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Steampunk Digest - March 15, 2019

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

Friday, March 15, 2019

Zeppelins Bar & Grill in Cedar Rapids, Iowa was the canvas for local woodcrafter Todd Sabin, who recently created and installed a 28-foot-long steampunk sculpture inside the restaurant. Sabin tells us he constructed it using recycled materials and components he built from scratch. The materials include wood, steel, copper, fabric, and plastic. “It’s subtly back lit with LEDs,” he adds. He plans to add a 22-foot companion piece on the opposite wall.

Sabin is no stranger to the establishment: He helped design the interior prior to its opening in 2009. You can see more photos on the Zeppelins website, though they don’t yet show the new sculpture.

The Morris Museum in New Jersey just opened “Simply Steampunk,” the kinetic art exhibit that runs through Aug. 11, and Jim Beckerman of The Record of Bergen County has a lengthy article that includes photos, a video, and comments from two organizers. As we wrote in our own story about the exhibition, it features works by 12 contemporary artists and is tied to the museum’s Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata.

The Record is one of the state’s most widely read newspapers, and because it reaches a general audience, Beckerman spends much of the story explaining the meaning of steampunk. “Steampunk is low-tech,” he writes. “It’s about valves, gears, cams, machine oil. It’s the sci-fi world of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, but with a modern twist.” If that’s not enough, he wrote a companion story elaborating further on the genre. Which is all good for those of us who would like to see more public awareness.

We recently wrote about Obtainium Works’ three-weekend gallery show celebrating its 7th anniversary. Now the art studio’s hometown paper has a story about the event, and the effort required to fit a large fleet of art cars into a gallery space in downtown Vallejo, California.

“It took a ton of grunt work to do it — and some volunteers of questionable sanity — but 18 of Shannon O’Hare’s steampunk creations have been pushed, shoved and tugged into the Temple Art Loft,” writes Richard Freedman of the Vallejo Times Herald. “And nobody is more tickled than O’Hare, he of the crazy concepts, considerable chutzpah and collaborating crew.”

The story suggests that Shannon and Kathy O’Hare are considering an Obtainium Works museum. “We’ve talked about that,” Kathy says. “A gallery/restaurant/museum with rotating art.”

In a separate story, Freedman spoke with crewmember and playwright Trevor Allen about “Cthulhublanca,” a radio play parody set for a performance this Saturday at 8 p.m. “Though the 12-member cast merely has to read from a script, they’ll still be in appropriate costumes,” Freedman writes. Cast members will include the O’Hares as well as Vallejo mayor Bob Sampayan. Allen describes the play as “kinda like ‘Casablanca meets Douglas Adams and Monty Python’ in a steampunk setting.” It will take place in the gallery after a fundraising dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Related article: Obtainium Works to Host Gallery Show


Fatbot Games and Merge Games have announced that the steampunk dungeon crawler Vaporum will soon be available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch consoles. The single-character game places you in a dark, grid-based steampunk environment. Clad in an exoskeleton, you solve puzzles, do battle against various kinds of enemies, and add capabilities to your rig.

Fatbot Games, a small developer in Slovakia, originally released the game in 2017 on the Steam platform for Macs, PCs, and Linux systems. That version has received mostly positive reviews from users and critics. Merge Games is the publisher for the console versions. It’s set for release on April 9 for PS4, April 10 for Xbox One, and April 11 for Nintendo Switch. Each will be available for pre-order two weeks prior their release. See the website for more info.

The Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention happened last weekend in Tucson, Arizona, and photojournalist Greg Mannino was there to shoot a video report for local TV station KOLD. He spoke with several costumed participants, including a young steampunk Tinker Bell and a couple of friendly aliens. One organizer estimated that the event drew more than 4000 people over the weekend.

If the TV report isn’t enough, the organizers have posted numerous videos on the event’s Facebook page, and Anastasia Hunter of the Gaslight Steampunk Expo posted photo albums from Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (known locally as The Domes) recently hosted the Gardens & Gears Steampunk Wonderland Faire, drawing makers, vendors, and lots of folks in costume. One participant was Chuck Ranum, who wielded a homemade “Barbicane Rifle,” apparently in honor of Impey Barbicane from Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon. Ranum “even wrote a book to go along with it, The Barbicane Prototype, due out this November on Kindle,” writes Jack Fennimore in a brief report and photo gallery for Urban Milwaukee. October Ramirez of the Milwaukee Steampunk Society also posted some photos on the group’s Facebook page.


Unwoman, the self-described “anachrofuturistic electric cellist/singer-songwriter,” is out with Uncovered Volumes 4 & 5, a 2-CD set of cover songs. They include David Bowie’s “Heroes,” Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love,” Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like A Hole,” and many more.

