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Steampunk Digest - July 12, 2019

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

Friday, July 12, 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 in The Steampunk Explorer.

Tesla Banknote

July 10 was Nikola Tesla Day, commemorating the 163rd anniversary of the inventor’s birth. In honor of Tesla, the city of Zagreb, Croatia hosted a three-day series of events, including a scientific demonstration at the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum, a “Tesla in Zagreb” conference, and a presentation of the annual Nikola Tesla – Genius for the Future awards. As if that wasn’t enough, an image of Tesla was projected on a fountain outside the National and University Library.

Since 2003, neighboring Serbia has honored Tesla by placing his image on the 100-dinar banknote. Both countries can lay claim to the inventor, as he was a Serb born in what’s now Croatia.

Meanwhile, half a world away in Edmonton, Alberta, Mayor Don Iveson proclaimed July 10 as Nikola Tesla Day, making his city the first in Canada to do so. Festivities included an automobile parade and a keynote speech about Tesla’s influence on nanotechnology, according to a report in the Edmonton Journal. We’re not aware that Tesla had any special connection to Edmonton, but he certainly has fans there, many of whom belong to the Nikola Tesla Historical Society of Alberta.

Also in honor of his birthday, Kelly McSweeney notes ”4 of Nikola Tesla’s Predictions That Came True” in the Now blog from Northrop Grumman. They include smartphones; wireless power transmission; Wi-Fi and the Internet of Things (which count as one prediction); and artificial intelligence, robots and autonomous cars (which also count as one).

But Tesla had his share of miscues. “He made some outlandish claims, saying that he was working on a motor that ran on cosmic rays, a new form of energy that defied Einstein’s physics, a new technique for photographing thoughts and a death ray that would end all wars,” she writes.

Hidden Gems Chapter 2

Captain of the Lost Waves is out with his latest album, Hidden Gems Chapter II: Circus of Morality. Featuring 13 tracks, it’s the second part of a trilogy that began with Hidden Gems Chapter I in 2017. The earlier album had a black-and-white design, reflecting his character’s exile in a monochrome dream world. This one is more colorful.

“On the journey that I see for the Captain, he starts to restore faith in aspects of life which is what I call, ‘The Hidden Gems,’ people, places, stories, amazing facets that this planet has to show and that we very rarely see because we are all distinctly carrying our own blind spots,” he says in in an interview with Eileen Shapiro of The Greene Room Magazine. The sound, described as “nu vaudeville and folk opera,” features a mix of acoustic instruments and synths.

Two tracks from the album, “Uniforms” and “January”, are available as singles and YouTube videos. They’re also on Synthesis, a limited-edition vinyl LP released last year.

The Captain frequently performs at steampunk events in the UK. His schedule includes Papplewick Steampunk Weekend in Nottinghamshire on July 14, and Whitby Steampunk Weekend in North Yorkshire on July 27. He’ll also be playing at the Belladrum Festival in Inverness (Aug. 2 and 3) and the Llangollen Faery Festival in Denbighshire (Aug. 10). See his website for more info.

Steam Powered Giraffe

Steam Powered Giraffe will be appearing on stage on Saturday, August 3 at Mandeville Auditorium, on the campus of the University of California San Diego in La Jolla. But even if you can’t make it to the concert, you’ll have a chance to watch it on the band’s website.

Founded in 2008, Steam Powered Giraffe is one of the most popular steampunk music acts. Currently featuring three robot characters with four human backups, they promise “an evening of toe-tapping music, chuckle-inducing comedic bits, and robot fun.” General admission tickets cost $30, or you can get a $100 VIP ticket that includes better seating and access to a VIP soundcheck at 4 p.m. All ticket sales are online; you can’t buy them at the door.

The online version of the concert will be an edited high-definition recording of the August 3 performance, with an estimated release date between August 7 and 10. The $15 “digital concert ticket” permits unlimited access with no expiration and includes a high-resolution concert poster as a PDF.

Steam Powered Giraffe will also be performing at Dragon Con over Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. See the band’s website for more info.

