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Going Ape

If you‘re looking for a fun character for a Steampunk novel, why not throw in an ape? Gorillas and Apes were popular in Victorian literature. With the British colonies in Africa, the Victorians had a strong interest in the unique continent. Another reason for the popularity of these human-like creatures was the topic of evolution spurred by Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species, published in 1859.

The most famous gorilla was Edgar Allan Poe’s mass murderer from his tale, The Murders In The Rue Morgue, published in 1841. It stands as the first detective story ever written.

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs came out in 1912 and Apes are strong secondary characters and are an intricate part of the storyline. The story begins in the year 1888 when John, Lord Greystoke with his new, young wife, Lady Alice sail to Africa. There is a mutiny on their ship and they are abandoned on the coast of Africa near a jungle. Alice has a baby there but shortly after the child is born, Alice dies and Lord Greystoke is killed by a gorilla. A female gorilla, Kala, who had recently lost her baby, takes Alice’s baby and raises him as her own. She names him Tarzan. She was the only mother he ever knew.

This is a short excerpt from The Return of Tarzan: “And I, on my part, loved her, Paul. I did not realize how much until after the cruel spear and the poisoned arrow of Mbonga’s black warrior had stolen her away from me. I was still a child when that occurred, and I threw myself upon her dead body and wept out my anguish as a child might for his own mother. To you, my friend, she would have appeared a hideous and ugly creature, but to me she was beautiful—so gloriously does love transfigure its object. And so I am perfectly content to remain forever the son of Kala, the she-ape.”

In the return of Tarzan he finds a lost city of gold and the people, though human, speak his native language, that of the gorillas.  When Tarzan escapes the City of Gold and sees Jane in the Jungle with the man she chose over him, he returns to his tribe of apes, broken hearted and wanting nothing more to do with humans. Later in the story when Jane is captured by the men from the City of Gold, it’s a gorilla that tells Tarzan she’s been taken.


Six-Gun Gorilla is another r interesting story, published as a fifteen-part serial in the British Pulp, Wizard in 1939. Set in the 19th century American wild west, a kidnapped baby gorilla ends up in Colorado with a kind prospector, Bart Masters. The gorilla, O’Neil, loves the prospector like a father. Unfortunately, Tutt Stawhan, head of the Strawhan outlaw gang, murders Bart Masters. O’Neil vows to revenge Bart’s death. He straps a bandoleer across his broad, hairy chest and holsters two Colts. Then he sets out on a quest to track down, shoot and kill every member of the Strawhan gang.

Rupert Cornelius is a popular Steampunk gorilla.  I had the pleasure of meeting, this educated Ape, at Aetherfest in San Antonio, Texas a few years back. This brilliant gorilla answers such mind boggling questions as pirates vs ninjas, The borg vs the daleks, and what he would he do for a Klondike bar?

And of course there’s DC comics’ Gorilla Grodd, arch nemesis of the  Flash. Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, the  premise is that in the 19th century, a spacecraft crashed deep in the heart of Africa in the Congo Basin. Grodd and his troupe gain super intelligence and Grodd and another gorilla, Solovar, are also empowered with telepathic and telekinetic abilities as well as mind control. Uner the leadership of the alien pilot, the genius apes build Gorilla City where they live in a society far advanced from our own. The apes dwell in peace in this secret city hidden in the mountains, until they are discovered by explorers.


Grodd forces an explorer to kill the alien, so he can rule Gorilla City. But Solovar and the Flash thwart Grodd’s evil plan. Many times through the years the Flash and his allies including Solovar save the world from Grodd.

If you’ve read or written a book featuring a gorilla, tell us about it or comment on anything else regarding the post. I love to hear from readers and other authors.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 26 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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Mail Myself To You

Just last month, everyone was wrapping packages and mailing them to relatives and friends. It’s hard to believe but in 1913 when the parcel post service began in the US, at least two children were mailed with stamps stuck on their clothes. I swear I’m not making this up. There’re actually pictures of mail carriers with children they delivered.

This inspires all sorts of ideas for books. A child could be sent by mail by the mother to the baby’s father, who didn’t know about the baby. A child could mail themselves to the North Pole so they could see Santa and get all the toys. A runaway child could even stamp themselves to go out west for adventure. A child could get delivered to the wrong address.

Western mail order brides could actually be sent by mail with stamps on their dresses or foreheads.  A mail order bride could be delivered to the wrong man. Instead of a train to deliver mail you can use an airship or a mail balloon to send stamped people about. And you certainly don’t have to keep this practice in the Edwardian era, you can move it to the Victorian era wild west.

A mailed woman or child could end up riding pillion with a pony express rider through Indian country. They could even ride on a stage coach that carries mail.  If the train, stage or airship is held up by outlaws and a mailed person is taken as a hostage is that tampering with US mail? Would the Calvary be brought in to recover the stolen person or rather package? The ideas are endless.

Wood Guthrie wrote a cute song about this practice of mailing children.

