fbpx Steampunk Digest - October 18, 2019: Our weekly roundup of news and other happenings in the steampunk world | The Steampunk Explorer

Steampunk Digest - October 18, 2019

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

Friday, October 18, 2019

Zoot Pictures is out with Season 2 of Nikola Tesla and the End of the World, a sci-fi web series that debuted in 2015. In Season 1, a young physicist named Sophie Clarke discovered plans for an invention called the Teslascope and built the device. It turned out to be a time machine that brought Nikola Tesla to 21st century London. The season, now labeled as a “prequel,” consisted of five episodes with total running time of about 25 minutes.

Season 2 introduces new characters and an organization known as the Multiverse Unification Agency. It’s set in Brooklyn (actually, multiple parallel Brooklyns) but was filmed entirely in Manitoba, Canada with Canadian funding and tax credits.

Though it was a low-budget production, Season 1 garnered positive reviews, drawing favorable comparisons to early episodes of Doctor Who. It won several awards, including a “Best Actress” nod for Gillian MacGregor at the Valencia International Film Festival. Some viewers were put off by Paul O’Neill’s portrayal of Tesla with a British accent, but if you can overlook the British accents in HBO’s Chernobyl, you should be able to do it here as well.

Season 2 is a bigger production, with Canadian actors Stephanie Sy, Adam Hurtig, and John B. Lowe joining the main cast. It has six episodes averaging about 10 minutes each.

Season 1 is available on Amazon Prime in the USA, UK, Germany, and Japan. It can also be viewed on the Dust channel on YouTube. The first three episodes of Season 2 are on Amazon Prime in the USA and UK, with the final three soon to follow. The entire season can be viewed on CBC Gem, a new streaming service available only in Canada. See the website for more info.

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Hayao Miyazaki is regarded as one of the world’s greatest animation filmmakers. In an overview of the director’s work, critic Andrew Saladino observes that the films “are chock full of magnificent airships. Some of them sleek and sharp, some of them steampunk, some sci-fi, and some otherworldly.”

Miyazaki’s father owned an airplane factory, and airships are among the filmmaker’s “key obsessions,” Saladino says. Miyazaki builds them “from the inside out,” like an architect or engineer. “But it isn’t enough that his designs just look right, they also have to work right.” And “the more fantastical the design, the more he’ll often focus on the way the craft operates.”

In this YouTube video, Saladino offers his commentary while showing clips from the movies. They include Castle in the Sky, a 1986 steampunk fantasy film regarded as one of Miyazaki’s best.

Riverton Community Art Centre steampunk exhibition

The Riverton Community Art Centre in New Zealand’s South Island is hosting its third steampunk exhibition, featuring works from artists in Dunedin, Invercargill, Riverton, and other places in the southern part of the island. Pieces include steampunk creatures by Tuatapere artist Janet Popich along with a time machine and a post-apocalyptic motorcycle.

Stuff reports that about 80 people attended on opening night, October 11, many in steampunk garb. More than 100 showed up the following day. The exhibition runs through Nov. 10. See the Riverton Community Art Centre website and Facebook page for more info. Photos courtesy of the art centre.

Lincoln, UK hosts the gigantic Asylum Steampunk Festival in August, but we’re sad to note that there’s one place in town where steampunks are not welcome, at least not in costume. In a message posted on the Welcome to the Asylum Facebook page, festival director John Naylor reported that Widow Cullen’s Well in Lincoln “has clearly stated that they will no longer serve people in steampunk attire.” Once a popular hangout for local steampunks, the pub closed in December 2018 and re-opened Oct. 8. It is part of the Samuel Smith’s Brewery chain.

“The manager said this is a stipulation from the brewery,” Naylor wrote.

The Lincolnite reports that the establishment also has a “three strike rule for things including swearing and electronic devices inside the pub.”

Another newspaper, Metro, reported that Samuel Smith’s Brewery owner Humphrey Smith closed a different pub in the chain after hearing a customer use the F-word. So it appears that the no-steampunk-attire policy “is not really about hating steampunks but more about one wealthy chap’s attitudes,” Naylor wrote.

On a happier note, Naylor reported that the Asylum XI festival “was the smoothest and safest event to date. Apart from a few problems with a minority of photographers’ poor behaviour, a couple of traffic issues, and a handful of first aid calls everything went very well indeed.”


Lost Mountain Mechanicals is on Kickstarter with The Jekyll Island Chronicles: Book Three, the final installment in a series of dieselpunk graphic novels. Set after World War I on Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia, it features a band of heroes with special powers who are opposed by the villains of the Zeno cabal.

The campaign launched Oct. 1 and seeks $30,000 in funding by Nov. 1. See the Kickstarter page and publisher’s website for more info.

Quick Hits

Set the Tape reviews Professor Elemental and his Amazing Friends: Part 2.

Stuff profiles New Zealand steampunk author Gareth Ward.

Jean Lee interviews steampunk romance author Juli D. Revezzo.

Wendy Can Camp interviews Boston Metaphysical Society creator Madeleine Holly-Rosing.

Toronto artist Dan Tanenbaum makes steampunk sculptures from broken watches. (Playjunkie)

Broadway World Sydney reviews Cirque du Soleil’s steampunk-themed Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities.

Steampunk Wolf costume nabs Grand Prize at Fashion Week in Shreveport, Louisiana. (KNOE-TV)

“‘Damsels’ Dress For Benicia Steampunk Meetups” (Benicia Magazine)

“One of a Kind Steam Powered Motorcycle” (Carole Nash)

Mad Science!

