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Archive for the ‘Steampunk technology’ Category

61kc2VV+MoL__SL500_SX300_I’m intrigued when any writer blasts their characters out of the Victorian, or other historical era, and into outer space. Edgar Allan Poe did it with The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaallin in 1835, Jules Verne followed with The Earth To the Moon in 1865, and in 1901 H. G. Wells wrote The First Men In The Moon.  These Regency/Victorian/Edwardian tales offer great inspiration for modern steampunk writers. Jules Verne’s The Earth To The Moon was one of my greatest inspirations for Conquistadors In Outer Space.

1889I asked the authors of the new book 1889 Journey To the Moon, George Wier and Billy Kring, what inspired them to take their Steampunk story into outer space?

George: First of all, we really should have been in space (and I’m not talking about NASA or the ESA, I’m talking about ALL of us) a damn long time ago. All we’re doing here is correcting history’s big mistakes. What were those mistakes? Well, we let corporations, governments and bankers decide for us what mankind does–what his future is. You don’t believe me? Well guess what? What if Nikola Tesla had been allowed to finalize his experimentation in ambient free energy and give to the whole world wireless free energy? He was factually shut down by his “friends”. What if every single advance we’ve made in the past 150 years was not snatched up by corporate or government interests, patented, crated and put away in that hangar that comes at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark? I’ll tell you what, we would be REALLY free. We would be free of economic duress (“Come on honey, let’s forget about working and paying the mortgage and the light bill. We’re going to Arcturus”), we would be free of government suppression (“What border? You mean that imaginary line down there on the planet?”), and we would be free of corporate suppression (“I see IBM and GE stocks finally tanked.” “Oh? What are ‘stocks’?”). You see what I mean? This is the world we SHOULD live in. This is the world we were promised by our Founding Fathers. What happened to it? Well, from my point of view, it was: Industry, the Rise of the Banks and the Federal Reserve, Mechanization, Factories, World War I, World War II, the suppression of “Academics” who now “own” knowledge, etc., etc. What got lost? The family, true entreprenuership, innovation, art, style…all our dreams. No. Here’s the dream, as rough as it may seem. Much of it is contained in 1889. You have to read between the lines, but it’s there. Okay, that’s my short answer.

Billy: My inspiration came about because I wanted to create a sense of wonder and adventure in our readers like I felt the first time I read H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs and their space adventures; then we wanted to add some spice, with the characters and the twists and turns of a mystery to it, and all of it occurring in a steampunk universe (George’s idea!).  I thought that was a unique twist on the story. In a nutshell, I wanted readers to experience a fantastic adventure unlike anything they’d experienced before.

Maeve: Of course the next thing any writer thinks about when putting characters in outer space is world building. I kept the world building in Conquistadors In Outer Space simple  because the plot was so quirky, the concentration on the book is the relationship between the characters, and it’s short – a novella. So I pulled from the history of the DeSota North America expedition, the physical makeup of the eyes of some insects, and how to ride an ostrich, then I transferred that over to this alien planet with strange creatures and humanoid natives.

I asked Billy and George what they thought was the hardest thing about creating a Steampunk universe and what are the challenges and advantages of writing steampunk fiction?

GeorgeGeorge: I dunno. I don’t think it’s hard. Take a concept and run with it and let it live and breathe and think and it’ll start doing stuff all on its own. That’s kind of what happened with 1889.

For me the challenge is not to copy the Masters. You have to strike out in your own direction, and you have to be sure of yourself completely. After that, the world opens up and you can do anything, by which I mean…ANYTHING. There are no limits. You can alter time, speed up the harvest and teleport yourself off this rock. We did that with this book. Yeah. That’s the haps.

BillyBilly: I agree with George, writing 1889 was not hard in the sense of storyline, etc.  It practically pulled me along.  I guess if anything could come to mind, as far as being difficult, it would be that the way we wrote it made me wonder at times how I was going to proceed. And the way we wrote it was, one of us would take the story and write without talking to the other, then send it forward, and the other would start, using the same method.  That meant when either one of us received the manuscript again, there were always plot twists and unexpected happenings that made us (at least me), keep my game at a high level, so to speak.  No way to get lazy with these! So it was a little hard, but in a good way.

The challenge: Telling a unique story in a familiar universe.  The advantages: It frees the writer completely.

Maeve: I have never collaborated with other authors so my curiosity was aroused by George Wier and Billy Kring’s  collaboration of 1889 Journey To the Moon. I asked them what method did they you use for their collaboration?And if there was anything they took away from the experience that helped make them a better writer or the story a better story?

 George:  We emailed the book back and forth. I think I gave Billy the basic concept, told him in a general way where I wanted to go with it, wrote the first few pages, then handed it off to him. Whoa! Ten thousand or so words later it comes back. I read it with gusto and I was off like a shot–another 10-15k words, then back to Billy–20k words. I mean, whoa! Back and forth, back and forth. It was done within a few months. One of the fastest things I’ve ever done in my life.

The secret is to find the right collaborator. (Wink!) Okay, all kidding aside, you have to be able to have fun with the project. You also–and for some folks, this is going to be an extremely difficult concept–must be willing to put the thing in your partner’s hands for a given length of time, give them your blessing and let them run with it. I mean, really. Who would have thought? Trust? Another author? Trust them not to mess up your book? Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. It’s because it’s a c-o-l-l-a-b-o-r-a-t-i-o-n. It’s not just yours. You really, absolutely and unequivocably have to make sure they make it there’s! I can do that now, for sure. But really, you have to be able to do it even before you “know” for sure. Also, I took away from this experience a much broader horizon. I could have never, not once in a million years, come up with some of the characters, the situations, the description, the dialogue, and the concepts that Billy Kring came up with. The man’s a frickin’ genius. So I suppose the real (REAL) thing here is to find someone who is either better than you are, or is potentially better than you are. Yeah,  what I got out this collaboration with Billy is a new way of looking at things. Anything can happen–and will–in a steampunk adventure. There are no rules. That’s the truth.

Billy: What George said!

It helped that George and I were friends before we collaborated.  And he is the one who thought we would be a good writing match for the story.  He’s outstanding at looking at an idea from about five thousand different angles and seeing which way is best to proceed.  He was the leader in this from start to finish.  And I agree with him, we wanted to make it fun for each of us to write, and to trust each other.  That was a big thing for both of us.  The other thing that happened almost from the first, was the story became magic, and each of us couldn’t wait to get the story back from the other and read how our adventure was going. The energy from that was amazing.  George is one heck of a writer, too, and that made me give it my best.  Some of the passages he wrote were scenes I could never have written, would never have thought about going the way the took it, BUT, that is why it is so entertaining, too.  There are surprises throughout the story, and that will make readers happy.

