Traveler's Steampunk Blog

res ætheris exploramus

Review: Rude Alchemy

Posted By on 24. April 2015

Already some time back, I was contacted by the gentleman Andy Wertner who humbly suggested his podcast and radio drama Rude Alchemy for my listening enjoyment and a possible review. I did in deed listen to it and will now give a review.

cropped-R-A-sepia_reddish_sm

This is another one of those difficult reviews where I desperately avoid any spoilers, but anyway:

Rude Alchemy starts with an epic tongue-in-cheek subversive intro and then we get a wonderful old time radio commercial and then we meet the main protagonist and then we are right in the story, a nefarious plot is underfoot. The nefarious plot ends even more nefariously and the we meet a specialist in all things nefarious: Carver Cranebootom, the bone detective, a savant, neurologist, expert cook, gentleman, navigator, philosopher etc. (you get the idea)
Those two scenes set the mood and pace of the whole story and plot: It is completely mysterious and hyperbolic. No punches are pulled, no scenario is too bizarre, no plot too twisted, nothing is sacred in the world of Rude Alchemy. The plot is intriguing and fast-paced, the elements (steampunk, real world, some magic) make the world very interesting, we also get some romance (of course). On top of that, the production is superb, the sound effects are very professional and add a lot to the listening experience.
But all this greatness is stained by one thing: Rude Alchemy takes rude very seriously. There is a lot of very crude innuendo in Rude Alchemy, sometimes I thought it was rather forced, too. At the beginning, I thought it was entertaining, but at episode 3 it started getting annoying, but this is the only thing I can complain about.

Rude Alchemy gets 7 out of 10 Zeppelins.

And if you want to have a listen, go here:

Rude Alchemy (home page)

 

So, a competition show for Steampunks and other nerds

Posted By on 19. April 2015

Right, this is a most interesting turn-up for the books. I just received an æthermail from the production team of King of Nerds, which will soon air in the UK. For general information regarding the US original, check the wikipedia (click).
The message was thus:

We’re currently casting for a potential second series of the UK version of King of the Nerds, with the first series airing on Sky 1 later this year.

Our show celebrates nerd culture and our aim is to get a broad range of people from different nerd backgrounds and we would love a Steampunker to take part.[…]

So, this is the aforemntioned poster:

King of the Nerds Poster

If any of you are located in the UK and willing and able to participate, you now have the contact info.

The Convair XFY-1 Pogo – Wonderfully Weird and Atompunk!

Posted By on 16. April 2015

Let me introduce you to a wonderful little craft from the dawn of the Atompunk Age and the Cold War, the Convair XY-1 Pogo:

Convair XFY-1 Pogo

The Convyair XFY-1 is another of those fantastic designs which emerged just after the end of the Second Word War and the beginning of the Cold War.
An experimental aircraft, if it would have been adopted for military service, it would have provide first line of airborne defense and reconnaissance capability for ships and convois operating without aircraft carriers, as it could theoretically be launched from any ship, military or civilian that was big enough. To be able to be launched from any ship, the Pogo was designed to be a VTOL aircraft, which explains the strange and memorable shape.
Ultimately, only three Pogos were built in 1954 and only one of them flew before the project was scrapped.
The cancellation had several reasons:

  1. The design was relatively light since it had to be able to be carried by regular freighters without specially reinforced decks. The light airframe proved unstable at higher speeds
    Handling and especially landing proved complicated.
  2. Only the most experienced pilots would have been able to operate the Pogo safely, which made the planned one ship – one Pogo unrealistic.
  3. The rapid advancement in jet engine technology and the tremendous speed advantage of jet fighters against the Pogo cancelled out its effectiveness as an interceptor.

So, the Pogo remains a footnote in the anals of aviation, just like Lockeeds parallelly developed VTOL fighter, the Lockheed XFV, which I will feature next.

Luckily, there is still footage around of the Pogo being tested, enjoy!

And these are the general stats of the craft:

Crew: 1
Length: 32 ft 3 in (9.8 m)
Wingspan: 27 ft 8 in (8.4 m)
Height: ft in (m)
Wing area: 355 ft² (33 m²)
Empty weight: 11,139 lb (5,060 kg)
Loaded weight: 14,250 lb (6,470 kg)
Useful load: 13,250 lb (6,016 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 16,250 lb (7,370 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Allison YT40-A-14 turboprop engine, 5,100 shp (3,803 kW)
Propellers: 3-bladed contra-rotating propellers

Performance

Maximum speed: 474 mph (412 kn, 763 km/h) at 15,000 ft (4,600 m)
Range: ≈500 mi (308 nmi, 805 km)
Service ceiling: 37,500 feet (11,440 m)
Rate of climb: 9,980 ft/min to 20,000 ft (3,045 m/min)
Max. wing loading: 38.1 lb/ft² (186 kg/m²[citation needed])
Minimum power/mass: 0.34 hp/lb (560 W/kg[citation needed])

