Category Archives: steampunk

A Review of Ghost in the Cogs

s786647801383493004_p17_i2_w640Ghost in the Cogs
Scott Gable and C. Dombrowski, eds.
Broken Eye Books
Paper $19.99
Ebook $6.99

I got an email a couple of weeks ago from Scott Gable asking if I would be interested in reviewing Ghost in the Cogs.  I had a lot of commitments on my plate (still do), but since the last steampunk anthology I’d read and the last ghost story anthology I’d read had both been quite enjoyable, I decided to give it a go.  This blending of genres seemed a natural combination, and it’s not one I’ve seen done a lot.  Now, I’ve not read a large amount of steampunk, primiarily because there’s so much of it and I only have so much time.  It seems I made the right decision to read Ghost in the Cogs.

There are 22 stories in this anthology.  I’m not going to attempt to provide a quick synopsis of all of them.  I’ll do what I usually do and highlight the ones I liked best.  But I want to make some general remarks before I do.   Continue reading

Facing the Beasts of Tabat

1425Cover-657x1024Beasts of Tabat
Cat Rambo
Wordfire Press
ebook $5.99  Smashwords Kobo   Amazon
paperback $15.99

I’d intended to have this review up nearly a week ago but illness and then finals side railed it. There have been some books in the last six months where I’ve not been able to get reviews posted due to Life Happening, and by the time I’d managed to fine and/or make the time, I no longer had any interest in writing the reivew.

This is not one of those books.  And I would like to thank Eva Eldridge of Wordfire Press for the review copy.

Beasts of Tabat is a refreshing fantasy with a steampunk level technology, all manner of magical beasts, swordplay, plenty of intrigue, and one of the most original political situations I’ve seen.  It’s also Cat Rambo’s first novel, not like it reads like a first novel or anything.  It doesn’t. Continue reading

A Look at Beneath Ceaseless Skies #120

It’s been a little while since I last reviewed an issue of BCS.  The current issue contains the usual two stories, one with steampunk themes, which is a little different than what you usually find here. 

First up, “The Clockwork Trollop” by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald.  A scientist in Victorian England try to reduce the number of women engaging in prostitution by creating an untiring and hygienic lady of the night.  (He envisions training the current prostitutes to maintain their replacements.)  Like much social engineering, this one has some serious unexpected consequences.

This was a relatively short story, and the general way things end up isn’t exactly unexpected.  Still, Doyle and Macdonald do a good job of capturing the feel of the times.  This one had an aura of Arthur Conan Doyle  hanging over it.

The longer of the two stories was “The Drowned Man” by Laura E. Price.  This is a complex tale about two sisters who are returning from an island that isn’t entirely in this world.  They’ve recovered an artifact for a museum and are hoping the museum will hire them in this capacity on a regular basis.  While in the middle of the ocean, they spot a man in the water.  At first they think he’s drowned, but when the ship’s crew pulls him onboard they discover he’s still alive.

They should be asking themselves why he’s still alive if he’s in the middle of the ocean…

The thing I liked most about this one were the hints regarding the two sisters.  Ms. Price seems to have worked out the backstory quite thoroughly.  I’m not sure if “The Drowned Man” is a stand alone with a detailed background, the inaugural installment of a new series, or only the most recent episode of a series already begun.  I rather hope there are either other stories about these characters out there, more to come, of both.  The sisters aren’t exactly lady-like nor are the the kind of women warmly welcomed in polite society.  The author hints they may have been raised by a witch, so that probably has something to do with it.

Anyway, an enjoyable issue, although the subject matter of “The Clockwork Trollop” might not be to everyone’s taste.  The next issue should be out within a few days, so look for another review soon.

 

A Little Something for the Discerning Steampunk Gentleman (or Lady)

Gearheart’s Steam-punk Glamor Revue
$4.99
Antarctic Press Entertainment

Okay, I know this isn’t the usual thing I feature here, but a little variety never hurts.  I met the editor Guy Clayton Brownlee and associate editor Patricia Ash at ConDFW, where they had a copy of the first issue.  I was impressed the production values; this publication was clearly a labor of love.  Patricia Ash was kind enough to send me copies of the first two issues.

What Gearheart’s Steam-punk Glamor Revue is about is beauty, whether that beauty is the female form, well-designed costumes, or colorful art.  Just for the record, it isn’t porn.  The raciest the photos get is cleavage and/or thigh.  Each of the first two issues contains a piece of original short fiction as well.  The ladies in the photos aren’t professional models.  Rather they are steampunk aficionados who made their own costumes.  In keeping with steampunk culture, the magazine is, as stated in the editorial of the first issue, hands-on and do-it-yourself.

