Cherie Priest’s BONESHAKER


Cherie Priest is one seriously inventive fiction/alternate history/sci-fi author who pens books about witches and voodoo and airships and sea monsters and zombies and ghosts and werewolf-hunting nuns. Needless to say, me likes her lots! She has a new novel out today, called Boneshaker, which BoingBoing just aptly described as a “zombie steampunk mad-science dungeon crawl family adventure novel” and which I cannot wait to get my grubby hands on. A brief description from Publisher’s Weekly:

Maternal love faces formidable challenges in this stellar steampunk tale. In an alternate 1880s America, mad inventor Leviticus Blue is blamed for destroying Civil War–era Seattle. When Zeke Wilkes, Blue’s son, goes into the walled wreck of a city to clear his father’s name, Zeke’s mother, Briar Wilkes, follows him in an airship, determined to rescue her son from the toxic gas that turns people into zombies (called rotters and described in gut-churning detail). When Briar learns that Seattle still has a mad inventor, Dr. Minnericht, who eerily resembles her dead husband, a simple rescue quickly turns into a thrilling race to save Zeke from the man who may be his father. Intelligent, exceptionally well written and showcasing a phenomenal strong female protagonist who embodies the complexities inherent in motherhood, this yarn is a must-read for the discerning steampunk fan.

Go, Cherie, go!

Order Boneshaker and other Priest titles here, or here, or better yet, from your local mom & pop bookstore.

The Great Handcar Regatta of 2009

OK, it’s official. For the first time since relocating my base of operations to the southern hemisphere, I’m homesick:

Right now just about all of my talented fabricator/maker/builder chums back in California are gearing up (hurr hurr) for the second annual Santa Rosa Handcar Regatta, which takes place Sept 27th. That’s exactly a week from now. From the Handcar Regatta’s “Philosophy” page:

The railcar races at the center of the Regatta highlights Innovation and Human-Powered Ingenuity to devise cheaper, viable, and hitherto undreamed of methods for bizarre transport beyond the standard notions of today. Additionally, commuter rail transport is highlighted in our era of rising fuel costs. Together with an emphasis on biking, the Regatta provides a platform for playfulness and sustainable concerns within the realm of human-powered alternative transportation.

Tinkerers, artists, and eccentrics both young and old are invited to participate in Artistic and Mechanical Innovation upon a playful and inspired mixture of fond remembrance for a stylized industrial railroad past remixed with progressive styles and technologies of today.

The elegantly feisty Hennepin Crawler, winner of the Erasmus P. Kitty Honorary Award at the 2008 Handcar Regatta.

If you live in the area and appreciate thoughtful, gonzo DIY fun on a massive scale, you will not want to miss this. Indie vendors, circus and dance performances, yummy foodstuffs, live music and multiple geekgasms await you. More info here. Have fun at the races, comrades.

Prince Odoevski’s Town in a Snuffbox

My childhood edition of Town in a Snuffbox was published in 1981 and, as you can see by the cover alone, it’s Steampunk as f**k. It’s a tale of a boy who travels inside a wind-up musical snuffbox to find a town called “Din-Din” and anthropomorphic bells, hammers, springs and cogs inhabiting it. The bells tell young protagonist Misha about their life of forced music-making and daily beatings from the dreaded hammer-men. The hammer-men explain that they’re just following orders from their superior, who in turn takes his orders from Queen Spring. Displeased by all the violence an bureaucracy, Misha confronts Queen Spring and brings down the system by uncoiling her.


Here’s a book that probably wouldn’t get published today, at least not in the US, for the mere fact that its premise involves tobacco paraphernalia. But Prince Vladimir Odoevski didn’t write Town in a Snuffbox in modern times. Yep, the author was a prince. He was also a music critic, philanthropist, philosopher, senator and an enthusiastic fan of phantasmagoric storytelling. Oh, and a magazine editor, working on the socio-political Sovremennik with such literary greats as Pushkin and Gogol.


1800s Moscow was brimming with radical-thinking upper-crust entrepreneurs – Odoevski was doing all he could to keep up. Looks like he did a decent job of it, too. He’s recently been credited with predicting blogging in his unfinished utopian novel, Year 4338. From Wikipedia:

Finally, today we received a household journal from the prime minister, where we, among others, were invited to a soiree. You need to know that in many houses, especially those well connected, such journals are published, having replaced regular correspondence. <…> The journals usually provide information about the hosts’ good or bad health, family news, various thoughts and comments, small inventions, as well as invitations; in case of a dinner invitation, also the menu. Besides, for communicating in emergency, friends’ houses are connected by means of magnetic telegraphs that allow people who live far from each other to talk to each other.



