fbpx Steampunk Digest - April 3, 2020: Our weekly roundup of news and other happenings in the steampunk world | The Steampunk Explorer

Steampunk Digest - April 3, 2020

Our weekly roundup of news and other happenings in the steampunk world

Friday, April 3, 2020
Watch City 2019
Photo by Babette Daniels

The Watch City Steampunk Festival in Waltham, Massachusetts has joined the long list of steampunk gatherings cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It was scheduled for May 9. “We held out for as long as we could, hoping to be able to provide one of the first large events that people could attend, but it’s become clear that we will be unable to do so,” the organizers wrote on the website and Facebook page. They plan to return May 8, 2021. Past events have drawn as many as 10,000 visitors, making it one of largest steampunk gatherings in the U.S.

On a happier note, event organizer Aloysius Fox has announced dates and some early details for the next Chicago Steampunk Exposition. It’s slated for April 23-25, 2021, at the Hyatt Regency Schaumburg in Schaumburg, Illinois. Author Gail Carriger will be the Guest of Honor. He hinted that “a certain Professor that likes to rap about tea” may “quite possibly” appear as well.

Tickets are now on sale with a pre-registration discount. He will accept applications for vendors, artists, authors, and other exhibitors through the end of July. He’s also accepting proposals for presentations, panels, and workshops.

This will be the second run for the expo, which debuted Sept. 27-29, 2019. See the Facebook event page for more info.

Fox also produces the International Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Originally scheduled for March 27-29, it’s now slated for August 28-30 at the Holiday Inn Eastgate in Cincinnati with a “Weird West” theme.

SteamPaper, a monthly steampunk newsletter from the UK, will host SteamPunk Over Ether, a virtual festival on the weekend of April 25-26. It will livestream for free on Facebook and YouTube, and content will be available afterward.

"There will be a full programme of bands, comedy, quizzes, craft sessions, cookery demonstrations, gin tasting and even a shopping channel style show," they announced, adding that they will publish the schedule in advance. They're also open to "performers, crafters, writers, artists etc. who would like to take part or provide content." Get the details on their Facebook page and the Facebook event page.

See below for more event news.


In 2019, we started a tradition of introducing new spin-off publications on April 1. Last year, it was the Steampunk Enquirer. Now we give you COGSmopolitan. We posted a screen-resolution version on our Facebook page. You can download a printable 11x17-inch version by becoming a Patreon supporter for as little as $1 per month.

Victor Ghastly, the “Victor” in UK steampunk band Victor and the Bully, is out with Victor Ghastly’s Electric Timebomb, his first solo album. He describes it as “13 tracks of pumping Electroswing, big risers and drops, cheeky lyrics, catchy hooks and foot tapping beats.” It’s available on Spotify, Amazon, and other streaming platforms, or on CD from the Victor and the Bully online store.

He’s also planning a “Birthday Stay at Home Show,” where he’ll perform tracks from the album, plus some Victor and the Bully, from his living room. It’s set for Friday, April 3, beginning 8 p.m. UTC+1, via the Victor and the Bully Sinners Facebook group. See the Facebook event page for details.

With schools and libraries closed due to the outbreak, the Internet Archive launched the National Emergency Library, providing access to 1.4 million digitized books that you can borrow for up to 14 days with no waiting.

The collection includes many classic steampunk works. Among them: Infernal Devices and Fiendish Schemes by K.W. Jeter; Beneath London and Homunculus by James P. Blaylock; Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger; and The Steampunk Trilogy by Paul Di Filippo. And these anthologies: Extraordinary Engines (edited by Nick Gevers); The Mammoth Book of Steampunk (Sean Wallace); Steampunk (Ann and Jeff VanderMeer); and Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution (Ann VanderMeer).

The Internet Archive has long maintained a digital lending library with books contributed by university libraries and other institutions around the world. Each title is available in a limited number of digital copies, and you often had to go on a waitlist before you could borrow one. With the new initiative, the organization is suspending the waitlist at least through June 30.

You can read the books online, or download them in encrypted ePub, Daisy, or PDF formats (but not the Kindle Mobi format). To read them on your PC or mobile device, you’ll need the free Adobe Digital Editions app.

