A few years ago I had lunch with a coworker who is now a dear friend. Steampunk and costuming came up in the conversation, and I clearly remember her telling me that she’d been collecting pieces, but couldn’t dress up in steampunk because she didn’t have any goggles yet.
I remember how surprised I was by the concept that you “must” have certain things in order to participate, and we ended up having a great conversation about building our own unique characters who fit into what we wanted to wear or what we had.
For people who are new to costuming fitting into an expectation or a certain character profile can be staggering. If you’ve been to a convention you’ve seen that irritating but vocal minority of fans who enjoy picking apart costumes. I’ve overheard things like “Your cape isn’t the right shade of red” and “your hair isn’t blonde enough to be that character.” While most people in the cosplay community are not like that at all, it only takes one jerk to intimidate a new or an aspiring costumer into feeling insecure.
I think one of the coolest things about steampunk, and steampunk costuming is that there is no true right or wrong. Imitating a specific comic or movie means that the character you’re cosplaying has already been designed by someone else. In steampunk you have the freedom to make your own character, and dress that character however you like. What is steampunk cannon? It’s a genre that’s been inspired so by many different authors and artists, and new steampunk material is being written, drawn and filmed every day. Each of these steampunk inspirations is different, and have their own versions of the world. With that in mind, there’s no way to do it wrong, just an unlimited number of ways to do it your way.
If you want to wear a classy skirt and military jacket, do it. Think of a character who might need to use both. If you want to incorporate something a little more modern into your outfit, do it. You’re from a world that’s more technologically advanced, or you’re a character who can travel through time or dimensions. If you want to wear a tutu, do it. A steampunk ballerina would be beautiful.
It’s all about creating a costume that works for YOU, and that you feel comfortable in. In an environment based on fiction, there’s no way your story can be wrong.
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/
I’ve mentioned before that I am obsessed with steampunk anime and JRPGs, so I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover DreamersEcho, a comic that combines steampunk, anime, and JRPG storytelling. Unfortunately I’m still on a self-inflicted Kickstarter ban(my credit card was starting to get angry at me), but I reached out to creator Jet Falco and was lucky enough to secure an interview. I hope you’ll find it as fascinating as I did!
Welcome to the Steampunk Cavaliers, Jet! Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
Thanks for having me on Steampunk Cavaliers, Dianna!
Name’s JetFalco. I’m mainly an artist, writer, and musician, though I’ve been known to dabble in the worlds of cosplaying, video production, and most recently, 3D printing! I’ve found a few ways to intertwine some of those random skills into a little adventure comic inspired by steampunk and Japanese role-playing games. I’m pleased to present to you the very first. . .
Can you tell us a bit more about the characters of DreamersEcho?
The characters are where the roots of this adventure take hold. Allow me to introduce you to a young man named Falco, and his two friends, Roz and Wulfi. They’ve been hard at work in hopes of finding a decent job in their hometown, the cliffside port town of Lufe Cape. Falco studied as a shipbuilder’s apprentice while serving the remainder of a work sentence in the mines. Roz and Wulfi are both training to enter the town Guard. All three young adults are gearing up for a big day tomorrow, when the graduation trials will decide if they’re cut out for the occupations they desire.
Falco, Roz, and Wulfi have stuck together since they were kids.
Falco can tend to be a bit forgetful and sleepy. It’s tough work balancing academy studies, serving at the mines, and sleepless nights putting together his airship for the trials. There’s one thing he can’t stand: failure. Since before he can remember, it’s like life is just a setup for one failure after another. At least he has friends to keep him sane.
Roymund Wulfiore, or Wulfi for short, is the son of the Admiral of the Guard, which pretty much guarantees a spot after the trials. His “silver spoon” makes him a pretty carefree guy, and maybe he tends to drink a bit much if the occasion calls for it. He’s known to make rash decisions and can turn into quite the mess from time to time. But he always stands up for his friends. He’s known Falco and Roz since day one of academy.
Roz, short for Rosalyn, has always been a fighter. She finds it hard to trust the men in town. Rumor has it, there’s a reason why she wears belts around her arms instead of the academy-standard training gauntlets. Some say it has a connection to her distrust of men. Regardless, Roz isn’t gonna tell you. She’s about as distant as a girl can get. It doesn’t help that Wulfi has been crushin’ hard on her since they were kids.
