If real life had achievements the same way many video games do then last weekend I would definitely have unlocked some good ones! Participate in a massive Steampunk conga line? Check: achievement unlocked! Get up onstage and dance alongside the legendary Professor Elemental? Check: very fun and happy achievement unlocked!
These antics are all courtesy of local alt-rock / steampunk band, The Mysterious Freakshow, who for the past three years have organised annual Yuletide Steampunk extravaganza at Exeter Phoenix. This year’s event took place last Saturday and it was bigger and more enjoyable than ever, lining up an eclectic array of performers (and proving that Steampunk is one of the most enjoyably eclectic of genres), spreading some seasonal cheer (including plenty of yuletide spirit of the alcoholic variety) and of course, offering a wonderful excuse to get really dressed up. There were some wonderful costumes and everyone was welcome from the very finest bustled Victorian ladies, via crazy mad scientist looking-types, to military gentlemen and even a steampunk Mandalorian (none other than our pal Exeter Cosplay).
The evening’s programme of entertainment
Two of my favourite social activities are going to geek conventions (especially when in cosplay) and going to gigs and music festivals. The Steampunk Ball is one of my favourite nights of the year because it feels like the place where these two wonderful things collide. It’s a music event with some really interesting and talented bands performing, but it also has a bit of a nerdy convention feel to it too…
Type of game: Text / interactive fiction
Written by: Heather Albano
Published by: Choice of Games
Played on: Steam
Exercising your brain, and your conscience rather than your aim and your reflexes, text-based interactive fiction games make an enjoyable change from the more graphically intensive FPS games and action RPGs that I tend to play the most. Choice of Games have published some real crackers in this genre – Choice of Robots, particularly, remains not only one of my favourite games and favourite reads, but one of my downright favourite experiences – so it’s great that so many more of the publisher’s outputs are becoming available on Steam, both games from their back catalogue and new releases. Heather Albano’s A Study in Steampunk, falls into the latter category, a brand new game released with the following blurb:
Steam-powered mechs meet forbidden sorcery in this interactive steampunk novel, inspired by Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Jekyll & Hyde, and Jack the Ripper!
Given my love for the mecha, for the steampunk aesthetic, and for all things Victorian-noir, this was an insta-buy for me. Did it live up to its promise?
A Study in Steampunk: title screen
Let’s survey the evidence, shall we Watson?
Title: The Alchemy of Stone
Author: Ekaterina Sedia
First Published: 2008
Robots tend to be imagined as being pretty tough and durable. Even those machines that aren’t specifically built for war or heavy labour are often depicted as having super-strength or the ability to withstand great pressure (check out the TV Tropes page Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids!) This is understandable: metal is stronger than flesh. But when authors diverge wildly from this stereotype the results can be intriguing. Mattie, the mechanical protagonist of this steampunk fantasy novel is one such divergent creation. She is an (allegedly) ”emancipated automaton” with a clockwork core; less sentient tank and more whalebone-ribbed living doll – with all the frailty that implies. She even has a delicate, porcelain face that is prone to cracking.
It’s refreshing to see a more vulnerable robot for a change; refreshing, but also heart-breaking. Think about how much prejudice and intolerance we see towards sentient machines in other sci-fi and fantasy works and now imagine a creation singularly ill-equipped to defend herself against such abuses. “There are a few intelligent automatons around,” Mattie explains ”…But you know, nobody likes making them. And they… we don’t even like ourselves.”
As this quote suggests, The Alchemy of Stone is a beautifully melancholy read, blending the sensibilities of a dark fairytale with an allusive commentary on real world issues of gender and racial inequality and – as is common in steampunk-inspired fiction – an exploration of the conquests and casualties that are inherent in the unstoppable march of progress. Sedia’s vivid imagination and beguiling way with words kept me intrigued to the end of Mattie’s story, but I have to admit, I felt this novel’s world-building was finally more captivating than its plot.
I love working on cosplay stuff but Transformer costumes are pretty major undertakings. Sometimes it’s refreshing to take a break from large scale craft projects and make something that can be completed in a single weekend. Here’s a little something I finished recently…
What do you think is missing from this bag?
Obligatory ”before” pic
If you said “a Steampunk Decepticon logo” then you’re clearly on my kind of wavelength!*