Sinking Ship Creations, in partnership with Incantrix Productions, is staging “Pub Crawl: The Infinity Engine,” an immersive, steampunk-themed live action role-play experience slated for July 27 in New York City. The back story, set in 1904, involves the “brilliant Professor Nigel Thurgood,” inventor of a time-travel device. He has died under mysterious circumstances and his Infinity Engine has disappeared.

Teams of five to eight people will attempt to locate the device by visiting pubs in the West Village of lower Manhattan. At each pub, they’ll encounter actors portraying the professor’s associates.

The action begins at the Slaughtered Lamb on West 4th Street between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. It takes one to three hours, “depending on how much drinking you do.” Tickets cost $65 per person.

The storyline was developed by Incantrix, an interactive theater company in the Boston area. Sinking Ship is an event producer in New York City.

Compared with other kinds of role-play games, “it’s way more fun to be in a real-world location, trying to track down a shady contact in a dimly-lit bar,” says Incantrix chief creative officer Caroline Murphy in an interview with Kathryn Yu of No Proscenium. “It heightens immersion and makes things feel much more real.”

See the Sinking Ship website for additional details.

Silver Empire Publishing has released a new edition of The Ghost Machine, a “Gothic Steampunk Novel” originally self-published by its author, Kristen Brand. It tells the story of Ella Rosenfeld, who checks herself into an Eastern European asylum after having visions of ghosts. It’s currently available as an e-book from Amazon, with a hard copy edition to follow.

In April, the publisher completed a successful Kickstarter campaign for the novel and a spinoff entitled Clockmaker. See the author’s website for more info.

Uncommon Universes Press has released Heart of the Curiosity, a YA steampunk fantasy novel by H. L. Burke. The “Curiosity” of the title is a “grand old theater of tradition and innovation” closed by a tragic accident. Protagonist Leodora seeks to rescue the theater by locating a mythical power source underneath. Meanwhile, she contends with a greedy businessman who is blackmailing her. “Mysterious figures, cryptic clues, and deadly traps hinder the search at every turn,” we’re told.

It’s available in digital and paperback formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. See the publisher’s website and author’s blog for more info.

Copper Canyon Shoot-Out

Black Dragon Studios is out with The Copper Canyon Shoot-out, a virtual-reality shooter game set in a Wild West environment populated by evil robots. You can engage the metallic beasties in three places: Town, Desert Canyon and Crystal Power Mines. It’s available for the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index and Playstation VR systems. See the developer’s website for more info.

Twenty years ago, Barry Sonnenfeld’s adaptation of Wild Wild West hit movie screens to great anticipation. Starring Will Smith and Kevin Kline, the film was based on the popular TV series, which is regarded as a prototype for steampunk. But the movie version proved to be a critical and box office flop.

Writing in Forbes.com, Josh Weiss takes a contrarian view, looking back fondly on the film as a “fun, creative, and genre-mashing masterpiece.”

The writer spoke by phone with Sonnenfeld, who confessed to some missteps with the production. They included a lack of chemistry between the lead actors, a scene where Smith’s character appears in drag, and a giant mechanical spider in Act III, which he said was out of scale with the rest of the movie. “I think if the scale had been 50% smaller, you would’ve bought the reality more,” he said.

On the other hand, “I really loved the concept of what we were trying to do, which was to have a science fiction movie in the Old West, but make it seem like it’s not science fiction and that it’s totally [part of] reality,” Sonnenfeld said.

Judi Morales

Northern California fashion designer Judi Morales is a frequent presence at Bay Area steampunk events, and this week she was also the subject of a profile in her local paper, the Tahoe Weekly. She tells reporter Sean McAlindin that she discovered steampunk at Burning Man. Then, “when a famous art car called Neverwas Haul moved into a garage in her hometown of Vallejo, she had found her tribe,” McAlindin writes.

