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Clockwork Gadgets

The most obvious difference between steampunk and other science fiction is the gadgetry. In most sci-fi, the technology looks something like this:

You know–everything’s made of metal and has that shiny, sleek, designed-by-Apple look. But flying cars and silver spaceships can only get  you so far when you’re trying to create a unique aesthetic for your universe. That’s where steampunk comes in. Nothing is sleek and shiny in steampunk. Everything is rusty bronze and made of gears, and as a general rule, everything looks more practical and used than it does in normal sci-fi. And, of course, everything is powered by steam. I think the effect, when not overdone, can be quite beautiful.

Here are some of the coolest steampunk gadgets I’ve found on the interwebs. Enjoy!

Electric Lantern

Ray Gun 

Motorbike (I think motorcycles are terrible ways to die, and yet I want this so bad.)

Spider Droid

Gun Ring 


Watch (maybe not the easiest thing to tell time with, but it’s so pretty!)

Oh, and it gets really fun when real-life gadgets get steampunked:

USB Drive (can’t you tell?)


Smartphone Deck

Or things from other fandoms…

Man, steampunk is beautiful.  🙂




The Spectacular Weirdness of Tesla

Nikola Tesla may have died long before the term “steampunk” was coined, but he’s practically the poster boy for the genre. Born in 1856 (during a lightning storm, in fact), he had ideas for technology that was way ahead of his time, conducted experiments that are still not fully understood, and became the real-life inspiration for any number of fictional mad scientists. He even claimed to have invented a “death ray” (his own term), though no one knows what he did with the blueprints. And, in keeping with the heart of steampunk, he was a dapper and tasteful dresser, not to mention a really good-looking guy.

I mean…look at him.

He was also quite odd. To say the least. Here are a few weird, cool, and downright crazy facts about Tesla:

1) He came up with the idea for the smartphone.

In 1901, Tesla described to his business partner, J.P. Morgan, a concept of converting information into frequencies that could be broadcast to a handheld device. This was decades before the first computer, to say nothing of the Internet or cellphones. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) he never put this idea into practice. Same with his ideas for radar, X-rays, and a giant weather-controlling machine. We’re still waiting for that last one.

2) He had some really strange phobias.

In his autobiography, My Inventions, Tesla spent a lot of time describing his various eccentricities, like his strange compulsion to walk around a building a certain number of times before entering it. He also seems to have been very afraid of germs, which is understandable, especially in his day. Less understandable is his crippling fear of pearls. He also said that seeing someone rip a piece of paper into small pieces and drop the pieces into water drove him crazy, though that doesn’t seem like something you would run into every day.

3) We probably have him to thank for the light bulb, the laser, and the radio.

There’s evidence that Tesla invented the incandescent light bulb before Thomas Edison, and some people even believe Edison stole the idea from him. It’s certainly true that he developed the technology behind all kinds of remote-controlled and wireless devices, including the radio, by inventing an alternating current motor. He also invented the Tesla coil, obviously.

4) He was in love with a pigeon.

Yes, you read that right. Despite his looks, Tesla never married, and there’s no evidence that he ever had any kind of romantic relationship with a human being. The guy was so socially awkward that he even had trouble making friends. But he did have a very strong affection for pigeons, especially later in life, when he lived in New York City. He spent a lot of time feeding the city’s birds, and even let them roost in his apartments. He claimed that his love for pigeons in general came from a very strange encounter he had with one particular pigeon, which he “loved…as a man loves a woman.” O.o Your guess is as good as mine as to what that means…

5) He claimed to have a photographic memory.

A true photographic memory is extremely rare among adults–and the proper term for it is actually “eidetic” memory–but Tesla claimed that he had something like it. He could remember mundane images and events in vivid detail years after they happened. He described short “visions” of certain things that would randomly pop into his head whenever he encountered something that reminded him of them. Part of the reason he didn’t leave behind many blueprints for his machines may have also been because he could carry them in his head. Which may not have helped him protect his ideas while working for Thomas Edison…

Now go read some books about Tesla and have your minds blown!


