29/12/2011

Top 10 Steampunk Web Articles 2011

Top 10 Steampunk Web Articles 2011

Everybody seems to make best of the year lists, so I'm making my own. The rules are they must be related to Steampunk, and not have been linked to elsewhere on my blog. It doesn't matter when they were published, but I must have discovered them during the past 12 months. In reverse order:

17/12/2011

Hugo (2011)

Hugo (2011)

Synopsis
In 1930's Paris, an orphan lives hidden in a train station's walls. He takes care of the station's clocks, and tries to fix an automaton left to him by his late father. Based on Brian Selznick's New York Times best-seller "The Invention of Hugo Cabret".

11/12/2011

Victorian Christmas: Games and Activities

Victorian Christmas Games and Activities

This is Part V of my Victorian Christmas article series. Enjoy!

08/12/2011

Victorian Christmas: Food and Drink

Victorian Christmas Food and Drink

This is Part IV of my Victorian Christmas article series. Enjoy!

05/12/2011

Victorian Christmas: Crafts

Victorian Christmas Crafts

This is Part III of my Victorian Christmas article series. Enjoy!

01/12/2011

Victorian Christmas: Gifts

Victorian Christmas Gifts

This is Part II of my Victorian Christmas article series. Enjoy!

29/11/2011

Victorian Christmas: Decorations

Victorian Christmas Decorations

Some time ago I reviewed a brilliant documentary series, Victorian Farm Christmas. The producers put up some videos about making your own Victorian Christmas, however these were available only to people in the UK. These videos are now up on YouTube, so are available to everyone. Enjoy!

18/11/2011

Veteran Era Cars

Roper Steam Car (1863)
Roper Steam Car (1863)

The Veteran Auto Era is part of the Brass Era, and refers to automobiles manufactured before 1905. The latter part of the Brass Era for autos manufactured between 1905 and 1914 is called the Edwardian Auto Era.

At the end of the 19th century, hundreds of manufacturers all over the western world started producing a wide variety of vehicles powered by technologies including steam, electricity, and internal combustion engines. The fuels used varied, from kerosene and coal oil, to petrol and diesel.

09/11/2011

Edwardian Era Cars

Edwardian Era Cars

This weekend I visited Regent Street, and by chance there was an antique car event. I'm sharing the photos I took of these classic automobiles.

The Edwardian Auto Era is part of the Brass Era, so called because of the brass fittings used for such things as lights and radiators. The Veteran Era is the part of the Brass era before 1905, while the Edwardian era lasted from 1905 through to the beginning of World War I in 1914.

08/11/2011

The British Museum

The British Museum South entrance

The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture and it's exhibits originate from all over the world.

Physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane collected more than 71,000 objects over his lifetime. He wanted them to be preserved intact after his death, so he bequeathed the whole collection to King George II for the nation in return for a payment of £20,000 to his heirs. The gift was accepted and on 7 June 1753, an Act of Parliament established the British Museum.

31/10/2011

St James's Park and Green Park

St James's Park
St James's Park

St James's Park and Green Park together with two other Royal Parks of London, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens form an almost continuous green area in the centre of London.

In 1532, Henry VIII purchased an area of marshland from Eton College, through which the river Tyburn flowed. On James I's accession to the throne in 1603, he ordered the park drained and landscaped, and kept exotic animals in the park, including camels, crocodiles, and an elephant, as well as aviaries of exotic birds along the south.

25/10/2011

Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

Hyde Park

Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens together with two other Royal Parks of London, Green Park and St James's Park form an almost continuous "green lung" in the heart of London.

In 1536, Henry VIII acquired the manor of Hyde from the canons of Westminster Abbey and enclosed it as a deer park. It remained a private hunting ground until James I permitted limited access to gentlefolk, and appointing a ranger to take charge. In 1637 Charles I opened the park to the general public.

In 1728 Queen Caroline carved Kensington Gardens out of the western section of Hyde Park. During the next ten years fashionable features including the Round Pond, formal avenues, and a sunken Dutch garden were added.

24/10/2011

The Three Musketeers (2011)

The Three Musketeers (2011)

Synopsis
The three Musketeers go to Venice to steal Leonardo da Vinci's Airship blueprints, but are double crossed by Milady who gives the plans to the Duke of Buckingham. On their return to Paris they are disbanded by Cardinal Richelieu for their failure.

