Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Film Review: Iron Sky

I re-watched this one to review it for you guys because this movie does what I thought was a really interesting thing. It's definitely got some heavy dieselpunk elements in the Space Nazi side of things, in a very over-the-top way. It's meant to be ridiculous though, and the movie doesn't take itself too seriously at all.

The thing I find interesting though is the way they handled the Nazis. It's always risky to use Nazis in a comedy, because the Holocaust is so very much a sacred cow, and you don't want to make jokes about that.

These Nazis left the earth before the holocaust, though. The premise is that Germany had a space program and sent colonists off to live on the dark side of the moon. These people are unaware of the Holocaust - only of German nationalism to a comical extreme. The irony of course is this.

That's right - the American president thinks "This is brilliant - this is how to win an election!" and applies the German nationalist message to American nationalism.

And the audience watching the movie thinks "What the hell? Do these guys remember what these people did to the Jews/Rom/gays/mentally disabled, etc?"

And the interesting thing is that it's never once mentioned in the entire movie. Were they trying to pretend it didn't happen for the sake of the movie? How can you have a movie about Nazis without acknowledging the Holocaust?

But the answer is actually easy. It's because the writers know that there isn't going to be one single person who watches the movie who isn't aware of the Holocaust, and isn't going to have it in the back of their mind as they watch it. They wrote it assuming that we would be thinking about it, knowing that they wouldn't have to remind us "Hey, by the way audience members, you remember what the result of this extreme Nationalism was right?" They assumed their audience wasn't stupid. (Rare thing, I know - probably because the movie wasn't made in the USA.)

Keep your eye out for a follow-up post to this - there's a bit of a controversial topic I'd like to discuss.

Rating it eight cylinders.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Steampunk Photoshoot and Interview

I had the privilege of sitting in on a Steampunk photoshoot recently, and it was a ton of fun to watch Adrienne Paul playing in front of the camera, and helping assemble a number of steamy and spectacular outfits. So of course, I jumped at the chance to interview Maj Jose, the photographer and fellow Steampunk.

How did you get into photography and what do you love about it?

My love for photography started when I was in High School in the year club. As an awkward teen, I learned I could meet people and have them smile when I pointed the camera. The hours spent in the darkroom developing my images and craft gave me a sense of peace and belonging. My camera was my security blanket, I was accepted everywhere.

When did you first discover Steampunk and what is your favorite part about it?

I first discovered SP in the movies. I have always loved old movies set in the Victorian, Art Nouveau , and Art Deco period . I loved the costuming , the light and the scenes. I remember the movie the Time Machine the 1960's version not the 2002 , and how it captivated me and held my attention. I like the simplicity of this complex idea. Time and history could be changed. It's like any science fiction story that our fate is in our hands and our history can be changed. That's my favorite part of SP, role-playing a fantasy. That my images, even though it's for a short period of time, can be reality .

What was your favorite aspect of the Steampunk shoots you've done so far? What is it about SP that inspires you?

Combining my 2 passions , science fiction and my love for antiques. My tired dusty antiques become a living breathing work of art. When one of my wonderful models adopts their persona I am transported back in time and place and it frees my imagination. I also like collaborating with my fellow photographers to use different photography techniques to achieve the look that I envisioned.

Favorite SP accessory?

I can't choose just one accessory! I love them all, from pocket watches, goggles to odd looking machinery with gears and heavy metal!

Favorite SP movies and books?

I'm a visual artist so I love movies, can't pick just one! Wild Wild West, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Around the world in 80 days ( both versions) . Even the 5th Element.

What would you say is your favorite "version" or style of SP? Gritty fighter pilot? Grungy street thief? Romantic, sweeping skirts? Or something altogether different?

I would say something altogether different … I grew up in Toronto during the 80's and that decade has influenced me tremendously! Reading graphic novels by Neil Gaimen, as I hung out on Queen Street ( that's where the old book stores and junk shops were before it became trendy ). Watching movies during the Toronto Film Fest. Back then Punk Rock ruled and seeing someone in biker jackets and a vintage skirt was normal for me. I remember the creativity that surrounds that area. And I want my images to convey that feeling of whimsy with a touch of flare and grit.

Would you consider playing with any of the offshoots of Steampunk? Like Dieselpunk. Clockpunk, Cyberpunk, ect?

Possibly …..

How is a SP shoot different than a normal shoot? Does it give you more room to play? Are the shots or models different? Different mindset?

Every session is different because every subject is different. I take the same amount of time prepping for SP shoots and Portrait sessions. However SP and fantasy shoots are my favorite because of the familiarity of the subject. I connect with these creative individuals faster when I am shooting SP and Fantasy sessions. In a word, I have more FUN!

Do you plan on doing more SP shoots in the future? If so, can we have a hint of what's to come? Themes? Ideas?

I plan to have more SP shoots in the near Future . I was thinking of a Christmas card depicting a Steam Punk banquet and tea party . But then again I might incorporate images on a tarot card that's all in Steam Punk…. or maybe Neil Gaiman's character's from the vertigo comics Sandman…. or Baron Munchhausen or …. the possibilities are ENDLESS! 


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Novel Experiment

Recently we did an article on "A New Way of Storytelling" which was people joining the story through youtube videos, acting out characters and moving the plot along that way. Today, we're talking about something slightly different.

Fair warning: Children of the Archive is the Steampunkette's project, so this article is going to be totally biased about how cool this is.

What's it About?

Amelia Harris has always wanted to be a writer, but her uptight family thinks it isn't a respectable career for a woman.

When Amelia gets a letter in the post informing her that she has made it into Proustworth Academy, the prestigious school of Rune Scribes, she finds herself shipped off before she has time to consider if she wants to learn magic or not.

At Proustworth, everything is run on a schedule, and Amelia finds herself memorizing old scrolls full of runes and attempting to fit in with the spoiled and wealthy children of aristocrats from all over the country.