The illustrator, Alexander Koshkin, is a contemporary artist, whose vision and watercolor technique make the dreamy tone of the book come alive. I love that though this is a children’s book, the art  doesn’t feel dumbed down – sparse backgrounds balance against super-detailed characters so there’s enough room for the imagination. Everything seems to be veiled in warm glowing fog and you can almost hear the music.

Koshkin was one of the first illustrators in the former USSR to branch out internationally. The English-laguage books he’s illustrated can be found here. Check out his version of Alice in Wonderland and click the jump to see more of his art from Town in a Snuffbox. Large scans of all the illustrations are here and definitely worth a look – so much detail!

Fire, Puppets, Rootabagas! (Crucible Fire Arts Fest)

The “Golden Mean” snail car, a featured installation at the Fire Arts Festival this year. (Photo by Kim Sallaway.)

Heads up, Californians! The Crucible’s 9th annual Fire Arts Festival, “a spectacular open-air exhibition of astounding performances, fire sculpture and interactive art, lights up the sky at the Crucible’s new Fire Arts Arena in the freeway canyon lands of West Oakland.” Commencing this evening and running through Saturday the 18th, the festival is a full ten acres of installations, vendors, roving theatrics, circus arts, fire performers and aerialists.

For months now, Coilhouse co-editor Meredith Yayanos has been in meetings and rehearsals, preparing for this epic event. She’s a key player in The Rootabaga Opera, the featured musical performance at the festival this year. Composed by Mer’s good friend Dan Cantrell, the massive scale, multi-disciplinary work features dancers, acrobats, 20-foot high shadow puppet projections, pyrotechnics, a chamber orchestra and an Eastern European-influenced women’s choir. The whimsical narrative is based on noted American poet Carl Sandburg’s cherished early 20th century folk tales, The Rootabaga Stories.

A few of the Rootabaga Opera shadow puppets by Mark Bulwinkle. They’ll be projected onto a towering scrim and lit by arc welders.

Other featured music performances will include Poor Man’s Whiskey, BlacKMahal, Lucero, and last but certainly not least, Mer’s longtime chum and collaborator, Amanda Fucking Palmer. Mer actually postponed her move to Middle Earth, NZ specifically to participate in this event. She says “I haven’t been so proud or so glad about a music project in a very long time. I’m hoping to see a lot of our readers there!” Rumor has it she’ll be bringing her penny farthing and her Stroh along, too.

After the jump, some more related videos and images, and a long, illustrious list of artists contributing their large scale installations to the massive fundraising event.

Help Steampunk Treehouse Creators Launch a Rocket

Image from the Tree House ‘s opening night by John Manyjohns.

OK, so you all know about the Steampunk Tree House, right? Towering at 30 feet, the house, constructed of wood, metal and recycled construction materials, debuted in Black Rock City in 2007. Nested between the tree’s rusted-looking metallic branches is a cozy, Myst-inspired interior room full of paintings, books, and all sorts of mysterious gadgets, puzzles, cranks, gears and dials.  The brainchild of 60+ Bay Area artists, the Steampunk Tree House was brought into the world through a labor of love as well as the help of art lovers who donated funds to its construction from around the world.

A projection of where the Rocketship will be.

Now, the same team that built the Tree House is tackling an ambitious new project: the Raygun Gothic Rocketship. The Rocketship will surpass in height even the Tree House, the tallest element being 40′. Aesthetically, the project will be designed “in a rococo retro-futurist vernacular between yesterday’s tomorrow and the future that never was, a critical kitsch somewhere between The Moons of Mongo & Manga Nouveau. ” And they need help. I think it’s a cause that all of us can get behind!

Tonight in San Francisco, the creators of the Rocketship are throwing a Galactic Gala: a future-noir fundraising party featuring talented artists and performers from the Bay Area. Among them will be our very own Meredith Yayanos, performing under her Theremina moniker! Additionally, patrons of the event will be graced by a performance cellist extrordinaire Zoe Keating. If you are in the Bay Area, this event is not to be missed.

Bajema’s Web Collection II: Etta Diem Out Now!

One of my favorite artists, Bethalynne Bajema, has a new book out! The book is called Bajema’s Web Collection II: Etta Diem and features art and writing by Bajema’s new alter ego, Etta:

My second collection of work introduces my character Etta Diem with new artwork and writing all done in Miss Diem’s somewhat antique and eccentric style.

This collection includes Etta’s encyclopedia of Harmful Sensation, her mostly true stories of the strange and quirky (like the tale of the prostitute popular during the Jack the Ripper times, who was singled out by her chattering teeth… that didn’t happen to be in her mouth) and a variety of other dark humor tales from Victorian times. The collection also includes a new series of steampunk/dark fantasy styled art that had not been seen as of yet.