Armament

Guns: 4 × 20mm (0.79 in) cannon, or
Rockets: 48 × 2.75 in (70 mm) Mk 4 Folding-Fin Aerial Rockets

Image:Public Domain

Review: Jews vs Aliens (Anthology)

Posted By on 3. April 2015

One thing first: Jews vs Aliens is not Steampunk, two of the stories in there fall, from what I can tell, into the Pulp Era and could be considered Dieselpunk but I primarily read the anthology for two reasons:

  1. The title alone…
  2. The anthology was curated and edited by my friend and favourite author Lavie Tidhar and Rebecca Levene

Jews vs Aliens

But now, on with the review:

I am not going to get into detail for every single story in there, since some of them are so short, any review would contain major spoilers. The stories are:

  • “Antaius Floating in the Heavens Among the Stars” by Andrea Phillips
  • “On the Matter of Meroz” by Rosanne Rabinowitz
  • “Alien Thoughts” by Eric Kaplan
  • “The Reluctant Jew” by Rachel Swirsky
  • “To Serve… Breakfast” by Jay Caselberg
  • “The Farm” by Elana Gomel
  • “Don’t Blink” by Gon Ben Ari
  • “Nameless and Shameless” by Lois H. Gresh
  • “The Ghetto” by Matthue Roth
  • “Excision” by Naomi Alderman

And they cover a wide range of styles and subject matters. Two of them (especially the firs one) made me laugh, some made me really interested in the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism in general. Some (often the same) made me wonder what the historic experience of the Jews in the diaspora really was like, since most I know about it concerns the years from 1933-1945. Other stories in the anthology are highly esoteric and the aliens in there are very different from the ones more commonly encountered in science fiction.

All these factors make the anthology a very unique and highly entertaining, almost addictive read, even without the Jewish perspective. This perspective adds another cultural and in some of the stories mystic dimension to the tales which is used in different ways.
Sometimes, as I said, for comic effect (the stereotypical Jewish Über-mom in the very first story is great) sometimes to offer a different view on biblical tales (!), but almost every time the Jewish perspective enriches the reading experience.

This “almost every time” is the one thing I have to criticize: I think in two of the stories the fact that the protagonist is Jewish is just coincidental, the story would have worked just as well, if the background of the central character would have been anything else, the Jewish heritage here adds nothing to the plot. Still, those two stories were not badly written, either.

 

To sum up: Jews vs. Aliens is very different science fiction. The premise of the anthology makes it a very unique and intriguing reading experience one is unlikely to have had before, and every single story is rather good.

 

Eight out of ten Zeppelins

 

All proceeds of the sale of this anthology go to support the UK charity Mosac.

Concerning my Dieselpunk / Alternative History Novel

Posted By on 1. April 2015

November last year I started writing a dieselpunk / alternative history novel. The first few pages have already been published here and on the German counterpart of this blog, you may remember it, it concerned a different outcome of the Christmas Truce of 1914.
Earlier this year, in late January, I received an email inquiring about details of the novel, how far along I was and a few other things.
We exchanged emails over the course of a week and finally had a Skype conference.
Long story short: I am not going to publish a novel any time soon, something else is going to happen, what… Well, let’s see. I am going to London later today to discuss details.
I am very excited.

Too bad I cannot take a Zeppelin, though.

 

zeppelin-over-rio-de-janeiro

The Diamond Conspiracy Trailer

Posted By on 24. März 2015

And here it is, the trailer for Pip Ballantine’s and Tee Morris’ upcoming novel The Diamond Conspiracy, featuring (in order of appearance):

Matt Ord
PJ Schnyder
Bill Blume

Judging from the trailer, I had a theory concerning the plot, which one of the authors has since debunked, too bad. All shall be revealed soon, though.

Book Feature: The Vitruvian Heir by L.S. Kilroy

Posted By on 24. März 2015

Another new author, L.S. Kilroy, has sent me a message through my ætherbox asking for a review of her work, and since it is unlikely I will ever be able to catch up to my back-list of books on my kindle and bookshelf, I have decided to give this book and the author a full feature:

The Vitruvian Heir

Set along the backdrop of a Neo-Victorian version of the United States in 2282, L.S. Kilroy’s debut novel, The Vitruvian Heir, follows Lorelei “Lore” Fetherston, a willful daughter of the current regime’s aristocracy. Inherently rebellious, eighteen-year-old Lore is torn between accepting her impending role as a dutiful wife or escaping to the bordering nation of Hopespoke to seek the truth behind her grandmother’s secret legacy. There everyone is free and, according to legend, an enigmatic woman runs an underground squadron of girls and wields much influence. There, Lore could pursue her writing without fear of punishment. But this isn’t her only dilemma. Following graduation, she is to wed to her childhood friend, Gideon, but her heart is with their mutual best friend, Fallon, the current emperor’s ward and heir to the throne.

