Steampunk Digest - Sept. 21, 2018
Our weekly roundup of news and other happenings in the steampunk world
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The House with a Clock in Its Walls, a film based on John Bellairs’ 1973 fantasy novel, hits movie screens this weekend. Though it’s set in 1955, “the film has a vintage steampunk aesthetic,” writes Tribune News Service film critic Katie Walsh. She likes the performance of co-star Cate Blanchett, but otherwise gives the movie a thumbs down, observing that “the cogs never quite fit together as snugly as they should.”
Other reviewers are more charitable, and the film had a 61% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of Sept. 21. It also stars Jack Black, Kyle MacLachlan, and Renee Elise Goldsberry, with Owen Vaccaro portraying the young hero. See the trailer here. Photo: Universal Pictures.
Martov Co. has released Chiaro & the Elixir of Life, a steampunk virtual reality adventure for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Windows Mixed Reality systems. From the description: “Dive into the magical realm of Neverain as Chiaro, a young engineer determined to unearth the long-lost secrets of the Alchemists, the mysterious and powerful creators of the fabled Alive Machines. Together with Boka, Chiaro’s steam-powered penguin sidekick, decipher the puzzles left behind by the Alchemists to unlock the enigma at the heart of Neverain—the Fountain of Elixir. But Chiaro isn’t the only one fascinated by the Fountain’s mythical power, and the search awakens the interest of powerful forces better left undisturbed.”
Back in May, we reported on the Kickstarter campaign for the project, which raised more than CA$10,000 from 113 backers.
Madeline Holly-Rosing has just released A Storm of Secrets, a (non-graphic) novel that serves as a prequel to her steampunk graphic novel series, Boston Metaphysical Society. She describes it as a “political and supernatural thriller set in an alternate-history Boston of 1890.” From the blurb: “When ex-Pinkerton detective Samuel Hunter married Elizabeth Weldsmore, the heir to one of Boston’s Great Houses, he knew his life would change forever, but he never expected the return of Elizabeth’s psychic abilities. Not only do they have to keep it a secret, but Elizabeth must learn quickly how to master them. For a psychic in a Great House is a political liability which her father, Jonathan Weldsmore, knows only too well.”
Borderlands Books in San Francisco’s Mission District will celebrate the release of the new Soulless illustrated hardcover edition by hosting an autograph session with author Gail Carriger. As we reported last week, the new edition features 10 black-and-white interior illustrations drawn in “Edward Gorey style” by Jensine Eckwall. Originally published in 2009, it was Carriger’s first novel and kicked off her bestselling Parasol Protectorate series.
The event is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 23, at 3 p.m. The store, located at 866 Valencia Street in San Francisco, was a stop on our recent Steampunk Tour of the Mission District. See the author’s website and the Borderlands website for more info.
Science fiction author Harry Turtledove, known for his alternate history tales, is out with his latest novel Through Darkest Europe. From the blurb: “Senior investigator Khalid al-Zarzisi is a modern man, a product of the unsurpassed educational systems of North Africa and the Middle East. Liberal, tolerant, and above all rich, the countries and cultures of North Africa and the Middle East have dominated the globe for centuries, from the Far East to the young nations of the Sunset Lands. But one region has festered for decades: Europe, whose despots and monarchs can barely contain the simmering anger of their people.”
He explained some of his thinking behind the novel in a recent interview with steampunk author Madeline Holly-Rosing. “One of the things science fiction does particularly well is role reversal. . . So I thought I’d have a go at it, looking at some of the things going on in the world through the odd kind of funhouse mirror only alternate history can give.”
It’s available in e-book and hardcover formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other sellers. See the publisher’s page for more info.
