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Steampunk Digest - August 2, 2019

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

Friday, August 2, 2019

Steampunk Digest brings you news and other info from around the web. Sign up to get it by email before it’s posted on the website. The email version also includes summaries of recent stories posted on The Steampunk Explorer.

HBO has revealed new details about The Nevers, the highly anticipated science-fiction series from Joss Whedon. It will tell the story of “The Touched,” a group of Victorian women “who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that could change the world.”

The network previously announced that Laura Donnelly will play the lead role, and now we know her character’s name: Amalia True, “the most reckless, impulsive, emotionally damaged hero of her time.” The actress from Northern Ireland is best known for playing Jenny Fraser in Outlander.

HBO also announced additional cast members:

Nick Frost as Declan Orrun, aka the Beggar King, “a low-level crime lord who’s perfectly happy to help Amalia and her cause — and equally happy to sell them out.” Frost is known for his collaborations with Simon Pegg, including Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, and Paul.

Denis O’Hare as Dr. Edmund Hague, “a gifted American surgeon who uses his skills in the coldest, most brutal way possible.” He’s known for playing a vampire king in True Blood and for multiple roles in American Horror Story.

Olivia Williams as Lavinia Bidlow, a “wealthy spinster and champion of ‘The Touched’ who funds the orphanage where Amalia and many of them live.” Williams had a lead role as Emily Burton-Silk in Counterpart, a science fiction series that aired on Starz. She also played Adelle DeWitt in Dollhouse, another series created by Whedon.

Zackary Momoh as Doctor Horatio Cousens, a physician from the West Indies “whose fortunes took a dark turn when he met Amalia and discovered his own ability.”

Tom Riley as Augustus “Augie” Bidlow, Lavinia’s “disarming younger brother” and “a keen ornithologist.”

Other cast members include Ann Skelly as Amalia’s best friend; James Norton as the owner of a secret club; Rochelle Neil as a career criminal who can control fire; Eleanor Tomlinson as a singer; Ben Chaplin as a detective; and Pip Torrens as a former general “determined to protect the established order from these strange people.”

Whedon, best known as the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, is the showrunner and executive producer. He also wrote the screenplays for The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The series is slated to premiere in 2020. The IMDb profile indicates that the first season will consist of 10 episodes. See the HBO website for more info.

Steampunk Pope

Fairfield, Iowa was “Geared for Weird” as thousands of cyclists descended on the town July 25 for an overnight stop—and steampunk-themed music festival—during RAGBRAI, a mass bicycle ride across the state. We recently previewed the event, which included performances by The Eternal Frontier, Ragged Blade Band, and No Limits.

Oprah Winfrey once described Fairfield as “America’s Most Unusual Town.” It is proudly out of the ordinary, so “everyone understood the idea of a ‘Geared for Weird’ slogan,” writes Matt Milner in the Ottumwa Courier. “But the steampunk theme? That required some teaching.”

One visitor who helped enlighten the masses was RJ Lundgren, aka Steampunk Pope, Brother Barnabas Brass-Boilerplate, leader of the Mystical Order of the AEthernaught Brotherhood (M.O.A.B.). The Des Moines resident has been appearing in this guise at costume events in the Midwest for the past five years. His arrival in town earned a write-up in The Fairfield Ledger.

He’s shown above with members of the Ragged Blade Band. In case you missed him in Fairfield, he plans to be at the Big River Steampunk Festival in Hannibal, Missouri over Labor Day weekend.

You can find additional photos on the Fairfield RAGBRAI Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Steampunk Pope, Brother Barnabas Brass-Boilerplate.


Time is running out to see the Morris Museum’s “Simply Steampunk” exhibition, which closes on Aug. 11 after a five-month run. In advance of the closing, the museum will host a “Last Look Curator’s Tour” on Thursday, Aug. 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will be led by Michele Marinelli, curator of the museum’s Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata.

David Bowman, one of the featured artists, will also join the tour. He has three works in the exhibition, including “Peterence, The Pteranodon,” designed as a steampunk reincarnation of a prehistoric creature. It’s shown above.

“Simply Steampunk” is the second installment in “A Cache of Kinetic Art,” a four-year series of exhibitions associated with the Guinness Collection. It features 18 kinetic sculptures by 12 contemporary artists.

Admission is free for members and $15 for non-members. The museum is in Morristown, New Jersey. See our previous story and the museum website for more info.

Photo by Erica Phiansunthon.