Seated at the center of our tale, they’ll soon find that the graduation trials and their futures may be put on hold as they’re forced to embark on an epic adventure. A great deal of supporting and antagonizing characters soon find their way into the cast, each establishing their own deep connections with these three.
What part of the story came to you first?
As a young writer, I fell for the classic formula, “kid wakes up, problem hits, adventure begins,” but it was long overdue for a good, healthy twist! Lost in thought for many nights, I designed characters, plotted out the world, but I hit a wall. I just couldn’t pen a script with a twist I felt was worthy. So I took some classic advice my parents gave me and I slept on it… and wouldn’t ya know, the twist came to me as I woke from a dream. Almost as if this “kid woke up, problem hit hard, adventure began.” The irony never sleeps in my house.
I thought, what if the twist is the world itself? What if the entire thing was just a dream? Of course the first thought that follows is the classic “it was all a dream” trope, sure. Then why not take it a step further? And by further… I mean take it a step back. Confused yet? Well it’s all revealed and explained in the prologue/Chapter Zero, in which existence itself is realized to be nothing more than a dream, and our main guy finally gets his second chance after the biggest failure of a lifetime. I mean that quite literally. The biggest failure of a LIFETIME. You’ll see.
How long did it take you to get from original idea to finished script for Volume 1?
The answer is quite simple: 15 years. That first inkling that birthed DreamersEcho came from a much younger me. I wasn’t always the fancy cosplaying-youtubing-fool JetFalco you see nowadays. The concept stage started in 7th and 8th grade. By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I had penciled a rough Chapter 1, got feedback from my peers, and a second draft of that chapter came out 2 years after that! A decade of growing passed, and DE took a backseat for quite some time. But as anyone will tell you, you never forget your first. DE was always in my mind, and I was always jotting down ideas and penciling new characters and designs. The finished script of Volume 1 finally made its way onto my laptop screen in late 2015!
At what point did you decide to give DreamersEcho a soundtrack?
I’ve always been fascinated with creating. I started comics in 2nd grade. Music quickly took hold in middle school. Before I knew it, I found myself becoming somewhat of a singer/songwriter, forging acoustic rock and techno beats like any other weird kid in the nineties/early 2000s. But the eternal tug-of-war with my first love was always there. With the launch of the DE Vol. I Kickstarter, I finally wed the two in what is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do. Had I known that my two loves were courting each other behind my back, I would’ve done this way earlier. LOL.
When I started the volume you see now, I listened to epic orchestral soundtracks to keep my pen hand motivated. It’s truly amazing how the right music can take anything you’re doing and ascend it to new heights, creating a brand new experience in the process. I definitely think DE deserves that same experience. Now I’m working with a couple of friends to produce a fantastic set of tracks to help create an atmosphere to bring your reading experience to the next level.
Your art style is obviously heavily influenced by JRPGs. What are some of your favourites?
Most adventure-style games in general, always continue to leave an imprint on my creation process. I can’t go without saying the biggest ones out there: Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda have definitely come up in conversations with fans of DE, with the former being a huge influence. Final Fantasy has elements of steampunk: huge airships and weapons with pipes and steam and the like, but I find its execution is quite unique: it manages to create an epic adventure without actually feeling a full-fledged steampunk adventure. The steam influence is there, but it manages to create something completely new from it all… and that’s kind of the direction I’m taking my story. I believe steampunk to be one of the most exciting and extraordinary styles and it’s always an honor to try an incorporate it into my work in any way I can.
A few others that left their mark on my work: Chrono Cross/Chrono Trigger which give kind of a “futuristic-calypso-steam” vibe, WildARMs which is more of a western-steam tone, and a newer one called I am Setsuna, which has one of the most unique art/play styles I’ve seen yet. Just to name a few! It’s always interesting to see the different crossroads of style JRPGs try out. What can I say? I love me some good adventure! Other than JRPGs, what are some of your biggest artistic influences?
