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Steampunk Digest - March 6, 2021

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

Friday, March 5, 2021
Mad Science at Watch City
Photo: Babs Who Takes Pictures/Babette Daniels Photography

Organizers of the Watch City Steampunk Festival are seeking entries for the Mad Science Expo, Virtual Edition, which will be part of this year’s online event scheduled for May 8. “We invite you to record a brief video of yourself showing off your props, contraptions, and creations,” they stated in a message to fans. “Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you’ve made! We will then edit all the separate videos into a single presentation.”

To participate, you’ll have to fill out a registration form with the name of your entry and a brief description. A link is on the website. Videos are due by April 15.

Held annually in Waltham, Massachusetts, the festival is one of the largest steampunk gatherings in the U.S. Organizers hosted the first Mad Science Expo at the 2019 festival. The 2020 and 2021 in-person events were cancelled due to COVID-19, but this year the organizers are planning their first virtual gathering. See the website and Facebook page for more info.

If you can’t wait until May, steampunk fans have lots of ways to stay occupied this weekend, with two online conventions plus a streaming concert by Abney Park.

The big event is Wild Wild West Steampunk Online, March 5 and 6, with two tracks of programming plus performances by The Cog is Dead on Friday evening and Victor Sierra on Saturday afternoon (Mountain time). Panels will cover costuming, propmaking, leathercraft, history, steampunk literature, and more, with a speaker roster that includes Tayliss Forge, Paige Gardner, Tobias McCurry, Doc Stone, Tony Ballard-Smoot, Lord and Lady Towers, Madame Askew, the Grand Arbiter, and TeslaCon’s Eric Larson, aka Lord Bobbins. Here’s the full schedule. Registration is free, but you’ll have to complete a sign-up form on the website.

LitCon, March 5-7, is billed as a Literature Cyber Convention “where readers & authors greet.” It includes tracks for science fiction, fantasy, horror, historical fiction, mysteries, and romance. Participants include steampunk authors Phoebe Darqueling, Karen J. Carlisle, and Ged Maybury.

The Abney Park performance will celebrate the release of the band’s latest album, Technoshanties. It’s described as “a collection of sea shanties, in Abney Park signature sound.” Tickets cost US $15, which also happens to be the same price as the CD. For $100, you can get a VIP ticket that includes access to a Drunken Pirate after-party. The concert is set for Saturday March 6 at 6 p.m. Pacific time. Tickets are available on Indiegogo.

Once again, San Diego Comic-Con has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “While we are buoyed by the rollout of the vaccine and the growing number of individuals being inoculated, it appears that July will still be too early to safely hold an in-person event of the magnitude of Comic-Con,” the organizers stated in a message on the website. In its place, they’re planning a free virtual event, [email protected], for July 23-25, followed by a scaled-down, three-day in-person convention in San Diego in November.

“As the timing and scope of our larger event factored greatly into our decision to postpone, we believe that launching a smaller in-person event at a later time may be a safe alternative,” they stated.

Last year’s Comic-Con was also postponed due to the pandemic. Barring unforeseen circumstances, it will be back July 20-24, 2022, at the San Diego Convention Center.

WhedonCon, the Los Angeles-area fan gathering focusing on the works of Joss Whedon, has rebranded as The Hellmouth Convention. The change follows recent accusations that Whedon engaged in abusive and unprofessional behavior on the sets of Justice League, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel. However, it “had been in the planning stages for months,” said Marsia Powers, director of Guest & Sponsor Relations for the committee that produces the event. The new name, she said, reflected the “many people whose talents together made the Whedonverse.” The convention “was never about just Joss.”

But the allegations, including recent statements from Buffy stars Charisma Carpenter and Amber Benson, “gave us a push to implement what was already in the planning stages,” she said. At that point, the organizers had already purchased a new URL and were “working on logos and such.”

The organizers acknowledged the allegations in a statement posted Feb. 10 on the convention’s Facebook page. “We are hearing and processing these powerful statements at the same rate you are,” they wrote. “We are deeply disappointed in what we have learned and are incredibly proud of Charisma and Amber for speaking out.”

