Steampunk Digest - Dec. 28, 2018
Our weekly roundup of news and other happenings in the steampunk world
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You have until Jan. 14, 2019 to vote in the Annual Readers’ Poll hosted by Critters, an online workshop for science fiction writers and other creators. Nominees in the Steampunk Novel category are Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets by Madeleine Holly-Rosing; Owl Riders by David Lee Summers; The Clockwork Oracle by Drake, Morse, Sikes, Sikes, and Whitecliff; The Witches Rede: Prophecy by Jewel E. Leonard; and Wolves and Daggers: Steampunk Red Riding Hood by Melanie Karsak. There’s also a write-in option. To vote, you must provide your full name and an email address. See the website for more info.
Kakao Games has released new screen shots and other details about Ascent: Infinite Realm, a highly anticipated steampunk-themed MMORPG (that’s geek speak for “massively multiplayer online role-playing game”). Set for release in 2019, the game “takes place in a high fantasy steampunk world where machines and magic rule and everyone is dependent on flight to explore, travel, and conquer,” the publisher says. “In search of a new home, adventurers take to the skies using a wide selection of airships, vehicles, and flying mounts.”
In a series of forum posts, the publisher previewed residences for gameplayers (here and here) and single-player dungeons where you battle monsters without assistance from other players (here, here, here). An earlier screen shot is shown above (with modified colors).
The game is being developed by Bluehole, a South Korean studio best known for TERA and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Announced last year, the game was originally set for release in late 2018, but that’s been pushed back. See the website for more info.
Sky Pony Press plans a Jan. 15 release for Firestarter, the final installment in Tara Sim’s Timekeeper trilogy. From the description: “The crew of the Prometheus is intent on taking down the world’s clock towers so that time can run freely. Now captives, Colton, Daphne, and the others have a stark choice: join the Prometheus’s cause or fight back in any small way they can and face the consequences. But Zavier, leader of the terrorists, has a bigger plan—to bring back the lost god of time.” See the publisher’s page and author’s website for more info.
Meanwhile, Tor Books has revealed every title that it plans to release this winter, and the list includes forthcoming works by George Mann and Leanna Renee Hieber. Mann’s The Revenant Express is the latest installment in his Newbury and Hobbes series. The story involves a series of crimes in London and a quest for a clockwork heart to save Veronica Hobbes. Scheduled for release on Feb. 12, it’s available for pre-order from Amazon and other booksellers. See the publisher’s page for more info.
Hieber’s Miss Violet and the Great War is a standalone adventure in her Strangely Beautiful series. Set during World War I, it tells the story of Violet Rychman, who is offered “powers heralded by the Muses of antiquity. The ability to impact people’s memories, even shape their thoughts. To guide their souls. To pass between the world of the living and that of the dead and to bring others through that passage.” It’s slated for publication on Feb. 26, and pre-orders are available. Again, you can get the details on the publisher’s page.
Also scheduled are books by Cory Doctorow, Charlie Jane Anders, Ken Liu, V. E. Schwab, Ian McDonald, and others. See the blog post for the entire list.
Many critics panned the film adaptation of Mortal Engines, but even the negative reviews acknowledged the movie’s stunning visuals. Much of that was the work of Weta Digital, a visual effects company co-founded by Peter Jackson, who produced Mortal Engines and directed the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In a recent Q&A with The Verge, visual effects supervisor Ken McGaugh and animation supervisor Dennis Yoo discussed their work on the film.
They went into a lot of detail about how scenes were digitally created. In the past, if the story called for structures to be destroyed, the CGI artists would build the shattered pieces and fit them back together. “And then when you run the simulation, you have it just animating those pieces opening up and flying around,” McGaugh explained. In Mortal Engines, the models were built whole with realistic material properties, and a computer simulation determined how they were destroyed.
Weta is known for motion-capture characters such as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, but Shrike, the cyborg portrayed by Stephen Lang, was animated entirely by the artists. The character’s “movement was supposed to be stuff you couldn’t actually do with motion-capture,” Yoo said. The artists also discussed the challenges of creating realistic sky and atmosphere effects.
