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Steampunk Digest - August 9, 2019

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

Friday, August 9, 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.

Art Donovan Sculptures
Art Donovan Lamps

The Maidstone Hotel in East Hampton, New York is hosting an exhibition featuring the lamps and illuminated sculptures of pioneering steampunk artist Art Donovan. Much of his recent work is inspired by astronomy, due largely to a 2017 trip to see NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. But “steampunk does inch its way in,” he told us. “You can’t help it. It always gets in there somehow.”

One notable piece is “Lunativo” (Moon TV), which is modeled after a 1959 Philco Predicta TV.

Unlike many steampunk artists, he does not use found objects. “I make everything by hand from raw wood and metal,” he says, because it gives him more freedom to create the look he wants.

The exhibition opened on Aug. 2 and runs through Labor Day. On Aug. 15, he’ll discuss his work and offer a tour at an RSVP dinner at the hotel. Joining him will be his wife and business partner, Leslie, who staged the exhibition. He’ll also be signing copies of his bestselling book, The Art of Steampunk. Tickets cost $65 per person.

Pieces from the exhibition are available for sale on 1stdibs.

Donovan was the curator of Steampunk. Devices + Contraptions Extraordinaire, the world’s first museum exhibition of steampunk art. Featuring the work of 18 artists, it ran from Oct. 13, 2009 through Feb. 21, 2010 at the History of Science Museum in Oxford, UK. The exhibition drew more than 70,000 visitors. In 2014, he was the co-curator of Steampunk Art Unfurled: Art of Victorian Futurism at the Hangaram Art Museum in Seoul, South Korea.

The Maidstone Hotel is in eastern Long Island at 207 Main St., East Hampton, NY 11937, phone (631) 324-5006. For more info about the exhibition, see this website.

Author Gail Carriger will host a Facebook Live event on Saturday, Aug. 10, to celebrate the launch of Reticence, the fourth and final book in her Custard Protocol series. In this one, the airship Spotted Custard heads for Japan in search of shapeshifters. The book was released on Aug. 6.

During the event, she will answer questions from her fans, and she might do a reading. It’s scheduled for 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific Time. See her website for more info, including where to order the book.

After the book launch, Carriger is headed for the 2019 World Science Fiction Convention, Aug. 15-19 in Dublin, Ireland. There, she’ll be on panels discussing graphic novels, comedy in SFF, humor in YA fiction, and Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books. She’s also scheduled for a book signing and Kaffeeklatsch, both on Friday, Aug. 16.

Update: Her publisher, Orbit Books, announced that digital versions of the first three books in the series (Prudence, Imprudence and Competence) can now be had for $2.99 each. This apparently applies only to the U.S. and Canada. (Canadian readers can go here to find them on Amazon.)

Fogbound London

Author Gareth Clegg is out with Fogbound: Empire in Flames, a steampunk novel set in 1899 London, four years after a failed Martian invasion. Parts of the city lie under a toxic red fog that transforms people into “unliving bestial horrors.” Protagonist Sir Pelham Simmons is tasked with recovering an escaped killer and stumbles upon a plot to overthrow the new empress, Queen Victoria II.

It’s the first in a planned series of dystopian steampunk adventures. Clegg is also working on a tabletop role-playing game based on the novel.

The e-book will be available at a discount for the first five days after its Aug. 8 release. See his website for links to the Amazon pages for the U.S. and UK. If you sign up for his mailing list, you can get a free download of Fallen Angels, a multi-genre story collection.

World Weaver Press has issued a call for submissions for Clockwork, Curses, and Coal: Steampunk and Gaslamp Fairy Tales, an anthology slated for publication in early 2021. “I want the bustles, parasols, high tea and airships, of course, but I also welcome stories which confront the darker, problematic side of Victorian sensibilities and attitudes,” writes anthologist Rhonda Parrish. “Plus fairy tales.” They can be original fairy tales or retellings of familiar ones.

She welcomes stories set outside traditional steampunk settings such as Victorian England or the American Wild West. And she welcomes characters with diverse ethnicities, genders, and sexualities. Length is up to 7500 words. Payment is one cent per word plus a contributor copy.

The anthology will be open for submissions between Feb. 1 and March 31, 2020. “Do not attempt to submit your story before February 1, 2020,” she cautions. See the website for more info.