Many have said my style is a great blend between American and anime, and I really can’t argue! It didn’t stop with games. I’ll have a little fun with this and try to name a western influence for every Japanese one:
Ghibli/Miyazaki adventure films hold a spot in my heart. The art of the late great Michael Turner always hits a home run. He created one of my favorite adventure comics of all time, Soulfire. Akira Toriyama is his anime counterpart for me. I’ll always love his character design and stories in things like Chrono Trigger and DragonBall. I grew up in The Matrix generation, so I’m one of those kids who’ll always wonder if life is a computer program (lol), but like those kids, I always find it’s a great source of inspiration. Steins;Gate is an anime I cannot stop thinking about. It’s weaving, almost migraine-inducing plotlines always boggle me and tempt me to make my story as complex! I seem to find myself drawn to comedies as well, but not like you’d expect. A few examples from each side of the world: the American cartoon Clarence has me rofl’ing and the anime Prison School had me in tears. I try to incorporate a little light-hearted joke or two in my stories. A good example of style of comedy I aim for is found in my favorite cartoon of all time, Over the Garden Wall. To top it all off, I’d say Tolkien and the epic scale of Lord of the Rings can never cease to inspire and amaze me. Come to think of it if Clarence and Lord of the Rings had a baby, it would be Over the Garden Wall. So much great inspiration out there!
DreamersEcho is funding on Kickstarter right now. After the Kickstarter, what are your next steps?
Whew, great question. One thing they never tell ya is how draining running a Kickstarter campaign can be! I never thought I would be doing so much work! In fact, just this past weekend, I finished the art for the book cover, and I’m collaborating with an extremely skilled map artist to help me flesh out the world of DreamersEcho once and for all! It’s gonna look superb. Both the color cover and the map will be available as posters for fundraising rewards!
So to answer your question, I have no doubt working on the rewards will take a bit of time. I still meet weekly with my music collaborators on the soundtrack as each song is churned out, and I continue to write new melodies and beats every day. The soundtrack alone is definitely going to be worth the wait.
And after all the Kickstarter odds and ends get wrapped up, I’ll hopefully have Volume 2 started and available to read! I’m really excited for this volume. Volume 1 was just the kick-off; it got things started, the world introduced, and teased the reader enough. Volume 2 is going to be much more exciting, to say the beast. Oop. Did I say beast? Oh, it would seem that I did… Oh well, leave it. It’s the perfect hint at where Volume 2 is headed. 😉
Sounds like an exciting, if exhausting, time lies ahead! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us! How can readers support DreamersEcho?
I am truly honored to have the DreamersEcho: Volume 1 SoundComic featured on Steampunk Cavaliers. People can support DreamersEcho AND get a whole bunch of awesome rewards by backing the Kickstarter campaign. We’re already halfway to funding and thrilled to see the outpouring of support for this project. Thank you so much!
Walking into a convention is like walking into a different world. You step outside of your day to day to join so many others who are both like and unlike you as you celebrate something you enjoy. You have the opportunity to walk around and observe, to meet new people, to shop, and to participate in all sorts of fan activities. There are people at these events taking a chance to be their true selves without judgement, and others who become characters they love, acting or dressing up to show their passion.
For those of us who have been doing this for a while, conventions and their quirks are normal, freeing, home. For someone new to the scene these events can also be overwhelming. So many of the people on the con floor seem to have this world figured out and that can be intimidating to someone new to the experience. Steampunk especially, has its own unique style, and steampunkers in costume tend to appear put together. My own experience when I started looking into this unique fandom was to gawk and the amazing corseted dresses and fantastically detailed props, and think that as beautiful as it was – it was never something I’d be able to do. I thought you needed to be very advanced to make a corset, or steampunk jacket and my skills just didn’t add up. These people must not only be extremely talented (true), they would never want to talk to little ol’ gluegun-weilding, anime nerd, halloween costume making me (false).
Over time I’ve had the chance to meet so many people within the steampunk and cosplay communities, and I’ve learned that they are both open and welcoming to new people and excited to share what they’ve learned in costume creation. Within hours of my first steampunk event (an art opening a friend was featured in) I’d been given suggestions for thrifting my first costume pieces, been invited to more events, and had pattens suggested to me. I lucked out and stumbled upon some experienced and talented costumers who were willing to teach me and while I still have SO much to learn, I’m finally at a stage where I’m starting to be able to show some of what I’ve learned to newer costumers too.
