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Steampunk Digest - September 13, 2019

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

Friday, September 13, 2019

Netflix has released a trailer for Disenchantment Part Two, and it appears that the animated series will include some steampunk action. Created by Matt Groening—the genius behind The Simpsons—it takes place in a medieval fantasy world called Dreamland. But in Part 2, protagonist Princess Tiabeanie Mariabeanie de la Rochambeau Grunkwitz—Princess Bean for short—is seen venturing beyond familiar territory. At one point she dangles from an airship and then gazes upon a steampunk wonderland. (Be prepared to hit Pause, because it flashes by in a few seconds.) It’s not yet clear how much time she spends there, but you can find out for yourself when Part Two hits the screens on Sept. 20.

The series premiered August 17, 2018, with 10 episodes that represented the first half of season one. Part Two will have 10 additional episodes to conclude the season.

Imogen Spurnrose and Agreus Astrayon
Photo: Jan Thijs, Amazon Studios

Carnival Row has drawn mixed response from critics, but viewers seem to like the new series. Its audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is 87%, based on 837 ratings, and on Metacritic it scores of 7 out of 10. Many of our readers also gave it a thumbs up in comments on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Syfy Wire “Look of the Week” columnist Emma Fraser offered her take on the fashion seen in the show. “Leaning into a Victorian aesthetic — but with wings, horns, hooves, and candy-colored wigs alongside the usual corsets, leg-of-mutton sleeves, and exquisite fabrics — gives Carnival Row a memorable look,” she writes. She also notes that the costuming informs the audience “about social status, species, and employment,” while helping viewers to differentiate among the characters. Be forewarned that the column includes spoilers.

Collider has an interview with executive producers Travis Beacham and Marc Guggenheim. The series is based on a film script that Beacham wrote in college, but now he says he can’t imagine it as a movie.

“The world would have required the same amount of construction and design, but the character story would’ve been smaller ‘cause in a movie, you don’t really have time for those character moments,” he explains. He also hints at how he comes up with those unusual character names: “I want to find the sound that says who the character is.”

Now they’re getting to work on Season 2, and “we’ve already outlined and talked about Seasons 3 and 4,” he says.

Steampunk Metro

This past week, The Steampunk Explorer made some news, as we posted seven albums of high-resolution, steampunk-themed photos on Flickr, and offered them under a Creative Commons Noncommercial license. They include scenes from Bay Area Maker Faire going back to 2011, plus photos from the Clockwork Alchemy convention near San Francisco. Under the terms of the license, you’re free to use the images for non-commercial purposes (meaning not to make money) as long as you credit the images to The Steampunk Explorer and include a link to the license.

The Flickr account belongs to editor Stephen Beale, who occasionally refers to himself in the third person. The account also includes earlier albums with touristy scenes from Northern and Central California.

Along with the albums, we’ve created two galleries with photos from other Flickr members. One consists of steampunk-themed Creative Commons images. The other contains public domain images.

We were inspired to do this in the course of writing a series of articles for our Patreon supporters about how to find and use Creative Commons images.

Shown above: A Steampunk Metro station in Paris (photo by Francois R. Thomas, CC-BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr).

Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are often credited for predicting the technology of the future, but some lesser-known writers predated the literary giants, according to an interesting commentary by Ann-Marie Cahill in BookRiot.

The submarine? She traces the first mentions of undersea craft to Margaret Cavendish in 1666 and even One Thousand and One Nights (circa 800–1000 CE), where “many stories included science fiction elements: multi-world travel, humanoid robots, flying mechanical horses, and – you guessed it – an underwater submarine society with its own transport,” she writes.

H.G. Wells is credited for conceiving artificial meat in The World Set Free (1914), but “perhaps Wells was inspired by Mizora: A Prophecy by Mary E. Bradley Lane (1881),” she suggests.

Hugo Gernsback, for whom the Hugo Awards are named, “is considered the visionary behind flying cars, solar power, and video-calls,” she writes, but those same ideas appeared in The Sultana’s Dream (1905) by Rokeya Sakhaway Hussain.

She cites E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man (1923) as “the first book with a cyborg as a major character,” though that distinction arguably belongs to Le Mystère des XV (The Mystery Of The XV) by Jean de La Hire, which appeared in 1911.