Photo: Universal Pictures and MRC
Related coverage: Steampunk maker and event organizer Wheeler Stone offered his take on Mortal Engines in a review for The Steampunk Explorer. As with many critics, he liked the visuals and acting, but gave the script a thumbs down. The story also has a sampling of reviews from other sources, including observations from TeslaCon founder Eric Jon Larson. Read it here.
Author Phoebe Darqueling has released The Steampunk Handbook, a collection of her articles about the genre. “It covers topics such as the history of steam power, the philosophical roots of punk and punk literature as a whole, and the history and evolution of the steampunk fandom,” she says. “In addition, you will find information about the historical and cultural underpinnings behind 12 of the most popular tropes in steampunk.” It’s available for free if you sign up to receive her monthly author newsletter.
An escape room attraction in West Hartford, Connecticut is now home to the latest creation from steampunk artist Bruce Rosenbaum. Pneuman, recently installed in the waiting area of Skeleton Key, is described as “the only pneumatic tube in Connecticut with a sassy personality and a connection to the Spirit World.” Users place written questions in a capsule, which they insert into Pneuman. From there, the message is whisked through a pneumatic tube to the unseen “Spirit World,” which sends a reply. You can see it in this YouTube video.
“The first pneumatic vacuum system was invented in the early 1800’s,” states a press release from Rosenbaum’s company, ModVic. “However, it proved to be more novelty than practical until in 1836 the ‘capsule’ was invented. In 1854, a 220-yard pneumatic tube system was constructed between the London Stock Exchange and the offices of the Electric Telegraph Company. This became the gold standard of fast, efficient delivery of critical paper communications.” See his website for more info.
Machination Studio is seeking Kickstarter funding for the Mk.I Cerberus, a 1/35 scale model kit of a mechanized dieselpunk walking tank. It’s the latest model in Codename: Colossus, a series set in an alternate 1920s in which World War I (The Great War) never ended. In this world, Martians invaded Britain in 1898, and a massive explosion in 1918 killed millions of soldiers on both sides of the war, causing them to scrap the armistice. The explosion opened a crater the size of Scotland in Western Europe, necessitating the use of walking tanks.
The kit consists of 40 polyurethane resin cast parts, plus LED lights, a motor and a British army figure. The parts are 3D printed. Assembly and painting are required.
Series creator Michael Sng discussed his work at the TED Conference 2016 in Vancouver. He uses crowdfunding in part to gauge interest in his products.
The Technical Museum of Brno in the Czech Republic is hosting “Nikola Tesla – the Man Who Lit Up the World,” an exhibition about the life of the inventor who has become a steampunk icon. “The exhibition presents Tesla’s life story in a non-traditional style drawn from Tesla’s personal ideas and notes, and is complemented by functional and interactive activities based on some of his inventions – the Columbian Egg and Tesla’s transformer,” reports Brno Daily, an English-language website.
The exhibition was first shown at the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum in Zagreb, Croatia, which is the permanent home of the collection. It’s also been presented at museums in Paris, Madrid, Helsinki, Bratislava and St. Petersburg. It runs through April 30, 2019.
The Set NYC will present the Steampunk Ball, a New Year’s Eve fundraising event featuring a long list of artists, designers, models, and cosplayers. The organization describes itself as a “platform to help and bring together artists, people for showcasing, networking, and helping end child trafficking.” It’s also produced events during New York Fashion Week. Tickets cost $60 to $80. It takes place Dec. 31, 8 p.m. to 1 p.m., at 296 9th Ave, in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. See the Eventbrite page for more info.
A Time-Travelling New Year, presented by Impossible Gears, is billed as the first steampunk New Year’s Eve party in North East England. Confirmed guests include Alice’s Night Circus, Scarlet Butterfly, The Victorian Beat Poet, and Kiss Like Ether. It takes place at Kirkley Hall, a 17th-century manor house in Ponteland. Tickets cost £65 per person and include a three-course meal. Overnight accommodations are available. See the website for more info.
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