Category Archives: steampunk


Video of working difference engine, as designed by Charles Babbage.

Photos taken in India in 1912 (including the royal visit). This is Lal Dighi, Calcutta:

And an article carefully explaining why gravity is a good idea, in memory of a wealthy eccentric.

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Gorgeous Mini Steam Train with Sea Creatures

The title pretty much tells you all you could possibly need to know :)

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Tiny clockpunk

What can I say? This is just beautiful. They’re all made from broken watches.


When you feel like a broken watch, remember that you may secretly be a tiny and intricate motorbike.

Happy Mothers’ Day.

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I want

This album is simply beautiful, packed with intricate and fascinating creations (and one slightly disturbing one involving body piercing).

This was the one that caught my eye:

I want this, too. It’s a USB drive made of brass, copper, glass and a quartz crystal that lights up in the window.


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Google Goggles

For today’s Steampunk Sunday I googled “Steampunk google doodle” and sure enough I found this record of the celebration of Jules Verne’s birthday.

If you click through, you can see several more screen shots, and a bit of background.

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Steamy Valentine

From 2D goggles, where there are many adorable comics featuring Lovelace and Babbage (if you don’t know who they are, you haven’t been around steampunk long) – your Valentine’s Day card:

PS Nerds will love this (and all the other xkcd comics, although one must be extremely nerdy in particular ways to get every single one).


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Steampunk Cats

How can I not link to this?

Incidentally, this afternoon at 3pm you may like to sync your awesomeness with mine. I’m going to a free jazz performance at the Llewellyn Hall (no I don’t know how to spell that) at the ANU – or if you’re not in Canberra but you are in Australia, you can listen to it as part of ABC radio’s Sunday Live program, from 3pm each Sunday (the performances themselves move all around Australia’s capital cities, and April is Canberra month this year). Details here.

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The League of S.T.E.A.M. (and, Hong Kong!)

If you’re a lover of steampunk, you’re probably already a fan of the League of S.T.E.A.M. series of online videos. The acting is hammy, the writing even more so, but the costumes and gadgets and silliness are all brilliant. This episode features Grant Imahara (of Mythbusters fame) as an expert who dives neatly into the “oriental gentleman” trope.


We have now arrived safely in Hong Kong. Louisette was simply brilliant on our 9.5 hour flight – she never cried for more than thirty seconds at a time. At night, she honestly slept from 11pmish to 7amish, just like at home – having apparently glanced at a clock and made allowances for the time difference.


Hong Kong is stunning. It’s fabulously mountainous and covered in thick, flourishing trees and vines and flowering bushes. And then there are skyscrapers poking up here and there like bizarre rock formations coming out of the trees, above and below you as you drive on narrow lanes apparently welded to thin air.

“The Peak” is where all the tourists go in Hong Kong. We are staying in a diplomat’s house which is in the same area – so this is our view, including several islands (notice the skyscrapers poking out from behind a hill just to the left of the one in the middle ground). More on Hong Kong tomorrow (or possibly the next day; things will be pretty crazy)!



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The steampunk dress

Is officially done! I’m wearing it to church this morning. Which is a good thing, since we leave for China and the wedding (that this dress is for, at least in the short term – it’s impossible to buy a dress that allows breastfeeding access) in a week.

Without further ado. . .













And with the optional outer layer added on:















There were quite a few dramas along the way, as there always are due to my “spontaneous sewing” methods. The neckline of the outer top layer has been fixed now (you can’t see it clearly because I forgot to remove a piece from the next layer down), although there’s not much I can do about one of the eyelets in the standard layer being inside out. It was originally meant to have a zipper at the back (which it does have), but I can’t do it up myself. CJ described the zipping-up procedure as “not categorically impossible” when he assisted me. So I added lacing and a detachable modesty panel at the back (so when I lose a bunch of weight – likely in the nearish future – I can still remove the ribbon and zip it all the way up, and the eyelets become a decorative feature). The front modesty panel is also fully detachable – and easy to move aside if I’m feeding Louisette.