Then one fateful night everything changes. Her free-spirited friend, Sawyer, is in grave danger and Lore is forced to make a critical decision. From mysterious woodland strangers to underground clubs to spectacular fêtes and a clandestine rebellion, Lore’s life is about to change forever…that is, if she can survive.

When asked how she came up with the idea for The Vitruvian Heir, Kilroy responded:

“When I was a sophomore in high school, my history teacher was telling us about the time when Catherine de’ Medici ruled the French court. She had a group of beautiful female spies called the Flying Squadron (L’escadron Volant), whom she recruited to seduce important men in court and then report back to her. My fifteen-year-old self took this fascinating lesson and formed an idea for a new story. What if a future version of the United States had somehow come under the control of an emperor who commanded that everything be returned to the Victorian and Edwardian periods – women were stripped of their rights, had to wear corsets, etc.? And what if, there was a woman who was running this underground circle of female spies trained to extract information from powerful men? Then, a couple of years ago, when women’s rights issues were heavy in the media, the germ of this idea resurfaced and became The Vitruvian Heir.”

She added, “I think the potential to tell stories that shed some light on the human condition, that reflect current social issues, that make people think and inspire a dialogue is, for me, what literature has always been about. People may think it’s all just words and that writing is a secondhand experience and reading is an even more removed experience, but I really believe in the transformative effect of books…I mean, if books had no power, ignorant people wouldn’t burn them, right?”

About the Author:

L.S. Kilroy lives near Boston with her significant other, his son, and two feisty cats. When she is not writing by day as a senior copywriter or by night as a spinner of stories, she loves being creative in the kitchen, belting out show tunes, traveling, entertaining friends, reading, and scouting out vintage finds at consignment shops. Her next project is a compilation of her short stories and she is also working on some treatments for television and film.

For more information and the latest news on The Vitruvian Heir and L.S. Kilroy, visit her website http://lskilroy.com, like her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/authorlskilroy), and follow her on Twitter (@lskilroy1). The Vitruvian Heir is currently available on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iTunes Books.

Non-Euclidean Æthercast #30 – Interview with Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Posted By on 15. März 2015

It is the 30th episode of the Non-Euclidean Æthercast, and what an episode it is!

The renowned Steampunk and Fantasy authors Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris were kind enough to allow me to interview them concerning their upcoming fourth installment of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, The Diamond Conspiracy.

 

Subscribe on iTunes

LZ-X1 Württemberg_Werft

And here are all the websites plugged during the interview:

Teemorris.com

pgholyfield.com

pjballantine.com

ministryofpeculiaoccurences.com

 

And these are the websites of our friends we talked about:

Steampunk India (Suna Dasi)

Brute Force Studios

Alex White

Sarah Hunter

Victor Sierra

 

And if you are interested in what Pip and Tee have written concerning the Ministry, look no further:

The combined works concerning The Ministry of Peculiar Occurences

Rest in Peace, Terry Pratchett (28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015)

Posted By on 12. März 2015

Once again, my heart is heavy as I have the passing of another living legend to report:
Sir Terence David John “Terry” Pratchett, OBE passed away today at the age of 66, far too early.

His work has been an integral part of the literature I enjoy ever since I first read Guards! Guards! back in 1998 in a little house in Chandos Street, Nottingham. I have not missed a single discworld novel since and I mourn not only Terry’s passing but also the witty, social commentary filled fantasy stories that will never be written.

Terry, I hope you met some friends on the other side and were greeted by a cheerful SQUEAK!
 

Terry Pratchett

Original image © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Product Review – Monocle by Monocle Madness

Posted By on 2. März 2015

Already a while ago I featured Monocle Madness here, because they are a great company with a very worthy goal: Bringing back the monocle as a fashion accessory.

The monocle they sent me as a product sample has since received a proper lens and I have worn it during an event last weekend, so I am now happy to share my overall verdict.

The monocle by Monocle Madness is top-notch, that is the long and the short of it. It already starts with the very practical and decorative box it is shipped in and continues right down to the actual monocle:

Images © Monocle Madness, used with kind permission

The monocle itself is small and light-weight, it is actually about 4/5th of the size of the monocle I have worn for special events since 1992 and significantly more comfortable to wear.

Monocle Madness also ships a handy guide how to wear a monocle with each product, so you cannot go wrong there at all. As I said, the monocle is very comfortable to wear and since it is very light-weight, it stays in place, even if you have to push your way through the crowd and get jostled every now and then as I was on the weekend.
How crowded the event was you can see in the video below, I actually wore the monocle while recording the video.

So, the Monocle Madness monocle is an accessory I can wholeheartedly recommend and at a price-tag of £ 25 (including a clear lens) it is almost a bargain and definitely not overpriced.

10 out of 10 Zeppelins!

Go and check out Monocle Madness, I know you want to!

This is me with my monocle this weekend image © Scho Laria, used with kind permission as well:

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And this is the video I shot while wearing the monocle, pushing, shoving and jostling are not a problem, the monocle stayed in place: