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Year in Review: Top Stories of 2019
In Part One of our retrospective, a look at the most popular stories in The Steampunk Explorer
Sunday, December 29, 2019
It was a year in which some observers proclaimed that steampunk is dead, going as far as to identify likely culprits. But no one bothered to tell that to the thousands of steampunk fans who flocked to events and gathered in Facebook groups that have become virtual meeting places for the genre. Meanwhile, the steampunk aesthetic continued to inspire artists, from the makers who appear at cons and festivals to costume designers in Hollywood. Authors churned out tales of clockwork detectives and aristocratic werewolves. Musicians entertained us with Penny Dreadfuls and steampunk sea otters.
For a genre that’s supposedly dead, steampunk sure kept The Explorer busy this year. Enough so that we’ve split our “Year in Review” into two parts. Here, in Part One, we’ll look at the stories on the site that generated the greatest interest among our readers. The ranking is based largely on page views, but we also accounted for reaction in social media. It does not necessarily reflect the relative importance of each story. In Part Two, we’ll take a broader view of the year’s top steampunk news.
The End of the Beginning (Nov. 17)—Chap hop artist Professor Elemental offered his reaction to recent stories suggesting that steampunk is dead. “Crikey,” he wrote. “Is that it? Do I have to hang up my pith helmet and get a real job after all these years? Nah. Don’t worry fellow nerds, everything is fine, better than it ever was in fact.” The Professor’s column was part of a busy year that included a new album, a new book, and performances at three steampunk events in the U.S.
Steampunk Year in Review: 2018 (Jan. 7)—Yes, “Year in Review” stories are immensely popular. Which might be why you’re reading this one.
Mad Scientists to Converge on Waltham (April 29)—A preview of the Watch City Steampunk Festival in Waltham, Massachusetts, where “Mad Science” was the theme and Professor Elemental was the special musical guest.
A “Time Machine” of Living Art (July 6)—The annual Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, California features “living pictures” in which cast members re-create famous works of art. This year’s theme was “The Time Machine,” taking cues from steampunk and science fiction. The story includes a photo gallery showing cast members as they prepared to re-create some of the artwork.
“Geared for Weird” in Iowa (July 2)—Fairfield, Iowa has been described as “America’s Most Unusual Town” due to its arts scene and its connection to Transcendental Meditation. In 2019, Fairfield adopted a steampunk theme for a music festival associated with RAGBRAI, a huge bicycle ride across the state. Dubbed “Geared for Weird,” the event included performances by steampunk regulars The Eternal Frontier and The Ragged Blade Band.
Oregon Aquarium Gets Steampunked (July 14)—The Oregon Coast Aquarium is hosting Seapunk: Powered by Imagination, an exhibit set aboard a fictional steampunk-inspired submarine. It features a gallery of steampunk contraptions, some of which function as tanks for the aquarium’s sea creatures.
“Almost Like a Stagecoach” (Feb. 18)—David Carlyle, a semi-retired landscape architect in Naples, Florida, has an unusual hobby: He transforms old horse trailers into Victorian-style homes on wheels that he sells for about $30,000 each. The story includes a gallery of his work.
A Weekend at the Ball (Jan. 31)—A report and photos from San Francisco’s Edwardian World’s Faire and Edwardian Ball, a weekend of events combining elements of a circus, music festival, art exhibition, and masquerade party, all with a quirky neo-vintage twist.
Postcards from the Asylum (Aug. 8)—The Asylum Steampunk Festival in Lincoln, UK draws an estimated 100,000 attendees, making it the largest steampunk gathering on the planet. We have a photo gallery thanks to guest contributors Ben Bobjr Abel and Stephen Bell.
A Visit with the Steampunk Guru (April 21)—Few (if any) steampunk artists have received as much media attention as Bruce Rosenbaum, described as the “Steampunk Guru” by The Wall Street Journal and “Steampunk Evangelist” by Wired. We caught up with him to discuss his work and his thoughts on the creative process.
How to Make an Art Car (Aug. 25)—Steampunk fans in the San Francisco area received a master class in “How to Make an Art Car” during a presentation at the Obtainium Works studio in Vallejo, California. Shannon O’Hare, who leads the organization, offered details about how he and other crewmembers built vehicles such as the Pirate Ship, Steampunk Flying Saucer, and Fire Salamander. The locals were joined by a group of engineering students from China who learned about the event from a listing in Meetup. The students later took some vehicles out for a spin.
Postcards from Hannibal (Sept. 3)—The Big River Steampunk Festival in Hannibal, Missouri is one of the largest steampunk gatherings in the U.S. Thanks to guest photographer Curt Knapp, we posted a photo gallery.
Steampunk on Parade in Pensacola (March 13)—Guest contributor Lew Attardo describes the work of Krewe of Anarchy, whose steampunk airship is a big hit in the Florida city’s Mardi Gras parade.
Steampunk in Brontë Country (Oct. 19)—A photo gallery from Haworth Steampunk Weekend in West Yorkshire, thanks to guest contributors Lee Ward, Stephen Bell, and Dave Stephenson. The Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Anne, and Emily) spent most of their lives in Haworth, making the town a tourist destination.
From the Kitchen of H.P. Lovecraft (Oct. 3)—Just in time for Halloween, The Countryman Press released The Necronomnomnom, a cookbook inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Written by Lovecraft fan Mike Slater, it reveals the long-lost mysteries behind concoctions such as “The Custard Out of Space,” “New England Damned Chowder,” and “Gin and Miskatonic.” The only things more horrid than the mind-destroying monsters are the unspeakable puns.
A Visit to Jekyll & Hyde (Apr. 18)—Like its namesake characters, Jekyll & Hyde Taphouse and Grill in Matthews, North Carolina is a dining establishment with two personalities. Jekyll is the restaurant, whereas Hyde is the bar. Both include steampunk décor.
The Last Maker Faire? (May 21)—The 2019 Bay Area Maker Faire once again offered a showcase of do-it-yourself ingenuity, including many projects with steampunk appeal. Sadly, it was likely the last Maker Faire produced on such a large scale, as parent company Maker Media ceased operations a few weeks later. The company was later revived in a smaller form as Make Community, but it’s unlikely that we’ll see future events as big as the flagship Maker Faires in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area .
Steampunk in the Land of Dracula (Aug. 4)—Cluj-Napoca is the unofficial capital of Transylvania, the region known for its association with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But the Romanian city is also a haven for steampunk-themed eating and drinking establishments. We have photos and videos to prove it.
Another Reason to Visit Nantes (June 27)—With its giant animatronic elephant and the Jules Verne Museum, Nantes is already one of the top tourist spots for steampunk enthusiasts. But the French city could become an even bigger draw thanks to the planned 2022 opening of L’Arbre aux Hérons (The Herons’ Tree).
The World Capital of Steampunk? (June 25)—If steampunk has a Mecca, it’s likely in Oamaru, a coastal town between Christchurch and Dunedin in New Zealand’s South Island. Oamaru is home to the Steampunk HQ art gallery as well as Steampunk NZ, the longest-running steampunk festival in the Southern Hemisphere. See why it’s such a steampunk hotbed in our visual tour.
Also see: The year’s top news stories in steampunk.
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