EternalMaeve: Though I have several published books under the pen name of Cornelia Amiri, I only have two Stemapunk books, To Love A London Ghost and Conquistadors In Outer Space available now but I plan to release Brass Octopus and re-release As Timeless As Stone and As Timeless As Magic later this year.

I asked George and Billy what other published works they had and what was next for them?

George: Plenty. First there’s the Bill Travis Mysteries, a series of 8 books (so far) based in Austin, Texas. They are wild rides, all mystery commingled with action-adventure, and a little sci-fi occasionally thrown in. Additionally, there’s Long Fall From Heaven (Cinco Puntos Press, 2013), and various short stories.

The continuation of this series, with the sequel, 1899: Journey to Mars1904: Journey into Time, and 1909: Journey to Atlantis. That’s first. I’m currently working on 7 major projects contemporaneously, including the next two Bill Travis books, a sci-fi collaboration with Robert A. Taylor entitled The Vindicators 2: Parsec, a multi-layered, almost Neal Stephenson-esque blockbuster about the Austin legal community entitled Personal Injury, and a number of others. I would, however, like to specifically say something about 1899: Journey to Mars. If 1889 was fun (let me tell you, it was a total blast!) then 1899 is warp drive. The Tesla robot fighting the evil Westinghouse robots, the characters (many of whom you will recognize both from actual history and from fiction) interacting, walking and talking and shooting down vampire singleship spaceships. Wow. You’re all in for a treat. Hey, you asked.

Billy: Yes.  Two suspense novels in my Hunter Kincaid series, QUICK, and OUTLAW ROAD, and one romantic suspense novel, WHERE EVIL CANNOT ENTER (under B.G. Kring).  My other mystery/suspense series (The Ronny Baca series) will begin very soon with the release of  BACA.

To continue on our other books in the series, and write my other novels, as well as writing screenplays and acting.

Maeve: Before I left Billy Kring, and George Wier I asked them to describe their writing in three words.

George: “Hot and Heavy.”

Billy: Lean and mean.

Here’s the blurb : I’m back in a time that never was–it’s 1889, and eleven people are on a strange steam-powered spaceship to the Moon. Included in the crew are such unlikely passengers and crew as: Billy The Kid, Nikola Tesla, Jack The Ripper, a Sioux warrior out for the blood of George Armstrong Custer (who did not die at the Little Bighorn), a Cossack warrior-princess, a battery of robots, a half-man and half-cyborg engineer, a Punjabi mathematician and linguist, a big-game hunter from Africa, and the grandson of Blackbeard the Pirate, not to mention the genius who designed the ship. There are aliens on the Moon with evil intentions, the robots are wound a little too tightly, and no one knows that the Ripper is along for the ride except for the Londoner himself. What could possibly go wrong? 

Here are their calling cardsGeorge’s Facebook Author Page   FB page for 1889: Journey to the Moon  Twitter: @billtraviswrite  Wordpress: www.georgewier.wordpress.com Billy’s Links: www.billykring.com

~          ~          ~

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 at Comicpalooza in Houston this weekend please stop by her panels there.

 

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Jane Loudon

Jane Loudon

Jane Loudon’s novel, The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century was published anonymously as a trilogy in 1827, and again in 1828. It was the first book about a mummy brought back to life, a popular plot to this day. However, there’s a lot more to Loudon’s contribution to sci-fi. In the regency era, a time when the word sci-fi wasn’t even used, she understood what futuristic sci-fi was meant to be. She wrote of the future in a way no one had before. Instead of just taking her own time period and moving it into the future making few changes except for utopian or dystopian ones, she built an actual futuristic world with advanced technology, futuristic clothing, and a different type of government. Jane Loudon was the first sci-fi author to actually world build.

The gadgets in her future world all spring from the regency era when the high-end technology of the day was steam and balloons. Two of Loudon’s characters, Edwin and Dr. Entwerfen embark on an expedition to the tomb of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu), to shock him back to life with a galvanized battery. Their dialogue when leaving for Egypt and realizing they have too much baggage for the balloon touches on some of Loudon’s interesting futuristic inventions. She even envisioned a certain type of space flight as a fashionable mode of travel. Here’s a short excerpt:

“The cloaks are of asbestos and will be necessary to protect us from ignition, if we should encounter any electric matter in the clouds; and the hampers are filled with elastic plugs for our ears and noses, and tubes and barrels of common air, for us to breathe when we get beyond the common atmosphere of the earth. “

“But what occasion shall we have to go beyond it?”

“How can we do otherwise? Surely you don’t meant to travel the whole distance in the balloon? I thought of course, you would adopt the present fashionable mode of traveling, and after mounting the seventeen miles or thereabouts, which is necessary to get clear of the mundane attraction, to wait there till the turning of the globe should bring Egypt directly under our feet.”

“But it is not in the same latitude.”

Then the doctor explains the box he wants to bring on the balloon contains his portable galvanic battery and his apparatus for making and collecting the inflammable air. It also holds a machine for producing and concentrating quicksilver vapor – the power to propel them onward in place of steam. It even has laughing gas for the sole purpose of keeping up their spirits.

Another change in everyday life in the future is fast mail delivery. Letters are placed inside balls and fired from steam cannons. Every town and district have a woven wire suspended in the air as a net to catch the ball and a cannon to send it off again when the letters for that neighborhood are extracted. A smaller wooden ball with a hole in its side to making whizzing noise as it sails through the air is sent before each mail ball to alert people to keep out of the way.

Also Stage balloons are used to make fast deliveries. One of the characters receives a collection of ballads, at least three hundred years old, sent from London by stage balloon that morning. They are on rag paper since asbestos paper used in the 22nd century had only been invented for two hundred years.

Movable houses are another change in the future. One of the characters, Edric, sees a house slide out of place and glide along the road. A lady at the window blows a kiss to someone in another house as she passes by. When someone wants to go into the country for a few weeks they take their house with them, which saves the trouble of packing and allows everyone to have all their little conveniences about. There are grooves in the bottom of the houses that fit on the iron railways. Propelled by steam, they slide on without much trouble but it only works for small houses as large ones aren’t compact enough.

More futuristic marvels are feather-fans hung from the ceiling, circulating aeriform fluid. Also they use tubes in the houses to suck out stale air and bring the fresh air in. And the most stylish coats are made in a machine. At one end it strips the wool off a sheep, then weaves it so a ready to wear coat comes out at the other end of the machine. Also Bridges are movable and steam-powered to rotate in all directions and to adjust to whatever height is needed for the different waterways. Even streets are modernized, they are warmed by pipes of hot air so no one perishes of cold.