In spite of the dull lessons and dusty classrooms, she finds herself fascinated with the magic of the runes, learning spells to scramble the words in books, make them deadly to the reader, and even bring stories to life. When she meets Leon – a boy with a bad heart and a passion for writing that equals her own – Amelia begins to think she may actually like school.

But when the Archive’s valuable Libris Mortis (The Book of Death) goes missing, the school is thrown into chaos. Someone at Proustworth now has access to dozens of deadly spells, and they seem to be very interested in Amelia.

How Does This Work?

COTA, a gothic fantasy with steampunk elements, will be a full-length novel serialized on a Wordpress platform. What makes this different, is that readers can participate in the story. Essentially, this is the ultimate "choose your own adventure". Readers will be able to create characters, back story and drive the plot along. They will create their own runes to be featured in the story, and decide what monsters populate the forest that surrounds the school.

How Can I Get Involved?

Getting involved in the creative process can be as simple as commenting on the posts with suggestions, or as complex as drawing your own runes and sending them in.

When Does it Start?

There will be a "Call for Runes" post going up this weekend, after that a new "call" will be going up every week until Halloween. The first chapter of COTA will go up October 31st.

Let us know what you think of the idea of interactive storytelling in the comments below, and be sure to check out Children of the Archive HERE.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sherlock Holmes: The Stuff of Nightmares

A spate of bombings has hit London, causing untold damage and loss of life. Meanwhile a strangely garbed figure has been spied haunting the rooftops and grimy back alleys of the capital.

What I Liked About it:

-I have to start off by saying that The Punkettes gets loads of Sherlock Holmes. To the point where we are turning some of it down. So "The Stuff of Nightmares" was a refreshingly different take on the classic stuff. I very much enjoyed the idea of Baron Cauchemar, who was a kind of "Iron Man meets Spring Heeled Jack" character. 

-The story is well written. I know the mystery writer is a good one when I end up genuinely surprised at the twists and turns of the story. There were several things I didn't see coming, and several points that made me smile and shake my head at how clever Mr. Lovegrove is.

-I also found the portrayal of the character of Holmes to be fairly true and accurate in comparison to the original. He always leaves me irritated on Watson's behalf, and this book was no different. I consider that a good sign.

What I Didn't Like:

-Let me first say that I am aware that the writer rarely has any say in his cover. But I was a little disappointed with how the Baron's suit is drawn on the front. To me it doesn't scream "Steampunk". It's just a little too slick looking, like something I'd expect to see Tom Cruise wearing in the next Mission Impossible. 

-I actually found myself irritated with Watson while I was reading. I would easily pick up something that was foreshadowed, or something I'd consider painfully obvious, while the character of Watson was still scratching his head. Of course, then Holmes would step in and explain everything. This only served to convince me that this version of Watson seemed a bit...well...slow.

-There is a good deal of long-winded explanations and interruptions to the narration, which I normally don't mind in a Sherlock book, but at times it interrupted the flow of the action and jerked me out of the story, and I ended up skipping it to get to the juicy action parts.

-At the end there is a transformer bit involving a steam engine which set my eyebrows to raising, and then the bad guy tops it off by monologuing, which reminded me of some cartoonish villain who is conveniently explaining all his dastardly plans to the good guys before he kills them.

-There is also no real room for women in this book, apparently, aside from Mrs. Hudson, who answered the door a few times and made them soup. The only other female character was Watson's wife, who got a few lines about how brave and noble both of the men were. 

In Conclusion:

If you are a Sherlock fan and you want a fresh spin on things, I recommend checking out The Stuff of Nightmares and adding it to your collection.

Oliver the Octopus Gives this 5 out of 8 Tentacles.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Book Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

I discovered this book when another author retweeted one of Jay's tweets where he mentioned chainsaw Katanas. I thought "Chainsaw katanas? How can you not?"

I love the intro he's got left as a review of his own book on good reads. You gotta read it, it's awesome: Go read it, I'll wait.

And then when you're done that, watch the book trailer. I seriously have never seen a book trailer that actually made me want to read a book until this one:

Okay, so I was already invested. Female main character who kicks ass, Japanese inspired secondary world steampunk setting, with chainsaw katanas and airships - I'm sold. It may even be more dieselpunk than steapunk - the fuel they use is "Chi," harvested from the Blood Lotus, and there's no specific description of the engines, but I couldn't imagine the chainsaw katanas running on anything but an internal combustion engine.

What I wasn't expecting was that the book would be hitting all my hot buttons. It's actually a dystopian setting, and I love dystopias. It's about an oppressed people struggling against an elite wealthy class. And lastly, there's the griffin - the Arashitora, a being that belongs in the sky, and his love of flying, well, being a pilot, lets just say I couldn't help but smile and think "Yeah, I know."

I read reviews before reading it, talking about how the Yukiko-Buruu dynamic was magical, and it's really hard to pin down what it is that makes it so. It's just somehow very real and very foreign at the same time. I've read plenty of person-forms-magical-bond-with-supernatural-creature books, and I think this one does it better than any I've ever read.

The world Kristoff takes us into is vivid, and interesting to the point that I didn't have trouble getting through even the parts that were just introductions to the world. The pacing of the action is slow at the beginning, but that's typical of secondary world stories with a lot of worldbuilding to do, but the author keeps the story moving at a steady pace despite that, even in the beginning.

I really identified with the main character being so angry with her father for the decisions he's made, and over her mother leaving them. Having come from a broken home myself, I get it, and there's not a lot of fantasy out there that deals with the frustration my generation feels with the bad decisions our parents have made, and the way our parents have failed us.

The thing I love the most about the whole thing though, is the social commentary. It's a scathing allegory of the current economic state of the world. The country being bled dry by corporations, the warmongering government, the success of both dependent on taking advantage of poor people of third world countries. The control over the media, suppressing information as they please, and religious zealots attacking minorities. All the while their own people cower in fear, unwilling to take action to change. I won't spoil anything, but as the story goes on and you find out what goes into making the fertilizer for the Blood Lotus, the allegory becomes even more brilliantly poignant.

