December 31, 2013 • No Comments
The winner of a copy of Chasing the Star Garden, Melanie Karsak’s fabulous new ebook, is Diana H! Happy New Year!
December 30, 2013 • 1 Comment
The winner of the draw from Bruce Rosenbaum’s guest post is Tempest and the prize is one book from the Baskerville Affair Trilogy. Congratulations!
December 29, 2013 • No Comments
The winner for Katherine Gleason’s guest post is Cianna R. The prize is a pair of hand made earrings. Congratulations!
December 28, 2013 • 9 Comments
Steampunk! Comics! Need I say more?
I’m completely thrilled to have Madeleine Holly-Rosing, Writer/Creator of Boston Metaphysical Society Comic, visit my blog. Not only is it just plain cool, but I’ve had a long-standing love of comics, so this is like a bonus Christmas present for me. At their best, comics are the perfect marriage of two kinds of storytelling–visual and literary–and have the freedom to play with point of view in multi-layered ways. And, of course, they’re great entertainment–so check out the website, and don’t forget to comment on this post!
All comments on this blog will be entered into a draw for a book of your choice from the Baskerville Affair trilogy!
Remember, EVERY comment made on one of my guests’ blogs in December will be entered for a $50 Amazon gift certificate! This is the last of my December guest blogs, so this is your LAST CHANCE to get in on this draw!
And now I turn the floor over to Madeleine . . .
That was the word Alex Diaz blurted out to me as he hopped over the sofa outside the film and TV production office in Melnitz Hall at UCLA. I simply stared at him as he repeated that word again – “steampunk.”
Little did I know that day and that word would change my life.
We were classmates in a TV Development class and he was a huge fan of a TV Pilot I was developing called BOSTON METAPHYSICAL SOCIETY, a supernatural procedural set in late 1800’s Boston. The story was a marriage of my love of THE X-FILES and a historically based feature script I had written called STARGAZER for the Sloan Fellowship. I had heard the term steampunk before, but did not know much else. That brief conversation set in motion a series of events which would lead me to a place I had never been before – Steampunk Geekdom.
I had grown up reading science fiction, fantasy and tons of historical military fiction. My older brother loves superhero comics, but comics had never interested me, at least not superhero comics. (By the way, he probably has the largest and highest graded DAREDEVIL collection in the country if not the world. I kid you not.) Unfortunately, he didn’t bother to mention anything about indie comics. Grrr…brothers. But I digress….
I set about reading everything I could about steampunk and soon decided that it was the genre I had been waiting for all my life. All the things I love were there: science fiction, history, tech stuff. So I redeveloped the story into an alternate history of Boston during the late 1800’s. The story resonated with everything I liked to read: a strong female character, class struggles, a lead character who is torn between doing what is right and doing what he wants. Using some of the leading historical characters of the time (Bell, Edison, Tesla, and Houdini), I was able to bring a sense of place to the world. It took a lot of time and a lot of research, but bringing this story to life became an obsession.
For those not familiar with story, it’s about an ex-Pinkerton detective and his spirit photographer partner who battle supernatural forces in late 1800’s Boston. Think “Before Mulder and Scully, there was Hunter and O’Sullivan.”
Not long after I finished writing another episode of the show a few people I trust and respect suggested I turn the pilot into a comic. (Yes, there are more Boston Metaphysical stories out there.) Sure, I said. I can do that. Who knew it would take even more time than being my dog’s personal assistant? (Which I was, but that’s another story.)
To help me understand steampunk more, I attended my first ever steampunk convention – The Gaslight Gathering in San Diego. Boy was that fun. The costumes were amazing and the creativity was astonishing. I loved the dioramas, the steam driven mechanicals, the workshops on Victorian hair design, costuming and even metal working. Imagination ran at full steam here. (Pun intended.)
To prepare for this event, I did what any good steampunker would do and visited various thrift stores and second hand costume shops. Living in Los Angeles, I was able to frequent a number of the stores that obtain wardrobe from film and TV. I came up with a cool vest, a hat and some jewelry. I then plundered my old jewelry box for accessories and found an old watch with no hands, my dagger earrings and my copper owl. I managed to attach the old watch to my hat, add a plain white blouse, some black jeans and I was ready to go. Being on a budget, I needed to keep it simple. Since then, I’ve changed out hats, added goggles and some other pins to my basic wardrobe. Recently, I’ve also pulled together a western steampunk costume. For special occasions I have two corsets (black and hunter green) which I mix and match with other things. I am told all steampunk outfits are a work in progress.
