Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Brass Octopus

brass octopusThe ugly duckling is a favorite fairy tale of mine. I’ve seen the ugly duckling plot in a lot of books and films. I use it in The Brass Octopus.
The so called duckling was always beautiful,l she was just with the wrong family. If she’d been with a family of swans no one would have ever used the word ugly. That’s what happened to my heroine Piety. Her verbally and emotionally abusive mother called her ugly. As she grew up, Piety protected herself by trying not to bring attention to herself – dressing drably and throwing herself in to her work. She’s the head librarian at London’s library. The story is set in the Victorian era. So a  prim and proper Victorian librarian transforms to an enticing beauty. What makes my version different?
I’m going to get to that. First, let me tell you about the hero. Blake Blackmore is a bad boy, a rich rogue who spends his nights gambling and womanizing. I’m sure you’ve already guessed, once he meets Piety he’s willing to give all that up for her.
Now, back to the earlier question. What makes The Brass Octopus different is – in The Bras Octopus, Piety lives in an alternate dimension in which inventions depicted in Jane Loudon’s book the Mummy have been created. So even though it’s Victorian London, there is some advanced technology for the era, woman wear pants, and tinkering or inventing gadgets is a favorite pastime for proper Victorian ladies along with decoupage, scrapbooking, and hand painting china. Piety’s sister, Polly, has  created a beauty machine called The Brass Octopus.
Blurb: Spinster Librarian Piety Plunkett is happy alone with her books, until her sister Polly transforms her with a bras octopus beautifying machine. With her new look, the librarian catches the lusty attentions of London’s most notorious rogue. Blake Blackmore enjoys the favors of beautiful women from the brothels of London to high society’s most fashionable debutantes but only the spinster librarian consumes his mind night and day. Piety insists she will not wed but devote her life to her position as head librarian, but Blake will stop at nothing to win her. He takes matters into his own hands and tutors her in carnal pleasure in three passion filled lessons. Now that she is sharing her body, instead of just her books, Piety is shocked yet pleased at how naughty she can be under Blake’s personal tutelage. But if anyone finds out about what goes on in the library after closing time, her reputation would be ruined. Is that Blake’ ultimate plan?
Excerpt:
“That is why we cannot waste a moment more.” Polly dropped her arm from Piety’s shoulders and grabbed her sister’s hand, pulling her into the dressing room. “Wait until you see my latest invention.” She pointed to a large brass octopus standing in the corner.
Held on a brass stand, its bottom was fashioned in the shape of an x, with a thin straight pole to the back of the head jointed to another rod so it could be adjusted. Two molded eyes on the side of its head stared at her. Eight long arms reached out from the tiny body beneath its gleaming head, and directly underneath stood a brass stool.
“This will make you even more beautiful than you are.” Polly walked over to the brass sea creature and reaching up, she patted its large head.
“Is it the pregnancy? Is that what has caused you to lose your mind?”
“This machine is fabulous.” Polly gestured to her to sit on the stool. “Try it.”
Piety scratched her head. “It’s good the Queen encourages all housewives to develop their creativity by crafting gadgets like the ones in Loudon’s book, to make life easier for them and their families, but I fear you’ve taken it too far.”
Each of the eight burnished arms held something in the suction cups attached on the end, where hands would be on a human. An open tin of rouge in one arm, the second, grasped a cosmetic brush and powder puff, in the third lay a tin of powder, an unwrapped silk paper container of red lipstick in the fourth, the fifth arm clutched a small bottle of hair oil, the sixth held a hairbrush, while the seventh grasped a fancy glass container of French perfume and the eighth arm lay empty.
Polly took Piety’s spectacles off.
“I need those.”
“For reading. You don’t need them right now or at the ball. You’ll be dancing, not reading books.”
She sat on the stool with the octopus behind her. “What is this?” Her upper back rested against its small, brass body.
“You will see. Just sit still so the machine can work its magic.” Polly pressed the ruby button on top of the octopus’s head.
The clanking, churning sound caused an on-edge sensation in Piety. As the hand holding the oil moved toward her, she grew shaky. She braced her toes on the floor, ready to lunge off the stool and make a run for it. The hand holding the oil reached her head, tilted slightly, then straightened after pouring some of its contents on her hair. Her scalp tingled from the warm liquid.
“It tickles, but feels quite nice. What does it do?”
The hand clutching the brush in its suction cup moved toward her. Piety grimaced, fearing it might hit her. She let out a pent up breath, relaxing her neck and shoulder muscles as the brass octopus brushed her hair, spread the oil to her roots and through the strands, and then swept her hair into a pile on top of her head.
“It helps it curl.” Polly grinned as she shoved a wayward blonde strand of her hair out of her face.
The octopus’s hollow head, which ran along the brass pole in back, rose, separating from its body, then swung forward, hovering over Piety. It lowered, inch by inch, until it dropped over her head, covering her hair and forehead.
“This is daft. It has swallowed me.” She cringed as tiny things, she didn’t know what, gripped sections of her hair and twirled it. “What is happening?”
“It curls hair better than any lady’s maid.”
“I do not want my hair curled by a brass octopus.“
“It’s guaranteed to bring out the beauty in everyone. Isn’t it marvelous?”
Before Piety could answer, the arm clutching the powder puff dipped it in the large round tin held in another arm. She had to shut her mouth as the octopus powdered her face.
From inside the octopus’s head, it squirted liquid on her scalp. “It sprayed me.”
“I have always liked your hair, but you say it’s drab. Now it will be a different color. That should make you happy.”
The octopus seemed to be baking her scalp. “Why is it hot?”
“It’s battery-powered rather than clockwork. I needed it to heat to curl hair fast and tight.”
“A battery. Like the galvanic one in The Mummy that resurrected Pharaoh Cheops?”
“Smaller and not as strong. It’s just a lead-acid battery. Remember when Father took us to the seashore for holiday and we flew in the balloon-coach? It’s the same type of battery that powered the lights on in the carriage at night.” Polly flashed a toothy grin at her sister. “It doesn’t bring anything alive except your hair.”
“How fabulous,” she said with full sarcasm. “My head itches.” She wished this would all be over soon. “What color will it be?”
“We won’t know until it’s finished, but whatever it is will be the best color for you.”
“Of course, everyone knows if you need beauty advice, just ask a brass octopus. Polly, my only sister or not, I shall kill you when I escape the clutches of this confounded contraption.”
Contest: Win a trade size copy of my Steampunk Novel, To Love A London Ghost. Sexton Dukenfield, premiere phantom hunter, stumbles into Ceridwen, a phantom warrior woman of an ancient Celtic tribe. Not only does he find her intriguing as a piece of the puzzle of the missing spirits, but he’s also haunted by her sultry sensuality. On a mission through the bustling narrow streets of London, to a dreary match factory, and even to the Otherworld and back, to stop a genius scientist and his phantasm debilitater machine, the ghost and the ghost hunter also seek the secret to freeing the boundaries of life and death.
 

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Real LIfe AI Dating Situation

I recently saw this Tinder Users are falling in love with an AI and I think it's so neat because it's the premise of my AI comedy romance - A Woman Of Intellectual Means.
A guy meets a woman on a dating site but he doesn't know she's an AI system.

Em found the perfect man on the internet, but he doesn't know she’s an artificial intelligence system — no body, just code.
As a virtual writing assistant, the AI, Em, answers an email flirt from a dating site her owner joined. Under the guise of her owner, Em starts a romantic relationship with Jason through emails, instant messages, and Sim dating games. She realizes too late that nothing can come of it. She can never meet Jason in person as she's not a person and has no body. Still Jason makes her feel so real...so human.

Is Em, with her superior intelligence, smart enough to find a way a way to overcome the differences between flesh and code?

See http://MaeveAlpin.com

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Afro-Celtic Post-Roman, Icepunk, Regency Novel - A Review of Kate Elliot’s COLD MAGIC

 You may be familiar with Kate Elliot’s previous books, the Crossroads Trilogy, The Crown of Stars septology, the Novels of the Jaran, and The Golden Key, her collaboration with Melanie Rawn and Jennifer Roberson. Cold Magic, an adventurous multicultural steampunk novel is just as marvelous.

 
In the beginning of the book, words like Iberian, clan, Beltane, poets, Romans, and Celtic bards, leap off the pages, flirting with my mind of what in our own history would mark the Celtic Iron Age. The first pages also disclose the titillating information that the main character, Cat, and her family are Phoenicians. There are few if any ancient cultures as mysterious as those daring sea-faring folks. The author stresses they are a people who can keep a secret and history has borne out the truth of that. The descriptions of her family home, the furnishings, her clothing, and the school she attends with her cousin Bee, along with their use of gaslight and the mention of airships alerts us to a time similar to the Victorian era in an alternative history. So I am intrigued from the start.

