Title: The strange affair of Spring Heeled Jack (Burton & Swinburne #1)
Author: Mark Hodder
Genre/Style: Alternative history, time travel
Read If You Like the idea of a Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes cross-over.
Sir Francis Burton, famous explorer, is all set to participate in a heated public debate with his former partner. The debate is intended to not only settle the question of where the Nile River originates, but also repair Burton’s tattered reputation. Instead, Burton is thrust into the search for a man he thought was only a myth: Spring Heeled Jack. Acting as an agent of the king in an alt-history London filled with motorized carriages, genetically modified parakeets who act as messengers, and on the brink of all out culture war between the Technologists (eugenicists) and the Libertines Burton runs into a plethora of Victorian characters including (but not limited to) Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Florence Nightingale, and notorious boogeyman Spring Heeled Jack himself.
Personally, I rated this book a 2.5/5. The Audible narrator was spectacular and I loved the overall theme of the book. However, I am not a fan of time-travel. Placed right in the middle of the book is a semi-separate time-travel almost-short story explaining how SHJ came to be in Victorian London from the year 2202 which I felt really pulled too far from the Steampunk I came to the book for. I also felt the book could have used a better general editor. Meeting a few intentional historical personalities is fun, but meeting everyone and the kitchen sink becomes cumbersome.
Creator: Mathias Malzieu (original novella/composer of all music through his band Dionysos/voice of Jack in the original French tracks)
Media Type: Feature Film, 94 minutes
Audience: Tween to Adult (regardless of what Netflix says).
Note: there isn’t any gore/violence/overt sex that typically warrants a tweens and up suggestion. And yes, it is a musical, but not a Disney musical with fully orchestrated sing-alongs. Instead this CG film is very surreal and moves very quickly with operatic styled music, which would likely lead it to bore most small children.
On the coldest day in history, on the edge of Edinburgh a young woman is desperate to make it to the midwife in time to give birth to her son. The time in the cold, though, has taken it’s toll and the boy is born with a heart made of ice. The midwife (a doctor/inventor named Madeleine who is rumored to be a witch) quickly replaces this ineffective heart with a cuckoo-clock and tells the baby that there are three rules he must follow to keep his cuckoo-heart running:
Never touch the hands of your heart
Keep your temper under control
Never, ever, fall in love.
Jack lives for ten uneventful years safely cooped up in the home he shares with Madeleine and several of her eccentric friends. For his tenth birthday he begs his adoptive mother to let him visit town, which he has never been allowed to do before. She agrees but implores him to abide by his three rules.
Instead he falls in love with a beautiful Spanish girl he hears singing at a fountain and decides he must chase the girl of his dreams all the way across Europe. But as time goes by, he begins to worry. Will she remember him? Will she love him the way he loves her? And if she does, can his fragile heart take it?
This is an incredible film from a visual standpoint. The graphics are fabulously detailed and keep your attention throughout the film.
The steampunk elements are frequent (locomotives with bellows segments and horseless carriages to name a few) and intelligently used.
The music is emotionally resonant and unique; a breath of fresh air into the musical genre.
Tragically, this film suffers from terrible translation issues. The dialog is rushed and doesn’t allow you any time to reflect on what’s said before three more lines are spoken. The US Netflix version is only available in English, but if you can I suggest watching it in the original French with subtitles.
Normally this isn’t a negative, but the surreal nature of the film made it sometimes hard to follow. For instance, Jack the Ripper makes an appearance during a traveling song, and it’s not explained or ever brought up again.
It’s the single from the Dionysos album called La Mécanique du Cœur was composed and recorded to accompany the novella which the film is adapted from. The above music video was created by the director of the film and in a similar (though not identical) style.
Who can live with just one Halloween post? In honor of the best (if not best, at least most colorful) holiday here are more ideas for brining steam into your Halloween plans and a review of the Gail Carriger short story The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar (part of the Parasol Protectorate series).
Don’t forget to share your own Halloween costumes and concepts at email@example.com and via Twitter @SteamLib.
