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Steampunk Digest - July 27, 2018

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

Friday, July 27, 2018

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.

Jay Leno’s Steampunk Garage. Back in May, we told you about a forthcoming episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” that would feature steampunk vehicles, including contraptions from Obtainium Works in Vallejo, California. Now we have a date: The episode will air on Thursday, August 2, on CNBC. In a story for the Vallejo Times-Herald, Obtainium Works leaders Shannon and Kathy O’Hare told reporter Richard Freedman about their experiences filming the episode in February. “I thoroughly enjoyed hanging with Jay; very personable and he took an interest in what we make and how the steampunk movement got its start,” Kathy said. “He’s a total ‘steam head.’”

The episode will include three Obtainium Works vehicles: Kristie’s Flyer, the Steampunk Airship, and the Wine Trike, plus cars from other artists. If you’re in the Vallejo area, you can watch a a free screening that night at the Empress Theatre, beginning at 7 p.m. Pacific time.

Amazing Steampunk Interior. Last week, we informed you about ”Amazing Interiors,” the new reality show on Netflix that includes a look at the steampunk-themed dwelling of Bruce and Melanie Rosenbaum. Netflix released all of Season 1 on July 20, and Episode 8, featuring the Rosenbaums’ repurposed 1876 Gothic church, is not to be missed. It follows their efforts over several months to transform the church into a steampunk gallery, including the tensions that arose as the expenses mounted. A lot of people are into steampunk, Bruce says to the camera, but “there’s really no place anywhere in the world that has steampunk as its central theme and inspiration. So they’ll be coming to Palmer, Massachusetts to find that.”

Close to the Sun

Game developer Storm In A Teacup has revealed that Close To The Sun, its forthcoming first-person survival game, will be available for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in addition to the previously announced PC version. The developer describes it as a “horror game that takes place at the end of 19th century on a mysterious ship complex created by Nikola Tesla for the sake of knowledge. In this alternative version of history, his scientific breakthroughs have already had a major impact on the world. You’re Rose, a young journalist looking for your sister and, as you approach this enormous and glorious complex for the first time, you quickly realize that something there has definitely gone wrong.”

Gamer websites OnlySP and PlayStationLifeStyle.net report that the developer will be announcing further details at the giant Gamescom 2018 convention, which takes place Aug. 21-25 in Cologne, Germany. Learn more from the Storm In A Teacup website.

The real Nikola Tesla is the subject of a new biography, Tesla: Inventor of the Modern, by Richard Munson. “The author has produced a highly-readable account of a man credited with significant advances in developing the radio, robots and remote controls,” writes Don Glynn in a review for the Niagara Gazette. “The author also reminds us that while Tesla’s electric motors run our appliances and factories, Thomas Edison is a legendary figure who is more famous. The spirited competition between the two is thoroughly and fairly covered in this book.”

The biography is available in hardcover, e-book and audio book formats. See the author’s website for more info.

Comic-Con International took place July 19-22 in San Diego, and one panel on the first day informed attendees about art of teapot racing and tea dueling. “Several steampunks on the panel showed off their homemade teapot racers constructed from materials such as an ultrasonic humidifier, a copper tea kettle and a radio-controlled toy car,” writes Makeda Easter in the Los Angeles Times. And “Madame Askew, mistress of tea and professional teapot-racing commentator, gave the rapt audience a breakdown of how to properly engage in a tea duel.” Her lesson included an example of trash talking: “’The way you’re holding your bickie is weak and offends me,’ she said to a fellow panelist, drawing laughter from the panel’s attendees.”

Read the story here. The paper uses a metered paywall that allows you to read five free articles per month.

Steam Whistle Alley

Seattle-based writer Joshua Mason has released his first novel, Steam Whistle Alley, a steampunk GameLit adventure. In the story, a set of brass goggles transforms modern-day Seattle into a cityscape where “towering monuments of Victorian architecture have replaced the skyscrapers. Airships float between the buildings. Fearsome enemies, from steam-powered rabbits to clockwork werewolves, lurk in every shadow. But with the game comes a quest, and to the victors go the deed to Steam Whistle Alley, the social and financial heart of the game.” It’s available in paperback and e-book formats from Amazon. Learn more on the author’s website.

