Slightly Steampunk: Women in Pants

Only slightly Steampunk tonight, but sure to appeal to many of my readers. One of Steampunk’s amazing aspects is its staunch resistance to an overarching definition. Steampunk means a lot of different things to a lot of differently minded people. Because that is the case, and the dedication of many in the community to embrace both Steam and Punk, there’s room for pretty much anyone in Steampunk.

This was not the case back in the historical era that forms the factual backbone for our future that never was. People who failed to conform to the expectations their rigid society were ostracized and persecuted. Gender norms especially were tightly controlled, including a strict code of dress for both (meaning, only two) sexes.

But there were people who aimed to dismantle that structure. Bold, brave women dared to defy convention and bend how society perceived them by slipping into a pair of trousers.

Written by Catherine Smith and Cynthia Greig, this book is a visual exploration of those women and their unique wardrobes from the 1850’s to the 1920’s. The reasons for wearing pants are many and complex, and makes for some interesting reading. Retronauts of all persuasions will likely enjoy this book’s documentation of gender and dress. You can pick up a copy from Amazon.

Corsets and Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances

If you’ve got a teenager that’s into Steampunk just as much as you are, you’ll likely be interested in this relatively new publication of Steampunk romances geared towards young adult readers. Edited by Trisha Telep, this book is packed full of stories that your bookworm will enjoy.

Here’s the description of the book:

Dark, urban fantasies come to life in the newest collection of Steampunk stories, Corsets & Clockwork. Young heroes and heroines battle evils with the help of supernatural or super-technological powers, each individual story perfectly balancing historical and fantastical elements. Throw in epic romances that transcend time, and this trendy, engrossing anthology is sure to become another hit for the fast-growing Steampunk genre!

This collection features some of the hottest writers in the teen genre, including: Ann Aguirre, Jaclyn Dolamore, Tessa Gratton, Frewin Jones, Caitlin Kittredge, Adrienne Kress, Lesley Livingston, Dru Pagliassotti, Dia Reeves, Michael Scott, Maria V. Snyder, Tiffany Trent, and Kiersten White.

You can purchase the book from Running Press Books or Amazon.

Chester 5000 XYV

In what has been an excellent week for Steampunk publications here at Trial By Steam, today’s post features yet another outstanding Steampunk novel, this one, a graphic novel entitled, Chester 5000 XYV by Jess Fink. The story starts when a Victorian inventor determines to make a sex robot for his wife, and the ensuring romance between woman and machine.

The graphic novel started out as a webcomic, which you can explore at Jess’s website. Reader be warned, however, this is not a kid friendly comic and deals, rather graphically, with human and robotic sexuality and the pairings therein. If this sort of thing could possibly offend your sensibilities, offset your moral compass, or otherwise perturb you, Chester 5000 XYV is definitely not the webcomic and graphic novel for you.

Jess recently did an interview with All Over Albany that is really informative about the Chester 5000 XYV project. If you’re interested in the series or want to learn more about it, you should definitely check out the interview. It lends a lot of great insight into Jess’s own insight and opinions on his publication.

What Lies Beneath the Clocktower

Back in the day, I used to read choose your own adventure books all the time. I liked that I could read the same book and get a variety of stories based on the choices I make in the storyline. Like kids meals and discounts for minors, I was pretty confident that the choose your own adventure story format was lost to my past.

Turns out I was completely wrong, as a Steampunk Adventure-of-Your-Own-Choosing novel has just recently hit shelves. What Lies Beneath the Clocktower by Maggie Killjoy is a story filled with revolution, drugs, and romance in a remarkable fantasy world.

Here’s the description of the novel, straight from AK Press:

Descend into the depths of the undercity and embroil yourself in the political struggles of colonialist gnomes and indigenous goblins. Fly in air balloons, drink mysterious and pleasant cocktails, smoke opium with the dregs of gnomish society. Or dream and speak of liberation for all the races. Fall in love and abscond into the caverns. It’s up to you, because this is an adventure of your own choosing. From the founder of SteamPunk Magazine and editor of our very ownMythmakers & Lawbreakers comes this interactive novel of danger, drugs, and revolution.

This sounds like it’s full of complete win, and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on my own copy. You can pick up a copy of your own from AK Press or Amazon.

13 Titles To Update Your Steampunk Book Collection

Steampunk’s humble beginnings are rooted in the novel. From Jules Verne all the way up to today’s modern authors, there is a wealth of Steampunk fiction just waiting to be read as a result of its current popularity, and there’s new stuff being published almost every day.

A recent article from Library Journal entitled, Steampunk: 13 Titles to Update Your Collections, advises librarians on how to grow their Steampunk collections with recent publications that attracted the author’s attention and garnered his praise.  The list is definitely worth your attention if you’re trying to stay at the forefront of Steampunk’s current publications and keep your personal libraries up to date.

