Friday, 22 May 2009

Steampunk fiction: The Time Machine of Guam

As has been pointed out elsewhere, there is an increasing awareness of steampunk literature, in the mainstream. However, there remain undiscovered delights in the clouds of the aethernet. I am endeavouring, as part of this Journal, to bring to wider attention little known works and works-in-progress which may be of interest to those outside of the sphere of influence of the behemoths known as Amazon and Google.

One such interesting site belongs to a fledgling author, whose name, due to the vagaries of the aethernet, may or may not be Ben Orchard.

Writing since a teenager, he admits his disorganisation, but, along with other short stories, continues to develop the concept central to his main story of The Time Machine of Guam. The Time Machine itself is not a conventional time-machine as generically understood, as the author states himself:

"The basis for the story is that at some point an empire is founded and called the Empire of Guam. The founding of this empire is done using the Time Machine, and the results are that most everyone ends up living in massive clock-work cities where the houses and shops are built on the gears and cogs of the clock-works, the people use the chains and pulleys that connect the cogs as transport, and all this is powered by massive steam-driven technology. Of course WHY this clock-work assembly exists or what purpose it serves is something that will be revealed in the story itself."
A fascinating concept, not wholly unrelated to Jay Lake's Mainspring, and it is to be hoped that the author will be able to complete this undertaking. Developments will be followed with great interest...

Crabfu - Steampunk Artiste Extraordinaire

Cruising through the aethernet a few weeks ago, I came across a marvellous gem hidden away in a corner "7th House on the left side, with the tree in front". Mr I-Wei Huang, otherwise known as Crab Fu, describes himself as, amongst other things, a crab trainer, worm counter, and cookie stuffer, but is, in fact, an artiste extra-ordinaire.

Even a short visit to his site will demonstrate the breadth of his interests, and the depth of his abilities. As the introduction to the Crabfu Steamworks notes:

"I'm an artist first and foremost, you can check out some of my artwork and animation Here. Doing something creative and unique is just part of my nature. I'm interested in old tech, but with a twist, in the spirit of steampunk. But form follows function, these ideas must work, otherwise it won't matter how cool they look. I wanted to build the first of its kind using the power of steam, and wacky / silly ranks high in my book...."
The Steamworks is a good place to see his works, but of particular interest to those wanting to imrpove their artistic skills in the steampunk genre will be How to Draw Steampunk Machines . As Mr I-Wei Huang states,

"The purpose of this web page is not to teach you how to draw. I will not be going though the technique, perspective, color, line weight, software, or any of the stuff you can easily surf up. This page is to inform artists who want to draw steampunk machines but don't quite understand how steam works. The focus is to add enough elements to your drawings, to make your steampunk machines more believable."

As the starting and ending images above indicate, this is a resource which fledgling steampunk artists should have stored in their 'Favourites'!
Not only does he draw, Mr I-Wei Huang is also an animator (examples of which may be found here),
and roboteer (winning the Gold Medal winner for Best of Show at RoboGames 2008)!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Sherlock Holmes, steampunk genius

Let me precis this by first stating that I am not a fan of Guy Ritchie's films. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was a tired retread of much better 1970s gangster films, and lacked originality, artistic quality, decent script, and, even worse, foistered the unwelcome visage of Vinnie Jones upon us, blinking into the magical light which cinema should be. Mr Ritchie's works since have failed to capture even the faux celebre which his first film achieved.

However, his latest directorial endeavour may yet change my mind. Sherlock Holmes may not be due for release until Christmas Day 2009, but it provides a means for the (re)birth of Mr Ritchie's directorial ambitions. Not only this, it seeks to continue the reintegration of Mr Robert Downey Jr into polite society following his performance in Iron Man.

The new interpretation of Mr Holmes is a far cry from that of the brilliant and lamented Mr Jeremy Brett. Mr Brett's interpretation was intergrally based upon the original Conan Doyle stories, with Holmes depicted as a manic-depressive, drug-addicted genius. The new Holmes is all action, dynamic, and bursting with energy, but still grounded in the pugilistic, fencing, and science investigative character of the original. Jude Law's interpretation of Watson is more akin to the original character than previous interpretations, which have seen him as a bungling side-kick, prone to errors, and unable to follow Holmes's trains of thought. Watson, remember, was a soldier, an army surgeon who had seen action in Afghanistan, and an intelligent man who completed his own investigations with Holmes.

For steampunks, the reimagining of Holmes provides the chance to see him with alternative technologies, an early 'utility' belt, and using an early electrical 'taser'. The trailer may be viewed on the Warner Bros. site, or below.