Monday, November 22, 2010

Putting on a Corset Unassisted

This is a wardrobe necessity for many of our well dressed Steampunk Ladies, so we should applaud Ms. Flint bringing this information to our attention.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Article on Writing Steampunk Fiction-by G D Falksen

Once again Ms. A.E. Flint has found a gem and listed in her blog Trial by Steam.
In this case it speaks to the basic building blocks to begin writing Steampunk Fiction.  In this article Mr. Falksen talks about the most critical starting point, which is the creation and/or selection of the world in which the story takes place.  It is well worth a look for any of you writers out there, which ought to be all of you, if only for your own back story if nothing else.  The link to the article is below:
Fair winds to you!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Yulecon 2010 - a Review

Yulecon was a three day Anime Convention event here in the Dallas Fort Worth area from November 12th to 14th and included a great number of voice actors/actresses, Arc Attack, One Eyed Doll, Mega Ran, Brental Floss, Airship Isabella and Airship Neo Dulcimer, Anime Hell, the Renai Rangers, Anime Midstream, Repo Shadowcast, Axis Powers Hetalia, Sleeping Samurai,The Covenant of the Kraken Players (Kali's Hourglass is the local group), Circus Freaks, Saraswati Bodhisatva, Jennifer Hurley (from Blaming Grace), Greg Ayres, and a host of other performers too numerous to identify individually.  In addition they had an anime viewing room, a fairly extensive table top and role playing gaming setup in two rooms, and two more rooms that not only introduced attendees to new video games, but actually conducted fairly high money competitions with prize money up to $500 (and of course proportionate entry fees to raise said prize money).  What was new was that Sleeping Samurai, a group that taught, demonstrated, and made available an area to practice and compete with padded weapons, kept the area open for most of the convention, albeit for a modest additional price during times outside of their panels and workshops.

Another really new item worthy of mention was that Airship Isabella and Airship Neo Dulcimer brought out a new set of Characters they picked up as interdimensional hitchhikers that were the hit of the event.  The Mad Hatter (right out of the new release of the Johnny Depp Movie by that name) was far more "madder than a march hare" and absolutely hilarious!  Alongside were the Haberdasher (the red queens previous tailor who was replaced by the Mad Hatter as part of the escape plot during the film) and the Cheshire Cat from the same movie.  All of them were excellent and very funny!  The Cheshire Cat said very little, but was wonderfully creepy.  The Haberdasher did such a good job of acting like a very eccentric, mad, and shriveled little old man, I didn't recognize the actor for almost 5 minutes even though he is a personal friend of mine.  He even managed to give the appearance of being about 6 inches shorter with body language alone, just as the Mad Hatter seems to grow six inches, the same way (not counting the hat) by using posture, presence, and body language to give a very different appearance.  This sort of thing shows excellent use of body language and stage presence to produce special character effects on a high level.  Alongside of them was another character, whose identity was unclear that appeared to be accustomed to a very dark universe as he was wearing a mask and goggles that looked like they would cut out almost all light, yet he was able to function, at least when not behaving as if he was an extremely paranoid madmen off his medications.  (and no, I am certainly not being disrespectful to the mental health community of which I am personally a part, in more ways than one some days, but these are the characters they were attempting to portray and I am simply commenting on how well they pulled it off.)

One Eyed Doll was incredible!  It's really hard to describe, but highly entertaining.  It was a little like watching Little Orphan Annie doing a very intense imitation (complete with dangerous mosh pit) of Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols.  Kimberly Freeman was good on the guitar, Junior was "spot on" on the drums, the lyrics (the ones you could make out anyway) were very interesting, and the eccentric, uber narcissistic, extreme dark comedy performance and character itself of One Eyed Doll was literally one of the funniest performances I have ever seen!  It is like wandering into some sort of Ramstein or Mega-Death concert given by a beautiful girl that shifts suddenly from a lollita cupie doll with the speech patterns and mannerisms of an innocent playing with her dollies into a harsh dominatrix and then into the  most radical head banger super hair guitar rocker imaginable in a matter of seconds.  Classic moments ranged from a shot we got of her balancing one foot on one arm rest and the other on a different arm rest of stadium seating while playing the guitar and doing an extreme yoga back bend above the mosh pit

to when she talked about living in a universe far far away called "Oregon" where her boyfriend spent all his time at a local Nude bar, so she wrote a song about burning the place down in a very special way and amazingly enough it happened just that way!  The highlight though is when they come to the part where she says many fans get so sad they commit suicide, the last song.  As such she has to make the demand for an encore mandatory and gets her fans to rehearse clamoring for an encore while begging, pleading, and demanding sufficiently sufficiently to make it happen.

