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Steampunk Digest - May 1, 2020

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

Friday, May 1, 2020
Steam Train in Frankenstein
Steampunk action in the National Theatre’s production of Frankenstein. Photo: Catherine Ashmore, National Theatre

The National Theatre of London is streaming a stage production of Frankenstein as part of its National Theatre at Home program on YouTube. Oscar-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle directed two versions, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating in the roles of Dr. Frankenstein and the Creature. Each was filmed live on stage in 2011. It was written by Nick Dear and based, of course, on Mary Shelley’s novel.

The story is set in the early 19th century, and as you can see, the production has steampunk elements, especially in this early scene where a steam train appears on stage.

“It’s creature-centric in that it follows the extraordinary learning journey of a man somewhere in his 30s that is being reanimated out of death, and having to learn everything that is being a human, homo sapiens, or species all over again,” Cumberbatch said in a new video introduction that he recorded while under lockdown.

The version with Cumberbatch as the Creature streamed Thursday, April 30, at 7 p.m. UK time (2 p.m. U.S. Eastern time). The version with Miller as the Creature streams Friday, May 1 at the same time. Each will be available on demand for seven days on the National Theatre YouTube channel. The channel also has a trailer and Cumberbatch’s video introduction.

Cumberbatch and Miller are also known for their portrayals of contemporary versions of Sherlock Holmes. Cumberbatch starred in the BBC’s Sherlock, whereas Miller played the detective in Elementary on CBS.

Learn more on the National Theatre website.

Asylum Steampunk Festival
2017 Asylum Steampunk Festival. Photo by Mark Kent (CC-BY SA 2.0) via Flickr.

The COVID-19 outbreak will likely force changes at this year’s Asylum Steampunk Festival, which is currently scheduled for Aug. 28-31 in Lincoln, UK. In an April 20 Facebook post, festival director John Naylor announced that the organizers are considering three possibilities: Postponement, a scaled down event, or normal operation. However, normal operation “is considered unlikely and so we have no immediate plans to operate the free festival unless advised otherwise,” he wrote. “Please do not make plans to attend the free festival in 2020.”

A scaled-down version would probably be limited to the Bishop Grosseteste University campus. The festival is usually held in multiple locations. Past events have drawn an estimated 100,000 visitors, making it the world’s largest steampunk gathering.

Naylor added that he doesn’t expect any “meaningful updates” until late May at the earliest.

The Epiplectic Bicycle
The Vau de Vire Society performing Edward Gorey’s The Epiplectic Bicycle at the 2019 Edwardian Ball.

The Vau de Vire Society is hosting Mayday! Mayday!, an interactive online event featuring live music, circus acts, sideshows, costume contests, and other entertainment in more than 15 thematic “rooms.” Collaborators include Opel Productions, Jazz Mafia, Angelo Moore & The Dr Maddvibes, Circus Metropolus, Bohemian Carnival, and Fou Fou Ha. The 18+ event serves as a fundraiser for the society, a circus performance troupe that also co-produces the Edwardian Ball in San Francisco.

“Vau de Vire is facing catastrophic times,” states the event announcement. “We’ve had to cancel multiple shows, losing 7+ months of income and counting as a result. Our direct support of 200+ local artists/cast/crew/staff is in jeopardy without your help in bridging these times, until we can once again play with you in the flesh.”

It takes place Saturday, May 2, beginning at 7 p.m. Pacific time. Tickets cost $20 for individuals and $50 for households. For supporters in the San Francisco area, they’re also offering dinner/show packages with meals delivered by local eateries The Pawn Shop and Monarch. See the Facebook page for more info and ticket links.

UK performer Greg Chapman will host another edition of his (Almost) Live comedy and magic show on Sunday, May 3, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. UTC +1. As with the first performance on April 19, he plans a mix of live and pre-recorded segments. He’ll be joined by special guests Mr Alexander and his Travelling Show. It’s free, but he welcomes donations via Ko-fi. Learn more on the Facebook page.

VirtualSteamCon, the new steampunk gathering on Facebook, will host a live performance by French steampunk/dieselpunk band Victor Sierra on Friday, May 1 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. It’s part of a weekly series dubbed “Friday Night Live.” The following week, on May 8, Madeline Holly-Rosing will discuss Boston Metaphysical Society, her steampunk comic series.

Another new feature is Vendors Row, a thrice-weekly post in which vendors can list their products in the comments thread. It will appear Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at the top of the page. There is no cost for inclusion.

The group, which launched April 22 as an ongoing virtual steampunk convention, had more than 1000 members by month’s end. You can find it on Facebook.

Book News

The Midwest Independent Publishers Association has named Wireless and More Steam-Powered Adventures by Alex Acks as a finalist in the Midwest Book Awards. The steampunk collection, published by Queen of Swords Press, is one of four finalists in the Fantasy/SciFi/Horror/Paranormal category. Winners will be announced June 27 on Facebook Live.

