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Steampunk Digest - Nov. 9, 2018

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

Friday, November 9, 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.

Robert Brown

Steampunk band Abney Park is out with “Scallywag,” its latest album. During an Indiegogo campaign last summer, the band described it as “a return to our vintage sounds. . . With tales of Automatons, and Scallywags, and Victorian Vigilantes, and Sea Captains.” It’s available as a Download ($13), Deluxe Download ($18), CD plus Download ($15), and Deluxe Autographed CD plus Deluxe Download ($30). The Deluxe Download includes a “Digital Goodie Bag” with three additional songs, two music videos, a lyrics book, and instrumental versions of each song. See the band’s website for more info.

Back in March, Abney Park released a music video for “We’re Going Down,” a track from the album described as a homage to filmmaker Georges Méliès.

Whitechapel Maddocks

Battleground Productions has released Episode 1 of Brass: The Devil in Whitechapel, a four-part audio drama mini-series set in an alternate 1887 London. The producer describes it as “a world where Aethereal batteries and computational engines have brought the computer age to the world 150 years early, and the result is a British Empire more advanced, more powerful and more just than the one we know.”

The same world was the setting for two earlier series plus three short films and three live stage shows. The protagonists are members of the Brass Family, “a clan of super geniuses who are the Crown’s Greatest Defenders.”

In the new mini-series, “consulting detective Madelyn Brass (Kate Kraay) joins her inventor husband Benjamin (Ron Richardson) to investigate the kidnapping of a young boy, and follow the clues into the mysteries of London’s occult underworld, meeting along the way such figures as the seer Madame Blavatsky, artistic Renaissance man William Morris, and the young poet William Butler Yeats.” The producer describes it as “the first BRASS show to enter into the realm of horror.”

You can listen to Episode 1 or download it from the Battleground Productions website.

Image used by permission of Battleground Productions.

Siegfried Dragon

The Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting a steampunk-themed performance of Richard Wagner’s Siegfried, the third opera of the Ring cycle. The five-hour performance (including intermissions) is sung in German with projected English translations. From the overview: “Siegfried is fearless. . . Watch as he vanquishes the dragon Fafner and gets the better of his own wickedly devious guardian, Mime. Will our hero heed the warnings of his wise grandfather, Wotan, disguised as The Wanderer? And what happens when he braves the magic fire, awakens the sleeping Brünnhilde, and is enraptured by love for the very first time?”


Deanna Isaacs of the Chicago Reader describes the first act as a “triumph. . . With a full set of steampunk special effects, including puppets, masks, and mimelike stagehands, it enchants.” However, “the steampunk gimmicks, fetching in the first act, begin to wear thin in the second; Wagner was a plodding librettist, and his hero (especially as portrayed and sung here) never becomes more than a blustering little boy. But the music (conducted by Sir Andrew Davis) is glorious, especially in the third act.”

Performances are scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 11, and Friday, Nov. 16. Tickets range from $119 to $299. The Lyric Opera overview page includes a brief trailer. The opera company will present a free half-hour talk about the production beginning an hour before the curtain rises.

Back in September, we wrote about a steampunk-themed performance of the entire Ring cycle by the Royal Opera House in London. The Lyric Opera plans to perform three full Ring cycles in 2020. The other operas in the cycle are Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold), Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), and Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods).

Photos © Todd Rosenberg. Used by permission of The Lyric Opera.

The Nelson Repertory Theatre in New Zealand will present The Christmas Carol - Steampunk Style, a retelling of the classic Charles Dickens story “with a twist, cogs and gears.” It runs Nov. 15-17 and Nov. 22-24 at the Theatre Royal in Nelson, a city on the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island. People who show up in steampunk attire on opening night will be eligible for prizes.

“Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, the ghosts of Marley, Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come along with the rest of the cast will be decked out in steampunk garb such as top hats, corsets, machinery parts and leather,” writes Cherie Sivignon in Stuff. “It fits so well with a Victorian novel that it seemed a perfect visual style to tell the story and have lots of fun with the costumes, set and props,” director Alli Campbell told the writer.

See the Nelson Repertory Theatre and Theatre Royal websites for more info.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that a “cogs and goggles” take on the story would happen in New Zealand, which is a hotbed of steampunk activity. Last week, we wrote about the Steampunk The Thames festival on the North Island. The huge Steampunk NZ Festival takes place in June in Oamaru on the South Island. The latter event is where teapot racing originated.

Munchkin at Worldcon

Steve Jackson Games is on Kickstarter with Munchkin Steampunk: Girl Genius, which combines the popular Munchkin card game series with the Girl Genius comics by Phil and Katja Foglio. Introduced in 2001, Munchkin is a dedicated card game that has spawned numerous editions themed to geek culture genres and franchises. Munchkin Steampunk Deluxe, released in 2015, was illustrated by Phil Foglio. It’s shown at left. The new Girl Genius game is an add-on for Munchkin Steampunk.

Girl Genius tells the ongoing stories of Agatha Heterodyne, a “mad scientist and inventor. Or, as polite people put it, a ‘Spark,’” the description says. “This set includes Agatha, her friends and foes, and rules for becoming a Spark and using Mad Science to improve your Items—the better to destroy your foes, grab their Stuff, and win!”

The project launched on Nov. 1 and blew past its $7500 goal that same day. As of Nov. 8, it had raised $54,252. The project ends on Nov. 21. The game itself is set for release in June 2019. See the Kickstarter page and developer’s page for more info.

Headless Shakespeare Press is seeking Kickstarter funding for Some Strange Disturbances, described as a “Victorian Horror comic featuring a diverse trio of main characters.” The project launched on Oct. 14 and seeks to raise $3000 by Nov. 13. See the Kickstarter page and the publisher’s website for more info.