Whedon, Charisma, Amber
Photos: Joss Whedon at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con (Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr); Charisma Carpenter at the 2015 Phoenix Comicon (Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr); Amber Benson at Houston Slayercon in 2005 (Raven Underwood [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr).

“Hellmouth” refers to a portal to demonic realms underneath the fictional Sunnydale High School in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, “we are more than a Buffy/Angel con and will always be,” Powers said, and this includes the forthcoming HBO series The Nevers. The show, which premieres in April, was created by Whedon, but he left the production in November. “Expanding deeper into steampunk thanks to The Nevers will give attendees opportunities to cosplay other projects too,” Powers stated, including series, films, and books.

The rebranded convention will be held June 3-5, 2022 at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton. In the meantime, the organizers are planning Fandomopolis: All the Fandoms that Fit, a free online event billed as “a celebration of the culture and history of Fandom.” They’re planning panels, Q&As, costume contests, games, and private meet-and-greets. As with previous editions of WhedonCon, proceeds will benefit local non-profits, including the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center. It’s scheduled for Saturday, June 5, 11 a.m. PDT.

Related: Buffy Star Amber Benson Backs Charisma Carpenter’s Abuse Allegations Against Joss Whedon (CBR)

The Rise and Fall of Joss Whedon, and the Myth of the Hollywood Feminist Hero (Jezebel)

It’s the first Friday of March, which means it’s time for another Bandcamp Friday. As readers will recall, this is a promotion in which the music platform waives its revenue share, so musicians get to keep virtually all sales. It runs March 5 from midnight to midnight Pacific time.

Numerous steampunk performers sell their music on Bandcamp, and to make it easier to find them, we’ve set up a directory with links to their Bandcamp pages.

Historical figures

It began as an update of our social media banner, but it also serves as a puzzle. The challenge: How many of the historical figures in the image above can you identify? Each has been one or more of the following: A steampunk inspiration; a steampunk character in a book, movie, or other creative work; or someone who should be a steampunk character in a creative work. If you can identify all of them, you should probably be on Steampunk Jeopardy, in whatever alternate reality that show exists. Look for the answers on Saturday.

Book News

The Brass Queen

Steampunk fans can get a bargain on e-book editions of Elizabeth Chatsworth’s The Brass Queen, which are available for 99 cents through the end of March. The novel tells the story of rogue British inventor Miss Constance Haltwhistle, who teams with a U.S. spy to find a missing scientist with an invisibility serum. It’s won praise from prominent authors including Cat Rambo, Cherie Priest, Genevieve Cogman, David Farland, and Leanna Renee Hieber.

The e-book is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo. Find the links here.

Steampunk author Shelley Adina is out with Magnificent Devices: Manor House Quartet, a collection of four previously released novellas in her Magnificent Devices series. The 400-page edition consists of Carrick House, Selwyn Place, Holly Cottage, and Gwynn Place. The stories, set in an alternate Victorian era, revolve around Lady Claire Trevelyan, aka the Lady of Devices. The author writes that the series is for readers who like “old-fashioned adventure, brave women, clever children, and strong-willed chickens.” Learn more on her website.

Ruxandra Tarca has released Laevium, her debut novel. Set in late Victorian-era London, it tells the story of Jasper Kendall Asher, who becomes main engineer for the Queen’s new airship years after an accident exiled him to a dull life as a mechanic. He also gets “a chance to uncover the truth behind the unfortunate event that changed his life,” the author writes. “From his workbench, to London’s airharbour, to remote Scottish villages, he follows the trail of a scientific discovery that promises to reveal much darker plots than he initially imagined in his search for answers.”

Laevium is Book One in a series entitled The Cerulean Airship. It’s available in e-book and paperback formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sellers. See the author’s website and Goodreads page for more info.


Jim Demonakos of Seattle is raising Kickstarter funds for Mike Mignola: Drawing Monsters, a feature-length documentary film about the creator of Hellboy. It will feature interviews with Mignola along with other entertainment industry luminaries, including author Neil Gaiman, actor Doug Jones, and film director Guillermo Del Toro. The film is slated for release in April 2022.