The list is a rather comprehensive one, including nods to The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer, Cherie Priest’s new novel, Dreadnought, and a few newcomers to the genre. Be sure to check it out!

Free Books Online

Last weekend, I went on a glorious adventure to Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. As a true bibliophile, this was something of a pilgrimage for me and I spent a few wonderful hours exploring the towering rows of bookcases stuffed full of books just waiting to be read.

Shopping at Powell’s, however, is not an inexpensive venture, and while I’d prefer the weight and scent of a physical book, budgetary and portability issues make the standard presentation of reading material less desirous.

There’s an excellent resource for those looking for a great science fiction read for free, complied by io9 entitled The Best Places To Find Your Next Free Book Online. There’s a great collection of books that have entered into the public domain have been carefully preserved on the internet for your costless reading pleasure and enlightenment.

A Review of A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!

The 1975 novel, A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! by Harry Harrison is on its surface, an excellent concept. In an alternate world, today’s United States still belong to the British Empire after a failed revolution attempt some two hundred years ago. The name of Washington is synonymous with traitor, and the distant ancestors of the rebel George are still burdened by his treacherous reputation. Our hero, Augustine Washington, hopes to redeem his family name and give glory to the Empire by using his skills as an accomplished engineer to create a Transatlantic Tunnel connecting the Americas to Britain.

There is so much opportunity for a rich tale in the concept of this novel. Unfortunately, it lacks execution, and many of the most interesting aspects of the novel get brushed aside in favor of describing the details of tunnel construction. The characters are flat and seem more like tropes than living, complex people.

That being said, A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! is a quick and easy read (providing you can get into the novel itself). It’s sure to appeal to Steampunks who are particularly interested in the tech aspect of Steampunk fiction. Technology moves the plot along in this novel more than action or character interaction does, which can make this a tedious read for some, but a unique and enjoyable experience for others.

While I would not call A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! the best book I’ve ever encountered, I would also not consider it the worst. The technology is interesting and the concept of the alternate world is intriguing although unfortunately hollow in its implementation. If you’re aiming to flesh out your experience with books that could be considered Steampunk, this is one that is worth adding to your ‘To Read’ booklist.

1,000 Steampunk Creations

Right on the heels of the Steampunk Bible comes another steamy publication that commands the attention of Steampunks everywhere.  1,000 Steampunk Creations: Neo-Victorian Fashion, Gear, and Art is a soon to be released book written by Dr. Grymm of Dr. Grymm Laboratories who was also also recently featured in a piece on Steampunk by the BBC.

There are 1,000 color photographs that make up this tome of all sorts of Steampunk creations including jewelry, fashion, accessories, headgear, art, home decor, and an array of other unique contraptions. Here’s the description of the book from the back cover:

Steampunk is a burgeoning counter-cultural movement; a genre, community, and artform. The Steampunk movement seeks to recapture the spirit of invention, adventure, and craftsmanship reminiscent of early-nineteenth century industrialization, in part, to restore a sense of wonder to a technology-jaded world.

I’m personally very excited about this book as it will showcase a very important aspect of Steampunk culture: the importance of the individual maker and artist, and with a thousand different samples of Steampunk beauty, this is definitely a must have for anyone who loves the Steampunk aesthetic.

This book will be published on the 27th of May, so be sure to pick up a copy when it hits shelves!

Fantastic Victoriana Online

Back in 2005, a book called The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana by Jess Nevins was published. Within, it chronicled what was, up to that point, important aspects of Steampunk fiction before it became overwhelmingly popular a few years later. Listed in alphabetical order as a proper encyclopedia should, the book details the most outstanding aspects of “fantastic Victoriana” in fiction from Nemo to Frankenstein.

Unfortunately, however, this volume has been out of print for sometime now, and with the current resurgence and interest in Steampunk, the remaining copies of Fantastic Victoriana are going for hundreds to thousands of dollars. Case in point: the only volume up for sale on Amazon is currently running for 2,475 USD. Guys, that’s a lot of money.

If perhaps you don’t find yourself with a grand fortune to spend on experiencing this work, you’ll be happy to know that you can read much of the information presented in the encyclopedia on Jess’s website. There, you can peruse all the entries and become better versed in the characters and features of Victorian science fiction and fantasy from before Steampunk went big.

Happy reading!

Slightly Steampunk: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Sequels

The 1968 musical film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a popular movie among Steampunks. Set in 1910’s, it features a magical flying car named for the strange noises the engine produces. It also has Dick Van Dyke, automatically making it a film worth viewing.

What most people don’t realize, however, is that the film is based loosely off the children’s book entitled, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car by Ian Fleming, the same man to give us James Bond.

According to an article from the Christian Science Monitor, the Fleming family has approved the release of three sequels to be written by novelist and screen writer Frank Cottrell Boyce. The first of these books is expected in November of this year and will be centered around the engine of the first Chitty Chitty Bang Bang finding its way into a family’s souped-up VW camper van.

Kids books or not, I’m excited about these sequels!