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Steampunk Digest - April 9, 2021
Our weekly roundup of news and other happenings in the steampunk world
Thursday, April 8, 2021
The organizers of Steampunk CommuniTea Weekend have lined up an impressive roster of speakers for the virtual gathering, which takes place April 9-11 on Zoom and Discord. Attendees can look forward to panels on topics including costuming, propmaking, visual storytelling, parasol dueling, steampunk art, and how to build virtual communities.
The guests include:
• Authors Gail Carriger, Alex Acks, Madeleine Holly-Rosing, Joyce Chng, David Lee Summers, Beth Cato, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Maya Preisler, Day Al-Mohamed, Nicole Givens Kurtz, and Robert Dahlen, plus publisher Catherine Lundoff.
• Makers Alicia Rabb, Charity Myhre, Dave Lee, John Floyd, Peter Valentine, and Sabrina Floyd.
• Artists Audra Balion, Corey Brotherson, James Ng, Joe Phillips, Natalia Lopez, and Yomi Ayeni.
• Costumers Danielle McKinney, Ember Brennan Sparks, Jamie Butler, John Strangeway, Kate Martin, Paige Gardner, Tayliss Forge, Tony Ballard-Smoot, and the Brose Brothers.
• Luminaries Bianca Hernandez, Cindy Bedford, Dee Astell, Hal Astell, Kevin Steil, Lisa Hager, Lizzieluv Trinkets, M. Leigh Hood, Mandisa Njeri, Medea Asherah, Ofeibea Loveless, Phil Powell, and Professor Theodoric Brandywine.
Carriger will participate in two Sunday sessions, one on “Time Travel Baking” and another on steampunk comedy. Hal Astell will present short steampunk film festivals on Saturday and Sunday.
The event will also include three performances that require separate tickets: A Steampunk Speakeasy with The Coffin Breakers on Friday evening; A steampunk magic show on Saturday afternoon; and a concert by Nathaniel Johnstone on Saturday evening.
Aside from the performances, participation is free, but advance registration is required to receive links. The registration deadline was April 7, but the organizers have a limited number of additional slots available via this special link for readers of The Steampunk Explorer. The deadline for these slots is 8 a.m. Pacific time on Friday.
The event is presented by Madame Askew and the Grand Arbiter along with the Tucson Steampunk Society. Learn more on the Facebook event page.
Critics who screened early episodes of The Nevers are split in their assessments of the HBO science fiction series, which premieres April 11 in the U.S. and Canada. Most noted the controversy surrounding series creator Joss Whedon, who left the production in November, and his presence weighed heavily in their reactions.
Perhaps the most positive take is from Los Angeles Times TV critic Lorraine Ali, who described it as “a joy to watch and a thrill to follow. Supernatural realism, complex storytelling, fantastical powers and topical realities meet in this smart, suspenseful and colorful production.” She added that “the lush scenery and ambitious wardrobe along the way — from London’s sewers to its high society — are a visual candy shop of period nostalgia.”
Alan Sepinwall of Rolling Stone was not so impressed. Even “if Whedon still had the pristine cult-icon image from the turn of the century, The Nevers would still be a disappointment,” he wrote. “It has many of the elements you would expect from a Whedon show, and on a greater scale than any of the older ones, but some pieces only occasionally come into focus. Others leave you wondering why they’re around at all.”
As of Wednesday night, the series had a 53% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 15 reviews (eight positive and seven negative).
Steampunk fans have been eagerly awaiting the series, which tells the story of the “Touched,” a group of people in Victorian London who gained unusual powers after a supernatural event in 1896. Three years later, protagonists Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly) seek to protect the Touched, who are mostly women, from deepening social hostility.
The first six episodes, airing weekly on Sunday nights, will comprise the first half of Season 1. Critics had access to the first four episodes. HBO has not announced dates for the season’s second half. In the UK, the series will premiere May 17 on Sky Atlantic and NOW.
Review: ‘The Nevers’ is HBO’s next great fantasy series (Los Angeles Times)
Review: The Nevers Is An Action-Packed Adventure With Heart (HBO The Nevers fan site)
‘The Nevers’ Can’t Muster Enough Magic to Erase Joss Whedon (Rolling Stone)
TV Review: ‘The Nevers’ Off To A Rough Start (The Hollywood Reporter)
Also see our recently posted photo gallery, “An Early Look at The Nevers”
If you’re a steampunk fan who also likes Sherlock Holmes, you may have some tough choices this weekend. If Steampunk CommuniTea Weekend isn’t enough, the 221B Con will also be happening online. The event will feature panel discussions about the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as more-recent TV and film adaptations.
This year’s topics include Victorian-era medicine, portrayals of Dr. Watson, continuity errors in the Sherlock Holmes canon, representations of women, and problematic elements involving discrimination. Speakers will also look back at “A Study in Pink,” the first episode of the BBC series Sherlock, which starred Benedict Cumberbatch as a 21st century Holmes.
The event will be hosted on Zoom. Participation is free, but you have to register for each of the three days to obtain links.
221B Con is usually an in-person convention held in Atlanta. The 2020 and 2021 events were cancelled due to COVID-19. See the website for more info.
