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Heather Massey runs The Galaxy Express, a blog devoted to sci-fi romance. She’s also an author in the subgenre. “Steambot Rampage” (Dreamspell Steampunk, Volume 1) is her latest release. For more information about her work, visit heathermassey.com.

[Stay tuned for details about a giveaway.]

One of These Days, We’ll Get a Steampunk Romance Movie

By Heather Massey

 

DearHollywood,

Everyone loves a good redemption story, and if any institution needs one, it’s you—specifically, Warner Bros. Pictures, the studio behind WILD WILD WEST (1999). You had a chance to introduce mainstream audiences to the wonderful world of steampunk and frankly, you blew it.

I avoided that film for years. I knew it was going to be bad, but the intrepid steampunk fan in me had to discover just how bad it could be. Yes, WILD WILD WEST was bad, but what cut me to the quick was its rampant silliness. It was obvious inside of a minute that the suits behind the production went out of their way—to the moon and beyond, it seemed—to avoid taking that project seriously.

While the film contained a few interesting ideas, overall it was very painful to watch. And I’m a fan of steampunk. I can’t imagine what the experience felt like for viewers new to the genre. In fact, the comedic elements had an unintended effect: You were inviting audiences to laugh at both the film and the genre. For shame.

Well, I’m writing to let you know that now, nearly twelve years after that debacle, the time is ripe to revisit a big budget live-action steampunk film. I realize that risk-averse isHollywood’s middle name, but think about it: One among you could be the first to greenlight such an innovative project. Blatant ego-stroke: you could make cinematic history!

Here’s my pitch:

Make it a steampunk romance

I know how much you gravitate towards releasing films that deliver an upbeat ending. Your experience has shown that’s where the profit is. Traditional steampunk, while utterly amazing and thought-provoking, isn’t always about tying everything up with a neat little bow. However, a steampunk romance film, with its universally appealing Happily Ever After, would have the built-in structure of an upbeat ending.

The romance aspect would also be a draw for untold numbers of women—the segment of the population you are currently in denial about when it comes to marketing films in general. See where I’m going with this redemption angle?

Load it with action-adventure

Drawing upon steampunk’s Edisonade roots, a steampunk romance would lend itself very well to an action-adventure story. Throw in a yummy mystery, too, while you’re at it. Plus, you can market it as an alternate history action adventure film if you still lack the cojones to tell potential audiences what it really is.

And who wouldn’t love a dynamite airship battle? Preferably with lots of explosions.

Think of the trailer! If you played your cards right, news of the film could go viral before the director has even shot a single frame!

Gadgets, gadgets, and more gadgets

While I don’t suggest including every steampunk element under the sun in your steampunk romance film, some of the popular mainstays include airships, automatons, and brass goggles. Oh, and don’t forget the steam! Steam-powered contraptions figure prominently in the steampunk genre, and I don’t have to tell you how striking the visuals for those would be. Or maybe I do—they’d be striking beyond measure!

Steampunk machinery ranges from bright and colorful to dark and atmospheric. Gadgets come in small, medium, and large sizes. Take your pick—the sky’s the limit.

And don’t forget the merchandising. Victorian-era style—whether applied to fashion, gadgets, or accessories—is a classic look that’s also retro-cool. If you do the film right, merchandising is an area where you could really cash in. Seriously—I don’t mind you profiting off of me if you show me that you “get it.”

Take advantage of the current CG and 3D technology for some fabulous eye candy

Steampunk, as I’m sure you don’t know, is heavy on the aesthetics (in Hollywood-speak, that means “pretty” and also “shiny”). In other words, steampunk looks fantastic, especially on film. I can understand why you largely ignored the genre in the past. Filmmaking technology just hadn’t progressed enough.

Now, however, it’s a different story. While such an undertaking would undoubtedly take great effort, bringing the steampunk aesthetic to life is affordable these days. Current technology would cut the labor time in half or more compared to decades past. So yeah, it’s time to get with the program—I mean, clockwork.