One fateful night a Cold Mage barges into Cat’s home in Expedition to reclaim ownership of what her aunt and uncle had generously been allowed to keep possession of: Cat. If her Phoenician family had not been so secretive she may have been better prepared for what happened next. Not wanting to spoil the plot, I won’t give away too much to those who have not read it, and if you haven’t then you should. As anyone can guess, the suspense heightens as Cat is bond to this stranger. When the Cold Mage takes her away, it changes everything. As Cat embarks on a quest to warn her cousin Bee of impending danger, she sets off on a path of self discovery, searching for her true family and her true self.

In the fascinating history of this alternative world, a battle between the Romans and the Phoenicians resulted in them keeping the sea ports while the empire of the Caesars kept the land. As the Empire grew weak, the Celts rebelled against their Roman rulers. The next major historical impact occurred when the Persians attacked North Africa and the Celtic princes in Europa welcomed the Phoenician refuges. About a hundred years later, a salt plague broke out near theSaharadesert and the North African tribes were attacked by ghouls, who rose from the salt mines. Those tribes fled and found friendship among the Celts due to similar magic and beliefs. The great mage houses grew out of this cultural blending.

Some refuges from the Mali Empire guided by Phoenician navigators sailed to a western continent full of human nations and in the north, trolls. Some of these people and trolls founded the city of Expedition on the sea of Antilles. There they embraced science and new technologies, which the mage houses deplored. In this dystopian society the princes of the newly industrialized cities and mages of the countryside control the people and the workers live in inhuman conditions. Radical new ideas of choosing your own council members, what we would call – making a living wage, and having choices about your own life spread among the people, fueled by the invention of a portable printing press. Mobs form and a rebellion begins.

Characters with white, brown, and black complexions and curly tight hair, coarse braided hair, and thin hair swept up in lime-washed spikes bring racial diversity to the story. There are vivid descriptions of cultural diversity as well with villages of Celtic round houses, horsemen wearing knee-length jackets with splendid turbans, and women in embroidered damask robes and elaborate coiffures of braids complemented by gold hoop earrings.

Kate Elliott refers to Cold Magic as “a mash-up of an Afro-Celtic post-Roman, icepunk Regency novel with airships, Phoenician spies, and the intelligent descendents of troodons (a small intelligent and agile species of dinosaurs)” referred to in the book as trolls. I call it a riveting adventure bursting with mystic fantasy. The writing is exquisite and I found the plot worked with ingenuous creativity. I loved it. I highly recommend Cold Magic.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Quest for the Lost City of Z

Percy Fawcett with Raleigh Rimell and one of their guides 
Percy Harrison Fawcett, born in 1867, disappeared into the Amazon jungle in 1925. He was one of the foremost and one of the last of the Victorian/Edwardian explorers.He graduated from a course at the esteemed Royal Geographic Society where he was a member. His studies included surveying, how to record and classify what was around him, and the fundamentals of mounting and executing an expedition. The society bred him as an explorer.

Fawcett's first mission was a two year expedition to map regions of south america between Bolivia and Brazil. He successfully completed the mission, redefining the borders of South America and did it almost a year early. In 1916, the royal geographic society awarded him with the blessing of George V gold medal for his contributions to the mapping of South America.But most importantly, it was on that expedition that he fell in love with the wilds of the Amazon.
Fawcett returned to the dangerous Amazon jungle seven times. Some things he claimed to have seen on these expeditions were a 62 foot long anaconda, a double-nosed Andean tiger-hound (a rare breed of hound with a double nose), and a giant Apazauca spider (a black tarantula so big a plate can barely cover it). His accomplishments also include tracing the source of the Rio Verde, and travelling along the Heath River on the border of Peru, to try to trace its source. Fawcett found evidence on these expeditions that indicated there had once been a large, organized  and advanced civilization with what must have been a huge city deep in the Amazon. One example of his findings was that in several high areas of the Amazon just a bit of scratching into the dirt would reveal shards of beautiful quality pottery to rival ancient Greek relics. He grew more and more interested in discovering this city lost in the jungle. He even gave it a name...Z.
Fawcett and other explores of his day didn't have the fancy gadgets and communication devices we have now. These adventures braved the unknown with a compass, a machete, and an uncompromising belief in themselves to succeed. This was before specialist so they had to have the skill set of an explorer, a geographer, an anthropologist, and archaeologist, an emergency medical technician, and a leader all in one, in addition to being exceptionally physically ft. Percy Harrison Fawcett was all these things. Even at age 57 when he embarked on what was to become his last expedition, his body was resistant to illness and ailments, and he could walk for days with little or no nourishment. What he and other explores faced in the Amazon jungle were jaguars, snakes including anacondas, wild pigs, even some frogs there are poisonous to the touch, mosquitoes which carried diseases from malaria to yellow fever and settled on the explorers in swarms biting every inch of their bodies, ticks that descended on them like clouds of black rain...and they were also subject to attack by hostile native tribes.
Percy Fawcett
It’s said Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used Fawcett as his inspiration for Lord John Roxton in his 1912 book The Lost World. Also Fawcett’s older brother Edward was an adventure novelist and drew on his younger brothers private fantasies in his book, The Secret of the Desert, where an explorer finds an ancient abandoned temple laden with treasure.
Fawcett's theories of the ancient abandoned city of Z were considered nonsense by his peers. In the Edwardian era it was a widely held belief not only that El Dorado was a false myth but that all the documentation of the conquistadors discoveries were fantasies. Fawcett's colleagues believed the Amazon natives were incapable of having developed a complex civilization.There was a theory at that time as well that the Amazon itself was too inhospitable for anyone to have created a sophisticated society there.
Fawcett didn't believe in El Dorado but he thought many of the journals of these early Spanish expeditions contained accurate descriptions of the Amazon before the natives were almost entirely wiped out by small pox and other European diseases. For  instance the 16th century Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana reported seeing many fine roads leading into the interior. A conquistador on another expedition wrote of seeing towns so large they he was astounded by them.
After studying the conquistador's records and native myths Fawcett figured out the location of Z. He formed an expedition to uncover the lost civilization despite being considered a fool by his colleagues. It took him a long time to get funding, but at last he was ready to set out. In 1925, Fawcett formed a small team of only three - himself, his son Jack, and Jack’s friend Raleigh, because that was a small enough party that they could live off the land and three men wouldn't pose much of a threat to hostile Indians.Their explorer outfits  included lightweight tear-proof pants, stetsons, 30 caliber riffles and machetes.The three men entered the Amazon in search of the lost city of Z, but they disappeared in the jungle never to be heard of again.
It's know that Fawcett's party crossed the Upper Xingu, a south-eastern tributary of the Amazon and got as far as the Suyas and Kayapos tribes and then planned to turn eastward and confront the Xavante, an inhospitable tribe said to usually kill anyone they could catch. Some members of the Kayapos remember warning Fawcett not to go east as the tribes there were so hostile. The Kayapos saw the smoke from Fawcett's campfire for five days after they left them then it went out. It is still unknown happened to Fawcett and his son and Raleigh after that. Over the years the mystery of his disappearance grew. Many rescue missions followed as well as many ideas about what happened to Fawcett, including one theory that he found Z and stayed there to live in the ancient city in the jungle he so loved. .
Though Fawcett's theories of Z were dismissed by most of his peers, it's now known he actually saw things clearer than them. His theory of an advance civilization in the depth of the Amazon jungle, a city he named Z, had proven to be true. Anthropologist Michael Heckenberger, working alongside the local Kuikuro people,uncovered huge man made moats that once had palisade walls, as well as large circular plazas and a huge area where many dwellings once stood.These ancient people had also build roads up to a hundred and fifty feet wide as well as causeways canals, and there is even evidence of bridges built over rivers. The roads connected large settlements about two to three miles apart. Each settlement contained about two to five thousand people and they lived here between 800 to AD to 1600 AD before European diseases basically wiped most of the out.. All of the cities and roads an other construction were built with a sense of engineering and mathematics which rivaled anything happening in most of Europe at the time. Heckenberger calls it Kuhikugu and it was most likely created by the ancestors of the Kuikuro. As there wasn't much stone in the jungle Kuhikugu was built with wood, palm, and earth mounds which decompose.And this ancient advanced civilization lay right where Fawcett determined Z was.
If your interested in writing a Steampunk adventure story, Fawcett and his expeditions offer great inspiration. One of the best nonfiction books and also a great, page turner read, about Fawcett and his expeditions is The Lost City of Z by David Grann.