Authors concerned that the library may cut into their sales can request that their books be removed. They can also opt in and donate their books to the library.

“We encourage all readers who are in a position to buy books to do so, ideally while also supporting your local bookstore,” wrote Internet Archive Director of Open Libraries Chris Freeland in a blog post announcing the initiative.

Lady Mechanika covers

Benitez Productions, publisher of the popular Lady Mechanika steampunk comics, has joined an effort to help retailers that are losing business during the outbreak. When you purchase a product from the website, you can designate a local comic shop to receive 50 percent of the sale.

“We’ve been hearing from retailers who are struggling during this coronavirus pandemic so we wanted to do what we can to help while also encouraging everyone to stay home so we can defeat this virus as quickly as possible,” wrote Lady Mechanika creator Joe Benitez in a message to fans. They’re following the lead of TKO Studios, which announced a similar deal.

The publisher is under a lockdown in Los Angeles, where they are “taking advantage of the forced convention cancellations to catch up on the creative side and try to get as many books finished as we can,” Benitez writes. “We encourage everyone to please stay home as much as possible, even if it isn’t mandated by their city or state. The more we all work together and practice aggressive social distancing, the more lives we will save and the sooner this crisis will be over! So please stay safe, stay home, and read comics!”

Lady Mechanika is a series of adventures about a Victorian-era private detective with mechanical limbs. Benitez recently released the fifth and final issue of Lady Mechanika: Sangre, a storyline that brought the hero to the Spanish countryside. See the publisher’s website for more info.

The Key City Steampunk Festival has announced a Maker Challenge to promote awareness of face masks in the steampunk community.

“We are offering an all-inclusive weekend pass for two, to the person who comes up with the best filter mask or respirator,” said event organizer Wheeler Stone in a video revealing the challenge. Later, he told us that entries will be judged on functionality and aesthetics.

“The goal really is to normalize mask wearing in public, which ironically is a steampunk aesthetic,” he said.

The judges will include Stone as well as Brian Fadrosh, Tobias McCurry, Thomas Willeford, and “other special guests at Key City to be determined,” he said.

If you’re looking for inspiration, New Zealand steampunk enthusiast Terri Bracey created a steampunk dragon mask that fits over a respirator. You can read about it in Stuff.

Once you build your face mask, you can enter it in the challenge by posting a video in the comments section. The festival is scheduled for Aug. 14-16 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. See the event Facebook page for more details.

Old Sewing Machine
Image by Steen Jepsen from Pixabay

We’ve already written about efforts by steampunk makers to sew face masks for hospitals, which are dealing with severe supply shortages due to the outbreak. Those talents could be in even greater demand as the CDC is reconsidering its recommendations on public use of face masks.

The agency currently advises that members of the general public should wear masks only if they’re sick or caring for others. But it’s now clear that people who don’t show symptoms can carry the virus and spread the infection. “And so we’ve asked the CDC to take another look at whether or not having more people wear masks will prevent transmission of the disease to other people,” said U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams in an interview with Good Morning America.

As the outbreak spreads, more organizations are asking for DIY masks, and others have posted online guides and instructional videos for making them. So we’ve posted a new story with links to some of these guides, as well as information about the pros and cons of different mask materials. Many guides suggest cotton as the best material, but some experts are concerned that it’s conducive to bacterial growth. You can read the story here.

See all of our coronavirus coverage, plus useful resources, in our COVID-19 News Hub.


Last Ride for Horsemen

Inverse Press is on Kickstarter with the fourth and final issue of Last Ride of the 4 Horsemen, its 80-page steampunk comic series. Each installment features one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse threatening the Old West town of Promise, “perhaps the last town in all creation.” Rewards include digital and print editions of issue 4 along with bundles of all four issues and new covers.

The campaign launched on March 29 and met its US $1500 goal in the first 24 hours. It runs through April 19. See the Kickstarter page and Inverse Press website for more info.