Music playlists are a staple of every party no matter where it’s hosted. While the classics like “Ghostbusters” and “Werewolves of London” will always hold a place in our hearts it never hurts to add some new pieces into the mix. I put together a small list highlighting some of my favorites from steampunk bands and pop-musicians:
Other suggestions include Abney Park, The Clockwork Dolls, Professor Elemental, and Jonathan Coulton.
Is your library in an area that hosts a large cosplay community?
Invite local groups to come and show off their costumes on Halloween and maybe do a Q&A on costume creation. If you’re lucky enough to live near a convention (you can check the Airship Ambassador Convention Listing ). You also might be able to find local artisans/crafts people who would be interesting in coming with some of their steampunk works (tiny hats, gloves, jewelry) to display and sell last-minute costume pieces.
Last but not least a review of a Gail Carriger Parasol Protectorate story, my recommendation for a quick read for book groups or to curl up with while you binge on candy.
Title: The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar: An Alessandro Tarabotti Story
Author: Gail Carriger
Series: Parasol Protectorate side story
Genre/Style: Adventure, Short Story
Read If You Like: The Parasol Protectorate series, mysteries,
Ever wonder where Alexia got her sass? Search no further: in this short story originally published in the “Book of the Dead” anthology edited by Jared Smith we get our first full glimpse of Alexia’s father, the adventuring Alessandro Tarabotti.
When the Templars need a job done then expect it to be done quickly, discretely, and completely. When Mr. Tarabotti arrives in Egypt he knows these expectations and with the assistance of his trusted valet (and to the only level Mr. Tarabotti seems about to attempt, his friend) Mr. Floote he hopes to carry out his mission regarding a man and a mummy. However when an embalmed cat, an old ‘yoo-hoo’-ing acquaintance from England, and a blushing young Leticia Phinkerlington appear, things get unexpectedly complicated.
Great for a little read while waiting for trick-or-treaters.
Halloween is my favorite time of year: crunchy leaves, pumpkin everything, costumes, make-up, parties, and of course the annual revival of “Hocus Pocus”. This post is all about bringing steampunk into your library (or home, or community center) for Halloween. Some ideas are wholly steam-themed while others are ways to add some Victorian flair to any Halloween program.
Have your own favorite program for Halloween, or pictures from a successful event? Have it hosted on the site by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also share pictures of events, costumes, and more with us on Twitter @SteamLib.
Program Type: Film Series/Book Group
Time Frame: Varies
Space Needed: Film viewing room, book group meeting room
• Film showing rights, if applicable
• Custodial for rooms
• Popcorn/snacks for movie nights
When you think of monsters who comes to mind? Frankenstein? Dracula? The Victorian monsters became the staple of the silver screen for a reason: their stories are equal parts terror and intrigue. Since there are so many film options now the monsters make themselves an easy pick for a mini-film festival. The festival can be stand-alone, or tied in to other programs, like a book group. The original story behind the films are very short (Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Invisible Man, The Portrait of Dorian Grey) which are well suited for teen readers. For adults Frankenstein, Dracula, or a Jack the Ripper novel lend themselves to longer book group discussions. The film showings are a great way to stir up interest and advertise the book groups to an audience with a noted interest.
Program: Steam-Themed Family Masquerade
Time Frame: 2 hours
Space Needed: Open floor space for dancing, tables for snacks, and tables for crafts
• Custodial services
• Food (finger munchies and candy)
• Craft supplies (felt, glue, craft sticks, glitter, small paper hats, white and black fabric masks, etc)
For a family-friendly Halloween event host a masquerade! Invite community members to come in costume and read scary stories, share treats, dance a little, and give their kids a reason to put on their costume again. Starting just before the event and running throughout allow guests to make their own party mask. This is easily made steam-y by providing gears, gold glitter, small Lego octopus creatures, and lace to adorn the DIY masks. Costume contest categories can also be made steam by having a category for Victorian Monsters or book characters.
