Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Gatehouse Gazette

The latest edition of the Gatehouse Gazette is now available for download.
Click through to the Gatehouse or to Strange Dreams for more details.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

What is Steampunk?

A question which many are asked, and to which there are probably as many answers as steampunks to answer it.

However, the simplest answers to difficult questions often come through self-reflection. One effective means of teaching is to enable the student to learn for themselves, and this approach has been taken by the good lady Victoria.

Following years of being asked the question at events such as craft fairs, she turns the question almost 180 degrees by asking the questioner to reflect on the statement “Imagine if 20,000 leagues under the sea were history, and not fiction.” Thus, the door swings, and the entrance to steampunk is open.

A more full account of her explanation and definition of steampunk may be found on her blog.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

In Our Time

For those interest in the mechanics of time, the BBC's Radio 4 broadcast this morning In Our Time - a programme dedicated to "The history of ideas discussed by Melvyn Bragg and guests including Philosophy, science, literature, religion and the influence these ideas have on us today".

This most recent transmission concerned The Physics of Time in the final programme of the year, with discussion between Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey; Monica Grady, Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University; and Ian Stewart, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick.

This programme is available for download as a podcast.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Strange Dreams

An off-shoot of this blog, Strange Dreams highlights steampunk and retro-future art, sculpture, and fiction from around the web and elsewhere, providing links through.

The first post concerns the Mechtorians...

Monday, 8 December 2008

Time travel - some light reading as you skip the years...

Ever wondered how time travel might be possible?

Click on the link for more...

Time Traveller Day

Greetings to all fellow chrononauts from across the realities!

Enjoy the opportunity to thoroughly enjoy yourselves, causing confusion amongst the residents of this tempus, and take the opportunity to catch up with old friends whom you may not have met yet.

For those unaware of the rules, click the aether-link above. For everyone else, I'll see you again last year!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Neo-Victorian Studies

For those academics out there with a focus on steampunk, or, indeed, steampunk academics, please find below the call for papers.

This surely expresses the recognition of steampunk as a bona fide genre for study and participation which has been denied for so long, despite its inexorable rise.


Neo-Victorian Studies invites papers and/or abstracts for a 2009 special issue on neo-Victorianism’s engagement with science and new/old technologies, especially as articulated through the genre of Steampunk.

As a lifestyle, aesthetic and literary movement, Steampunk can be both the act of modding your laptop to look like and function as a Victorian artefact and an act of (re-)imagining a London in which Charles Babbage’s analytical engine was realised. Steampunk includes applications of nineteenth-century aesthetics to contemporary objects; speculative extensions of technologies that actually existed; and the anachronistic importation of contemporary science into fictionalised pasts and projected futures. In all cases, Steampunk blurs boundaries: between centuries, between technologies, and between “those” Victorians and “us” neo-Victorians.

This special issue will explore why particular scientific and technological developments are revisited at particular histo!rical moments and trace Steampunk’s importance to neo-Victorianism, as well as its wider cultural implications.

Deadline for submissions of completed papers: 1 June 2009

Possible topics include (but are not limited to):
• Steampunk and the importation/transformation of Victorian aesthetics
• changing narrative “technologies” in Victorian/neo-Victorian fiction
• markets and economics of the Steampunk universe
• science and environmental politics
• Steampunk and the myths of the Industrial Revolution
• redefining the human: intersections with cyberpunk
• Steampunk and old/new/lost world empire(s)
• the terrors of Steampunk in a post-9/11 world
• historicising the Steampunk phenomenon
• gender constructions in Steampunk art, literature, and practice
• mad geniuses: scientists, inventors, doctors, engineers
• Steampunk pasts and futures (e.g. The Difference Engine vs. The Diamond Age)
• modding and maker practices: objects and (neo-)Victorian materialism
• real and imagined difference engines• scientific (im)practicalities of Steampunk contraptions
• visual Steampunk vs. narrative Steampunk (e.g. graphic novels or movies vs. novels)
• cosplay and conventions

Articles and/or creative pieces between 6000-8000 words should be submitted by email to the guest editors, Rachel A. Bowser ( and Brian Croxall ( For submission guidelines, please consult the journal website at

Monday, 1 December 2008

Trips to the Moon

Lunar Travel: Lucian to Kubrick via the 18th century

An informal One-Day Conference on trips to the moon and space travel from Lucian to 1968 will take place at the Centre for the Reception of Greece & Rome, Royal Holloway in Egham on Monday 15th December.

Speakers include the novelist Adam Roberts, Sci-Fi Expert Tony Keen, English Literature expert Brycchan Carey, polymath extraordinary Nick Lowe, Lucian enthusiast Richard Hawley, and Edith Hall on Ulysses 31.

Attendance is free but you need to contact the organiser in order to enable the purchase of sufficient mince pies and noggins.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

"Extraordinary Voyages"

For those of a more academic leaning, please peruse the following information concerning the gathering of emminent persons in the location of California during the month of May year next, being 2009, to discuss Mr. Jules Verne and the writings of that illustrious person.