This practice of mailing children is definitely one of those what were they thinking scenarios. In this case what they were thinking was how to do something cheaper. How to get out of the cost of an expensive train ticket. The how to do something cheaper thought process often causes people to do strange things. You can always use it for one of your characters; have them try to do something cheaper that ends up being pretty crazy. It might be a challenge to come up with something crazier than mailing children but if you can think of it chances are someone has actually done it. For many people cheaper and easier seems to outweigh unresponsible and dangerous and leads people to make some pretty foolish mistakes. Also characters who always try to do things on the cheap can be funny.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peterson’s Magazine 1890

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

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

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

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Twelve Steampunk Days of Christmas

©Cindy Spencer Pape 2012

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

Twelve vile villians,

Eleven killer kraken,

Ten automata

Nine naughty nymphets

Eight brave explorers

Seven scribbling scribes

Six leather corsets

Five brassy gears

Four tiny top hats

Three ray guns

Two Tesla coils

And a Babbage engine in an airship.

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A Steampunk Night Before Christmas

A Steampunk Night Before Christmas
© 2009 Suzanne Lazear

‘Twas the night before Christmas and the whole ship was quiet,
Too quiet for the likes of this seasoned air pirate.

The airship was festooned with frippery and green,
With nary a brass polished surface to be seen.

Their stocking were hung by the crow’s nest with pride,
Along with homemade cookies and rum for Santa to imbibe.

I didn’t have the heart to tell the crew.
That Santa wouldn’t approve of what we do.

Sure, we stole from the rich, and gave to the needy.
But he’d probably think taking a cut was too greedy.

It didn’t matter that they had hearts of gold,
Only that it was stolen goods we bought and sold.

Suddenly portside there arose such a clatter,
That I grabbed my spyglass to see what was the matter.

The deck became filled with curious crew,
As I climbed the rigging for a better view.

The sky that had moments before been silent,
Had erupted with a commotion both grievous and violent.

The black ship portside was one that even we dread,
And it looked as if it were attacking a small red sled,

Driven by a fat guy and flying brown deer,
I polished the spyglass to ensure my vision was clear.

“Dread Pirate Fred’s attacking Santa, let’s help him, quick,”
Shouted my trusty first mate old Salty Nick.

What could I do but help out the sled,
“Come on, crew, let’s teach a lesson to Fred.”

I climbed down the rigging.
“There are cannons to load,
Christmas to save,
And pirates to goad.
Let’s kick up our speed,
And give up a fight.
Even we know
Robbing Santa just isn’t right.”

With a cheer, I manned the helm, going full speed ahead,
Nick loading our cannons to aim at the Dread Pirate Fred.

“Don’t worry Santa, help will arrive,
Salty Nick, man the cannons, prepare to take a dive.”

We flew through the air quickly, with all our might,
Fred’s crew had the sleigh on board, a terrible sight

Santa looked frightened, a gun to his head,
“Give me those presents,” growled the Dread Pirate Fred.

Even the reindeer had been rendered immobile,
By a few of Fred’s men in a black dirigible.

Santa shook his head, “If you take them, they will be missed.
Certainly, you all shall make my permanent naughty list.”

“I don’t care,” the pirate growled,
“We just want those gifts,” his crew avowed.

“Unhand those presents,” I called, dashing through the air
The cannons fired, aimed only to scare.

The reindeer bucked, trying to get free,
Fred sneered, “Captain Sno, you don’t scare me.”

Quickly, we secured Fred’s ship and dastardly crew,
But Fred still had Santa—there was only one thing to do.

Fred and I grappled across the deck, precariously,
Nick making sure Santa and the reindeer went free,

“You can’t rob Santa, it’s just not right,”
I yelled as I punched Fred when he put up a fight.

“Now, now, cease that,” Santa said,
Causing me to stop punching Dread Fred.

“Now Dread Pirate Fred, trying to steal presents in wrong,
but Captain Sno, punching him won’t stop him for long.

Christmas is about sharing and caring, not fighting and stealing,
and doing what’s right, not wheeling and dealing.”

Fred and I looked at each other, hanging our heads in shame.
The jolly old man had a good handle on our game.

Both crews made sure the gifts all went back
Into Santa’s giant red velvet sack.

Cook fed the reindeer carrots, and Santa cherry pie
I looked at the Dread Pirate Fred and gave a sigh.

“Why did you do that? That’s low even for you,
to attack Santa and take his presents on Christmas Eve, too.”

“Those presents would fetch prices that are sky high.”
But the look on Fred’s face told me that was a lie.

“There are better ways of getting a present from Santa’s sack,
then trapping the reindeer and staging an attack.”

“You’re one to talk,” Fred replied.
Nodding slowing, I looked at my crew, and again I sighed.

“I’m afraid, Santa, neither Fred nor I have been good this year,
but please, don’t forget our crew, they could use some cheer.

They don’t meant to be bad; they’re just following orders
They’re good men at heart, not drunkards and cavorters.”

Santa said, “Thank you captain, for rescuing me,
I think I my sleigh might hold an extra present or three.