P.S. The library blog Ms Kelly at the Library has great Halloween party games for kids
Looking for a grown-ups only party? Easily make the masquerade into a Victorian Murder Mystery night! Have your guests dress in their best steampunk attire (help them feel inspired to start a custom costume project) There are dozens of sites with downloadable party templates and ideas and some include hosting tips. These party templates can then be altered to have The Parasol Protectorate’s dashing Lord Akeldama as man of the hour, or Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker Machine as a murder weapon.
Don’t forget to include all your steampunk favorites into your Halloween book displays and bulletin boards! What better to bring fear into a reader’s heart than a mad scientist, a sea monster, or a vampire with an impeccably perfect cravat? Inspire Victorian costume by highlighting fashion histories, DIY sewing/craft books, and the colorful covers of YA steampunk in your collection. Steampunk art books also liven up a display and show the genre in it’s best season.
Author: Evan Butterfield Series: Photograph series
Genre/Style: Art book paired with detailed character introduction
Read If You Like: Short stories, character art, or photo-books
Summary: Welcome to the creative world of Mr. Luxet Tenebrae, one of Victorian England’s grandest photographer and writer. Inspired by engineering, history, politics, and the swift technological changes of the 19th century this collection of portraits and detailed synopsis of his subject’s work. With an eye for the historical details, Mr. Tenebrae paints a detailed portrait to match his pictures.
Mr. Tenebrae, the alter ego of California based photographer Evan Butterfield, blends various art types into each image. Each character is expressed through a lavishly costumed model and a creative text description. The collection takes the idea of a stuffy, repressed Victorian male and turns it swiftly on its head in this blending of cultural commentary, art, and pseudo-science in a way only a steampunk master can.
Bottom Line: A thin volume filled-to-bursting with fantastic and complex images paired with descriptions sure to inspire anyone out of writer’s block.
Summary: Some seventeen-or-so years in the future, the remainder of human life on Earth lives on a single train, which is in constant motion across the planet. A global warming initiative taken on by world powers in 2014, of which the viewer learns in radio broadcast flashbacks at the beginning of the film, created a second Ice Age whose effects were so rapid that nearly everyone died. The Snowpiercer is the engine which sustains life for the wretched few that have managed to survive. This train hearkens back to a bygone time in which the (steam) engine was the pinnacle of modernity, although the Snowpiercer and its “eternal engine” is clearly vastly different in terms of its operation. As the vessel moves throughout this tale, the viewer sees it blast through ice formations in a snow-covered world, and learn increasingly more about this mysterious yet powerful conveyance right up until the end of the film.
While the engine itself may be the namesake and setting for the film, the story centers around the efforts of passengers of the “tail” of the train to better their conditions, led by Curtis (Chris Evans). The tail and its residents are unspeakably filthy, abused regularly, and the residents of these crowded and labyrinthine quarters get by on slippery-looking “protein” bars as their only source of food. Guarded ferociously by men in full military gear, occasional visits (and speeches) by Mason (Tilda Swinton), the conductor’s right-hand woman make it clear that the conditions for passenger cars more towards the front of the train are idyllic in comparison. Determined to fight against the injustices that are perpetrated upon the tail passengers, Curtis leads a blood-saturated charge to the front (just another in a long history of revolts) with the help of a drug-addled man named Namgoong Minsu and his daughter Yona. Interspersed with scenes of violent clashes (so fierce that this reviewer had to look away) are glimpses of how the other half lives – in luxurious comfort and good health. This constructed dichotomy between the haves and have-nots is not new, and divisions of humans predicated on class or socioeconomic standing in such a way also alludes to a more historic origin than the futuristic setting of Snowpiercer.
Bottom Line: Including this film in a list of steampunk resources may seem like kind of a stretch, as the engine isn’t steam-powered, but the class struggles and train setting decontextualizes the tale from its temporal situation.