This community is amazing. The people in it are fantastic. I am so grateful to the people who have taken their time and had the patience to show me what I’ve learned so far. I am even more grateful for the knowledge that, with the help of those wonderful friends, I will continue to learn and grow as a costumer. I am living proof that with a little support, anyone who wants to participate in steampunk costuming can get started, and create something to be proud of. I’ve met people who draft and sew full gowns from scratch and people who go to Value Village and turn curtains and a tablecloth into a beautiful skirt without even owning a sewing machine. All you need to do is just take that first step. Wonder up to that fancy looking steampunk table at your next con, and introduce yourself. You’ll make some friends, and get some tips… you never know just how far that first step can take you.
Over the course of this series I’d like to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned from other costumers. Many of the things I’ve learned as an adult getting into costuming are things that seem like common sense to people who have been sewing since childhood. I can still remember some of the jaw drop moments my friends have had while looking at how I think something is made, and the solutions they’ve taught me. You’re never to old to start learning, you don’t need to already know how to sew to create a great costume. There are so many wonderful resources available, and I hope to be a tiny tiny one of them!
See you on the con floor,
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/
I’ve spent so much time organizing and editing all the great photos I got at the Grand Canadian Steampunk Expo that I’m posting this much later in the day than planned, but I’m still just as excited to share all these wonderful things with you as I was when I began–and I’d like to start with a little story about Death. No, not the inevitable doom of our mortal bodies(and souls depending on who you ask), but the wonderful, fully posable replica you see sitting on my shelf.
There are probably millions of variations on the grim reaper, but this replica isn’t just any grim reaper. It’s Terry Pratchett’s Death, his version of the grim reaper and one of the most memorable fixtures of the Discworld series. Right from the beginning Death is one of Pratchett’s strongest–and most amusing–characters. He’s also a uniquely lighthearted portrayal of something most of us fear.
Some of you are probably aware that my dad passed away when I was only 12 years old and that I’ve had a bit of an obsession with death since then. I’ve read and watched dozens of stories with different interpretations of the grim reaper, and throughout all those stories, Terry Pratchett’s Death has remained my favourite. So when I saw this replica I simply had to buy it–and put it on my shelf the moment I got home, right beside my miniature Iron Throne(no, I wasn’t actually thinking about the irony there when I did it).
Of all the things I saw at the Grand Canadian Steampunk Expo–and even out of all the things I bought–I have to say this replica of Terry Pratchett’s Death is my favourite, an item I will cherish for many years to come, along with all my Discworld books.
But there were many other beautiful things and now that I’ve finished my story I’d like to show you some of them:
Two weekends ago I volunteered at the Grand Canadian Steampunk Expo, the largest steampunk event in the eastern half of Canada(we don’t talk about the western half; it’s cheaper to fly to Europe) and one I had been looking forward to all year.
I’ve been to quite a few conventions over the years(my first was FanExpo 2008) but this one was totally unlike any of them, and not only because it was a steampunk event. It also took place in Fort George, which was the headquarters of the Centre Division of the British Army in the war of 1812. There isn’t exactly an abundance of truly important historical sites in Canada, and many of the ones we do have–like old residential schools–don’t exactly make me proud of our history, but Fort George is a definite exception. Continue reading “The Grand Canadian Steampunk Expo Part One”
Here at The Steampunk Cavaliers we are committed to supporting steampunk creators of all kinds. I in particular am in love with the steampunk aesthetic and all the different ways people use it, so I’m thrilled to be introducing today’s guest, Madeleine Holly-Rosing, who has written a beautiful graphic novel called Boston Metaphysical.
Can you tell us a bit about Boston Metaphysical?
A six issue steampunk supernatural graphic novel, the story is about an ex-Pinkerton detective, a spirit photographer and a genius scientist who battle supernatural forces in late 1800’s Boston. Think “Steampunk X-Files.” I’m the writer. Emily Hu is my artist and Gloria Caeli and Fahriza Kamaputra are the colorists. When did you first come up with the idea for Boston Metaphysical?
It was originally a TV Pilot that I wrote in the MFA Program for Screenwriting at UCLA. The story itself came from my love of history, science fiction and, The X-Files, of course.
Did you set out to write a steampunk story or did the story just evolve that way?
