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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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One of the questions writers get most often is, where do you get your ideas? Now as much as I’d like to be a smartass and answer that I get them from my local tea shop with biscuits on the side, cream and two sugars, I know that’s not right. It certainly doesn’t help you understand what it’s like, which for whatever reason, is fascinating. The truth is that writers’ brains are rather like Tesla Coils.

Sparks of ideas are everywhere in the air. I’ve talked with many writers and while we’re all different, we’re all the same in the fact that anything can generate an idea. Reading the back of a cereal box, a snippet of conversation in an elevator, stumbling across an interesting fact in a magazine article or during a visit to a place on a child’s field trip. Heck, I even got an idea once for a novel while sitting in a college botany class and I found out aphids are born pregnant (which started me on a whole story set of messing with cross-DNA hybridization and what would happen if you crossed aphid DNA with human DNA for an easily reproduced, cheap source of workers.) But I digress. As a writer you simply look at the world differently.

Our brains are somehow wired at just the right frequency to pick up that spark of idea out of the ether and created an electrical connection with it. (Which, I believe, is a valid reason why so many writers can pick up the same story idea at the same time, and yet each story will turn out differently.) From there the light and intensity of those ideas grows to such a degree that it is perfectly obvious to those around us if we don’t release those ideas we might potentially explode. Hey, it’s either that or talk these stories and characters out of our heads to a therapist which would require us to take on yet another day job just to pay for the numerous sessions. It’s simply much easier to write it down!

The pulse of energy and light you see is the resulting book. It’s the result of amplifying those ideas, letting them bounce around, connecting with other particles of ideas until they are finally released. While I tend to plot, like Marie-Claude does, I usually only have bits of the ideas. The book isn’t fully formed in my head until I begin writing it only because as the characters grow and change they add extra things that I didn’t think of before which deepen the story. In some ways I discover things about the world I’m writing in (regardless of how much research I’ve done previously) that I didn’t know before.

For instance, in my current book, The Hunter, I didn’t realize the whole historical dynamic of the Hunter/Darkin relationship. Sure my characters are modern Victorian Hunters, but when I started peeling back where they’d come from, how the Book of Legend they are seeking came to be and why it was scattered across the globe, a whole history (which you may never even see in the stories) started to emerge. It’s a legacy that impacts my three brothers and echoes the past relationship of the three brothers back in the Dark Ages who originally scattered the book to protect it.

So you see, in many ways, writers’ brains are like Tesla Coils. We store ideas, gather them from the air and release them in short, powerful bursts people can actually identify as books. But the proces of gathering those ideas, storing them up, working with them is always ongoing. That’s why writers often carry something to jot notes down because ideas can hit anywhere and any time. I even knew one writer who had a waterproof diving tablet so she could take notes in the shower.

And while writers can convey those ideas in a brilliant display of light called a book, we also need a receptor, a reader to make the transfer of those ideas complete. So see, you the reader are an integral part to how a writer’s brain is like a Tesla Coil. What can I tell you? Writers are just on a different frequency.

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All-in-one computer created by Mr. Steampunk Jake Von Slatt

My word processing transmittal machine (nee computer) and I have a love-hate relationship. I want to love it, but it hates me. Which means after seven years (good Lord, has it really been that long) that it has been requested by the family that I search for another word processing transmittal machine and Internet accessorial unit for our domicile. (Read, the family wants a new computer with a better Internet hookup, yo.)

Gorgeous computer desk created by Bruce & Melanie Rosenbaum

I am happy to oblige them. Lo and behold, I came upon some most excellent specimens. Such as the all-one desktop computer built as a mod by Jake Von Slatt  or the utterly amazing full sized, wow-my-eyes-couldn’t-get-any-bigger-version by Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum (who have completely done their house in steampunk finery which gives me yet more ideas for modifying the attic which will be our rec room/bar/guest room once the damn plaster dust settles (have I mentioned how much I hate sheetrocking?).

