• Category Archives Steampunk
  • Book Feature: Full Throttle by Jon Heartless

    It has been a while since I featured a Steampunk novel on this blog and even longer since I reviewed one, so it is about time I at least introduce you to one I foind very interesting:

    Full Throttle by Jon Heartless

    In an autocratic society that refuses to let her move forward, can Poppy stay ahead of the pack?

    As expensive steam-powered automobiles speed across the land, Poppy Orpington is trapped and going nowhere – until her father reveals his secret project, a petrol-fuelled car ready for the race track. But will they even be allowed to compete? Racing is the preserve of the wealthy elite and few will welcome a working class family onto their hallowed ground. Can Poppy overcome social prejudice and conformity, or will her one and only chance of a better life be crushed before it can even begin?

    Full Throttle; book one of a Steampunk motor racing adventure set in a world of division, intolerance and inequality that modern readers may find disturbingly familiar…

    A short excerpt to kindle your interest:

    The girls did as they were told and ran excitedly on to the quiet road. Behind them, Poppy’s father pulled open the inner doors and disappeared into the rear section of the workshop, where a faint outline of something tall and wide could be seen. After several moments silence, there was a faint whine of something mechanical waking up in the shadows. Small flashes of light, some red, some green, pierced the darkness. A second, deeper whine joined the first, while the red flashes disappeared. There was a pause of absolute calm, as though the world was holding its breath, before it abruptly exhaled with the ear-splitting roar of a huge engine bursting into life.

    This was no quiet cough and hiss of a steam-powered vehicle, no refined hum of a copper boiler releasing power into a turbine. This was a brutal, elemental roar of pure anger and power. Spurts of flame erupted on each side of the mysterious vehicle, the red fire briefly illuminating the outline of a huge radiator grill – a snarling mouth of aggression – almost as wide as it was tall. Two enormous headlights, like the eyes of some primeval monster glaring from its dark nest, were also briefly illuminated by the hellish flames.

    Amy let out a yelp of pure terror and leapt over a garden wall opposite the workshop. Poppy fought back against the impulse to flee, determined to see the beast, alarmed but also intently curious at what lay in the darkness. The tone of the engine changed, became louder and deeper, and with a fresh burst of flame on each side Thunderbus roared out from its nest, belching smoke and fire.

    Poppy gaped at the car; it was huge. She knew that cars used in races and continental touring were long and wide, but Thunderbus could eat them for breakfast – assuming it didn’t just melt them with the continual jets of flame coming from the exhaust ports on each side of the bonnet. Or shake them apart with the vibrations from the engine, which was causing the ground to tremble underneath Poppy’s legs.

    And here are a few words by Jon Heartless himself:

    I was inspired to write Full Throttle partly by the era of the Bentley Boys, (famous motor racing drivers of the 1920s) and partly to explore the vast gulf between the rich and the poor, and the manner in which opportunities are manifest for the former while being virtually non-existent for the latter. In this, I realised that a steampunk motor racing adventure was the perfect way of ‘hiding’ the socio-political parts of the novel. In short, I hope it both entertains but also provokes the reader just a little…


  • Non-Euclidean Æthercast #50: Steampunk Hands Around the World V: Road Trip

    Steampunk Hands Around the World is going into its fifth year and this year’s theme is  „Road Trip“.

    So, I have taken the opportunity to introduce you to a small number of locations which a Steampunk may want to visit in Germany. The road trip map turned out looking like that and even includes automatic locations for sleepovers:

     

    And these are the locations I am talking about in the podcast. Of course, the list is woefully incomplete:

    Hochbunker in Berlin (one example, German language)

    U-Boat Museum in Hamburg (website only available in German,sorry)

    Zeche Zollverein, Essen

    Suspension Monorail, Wuppertal

    Deutsches Museum, Munich

    Old Gasworks, Augsburg (only in German)

    Zeppelin Museum, Friedrichshafen

     


  • The Life Expectancy of Steampunk as a Subculture – Some Results

    The controversial post regarding the life expectancy of Steampunk versus the life expectancy of Cyberpunk keeps receiving feedback and a certain picture is forming which is encouraging for some parts of the world but rather disheartening for others.

     

    The Good:

    The scene is doing well in North America, the UK, and in the Netherlands. This is the sum of the feedback I have gotten from the Netherlands, Canada , Britain and the United States. And there will hoepfully be a podcast on the UK scene in late September or October, Cthulhu willing.

    The grievances I voiced (i.e. mainly older people in the scene, younger folks few and far between or missing) also do not apply there. In The Netherlands and the UK especially, teenagers and youth in their early 20s form a visible chunk of the scene.

    The scene in Portugal and Spain is also still active, but has shrunk somewhat compared to previous years.