She envisions a lot of technological advancements in agriculture including a steam-powered lawnmower and a mechanical milking machine. Also when the sun doesn’t shine enough to make hay they use a burning glass to make it. When it doesn’t rain enough for the crops they use an electrical machine to draw down clouds to cause rain on the fields that need it.

She also shares a glimpse of futuristic fashion: “The ladies were all arrayed in loose trousers, over which hung drapery in graceful folds; and most of them carried on their heads streams of lighted gas forced by capillary tubes into plumes, fleurs-de-lis, or in short any form the wearer pleased; which jets de feu had an uncommonly chase and elegant effect.”

There are also political changes from the Regency era to the 22nd century. After undergoing a revolution, and even a period of democracy, England returns to an absolute monarchy but as a matriarchy. All rulers are queens and the candidates are single women of the royal family between the ages of 20 and 25. There is  a law that the queen cannot get married. In the towns, the men in the country 21 years on up, in groups of 10,000, choose a deputy to represent them in London. The queen is elected through the majority vote of these deputies.

The Mummy! 1828 2nd edition - title page

The Mummy! 1828 2nd edition – title page

The main characters in The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century come from two families with their eyes on the crown: the Montagues and the house of the Duke of Cornwall. The Montagues have two sons, Edmund, a national hero and Edric, an intellectual. The Duke of Cornwall’s family has two daughters Elvira and Rosabella, who are the next in line to the throne if anything happens to Queen Claudia. Edric’s father has arranged for him to marry Rosabella but he reuses. Edric is fascinated by the idea of reanimating the dead. His friend, Dr. Entwerfen tells him that since the ancient Egyptians believed the souls of their mummies were chained to them in a torpid state till the final day of judgment, there is every reason to believe that by employing so powerful an agent as a galvanic battery of fifty surgeon power re-animation may be produced. Edric is too squeamish to touch a dead corpse’s flesh but he’s willing to touch a mummy as it swathed in wrappings. He and Dr. Entwerfen go to Egypt and resurrect the mummy, Cheops. But the mummy runs out of the pyramid, hijacks their balloon, and flies back to England. When he flies over Queen Claudia’s coronation pageant, his balloon gets tangled up with all the other balloons crowding he sky. His balloon gets torn and falls to the earth landing on and killing Queen Claudia. The story continues with political intrigue, a secret birth father, and love triangles, all with a little help from the wise Pharaoh, Cheops, who has the most common sense and perception of anyone in the book.

The similarity between awakening the mummy and awakening Frankenstein back to life and the similarity of the two main male characters, hero and intellectual as in in Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, is no coincidence. Jane Loudon uses them as a parody to show her own view point. Her political, social and religious beliefs differ greatly form Mary Shelley’s.

I have to say it, Sci-fi readers and writers owe Jane Loudon and Mary Shelley so much. Frankenstein was written and first published in 1818, when Mary Wollstoncroft was only nineteen. Jane Webb wrote The mummy, a Tale of the 22nd century when she was 17 and it was published in 1827. H. G. Wells and Jules Verne didn’t write their first books for many years after this: Jules Verne’s – Five Weeks In A Balloon in 1863 and H. G. Wells – The Time Machine in 1895. Not only have women been reading and writing sci-fi for over two hundred years, the sci-fi genre wouldn’t be the same without them. The genre was pioneered by two teenage girls with very different views on politics and religion, both writing in the Regency era. I think that’s awesome.

 ~       ~        ~

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 next month in May at the Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention in New Orleans and at Comicpalooza in Houston.

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Toy Maker Workshop

Toy Maker Workshop

Even though the airship has just docked, I feel like I’m floating, so excited to be on the airship when it has flown across the pond. We’ve just arrived in England. I wave my hand enthusiastically, to artist, Doktor A. “Welcome aboard the airship.” I hike up my skirt and stretch my short legs in a leap across the wide gap between the dock and the airship. “Watch your step,” I call to Doktor A as he follows me into the parlor. I gesture towards the chenille armchair with claw feet. Doktor A sinks into the large cushioned chair.

Then I plop down onto the crimson settee across from him. Enthused, my heart’s racing like a toddler ready for her favorite story at bedtime as I plead, “Please tell us the story of

your Mechtorians.”

Elder

Elder

Doktor A nods his head and begins the tale. “It was during a Cricket match, one balmy afternoon in the summer of 1897, that Professor Maximillian Whistlecraft was informed of England’s forthcoming destruction. His friend and fellow tinkerer at the outer boundaries of science and engineering, one Herbert Wells, had just returned from a brief jaunt into the near future through the use of his Extraordinary Temporal Conveyancer, and had a shocking tale to relate. In only a few short years hence the green and pleasant land of good old Blighty would be overrun by a dastardly Martian invasion force, the likes of which could barely be comprehended. As part of the invasion, Herbert had witnessed the razing of his friend’s own residence near Horsell Common and had hastened at the earliest opportunity to warn the good fellow to the impending danger.” Doktor A raises his voice to speak over the clang and grind of the airship as we take off.

Amnesia

Amnesia

Self Made Man

Self Made Man

“Professor Whistlecraft had several years to make safe his home and family before the interplanetary scourge descended. He considered simply moving house, but could not bare to pass his doom to another poor unsuspecting soul. And from this initial conviction he vowed to save not just himself but the whole of the English populace. He concluded the best way to achieve this was not to engage the wretched invaders in battle but simply move everybody out of their way.” As he continues the story, Doktor A grabs the armrests with both hands, while the airship lifts off.

“Luckily his previous scientific researches and engineering dabblings had uncovered a way to instantaneously move objects and persons from one place to another. He concluded that with a Translation Engine of a suitable size and power he might move everything in England out of harms way. He consulted books, talked with eminent Astronomers, Geologists and Botanists and decided that the best destination would be a small blue green planet circling a star at the edges of the visible galaxy. He was assured this would be a world much like the Earth we know, but with the additional bonus that due to a peculiarity of its orbit it would have two tea-times.

He realized that he could not expect the good people of England to abandon all they knew for some strange new world on the strength of a single man’s word, no matter how honorable the gentleman. So he concluded that a mechanized workforce should be sent ahead to build all that the future inhabitants would expect of a decent English society, in order to ease their transition.

