Thursday, July 28, 2011

Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders in Print

Mathew Delman, previous contributor, to the steampunk issue of Fissure and presenter at last year's Upstate Steampunk Con has announced the first print release of the Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonder, 
This joint effort has previously only been available online.
Issue 1: Volume 1, Issue 1
Come Join the Show! Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders is a steampunk magazine chock-full of features on movies, comic books, conventions, and stellar short fiction. This month theh serialize two novels for the first time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Hippocampus and the Sea

In an ongoing series on the brain at our HASCI Drop-In Center, my director, Kay covered the limbic system this week with the hypothalamus, hippocampus and the amydglia.  We did a series of mini scientific experiments, as she always plans, which highlights and makes tangible how the various parts of the brain work. One such experiment was on smell and how they relate to and trigger memory.  (The hippocampus connecting with the emotional cortex). I've always been acutely driven by smells into full blown flashbacks to various times and places, but the one which recurs the most these days is an aroma which arrives on a rare but fragrant breeze.  I've only experienced a few times this summer, when the cold fronts move in, but when it happens, it's so vivid, I can taste the salt in the air. 
Of course I refer to the sea, and I once again return to my frequent longing for the sea, but especially the sea of my youth, that small cove at North (or Rocky as some NH natives call it) in Hampton Village on the New Hampshire coast.  The Isles of Shoals are visible in the distance, the frigid waves (50-60 degrees in midsummer) sometimes  quietly saunter onto the beach, but more often crash upon it, rip tides pulling at your ankles; stones and sea glass tumbling at your toes.  It's the most imperative yearning I've ever experienced and it grows more so with the years.

This yearning grows so strong that frequently check the surf cam at Rocky (North) Beach or get in my virtual car on Goggle maps and drive up Winnacunnet Rd, follow Kings Highway for a while past the surfer hang out, KB Bagels,  then hang a right and drive back down along Ocean Boulevard toward Lupo's.  While I lived in NH for 8 months in 2006, I often walked to both of these places form my mom's little cottage during my 11 mile walking circuit.  When I was without a lot of things we get used to, hot water, stove, TV. I would head to one of these places as my home away from home, my social life and the way I kept up with the world. 
In my mind's eye I then leave the virtual world at Lupo's, go into my memory world and descend the sand covered steps, climb across the boulders and step onto the beach facing Boar's Head.  In my better flash- backs a piece of blue or green seaglass washes up at my feet and I see my friend, Karen, lovingly known as Red Rocket for her intense personality walking towards me form Hampton Beach proper.
Free man, you'll always love the sea — for this,
That it's a mirror, where you see your soul 
In its eternal waves that chafe and roll; --Baudelaire

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Franklyn movie w/steampunk elements

I came across Franklyn, a unique, original and low publicized 2009 film by accident and I'm glad I did. This visually articulate movie, directed by Gerald McMorrow, has the feel of a well planned imagist's  journey, something akin to the innovative style of Alex Pyros. Franklyn falls out of any known genre, for the way the story line tugs at your synapses in a shifting collage/montage style reminiscent of  Stay and The Fountain.
In Franklyn, two alternative realities offer  a mind-tripping head game, sometimes a test, of whether you're following it along, gathering the symbols, assessing the subtle but important threads of the philosophy of cultures, humanity and civilization. However, it's not heavy handed, just highly intriguing and entertaining in a dark way.
Franklyn takes place in two alternative realities. One of them, Meanwhile City, is tragically and beautifully bizarre and dystopian, with breathtaking landscapes highlighting the sublime sacredness in decay. In contrast to the beauty of of the city, it's citizens have fallen into a trampled culture thanks to the government which mandates each citizen must have some sort of religion. The religions are odd and faked, even silly, but no matter the styles, one character, the oft-times masked Jonathan  Preest played by James Morrow, cannot abide the rules and struggles against the enforcers, a contingency of dressed-alike weirdos which clock in somewhere between the contrasting figures from Clockwork Orange and the steampunk ilk.
This cinematography is used as a tool to separate the contemporary London storyline which focuses on a poignant, disturbed jilted young man, Milo (Sam Riley) and a lovely depressed goth art student; Emillia, (Eva Green). As grim as it is, the visually stunning cinematography of the alternate world, Meanwhile City, is a place I believe most steampunkers would want to wander, simply for the influence of beauty found in decay and lost civilizations. The two story lines cut into each other in a highly provocative style, style, forcing you not only to wonder, but to think.  Slender paths and parallels  are offered for the viewer to untangle as they're drawn deeper and deeper in a dark, disturbing landscape.
  Franklyn is a dark subculture urban fantasy not in the style, but in the coloration and mood of movies like The Crow and Dark City and its commentary on current society, one felt by many folks in the steampunk genre, is subtle yet present throughout. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