To wit:"Extraordinary voyages have shaped world literature since the Biblical Flood and The Odyssey, but no single writer has done more than Jules Verne to forge this device into a narrative template for addressing modern issues.The UCR Libraries' Eaton Science Fiction Collection, in coordination with the North American Jules Verne Society, proposes a three and one-half-day conference that will examine the traditions Verne exploited, Verne's own extraordinary work, and his far-ranging influence in modern fiction and culture. In 1863, Jules Verne published the first of the sixty-four novels and short story collections that would become known as the "Extraordinary Voyages." Verne's influence on the hardware and the locales of modern science fiction: the center of the earth, the bottom of the seas, outer space, is widely recognized. More significant is his influence on the shape of modern SF: the extraordinary voyage has become a foundational motif by which scientific knowledge is linked to the exploration of richly-imagined worlds. This conference will explore the implications of the extraordinary voyage as a narrative and ideological mode that resonates in world SF down to the present day.
The conference welcomes scholars, collectors, and enthusiasts of the extraordinary voyage."

Those interested might also wish to visit the esteemed Mr Gross's site, where lies a fascinating analysis of Mr Verne's 20,000 Leagues.

The Gatehouse

Interesting musings are on-going over at The Gatehouse, ranging from what Britney Spears would wear as a steampunk to the problem of referencing and discussing Nazi inventions.

A veritable smorgasbord of delights to be tasted, truly acting as a gateway to the wonders to be found on the ethernet, and worth a visit, or even joining the growing membership - which includes some of those on the leading edge of steam- and diesel- punk - for some delectable conversation, discussion and news.

Mr Nicholas Ottens deserves praise for this wonderful establishment.

Steampunk and visions of the apocalypse

Much is made, particularly amongst the cosplayers, within the Steampunk sub-culture not just of alternative history, but of the apocalypse. The two come together in The Peshawar Lancers by SM Stirling, whereby the effective destruction of Britain by meteor impact results in the wholesale moving of the centre of the British Empire to a new home in India. One of the 'ten steampunk books you must read', this is a text most SPs know or have heard of.

Films such as the newHollywood City of Ember, or the marvellous Wormtooth Nation are embedded in the notion of humanity escaping apocalypse, often underground, sometimes on another planet, and the loss of some vital knowledge often pertaining to the way back 'home'.

The current crop of apocalyptic visions have been rife since before the millenium of 2001 (which was actually the start of the new millenium, not 2000). The marking of a key date in the calendar is usually marked by a rise in apocalyptic or millenarian cults and cultural phenomenon - this time around, it was the Y2K bug which would kill all computers and wipe out humanity's collective electronic data, and before that the collective suicide of the Heaven's Gate cult. The end of the nineteenth century saw a rash of cults predicting the end of the world and a rise in spiritualism. Yet the ninteenth century also saw the technological, philosophical and intellectual advances which shaped the twentieth century.

All these elements - apocalypse, spriritualism, and technology - come together in steampunk, with a surprising array of influences and expressions. Western culture has maintained the apocalyptic fervour which grew in the late twentieth century far longer than in previous centuries, and has absorbed it into its fashion, books, films, and television programmes (just think of Heroes for instance). Academic concerns over social collapse continue to look to the past for solutions. Far from being a sub-culture, steampunk is at the confluence of these different cultural elements, but with a focus, with the current worries of climate change and economic collapse, upon how things may have been better with just a tweak here and a nudge there in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. New developments in tackling transport and climate problems are directly influenced by the technologies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The past is more relevant than ever to the future!

Interview with the esteemed Mr Verne

It comes to my attention that, in the year 1894, Mr Jules Verne, that esteemed visionary and literary pioneer, undertook an interview with a Mr Sherard for Mclure's Magazine.

Exploring many aspects of the author's life, this interview provides an intruiguing opportunity to peer into the mind of a man who has inspired many to push the boundaries of what is possible. Comments from more laudable colleagues than I have raised the question of what Mr Verne's capacious mind might have brought forth were he to be living in contemporary times, with the vast resources available to him at the touch of a button. However, I find the question somewhat ill-conceived. Mr Verne, as are all of us, was a product of his time, shaped by his experiences, which in turn were shaped by their unfurling in a particular time and space.

Which does, however, raise the interesting notion of what Mr Verne would make of the modern world in a contemporary interview were he able to step forward along the time-stream, thus bringing his contemporaneous experiences and thought process to the modern era...

Time Travellers of the Worlds Converge

Time being relative, there is plenty left for the brethren and sistren amongst the timestreams to converge in order to mark this newly established celebratory day .

Whilst many pretend, it provides a means through which true travellers may walk unimpeded through this period of the 21st century - at least for 24 hours. Some may have already partaken of the 2008 event, proposed by Dresden Kodak of Portland, Oregon, whilst others who may have missed the 8 December 2007 event have taken the opportunity to since go back and mark the inaugural day. For those experiencing the forward flow, there are still enough diurnal rotations to enable suitable planning for the 2008 event. Fellow travellers may be found here.