Shutterburg

Shutterburg

To this end he re-fitted a number of his automated servants, built some new ones and gave them all careful instructions on what to do at their destination. He also tutored his mechanical creations in methods to create more like themselves, to fit whatever purpose was required of them. He sent them off on the eve of the new century to build a new Empire among the stars and await his arrival.

He never came.

Two hundred years later they have never known the fate of their creator and his people. But they go on doing what he instructed. Building a bigger and better and more decent society for all Mechtorians and for all those who may, some day, still arrive.”

“I love that.” I have to ask does this

Asphyx Engine

Asphyx Engine

small blue green planet circling a star at the edges of the visible galaxy exist in your head from time to time, do you find yourself thinking about some of the Mechtorians you’ve created, do you wonder about what they’re up to?”

“I never stop thinking about Mechtorians. They are always alive in the back of my head. Their daily going on ticking away moment by moment. Sometimes they interrupt my life in ways that lead to new ideas for artworks.”

The dainty china cups cease rattling on the tea table as our airship glides smoothly pass the clouds. “What happened to Professor Maximillian Whistlecraft? He worked so hard to set up this wonderful world on another planet so all his fellow Englishmen could be saved.” I pick up the teapot and pour my guest a cup of Earl Grey. “Do you have any idea of his fate and that of his fellow countrymen?”

Lilies On Stage

Lilies On Stage

“The Martian invasion was famously unsuccessful so the plan to relocate everyone to a new home became redundant.” Doktor A reaches out to take the cup of tea resting on its saucer. “I suspect the professor may have received a knock to the head at some point during an escape from a Martian war machine or something and this made him forget what he had set in motion…or possibly the transmat machine in his studio was destroyed in the last days of the invasion thus making travel to the new homeward impossible. Good job it wasn’t needed after all.” He takes a sip of steamy tea then sets it and its saucer on the tea table.

“I love the names you’ve given your characters, such as Montague Grimshaw, Amnesia Primm, and Baron Von Bosch, as well as the bios you’ve created about each one. I know this is a difficult question to answer, but which character is your favorite?”

“I don’t have any favorites really. I like many different characters for different aspects. Some of the earlier ones like Stephan LePodd I think I may never match in their surrealness. Others like “The Self Made Man” or “Harry K. Nidd” represent leaps in technical achievement for me so become important milestones in my body of work.” Doktor A reaches between the plate of sliced lemons and the spouted creamer of milk to the sugar bowl. Picking up a white cube, he plunks it into his tea.

Perambulator

Mr. Pumfrey and his Astounding Mechanized Perambulator

“Please tell us more about one of your newest toys, Mr. Pumfrey and his Astounding Mechanized Perambulator. What is the inspiration behind it? What does Mr. Pumfrey actually do with his Mechanized Peramblator?” I brim my teacup full and as the tendrils of steam rise, I take a dainty sip.

“The origins of the toy came from two roots. I did a painting called “Mr. Pumfrey takes a Midnight Jaunt”. Which had a small fellow riding a large tripodic type machine with worm like tentacles in the front of it. Later I did an ink drawing which was a bit of a riff on one of Jeff Soto’s infamous walkers. The drawing became a small run print edition for Dragon Con in Atlanta. Munky King toys in L.A contacted me to see if I was interested in producing an art-toy with them. They were particularly interested in doing some sort of robot driving another robot. I showed them the drawing and they loved it so I drew up some blueprints to make it possible as a three-dimensional object.” Doktor A picks up a silver spoon and dipping it into his teacup, swishes it side to side. “The original painting had the tag line ‘Mr. Pumfrey is looking for a wife. Anyone’s wife will do!’ so you may attach sinister connotations to that…Mr. Pumfrey may be up to no good.”

“Oh my, that does sound quite sinister. It would be a great opening line for a book.” I lift my teacup from the blue willow saucer as the aromatic scent of Earl Grey billows around me. “I have found such strong similarities in the way visual artist and literary artist think and work though the mediums seem so different. Have you ever put your characters and stories into a literary form or do you have any desire to do so in the future?”

Blackwood

Blackwood

“I haven’t really intended to do that, however each character has their own small biography written about them and over the years (I started making them in 2005) the back stories have cross referenced each other and woven a quite intricate patchwork picture of life in Retropolis. Maybe someone will one day take those snippets and expand them into a more formal narrative.”

“You work in different art mediums: drawing, painting, sculpture and toys, in 2D, and 3D art. What challenges do you find in working with such different mediums and what is your favorite medium to work in?”

“I get bored easily doing one thing all the time to like to switch things out now and then by working in different mediums. It keeps things interesting for me. I feel most at home doing dimensional work. I was trained as an Industrial Modelmaker, so this sort of think is what I feel I do best.” Doktor A lifts and tilts his teacup to his lips as he takes a long sip.

Harry Full Door

Harry Full Door

“How young were you when you first became involved in models or in art?” I take a long swallow of my tea, savoring the taste.

“The first thing I can recall sculpting was a Zygon from Doctor Who, in Plasticene when I was about 5 years old. I have always made models and robots and monsters.”

“Did model making and art always run together for you in some way or was there a period of time in which you went from model or toy maker to artist?” I set my cup back on it’s saucer on the tea table with a soft clink.

“I don’t see the difference. I do what I have always done. It’s just now other people call what I do Art.”

Maxwell & Hugo

Maxwell & Hugo

“Speaking of art and your art, it’s amazing how many brilliant artists in the Steampunk community are drawn to unusual mediums for their serious art such as snow globes and water globes, stained glass, dolls, and in your case toys.” Picking up a slice of lemon, I breathe in the sunny, citrus scent as I squeeze a drop of its juice into my cup. I slip the yellow slice into the light brown tea. “What drew you to the medium of toys to create whimsical yet serious art?”

“I was trained as an Industrial Modelmaker. I worked in the mainstream toy world for many years as a “Ble-sky” designer and prototyper for the big toy companies. I have always loved and collected toys and models. It was a natural outlet for my artistic leanings and one which, luckily for myself, has in recent years been accepted as a legitimate art form.” With his tea now cooled, Doktor A took a generous sip.

Bella Snow Standoff

Bella Snow Standoff

“Do you usually sketch your art out before beginning your sculptures, paintings and toys? What is your creative process?”

“My characters are generated in one of three ways. I either come up with the written biography of the character and then work out what they look like in rough sketches or ink drawings and then build them. Or I sketch a character and then start to piece together the physical sculpture, all the time altering and refining, at this stage the personality of the piece starts determining their story. Or I find a particular item or piece of junk which inspires the whole creation, look, story and all.”