     

    The Concerning:

    The rest of Europe seems to be in trouble. Not only did my friend Anja Bagus (to my knowledge Germany’s most successful Steampunk author) confirm my observations regarding events in Germany but my friend Dan Aetherman, the most prominent Steampunk in Switzerland, has written a blog post in response to my article (in German), in which he agrees with me and states the very same problems I mention are present in the Swiss scene.
    One possible explanation for this, as he writes, is, that the Swiss scene is maybe just a southern extension of the German scene and thus shares the problems. If this is so, then all the Swiss scene needs, is its own identity and I hope they will find it, because the German scene is more in trouble than I thought.

    Obviously, I got the most feedback from German Steampunks, since most of my contacts are in Germany and some of that feedback is cause for alarm.

    From what I learned, the scene in Germany is not only very fragmented and cliquey, there also seem to exist a noticable number of people who consider themselves the guardians or even lords and ladies of the scene and who actively keep newcomers out, if they do nt have the ressources (time, skill, money) to meet their arbitrarily declared standards of what a true Steampunk should do or wear.

    Also, I have not heard anything directly from France or Italy but have been informed that both scenes have first fragmented more than the German scene and then basically imploded.

    If anyone from France or Italy is reading this, please let me know if you have any first-hand knowledge.

     

    In Conclusion:

    It looks like the Steampunk scene is likely to continue for some time but simply not everywhere, which is rather sad, since it made such a good and strong start all across the world a few years back.

     


  • Will Steampunk actually outlive Cyberpunk? We discussed it on the Ætherweb

    My recent post where I argued Cyberpunk would in outlive Steampunk proved to be rather controversial. I have not had that many responses (via æthermail, Facebook and comments) to something I published on the blog in a while, like, years…
    Additionally, my friend Bonsart of Radio Retrofuture published a video on his Youtube channel in which he addressed my arguments and took the stance that Steampunk has the longer life expectancy, and made some very good poinst, which made me happy.

     

    In addition, he invited some notables of the Steampunk community, among them none other than the Airship Ambassador himself, and myself, to discuss the topic on air.

    If you missed it, it is now available on demand so to speak on Youtube as well:

    Seems like the stagnation and overaging is a German phenomenon but the scene is still going strong elsewhere in the world! Hurray!

     


  • I think Cyberpunk will literally outlive Steampunk

    Cyberpunk and Steampunk as literature genres are of literally (no pun intended) roughly the same age. In fact, K. W. Jeter coined the term Steampunk as a counter to Cyberpunk. This has been pointed out and explained on numerous occasions in the past, so I will not go into detail here.

    Cyberpunk has existed as a subgenere of science fiction in varoius media for a while now, but has always been somehwere on the edge, underground, out of sight, you get the idea. It is a subgenre and likely always will be.

    All in all, the various incarnations of Cyberpunk-themed works in media is quite extensive, as this (incomplete) list shows.

    But you do not find big Cyberpunk conventions nor dedicated Cyberpunk cosplayers in the same way you find Steampunk conventions and steampunked versions of various cosplays. Cyberpunk simply never became something the public or pop-culture focused on in the same way they focused on Steampunk.

    It may simply be because we live in Cyberpunk times. Many of the things that were written about in the Cyberpunk novels, novellas and short stories of the 1980’s and 1990’s have already come to pass and when you look at what high-tech computers were supposed to be capable of as described in the first edition rules of Shadowrun and what they can do now (although we are at the time of writing 33 years away from 2050), we have partially outpaced fiction already.

    Cyberpunk times in deed. And there is Cyberpunk fashion, by the way (sSteampunk does not have a monopoly there).

    And this is one of the reason (although it pains me a little to say it) why I think Cyberpunk is going to outlast and quite literally outlive Steampunk.

    Cyberpunk is the genre of now. Writers will for a long time coming take cues from the present, look into emerging technologies and weave their tales from the mix. The Expanse is a good example (which also picks up on some transhumanist ideas) of that.

    Steampunk on the other hand is by design stuck in a relatively small bracket as far as techology is concerned with little room to maneuver (unless you turn Steampunk into Steamfantasy and add some magic to the tech).

    And although there are tons of events going at the moment (the list is also incomplete), there are a few things that are hard to miss (as far as I can tell and it may well be different elsewhere):

    • There are very few Steampunks who consider Steampunk their primary subculture and who cannot be found elsewhere.
      Most Steampunks are also „general“ cosplayers, goths, LARPERs etc.
    • At least regarding my immediate contacts in the scene and the events I attend another thing stands out:
      The youth is missing. The most active steampunks I know are well into their 30s or even older and the few younger Steampunks who were active when the scene first made a big splash have mostly moved on into cosplay and other stuff
    • There are not many new faces when I visit dedicated Steampunk events (at least around here)

    The other thing with Cyberpunk outliving Steampunk is literally outliving. Because as far as I can see, the base age of Steampunks is old when compared to other subcultures and there seems to be very little new blood coming in, the scene might be in danger of quite literally dying out eventually.