No, I started out writing a straight up period detective drama. It was a friend of mine in class who suggested I could develop the story in a steampunk world. I had heard of steampunk, but didn’t know a lot about it at the time. So, I did a lot of research and reading and decided he was right. I then redeveloped it with a steampunk sensibility in mind.
What makes Boston Metaphysical stand out from other steampunk stories?
Probably its use of such iconic characters like Bell, Edison, Tesla and Houdini. It also deals with social issues that some steampunk stories tend to ignore or gloss over. And don’t forget Granville Woods who existed during that time period as well though he’s gotten lost in history which is a shame. If you don’t know, he sued Edison for stealing some of his patents and won. At San Diego Comic Con, a former law student came to my table and knew all about Granville except for the fact that he was African-American. She had read Granville’s brief that her professor had retrieved from the National Archives and told us his case helped set the stage of the precedents for what became our copyright/patent laws today! I thought that was pretty cool.
Who are some of your favorite steampunk creators?
Beth Cato, Shelly Adina, Cherie Priest, The Foglios, Greg Rucka. There’s more, but I’m blanking right now. What is the most interesting thing about steampunk to you?
I love how it’s the perfect marriage of my love of history and science fiction. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?
I’ve just finished a short story about Duncan the ghost (a character in both the comic and the novellas) that will be part of an anthology next year and I’m starting the first Boston Metaphysical Society novel. We hope to do 32 page one shot comic stories in the future as well.
The writer/creator of Boston Metaphysical Society comic (the recipient of an Honorable Mention at the 2013 GEEKIE AWARDS and nominated for Best Comic/Graphic Novel at the 2014 GEEKIE AWARDS, among other nominations) Madeleine is also a TV, feature film and soon to be novelist. Winner of the Sloan Fellowship for screenwriting, and the Gold Aurora and Bronze Telly for a PSA produced by Women In Film, she has also won numerous awards while completing the UCLA MFA Program in Screenwriting. In addition, Madeleine teaches a Kickstarter class for independent creators at Pulp Fiction Books in Culver City and has published the book, Kickstarter for the Independent Creator.
The Attack of the Alien Automaton By Christopher MacRaven
Many eyes saw what they thought was a shooting star streak across the night sky. What they really beheld was a scout ship from Venus, an alien planet populated solely by automatons, as it entered Earth’s atmosphere. The supply of metals was dwindling and they were searching for a close-by planet rich in brass and copper to propagate their race. The planet being populated was of no consequence to them
The deadly alien automaton, KS1341-D was the pilot of the scout ship.
Her mission was to search for and destroy all threatening technology. Once the Earth was purged of all threats, she was programmed to then signal the waiting alien armada, and usher in an interplanetary war of epic proportions. However, as she scanned and absorbed earthling knowledge, KS1341-D became enamored with Victorian sensibilities and human emotions. Newly self-aware, she attempted to overwrite her programming in the hopes she could save humanity from invasion. Unfortunately, this tinkering released a subscript deep within her data core, directing her to begin the annihilation of all life on Earth.
Her first target was Emerald Point, a coastal city that was second to Capital City only in size. It was home to the military training academy and therefore made an excellent beginning point. In the ensuing battle, the city’s defenders threw everything they had at the alien invader to no avail. In short order she destroyed the academy and moved on to the military base further inland.
Lady May Fitzgeoffery-Bannister came from a long line of business Aristocracy who made their money from the manufacture and sale of firearms.
Fitzgeoffery-Bannister Munitions had been the company that the military had called on for decades. Currently, Lady May’s father, Lord William ran the company while she handled the sales and delivery side of the business. As soon as the military saw that their current weapons were having no effect on the automaton, the General called on Lord William to send them a large consignment of their most powerful armaments. Lady May took the order and delivered the shipment.
When she arrived, the battle was already raging and the army was not faring well. The Alien Automaton just powered through each assault. It was carrying a large weapon of brass and copper with spinning barrels of death, discharging electrical energy with devastating results.
Seeing the large caravan of trucks, the Automaton turned its attention to the new threat. Powering up its weapon, it took aim at the newly arrived munitions. When the energy blast hit the crates of guns and other armaments, they exploded in a fiery conflagration. Those not consumed by the flames were thrown to the ground, their clothes torn and burning.