’Tis the season for video game announcements, thanks in part to two big gaming expos. At Gamescom, Event Horizon will offer demos of Dark Envoy, a roleplaying game with steampunk and fantasy elements. Players in an airship explore a world where humans battle the “Old Races” and dark technology clashes with magic. “Neither side is good and just,” we’re told. Science fiction author Michael Chatfield contributed to the story.

The developer released a trailer for the game on Aug. 6. Event Horizon is best known for Tower of Time, an RPG released in 2018. The Polish developer describes Dark Envoy as a more ambitious project where “players’ choices really do matter and with deep tactical combat rewarding experimentation and clever approach to each engagement.” It is set for release in late 2020 for PCs, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. You can get additional info on the website and Steam page.

Gamescom, the world’s largest event for computer and video games, takes place Aug. 20-24 in Cologne, Germany. Last year, it drew 370,000 attendees and more than 1000 exhibitors. We’ll be keeping an eye out for other steampunk-related news.

Meanwhile, at ChinaJoy 2019 in Shanghai, TIGames released a trailer for F.I.S.T., the working title for a new dieselpunk-themed action game. Players take the role of a badass rabbit with a mechanical arm who battles an evil robot army. It falls within the Metroidvania genre, which refers to games that share characteristics with the popular Metroid and Castlevania series. It will be available for PlayStation 4 and PCs. TIGames is an independent developer based in Shanghai. The game will be published by Sony Interactive. They have not announced a release date.

ChinaJoy 2019, which ran Aug. 2-5, is China’s largest gaming expo.

In other game-related news:

Plug In Digital is planning a Nintendo Switch version of Lethis: Path of Progress, a city-building game set in a steampunk world. The port will feature an updated interface with gamepad and touch screen controls. The original PC version from Triskell Interactive was released in 2015. Triskell, a small developer based in France, is currently at work on a sequel dubbed Lethis: Path of Progress II. No word yet on when the Nintendo version will be available.

IQ Soup plans an Aug. 13 release for Age of Grit, a turn-based roleplaying video game combining steampunk and Wild West elements. “You play the captain of an old, beat-up, steam-powered airship,” the developer says. “You’re looking for whatever work you can find–bounty hunting, smuggling contraband, running guns…maybe even a little train robbery if yer so inclined.”

The developer, which is based in Phoenix, raised US $15,773 in a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014. It will be available for Macs, PCs, and Linux systems via Steam. See the website for more info.

Pixel Federation is out with AFK Cats, a free steampunk-themed idle game for Android devices. Players assemble a team of cats who battle their “legendary enemy,” a Doomba vacuum cleaner. You can build larger teams and gain other capabilities by making in-app purchases. See the developer’s website and Google Play Store for more info.

Michał Bernat of Shockwork Games is on Kickstarter with Alder’s Blood, a turn-based video game set in a dark Victorian-Wild West fantasy world. Players are challenged to ambush werewolves, vampires, and other creatures using stealth tactics, “as they are way stronger and you don’t stand a chance in a direct assault.” A PC version is set for release in January 2020.

The campaign launched on Aug. 6 and seeks US $12,000 by Sept. 5. The goal is “to add new features to an already bursting project, [and] to polish and refine the systems to the highest degree,” the developer says. See the Kickstarter and Steam pages for more info.

He was a 19th-century American “vampire,” and now, thanks to DNA analysis, scientists think they know his name. In 1990, authorities in Griswold, Connecticut excavated an old farm cemetery and discovered a coffin containing skeletal remains that had been dismembered. The skull was placed in the chest cavity with the femurs forming crossbones below. “JB 55” was spelled in brass tacks on the lid.

The remains were sent to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland. Scientists theorized that JB 55 had died from tuberculosis during a vampire scare that swept parts of New England in the 18th and 19th centuries. Families at the time attributed disease outbreaks to recently deceased loved ones who had risen from the grave. They would exhume the coffins and perform a ritual that involved burning the organs and rearranging the bones.

In a July 23 presentation at the museum, Jennifer Higginbotham of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System discussed new research indicating that JB 55 was likely a farmer named John Barber. The discovery was made possible by advances in DNA profiling plus some old-fashioned sleuthing. Experts matched the DNA to names in a genealogy database and then checked newspaper and cemetery records.