Bajema also has an Etsy store, where you can buy some gorgeous handmade prints from the book.

First FreakAngels Trade Paperback Available Now

A heads up to anyone with a hankering for some really fantastic “practical” steampunk worldbuilding and storytelling who isn’t yet familiar with FreakAngels: the first story arc of Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield’s groundbreaking webcomic has been collected in a scrumptious 144 page trade paperback. It’s available today in North America, and tomorrow in the UK and other territories. Meanwhile, all past installments of FreakAngels will remain online as a free serialized weekly. You can check them out, starting here.

Warren chatted with NEWSARAMA about his process:

As far as how it works: it’s the TV model. FreakAngels is free-to-air, but the eventual collected editions will cost money. I can watch pretty much any TV show I want, on the box or on the net, but for something I like, I’d rather have the complete DVD handy.

Makes sense, right? Go get some.

Tour the Edison with Mother of London

Earlier this year, we showed you some image stills from a 360° virtual tour shoot of The Edison by panorama virtuoso Wil Pearson, populated with shady characters wearing the latest Mother of London designs. Now, the interactive panoramas are complete! Click here for two stunning views of The Edison.

I have to say, I give major props to The Edison for opening its doors to various influences beyond the typical bar crowd. The Edison could’ve easily stayed a high-end bar for Hollywood Douchebags and done just fine financially, but instead it has, ever since it opened its doors almost two years ago in February of 2007, invited performance freaks (Lucent Dossier), film geeks (for the Jules Verne Film Festival), belly dancers, photographers and musicians into its midst. I cannot think of any place so fancy that’s so inclusive anywhere else in the US. There really is no place on Earth like the Edison. If you’re in LA, don’t take it for granted. And if you’re not in LA, this panoramic tour will give you a chance to experience it like never before.

Will Pearson / Mother of London / Edison Virtual Tour

Allegories In Digital: Keith Thompson

Even when he’s drawing space vehicles, the myriad of minutiae executed with sharp precision hints at Keith Thompson’s classical influences. I’ve spent hours browsing Keith’s incredible portfolio and getting lost in the stories written for most of the art on display. The worlds behind each piece feel thoroughly conceived – it’s clear the author mulled over each detail of the fable along with the art. Gorgeous detailing decorates mutants, deities and demons, some of it recognizable, like this machine-beluga or the violin necks in the legs of the lovely musician below.

When a talented skald of the Swedish courts, renowned across Scandinavia for his unparalleled musical prowess, revealed himself as a disguised woman, she was swiftly executed, and the embarrassing events were stricken from polite conversation. Her sudden return to court functions shook even the staunchest war veterans, but not enough to stay a second wary, though swift, summary execution. Upon further returns, each revealing the scald to be strangely repaired in a manner befitting tailor more than physician, the court began to almost embrace the eerie presence. This cycle of returns and executions leading to a more and more transfigured court poet became something of an exalted tradition.

Thompson’s work is largely concept art along with two sections of illustration work with some beautifully fleshed out pieces you must see to believe. I’m not posting those here simply because of how great they look full-size.  Click. Click, also. Here the old school is especially visible, with the pieces reminiscent of Arthur Rackham and Edmund DuLac –  two of my childhood’s favorite illustrators. Thompson uses traditional techniques he converts to digital in the process, which is described and taught in an instructional DVD.

Keith’s galleries of Vehicles, Creatures and Undead showcase fantastic creatures, some of which take the term “Bio-mechanical” in a new direction. Perfect example: the Luxury Nautiloid below. From Keith’s attached text, some key features:

Upper observation deck used by vacationers with eyes strong enough to look up at the light shining down from the water’s surface. Huge windows offer a commanding view of the seascape from the comfort of interior dining areas and lounges.The ship can move fore or aft and when necessary these tentacles retract and the surrounding plates close up. These extended, flared muscular hydrostats are often used to pull surface craft down into the water for the amusement of the more spiteful tourists.

Beyond the jump, more art and stories from Keith Thompson. Thanks, Alice!

Along Came a Spider!

Photo via GETTY.

Oh, Artichoke and La Machine, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. First, you brought the Sultan’s Elephant and the Little Girl Giant to London. And at this very moment, to the delight and terror of all, you’ve set a 50 foot-high, 37 ton mechanical spider rampaging through the streets of Liverpool. Incredible.

Despite being mortally afraid of arachnids, I wish more than anything that I could be there right now to see “La Princesse” coming to life. I’m sure many of you do as well. Is any of our UK readership getting a chance to witness this? Please, drop us a line!

Photo by Exacta2a via their wonderful Flickrstream.