Walking in the flames, the Automaton found the unconscious body of Lady May. Seeing her as a source of information, she took her back to her ship and clothed her in some of her own garments. When May awoke, she played along till she could escape and then made her way to Capital City to warn Brigadier General Abbotts- Brackenridge of the impending attack by the alien menace.
Maud Abbotts-Brackenridge had grown up in a military family and when she was of age she followed in their footsteps.
By the time she was 25 she had risen through the ranks and became a Brigadier General. She was given command of the Home Guard based in Capital City and was charged with protecting the country from all threats, both foreign and domestic.
When Lady May arrived, arrayed in her silver clothing, the General was not too keen to hear her story but she finally consented and heard her out. When apprised of the situation she knew she had to call on her old friend Professor Ravenscroft. If any man on Earth could make weapons to defeat the alien’s formidable death ray, it would be him.
Phineas T. Ravenscroft attended university in Capital City. While there, he learned all there was to know of electricity, chemistry, steam, gears, sprockets and metals. He used steam, clockwork and Tesla power, combined with his knowledge of chemistry, to create some truly fantastic weapons, among other mysterious devices. The constabulary and the government had taken notice of him and his creations, and called on him many times to help them out of sticky situations. They knew who to contact when the times were dark and dire.
After contacting him via the Trans-Aether Communications Array that he had provided for just such occasions, Maud and Lady May headed out to meet him at his laboratory.
The Professor was making any needed adjustments to the weapons displays when he heard a knock at the door of the Laboratory. After welcoming his guests, he showed them to the room where his latest weapons were stored in glass-fronted cabinets. The ladies were delighted with Professor Ravenscroft’s newest designs.
They asked the professor why the weapons previously used had had no effect on the alien craft or the automaton. He explained that any weapon utilizing gunpowder would be useless against her armaments. The way to defeat metal machines, he stated, was with electricity and magnetism. He then proceeded to demonstrate his various creations which made use of those forces, from the largest energy weapon, The Maelstrom, to the smaller pistol styles like “The Crystalline Electro-Pistol”. It was decided that the Professor would supply them with all his largest weapons, The Maelstrom, The Discombobulater Mark 1 and The Weapon of Brass Destruction and would personally join them in their plan to confront and defeat the alien.
So, fully armed with the Professor’s latest technology, they headed out to meet the alien menace. By the time they arrived at the coordinates that Lady May had obtained from her time of captivity, it was well past midnight and the super moon was in full effect. They watched as the scout ship slowly circled and then landed in the valley below and the deadly alien automaton, KS1341-D emerged from the craft. To say that she was frightening as she crested the hill with the full moon behind her would be an understatement. Her brass weapon was glinting as the barrels spun in readiness and her demeanor was grim.
They approached the alien and demanded that she surrender to them but the automaton remained defiant. Instead of answering them, she opened fire. The air was filled with a red glow as her weapon discharged electrical blasts in all direction. Lady May and Maud dove away from each other and fired upon the automaton simultaneously. She was bathed in a green and red glow as the electrical energy released from their weapons wreaked havoc upon her systems.
It was clear from her unsteady walk that one of her control circuits had been damaged. Professor Ravenscroft quickly moved in to push their advantage. He fired The Maelstrom, which hit her weapon, rendering it useless. The Automaton tried to return fire, but was unable to, since the power source had been drained.
All three heroes fired again. The combined blast sent KS1341-D flying through the air.
She landed with an ominous sound of twisting metal. With her circuits damaged she lost many functions and ended up ignominiously sitting at the feet of the three heroes, sparks randomly shooting out from her joints and armaments
A few days later the ladies again went to visit the Professor. They spent their time over tea, discussing the future ramifications of the alien armada that was awaiting the signal to attack. It was decided that a peace treaty should be put to them, facilitating good will between Earth and Venus. Would the race of automatons accept the offer of peace? That is a tale for another day.
Model, styling: Professor Ravenscroft ~ FB Lord.MacRaven
As a blogger(I also blog about writing and occasionally review blogs on my own website) I think it’s incredibly important for me to support diversity in the arts. Other bloggers spend a lot of time talking about why we need diverse characters but still end up reviewing almost entirely books about straight white people, often because those are the books that have the marketing dollars and review copies.
