Just Glue Some Gears On It

Just Glue Some Gears on it and call it Steampunk, yes? And if you believe that, old chap, I fear you are outrageously mistaken. Please observe the following musical recital to educate yourself on both what steampunk is, as well as what it most assuredly is not.


Antikythera Mechanism Watch

For the ultimate clockwork gizmo thingamajig watch, look no further than the Antikythera Mechanism watch!

It’s not actually available yet, but the Swiss watchmaker company, Hublot, plans to present it at the Baselworld Watch Show in 2012.

In the mean time, enjoy this video on the Antikythera Mechanism and the forthcoming watch:

To learn more, checkout the article at GizMag.com.

Oldest Running Steam Carriage for Sale

The oldest still-running steam-powered horseless carriage is now at auction for some $2 million (which translates to an astounding $85,000 in 1880’s US currency). Behold, the 1884 de Dion Bouton et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout!

Click the image for an image gallery

The steam runabout participated in the world’s first automobile race, and although it won the race, it was in fact the only car in the race. Even so, it is alleged to have reached a top speed of 37 mph.

And here’s a video!

It’s to be auctioned on Friday, October 7, 2011, so start saving up now!

The Glass Armonica

I know it’s the wrong season for this, but I just came upon this video of a fellow dressed like Ben Franklin playing “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” on a glass armonica. For those who do not know, the glass armonica is a musical instrument invented by old Bennie himself, which produces the most exquisite and haunting melodies.  Watch the video and see for yourself.

I also quite enjoyed the comment of one YouTube poster which reads: “Benjamin Franklin not only invented the glass armonica, but he apparently also invented time travel and came to the 21st century to perform a 19th century song by Tchaikovsky.”


Steampunk World’s Fair

I’ve been so busy lately, I’ve been forgetting to post neat, nifty, and otherwise various nefarious and noteworthy news to this site. Ah well–perhaps one day I will perfect my chrono-differential aetheric oscillator to regulate the flow of time more in my favor. In the meanwhile, I must sit by and lament the passing of the 2011 Steampunk World’s Fair, which I was not able to attend.

Nevertheless, for anyone who is interest, there are plenty of picture of the Steampunk World’s Fair to be found, and a pretty nice article covering the event at ConventionFanBlog.com. There’s even more pictures here (over 3000 of them).

So there you have it! Now, back to having no time around here.

Jules Verne Day

Today (February 8th, 2011) is Jules Verne’s 183th birthday. I think it should be a national holiday. Although since he’s French, I suppose it would just be a French national holiday. Regardless, today is most certainly a day for all steampunk and neo-Victorian enthusiasts, as well anyone who considers themselves a fan of classical science fiction, to celebrate!

Jules Verne, author of Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in Eighty Days, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, envisioned such futuristic technologies as underwater exploration, air travel, space exploration, holography, mass transit, and the wide-scale application of electricity.

For that reason, I think we should start a world-wide Jules Verne day. Just like on Halloween, you can get dressed up–either classy Victorian-style or wild and whimsical steampunk-style. Then put on your top hat and goggles, queue up some Abney Park tunes, grab an ivory pipe and a fresh bottle of absinthe, and party like it’s 1899!

If you’re still bored, you can read a biography of Jules Verne here or check out this tribute article on Verne at Make Magazine.

Interesting Blog: Curious Expeditions

I just stumbled upon a rather interesting, weird, and wonderful little blog called Curious Expeditions (curiousexpeditions.org). According the site, they are “devoted to unearthing and documenting the wondrous, the macabre, and the obscure from around the globe.” While some of the posts are indeed a bit macabre, most (even the macabre ones) are fascinating, educational, wondrous, exotic, and historically and culturally enlightening. The blog goes back to April 2007, and so there is a lot to browse and click through.

I recommend you at least check out their post on A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries, which show cases dozens of pictures of some of the most beautiful libraries in the world. In addition, there’s a post on Galileo’s Middle Finger, preserved for all time in the History of Science Museum in Florence. Best of all, they have numerous posts on all manner of mechanical automatons, a healthy helping of steampunk zaniness, and some extraordinary clockpunk goodness as well.

Check it out today!

Plan 28: building the Analytical Engine

In 1837, the engineering genius and great-grand-father of the computer, Charles Babbage, laid down the details of a marvelous mechanical computer that would have revolutionized the world and ushered in the computer age 100 years before its time… had anyone bothered to finance the visionary endeavor. Sadly, no one did, and Babbage only managed to build a small part of his wondrous machine.

But take heart! There is a most extraordinary, to say nothing of ambitious, project in the works to bring Babbage’s magnum opus to life, called Plan 28. The master mind of this project, one John Graham-Cumming, boldly proclaims in his blog: “Am I mad? Would you donate to make the Analytical Engine an oily, steamy, brass and iron reality? Can we live up to Lovelace’s words when she wrote: “We may say most aptly, that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves. “

Mad indeed! But I wish him well and hope he does succeed in building this marvel of engineering. Please visit the Plan28 website for more details.

Steampunk 101

Generally speaking, steampunk is a sub-genre of speculative fiction that is set in the Victorian period of the late 19th century or a “Victorian-like period” where steam power is the dominant driving force of the world (instead of gasoline or other 20th century developments). The civilization may even be highly advanced with spacecraft, ray-guns, and clockwork super-computers. The writings of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells serve as the primary source of inspiration for steampunk stories, but so do many Victorian-period inventors such as Charles Babbage and Nikola Tesla. Steampunk may also incorporate elements of fantasy as well, but it is predominately set in the Victorian-period of Earth with little if any magic or magical beings (although the stories may have fantastical “magic-like” steam-powered machines).

The “punk” in “steampunk” is derived from the name of its parent genre, cyberpunk. Why is cyberpunk the parent genre of steampunk? Primarily because many of the more famous “steampunk” authors were cyberpunk authors in the 80s and 90s (Gibson, Sterling, Neal Stephenson). Steampunk also incorporates many of the same themes, atmosphere, and attitudes about technology that cyberpunk does. True steam-“punk” is typified by a rebellious attitude, and is centered around misfits and anti-heroes. Basically, “steampunk” is a cyberpunk story that replaces computers and cybernetics with mechanical computers and steam-powered devices.

“Steam fantasy”, on the other hand, is a fantasy world with steam-age elements. “Steam fantasy” may not even be set on Earth at all, but rather in an entirely unique fantasy world, such as Mythania. In this setting, many of the traditional fantasy elements may exist, such as wizards, dragons, magical races, and so forth, with the additional introduction of firearms, steam engines, flying machines, and mechanized war machines. “Steam fantasy” may also blend magical enchantments with steam-powered devices, adding a whole new dimension to the development of technological wonders. “Steam fantasy” may not necessarily be “punkish”, and technology may either be shown to be a positive influence on society or the source of endless terror and conflict, or both.

For more on the subject of steampunk and the “steampunk sub-culture”, drop by Brass Goggles or the Aether Emporium. To entertain your imagination, visit my Mythania homepage and peruse a few short stories.