Here's a delicious potted history of the Euphonia, a mid-19th century gadget that could simulate human speech by pumping bellows-fed air over an artificial tongue set in a chamber of weird plates and valves. It had a severe woman's face and coils of hair in ringlets, and spoke in a "weird, ghostly monotone."
By pumping air with the bellows and manipulating a series of plates, chambers, and other apparatus, including an artificial tongue, the operator could make it speak any European language. It was even able to sing the anthem God Save the Queen. The Euphonia was invented in 1845 by Joseph Faber, a German immigrant. A little known fact is that this machine greatly influenced the invention of the telephone.
The Euphonia - A Marvelous Talking-Machine (Curious History via Kadrey)
Kottke rounds up a series of illustrations by Argentine artist Diego Mazzeo from all over the Web -- a gorgeous menagerie of collaged clockwork beasts, including this amazing griffin.
Sculptor Justin Gershenson-Gates produces the most amazing and beautiful clockwork insects and arthropods, which he sells in his Mechanical Mind Etsy shop. (via The Mary Sue)
Make Magazine profiled the incomparable steampunk maker Jake von Slatt; he's got all kinds of great stuff to relate:
Two past mistakes you’ve learned the most from:
1. Propane is very flammable and eyebrows are important to the appearance of your face.
2. A school bus is very heavy and asphalt cannot be relied on to support it when jacking.
Bonus: Stay out of the plane of rotation. I lost the tip of my right pinky finger to the lift-fan of a hovercraft when I was 16.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Things About Jake von Slatt
This jacket is a wonderful mystery to me; found upon the tumblrs, and seemingly sprung from the ether. Do you know where it came from?
Update: Aha! It's from Junker Designs -- their Blade Runner jacket
I do not fear the apocalypse because I already have my jacket packed….
Ranjana sez, "I'm a Bournemouth University postgraduate student and I'm producing a short but ambitious steampunk drama
for my Masters project and I'm looking for a few props for our film: steampunk radio; wrist communicator device; steampunk guns; other general props. Could you please ask your steampunk readers in the UK if they have any of the props, I could perhaps borrow for a small deposit along with an invite for the owner(s) of the prop to feature in our film."
Margaret Killjoy sez, "Steampunk Magazine #9 is out and available for order. The pdf is up as well. New orders and pre-orders will be going out this weekend! 118 ad-free, Creative-Commons pages of steampunk mad science, lifestyle, fiction, and history. Including an interview with Cory Doctorow and how to make hydrogen airships out of condoms."
SteamPunk Magazine 9
Kaja and Phil Foglio have launched a Kickstarter to fund the printing of volume 12 of the wonderful Girl Genius webcomic, and to reprint the older books. These are multi-award-winning, independent steampunk delights, and $30 gets you "an actual, dead-tree, SOFTCOVER copy of Girl Genius Volume 12: Agatha Heterodyne and the Siege of Mechanicsburg. 192 pages in full color. Shipped to you by means of one of the largest government agencies on Earth!"
Printing the actual books is our biggest single expense. The first print run of a typical volume costs in excess of US$25,000. If that seems high, you must remember that we print eight thousand of them, and they usually run to around 120 pages. Our latest volume, number 12, will be even more expensive, as it comes in at 192 pages, and we’ll be printing nine thousand of them, because eight thousand wasn’t enough last time. Exciting? Yes, but one can’t pay the printer with excitement.
We also have to ship the books. Actually, we have to ship them twice. Once from the printer to the fulfillment center, and once again from the fulfillment center to the customer. And whether a book is shrink–wrapped with thousands of its friends onto a pallet and loaded into a truck, or carefully packaged for individual shipping, several thousand pounds of books cost serious money to transport.
It's got a short fuse on it because they want to get the books in hand in time for San Diego Comic-Con. Act now!
Girl Genius Volume 12 Printing and Reprint Frenzy!
Read the rest
In this startling debut episode, the renowned Professor Elemental receives a commission from the government to build a marvellous snooping machine with which to catch the badduns. The Home Secretary has the right man for the job -- with the good professor's marvellous device, the Home Office will be able to spy on every communique that traverses the British Information Superhighway!
(It's all about the Snooper's Charter, the barmy UK legislative proposal to give nearly unlimited snooping powers to the government and police, and this video is courtesy of the good people at the Open Rights Group.
Professor Elemental build a Great Machine for Catching Villains Chapter One
John Biggs interviews steampunk designer Will Rockwell
: "He began his career as a TV producer but he always loved to tinker with metals, leather, and wood – the three components of good steampunk." [TechCrunch Makers]
A new piece from Ukrainian steampunk leather mask-maker Bob Basset. I like the angular forms here -- there's something a bit Roman in it, to my eye at least.
DW new. Steampunk Art Leather Mask
The latest piece from mad assemblage sculptor Roger Wood is this delightful ray-gun: "Another mental health break from clocks with this Steampunk ray gun and charging stand."
The wonderful folks at Bob Basset in Ukraine have a new piece up, the "Steampunk DJ Mask," of which I'm rather fond.
New Steampunk DJ Mask
Hey, Portlandians! Brian David Johnson and James H Carrott are doing a talk and signing for their new book, Vintage Tomorrows: A Historian And A Futurist Journey Through Steampunk Into The Future of Technology, a fascinating look at the historical significance of steampunk, and an exploration of what the popularity of steampunk today's means about tomorrow's technology, at the Cedar Hills Crossing Powell's on March 25 at 7PM.
