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Steampunk Digest - Nov. 23, 2018

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

Friday, November 23, 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.

Steampunk Santa

Billing himself as the “SteamPunk Santa” of Vallejo, California, Thomas Bilbo has been raising funds to finish construction of a sleigh for the city’s Mad Hatter Parade on Dec. 1. The steampunk sleigh, dubbed the “Rudolph 5000,” was designed by Shannon O’Hare of Obtainium Works.

“O’Hare’s blueprints include a control panel for Santa to maneuver special effects, plus numerous LED lights, artificial snow shooting from a back rocket, flapping wings, and lighted antlers recycled from gold-colored chandeliers,” writes Richard Freedman in the Vallejo Times-Herald.

As we wrote back in August, O’Hare is also the wizard behind the Neverwas Haul (a Victorian house on wheels) and many other whimsical vehicles.

Bilbo, who has been playing Santa Claus for the past 23 years, has set up a website and Facebook page for his fundraising effort. He’s contributed $1000 out of his own pocket and had raised more than $3000 as of Nov. 20.

He tells us he’s ultimately hoping to raise between $5000 and $7000. “This money would be used to pay for costumes for elves and to fully outfit the sleigh with extra bells and whistles,” he says. One of his donors is Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan, a steampunk fan who was one of the passengers in the photo above (he’s wearing sunglasses and waving). You can see that the sleigh is still a work-in-progress.

Bilbo is recruiting the elves to work as safety monitors. At the end of the parade, the sleigh will be part of a tree-lighting ceremony, and “having a lot of elves at the end will make it all a special event,” he says. He also hopes to bring the vehicle to other charity events in the area (it will double as a rocketship).

The Mad Hatter Parade is a holiday tradition in Vallejo. The Times-Herald article notes that Obtainium Works will have many other mobile contraptions in the parade, including its motorized Alice in Wonderland hoop skirts. Festivities begin at noon, but the parade itself happens around 4:30 p.m.

Photo by S.N. Jacobson/LensCap.


Volcanoid, a Czech developer, has announced an early-access version of Volcanoids, a steampunk-themed video game set on an island ravaged by mechanical beings.

“In order to survive the island’s natural elements, you have to outsmart these creatures and capture one of their drillships,” the developer says. “The drillship is a cross between an armored vehicle and a fully automated factory. It serves you as a mobile base that you can upgrade, customize and extend.”

You can sign up as an alpha tester on the developer’s website. It runs on the Steam platform on Windows PCs. They’ve also set up a YouTube channel where you can view a trailer and tutorials.

Author Shelley Adina is out with Selwyn Place, Book 16 in her Magnificent Devices steampunk series. The novella involves a “country house party,” a “broken friendship,” and “a debt that must be paid in blood.” From the blurb: “If you like old-fashioned adventure, brave women, clever children, and strong-willed chickens, you’ll love this short story.”

Last week we told you about Madeline Holly-Rosing’s Q&A with Adina. The author also answered questions from Graceful Indecency blogger L.J. Longo. In this discussion, Adina reveals her favorite steampunk works, and her views on how the genre emerged. She also discloses an early influence: The Wild Wild West, the 1960s TV series that’s considered a prototype of steampunk. “I loved the adventure in the Wild West, the trick gadgets, the derring-do of it all,” she says.

Learn more about Adina’s work and the new book on her website.

“Captain Bill” Harrison of the Atlanta Steampunk Exposition has set up a Go Fund Me page to assist steampunk makers James and Sara Neathery. “James has fractured his foot quite badly, so badly in fact that it required surgery,” he writes. “Self-employed and now temporarily disabled, he is going to need our help to make it through the next few months of recovery. James has always been a kind and generous man, and is faced with little or no income for quite a while.” Harrison is also encouraging folks to “make a purchase or two” from James and Sara’s Starboard Sky Industries website.

Steel Rats

Tate Multimedia is out with Steel Rats, an action arcade video game in a retro-futuristic 1940s setting. Players join a biker gang “sworn to protect their city against an invading army of alien robots,” the developer says. It’s available for PlayStation 4 consoles and the PC-based Steam platform.

“Sonic Meets Steampunk Sons of Anarchy,” is the headline for the review on ScreenRant. “Not too long ago, machine parts in the junkyard became sentient and started attacking innocent people,” writes Ty Sheedlo. “The question of ‘why’ and ‘how to stop them’ are frequently raised, though only the latter is particularly compelling in this fast-paced action platformer. . . At its core, Steel Rats adapts a racing formula in a way rarely done.”

On Metacritic, reviews of the PS4 version are mostly mixed. The PC version has only two reviews.

Learn more on the game’s website.

The Velveteen Band has launched “The Other Side with Cap’n Dan and Foe,” a YouTube video series where the bandmembers talk to artists and friends. First up is Unwoman (aka Erica Mulkey), who appeared with the band at the Simi Valley Music and Funtasy Festival, Nov. 10 in Southern California. She discusses her current projects, her Patreon page, and the challenges of writing original songs versus performing covers. You can hear her music on her Bandcamp page.

Cap’n Dan, the band manager, asks most of the questions. Foe the Destroyer is one of two puppets who do lead vocals for the band. The Velveteen Band and Unwoman are both frequent performers at steampunk events. Learn more about the band on their website, or head over to YouTube to watch the video.