There are a few reasons for this. One is that these books are almost exclusively published by small publishers or self published and the mainstream media actively ignores small press/self published books unless they sell 100,000 copies in six months or do something equally impressive. Another is that the mainstream media is made up mostly of straight white folks who naturally gravitate to stories they identify more closely with.
Unfortunately I don’t have the power to make the mainstream media focus on these books, but there is something I can do: deliberately spotlight them on my blog and share them all over social media. I might not have a massive following but I know every voice helps, especially for authors who are just starting out. Even if nobody follows the buy link from my interview or review, the simple fact that I cared about these books can keep the authors going. Writing is a hard business fraught with emotional peril and every single kind word helps.
I think steampunk is a particularly great genre for diverse stories because of the combination of the severe conservatism of the Victorian era with steam technology. New technology often brings with it new ethical questions and even new morals. Introducing these to the Victorian era is a lot of fun.
The Victorian era was also a fascinating historical period no matter where you were in the world. Most of the steampunk I’ve encountered is set in the UK or a quite similar original world, but there are interesting historical stories to explore everywhere–and countries where steam technology would have made an even bigger impact. Frankly, I’m tired of reading repackaged England. Give me some European stories, some Japanese stories, some Indian stories, stories from places I haven’t even heard of.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been debating a change to my review policy both here and on my main blog(where I usually only take requests from authors whose work I’ve enjoyed before). Accepting books for review is a nerve wracking endeavor because I’ve made a commitment to only review books I love but finding the authors who most need reviews on my own isn’t easy. So I’ve decided to create a new review policy:
I will ONLY accept review requests for books with people of colour or LGBTQ+ protagonists. If your steampunk novella/novel has a POC or LGBTQ+ protagonist please email email@example.com a review request with the title of your book and a blurb.
I’ve already got my first diverse novel and I’m looking forward to reading more. Tell me about the diverse books you love!
Today I’d like to introduce you to Radek Koncewicz of Incubator Games, an indie video game company from my home city, Toronto. He and the rest of the Incubator Games team are currently working on a steampunk strategy that is still in development but already looks beautiful.
Check out the trailer:
Want to know more? Read the actual interview:
Can you tell us a bit about Trudy’s Mechanicals?
Trudy’s Mechanicals is a turn-based strategy game set aboard a giant steampunk dirigible. In the world of Trudy, the surface lands have long ago been abandoned due to severe pollution from coal-burning furnaces. The survivors fled above the toxic clouds, mechanizing themselves in the process — replacing various body parts with machinery — in order to survive in the oxygen-poor environments.
Over the ages, a strife developed between the lower class Mechanicals and the nobility who remained “pure” and human. Despite strict rationing and enforced labour, the magnates enjoyed a lavish existence while the poor toiled with no rewards in sight, and a great gulf developed between the social classes. Throughout the course of the game, the player fights in ever-escalating battles between the two sides in an attempt to topple the oppressors, reveal the airship’s true origins, and discover the fate of the surface world.
How did the idea for Trudy’s Mechanicals first come about?
Initially we simply wanted to create a strategy game, but limit it to something a small team could develop. Setting the action aboard an airship seemed like a good solution, and once we got to that point, making that airship a ramshackle, Steampunk contraption was a natural fit.
Secondly came the Mechanicals. For gameplay purposes, we needed a logical reason to imbue various fighters with unique abilities. Well, one day when I was coming home late from work, I rushed to a streetcar already waiting at its stop. As I ran up to the entrance, the driver turned to look at me, and then proceeded to close the doors and drive away. Furious that I now had to wait in the cold winter night for god knew how long, I began to muse over various revenge fantasies for the callous TTC employee. Eventually I came to the conclusion that a suitably grotesque punishment for someone so smug and petty would be to physically fuse him to his little seat of power, forcing him to operate the vehicle for all time.
As I calmed down, I realize that such a grotesque fate would actually be quite fitting for a Steampunk setting. Taking into consideration the harsh life that must exist aboard an overcrowded and resource-poor airship, we came up with various ideas for these Mechanizations. Some were fairly straightforward, like the Bruiser whose arms were replaced with pneumatic hammers to work on assembly lines, while others definitely more outlandish, like the Waspmonger whose torso was turned into a hive of insects constantly secreting precious serums and narcotics. This approach not only gave us the perfect excuse for various unit types, but also provided us with a motivation for the combatants themselves, i.e., rising up to topple the gentry that forced them into such fates.
