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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please feel free to leave comments or questions.

~      ~      ~

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

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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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Natalie Zaman is kept busy by pointy things.  Pencils. Pens. Needles (the knitting and sewing variety). Arrows. She also has an eye for the sparkly, and likes black. She’s the co-author of Sirenz and Sirenz Back in Fashion.

 

Steampunk Robots

by Natalie Zaman

As an aspiring manufacturer of gaslight fantasy, I’m always looking for resources—not just the reading kind, but the living kind—the kind you can hear, taste, touch, experience… However the essence of Victorian science fiction is no easy thing to come by in Suburbia, save through various media and my own invention. But the aether will surprise you, sometimes when you least expect it. It found me on, of all things, a school field trip—to the FIRST Robotics World Championship.

Very well… perhaps it’s not so surprising that one would make such an encounter at a celebration of, well, science—but in an arena filled with Frisbee throwing robots?

1 Team 4531 on the Field

Can you spot the Infernal Device?

I was playing spectator, waiting for my daughter’s team to play their match when I saw the first sign.

Unmistakable.

Indubitable.

A top hat.

I blinked, and then all I could see were numbers, steel and plexi-glass, all well rooted in the 21st century. The match I waited for finished, and I went out into the hallway, only to meet this chap.

2 Steampunk Chap

Fancy meeting you here.

So there was a Steampunk-themed robotics team—one whose members possess the sartorial sensibilities of a crew of airship captains. I wanted to know more, but first, a little bit about FIRST, the instrument of fate that brought us together:

Started by inventor Dean Kamen and Dr. Woodie Flowers in 1989, FIRST’s acronym explains its mission: For Inspiration and Recognition In Science and Technology. Each year FIRST teams build a robot to accomplish a specific challenge. This year it was throwing Frisbees and climbing a pyramid.

3 Bringing the Robot onto the Field

Getting ready for competition.

4 Drive Team

Technology needs a human element. Enter, the robot drivers.

 

Team #4531, STEMpunk (another fitting acronym, though not exactly “steamy”: Science Technology Engineering Math + punk) hails from Mishicot, Wisconsin. They earned their spot at the World Championships by being the 2013 Wisconsin Regional Highest Rookie Seed team and winning the 2013 Wisconsin Regional Rookie All-Star award.

When I visited their pit (home base where repairs are made) to ask “Why Steampunk” (they were the only team at the Dome with Victorian flair after all), I was enthusiastically informed that scientific spirit of Steampunk manifested in its gears and cogs and wheels, “fit.” It is a perfect combination. In addition to the science, there’s the “handmade” aspect of the program; not just the robot (which the students design and build themselves with the guidance of mentors), but outfits, accessories, swag and environment, all concocted by the students…

5 Pit CrewSome of the extraordinary gentlemen of STEMpunk. And yes, there are ladies too.

And then there’s that swaggering bravado, an essential trait of all budding venture-capitalist-scientists:

6 Team in Tees

Whether in standard issue team tees…

7 Team in Stands

 …or full regalia, the gears are always turning.

The robot is still waiting to get a Victorian veneer—a goal for the future. That’s the thing about brass-works, clockworks, gears, chains and other trappings—they’re heavy, and the rules are strict when it comes to weight limitations. It will be a challenge, but if anyone knows about the blending of form following function, it’s STEMpunk. Lest you think that their garb is purely for show, have a look at the nifty safety glasses that are a part of their everyday work wear.

8 Goggles

Cleverness! The eyepieces screw off so the dark lenses can be removed, leaving the wearer with fully functional safety glasses.

Little details like this—or big ones like how things work (students learn and use mathematical and scientific concepts as well as training on a variety of machinery), lend authenticity and tactile touchstones to a story. I was fascinated by the melding of past and present so well done by team #4531—but there are hundreds of other teams with varying themes and in various stages of formation—there’s lots to learn on all sides.