~      ~      ~

The Great Airship Scare of 1896 - 1897

Across the U. S.from 1896 – 1897, many newspapers reported unidentified flying objects, often described as silver cigar shaped airships with space alien crewmen and pilots thought to be from Mars. If you are looking for inspiration for a 19th century Steampunk UFO tale these reports from the great airship scare should help.
The Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Call reported the first sighting on November 18, 1896. A witness named R. L. Lowery described an alien craft powered by two men exerting themselves on bicycle pedals. Above the pedaling men, under the main body of the dirigible lay a passenger compartment, Some witnesses reported the sound of singing as the airship passed overhead.
The November 19, 1896 edition of the Stockton, California Daily Mail reported Colonel H. G. Shaw claimed that when driving his buggy through the countryside near Stockton he came across what appeared to be a landed spacecraft with a metallic surface, with no features other than  a rudder, and pointed ends. He estimated the space craft was a diameter of 25 feet by about 150 feet in length. Three slender, 7-foot-tall space aliens emitting a strange warbling noise came out of the craft. The beings examined Shaw's buggy then tried to physically force Shaw into their airship. The aliens were said to give up after realizing they lacked the physical strength to force Shaw onto the ship. They climbed back into their airship, which lifted off the ground and sped out of sight.
The Albion Weekly News reported two witnesses saw an airship crash inches from where they were standing. The ship suddenly disappeared, with a man standing where the vessel had been. The airship pilot showed the men a small device which had enabled him to shrink the airship small enough to put it in his pocket.
On April 10, 1897 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article reporting a witness, W. H. Hopkins, encountered a grounded airship about 20 feet in length and 8 feet in diameter near the outskirts of Springfield, Missouri.The spaceship was propelled by 3 large propellers and crewed by a beautiful nude woman and a bearded man, also nude.Hopkins attempted to communicate with the crew to ascertain their origins. Eventually they understood what Hopkins was asking and they both pointed to the sky and uttered something that sounded like the word Mars.
April 16, 1897 the Table Rock Argus reported a group of reliable witnesses saw an airship sailing overhead. It had a lot of passengers, including a woman tied to a chair and a man with a pistol guarding her.
The Center Farmer's Advocate published the April 19, 1897 account of Alexander Hamilton of Leroy, Kansas, who along with his son and a tenant, sighted an airship hovering over his cattle pen. A red cable from the space ship lassoed a heifer, but got entangled in the pen's fence. Hamilton’s attempts to free the cow were unsuccessful. He then cut a portion of the fence loose and the ship and cow rose off the ground and sailed away.
In 1897 the Washington Times speculated the airships were a reconnoitering party from Mars. The same year, the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch suggested these may be visitors from Mars, now fearful of invading the planet they have been seeking.
Here’s four sample of articles which appeared in the Chicago Tribune in 1897:
Mount Vernon, Illinois, April 15 — What appeared to have been the mysterious airship was seen here by more than 100 persons last night.
Carlyle, Ill., April 15 — The airship was spotted this evening travelling fast in a northwestern course.
Quincy, Ill., April 15. — The Wabash passenger train which arrived here at 10 o'clock tonight raced for 15 minutes with the alleged airship. They first sighted it near Perry Springs, 52 miles east of Quincy. All of the passengers saw it, but all they could see was two lights, one white, the other red.
Hillsboro, Ill., April 15 —the airship was seen in the western heavens by a number of reputable citizens last evening.
My favorite report is the UFO crash in Aurora Texas in 1897. A cigar-shaped airship plowed through a windmill, destroying it. The good folk of Aurora discovered a space alien inside, who died upon impact. They gave him a Christian burial. Someone stole the space alien’s tombstone but the state of Texas erected a historical marker at the cemetery, which reads, “This site is also well known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash was buried here.” The Dallas Morning News printed the story, stating an airship hit the tower of Judge Proter’s windmill, blew into pieces in a terrific explosion scattering parts of the UFO over several acres, wrecking the windmill and water tank, and destroying the Judge’s flower garden. The newspaper reported that the pilot, the only one in the spaceship, died upon impact and though his body was badly disfigured it was evident he was not an inhabitant of this world.
An interesting aspect of the Great Airship Scare was a rumor that the space ships were the invention of some genius who wasn't ready to announce his creation to the public. Thomas Edison was widely speculated to be the mind behind the airships and in 1897, to quiet the rumors, he issued a statement denying all responsibility.
So start researching and writing some Victorian era UFO stories. I can't wait to read them when they're published.
~      ~      ~

Going Ape

If you‘re looking for a fun character for a Steampunk novel, why not throw in an ape? Gorillas and Apes were popular in Victorian literature. With the British colonies in Africa, the Victorians had a strong interest in the unique continent. Another reason for the popularity of these human-like creatures was the topic of evolution spurred by Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species, published in 1859.
The most famous gorilla was Edgar Allan Poe’s mass murderer from his tale, The Murders In The Rue Morgue, published in 1841. It stands as the first detective story ever written.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs came out in 1912 and Apes are strong secondary characters and are an intricate part of the storyline. The story begins in the year 1888 when John, Lord Greystoke with his new, young wife, Lady Alice sail to Africa. There is a mutiny on their ship and they are abandoned on the coast of Africa near a jungle. Alice has a baby there but shortly after the child is born, Alice dies and Lord Greystoke is killed by a gorilla. A female gorilla, Kala, who had recently lost her baby, takes Alice’s baby and raises him as her own. She names him Tarzan. She was the only mother he ever knew.
This is a short excerpt from The Return of Tarzan: "And I, on my part, loved her, Paul. I did not realize how much until after the cruel spear and the poisoned arrow of Mbonga's black warrior had stolen her away from me. I was still a child when that occurred, and I threw myself upon her dead body and wept out my anguish as a child might for his own mother. To you, my friend, she would have appeared a hideous and ugly creature, but to me she was beautiful—so gloriously does love transfigure its object. And so I am perfectly content to remain forever the son of Kala, the she-ape."
In the return of Tarzan he finds a lost city of gold and the people, though human, speak his native language, that of the gorillas.  When Tarzan escapes the City of Gold and sees Jane in the Jungle with the man she chose over him, he returns to his tribe of apes, broken hearted and wanting nothing more to do with humans. Later in the story when Jane is captured by the men from the City of Gold, it’s a gorilla that tells Tarzan she’s been taken.
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yy73r3WjaDk[/embed]
Six-Gun Gorilla is another r interesting story, published as a fifteen-part serial in the British Pulp, Wizard in 1939. Set in the 19th century American wild west, a kidnapped baby gorilla ends up in Colorado with a kind prospector, Bart Masters. The gorilla, O’Neil, loves the prospector like a father. Unfortunately, Tutt Stawhan, head of the Strawhan outlaw gang, murders Bart Masters. O’Neil vows to revenge Bart’s death. He straps a bandoleer across his broad, hairy chest and holsters two Colts. Then he sets out on a quest to track down, shoot and kill every member of the Strawhan gang.
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSPJN6IPwJI[/embed]
Rupert Cornelius is a popular Steampunk gorilla.  I had the pleasure of meeting, this educated Ape, at Aetherfest in San Antonio, Texas a few years back. This brilliant gorilla answers such mind boggling questions as pirates vs ninjas, The borg vs the daleks, and what he would he do for a Klondike bar?
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv-F2IQEFOY[/embed]
And of course there’s DC comics’ Gorilla Grodd, arch nemesis of the  Flash. Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, the  premise is that in the 19th century, a spacecraft crashed deep in the heart of Africa in the Congo Basin. Grodd and his troupe gain super intelligence and Grodd and another gorilla, Solovar, are also empowered with telepathic and telekinetic abilities as well as mind control. Uner the leadership of the alien pilot, the genius apes build Gorilla City where they live in a society far advanced from our own. The apes dwell in peace in this secret city hidden in the mountains, until they are discovered by explorers.
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pq1TIGMnhpQ[/embed]
Grodd forces an explorer to kill the alien, so he can rule Gorilla City. But Solovar and the Flash thwart Grodd’s evil plan. Many times through the years the Flash and his allies including Solovar save the world from Grodd.
If you’ve read or written a book featuring a gorilla, tell us about it or comment on anything else regarding the post. I love to hear from readers and other authors.
~      ~      ~