“It’s always interesting to learn about the artistic procesess for different artist. What about an artist notebook, do you use one to sketch ideas at odd moments of the day or night?”

“My sketchbooks are a mess. Nothing like finished drawings. Just thinking on paper. Notes and snippets to remind myself of ideas, or scratchy little diagrams working out ways to physically achieve something.. They are not really meant for other people’s eyes.” He sets his teacup on it’s saucer on the tea table.

“Sounds a lot like my rough drafts.” I lean forward. “This may be hard to answer but in each piece of your art work, especially in your 3D work, sculptures and toys, you are able to convey an emotion people can connect with, do you have any idea how you do that?”

“No idea. I think it’s the Japanese Shinto philosophy that says an artist or craftsman puts a little piece of their soul into each thing they make…that’s the nearest I can come to an answer.” With his forearms on the cushioned armrest, Doktor A leans back, getting comfortable.

“I fully agree with that philosophy.” I drink the last of my tea. “For any artist interested in taking their art in a toy direction what advice would you give them?”

“These days I would say do it yourself. Teach yourself how to make silicone rubber moulds and cast in resins and make some toys yourself. Show them around. Put them online, photos on social media sites and the resins on Etsy or Ebay. Take a booth at a convention like Designer Con in L.A. or Dragon Con in Atlanta and shout about what you do… and keep doing it, a lot! It’s the only way to get better at it. Show your work to toy companies, if they like it you may get something produced by one. But self made toys are just as legitimate these days as company produced pieces. The art-toy world is a very “grass roots” type of place. If you are good you will find an audience. If you are not good, then stick with it until you are good.”

“Great advise.” I set my teacup on the table. “Since this is Steamed, I have to ask, do you read Steampunk fiction and if so what are some of your favorite books or authors?”

“Not really. I have read H.G.Wells etc of course. I read “The Difference Engine” when it was originally published. Other than that it’s only really the “Larklight” trilogy which I actually picked up on the strength of the illustrations. Although does Hellboy count?”

“Hell yes, Hellboy counts.” I couldn’t resist that little play on words.” I lace my fingers together and rest them on my lap. “What are somethings you’d like to say to your fans and prospective fans about your art?”

“I am jolly pleased and perpetually thankful that what I do resonates with so many people. It’s because of the support of my collectors that I can do what I do in a full time capacity. I hope each new thing I create makes people all over the world smile. And that some of the pieces make the odd person stop and think about the ways we see and do things in today’s “society”.

I hear rattling and clinking. I glance at the tea table and see the cups and saucers shaking. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for three short questions. “When you’re not creating art what is your favorite leisure activity?”

“I don’t have much time for leisurely activities. I watch movies when I can. I occasionally take time off making my model robots to relax by making a model robot (or monster) kit from someone else…Hmmmmm?”
Doktor A grasps hold of the armrests, bracing for the shaky landing.

“That makes sense, since that’s what you love to do. Let’s go from leisure to another favorite activity of mine, eating. You’re from England but you come to the states fairly often for shows. When in America, what is your favorite American style food?”

“That would be Root Beer. You can’t get it in the UK. Not the real, good, small brewery stuff.”

“Perhaps I should have served root beer rather than tea. Next time I’ll know.” I hold on to one arm of the setae as we dock again. “What workshops, convention appearances or shows do you have coming up?”

“Monsters & Misfits III on September 13th – 26th, and Circus Posterus Group Show at the Kusakabe Folk Museum in Takayama, Japan. Also feel free to click here for all show and event information.

Though Doktor A must go, he has left calling cards for us.

website

Online store http://www.spookypop.bigcartel.com/
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~                                           

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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1860RickettSteamCarriage_zpsf033c0ee

As promised last month, meet another piece of historical Steampunk technology: The Rickett Carriage. This steam-powered car was made in 1860 by Thomas Rickett, a Castle Foundry manager in Buckingham. His impressive work with steam engines inspired the Marquess of Stafford to order a steam carriage. It had a maximum speed of 19mph. Here is how Wikipedia describes it:

This vehicle had three wheels, the single wheel at the front, and a rear-mounted coal-fired boiler and two-cylinder engine. The boiler pressure was 110 psi, and the cylinders had a bore of 76 mm and stroke of 178 mm. Transmission was by chain to the right-hand rear wheel. A maximum speed of 19 mph was claimed. A boilerman was seated at the rear, and three passengers could sit side by side at the front with the one on the right operating a tiller steering and the regulator, reversing lever and brake. The wheels had iron “tyres”, with the brakes operating on the rear wheels.

Rickett made a second model with a slightly different style for an Earl who used the car to drive an astounding 146 miles in Scotland!

Historically, the machine was short-lived and not terribly many sold, even for the low, low price of £200, but in my novel, Nickie Nick the Vampire Hunter reads about them in the paper and even sees one for herself!

This magnificent machine made it into my teen paranormal romance novel in a chapter called “Nickie Nick Sees a Rickett.” My description of a Rickett in The Zombies of Mesmer:

The alley was quiet this time when I emerged, and the smell of the blood was fading in the freshly falling snow. I went up to the mouth of the alley and stood just out of the light from the nearby gaslamp. The night had barely begun and the streets were rather busy with carriages and full of the sounds of clopping hoofbeats. My mind went back to the beautiful stranger. Where had he come from? Where had he gone to? One hears stories about how something very bad could be happening in an alleyway just adjacent a very busy street, but no one comes to help. I found that hard to believe before tonight.

Yet he had come to help. He had probably saved Conrad’s life.

And he knew vampires existed, that was a definite benefit.

Then the strangest contraption caught my eye. It was a carriage without a horse, clattering down the street with the rest of the carriages. Being the daughter of industrialists, I certainly was not ignorant of modern machinery. After all, mother and father had some quite impressive steam machines that facilitated production in their textile factory. Even Franklin himself came up with truly ingenious inventions just from assembling junk and such, but this was like nothing I had ever seen up close. It looked every bit like a carriage, only instead of four wheels, it only had three, two large ones in back and a smaller one in front. From the large back wheels, chains ran from gears on the wheels to other gears extending from an axle beneath the carriage’s floor. A man sat on the right, fully dressed for the evening in a top hat and fine overcoat, holding onto the steering rod with his left hand and another lever with his right. A woman wrapped in a fur stole and earmuffs sat beside him.

Stepping up to get a closer look as the thing puttered by, I saw that there was a mechanism beneath the carriage floor that turned the gears, which in turn, turned the wheels. I stooped down to get a look of the thing from beneath, but it had already passed. There on the back sat the engine. It looked like a coal boiler and a long pipe extending up from it belched out steam.