My husband has even started to become more involved. Being an engineer, he’s fascinated with any machine that is steam driven. He’s been doing more and more research and is pretty keen on building a working Tesla lab that I can display (and maybe sell) at conventions. Time permitting he should be able to create something pretty awesome.
Since Gaslight Gathering I’ve attended numerous other steampunk events and I learn something new every time. But the thing which sticks with me the most is the generous nature of the community and the fact that I’ve
been welcomed wherever I went. Thank you, guys. You’re the best.
Madeleine Holly-Rosing is the writer/creator of the steampunk webcomic Boston Metaphysical Society.
Also a TV and feature film writer, Madeleine holds an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA where she won numerous awards as well as the Sloan Fellowship which requires integrating science and technology themes into a script. Madeleine has just completed her first novel, a middle-grade fantasy, and has published a number of short stories and novellas based on the BOSTON METAPHYSICAL SOCIETY universe which are available on Kindle, Nook and Smashwords. Her short story, THE CLOCKWORK MAN was published in eSteampunk magazine (March 2013) and THE WAY HOME was published in an A1/Atomeka/Titan Comics anthology in November 2013 along with three special illustrations by Emily Hu. Formerly a nationally ranked epee fencer, she has competed nationally and internationally. She is an avid reader of science fiction, steampunk, fantasy and historical military fiction.
For more information on the webcomic, the novellas and the upcoming Kickstarter in January 2014, please visit the website at Boston Metaphysical Society.
December 26, 2013 • 1 Comment
The winners for Chris Kohout’s contest are: Forrest F, Laurie W, Ivy, Smeek 1958, and Alexanna Rae. The prizes are 5 copies of Einstein Must Die! Enjoy, people!
December 22, 2013 • 12 Comments
It’s with great pleasure that I welcome Melanie Karsak, author of the Airship Racing Chronicles. For me, one of the great things about social media is connecting with other authors and it’s been a pleasure making Melanie’s acquaintance!
She’s generously offered an international giveaway to all commenters on this blog for an autographed copy of Chasing the Star Garden plus book swag.
Remember, EVERY comment made on one of my guests’ blogs in December will be entered for a $50 Amazon gift certificate!
First, my thanks to Emma Jane Holloway for inviting me to drop by her blog and talk steampunk. It is a pleasure to be in such delightful company. I am very excited to for the release of Emma Jane’s third book. Congratulations, Emma Jane. Now, let’s talk Byron.
Mad, bad, and dangerous to know. That is how Lady Caroline Lamb described the historical George Gordon, Lord Byron. When I decided to write a steampunk series, I knew that I wanted Lord Byron to be a central figure in my work. Byron was a rock star of his age. And honestly, if I can be all fan girl for a minute, he is pretty darned cute. When I set about creating my steampunk world, I didn’t want Queen Victoria or Tesla to be the sun in my solar system, I wanted Byron.
Given I can barely understand the man I’ve married, I knew I could not write from a man’s consciousness. Byron could not be my protagonist. Instead, I decided I would write from the perspective of one of Byron’s lovers. Lord Byron was infamous for his sexual appetites. In fact, he went into self-imposed exile to flee possible persecution and damage to his reputation for his bisexuality. I imagined that being in love with Byron would be a lot like being in love with any man you can’t quite tie down . . . thrilling and unfulfilling all at once. What kind of woman would be with Byron?
In walked the concept for Lily Stargazer. I wanted Lily to be a less than perfect character. I wanted her to have anti-hero qualities: questionable morality, cynicism, a self-destructive
energy, a rebellious nature, and questionable sexual appetites. In other words, I wanted her to be a Byronic heroine! The term Byronic hero, as we know, is inspired by the attitude cultivated from the historical Lord Byron himself. Oh, the “Byrony.”
Link to Wiki on Byronic Heroes:
The irony for me was that I didn’t even really think about the fact that she was Byronic. I just wanted to write a character that was true to the dark, crappy sides of life. There is a tremendous body of literature on the indenturing of children during the Industrial Revolution in England. Children suffered in horrible working conditions that are akin to slavery. I wanted to write about a woman who suffered at the hands of others and did not bounce back.
