Monday, 12 September 2011
Review: Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders, Issue 1 (July 2011)
Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders is a new steampunk magazine, available in digital and print formats. Aimed at steampunk enthusiasts of all types, the magazine includes articles, reviews, new fiction and advertisements.
Issue One (now available here) contains reviews of Nickel Children, a film by Kevin Eslinger, and Alison DeLuca's The Night Watchman Express. I was particularly pleased to see Ren Cummins' review of Nickel Children, as I saw this short film at last year's Bram Stoker Film Festival and was pleased to see that Eslinger's work is continuing to get the attention it deserves. Cummins' review includes a brief interview with Eslinger, in which they discuss the genesis of the film and the reasons why the filmmaker chose to work within the steampunk/Weird West genre.
The articles included in this first issue of the magazine cover a number of steampunk-related topics. Adam Heine offers advice to writers on creating believable slang, and Sophie Playle offers a guide to airships. As steampunk is often criticized for its obsession with empire, colonial life and Victorian England, it is refreshing to also see articles on writing multi-cultural steampunk worlds (by Alison DeLuca) and recent offerings from an Italian publisher (by Lorenzo Davia). Davia's article was particularly interesting for its insights into Italian history, which explored the ways in which steampunk might have specific resonances with the Italian cultural psyche.
On the whole, the article content of the magazine is more geared towards the steampunk writer, rather than 'lifestyle steampunks', though I'm sure there is a crossover between the two. The inclusion of short fiction in the second half of the magazine suggests that this is more of a magazine for readers and writers than self-styled steampunks. It will be interesting to see how this balance pans out in future issues.
As noted, the magazine contains four pieces of new fiction. Two of these - Steamsteel (by Walter Shumate) and Calliope Strange's Aeryn Daring and the Scientific Detective - are the first installments of serialized novels. I felt that this was a nice touch, as serial fiction was such a staple of the Victorian literary diet, and the inclusion of these stories was a nod to the culture that inspires so many steampunks and steampunk writers. The other pieces included in Issue One are the first chapter of Alison DeLuca's The Night Watchman Express and a standalone short story, 'The Hand of Fate' (by Prof. Cayne Armand). Of the writing offered, I would say that I prefered Armand's short story; however, this is personal taste and other readers might feel differently.
If I have one criticism of this first issue of Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders, it would be that it is not quite varied enough in its content. This is not a reflection of the scope of the magazine, but rather its infancy as a print publication. For instance, the question of airships is a constant companion throughout this issue: not only do we have Playle's article, but three of the four pieces of fiction feature airships of some sort or another. While airships are fairly ubiquitous in steampunk fiction, they are becoming something of a cliche, and I would like to see the magazine address this in future issues. I hope, though, that as the magazine expands its 'reporter' base, and attracts submissions from the wider steampunk world, we will see less reliance on the genre standards and more innovation of ideas.
Overall, I recommend Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders for anyone interested in steampunk fiction and film. It's an enjoyable, informative read and well put-together. I'm looking forward to seeing future issues.
For information about subscriptions to Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders, please click here.