- City Guides
Steampunk Digest - January 1, 2021
Our weekly roundup of news and other happenings in the steampunk world
Thursday, December 31, 2020
Author Elizabeth Chatsworth has big plans for the Jan. 12 release of her steampunk novel The Brass Queen. Professor Elemental and Tom Caruana have created a song about the main character, rogue inventor Miss Constance Haltwhistle, and they’re inviting steampunk fans to be part of the music video. The video will be shown at a virtual launch party for the book.
To participate, put on your best steampunk garb and shoot a selfie video “demonstrating your weapon of choice—blunderbuss, ray gun, teacup, umbrella—you name it!” Maximum length is 10 seconds. Use this Google Docs form to upload the clip. The deadline is Jan. 7.
Chatsworth describes Constance as a “fiery British aristocrat” who sells exotic firearms under the alias “Brass Queen.” The story has her joining forces with an inept U.S. spy in search of a “stolen invisibility serum that could spark a global War,” Chatsworth explains.
The novel has won early praise from authors Cherie Priest, Cat Rambo, and Genevieve Cogman. Priest described it as “lush, exciting, and endlessly inventive.” Rambo wrote that it’s “rollicking fun and sharp as a brass tack.”
Chatsworth has also released a trailer (see above) and is offering giveaways for people who pre-order the book. Learn more on her website.
Here’s more from Professor Elemental, who got in the holiday spirit with his own steampunk-themed rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” As is often the case, he had help from some of his friends. Rob Stephens provided the words and artwork, and Tom Caruana and Shane Le Mar handled the mixing.
Frenchy and the Punk also got into the holiday spirit, but it might not be the holiday you’re thinking of. They’ve released a music video of “Halloween for Christmas,” a track from their 2013 Cartwheels EP.
“All I want for Christmas is a time machine
to take me back to Halloween
’cause that’s the holiday that makes sense to me
when goblins and ghouls come over for tea”
January 1 isn’t just New Year’s Day. Since 2019, it’s also been known informally as Public Domain Day, as another year’s worth of creative works lose copyright protection in the U.S. This time, the calendar advances to 1925, when major literary releases included F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, plus books by Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Sinclair Lewis, Agatha Christie, and Aldous Huxley. You can expect these titles to appear as free downloads on Project Gutenberg and/or Internet Archive.
Notable movies from 1925 included Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman, Buster Keaton’s Go West, and the presciently titled Lovers in Quarantine. And now you’re free to use musical compositions released that year, including “Sweet Georgia Brown” plus certain songs by Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, Jelly Roll Morton, W.C. Handy, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Bessie Smith, and Sidney Bechet (this does not extend to post-1925 performances of these songs).
The Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University School of Law has a comprehensive list along with background info on copyrights.
Comicraft could be described as font designers to the comic book stars, and on New Year’s Day, you can have your pick of the company’s fonts at substantial discounts. “Our robot butler has already run the algorithms and programmed ALL our prices to $20.21 this New Year’s,” states an email sent to customers.
The company’s “Word Balloon” font families normally sell for $79 or $139 each. Display and specialty fonts sell for $29 to $69 per family. One of our favorites is Wuxtry Wuxtry ($49), which is for comic book artists who want to replicate the look of an old-time newspaper. These are pro-quality fonts, typically with extended character sets.
We already have our own wish list for Jan. 1, including Extra Extra and Timelord. Comicraft also offers occasional specials on MyFonts.com, which is how we obtained most of the fonts in the graphic above.
Even if you’re not in the market for comic book fonts, some of the descriptions are fun reads, like this one for Pulp Fiction: “The name’s Heironymous Flask. Some of my acquaintances call me ’Hip.’ Those that know me really well don’t call me at all. In my game, you don’t make friends. You make excuses. Like it says on the door, I’m a private hippopotamus. This is my story. This is my font.”