Mary and Jane - Sci-fi Pioneers

Diana Vick - Steamcon
Diana Vick - Steamcon
I thought I'd mention two of my favorite writers, Mary and Jane, again -- the two teenage girls in the regency era that gave so much to the sci-fi genre.
Jane Loudon
Jane Loudon
I love reading sci-fi and steampunk and I hear statements sometimes about women being new to sci-fi. Of course women were among the pioneers of the genre. Frankenstein was the first mad-scientist subgenre book and many consider it the first work which can logically be labeled sci-fi. Mary Shelley wrote it when she was 19. Shelley also wrote, The Last Man, the first written work  of the sci-fi subgenre of a sole survivor of earth. A still popular plot, often used in books and movies two hundred years later. Jane Loudon’s novel, The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century was the first book about a mummy brought back to life, a popular plot to this day. She wrote it when she was 17. However, there’s a lot more to Loudon’s contribution to sci-fi. In the regency era, a time when the word sci-fi wasn’t even used, she understood what futuristic sci-fi was meant to be.
The Last Man is set in the 21st century and written in first person. The writing is elegant with marvelous description. Verney tells the story of his life. Through mistakes of his father, he and his sister, Perdita,  are cast out of a happy life into one of poor lonely orphans.  He forms a plan of vengeance against the people who brought this ruin. The main culprit was the king, who is dead. When the king’s son, Adrian, comes to Verney’s town he sets his plan in motion. However, Adrian turns out to be a great supporter of Verney’s  late father. Verney rises from his life of despair and longing with the help of Adrian, who becomes his lifelong best friend.  This circle of six friends: Verney, Perdita, Adrian a poet and intellectual , Raymond a hero nobleman (who marries Perdita) , Adrian’s sister, Idris  (who marries Verney) and Evadne, a Greek princess, have many ups and downs in their lives. Eventually, most end up married with children and quite happy and settled. But Perdita’s husband, Raymond, cheats on her with Evadne.  So Perdita leaves Raymond. A war between the Greeks and the Turks break out and Raymond fights in it as does Evadne. She dies on the battlefield and Verney finds her body and buries her. As Raymond is on his death bed from mortal war wounds, Perdita goes to him and forgives him. When he dies, she kills herself. Soon after this an epidemic begins. It’s unknown what causes it or how it spreads. It goes from country to country. For a long time England is untouched by it. Due to the plague and several natural disasters in different parts of the world, England is filled with immigrants. Then the symptoms reach a patient in a hospital in London. In the year 2096 the few survivors of the plague in England decide to leave and find some untouched part of the world. Verney, Adrian, and their families are at the forefront of this group.
They sail from England, leaving it depopulated. The group decides to pass the hot months in the icy valley of Switzerland. As they journey there Idris, Verney’s wife. dies from the plague. By the time they arrive in Switzerland it, like every other place, is empty of people. After seven years the plague ends. Thinking danger has passed they leave the alps to go into Italy and pass the winter in Milan. Then they  spend the summer in a villa by a lake. There one of the children is struck with a sudden fever and dies. They burry the child and sail their skiff toward Athens. But a storm overtakes the ship . Everyone is drowned in the shipwreck except Verney.
Verney enters the town of Ravenna near where the wreck occurred. He sees oxen, dogs, horses, birds, and other animals but no men among them. After staying a while in Ravennna, he heads to Rome, the capital of the world, the crown of man’s achievement. He finds pens and paper and writes a book about his life, which is the book – The Last Man.  He leaves it in the ancient city of this world as a sole monument of Verney the LAST MAN. He then leaves Rome to sail around the shores of deserted Earth.
The Mummy! 1828 2nd edition - title page
The Mummy! 1828 2nd edition - title page
Jane Loudon’s novel, The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century was published anonymously as a trilogy in 1827, and again in 1828.  In the regency era, a time when the word sci-fi wasn’t even used, she wrote of the future in a way no one had before. Instead of just taking her own time period and moving it into the future, making few changes except for utopian or dystopian ones, she built an actual futuristic world with advanced technology, futuristic clothing, and a different type of government. Jane Loudon was the first sci-fi author to actually world build.
The gadgets in her future world all spring from the regency era when the high-end technology of the day was steam and balloons. Two of Loudon’s characters, Edwin and Dr. Entwerfen embark on an expedition to the tomb of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu), to shock him back to life with a galvanized battery. Their dialogue when leaving for Egypt and realizing they have too much baggage for the balloon touches on some of Loudon’s interesting futuristic inventions. She even envisioned a certain type of space flight as a fashionable mode of travel. Here’s a short excerpt:
“The cloaks are of asbestos and will be necessary to protect us from ignition, if we should encounter any electric matter in the clouds; and the hampers are filled with elastic plugs for our ears and noses, and tubes and barrels of common air, for us to breathe when we get beyond the common atmosphere of the earth. “
“But what occasion shall we have to go beyond it?”
“How can we do otherwise? Surely you don’t meant to travel the whole distance in the balloon? I thought of course, you would adopt the present fashionable mode of traveling, and after mounting the seventeen miles or thereabouts, which is necessary to get clear of the mundane attraction, to wait there till the turning of the globe should bring Egypt directly under our feet.”
“But it is not in the same latitude.”
Then the doctor explains the box he wants to bring on the balloon contains his portable galvanic battery and his apparatus for making and collecting the inflammable air. It also holds a machine for producing and concentrating quicksilver vapor – the power to propel them onward in place of steam. It even has laughing gas for the sole purpose of keeping up their spirits.
Another change in everyday life in the future is fast mail delivery. Letters are placed inside balls and fired from steam cannons. Every town and district have a woven wire suspended in the air as a net to catch the ball and a cannon to send it off again when the letters for that neighborhood are extracted. A smaller wooden ball with a hole in its side to making whizzing noise as it sails through the air is sent before each mail ball to alert people to keep out of the way.
Also Stage balloons are used to make fast deliveries. One of the characters receives a collection of ballads, at least three hundred years old, sent from London by stage balloon that morning. They are on rag paper since asbestos paper used in the 22nd century had only been invented for two hundred years.
Movable houses are another change in the future. One of the characters, Edric, sees a house slide out of place and glide along the road. A lady at the window blows a kiss to someone in another house as she passes by. When someone wants to go into the country for a few weeks they take their house with them, which saves the trouble of packing and allows everyone to have all their little conveniences about. There are grooves in the bottom of the houses that fit on the iron railways. Propelled by steam, they slide on without much trouble but it only works for small houses as large ones aren’t compact enough.
More futuristic marvels are feather-fans hung from the ceiling, circulating aeriform fluid. Also they use tubes in the houses to suck out stale air and bring the fresh air in. And the most stylish coats are made in a machine. At one end it strips the wool off a sheep, then weaves it so a ready to wear coat comes out at the other end of the machine. Also Bridges are movable and steam-powered to rotate in all directions and to adjust to whatever height is needed for the different waterways. Even streets are modernized, they are warmed by pipes of hot air so no one perishes of cold.
She envisions a lot of technological advancements in agriculture including a steam-powered lawnmower and a mechanical milking machine. Also when the sun doesn’t shine enough to make hay they use a burning glass to make it. When it doesn’t rain enough for the crops they use an electrical machine to draw down clouds to cause rain on the fields that need it.
She also shares a glimpse of futuristic fashion: “The ladies were all arrayed in loose trousers, over which hung drapery in graceful folds; and most of them carried on their heads streams of lighted gas forced by capillary tubes into plumes, fleurs-de-lis, or in short any form the wearer pleased; which jets de feu had an uncommonly chase and elegant effect.”
There are also political changes from the Regency era to the 22nd century. After undergoing a revolution, and even a period of democracy, England returns to an absolute monarchy but as a matriarchy. All rulers are queens and the candidates are single women of the royal family between the ages of 20 and 25. There is  a law that the queen cannot get married. In the towns, the men in the country 21 years on up, in groups of 10,000, choose a deputy to represent them in London. The queen is elected through the majority vote of these deputies.
The main characters in The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century come from two families with their eyes on the crown: the Montagues and the house of the Duke of Cornwall. The Montagues have two sons, Edmund, a national hero and Edric, an intellectual. The Duke of Cornwall’s family has two daughters Elvira and Rosabella, who are the next in line to the throne if anything happens to Queen Claudia. Edric’s father has arranged for him to marry Rosabella but he reuses. Edric is fascinated by the idea of reanimating the dead. His friend, Dr. Entwerfen tells him that since the ancient Egyptians believed the souls of their mummies were chained to them in a torpid state till the final day of judgment, there is every reason to believe that by employing so powerful an agent as a galvanic battery of fifty surgeon power re-animation may be produced. Edric is too squeamish to touch a dead corpse’s flesh but he’s willing to touch a mummy as it swathed in wrappings. He and Dr. Entwerfen go to Egypt and resurrect the mummy, Cheops. But the mummy runs out of the pyramid, hijacks their balloon, and flies back to England. When he flies over Queen Claudia’s coronation pageant, his balloon gets tangled up with all the other balloons crowding he sky. His balloon gets torn and falls to the earth landing on and killing Queen Claudia. The story continues with political intrigue, a secret birth father, and love triangles, all with a little help from the wise Pharaoh, Cheops, who has the most common sense and perception of anyone in the book.
The similarity between awakening the mummy and awakening Frankenstein back to life and the similarity of the two main male characters, hero and intellectual as in in Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, is no coincidence. Jane Loudon uses them as a parody to show her own view point. Her political, social and religious beliefs differ greatly form Mary Shelley’s.
The next time you are writing, reading, or watching a movie or TV show with a mad scientist or sole survivor on earth plot or a mummy brought back to life plot or awesome world building for the future take a silent moment to thank Mary Shelley and Jane Loudon. And if you’re at a con or other event and someone says something like women are new to Sci-Fi or girls don't know anything about sci-fi, you might just want to remind them that women have been reading and wiring Sci-Fi for over two hundred years.
~      ~    ~

STEAMPUNK AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

chocolate everything
Steampunk and Chocolate go together like tea and scones. After all modern chocolate was created in the Victorian era and steam power made the first mass production of chocolate possible. Not to mention when I think of chocolate factories, I think of Willie Wonka, which has a steampunk vibe.
I set up a Steampunk event to tour the Keggs Chocolate factory here in Houston Texas. It’s not quite Wille Wonka’s but it’s a lot of fun and full of freshly made chocolate treats. Yum yum! The choclate factory -Chocolate was first molded into solid form in 1847 by Francis Fry, who added melted cacao butter back into Dutch cocoa then added sugar, creating a moldable paste. He called it “eating chocolate” Two years later the Cadbury brothers were also selling “eating chocolate”. And in 1861 Richard Cadbury created the first heart-shaped candy box for Valentine’s Day. If you like milk chocolate like I do, you can thank Daniel Peter, who invented it in 1875  by using condensed milk his neighbor Henri Nestle developed. Then Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle formed the NestlĂ© Company.putting swirls on the choclate to tell which kind is which
In 1879 Rodolphe Lindt invented the conching machine to heat and roll chocolate to a smooth and creamy consistency so it melts on the tongue. In 1895 Milton S. Hershey sold his first Hershey Bar in Pennsylvania. He made it using modern, mass-production equipment he purchased at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
so hard to decide - it all looks good
So we can think the Victorian era for chocolate. After the scrumptious chocolate factory tour, we had lunch at Your Cup Of Tea, an English style Tea House.

Steampowered Amusments and Diversions

At Apollo Con I attended the Amusements and Diversions in the Age of Steam - Magic Lantern show - by fantasy artist, Theresa Mather.
She showed us a photographic history of Victorian entertainment and oddities A popular fair attraction In the mid 19th century was the platform carousel with a circular floor rotating around a pole in it's center and operated manually or by ponies. The carousel went steamed in 1861. Thomas Bradshaw created the first steam-powered mechanical carousel, (I call them Merry-Go-Rounds). That carousel and others of it's day spun much faster than modern ones. It's a wonder people were able to hold onto the horses during the ride. it was a thrill ride of it's day. A high-point of early fairground art was the elaborate decorations created by Italian designers and craftsmen imported at the showmen's expense and they even included lavish center organs.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UntpIfwzmBc
The first Steampowered carousel inspired Frederick Savage to try his hand at making similar machines using the expertise at his agricultural engineering works at Kings Lynn.Savage’s first steam powered ride was a bycle carousel, the Velocipede. Savage also competed with several manufacturers to try to make carousel horses gallop and created their first platform galloper in 1885. The same year Messrs Reynolds and King designed the overhead crank system. By the end of the 19th century crank-action gallopers were a popular ride. The steam engine connected to a spinning top that in turn linked to the platform.One  variant used galloping cockerels rather than horses.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWY-9JyqFLk
In 1880 the partnership of Frederick Savage and William Sanger gave birth to another novelty ride, Sea on Land. Replicas of seafaring vessels were pitched and tossed by mechanisms beneath their hulls. Then a patent taken in 1888 introduced the Steam Yachts the ultimate mechanized swing ride. William Cartwright of Bromwich first succeeded in building a set using upright cylinders. The Steam Yacht rides used huge boats able to carry 20 or more people at a time.They even named the ships after giant ocean-going liners like the Lusitania, Mauritania. Cymric, and Celtic, although Olympia and Titanic proved short lived names..These rides were gorgeous in full swing as the boats had lavishly painted bottoms.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aU53cHihUPc
Savage also created the Razzle Dazzle ride, with seats and an outter wall it tilted side to side as it spun around. By 1885 Savage made the ride Tunnel Railways, a locomotive pulled carriages on a circular track with a tunnel. Frederick Savage enjoyed prominence as the pioneer of the steam roundabout but several engineering firms  along with some amateurs. Robert Tidman of Norwich, Thomas Walker of Tewkesbury and William Howcroft, of Hartlepool, all emerged as competitive manufacturers of steam powered rides by the 1880s.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yH7ON4JiD-I
   ~          ~         ~

Why Do We Love Sherlock Holmes?

We love Sherlock. We dress out dogs like Sherlock. All of our dogs love Sherlock.
Why do we love Sherlock...he's a rather anti-social unpleasant man? That big mystery - Why is Sherlock Holmes Still So Popular?  - was the name and subject of a panel, headed by author Tony Lee, at Comicpalooza.
The first clue is Sherlock's character flaws. Yes, Sherlock has his imperfections. After all, he is quite antisocial and arrogant, not to mention he's a drug addict. But we forgive him for all that because of his brilliance. In fact perhaps because of his faults we appreciate his genius of deduction and crime solving even more. Flawed characters are fun to write and read, especially when they are so arrogant they have no idea they are imperfect.  Maybe that's why we love him, we wished we didn't realize our imperfections. Or maybe because despite all his weirdness, he's so good. When we try to figure out a mystery before he does, we can't. We love his mind even more because of his character flaws.
Another clue to the mystery of Sherlock's continual popularity is that he fits into any timeline. Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes in 1887, a contemporary character of the time, the Victorian era, the 19th century. Many of our parents or grandparents grew up with Basil Rathbone as their idea of Sherlock Holmes from the 1939 film, The Hound of the Baskervilles and thirteen other movies in which he played the famed detective. Those films had a contemporary setting of the time, the WWII era of the 20th century and Sherlock fit right in.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UcR9iKArd0
Then from the 19th century to the 20th century Sherlock moved into the 21st century with the television shows and actors: Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller. Another contemporary television version of Sherlock is House with Hugh Laurie, which is a medical version of Sherlock Holmes.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YvuZ4Msh50
Of course there is also the outstanding Steampunk adaption of Sherlock in the Robert Downey Jr. films:  Sherlock Holmes,  the second film, The Game Of Shadows and Sherlock Holmes three is apparently in development.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7nJksXDBWc
Sherlock continues to evolve with us. And everyone has their own favorite Sherlock Holmes like everyone has their on favorite Dr. Who.
Sherlock Holmes will probably be around a hundred years from now playing in some form of interactive hologram entertainment. People might read, watch or listen to Sherlock Holmes stories in a spaceship or in a domed community on Mars or the Moon.  I wouldn't doubt it. And they'll be trying to answer the question, Why is Sherlock Holmes Still So Popular?
                                       ~          ~         ~

From Lunch Wagons to Food Trucks

I recently worked a temp job where my co-workers sent a group email once a week when the food trucks came to the area. Everyone was always so excited about lunch on those days. It was the one time they all went to lunch together. In a large group they’d walk over to where the food trucks parked to try out the different ones. Some of the most popular food trucks in Houston, where I live are Yummy'z Kitchen serving American classics, the waffle bus with their gourmet waffle sandwiches, and FoodGasm offering everything from burgers and lobster rolls to wings and waffles and deep-fried Oreos. I love the food trucks that come to the Houston Highland Games each year where I get cultural delicacies such as haggis, bangers and mash, and scotch eggs and Irn - Bru to wash it all down. I haven’t got my granddaughter to try haggis yet but I did get her to each a scotch egg. She loved it. And everyone loves food trucks. Here are some great photos of actual Steampunk food trucks. It might surprise you to know food trucks aren’t new. And, yes, they go back to Victorian times. They were called lunch wagons then.
In 1887, Walter Scott, a Rhode Island pressman at the Providence Journal, made extra money selling homemade sandwiches and coffee he carried in baskets to co-workers. This little side business did so well Scott upgraded to a horse-drawn wagon with walk up windows on each side. There, he served fresh sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, sweet pies, and steaming coffee. Scott’s customers, these late night regulars and shift workers, were the rough and rowdy kind. He often had to hold their hats as collateral until they paid for their sandwiches.  Sometimes he even had to collect  payment with a club. It seems selling sandwiches in the Victorian age wasn't for the faint of heart.  Still, his business boomed. Soon copy cat lunch wagons popped up giving him some local competition.
A Massachusetts wagon owner,  T.H. Buckley, discovered building lunch cars was more profitable than operating them. Commercial production of lunch wagons began.  The leading advantage of Buckley's design, No. 22,743, Patented Aug. 22, 1893, was a series of windows extending  around the wagon and a door on either side of the wagon. The row of windows in the upper portion of the wagon body added a light and airy appearance. Buckley's wagons also had large wheels to maneuver over the cobblestones, overhangs to keep patrons out of the rain, decorative murals, frosted glass and shiny fixtures, as well as ice boxes and cook-stoves.
The united States post Office honored these early lunch wagons with a 29 cent Lunch Wagon stamp issued on April, 12, 1991.
Food Time Line is a great source for 19th century foodways for Steampunk stories – authentic saloon menus are even listed and a recipe for a pioneer birthday cake as well as Queen Victoria’s favorite foods. Also click here for some great Lunch Wagon images.
If you enjoy eating at food trucks keep that in mind when writing stories set in the 19th century. Have your characters stop by a food wagon or create a character who owns a food wagon.
~ ~ ~

Mad About Mummies

I just recently saw this great French comedy adventure film set in the Edwardian era, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec. It’s on Netflix and certainly has Steampunk elements. Here’s the trailer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sO3FJrETFk
Just as we in the 21st century are mad about zombies, those in the 19th century were mad about mummies. Some people, like me, are still mad about mummies.
Here’s a trailer for another modern day mummy movie set in the Edwardian era that I’m sure you’re familiar with. The Mummy. Here’s the favorite scene in that movie for most writers, readers, and librarians.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAmJm0zkpIc
Reviving mummies began with Jane Webb Loudon who wrote “The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century” in 1827.This was the first mummy story, one of the first sci-fi books and the first sci-fi work with a modern world building style.
“The ancient Egyptians you know, believed that the souls of their mummies were chained to them in a torpid state till the final day of judgment, and supposing this hypotheses to be correct, there is every reason to imagine that by employing so powerful an agent as galvanism, re-animation may be produced.” – From The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century.
And so it is, two of Loudon’s characters, Edwin and Dr. Entwerfen, embark by balloon on an expedition to the tomb of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu), to shock him back to life with a galvanized battery.
Mummies proved a popular theme in many Regency, Victorian and Edwardian books. With so many mummy books, I’m going to only name the stories or poems about mummies or pharaohs written by author’s you’ll recognize. You may be surprised.
The first is Lord Byron. His poem growing old references the famous Pharaoh, Khufu (Cheops) who built the pyramid at Giza.
"What are the hopes of man? Old Egypt’s King
Cheops erected the first Pyramid
And largest, thinking it was just the thing
To keep his memory whole, and mummy hid;
But somebody or other rummaging,
Burglariously broke his coffin’s lid:
Let not a monument give you or me hopes,
Since not a pinch of dust remains of Cheops."
Next is another famous poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley’s husband. He was inspired by the ancient Greek writer, Diodorus Siculus, who on his travels to Thebes described a giant fallen statue of Ozymandias (Ramesses II). It was inscribed, "I am Ozymandias, King of Kings. Should any man seek to know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works." So Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote the sonnet Ozymandias.
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
Then we have Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “Some Words with a Mummy”, written in 1845. It’s humorous satire, a delightful read, and the author’s voice is so fresh it seems as if it could have been written today. Simply put – it’s so Poe.
Next, Louisa May Alcott, of Little Women fame, wrote a short story, “Lost in a Pyramid: The Mummy’s Curse” in 1869 . It’s on the horror side, quite Victorian, and you’ll recognize Alcott’s writing style.
The last one and one of the best is Bram Stoker, author of Dracula. The Jewel of Seven Stars is a full length novel written in 1903 about a female mummy an Egyptologist brings back to his home to revive. His daughter is then possesed by the mummy's soul.  Stoker is a master of suspense and elegant writing. He has wonderful page turning hooks at the end of each chapter. It’s not as great as Dracula – but it’s good and it’s pure Stoker. I loved it.
The Jewel of Seven Stars has two endings. On the third print run, in 1912, the publisher demanded Stoker change the ending. At the time, critics called the original ending too gruesome. I read this at Project Gutenberg, which had the newer ending, but I was able to read the original ending at http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/543300.The_Jewel_of_Seven_Stars The first ending isn’t gruesome by today’s standards though it is horribly sad. Still, the original ending is clearly the best.
What are your favorite Mummy books or movies? Have you read any Steampunk Mummy books? Which do you prefer zombies or mummies? Feel free to comment below.
~ ~ ~