Are you a student or scholar with an interest in steampunk or neo-Victorian literature? The Southwest Popular/American Culture Association (SWPACA) may want to hear from you. SWPACA is accepting proposals for papers and panels on those topics at its 41st annual conference, scheduled for Feb. 19-22, 2020 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Steampunk and Neo-Victorian Literature is one of 70 subject areas at the academic conference. “As popular genres, Steampunk and Neo-Victorian fiction reflect a complex set of changes in contemporary society,” states the call for papers. “At the same time, they link with classic traditions in science fiction and Victorian history. Submissions are welcome that address Steampunk and Neo-Victorian fiction from a variety of potential perspectives.”

The submission deadline is Oct. 31. See the Call for Papers on the SWPACA website and look for the entry titled “Neo-Victorianism and Steampunk.”

Urban Putt
Photo: Brittni Bell Warshaw

Urban Putt, San Francisco’s steampunk-themed miniature golf course, plans a Sept. 13 opening for a second location in Denver’s LoDo (Lower Downtown) area. Urban Putt Denver will occupy a former Old Spaghetti Factory inside the historic Denver City Cable Railway Building. As with the San Francisco location, it will incorporate a bar and restaurant.

The new attraction will have two nine-hole golf courses, including six holes with Colorado themes. The restaurant will include an old streetcar that will serve as a dining area and party room.

We’ll be posting a feature story and photo gallery over the weekend. Our Patreon supporters got a sneak peek at the new location on Tuesday. Learn more on the Urban Putt website.

The Grohmann Museum at the Milwaukee School of Engineering is hosting “The Magnificent Machines of Milwaukee,” an exhibition of notable inventions conceived in the city. They include The Merkel, an early motorcycle; a Desco dive helmet; and a motor wheel made by A.O. Smith Corp. that was later acquired by Briggs & Stratton. Rick Romell of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel filed a report that includes photos. The exhibition runs through Dec. 22.

The museum is also home to the “Man at Work” collection, consisting of 1400 paintings, sculptures, and other pieces depicting “the evolution of organized work.” The collection was donated by Milwaukee businessman Dr. Eckhart Grohmann.

Kickstarters

Compass Games is on Kickstarter with Traders of the Air, a steampunk-themed tabletop game. It’s designed for two to four players, who represent trading guilds on a distant planet. The guilds travel between cities in an airship, making deals in each location. They compete to earn the biggest profit by acquiring and reselling goods. It has two game boards printed on two sides of a single sheet. One side is easier to play, making it more suitable for new players.

The Kickstarter page includes downloads of the rules in English and German.

The campaign launched Sept. 10 and seeks US $2500 by Oct. 10. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Nurtai Kerbenbaev is seeking funding for WindRose, a steampunk-inspired video game “with real events of the 17th and 18th centuries.” This one looks like a longshot. It launched Aug. 30 with an ambitious goal of US $120,000. As of Sept. 10, it had raised $92 from five backers. It runs through Oct. 29. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Mad Science!

Cryodrakon Boreas
Illustration by David Maas

They’re calling it the “cold dragon of the north winds,” a newly identified species of flying reptile that roamed the skies of Canada about 77 million years ago. Cryodrakon boreas, a species of pterosaur, had a wingspan of up to 33 feet, according to a research team at the Queen Mary University of London. Their findings were published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Remains of the creature were first discovered in Alberta about 30 years ago, but scientists thought they were from a known pterosaur species, Quetzalcoatlus. The Queen Mary University team, led by Dr David Hone, studied additional fossils and concluded that it was a separate species. Both belong to the Azhdarchid group of pterosaurs. Scientists believe they were carnivorous, feeding on lizards and small mammals.

Carl Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy, first described the electric eel about 250 years ago. In the late 18th century, the creature inspired Italian scientist Alessandro Volta to invent the electric battery. But until recently, scientists thought it was a single species. A study published Tuesday in Nature Communications suggests that there are three, including Electrophorus voltai, which can deliver an 860-volt shock. That would make it “the strongest living bioelectricity generator,” the study says.

A team of researchers led by Carlos David de Santana examined 107 specimens from the Greater Amazon region. They estimated that the creature — which is actually a knifefish, not a true eel — evolved into three separate species about 3.6 to 7.1 million years ago. De Santana is a zoologist with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Event News

Author Michael Schulkins was among the special guests at the Big River Steampunk Festival in Hannibal, Missouri, and being the writer he is, he returned home to Silicon Valley with tales to tell. Hannibal was the boyhood home of Samuel Clemens, so the festival “seemed the perfect venue to promote my alternate history / steampunk series Mark Twain on the Moon,” he writes. He was accompanied by his wife Helen, clad for much of the event in a gold lamé steampunk spacesuit.

