns. What if Native Americans had high-tech weaponry?

DSCN0531As you can see the American west makes as good a setting for Steampunk as Victorian London does. Cherie Priest (Boneshaker) and Devon Monk (Dead Iron) have had great success with using the west for their Steampunk takes. For a Steampunk romance with a hot, western bad boy, I recommend Wilder’s Mate by Moira Rogers, it’s a fun, steamy westernpunk read. Please leave comments on westernpunk romances or western romances that you’ve enjoyed and recommend.

~                                             

Maeve Alpin, who also write as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 18 published romances. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter and her cat, Severus.

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With the Victorians’ fascination with death and mourning, ghosts blend in so well with Steampunk stories. When I think of ghost, I often think of a haunted Victorian mansion, lit by candlelight or flickering gas lights, secret passage ways draped with cobwebs, slits cut in the eyes of a potrait  where someone or something spies on the gents and ladies in the grand manor.

DEBUNKING:

The first thing all ghost hunters do is try to find logical causes for reported paranormal activity.

  • Animals:

Look for small, furry, scurrying creatures. Sneaky varmints like mice are good at hiding. They cause strange noises and knock things down without being seen. Victorian London had a lot of mice and rats and such. Also ghostly noises in walls, attics, and basements are often caused by varmits of some type.

  • Houses:

Victorian homes had hardwood floors which cause house popping noises to often sound like phantom footsteps. Also air trapped in water pipes cause loud banging at random times. Doors opening or closing by themselves can be attributed to a house which has a good seal. Opening or closing an exterior door can create suction, so an interior door will move when the exterior door moves. Having two or more windows open can have the same effect on interior doors. Also if a gush of wind enters through one window and exits through another, the reduced air pressure may cause doors to open or close.

  • Food, Drink…Sunspot:

Cynical or logical Victorians often cited sunspot and strong drink as causes of ghost sightings.  In Dickens’ The Christmas Carol, Scrooge questioned if the ghostly vissage of Jacob Marley was caused by what he’d eaten earlier that day. “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are.”

Victorian Ghost

Victorian Ghost – Aetherfest

  • Modern:

Compass – The simplest piece, which fits in perfectly with Steampunk. During any type of paranormal activity, a compass will spin wildly.

KII Meters – read electromagnetic fields. If the meter spikes on these small, handheld devices, it reflects a change in the magnetic field, which along with other evidence can give proof to paranormal activity.

Mel Meters – measure both EMF and temperature. They allow paranormal investigators to record the temperature right where it’s at. After Gary Galka lost his oldest daughter Melisa, in a car accident, he created the Mel meter, named after her, to communicate with her after death as it helped his healing process. The model numbers in the Mel-8704 are the year of her birth and the year of her passing.

Recording Devices – to pick up EVP, electronic voice phenomena (White Noise). EVP began in the 1950’s when Fredrich Jurgenson, a bird watcher and retired opera singer, recorded bird calls near his home in  Switzerland on a reel to reel. When he listened to the tapes he heard voices on them, though no one else had been there. An ancient Viking burial ground happened to exist in the area he recorded at. After discovering this he continued EVP research and wrote the book, Voices From the Universe.

  • Victorian & Steampunk Alternatives:

Recording Devicesto pick up EVP prior to 1950:

Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville – invented the phonautograph in 1860 –Records Sound, but Doesn’t Reproduce It  – you’d have to fix that in your story.

Thomas Edison invented the Phonograph,  1877 when he made his first sound recordings on sheets of tinfoil. In 1888, he developed a solid wax cylinder record.

Victorian Ghost Hunting Gear:

Ectoplasm Kit – In the Victorian era, ectoplasm was defined as a substance exuded from a medium while in a trance. Ectoplasm formulated into the shape of the spirit the medium was in touch with at the time. Ghost hunters carried a collecting set and chemistry equipment to gather and test any ectoplasm.

Electroscope –  Electroscopes, which pick up static electricity have been around for centuries and could have been used in placce of an  EMF meter, which along with other evidence could prove paranormal activity.

Victorian Ghosts - Comicpalooza 2013

Victorian Ghosts – Comicpalooza 2013

Victorian alternatives to communicating with the dead:

Seances – Engrossed in spiritualism and Gothic novels, many Victorians, haunted by ghost, held table rapping séances

Ouija Board – a popular board game, patened in 1890 http://www.museumoftalkingboards.com/WebOuija.html

Steampunk Ghost Hunting:

Steampunk Ghost Hunting Gear

Steampunk Ghostly Tales

And last but not least – GHOSTLY STEAMPUNK READS:

4105jhfVChL__The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker
by Leanna Renee Hieber

There is no unusual machinery in the story so I would not call it steampunk but still if you like steampunk you will like it. It’s set in Victoria England in London and involves ghost and gods. The characters are strong and haunting. It is a strangley beautiful paranormal/romance that I loved and I highly recommend it.

untitledGhost by Gaslight – edited by Jack Dann & Nick Gevers

This collection of seventeen Steampunk ghost stories, one has mummies, is outstanding. The authors are representative of some of the best speculative fiction authors of our modern time. It offers quite a variety of superb steampunk ghost stores. There is something for everyone in this anthology and you will be sure to claim a few as your favorite steampunk short stories. I loved it.

ToLoveALondonGhost_200To Love A London Ghost by Maeve Alpin

When Queen Victoria orders Sexton Dukenfield, premiere phantom hunter, to track down England’s missing ghost he stumbles into Ceridwen, a phantom warrior woman of an ancient Celtic tribe. Not only does he find her intriguing as a piece of the puzzle of the missing spirits, but he’s also haunted by her sultry sensuality. Though they both burn with desire, it’s difficult to quench their fiery passion since Ceridwen is so translucent. Every time Sexton touches her, his hands pass through her misty body. On a mission through the bustling narrow streets of London, to a dreary match factory, and even to the Otherworld and back, to stop a genius scientist and his phantasm debilitater machine, the ghost and the ghost hunter also seek the secret to freeing the boundaries of life and death.

If you live in Houston Texas, I wanted to share that I will be at one of my favorite haunts this weekend, Space City Con. Friday night, 08/02/13, I’m presenting a Steampunk Ghost Hunting panel from 7pm – 8:30pm. Please drop by if you can.

~

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 18 published books, including four Steampunk Romances. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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