If you like bustles and tea parties, think books should be for entertainment only and not a soapbox for political statement (some people feel this way - I don't get it) and abhor foul language, this is not the book for you. However, if you like kick-ass heroines who swear, political intrigue, dystopias, political social commentary, Japanese culture, and lots of action, this book was fracking awesome. It's been a while since I've finished a book this quickly. Ten Cylinders.
And book two comes out tomorrow, Sept 17th! Here's Jay's Goodreads intro:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A New Way of Storytelling: Part 2

As a second part to our post "A New Way of Storytelling", we present to you, an interview with Lisa England, creator of Aurelia: Edge of Darkness.

What’s the inspiration behind Aurelia: Edge of Darkness?

AURELIA is based on the world of my serialized steampunk-fantasy novel Rise of the Tiger. This 48-episode, fully-illustrated serial is still online, and many of our actors have read it as a part of their involvement, although I specifically designed the show so that prior "study" was not necessary to have an enjoyable and fulfilling experience. Rise was totally en experiment for me; what started out as a project designed to blast me out of my perfectionistic "hiding and hoarding" of my work," turned into a rich collaboration with many artists, and now into the web show AURELIA.

That being said, the influences for the novel first, and now the show, are really varied. John Milton’s Paradise Lost has always been a huge creative inspiration for me, and I believe his work speaks a lot to the turbulence we see and experience in our world today. So Paradise Lost was a big foundation for the world of AURELIA—as it has been for Lost, Watchmen, and many other influential fictional stories in the last few decades. With our modern worries about sustainable energy solutions, I wanted to tie in those themes to my own personal story of a 'paradise lost.' And that's where steampunk came in to Aurelia. Since steampunk focuses so much on an energy source, and critiques the obsolesce of all technology, in a way, it seemed like a perfect match-up.

In addition, I love the classic works of fantasy like those of Tolkien and Lewis, and more recent authors such as Patrick Roth fuss and George RR Martin who create dark fantasy worlds with less emphasis on traditional magical beings, and more emphasis on human turmoil. I also lived in Nepal for a while, and experiencing a heavily stratified society, where a caste system was very much in place, helped pull me toward making Aurelia a similar social structure. And of course, all my childhood hours spent reading Jules Verne gave me a big soft spot for fantastical technology and Edwardian/Victorian visions of the future. Mash all those wildly disparate elements together, and somehow AURELIA (or rather, the original novel Rise of the Tiger) came out of it.

Overall, I seek to travel, have lots of experiences, and consume books, graphic novels, and films of many genres. It’s amazing where inspiration comes from sometimes—often not directly from other books in the genre I've chosen.

How did you get into the Steampunk movement? What do you love about it?

For me, I guess it's my love for old things. As an only child, I accompanied my parents to a lot of antique shops and historical sites, and I spent a lot of time in imaginative play alone, where I lived in the past, particularly the Victorian and Edwardian eras, which both influence steampunk. But I also love traditional medieval fantasy and science fiction, so when it finally clicked for me (as an adult) that people were tell science fiction and fantasy stories with Victorian-type gadgets (i.e.: steam-powered computers, and the like), I got really excited. Sure, that was a superficial understanding of steampunk ... but hey, it got me started! Steampunk brings the past and the future together, which is incredible. So many genres are located squarely in one dimension or the other. Steampunk embraces both.

Also, there's the attraction of making things. Steampunks are such a creative and tactile group! People come up with brilliant ideas and bring them to life through tools, handcrafts, treasures foraged in thrifts shops and attics, etc. That maker culture is fantastic and often inspires my own work as a writer -- where I deal in bringing disparate ideas together, rather than tangible fabrics or metals.

Aurelia has been going on for some weeks now. Is it ever too late to start participating in Aurelia: Edge of Darkness on

Absolutely not! We've got about four weeks remaining, and we'd love to have some new faces join us! A Theatrics story (as I often say) is more like a highway than a linear narrative. This isn't a web show where you have to "catch up" on all the content in order to contribute. It's like a moving conduit of story, where you can enter via the on-ramp (our "Participate" button on the homepage!) at any point. Simply make your character, introduce yourself in a video or blog post, and then get caught up in the flow and create your story as you go. It's very reactive. I create, you create, someone else creates, and in that act of creation, we all refine and enhance our ideas for our own next plot event. Some people focus more on following the meta-story (our overarching structure that holds everything together loosely). Some people focus more on their own individual stories or collaborative stories with other actors. Both are great! After all, this is a community -- and in a community you may interact more with one person or a small group of people, than the whole.

How has it been working with

Theatrics has been a very supportive partner. This type of close creator-audience collaboration (in a story) is pretty unique, and naturally, as a new show runner I had a lot of questions about how it would actually work. Theatrics literally spent hours working with me to make the show the best it could be and build a nurturing yet flexible environment for people to take the story core and run with it to its fullest possible extent. I'm doubly blessed in that I'm a beta tester of the public platform, so when I've recommended software updates or features to add, they've delivered on all of them. The actors have literally seen their feedback on user experience turn into improvements that they then got to use!

How would you explain to people that have never heard of them?

Theatrics is a unique cloud-based environment where artists or brands and their audiences come together in an interdependent relationship, to create a continuous stream of original content. In our case, that's a storyteller and her audience partnering to tell a brand-new story about the world of Aurelia. In the case of a company or a brand, it could be a manager and his/her team, or a product development team and the products consumers, working together to solve a problem or extend a product in a new way. The key is symbiosis. In the traditional model, storytellers put out stories and audiences react. Some storytellers listen to audience feedback and make adjustments going forward, but for most, the product is "done" the moment they put it out. With a Theatrics experience, the storyteller and the audience commit to co-creating the story. The energy of the original creator/show runner fuels the audience to create their own content, which fuel the creator/show runner to create the next piece of the story, which fuels the audience's next move, etc. It's very responsive and reactive, which equals awesome, in my book!

If it were up to you, how would you like the story to end on Aurelia: Edge of Darkness?