Link to Youtube series on the Children who built Victorian England (bring tissues): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87eVOpbcoVo
Despite her terrible past, as revealed in the novel through flashbacks, I envisioned Lily Stargazer as a woman who accidently found herself in a profession that was typically male dominated: as an airship pilot. And I wanted Lily to be good at what she did, really good. In fact, I wanted to punk the norms of 1823 (and today, really) and make Lily the best at a male-dominated sport. Take that, male sports. Lily Stargazer, an airship racer with a famous lover and an opium addiction, was born.
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/melanie-karsak
December 21, 2013 • No Comments
The winner of the draw on Paul Genesse’s blog for one of my prize packs and a $10 Starbucks gift card is Raonaid! Congratulations!
Steampunk Design’s Future: Fleeting Fad or Elegant Creative Solution? – guest post with Bruce Rosenbaum
• 9 Comments
Anyone who reads A Study in Ashes will see the key role that the makers play in the story. They’re the ones who secretly keep the people’s independence alive in their secret sheds and forges while everything else goes to pieces. That insistence on independent creativity and craftsmanship appeals to both my heart and my mind and is (at least in my opinion!) the keystone to the steampunk movement.
It’s with great pleasure that I invite Bruce Rosenbaum, President of ModVic, LLC, into my virtual parlour. He’s an artist, designer, and community activist. Since any artist’s work speaks for them with more eloquence than anything I could say, please check out this virtual house tour and his awesome website to see exactly what it is he does.
All comments on this blog will be entered into a draw for a book of your choice from the Baskerville Affair trilogy!
Remember, EVERY comment made on one of my guests’ blogs in December will be entered for a $50 Amazon gift certificate!
And now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr. Rosenbaum …
There is no singular history or definition of Steampunk – therein lies its beauty. The possibility of change, reimagining, improvement, valuing the humanity and contributions of each person – gives the Steampunk movement ‘legs’ into future time periods and eras.
In interior or object design, the contrast and juxtaposition of new and old styles (eclectic) can be trendy, but Steampunk bucks the trend in favor of timelessness. It offers boundless possibilities of infusion or blending of opposites: old and new; past and present; Victorian/industrial décor and modern-day technology.
This blending of opposites is called Janusian Thinking (see Psychiatrist Albert Rothenberg) and we are employing creative problem solving techniques through the synthesis of opposites. The best inventions and innovations have come about through bringing opposites together for one elegant solution (think of the hammer, pencil and jackknife).
The idea is bringing two opposites together in your mind, holding them there together at the same time, considering their relationships, similarities, pros and cons and interplay, then creating something new and useful.
Our Janusian ‘future-past’ approach functions as a reconciliation of contradiction to a unique creative solution to our problems of today. It’s incredibly liberating to look at the world around you and your life and say it doesn’t have to be this way – what I have can be improved through our own thought process and the process of reimagining and making. We can overcome life’s paradoxes and problems by forming creative and elegant solutions.
Steampunk as a Popular Design Aesthetic
Steampunk as an aesthetic, at its essence, is a design solution with divergent thinking, innovative and imaginative designs and elegant infusion of all time periods and functions.
At this time – early 21st century, the focus has been on going back to the Victorian period or Industrial age—late 19th century and early 20th century. This time period in history was when our man-made machines first transformed the world and craftspeople were abundant and proud to make things that would seemingly last forever.
The Victorian age is also a unique time in U.S. history – producing highly imaginative, high quality machines and beautifully crafted objects that now in large part have outlived their usefulness in the modern world. Steampunk now is about giving new life to these intrinsically valuable objects, re-inventing the pieces again so it is assured they last another 100 years into whatever period comes next.
In fact, Steampunk design can go two ways: (1) Taking authentic Victorian objects, rooms or homes and modernize them for today’s use or (2) Taking modern items and “Victorianizing” them to appear they are original from the period.
Steampunk: Form & Functional
My own Steampunk design focus has been on infusing 21st century technology into authentic Victorian objects to give them new function, new purpose in our lives today.