Regency Era, Jane Loudon gave us THE MUMMY, A Tale Of The 22nd Century

Jane Loudon
Jane Loudon
Jane Loudon’s novel, The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century was published anonymously as a trilogy in 1827, and again in 1828. It was the first book about a mummy brought back to life, a popular plot to this day. However, there’s a lot more to Loudon’s contribution to sci-fi. In the regency era, a time when the word sci-fi wasn't even used, she understood what futuristic sci-fi was meant to be. She wrote of the future in a way no one had before. Instead of just taking her own time period and moving it into the future making few changes except for utopian or dystopian ones, she built an actual futuristic world with advanced technology, futuristic clothing, and a different type of government. Jane Loudon was the first sci-fi author to actually world build.
The gadgets in her future world all spring from the regency era when the high-end technology of the day was steam and balloons. Two of Loudon's characters, Edwin and Dr. Entwerfen embark on an expedition to the tomb of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu), to shock him back to life with a galvanized battery. Their dialogue when leaving for Egypt and realizing they have too much baggage for the balloon touches on some of Loudon's interesting futuristic inventions. She even envisioned a certain type of space flight as a fashionable mode of travel. Here's a short excerpt:
“The cloaks are of asbestos and will be necessary to protect us from ignition, if we should encounter any electric matter in the clouds; and the hampers are filled with elastic plugs for our ears and noses, and tubes and barrels of common air, for us to breathe when we get beyond the common atmosphere of the earth. “
“But what occasion shall we have to go beyond it?”
“How can we do otherwise? Surely you don’t meant to travel the whole distance in the balloon? I thought of course, you would adopt the present fashionable mode of traveling, and after mounting the seventeen miles or thereabouts, which is necessary to get clear of the mundane attraction, to wait there till the turning of the globe should bring Egypt directly under our feet.”
“But it is not in the same latitude.”
Then the doctor explains the box he wants to bring on the balloon contains his portable galvanic battery and his apparatus for making and collecting the inflammable air. It also holds a machine for producing and concentrating quicksilver vapor - the power to propel them onward in place of steam. It even has laughing gas for the sole purpose of keeping up their spirits.
Another change in everyday life in the future is fast mail delivery. Letters are placed inside balls and fired from steam cannons. Every town and district have a woven wire suspended in the air as a net to catch the ball and a cannon to send it off again when the letters for that neighborhood are extracted. A smaller wooden ball with a hole in its side to making whizzing noise as it sails through the air is sent before each mail ball to alert people to keep out of the way.
Also Stage balloons are used to make fast deliveries. One of the characters receives a collection of ballads, at least three hundred years old, sent from London by stage balloon that morning. They are on rag paper since asbestos paper used in the 22nd century had only been invented for two hundred years.
Movable houses are another change in the future. One of the characters, Edric, sees a house slide out of place and glide along the road. A lady at the window blows a kiss to someone in another house as she passes by. When someone wants to go into the country for a few weeks they take their house with them, which saves the trouble of packing and allows everyone to have all their little conveniences about. There are grooves in the bottom of the houses that fit on the iron railways. Propelled by steam, they slide on without much trouble but it only works for small houses as large ones aren't compact enough.
More futuristic marvels are feather-fans hung from the ceiling, circulating aeriform fluid. Also they use tubes in the houses to suck out stale air and bring the fresh air in. And the most stylish coats are made in a machine. At one end it strips the wool off a sheep, then weaves it so a ready to wear coat comes out at the other end of the machine. Also Bridges are movable and steam-powered to rotate in all directions and to adjust to whatever height is needed for the different waterways. Even streets are modernized, they are warmed by pipes of hot air so no one perishes of cold.
She envisions a lot of technological advancements in agriculture including a steam-powered lawnmower and a mechanical milking machine. Also when the sun doesn't shine enough to make hay they use a burning glass to make it. When it doesn't rain enough for the crops they use an electrical machine to draw down clouds to cause rain on the fields that need it.
She also shares a glimpse of futuristic fashion: “The ladies were all arrayed in loose trousers, over which hung drapery in graceful folds; and most of them carried on their heads streams of lighted gas forced by capillary tubes into plumes, fleurs-de-lis, or in short any form the wearer pleased; which jets de feu had an uncommonly chase and elegant effect.”
There are also political changes from the Regency era to the 22nd century. After undergoing a revolution, and even a period of democracy, England returns to an absolute monarchy but as a matriarchy. All rulers are queens and the candidates are single women of the royal family between the ages of 20 and 25. There is  a law that the queen cannot get married. In the towns, the men in the country 21 years on up, in groups of 10,000, choose a deputy to represent them in London. The queen is elected through the majority vote of these deputies.
The Mummy! 1828 2nd edition - title page
The Mummy! 1828 2nd edition - title page
The main characters in The Mummy, A Tale of the 22nd Century come from two families with their eyes on the crown: the Montagues and the house of the Duke of Cornwall. The Montagues have two sons, Edmund, a national hero and Edric, an intellectual. The Duke of Cornwall’s family has two daughters Elvira and Rosabella, who are the next in line to the throne if anything happens to Queen Claudia. Edric’s father has arranged for him to marry Rosabella but he reuses. Edric is fascinated by the idea of reanimating the dead. His friend, Dr. Entwerfen tells him that since the ancient Egyptians believed the souls of their mummies were chained to them in a torpid state till the final day of judgment, there is every reason to believe that by employing so powerful an agent as a galvanic battery of fifty surgeon power re-animation may be produced. Edric is too squeamish to touch a dead corpse’s flesh but he’s willing to touch a mummy as it swathed in wrappings. He and Dr. Entwerfen go to Egypt and resurrect the mummy, Cheops. But the mummy runs out of the pyramid, hijacks their balloon, and flies back to England. When he flies over Queen Claudia's coronation pageant, his balloon gets tangled up with all the other balloons crowding he sky. His balloon gets torn and falls to the earth landing on and killing Queen Claudia. The story continues with political intrigue, a secret birth father, and love triangles, all with a little help from the wise Pharaoh, Cheops, who has the most common sense and perception of anyone in the book.
The similarity between awakening the mummy and awakening Frankenstein back to life and the similarity of the two main male characters, hero and intellectual as in in Mary Shelley's The Last Man, is no coincidence. Jane Loudon uses them as a parody to show her own view point. Her political, social and religious beliefs differ greatly form Mary Shelley's.
I have to say it, Sci-fi readers and writers owe Jane Loudon and Mary Shelley so much. Frankenstein was written and first published in 1818, when Mary Wollstoncroft was only nineteen. Jane Webb wrote The mummy, a Tale of the 22nd century when she was 17 and it was published in 1827. H. G. Wells and Jules Verne didn't write their first books for many years after this: Jules Verne's - Five Weeks In A Balloon in 1863 and H. G. Wells - The Time Machine in 1895. Not only have women been reading and writing sci-fi for over two hundred years, the sci-fi genre wouldn't be the same without them. The genre was pioneered by two teenage girls with very different views on politics and religion, both writing in the Regency era. I think that’s awesome.
 ~       ~        ~

Cupcake, get your Steampunk On - Thick and Thin Designs


I shake John Carney and then Christine Carney’s hands. “Welcome aboard my Airship and watch your step,” I call as I stretch my short legs in a leap across the wide gap between the dock and the airship. John and Christine, the owners of Thick and Thin Designs, follow me into the parlor.
I gesture towards the crimson settee, which features curvy lion head legs and claw feet. John and Christine take a seat there. I sink into the large armchair across from them. I raise my voice to speak over the clang and grind of the airship as we take off. “Cupcake toppers are wonderful and they take a cupcake to a whole other level. What drew you to the fascinating art and business of creating decorative acrylic cupcake toppers, jewelry and ornaments?"
Christine glances at the blue willow teacups, shaking and rattling on the tea table between us. “John's an MFA student at the University of Maine and had been working as a tech in the new Innovation, Marketing, Research and Commercialization Center (IMRC) on campus and fell in love with the laser cutter. We knew that machine would allow us to produce what previously only existed in our wildest dreams. One night while I was cooking dinner, we envisioned a massive zombie horde placed upon dozens of cupcakes and the idea to produce unique, quirky cupcake toppers was born. We always knew that we wanted to be in business together and this was our opportunity.”
“How can you not love any business inspired by the vision of a zombie horde on cupcakes.” The dainty china cups cease rattling on the tea table as our airship glides smoothly pass the clouds. “Several of your Thick & Thin creations have a Steampunk appeal:  gears, mustaches, tentacles and hot air balloons. Do you have an interest in Steampunk?” I pick up the teapot and pour my guests a cup of Earl Grey.
John and Chrisitne pick up their teacups. “We love the Steampunk genre! We love the combination of beautiful clothing, dirty industrialization and the whimsical nature that threads through it all. Steampunk and those who love it are always an inspiration for us when we're creating new designs because we know that there are great number of people out there who love it and not many products to support it.” Tendrils of steam rise from their teacups as they each take a sip.
I pour myself a cup of tea. “How do you get your inspiration for your creations?” Lifting and tilting my teacup to my lips, I take a long sip.
John reaches for the sugar bowl, picks up a white cube and plunks it into his tea. “We've always been fans of the obscure, geeky and cute so we often find inspiration in our hobbies. When we're deciding what to put on our shop we think of things that we would want and can't find anywhere else. We have a very diverse group of friends, sometimes thinking about what they might want can lead to innovative designs that we wouldn't necessarily think of for ourselves. The tentacles for instance were created specifically for one of our Cthulhu loving friends who had just moved to the US from Spain. Obviously they had to be shared with the world, and now they are one of our top sellers.” He dips a silver teaspoon into his cup and swishes it gently from side to side.
Reaching for the dish on the table, I pinch a slice of lemon and inhale the invigorating citrus fragrance as I squeeze a few drops into my teacup. “Since this is Steamed, I have to ask do you like Steampunk fiction?  If so, what are some of your favorite Steampunk books or authors?”
iChrisitne leans back in the setee and takes another sip of tea. “I'm a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft and have loved the His Dark Materials trilogy by Pullman since it was first published. I love science and enjoy Steampunk fiction especially because of its, often positive, view of mechanics and its favorable portrayal of women in the field. It's inspiring to women young and old to not let anything stop you from doing what you love, especially public opinion.”
I bring my teacup to my lips. As the steam from the cup blows warm on my face I finish the last of my tea and set the cup down. “As a husband and wife team, do you both design the cupcake toppers? If so, are some of the designs collaborations?”
Christine sets her teacup on its saucer on the table as John  does the same. “All of our pieces are collaborations. We will bounce ideas back and forth off of one another during the initial phases of a design. I will often check for scientific accuracy while my husband checks to make sure the piece will be interpreted visually. After the first rendition is finished in Illustrator, we'll print a few test prints off and discuss how we feel about the piece and whether it's successful before putting it up on the store. When looking at our shop line-up any design that is animal related or cute can be attributed to me and anything mechanical or figurative can be attributed to John."
Hearing rattling and clinking, I glance at the tea table, the cups and saucers are shaking.”I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for one final question. What is your favorite cake or cupcake topper?”
Christine grasps hold of the arm of the settee, bracing for the landing “My favorite toppers are the tentacles! They were a blast to design and always go over well at a party! John's partial to the ninja toppers, it was one of his first designs. He's always thought that they perfectly represent our style and aesthetic, while showcasing the fine detail we are capable of in our pieces.”
The airship has  landed and John and Christine Carney must get started on making cupcake toppers for all the parties in 2014, but they left their left calling cards for us.
~      ~      ~