Well, obviously I'm not going to give away the climactic discovery that I'm guiding the story towards. :) Suffice to say, though, that the city will make progress toward solving its quest for a sustainable power source -- but not via the means or with the result that people anticipate. My overarching structure is very much intact; the route by which we get there has been very circuitous, as I've used actors' ideas, trends among videos, and backstage discussion to drive the journey. However Aurelia ultimately arrives at the destination, it will for sure leave the city strengthened, yet still in need of more help ... which is good, because now I have to go write the sequel to Rise of the Tiger, which concerns that very assistance, and where it's going to come from.

Do you plan on working with in the future on another project?

Well, for the moment I have to get back to my own writing. In addition to writing the next book of the Rise of the Tiger saga, I'm revising the first book for e-publication (although the original version remains fully online at, finishing a full-color bestiary of monsters/mutants/machines in Aurelia, finishing a comic book about one of the minor characters in the original novel, writing a new novel set in an entirely different universe, and working on a couple graphic novels at City Beast Studio, another creative endeavor of mine. So as much as I've loved doing AURELIA: Edge of Darkness, it's time for me to return to the written word for the foreseeable future so I can continue to deliver fresh, original stories to my fans. That being said, I'm continuing to dialog with Theatrics about the platform itself -- and would absolutely love to work with them again in the future to bring another of my worlds (or someone else's!) to life in this co-creative way.

What tips do you have for people that want to be active on

I would say this: Leave your preconceptions at the door, along with your fears of "doing it wrong." There is no wrong here; there is room for multiple interpretations, styles of acting, storylines, etc. This has been particularly challenging for some of our talented and dedicated actors from a LARP background, where they were used to strict gameplay and a structured environment. AURELIA is more improv acting, with some role play techniques thrown in. The more fluid you can be, letting your story unfold and using "curveballs" thrown by other actors' stories as a powerful moment of creative discovery, the better off you'll be. Even as a creator, some of the most amazing moments for me have been when I saw someone else take a concept I had created (and of course imagined in a particular fashion) and turn it totally on its head. At first, I was like, "Yikes! That's not consistent with Aurelia!" But in almost every case, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this person's "take" on my world was actually genius in its own way -- and it pushed me to expand my view of the breadth and depth of my own world. Basically, I'm saying: Just jump in and do it!

Who and what are your Steampunk literary influences?

For AURELIA itself, in particular the source novel Rise of the Tiger, the story has a weird literary history that ties more with high fantasy and classic literature, as I mentioned earlier, than specific Steampunk works. (That's a whole other discussion ... ) But in general, I love the Girl Genius series, The Difference Engine, and Clockwork Heart. Mostly, though, I love works by Wells, Verne, and Lovecraft, as well as Robert Louis Stevenson and G.K. Chesterton, which are all "founding fathers" of the genre rather than the genre itself.

I think I actually come at Steampunk lit backwards: I'm more interested in the history and literature behind Steampunk -- the stuff that makes the genre tick -- and from there, I reverse-engineer my way into a story by applying classic lit and real Industrial-era history to my own sci-fi or fantasy twist. A quick example is Industrial Revolutionaries, a really absorbing biography of many of the most powerful (and sometimes least-known) inventors of the Industrial era. That book is brimming with fodder for all kinds of original steampunk stories; all that needs be applied is the fantastical twist and a unique plot. I've used it to help me develop AURELIA, because the foundation is all there in history. Another great example is The Cogwheel Brain, a biography of Charles Babbage and his quest to build the difference engine. There's so much there just waiting to be exploited (in a good way!) by a steampunk writer.

To join the story: START HERE

Friday, August 16, 2013

A New Way of Storytelling

It never fails to amaze me what artists come up with. Though many of us steampunks may cling hard and fast to the old sensibilities and aesthetics, you can't help but admit that the internet is always bringing us new and interesting ways to tell our stories, to live the adventures we want to live and to express ourselves creatively. 

Enter Aurelia, a steampunk/fantasy interactive web drama that allows you to join with hundreds of other players, to act out the story through videos and tell your part of the tale through your own narrative. 

Upon first inspection, it appears that the story is in its third or fourth week, and has become rather complex. Confusing to newcomers, though the video below may help clear this up. Personally, I wish I'd heard of this thing from the very start and joined in at the beginning. I'll be checking out the website, though I'm not sure about joining in this late in the game.

But I find myself absolutely captured with the breadth and width of this idea. The potential this has. It's genius, really, hundreds of steampunks can interact with one another through videos and stories, a vast role-playing game over the internet. 

Each week fans recieve a new call to action that invites them to react to plot twists and tell the story from their character's point of view. Fans are also encouraged to post pictures of the costumes, sets and props they are using to facebook and twitter with hashtags.

Below is a sample of the weekly updates and some of the actors participating:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Album Review: The Weak And The Weary by Eli August and The Abandoned Buildings

A review copy of this album was graciously provided by Eli August, and while it's not something I would normally pick up, it was a good listen. Their sound is very folksy - sounds like something you'd hear played while friends gather around drinking hot cider or mulled wine in somebody's kitchen.

It's always interesting reviewing music because music is such a subjective taste, and is always filtered through the lens of where one's mind is at the time one hears is. At the time I got this, I was starting my first few lessons in flight school, so my mind was at an elated 2000-4000 feet above sea level. Naturally "Rise Above" was a quick favourite.

The first song, "Alone", drew me in right away. It has a driving beat, and a cello, and anything that incorporates cello goes over well with me. The second thing I noticed was the backup singer - and you know, I personally think backup singers are hugely underrated. A second vocalist throws some variety into the music, with a different vocal range. One voice can be as different from another as having a completely different instrument, especially when you're throwing a male vocalist up against a female vocalist. It's one of the things I like about Abney Park, and Nightwish, and it works here too.

Sadly the cello was only in one song that I noticed, but I'm also a lyric person - lyrics matter to me. The lyrics in this album sound like they come from the spirit of my generation. A generation frustrated and jaded by the world that's been passed down to us. Some of it's hopeful, some of it's a little depressing. I liked the hopeful ones more.