While the topics are dark, everyone was pretty clear that it was meant to be funny, and it was hilarious!  The mosh pit; however, can get a bit real, so I don't recommend getting into that area if you can't afford a few bruises the next day.

Arc Attack was fascinating!  They get two giant teslas coils to play music through the lightning somehow.  It was fascinating just to watch the 3 dimensional lighting crackling around and in front of us while they, and the robotic drum set, played.  The music was not to our taste, but heh, it was an anime festival, so anime theme songs, video game soundtracks etc. were the order of the day.  Really I don't think anyone was there because the thought it was great music.  They were there to see the giant Tesla coils doing amazing things.   My hats off to the Uber-geniuses that bring us this great ultra Steampunk Act!

On one note of caution though, if you carry as much brass, copper, and steel as we were packing that day, don't sit on the front row like we did!  We weren't harmed in any way, but I did get nervous enough to start disarming and hiding all the metal I could take off under my chair.  At one point my wife also reminded me we were supposed to meet friends elsewhere, but I (who am normally pretty fearless) was too nervous to leave early with a 3 foot long fencing foil while on the front row with lightning all around me.  Nuff said!

As for Panels, they were many and reportedly of high quality.  I personally was able only to attend part of Greg Ayres "Host Club to Hospital", and the Steampunk Leather Working and Steampunk DIY workshops by Airships Isabella and Neo Dulcimer.  All were well handled and very informative.  Mr Ayres was personable, entertaining,  and insightful.  The leather working panel taught me a number of excellent tips and a few trade secrets even though I am not new to the topic.  The DIY workshop focused on the two most asked for topics which were making your own steampunk goggles and steampunk weapons with excellent advice given in spite of the constant efforts by the Mad Hatter and his friends to disrupt the entire panel constantly with his madness and hilarity.  Kudos to the crew members conducting and leading the panel for the first time in the absence of both Captains who were busy being insane at the time. I would also like to mention that the crew members that were attempting to serve as handlers to the mad hitchhikers did a very credible and well received performance as well.

Now for the hard part.  So what didn't go well at Yulecon?  Actually, most of what went wrong had more to do with an extremely limited website, until very late (when it was significantly upgraded), a lack of information on the online schedule, which was published only a couple of weeks before the event, and limited ability to contact staff during the planning and promotional phases.  While the staff were very friendly, very helpful, and very courteous at all times, they did not have detailed enough schedule information or contact information up on the web site to permit people to make good decisions about attending or when to attend if they could not come all 3 days. 

 The lack of mention of any of the Steampunk Events in the online schedule and the lack of any weapons policy information in the online weapons policy section of their site caused a lot of problems for some that were attending as well as those still undecided whether or not to go. At least one of the events, a comedy skit by Kali's Hourglass, was not even mentioned on the written program causing further confusion. Kali's Hourglass was doing a pirate comedy skit followed by singing by Jennifer Hurley with interpretive dance (also by Kali's Hourglass), but most people had no idea they were performing.  On the other hand, when they arrived and explained what sort of furniture they needed as props, the staff was extremely helpful and accommodating. (This is certainly not the case everywhere!) While some level of error in these types of things always occurs, this simply did not give enough ability for attendees to know what was available and to decide what and when to attend. 

Very few of the local Steampunk Community actually came to the event.  One of the most significant problems that contributed to this poor Steampunk turn out was that Airship Isabella and Airship Neo Dulcimer were advised of their panel order, days, and times, only after they arrived.  This caused a huge problem for the steampunk community in that we were unable to confirm for certain if they were even coming until a day or two before the event, and we still didn't know what day or time the panels would be.  As a result, their panels, especially the first two, received far less attention and attendance than they deserved. There was also some confusion about what one day fees would be causing a few that came just to say hi to Airship Isabella and Neo dulcimer and to see Kali's Hourglass perform to simply leave when they realized it would cost the full $30 each for a day pass even if they attended only a single performance.  That would be obvious to most of the Anime Community, but many of the Steampunk community are much less familiar with this type of event.  Naturally pre-registration prices were posted, but when pre-registration was closed there was apparently no information put up on the web site to replace it about what the door fees would cost.