One highlight was a christening of the Pride O’ St. Louis, the airship of the Gateway Steampunk Society. TV personality Doc Phineas invited Schulkins to the ceremony “in my guise as steampunk Mark Twain, [to] offer a blessing for its launch.”

Wilton and Eastbourne in the UK had steampunk gatherings last weekend, and local newspapers were on hand for both. Katy Griffin of the Salisbury Journal visited the Steampunk Fair at the Wilton Emporium, a charity superstore operated by Alabaré. The charity, which provides services to the homeless and other vulnerable people, hosted the event in conjunction with Steamhenge, a local steampunk group.

Meanwhile, the Eastbourne Herald has photos from the Eastbourne SteamPunk Festival in East Sussex.

It’s another packed weekend for steampunk events in the USA. We recently previewed Steampunk Honesdale, a festival held in the town noted as the birthplace of the American Railroad. Meanwhile, the Old West town of Winthrop, Washington will host Steampunk Rendezvous, Sept. 13-15, featuring a potluck barbecue, live music, a photo shoot, a gear swap, and lots of Wild West attractions.

The Vermillion Area Arts Council in Vermillion, South Dakota, is hosting the inaugural First Gear Steampunk Pirate Festival on Sept. 14. The program includes vendors, games, art making, costume contests, and stage shows.

Also on Sept. 14, the SWFL SteamCon & Fantasy Expo in Fort Myers, Florida will feature appearances by comic creators Matt Knowles & Steph Cannon as well as authors Jaimie Engle, Amanda Fasciano, and R.M. Rose. The musical line-up features Bernewell & DeGraf, For Love or Money, and Mark Rossmore.

Steampunks in the UK will also have plenty of frolic. The Hastings Steampunk Circus of Curiosities, Sept. 14-15 in East Sussex, UK, will feature performances by Professor Elemental, Victor and the Bully, Montague Jacques Fromage, Alice’s Night Circus, Paul Voodini, Victor Sierra, and Greg Chapman. The program also includes a parade, dog competition, fashion show and facial hair competition.

Crich Steampunk Weekend, also Sept. 14-15, will draw steampunk fans to Crich Tramway Village, a restored period village south of Sheffield, UK.

Steampunk fans in New England face tough choices later in September with two events scheduled for the same weekend: The Springfield Vermont Steampunk Festival, Sept. 21 and 22, and Compass Rose Steampunk Festival, Sept. 21 in Woodstock, Connecticut. These gatherings kick off a busy autumn in New England, as we reported in this recently posted roundup.

That same weekend, the Greene County Historical Society in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania will present a Steampunk Garden Party on the evening of Sept. 21.

The town of Dunsmuir, California, near Mount Shasta, will host a free Steampunk Festival on Sept. 21 with costume and invention contests plus a “Rat Rod” show with vehicles inspired by old hot rods.

Cogwarts Steampunk Spectacular, Sept. 20-22 in Llangollen, Wales, will feature parasol dueling, tea dueling, teapot racing, a “coggiest canine” contest, and “more silly steampunk games than you can shake a fine Molucca cane at.” Professor Elemental will headline the Grand Steam Ball, which will also include performances by The Swinghoppers and and Alice’s Night Circus. Attendees can also ride steam trains on the Llangollen Railway. Learn more on the website.

New on Patreon

Content exclusively for our Patreon supporters.

Steampunk Pyramids

The Gaslight Steampunk Expo, Sept. 27-29 in San Diego, will have an Ancient Egypt theme, and as part of our upcoming coverage, we prepared this steampunk take on the Great Pyramids. To thank our Patreon supporters, we offered the image as downloadable wallpaper in HD (1920x1080 pixels) and Quad HD (2560 x 1440 pixels). You can get them here, and get access to other premium posts, by pledging as little as $1 per month.

We also continued our ongoing series about Creative Commons images with a two-part in-depth look at Flickr, the online photo sharing service. First we provided an overview, including the many steampunk groups on Flickr. Even if you don’t have a need for images, these groups can provide lots of inspiration for steampunk costumes, gadgets, and more.

We followed that story with a detailed guide to finding and using Creative Commons images on Flickr. As noted above, these stories inspired us to post seven albums of high-resolution images, all available under a Creative Commons Noncommercial license.

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The Steampunk Explorer is on Patreon. A monthly pledge of $1 or more supports our work and provides access to premium content. Get the details here.

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