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Archive for the ‘Machines’ Category

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.

   ~          ~         ~

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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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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two of our tour guides dressed the part

two of our tour guides dressed the part

42nd airborne battalion at the Houston Maritime Museum

42nd Airborne battalion at the Houston Maritime Museum

Recently with the help of the Steampunk group, the 42nd Airship Battalion, I organized an outing to the Houston Maritime museum. The tour included over 150 model ship exhibits, spanning the age of exploration to the modern merchant marines and several models of steam powered ships from the Victorian age. As you can see from the photos we all had an amazing time.

Steampunk outing at the Maritime Museum

Steampunk outing at the Maritime Museum

The museum exhibits included models of steam paddle ships. Riverboats conjure images of fun and adventure and are therefore a perfect setting for a Steampunk story. Paddle boats were highly popular in the 18thcentury for navigating well in shallow waters as well as up river against fierce currents. Prior to the development of the railways they were a favorite ways to travel. The interiors of the antebellum riverboats were luxurious with elaborate crystal chandeliers, lush hand carved furniture, oriental rugs, and so much more.  Of course one needs drama and trauma in any novel and there is plenty of opportunity for that on a steam paddle ship.

at the Houston Maritime Museum

at the Houston Maritime Museum

Fire is always s a great disaster for fiction. At the museum I learned the double steam stacks towered so high to keep sparks as far away from the wood boat as possible. Still sometimes an ember would hit the ship. Wood and paint are highly flammable so fire, panic, and catastrophe would ensue. If you want something even more dramatic, the boilers sometimes exploded in a huge, ear splitting, blast of fire and smoke, resulting in the deaths of many passengers and leaving even more injured.  Body parts were literary blown off.  In 1830 the US Congress funded research to end boiler explosions. Here is a website that even list River Boat demise with the reason and year of the loss.

The museum also had an exhibit on the Texas Navy which served the Republic of Texas when it stood as a separate country from 1836 into 1845 after gaining independence from Mexico. The idea of combing the wild west with Victorian nautical influences thrilled my muse. You can see more of these valiant fighting men in tiny but feisty ships on this youtube video.

To me the most important Victorian submarine was the Plongeur, simply because when Jules Verne saw it at the Exposition Universelle in 1867, it served as his inspiration for the Nautilus. However, the museum’s model of and news clipping about the confederate submarine the H. L. Hunley intrigued me. This combat submarine, named after its inventor Horace Lawson Hunley, was the first sub to sink an enemy warship. However, the Hunley itself sunk three times in its short career. The second time it sunk, Horace Lawson Hunley was among one of the men who drowned. After the Hunley’s successful attack on the screw sloop, the USS Housatonic the sub sank for unknown reasons and was lost.

Speaking of the confederacy and the U.S Civil war the museum included models of the ironclad ships, the rebel Merrimac and the union Monitor. Ironclads refer to steam powered warships of that era, protected by iron or steel armor plates. By the end of the U. S. civil war the Union was building triple turreted ironclads with twenty inch mounted guns. By the 1880’s ironclads were equipped with the heaviest guns ever mounted at sea and more sophisticated steam engines. Modern day battleships developed from these ironclad ships.

If you have a maritime museum in your local area, I encourage you to visit. Organize a Steampunk outing there if you are able, I guarantee you it’ll be a lot of fun and I’m sure you’ll gather inspiration for your Steampunk writing. After all, it’s sad to think of this, but if  Jules Verne had not attended the Exposition Universelle in 1867 and seen the Plongeur, we might not have 20,000 Leauges Under The Sea, which readers enjoy to this day, over 140 years after it was first published.

There may well be an exhibit at your local museum just waiting for you to discover it and gain inspiration for your next book.

Maeve Alpin

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Nautical Steampunk Attire

Nautical Steampunk Attire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You would be surprised.”