Creator: Books by Maureen Jennings, TV Series produced for the CBC staring Yannik Bisson
Tags: Adult, Teen, TV
Media Type: Television Series, Hour long episodes
A regular season murder mystery set in late Victorian Toronto, Murdoch is CSI with period costume. Not one to take the easy answer, Detective William Murdoch uses the latest in forensic science (ie finger marks, rudimentary ballistics and blood spatter analysis) to solve the most difficult crimes in the city. To aid him are his fellow members of the Toronto Constabulary (including the hot tempered York-man Inspector Thomas Brackenreid and the clever, though unusual Constable George Crabtree) and the medical examiner Dr Julia Ogden. Murdoch blends realistic period forensics with steampunk flair through his inventions – some of which are accidental. Murdoch theorizes the future of television, the microwave, digital pictures, and creates basic models of many of his inventions. For added fun, historic guest stars like Nicola Tesla, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells often make an appearance.
A witty weekly mystery with lovable characters, fantastic costuming that’s historically accurate, and just enough drama to keep you coming back week after week without wearing you out. Overall, a great idea that’s well executed AND is in its 6th season so there are plenty of episodes to marathon watch.
Creator: Directed by Stephen Norrington , Staring Sean Connery
Tags: Adult, Teen, movies
Media Type: Feature Film, 110 minutes
Audience: Rated PG-13
The Who’s Who of Victorian monsters come out to play in this big screen adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel. Mina Harker turned vampire, the Invisible Man, Dr Jekyl, and the immortal Dorian Gray come together with Allen Quartermain, Captain Nemo, and Tom Sawyer to try and stop the mysterious “Fantom” who is trying to start an international arms race. However, there is a traitor in their midst. The Fantom doesn’t want to create normal bombs and tanks, he wants to create superhuman weapons and copy Nemo’s advanced technologies. The team must race against time, and each other, to stop the Fantom from succeeding.
LXG is far from a cinematic marvel, with weak acting and lacking storyline, but it does look amazing. It’s a chance to see characters interact who never would, see true steam punk style technology and costumes, and consider how many Victorian monsters lived after “The End” (if you ignore the fact many die in their original books).
Creator: Directed by Stephen Sommers, Starring Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale
Tags: adult, teens, movies
Media Type: Feature Film, 131 minutes
Audience: Rated PG-13
Meet Van Helsing, the Catholic Church’s bounty hunter for all things mythical and otherworldly. When the Church needs someone to deal with a vampire infestation in northern Transylvania Van Helsing and his friar assistant Carl are sent on the job. There they meet Anna Valerious and her brother – the last two in an ill fated family line. The Valerious founder made a promise to God, than none of his line would enter heaven until they had killed the worst of all vampires: Dracula. As the end of their family line, Anna desperately seeks Dracula’s fortress to save the souls of her family. With Van Helsing’s help they fight werewolves, Dracula’s brides, and try to stop his dastardly plan… as soon as they find out what it is.
The main steam elements in the movie are the weapons like Van Helsing’s mechanized, revolver style crossbow and the clothes; Anna’s costumes offer a colorful alternative to wearing a bustle. The high-Victorian pseudo-science re-imagining of Frankenstein’s Monster is also very steampunk.
Bottom Line: A little cheesy, but a lot of fun with great weapons and costumes.
Age/Audience: Mixed audience, children will enjoy the variety of cats and non-traditional alphabet rhymes, adults will enjoy the throw back to turn-of-the-century English culture.
Genre/Style: Alphabet book
Read If You Like: Louis Wain style cats, rhymes, Victorian British satire
H is for hydraulic, I for iron, and J for jingo in this abecedary that has as much appeal for grown-ups as for young ones. Styled after Louis Wain’s illustrations the simple rhymes offer steampunk vocabulary (dirigible, gear, timepiece) paired with satire on Victorian culture (xenophobia, jingo, zenith). This short book offers a lot to all ages as a platform for discussion, an interpretation of illustration, and an introduction to all things steam.
Bottom Line: The perfect mix of cute and clever, a must read.