Steampunk, a mashup in its own right, has gone mainstream, with music videos from the likes of Nicki Minaj; America’s Next Top Model photo shoots; and Prada’s Fall/Winter menswear collection featuring haute couture, steampunk style. Some steampunk fans revile this celebrity. But James H. Carrott, co-author of Vintage Tomorrows, says that’s just how cultural change happens. “Things get appropriated; they affect the culture in some way or another, and the people who are at the heart of trying to make that change move onto the next key idea.”
So what is steampunk, exactly, and why should we care? Carrott, a cultural historian, says “steampunk is playing with the past.” The world that steampunk envisions is a mad-inventor’s collection of 21st century-inspired contraptions, powered by steam and driven by gears. It’s a whole new past; one that has a lot to say about the futures we want to see.
In Vintage Tomorrows, Intel’s resident futurist Brian David Johnson (@IntelFuturist) joins Carrott (@CultHistorian) in a globe-spanning journey to dig beyond definitions and into the heart of this growing subculture. Through interviews with experts such as Margaret Atwood, China Miéville, William Gibson, Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling, and James Gleick, this book looks into steampunk’s vision of old-world craftsmen making beautiful hand-tooled gadgets, and what it means for our age of disposable technology.
Vintage Tomorrows Book Signing at Powell’s Books Cedar Hills Crossing
Nick Harkaway's essay "The Steampunk Movement is Good and Important" does a good job of answering charges that steampunk is cover for racism or colonialism, and does an even better job of explaining the attraction of steampunk technological visions to a modern artist:
Just as it would be tragic to ignore the advantages and consolations of the cognitive - and those who denigrate it in favour of a romanticised understanding of the instinctual or the mystical slander themselves - so equally it is idle and spurious to contend that we are cognitive entities riding around in bony control centres in our skulls, peeping out through windows in the face. We are not just brains with mobile life support. The emerging understanding of embodied cognition is the last nail in the coffin of that idea. We are bodies which think, and we’re at home with Steampunk because it is an ethos of design and creativity which acknowledges the humanly physical, that which we can understand with our fingers. It values our bounded selves, whose world is the middle earth between the flea and the horizon line in which objects obey Newton and relativity is barely more than an academic interest. It is a cognitively limited and incomplete sort of place. In terms of our senses, though, it’s all there is, and Steampunk is about being able to have the wonders of technology while still valuing, acknowledging and respecting that restricted view.
From that one central aspect of its identity, Steampunk mounts a challenge to grey-black plastic industrial design, to the faux-sanitised world of consumer technology and to techno-/neo-colonialism. It insistently re-makes technology as something friendly and even quasi-biological by producing things that owe more to Rube Goldberg than to the Filippo Marinetti-style “faster, harder” culture of Sony and Microsoft or the endless iterations of Apple and Samsung. The ethos admits of failure: Steampunk devices almost are not working properly if they don’t have leaks, if they don’t require maintenance and the occasional thump. That’s where they get character and animation, identities of their own which reflect their owners, while every iPhone can be seen as Apple’s endlessly replicated identity given passage into your every waking moment, a tiny and instantly replaceable cloned shopfront: what role is conferred or imposed by such a device on the person carrying it? It’s not that Jonathan Ive’s designs are poor, it’s that they are profoundly truthful: an iPhone is a vector, not an object, valued by its creator for its purpose and interchangeability, not individuality. Steampunk, on the other hand, repurposes, scavenges, remakes and embellishes in an arena where embellishment is seen as decadence, never mind the inherent decadence of creating the sheer amount of computing power our society now possesses in order that most of it should sit idle or be used for email and occasional games of Plants vs Zombies. Steampunk appeals to the idea of uniqueness, to the one-off item, while every mainstream consumer technology of recent years is about putting human beings into ever more granular, packageable and mass-produced identities so that they can be sold or sold to, perfectly mapped and understood.
The Steampunk Movement is Good and Important
For a mere $500 (which is truly a bargain here), Etsy seller Ramonpiper will make you a custom top-hat with a zoetrope inside it, whose moving images can be viewed through a porthole in its high cylinder.
This is a leather top hat with an illuminated motorized praxinoscope. The praxinoscope was the next generation in moving picture technology after the zoetrope. It features six mirrored surfaces reflecting six images on a revolving cylinder that appear to move when the cylinder is set in motion. The switch in the bottom of the hat powers a battery operated motor that turns the cylinder and illumines two bulbs. There is a lens that magnifies the mirrors. The lens has a velvet-lined lens cover that swings from a brass boss and is affixed with studs at the front and rear. The hat is light enough to be worn at length and it will continue to operate while moving, walking, or doffing it to ladies.
Steampunk Victorian Leather Top Hat with Zoetrope Praxinoscope Movie Player
PeaceLoveMagic sez: "Etsy seller steampunk22 from Thin Gypsy Studios offers these amazing wings crafted from wood, brass and copper.
Fully articulated. the wings rise and fall with the assistance of custom carved black walnut handles. The wings are affixed with bonded vinyl/leather straps with a range of sizing options.
$2750 seems like a bargain, when you consider most steampunks have to die to get wings.
Judging by the images on their website/blog, Thin Gypsy Thief Studios seems to specialize in droolworthy steampunk accoutrements."
Steampunk Icarus Wings - Handmade, Backmounted, Pulley Driven Wings MKII