Maeve Alpin & Pirate - Space City Con

Maeve Alpin & Pirate – Space City Con

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

Captian Jack at Dickens On The Strand 2012

Captian Jack at Dickens On The Strand 2012

for the day, or a member of the Nautilus crew. All Steampunk garb and characters are welcomed as well as modern garb. Board the guided tour of over 150 model ship exhibits, spanning the age of exploration to the modern merchant marines and several models of steam powered ships from the Victorian age. Free parking is a shore thing at the large lot beside the museum. Museum admission is $5.00 per age 12 up, $3.00 for children 3 -11 and children under 3 are free.

Maeve Alpin

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

FredTownWard

Elijana Kindel

Barbara Elness

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

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

Today we welcome YA Sci-Fi author Beth Revis

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

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

 by Beth Revis

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

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

5. The “Punked” episode of Castle

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

4. Steampunk Cakes

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

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

3. Treasure Planet

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

2. The Steampunk Mac

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

 

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

1. The Costumes and Gadgets

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

 

Image credit: http://steampunkcostume.com/

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

5. Steampunk Star Wars

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

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

4. Roman Steampunk

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

3. Steampunk not based in Europe/England

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

2. Steampunk Fairytales or Superheroes

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

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

 

Image credit: http://steampunkcostume.com/

1. More Steampunk YA

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

 

~Beth Revis

http://www.bethrevis.com/

http://acrosstheuniversebook.com/

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

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I’ve been asked several times if I had a list of “usual” gadgets in Steampunk.  The request sort of baffled me, since (to me) half the fun of Steampunk is making things up.  But, when I thought about it, I could identify several things that are not uncommon to find gadget/technology-wise in Steampunk stories.  This isn’t a comprehensive list and by no means do you need to have *all* of these in your world. 

Aether

Aether is a classical element.  In ancient times it was thought to be the forces beyond control. In the late 19th century, the term luminiferous aether was used to describe a medium for the propagation of light.  There’s a lot of room to use this mysterious element in everything from a power source to a scapegoat for natural disasters.  In Katie MacAlister’s Steamed, rayguns shoot superheated aether.

Analog Systems

In analog technology, a wave is recorded or used in its original form, where in digital technology  the analog wave is sampled at some interval, and then turned into numbers that are stored in the digital device.  What if we continued as an analog society instead of a digital one?

Automatons

An automaton is a self-operating machine (an autonomous robot).  They could be anything from elaborate clockwork singing birds (or killer ladybugs like in Blameless) to robot servants (like in Android Karenina).   They could be lifelike or stylized, maybe they even have a windup key in their back.

Clockwork Systems

Machines using elaborate clockwork can abound in Steampunk.  They can be anything from automatons to actually being the “heart” of a city.  They could set off explosives, or run radios, trains, or analytical engines.

Difference/Analytical Engines

A difference engine is a type of mechanical calculator capable of computing complex equations.  Charles Babbage’s design featured a hand-cranked device.  An analytical engine is a mechanical general-purpose computer using punch-cards.

Flying Machines

Jules Verne enchanted us all with balloon travel in “Around the World in Eighty Days” and “Five weeks in a Balloon.”  But aircraft get even bigger like blimps, zeppelins, dirigibles, and airships.

They could be grand and elegant passenger ships of gleaming wood and polished brass, or could be patched and clunky cargo haulers, or these vessels could be filled with the most fearsome people to haunt Steampunk skies—air pirates!

They could be steam, helium, or hydrogen powered.  Maybe they’re solar or run on aether.

But ships aren’t the only things that can fly. What about personal aircraft like “detachable wings” – small powered gliders with wings reminiscent of a Da Vinci sketch or hoverboards?   And don’t forget the flying car or the flying city—or the genetically engineered airship made from a Whale in Leviathan.  Flying machines go beyond the dirigible and are only limited by the imagination

Rayguns

Rayguns are as quintessential to Steampunk as airships.  They are “directed energy” weapons used for maiming or killing people and powered on all sorts of things, from aether to fairy-farts (okay, I made that up).  They can come in all sizes and shapes, and generally are metallic-colored.  Sometimes they may be pearl-encrusted for evening wear.  After all, a lady’s raygun says a lot about her.

