Steam Highwayman

Want to play an RPG but without those pesky things called friends? Enter Steam Highwayman, a steampunk choose your own adventure gamebook. Take to the roads as a highwayman whose only possessions are the clothes upon their back, gun and sabre at their side, and a Velosteam bike under their feet. Right off the bat your choices determine starting skillset and direction of travel. With only a set of dice and your wits to determine your fate, be careful. As you speed through the world you decide what type of highwayman you wish to be: Punisher or Robin Hood. Seek out codewords and other secrets that can be carried over volume to volume.

 

If this sounds like the kind of experience for you, check out the Kickstarter where you  can purchase the first gamebook volume for £15.00. Because this is a gamebook there aren’t any “kickstarter extras.” Unless of course, you count the £200.00 6 hour 1-1 session with the game maker where he will reveal all his secrets and help you create your own gamebook.

 

Steam Highwayman is also utilizing social media to release content. Instead of just setting Kickstarter funded goals, which are exclusively about illustrations. Steam Highwayman is setting social goals as well, the first 100 Likes on Facebook has earned a PDF document about the design aspects of the character with illustrations by Ben May. More will be added as the campaign started to pick up speed.

Unlike other game kickstarters, Steam Highwayman actually has a small demo to give you the feel for how the game plays and what you can expect from Steam Highwayman. I played the demo, I won’t spoil anything for you though as this is a game best experienced.

 

I did enjoy flipping through pages and your choices do make a very different game. Instructions are a little unclear if you have never played a game this way before but once you pick it up it’s extremely understandable. While the game does rely on die rolls, combat does give you the chance to not die because RNG is not in your favour.

Steam Highwayman is created by Martin Barnabus Noutch who got a job in the Marlow area and while riding his motorcycle through the countryside came to realize why this area was known in the past a highwayman’s dream.

Sneak Peek at Sunless Skies: A LitRPG Victorian Steampunk Game

cover-imageAfter playing and reviewing Fallen London (read the review here) I eagerly awaited the next Steampunk LitRPG game from Failbetter Games. Sunless Skies launched on Steam Early Access on August 30, 2017. Until September 8th the game will be available for 10% off its full price of £18.99 / $24.99, so act soon if you want to grab it at a discount.

Sunless Skies is a top-down literary RPG set amongst the stars. Explore a universe steeped in celestial horror and ravaged by Victorian ambition in this game of exploration, corruption and jeopardy for PC, Mac and Linux.

Players will initially be able to explore one of the four regions of the High Wilderness—the Reach. “We chose the Reach specifically because it’s the region players start in when they begin the game. It’s also more user-friendly than some of the later regions, which get properly strange,” says producer Lottie Bevan.

avidhorizonOn the 30th, players can expect to explore the Reach in their locomotive, scout for nearby ports, dock at any of the 11 diverse ports available, interact with stories, engage in combat and of course, experience Terror and Hunger.

“The current state of the Reach is set up to give players a small taste of what the final game will be like rather than a big taste of an emptier, less representational world,” says CEO and Art Director Paul Arendt, “We wanted to focus on a more contained area, a space where we can test mood, story and mechanics.”

windwardcompanyThe feedback Failbetter received in Early Access for Sunless Sea was absolutely essential to its development, and the team are eager to see what fans think of Sunless Skies. “Early Access provides us with that pivotal indication on whether the direction we’ve set for the game is the right one. It gives us early warning on what people don’t like, what people would like to see more of, and what could use further development,” explains Director of Development, Liam Welton.

Over the past three months 900 alpha testers have been pioneering Sunless Skies to catch the first bugs and help Failbetter prepare the game for Early Access. “Perhaps our Kickstarter should have given us a sign, but we were totally floored when nearly 10,000 people signed up to our alpha list!” says Marketing Manager Haley Uyrus, “We had very specific aims for the alpha so we kept the number of participants low, but it’s going to be exhilarating to open the gates for Early Access.”

giant-space-monster“We’re excited to open the heavens to the first major wave of explorers. Player feedback is crucial to us, and we’ll be watching, learning, and amending our own course accordingly. Because there’s much more to come,” alludes Narrative Director Chris Gardiner, “As Early Access progresses we’ll be adding more regions, more ports, more discoveries, more stories, more secrets, more nightmares, and more unwise decisions that sensible captains will avoid at all costs.”

