fbpx Steampunk Digest - November 1, 2019: Our weekly roundup of news and other happenings in the steampunk world | The Steampunk Explorer

Steampunk Digest - November 1, 2019

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

Friday, November 1, 2019
Steampunk the Thames
Participants at the 2017 Steampunk the Thames festival. Photo by John Sprague, JDS Imagery.

Steampunk the Thames returns to New Zealand’s North Island Nov. 7-10, and as part of the festival, the organizers will try to set the Guinness World Record for “Largest Gathering of Steampunks.” The current official record of 228 was set in June 2016 at the Steampunk NZ festival in Oamaru. A group in New South Wales, Australia beat that earlier this year with a gathering of 236 steampunks, but the Guinness World Records organization has not yet listed the event.

Those numbers might seem low, given that the Asylum Steampunk Festival in the UK has drawn an estimated 100,000 attendees, and two U.S. events — the Big River Steampunk Festival in Hannibal, Missouri and Watch City Steampunk Festival in Waltham, Massachusetts — have drawn as many as 10,000.

But Thames festival organizers note that the rules and evidence requirements set by the Guinness organization are “quite strict.” They’ll make the attempt at the Kopu Bridge in Thames on Saturday, Nov. 9. “Participants will be screened as they enter the restricted area of the bridge. [They] need to be in Victorian dress and with a modern ‘gadget’ worn. Costuming must include goggles or steampunk eyewear/mask. We are just clarifying with Guinness now about their definition of ‘gadget.’” Participants will also have to sign a release to appear in photos and video footage, which belong to the Guinness organization.

Their goal is 400 people or more, which seems doable considering that last year’s festival drew an estimated 1200 attendees.

Aside from the record attempt, the festival will include a parade, merchants, tea dueling, teapot racing, art exhibits, variety shows, train rides, circus acts, comedy, pet costumes, and more. See the website for more info.

His Dark Materials
Photo courtesy of HBO

Early reviews are in for His Dark Materials, and so far critics seem to like the series, which is based on Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy. “While His Dark Materials is not, on the basis of the first episode, an all-out extravaganza, it is a fine piece of drama, capturing the strangeness and childlike wonder of the books, but also their rigour and bite,” writes Ben Lawrence in the Daily Telegraph.

Los Angeles Times TV critic Robert Lloyd drew comparisons with The Golden Compass, a 2007 film adaptation that was widely panned. “[F]ans of the books will be glad to know that care has been taken to get it right this time,” he writes. “From what I’ve seen so far, nothing of consequence has been left out.”

The books and film had Victorian and steampunk elements, hence the interest among steampunk fans. But it’s not yet clear to what extent the series will follow suit. “Visually, the TV series recalls post-war Great Britain; technologically, it is both newer and older: There are metal zeppelins and mechanical ‘spy flies,’ but I don’t remember anyone talking on a telephone,” Lloyd writes.

As of Nov. 1, the series had a score of 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 19 reviews, 16 positive and three negative. The series premieres Nov. 3 on BBC One in the UK and Nov. 4 on HBO in the U.S.

Dirigible Days

Dirigible Days, a steampunk web series originally released in 2012 and 2013, is now available on Amazon Prime in the U.S. and UK. Set in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world, it tells the story of “the airship S.S. Beatrix as they transport a shady lawman and his dangerous prisoner from the Cult of Cthulhu,” explains director Gary Lobstein. It consists of five episodes ranging from 10 to 13 minutes each.

James Bragado, who created the series, stars as airship captain Santiago Dunbar. Anthony Daniels, who played C-3PO in Star Wars, provided narration and served as an executive producer.

Don’t expect blockbuster special effects: The series was shot in St. Louis on a budget of about $10,000, almost half of which was raised in a 2012 Kickstarter campaign. It won two awards: “Best Series” at the 2013 High Seas Steampunk Film Festival and “Best Costumes” at the 2013 Louisiana Science Fiction Film and Costume Festival.

The producers followed the web series with a graphic novel that’s available on Comixology.com. Their Kickstarter campaign for that project was even more successful, raising $10,546.