So if you like a nice relaxing listen, with easy going rhythms, check it out; I enjoyed it.

A solid eight cylinders.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Album Review: The Dolls Of New Albion, A Steampunk Opera

I don't remember how I stumbled upon this. I think it might have been in a google image search, and I saw "Steampunk Opera" in the image and was intrigued. You can listen to the whole thing online for free - you don't pay until you want to download it to put it on an mp3 player, so you can preview the whole thing. I listened to the first and second song, and after that I bought it.

I've always loved songs that tell stories (can't stand lyric poetry, but I like narrative poetry) so to me, a musical is only one step better. There are four acts, and each track is a scene. Each act deals with one generation of characters, and the next act tells the story of their descendants. And each story takes the world of the previous act, and shows what has evolved out of the events of the previous story. By the time they're running the zombie doll for mayor, I'm completely invested in the world and loving the surrealness of it.

I will attempt not to gush about the creepy romance of this album. There are four acts. The first is about a woman scientist who brings the man she loves back from the dead in a newly created full sized doll body. And if you've paid attention to media for the last thirty years at all, you know that bringing people back from the dead never ends well. Never.

In fact, for those of you out there who like your happy endings, I'll give you a warning right here - this tells four stories, and none of them have happy endings. Satisfying? Yes. Happy? No.

But I've personally always loved when a storyteller can take a story and make it satisfying even if it's not happy. So many complex emotional responses it can evoke.

The one thing that disappointed me is the very ending, where a revolution is in the making. Anyone who knows me well knows that civil war is kind of a thing that hooks me, and draws me into something. So when I heard the narrator sing,

"The revolution that rises
has stories for another
time, our tale for this evening
comes to a close"

I confess to having been a bit disappointed.


I was checking out Paul Shapera's site, and what else he's released, and what he's got in the works, and went, omg, omg, omg. Because I saw this.

Yes, ladies an gentlemen, there's a sequel. And it's call the "New Albion Radio Hour, A Dieselpunk Opera." And it's about the revolution.

I do not lightly give the twelve cylinders, but this one gets it.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Non-Fiction Book Review: Angels and Airspeed

This one's non-fiction. I read this not realizing that it was geared more towards people playing flight simulation games, but apparently flight simulation enthusiasts are pretty hard core about the games they play being as realistic as possible.

This was really everything I wanted it to be. I picked it up because I was writing about WWII level technology air combat, and was having difficulty finding anything in depth on combat tactics. This has everything, starting from the ground up.

The first chapters skim over aerodynamics, and go into taxiing, the anatomy of an aerodrome, etc. Then it goes on to taking off, staying level, dangers of simple standard flight, how to find out what your plane is capable of, etc.

Then it gets into specific tactics, from one on one combat, to tactics for large groups of aeroplanes, with 1v2, 2v1, 2v2, 2v more than 2, etc in between. It even touches a bit on psychological warfare in mentioning how one can frighten and discourage their opponent if they can take out a flight leader early on in the battle, or confuse an opponent by attacking despite being outnumbered if you can surprise them and pick off a few to even the odds while they try and locate your non-existent backup.

It was very thorough, from what I can tell. At the back of the book are several pages of silhouettes of various aeroplanes, organized by country - the sort I imagine would have been used to drill WWII pilots to recognize friend from foe in the sky.

And at the end, the author goes into some recommendations for anyone interested in getting into flight simulation games. Apparently the most life-like, realistic games are the Sturmovik series. It also extolled the importance of having the proper control inputs - a control stick with rudder pedals is apparently essential, and honestly, having played Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, he's right, the PS3 controller doesn't have the subtlety you need to handle an aeroplane effectively. It's like playing WoW with a touchpad mouse.

Anyway, for any of my fellow dieselpunks out there interested in learning about WWII air combat tactics, or in getting into flight simulation games, this is a great resource and you can pick it up off the website here. For myself, I'm not going to be getting into flight simulators - anyone following my personal blog will know I'm taking a slightly different route.

In conclusion, eight cylinders.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Book Review: The Crown Phoenix Series

Today I'll be doing something a bit different. Over the past week I've been reading The Crown Phoenix series, by Alison DeLuca. Ms. DeLuca was generous enough to send the first three books in the mail free of charge. There was much rejoicing at the post office, in fact, people may have thought I was a bit mad. I was very excited to get my hands on these.

I'll be reviewing the first three books in the series here. For anyone interested, there is a fourth book, which I'll talk about after.

Warning: There will be spoilers.

The Night Watchman Express:

Each night, Miriam hears the eerie whistle of the Night Watchman Express. The sound of the train gives her visions of an underground factory and a terrifying laboratory.

Miriram has only her guardian's son for company, and she and Simon dislike one another from the start. But they must find a way to become friends or they will end up on the sinister Night Watchman Express.

What I Liked:

This book was great, full of adventure and mystery. The terrible guardians make bad guys you love to hate, and the mysterious Mana (Miriam's governess) keeps you guessing until the unexpected twist halfway through.

I thought it was wonderful that we get to see a different setting in this book. So much of steampunk is in London (I can't complain, my own is set there) so it was refreshing to hear so much about the island they end up on (Lampala). It's made me want to go visit, if such a place existed. 

The characters were well developed and lovable (or the love to hate kind). I started out hating Riki and ended up loving her, and Miriam is well fleshed out and relatable.

What I Didn't Like:

I would say not to pay the description of the book any mind. The book really doesn't focus a lot on The Night Watchman Express, for all that it's titled that. The back talks about how it gives her terrifying visions, when really, it's only given a cursory mention. Granted, they do end up on it later, but I didn't feel it was integral to the story.

I loathed the Marchpanes with every bit of my soul. I thought they were cruel and horrible and I wished the author had dropped a piano on both of them. Instead, they get a slap on the wrist, and later Miriam goes to live with them again. It's sort of like how I felt when I read that Dumbledore was sending Harry back to the Dursleys. "Well Harry, I know those people abused you pretty thoroughly, but I'm afraid I must leave you with them again. Sorry. Have a nice summer!" 

