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Steampunk Digest - May 10, 2019

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

Friday, May 10, 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 on The Steampunk Explorer.

Close to the Sun

Storm in a Teacup has released Close to the Sun, a single-player video game set in 1897 aboard a ship that’s home to wild inventions by Nikola Tesla. Early reviews are mixed. David Jagneaux of IGN liked the visual style, the alternate history angle, and the depictions of Tesla’s creations. But “the sometimes-obtuse puzzles and slow pacing can cause frustration and repetition,” he writes.

It gets harsher reactions from Jason Rodriguez of PC Invasion and Lawrence Le of Gaming Trend. “It could’ve been a worthy inclusion to the pantheon of modern horror games,” Rodriguez writes. “Unfortunately, its bland story and character design, as well as the lack of challenge or ‘scream in terror’ moments, make for a rather uninspired and fruitless journey.” Le liked the visuals, as well as the “solid environmental storytelling and sound design.” But it’s “brought down by banal gameplay and a host of bugs,” he opines. Review aggregator Metacritic gives it a score of 65.

A PC version is currently available from the new Epic Games store. Console versions are expected in Q3. See the website for more info.

Tesla vs. Lovecraft

10tons Ltd. has released an Android version of Tesla vs Lovecraft, an arena shooter game in which Nikola Tesla uses various gadgets to battle monsters summoned by H.P. Lovecraft. The company previously released versions for PCs, consoles, and iOS devices. Also new are mobile versions of “For Science!” a DLC (downloadable content) pack with new weapons, monsters and other enhancements. The game has received generally positive reviews. See the website for more info.

Gaslamp Games announced on Steam that it is removing Clockwork Empires, a steampunk-themed colony-building game released in 2016. The company ceased regular operations shortly afterward, but the game remained on the Steam platform. “As PC gaming hardware and software has changed since Clockwork Empires’ release, we feel that we can no longer adequately support the game,” the company stated. “We’re going to cease the sale of Clockwork Empires on Steam or any other platform shortly.” It received mixed reviews from users and critics.

Joaquin (“Kino”) Gil has released The Road to Xibalbá, a graphic novel described as a mix of “Latin American mythologies, Victorian science-fiction, and a changed Old West.” It’s set in an alternate history version of the U.S. West Coast. A group of adventurers contend for control of the Gates of Xibalbá, “a real-life Hell. . . While winning will make one a Gatekeeper, with extended lifespan and incalculable riches. . . losing means death.” The author has posted a book trailer on YouTube.

He has worked primarily as a filmmaker and animation artist. This is his first graphic novel.

It’s available now on Amazon as a 109-page paperback, with an e-book version to follow.

Jonny Mustapha is on Kickstarter with Issues 1 & 2 of Aeronautica, a steampunk fantasy comic about a group of adventurers “in an airborne world of sky cities, pirate fleets and a long-forgotten, war-ravaged planet far below.” Oppressive rulers known as the Valadaen “have banished the Druggans, enslaved the Koshan and reduced Humans to little more than soldiers and scavengers.”

The campaign launched on May 2 and has already passed its initial goal of raising £500 (about $650 USD). It runs through June 1. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Jacky vs Jab

The Lense Film Festival in Middelburg, Netherlands presented its “Most Creative” award to Steam, a steampunk-themed martial arts film directed by P.H. (Pau Han) Kho of Rotterdam. Released in January 2018, the short film tells the story of a locomotive mechanic “entangled in a conflict with his former gang members.” It was also screened at the Rose City Steampunk Film Festival in Portland, Oregon and the recent Gaslight Gathering in San Diego. It has won prizes at the Vlaardings Film Festival and Out of the Can Film Festival.

The film stars Jacky Dunnes as “Jacky” and Kho as “Jab.” Their fight scene is shown above. You can view a trailer on YouTube.

Kho was introduced to steampunk in 2016 while taking an animation class. “I was animating gears,” he says. “My mentor mentioned that it looked like steampunk and showed me some pictures. I was immediately fascinated about the props like mechanical arms, flintlock walking canes and Bartitsu.”

See the film's Facebook page for more info.

Minehead, a coastal town in South West England, hosted the first Minehead Steampunk Festival last weekend, and the County Gazette has a report and photos. “Exhibitions, street and pub entertainers put a smile on visitors faces and turned a few heads,” writes Steven Salter.

The event, previously known as the Steampunk Seaside Spectacular, was originally scheduled to take place at the Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza in Wales. But organiser David Smith announced in March that he would move the festival to the new location due to issues with the authorities in Llandudno. Now he’s hoping to return to Minehead next year.

The Watch City Steampunk Festival takes place Saturday, May 11 in Waltham, Massachusetts, and as a lead-up, the Waltham News Tribune has a Q&A with musical guest Professor Elemental. The UK-based chap hop artist describes his show as a “mix of stand-up comedy, audience interaction and party Hip Hop” and promises a set of old and new songs. He also has kind words for the American steampunk scene: “Don’t tell the other countries, but America does Steampunk costume better than anyone,” he says, adding that it’s easier to interact with American audiences than those in England.

The Professor takes the stage at 4 p.m. on Saturday. See the festival website and our own recent coverage for more info.

Author Jessica Lucci is another Watch City participant, and in honor of the festival, she’s posted a roundup of notable steampunk-related books. They include one non-fiction work, Edward Dolnick’s The Clockwork Universe, along with novels by Jules Verne, Cherie Priest, Joseph Robert Lewis, Honor Raconteur, and Cassandra Leuthold. The list also includes Steampunk Fairy Tales, an anthology of traditional stories “retold with steampunk flair.” And she couldn’t resist adding her own Waltham Watch, a steampunk novel that’s set in Watch City.