Comicraft launched in 1992 as a design and lettering studio for comic book publishers, and later began offering its fonts for sale. Clients have included DC, Marvel, Disney, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, Legendary, Blizzard Entertainment, and Boom! Studios. They also created the logo for Zynga’s Angry Birds. Learn more on the website.
Since March, Bandcamp has been waiving its revenue share on music downloads in a periodic promotion dubbed Bandcamp Fridays. It was a way to assist musicians who have lost revenue due to event cancellations related to COVID-19. Now, with a new year upon us, Bandcamp will resume the promotion from February through May.
“Although vaccines are starting to roll out, it will likely be several months before live performance revenue starts to return,” CEO Ethan Diamond explained in a blog post announcing the move.
As before, it will take place on the first Friday of each month: Feb. 5, March 5, April 2, and May 7, starting at midnight Pacific time.
Diamond noted that even without the promotion, artists or labels get an average of 82 percent of sales after payment processing fees. That compares to an average of 93 percent on Bandcamp Friday. “Every day is a good day to directly support artists on Bandcamp,” he wrote.
Numerous steampunk performers sell their music on Bandcamp. To make it easier to find them, we’ve set up a directory with links to their Bandcamp pages.
Early reviews are in for The Watch, BBC America’s controversial new series inspired by the Ankh-Morpork City Watch in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Reaction is most charitably described as “mixed.”
Polygon writer Zack Handlen described it as “a muddled production where the [creative] team can’t decide whether they want to adapt Pratchett’s work, riff on it, or just use it for window dressing.”
William Hughes of AV Club wrote that watching the show “is a bit like listening to two songs running at the exact same time. There’s the surface-level tune, i.e., all the things that’ve been lifted directly from Pratchett’s long-running satirical fantasy series.” But “then there’s the far weirder show that’s lurking underneath. . . a grungy effort that, for some reason, aspires to be the most punk-rock cop show ever made.” Sadly, “neither of the two disparate shows that The Watch seems to be trying to be is actually very good.”
Writing in Nerdist, Michael Walsh had a more positive take. “As a non-Discworld-reader, I can only judge it by what I see on my screen. And what I’ve seen through five episodes of The Watch is a funny, exciting, heartfelt fantasy action-comedy that features plenty of mystery, lots of laughs, and a fantastic cast.”
Pratchett fans have been criticizing the series since BBC America released early stills last January. Pratchett’s daughter Rhianna and author Neil Gaiman also noted the show’s departure from the books. “It’s not Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat,” Gaiman wrote on Twitter. The series premieres Jan. 3.
Your humble editor had a wee mishap last week. While crossing the street on Dec. 23, he was almost struck by one of those newfangled contraptions known as an “automobile.” In his attempt to avoid the metallic beast, he stumbled and fell. Later, he learned that he had fractured a bone in his wrist.
For the next six to eight weeks, he will not have the full services of his right hand, and will thus be relying on an assortment of Mad Inventions to get by. As a result, we may not be able to maintain our usual volume of content. Please bear with us as we steam through this difficult period.
1930 Ford Model A ‘Durty 30’ Is a Rolling Piece of Art (Auto Evolution)
Top 10 Best Steampunk Science Fictions 2020 (Bestgamingpro)
Long before Armstrong and Aldrin, artists were stoking dreams of space travel (Westminster Cable Network)
Inkypen Launches New Wave Of Steampunk Comics On Nintendo Switch (Nintendo Life)
The 7 Best Online Stores for LARP Supplies (Make Use Of)
Airborne Kingdom Review (Gamespew)
Steampunk Society of Vermont (Deer Run Diaries)
Photo: Getting face time with Vallejo’s Steampunk Santa (Vallejo Times Herald)
How wild was the Wild West? (Live Science)
The coolest ancient weapons discovered in 2020 (Live Science)
Freemasons: Behind the veil of secrecy (Live Science)
Science Parks: an Idea Whose Time Has Come Again? (EIN Presswire)
Octopus punches fish in the head (just because it can) (Live Science)
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