“Interesting, no? A far cry from a penny-farthing,” a smooth voice above me said. I stood up quickly to find that it was none other than my beautiful stranger.

“Yes. It is a Rickett Carriage. I read about them, but I have never seen one before. Simply amazing,” I responded calmly, although some rather large fluttery things had taken up residence in my stomach.

“You read, do you? Also interesting. This evening is just full of surprises, is it not, Nick?”

“How do you know my name.” It came out as a whisper, for I was breathless. He filled my world. It was as if all of London fell away from my vision, and there was only him. Black eyes twinkling in the gaslight. One side of his cinnamon lips curled up in a half-smile. Pale skin covered in soot and jaw-hugging sideburns. I shivered, and it was not the cold December night that caused it.

“Your friend said it before. It is beneficial to pay attention to the details in life, don’t you find? I am called Ashe.” He offered a gloved hand. “We were not properly introduced before.”

I took his hand and gave it a manly shake, which was not too difficult with my new strength.

“Strong, too, for such a young lad,” he said, putting his hand back in his pocket.

I felt my brows furrow at this. He thought me a boy, and a kid at that. I was no kid. I was The Protector, after all.

“I’m not all that young.” I deepened my voice perhaps a little too much. My cheeks suddenly felt very hot and flushed, so I turned my face into the cold wind and let the snowflakes cool my no-doubt-rosy-cheeks down. “Bet I’m as old as you.”

Great. That sounded quite mature, Nicole.

“Do you now?” he said. “Thought I told you to stay safe and inside. This is no place for children. Where is your friend. Is he all right?”

I bit my lip to stop from scolding this infuriating man, and I turned back to him, ready to do so anyway. As soon as I caught his eyes again, however, I was unable to speak. Literally. The ability to form words completely escaped me.

Read the rest of the Chapter, or even more of the book, for free on my blog, Caught in the Cogs, or get your very own copy from Amazon.

Return again in two weeks to learn more about real history in fiction.

-_Q

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-_Q

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

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

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I have a special treat for everyone today, and I don’t mean the drop of whiskey I put in the tea, Camryn Forrest has boarded the airship today. She is a Steampunk artist, who works with  the enchanting, whimsical and technical art of water globes and snow globes. We take our seats on the crimson settee in the parlor just in time for tea. The engine purrs for take off.

Airship One

Airship One

“Camryn, we’re so pleased to have you aboard the Steamed airship today. Your Steampunk globes are fascinating. Why did you choose this particular art?” I lean toward her. “What draws you to water globes and snow globes?”

 “I am drawn to small items. As a child, I made my own dollhouse furniture – carving little legs for my chairs, making a clay bird in a wire cage, covering tiny books with strips of leather and painting titles on the bindings. Over the years, I’ve collected tiny chairs, souvenir buildings, bone china animals, Micro Machines, Little Kiddles and painted lead soldiers. I loved Hot Wheels and anything small enough to be in a vending machine. Once, I helped my mother with a dollhouse, embroidering tiny bits of cloth for bedspreads and framing postage stamps for wall art. My father use to pour and cast his own toy soldiers and I helped with the tiniest painting details.

Birdcage Gramaphone

Birdcage Gramaphone

A family member repairs and makes snow globes, which has always fascinated me. I always looked for them at fine arts shows, and never saw any. Not a one.  I’m not a pink and purple Disney princess kind of person. I longed for snow globes made for grownups, with the quality and depth of the artwork I loved from other artists. I wanted to see snow globes that made me think and feel the way I do about other art.

Rough Sailing

Rough Sailing

So I took my love for tiny things and my appreciation of snow globes and put them together. It wasn’t easy … I knew I didn’t want ‘snow’ – the crushed white pieces in most snow globes – so I thought it would be cool to use tiny watch gears as glitter. Well, it doesn’t work. I kept that first test globe and the metal gears have disintegrated into a little pile of rust. Shake it and you see nothing but brown.

I had no idea about the types of objects and items which could handle submersion in liquid. There was no guidebook. So it’s been a labor of love, trial and error. I’ve talked to guys at the hardware store about sealants. I’ve tested items for weeks, letting them sit in liquid. The family snow globe repairman, who I sometimes call my snow globe engineer, is my patient mentor. His do’s and don’ts are invaluable. From seeing the workings of hundreds of broken globes he’s fixed, he knows what will work and what won’t. He lets me know when I head too far down the wrong path. You can torture me all you want, but I’m not giving up his name – at his request.”

“Oh, no, dear, I wouldn’t think of it, here on Steamed, we reserve torture for enemies of the Queen, but a snow globe engineer, I like the sound of that, whimsical and technical, heavy and light, just the way I like my steampunk. Speaking of which, why Steampunk?” I poured a cup of tea and offered it to her.

“I love the contradiction of steampunk and snow globes. One of the first times I told anyone what I was doing, he said ‘That doesn’t make any sense. Those two things do not go together.’ And that egged me on: I loved the challenge of proving it could work.” Camryn took a sip of tea then set the saucer on the round, marble top coffee table.

“An early comment that stuck  with me, about my first series, came from another friend. In a puzzled voice she told me, ‘They are so masculine.’ I took it as a compliment. I love the contrast of machinery and hardware, and the dark colors of steampunk metals and rich wood in a snow globe, an object that is often sweet and cloying, pink and pretty. I wanted power, not pretty.

I don’t consider myself purely a steampunk artist. I’ve thought about it every which way, and the truth is my notebooks of sketches and designs for snow globes precede my awareness of the Steampunk movement, which is fairly recent. (Here is where I must give credit to two people who brought Steampunk to my attention, John S. and Max G., who are much hipper than I will ever be, introduced me to the genre.) The first time I saw something called Steampunk, I felt a huge connection. Steampunk appealed to me in a deja vu kind of way; it made so much sense to me. I felt at home. The craftsmanship, the appreciation of detail, the willingness to take the time to make something by hand … it all calls to my sensibilities.

Raygun Shaken

Raygun Shaken

On the other hand, I was already making artwork that looks like the work I do now, long before the term “steampunk” entered my experience. I admit that I’m very influenced by Steampunk icons and images –  obviously I would not likely have airships and ray guns otherwise – but some of my work, such as the Escheresque staircases, and the glass heart series, are simply sculptures I wanted to make, regardless of the style. Steampunk purists, if there is such a thing, can argue amongst themselves what makes artwork steampunk or not. I’ve been called a Steampunk tourist, and I accept that with a chuckle. I’m grateful the steampunk “natives” allow some of us to visit their world now and then, and soak up the culture. When I contribute, it’s my own vision, and if someone appreciates it, I’m glad, but I would have made it either way; that’s how my mind works.”

