fbpx Steampunk Digest - September 27, 2019: Our weekly roundup of news and other happenings in the steampunk world | The Steampunk Explorer

Steampunk Digest - September 27, 2019

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

Friday, September 27, 2019

A couple weeks ago, we reported that Matt Groening’s Disenchantment would be taking protagonist Princess Bean to a steampunk city, and it came to pass on Sept. 20 when Part Two of the animated series premiered on Netflix. The steampunk shenanigans occur in Episode 9, “The Electric Princess.” We don’t want to spoil the fun by giving away the details, but we will say it’s worth seeing.

The story can be enjoyed on its own, but you’ll have more appreciation of the characters and setting if you watch the preceding episodes. If you don’t mind spoilers, AV Club has a recap and observations by writer Vikram Murthi, who graded the episode as an A-.

His Dark Materials
Photo courtesy of HBO

HBO and the BBC announced premiere dates for the forthcoming adaptation of His Dark Materials, a much-anticipated TV series based on Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy. BBC One will get first dibs, airing it on Sunday, Nov. 3 for viewers in the UK and Ireland. It premieres in the U.S. a day later, on Monday, Nov. 4.

The story is set in an alternate fantasy world, and based on the trailer, it appears to have some steampunk and Victorian elements. It stars Dafne Keen as protagonist Lyra along with Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, James McAvoy, and Clarke Peters. As we reported back in July, HBO offered a preview of the series at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

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Steam Powered Giraffe has released “Shattered Stars,” a new single and music video that will be part of a forthcoming album. It’s the first of a series the band plans to release periodically. Each track will also be available in acoustic versions.

“Shattered Stars” can be streamed on Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play, but the band encourages fans to purchase the single on iTunes, Bandcamp or through their own store. “Smaller self-published bands have a hard time competing with big artists on streaming platforms, we don’t see much from it and every extra little bit helps,” they wrote on the YouTube page.


Armor Games Studios is out with Nauticrawl: 20,000 Atmospheres, a video game that places you at the controls of an alien submersible with a steampunk aesthetic. Much of the gameplay involves figuring out how to operate the vessel. “It’s likely to kill you, but so will the hostile planet you’re escaping,” the publisher says.

Nauticrawl is “so dense and complex that my review copy came with both a numbered, step-by-step guide, and a warning not to use it,” writes Cass Marshall in Polygon. “Every step was hard fought as I figured out what to press, how to activate key features of my ship, and realized that I had somehow accidentally doomed myself. I didn’t feel frustrated when I lost; I felt excited. I could always go back to step one and try again.”

The game also scored positive reviews from PC Gamer and DarkStation. It’s available on Steam in PC and Mac versions.

Lady Mechanika

Benitez Productions has released Lady Mechanika: Sangre #3, the third installment of a five-part series that takes the steampunk hero to Spain. This one begins with a prologue drawn by Joe Benitez and Martin Montiel, followed by the main story in which Lady Mechanika confronts an old antagonist. The latter is drawn by guest artist Brian Ching. It’s available at comic book stores and in a digital format from Comixology. See the Benitez Productions website for more info.

Mechanical Lion
Image copyright Leonardo3 - www.leonardo3.net.

The Italian Cultural Institute in Paris is paying tribute to Leonardo da Vinci by displaying a mechanical lion based on the artist’s design from the early 1500s. Leonardo’s original lion was commissioned by Pope Leo X as a gift to King Francois I of France. It walked to the monarch with an offering of lilies, but has been lost to time.

Artists at the Leonardo3 Museum in Milan fabricated the lion based on Leonardo’s sketches. Constructed from wood and metal, it’s about 6 feet 7 inches tall and nearly 10 feet long. On the Leonardo3 website, you can view a 3D model of the lion in motion.

The institute will display the lion through Oct. 9 in recognition of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death. It’s shown above in its original lair at the Leonardo3 Museum.

A great steam machine lies beneath the streets of Boston, and it recently earned its owner a $2 million tax refund. Veolia Energy operates a network of steam pipes that provide heating for about 250 customers. Those pipes cost the company about $2 million in city property taxes for 2014. In seeking an abatement, Veolia cited a Massachusetts law that exempts machinery from the taxes. The state Supreme Judicial Court sided with the company in a Sept 11 ruling.

“City assessors said they decided to tax the pipes because the state law on personal property taxes specifically excludes ‘pipes’ from the ban on machinery taxation,” writes Adam Gaffin in Universal Hub, a local news site. But the court “ruled that the steam pipes were not simply passive vessels but are part of a network designed to generate the final steam product at customer sites. In other words, they are part of a big old steam machine.”

In making its decision, the court cited an 1866 ruling that involved underground gas mains.

Many other places have so-called district heating and cooling systems, perhaps the largest being New York City, with 100 miles of pipes serving more than 18,000 buildings. Some date back to the 1880s, but “many old systems are getting retrofits to deliver ‘green steam’ generated with cleaner fuels and recovered waste heat,” wrote Christina Nunez in a 2016 story for National Geographic.


eSpec Books is on Kickstarter with Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, a novel by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed that offers a steampunk twist on Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Protagonist Ali bin-Massoud is working in England as an apprentice to Charles Babbage, but his life is upended after a clockwork falcon delivers a mysterious box.

The novel was first published in 2014 by Dark Quest LLC, which later ceased operations. You can read an excerpt on Ackley-McPhail’s website. She originally envisioned it as a short story for her 2016 anthology Gaslight & Grimm, which features steampunk-inspired retellings of fairy tales. But it “grew so large that it turned into a novel, one that published two years before Gaslight & Grimm,” she writes.