Event News

The organizers of Worldcon 78, aka CoNZealand, announced that it will become an interactive virtual convention due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It was scheduled for July 29-Aug. 2 in Wellington, New Zealand. You must have an attending membership to fully participate in the virtual activities. They plan to announce new online membership rates by April 15. Read the announcement here.

SFWA Nebula Conference, scheduled for May 28-31 in Woodland Hills, California, will become a virtual conference running May 29-31. It will feature “panels, solo presentations, conference mentorships, workshops, forums, chats, and virtual room parties (including a dance party hosted by John Scalzi),” according to a statement on the website. The Nebula Awards honoring the year’s best speculative fiction will be presented via live stream on May 30 at 8 p.m. Eastern time. Registration costs $150 and will be open to the public. A portion of the proceeds will benefit SFWA members financially affected by the outbreak. The board will offer grants of up to $1000 beginning in this month. See the website for details.

StokerCon, the annual convention of the Horror Writers Association, has been tentatively rescheduled for Aug. 6-9. It was slated for April 16-19 in Scarborough, UK. It’s held in different cities each year, and this was to be the first year in which it was held outside the U.S. The Bram Stoker Awards honoring superior achievement in horror writing will be presented in a virtual ceremony on April 18. See the StokerCon and Horror Writers Association websites for more info.

WhedonCon, slated for June 5-7 in Los Angeles, has been rescheduled to Oct. 30-Nov. 1. The convention is for fans of entertainment created by Joss Whedon, including Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dollhouse, and Agents of SHIELD. It may also have programming related to The Nevers, Whedon’s forthcoming HBO science fiction series set during the Victorian era. See the website for more info.

Here are more event changes:

BayCon, the San Francisco-area science fiction convention, was postponed to Nov. 6-8. It was originally scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend. This year’s event is held concurrently with the STARFLEET International Conference, which has also moved to Nov. 6-8. See the website for details.

The New Jersey Renaissance Faire, scheduled for May 23-June 7, was cancelled for this year.

Phoenix Fan Fusion, scheduled for May 21-24, was rescheduled to Sept. 25-27. Previously known as Phoenix Comicon and Phoenix Comic Fest, it’s one of the larger geek culture conventions in the USA. See the website for details.

The Spring Steam Show in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, was cancelled. The summer show is still scheduled for Aug. 7-9. The event features demonstrations of steam-powered vehicles and equipment. It’s presented by the National Pike Steam Gas, and Horse Association. The location is near Pittsburgh. See the website for details.

Steampunk Filey, scheduled for May 16-17 in Filey, UK, was postponed until 2021.

Steamship Landing Exposition, scheduled for June 13-14 in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, has been postponed. The organizers say they will announce a new date “as soon as we are able.” See the website for more info.

Virginia Renaissance Faire, scheduled for May 9-June 7 in Spotsylvania, was cancelled for this year.

WisCon, scheduled for May 22-25 in Madison, Wisconsin, was cancelled.

We’ve added these to our ongoing list of steampunk-related events that have been cancelled or postponed due to the outbreak.

Quick Hits

Smiling Victorians: why it’s a myth that our ancestors didn’t smile for pictures (History Extra)

Binge It! The Gross, Horrifying, Weird World of China Miéville’s Bas-Lag Trilogy (IGN India)

An Artist’s Gothic Townhouse, Filled With Octopus-Shaped Lamps (T: The New York Times Style Magazine)

London bar Mr Fogg’s welcomes real-life explorers to tell stories of their daring exploits for new virtual Q&A series (Evening Standard)

10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Prestige (ScreenRant)

5 Tips for Cosplaying With a Chronic Illness or Disability (The Mighty)

Five novels from the Victorian era to give comfort in troubled times (The Conversation)

These Sites Are Offering Books & Audiobooks Online For Free (604 Now)

Spider Resembling Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” Among Seven New Australian Species Discovered (IFL Science)

Top Stories for March

Here were the most-viewed stories of the month:

1. Steampunking Surgical Masks

2. The World of Steampunk (online exhibition)

3. Virus Sends Steampunks to Cyberspace

4. Marvelous Makers Converge in SF (Clockwork Alchemy preview, before it was postponed)

5. Steampunk Digest - March-13, 2020

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