These are all things that could be corrected for the next event and contribute to a much larger turn out, especially from the local Steampunk community, who were simply not familiar enough with the event to be able to decide about attending without more advance information.  James, (the event organizer) tells me he understood the problems with limited information availability on the web site and intends to get that corrected in time for the next event.  I and my contacts are also planning to try hard to get this information in advance and help disseminate information for them, through our own channels, as much as possible next year so as to greatly increase the Steampunk Community notice and attendance.

In spite of these communication problems, which always happen behind the scenes, (and sometimes in front of the scenes) it seemed that everyone had a great time, and really that is what matters most!  In fact, my 10 year old son even entered one of the big prize money Halo Reach competitions, and said he might have won if they had stuck to classic controls, but they were using some special setting that disabled many of the weapon types.   Regardless, he thoroughly enjoyed competing against adults on a mostly level playing field and the staff were very courteous, tolerant, and helpful with our child and the children of others who frequented this event.  They even had a sign in sheet, since that room was frequented by younger attendees, but had not fully worked out the sign out system, nor were they (understandably) willing to assume responsibility for tracking any of the children there.  I found the staff to be extremely child friendly and that made the entire event, for parents like us, more enjoyable.  We had trouble getting our child to come out of the console game room much, but he had a blast trying out new games, learning new tricks, and meeting new people there!

On the topic of the future of Yulecon, there is a rumor in the works that they are at least seriously considering setting the next Yulecon on the weekend of Dec. 30th through January 1st and making it a true Steampunk Convention and Steampunk New Years!  I say rumored as nothing is ever certain until the venue is selected and paid for and they may wait to make that decision until after they gauge interest level.  This would compete with Ikkicon Anime Convention nearby in Austin.  While the organizers are correct that the Texas Steampunk Community, as well as Oklahoma, Arkansas, etc, would be pretty sure to select their even over any anime convention if the choice were presented, some may already be committed, if they take too long to announce this, and the lack of good dissemination of information prior to this Yulecon caused the Steampunk Presence  from the community to be nearly non-existent in response to some of the finest Steampunk Entertainment around.  That is obviously a problem.

We would have to be certain of the event, the guests, the program, etc. very early in order to promote this enough to get a good turnout on a weekend when many other events are occurring simultaneously.  Many members of the  Steampunk Community, for instance, have children (or possibly even a spouse/girlfriend etc. that might prefer an anime convention, so we need to be very sure what will be presented at a new event in order to choose it above something else.  On the other hand, there are no actual true "Steampunk Events", aside from Marquis of Vaudville's "Winter Wonderland" Steampunk Mini-Con on January 22nd at the Curtain Club in Dallas, that are any closer than Austin or Oklahoma City, so a local event would be very welcome, and we will certainly do what we can to promote it through the Facebook North Texas Steampunks site and through the local chapter of the Steampunk Illumination Society.
The Covenant of the Kraken Players (Kali's Hourglass) will probably be performing again along with as many of the Carnivale of Creatures Performers as we can talk into doing so, and we should be able to offer a panel on use of relaxation, meditation, and self hypnosis techniques to perfect one's spontaneous method acting and/or character acting presence for Steampunk or any other type of character desired.  Hope to see you there in 2011!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Ugly Gun Skit

We just finished doing a very fun comedy skit/play at Yulecon.  It was a blast!  Unfortunately we were not able to film it though some others did, so maybe it will show up in cyberspace somewhere, but we were billed as the local group which is Kali's Hourglass, so watch for it on you tube etc.  We have audio, but it loses a lot without visuals since there is some physical comedy as well as verbal.   The next time we perform this pirate/privateer comedy skit, we will try to get it on film!  We will be performing it again at the Steampunk Illumination Society meeting at Crystal's Pizza in Irving on Nov 18th  and at the Winter Wonderland Music, comedy, and Mini Steampunk Convention at the Curtain Club in Dallas on Januray 22, 2011.  This skit was custom developed as a promotional comedy for the upcoming Carnivale of Creatures music, comedy and dance spectacular.  Carnevale of Creatures will be on Febuary 11th, 2011 at the Son's of Herman Hall.   At Carnevale of Creatures we will be doing a Steampunk Naturalist skit, and some various types of dance such as traditional Aztec dance , probably, thought the actual line up is still being discussed.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Marquis of Vaudville-Interview on

Marquis of Vaudville is certainly one of the most interesting and creative of bands around these days.  When they just do a simple "gig" it brings the club alive!  When they produce one of their famous Soiree events, like they plan to do soon at the Curtain Club in Dallas on January 22, 2011, it is something special indeed!  This one will be even more extraordinary as other forms of entertainment have been invited to perform in different ways and there is even a second smaller stage in a different building with an airship market for vendors opening this one up into a mini-steampunk convention!  The following article is excellent and will give you a good feel for what this extraordinary band is all about.  I have, once again, included only the most intriguing, for me anyway, paragraph, but give a link to the full article on it's original website, which is naturally where it should be read in full.  See below:

For an independent band that’s so new you have a very sophisticated sound. Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls described your music as “Space-age modern-age glam nostalgia" while the editor of Spin magazine, Doug Brod, praised your music as “Very Impressive.” How do you achieve such high quality to your music?