The Devil's Kitchen:

Miriam and Simon are kidnapped and taken to the terrifying destination known as Devil's Kitchen. Here they will face human experiments in a laboratory known as The Infirmary. Miriam is forced to work in an underground factory, while Simon is held in a luxurious prison by jailers who are as beautiful as they are deadly.

What I Liked:

I spent a good deal of this book frustrated and captivated. The frustration was not due to flaws in the book, but the type of situations the characters found themselves in. Miriam is basically a slave in a terrible factory that makes opium, and Simon is subjected to torture by a set of new and shiny bad guys, Barbara and her brother Valiant (who did play a role in the last book, but they're now the main bad guys in the series). 

This book basically had me reading non-stop. As I did with the Night Watchman Express, I finished it in a day. It's full of action and fascinating characters.

What I Didn't Like:

Again, the light treatment of the Marchpanes. They seem to have been changed from horrible and cruel to shallow and foolish. The characters don't seem nearly as threatening as they were at the beginning. Theodosia especially. Not to mention, I was a bit incredulous that they'd let Simon go off with Barbara and Valiant, and have no clue as to how their son was being treated, or even check up on him.

Lizzie and her beautiful sister Ninna are caught up in several mysteries: The squire's eldest son cannot leave the attic. An old typewriter seems to move time and space. A passenger hides in a secret room. A beautiful visitor is plotting against them. 

And Lizzie discovers that she has a strange, new ability. She and her sister must discover the secrets of The Lamplighters Special before their enemy catches up with them.

What I Liked:

Again I was stuck reading this book nearly all day. I was intrigued by the romance between Lizzie and Toby, the Squire's son, and Barbara and Valiant were once again, evil enough to be maddening. Lizzie's struggle to get used to life as a housemaid, her parents poor health and demands for "tonic" and the threatening Siddons (the woman who dresses Barbara) all make for a fascinating read.

What I Didn't Like:

Keep in mind, that there is another book after this, so some of what I say might be resolved. However, I found there were a few things that didn't make sense to me. The "strange new ability" that Lizzie develops is indeed strange. Not to mention, it sort of appears out of nowhere. If there was foreshadowing set down for it, or hints at it before that, I obviously missed them. What's more, the ability is strange and fascinating  but it's never really explained. I wouldn't normally harp on that. In the case of Mana and her ability, I'm fine with it being subtle and not over analyzed. Telekinesis is an established thing. But Lizzie's ability is new and different to me, I would have liked more. How did it develop? Why does she have it? And why on earth does Toby have it as well? The latter seemed like a bit of a stretch to me. They both have this crazy unusual power? That said, this might all be explained in later books, I'm not sure.

I found the very end a bit strange. Barbara, who I paint as "absolute evil" momentarily wonders if she could be good. This rang a little too "Disney" for me. I don't want Barbara to be good, I want her to be hit by a falling anvil. 

Also, why could Toby never come out of his rooms? Why does he get stuck in the cabin later? At first I thought it was a physiological thing, but now I'm thinking it's more. This is never really explained, and the characters don't seem to think it's that odd.

Siddons bothered me. Her irrational hatred towards Lizzie seemed almost personal, and it was never touched on in the end. I wanted to know why she hated her so much. Again, this might be explained in the next book.

Okay the very end twist. I'm going to spoil it. Look away. In fact, if you want the twist, you'll have to highlight what comes next, because I'm going to write it in white so you can't see it. 

In the end, it's revealed that Miriam's mother is black. Okay, so she's half Lampala (Lampalan?) The cover of The Night Watchman Express, shows a very pale little girl with black hair, who I assume is Miriam. One of the things I liked best about Alison DeLuca's series, is that Ms. DeLuca didn't dance around the issue of race. She embraced it head on and dealt with it, while so many steampunk authors don't touch it for fear of offending someone. That said, if Miriam was half Lampalan, it would be pretty darn obvious. Her skin would be very dark. That would have gotten the same extreme reactions as a full blooded Lampalan, I should think. But this was never mentioned at all. Again, maybe it will be touched on in further books, but I'm not sure how you explain that no one ever said anything about her dark skin, especially the Marchpanes, who took every little jab at her they could.

Overall Thoughts on The Series Thus Far:

I literally read these three books in three days. They were wonderful. The writing was terrific. I've no complaints at all on that aspect. The use of British slang was done well, and the characters all sounded natural and real.

 My overall thought is that I would call them Edwardian fantasy, more than Steampunk. I know I've complained about micro labeling Steampunk genres, but in this case I wouldn't call it "hardcore" Steampunk. There was one Steampunk contraption (the Crown Phoenix) which was very cool. And there was the Night Watchman express itself. Briefly there was mention of a steam powered ship. 

This is of course, just my personal opinion. I don't think it takes away from the books at all. But reader is forewarned, it's not as "Steampunky", or as heavy on the tech side as you might expect (or at least, there aren't as many steam powered gadgets as you might expect, and the cities in England seem to be much the same as they would have been).

Is it worth reading? Absolutely. If you're a fan of mystery, magic and adventure, you won't be disappointed. However, if you don't like it when a book sucks you in and refuses to let you go, you may want to pass these up. Luckily I'm a fast reader, but each one still stole half my day away, and I sort of wandered around trying to find lunch, still reading.

For someone that loves pretty shiny covers, these books are also addictive. The covers are beautiful and glossy, and they get a special place on my bookshelf.

Personally, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the next book, The South Sea Bubble, which will be released in the spring.

If you wish to check out Alison DeLuca and her books, her blog is HERE.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Are We All Punked Out Yet?

Clockpunk, Dieselpunk, Cyberpunk, Spypunk, Stitchpunk, Witchpunk, Elfpunk, Bustlepunk, Stonepunk, Teslapunk, Sandalpunk, Sailpunk, Ricepunk, Atompunk, Retropunk, Rococopunk, Biopunk, Mythpunk, Mannerpunk, Splatterpunk, Nanopunk, Greenpunk...