A year later a young D'Artagnan moves to Paris and befriends the three former Musketeers. They unite and attempt to stop Cardinal Richelieu's plans to engulf Europe in war and seize the French throne.

18/10/2011

Doctor Fantastique's Kickstarter Campaign

Doctor Fantastique

A message from Doctor Fantastique:

So the Kickstarter for Doc F's is nearly halfway done, and we haven't even reached $1,000 yet. I'm starting to get a bit worried, so on suggestion of a friend of the magazine, I'm reposting here what you get when you donate:

15/10/2011

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum main entrance

Richard Owen, Superintendent of the natural history departments of the British Museum saw that the departments needed more space. Since space at the British Museum site was limited, this meant they needed a separate building. Land in South Kensington was purchased, and in 1864 a competition was held to design the new museum.

14/10/2011

Oxford Street

Oxford Street in 1875
Oxford Street in 1875

Oxford Street is a major road in the City of Westminster in the West End of London. It runs for approximately two and a half kilometres from Marble Arch at the north east corner of Hyde Park, to St Giles Circus, at the intersection with Charing Cross Road and Tottenham Court Road. Roughly halfway along Oxford Street is Oxford Circus, a busy intersection with Regent Street.

11/10/2011

Moving to London, a Mouse, and a Thud in the Dark!

Moving to London

Last Thursday I moved to London, both to find a good job, and for the experience. This is now my 4th country move in the last 5 years... I don't enjoy moving so much, but sometimes things are out of my control.

04/10/2011

Beneath a Steel Sky (1994)

Beneath a Steel Sky

Adventure Games are the only computer game genre I really enjoy. They are not just point and click puzzles, some could be called interactive movies, and a few have a very good storyline. I'll start by reviewing a classic.

Synopsis
In a dystopian future in Australia, a young boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Gap (what's today known as the Outback). He is adopted and grows amongst Indigenous Australians.

When the game starts Robert Foster is kidnapped and his tribe annihilated by security soldiers sent from Union City by its powerful computer LINC. On their return to Union City, their helicopter malfunctions and crashes. Foster survives the crash and escapes into the dark metropolis vowing to avenge the murder of the only family he's ever known. See video below.

30/09/2011

Aurora (2011)

Aurora the Steampunk Film

Synopsis
Emerson Marks is the captain of the airship Aurora. His wife has been kidnapped by ruthless slave traders, and he goes on a daring rescue together with his crew.

23/09/2011

Peyton Place (1957)

Peyton Place (1957)

Peyton Place inspired David Lynch and Mark Frost when they were creating the look and atmosphere of the town of Twin Peaks, including the fact there would be a lumber mill.

Synopsis
Allison MacKenzie narrates the story of Peyton Place, her home town in rural New Hampshire around the time of WW2. At first the town seems tranquil and idyllic, but soon it is shown to be rife with moral hypocrisy, social inequities, and class privilege.

19/09/2011

Teeth (2007)

Teeth movie

Synopsis
Dawn grew up next to a nuclear plant. She is the local chastity group's most active participant, and being a stranger to her own body, she doesn't know she has a mutation. She a living example of the vagina dentata myth. Add teenage hormones, suppressed sexuality, and a few perverts, and you have an explosive mix!

15/09/2011

The Truth behind Pirate Stereotypes

Pirate

I noticed there is great interest in pirates amongst Steampunks, and not just those of the airship variety. This reminded me of a great article I had read about pirate stereotypes. In it two historical piracy experts are asked about buried treasure; wooden legs, hooks, and eye patches; parrot on the shoulder; pirate fashion and bling; and "arrrr" the accent!

13/09/2011

Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders

Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders

Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders is a Steampunk online magazine which has been published since August 2010. Recently they made a series of exciting announcements: They started offering downloadable and print issues of their magazine; formed and published two books on Amazon; and created Fantastique Gearworks, a Doctor Fantastique Books sub-label which will focus on LGBTQ Steampunk.

06/09/2011

The World of Twin Peaks: By Design or by Chance?