The main steampunk elements are the adjustability (the gathering at the front means it’ll fit me next pregnancy – and yes, I can now take it on and off by myself) and the different possible combinations (eg I can remove the modesty panels to highlight a contrasting undershirt). Hypothetically I will add more steampunk elements after the wedding – belt loops (on which to hang my keys, and perhaps a nice ladylike dagger or some such), more metal studs to attach different pieces together (or to be decorative when the pieces are apart) and so on. I’ll make a detachable waistband at some point, so as I lose weight I can cinch it in more.

Ultimately, it does the job it set out to do – give me breastfeeding access in a dress, hide my post-pregnancy belly, and have the flexibility to be a maternity dress or not, depending on circumstances.


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Sewing with a hammer

This is part two of the steampunk dress – once again, it’s not finished (for one thing, it’ll have a zip in the back so I won’t need to hold it in place), and this is not the final ribbon. Also it still has chalk marks on it. But you get the idea.

The most steampunk thing about this is putting the eyelets in – with pliers and a hammer. And no major injury, yay!


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“Burton & Swinburne: The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man” by Mark Hodder

It took a little while, but this book sucked me in. It was the foul-mouthed messenger parakeets that did it (see “Free sample” below). Hodder’s world bears a passing resemblance to the world of Scott Westerfeld’s “Leviathan” trilogy – there are two major schools of science, and one of them deals in biological inventions. Both worlds are a LOT of fun, which is how I like my steampunk served up.

The two title characters didn’t particularly grab me – partly because the book kept telling me how fabulous they were. And there were a lot of other peculiarly novice-like mistakes: the plot was overly complex; there was too much exposition (at one point the author clearly knows it, and says something like, “Burton knew all the data he’d just collected was completely irrelevant to the case at hand, but he simply had a mania for knowledge” – which makes it so much worse); and everyone talked in a really peculiar stilted manner. It also suffered from too-much-research syndrome, when you get the feeling the author is trying to slip in various bits of history they found personally interesting – but that don’t actually fit in the story. Far too many major and minor characters are based on real people.

But for all that, I wanted to know what happened and why. And it was fun. So go read it and make up your own mind.

Oh! I almost forgot. At a certain point the book suddenly got very gory, and then stayed that way. Strange but true.

Free sample (the heroes walk through a messenger parakeet enclosure, and are addressed by the birds thusly):

“Hag-kissers! Slack-jaws! Dirt-gobblers! Mumblebums! Dolts! Filthy blackguards! Bulging scumbags! Gusset-sniffers! Gibbering loonies! Puppy-munchers!”

Rating: PG/M for gory violence


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Steampunk Dress: Part 1

Okay, I’m not ENTIRELY finished the outer top layer that I was hoping to have finished by now. Too bad.

This section is designed to go over the top of the dress, and attach on to it around the waist (which is as high as I can get it). I think it would also work as a top in its own right.

The pieces:


The material is classique suiting (whatever that means – all I care about is it doesn’t seem to crease), with interfacing sewn on. I pinned the pieces together at the shoulders and sides, and then made adjustments – and did the same thing again (more accurately) once I’d actually sewn those seams.

As you can see below, it’s designed to open in two panels at the front, like overlapping doors. There will be buttons down the middle seam (I cut it so it’s closer to the middle and looks better), and a waistband beneath all this. First I need to gather or pleat the front bottom seam. I have some nice steampunky buttons ready to go. I’ll post pictures when it’s fully done.


I learnt a fair bit as I went along, most importantly that it doesn’t matter HOW much you tell yourself, “Don’t cut the tablecloth, don’t cut the tablecloth” – you’re going to cut the tablecloth.

Coming soon: Other bits! Grommets! Press studs! More startling events due to my creative methods!


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Steambrain Punkstorm

I’ve decided to make a steampunk dress. It will be adjustable for pregnancy and non-pregnancy, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding, hot weather and cold.

It will be dark blue, ankle length and sleeveless, made of medium-weight material that doesn’t wrinkle. Here’s the material, in fact: something called “classique suiting”, whatever that means.