Our entire endeavor has been approached with an independent sense of mind, yet we don’t feel that this should mean that we have to record with out-of-tune guitars or end up with recording quality that sounds as though we tracked live in a garage with a washing machine going under a humming florescent light. Everything we record, we track and produce independently for ourselves in our own studio. The quality comes through because we know music, it’s as simple as that, and we know what elements must be present in order to write a good song. We’ve all been fairly successful with previous other projects within the music scene, and I believe a good deal of that aforementioned quality also comes from each member being a learned, well rounded musician with an excellent sense of all aspects of musical composition and sound production. On top of that, we never settle for “substandard”, and we don’t believe in “filler”. I’m sure we’ve all had that disappointment of purchasing or listening to an album, and there being only one incredible song. How utterly dissatisfying. The rest of the album doesn’t have the same luster, the same glimmer or gleam as that one gem. For what we do, we feel that every song should incite something genuine & relative in people’s lives. The music should inspire sincere emotion, in whatever form that might manifest for any individual. Each composition must be unique, with strong melody. A potential song must have a certain intriguing element to all of its parts and components. If a certain aspect is not up to par, then we simply put it aside until we find the right piece. Writing music is much like imagining a puzzle and then piecing it all together in your mind.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nickel Children-Full Review (with comments from the director included)

“Nickel Children“:  SteamPunk/Sci-Fi Western Short Film

I have gotten so hopeful, then disappointed with other attempts to use the currently fashionable Steampunk Aesthetic and Fictional approach (much less actual Steampunk Cultural ideas or values) to boost attention to various movies or TV shows lately that I find myself almost afraid to hope that something really good would come out of a project like this.  Thank Goodness Kevin Eslinger, apparently with help from his brother, was the one that put this project together! 

    Imagine a place where an “Indiana Jones” like vigilante goes after the most evil imaginable, yet classic, bad man from the old west, who is hiding a secret weapon right out of classic science fiction horror films. Now picture it set in the one place and time on earth where everyone, and probably the family pets even, would need to have a pair of adventurer’s goggles on them at all times, the dust bowl time period in Kansas.  As this is a “Steampunk Film” the goggles are naturally very decorative and science fiction looking including one pair (that the vigil ante’s partner uses) that appear to be the most elaborate pair of magnifying, telescopic goggles I have ever seen, and I assure you I have seen a lot of them!

    The acting ranged from good/very good (depending on your interpretation of the director’s intent) on the part of some of the minor actors to some of the finest acting I have ever seen on the part of the stars.  The script was also tight, well written, well thought out, and well executed, as it must be when you have only 16 minutes to tell a gripping tale.  All short films try for that perfect blend, but few come up to this one’s high standards of delivering this combination that can make even a very short film something to remember!

         I was very impressed with the actress that played Jack's mother.  To give you some idea of how talented this actress really is, she managed to convey deep love and protectiveness for her son, love and admiration for her man, thanks that he did not object when she gave the lion’s share of their meager food to their child, then fear, grief, shock, and finally abject terror in every possible way without so much as a single spoken line.  I had to catch my breath again from that alone just to be able to focus on the core film which followed and we were still in the first two minutes or so of the film with almost no spoken lines! The film only got better from there, but first, let's discuss some of the other actors in the film.

    Easton Lee McCuiston plays Jack, a quiet, polite, young boy, whose parents are murdered, apparently just to steal him for the child fighting arena. When I asked the director about the very emotionally restrained performance of this character he gave a very sound and artistic explanation for how this character was directed to perform:  “Easton did a fantastic job at keeping that somber, blank expression, of a kid whose been almost completely traumatized by the events he's witnessed. Almost catatonic shock, he's going through the motions, but not really understanding what is happening. “

     Amanda Bailey plays Anastasia, the vigil ante looking for her stolen son.  She is exciting, intense, and superb! Michael Venter plays his father who manages to convey, without even speaking, courage, despair, love, and tragedy when trying to calculate what will give his family the best chances when a gunslinger comes to destroy them.  While his part was brief, it was very good and very memorable.  Jeremy Snowden plays the evil gunslinger (referred to as “Sherrif” in review info) that rules over a network of child sex slave and gladiator slave rings throughout the territory.  He gives a chilling and very believable performance with excellent attention to even very small details of facial expression, body language, and range of emotions conveyed by the eyes.  Brian J. Lowry was entertaining and interesting as Dr. Montague, the Steampunk inventor and vigil ante accomplice, but he was not given enough of a role in this to evaluate well.  We will see more of him, I hope in future episodes.  Benjamin Wood also did a great job as the evil “Sherrif’s” secret weapon, but I can’t say much about that here without giving away too much in the plot.  I would also like to make a special mention of the fine performance of the ring announcer, his lovely female assistant who exudes greed from her eyes while happily taking money for a child sex slave, and the “Sherrif’s Exotics” a pair of Asian women who show a strong performance of sensual pleasure at watching Jack’s blood being spilled.  

       While the subject of child slavery, especially for sexual purposes, is, or at least should be, repulsive to us all, it was handled about as tastefully as it can be and still get across the level of evil the vigil ante is up against.  Besides, what sci-fi/steam punk/western story could possibly be more enjoyable than seeing the worst scum imaginable get beaten up by the very children they were abusing?   In fact the director, like many before him, insisted that his “evil” actors show as little emotion, either pity or anger toward the children as possible in all scenes of the film.  He said this was completely intentional: “ their lack of emotion is only to show that this is just another day, another betting ring, and another kid. They feel no remorse.”   He said it was important to make the evil characters as evil and predatory as possible so that the children not have any negativity attach to them as characters in later scenes where they violently retaliate against the betting ring staff and patrons.

    On a similar note that would make the Bards of my own Celtic ancestors proud, the director briefly mentioned in an e-mail to me that he actually hoped this film’s story line would help to draw attention to this worst of all modern social problems.  He didn’t make an issue of it, and may not mention it again, but that really caught my attention.  The reason it caught my attention so strongly was that this is a “Steampunk Movie” and from the very earliest beginnings of the 1800s era science fiction that “Steampunk” evolved from, such as “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “The Time Machine”, our “Steampunk” sub-culture (and it’s early ancestral sources ) have rebelled not only against the idea of mass production of ugly, shoddy, disposable goods in settings that demean and abuse 3rd world factory workers, but also against the idea of apathy toward social problems and the trials of disempowered classes, including children. 

    In other words, those members of  the “Steampunk  Community”, like myself, who treat it as far more than just a fashion statement, have been progressively making it into a force for positive social change.  Why would this matter to the TV/film industry you may ask?  It should matter, because after the fiasco of NCIS-LA attempting to use an incredibly poorly researched and insulting episode they pandered as “Steampunk” which did bad things to the reputation of the show‘s writers and producers, much more attention is being paid to whether or not writers, directors, and producers take the time and trouble to actually ask members of any given community or subculture for information and assistance in developing entertainment that gives professional results, not to mention responsible and respectful reflection of various cultures and values.
    Mr Eslinger, and his costumer, and other production staff not only asked for  opinions and help from their local Steampunk Community, but were actually loaned personal items to use in the film with their blessings and support.  The Castle TV series went so far as to hire members of the California Steampunk community as extras and expert consultants for their “Steampunk Episode“.  Why is it so much trouble for people to pick up the phone, or drop a courteous e-mail and ask for support from people so desperately trying to communicate?  When this is not done, it simply shows the writers and developers to be lazy and apathetic about producing good art in a way that is actually in touch with the times and the people represented.  As a film director that is using a truly excellent Steampunk Genre film to tell a fictional tale that attracts attention to the worst of all social evils, I would like to say that I at least consider that sufficient reason to try to claim him, at least in an honorary capacity, as a part of our Steampunk Community!  If any of my readers do not believe that child slavery is still a serious problem worldwide, including in America, I would strongly suggest they take a look at the website of an excellent charitable organization that directly assists these children at

    I have to say that while any film (yes pretty much any of them) can be criticized in one area or another if dissected enough, and that all films, including this one, can be polished more or made more smooth and more easily understood if given more screen time to fill and more money to spend, overall I found this film truly enjoyable and a great pleasure to watch!  I also have noted that the comments and responses from literally every viewer I have been able to locate, canvas, or see a review or comment from so far has been unanimously very positive!  I have trouble recalling other films with such a universal appeal although I realize the limited audiences that have been able to see it so far have tended to be persons already seriously interested in the genre or in the film industry in general, but that is still incredibly impressive!  Having already given you my opinion of the acting, I would like to say that the script and the directing are truly outstanding!  I would also like to point out a few items of special interest in the technical areas.

