fbpx Steampunk Digest - November 15, 2019: Our weekly roundup of news and other happenings in the steampunk world | The Steampunk Explorer

Steampunk Digest - November 15, 2019

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

Friday, November 15, 2019
The Mandalorian
Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

The Walt Disney Co. has launched Disney Plus, a streaming video service that will compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the forthcoming HBO Max. In addition to the Disney catalog, it features content from Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm/Star Wars, 20th Century Fox, and National Geographic. Original programming includes Star Wars: The Mandalorian, a TV series about a Mandalorian bounty hunter. The company is also planning other Star Wars spin-offs as well as new programming set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The current offerings include a handful of Disney films that will likely appeal to steampunk fans: The 1954 adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea plus Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), and Treasure Planet (2002). The latter is an animated sci-fi/steampunk retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

The service launched Nov. 12 in North America and the Netherlands with about 10 million subscribers. It was beset by technical difficulties on its first day, but we haven’t encountered any problems after signing up for the free trial on Wednesday. It costs $6.99 per month.

One big difference from Netflix and Amazon: This is all family-friendly programming, with no “R” or “TV-MA” ratings.

Some of the older Disney films, including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, now come with a warning that they “may contain outdated cultural depictions.” The Washington Post reported that some experts think Disney should have gone further to call out racist stereotypes in films such as Dumbo (1941) and The Jungle Book (1967).

The service is set to launch Nov. 19 in Australia, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico, followed by a March 31, 2020 launch in much of Western Europe, including the UK and Ireland.

The BBC production of The War of the Worlds finally has an air date in the UK. The three-part series based on the H.G. Wells novel will premiere Nov. 17 on BBC One. Unlike earlier adaptations, this one is set in Edwardian-era England. The BBC has posted a media guide that includes interviews with stars Eleanor Tomlinson and Robert Carlyle as well as director Craig Viveiros and writer/executive producer Peter Harness.

Meanwhile, Rafael Motamayor of Slash Film has an early review, noting that the show “uses familiar scenarios and begins with the classic opening narration of Wells’ novel.” But “it also heavily deviates from the source material,” in part by making Tomlinson’s character “the real protagonist of the story.” He adds that it “takes full advantage of its Edwardian era to showcase its production and costume design, which will make your ‘Downton Abbey but with aliens’ dreams come true.”

The show is distributed internationally by ITV Studios Global Entertainment, which has not yet announced a deal to air it in the U.S.

Vision Films has released Teslafy.Me, a documentary about the life and modern-day impact of inventor Nikola Tesla. Produced and directed by Janja Glogovac, it includes appearances by NASA engineer William Terbo, a descendant of Tesla, and electronic musician Gramatik. The film runs for 69 minutes and is available through video-on-demand services, including Amazon. Glogovac, a filmmaker from Slovenia, has also produced a soundtrack that can be purchased separately.

The Ice Experience
The Ice Experience

Steampunk on ice. Art Below Zero, a studio in Franksville, Wisconsin, is hosting The Ice Experience, a steampunk-themed ice sculpture exhibition that runs through March 1. The 900 square foot gallery is cooled to 23 degrees, but visitors can warm up in an adjacent tent where beer and hot chocolate will be served. The venue will have DJs on Friday nights and live music on Saturday nights with rotating food trucks. Sculptures will rotate each month.

The studio was founded in 2003 by veteran ice sculptors Max and Jeanne Zuleta. Max won the Guinness World Record in 2011 for the largest ice bar (209 feet long), which he created in Alaska.

Tickets cost $22. They will take walk-ins, but advise that you purchase tickets in advance. The location is near Racine about 20 miles south of Milwaukee. See the website and Facebook page for more info.


Perfectly Poisoned Press is out with Steamed, a collection of steampunk stories by Jennie L. Morris, Elizabeth Guthrie, J.V. Stanley, Joshua Ian, Casia Courtier, Lorah Jaiyn, Vanessa Ross, and Kendra Moreno. They include steampunked retellings of Alice in Wonderland and Norse mythology. See the website for more info.

World Weaver Press has released Grimm, Grit and Gasoline, the first in a series of anthologies featuring “Punked Up Fairy Tales.” It features 18 dieselpunk or decopunk stories, set roughly between the start of World War I and the end of World War II. Whereas steampunk “is brass and glass,” writes editor Rhonda Parrish, “dieselpunk is iron and grease. And I like to think of decopunk as dieselpunk’s flapper sister. Similar time period, but all dolled up and ready for a night out on the town.” Many stories in the volume are based on fairy tales, but others are “fairy tale-ish. Or folkloric.”

See the publisher’s website and the Goodreads page for more info.

Bookfunnel is offering a limited-time deal through which you can download up to 15 steampunk tales for free. They include Michael McGillicuddy and the Most Amazing Race by Trevor A. Dutcher, Merchants and Maji by William C. Tracy, A Touch of Steel by Francis Rondon; and The Wizard’s Way by H.P. Holo and Jacob Holo. The only catch is that you have to sign up to receive email newsletters from each author whose story you choose. See the website for more info.


Marco Sassi of Milan, Italy is on Kickstarter with Res Obscura, a table-top roleplaying game set in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world. Players take the roles of “Protagonists” with supernatural powers. Sassi cites several literary and cinematic influences, including The Difference Engine, His Dark Materials, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The campaign launched Nov. 8 and seeks €10,000 (US $11,034) by Dec. 8. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Mad Science!