It will have a high waist that gathers at the front just below the bust (that takes care of the pregnant/non part). It will probably have corset-style lacing between a deep V-neck at the front, which I hope will solve the problem caused by breasts that dramatically change in size (I’ll wear a singlet underneath in a contrasting colour). And there will be some kind of ingenious arrangement to assist with breastfeeding (a kind of sleeveless button-up jacket that can be attached to the dress to become one piece with it: I have the buttons). Having it sleeveless means I can wear warmer clothes underneath.

As much as possible, the mechanics of the dress will be visible and decorative – brass look press studs, for example.

So. . . ideas? I think an adjustable length at the front would be handy, but not necessary (pregnant belly lifts the hemline at the front). The breastfeeding arrangement will be the most complicated to design, I think. There will be layers.

Inspirational pictures of my kind of clothes. . .

PS I haven’t forgotten the promised map of steampunk literature – I have discovered a few more books I really need to read first. Yesterday I discovered Mark Hodder, thanks to the Steampunk Scholar I mentioned a few Steampunk Sundays ago.


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Steampunk Forums

Like to talk to other steampunks? There are forums at Brass Goggles and Steampunk Debate. Thanks to Silver Goggles for the blogroll links.

I’m not super familiar with any of those three sites, so you’ll need to make up your own mind whether you like them or not. In the meantime, here’s Louisette Discovering Her First Device (she is too young to even realise her hands belong to her, so I placed the ring in her hand to see what happened):

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The Steampunk Scholar

The Steampunk Scholar is a brilliant in-depth resource on all things steampunk fiction. He’s doing a PhD, so the “scholar” part is not just for the alliteration.


This is his post on the best of 2011, and this is the best part (I’ve unlinked things, so you’ll have to click through to the post to know what he’s referring to):

  • Steampunk! – Candlewick anthology edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant – check out my review at Tor.comto see why.
  • Heartless by Gail Carriger – I’ll be writing a series of posts leading up to the release of Timeless, the final book in the Parasol Protectorate series. In the meantime, I’ll simply say that anyone who has naysayed Carriger’s inclusion in the steampunk fold due to a lack of technofantasy should be reviewing their crow recipes. This is the best book of the series since Soulless, and was a delight to read.
  • Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder – read my reviewto find out why Hodder is one of the strongest voices in second wave steampunk fiction.
  • Goliath by Scott Westerfeld – check out my retrospective on the Leviathan trilogyfor why this was such a satisfying ending to one of the best steampunk series, and why it shouldn’t be dismissed simply for being YA.
  • Empire of Ruins by Arthur Slade – another YA novel you shouldn’t be avoiding, and the reasons why.


I am a huge fan of Gail Carringer, Scott Westerfeld, and anyone who can see YA as a genre worthy of adult reading. As soon as I’ve posted this, I’ll be ordering every other book on this list from my local library. If they’re there, I’ll read and review them for you.


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Lego + Steampunk

Welcome back to Steampunk Sundays.

I can’t put the pictures in here, because all rights are reserved, but for CJ if no-one else, I must must post you this link to ruined Victorian-era houses. . . made out of lego. It’s hauntingly beautiful AND fun for the whole family.

Hmm. . . no picture today. Whatever shall I do? I know!


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“The Affinity Bridge” by George Mann

First things first: Louisette’s fart face (babies tend to smile when they have wind, and don’t learn to smile for pleasure for about six weeks).


And now, your weekly book review:

It’s clear Mann likes Sherlock Holmes, and has imitated Conan Doyle’s work – with certain deliberate differences. “Watson” is now a pretty and intelligent woman (except she didn’t seem very intelligent to me, no matter how many times “Sherlock” told her she was), the supernatural usually is the explanation, and that observant-detection thing comes up exactly once (when his boss shows up at 4 in the morning, he deduces based on his outfit that there’s been another murder. . . when actually, his boss showing up at 4am makes that fact perfectly obvious).