    The costuming is wonderful!  It ranged from old west, Kansas area, dust bowl farmer/rancher through upper class wealthy family riding/traveling clothes from the time period with the addition of goggles and corsets, (the two steam punk fashion essentials)as well as a few intentionally anachronistic accents.  In spite of what may sound, to persons unfamiliar with the “Steampunk Fashion Aesthetic”, which derives from an 1800’s era genre of science fiction stories. (which surprisingly enough really did begin to be published in that time period, but has changed much over the years)   This may sound rather odd, but assure you, the look and feel of a really good “Old West” movie, like the “Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” pervades almost every fiber of the short film, aside from the goggles, but even the goggles make good sense in light of the time and place where even Clint Eastwood would find such eye apparel pretty much a necessity if he wanted to hit anything in the daily dust storms. 

    While I have seen more elaborate and more luxuriant Steampunk ensembles, goggles, toys, backpacks etc., and they looked great in a 21st century “Dream Team” concept version of a “Private Steampunk Nightclub” on a recent episode of the TV serial Castle, such extravagant looking costuming and fabrics would not have been nearly as perfect for this setting and I think such extremely fancy toys would have damaged the realistic, gritty, believability of the film in general. 

    The soundtrack is also one of the film‘s great strengths!.  Unfortunately my expertise in this area is insufficient to say as much about the details in this area, but it was far more emotionally moving and richer as a soundtrack than I would have ever expected from any low budget short film. 

    The cinematography was also really good!  Most, if not all of the shots were in setting where limited and/or muted lighting was used to give an emotionally dark aspect to a very dark themed adventure.  While most viewers have never tried to act or perform in such lighting, I have, and I tell you it was murder!  Somehow the camera and lighting crew of this film found the magic formula to make everything very clear, yet realistic at the same time.  Even in the darkest, dungeon like area where the child slaves were caged, I could see every detail of every facial expression and every line of body language without multiple shadows.
    The computer graphics that were used in some scenes to add background and depth were also used in one scene to make a very surprising and fairly believable sudden change to the building itself where the fight occurs and to even add an escape dirigible up close and later at a distance. 

    The acting ranged from good to absolutely superb and the technical work on this short film was impressive as well!  I sincerely hope it was enough to help it win the recognition and support from the film industry and producers or bakers that it needs to make their dream of turning this short film into a Steampunk Serial a reality!  I and pretty much all of my hundreds of Steampunk friends worldwide are hoping his dream will happen as this is the best non-anime, possibly the best ever, Steampunk Fictional story TV or film, I have seen to date!  Best of luck to Mr. Eslinger and all the cast and crew of “Nickel Children”!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Update on the Steampunk Series Pilot and Film Nickel Children

I received some fascinating correspondence from the director, Kevin Eslinger, who apparently is very much a part of our community as are many of those helping him with the film. That explains why it has received such overwhelmingly positive praise from our Steampunk community. so many commercial pieces try to capitalize on whatever is popular to raise ratings without making any effort to understand the culture they portray or the mindset of those they are representing for good or ill. He seems to actually get it! What helps me to believe that is that this fiction is not just good story telling, but intended to make a positive impact on the real world in a truly significant way. See below:

Director Kevin Eslinger:  "As with much of steampunk and it's lavish style and settings (typically European), I have always wondered what other parts of the world were experiencing with this similar style and technology.
The important aspect of bringing in my personal interest in steampunk to the film, is to address it as a serious subculture, as well as blend in modern social issues around this aesthetic. In many aspects, the goggles are always seen as a staple to steampunk, as an accessory to many airship captains. However, in our world, within the dust bowl Kansas, its people experience these dust storms frequently giving the goggles a general purpose. While, our film leans a little more on western aspects, expect much more additional steampunk styles blended into our alternate history that we are developing.

The film touches on child exploitation and human trafficking which continues to be a problem today. By wrapping the issue into a sci-fi story, it brings the problem into a more thought provoking element, assembled within fictional narrative.

Below are some excerpts from our upcoming press release :
This short film is the pilot to an upcoming web series, in which we will follow Captain Anastasia as she journeys across the rugged frontier looking for a child that will be the key in ending the civil war in America as she seeks to regain her crew and her airship, The Zephyr.