You too,” he added to Dread Pirate Fred.
I shook my head. Was that what he actually said?

“Fred and his crew tried to steal your gifts to sell,
now you’re giving them presents as if all were well?”

Santa winked. “Now, Sno, remember what Christmas is all about.”
Getting in his sleigh, he gave his reindeer a shout.

“Just try to stay off the naughty list, the both of you, from now on.
Now, I have to be off, to get these delivered before dawn.”

Both crews looked up, as Santa took off.
“Merry Christmas, Santa,” my voice went soft.

With a wink of his eye, and a flick of his hand,
Presents flew out of his sleigh; onto the deck they did land.

“Thank you, Santa,” the crews did shout.
“There’s not one for me,” Dread Fred did pout.

“All I’ve ever wanted is a present from Santa, just one.”
I scoffed. “But not enough to stop having all your plundering fun.”

“Stop it you two,” Santa added with a call.
“But I didn’t forget you either, no, not at all.”

Two more presents floated down from the sky.
Turning mine over in my hands I looked up. “But why?”

Santa just smiled. “Just remember what I said.
And for once, Sno, can you stop plaguing Fred?”

With a hearty laugh, the sled flew through the sky,
Both crews waving, tears in their eyes.

“A present for me?” Fred’s eyes gleamed.
I knew deep down, he wasn’t as dreadful as he seemed.

Taking a box from my pocket, I said, “And there’s another.”
Giving it to him, I smiled. “Merry Christmas, brother.

I’m sorry I plague you, but it’s so much fun.
Let’s make next year a much better one.”

Nodding, Fred said, “For once, Sno, you’re right.
I think this should be the last time we fight.”

Santa sped by, doing one last turn.
“I hope there’s a lesson tonight you all learned.

Merry Christmas to you, and remember my lads,
no one says air pirates have to be bad.”

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

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victorianxmaqsAnother find from Peterson’s Magazine…

This Parlor Amusement is so detailed they must have memorized it like a mini play. Title sounds like it might have been vaguely inspired by Poe.

Having a Steampunk gathering during the winter? This might be fun to try amongst the ladies… and gentlemen if they choose.

Let me know!
Raye –

PARLOR AMUSEMENTS
THE TELL-TALE LITTLE FINGER.
– This game is intended for young ladies; if, however, a few young gentlemen are of the company, their presence may contribute to render it the more amusing.
All the company place themselves in a semicircle, within which is a seat more elevated than the rest, for the schoolmistress, whom they at once proceed to choose. The latter selects another of the company, who takes her place on a stool in front of her companions, and must be prepared to answer all the accusations which the Mistress may bring against her.
Mistress. – You ventured to go out yesterday without my permission; where did you go?
Accused. – To my aunt’s (here she points to one of her companions, who must at once answer, “Yes, mistress,” or pay a forfeit.)
Mistress. – That is not all; you have been somewhere else, my thumb tells me so. (At the word thumb, the Accused answers, “It knows nothing about it,” which she repeats until the Mistress names another finger.)*
Mistress. – And, what is worse, you did not go alone.
Accused. – It knows nothing about it.
Mistress. – Still it says that you were in a grove –
Accused. – It knows nothing about it.
Mistress. – And that a handsome young man was there at the same time.
Accused. – It knows nothing about it.
Mistress. – You have even dined in company with him. It is my middle finger tells me this.
Accused. – Do not believe it. (This is the phrase where the middle finger is spoken of.)
Mistress. – And in a private room.
Accused. – Do not believe it. My neighbor knows to the contrary. (She points to another young lady, who must answer. “Yes, Mistress.”
Mistress. – After the dinner, which lasted for a long time –
Accused. – Do not believe it.
Mistress. – The young man brought you back in a carriage.
Accused. – Do not believe it.
Mistress. – And the carriage was overturned in crossing a brook.
Accused. – Do not believe it.
Mistress. – And when you returned, your dress was wet and torn.
Accused. – Do not believe it. I can bring testimony of one, two, or three of my companions. (She points toward those who are inattentive to the game in preference to the others. They must answer, “Yes, Mistress,” or pay a forfeit.)
Mistress. – It is my little finger that has told me so.
Accused. – Pardon me, Mistress, it has told a falsehood. (All the young ladies say at the same time, “Ah! The wicked little finger!”
Mistress. – It insists upon it, however.
Accused. – It has told a falsehood. Ask all my companions.
All, without uttering a word, lift up their right-hand, as if to attest the falsehood of the accusation. The slightest hesitation is punished by a forfeit.
Mistress. – It says that all these young ladies tells a falsehood.
All rise. Those who keep their seats pay a forfeit. The Accused returns among her companions; a new Mistress is chosen, who designates a new culprit, and the game continues.
If, on the contrary, the first Mistress, content with the testimony which the young ladies have given without rising, announces that the little finger declares that it was mistaken, she can bring forward new charges, to which the culprit must answer in the same manner as before described.

*There was a punctuation error in this line. I didn’t want to post it without the correction.

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