Arapaima gigas
Photo by Superbass, Arapaima-full, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Arapaima gigas is one strange fish. Found primarily in the Amazon Basin, it grows up to 10 feet long and breathes air to get most of its oxygen. But what caught the attention of scientists is its natural armor: Hardened scales that can withstand attacks by piranhas. Researchers at UC San Diego and UC Berkeley analyzed the scales, describing them as “among the toughest of nature’s flexible biological materials” while also being lightweight. The key is a flexible inner layer bound by collagen to a mineralized outer layer of scales. The scales are about as thick as a grain of rice. When a piranha bites, the layers deform but don’t tear or crack.

The scientists presented their findings in the journal Matter. They observed that the scales could inspire development of hardened synthetic materials. You can get the plain English version in this news release from EurekAlert or this story from IFLScience.

When were the “good old days”? It seems like a subjective judgment, but a team of psychologists in the UK sought a scientific answer by analyzing books published in the U.S., UK, Italy, and Germany between 1820 and 2009. Thomas T. Hills of the University of Warwick theorized that it’s possible to track the relative happiness of different years based on the frequency of positive and negative words in published works. The idea is that “readers seek writing that reflects their mood, and editors give them what they want,” writes Stephen Luntz in IFLScience.

To test his theory, Hills first applied the methodology to recent publications and compared the results with other measurements of happiness. Then his team analyzed 8 million historical texts available on Google Books, deriving a “National Valence Index” (NVI) for each country. The numbers correlate well with stressful events. For example, in the U.S., the NVI fell during the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the mid-1970s. It hit a high point just before the 1929 stock market crash that brought on the Great Depression.

The UK’s NVI was high during most of the Victorian era, but it declined during the two World Wars and in the mid-1970s.

The researchers’ findings were reported in Nature Human Behaviour. IFLScience has charts for each country and a link to the study.

Event News

David Carlson of Oddball Newt introduced “12 months of Steampunk” events in Connecticut this past year, and now he’s planning a repeat for 2020. It begins on Saturday, Jan. 11, with a “Victorian Skate Fantasy on Ice” at the Bolton Ice Palace, followed by the fifth annual Stupid Cupid Steampunk Ball, Feb. 1 at Cheney Hall in Manchester. Both are listed on the new “12 Months of Steampunk 2020” Facebook page.

As we’ve reported, 2019 will wrap up with the Book Fiend Readers Fest, Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Norwich Arts Center, followed by the Bah Humbug Hullabaloo, Dec. 7 at the Manchester (Conn.) Historical Society.

This weekend:

Vandalia-Con 2019: Villains of Vandalia, Oct. 18-20, is a steampunk/science-fiction convention that raises funds for breast and cervical cancer intervention programs in West Virginia. This year’s theme is Villains of Vandalia. It takes place at Hampton Inn & Suites Morgantown, 325 Granville Square, Morgantown, WV 26501.

Steampunk Industrial Show, Oct 19-20, will feature two days of steampunk entertainment at Renninger’s Florida Twin Markets, an antique showcase in Mount Dora, Florida. The Cog is Dead will play a free show.

Chippenham Steampunk Festival, Oct. 19-20, is a new event in Wiltshire, UK. Activities include a steampunk market in the Town Hall and a Saturday night Steampunk Cabaret Show with Captain of The Lost Waves, The Wattingers, Lux DeLioux, and Ichabod Steam’s DarkSide SteamGoth Adventure. Greg Chapman will be MC.

The sixth annual Steampunk and Victoriana Fair, Oct. 20-21, takes place at the Goulburn Historic Waterworks Museum in New South Wales, Australia. The program includes a costume parade, invention competition, steam engine demos, train rides, self-guided museum tours, and live music.

Next weekend:

Jewelry City Steampunk Festival, Oct. 26, is a free event taking place at multiple venues in downtown Attleboro, Massachusetts. The program includes live music, panels, vendors, teapot racing, a children’s area, and more. Victor and the Bully from the UK will headline a ticketed After Hours Bash. See this story for more info.

Oxnard Steampunk Fest, Oct. 26-27, takes place at the Southern California town’s historic Heritage Square. This year’s event has a Halloween theme and will feature a “Heritage Scare” ghost tour pre-event on Friday night. Other program highlights include a costume contest, “Junk to Steampunk” competition, tea dueling, wand dueling, afternoon tea, and maker workshops. Doc Phineas will be MC and will also lead Friday night’s ghost tour. Julien Martinez and the Steam Funk Band will perform at a Saturday after party. Festival admission costs $10 each day.

The Surrey Steampunk Convivial, Oct 26-27, will offer another “full weekend of quirky British steampunk eccentricity,” including cosplay, art exhibitions, and (most likely) odd gaming activities. It happens at the Station pub in Stoneleigh.

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Content exclusively for our Patreon supporters

Ada Lovelace

Oct. 8 was Ada Lovelace Day, and in recognition, we offered downloadable desktop wallpaper featuring a painting of Lovelace. The background is her “Diagram for the computation of Bernoulli numbers,” which has been described as the first complete computer program. We also have a link to Sketch of The Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage, the 1843 article where the diagram first appeared. It’s available here for our Patreon supporters.

We also offered a roundup of recently announced video games with a gallery of screen shots. It’s available here.

Patreon supporters also got an early look at news about Nikola Tesla and the End of the World (see above).

If you’re not yet a Patreon supporter, you can get access to these and other premium posts for as little as $1 per month.

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