Thursday, 27 August 2009

Asylum - the UK Steampunk Convivial convention

Now that the time is fast approaching, an update to my previous post concerning the upcoming Steampunk Convivial in Lincoln on 11-13 September, 2009.

The home of the Annual UK Steampunk Convivial may be found here, and the latest news here and here. This has developed rapidly in the past few months, to the extent that epacks being sent out to ticket holders as I write!

The Steampunk Convivial will be taking place in the "Steampunk Quarter", beneath Lincoln Castle's walls. The entertainment looks quite mind-blowing, and is spread over three days. Friday night's entertainment includes a BBQ and Beer Festival (yay!); Saturday includes a host of events, from creative writing and DIY workshops to a treatise on Time Travel, with a steamfair and ending with the Empire Ball in the evening. The highlight of the day will be and audience with Robert Rankin and booksigning with phenomenal author Toby Frost (who also happens to be a denizen of the Gatehouse's Smoking Lounge!). Sunday will be more relaxed, with picnics and exploration. The Bazaar Eclectica will be running on Saturday, with traders and a 'bring and buy' sale. Live music will include the fantastic Vernian Process and Ghostfire, amongst others.

For those who are steampunk virgins (as it were), information and guidance on etiquette and dress may be found here.

This really is an event not to be missed. Full pricing information and tickets can be found here, and extremely reasonable they are too!

Heartfelt wishes and congratulations to the organisers for this momentous occasion!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

British Steam Car Challenge Team Smash Land Speed Record

Huge congratulations to the British Steam Car Challenge team, who, on Tuesday 25 August 2009, smashed the land speed record for a steam-powered car, reaching a top speed of 151.085mph.

The team consisted of members of the previous ThrustSSC Project, and initally hoped to reach speeds of 200mph, although the final design may be capable of 'just' 170mph. The average speed over two runs was 139.843mph, finally toppling the previous remarkable record of 127mph by Fred Marriott way back in 1906!

Speaking from Edward's AirForce Base, California, principal driver Charles Burnett III, from Lymington, Hampshire, (who drove both runs) commented:

"It was absolutely fantastic I enjoyed every moment of it. We reached nearly 140mph on the first run. All systems worked perfectly, it was a really good run. The second run went even better and we clocked a speed in excess of 150 mph. The car really did handle beautifully. The team has worked extremely hard over the last 10 years and overcome numerous problems. It is a privilege to be involved with such a talented crew, what we have achieved today is a true testament to British engineering, good teamwork and perseverance”
At 40 bars of pressure, with 400°C steam flowing through 3km of tubing at 40 litres a minute, Mr Burnett is a brave man indeed to drive such a machine. This is a major, and well deserved, achievement, and hearty congratulations go to the whole Team, who have proved yet again the power of steam in the modern age, with the pioneers of the Steam Age still at the frontier of steam technology!

Videos of the runs may be found here, with the BBC report and footage here. More details of the project may be found at their website here.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Manifesto for Slow Communication

A refreshing perspective on the modern age of communication from John Freeman, editor of Granta magazine, in an extract from his forthcoming book The Tyranny of E-Mail.

Steampunks love their technology, but, essentially, always with a backward glance - you have only to see the fantastic contraptions of Jake Von Slatt, and even the new Steampunk Tales application for the iPhone for immediate gratification of this. The Victorians believed in progress, and believed in their new technologies as a means to achieve this, bringing with it education, sanitation, transport, social housing and amenities along with the pollution and massive material and human waste which Industrialisation brought.

Things have changed. Essentially, those in the so-called 'advanced' countries, Freeman argues, have become enslaved by the new technology. Citing an example of a colleague's friend,

"He tells me he is now detained, night and day, in downloading every album he ever owned, lost, desired, or was casually intrigued by; he has now stopped even listen­ing to them, and spends his time sleeplessly monitoring a progress bar. . . . He says it's like all my birthdays have come at once, by which I can see he means, precisely, that he feels he is going to die."
Speed does not equate to efficiency, and the connection between technology and progress is a complicated one. Freeman calls for a Manifesto, a new approach, one in which the "technology is to be used for the betterment of human life", used more sensibly and coherently, and in a more controlled manner.

This notion has been lost, but is recognised in the Steampunk world. The recently re-ignited interest in De Profundis within the genre is only the most recent recognition of this phenomenon. The bleeding of steampunk ideals into the wider world continues!

Please, take a visit over to Mr Freeman's article, before it is too late!