The film was shot in five days on a shoe-string budget using the latest canon 5D MarkII cameras. Writer and director Kevin Eslinger assembled a professional, and passionate, cast and crew that were dedicated to putting together the ambitious project. Costumer designer, Aria Durso, assembled many of the pieces along with many fantastic hand-crafted items donated and/or lent to the production from the amazing help and support from several members of the Steampunk community. Keith Stacey composed the raw western score with haunting tonehammer accents to heighten the action throughout the film. Professional stunt choreographer Ian Quinn (24, Heroes, The Cleaner) brought believability to the action sequences. Justin Eslinger assembled the footage and developed the incredible Visual FX to create the painterly environments. An amazingly talented cast with newcomers Easton McCuiston as Jack, and Jeremy Snowden as The Sheriff. As well as acting veteran Amanda Bailey (Make-out with Violence, Inside Music Row), brought an intensity that we will see throughout the series.

Nickel Children has a web presence on over twenty web communities and at least nine different countries with nearly 1,000 fans on Facebook. The teaser trailer has over 12,000 hits on YouTube and has been in the top ten most popular movie trailers on Hulu on three separate occasions. It has been accepted into eight film festivals so far and has won BEST FILM at its first film screening in Nashville and BEST SCIENCE FICTION at the ValleyCon36/Fargo Fantastic Film Festival. Other film festivals include : Dragon*CON 2010 in Atlanta, Chicago Horror Film Festival, Tri-Cities International Fan Film Festival in Richland, WA, Renovation - 69th Science Fiction Convention in Reno, NV, and internationally with the Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival in Belfast, Ireland, and Bram Stoker International Film Festival in Whitby UK.

Along with the series, we are also working on two unrelated steampunk projects to be announced at the first of the year!

Thanks Ramon!
We greatly appreciate it!
Keep up the good work!"

Talk to you soon
Take care
Kevin Eslinger
PH 812.798.7222 (Official Email)

As for actually reviewing the film, I pointed out to him that it is useless for me to review reviews of something I have not actually seen, so he arranged to permit a private screening of the full film, but apologized saying he cannot make it more publicly available until after it completes the full film festival circuit.  Otherwise many of the festivals would decline to show the film and that would definitely be a bad thing for all of us.  Be patient.  I'll watch it, write a quick initial response without actually posting it (I never post gut reactions right away for professional reasons) sleep on it to properly digest it, then post the finished review in a couple of days.  As they intend to make a series out of it, you don't need to worry about them eventually mass releasing the film in some form or other.  It will certainly happen, but we don't have a date or release format yet available.  

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sepiachord: An interview with the band by A.E. Flint

Another excellent interview by A. E. Flint with the people from our community that make up Sepiachord.  I should have posted this one earlier, but was too busy with some of our own projects to read the interview in depth enough to decide whether or not to mention it here.  It definitely deserves a look, so here is a short excerpt from the interview, just to wet your appetite.

What exactly is Sepiachord?
Mr B: Sepiachord itself is a genre of music that we describe like this:
“Sepiachord is the “genre that doesn’t exist”.
It is to music what “steampunk” is to literature and cinema: something that looks back to the past to comment on the present while looking sideways at the future. A cubist aural experience.
As goth & glam are the bastards of David Bowie, Sepiachord is the made from the genetic material sown by Tom Waits.
Sepiachord is assembled like a clockwork orchestra, from such elements of music
 Sinister Circus, Cabaret Macabre, Chamber Pop, Organic Goth, Celtic/Gypsy Punk, Mutant Americana, Ghost Town Country
It is the music our grandparents or great-grandparents would have listened to, if they were as off-set as we are.”
When it comes to the best thing to compare it to is music zine. We do interviews, record/cd reviews, show reviews, post photo essays and the like. The intent was for it to be a music portal for fans to find bands, for bands to find fans and for bands to find out that they weren’t alone, that there were other weird bands out there that they could work with to build a web of performers. To me succeeded the first time a musician informed that they met with other folks they created music with through Sepiachord.
We’ve been called “The Rolling Stone of Steampunk” but I really think we’re closer to a “Maximum Rock and Roll of Steampunk”.
Still I didn’t think anybody was really interested in what we were doing until I got the first CD in the mail that was sent to us for review (as opposed to us reviewing things that we had purchased). So a big nod of thanks to Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys for helping me realize that I wasn’t nuts.
The goal of Sepiachord was not to have anything to sell. We didn’t want volks to think that they had to buy something to be involved. But we’d be places handing out free stickers and pins to people and they all wanted to get there hands on a CD so they could have a palpable *something* to help them connect. At the same time musicians were asking us to put a CD out to help build this community.
We caved.
At first we put out a free comp CD (“The Sepiachord Field Guide Vol I”) that we made by hand & just gave away (Jennifer designed the packaging and assembled them all herself, our cohort Chris Roy did the remixing and I did the organization & producing). We quickly realized that we couldn’t keep up with demand and that burning of 200+ cds was killing my computer. We had to do one that we had to sell if we wanted to make people happy. That lead to “The Sepiachord Companion” which was released via Devil’s Ruin Records.
Now we’ve just released “A Sepiachord Passport” on seminal indie label Projekt Records.