Steampunk Batman

Steampunked Superheroes. “Most, if not all superheroes exist in modern times no matter what decade they were made in,” writes Sean Aitchison on CBR.com. “Of course, Marvel and DC characters have changed throughout the decades, but we hardly see these characters in the style of the decades that preceded their creation. Good thing the fans have given us some awesome what-ifs.”

He then offers a visual roundup of re-imagined superheroes from various artists, including a Steampunk Spider-man, Steampunk Daredevil, Victorian Aquaman, Steampunk Captain America, Steampunk Marvel, Steampunk Iron Man, and Steampunk Cyborg.

The Steampunk Iron Man sparked a bit of controversy after winning a best-costume award at New York Comic Con in 2010. It turned out that the creator was an assistant on an independent short film who took a Tin Man suit from the set and repainted it. The fellow who made the original outfit was not pleased. But as Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool wrote at the time, “it is a cool costume…”

Shown above is a Steampunk Batman from the 2017 Clockwork Alchemy convention in San Jose.

IDW Publishing recently released Volume 2 of the dieselpunk graphic novel series The Jekyll Island Chronicles, and Michael Ahr of Den of Geek has an interview with co-author Steve Nedvidek. Volume 1 featured World War I veterans who were given special powers by real-life inventors such as Nikola Tesla and Henry Ford. They’re pitted against anarchists who “were really trying to blow things up,” Nedvidek tells the writer. Their exploits continue in Volume 2.

“In the historical context, Nedvidek explains, these superheroes may almost seem like steampunk creations taken to the next stage of technological development. . . ‘What would happen if Andrew Carnegie took technology and put it on steroids, if Nikola Tesla got involved, and they really tried to harness electricity in this age of industrial invention? So it’s not as ‘geary’ as the steampunk world. There’s some of that in there, but think more pistons, think more fuel, think more diesel.’”

The article notes that IDW has turned its properties into “successful television shows like Wynonna Earp,” and “there’s hope that the diesel-punk world of The Jekyll Island Chronicles could show up on the small screen someday.”

See the Jekyll Island Chronicles website for more info on the graphic novel.

Reginald Fessenden

Clock Master Productions of Hudson, Quebec, will present David Fennario’s Fessenden Follies, a steampunk-themed stage performance based on the life of radio pioneer Reginald Aubrey Fessenden. It’s described as a “Steampunk Revue" with a live band, dancers, singers, and audience participation. It runs Nov. 8-18 at the Hudson Village Theatre near Montreal.

Kathryn Greenaway of the Montreal Gazette offers some background on the production. “Although Guglielmo Marconi is widely credited with inventing the radio, it was Fessenden who first succeeded in transmitting speech by radio in 1900,” she writes.

Playwright David Fennario learned about the inventor while on a walk in the backwoods of Austin, Quebec, a small town where Fessenden was born. Fennario originally wrote the play for radio. But when director Glen Robinson saw the title, “he immediately thought of the extravagant Ziegfeld Follies of yore,” Greenaway writes. “Then steampunk came to mind. . . Since Fessenden’s radio invention was tucked into the Victorian timeframe, Robinson deemed steampunk a logical fit.”

Shown above is a photo of Fessenden, believed to be from 1906. See the Clock Master website for additional info.

Around the World in Eighty Days

Inception Group has launched yet another location in its family of London cocktail bars based on Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. The first five are inspired by Phileas J. Fogg, but this time his wife, Aouda, gets the honors. Mrs Fogg’s Maritime Club & Distillery in Broadgate Circle is the largest venue in the collection, featuring a life-size version of the Rangoon Steamer on the ground floor. A speakeasy-style bar dubbed The Engine Room is below deck, along with a real distillery that patrons can use to make their own gin.

Aouda is from India, and the menu is based on her “memories of home, with all the flavours and fragrances of the Asian continent,” writes Shekina Tuahene in Catering Today, a UK-based trade publication. Selections on the cocktail menu include Mombai Mule, Eye of the Lotus, Engine Room Gin, The Old Banyan Tree, and An Elephant’s Progress.

The other locations are Mr Fogg’s Residence, Mr Fogg’s Tavern, Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour, Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals, and Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration.

The Velveteen Band

Unwoman and The Velveteen Band are among the performers who will appear at the Simi Valley Music and Funtasy Festival on Saturday, Nov. 10, in Southern California. Unwoman is the cellist/singer/songwriter who often performs at steampunk events. She will take the stage at 1 p.m., followed by The Velveteen Band at 2:30 p.m. The latter describes itself as a “theatrical rock ensemble” that “features puppets on vocals, a deranged mad scientist, and is led by a six-foot trumpet playing rabbit named the Baron Von Velveteen.”

Also appearing that day are Enchanted Realms and Little Days. Single-day tickets cost $12 in advance or $15 at the gate.

The event takes place at Simi Valley Civic Center Park, 2929 Tapo Canyon Road, Simi Valley, CA 93063. Directions and a map are on the website.

East Coast Steampunks UK will present “A Very Steampunk Variety Show,” Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Spilsby Theatre in Lincolnshire, UK. It’s described as a show “for steampunks and the steam-curious,” with “music hall songs, tea shanties, ukulele ballads, monologues, a steampunked barrel organ, a jig doll performance, poetry, a demonstration of tea duelling, [and] a fashion parade.” Attendees can also enter a raffle.

The event takes place in the Sessions House Lounge, the only part of the theatre open to the public. Proceeds benefit repair of the other parts of the theatre. See the Facebook event page for more info.

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