“Believe me, when I look at these globes I see you, their creator, more as a tour guide then a tourist. They are Stempunk to me. In my opinion your passion to contribute your own vision is the essence of Steampunk.” I dropped two sugar cubes into my cup and stirred. “A lot of work must go into making your vision real. How long does it take you to create a Steampunk water globe or snow globe?”

Camryn leaned against the velvet cushioned back of the settee. “You can measure that two ways: how long it would take to make a snow globe if I knew exactly what I was going to make, and how long it takes when I go through trial and error, mixing different elements, sculpting/molding/remolding pieces to the right size and shape, and getting distracted, leaving pieces half-done to work on something else. The simplest answer is, I might produce one completed snow globe every two weeks.

Uncharted Skies

Uncharted Skies

Last spring, I wanted to make a metallic hot air balloon — not much more than an inch tall. I worked on this concept for several months. I made balloon shapes too large to fit in a globe or too ornate or too simple. They just didn’t look right. I wanted a feeling of adventure, not a circus ad. Finally one day I completed two balloons that came out well. Then I went through another process to decide what to put below the balloons. One has a wire basket, with more nautical details such as an anchor and ship’s wheel. The other is a tiny clay sailing ship with metal sails. Then, I installed the balloon sculptures with each raised a little. One is carried on wispy tendrils, intentionally vague – they might be ocean waves or they might be the tentacles of a sea creature reaching up. The other has cloud-like shapes below the ship. So those globes, from start to finish, took all spring – several months. I hope the next time I’m inspired to make a hot air balloon, I’ll be able to use what I have learned to streamline the process a little, but I don’t know.

Circular Logic

Circular Logic

I timed myself once, to answer the question, ‘how long does it take?’ Another globe, Circular Logic is basically a Ferris Wheel-inspired curious invention of spinning gears. The entire family went away for a weekend and I stayed on task with that one sculpture, working 18 hours with almost no breaks to complete the intricate machine. With no one home to tell me it was time to go to bed or I should eat,  I kept working on it, having a great time. I survived on Mountain Dew and pretzels. That gives you an idea of the range of time I will spend on any one globe. Usually I’ve got five or six sculptures partially begun and will work a little here, a little there, so it’s hard to know how long any one can take.

Love Complicated

Love Complicated

I rub my lips together. “My next question may be as difficult to answer as how long does it take. Which is of all your wonderful creations, which globe is your favorite?”

“Tough question, it depends on my mood. I thought Love, It’s Complicated and the Always heart were very simple and beautiful. Deadline featured a tiny antique typewriter, which is one of my favorite items, and now belongs to a former journalist, so I have great memories of that one.  It has a lot of details, such as copy editor’s notes and a message hammered into metal “paper” curling out from the typewriter platen, that only the owner can see now, making it cool in its own way. Ray Gun One was a challenge to myself to make a believable raygun, and it always makes me smile.

Rain Gear

Rain Gear

But actions probably speak louder than words. The only one I have on my desk, is Rain Gear. I absolutely LOVE the jaunty little step from my headless robot stomping in rain puddles. I am intrigued that a pair of metal galoshes can project emotion. So I can babble all day about which ones I love, but Rain Gear is the only one I’ve kept for myself so far.

Snow Globe Array

Snow Globe Array

I glance at some of her snow globes , arranged on the crisp white table cloth on the round table at the side of the settee. “Rain Gear is  intriguing. Actually, they are all incredible, but as a writer the one you just described, Deadline, fascinates me. Speaking of writing, when any author looks at your globes, I’m sure your creations trigger a slew of story premises and plots. I just have to ask you the question always asked of writers, how do you come up with your ideas?”

“I am both a writer and a visual artist, and while I have occasionally dealt with writers’ block, so far I have never had artist’s block. Case in point: by just writing the phrase ‘artist’s block’ I thought of a way to illustrate that in a globe, maybe with a cube with six different archetypes shaken like a die. Perhaps a Magic Eight Ball for creative types. But I digress …)

Images and ideas tumble around my brain like a shaken snow globe, whirling and spinning, balancing precariously atop one another. One weird thing is, I keep notebooks where I dash off snow globe ideas as they come to me, sketch little scenes, capture a pun to name the globes, but I rarely go back and look at the past ideas. When I’m in the workshop, the materials themselves suggest new shapes and landscapes.

I recently got up at about 3 or 4 a.m. whirling with ideas I wanted to capture and I spent an hour or so dashing them on paper. Then I turned the page BACK to see the previous entry and it said ‘Drink deeply from the stars.’ I don’t know what I was going for with that phrase, but I want to ponder it and make it real.

There are so many snow globes I’d like to make. I will get inspired by a word I hear, or a shape, a shadow, a snippet of a song or the way someone repeats a phrase. The nose of an Elmer’s glue container, the little orange cap, inspired one of my first airship sculptures.  I ‘saw’ the glue bottle for the first time, clearly, and thought, ‘that’s the nose of a zeppelin.’ I have no idea where that thought came from; I’d only seen Elmer’s Glue a thousand times before. That flash of inspiration prompted me to sculpt a shape that would pass for an airship.

Any small thing can capture my attention, such as a piece of twisted metal in the street, a broken toy, the way a stack of coffee stirrers is displayed at a shop. I love wandering through hardware stores, looking at random pieces of plumbing pipe, nuts and bolts, repair kits for garbage disposals. Recently, the back of my office chair fell off. Instead of inspecting the damage to the chair or putting it back together, I spotted a strange gear that had come loose, and thought, ‘Where can I can more of these?’

Shoes Your Weapon

Shoes Your Weapon

I am also a word person. Words can start a chain-reaction of images in my brain. When I heard the old Gene Autry song, I began to mentally sketch a man climbing down a ladder through a manhole opening into a dark and murky place. Back in The Sad-Hole.

I love verbal and visual puns, such as Shoes Your Weapon – which is a cannon made from a Victorian laced-up boot. I’m working on one called Too big for his bridges. I love merging words and shapes, and twisting tired clichés so they are fresh. I crack myself up, and I pretty much create everything selfishly because it inspires or amuses me. The ideas bombard me constantly. I’ll be reading a book (Cloud Atlas, at the moment) and suddenly I’m reaching for my notebook to capture a passing thought.”

I pick up my porcelain cup and take another sip of sweet, warm tea. “I can feel your creative energy as your talking. Exhilarating. Speaking of globes sure to inspire writers, your airship voyager water globe is another work of art sure to trigger story ideas.