Twin Peaks

As an aspiring author, I often think about how a story should be planned. Some authors write a very detailed outline and follow it; others begin with a basic idea then start writing to see where it leads; while others use a combination of both. Usually it's very difficult to research these approaches to see what results they yield, but when I was writing my review of the Twin Peaks series I was surprised by the amount of information I found relating to each storyline and character.

The creators planned the storyline and feel of the show thoroughly, but most of the iconic characters and scenes were unscripted. If you're familiar with the series, after reading this article you should be able to see how the original design blended with the improvised to create a cultural phenomenon.

03/09/2011

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Synopsis
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is both a prologue and coda to the Twin Peaks series. It tells of the investigation into the murder of Teresa Banks, the first victim of Laura Palmer's killer. Then it jumps to the last seven days of Laura's life.

31/08/2011

Twin Peaks (1990 - 1991)

Twin Peaks sign

I was a pre-teen when I watched Twin Peaks on TV. I watched each episode although I was confused and scared by the paranormal scenes. 20 years later I read an article about the series and decided to re-discover it!

Synopsis
The small town of Twin Peaks, Washington is shaken when the dead body of a popular high school girl, Laura Palmer, is discovered on a riverbank, wrapped in plastic. FBI agent Cooper is called by Sheriff Truman to help with the investigation. Laura's death sets off a chain reaction of events, and Cooper soon discovers that in Twin Peaks, nothing is at it seems, and nobody is innocent.

22/08/2011

Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

Cowboys & Aliens

I know I'm late to the party, but this movie was only released last weekend at the local cinema...

Synopsis
1875, New Mexico. A stranger wakes up in the desert with no memory and a strange bracelet on his wrist. He goes to the nearest town, Absolution, but that night the town is attacked by aliens who kidnap some of the townsfolk. A disparate group of survivors decide to track down the aliens and rescue their loved ones.

19/08/2011

On Reviews and Spoilers: My Policy

Spoiler Alert!

Up till now my policy on spoilers was not to have them at all; to review and encourage people to watch a movie without giving anything away. I know first hand how spoilers can ruin your enjoyment when watching a movie or reading a book.

Once I was trying to decide which movie to watch at the cinema, so I went on IMDb to research. By mistake I clicked on Synopsis instead of Summary for the Spanish movie Timecrimes (2007). There was no spoiler alert. I still enjoyed the movie, however I didn't gasp at the plot twists, like everyone else in the cinema. I felt I missed on something, my viewing experience was diminished. By the way Hollywood is remaking this movie for 2012.

16/08/2011

Edwardian Farm

Edwardian Farm

Historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Peter Ginn and Alex Langlands are back in a new series - Edwardian Farm. This series was filmed at Morwellham Quay, a historic river port in Devon, England. It consists of twelve 60 minute episodes and shows farm life in the Edwardian Era, often highlighting how this changed from the Victorian Era.

This was an intersting time, horses were still being used for field work, but they had been replaced by water wheels for powering farm equipment and factories. Steam was still the power source of choice for trains and ships, but had either never caught on, or was already being replaced by petrol engines in other implementations.

12/08/2011

My Favourite Books and To-Read List

My Favourite Books

I usually stick to classic books, and by classic I mean they must have time proven popularity. My favourites are Frank Herbert's Dune series, JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, George Orwell's Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series, and Stephen King's novels, especially the older ones.

Sometimes I feel adventurous, and I may be tempted to read a book if

08/08/2011

Mobs and Riots in Victorian London

Dreadful Riot in London

During Victorian times, Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square were frequently disturbed by mobs and rioters, until they became the recognised place in which to air popular discontent or grievance.

Sunday Trading Riots
In 1855, 150,000 people assembled in Hyde Park, and riots broke out in protest over the Sunday Trading Bill, which forbade buying and selling on a Sunday, the only day working people had off.

02/08/2011

My Favourite Childhood Books

Favourite Childhood Books

When I was young I read everything I found. During school holidays I spent weeks at a time at my grandparents house and they had a cabinet full of children's books, mostly by Enid Blyton. Slowly but surely I read them all. My grandfather had another larger cabinet with several decades worth of Readers Digest magazines, and I read quite a lot of those too.

29/07/2011

The Suffragettes: Votes for Women

Votes for Women

The Suffragettes were movements for women's suffrage in the United Kingdom. Suffrage means the right to vote. They wanted to be involved in the running of the country and they wanted to be treated as equals to men. At first the movements started with peaceful protests, but they progressed to acts of extreme civil disobedience.