Speaking of Sherlock Holmes, Netflix appears to have a hit on its hands with The Irregulars, a series that reimagines the street kids who assisted the detective in A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four. In this telling, the Irregulars find themselves solving supernatural crimes at the behest of a sinister Dr. Watson. It was the most popular TV series on the streaming service in late March, before sliding to second place behind Who Killed Sara? The series also scored well with critics.
So will there be a second season? Netflix has not made an official announcement, but it seems likely, especially after trade publication Production Weekly reported that filming will begin this summer in Liverpool, UK.
It seems that audiences can’t get enough of the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But the stories often have twists that speak to modern-day sensibilities:
• Netflix scored an earlier hit with Enola Holmes, a feature film starring Millie Bobby Brown as Sherlock’s resourceful and strong-willed teenage sister. The cast also included Henry Cavill as Sherlock, Sam Claflin as older sibling Mycroft, and Helena Bonham Carter as the family matriarch. Here, too, Brown and director Harry Bradbeer have expressed interest in a sequel. The film was originally planned for a theatrical release, but Netflix acquired distribution rights after the pandemic shut down theaters.
• What’s on Netflix reported last October that the streaming service is developing Sherlock Junior, a film that “follows a modern day young John Watson as he links up with British expatriate and new neighbor, Sherlock Holmes, to solve the mystery behind a strange disappearance and a witch’s curse on their town.” (What’s on Netflix is an unofficial fan site.)
• Actor Robert Downey Jr. and his wife, producer Susan Downey, are planning to develop a Holmesian cinematic universe consisting of movies, TV series, and perhaps other forms of media. The actor, of course, portrayed the World’s Greatest Detective in Guy Ritchie’s steampunk-tinged Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011). The new “mystery-verse” would expand on those films, including productions featuring spin-off characters. The couple, who operate under the moniker Team Downey, discussed the concept last October during the Fast Company Innovation Festival.
A third film in the series has been in development for years, with Downey set to reprise his role along with Jude Law as Dr. Watson. In July 2019, Dexter Fletcher was named to replace Ritchie as director. The IMDb profile for “Sherlock Holmes 3” lists a release date of Dec. 22, 2021, but that seems doubtful as Fletcher stated last October that production was on the “back burner” due to the pandemic. The director is best known for his work on rock star biopics Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman.
Team Downey also produced HBO’s Perry Mason, which depicted the Erle Stanley Gardner character as a down-on-his-luck private investigator in 1932 Los Angeles.
‘Sherlock Junior’ Movie In Development at Netflix (What’s on Netflix)
Robert Downey Jr. Reportedly Eyeing Big Name Actors For Sherlock Holmes 3 (We Got This Covered)
The 79th World Science Fiction Convention, aka DisCon III, has been rescheduled to December 15-19, 2021 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. The organizing committee announced the move April 7 following a survey of convention members and other “interested parties,” who were asked for their preference between a largely virtual event in August and an in-person event in December.
The organizers also obtained a release from their contract with the original venue, the Marriott Wardman Park, which closed permanently in January just before its owner filed for bankruptcy.
DisCon III was originally scheduled for August 25-29. The organizers surveyed the membership in December 2020, noting that an August convention would be “mostly virtual with the potential for limited in-person activities.” This will be the first time a Worldcon has been held in December.
Last year’s convention, CoNZealand, was entirely virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the organizers are planning to incorporate online programming with virtual memberships beginning at US$75.
Worldcon, held annually since 1939 (except 1942-1945), is a major event for fans, authors, and artists in science fiction and fantasy. In addition to panels, con suites, dealers, and other standard convention fare, it hosts presentation of the Hugo Awards, generally considered the most prestigious awards in the field. Past conventions have included steampunk programming.
See our story from the 2018 event, “Steampunks Abound at Worldcon.”
Comic book producer Shane Amaya is back on Kickstarter with Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam #6, the latest installment in a supernatural Victorian mystery miniseries. As with the previous issue, he insists that it’s “not steampunk,” but given the 19th century setting and supernatural elements, it seems close enough.
The series presents the exploits of Lord Percival Cawthorne, his manservant Runnymeade, and a mysterious agent named Miss Sally in a world populated by ghosts and zombies. They’re contending with an elusive mastermind who wants to use the mathematical theories of Lewis Carroll for nefarious ends. “To crack the case,” we’re told, “the team must survive saber duels, steam-powered supercomputing engines, doomed airships, Russian femme fatales, and—most terrifying of all—strong-willed women!”
The comics are written by David Alton Hedges, a Los Angeles-based screenwriter, with art by Jefferson Costa of São Paulo, Brazil. They’re ultimately planning a 10-part series.
The campaign launched April 3 and seeks US$5,000 by May 2. The publisher has also run successful campaigns for earlier issues. See the Kickstarter page for more info.
Timothy Cardenas of Harlingen, Texas is on Kickstarter with Tales of Teralecia, a tabletop game he describes as “D&D meets Steampunk.” It will feature characters that include an aquatic race, animal shapeshifters, and superpowered humans. He writes that the project is in early development stages and he will use the funds to pay his artists.
The campaign launched March 29 and seeks US$2,000 by May 25. This is his first campaign on the crowdfunding platform. See the Kickstarter page for more info.
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