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Steampunk Digest - July 10, 2020

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

Friday, July 10, 2020
Mechanical Masquerade
Photo by J.C. Barger

Another major convention has fallen victim to COVID-19 as the organizers of Dragon Con announced that they have cancelled this year’s event. “After many months of hand-wringing, sleepless nights, and more Zoom meetings than we can count, we have decided that Dragon Con 2020 event will not be held in person,” they wrote on the website. “Trust us, we are just as bummed as you are, but know we did not make this decision lightly.”

Held over Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, Dragon Con is a multi-genre geek culture convention that has drawn more than 80,000 attendees in recent years. It includes an alternate history track with steampunk programming and the Mechanical Masquerade party.

In place of the real-world gathering, the organizers are planning a free virtual event over Labor Day weekend. “Please stay tuned for details as they unfold in the upcoming weeks,” they wrote.

Registered members can request a refund by Aug. 1. Otherwise, memberships will automatically roll over to 2021. If you choose the latter option, you will receive a 2020 membership badge and “an exclusive Dragon Con item that will not be released in any other form or fashion, as a memento of sincerest thanks for sticking with us through this.”

Professor Elemental and Mister Frisbee are out with “The Cat’s Pyjamas,” a new video from their recent album Let’s Get Messy. The Professor describes it as “a video to say thank you to the person who’s helping you right now.” They’re joined on the track by The Sweetchunks Band.

As a “Thank You” to his fans, the Professor is also offering all his music at half-price through July 13. Go to his website to take advantage of the deals.

Professor Elemental and Madam Misfit

The new video comes on the heels of a rap beef between the Professor and Madam Misfit, who recently released her debut album, The Elixir of Swing. The feud apparently started with the Madam’s “Step Aside Boys,” in which she takes on the male-dominated chap hop establishment and declares herself Queen: “Gonna make some noise for those chap hop boys, cos there’s a lady in town who’s gonna take that crown,” she rapped.

The Professor responded with “The Makeover.” “Yesterday, Madam Misfit made the fatal error of dissing me on a track,” he declared. “Let’s have a moment of silence before her rap career is laid to rest.”

The Madam was unfazed, rapping back with “I thought you were original. Now behave, sir.”

Mother Elemental finally stepped in. “After hearing my dis track of Madam Misfit, my Mum called to say that she didn’t like how aggressive I was being and was also worried that Madam Misfit might get someone to ‘beat me up,’” the Professor wrote on Twitter. “I apologised to her and told her I would stop having a rap beef. THE BEEF IS OVER.”

He added: “I am 45 years old.”

To which Madam Misfit replied: “Mother knows best.”

It should be noted that the Professor appears on “Red-Haired Misfit,” one of the tracks on The Elixir of Swing.

If you’d like to see more of Madam Misfit, she’s planning a live stream performance via YouTube on Sunday, July 12, at 8 p.m. BST (3 p.m. U.S. Eastern time).

Abney Park will perform its third Quarantine Apocalypse live-stream concert on Saturday, Aug. 1, at 6 p.m. Pacific time, continuing its efforts to replace income lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For $15, you can view the concert live, or you can download a concert video that will be available in September. For $25, you can do both. For $20, you can download a live album of the concert and an EP with covers of songs by David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Llimahl, Radio Head, and others. For $35, you can get everything: live stream, video download, live album, and the EP. Tickets are available on Indiegogo.

If you need a steampunk music fix and can’t wait, Victor Sierra will present a live streaming performance this weekend for the World of Goth Facebook group. It’s set for July 11 at 11 p.m. Sydney time (9 a.m. Eastern time and 2 p.m. London time).

On a more serious note, Steam Powered Giraffe (SPG) has released re-edited versions of two music videos in the wake of allegations of inappropriate behavior toward young fans by a former band member. The videos, “Shattered Stars” and “Latum Alterum (Ya Ya Ya),” were originally released last year in advance of the band’s next album, 1896. Last week, SPG removed backing musician Michael Philip Reed from the videos and replaced his performances with unused footage. The band says it plans to edit other tracks from the album to replace Reed’s harmony vocals.

David Michael Bennett, one of the band’s co-leaders, discussed the moves in comments accompanying the edited videos. “We do not wish to give this person any more exposure and the band agreed that re-editing this music video was something we wanted to do,” he wrote in a comment about “Shattered Stars.”