“Is Steampunk Just Goth with Gears?” That’s the question asked rhetorically by blogger Julia of The Gothic Library. She’s a self-described goth who also is drawn to steampunk. “While some branches of the gothic subculture share steampunk’s interest in Victorian clothing, the two groups approach their style from different directions,” she writes. “Goth is about embracing the taboo and seeing beauty in darkness. . . Steampunk, on the other hand, is characterized by its focus on creativity and its DIY mentality,” and the way the fashion incorporates “elements of machinery or other technology.”

She also compares each genre’s music. Whereas gothic rock is a “clearly definable genre of music . . . there isn’t really one unified genre of music identifiable as ‘steampunk.’”

Despite the differences, “I frequently enjoy participating in steampunk events and engaging with steampunk communities,” she writes. The reason? Both scenes “tend to be especially intellectual communities,” which she attributes “mainly to the fact that both subcultures draw significant inspiration from literature.”

Steampunk Cats

Polly-fox is on Kickstarter with her “Awesome Cat Steampunk Stickers & Pins.” She confesses that “I’m a CATPERSON. Completely. Irreversibly. And I decided not just to draw some simple cats, but let them feel special. Hence, I merged cats and steampunk style!” She’s hoping to raise US$801 by Dec. 11. The project launched on Nov. 14. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

More announcements for 2019

Several steampunk events have disclosed plans for next year:

Gaslight Steampunk Expo announced that bestselling steampunk author Gail Carriger will be Guest of Honor at next year’s event, set for Sept. 27-29, 2019. The organizers also announced the new location: the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley. The theme will be Ancient Egypt. Early bird weekend tickets are on sale for $65. The price goes up after Feb. 1, 2019. See the website for info.

Meanwhile, Gaslight Gathering, also in San Diego, announced its guest line-up for next year: Abney Park, The Eternal Frontier, Doc Phineas, Dyno Staats, Drake & McTrowell, and Dude Vader (a steampunked Darth Vader). It’s set for April 12-14, 2019, at the Handlery Hotel San Diego. See the website.

The Bull City Robotic Rodeo is a brand-new steampunk fest slated for Feb. 1-3, 2019, in Durham, North Carolina. Produced by the company behind the Festival of Legends, it will have a Wild West theme with mechanical bull rides, escape rooms, bull whip workshops, “lazer-pistol slinging showdowns,” and “saloon girl Can-Cans.” Author guests include Margaret S. McGraw, Tonia Brown, and Emily Leverett. Maker guests include Brett King, Stephen Chapman, and Wheeler Stone. Jon Sundell is a musical guest. See the website for more info.

Vandalia-Con, previously held in May in Parkersburg, West Virginia, is moving to a new time and place: October 18-20, 2019, at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Morgantown, West Virginia. The theme, determined by a vote of attendees in 2018, will be “Villains of Vandalia.” The steampunk and science-fiction convention raises funds for cancer screening, diagnoses and treatment services in the state. See the website.

Clockwork Alchemy announced that Dave Lee of Hatton Cross Steampunk will be its Maker Guest of Honor. He joins Musical Guest of Honor Aurelio Voltaire and Author Guests of Honor Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris. The convention is scheduled for March 22-24 at the Hyatt Regency SFO in Burlingame, California. It will have a circus theme. See the website.

This week’s events

As we wrote previously, Steampunk Showcase will debut Nov. 24-25 near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It will feature performances by The Cog is Dead and Night Watch Paradox in addition to vendors, workshops, and several contests.

This will also be a busy weekend in the UK with three major events:

Steampunks in Space … Return to the Red Planet, Nov. 24-25, National Space Centre, Leicester, UK. The program includes music, workshops, gaming, a fashion show, art exhibit, maker challenges, and tea dueling. Author guests include Mark A. Latham (The Lazarus Gate), George Mann (Newbury and Hobbes) and Toby Frost (Space Captain Smith). Alice’s Night Circus will perform on Saturday afternoon. Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer and Blackballed will perform at a premium ticketed event on Saturday night. Preceding the event will be a Launch Party with live music on Friday night. Details, and the program, are on the Facebook page.

The Leicester Mercury has a write-up about the event.

MCM Birmingham Comic Con, Nov. 24-25, National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, UK. This comic con will include a Steampunk Emporium with maker talks and workshops. Guests include propmaker John Naylor, who will be showing Star Wars-themed steampunk pieces, and photographer Gary Nicholls, recently featured in our story “The Imaginarium of Gary Nicholls.” See the website for details.

Haworth Steampunk Weekend, Nov. 23-25, Haworth, UK. This festival in West Yorkshire will offer steampunk fashion, music, tea duelling, and steam train rides on the Keighley Worth Valley Railway. Special events include a burlesque show (Nov. 23) and Masquerade Ball (Nov. 24). It’s held in multiple locations, including Haworth Village Hall (Butt Lane) and West Lane Chapel. The event raises funds for the Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice. The town is a tourist destination due to the railway and its association with Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, who wrote most of their novels in the area. See the website for more info.

All three of these events are in our new calendar for the UK and Ireland. It joins our steampunk events calendar for the U.S. and Canada.

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