Chladni Figures

The Harvard Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments is hosting Visual Science: The Art of Research, an exhibit of artwork based on science. The works include an 1852 daguerreotype of the moon, drawings of animals by 19th century artist Jacques Burkhardt, and astronomical photos from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Shown above are Chladni Figures that appeared in John Tyndall’s Sound, a book published in 1867. Invented by 18th century physicist Ernst Chladni, the figures are created by vibrating a piece of metal covered with sand.

The Harvard Collection consists of historic scientific instruments amassed by the university since 1672. It’s one of the largest such collections in the world, though not all instruments are on display.

The exhibit runs through Sept. 7, 2020 in the Special Exhibitions Gallery on the second floor of the Harvard Science Center, 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. See the website for more info.

Electronic Nose
Photo credit: Adapted from ACS Sensors 2019, DOI: 10.1021/acssensors.9b01279.

Do you savor that “old book smell”? Different types of paper emit distinctive odors, and now researchers in Portugal have developed an electronic nose that can analyze those smells to determine the age and composition of papers used in books from as early as the 16th century.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, paper was made mostly from recycled textile rags. Then, in the 1840s, inventors in Germany and Canada developed processes to mass-produce paper from wood pulp. It was cheaper than the old cotton or linen papers, but tended to be less durable. In 1980, book printers began using acid-free paper, which degrades more slowly.

The researchers used their device to detect volatile organic compounds emitted by 19 books published between 1567 and 2016. It could distinguish between papers made from rags or wood pulp, as well as papers that were acidic or acid-free. It could even tell if paper was yellowing, or if books from the same time period were used or new.

They published their findings in ACS Sensors, a journal from the American Chemical Society (ACS). The authors hope the technique will provide a non-destructive way to aid in book preservation. You can get more info in this ACS news release.

Quick Hits

Greg Olijnyk’s steampunk-inspired cardboard sculptures. (Design You Trust)

Steampunk Clepsydra (“water thief”) clock. (Instructables.com)

12 November: International Dieselpunk Day 2019. (The Old Shelter)

New escape room attraction in Leeds (UK) has a “Secret Garden Steampunk Bar.” (The Escapologist)

New Victorian Steampunk-themed tea shop in Niles, Michigan. (ABC57, South Bend, Indiana)

His Dark Materials author on where The Golden Compass movie went wrong.” (Fansided)

“How airships could return to our crowded skies.” (BBC)

“The Kraken, also called the Beast of the Sea, is real.” (Maritime Herald)

“Remains of a Massive Jurassic ‘Sea Monster’ Found in a Polish Cornfield.” (Live Science)

“Abyssal Squid Seen Stalking Submarine Explorer.” (IFL Science)

“Czar’s Booze Discovered on Ship Sunk by a U-Boat in the Baltic Sea in 1917.” (Live Science)

Event News

This weekend:

TeslaCon: Murder on the Orient Express, Nov 14-17. This is an immersive event in which performers act out a long-running steampunk serial. Special guests include TV personality Doc Phineas, musician Montague Jacques Fromage, makers David Lee and James Neathery, and creature designer Tom McLaughlin. Organizer Eric Jon Larson has also announced plans for next year’s edition, dubbed “War of the Worlds.” Location: Madison Marriott West, 1313 John Q Hammons Drive, Middleton, WI 53562. See our recent story, “TeslaCon Turns 10.”

Winter in Wonderland Expo and Ball, Nov 16-17. A steampunk event with an Alice in Wonderland theme. Activities include workshops, author readings, a Saturday night Ball, and an immersive theatrical presentation based on the works of Lewis Carroll. Location: Wilbur D. May Museum, 1595 N Sierra St, Reno, NV 89503. See “Steampunk Through the Looking Glass”.

Steampunk and Fantasy Showcase, Nov. 16-17. This is the second year for the event, which will have an expanded program of panels and workshops, plus live entertainment and contests. Location: Spooky Nook Sports Center, 75 Champ Blvd., Manheim, PA 17545. See “Steampunk Fest Returns to Central PA”.

Sanford Steampunk Soiree, Nov. 16. This steampunk gathering will take place within a historic train depot. The program includes a costume contest, tea dueling, parasol dueling, teapot races, dance instruction by The Lady Anna, and music by DJ Vlad. The contest theme is “Steam Powered Trains,” meaning you can show up as a conductor, engineer or steampunk passenger. Admission is free. Location: Henry’s Depot Culinary Collective, 212 W First St, Sanford, FL 32771. It’s near Orlando.

Steampunk Party, Nov. 16. Attendees will participate in an interactive theatrical game in a historic mansion. The story revolves around Fulcrum Industries, a fictional manufacturer of machinery, airships, automatons, and fashion. Participants will interact with actors portraying steampunk characters. The $55 admission fee includes light appetizers, beer, and wine. Location: Castle Hill at the Crane Estate, 290 Argilla Rd, Ipswich, MA 01938.

Next weekend:

Steampunks In Space, Nov. 23-24. A steampunk gathering in a space museum. Activities include craft workshops, tea dueling, a “Steamstress Swap & Make Challenge,” and an appearance by Rebel Steam, a group of Star Wars-inspired steampunk cosplayers. Thomas B. Wild Esq will perform at a Saturday afternoon tea followed by Alice’s Night Circus on Sunday afternoon. Author guests include Colin Edmonds, Toby Frost, Tom Brown, and Nimue Brown. Gary Nicholls will present The Imaginarium, a steampunk story told in the form of photographic fine art. Location: National Space Centre, Leicester, LE4 5NS, UK.

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