My Steampunk Maker Summer

I’ve been a little silent on the blog front lately. So, after attending a summer writing conference and networking events, and all the repeated “Blog, Blog, Blog” messages I heard from every savvy marketer, I thought I might share what I’ve been up to lately.

Writing and Art.

Aside from decent progress on two novels, I’ve tried my hand at steampunk maker art. I’ve managed to produce a few amateur examples, and don’t plan to quit anytime soon. The style is quite addicting once you give it a go.

My first costume project (aside from buying a better corset) was to fashion a pair of goggles. Sigh, I know they are a cliché, but I love the hell out of mine now and I don’t care. Say what you will about these ubiquitous accessories, but they do instantly communicate the genre. And they were tons of fun to make.

The simple welding goggles underneath my "punked" pair.

The simple welding goggles underneath my “punked” pair.

I started with a cheap pair of plastic welding goggles, a used pleather purse, lots of bling, copper wire, a good thimble and a grommet maker and just went for it. Here are some progress pics. The hardest part was sewing through that pleather with fishing line (the heavy-duty salt-water kind) and getting the darn connecting chain to go through the middle. However, once they were done, they did look amazing on my hat for Alt*Con here in Tallahassee this Spring. Wow, they were heavy on my forehead! I think they left a mark for that entire next morning.

Details were added with copper wire. The pleather covering was sewn on with fishing line and a good thimble.

Details were added with copper wire. The pleather covering was sewn on with fishing line and a good thimble.

I’ve also had the jewelry-making bug. Specifically inspired by hardware store shiny bits, I’ve tried to find ways to use brass nuts, washers and even copper electrical wire crimps along with glass beads for a unique look. You can find more examples over on my Facebook page if you are interested in that sort of thing.

A friend of mine gave me some old broken watches, so I’ve had a treasure-trove of the “real stuff” to play with too. One such pair of earrings came out nice enough to be an official part of my costume.

Steampunk earrings for my costume made with real vintage watch parts.

Steampunk earrings for my costume made with real vintage watch parts.

Why do all of this? It helps me get my head in the steampunk game. After all, this is one genre in which writers must occasionally look the part. The costume is coming along slowly. I bought a pattern to sew a better skirt and bustle, so that will be the next project.

Having props and costumes also helps me envision the material world of my novels. I will tell you for a certainty that wearing a real corset with stays helped illuminate how my female characters might feel, even though I’m sure I wore mine far looser than a proper Victorian lady. After all, she would’ve had her whole life to “train” that ribcage into the acceptable shape! This helps explain all the impossibly tiny waistlines one sees in costume museums. Perhaps that and the lack of modern artificial growth hormones in antique food…

My finished steampunk goggles. Greater than the sum of their parts.

My finished steampunk goggles. Greater than the sum of their parts.

Keep at it, steampunks. I’m off on vacation (with some setting research thrown in there for good measure). I will see you again soon.


My Favorite Steampunk Films

By Cristen E. Rose

When I tell friends that I write steampunk, some of them smile, and others say, “What?” The ones that smile probably wonder how a bottle-cap with glued-on gears and watch parts they saw at the flea market has anything to do with literature. The conversation usually goes something like this:

The Prestige —Touchstone, 2006

The Prestige —Touchstone, 2006

Me: It’s Victorian-era science fiction. You know, like Jules Verne or H. G. Wells.

Them: Oh! Wow. (puzzlement, scratches head)

Me: Yep. It’s fun to mix up the genres. I throw some magic in there too for good measure.

Them: Why is it called steampunk?

Me: Short answer is because the genre was named in the 80’s along with Cyberpunk and a few other “punks.” The “Steam” is because it takes place the age of steam-powered machines and industry. “Punk” is because the protagonist is usually an anti-hero that goes up against a corrupt system, society or non-human entity of some sort. Just think Neo in The Matrix—but that’s Cyberpunk.

And then, as it always happens, they ask…

Them: “OK, I got’cha. Are there any steampunk movies out there?”

Me: You remember Wild Wild West? The one with Will Smith? How about Cowboys and Aliens?

Then they smile and nod, and we’ve reached an understanding of what strangeness occupies my free-time and fantasy life. If the discussion carries any farther, I might add these others to the list.

My favorite steampunk films (in no specific order) are:

(BTW, all of these are a MUST SEE.)

The Prestige —Touchstone, 2006
Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale AND David Bowie? Yes, please! Two ruthless magicians duel it out for the best stage act. When Tesla gets involved, things get interesting. (see above photo)

Howl’s Moving Castle US release by Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 2004
An artistic masterpiece by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Again, a love story featuring a steampunk magician who is Christian Bale. What is it with me? {wink}

Sherlock Holmes — Warner Bros., 2010
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law have fun with these roles in the steampunk remake. Yes! That impossible death-machine contraption in the end qualifies this version as sci-fi, folks. Not to mention the use of dark secret societies is a well-known steampunk trope—one of which I am particularly fond.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus —Sony Pictures Classics, 2008
Bet you’ve never heard of this film. But with Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell, you should have. The setting is modern, so it bends the rules a bit on what is considered steampunk. However, it involves magic, a Victorian style traveling troupe of actors and whimsical machines. The visual aesthetic is heavily influenced by steampunk maker culture too.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen — Fox, 2003
Superheroes pulled from the pages of Victorian novels must join forces to battle a global threat. It’s got everything any steampunk heart could desire. Much love for this fun action movie.

Stardust — Paramount, 2007
A beautiful love story, this film also features a kick-ass airship that harvests lightning bolts for energy. Oh yes…

Hugo — Paramount, 2011
Visually stunning, this movie was full to bursting with enough gears and clockworks to satisfy. The story was sweet and well-told.

Of course, this list doesn’t scratch the surface of what steampunk films have been made. Want to dig deeper?

So, what are your faves? We’ll talk books in a future blog post. That’s going to be a much longer list…