Reed was with SPG from 2009 to 2014, and then returned in 2017. He left the band in February 2020.

While performing with SPG, he had been warned about “being overly friendly with fans,” Bennett wrote. “Little did we know that was just surface level behavior, and it ran deeper than that.”

Bennett wrote that the band first learned of the allegations on Tuesday, June 30 after receiving private messages from alleged victims by email and social media. “We are keeping the victims’ statements private, but if any victims share their stories and evidence publicly, we stand with them,” he wrote. “Please know that this is heavy stuff, and [please] respect the privacy of any victim that may be talking about this publicly on social media.”

In a tweet on July 1, Bennett wrote that the band had heard from about a dozen people with “similar stories.”

Reed did not reply to an email requesting comment on the allegations.

Numerous actors have brought Nikola Tesla to life. Now an engineer in Germany has done so in a different way by fabricating an interactive animatronic bust of the inventor. “Unfortunately, the term ‘Tesla’ is known to many only as a car brand,” wrote Daniel Springwald (in German) in a blog post about his creation. “Most people, on the other hand, know little about the eponymous inventor or the unit of measurement also named after him.”

After completing the project, Springwald posted a YouTube video showing how he constructed the robot. About halfway through, it speaks in German: “Good day, my name is Nikola Tesla. I am an inventor, physicist, and electrical engineer.”

Springwald did not indicate what he plans to do with his project, but a talking Tesla robot would be a great feature at steampunk events once the pandemic is over.

Tesla’s birthday is July 10, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some observances this year are happening online:

• The Tesla Science Foundation will present a virtual celebration on Zoom, including a talk on “How Tesla’s Ideas May Help Solve COVID-19.” It’s set for Saturday, July 11, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time.

• The School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University won’t be holding its traditional birthday gathering on the Pittsburgh campus. Instead, they’re encouraging students to “celebrate Tesla wherever you are. Simply turn on the lights, plug in your computer, or turn up the radio....and give thanks for this imperfect man who gifted us with his perfect scientific mind.”

• As we mentioned last week, the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, New York will present a a birthday bash on Saturday evening with an advance screening of Tesla, the forthcoming biopic about the inventor. It will be followed by a Q&A with stars Ethan Hawke and Kyle MacLachlan and director Michael Almereyda. Tickets cost $100 for the online screening or $150 per car for drive-ins. Proceeds will support virtual education programs for underserved communities.

The movie will screen at 9 p.m. At 8 p.m., the Science Center will host a free pre-movie show featuring a live demonstration of Greg Leyh’s 17-foot Tesla coil plus a live-stream performance by ArcAttack!

• Gospić, Croatia, which was Tesla’s birthplace in 1856, is hosting a full weekend of festivities, including a light show on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday along with an art exhibition and educational programs for children. “All events will be held with maximum adherence to the recommendations of public gatherings,” CroatiaWeek reports.

Archosaur Games has released a trailer for Noah’s Heart, a forthcoming mobile MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) set in a virtual world that includes steampunk elements. “The game gives players the freedom to explore a realistic virtual world where anything is possible, whether it’s setting out on grand adventures, fighting for a better world or just living a simple domestic life,” the developer says. It’s slated for release in 2021. Archosaur is also the company behind Dragon Raja, an MMORPG inspired by Jiang Nan’s fantasy novels.

20,000 Leagues

Disney’s 1954 film adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is seen by some as a prototype of steampunk. But it was not the first cinematic depiction of the Jules Verne novel. That distinction belongs to a 1916 silent film version directed by Stuart Paton and starring Allen Holubar as Captain Nemo. Shot in the Bahamas, it’s believed to be the first film to include underwater photography. It also incorporated material from Verne’s Mysterious Island.

Now Kino Lorber Studio Classics is planning to release a new 4K-resolution restoration of the movie with audio commentary by film historian Anthony Slide. The restoration, from a 35mm nitrate print, was performed by StudioPost, a division of NBCUniversal. The print was provided by UCLA’s Film & Television Archive. It will be available in Blu-ray and DVD formats.

Kino Lorber is currently taking pre-orders for the package, which is slated for release on July 28. See the website for details.

The scenes above were taken from a low-res (480p) version of the film, which can be viewed on YouTube.

Trip to the Moon

Arrow Films, a UK-based distributor, is planning a deluxe package of another cinematic classic, Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune). Made in 1902, the film was loosely based on two Jules Verne novels, From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. It is regarded as the first science fiction movie and was a major influence on other filmmakers.