In our own home – we’ve been somewhat obsessive in bringing this design aesthetic to fruition. The two best rooms in any house to create Steampunk design are the kitchen and office – places that employ quite a bit of 21st century technology to make our lives easier and more productive. Our Steampunk House does have a Steampunk kitchen and office – you can actually take a virtual tour by visiting our website www.modvic.com.
You’ll see Steampunked appliances, kitchen island, cabinetry, fixtures and alike. In my Steampunk office – it’s a room out of Jules Verne’s Nautilus – complete with a Steampunk Victorian Pump Organ Command Computer Workstation.
A technology trend that has been helpful to all Steampunkers is the push towards miniaturization in electronics. Smaller is better for Steampunk inventors because it’s quite a bit easier for us to fit more technology into smaller existing spaces of Victorian cabinets, desks, and period objects of all sorts.
There are some general Steampunk ‘modifying rules’ that I try to stick by. If you’re not careful, you can transform an object to a point where you lose the essence of what it was — obscuring its rich history and original purpose.
ModVic’s 6 Steampunk Modification Rules:
1. Creatively modify primarily authentic Victorian or industrial period objects, salvage items or antiques as the basis (skin) for housing modern technology.
2. Modify objects that are in need of TLC (currently in a state of disrepair). You want to feel that you’re ‘saving’ the object and giving it a new life where otherwise it might have been left to the dustbin or trash heap of history. Note: Please don’t modify antiques that have great value in their present condition – Steampunkers still value period items ‘as is’ and don’t want to devalue great objects. Steampunk inventions may also include recycled items to promote environmentally-friendly reuse designs.
3. Inventions should be of outstanding individuality, beauty and exquisite craftsmanship. You want to mirror the original maker’s pride in the quality of their work.
4. Seamless blending of the period item and new technology leading to a feeling of ‘permanence’ to the Steampunk technology design solution. Your creative design solution should feel that the object could have somehow been originally intended to house modern technology when it became available.
5. Use of cutting edge technologies within the Steampunk design. Modern technology has a limited life and it makes no sense to install technology that is already or soon to be obsolete.
6. Understanding how quickly new technologies can be replaced with even newer technologies – reversibility should be built into the design process for future designers to incorporate new technologies into the Victorian objects in the future.
By its very nature Steampunk is timeless. The rejection of the present comes out in a nostalgia for the past or a idealized future – a Utopia. Steampunk combines a love for all periods and fuses the best elements of the past, present and future. It’s empowering – Steampunkers control the mix, they define it and they will change it as they see fit.
December 17, 2013 • 11 Comments
One of the best things about Steampunk is FASHION! I’m delighted to host author Katherine Gleason, author of the amazing book Anatomy of Steampunk: The Fashion of Victorian Futurism. This book isn’t just gorgeous, it’s inspiring, outlandish, and filled with handy do-it-yourself tips so you, too, can join the fun. And not only do we get the pleasure of Katherine’s presence, she’s talking about fashion in Joan Aiken, one of my favourite reads growing up.
Remember, EVERY comment made on one of my guests’ blogs in December will be entered for a $50 Amazon gift certificate! So, read on and win!
I have been rereading Joan Aiken. Specifically, her children’s novel The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (1962). I was obsessed with this book as a child, and in fact, read it so many times that I had the first page memorized. In case you don’t know, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is the first book in a series set in an alternate version of nineteenth century England. Aiken imagines that King James II was not deposed in 1688 and his descendant James III, a Stuart, sits on the throne. (Maybe someone out there can explain how the succession would have gone had James II not been overthrown?) In this first book, there’s very little political background, though. What you get in the novel is Dickensian melodrama, complete with wolves, an evil governess, orphans, devoted servants, privation, and a noble savage-type who lives in the woods and raises geese. Plus lots of snow and luxurious garments. Maybe I’m noticing the outfits because my last book, Anatomy of Steampunk: The Fashion of Victorian Futurism, focused on clothing. But I think that Aiken foregrounds the characters’ ensembles a bit, too.
