Showing posts with label steampunk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label steampunk. Show all posts

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Monster Mash

Friday 13th April 2012
Sachas Hotel
Manchester, United Kingdom

A deliciously decadent and moreishly monstrous costume ball.

Dress code: formalwear, smart Goth, steampunk, cyberpunk, Victorian, fancy-dress

Ticket price: £25 - follow this link for TICKET INFORMATION.

For more information, see the Hic Dragones website. This event is part of a weekend of monster and horror-themed events in Manchester, see the Hic Dragones website for more info.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Steam King

Recently, I've been working as a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant on a project involving searching databases of nineteenth-century newspapers. Though it has nothing to do with the project, I've become quite enamored with the following poem by Edward P. Mead, which was originally published in The Northern Star and reprinted in Engels' Conditions of the Working Class in England. I was also pleased to see it discussed in a recent conference paper, at the De Montfort The Monster Inside Us, The Monsters Around Us conference.

If you're interested in the industrial revolution, and the ways in which some people of the time viewed it, or if you're a steampunk writer or fan, I think you'll enjoy...

The Steam King by Edward P. Mead
Originally published in The Northern Star, and Leeds General Advertiser (vol. 6, February 1843); reproduced in Engels, Conditions of the Working Class in England (1845)

There is a King, and a ruthless King;
Not a King of the poet’s dream;
But a tyrant fell, white slaves know well,
And that ruthless King is Steam.

He hath an arm, an iron arm,
And tho’ he hath but one,
In that mighty arm there is a charm,
That millions hath undone.

Like the ancient Moloch grim, his sire
In Himmon’s vale that stood,
His bowels are of living fire,
And children are his food.

His priesthood are a hungry band,
Blood-thirsty, proud, and bold;
’Tis they direct his giant hand,
In turning blood to gold.

For filthy gain in their servile chain
All nature’s rights they bind;
They mock at lovely woman’s pain,
And to manly tears are blind.

The sighs and groans of Labour’s sons
Are music in their ear,
And the skeleton shades, of lads and maids,
In the Steam King’s hell appear.

Those hells upon earth, since the Steam King’s birth,
Have scatter’d around despair;
For the human mind for Heav’n design’d,
With the body, is murdered there.

Then down with the King, the Moloch King,
Ye working millions all;
O chain his hand, or our native land
Is destin’d by him to fall.

And his Satraps abhor’d, each proud Mill Lord,
Now gorg’d with gold and blood,
Must be put down by the nation’s frown,
As well as their monster God.

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.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders - Subscription Drive

A little message from the steampunk-tastic Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders:

Faithful readers! I'm quite proud to announce that Doctor Fantastique's
Show of Wonders
is officially offering SUBSCRIPTIONS!

Click on the link and fill out the form for us to get your information. Once you do that, we'll be in contact with payment details.

Tell your friends! Tell your neighbors! Tell your dog to subscribe!

Oh, and we're also offering some impetus to tell your friends. For every 10 people you convince to subscribe, you'll get a $25 gift card to a retailer of your choice.

If you convince 100 people to subscribe, then you'll get a personal phone call from Chief Editor Matthew Delman and a copy of the 2012 Great Plains Steampunk calendar, signed by James Conrad Agin and his team. All proceeds of the calendar go to charity, so this is for a good cause!

Get 1,000 subscribers to sign up and you'll select a prize of your choice. Your
prize has to be $500 or less though; that's the only rule.

The best part about this? Is that you can win these prizes MULTIPLE times.

The Rules

1.Only paying subscriptions are counted. An email newsletter sign-up, while good, is not counted toward your referral number.

2.All referrals must be submitted by December 31, 2011.

3.The person you refer MUST LIST YOU AS THE REFEREE in the "Who Referred You?" box on the sign-up form.

Happy referring!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Review: Tales From the Asylum: A Steampunk Compilation (The Last Line, 2010)

Tales From the Asylum is a collection of steampunk short stories, published by small press The Last Line in 2010. I came across the book at the 2010 Bram Stoker Film Festival, where the publishers had a stall. I was intrigued by the overall concept of the book (and more on that below), but also by what the publishers (and one of the authors) told me about the book's conception. The writers involved in the project are all steampunks themselves, and wanted to write a book that reflected what they termed the 'grassroots' of steampunk. Unlike many recent anthologies, which they felt were produced by writers 'trying out a new genre', this collection is intended as a journey into the world of the 'true' steampunk.

Although this is a short story collection, it is not simply an anthology of genre fiction. The stories are linked together by a framing narrative. The 'Asylum' of the title is a crumbling, and somewhat mysterious, mental facility, and the frame story follows Arkwright - a warden of sorts - as he visits the cells of the last ten inmates. Each individual story narrates the circumstances and histories of these 'cases', who, as the blurb on the back states, "can never be released". In between stories, the narration returns to Arkwright, and gives some unsettling hints about the real purpose of the asylum. Arkwright himself appears in one of the stories, deepening the connection between the warden, his charges, and the institution to which they all belong.

The stories included cover a range of sinister material - from vampires and vampire hunters to the malevolent force of nature that is the ocean. The collection begins with Rich Blackett's 'Stargazer', which narrates the story of an airship rigger through a series of transcribed interviews. Andrea Burnett's 'Voices from the Past' offers (somewhat fraudulent) mediums, and Karl Burnett's 'The Toothless Jaw' is a classic Victorian tale of a haunted locket and its effects on all those who come into contact with it. Locations are varied - from the fishing village of L.M. Cooke's 'The Call of the Deep' to the moon (in Herr Doktor's 'Sea of Tranquillity'), and characters range from a would-be vampire hunter (in Matt Adams' 'Blood Hunt') to a rather unsettlingly jovial fellow in Ian Crichton's 'Ghost Ship'.