If your novel has scientific or technological elements, involvement in FIRST could be a mutually beneficial form of research. My own light involvement in my daughter’s team gave me a better understanding of scientific concepts (and my algebra is admittedly improved—who knew it would be useful in re-sizing photos?). Teams need volunteers both in and out of the shop—writing and communication skills are key in promoting and growing interest in the program and for raising funds (things that so many authors become good at by default). If you have the time and like working with young people, think about volunteering for FIRST—then get ready to inspire and be inspired.

And you’ll never meet a nicer bunch of kids.

~Natalie

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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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Ancient Egyptian culture has had a major influence on the Victorian era and also modern Steampunk. As indicated by the titles, two classic Steampunk novels include strong Egyptian influences: The Osiris Ritual by George Mann and The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers.

Pretty Miss with Parasol belly dancing at ComicCon’s Steampunk Ball

The Victorians were fascinated with Egyptian mummies and unwrapping parties were quite stylish. George Mann tied Steampunk with mummy unwrapping in a wonderful scene in The Osiris Ritual. Here’s an excerpt from a Victorian mummy unwrapping party in the Steampunk/ Romance, As Timeless As Magic: Heru peered within the sarcophagus, at a coffin shaped like a human figure, in a green headdress with a single yellow stripe and a jewel painted in the middle. His gaze lingered on the beautiful hieroglyphics in orange and blue, thinking of the power they held and the magic his mother created with them in her spells.

“Now, what we have all waited for.” Mister Mugrage opened the coffin. A gilded mask lay over a linen sheet wrapped around a human corpse.

Heru rubbed his brow, then fisted his hand, aching to punch Felicity’s father in the teeth.

Mister Mugrage removed the mask in the likeness of the mummy inside and held it up. “This mask is a wonderful treasure for the evening and I will do you all the favor of parting with it for the highest offer made.”

The crowd all sighed with “oohs” and “ahs.” Heru could tell by the gleam in several people’s eyes, they wanted to own it. This was all about money to Mister Mugrage. He had no love of the history, the art, or the spiritual significance his daughter seemed to understand. Heru vowed he wouldn’t blame Felicity for her father’s actions, but a throbbing surge of anger rose in him as she unwrapped the sheet from the mummy. The guests closed in like a mob and thrust forward. Heru could hardly breathe, the room felt void of air.

Mister Mugrage yanked a strip of linen wrapping, tugging it off as he circled the mummy, unraveling it. He withdrew an amulet from the linen gauze and held it up. “Our first party favor. Who wants this lovely turquoise scarab?”

A lady in a large hat and a blue gown fluttered her fan. “I do, Mister Mugrage.”

“Madame Mills, by all means, this little gem is yours. It shall bring you great luck.” Mister Mugrage placed the treasure in the woman‟s gloved hand as she giggled with glee.

Heru loosened his cravat before he gagged. The crowd‟s thunderous applause fueled his anger. These amulets protected the deceased, helped him find his way in the afterlife, and this ridiculous man handed them out as party favors.

Mister Mugrage continued unraveling the mummy until he came upon the next find, a small hawk carved from blue lapis. He handed it to a man with a protruding belly and white beard, dressed in black trousers, a gray coat, and a green cravat. Heru fought the urge to grab the amulet back from the man‟s chubby fingers.

No sooner had the other guests congratulated the man than Mister Mugrage yanked the wrappings again. “Here we have a hollow gold beetle.” He placed it in Felicity‟s hand. “What is this symbol on the top?“

Felicity peered at the golden insect, examining it closely. “Two crossed arrows over a shield, the symbol of Goddess Neith, deity of the hunt.”

“Who will have this fine beetle?” Mister Mugrage flashed a broad grin.

Heru wanted to yell for them to stop as he stood helplessly by, watching a corpse being violated for nothing but the fleeting pleasure of shallow people. He accidentally bit his tongue. He grabbed his jaw, and rubbed it.

A woman held up her dainty hand netted in a lacy glove. Felicity gifted the lady with the beetle amulet.

As Mister Mugrage unwound more linen gauze, he discovered a small statue with the body of a man and the head of a jackal.

“Anubis.” Finally, an idea struck. Heru swiftly stuck out his hand, almost grabbing the amulet. ”May I?” he asked in French.

“Oui.” Mister Mugrage handed it to him.