“Sherlock” is a detective with an opium habit and a passion for the occult (but only the real occult – his first scene shows him mocking a fake spiritualist). “Watson” is exactly the standard “common-sense woman who makes people gasp as she dares to investigate crime scenes, etc” that is rare for the historical setting, but extremely common in the fictional one.


The plot is about a suspicious airship crash (while London is also having issues with a mysterious “glowing policeman” who kills people, and a zombie plague). Sidebar: What is it with steampunk and zombies?


Fundamentally, this book is adequate. It has plenty of cool factor and gentlemanly behaviour, and the writing could be a lot worse, but I was soon looking forward to finishing it. Someone who had never read steampunk before would probably be delighted with it. There’s far too much discussion of the case (needs less talky-talky, more aieee! Zombies!) although the action does increase somewhat towards the end.


Rating: PG for some gory zombie moments.


Sample (this isn’t representative of the book, but when I opened to a random page I realised it was highly representative of the low-quality writing):


Newbury was astounded: “Bravo. Bravo, indeed!” He glanced from Villiers to Chapman and back again. “This is indeed a revolutionary invention. What else can it do?” He was clearly enthused.  


This is the last steampunk book review I have prepped. I haven’t forgotten that I promised a map of the literary steampunk scene. It will have links back to a number of steampunk reviews, hence me posting them now rather than later. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

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“Mothstorm” by Philip Reeve (book 3 of 3)

Here’s a baby pic to tide the baby lovers over until there’s another Louisette-centric entry tomorrow.

“Mothstorm” is the third book in Philip Reeve’s “Larklight” trilogy. Each book stands alone, although there are spoilers if you read them out of order.

Uh-oh. Here comes another mighty force of giant interstellar insects. How terribly vexing.

Art Mumby is hurled into yet more adventures, armed only with British Pluck (which is of course all a growing boy needs – his sister is far more concerned about keeping her ankles decently covered in zero gravity and/or while being abducted again). It is Christmas time, and within a few pages the first adventure occurs – the pudding has gone rogue!

Fortunately the motley (and predominantly alien) crew of space pirates has just arrived, and the pudding can be hunted down before it breeds its vile spawn. It is, as always, a close-run thing. Such is life in the Larklight household (which orbits the moon and is rather older than one might think).

Our heroes face their most formidable and mysterious enemy yet. This book matches the sheer hilarious genius of the first book in the trilogy (“Larklight”, for those who were absent two weeks ago). This book is, quite simply, flawless. If you want great characters – you got it. Lots of laughs – no problem. High adventure – naturally! An alternate 1800s society that has expanded Britain’s colonial interests into space – certainly! If you like your humour satirical – you have that too (but it won’t leave the children behind, either).

Other than babbling some more, there’s little I can say. So without further ado, here’s the opening page of the book, which I think tells you all you need to know.

Free sample:







Yes, ‘twas the season of Peace and Goodwill at Larklight, and my sister Myrtle and I, snug in our fleece-lined, winter-weight spacesuits, were out upon the front porch, decorating our Christmas Tree.

Rating: G (unless you have a child who’s unusually phobic of insects)

Warning: Philip Reeve also writes very dark books that are definitely NOT child-friendly.

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“Starcross” by Philip Reeve (2 of 3 books in the “Larklight” series)

[Pre-labour report: Last night I went to the bathroom every 1-1.5 hours. No contractions to speak of, and most decidedly not in labour. Most women hate the last weeks of pregnancy, but I have more reason to hate this time than most.]

This is the second book in the trilogy, and I admit it’s the weakest of the three. It still outdoes almost any other children’s book on the market.


Yes, you can read this book without reading either of the others (although there are some spoilers if you read this one and then the first book).