Whatever you do, don’t make a dumb steampunk movie

There are times for “lowest common denominator” films that yield an easy profit.

This isn’t one of those times.

Remember, we’re talking about a chance at redemption. Steampunk is a complex and venerable genre. It has a rabid hardcore following whose members will support your efforts if you make a film that respects and validates their interest. Doesn’t mean the film can’t be exciting—far from it. But you must take it seriously.

Hollywoodhas actually been generating decent sci-fi movies recently. Why not continue the trend with a steampunk romance film? You could end up with a bona fide phenomenon on your hands.

Take your time. Think it over. I’ve waited years for such an event; I can wait a little longer. In the meantime, I’ll spend my hard-earned money on the steampunk romances that publishers are currently releasing (especially digital-first publishers—gotta love their visionary attitude, eh?).

At least authors and their publishers understand I have steampunk romance needs. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to fork over my cash in exchange for a big-budget theatrical spectacle that does steampunk romance right.

In fact, here’s a list of some steampunk romance/erotic steampunk romance titles in case you’re looking for inspiration:

Clockwork Heart (Dru Pagliassotti)

Here There Be Monsters (Meljean Brook, from the Burning Up anthology)

The Iron Duke (Meljean Brook)

Sky Rat (Angelia Sparrow)

Steamed (Katie MacAlister)

Full Steam Ahead and Mechanical Rose (Nathalie Gray)

Island of Icarus (Christine Danse)

The Miraculous Lady Law (Robert Appleton)

Like Clockwork (Bonnie Dee)

Tangled In Time and Steamrolled, and Steam Time (Pauline Baird Jones)

Clockworks and Corsets (Regina Riley)

Silk, Steele, and Steam (Samhain Publishing’s anthology)

Hot and Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance (DAW Books anthology)

Dreamspell Steampunk, Volume 1 (L&L Dreamspell anthology)

Yours truly,

A concerned fan

***

Now for a giveaway! I’m going to give one person a digital copy of Dreamspell Steampunk, Volume 1. Winner chooses the format (PDF, Mobi, or ePub).

Entering is simple: leave a comment for this post by12 midnight ESTon Sunday, June 26. Tell me your idea for a steampunk romance movie, or what kind of elements you’d like to see.

Here are the story blurbs:

Steambot Rampage by Heather Massey

On the eve of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, a no-nonsense secretary and an intrepid reporter join forces to battle a bizarre automaton on a rampage.

Steam Time by Pauline B Jones

The man formerly known as Tobias Smith hadn’t planned to ride along with Dr. Everly and his Medicine Show. Grifters gave him a pain their elixirs couldn’t heal. But he was headed to Marfa, too. And Everly’s son turned out to be a really fine looking damsel—one in distress when the ghost lights of Marfa bump them into an alternate reality complete with an automaton gang and airships. Could he be the good guy? Be the hero, save the day and get the girl? 

The Prometheus Engine by Chris Samson

When an airship is shot down over the desolateKashmirlandscape, seven survivors of disparate backgrounds must band together to escape. As a swarm of marauders approaches, the survivors’ only hope lies in the untested Prometheus Engine.

Angelina by Linda Houle

Valerie is fascinated with an antique ruby and diamond pendant. Where did it come from and why was it hidden in a makeshift wall safe? An old log cabin on her new husband’s ranch holds the answers and a lot more, but once Val goes through a secret door will she ever find her way back home?

Thanks for reading!

~Heather Massey
www.heathermassey.com
The Galaxy Express

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Happy Thanksgiving

 

Today we have a special Steampunk Movie Review for you by Ramon Fagan of The Art of Steampunk.

“Nickel Children“: SteamPunk/Sci-Fi Western Short Film
Review by Ramon Fagan, review courtsey of The Art of Steampunk.

I have gotten so hopeful, then disappointed with other attempts to use the currently fashionable Steampunk Aesthetic and Fictional approach (much less actual Steampunk Cultural ideas or values) to boost attention to various movies or TV shows lately that I find myself almost afraid to hope that something really good would come out of a project like this.  Thank Goodness Kevin Eslinger, apparently with help from his brother, was the one that put this project together! 