Heru knew this held the most powerful curse, for the priests who cast spells on the amulets wore the mask of Anubis. He flipped it over and read the hieroglyphic inscription. “You dare to touch this sacred mummy. You mortal man, whose flesh and skull will return to the desert sand. I curse you with the loss of your hands.” Heru clasped the amulet tightly, whispering the spell in Old Egyptian in the parlor just as he would have in the temple of Anubis. “Curse him, who disturbs the dead, who robs what the gods entombed. His hands should be severed if not his head, his cursed fingers doomed.”

“Give me that. Let me read it.” Felicity’s father reached for the amulet to grab it back from Heru. He gasped. His fingers fell limp. Mister Mugrage screamed, “My hands!”

Felicity rushed to her father and clutched his arm “What is it?”

“I can’t move my hands, not even to lift a finger. They are numb, I cannot feel anything.”

Steam Driven Belly Dancing

Even more than mummy unwrapping parties, the Victorians loved costume balls. Cleopatra influenced costumes were highly fashionable at these affairs. Steam Ingenious’ Steampunk Cleopatra fancy dress project is inspired by authentic Victorian fashion plates of Egyptian costumes. It’s a recreation of the Celopatra costume Lady Paget wore to the 1875 Delmonico Ball in New York City. The portrait and photo of Lady Paget in the costume along with several fashion plates of Cleopatra style gowns are pictured on the blog and the details of the pattern and the fabrics are included.

Another Egyptian influence on Steampunk is belly dancing, which has been big ever

Sword & Steampunkery

since Abney Park incorporated it into its live shows. Many belly dancers have been inspired to go steampunk adding goggles, corsets and pantaloons to their costumes. The extraordinary Steampunk Belly Dancers featured here are from the Osiris Dance Company. If they look familiar, they perform at the Steampunk Ball at ComicCon each year and they will also be performing at the Wild West Festival in Tucson next year.

A heroine who belly dances could add an interesting element to a Steampunk novel.

As you can see it’s easy to weave some exotic Egyptian influences into your Steampunk books.

If you liked the excerpt from As Timeless As Magic the novel is free as a kindle eBook from today until Friday, August 31st.

Maeve Alpin

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Hi all, I ‘m Maeve Alpin, one of the new lolitas who have climbed aboard the airship. On my last shore leave I shared my booty of Steampunk comics with you and as promised here are some more. Imagery can be very inspirational to a writer, so many of us pull ideas from our dreams or things that catch our eye. The collaboration of visual and literate art in comics inspires new ideas far beyond the illustrations and story lines. In addition to several comic books labeled as Steampunk, many others have Victorian, Dystopian, Dieselpunk, Weird West, or Alternate History ascetics. Here is part two of my list of some comic books you’ll enjoy.

1.     Steampunk by Chris Bachalo & Joe Kelly

The hero is Cole Blaquesmith, a poor 18th century fisherman. I love his period dialogue. He falls in love with Fiona, a kind, noble lady who helps the lower class. When she falls gravely ill he takes her to Doctor Absinthe, a mad scientist, who promises to cure her if Cole uses the Engine, a time traveling machine, to get him books on science and other objects from the future. Cole does so but when he returns from 1954, Absinthe breaks his part of the bargain and Fiona dies. Cole buries the Engine beneath Stonehenge and in turn Absinthe rips out Cole’s heart. A hundred years later, Cole wakes up in a coffin during the Victorian era to find that Absinthe experimented on him, his chest is a now a metal furnace and his right arm is a huge mechanical claw. He also discovers that London is ruled by Absinthe. There are two historical royals in Steampunk. Napoleon Bonaparte is referred to as Frances in issue six, because after Absinthe killed Josephine, Napoleon gives up his humanity to become a living computer controlling France’s weapons systems and soldiers. So he actually is France. Instead of being the queen, in this London ruled by Absinthe, Victoria works for him as an assassin until she joins the resistance and falls in love with Cole. She’s a brunette beauty, her hands are surgically grafted to her arms, and her main weapon is a metallic whip that makes one of those wonderful comic book sounds, SHRAAK. Laslo, another member of the resistance, is a very interesting character. He’s a black man who speaks with what I think of as 1960’s slang, such as “Don’t ask for details about my rumble with Faust. Don’t dig for more than I lay down.” He also wears a big Union Jack print scarf that belonged to his best friend, Rikk, who was killed by Absinthe’s assassin, Faust.