It’s available on Bandcamp as a $12 digital download. But through a limited-time promotion on Groupees, you can get that album plus much of her back catalog for the same price. The deal includes Circling, Unremembered, The Fires I Started, Blossoms, War Stories, Casualties, The City Single, and Love Song for a Vampire, Spider in addition to the new album. You have the option to donate 20 percent of your payment to the Third Wave Fund. The deal, better described as a “steal,” runs through March 22.

She will also perform several sets at Clockwork Alchemy, the steampunk convention that takes place March 22-24 at the Hyatt Regency SFO in Burlingame, California.

Photo by Studio 5 Graphics

Steampunk author and lecturer Phoebe Darqueling will celebrate the launch of her novels Riftmaker and No Rest for the Wicked with a book signing and launch party, Saturday, March 23, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It will be followed by a “Steampunk Mingle and Trivia Night” from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the nearby Arbor Brewing Company Brewpub, 114 E Washington St.

Riftmaker, her first novel, was released on Feb. 14. No Rest for the Wicked is set for release on March 28. Learn more on her website and the Facebook event page.

Author (and former physics teacher) Michael Schulkins is out with Mark Twain on the Moon Book One: Prospectors!, a short novel in which Twain “travels to the mining camps of America’s wildest frontier—the Moon—in search of wonders, adventure, and a fortune in precious water ice.” It’s told in the first-person by an alternate-history Twain. This is Schulkins’ fifth book, but his first in the steampunk category.

It’s available in e-book format from Amazon. See his website for more info.

Nautilus at Maker Faire

Could Disney be working on a remake of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea? Citing an unnamed source, Christopher Marc of HN Entertainment reports that a remake is ”back in active development.” He offers no further details, but points to a 2016 report by Deadline that Logan producer/director James Mangold had signed to direct 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo, which would serve as an origin story about the construction of the Nautilus.

Marc writes that it’s “currently uncertain” if Mangold is still attached to the project. Mangold is still listed as the director on the movie’s IMDb Pro profile, but that page hasn’t been updated since April 2017, and the profile states that the movie’s development status is “unknown.” The movie is absent from the director’s public IMDb page.

We’ve seen no corroboration of Marc’s report, so it’s best to take this with a grain of salt. But if it pans out, it would be big news in the steampunk world. The original 1954 Disney film is regarded as a prototype of steampunk, arguably more so than the Jules Verne novel. Among other things, Harper Goff’s design of the Nautilus for that movie has inspired numerous contemporary makers, including Scott Brodeen, Pat Regan of Vulcania Submarine, and Sean Orlando of Five Ton Crane. Orlando’s Nautilus Submarine Art Car is shown above at the 2015 Maker Faire.

New Kickstarters

Aether and Steamworks

Tyson Burruss of Ashland, Oregon is on Kickstarter with Aether and Steamworks, a tabletop role-playing game containing “elements of steampunk inventive spirit, high fantasy themes and multiple world settings.” It takes place within an “Aethersphere” in the aftermath of a Great War involving Elves, Dwarves, Humans, Gnomes, Goblins, Orcs and others. In this world, the Orcs have a matriarchal society and are divided between Suits (conformists) and Skabs (rebels). They also have an affinity for little hats. The Elves, who previously ruled this world, are now oppressed by the Dwarves.

The campaign launched on March 6 and seeks $7500 USD in funding by May 5. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Top Secret Press is on Kickstarter with The Devil’s Back #1, a comic book featuring the Wild West steampunk adventures of Marshal Sam Hawkes. The story pits the marshal against mad scientist Lars Favian and Favian’s henchman, Scottish super-killer Argyle Lockwood. It’s written by Top Secret Press editor-in-chief John Daniel Taylor, with assistance from illustrator Jean Baptiste Morin, colorist Arthur Hesli, and assistant editor Francesca Henle-Taylor.

The project launched on March 12 and seeks $2500 USD in funding by April 14. See the Kickstarter page and Top Secret Press website for more info.

Jordan Shelton, aka “The VideoGamester,” is on Kickstarter with Steampunk Abyss, a video game in which players battle various adversaries while navigating a labyrinth. It’s “a game about finding crazy weapons and then modding them each run to take them to the next level,” the developer writes. “It’s about finding abilities - from support abilities that refill your steam reserves to the more bombastic Ion Burst that vaporizes enemies.” He plans to release it initially for PCs and Xbox One, with other platforms to follow.

The campaign launched on March 8 and seeks $2500 USD in funding by April 7. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Events: Aside from Obtainium Works (see above), we don’t have any major steampunk event listings for the weekend. As always, see our calendar for a comprehensive rundown of future events in North America and the UK.

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