I could go on, but I won't.

Recently I read a blog post by someone claiming to have written a Witchpunk book. I didn't think too much about it, other than "cool, sounds neat". But later I stumbled across someone talking about Elfpunk and was left scratching my head. At what point are we just tacking "punk" on in order to jump on the punk bandwagon? Greenpunk? What's that? And is "Witchpunk" just steampunk with witches in it? What makes Elfpunk so punk? The punks are flying so thick and fast that it's nearly impossible to keep up with them anymore.

So can I write about trolls, throw a few corsets and gears in there and dub it "Trollpunk"?

Well we DO have awesome punk hair!

I'll be honest, what inspired this blog post was in part someone saying that Gail Carriger doesn't write Steampunk, she writes "Bustlepunk". What she writes is too light and fluffy to be true Steampunk. When the Steampunk "experts" make statements like this, it makes me  want to reach up, grab them by their waistcoat and yank them off their high automaton horses.

Is the umbrella of Steampunk so small that we can't let anyone else in from the rain? We have to assign Ms. Carriger a different category because she isn't dark and gritty enough to be real Steampunk? That's bloody insulting. And what about "gaslight fantasy"? Another name for Steampunk that isn't gritty enough, or isn't focused enough on the science elements to be "real". At what point do we stop splitting hairs? (Hairpunk, YES. That's got to be a thing).

Often it's hard enough for writers when we're asked to describe our manuscript's genre to an agent or editor. What exactly do I write? And now those of us who thought we were writing Steampunk apparently have to ask ourselves another set of questions. Is it gritty enough to be Steampunk? Or is it Bustlepunk? Have I written a gaslight fantasy? 

Perhaps part of the problem is that we still haven't defined exactly what Steampunk is all about. Is it a genre, a movement, a lifestyle, an aesthetic? It's different for everyone, it means something different to everyone. If you ask one hundred people what Steampunk means to them, you may get similar answers, but never two the exact same. 

That's why there are entire forum threads dedicated to the question what is steampunk And there is no one out there who can tell you exactly what, and have everyone agree with them.

So should we go hogwild with the punks? Punkwild? Or maybe we can include a lot of these under the wide umbrella of Steampunk. I'm fairly certain there's room here, and I'll jostle people to make way for you (politely of course). 

But is there even a problem with going punkwild? What's the issue? Well, there might not be a problem if you're just dressing a certain way and telling people you're a stitchpunk. But authors who write in the punk genres have got to draw a line somewhere, don't we? Do you write to an agent and ask him to represent your "trollpunk" novel? 

There are quite a few "punks" as genres that are pretty well established. Should we stick to these?

What are your thoughts on the punk epidemic? We'd love your two pennies on the matter.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Band of the Month: Circus Contraption

Since we've already featured one of our punkette's favorite bands (Abney Park), it's time for another!

Circus Contraption is an eerie mixture of funky jazz and circus tunes. You'll find them both horrifying and delightful, and most likely delightfully horrifying.

From fast-paced, frenzied songs like "We're All Mad" to the slow, creepy "The Odditorium" every song has something to make you shiver.

If "Circuspunk" isn't a thing, it might be now. So close your eyes and let Circus Contraption take you away to a creepy carnival, where chilling and thrilling spectacles await you in every tent and booth.

Welcome to the freak show. Do come in, you'll never want to leave.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review: Encounters of Sherlock Holmes

The spirit of Sherlock Holmes lives on in this collection of fourteen brand-new adventures.

What is it?

A collection of short stories featuring our old friends, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, Mrs.Hudson and many more familiar faces.

What I Liked

The short stories within are amusing and well written. A few of them particularly stood out. We get a visit from H.G Wells in a science fiction style story (my favorite out of the book) and we encounter a giant squid, black magic and a giant metal "infernal device" type of machine.

What I Didn't Like

Some of the stories began to blur together in places, without enough to define one from the other. What saves the book is the sprinkle of original, different stories throughout. Please take in to account that as a reader I have a penchant for bizarre, dark stories. Those that entangle magic (or the threat of magic) with the mystery. Hence I found the "weird" stories to be more enjoyable. There was an even mix of normal and abnormal though, and should keep most Sherlock fans happy.

In Conclusion

This story collection is well worth adding to your shelf of steampunk reads. 

Oliver the Octopus Gives You 7 out of 8 Octopus legs.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

1800's Clockwork Toy's and other fun finds

1800's Clockwork Toys and other fun finds

I find it fascinating that amidst the Industrial Revolution fantastical inventions and clockwork toys were created. I pictured kids playing with crochet dolls and wooden blocks, yet human ingenuity was vast at work. 

 Here are some unique toys I've found for sale..

1.The Ethiopian Catterpillar I'd love to have something like this in my clockwork toy collection. But this little beauty would run me over $300,000 Dollars!

The Ethiopian Caterpillar is a bejeweled automaton from the year 1820. Attributed to Henri Maillardet, only six automaton caterpillars are known to exist and the other five are in prestigious collections in Europe, include one in the Patek Philippe museum and another two in the Sandoz collection (see Parmigiani for more on them).
The pre-sale estimate for this piece is $350,000-$450,000.

2. Oriental Dancing Man This little beauty is at a no reserve bid on ebay. (Currently $650.00US) It is thought to be made in New York early 1800's.

3. Double Hanging Dancers on Platform Made by Automatic Toy Works Connecticut – Circa 1875 This is an extremely rare clockwork-jigging toy. They were probably less than 10 known examples.   The toy is 10” tall by 6 ¾“ wide. Material: Wood, Fabric and Composition. This fun piece has a starting bid of $1500! 

4. Or perhaps toys aren't your thing. What about a 1800's clockwork meat rotisserie?

There are so many unique early clockwork contraptions to be found for sale. If I had the money I'd buy them all! If you stumble across anything interesting send it my way! -The Clockpunkette

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review: The Warlord Of The Air, by Michael Moorcock

This review copy was provided by Titan Books, who just last month re-released this classic novel, originally published in the 70’s. Which I think is awesome, since Michael Moorcock is among those writers who stand accused of starting the whole steampunk thing.