    I hope it will still be some time until this happens but for some reason, Steampunk does not seem to attract a lot of today’s youth. At least not in Europe and especially not in Germany (where I attend most conventions for geographic reasons).

    Also: For the Steampunk scene the main focus appear to be the conventions and the literature is, while not a mere sideshow, not the primary playground of the subculture. It is very much a scene that likes to dress up and be seen. Once a convention dies, the incentive to be a Steampunk also goes away.

    Steampunk literature may stand the test of time (I hope so) and it might not be as dependent on events as other aspects of the subculture are.

    Cyberpunk has been going strong without very visible cosplay, conventions and other subculture events while Steampunk lives by and through these things but the people participating in these events do not appear to grow anymore, i.e. no new faces and hardly any youth.

    Steampunk may well be gone in 10 or 15 years if the trend continues, while all that Cyberpunk has to do is being at the edge of technology and tell tales about it for as long as there is an edge of technology.

    I hope I missjudge this. After all, Steampunk is hwat started this blog and if anyone of you has made different observations at events, please let me know!

     


  • Ætherhertz – A Genuinely Awesome German Steampunk Novel

    In the past I have on numerous occasions complained about the way Germany and Germans are portraied in Anglo-centric Steampunk fiction (i.e. the authors had a tendency of making the Germans a) the villains and b) Nazis with Pickelhauben).

    Now I have the great pleasure of presenting a genuine German Steampunk novel to you and an awesome one on top of that. Ætherhertz gives you a first-hand look into what Steampunk Germany could really have looked like, with an accurate depiction of what society in the time of the Kaiser really was like and with amazing attention to detail.

    Ætherhertz has of course been translated into English for your reading pleasure, I am not forcing you to read a book in German, do not worry.

    Ætherhertz is a splendid read, the German original (by the same name) is still the Steampunk novel I meassure all other German Steampunk novels against. The world feels real, has beautifu Steampunk and Steamfantasy elements in it and presents a Steampunk world from a very different perspective to the one you may be used to.

    No colonies, no big cities (Baden-Baden is a rather small town, even today) and no threats to the British Empire. This novel is about the people, and it spans the whole spectrum, high-society, the poor, the military, the criminals and all of the people feel real.

    But before I sing more praise for Æthehertz, here is a short synopsis from the author herself:

     

    Baden-Baden 1910

    Since the turn of the century, a substance called Æther is rising from the waters, and it is changing the world. A blessing for the industry, a curse for the people, for some of them are being transformed into creatures from fairy-tales and legends. The so-called »Corrupted« are haunting the green mists, and themselves hunted and locked up in jails or asylums.

    It is in these strange times, the story begins:
    In the famous spa town of Baden-Baden, young women are being poisoned by a mysterious substance. While investigating the case, Fräulein Annabelle Rosenherz uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the whole Grand Duchy of Baden.

    But Annabelle is in grave danger herself, she has secrets of her own, and while she tries to solve the murders, she finds rejection and people obsessed by power, but also love.

    A steampunk novel set in the beautiful town of Baden-Baden: Stroll with us under the brightly lit gas lanterns, wander along the Lichtenthaler Allee, past the stately casinos towards the first class hotels and fashionable gathering places of the high society, but also towards the perilous secrets thriving in the dark and the misty heights of the Black Forest.

    Look here if you want to know more, or contact the author about a free copy for a review: Ætherbooks on Facebook

    Now available in ebook format: Aetherworld

     

    So please, if you are interested in Steampunk from a different perspective than the regular British Empire or US-centric ones, give this one a read, you will not regret it!


  • Steampunk Writers Around the World – Volume I – OUT NOW!

    It seems ages ago when my friend Josue Ramos and others came up with the idea of assembling a group of Steampunk writers from all around the globe to work together on a truely international and culturally diverse Steampunk anthology.

    The project survived through the financial crisis, although it lost its original would-be publisher but was then adopted by Lunar Press.

    So finally, after more years than any of us would have thought, I am honored to reveal the Steampunk Writers Around the World  Volume I anthology. Hot off the presses, a July release by Lunar Press, of Edinburgh, Scotland.