This dark, dystopian Steampunk, alternative history, comic book series debuted in 2000 and ran for twelve issues. The dialogue, characterizations, plotting, and art are exceptionally good.

2.     Girl Genius by Phil & Kaja Foglio

The lead character, a young lady, Agatha Heterodyne, is a hapless student of Transylvania Polygnostic University. When her locket is stolen it sets off a chain of events in which she discovers she is a powerful Spark, talented at creating and repairing electrical and mechanical devices. The story involves the traditional Steampunk components of an alternative history, the industrial revolution, a wonder kid, and mad scientists. It’s a whimsical, fun, highly enjoyable read recommended for ages ten to adult. Girl Genius has won many awards recommended for ages ten to adult. Girl                                                                                                                                                                                   Genius has won many awards, including a Hugo for Best Graphic Story in 2011.

3. Gotham by Gas Light by Brian Augustyn & Mike Mignola

One of DC’s Elseworld comic books, set in 1889, Gotham by Gas Light, features a Victorian batman. Shortly after Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City from a visit to Europe, a murder takes place in Gotham in the style of Jack the Ripper. After a bloody knife is found under Bruce Wayne’s bed, he’s arrested as Jack the Ripper. While in prison, he figure out Jacob Parker is the real Jack the Ripper. After escaping jail with Alfred’s help, Batman finds the Ripper just as he is about to kill his next victim. A chase ensues and they come to a stop at Bruce Wayne/Batman’s parents graves. When Bruce Wayne/Batman’s mother rejected Jacob Packer’s advances he began murdering women who resembled her, to silence the laughter he hears in his head. It also turns out that he had hired the assassin who killed batman’s parents.  Packer attacks Batman, but Commissioner Gordon shoots him dead and Batman disappears into the shadows.

4.     Hellboy by Mike Mignola

Hellboy is a demon summoned to earth by Nazi occultist. As a supernatural hero he fights resurrected Nazi scientist and other biomechanical creatures. He has a giant stone hand, the hand of doom, and superhuman strength, healing, and endurance. He also comprehends ancient and magical languages and carries items to battle supernatural forces in his utility belt such as horseshoes, herbs, and hand grenades.

5.     The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 1 & vol 2 by Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neil Illustrator

Like fan fiction from popular Victorian novels Captain Nemo, the invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,  Allan Quatermain, Mina Murray, John Carter and other well known characters form a type of Victorian era justice league. Fu Manchu has stolen the only known cavorite in existence, a fictional substance created in H. G. Wells First Men On The Moon.  Professor Moriarty orders the league to retrieve the cavorite but doesn’t divulge that he plans to use it to build an airship to bomb Fu Manchu’s Limehouse lair, that explosion would also destroy London. The league triumps over both Fu Manchu and Moriarty. Volume 2, continues as the League fights the Martian invasion from H. G. Wells War of the Worlds.

          6. Jonah Hex – Jimmy Palmiotfi & Justin Gray, Luke Ross Illustrator

“When  a man knows there’s no place in Heaven waiting on him, then he’d best be wise to cozy up to the devil. And so, Jonah took it upon himself to dispatch as many sinners as Hell could accommodate… and never look back.” The art work is well done, truly brilliant. Though Jonah Hex can be classified as Weird West, Westernpunk, or Cow punk, it is first and foremost a western about a mysterious, stranger riding into town and righting wrongs in a lawless land. In the comic book series, Hex, the wild west bounty hunter is transported to the 21st century where he fights crime as a post-apocalyptic warrior.

7.     Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Cardboard Box by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Retold by Murray Shaw and M. J. Cosson, Sophie Rohrback and J. T. Morrow, Illustrators

Released in March of this year, Graphic Universe adapted this classic tale to comic book form for ages nine and up. When a woman receives the gruesome package of two human ears, Holmes and Watson are on the case. Clues at the back of the comic book reveal the process Holmes used to pull the facts together and solve the mystery. The Adventure of the Cardboard Box by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was first published in Strand Magazine in 1892.