 The full interview (also a review of their latest album) is available at Ms. Flint's blog at:

Vernian Process-Excellent Interview on Trial by Steam!

Below is an excerpt from Trial by Steam written by A E Flint from her interview with Vernian Process.  It is an excellent interview and you really should read it.  Here's a teaser from the interview, but I don't believe in copying other people's work.

Free Fargo: My introduction to VP was through Vaughn, a mutual friend of Josh’s and mine. At that time they were playing to pre-recorded tracks. Which in many cases in music can be a wonderful thing. Anyways, I was sitting there listening to all these exquisitely layered compositions… Now my personal belief is; music is the alchemy for the spirit. It’s one of the few things the secular and religious worlds have in common. You add the two elements of sound, and rhythm… Your body will react, and move in some fashion.
My musical influences started when I was very young with my father, and my uncle. Through my father I grew up listening to 60′s R&B to and some country, such as, Arthur Prysock, Lou Rawls, and Willie Nelson. My uncle turned me on to the likes of, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Pete Seeger. Then the world within music started to change, when I discovered both, Prince’s 1999, and The Cults Dreamtime albums around the same time. From there came… SWANS, Einsturzende Neubauten, Coil, Throbbing Gristle, Skinny Puppy, Iron Maiden, Cocteau Twins, and Dead Can Dance.
Why did you choose steampunk as your genre of choice? What attracts you to steampunk?
JP: Vernian Process was conceived as a steampunk themed project from the earliest ideas I had for it back in the late 90’s. At that time it was a little joke I made up to entertain myself. I had no musical ambitions at that time, and just thought it was a fun idea.
I’ve been a steampunk fan for most of my life. I was introduced to the wonderful world of steampunk in the early 80’s by my dad via old syndicated re-runs of “The Wild Wild West”, and Disney films like 20,000 Leagues, In Search of the Castaways, The Island at the Top of the World, and The Rocketeer (which I saw in the theater). When I got a bit older I became fascinated with tv shows like Brisco County Jr., and Disney’s Tail Spin, and literature such as Michael Moorcock’s “A Nomad of the Time Streams” trilogy. And eventually I began creating my own stories and worlds within the realms of steampunk fiction.
So suffice to say, steampunk is in my blood. It’s my favorite form of science fiction by far.
MI: When I joined VP, I was looking for something new… something with lots of energy, but also something that required a high degree of musicianship. I had done my share of acts that were highly energetic but musically dull, and also acts that were musically complex but very sterile and dispassionate. steampunk (at least VP’s version of it) seamlessly combined the energy of punk rock with the beauty and challenges of Neo-Classical composition.
PJZ: In all aspects of my life, I’ve always erred on the geeky side. The first movie I vividly remember as a child – Aliens – secured a lifetime love for science fiction and well-crafted horror. I grew up reading science fiction, playing RPGs, and admiring the art of ages past. The roots of steampunk came naturally into my life.
As a genre, my decision came by a different route. I was involved in a few metal bands, but found myself disillusioned with the scene and sought fresh air in something that spoke to my musical roots. I liked Vernian Process and other bands associated with steampunk, so I thought to myself, why not join one? Coincidentally, Vernian Process happened to be seeking a bass player just as I was seeking a steampunk band. I auditioned, and the rest is history.
Brian Figueroa: I’m attracted to Steampunk because of the people that are making it come to life (the people in VP, the people that are anti commercial and creative) and the people who are seriously devoted to science fiction and music.
How would you describe your music to people who have never heard it before?
MI: That is hard to do. We try to keep our style morphing from one work to the next. We have elements from a dozen different influences and styles in each song. One thing is for sure, however: At a VP show, there’s bound to be something for everyone.

For the full interview you will have to follow the link to Ms. Flint's blog at