Our Gal Pictures, LLC has released Stoker & Wells: Order of the Golden Dawn, a graphic novel in which a young H.G. Wells teams up with Bram Stoker in an adventure that inspires each to write a novel: The Time Machine and Dracula. It was written by Steven Peros, best known as the author of the stage play and screenplay for The Cat’s Meow. The story was illustrated by Barry Orkin.

The project has garnered positive reviews from LA Weekly and DarkMedia. See the Facebook page for more info.

Composer Gustav Hoyer will host a Gilded Age Album Preview Party on Sunday Nov. 3 on Facebook Live. During the event, he will play tracks from his forthcoming album, The Gilded Age, and offer commentary. It is scheduled for 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mountain time. Two preview tracks, “A Steam Powered Machine” and “Sunset Glow in Prairie Grass” are available for streaming on his website. The album is set for release on Jan. 1, 2020.

As we reported back in April, Hoyer composes modern music in what he describes as the “old-fashioned style” of classical masters such as Brahms, Prokofiev, and Tchaikovsky. At the time, he had just opened Storybook, a Victorian-themed escape room in Fort Collins, Colorado. He added a twist by including a live music performance by a three-person string ensemble. However, he announced in June that Storybook would be closing indefinitely.


Stephen Kok of Sydney, Australia is on Kickstarter with Volumes 1 and 2 of Word Smith, described as a “steampunk fantasy adventure graphic novel where words come to life.” It’s set in a world where “a skilled artisan can craft words to evoke feelings and emotions from its recipients,” the author says. The story involves a competition between Victoria, the city’s best wordsmith, and a challenger from the Eastern Nations. “There’s adventure, excitement and of course, lots of words,” the author says.

The campaign launched Oct. 27 and seeks AU $3999 (US $2738) by Nov. 27. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Andrew Maxwell of Long Beach, California is on Kickstarter with Issue 3 of Rum Row, a dieselpunk comic book set in an alternate history New York City. “To avoid dry laws, rumrunners and patrons alike have taken to the sky,” he writes. “Hot air balloons and dirigibles now serve as speakeasies and black markets for alcohol. The press has coined these flying bars above New York ‘Rum Row.’” Maxwell wrote the series, which features art by Michele Bandini and Gavin Mitchell.

The campaign launched Oct. 9 and has blown past its $2000 goal. Funds will pay for printing Issue #3 plus production costs for Issue #4. It runs through Nov. 8. See the Kickstarter page for more info. Maxwell also discussed the project in a story on Bleeding Cool.

Quick Hits

Goths and steampunks at Whitby Goth Weekend (Daily Mail)

The story behind Whitby Goth Weekend (Teesside Live)

See more coverage from Whitby Goth Weekend in this recently posted story.

Report from the Jewelry City Steampunk Festival (The Sun Chronicle)

Book Review: Professor Elemental’s Tales Of Wrong (The Avocado)

Slideshow: Steampunk-themed fundraiser for a hospital in Ontario. (Cornwall Seaway News)

An early look at the BBC production of The War of The Worlds (DVD Fever)

Ballet Tucson presents steampunk-themed Jekyll & Hyde (Arizona Daily Star)

Cover reveal: Baba Ali and The Clockwork Djinn (eSpec Books)

Mad Science!

Steampunk woman
Photo: Adobe Stock

Could an app recommend an outfit for your next steampunk event? Computer scientists have taken a step in that direction by developing an artificial intelligence system that can analyze your clothing and suggest ways to make it look better. Dubbed Fashion++, the system was developed by a computer science team at the University of Texas along with researchers from Cornell, Georgia Tech, and Facebook. The software learned to recognize fashionable outfits by examining 10,000 images found on fashion websites. Then a grad student mixed the images to create examples of unfashionable outfits.

The system is far from perfect. “The researchers pointed out that vintage looks are harder to recognize as stylish because training images came from the Internet, which has been in wide use only since the 1990s,” states a University of Texas news release. Of course, they could solve that problem by visiting a steampunk convention. Or maybe not.

“Additionally, because the users submitting images were mostly from North America, styles from other parts of the world don’t show up as much. Another challenge is that many images of fashionable clothes appear on models, but bodies come in many sizes and shapes, affecting fashion choices.”