26/07/2011

Anarchists: Terrorist Attacks in Victorian and Edwardian Britain

Winston Churchill at Sydney Street Siege
Winston Churchill (highlighted) at the Sydney Street Siege

In Victorian and Edwardian times there was another terrorist threat besides the Fenians - anarchists and revolutionaries.

In the 1840's movements for democracy swept Europe - Italy, France, and Poland stood on the brink of revolution and thinkers and activists encouraged uprisings. Many of Europe’s revolutionaries and anarchists ended up in exile in comparatively liberal Britain: it became the home for other people’s ‘terrorists’.

25/07/2011

The Fenians: Terrorist Attacks in Victorian and Edwardian Britain

Police inspect the scene of the Clerkenwell explosion (1867)
Police inspect the scene of the Clerkenwell explosion (1867)

Terrorist attacks are thought by many people to be a relatively recent phenomenon, however, this is not the case. In Victorian and Edwardian times there were two terrorist threats, the Fenians, and anarchists.

The Fenians were Irish Nationalists organised in 1858 as the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Ireland. They were supported, mainly financially, by the Clan na Gael (Fenian Brotherhood) which formed in 1867 in the United States. The Fenians conducted what became known as the Fenian Dynamite Campaign in the 1880's.

22/07/2011

Can you teach Creative Writing?

Can you teach Creative Writing?

Lately I noticed lots of people on Twitter talking about creative writing courses, so I decided to investigate. I tried to discover when creative writing courses started being taught, so I could rule out authors who lived before such courses were given. The answer was that creative writing courses were developed starting from the 1880's to the 1940's. Most of my favourite authors could potentially have attended such courses.

Next I tried to find out if the authors I admire ever attended such courses and what they thought of them. Several authors wrote tips for good writing for their fans, but I could only find two that definitely did attend a course themselves.

18/07/2011

Scotland Yard

London's Metropolitan Police Service Scotland Yard

Scotland Yard is the London Police elite investigation agency mentioned in Sherlock Holmes and other stories. But what is it really, and why is it called so?

16/07/2011

Frankenstein (1910)

Frankenstein (1910)

This is the very first motion picture adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, made by Thomas Edison's film company in 1910. It was written and directed by J. Searle Dawley, and filmed in three days at the Edison Studios in New York City.

Synopsis
Frankenstein goes to college to study medicine. He discovers the secret of life, and tries to create a perfect human being, however he ends up creating a monster. He runs away in horror, and the monster starts following him and becomes jealous of Frankenstein's bride.

11/07/2011

Amerigo Vespucci: The World’s Most Beautiful Ship

Amerigo Vespucci tall ship

I had the luck of visiting the Amerigo Vespucci, a tall ship of the Italian Marina Militare, named after the explorer of the same name. When I saw pictures of this ship I thought it was made of wood, so imagine my surprise when I saw it's made of riveted steel plates. It seems caught between two eras, the looks of an 18th century wooden ship, and the technology and materials of the 1920's (with small upgrades for the 21st century). Click on the pictures to see in more detail.

08/07/2011

Steampunk Figurines: Musicians and Angels

Steampunk Violinist

I noticed an deep interest in figurines and art created from recycled material in the Steampunk world. This got me thinking that I already own one myself, the Steampunk Violinist shown above. Below are some photos I took at the stall from which I bought my violinist. Click to enlarge.

07/07/2011

Mad as a Hatter? Millinery and Mercury

The Hatter character in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
The Hatter character in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

In the late 14th and 15 centuries hats started to be worn regularly. During that period hats for men were considered an important fashion item, unlike women’s hats which only became considered as a fashion item in the 18th Century.

Millinery has existed in Britain since the 1700's.  In English courts the term milliner was used and this was derived from the term for travelling haberdashers from the Duchy of Milan in Italy.  These travelling sales people sold 'Millayne bonnets' and all the items necessary to dress, and were called millainers.

05/07/2011

Mechanical Singing Bird Automatons

Mechanical Singing Bird Automatons

Last Saturday an acquaintance showed me his antique mechanical birds in a cage. I was truly amazed when he wound up this gizmo and the two birds started moving their beaks, heads, and tails (see video below). He said it's around a hundred years old, and the birds probably should sing too.