One of the real strengths of the collection lies not in what the narratives say, but rather in what they don't say. My personal favourite out of the eleven narratives is Arkwright's 'The Hollow Man'. Unlike the other stories, this piece is not framed as the 'history' of a particular inmate. Nor does it begin with any introduction or situation. "Scream!" it begins, and then "I hung in a void, no knowledge of where I was." The lack of any real explanation creates a wonderfully unsettling piece of macabre horror, heightened by the references in the framing narrative to a place where "nothing human had ever passed" and a cell with a bricked-up door.

Similarly, the true purpose and history of the asylum is left, in part, to the reader's imagination. Though there are threads of a story - in the frame story and in some of the pieces themselves - and various references to sinister government forces and committees (including a familiar gentleman whose brother lives in Baker Street), this is handled with some subtlety and opacity.

While I did enjoy all the stories in this collection, I do have a couple of criticisms. The first is that there are quite few issues with editing (spelling and punctuation particularly). However, since I know that the publishers are aware of these, it seems somewhat churlish to dwell on them.

The second issue I have is more to do with my own tastes. While the book is written by steampunks - and having met some of them, I can certainly vouch for this - I'd question just how 'steampunk' some of the stories actually are. Personally, I prefer steampunk fiction that imagines a future world, based on Victorian technology (or some version of this), but not definitively set in this period. While the stories in this collection employ many of the tropes of steampunk - airships, brass rockets and automata all feature - they are quite clearly grounded in the nineteenth-century. Indeed, in the first story, the date of "1898" is given explicitly. Only one of the stories (Rich Blackett's 'Ring of Silence') hints at the more 'fantastical' technology associated with steampunk fiction, with the bodily modifications of Nell Fenton suggesting a sort of future version of Victorian technology.

As such, it might be better to class this collection as 'Victoriana' rather than steampunk per se. Indeed, several of the stories owe a debt to the nineteenth-century writers that are credited as the forerunners of the steampunk genre (H.G. Wells and Jules Verne) or to writers of 'classic' speculative fiction (M.R. James and Edgar Allen Poe) rather than to more recent literary creations. This is not to say that the stories aren't effective, but that they might be better described as tales of the Victorian uncanny.

Nevertheless, there is a real exhuberance and enthusiasm to the collection, which makes it a compelling read. Each writer has put their own stamp on their story, while the framing device gives a pace and movement to the overall narrative. It is fitting that the reader is asked to "follow in Arkwright's footsteps", as this is an apt description of the experience of reading the book. We move from one tale to the next as though following the path the warden takes through the asylum. The end result is something more than a series of stories simply linked by theme.

Overall, I recommend Tales From the Asylum: a book to have at hand for those days where you just fancy a bit of Victorian creepiness.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Submissions Wanted: Cottonopolis: Steampunk Manchester

Please note: the deadline for Cottonopolis submissions has been extended until October 31st 2011.

Submissions wanted for a new anthology of steampunk fiction set it Manchester. In the Age of Steam, Manchester ruled – the world’s first industrialized city; the first passenger railway station for new steam-powered transport; multi-millionaires pouring their money into Gothic libraries and trying to ignore the sprawling slums.

One 19th-century commentator wrote of Manchester: “A thick black smoke covers the city. The sun appears like a disc without any rays. In this semi-daylight 300,000 people work ceaselessly. A thousand noises rise amidst this unending damp and dark labyrinth ...the footsteps of a busy crowd, the crunching wheels of machines, the shriek of steam from the boilers, the regular beat of looms, the heavy rumble of carts, these are the only noises from which you can never escape in these dark half-lit streets”

What if these days had not come to an end? What if Cottonpolis, the Warehouse City, had gone from strength to steam-powered strength? We’re looking for new and established writers to contribute dark fiction tales for a new collection of stories that imagines that this ‘damp and dark labyrinth’ really was ‘unending’.

Editor: Hannah Kate
Publisher: Hic Dragones

What we want: Edgy dark steampunk fiction set in a fictionalized future Manchester. Some familiarity with the city and its history is advisable. Any interpretation within these bounds is welcome. Queer, trans, cis, straight are all welcome. Pure Victoriana is discouraged, as we are looking for stories set in an imagined future. (And, I should warn you, we are unlikely to be publishing any celebrations of imperialism!)

Word Count: 3000-5000

Submission Guidelines: Electronic submissions as .doc, .docx, .rtf attachments only. 12pt font, 1.5 or double spaced. Please ensure name, title and email address are included on attachment. Email to this address. Submissions are welcome from anywhere, but must be in English.

Submission Deadline: Monday 6th June 2011
Payment: 1 contributor copy (how we wish it could be more!)

For more information, visit the website or email us.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Call for Submissions: Steampink Anthology

Library of Fantasy presents

Steampink: Queered Visions of Steampunk

Edited and compiled by Bill Tucker and Tonia Brown

Searching for steampunk stories that have a queered twist. The stories should have at least one glbt main character and/or theme.

Word count is 3-7k.

Rich text format please.

Indent paragraphs 1 tab.

Single spaced.

Use italics - do not underline.

No page numbers/headers.

Place your name, address, telephone number, email and the approximate word count on the title page please.

Payment is 1 cent per word and 1 contributor copy.

Please email submissions to this address (click for link).

Last day to submit submissions is March 15, 2011.

Click here for further details.