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Victorian Slang

If you’re as interested in the actual Victorian side of steampunk as I am, you may enjoy clicking on this link:

A Dictionary of Victorian Slang

Yes, this is a complete online book, which you can also download as a pdf, full of such lovely phrases as “Adam and Eve’s togs” (meaning nakedness); “bang up to the elephant” (perfect, complete); “carachtevankterous” (an intensification of ‘cantankerous’); “death-promoter” (alcohol); and many, many more. And it was originally published in 1909, so it must be accurate, right?

I’ve found this dictionary helpful in creating the dialogue of a lower-class character in my steampunk novel. But it doesn’t matter whether you’re into steampunk or not; if you’re at all a fan of delicious words, this book is a gold mine. Check it out!


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Steampunk Shopping!

I loooovvve steampunk clothes! It’s the only kind of fashion I care about. Here are a few websites that sell handy coats, dresses, jackets, trousers and accessories. I’ll never be able to afford anything they sell, but you know, it’s nice to dream sometimes. And for those of you who chose more lucrative professions than I did…Halloween is coming up.

Chronobelt by Red Queen - Now Available in Black or Coffee sells “Modern,” “Steampunk,” and “Warrior” clothes, but all of it looks at least vaguely steampunk. Some of the women’s clothes are too skimpy for my taste, but a lot of it is gorgeous.

Gentleman’s Emporium is slightly (only slightly) cheaper than Verillas, and they have a TON of stuff. You can even buy a whole outfit to fit a particular character! And don’t worry, they have women’s fashion, too.

Fabric #4

Clockwork Couture is probably one of the better-known places to buy steampunk. It’s reasonably priced (though the corsets are still over $100, alas), and they have Doctor Who stuff!


Steampunk Threads has some very nice accessories. It’s also the first place you want to look for cheap corsets, though I can’t vouch for the quality.

Have fun shopping!



Fandom of the Month: Steampunk

Ah…gears, goggles, corsets, airships, and top hats! October is dedicated to the stories and culture of steampunk.

What is steampunk, you ask? Short version: it’s Victorian science fiction–stories about space travel, aliens, and all that jazz, but in a steam-powered setting. It started out as an underground literary movement back in the 70s, and then evolved into an underground subculture complete with weird outfits and music, and then moved into the mainstream over the last few years, as these things tend to do.

You can tell someone’s dressing steampunk if their outfit looks like a stereotypical Victorian costume, but slightly more practical. Also, they’ll probably be wearing old-fashioned aviator goggles, and they might carry a weapon that looks like a fancy brass pistol. Amateurs will probably have gears tacked onto random places in their costume.

You can tell a work of fiction is steampunk if it, a) takes place in the 1800s (either in the real world or an alternate history) but contains sci-fi elements like time travel or teleportation; or b) takes place in the future or on a different planet, but everyone wears corsets and top hats, machines tend to run on clockwork and steam, and/or society is structured along Victorian lines. Also, if Nikola Tesla shows up at all in fictional setting, it’s probably steampunk.

This month, I’ll be posting all sorts of weirdness and cool stuff related to this lovely genre. I may also take the opportunity to talk about myself a bit, since I’m in the process of writing a steampunk novel at the moment. Stay tuned!


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Goodbye Steampunk, Hello…

October is already almost over, and after tomorrow November will be upon us. Which means it’s time to say farewell to steampunk for 2013, and begin a new fandom theme. I’ll wrap up this month’s theme by giving you a little hint as to what next month’s will be. Can anyone tell me where these cool steampunk creations come from?

Dogs? With brass faces?

Dogs? With brass faces?

A clockwork droid in a waistcoat!

A clockwork droid in a waistcoat!

The world's coolest pocket watch...

The world’s coolest pocket watch…

dw observatory

And the world’s coolest telescope!

For those still in the dark, I look forward to introducing November’s fandom at the end of this week. Namarie!

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Meet Romelle Cogsworth, the Steampunk Gypsy

My Halloween costume is complete!