Incredible Datamancer.net HP Laptop

But then I absolutely fell in love with a laptop, which could not be finer in it’s steampunkery and clockwork-loving goodness. No, I know it looks like an incredible music box of some sort, but Datamancer.net has created this laptop that not only fully-functions, but literally has a clockwork mechanism that uses a key to turn the computer on! Talk about taking it to the next level. No simple switches here.  Clearly, if I want a computer with such steampunk savvy, I shall have to buy hubby a bandsaw for father’s day, learn to craft with brass and copper (beyond just using solder to fix copper pipes) and dip further into my creativity.

Damn, you know, if I could only sew a computer this nice, I’d do it. But really, I’m thinking that pleats, buckles and brass buttons, with a fringe of lace aren’t going to do too well. *sigh* I suppose we all have our own talents. That’s why I’m going back to the keyboard. I have books to write.

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150 years later Charles Babbage’s life’s work is finally made a reality as his Difference Engine is built using period materials.

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One thing I am fascinated by are flying machines and how they so easily—and quintessentially—fit into the steampunk genre.  After all, what’s steampunk without airships?

Dupuy Lome Dirigeable

Jules Verne enchanted us all with balloon travel in “Around the World in Eighty Days” and “Five weeks in a Balloon.”  Who wouldn’t want to travel in a helium filled balloon?   But aircraft get even bigger—even today, such as blimps and dirigibles, which are used for tourism, camera platforms, advertising, surveillance, and research. It’s not that far off to think of them on an Airship from the Golden Compasseven grander scale, such as passenger ships as elegant as the Victorian steamers, transporting people from one place to another with speed, elegance, and spectacular views. 
steampunk airshipThey 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!   

 

But ships aren’t the only things that can fly.  I’m also fascinated250px-Leonardo_Design_for_a_Flying_Machine%2C_c__1488 with the idea of personal aircraft—such as the idea of “detachable wings” – small powered gliders with wings reminiscent of a Da Vinci sketch.  One could almost imagine a ruffian in his leather aviation cap and brass goggles soaring through the sky on such a contraption. 

skysurfingHoverboards also enthrall me.  A steampunk teen could easily be dodging the police on some sort of brass and wood flying skate/surfboard powered by rockets, the sun, or who knows…

Finally, we can’t forget the flying car—whether it simply floats or has giant purple bat wings.  This is yet another fabulous, flying machine that could find a home in a steampunk world. 

Don’t even get me started on floating cities. 

What’s your favorite flying machine—fictional or fact?  Do you wish you could fly out the window on a red dirt devil?  Soar the skies in a giant airship?  A poster will be chosen at random on Friday to receive a bag of “productivity pixy dust” to inspire you and a small sparkly tiara. 

Happy Dreaming!

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jules_verne_middle_ageJules Gabriel Verne

February 8, 1828 – March 24, 1905

Jules Verne was born and raised in the port of Nantes in France. His father was a prosperous lawyer. In order to continue his father’s practice, Verne moved to Paris, where he studied law. His uncle introduced him into literary circles and he started to publish plays under the influence of such writers as Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, whom Verne also knew personally. Verne’s one-act comedy The Broken Straws was performed in Paris when he was 22. In spite of busy writing, Verne managed to pass his law degree. During this period Verne suffered from digestive problems which then recurred at intervals through his life.

In 1854 Charles Baudelaire translated Edgar Allan Poe’s works into French. Verne became one of the most devoted admirers of the American author, and wrote his first science fiction tale, ‘An voyage in Balloon’, under the influence of Poe. Later Verne would write a sequel to Poe’s unfinished novel, Narrative of a Gordon Pym, entitled The Sphinz of the Ice-Fields (1897). When his career as an author progressed slowly, Verne turned back to stockbroking, an occupation which he held until his successful tale Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863) in the series VOYAGES EXTRAORDINAIRES.