In celebration of the Early Access launch, Sunless Sea for iPad will also be on sale for $6.99 from 30th August – 3rd September. The game will also be available to play at this year’s EGX in the Rezzed section.

Here is a sneak peek at their trailer:


Who are Failbetter Games?
Failbetter Games are an independent games studio based in London, UK, who specialise in narrative-driven, darkly funny 2D and text-based games. Any allegations of cannibalism remain unsubstantiated.

What is Sunless Skies?
Sunless Skies is a top-down literary RPG set amongst the stars. Explore a universe steeped in celestial horror and ravaged by Victorian ambition in Failbetter’s spiritual sequel to Sunless Sea.

It is the dawn of the 20th century, and London has taken to the stars! As the captain of a spacefaring locomotive you’ll behold wonders and battle cosmic abominations in the furthest heavens. Stake your claim. Fight to survive. Speak to storms. Murder a sun. Face judgement.

The Sunless Skies Kickstarter raised £377,952 of its funding £100,000 goal – the goal itself having been raised in the first four hours of the Kickstarter.

What is Sunless Sea?
Sunless Sea was released in 2015, receiving an Essential rating from Eurogamer, and went on to sell over 200,000 copies in its first year. It was named among the best games of 2015 by the New Yorker, the Onion AV Club, Vice, Kotaku, PCGamesN, The Mirror, Forbes, Develop Online and Killscreen.

Sunless Sea is available for Mac, Linux and Windows, and will be released for iPad in spring 2018.

Review: The Cog and the Steel Tower by W.E. Larson

This month I’d actually like to review a book I read several months ago, Cog and the Steel TowerThe lovely W.E. Larson sent me a free copy in exchange for my honest review, and after several months of thought, I’m ready to share that review with the world.

Let’s start with the blurb!

BLURB

Thirteen-year-old Cog loved getting her hands greasy in her Uncle’s workshop and building the occasional mud-cannon before the return of her mother knocked her life completely off its rails. Before long she’s stowing away on a royal airship and tricking her way into a dream apprenticeship with the Queen’s master engineer by pretending to be a boy. But her situation takes a dangerous turn when she discovers a plot to assassinate the Queen and throw the kingdom into war.

If she can keep her identity a secret despite her best friend developing a crush on her alter ego, unravel the deadly conspiracy, and keep the demanding master engineer happy, then maybe she can have the future she’s always wanted. Keeping hidden identities and saving kingdoms may not be the same as fixing a steam wagon or an auto-mechanical potion mixer, but Cog has a set of precision screwdrivers and she isn’t afraid to use them.

Follow Cog’s rollicking adventure as she uses her wits and ingenuity to find friendship, trust, and justice in a colorful but sometimes unforgiving steampunk world full of mechanical mayhem.

REVIEW (SPOILER-FREE)

Cog and the Steel Tower features several of my favourite steampunk tropes: the tomboyish girl tinkerer, the young woman who wants to avoid arranged marriage at all costs, airship stowaways, and educational apprenticeships that serve as the perfect way to show off all the steampunk-y goodness in the author’s world.

All of these tropes combined to make Cog and the Steel Tower a fun, often rambunctious adventure. If you’re looking for a light read to take your mind off all the awfulness in the world, Cog and the Steel Tower is perfect.

That said, I personally found Cog and the Steel Tower disappointing. Its use of archetypes and familiar tropes was brilliant, but it missed several opportunities to deeply explore and challenge those tropes. Cog herself–and, we later find out, the Queen–challenges the awful restrictions on women, but fails to actually create change. She becomes an exception, rather than a reason for a new rule.

I’ve written before about how I long to see more punk in steampunk, and Cog and the Steel Tower was very much the opposite. Cog did rig up awesome devices from found parts in a very punk way, but that was about it. Her only reason to challenge or even question the strict gender and class rules of her world was because she personally wanted to be an engineer and wasn’t allowed. And the Queen, who challenged gender norms to get into her position, has failed to champion other women’s rights.

This is at least partially because Cog and the Steel Tower is middle grade, and people assume kids aren’t interested in the deeper political realities of Victorian-based worlds. I think this does a massive disservice to kids, who are quite capable of understanding and tackling those challenges. It assumes they can’t think deeper rather than encouraging them to develop those thinking skills. And I think we need to do better by our kids.