The campaign launched on Sept. 19 and has surpassed its US $1000 fundraising goal. It concludes on Oct. 19. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

Last week, we told you about playwright Gretchen Suarez-Pena and her Kickstarter campaign for Melina: A Steampunk Musical Tragedy. Since then, she offered additional details about the project in an interview with Sabrina Pena Young of New Music Resource.

It’s set in a steampunk town called New Comen, she explains. “Jacob is the highly esteemed heir to the ‘throne’ who is in love with a lower-class girl named Mara. Mara is an aspiring vocalist that has gained the favor of the town despite her status. Their love is one of the fairy tales until Melina enters the scene. Melina sweetly wins Jacob’s attention and he ends up falling for her and leaving Mara.”

She began work on it in 2009 as a “short straight play,” then put it on the shelf and later discovered steampunk. The original script is “more or less what the first act of Melina is today,” she says. She wrote the lyrics and melody for the musical, and turned to collaborators Jonathan Gautier and Tyler Anderson to create the orchestration.

The Kickstarter campaign launched on Sept. 12 and had raised nearly $1600 toward its US $2000 goal as of Sept. 26. It runs through Oct. 25.

Mad Science!

The Berserkers were Norse warriors known for ferocious combat that gave us the English word “berserk.” Some academics have theorized that their trance-like rage was caused by hallucinogenic mushrooms, but an ethnobotanist in Slovenia suggests that Hyoscyamus niger, commonly known as henbane, is a more likely culprit.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Karsten Fatur of the University of Ljubljana contends that the effects of henbane are a better match for the Berserkers’ reported behavior. It’s known to induce rage, has painkilling effects, and causes a hangover resembling the side effects experienced by the Berserkers after battle. Henbane can also interfere with the ability to recognize faces, which would explain why Berserkers had trouble distinguishing friends from enemies.

“Though there is not enough archaeological and historical evidence to prove or disprove this theory, it provides a novel explanation that is at present the most viable means of understanding the berserkers’ trance,” Fatur concludes.

Event News

This weekend is jam-packed with steampunk events in North America and Europe. We’ve already covered these, but here’s a reminder:

Murder, Airships and Tea, Sept. 28, 2-4 p.m. at Bingley’s Tea Salon, 118 E. 26th Street in Minneapolis. Featuring steampunk readings by Michael Merriam and Catherine Lundoff along with books and tea for sale.

Chicago Steampunk Exposition, Sept. 27-29, Westin O’Hare Hotel, Rosemont, Illinois.

Gears to Corsets, the Cortland County (New York) Steampunk Festival Sept. 27-29. This is a new festival held at multiple locations in the Central New York county.

Gaslight Steampunk Expo, Sept. 27-29 at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley.

Amherstburg Uncommon Festival, Sept. 27-29 in Amherstburg, Ontario, near Windsor and Detroit.

Model T Birthday Celebration, Sept. 29, at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit.

Wyntercon VI, Sept. 28-29, Eastbourne Sports Park, Cross Levels Way, Eastbourne, UK BN21 2UF. This is a fantasy, cosplay and sci-fi event with a steampunk zone.

Anno 1900, Sept. 28-29, at Fond-de-Gras in southwestern Luxembourg.

And the following weekend:

Atlanta Steampunk Exposition, Oct. 4-5, at the Hilton Atlanta Perimeter Dunwoody. Guests include K.W. Jeter, Thomas Dean Willeford, Stephen Chapman, Dave Lee, Aela Badiana, Paige Gardner, DJ Spider, and Valentine Wolfe.

Steampunk Retro Futurism Party - First Fridays, Oct. 4 in Putnam, Connecticut. Bruce Rosenbaum is a special guest. We covered this in our roundup of New England steampunk events.

A Passion for Poe, Oct. 5, Falls Church Presbyterian Church, 225 E Broad St., Falls Church, VA 22046. An afternoon tea with readings from the works of Edgar Allan Poe. This ticketed event will feature costumed interpreters. It’s presented by The Victorian Society at Falls Church.

Machen Bachen: A Steampunk Festival, Oct. 5, YMCA Camp Lincoln, 67 Ball Rd., Kingston, NH 03848, USA. Steampunk festivities hosted by Citizens of Antiford. This was another event featured in our New England roundup.

Halifax Steampunk Market, Oct. 5-6, Calderdale Industrial Museum, Square Rd, Halifax, West Yorkshire HX1 1QG, UK. A steampunk market with traders, artists, authors, gaming, coffee jousting, and a bird of prey demonstration.

The Hartlepool Steampunk Festival, Oct 5-6, Borough Hall, 15 Middlegate, Hartlepool, TS24 0JD, UK. The entertainment lineup includes The Captain of The Lost Waves, The Pastures, Lux DeLioux, Greg Chapman, Ants Trepaneur, and Ichabod Steam with his Dark Side SteamGoth Adventure.

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Just in time for Halloween, Countryman Press is set to release The Necronomnomnom, a book of “recipes and rites from the lore of H.P. Lovecraft.” It’s a real cookbook, written by Lovecraft fan Mike Slater, with concoctions such as “The Custard Out of Space,” “New England Damned Chowder,” and “Gin and Miskatonic.” We received an advance copy and shared some of the delicacies with our Patreon supporters. You can soon expect a feature in The Steampunk Explorer.

We also continued our ongoing series about finding and using free steampunk images. In this installment, we looked at how you can use Google and Bing to find Creative Commons and public domain images on a multitude of websites, including DeviantArt. We also looked at the Creative Commons search engine and why it’s a good alternative for locating images on Flickr. Our Patreon supporters can read it here.

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