Released in April 2019, the book features three linked novellas that take place in an alternate-history American West. They follow the continuing adventures of Captain Marta Ramos, “the most dangerous pirate in the Duchy of Denver,” and Meriwether Octavian Simms, her second-in-command. See the publisher’s website for purchase options.

In other award news, steampunk author Elizabeth Chatsworth scored an honorable mention in the novella category in the 2020 Connecticut Press Club awards. She was recognized for her time travel adventure, Ten Minutes Past Teatime.

Wild Wolf Publishing has released Gaslight Magick, a novel by Teel James Glenn set in an alternate 1890 North America infused by “the intersecting magicks of many cultures - Merlin’s, Persian, Aztec and more.” Glenn describes it as “equal parts Jules Verne technology and James Bond political intrigue.” The author, who is based in Brooklyn, is also an actor and stuntman. It’s available as an e-book from Amazon.

New collections: Of Steel and Steam is a 900-page limited-time anthology featuring stories by Margo Bond Collins, J. A. Cummings, R.M. Garino, C.A. King, Majanka Verstraete, Klarissa King, M.R. Graham, Bokerah Brumley, Mary Kit Caelsto, and Pauline Creeden. It’s available as an e-book from Amazon.

Airships & Antiquities is a slimmer volume from Carpathia Publishing with stories by Nichole Craig, Bob Byrne, Katelyn Cameron, C.M. Dutton, Rachel Cohen, and Shashi Kadapa. It’s also available in a Kindle edition from Amazon.


Roxley Games of Calgary, Alberta is on Kickstarter with Steampunk Rally Fusion, a tabletop game that serves as a standalone sequel to the company’s Steampunk Rally. Players take the role of historical inventors such as Auguste Piccard, Hedy Lamarr, Alan Turing, and Igor Sikorsky, who build and pilot steampunk racing machines. The story is set in the aftermath of a Martian invasion. The characters use a bathyscaphe invented by Piccard to travel back in time.

The campaign launched April 28 and quickly met its CA $80,000 (US $57,684) fundraising goal. It runs through May 14. See the Kickstarter page and website for more info.

B. Dave Walters and Jeff Wamester are seeking Kickstarter funds for a graphic novel version of Electropunk: Children of the Future, their webcomic starring an alternate-history version of Nikola Tesla. “In 1895, legendary genius and inventor Nikola Tesla had a fire that burned his lab to the ground, setting back his work 50 years,” Walters explains. The story begins in 1910, “in a world where Nikola’s famous fire never happened. Nikola remains one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the world, and using his talents makes a shocking discovery. In essence, some things go bump in the night, and most of the world’s myths and legends have some truth with creatures preying on an unsuspecting humanity.”

Tesla raises his orphaned niece and nephew, “twins Ruthie and Chuck, to be mankind’s sword and shield. Tesla designs suits of enhanced armor to protect both their bodies and their identities. In short, they have to become monsters to combat monsters.”

The story was written by Walters, with Wamester serving as lead artist. Walters is best known as the author of Dungeons & Dragons: A Darkened Wish, a 2019 comic book series from IDW. He also appeared as an actor in the web TV series We’re Alive: Frontier and Vampire the Masquerade: LA by Night. Wamester has worked as a character designer and storyboard artist for several TV series from Marvel Animation. They’re based in the L.A. area.

The campaign launched on April 24 and seeks US $30,000 by May 24. It reached more than half of that goal within four days. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Eric Hawkins is on Kickstarter with The Zombieful World of OZ #2: No Rest for the Wicked. It’s the second in a series of comic books that offer a steampunk horror take on L. Frank Baum’s Oz tales. The first installment took place 10 years after Dorothy Gale’s adventures in Oz. Thinking that she was insane, her family had her committed to a mental hospital. Now released, she finds herself back in the Land of Oz, which is beset by a zombie plague.

Hawkins is the writer, penciler, inker, colorist, and letterer. The campaign launched on April 27 and quickly surpassed its US $1500 funding goal, so it’s now in stretch goal territory. It concludes on May 27. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Quick Hits

Jeff Bezos Is Building a 10,000-Year Clock Inside a Mountain (Popular Mechanics)

Criterion has restored The War of the Worlds (1953) (HD Report)

Sakura Wars Review - All The World’s A Stage (Gamespot)

Discover the Striking Art of Sakura Wars, Available Today (Playstation Blog)

‘Gunbird’ Releasing in May (Exclusively Games)

Terry Pratchett novels to get ‘absolutely faithful’ TV adaptations (The Guardian)

“Most Dangerous” Location Throughout The History Of Earth Revealed By Paleontologists (IFL Science)

Most Complete Skeleton Of “Crazy Beast” From Ancient Gondwana Supercontinent Discovered (IFL Science)

“Zoom Fatigue” Is A Thing And You’re Not The Only One Experiencing It (IFL Science)

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