     

    FOREWORD By Kevin Steil

     

    THE STORY OF YOUR HEART By Josué Ramos – Spain

    EL ALFÉREZ DE HIERRO By Fábio Fernandes – Brazil

    HEIRS By Marcus R. Gilman – Germany

    PÓLVORA Y VAPOR By Aníbal J. Rosario Planas – Puerto Rico

    PROVIDENCE IN THE PACIFIC By Ray Dean – Hawaii

    LAS CADENAS INFINITAS By César Santivañez – Peru

    THE SWARM By Milton Davis – Africa

    LA HISTORIA DE TU CORAZÓN By Josué Ramos – Spain

    UNMADE By Suna Dasi – Scotland/India

    LA MALDICIÓN DE LA ESPINA By Elaine Vilar Madruga – Cuba

    THE GOLDEN APPLE By Petra Slováková – Czech Republic

    CUAUHTLIPOCA, EL ÁGUILA HUMEANTE By Paulo César Ramírez Villaseñor – Mexico

     

    The stories are truely divers and off the beaten track of „Steampowered Anglophones save the World“. My personal favourite is Suna Dasi’s UNMADE, which is the best Steampunk short story I ever had the pleasure to read.

    I only regret there are no Francophone authors in the anthology. Still, it is a fine selection of tales from all over the world and you can get it now right here!

    Oh yes, and my story of course features a propper Zeppelin and its crew, not just a blimp or dirigible, but a proper Zeppelin.

    So, grab yourself a copy, celebrate the diversity of Steampunk and an indipendent publisher!


  • Steampunk Writers Around the World – Teaser!

    A long time ago, a cabal of writers from all around the world hatched a plan to write an anthology of Steampunk short stories. Each author would write a story focused on their country of origin and the result would be a truly multi-facetted anthology going beyond the limits of usually rather Anglo-centry Steampunk fiction.
    I am a member of that cabal, and here is a teaser regarding the interior art of the anthology.

    More info soon!

     


  • Non-Euclidean Æthercast #44: Nerdy Hobbies, Cosplay, Teachers, and Cosplaying Teachers

    Today’s Non-Euclidean Æthercast is a happy rant about my experiences as a teacher when you teach children who are also gamers and cosplayers.
    All in all it is a win-win: Pupils are more attentive if they like a teacher and a teacher sharing their hobbies is (as far as my experience goes) more likable and also approachable. Case in point: A number of my pupils have added me to their list of friends on Steam.

    And this is Jukedeck I was talking about concerning the background music. (yes, I actually said juckebox in the podcast, I know and noticed it too late…)

    Header image © screenshot made by myself from Fallout: New Vegas

  • Steampunk and Happiness – #SteampunkHands 2017 – Part 1

    The motto of this year’s Steampunk Hands Around The World is „Steampunk – Making Life better“. Later this week, I will be recording a podcast concerning the topic. In preparation for the podcast, I went through the history of this blog, visited websites I used to visit more frequently when I was newer and/or more active in the Steampunk scene, just collecting positive aspects of the scene.

    The one thing I want to talk about today, is just the general sense of lighthearted happiness in the scene. Yes, I know, Steampunk also has its share of (bizarrely) Guardians of Purity (yes, for a made-up thing), Fashion Junkies, and Scene Nazis (i.e. „I get to decide what Steampunk is).

    But, when I look around at the vast majority of people I have had the pleasure to meet, from the scene in Barcelona to the Amt for Ætherangelegenheiten to BB Black Dog and other bands, to just the regular event goers:

    Most of them are just genuinely happy people or at least manage to generate a genuinely happy atmosphere at the places they congregate. The quality of that happiness is also in keeping with the (for lack of a better term) gentlemanliness of the scene, i.e. it is a very calm and pleasant happiness that makes Steampunk events nice places to just be at. It is vastly different from the more energetic happiness you get at Rock or Metal concerts.

    Also, and this is a very personal thing: Steampunk has brought additional happiness to my life. I will touch on that in more detail in the upcoming podcast, but I have to say that through the people I met, the opportunities I got and where those opportunities have led me, the base-happiness of my live has increased.

    Some example:

      • Several of my most awesome friends are Steampunks or connected to the scene (Anja Bagus and the Amt, Victor Sierra,Alex Jahnke, Admira Ravensdale, basically everyone from Barcelona, Mr and Mrs Vogt, everybody involved in #SteampunkHands and by extension Steampunk Writers around the World just to name a few) and friends make you happy
      • The books I wrote/participated in writing and the two awards that came from it
      • The opportunity to talk about Steampunk at Dortmund University
      • The Steampunk and cosplay people from Vienna (and what came from there, but I will talk about it, when I have the equipment complete)
      • And I could go on and on

    So, Steampunk is in itself and in the context of my life a source of happiness.

    So much for this happy rant. I hope Steampunk has or is making you happy, too.

    Header image © unknown, fair use