That sheath contains a genuine short sword in this picture, but it’ll be empty on Halloween. People tend to get tetchy around sharp metal objects these days. I’ve also got a pair of “brass” key earrings you can’t really see, though they do dangle pretty close to my shoulders.

This one’s a bit blurry, but it gives a better view of the skirt:


And, of course, the boots. Gotta have something tough on my feet for those long treks through the wilds between train stations:


Here’s a shot of the whole thing from behind:


So, there you are! Not nearly as fancy as some of the stuff I’ve posted here by other people, but for my first steampunk costume, and one created with no sewing and very little money, I’m pretty pleased with it. And the best thing is, it’s functional. I can walk around all day in this without getting too footsore or too cold, even in the 30-40 degree weather my area’s been having lately. The outer skirt even has pockets! It’s just what a wandering gypsy, on the fringes of respectable society, would need.

I’m looking forward to rocking this on Halloween! Namarie!

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Steampunk fashion – it’s a thing

I was thinking about costuming needs for this fall (my own and others’) when I stumbled across this article:

The Six Rules of Steampunk Fashion

I found it encouraging and inspiring, especially rule four (steampunk clothes can come in ANY color, not just brown or black) and rule six (be yourself, and don’t worry about whether it’s “steampunk enough”). Lovely pictures, too.


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Gears and jewels…

If you’re into quirky necklaces and earrings and such, just google “Steampunk Jewelry” sometime and feast your eyes. This stuff is so cool!

I’d love to get something like this for my Halloween costume:

steampunk earrings

And/or this:

steampunk butterfly necklace

But, given my budget and time constraints, I’ll probably have to settle for a cheap version of this:

steampunk jewelry (6)

Which is still pretty cool. Steampunk can be beautiful, people. Namarie!

monthly fandom

New Book!

If you follow my blog for very long at all, you’ll soon learn that N.D. Wilson is one of my favourite living authors (there’s really only one other, and she also goes by her first initials). Of course, you’ve never heard of him, because none of his books have been turned into movies, and therefore his fandom pretty much consists of…me. And maybe a few smart preteens and adults of the sort who like to discuss the writings of G.K. Chesterton in pubs. N.D. Wilson is a wonderfully creative writer who deals in adventurous young adult novels and equally adventurous nonfiction for adults. And today he just released Empire of Bones, book 3 in the fantastical Ashtown Burials series.

empire of bones

Hooray! I can’t wait to go out and buy it!!

The Ashtown Burials series isn’t technically steampunk. It takes place very definitely in the present, and doesn’t involve a whole lot of clockwork. But the story does contain all kinds of anachronistic technology and situations. The plot revolves around Cyrus and Antigone Smith, siblings who are recruited into a secret society, the Order of Brendan, whose main job is to protect the world from the mischief of “transmortals” – powerful humans who have made themselves immortal. These beings include real-life historical figures like Robespierre and Rasputin, and also mythological characters like Arachne and Dracula.

Since so many of the main characters come from the past (whether it’s the 18th century or prehistoric times), Cyrus and Antigone get into a lot of interesting situations. They fight with swords and guns, fly around in helicopters and ride nauseating underground trolleys, face mutant zoo animals and telepathic sorcerers, and wear World War II air force jackets with their jeans and backpacks. The main villain of the series, Dr. Phoenix, uses a very Victorian concept of “science” and genetics, combined with some magic and relics from Greek mythology, to do his evil deeds. In the first book, The Dragon’s Tooth, Cyrus receives a dangerous gift from a man named Billy Bones (who literally has his skeleton tattooed on his skin), and is later betrayed by a cook named Sterling who has two wooden legs. In the second book, The Drowned Vault, the Smiths meet their ancestor John Smith, of Jamestown fame, and his reactions to modern technology result in a lot of laughs. It’s past-meets-present, history-meets-fantasy–almost like steampunk on steroids.

Anyway, it’s an incredibly fun series so far. Think Percy Jackson and the Olympians meets Treasure Planet, only way better. We should have more steampunk books like these. I can’t wait to read the next one! Namarie!