In the opening paragraph of the book—a long establishing shot that zooms in on Willoughby Chase, a great house of many wings, staircases, and passageways, and the home of Bonnie Green—Aiken uses words usually associated with clothing. “Snow lay white and shining over the pleated hills….” Pleated, as if the hills are the folds of a skirt. A few sentences later: “…the Chase looked an inviting home—a warm and welcoming stronghold. Its rosy herringbone brick was bright and well-cared-for…” Rosy herringbone sounds cozy, like a tweed suit, probably a woman’s suit, no? Then we meet our heroine, Bonnie Green, who says: “Will she be here soon, Pattern? Will she?” Yes, her maid’s name is Pattern, and yes, she’s an expert seamstress. (Okay, there’s lots of problematic class stuff in this book!) Pattern is engaged in “folding and goffering the frills of twenty lace petticoats.” Twenty! That’s a lot of petticoats. Presumably they are white, too, like the snow and the pleated hills. (“To goffer” means to iron in ridges or narrow pleats.)
Bonnie is expecting her cousin Sylvia and, at the sounds of an arrival, runs down the main staircase, trips, and lands on the floor of the entrance hall at the feet of a stranger. “Her impetuosity brought her in a heap to the feet of an immensely tall, thin lady, clad from neck to toe in a traveling dress of swathed gray twill, with a stiff collar, dark glasses, and dull green buttoned boots.” She is Miss Slighcarp, all in gray—like a wolf. Plus she is too tall and too thin. Is Aiken cluing us in to the new governess’s character?
A few paragraphs later, Bonnie’s father, who, in the book, is considered to be unquestioningly good, is described via his watch and his waistcoat: “ ‘The dressing bell,’ said Sir Willoughby, looking at a handsome gold watch, slung on a chain across his ample waistcoat.” In contrast, to the governess, he does not sound thin. Meanwhile, Bonnie’s father has given her permission to go meet her cousin’s train, and she is fetching her warmest bonnet and pelisse. Fashionable in the early nineteenth century, the pelisse is a close-fitting woman’s coat modeled on men’s military jackets, which, in turn, had been adapted from the short fur-trimmed jackets of seventeenth century Hungarian mercenaries. (As skirts and crinolines grew wider, in the 1840s and 1850s, the pelisse fell out of favor and was replaced by cloaks, mantles, and shawls.)
In contrast to the luxury of life at Willoughby Chase, we are soon treated to a scene of genteel poverty. Sylvia and Aunt Jane, in preparation for Sylvia’s journey, are making Sylvia’s clothes from “a very beautiful, but old, curtain of white Chinese brocade.” The curtain must be quiet big; employing “tiny stitches” they manage to sew “several chemises, petticoats, pantalettes, dresses, and even a bonnet.” Weeping as she works, Aunt Jane says: “I do so like to see a little girl dressed all in white.” Clearly, Sylvia is some kind of angel. And in another few sentences her aunt calls her just that.
After a long train ride, an encounter with a stranger, and a scary delay due to wolves, Sylvia arrives at Willoughby Chase and meets her spirited cousin. Despite the fact that Bonnie’s parents are about to leave on a long voyage, they taken the time to have new and flattering clothes made up for Sylvia. They even have six pairs of ice skates ready for her to choose from. As Bonnie says: “…we thought one of them was certain to fit.” And Pattern promises to run up a dress for her doll, too.
I don’t want to issue too many spoilers, but it isn’t until Miss Slighcarp appears wearing one of Lady Green’s dresses “a draped gown of old gold velvet with ruby buttons” that Bonnie grasps the true nature of her greedy and conniving new governess. Later in the book, there are orphans in dehumanizing uniforms, and then, when Bonnie and her cousin need help the most, Bonnie finds, hidden behind straw bales, “two warm suits of clothes, a boy’s, with breeches and waistcoat, and a girl’s, with a thick woolen skirt and petticoat. Both were of coarse material such as tinker children wear, but well and stoutly made, and both had beautiful thick sheepskin jackets, lined with their own wool.” These outfits—which were made by the loyal and virtuous Pattern—facilitate an escape. And I don’t want to say much more! Read, or reread, the book, enjoy, the Dickensian character names, the outfits, and most of all the drama, all packed into a satisfying 181 paperback pages.
Katherine Gleason is the author of more than thirty books, including Anatomy of Steampunk: The Fashion of Victorian Futurism and Alexander McQueen: Evolution, a book about the late designer’s runway shows.
Anatomy of Steampunk: The Fashion of Victorian Futurism
December 16, 2013 • No Comments
The winner of Bec McMaster’s draw for a copy of My Lady Quicksilver is Sandyg265! Congratulations–What a great prize!