The researchers were scheduled to present the system Thursday at the International Conference on Computer Vision in Seoul, South Korea.

Event News

The new year is fast approaching, and we’ve added hundreds of events for 2020 to The Steampunk Explorer calendar. The calendar includes comic-cons, science fiction conventions, renfairs, book fairs, and other events in addition to steampunk gatherings. We’ll be adding new events continually. See them here.

The Book Fiend Readers Fest takes place Nov. 9 at the Norwich Arts Center in Norwich, Connecticut, and in honor of the event, Mayor Peter Nystrom will declare Nov. 1 to 9 as an official “Steampunk Week in Norwich.” He will deliver the proclamation on Friday, Nov. 1 at 5 p.m. on the steps of Norwich City Hall, reports Claire Bessette in The Day. Afterwards, event organizer David Carlson will lead a group of costumed steampunks on a tour of downtown businesses in which they’ll sing Halloween carols.

The Readers Fest will feature authors of steampunk, science fiction, fantasy and horror. Scheduled guests include Paul Di Filippo, Leigh Grossman, Leanna Renée Hieber, R.A. McCandless, Phoebe Darqueling, Elizabeth Chatsworth, Geoff Genge, Jessica Lucci, Anne Renwick, Joseph Carrabis, and William J. Jackson. The program will include book signings, panels, readings, and costume contests. Attendees are welcome to dress up as “their favorite author, character or thematic element.”

Tickets cost $25 in advance through Nov. 8 and $30 at the door. Admission is $15 for seniors and kids 16 and under. See the Facebook page for more info.

This weekend:

Amberley Museum Steampunk Weekend, Nov. 1-3, West Sussex, UK. This event will feature a steampunk market and entertainment by Ichabod Steam, Greg Chapman, Sherriff Ants Trepaneur, Lady Violet Hugh, Kiss Like Ether, and Doctor Gray and his Orchestra of One. That’s in addition to the museum’s industrial and craft exhibits. It’s at New Barn Road, Amberley, Near Arundel, West Sussex, BN18 9LT.

The Steam *Punk* Festival!, Nov. 1, 7 p.m.- midnight. Entertainment includes John S. Hall, A Halo Called Fred, A Piano and a Cocktail Murderess, and Karnevil. This is a new event from the NJ Steampunk Society. Location: Roxy & Dukes Roadhouse, 745 Bound Brook Rd, Dunellen, NJ 08812.

The Totally Steampunk Event, Nov. 2, 6 p.m.-11 p.m. The program includes a steampunk-themed buffet dinner, tea dueling with Dolly & Birdie, and music by The Eternal Frontier. It’s a fundraiser for the Mauch Chunk Museum and Cultural Center. Tickets cost $75. Location: 41 W Broadway, 2nd floor, Jim Thorpe, PA 18229. It’s about 80 miles north of Philadelphia.

And next:

St. Augustine Steampunk Invasion, Nov 8-10. A “festival without a festival” in which steampunks can tour the many historic sites in St. Augustine. It’s hosted by Aunt Matilda’s Steampunk Trunk. We just posted a story that includes a gallery of tourist attractions in the city.

Steampunk November, Nov 8 - 10. This outdoor steampunk festival features live music, afternoon tea, belly dancing, tea dueling, and a food drive to benefit the North Texas Food Bank. Aurelio Voltaire is the headliner. Location: Amber Inn Academy of Arts, 492 Cordes Dr, Mansfield, TX 76084. It’s in the Dallas Fort Worth area.

Book Fiend Readers Fest, Nov 9. A celebration of sci-fi, fantasy and steampunk writers. Location: Norwich Arts Center in Norwich, Connecticut. See the story above.

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Sanborn fonts

Last week, we discussed the Sanborn fire insurance maps and their huge influence on neo-Victorian and steampunk design. This week, we looked at fonts and other design assets inspired by the maps, including the free fonts shown above. If you’d like to create your own designs based on the Sanborn maps, this is a good place to start. It’s available here for our Patreon supporters.

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