But it does also bring up another problem I’ve had recently: virtually all the steampunk I’ve found has either been middle grade or YA. Where are all the adult protagonists? Specifically, where are all the adult woman who have already–and permanently–rejected their roles in their society and built new ones? Are we to assume that all these badass little girls grow up to be perfect Victorian women? Based on the lack of badass woman role models in these books, I’m pretty sure those are the assumptions.

So, my review in one sentence: Cog and the Steel Tower was a lot of fun, but it brought my biggest issues with the steampunk genre as a whole to the forefront in a big way. To be honest, it’s kind of put me off the genre for a little while. But I know steampunk can do much better, and I’m excited to find stories that break the mold.

Does Cog and the Steel Tower sound awesome to you? Do you know any steampunk books that really challenge the tropes I talk about here? Please let me know in the comments section below!

 

My First Steampunk Experience: Nerd-lesque with Phoebe

I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe in the power of a single moment to drastically change the trajectory of a person’s life.

I was back in my native Minnesota for a visit, and a friend happened to have a show the same weekend. I always thought of her as a singer. But she’d recently started to perform with a burlesque troupe. Or, what she said was more accurately described as “nerd-lesque.” In addition to the sexy strip teases, the performers usually chose something from geek or pop culture to integrate into the act.

That month, they’d chosen steampunk as their theme. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I can’t remember now exactly how my friend defined it for me, but I do remember that when she told me about steampunk I thought, “Wow! All those things that I love have a name?”

My buddy decked me out in a corset and a pair of goggles, and we headed to the show. Much to my embarrassment, halfway through the evening one of the stage hands pointed out to me that I had somehow managed to put my corset on upside down! She got me straightened out (pun intended) with a quick “corset 101” lesson, and now I always know to look for the garter rings if I’m not sure which way is up.

It turns out that steampunk and burlesque are a great pairing because the steam era saw a heyday for the art form. The performers did a combination of traditional burlesque, like a feathery fan number, as well as some geekier reinterpretations of pop songs with a steampunk spin.

The night was fully of spunk and silliness, and as I delved into steampunk in the ensuing weeks, I found out that these were crucial ingredients to what made steampunk, steampunk. The aesthetic, with its leather, lace, and mixed metals, certainly caught my attention. But I think what really reeled me in was the whimsy.

It took me a few years before I really took any steps to join the steampunk world. Between my first foray and 2013 when I started my first steampunk website, a lot changed. I won’t go into the details, but when I got to the other side of the tunnel, I found that I needed some magic infused back in my life.

Steampunk served as a gateway to get me thinking in a more creative and hopeful way than I had in years. But most importantly, it got me writing again. The look of the fashions and gizmos, but also the themes of the genre, captured my imagination and soon I found I couldn’t keep the words off the page.

And even two novels and over 500 articles later, I see no reason to stop.

About the Author

Phoebe is the pen name of a Steampunk-loving vagabond and aspiring novelist. She spends the majority of her time doing research for her novels about a relapsed con woman in gas lamp America, or writing articles for the Steampunk Journal. In her free time, she enjoys playing tabletop games and watching aggressively bad movies with her husband and tiny dog, and tearing the films to pieces with snarky commentary a la MST3K. (Though admittedly, the dog doesn’t add much in that department. His comedic timing is rubbish.)

Where to find Phoebe Darqueling

Author Website: www.PhoebeDarqueling.com

Twitter: @Gearturns

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Phoebe-Darqueling-953785968035747/

Come join the United We Steampunk, Divided We Fall group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1589640957716352/

Selkie Cove

Author: Kara Jorgensen
Release: July, 2017
Series: Ingenious Mechanical Devices
Genre: Steampunk | Fantasy | Lovecraftian | Mystery
Edition: Kindle
Pages: 317
Publisher: Fox Collie Publishing

Buy it here: AMAZON

Blurb

Immanuel never liked being the museum’s resident seal expert, until a strange specimen arrived: part human, part seal, and a murder victim. He knows the only people who will believe him are the supernatural agents of Her Majesty’s Interceptors.

But all help comes with a price. To become a member of the Interceptors, Immanuel must first convince his lover, Adam, to help him find the culprit. They have a week to uncover the killer or Immanuel will lose the only chance he has to learn about his own arcane abilities.
Upon arriving at Seolh-wiga Island, Adam and Immanuel quickly discover that what the island lacks in size, it makes up for in mysteries. At the heart of it all is a series of disappearances, murders, and devices connected to the island’s sordid history.

Will Adam and Immanuel earn a place with the Interceptors? Or will they become the island’s next victims?

Selkie Cove is Book Five of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. The other books do not need to be read in order to enjoy this novel. Feel free to jump right in!

Review (Spoilers Ahead)

“Magic is more of an art than a science” Judith Elliott tells Immanuel Winter as he struggles to learn to use magic in a world more suited to technology. Judith, a member of Her Majesty’s Interceptors, is helping Immanuel develop his abilities. And he needs those abilities as Judith involves him in investigating a rather unusual specimen that appears at the museum where he works.

Staring back at him from beneath the bath of embalming liquid was a seal with a not quite human face. For a moment he merely stared at it, unable to grasp how the mismatched pieces fit together so seamlessly. While the body retained the shape and grey spotted fur of a seal, the creature’s face appeared out of place with its sharp cheekbones and Cupid’s bow lips, but what held him wholly were the creature’s eyes. They were wide and
round like the seals he had studied, yet they retained the colored iris of a human.

As Jorgensen mentions in the text, so-called mermaids were popular display items in the Victorian era. Fishermen in Japan and the East Indies had long constructed “hybrids” by stitching the upper bodies of apes onto the bodies of fish. P.T. Barnum obtained one of these creations for one of his exhibits and caused quite a stir when publicizing the item. But Jorgensen’s novels are filled with magic as well as science/technology, and the mermaid, also known as a selkie, Immanuel examines is real.

The Interceptors offer Immanuel a challenge—find out what is happening to the selkies for a chance to join the organization. It is an opportunity that Immanuel cannot pass up as it would not only give him the opportunity to use his education and magical abilities, but also provide a way to support both himself and his lover, Adam Fenice.

Adam has been facing challenges of his own because of their relationship. He was fired from his job as a bookkeeper because of social prejudice over his relationship with Immanuel. This sends him down a path of despair. The trip to Seolh-wiga Island in order to help investigate the death of the selkie is a way for him to regroup and come up with a plan for the future.

But a trip becomes more dangerous when Adam and Immanuel try to join up with a Metropolitan Policeman who is investigating multiple disappearances among the human population of the island. There is more danger than meets the eye in the seemingly idyllic setting. And the two young men may end up becoming the next victims in an ongoing war that lies just beneath the surface of the sea.

I received this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review, but I also purchased it from Amazon because I believe in supporting indy authors. I recommend Selkie Cove to anyone who enjoys neo-Victorian novels, steampunk, magic, Lovecraft, and a good mystery. The other four books in Jorgensen’s series are available and I highly recommend them as well.

About the Author

6Chris Pavesic lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, and writing speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.  She also blogs intermittently at www.chrispavesic.com and tweets @chrispavesic. She became a Steampunk Cavalier thanks to her involvement in The Darkside Codex blog.

 

My First Steampunk Experience: The Steampunk Symposium with Ash K. Alexander

I’m not a newcomer to steampunk, though nor have I been here from the start. I can remember with clarity what drew me to the community/genre/lifestyle that is steampunk. It was a book. The cover read Soulless and from page one I was hooked on this hungry heroine and the world that Gail Carriger had built from the familiar London streets. I was reminded of Dianna Wynne Jones with a dash of Terry Pratchett, and I was in love. From there, it was only an internet search away from this term I’d never heard before.

Steampunk

Now, as a teen I was a goth, and there is that old standby that steampunk is what happens when goths wear brown but I don’t hold to that logic. steampunk is a community that envelopes aspects of goth, and the two intermingle though do not always overlap. Discovering a community that combined my love of history, costuming and literature was…like coming home. It was like I’d always been searching for this ephemeral thing and here it was, right in front of me.

My roommate and I discovered there were a few steampunk groups nearby (Airships) and went to a couple of meet and greets, but it was not until we went to our first convention that I would say I had my first proper introduction to the community at large. It was the inaugural Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Held in a hotel that had many of recalling moments of The Shining, the atmosphere was actually rather perfect. It was cold enough that all those layers of pseudo-Victorian costume weren’t unbearable.

I attended every panel I could fit into my schedule, though now they all sort of blur together. That first convention was exhausting. I really wasn’t well prepared for it, as my only previous experience with convention going was a few hours here and there, not a full weekend. I remember best sitting in the various lobbies and hallways and just talking to other people. It’d been a long time since I had felt so comfortable talking to strangers. But if there was a single person responsible for pulling me into the community to stay, well, I know exactly who that is and I met her for the first time at that convention.

The amazing Leanna Renee Hieber, who truly changed my life’s trajectory. Fantastically theatrical, Leanna’s reading of her novel reminded me even more of what it was that I loved so much about writing. And with every year I attended the convention, I got to know Leanna a bit better. I got to see her triumphant republication of Strangely Beautiful. She encouraged my writing. I was also incredibly fortunate to connect with Emily P. Bush, author of the Steampunk children’s book hit SteamDuck. I have her to thank for pushing me to take my writing further in her writing workshops.

Thanks to them, I am now part of the team (with Sophia Beaumont) leading the literary track for Steampunk Symposium next year. Something I never could have considered happening. I get to be the person helping newcomers to the steampunk world. I get to be the person pushing writers further. I’ve come such a long way from the day I picked up Soulless. Since the day I stepped into that probably haunted hotel for my first real steampunk convention. I will never regret taking those steps. In steampunk, I found new friends. I found a community to work with. I found the stories of my heart all over again.

About the Author

Ash is an artist, author and cat mother currently residing in the Heartland. She spent her college years tromping about in tombs and museums, though that passion didn’t play out. When not writing or plotting new ways to torment her characters, she can generally be found attempting to garden.

Find Ash at any of the following locations:
https://ashkalexanderwriter.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/ashkalexander
https://www.etsy.com/shop/thedappermenagerie

Steampunk Fact vs Steampunk Fiction

I am a relative newcomer to the world of Steampunk, having recently made the jump from Victorian Magician to Steampunk Author (it’s a long story and one for another day). As part of my initiation I attended the New Zealand Steampunk Festival, the largest such event in the southern hemisphere. While wandering the streets of Oamaru’s Victorian quarter, surrounded by a dashing and eclectically dressed mixture of likeminded souls, I had a certain epiphany. The majority of the costumes I saw, while wonderful, had little similarity with those in the fictional Steampunk worlds we read and write about.

In cosplay, the starting point for the costume is a character from a book, film or comic-book but in Steampunk, this is not the case. I initially wondered if that is because we don’t have enough readily available or easily identifiable Steampunk heroines and heroes to ape. There may be an element of this but I feel the reasons go deeper.

A quick Wikipedia, ahem, I mean Encyclopedia Britannica, search of the word punk divulged the following – One of Punk’s main tenets was a rejection of mainstream, corporate mass culture and its values. So, do Steampunks adhere to the values of Punk and reject the mainstream? I guess we probably do, but not for political reasons like Punk. Also, I dare say that if a fictional Steampunk world ever gained the popularity of Harry Potter our ranks would be swelled by characters from that world, and not necessarily the worse off for it.

One of the initial fashion statements of Punk was the rejection of fussy and elaborate clothing. However, over time the addition of non-functional adornments, safety pins, chains, padlocks and studded leather became common place. Many of the costumes at the Steampunk festival were similarly embellished with clocks, tea-cups, keys, tentacles and myriad cogs, springs and mechanical parts, all of which served no purpose other than in decoration. In fact, much of the decoration rendered the costumes almost completely impractical, not that the Victorian crinoline, corset or bustle were ever designed with comfort or functionality in mind.

I have no doubt that I am less widely read in the Steampunk genre than many of you. However, in the Steampunk stories I have delved into, although corsets, goggles and bowler hats are very much in evidence, the adornments are not. So, what has brought about this disparity between the Steampunk Fact of the costumes we wear and the Steampunk Fiction we read? And does it matter? I have no idea. Please feel free to enlighten me as to your thoughts on the issue below.

About the Author


Gareth Ward, a.k.a. The Great Wardini is a magician, hypnotist, storyteller, bookseller and author. He has worked as a Royal Marine Commando, Police Officer, Evil Magician and Zombie. He basically likes jobs where you get to wear really cool hats – as writer and compere of Napier City’s inaugural Steampunk murder mystery evening he wore a rather splendid bowler.

His first novel ,The Traitor and the Thief, a rip-roaring young adult Steampunk adventure, won the 2016 Storylines Tessa Duder Award.

You can find out more about him at www.garethwardauthor.com

A Steampunk Writer’s Resource: The Victorian City

  • Authors: Judith Flanders
  • Release: July 15, 2014
  • Genre: History
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 544
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

BLURB

The 19th century was a time of unprecedented change, and nowhere was this more apparent than London. In only a few decades, the capital grew from a compact Regency town into a sprawling metropolis of six-and-a-half million inhabitants, the largest city the world had ever seen. Technology – railways, street-lighting, and sewers – transformed both the city and the experience of city living, as London expanded in every direction.

Now, Judith Flanders, one of Britain’s foremost social historians, explores the world portrayed so vividly in Dickens’ novels, showing life on the streets of London in colorful, fascinating detail. From the moment Charles Dickens, the century’s best-loved English novelist and London’s greatest observer, arrived in the city in 1822, he obsessively walked its streets, recording its pleasures, curiosities, and cruelties.

Now, with him, Flanders leads us through the markets, transport systems, sewers, rivers, slums, alleys, cemeteries, gin palaces, chop-houses, and entertainment emporia of Dickens’ London, to reveal the Victorian capital in all its variety, vibrancy, and squalor.

SPOILERS AHEAD

It is not necessary to know about the Victorian Era in order to enjoy the steampunk genre. However, authors of steampunk novels, short stories, or other works of fiction should have a familiarity with the norms and conventions of the culture. This is especially true if their works are set in an alternate version of the 19th Century. The historical details—both large and small—which help bring the story to life for their readers. Having a grasp of the basics of the era will also help a writer create a sharper contrast when he/she develops a story world that differs from the historical record.

For instance, dirigibles/airships are common elements in modern steampunk novels. Such modes of transport went out of favor after the spectacular explosion of the Hindenberg. Yet steampunk novels rarely refer explicitly to the potential of these ships to explode. More often than not, the ship is depicted in everyday use. Steampunk authors domesticate a technology that has proven devastating to human life, and in doing so establish a firm contrast between the real world and their story worlds. Without knowing the history of airships, though, would their incorporation into the steampunk world be considered so subversive?

Flanders’s novel provides intricate detail about life in Victorian England during the span of Charles Dickens’s life. It addresses many of the aspects that modern people take for granted. For example, how did people manage to wake up on time without the benefit of an alarm clock? How did the poor and middle-class citizens navigate the city of London? Which city professions were effected by harsh weather? How and why did the slums flourish? How was the grass cut in the city squares? What did farmers do when they wanted to sell fresh milk in town without any type of refrigeration? What happened to all of the human waste created by the inhabitants? This is a smattering of the type of questions Flanders addresses in her work.

The Victorian City delves into the history of the era and provides a good base for any writer interested in creating a steampunk novel with Victorian undertones. I recommend it as a great place to start your research. Flanders provides a thorough snapshot. Whether discussing the daily life of a laborer, explaining the science behind the poor air/water quality, or presenting the causes and effects of violence/protests in the streets, the author uses enough details to bring the subject to life. The book is available in print, ebook, and audio versions.

Steampunk Cosplay at the 2017 AN Fashion Show

One of the best things about being a Cosplayer is getting to do cool things with amazing people!  A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of participating in the steampunk section of the fashion show at Anime North and I had a blast!

Photo Credit: Kevin Hodgson Photography

These kinds of events are always exciting for both participants and audience members because you get to see the costumes people are most proud of, and the characters they’ve created! Each of the participants wore something that exemplified their passion for their art, and each was the product of hard work and diligent care.

As a general review, the event was well run and well attended. Instructions for where to go, what to do and when to do it were provided in detail well in advance, and upon arrival it was easy to tell that the organizers had put a lot of thought and effort into creating something that would run smoothly. Being part of it was fun, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

The part I’m most excited to share with you is, of course, the costumes! It was really neat to see the variety of costumes the participants wore, and the different ways they each expressed themselves through steampunk.  One participant was wearing a dress inspired by a character from her favourite steampunk novel, and another did a stunning version of Wonder Woman.  Several of the participants incorporated their cultures as well. There was a gentleman who included traditional Indian garments into his outfit and a woman who adorned herself with a variety of Persian prints. Others created their own characters like a wind up doll and a circus ringleader.

Photo Credit: Kevin Hodgson Photography

Each of these costumes was beautiful and unique, and it was really cool to learn about how each one was put together. Some of the cosplayers had made their entire outfits from scratch, and others had created a steampunk character by combining clothing they already had with some unique steampunk touches. There were several people who wore a mixture of items they found pre-made and things they had made themselves. While some of the participants showed some fantastic sewing skills, seeing the costumes at an event like this is a great reminder that you don’t need to be able to sew to create a great steampunk outfit.

The showpiece that wrapped our section was a full steampunk suit made of various tubes and mechanisms. Instead of sewing, this cosplayer had spent months collecting various objects and garments from thrift shops, and then tearing them into parts, painting them, and putting them together into various contraptions on his suit, and he had even created a stunning weapon for his character to carry.  

In addition to meeting these artists and learning about the works they created, it was a treat to see how each person showed off their character and their hard work on stage. The wind up doll danced, the ring leader cracked his whip and the steam suited cosplayer crept around the stage with his gun in hand.  

This was a great event and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to meet more steampunk cosplayers, and learn about their individual takes on this genre.

 

Amanda Groulx is an avid fan of many genres whose favourite way of showing her passion is through cosplay. She loves to spend time working on new pieces with her friends, and is part of an award winning group of costumers. When she’s not participating in Fandoms, Amanda is employed in Broadcasting and enjoys cooking and writing.   You can find Amanda’s cosplay on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/modernmythscosplay/

Monstress: Awakening

Authors: Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
Release: July 16, 2016
Series: Monstress
Genre: Steampunk | Horror | Dark Fantasy
Edition: Kindle
Pages: 192
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

I picked up a copy of Monstress because I liked the look of the artwork—a mixture of art-deco-influenced steampunk and manga—and I was intrigued by the storyline. It’s set in an alternate version of Asia in the 1900s where humans, animal-hybrids called Arcancs, and other magical races, inhabit the world. And Neil Gaiman calls it “a beautifully told story of magic and fear”. This was enough to convince me to give it a try.
The writer, Marjorie Liu, is the author of several comics, including X-23, Black Widow, Dark Wolverine, and Astonishing X-Men. She has been nominated for a GLADD Media Award for outstanding media images of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The illustrator, Sana Takeda, worked on X-23 and Ms. Marvel for Marvel Comics.

SPOILERS AHEAD
In a post-war society, Arcanics are hunted and sold into slavery by the Federation of Man. The Cumaea, powerful witch-like humans, dissect the Arcanics for a lillum, a substance that is only produced in their bodies. Maika Halfwolf, a 17 year old Arcanic, survived the war and found that she possessed a powerful magical ability that she does not understand—one that only comes out when she is in mortal danger. She chooses to sell herself into slavery in order to infiltrate a Cumean stronghold, free the other slaves, and gain a measure of revenge against the witches. While enacting her plan, Maika encounters fragments of an ancient and powerful mask that even the witches fear. The mask, it seems, is part of her history and her second contact with it radically changes her life. Now she is on the run from her own people as well as the Cumaea and does not know who to trust, or how to control the power growing inside of her.

Providing everything from the pencil sketches to the colors, Takeda’s artwork is stunning. The mise-en-scène on each page is an absolute marvel. A reader could get lost simply gazing at the intricate backgrounds. It provides a good grounding for the story world that Liu has created.

And the world is complicated. It would be easy to get lost in the story-threads. But Liu does not lead the readers through the story by the hand, although the lectures at the end of certain chapters by Professor Tam Tam, former First Record-Keeper of the Is’Hami Temple and Learned Contemporary of Namron BlackClaw, help to fill in any gaps. (Yes—he’s a magical talking kitty with four tails. Don’t let that throw you.) Instead there is a deliberate progression through scenes and situations that let the story (and the world) unfold slowly. This helps present the world more as a living mythology rather than a cardboard setting where events simply take place. There is a nuance to each scene that leads readers deeper into the mythology and creates a sense that this is a real place with a definite history.

Monstress has a unique structure, epic battles, and an intriguing storyline. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys steampunk, horror, and dark fantasy. Some of the artwork is graphic in nature, so I would recommend caution for the younger crowd. This comic is definitely meant for adults.