In his latest “Judge John Hodgman” column for The New York Times Magazine, actor and comedian John Hodgman advises “Samantha” about “Steampunk Convention Etiquette.” Samantha inquired about the propriety of attending a convention as a steampunk version of Carrie (from the Stephen King novel and Brian De Palma film). Her conundrum: It was her sister’s idea. We won’t spoil the fun by revealing Hodgman’s response, but you can read it here.

The column is based on Hodgman’s weekly podcast parody of TV court shows.

The Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, a mostly free outdoor event, takes place August 3-5 in downtown Amherstburg, Ontario, near Detroit. Activities include teapot racing and a costume contest. Ticketed events include a vintage magic show, “Make and Take Off the Top-Hat Embellishment Workshop” and “Make and Take Fascinating Fascinators Workshop” From the website: “Imagine historic downtown Amherstburg becomes enchanted and transformed into a mystical world of magic and invention. Meet odd and peculiar characters, engage in live performances and participate in STEM based activities. Enjoy Big Top shows every day, an amazing adventure and end your day with fireworks.” See the website and Facebook page for more info.


FASA Games is seeking Kickstarter funding for additions to its 1879 roleplaying game. The British Forcebook “describes the British military in an alternate world, where an interdimensional portal has given the Empire access to a new land, the Gruv,” the description says. “All the details you’ll need to field advanced steam technology, special forces units such as the Marines and the Shock Troopers, a broad range of artillery, and military spellcasters are contained herein.”

The Samsut Forcebook contains information about the opposing force, descendants of ancient Babylonians who have long occupied the alternate world. “In their new home, they found the remains of another civilization, which gave them weird science technology ranging from rail guns to contra-gravity to the use of life itself as an energy source. Herein are all the details you’ll need to field regiments of technological zombies and skeleton warriors, airborne cavalry riding pteranodons, contra-gravity sleds that ignore terrain modifiers, and terrifying creations of the immortal Amelites who rule the Samsut city-states.”

Each book is accompanied by new minis. The project launched on July 9 with a goal of raising $2000 by August 8. Learn more on the Kickstarter page.

Two weeks ago, we informed you about “Steam,” a steampunk-themed circus performance that runs through August 12 at Circus Juventas in St. Paul, Minnesota. This week, the region’s two major newspapers had stories about the show. “It sets off with a big Broadway-style opening set at a train station in 1890s Paris with characters that then jet off into their time-traveling adventures,” writes Alissa Antilla in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She also informs us that the show is fully scripted. “Every motion and movement is choreographed, unlike typical circuses where performers get on stage, do a trick and get off.” The story includes a gallery of photos from the rehearsals.

The Star Tribune focuses on one family of circus performers taking part in the show. “With a running start, Anwar Hassouni, Captain of the Sky Pirates, leaps off the mat, flips into a somersault, bounces into a backward one, then repeats the somersaulting zigzag just for good measure,” writes Rachel Hutton. “Rehearsing for Circus Juventas’ big summer show, ‘Steam,’ which debuts Thursday, Anwar makes his tumbling pass look as effortless as walking. That’s because the 18-year-old began learning acrobatics before he took his first step, coached by his father, Mostapha Hassouni, who performed with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus before coming to teach at the St. Paul circus school.”

The Maryland Ensemble Theatre in Frederick, Maryland will present “The Island of Dr. Moreau, Remix,” a modern retelling of the H.G. Wells novel. Written by Sarah Shulman, it’s about a group of plane crash survivors who “end up on a seemingly deserted beach with only the clothes on their backs,” reports Broadway World Baltimore. “They begin searching the island for supplies, but they quickly learn that they are not alone.” Performances run August 3-5 and August 9-11 at the Jack B. Kussmaul Theater at Frederick Community College. Get additional details from the MET website.

Australian artist Neil Haddon won the second annual Hadley’s Art Prize — and $100,000 AUD (about $74,000 USD) — for “The Visit,” a painting inspired by H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. “When discussing his winning work, Haddon pointed out that in his sci-fi novel HG Wells drew comparisons between the colonial invasion of Tasmania and his fictional Martian invasion of Earth,” reports Art Guide Australia. The competition, sponsored by Hadley’s Orient Hotel in Hobart, Tasmania, was open to two-dimensional works depicting the Australian landscape. The hotel, which has acquired the painting, will show all of the finalists’ pieces in an exhibition that runs through August 25. Read the story here.

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