Steampunk artist Bruce Rosenbaum recently teamed up with Sanderson MacLeod—a manufacturer of twisted wire brushes—to create a steampunk-inspired conference table. “The table is nearly 100% fashioned from long-retired brush making tools, automation equipment, and industrial revolution era antiques found in the company’s warehouse and local flea markets,” states a press release from the manufacturer. “Its construction would ultimately involve an unusual collaborative team comprised of local students, teachers, artists, tradesmen and Sanderson MacLeod toolmakers.”
The table will be on display at the manufacturer’s Brush Innovation Center in Palmer, Massachusetts (near Springfield). That’s where Rosenbaum and wife Melanie purchased a 19th century church, as seen in Episode 8 of “Amazing Interiors” on Netflix.
“Before meeting Bruce, I never thought our company would ever be involved with a steampunk project,” says Sanderson MacLeod CEO Mark Borsari. “But, that table’s come to represent not only our love of innovation but how we seek out inspiration from the most obscure places.”
The Enchanted City Steampunk Fair took place last Saturday in Troy, New York, and as you might expect, it was a visual feast that included imaginative costumes, props and vehicles. “In the last five years since the The Enchanted City’s inception, the event has grown and evolved to become a popular fan favorite festival,” writes Lauren Halligan in the Troy Record. “It’s also introduced a new concept to the city and region: steampunk.” Event organizer Sue Dunckel said that during the first year, she had to explain the concept to locals, but now it “doesn’t happen anymore because everyone now knows what steampunk is.”
The King’s Lynn Steampunk Society in Norwich, UK, held its first Bazaar Convivial on Saturday, Sept. 15, and “was met with high praise,” writes Taz Ali in the Eastern Daily Press. “Dozens of stalls at the indoor market displayed kooky items designed around the steampunk theme, with big frilly dresses, top hats, gunslinger costumes and goggles.”
Activities also included parasol dueling, a night of vaudeville entertainment and an appearance by “lovably bonkers” Chap Hop artist Professor Elemental. The story includes a short video. You can also find photos and videos on the society’s Facebook page.
Video game publisher Teyon has released a PC version of Steel Empire, described as a “steampunk shoot’em up game featuring a frantic combat filled with powerful enemies and insane obstacles.” Players can choose to fly the small, speedy Striker plane, or the Z-01, “a slower but more resistant zeppelin.” It was originally released for the Sega Genesis more than 25 years ago and is also available for Game Boy Advance and Nintendo 3DS. The new PC version runs on the Steam platform. The price is $14.99. See the publisher’s website for more info.
Tank and Tilly, a steampunk vaudeville act, is among the performers at the Pirates and Angels Variety Show, slated for September 21 and 22 at the Studio@620 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Also on the bill: science fiction storyteller and musician Tenea D. Johnson; the St. Petersburg Opera; members of the Tampa Bay Symphony; and samples from A Little Freudian Slip, a play about Salvador Dali and Leonardo DaVinci. Tickets cost $30 or $35 at the door. Cable news channel Bay News 9 has a report. The venue is located at 620 1st Ave S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
A career as a property agent led Janet Wong Li Yoong of Malaysia to a new vocation as a creator of steampunk jewelry. How? “Years of doing the job with her husband had left them with many keys around the house, so Wong started to upcycle them into jewelry and unique artworks,” writes Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup in New Straits Times of Kuala Lumpur. Wong also repurposes perfume bottles, cutlery, scrap metal and other materials. “I don’t plan my designs,” she tells the reporter. Instead, “I have a mannequin at home so I put pieces on the mannequin and see what works.” She sells her works on Carousell, an online marketplace based in Singapore. The story has photos of some of her pieces.
The Iron Gate Exhibition, billed as New England’s largest Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) event, takes place Sept. 28-30 at the Danvers Indoor Sports Center in Danvers, Massachusetts. Participants will compete in tournaments with daggers, mixed weapons, and longswords. Classes will cover topics such as “Medieval Wrestling Concepts,” “Fundamentals of the Backsword,” and “Strategy and Tactics for Small-Framed Fighters.” Registration fees begin at $185. Spectators can attend for free. See the website for more info.
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