Author and entertainer John Pyka is inviting submissions from artists and authors for Advance the Spark: Two-Fisted Decopunk and Dieselpunk Tales, a forthcoming anthology. It’s set in the same dieselpunk universe he created in his 2015 book, Tales From The Flip-Side. Submissions must be set in that universe and cannot “contradict established universe canon,” he writes. Potential contributors should submit a brief synopsis of the idea along with writing or art samples. He expects the anthology to be published early next year.

He made the announcement in this Facebook post. See his website for more info.

Eighth Ripple Press is mixing steampunk and romance in Steamy Cogs II, an anthology featuring short stories by Jessica Ripley, Mandy Rosko, MC Moondust, TB Mann, Jodi Kendrick, Francis Rondón, Alexa Gregory, and Jennifer Carole Lewis. Ripley is a co-founder of Eighth Ripple Press.

Available only in print, the anthology was published in conjunction with Romancing the Capital, a romance-focused literary conference happening this weekend in Ottawa, Canada. This year’s conference has a steampunk theme, including a Steampunk Ball on Friday night. The conference sessions will cover all aspects of the romance genre for writers and readers.

See the Eighth Ripple Press website for more info.

Rivet Wing Press is out with Black Recluse by Anna Bowman, Book 1 in the author’s Roanoke Desperados series. Set on the planet Roanoke, it tells the story of Rayn, a gunsmith who meets an airship captain named Solomand Black. “In the wake of trouble he brings with him, she has no choice but to accept his offer and set out on a journey which will ultimately lead her to discover the truth of who she is,” we’re told. The tale also involves government agents and a dangerous war criminal. See the Goodreads page for more info.

Alice’s Night Circus has released “The Machine,” another single from the performer’s 2018 debut album Metamorphose. Also available as a music video, it’s a preview of the Aug. 23 digital release of Metamorphose, previously available only as a CD or LP.

Alice is the stage name of Julia Scott, who also has a busy schedule of appearances at upcoming steampunk events in the UK. They include Asylum XI, Aug. 25-26 in Lincoln; Hastings Steampunk Circus of Curiosities, Sept. 14; Cogwarts Steampunk Spectacular in Llangollen, Sept. 21; and The Gosport Steampunk Festival Soiree, Sept. 28.

Her music is described as “a blend of apocalyptic fairy-tale steampop with a touch of circus.” See her website for more info.

Sunless Skies Clockwork Sun

Failbetter Games announced an update for Sunless Skies, a Gothic horror roleplay game set in an alternate 1905 where you pilot a spacefaring steam locomotive. The major new feature is a horn for your locomotive. “This has, bafflingly, been the second most requested feature since launch, and the number one source of creative gifts and submissions,” the company says. “You can now toot merrily away by pressing X.” It has no effect on gameplay.

The update also adds capabilities for locomotives and some of the creatures, including new attacks, improved artificial intelligence, and better visuals. The developer also made improvements to Eleutheria, one of the four major regions for gameplay.

“Hoarder,” the developer’s September update, will add a new officer named Chiropterous Hoarder, a “winged horror of profound cunning and unreliable manners.” The update will also allow you to upgrade your locomotive to run faster. And you’ll be able to construct a new transit relay to facilitate travel between two aerial regions, though building it will be “a substantial undertaking,” the developer says.

Released in January, Sunless Skies has received generally favorable reviews from critics. User reviews are highly positive on Steam but mixed on MetaCritic. It’s available for Macs, PCs, and Linux systems running the Steam OS. See the Steam page and developer’s website for more info.

Tyson Burruss has released the first edition of Aether and Steamworks, a tabletop role-playing game with steampunk and fantasy elements. It takes place within an “Aethersphere” in the aftermath of a Great War involving Elves, Dwarves, Humans, Gnomes, Goblins, Orcs and others.

“As order is restored little by little, Nobles play games of favoritism and political intrigue while the general population strive to put food on their table, explore the unknown and invent new devices that make life easier,” he writes. “Pirates fill the Void between worlds, the lands outside of Empire occupied cities are savage wildlands where the laws are written by the strong or manipulative. It’s time for groups of heroic individuals to set out to help right wrongs, save lives or just make a name for themselves.”

The release includes a 358-page Core Rulebook, available from DriveThruRPG as a US$15 PDF file. It’s recommended for three to six players plus one Game Master. Burruss launched a Kickstarter campaign for the game in March, but it did not meet its $7500 fundraising goal.

Karvis Cards

Spanish magician Karvis is on Kickstarter with a set of steampunk-themed cards that he’s used in his performances over the past 10 years. The trick makes it appear that you can see the past, present, and future of an audience member. And “through the amulet that you have used during your session, you will capture all the negative energies of your viewer, transforming from bronze color to total black.”