Why did you decide to go with such a painterly art style for Trudy’s Mechanicals?
There were various technical, monetary, and marketing considerations that made us lean toward the style, but the major reason was much simpler: it was in line with our awesome artist’s personal style, and it effectively brought to life our somewhat unusual and offbeat ideas.
What makes Trudy’s Mechanicals different from other steampunk games?
I suppose the main difference is that not only did we embrace steampunk exclusively — there’s no typical fantasy/magic elements in Trudy — but that we also looked to more Slavic elements for the setting. We replaced top hats and brandies with fur caps and vodka liquors, and used Eastern European slang, traditions and customs as the backbone of society. Easter Egg like designs decorate the currency, music from accordions and balalaikas fills the streets, and the general “flavour” is more Slavic than Victorian.
What has been the biggest challenge of developing Trudy’s Mechanicals so far?
By far the biggest difficulty we’ve encountered is scope. Once we got the ball rolling on ideas, it was hard to stop despite the entire game being set aboard a single airship. Job types and economies, scientific theories and inventions, repurposed and newly-built locations, secrets histories and conspiracies, etc. We probably came up with a large enough lore-bible to last a couple of games!
With that said, the large pool of ideas helped to flesh out Trudy while keeping only the most fitting and impactful concepts. Even with our paired-down list, though, it was difficult to finalize various elements — there was always an extra visual effect to add, a texture to polish, etc.
Who are the steampunk artists/writers/creators who inspired Trudy’s Mechanicals?
Keith Thompson was definitely a huge visual inspiration for Trudy. His work on Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan series is simply breathtaking, and other pieces from his portfolio parallel the grotesque-steampunk look we imagined.
Tetsuya Tanaka is another artist our original illustrator recommended, and his detailed, ramshackle environments and fusions of man and machine helped us define our own concepts.
On the literary side of things, there’s tons of writers who dabble or specialize in steampunk — China Miéville, Cherie Priest, etc. — and a long history of the genre’s originators like Jules Verne. However, I don’t think there’s any specific leads or inspirations we took from their works. Instead, we basked in the genre of steampunk that they collectively helped to create. The single exception to this is Ted Chiang’s short story Exhalation. It’s a fantastic and intricate tale that takes a single concept and logically expands on it in a realistic fashion; something that’s a little rare in steampunk. It really struck a chord with me personally, and I tried to subtly emulate this approach in Trudy.
What do you think is the most interesting thing about the steampunk genre?
I imagine that everyone who’s a fan of Steampunk adores its aesthetics, but the more concrete elements that interested us the most were the failed theories and sciences. Aether and phlogiston are two popular examples, but there were many more: the odic force, recapitulation theory, phrenology, and so on. These concepts illustrate a world of possibilities that so greatly characterizes Steampunk, and we definitely indulged in treating these theories as fact. The endeavour made for some truly bizarre extrapolations, but also a certain internal consistency to the game world.
When can we expect to see Trudy’s Mechanicals available for sale?
Game developers are notoriously optimistic when it comes to completing milestones, so I’ll refrain from putting my foot in my mouth at this time.
You can sign up to be informed when Trudy’s Mechanicals comes out here.
I have only been involved with Steampunk since early 2014.
This involvement was thanks to a wonderful artisan/Steampunk advocate called Anne Marie Schlodder. She along with her silversmith daughter, Victoria, encouraged us to participate.
Thanks to her we showed up at an event called Steam On Queen, a local event in Toronto, celebrating all things Steam punk. this event was the Brainchild of the wonderful Adam Smith, seen in the midst of the event.
and again with some of his creations and his amazing helper, Syndi Berman
I quickly saw the huge potential for dressing up and dove into it full-tilt-boogie-band. I even got my husband to get involved.
This was taken at Steam On Queen in 2014 with our designer friend Emi .
Once of the nicest parts of getting involved is some of the super people I have met. Lord Christoper MacRaven and his lovely lady seen next.
The Pennys, Nerissa from SteamGummi designs, Archie from Mental Floss, this list goes on.
Nerissa and I below.
I’ll close with glimpses of the great event that was Steam on Queen, sadly not to be repeated.