We can look forward to the future of Steampunk comic books offering even more diversity, but there should be something for every Steampunk reader among these fourteen comic books listed in part one and part two of this post. Many of these comic books are out of print and if you have trouble finding the ones you like at your local comic book stores, try your local library or the inter-library loan program. Happy reading.

~Maeve Alpin

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Heather Hiestand is the author of seven novels and numerous novellas and short stories. Her latest release is a steampunk romance novella, Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas.

Airships on my Mind

by Heather Hiestand

Thanks for allowing me to visit today, Steamed!, and discuss one of my favorite topics.

Gadgets are a perpetually exciting part of writing steampunk and the airship is one of the most durable elements. Some authors have them drifting across the sky, providing a backup, some have characters travelling on them in casual fashion, and some of our characters have to get a bit more up close and personal with these lighter-than-air machines. There are as many variations to the airship as there are writers to imagine them.

Here is the first view of an airship in my novella, Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas:

Linet dashed back to the window. Yes, a rope ladder, just like the ones she’d climbed thousands of times to her father’s dirigible, the Christmas, dangled outside, a little lower now. Ladders had been the staircases of her life until she was seventeen, carrying her from earth to sky, larceny to freedom.

Who had found her? Her father had enemies, to be sure, but no enemy would be visiting her on Christmas Eve. No one from her old life had crossed her path in all this time. Perhaps her sister Terrwyn had finally reappeared?

She reached through the window and grabbed the ladder, then frowned. That knot with a gash on the left side looked familiar. One rung was painted red, the next, green. Her gaze rose, unbelieving.

The Christmas tossed gently, grandly, merrily, on the wind, the green and red-striped balloon over the deck radiating holiday cheer. She watched the propellers turn for a minute, dumbfounded.

When I wrote Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas, I didn’t have to know too much about airships, but as I write the sequel, Captain Fenna’s Dirigible Valentine, I’m having to understand them a bit more. Lots of sky battles in the new story! I’m far from an expert, but I’m making use of some excellent websites.

Here is my list:

To start, Wikipedia always has great information. http://www.wikipedia.org. Just search on whatever term you are wondering about, like dirigible or zeppelin.

I use Mapquest to figure out travel routes for my airships. http://www.mapquest.com

If you need to understand the basic parts of a dirigible, here is a good site:  http://history.howstuffworks.com/world-war-i/dirigible1.htm

Fantastic real world information:  http://www.airships.net/

Need some help with air acrobatics? http://www.greenharbor.com/fffolder/questions.html#anchor1234506

I use actual ships to figure out layout and size of the ship part of my flying contraptions. Sales sites for ships, versus aircraft, are very handy for that. One site I use, that has slideshows of actual boats, is:  http://www.boatquest.com.

This is a discussion on Steampunk Empire about building steampunk airships and models:  http://www.thesteampunkempire.com/forum/topics/building-an-actual-airship?xg_source=activity&id=2442691%3ATopic%3A569797&page=2

~ Heather Hiestand

http://blog.heatherhiestand.com
Captain Andrew’s Flying Christmas links:

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Captain-Christmas-Steampunk-Smugglers-ebook/dp/B005WASTQK

Smashwords:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/96889

BN:

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captain-Andrews-Flying-Christmas/Heather-Hiestand/e/2940013314191

ARe:

http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-captainandrew039sflyingchristmas-624819-339.html

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

Now, back to today’s post.

Kickstarter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ever wanted an intergalactic transporter?

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

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

A Victorian Knitting Primer

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

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

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

There’s also a Pipe Organ Backpack!

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

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

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

 

Writing Steampunk Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a starter list of Steampunk tech here.

How is your tech integral to your world?

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

First off, we have some winners to announce.

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

VVB

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

Elmo Adams

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

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

Today we welcome YA author Kady Cross.

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

Steampunk Tech and Teens

by Kady Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Kady Cross

http://www.kadycross.com

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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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