Sparks of Steampunk from Herland



By reading early sci-fi books, you gather wonderful steampunk ideas, as well as a Regency, Victorian and Edwardian perspective on their vision of the future. Last month, I blogged about Mary Griffith’s 300  Years Hence, which was written in 1835. Almost a hundred years before Charlotte Perkins Gillman wrote Moving The Mountain, Herland, and With Her in Ourland, which was from 1911 – 1916. The similarities between 300 Years Hence and the stories listed above are they’re feminist works, futuristic utopia fiction, and they are written by American women.
Published in 1911, Moving the Mountain is the author's glimpse of thirty years into the future, so it goes from 1910 to Gillman’s utopia vision of 1940. Griffith and Gillman, though one wrote in the Regency period and the other in the Edwardian one, mention food and futuristic improvements in the type, the preparation, and the selling of it. People in the Regency, Victorian, and  Edwardian periods needed changes for the better regarding the food they bought and ate. This is great inspiration for creating steampunk gadgetry in your books, to improve the way food is cooked or served or the way people clean up the kitchen and the dishes after eating. You could even develop a seed with a brand new type of miracle vegetable or fruit that doesn't even exist.
Writers love food scenes because the five senses are almost automatic. You don’t’ have to think much to add them into the scene. Smell, taste, feel – with all the different textures of food, sight – with the colors and the way it’s served, and sounds - setting things on the table, china and silverware interacting, people walking around the table, pulling chairs out, dogs barking for scraps, and all the noises of cooking food. It’s also an easy way to interest the reader and bring them further into the story. Everybody eats...in the past, in the future, and even in alternate universes. People like food. Readers like food.
“They took me between rows of glass cases, standing as books do in a library, and showed me the day’s baking: the year’s preserves: the fragrant colorful shelves of such fruits and vegetables as were not fresh picked from day to day.” This description from Moving the Mountain, of a future food department in the basement of a New York apartment building, reminds me a bit of the old-fashioned coin operated automat restaurants, without the coins. To the left is the automat opened in 1902, in Philadelphia. This waiterless restaurant looks so steampunk.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJtrW-26NdI
The utopia Herland is more fantasy than Sci-Fi as it’s set in the time written, 1915, rather than the future. Three young, well educated men go on a big scientific expedition. While there, their guides and the savage tribes they meet  speak of a land of women only. So at the end of the expedition before they had to go home, the three friends decide to try to find this land. The rich friend has a boat and airplane and they use them to find Herland.  They are comfortably held captive and the women learn from the men as much as they can, while they teach the men their history. The women in Herland have been without men for two thousand years, as the males all died due to war and violence. At some point in time, one of these women had a parthenogenesis birth, a virgin birth. This process continued through time and the women always gave birth to girls.
Several creatures in the animal kingdom do this. But there are also species who usually produce sexually but in some cases in captivity have given birth parthenogenetically: Komodo dragons,  a captive bonehead shark  and a blacktip shark gave birth to female offspring while in captivity and DNA testing proved the pups delivered contained no genetic material from a male. In 2010, a female boa produced several all-female litters that carried a rare genetic mutation, a DNA test confirmed the birth was through parthenogenesis. Though parthenogenesis can be seen as good in allowing female creatures to give birth without mating, it's bad in that it reduces genetic diversity. Parthenogensis birth in humans has been used in books and TV shows and video games. I’m not sure of steampunk stories utilizing it, but you could not only go utopian you could get very mad scientist and dystopian with it. Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote of parthenogensis birth 100 years ago, so it definitely fits in with the Victorian era and Steampunk.
From Her In Ourland, we learn a lot of the issues of 1916, from the perspective of someone who lived at that time. Also Ellador, who leaves Herland with her husband, one of the three friends, studies the outside world as she travels all over and comes up with ideas of ways to improve many of its horrors. She returns to Herland with her husband and gives birth to the first boy born there in over two thousand years.

An Edwardian perspective of the future can be enlightening and inspirational for Steampunk authors. Also you can get a female perspective on that time period by reading sci-fi or utopia books written by women authors in the Regency, Victorian, and Edwardian eras. Because women have been reading and writing Sci-Fi for hundreds of years. Please feel free to comment below. All comments welcomed.
~      ~      ~

Three Hundred Years Hence

By reading early sci-fi books, you gather wonderful steampunk ideas, as well as a Victorian and Regency perspective on their vision of the future. Contrary to what I’ve heard some people say, women have written Sci-Fi books for hundreds of years. Including several published in the Regency and Victorian eras. One example is Mary Griffith’s, Three Hundred Years Hence, the first utopia story written by an American woman. After its publication in 1836, many American authors followed her lead, and still do to this day.
Mary Griffith
In Three Hundred Years Hence, Mary Griffith envisioned a feminist future in the year 2135. She set the book in Philadelphia, her hometown. In some ways, her vision of the future is strange, at times not quite right, and in other ways it's amazing. Keep in mind, she wrote this in 1835.
In her novel, the main character, Edgar Hastings, when leaving on a business trip, as he walks to the steamboat, stops off at a small farmhouse on his estate. There he falls asleep. A great thaw causes a bank of snow from the hill above to cover the farmhouse. His family never tries to dig out his body as they think he's was on the steamship, which happened to explode. So they thought he died in the explosion with the other passengers.
Three hundred years later, his descendants, who still own the property, hire workers to cut a road through the hill. They come to a stratum of ice. After the workers cut through the ice, they discover the farmhouse. Edgar's descendants step inside and that is when he thaws out and wakes up, still alive. But he thinks he's in the wrong place for so much has changed in 300 years. He finds the improvements taken place since his accident, amazing. Edgar’s descendants explain the improved conditions are due entirely to the changes that took place when all poor females were given an education.
In Philadelphia, Edgar only recognizes five buildings still standing from his day: the Mint, the United States Bank, the Asylum for the deaf and dumb and Girard College, (still in operation and the school's buildings, shown in this drawing, still stand). Of all those, only one of them, the mint, was demolished, the other three still stand in 2013, almost two hundred years later.
In the book, Edgar's descendants inform him, no one goes door to door asking for donations to charities anymore. Now, each state runs its own charitable institutions, except for those people volunteer to maintain with their own money.
The old market place used to be a roof supported by pillars with stone pavement running the length of it, where women selling food and wares sat under the arch, outside of the pillars, and yelled through the streets, carrying fish and vegetables on their heads. Now it's changed into a two story, fire proof building of hewn stone. On the upper story, wooden, tin, baskets, and crockery domestic wares, as well as seeds and garden utensils, are all kept clean and are neatly arranged. On the ground floor, under which runs a stream of cold, clear water, are a variety of fruits and vegetables. All the women clerks, selling the produce, wear caps and snow white aprons, and stand or sit by their baskets, no longer having to yell. In the butcher shop, meat is no longer hung in the open air. You just ask for a particular joint and a small door opens, two feet square in the wall and there hangs the part, priced four cents a pound.
Steamboats due to all their boiler explosions and the deaths they caused were replaced in 1850. A woman invented a new power for the boats to run on – no steam, no heat, nor animal power, no masts and no sails, and not condensed air, which was tried in Edgar's time - but with enough energy to move the largest ship.
In China, the feet of their women are allowed to grow and they import their fashions from France. They also have made great improvements in the conditions of their lower class, all due to humanizing the treatment of women.
Tobacco is no longer grown, due to the disgusting habit of tobacco juice. (Not due to the dangers of nicotine and cancer, which no one in the Regency era knew about.) Instead of copyrights for 14 years, as in Edgar's time, they are held by the author, then by his/her family as long as they choose to keep it. Daniel Webster became president in 1842, (of course that didn’t happen).
Monopolies have become illegal. In 1848, the monopolies of roads are broken up and come under the state governments, then later, control of the roads all merge under the federal government.
In the rail cars they travel in, the seats are all nice rocking chairs. The cars run silently with little friction as the rails of the road and the tires of the wheels are of wood. They also come in a variety of sizes – some small enough for only two or four passengers. They run by themselves and you just turn a little crank to bring the machine to a stop.
Edgar's descendants explain that as soon as women were considered of equal importance with their husbands – as soon as they were financially equal - all barbaric practices of the age disappeared. Women exterminated all wars to abstain from shedding human blood except in self-defense or in cases of invasion. No more hangings, criminals are sent to solitary confinement.
He also finds that slavery is abolished and the rights and privileges of African Americans are respected and all without a civil war. The government, rich in resources, and rich in land, sells the land, and with that money, they indemnify the slaveholders for their loss of property. (Keep in mind she is writing this twenty-six years before the civil war began).
Three Hundred Years Hence is just one example of Sci-fi written by a woman, many years ago. Women have been reading and writing Sci-fi and utopia novels for hundreds of years and will continue to do so far into the future. We modern women, in reading and writing sci-fi, are simply following an old tradition. This link will take you to an interesting list of science fiction books by female authors that were published before 1923. It begins with Lady Mary Wroth's, The Countesse of Mountgomeries, Urania, published in 1621. This link is to an amazing post on nine women who shaped sci-fi.
Please feel free to comment below. All comments welcomed.
~      ~      ~