over 50,000 words on Orchidelerim

As the Upstate Steampunk Extravaganza draws near and as I interact with steampunk folks more often, not to mention, that they are all writers, artists, musicians, costumers, mechanics, electrical engineers, I find myself inclined to impose goals and deadlines on myself.  As a photojournalist, editor and publisher, I had to of course always meet deadlines and hold others to them, but with my novel writing, I've had only vague notions of deadlines. And one of my goals in January was to complete at least one novel, which I did, Shaman in Exile, so a second novel would be gravy.  But with the steampunk world steaming up, especially in this area, and my fascination with all things Victorian and a recent yet growing interest in science, I'm finding it more fun and less struggle as the novel moves forward and the characters actually write the story themselves.  Some of them have thrown me off track, veering into their own realms, and so I've followed, knowing from Shaman Circus, that this is the last sprint, the more the characters dictate plot, they more they develop as characters and the better the story.  I am no longer in very much control but feel like someone taking dictation. All the easier for me - except I'm now compelled to the keyboard when I'd prefer to finish a movie, or in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning when I should be getting ready for work.  But there it is, the writing experience, the writing magic, if you will, which occurs when you least expect it like a divine gift and leads you merrily to your conclusion (often not quite so merrily in my novels).
So I'm happy to report, that while listening to the goth band ThouShaltNot, (a little bit The Cure, a little bit Peter Murphy) I've met my writing goal for this weekend despite no air conditioning and 90+ degree temps.  51,091 words now on steampunk novel, Orchidelirium, averaging 3,000 words a weekend, which is poor compared to my writing days when I didn't work full time, but good for me now, when I do need some downtime to watch movies or socialize on the weekends.  And gathering experiences and influences has always been a major part of my writing, in addition to research.
In between the research, the story is now writing itself as I enter the Zone. New characters are entering the story and the locales are so vivid I can taste, touch, smell and walk about their fascinating places.  Indeed, despite all the trials and travails I would surely love to live in this world.
I even found time to sketch some of the supporting characters, as well, Mignotte and Lazar. And I'm also reading Gypsey Teague's Victoria X, finding her different take on Victorian England to be quite informative.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Round Two - The Velo Fellow

This was my second time at the Velo Fellow publick house and as with the first, it was a great night of literary, musical and artistic conversation. I don't think I've ever been in such a group as our local Upstate Steampunk folks, where the conversations are so knowledgeable on so many fronts. I table hopped  a number of times (in between mouthfuls of delicious French Onion Soup)  to chat with co-workers, recent friends, people I've never met and a co-writer, David Windhorst, who I worked with on Edge magazine twenty years ago. I haven't seen David in many years and had no idea that he and his wife, Kat were into steampunk.  She has very good reason to like steampunk, as she formerly owned one of the premiere costume companies in Greenville before moving to Califronia to work on costumes in the movie business. The conversations from Josh Smith, fire eater, cleaver juggler, electro-mechnic inventor and his highly entertaining girlfriend, Kristen, diesel mechanic and great story teller to Braxton of the steampunk macabre duo Valentine Wolfe, and his plans for a trek to Connecticut to score the ultimate bass, Charlotte who spoke about Victorian literature and steampunk, and Rachel who spoke about fantasy, science fiction and graphic novel art.  How many conversations can bring up Edgar Allen Poe,  the movie, The Crow, Tesla, navy steamships, Emily Austin, Bruce Sterling, fairy tales, comic book art, Ellen Datlow, dwarfs walking on beds of glass - all in one evening? Talk about fodder for fiction - I must call a gathering at the Velo anytime I encounter the white page syndrome!
In fact, I only called this gathering two days before on the Upstate Steampunk facebook page after Ben, musician, artist (of IFB fame) and I decided to get together. He was working during the last meeting so missed the incredible experience. And we had more than 25 people show up! I would hesitate to say that we literally "invaded" the sublime pub with the incredible ambiance and varied menu, but I think we may have inundated them to some degree.
It was fun to see a good number of my co-workers from the head injury program show up, as well.  I'm not quite sure what they all might think.  The experience can be overwhelming when delving into the lively and often tangential conversations of steampunkers and their varied backgrounds, even when we are not all in our steampunk gear. Josh did wear the goggles he won (expertly crafted by Gypsy Teague, herself) at last year's con but the rest of us, having come straight from work were in current day garments.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest review

I came to this novel, relegated to the steampunk genre, with some unease. I didn't quite understand the concept of zombies in the steampunk world, and I have to admit it started off slow for me, being more a history than a character opening. But once I plowed through, I found it to be  a very enjoyable read for a number of reasons. Once Cherie introduced us to her characters, especially Briar (Blue) Wilkes and her son, Zeke, I too felt as I joined them on their rather difficult, fast-paced journey.  The destroyed cut off part of Seattle made for a highly interesting locale bringing back my love for fallen cultures and the people who can survive there. The technology was plausible and varied, but not so heavy handed that it detracted form the pace or the interactions of the characters and there were enough plot twists to keep us hanging by our fingernails - often, over and over, up the ladders, down the ladders,m through the tunnels, on the rooftops. I was worn out after some of my marathon reading sessions, just by the workouts the varied cast of characters endured.But it was worth the trek, that's for sure. Within the pages, you'll find all the steampunk elements: airships and sky pirates, a dystopian society and mad scientists, but you'll also find new combinations of these elements with American West coast alternate history and multiculturalism.
And I didn't even mind the zombies - thanks to the fact, she never called them zombies and she had a perfectly plausible reason for why they were there.  Granted I skipped over some paragraphs where detailed descriptions of battles with the undead ensued, but the story was riveting enough to keep me going despite my discomfort.  I am more squeamish than most.  What was even better is that I was able to find this novel at my local library and read it on spec before I decided to purchase it.  And now reading it, lets me know I would like to own a copy and I see why it has received so much praise and attention. Now I'm looking forward to Dreadnaught.
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