The characters are gripping, the adventures blood-curdling (and downright fun), and the world(s) are brilliantly inventive and make complete sense in their own unique way (steampunks will particularly enjoy references to the aether). The illustrations are as wondrous as ever. Art Mumby (age twelve) is our intrepid narrator, with occasional divergence into the diaries of his sister Myrtle (age fourteen), who is still Somewhat Embarrassed over the incident with Her Majesty. Jack the space pirate (and his crew of orphans) makes a welcome reappearance. I don’t want to say too much about the plot, but I can assure you that Things Are Not As They Seem and there shall be Mortal Peril around every corner.


Free sample:

A fitful breeze was blowing dust devils between the wheels of the bathing machines which waited mournfully in the starlight at the desert’s edge. All else was as dry and still and silent as the land of Death.

‘How long has the tide been out?’ she asked.

‘About one hundred million years.’

‘And when does it come back in?’

‘Oh, every twelve hours or so.’

‘How very intriguing.’


Rating: G (unless you have a child who’s unusually phobic of alien creatures)

Warning: Philip Reeve also writes very dark books that are definitely NOT child-friendly.

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

[Contraction report: Yesterday eased off by a lot, and in a sudden flash of energy I left the house for the second time since Christmas, and went and saw the new Sherlock Holmes with CJ. Today the contractions have been happening a fair bit since 4pm - it's 10pm now - but I think they're slowing down again. Stupid things. It's a strange state, to be wishing for pain to hurry up.]

Some of you are aware of how very much I loved the first “Sherlock Holmes” film. The two films are close enough to steampunk that I’ve tagged this accordingly.


Sequels are a difficult thing to do well. Here’s four reasons why, and my comments on how successful this particular sequel has been:

1. The stakes must be greater than in the first movie – but not so great that they are either laughably ridiculous or disconnected to the hero’s personal goals.

In terms of general plot, the stakes are certainly larger. But the winner here is that the stakes are more personal. Full marks.

2. The villain must be more powerful – with the same caveats.

Moriarty is a MUCH better villain than Lord Blackwood (not that Lord Blackwood wasn’t a perfectly good villain – he was). He is the perfect opponent to Sherlock (and even more evil than Blackwood).

3. All the aspects that made the first film great must also be present in the next film – but without being repetitive or unoriginal.

There is still plenty of humour (particularly witty banter between Holmes and Watson) and plenty of action. Still quite a bit of Holmes-style deduction, but perhaps a smidgen less of each.

Much of the humour and character of the first film came from the odd domesticity of Holmes and Watson’s living arrangements, which often cause squabbles while the two men are otherwise busy having a fight scene. That juxtaposition of bickering and near-death experience is certainly still present, but the second movie deepens both their individual characters and their relationship. The actors became, if anything, even more charming and watchable than before. I was VERY impressed once again by the writers’ characterisation work.

One of the clever things about the first movie was the fight scenes, which happened once in slow motion in Holmes’ head, and then again in real time. Fights became (a) comprehensible to the viewer (unlike all too many modern fight scenes), and (b) incredibly intellectual (and all the more savage for it).

I was disappointed by the first fight scene in this movie, but it turned out I should have been more trusting. Each fight scene improved on the last, riffing on the slow-motion-in-Holmes’-head idea in a multitude of original ways. Each one was better than the one before. Again, I was seriously impressed.

The Victorian/steampunk feel is still present, although there are less devices and more gypsies.

If you enjoyed the supernatural thrills of the first movie – sorry, they’re gone (I say that’s a good thing).

There was one other aspect that I really enjoyed from the first film that is barely present in this film, but I can’t say what it is without ruining things for you :-P   I think the writers showed courage in the choices they made, and ultimately it paid off.

4. And the film must have its own unique X factor that makes it special in its own right.

The X-factor here is all about the three new characters – Moriarty, Mycroft (Stephen Fry!!!! Squee!), and the gypsy girl (whose name I can’t remember). The writers managed to introduce new spice to the existing cast without being indulgent of their own previous favourites or of the exciting new talent. That balance is extremely rare in a sequel (“Pirates of the Caribbean” became stupidly top-heavy due to having too many big names, each of whom had to have their own special scene), and I was impressed once more.

The film had two very silly scientific moments, but I forgive it, because they were very much played for laughs.

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