Neverwas Haul is a three-story Victorian house on wheels, and she’s now part of the crew at Obtainium Works, the organization that made the contraption. A self-described “guerrilla seamstress,” she also presents sewing workshops at Truckee Roundhouse, a community makerspace in the Lake Tahoe area. The story lists her schedule for July and early August, including two sessions on Friday, July 12, and one on July 16. Then it’s on to Gerlach, Nevada for Burning Man, where she’ll be selling “more than 10 different types of desert goggles along with her steampunk clothing and iced chai.”

We caught up with her at an Obtainium Works event in March, where she did some sewing on location while vending her steampunk wares. See her website for more info about her work.

The Struts & Frets Theatre Company in London is presenting A Scandal in Bohemia, described as a “fin-de-siècle steampunk merry-go-round” in which five women play “hundreds of characters while Holmes and Watson expose crimes, solve mysteries, cheat death and make it safely back home in time to feed the dog.” The performance includes original music, puppetry, magic, and some “questionable Victorian melodrama.”

Performances are slated for each night through July 20, except Sunday. It all happens at the Camden People’s Theatre in London. See the Struts & Frets website for more info.

New Kickstarters

Animal Guardians

Kate-mia White of Leeds, UK is on Kickstarter with a collection of nine “Steampunk animal guardians” in the form of hard enamel pins. The include a “Mystical Deer,” “Black Mage Cat,” “Clockwork Bird,” “Rabbit Knight,” “White Mage Fox,” “Explorer Dog,” and “Steam Owl.” She previously made a set in black and white, but now she’s going for gold. The pins are based on a set of illustrations that she’s offering as pledge rewards.

The campaign launched on June 27 and hit its £500 ($626 USD) goal within the first day. It concludes on July 27. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Czacha Games of Poznan, Poland is seeking funding for Gremlins, Inc., a steampunk-themed card game in which each player becomes a “selfish corrupt gremlin” who pursues “prestige at any cost — in the tradition of real-life capitalism,” the developer says. It’s “a game of strategy and malice. Half the time you’ll be completing your own projects, and the other half — disrupting the projects of other players.”

The campaign launched on July 9 and seeks $3500 USD by July 23. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Weekend Events

Authors Elizabeth Chatsworth and Corrina Lawson will discuss “How to Steampunk” during ConnectiCon XVII, a pop culture convention that happens July 11-14 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. They’ll cover steampunk fiction as well as costuming, props and other topics. The presentation is scheduled for Saturday, 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. in the Riverside 2 (MR 14) meeting room.

The volunteer-run convention covers a wide range of fan interests, including anime, gaming, fantasy, and science fiction. It typically attracts more than 30,000 attendees. Aside from the steampunk panel, program highlights include a masquerade and cosplay chess, in which 32 cosplayers stage a life-size chess match. See the website for more info.

The Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California is hosting the Steampunk Extravaganza, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Hermes Jr. Avitor Steam Airship. The program includes teacup racing, a fashion show, a “Mummy Unwrapping,” a discussion of airship history, and musical entertainment by Franklin Beau Davis and Brassworks. The event happens Saturday, July 13, 6-11 p.m. Adult tickets cost $25. See the website for info.

The towns of Dexter and Waterville in central Maine are hosting related steampunk events this weekend. First up is a 21+ Costume and Masquerade Ball, Friday, July 12, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., at the Cancun Mexican Bar and Grill in Waterville. That’s followed by the 2nd Annual Steampunk Fair, July 13-14, at Factory One in Dexter. Get the details on the Facebook page.

The Papplewick Pumping Station in Nottingham, UK, is hosting its fourth Papplewick Steampunk Weekend, July 13 and 14. Activities include tea dueling, workshops, facial hair competitions, merchants and tours of the facility. The Storm Trees and Boggart’s Breakfast will perform on Saturday, followed by Soluna Dance and the League of Extreme Madness, and Captain of the Lost Waves on Sunday. See the Facebook page for more info.

Hebden Bridge Steampunk Weekend, July 13 and 14 in West Yorkshire, UK, will offer merchants, tea dueling, street performers and a “best dressed” contest. See the Facebook page for info.

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