Higginbotham noted that the symptoms of tuberculosis include bulging eyes, sunken cheeks, a bloody cough, pale appearance, severe weight loss, and receding gum lines that cause the teeth to become more prominent. “In the end, the person kind of looked like a vampire,” she said.

You can view the presentation in this Facebook video.

Obtainium Works

Shannon O’Hare of Obtainium Works offered insights into “How to Make an Art Car” during a presentation on Saturday, Aug. 3 at the organization’s studio in Vallejo, California. The event was listed on Meetup and caught the attention of a group of Chinese engineering students who were in the Bay Area to visit Stanford and UC Berkeley. So the house was packed as guests learned the secrets behind contraptions such as the Steampunk Flying Saucer, Steampunk Pirate Ship and Fire Salamander. Afterward, several students eagerly took some of the vehicles for a spin.

We’ll be posting a feature about the presentation within the next week or so. Our Patreon supporters already received a sneak peek.

Speaking of Patreon, the crowdfunding site recently added a photo gallery feature that will make it easier for us to post photos. So you can expect more previews of upcoming stories before they’re available in The Steampunk Explorer. A monthly pledge of $1 or more gives you access to this content and will help us defray the costs of producing the site. See our Patreon profile page for more info.

Event News

The Time Travelers Bazaar, slated for August 17 in Sacramento, has been canceled, the organizers announced on Facebook. “There have been many difficult changes we have had to navigate this year that have hindered our event,” they said, adding later that people who purchased the $10 tickets will be issued refunds on request. We reported from last year’s event, which featured vendors, entertainment, costumes, and art exhibits related to science fiction, steampunk, fantasy, pirates, and other genre interests.

The event was scheduled for the same weekend as the much-larger Silicon Valley Comic Con, which will feature appearances by stars from Terminator, Gotham, Star Trek, and other franchises. Guests include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Momoa, Anson Mount, Morena Baccarin, Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, Edward Furlong, Kristanna Loken, Michael Biehn, Robert Patrick, Adam Savage, Lou Ferrigno, and Julie Benz. That event is slated for Aug. 16-18 at the San Jose Convention Center.

Three steampunk events are on the calendar this weekend: the Coldwater Steampunk Festival, Aug. 9-10 in Coldwater, Ontario; Southern Maine Steampunk Fair, Aug. 10 at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk, Maine; and The End of Summer Steampunk Bash, Sunday, Aug. 11, at the Stonefire Tavern in Largo, Florida.

Steampunking in the Park, a photoshoot scheduled for Aug. 10, has been postponed to Aug. 25 at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, Connecticut. It’s the second re-scheduling for the event, which moved from its original July 20 date due to an extreme heat wave.

Up next weekend: The Key City Steampunk Festival Aug. 16-18 in Frederick, Maryland (see our recent coverage) and the Railway to the Moon Steampunk Fest, Aug. 17-18 at the Mount Washington Cog Railway in Mount Washington, New Hampshire. The latter is a free event that will feature presentations by steampunk maker Bruce Rosenbaum and demonstrations of Todd Cahill’s Steam Machine sculptures.

Dublin, Ireland is set to host An Irish Worldcon, the 77th World Science Fiction Convention, Aug. 15-19. Two steampunk panels are on the program: An “Introduction to Steampunk” and “Introduction to Silkpunk” (Asian steampunk). The convention is sold out, but a limited number of day passes will be available from the Dublin 2019 Worldcon booth at Dublin Comic Con, Aug. 10-11.

Meanwhile, folks in the UK are gearing up for the Big Kahuna of steampunk events, the Asylum Steampunk Festival, Aug. 23-26 in Lincoln, UK.

Top Stories of July

These were the most-viewed stories of the month.

1. “Geared for Weird” in Iowa

2. Oregon Aquarium Gets Steampunked

3. A “Time Machine” of Living Art (Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach)

4. Steampunk World Tour, The Sequel

5. Obtainium Works in Pictures (photos by Stephen Jacobson).

6. “Elementally, My Dear Steampunks” (Brass Screw Confederacy steampunk festival)

7. Steampunk Digest - July 12, 2019

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