The Warlord Of The Air is the story of Oswald Bastable, a man from 1902, who is mysteriously jolted out of his own time, and into the world of the (then) present, 1973. But this isn’t the 1973 that we all know and love. Oh no. 

The British Empire is still very much intact and alive, and colonialism rampant throughout the world. The atomic bomb has not been developed, nor has heavier than air flight. Instead, the skies are alive with airships, from the luxury liner Loch Etive to the run down old ship, The Rover.

The story is written in the style of H. G. Wells, which is kind of interesting, but it doesn't slip into excessive rambling, as writing of that time period often does. All the nostalgia of the style, none of the annoyances, I would say. H. G. Wells, and other writers of the time, often started a story with the premise of it being a recounting of events - either the story is being told to another character, or the narrator is committing remembered events to paper. The Warlord Of The Air follows this tradition - the narrator of the first chapter is the man who discovers Bastable, after all the events of the story have occurred, and convinces him to tell his story.

Bastable himself is a likable enough character, if naive. He's innocent enough that I could forgive him for being so staunchly supportive of British colonialism, believing the world to which he'd been sent a utopia. While his blind support of the status quo got to be a bit of an eye-roll after a while, when he did finally realize the cruel injustices of colonialism, it was a slow enough transition that it was believable. He's not a stupid character, he just knows what he knows, and a big part of the story is his discovery of the world.

The funny thing was, I realized this story is structured very similarly to The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman, which I disliked quite a bit for being little more than a masterpiece of world-building hung on nearly no plot. The difference between the two though, is the world of The Warlord Of The Air is much more integral to the main character's emotional arc, which kept me much more engaged in the story. William Mandella of The Forever War observes his world in a cold, emotionless way, whereas Bastable describes 1973 with wonder and excitement, and later frustration and despair, and that world - the point of the story - changes him as a person in the end. William Mandella's character is unaffected and unchanged by his experience.

Overall I enjoyed it very much, and I'm glad someone's making sure this classic stays in print. You can pick it up here.

Ten Cylinders.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Aylesford Skull - A Book Review

It is the summer of 1883 and Professor Langdon St. Ives, brilliant but eccentric scientist and explorer, is at his home in Aylesford with his family. A few miles to the north a steam launch has been taken by pirates above Egypt Bay, the crew murdered and pitched overboard.

In Aylesford itself a grave is opened and possibly robbed of the skull. The suspected grave robber, the infamous Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, is an old nemesis of Langdon St. Ives. When Dr. Narbondo returns to kidnap his four-year-old son Eddie and then vanishes into the night, St. Ives and his factotum Hasbro race into London in pursuit...

What I liked about it: To begin with, Mr. Blaylock is an extraordinary writer. This rollicking steampunk adventure showcases his excellent prose.  Likeable characters, a vile villain and an imaginative setting makes this book into a must-read for lovers of steampunk literature.

What I didn’t like about it:  The only issue I had with this charming tale is that the end dragged out a little bit too long. It seems that poor Eddie is kidnapped, and then someone swoops in and rescues him, but then they get caught. Then he’s rescued again, but then they get caught again. I believe this happened three times, and it had me suffering from some literary whiplash. It seemed like the climax of the thing took a long time to get to, I was really impatient to get the big fight started. Then finally, it seemed to me that it ended very abruptly. Perhaps from all the buildup.

In Conclusion: Would I recommend The Aylesford Skull to Steampunk readers? Absolutely, in fact, I would say it’s headed the way of the steampunk classic, in spite of the minor flaws I mentioned. I feel I should be adding more of Mr. Baylock’s works to my personal bookshelf, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the bookstore.

Rating:  7 out of 8 Octopus legs

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Canadian Steampunk Authors and Artists

The punkettes are very proud to announce that we got a mention in Steampunk Canada's article "Canadian Authors and Artists". Please mosey over there and check out the article. There are some fantastic artists with weird and wonderful steampunk artwork as well. Also, at the very bottom is a link that will lead you to teasers of the punkettes' works-in-progress:

Canadian Artists and Authors

Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review: Code Name Verity

I hope everyone has had an awesome holiday season - I know I have.

But back to book reviews. There seems to be a dearth of actual Dieselpunk titles - we certainly haven't been offered any review copies anyway, so I offer you some peripherally related material. I've read some stuff that would definitely be of interest to a Dieselpunk audience. This one is a YA historical fiction novel set in WWII.

I picked this one up because a fellow reviewer raved about it. She said she didn't want to say too much about it because it would be so easy to give things away, since the story involved an unreliable narrator. But she had rated it as highly as she ever rated a book, and then I saw there was an airplane on the cover. I'm interested in WWII, as any proper Dieselpunk would be, and I love flying and think airplanes are the coolest thing in the world.

Well, Anna was right about not wanting to say too much about the plot. It begins with Julie, an agent of the French resistance, who's been captured by the Gestapo in a fictional town in France. She's been tortured, and writes that she's been given paper to write her confession on. It's eerie to read it, because she addresses the reader as if you're the Gestapo officers torturing her.

It's clear that she's stalling, starting her story from her childhood, rather than getting to the point, and you have to keep in mind that she's writing this for the Gestapo, and however many times she swears she's telling the truth, it's hard to tell how much she might be holding back. She tells the story of her friend Maddie, who flies planes for the Air Transport Auxilliary, and how Maddie came to be a pilot. I was captivated by the airplane parts

But then... well, I won't say too much more, but the author has apologized ("ewein" in the comments) for making me cry on the bus, over on my personal website. Never had a book hit me so hard, so beautifully. Apparently it's rated somewhere as one of the top 5 books that will make you cry. I've choked up on a scene before, but not like this.

But just a suggestion if you read it, when you get to a scene that begins "I don't know how things went so wrong"... find a private place to read that chapter.

Giving this one a full 12 cylinders.