“As one of the most successful independent comic book creators, Mignola has inspired generations of writers and artists,” Demonakos writes. He notes that “Hellboy has appeared in countless graphic novels and comic books, prose novels and short story collections, acclaimed role playing games and video games, three live action films and two animated features, and has inspired toys and collectibles.”

Demonakos is founder of The Comic Strip, a chain of comic book stores in the Pacific Northwest, as well as Emerald City Comicon and LightBox Expo. The Emerald City event, now owned by Reed Exhibitions, is one of the larger pop culture conventions in the U.S. Demonakos continues to manage LightBox Expo, a gathering that focuses on artists and other creators in the entertainment industry.

The campaign launched March 1 and is well past its US $58,000 fundraising goal. It runs through March 31. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Arkeron Productions, a theatrical group in Manchester, UK, is seeking Kickstarter funds for Birdsong in Bedlam, a gothic/steampunk rock musical set to premiere this August.

“After the sudden death of his wife, Laura, Eddie’s life takes a dark turn as he looks for the answers to his problems in drink and drugs,” writes managing director Colin Clarke. “Following an overdose, he finds himself visited by Morana, a mysterious character. He agrees to follow her into the underworld in the hope of finding Laura.” Along the way, “he encounters characters representative of the seven deadly sins.”

The musical will contain hidden pop culture references, Clarke adds. “The costumes, set, music and dialogue all serve as a homage to great literary, cinema and musical works, taking inspiration from ‘Dante’s inferno, the works of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick, Shakespeare, Dickens and much more.”

The campaign launched Feb. 25 and seeks £15,000 (US $20,933) by April 4. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Quick Hits

Off with their heads! Why are Lewis Carroll misquotes so common online? (The Guardian)

Spider-Man: Who Is Lady Spider, Marvel’s Steampunk Aunt May? (CBR)

A steampunk airship has sailed its way to success on LEGO Ideas (Brick Fanatics)

Manitoba artist draws inspiration from “elements of steampunk and Lovecraftian horror” (Winnipeg Free Press)

Steampunk horse sculpture in Florida charity auction (Thoroughbred Daily News)

Intro To Solarpunk, The New Sustainable Art Movement That’s Shaking Up Fiction & Reality (Peaceful Dumpling)

Azio’s Retro Classic Keyboard Is the Perfect Complement to Your Top Hat and Aviator Goggles (Gizmodo)

This Nixie clock and radio with a Hi-Fi speaker is for audiophiles who savor pure vintage (Yanko Design)

Recreating Retro-Futuristic 21-Segment Victorian Displays (Electronic Engineering Journal)

Black Cosplayers Call For Change In The Cosplay Community (Cosplay Central)

7 Facts about The Island of Doctor Moreau (Mental Floss)

10 Best Sherlock Holmes Portrayals (IGN)

How San Francisco’s Victorian homes inspired the year’s buzziest new video game (SFGate)

City Rep Theatre (Palm Coast, Florida) Goes ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ (Flagler Live)

New Zealand festival postponed (SunLive)

Oscar Wilde’s visit to San Francisco sent the city into a bitter, clamoring frenzy (SFGate)

Mary Anning: Life and discoveries of the first female paleontologist (Live Science)

Mary Seacole: Victorian celebrity, joyful hotelier and Crimean nurse (History Extra)

1893: Tesla stuns a St. Louis crowd with his first demonstration of radio (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Octopuses Have a Secret Sense to Keep Their 8 Arms Out of Trouble (The New York Times)

Medium-size dinos are missing from the fossil record. Here’s why. (Live Science)

This gooey, brainless blob can store memories (Live Science)

Amazon Prime-Ate: Monkeys Get Their Own On-Demand TV To Stream So They Don’t Get Bored (IFL Science)

Psychopaths And Sociopaths Explain What It’s Like Inside Their Heads (IFL Science)

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