 Also during this period he met Honorine de Viane Morel, a widow with two daughters. They married on January 10, 1857. With her encouragement, he continued to write and actively try to find a publisher. On August 3, 1861, their son, Michel Jules Verne, was born. A classic enfant terrible, he married an actress over Verne’s objections, had two children by his underage mistress, and buried himself in debts. The relationship between father and son improved as Michel grew older.   

In 1862 Jules Verne met Pierre Jules Hetzel, a publisher and writer for children, who started to publish Verne’s ‘Extraordinary Journeys’. This cooperation lasted until the end of Verne’s career. Hetzel had also worked with Balzac and George Sand. He read Verne’s manuscripts carefully and did not hesitate to suggest corrections. One of Verne’s early works, Paris in the Twentieth Century, was turned down by the publisher, and it did not appear until 1997 in English.   

             Jules_verne                  

 Jules Verne’s stories caught the enterprising spirit of the 19th century with its uncritical fascination with scientific progress and inventions. His works were often written in the form of a travel book, which took the readers on a voyage to the moon in From the Earth to the Moon (1865) or to another direction as in A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864). Many of Verne’s ideas have been hailed as prophetic. Among his best-known books is the classic adventure story Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).

Hetzel read a draft of Verne’s story about the balloon exploration of Africa, which had been rejected by other publishers on the ground that it was “too scientific”. With Hetzel’s help, Verne rewrote the story and it was published in book form as Cinq semaines en ballon (Five Weeks in a Balloon). Acting on Hetzel’s advice, Verne added comical accents to his novels, changed sad endings into happy ones, and toned down various political messages. 

From that point on, and up to years after Verne’s death, Hetzel published two or more volumes a year. The most successful of these include: Voyage au centre de la terre (Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1864); De la terre à la lune (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865); Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 1869); and Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (Around the World in Eighty Days), which first appeared in Le Temps in 1872. The series is collectively known as “Les voyages extraordinaires” (“Extraordinary voyages”). Verne could now make a living by writing. But most of his wealth came from the stage adaptations of Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (1874) and Michel Strogoff (1876), which he wrote together with Adolphe d’Ennery.

cc64726ff11b8d2eIn 1867 Jules Verne bought a small ship, the Saint-Michel, which he successively replaced with the Saint-Michel II and the Saint-Michel III as his financial situation improved. On board the Saint-Michel III, he sailed around Europe.

In 1870, he was appointed as “Chevalier” (Knight) of the Légion d’honneur. Verne became wealthy and famous. He remains the most translated novelist in the world, according to UNESCO statistics.

On the BOOKS page of this blog is a list of many of Jules Verne’s 54 novels.

 

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You may think you’ve never read a Steampunk book or seen a Steampunk movie, but there’s a good chance you have. Find out more about Steampunk. It’s been around. You may even be WRITING IT!2509601257_24429a39c9

230111411STEAMPUNK is defined by Wikipedia as “subgenre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominenece in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. These include works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used – usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era London – but with elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” of such technology as dirigibles or analog computers; these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or a presumption of functionality.”

Steampunk Fiction focuses on real or theoretical Victorian-era technology, and includes steam engines, clockwork devices, and difference engines. The genre has expanded into medieval settings and often dips into the realms of horror and fantasy. Secret societies and conspiracy theories are often featured, and some steampunk includes fantasy elements. These may include Lovecraftian, occult and Gothic horror influences. Another common setting is “Western Steampunk” (also known as Weird West), a science fictionalized American Western.

Historical Steampunk Fiction usually leans more toward science fiction than fantasy, but a number of historical steampunk stories incorporate magical elements. For example, Morlock Nights by K.W. Jeter (who invented the term Steampunk) revolves around an attempt by the wizard Merlin to raise King Arthur in order to save the Britain of 1892 from an invasion of Morlocks from the future. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers involves a group of magicians who try to raise ancient Egyptian Gods in an attempt to drive the British out of Egypt in the early 19th century.

Fantasy Steampunk Fiction Since the 1990s, the steampunk label has gone beyond works set in recognizable historical periods (usually the 19th century) to works set in fantasy worlds that rely heavily on steam- or spring-powered technology. 

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