The basic set includes six vertical cards, two horizontal cards, an amulet, vintage carrying bag, and video instructions. You can also opt for a box to store the set.

The campaign launched on July 25 and has already surpassed its €750 (US $835) goal. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Muckraking 19th century journalist Nellie Bly will be honored with a monument on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, site of a notorious insane asylum where she spent 10 days in 1887 undercover as a patient. After her release, she wrote a series of articles for the New York World exposing the hospital’s brutal conditions. The series, also published in book form as Ten Days in a Mad-House, led to a grand jury investigation and increased funding for the facility.

Bly later gained additional fame from a globetrotting trip inspired by Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. She completed the 24,899-mile journey in 72 days, a world record at the time. The trip included a stop in France where she met Verne. Bly recounted her travels in Around the World in Seventy-Two Days, a book published in 1890.

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) issued a Call for Artists on June 24 seeking proposals for the monument. The top five candidates will be selected on Aug. 2. Construction is slated for March through May 2020. The RIOC has budgeted $250,000 to $500,000 for the project. The island is in the East River within the borough of Manhattan. It was known as Blackwell’s Island when Bly wrote her exposé.

Event News

The organizer of Aethertopia, the ill-fated steampunk gathering in Tampa, has announced that the original event will be replaced with three separate ones this summer and fall. They begin with Aethertopia: Corsets & Cogs, scheduled for Saturday, August 24 at the Verizon Event Center in New Port Richey, Florida. It will feature maker workshops and demonstrations focusing on costumes and gadgets, according to an announcement on the website.

Dates and locations for the other two events have not yet been announced.

Aethertopia was originally scheduled for June 29 and 30 at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. But on June 26, lead organizer Anthony Sakovich announced that it had been canceled due to low ticket sales.

Tickets for the new event will sell for $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Holders of one-day Aethertopia passes from June can attend two of the new events for free. Holders of two-day Aethertopia passes from June can attend all three for free.

See the Aethertopia website and Facebook page for more info.

Meanwhile, two Tampa-area vendors have teamed up to host an “End of Summer Steampunk Bash,” Sunday Aug. 11, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the Stonefire Tavern in Largo, Florida. This free-admission event will feature a costume contest, tea dueling and parasol dueling, with Heirs of Isildur co-author Matt Knowles serving as MC. It’s hosted by Rav3nstar Steam Punk and Picks & Pinnery. Other participating vendors include IJM Industrial Designs, Steampunk and Earthstones, UndRground Market, Through the Gaslight, and GB Leatherworks. See the Facebook page for more info.

The Surrey Steampunk Convivial, Aug. 3 and 4, promises another “Full Weekend of British Steampunk Eccentricity” at The Station in Epsom, Surrey. The program includes an indoor market, tea dueling, teapot racing, Bumbershoot Baritsu (umbrella fencing), and musical performances by Filthy Spectacula and the Colliers Wood International Ukulele Orchestra. You can also test your skills in Corset Limbo, Lemon Golf, Three-Way Arm Wrestling, and “a game involving ducks.” See the website and Facebook page for more info.

Steampunk author Leanna Renee Hieber will be a special guest at the 5th Annual Southern Maine Steampunk Fair, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 10, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, Maine. She will present talks on “19th Century Spiritualism and Women’s Rights” and “From Dream to Page to Print: A Window into Historical Fantasy and a New York Publishing Journey.” The event will also feature vendors, makers, a costume contest, tintype photography, tea dueling, craft stations, and live music. Admission is $5 per person or $2 for museum members. The event raises funds for the museum. See the Facebook page for info. (Norton Safeweb has flagged the museum’s website as containing malware, so you should avoid it until they’ve fixed the problem. The Facebook page is OK.)

“Diversity” is the theme for the 9th annual Coldwater Steampunk Festival, slated for Aug. 9 and 10 in Coldwater, Ontario, about 150km north of Toronto. The first day will feature creative workshops where attendees can learn about encaustic painting, hat-making, dragon egg decorating and other crafts.

The main event happens on Saturday at three locations: the Coldwater Mill, Coldwater Canadiana Museum, and the village’s historic Main Street. The program includes circus acts, escape rooms, maker demonstrations, strolling performers, a steampunk art competition, a costume contest, and presentations on Afro-Futurism and Canada’s Black history. Free shuttle buses will transport attendees between the venues.

The festival will be preceded on Thursday, Aug. 8 with a vintage car show.

See the website and news release for more info.

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