03/07/2011

The British Parliament

The Crowned Portcullis
The crowned portcullis gained widespread use as the emblem of the Houses of Parliament in the 19th century.

This is a follow up to my Parliament vs Monarchy article, and it attempts to explain the British parliamentary system. The British legislative authority (known as the Crown-in-Parliament) has three separate elements: the Monarch, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons.

The House of Lords (also known as the Upper House) is made of two different types of members: the Lords Spiritual (senior bishops of the Church of England) and the Lords Temporal (members of the Peerage). Members of the House of Lords are not elected democratically, but are

26/06/2011

Stardust (2007)

Stardust poster

Synopsis
Tristan lives in a 19th century countryside town which borders on the magical kingdom of Stormhold. He promises the village beauty that he'll venture to the magical kingdom to retrieve a fallen star to prove his love for her. Once he gets to the star he discovers it's not a lump of rock, but a young maiden called Yvaine. Tristan is not the only one who wants the star, three evil witches want to eat her heart because it will give them back their youth, and the sons of the dead king of Stormhold want the ruby Yvaine holds, because that will enable one of them to claim the throne.

23/06/2011

Victorian Pharmacy

Victorian Pharmacy DVD

Historian Ruth Goodman of Victorian Farm fame is back, this time with Professor Nick Barber and PhD student Tom Quick. Together they recreate a Victorian Pharmacy in Blists Hill Victorian Town in Shropshire county, England. The series is made of four 60 minute episodes, and shows the 60 year evolution of the Victorian Pharmacy.

This evolution is so interesting I'll give a quick summary: In the early Victorian Era pharmacies were a novel idea, and anybody could trade as a pharmacist. Most cures were based on old beliefs and remedies. Addictive substances such as opium and cannabis were used in cures. Toxic

20/06/2011

Thrillers: Mystery and Suspense

Thrillers: Mystery and Suspense

Thriller is a genre of literature that creates intense emotions, particularly those of apprehension and exhilaration, in short "thrills". There are many subgenres, such as the crime thriller, horror thriller, political thriller, paranoid thriller, spy thriller, and so on, but today I want to talk about the difference in how the story is revealed to the reader, the difference between Mystery Thrillers and Suspense Thrillers.

19/06/2011

Steampunk Books

Steampunk Books

The Steampunk book genre is vast, it ranges from Historical Steampunk where the book is based in a real historical place and time, such as Victorian London, to Fantasy Steampunk where the action could take place anywhere, on another planet, a different dimension, or a fantasy world inhabited by fantastic creatures. The stories may include elements of the supernatural, time travel, or be based in a post apocalyptic future. Some people even include Victorian science fiction authors such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells in the Steampunk genre.

Today I'm sharing a few links to lists of the best Steampunk books with a synopsis for each of them. But first of all an article by Matthew Delman, Chief Editor of Steampunk magazine Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders - Steampunk for the Uninitiated.

12/06/2011

Victorian Farm

Victorian Farm DVD

I wasn't planning on reviewing documentaries, however during my research I found so many interesting ones, I just had to share them. It's easy to find information about historic events and famous people, but finding information about the everyday life of Victorians is not. I want to base my novel in the city of London, however when I came across the Victorian Farm series I jumped at the chance of seeing how people in the countryside lived.

Victorian Farm has six episodes of 60 minutes, followed by Victorian Farm Christmas with three episodes. I was afraid it might just be people in period costume rearing farm animals, showing the birth of cute baby animals, and cultivating fields, but I was pleasantly surprised at the historical and technological detail. Click on the pictures to enlarge.

02/06/2011

Steampunk Themed Wallpapers

Titanomachy Fall of the Hyperion by Marcin Jakubowski

Today I'd like to share some sites that have awesome Steampunk themed wallpapers. The three wallpapers I posted here are my absolute favourites!

Die of Curiosity, meet the Devil in the Details

Die of Curiosity, meet the Devil in the Details

All books and movies are based on simple concepts, and thus can be summarized in one or two sentences. In fact all books and movies have such a summary on their back cover. Once summarized they can usually be put in one or two categories. Take for example the category of 'revenge movies', the summary will probably be "Main character is wronged, he gets revenge on the perpetrators'. Adding a twist at the end will make