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It is more Captain Robert, of course, than the band as a whole, but the first several chapters of The Wrath Of Fate are available to purchase, or to listen to online if you need a taste before making your decision. This is the fictionalized story of the origin of Abney Park, a kick-ass Steampunk band, and personally I love the way it is evolving so far. Just in case you didn’t know what kind of music a Steampunk Band plays, the second video shows them practicing one of their better songs, Airship Pirates, although the audio with it is from the studio version. This is the music you would have been listening to when the semaphores or telegraph finished sending the digitally processed signals, and Babbage’s Difference Engine used an array of tuned saw blades struck by hammers to play it back out to you. In those days, we would have been called clackers rather than hackers because of the sounds the steam-driven brass logic switches would have made while they ran our calculations, algorithms, and apps.

And a couple of pictures taken in London a few months ago; the first is a picture I took while staring at the actual, completed Babbage Engine (Babbage never finished building the full sized one himself, although he did have a bunch of smaller versions that allowed Ada to develop the worlds first programing language). I tried my best not to drool all over the case, but I may have failed in that particular.

Babbage Difference Engine
Babbage Difference Engine

The second was a picture taken of me and the Babbage machine by my traveling companion, proving I was there with it. I know that in this era of photoshoping anything and everything this does not constitute proof in most peoples minds. Since I have the added data point of having been there and remembering the moment the photo was taken, I could really care less if you believe it; for me, this is the photo that locks it down in my memory.

Jer and the Babbage Difference Engine
Jer and the Babbage Difference Engine

Finally, a bit of Captain Robert’s own attitude, as distributed by G4, about what Steampunk really is…

I am embarrassed to say I missed a Sci-Fi DVD release this week: Never Let Me Go, the new film based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro. He also wrote a little story called The Remains of the Day, but this time around we follow the lives of three people over three decades who were brought to life for a single reason: to be spare parts. This first person story about the lives of clones in an alternate timeline is not a happy tale, but it touches the heart in unexpected ways. This is the kind of movie The Island could have been, if it had someone at the helm who understood what being human was about.

The Rose City Steampunk Film Festival takes place in Portland, Oregon’s Clinton Street Theater on the 13th of February, 2011. The event has several feature length films and a boatload of shorts as well as some music videos and a writers panel. The theater is also running the Steampunk thriller Zenith from the 4th through the 10th, they are showing the classic Valley Girl for their Valentine presentation on the 14th, and every Friday night they run REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA, while every Saturday night they run the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I now have a favorite movie theater in yet another town I have never been to.

ZENITH 2011 TRAILER from Surla Films on Vimeo.

This one comes as Webisodes, which is rapidly becoming the norm as the various flavors of multimedia converge. And some of the folks involved have had a hand in blurring the lines between the various media delivery types for previous shows, like the narrator Amanda Tapping who launched the first episode of Sanctuary online, with the numbers of viewers convincing Sci-Fi to spring for an actual season of the show. So now the Steampunk story of Riese: Kingdom Falling can be enjoyed online, and again there is a good chance the numbers will determine whether the program makes the jump to regularly produced series. Another example of this style of programming launches its web site today; The Minds Eye Series also has a lot to offer. That one is Fantasy rather then Steampunk, but both of these shows bypass typical Big Media companies (at least the worst aspects of them) and bring their stories straight to the audience to see if they can win a big enough share to survive as a series.

I had to grin when I noticed an actor or two as well as some of the production staff was coming from the Sanctuary team as well, and those who were not were equally professional. They are not the first group to do this style of Pilot creation, but they have had more success at it than most. The principle here is to do two contradictory things, and do both of them so well that you create an audience for the show that makes the network eager to add it to their lineup. First, you must create an episode so compelling, and a cast of characters so interesting and engaging, that the audience cannot wait to see what happens next. Second, you must do it while spending as close to no money as possible while having the highest production values.

One of the tricks that actually allows you to accomplish both of these goals is to only shoot the action scenes with the least amount of FX, substituting narration for the bits you don’t have the budget to film. This allows you to concentrate what budget you do have into costumes, props, background, cinematography, and the other details that show the quality of the finished product you intend to achieve. The narration segments must move the story forward with whatever visual footage can be put together that infers, rather than shows, the events being described. This technique has previously been used to bridge missing segments in archival footage (like many Doctor Who stories from the 60s and 70s), but now folks have figured out it can be used to present new offerings as well in an effective manor.

I do appreciate that this is the first actively SteamPunk TV program I have run across so far, and I intend to support it. There are SteamPunk precursor programs, like Legend, Brisco County Junior, or Wild Wild West, each of which took place in the right era and depended on scientific development (and sometimes SuperScience) in order to resolve their plotlines. But this is the first time I have watched video that had many of the protagonists wearing brass goggles with leather clothing of a distinctly SteamPunk flavor, and I am seriously looking forward to more episodes of this series.

I didn’t really think that Steampunk Rap was a category, but then Nerdcore caught me flatfooted as well when I stumbled across it in 2006. But I was just introduced to Professor Elemental, and now I know it exists. My favorite song out of the group so far is Fighting Trousers, from his latest release The Indifference Engine. Not his Tea Trousers, not his Time Travel Trousers, but only his Fighting Trousers will do for this song. After I got my laughing and cheering under control I found more than a few additional songs by the same artist, and a few more from related musical teams like the wonderful presentations Come Into My Parlour or Chap-Hop History. A serious tip of the hat to the Seampunk Workshop for the entry into an aspect of steampunk music I never suspected!

The Steampunk Fortnight continues over at TOR, with multiple articles stories and presentations posted each day. One I particularly like is the The Amazing Fantastic Steampunk Timeline of Music and Things by Evelyn Kriete. This presents a very nice chronology of the various Steampunk bands, and ties it to some other events and milestones of the subculture, liberally sprinkled with links to most of the mentioned performers and publications.