    Imagine a place where an “Indiana Jones” like vigilante goes after the most evil imaginable, yet classic, bad man from the old west, who is hiding a secret weapon right out of classic science fiction horror films. Now picture it set in the one place and time on earth where everyone, and probably the family pets even, would need to have a pair of adventurer’s goggles on them at all times, the dust bowl time period in Kansas.  As this is a “Steampunk Film” the goggles are naturally very decorative and science fiction looking including one pair (that the vigil ante’s partner uses) that appear to be the most elaborate pair of magnifying, telescopic goggles I have ever seen, and I assure you I have seen a lot of them!

    The acting ranged from good/very good (depending on your interpretation of the director’s intent) on the part of some of the minor actors to some of the finest acting I have ever seen on the part of the stars.  The script was also tight, well written, well thought out, and well executed, as it must be when you have only 16 minutes to tell a gripping tale.  All short films try for that perfect blend, but few come up to this one’s high standards of delivering this combination that can make even a very short film something to remember!

        Amanda Bailey apparently (per another reviewer’s comment, as she changed so expertly in her two double roles I actually missed that it was the same actress) plays both Jack’s mother in the opening scene, and Anastasia, the vigil ante looking for her stolen son.  Both were absolutely incredibly well performed in all ways!  To give you some idea of how talented this actress really is, she managed to convey deep love and protectiveness for her son, love and admiration for her man, thanks that he did not object when she gave the lion’s share of their meager food to their child, then fear, grief, shock, and finally abject terror in every possible way without so much as a single spoken line.  She did this as well, in my opinion, as Katherine Hepburn, Meryl Streep, or anyone I have ever seen, and she did this all in about 60 seconds total.  I know this sounds impossible, but if you pay close enough attention to body language (even breathing patterns) and have ever seen real people going through that level of real terror and tragedy, then you will understand when you see her in that scene!  I had to catch my breath again from that alone just to be able to focus on the core film which followed and we were still in the first two minutes or so of the film with almost no spoken lines! The film only got better from there, but first, let's discuss some of the other actors in the film.

    Easton Lee McCuiston plays Jack, a quiet, polite, young boy, whose parents are murdered, apparently just to steal him for the child fighting arena. When I asked the director about the very emotionally restrained performance of this character he gave a very sound and artistic explanation for how this character was directed to perform:  “Easton did a fantastic job at keeping that somber, blank expression, of a kid whose been almost completely traumatized by the events he's witnessed. Almost catatonic shock, he's going through the motions, but not really understanding what is happening. “

 Michael Venter plays his father who manages to convey, without even speaking, courage, despair, love, and tragedy when trying to calculate what will give his family the best chances when a gunslinger comes to destroy them.  While his part was brief, it was very good and very memorable.  Jeremy Snowden plays the evil gunslinger (referred to as “Sherrif” in review info) that rules over a network of child sex slave and gladiator slave rings throughout the territory.  He gives a chilling and very believable performance with excellent attention to even very small details of facial expression, body language, and range of emotions conveyed by the eyes.  Brian J. Lowry was entertaining and interesting as Dr. Montague, the Steampunk inventor and vigil ante accomplice, but he was not given enough of a role in this to evaluate well.  We will see more of him, I hope in future episodes.  Benjamin Wood also did a great job as the evil “Sherrif’s” secret weapon, but I can’t say much about that here without giving away too much in the plot.  I would also like to make a special mention of the fine performance of the ring announcer, his lovely female assistant who exudes greed from her eyes while happily taking money for a child sex slave, and the “Sherrif’s Exotics” a pair of Asian women who show a strong performance of sensual pleasure at watching Jack’s blood being spilled.  

       While the subject of child slavery, especially for sexual purposes, is, or at least should be, repulsive to us all, it was handled about as tastefully as it can be and still get across the level of evil the vigil ante is up against.  Besides, what sci-fi/steam punk/western story could possibly be more enjoyable than seeing the worst scum imaginable get beaten up by the very children they were abusing?   In fact the director, like many before him, insisted that his “evil” actors show as little emotion, either pity or anger toward the children as possible in all scenes of the film.  He said this was completely intentional: “ their lack of emotion is only to show that this is just another day, another betting ring, and another kid. They feel no remorse.”   He said it was important to make the evil characters as evil and predatory as possible so that the children not have any negativity attach to them as characters in later scenes where they violently retaliate against the betting ring staff and patrons.

    On a similar note that would make the Bards of my own Celtic ancestors proud, the director briefly mentioned in an e-mail to me that he actually hoped this film’s story line would help to draw attention to this worst of all modern social problems.  He didn’t make an issue of it, and may not mention it again, but that really caught my attention.  The reason it caught my attention so strongly was that this is a “Steampunk Movie” and from the very earliest beginnings of the 1800s era science fiction that “Steampunk” evolved from, such as “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “The Time Machine”, our “Steampunk” sub-culture (and it’s early ancestral sources ) have rebelled not only against the idea of mass production of ugly, shoddy, disposable goods in settings that demean and abuse 3rd world factory workers, but also against the idea of apathy toward social problems and the trials of disempowered classes, including children. 

    In other words, those members of  the “Steampunk  Community”, like myself, who treat it as far more than just a fashion statement, have been progressively making it into a force for positive social change.  Why would this matter to the TV/film industry you may ask?  It should matter, because after the fiasco of NCIS-LA attempting to use an incredibly poorly researched and insulting episode they pandered as “Steampunk” which did bad things to the reputation of the show‘s writers and producers, much more attention is being paid to whether or not writers, directors, and producers take the time and trouble to actually ask members of any given community or subculture for information and assistance in developing entertainment that gives professional results, not to mention responsible and respectful reflection of various cultures and values. 

    Mr Eslinger, and his costumer, and other production staff not only asked for  opinions and help from their local Steampunk Community, but were actually loaned personal items to use in the film with their blessings and support.  The Castle TV series went so far as to hire members of the California Steampunk community as extras and expert consultants for their “Steampunk Episode“.  Why is it so much trouble for people to pick up the phone, or drop a courteous e-mail and ask for support from people so desperately trying to communicate?  When this is not done, it simply shows the writers and developers to be lazy and apathetic about producing good art in a way that is actually in touch with the times and the people represented.  As a film director that is using a truly excellent Steampunk Genre film to tell a fictional tale that attracts attention to the worst of all social evils, I would like to say that I at least consider that sufficient reason to try to claim him, at least in an honorary capacity, as a part of our Steampunk Community!  If any of my readers do not believe that child slavery is still a serious problem worldwide, including in America, I would strongly suggest they take a look at the website of an excellent charitable organization that directly assists these children at http://love146.org/
   
I have to say that while any film (yes pretty much any of them) can be criticized in one area or another if dissected enough, and that all films, including this one, can be polished more or made more smooth and more easily understood if given more screen time to fill and more money to spend, overall I found this film truly enjoyable and a great pleasure to watch!  I also have noted that the comments and responses from literally every viewer I have been able to locate, canvas, or see a review or comment from so far has been unanimously very positive!  I have trouble recalling other films with such a universal appeal although I realize the limited audiences that have been able to see it so far have tended to be persons already seriously interested in the genre or in the film industry in general, but that is still incredibly impressive!  Having already given you my opinion of the acting, I would like to say that the script and the directing are truly outstanding!  I would also like to point out a few items of special interest in the technical areas.
   
The costuming is wonderful!  It ranged from old west, Kansas area, dust bowl farmer/rancher through upper class wealthy family riding/traveling clothes from the time period with the addition of goggles and corsets, (the two steam punk fashion essentials)as well as a few intentionally anachronistic accents.  In spite of what may sound, to persons unfamiliar with the “Steampunk Fashion Aesthetic”, which derives from an 1800’s era genre of science fiction stories. (which surprisingly enough really did begin to be published in that time period, but has changed much over the years)   This may sound rather odd, but assure you, the look and feel of a really good “Old West” movie, like the “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” pervades almost every fiber of the short film, aside from the goggles, but even the goggles make good sense in light of the time and place where even Clint Eastwood would find such eye apparel pretty much a necessity if he wanted to hit anything in the daily dust storms. 
   
While I have seen more elaborate and more luxuriant Steampunk ensembles, goggles, toys, backpacks etc., and they looked great in a 21st century “Dream Team” concept version of a “Private Steampunk Nightclub” on a recent episode of the TV serial Castle, such extravagant looking costuming and fabrics would not have been nearly as perfect for this setting and I think such extremely fancy toys would have damaged the realistic, gritty, believability of the film in general. 
   
The soundtrack is also one of the film‘s great strengths!.  Unfortunately my expertise in this area is insufficient to say as much about the details in this area, but it was far more emotionally moving and richer as a soundtrack than I would have ever expected from any low budget short film. 
  
  The cinematography was also really good!  Most, if not all of the shots were in setting where limited and/or muted lighting was used to give an emotionally dark aspect to a very dark themed adventure.  While most viewers have never tried to act or perform in such lighting, I have, and I tell you it was murder!  Somehow the camera and lighting crew of this film found the magic formula to make everything very clear, yet realistic at the same time.  Even in the darkest, dungeon like area where the child slaves were caged, I could see every detail of every facial expression and every line of body language without multiple shadows.
   
The computer graphics that were used in some scenes to add background and depth were also used in one scene to make a very surprising and fairly believable sudden change to the building itself where the fight occurs and to even add an escape dirigible up close and later at a distance. 
   
The acting ranged from good to absolutely superb and the technical work on this short film was impressive as well!  I sincerely hope it was enough to help it win the recognition and support from the film industry and producers or bakers that it needs to make their dream of turning this short film into a Steampunk Serial a reality!  I and pretty much all of my hundreds of Steampunk friends worldwide are hoping his dream will happen as this is the best non-anime, possibly the best ever, Steampunk Fictional story TV or film, I have seen to date!  Best of luck to Mr. Eslinger and all the cast and crew of “Nickel Children”!

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Color me embarrassed, but I forgot to announce some winners.

…drum roll please…

~*~*~COUNT JASON, DAYLE, and THERESA~*~*~

Congratulations, you’ve all won a copy of Steampunk Tales Magazine.  Please contact me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize.

I have a few more copies to give away, so if you want a copy of issue 6 of Steampunk Tales let me know in the comment box and I’ll give them away until they’re gone.

I also have some amazing news.   My Steampunk dark fairytale for young adults,  Innocent Darkness, has sold. It’ll be published by the awesome folks at Flux and right now is slated to hit the shelves in the first half of 2012. The whole crazy tale of how I managed to sell a book and land an agent is here if you care to read it. Nevertheless, it’s very exciting to me. 2012 seems so far away, but I’m sure it’ll pass by in a blink.

Now, this is a movie I’d like to see, even if it’s in French. It’s deliciously Streampunk and based on an old comic book.

Have a great week everyone, and please keep those guest suggestions coming!

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Today we have a visiting lolita.  Lolita Kristen has a movie review for us on the recent release Sherlock Holmes.

Movie Review– Sherlock Holmes
by Kristen Roach

Sherlock Holmes always was a little before his time. He was an amateur detective before Miss Marple, a forensic expert before Gil Grissom, a criminal profiler before Fox Mulder and a violin-playing, pipe-smoking, cocaine-shooting eccentric before…well…actually, there is no comparison there. Holmes was one of a kind. So devotees of the character can breathe a little easier knowing that as the new incarnation of Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. more than lives up to the legacy…minus the cocaine. He (with a little help from a very handsome Dr. Watson) manages to put just the right amount of the 21st century into the 19th.

This Holmes is a rock star, make no mistake. He has all the delightful arrogance of a man who has become accustomed to always being right in the end. He lives a much rougher lifestyle than his literary counterpart: he drinks heavily, he dabbles in experimental medicines and he boxes men twice his size. Although he holds great regard for human life in general, he thinks nothing of taking risks not only with his own life, but with the lives of those who happen to be around him. Holmes tries the patience of everyone he knows with his antics, none more so than his long suffering best friend and partner in crime-solving, Dr. John Watson.

In this incarnation, Watson is not the shadow of Holmes, but his conscience, constantly trying to turn Holmes into a better man while still struggling to do the same for himself. He is a gambler who fights the urge to play. He is a bachelor who has decided to settle down with a good woman. And he is a reluctant adventurer, a man for whom it is as impossible to turn away from a mystery as it is to say ‘no’ to any of Holmes’ machinations.

Together, this mismatched pair has solved many great, impossible crimes for Scotland Yard, including the case of several pseudo-Satanic ritual sacrifices of young women that appears to be closed at the beginning of the film. But now Watson has decided to get married and move out of the 221B Baker Street flat that he and Holmes have shared…and not only isn’t Holmes happy about it, he’s going to do everything in his power to change his old friend’s mind.

Watson’s attempt to start a new life with his fiancée is really thwarted, however, by the resurrection of Lord Blackwood, an upper-crust villain with an arsenal of parlor tricks and a handful of Masonic-esque gentlemen minions who believe he will help them take over England and reclaim America. At first, it seems as if Holmes and Watson may be in unfamiliar territory. Black magic? Supernatural powers? Secret societies? Are they solving a mystery or investigating an X-file?

But just when it seems as though the writers have gone too far into the paranormal, Holmes explains it all with science, stripping away Blackwood’s mystique and exposing him for the fraud that he is. Of course, there are a few bumps along the way.

The biggest of these is–surprise, surprise–a beautiful woman. Rachel McAdams plays Irene Adler, a con-woman extraordinaire and a one-time paramour of Holmes who comes to him on the pretense of hiring Holmes to find a missing person, but in reality is being used as the puppet of a shadowed figure who wants to find out as much about Holmes as possible. The man’s identity is not revealed until the end of the movie, and although some of the audience may have guessed it early on, it’s a pleasant surprise for viewers who aren’t as familiar with the Sherlock Holmes mythology.

Does Holmes solve the mystery, capture the bad guy and save the Crown? Of course. He’s Sherlock Holmes. The more interesting problems, however, are personal and not so easily dismissed. Can he set aside his own fear of change and fear of loneliness long enough to let his best friend find happiness with a good woman? Will he ever get the upper-hand over the one woman who’s ever held his interest…and would we even want him to? And although he recognizes the underlying threat posed by Irene Adler’s shadowed employer, will he be able to overcome his own hubris in time to recognize that Professor Moriarty will be his greatest adversary and traditionally the man who brings about his death? It’s those questions that fuel the movie and will most likely propel the planned sequel.

But is this film an example of steampunk? In truth, there are only a few elements that could honestly be classified as steampunk-ish. Blackwood’s weapon of mass destruction, for example, and perhaps some of Holmes’s experimental toys. But overall, while some the costumes and hair styles might be a bit too slick and modern for the time period, the movie is definitely grounded in the Victorian age with most of its conventions and limitations.

Sherlock Holmes is a fun romp through history, a well-acted, well-directed and well-produced mystery-adventure-comedy that gives a fresh face to a beloved fictional character. This Lolita says that Holmes and Watson can inspect her gears anytime!

Thank you so much for visiting us, Kristen. What did everyone else think? Did you like it? Did you think it was Steampunk?  How did it compare to previous versions?

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Recently my husband was working on a film and they needed an “alien detector.” So, the hubby, being the creative evil genius he is, made a really neat alien detector out of old toys and bits of things. He brought it on set and the director looks at it, scratches his head and says “It’s nice, but I want it more…Steampunk.”  (Tho, the movie itself isn’t Steampunk.)

So, the hubby when back to the proverbial and built this. It blinks, flashes, and is operated by remote…Pretty good for being made overnight from what was lying around the house.  I’d use it for a prop–Steampunk Alien Hunters, anyone?

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