Airship Voyager

Airship Voyager

I blame a writer named StoshK for that one. StoshK wrote a short, complimentary blog about my snow globes and included a note that I should realize more airship snow globes were needed – just a little joke in the article. But, it stuck with me for some reason, in a positive way.

Then, a museum asked for several pieces for a special exhibition, and one was my original airship StoshK liked, which had sold. I couldn’t get the original back to be loaned for the museum exhibit, so I thought, ‘well, I’ll just make a new one.’

The new airship refused to be a duplicate of the first. It felt darker and richer, and I wanted it to be more powerful in a way. I wanted the ship to have gone places, done things, survived hardships, led adventures.  I had seen Steampunk images of great airships carrying sailing ships below a zeppelin and dismissed them as too intricate for something as small as a snow globe. And as I sat in the workshop trying to remake the first airship, I kept creeping toward the idea of a sailing ship below.  It just felt right to go that direction.

I loved the idea of taking a ‘ship in a bottle’ and making it an airship in a bottle (snow globe), both balance and contradiction. Once the idea got stuck in my head, the only way to release it was to make it real. I  worked on it until I solved all the technical problems that made it seem impossible.  When I look at Airship Voyager now, I am sure it has been places and seen things, it feels real to me.”

Point of View

Point of View

After setting the cup back on its saucer, I clasped my hands together. “It’s incredible, I love it. You mentioned your interest in phrases such as ‘point of view’ and your globe by that name is pure genius. An incredible piece of art. I can’t imagine the time and  work that went in to creating such a marvel. I often find life is like climbing a staircase sideways. Then, when you turn the globe upside down or on its side you get a different view. It’s like several globes in one. I could look at it all day.”

“I’m glad you mentioned Point of View.  It’s a departure from what most consider pure Steampunk – but again, I make what interests me and try not to edit myself by sticking with a single style. I’ve always loved Escher, but I didn’t set out to make that globe consciously as a tribute. It snuck up on me. While working on a tiny Plexiglas escalator for a postponed project called Reincarnation, I briefly set the stair sculpture on its side. Suddenly, looking at the stairs from a different direction, reality shifted sideways. I realized the stairs went up,  down, and sideways depending on where I placed the figures.

Crossroads

Crossroads

From there, I was obsessed for a while, with Point of View and a similar globe, called Corporate Ladder (I may be the only person who finds the idea hilarious.) Then I put a family of fishermen on a criss-crossed stairway, and added poles, and called it Fishing the Black Hole as the fishing lines broke different planes in the design.

But my favorite in  the series is Not a level playing field in which I put football players into Escher’s uneven, gravity-defying world, and had the wide receiver at one angle, the quarterback throwing into hyperspace, and would-be tacklers reaching into a new dimension. I think I’ll go back to that idea again sometime, because it was fascinating to realize in a snow globe, I am in charge of the law of gravity. It’s a heavy responsibility, running around breaking the laws of physics.

I’m working on a new stairway series now, but instead of plexiglas, I am using old computer circuit boards to make the stairs – still with little figures breaking the plane of perception and ignoring the laws of gravity. It has a ‘Tron’ feeling to it, being inside the machine. I always sensed  little figures inside my laptop ran around retrieving files and saving my work, so I am comforted to see them.”

I shift one arm to my side, while resting he other on my lap. “Speaking of breaking the laws of physics, I have to ask you about Tesla.  I love that you appreciate his scientific work for its artistic quality as well as its contributions to modern day life and our future. What artistic qualities do you see in his inventions?”

Tesla Coil Copper

Tesla Coil Copper

The shapes used in Tesla’s inventions and machines are so beautiful. They are meaningful to scientists, but even if they produced nothing, I would be inspired. I love his wrapped copper coils and the visible bursts of light and energy. The proportions of the upright Tesla coil are like a man-made flower, a blossom of energy. I’m drawn to the straight lines, the encircled columns and the unpredictable element of electricity. The copper and brass is stunning. Simply beautiful. He blended symmetry and balanced assymetry in an unspeakably gorgeous and inspiring way.

I think, at some place beyond my understanding, Tesla’s work tapped into the very nature of the universe. In the way that an insect’s wings or a cross-section of a tree or the Grand Canyon is perfect, there is something perfect about the shape of Tesla’s inventions, pared down the essence of what works.

Tesla Mends A Broken Heart

Tesla Mends A Broken Heart

I shut my eyes a moment as I think about it. “Art and science merged as one. Incredible.” Blinking my eyes open, I see the tea cups are rattling on the coffee tale. I know what that means, the airship is landing. I lean forward and ask Camryn my last question. “What water globes and snow globes are you working on now?”

“I’ve been toying with one called I Love Sho, an homage to footwear, which I seem to collect in real life. The interior has about a dozen tiny shoes in an abstract sculpture: boots, heels, slip-ons … it’s just something fun, and I’m addicted to visual puns.

I also just combined the horn of a tiny gramophone with a glass heart. In contrast to some of my intricate sculptures, it is simple and yet very appealing. I had a long and complicated title for it, but then I shorted it to one word, Listen. When I look at it, I get a pang. It will be hard to part with it.

On a lighter note, I am working on rocket ships and space themes. I have a rocket ship going into a black hole and another with a decked-out Steampunk flying saucer hovering over what might be the moon. I wanted to make a special globe for TeslaCon, with rows of flying saucers at a drive-in movie, watching ‘Trip to the Moon’ (the 1902 movie), with the rocket-in-the-moon’s eye image popping off the screen in 3D. I’ll do it someday, but I couldn’t work out the technical details yet. The drive-in screen was only about ¾” wide, for example, which gave me about a half inch for the rocket. But it will happen in some form. It’s too appealing not to try.

A recent breakthrough for me is the double-tiered globe. I made the first one for a display for the Sacramento Steampunk Society, after an inspiring conversation with one of the members, Doug Hack (perhaps better known as Alexander Watt Babbage.) The water globe sits above a columned base and has liquid-filled pieces as well as air-filled space in the tier below. By breaking the plane of the glass globe, and continuing the design into the open space, it opens a new frontier for my work.”

“The airship has landed, drawing the interview to a close. But before you go back to your studio, I want to share your calling card with all our readers.”

http://camrynforrest.com/
Camryn Forrest Designs

Also five of her  pieces are on display at the Glass Museum in Sandwich,MA, from November 19 to December 30, 2012, as part of a special event on the history of snow globes.

Readers if you have any questions are comments on Camryn and her globes, please post them below.

Maeve Alpin

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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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