The package, available in a limited edition of 1000 copies, will include a high-definition version of the 12-minute film, in black & white and color, along with multiple musical scores and a slew of other extras:

An Extraordinary Voyage, 2011 a documentary about the film;

• A 214-page hardback edition of Méliès’ autobiography in its first-ever English translation;

• “The Innovations of Georges Méliès,” a video essay by Jon Spira;

Le grand Méliès, a short 1952 film about Méliès.

The Blu-ray disc will be encoded for Region B, which covers Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand, but not the Americas or Asia. It’s slated for release on Sept. 21. There’s no word if versions for other regions will be available. See the website for more info.

New Fiction

Author Angelique Anderson has released Elizabeth and the Tome of Knowledge, Book 1 of The Wayward Women series. The protagonist, Lady Elizabeth Whitton, “is a Victorian-era heroine, tasked with winning the heart of an evil warlock amidst masquerade balls, pirate scoundrels, and magical artifacts,” the author says. It’s available in e-book and paperback formats from Amazon and other booksellers. See the author’s website for more info.

Cara Fox is out with Rosa and the Shadowmaster, a steampunk novella about an airship captain investigating a mysterious circus in 1901 Paris. “When I was a child, I yearned to read stories where women took charge, not only of the story, but their own destiny,” the author wrote in her blog. “Rosa Romano is the character I always wanted to find, and her fight to shape how the world sees her is one of the central themes in this novella.”

It’s available as an e-book from Amazon in the U.S. and UK. Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read it for free.

Crowdfunding

Democritus comic panel

Author and publisher Cullen Bunn is raising Kickstarter funds for Issues 1 and 2 of Democritus Brand and The Endless Machine, a steampunk comic book series. The story is set in 1891, 30 years after the discovery of alien technology in Egypt that changes the course of history. Professor Democritus Brand leads a team of adventurers who seek “to solve a mystery that could very well unlock the secrets of the world and the cosmos.”

Based in the St. Louis area, Bunn has written comic books for Oni Press and Marvel in addition to novels and short fiction. He’s also the founder Undaunted Press and editor of Whispers from the Shattered Forum, a small press horror magazine.

The campaign launched July 8 and seeks $7500 by Aug. 7. See the Kickstarter page and Bunn’s website for more info.

Quick Hits

Filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki designed a huge steampunk-Victorian clock in Tokyo (Atlas Obscura)

DIY Geiger Counter Detects Radiation With a Raspberry Pi and Steampunk Twist (Tom’s Hardware)

Steampunk-themed cider tasting room opens in Richmond, Virginia (Brewbound)

The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr: The show that deserved better (Fansided)

How to throw the perfect modern Victorian garden party (Your Sun)

Sakura Wars Director Open To Making A Sequel & Expanding To Other Platforms (The Gamer)

There Is “Some Weird Sh**” In The Next Project From BioShock Creator (The Gamer)

Wyrd Games adds new character to its gothic-horror steampunk tabletop game (The Gamer)

Manga video game Steam Prison gets an expansion starring Fin (MangaGamer)

Game Review: Grimshade is an Awkward Steampunk Experience (Switchwatch)

Torchlight III Early Access Offers Fun & Varied Gameplay, with Some Rough Patches to Fix (Escapist)

Torchlight 3: How to Play as the Forged (Class Guide) (ScreenRant)

Steampunk-inspired metroidvania ‘Steamdolls’ is a big Kickstarter success (Gaming on Linux)

Action-adventure ‘Sparklite’ adds Linux support in a big update (Gaming on Linux)

SteamWorld Dig & SteamWorld Heist to Receive Limited Physical Editions For Nintendo Switch (Nintendo World Report)

The truth about the computer built by ancient Greeks (Grunge)

This steampunk-looking robot could be NASA’s newest way to explore frozen alien moons (SyFy Wire)

This Sign In A Vintage Store Escalated Faster Than Covid-19 (IFL Science)

Over One-Fifth Of Late-18th-Century Londoners Contracted Syphilis By Their Mid-30s (IFL Science)

Ice age mining camp found ‘frozen in time’ in underwater Mexican cave (LiveScience)

Scientists finally solve the mystery behind a 100-year-old chemistry experiment (LiveScience)

People Are Only Now Learning About “Human-Sized” Megabats (IFL Science)

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