At the festival, she’ll be presenting a “Steampunk Writer’s Roundtable” panel with Professor Cognome.

Santos The Chamber of Darkness

Northern California artist Eric Kelly is participating in Marin Open Studios this weekend, May 11-12, offering an opportunity to visit his studio in San Rafael. “This won’t be a standard open studio,” he says. “I’m using it as a dry run for a future art festival booth, incorporating elements from my 2018 solo show and 2019 Edwardian Ball installation, plus some cool new decor, props and artwork you haven’t seen before.”

Kelly transforms 19th century photographs into surreal artworks depicting “classic themes from mythology and biblical story, seen through a distorted Victorian lens.”

Last September, we wrote about his “Curiously Grim” exhibition at Art Works Downtown in San Rafael. We also caught up with him at the Edwardian Ball in January (his installation can be seen in this photo gallery).

Meanwhile, the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art is showing Kelly’s “Always, Always in My Mind” as part of the 10th Annual Altered Book Exhibition & Fundraiser, which runs through June 1. His piece is themed to Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

See his website for more info.

Shown above is “Santos (The Chamber of Darkness),” used by Kelly’s permission.


The Cortland County Convention & Visitors Bureau in central New York has announced plans to host a new steampunk festival this fall. Gears to Corsets will be held Sept. 27 - 29 at multiple locations in the county. Planned activities include a steampunk promenade, seminars, vendors, a fashion show, and live music. Cortland, the county seat and largest city, is about 30 miles south of Syracuse.

The organizers are leveraging the county’s role as an industrial center in the 19th and early 20th centuries. At the time, it was home to the Wickwire Brothers, Brockway Carriage Company, Cortland Corset Company, and other manufacturers. The Wickwire Brothers (above left) were major producers of wire cloth, used to make window screens, fencing and other products. The former home of Chester Wickwire in Cortland is now the 1890 House Museum (above right).

Photos by the 1890 House Museum (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia Commons.

Cogs & Corsets: A Steampunk Happening, returns to Bloomington, Illinois June 7-9, and to help folks prepare for the festival, the organizers are hosting a series of workshops over the next several weeks. In “Bustle Making,” participants will learn how to make a two-tiered bustle from a round tablecloth. It’s scheduled for Saturday, May 11, 2 p.m.-4 p.m. at 107 E. Chestnut St. Material fees are $8, or $5 if you bring your own tablecloth. “Splendid Teapot Racers” will offer a chance to practice on an obstacle course with your own teapot racer. You can also use a loaner racer and get tips on how to build one. It’s set for Sunday, May 19, 2 p.m.-4 p.m., at The Creativity Center, 107 E. Locust St. And on June 1, you can learn the craft of “DIY Goggle Making” at the McLean County Museum of History, 200 N. Main St. It’s set for 1:15 p.m.-3:15 p.m. See the Facebook events page for more details about the workshops. For info about the festival itself, see the website.

This Weekend, and Next

May is a busy month in the steampunk calendar, with lots of events in North America and the UK. We’ve already mentioned the Watch City Steampunk Festival. Also slated for this weekend:

The Beer-Lesque & Carniv-Ale Show, May 11 at the Elgin County Railway Museum in St. Thomas, Ontario. It will feature steampunk artisans, sideshow entertainment, and samplings of beer, cider, wine, and spirits from Ontario brewers and distillers. See the Facebook page for info.

Kenosha History & Steampunk Mini-Convention, May 11 at the Danish Brotherhood Lodge #14, 2206 63rd St., Kenosha, Wisconsin. The organizer describes it as an “Uptown Brass Village - Kenosha History / STEAMPUNK / Kenosha Small Business - Vendor Faire. . . We will have booths and tables with lots of fun stuff to buy! Also some very interesting and informative tables and presentations.” Admission is free, but guests are asked to donate items to a local charity that serves the homeless and needy. See the Facebook page for info.

And next weekend in North America: MegaCon Orlando (May 16-19); C.O.G.S. Expo (May 17-19 in Parsippany, New Jersey); Maker Faire Bay Area (May 17-19 in San Mateo, California); Old Timers Day Steampunk Festival (May 18-19 in Van Buren, Arkansas); and Steampunk Ottawa 10th Anniversary Gala (May 19 in Ottawa, Ontario).

UK Events

Raising Steam Festival, May 10-12, will feature a steampunk market and performances by Beorma Border Morris, BB BlackDog, Feline & Strange, Montague Jacques Fromage, The Wattingers and Victor and the Bully. Proceeds benefit New Futures Nepal, which provides services for disadvantaged children and adults in Nepal. It takes place at the Stoke Prior Sports and Social Club in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. See the website for more info.

Bradford Steampunk Market, May 11-12 at the Bradford Industrial Museum in West Yorkshire. The program includes live music, a vintage tea room, coffee jousting, a bird of prey display, and sellers of steampunk wares. See the website for more info.

Nene Railway Steampunk Weekend, May 11-12, is a steampunk gathering at the historic Nene Valley Railway in Peterborough. It’s hosted by The Clockwork Infirmary.

Next weekend: Steampunk Filey, May 18-19 in Filey, North Yorkshire.

Some Housekeeping. . .

We’ve made some small but (we hope) useful changes to improve navigation on the website. Most stories on the site are assigned to one or more categories: “Cosplay,” “Event Reports,” “Places,” etc. Previously, these tags were accessible only in the “Stories by Category” box underneath “Locations by Topic.” But now they also appear in the “Stories” menu in the main navigation bar. For example, if you want to see all recaps of steampunk events, you can select “Stories->Event Reports.” We’re also listing category tags at the bottom of each story.

In addition, we’ve added a new category for stories about makers.

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