Steampower

Steam technology is the fundamental basis of Steampunk.  Steam engines can power trains and boats or run factory equipment or mills, steam turbines can produce electricity.   Steam can power cars or farm equipment, heat houses, power weaponry–it can even run clocks.

In a basic steam engine heat is obtained from fuel burnt in an enclosed firebox.  The heat boils water in a pressurized boiler, turning it into saturated steam.  The steam transfers to a motor which uses it to push on a piston sliding inside a cylinder, powering the machinery.  As the steam cools it is exhausted into the air.

There are all sorts of steam engines of varying sophistication, including underwater jet and rocket-type engines.   How about a steam-powered submarine?

Escaping steam and boiler explosions can call all sorts of devastation, disaster, and injury.

Time Machines

Who doesn’t love time machines?  Whether they take you to the past or the future, they guarantee and adventure.

These are just a few things to get you started and there’s much more to these technologies than my little descriptions.   Taking these basics and making them your own (and inventing new things) is half the fun.  Write on!

So…what’s your favorite Steampunk gadget?

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With three upcoming books set in the weird and wild American West, I’m going to need to make sure I get things right. Well, sort of right. Steampunk is forever taking twists on actually historical materials and giving them a whole new perspective…sometimes from an airship. 

But I digress. As a writer I need to research my topic (which for me is often one of the most fun parts). So today I’d thought I’d share with you a little snippet of my research library on my shelves. Some books are good for giving me images. Some are for details of how and why things happened. Others just give a precious glimpse into the attitudes and social behaviors of the time.

 This first group is just a sample of the historical reference materials I’m looking at while researching the American West. Among the titles are The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800’s by Marc McCutcheon, Wild and Wooly An Encyclopedia of the Old West by Denis McLoughlin, A Dictionary of The Old West by Peter Watts, A History of the Southwest The Land and Its People by Thomas E. Sheridan, How Would You Survive in the American West by Jacquelin Morley, Age of the Gunfighter Men and Weapons on the Frontier 1840-1900 by Joseph G. Rosa and The Industrial Revolution by John Watney. My hero, Colt Jackson, is a supernatural hunter/gunfighter. His brothers, Remington and Winchester, are a lawyer and a lawman. You can understand why I’d need to be familiar not only with the history of the location, but particularly with the gunslingers themselves.

 The second set of reference books has more to do with accurately describing my settings inside. There’s The Victorian Catalogue of Household Furnishings by Studio Editions with a introduction by Stephen Calloway. There’s Victorian Splendor, Re-creating America’s 19th-Century Interiors by Alison Kyle Leopold. I’ve looked through A Guide to Biltmore Estate (which is a guide book to an absolutely amazing Victorian era estate of the Vanderbilt family in North Carolina and if you ever get the chance you simply must go). And my personal favorite is a reprint of the Sears, Roebuck and Co. Consumers Guide for the Fall of 1900 (which is awesome because it not only gives images, descriptions and details, but prices as well on everything from guns and violins to ladies’ shoes and blister ointment.)

 This entry in particular caught my attention in the entertainment supply section. Among the Magic Laterns and Graphophones was an Acetylene Gas system for Stereopticon Illumination. In essence, hey, let me sell you an acetylene torch to light up your picture show! (God, I pity the projectionist who was probably permanently blind after about six hours on the job). The description is classic. A really high class light for the projection of stereopticon pictures. Portable, simple, durable, inexpensive and clean. Produces a brilliant light. Price for the generator: $8.00. Price for the burners (not included): $7.00. Being able to show off picture shows to the neighbors as a sign of ostentatious consumption and being “scientificically-advanced”: priceless. 

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