Here’s what the first two issues contain.

The first issue, coming in at 28 pages, contains a frontispiece of gorgeous artwork by Chris Ortega, an editorial by Brownlee, four photospreads each containing an interview with the lady featured, two art profiles (Brian Kesinger and Mahmud Asrar), and a short story by Patricia Ash.  Oh, and a photo on the back cover of a young lovely not featured in any of the interior spreads.  Plus a few pages of ads.

The second issue, the cover of which heads this post, had a little more variety and 32 pages.  There were only three photospreads.  The artwork for the frontispiece was by Brian Kesinger and was different in tone and execution from his art featured in the first issue.  Brownlee returned with another editorial.  Featured artist was Micheal Dashow.  The fiction in this issue was by Jules Cox; it was longer than the fiction in the first issue.  Of course there were some ads, all steampunk in theme, and another back cover with a different model than the interior shots.  What was new, and what I thought had the second issue a more interesting one than the first were the interview and the phony ad.

The interview (accompanied by several photos) was with Gail Carriger, author of the Parasol Protectorate series.  The ad, though, was the most fun.  It was for Dr. Oh’s Octopodiform Deterrent.  Cthuloid repellant, in other words.  It was illustrated in the style of a Victorian newspaper ad, and I found it quite clever.

While the fiction in the first issue was more to my taste, overall I liked the second issue better.  (Isn’t that what a publisher wants?  For a reader to like the new issue better than the previous, not the other way around.)  The addition of the interview added some depth to the magazine.  The ad for Dr. Oh’s added some levity.  I thought this combination made for a stronger issue.

I realize the fan bases of heroic fantasy and steampunk may not overlap that much, but those of you who enjoy a good zeppelin chase might want to check it out.  The photography is professional level, as is the art.  The fiction does more than allow one to say, “But, dear, I only read it for the short stories.”  Both stories were quite readable, although completely different in tone.  I suspect Patricia Ash intends her story to be the first in a series.  My feeling is that a sequel to the Cox story would probably destroy the tone established at the end, but I could be wrong.

I am confused about one thing, though.  The cover price, at least on the copies I have, is $3.99, while on the website the price is listed as $4.99.  Either way, I think the price is reasonable.  The production values are quite high, and the creators clearly care about what they’re doing.  This isn’t something churned out to make a fast buck.  That fact alone puts the publication miles ahead of much of what’s being published today.  Check them out.

Credits:  First issue cover model Katy Dehay photographed by Greg Daniels; second issue cover model Taja Varem Mohsen, photography by Malfice.net, styling by Aeternis.net

Report on Fencon

Fencon VII/Deep South Con 49 was held in Dallas (well really, Addison), TX on September 23-25.  While I can’t say that a good time was had by all, a good time was certainly had by me.  Everything had a steampunk theme, with many of the guests being steampunk authors.

As usual, there was much more on the programming than I had time to attend.  I didn’t make it to either slide show by the artist guests, Vincent DiFate or Stephan Martiniere. Not because I don’t like those artists.  I do.  It was just that there were other things conflicting with their slideshows.

Rather than try to sum up the whole convention, I’ll hit some of the high points of the events I attended, then post some pictures.

My favorite panel was the one Saturday afternoon devoted to Phineas and Ferb.  Yes, yes it was.  It was the most fun I’ve had at a panel in years.  I hadn’t had a chance to check the schedule in detail before I left, so it was only coincidence when I put on my Perry the Platypus T-shirt that morning.  Really.

I met Phillipa Ballantine (see my review of Geist) and Tee Morris.  They were a lot of fun.  I hope the convention brings them back.  In addition to being two of the nicest people, they were also funny, high energy, and more approachable than many professionals I’ve encountered.

Other good panels include remembrances of the Shuttle, discussions of near space exploration (more than I was able to attend), and a panel on publishing scams that could have been twice as long and still not exhausted the subject.

I got a chance to visit a little with Lou Anders, editor of Pyr books.

There were plenty of room parties, although I found it offensive that the hotel posted a uniformed security guard in the hall near where the parties were being held.

Finally, one of the things I like most about Fencon is there is an entire track of programming devoted to music.  This, I’ve discovered, is a great way to keep me financially solvent  out of the dealer’s room occupied when there’s not a panel or reading I want to attend.  I just read and listen to the music.

I had a good time and came back much more relaxed than when I went.  (I really, really, really needed the break)

Phineas and Ferb Panel

Toastmaster Brad Denton signs for a fan.
Tee Morris and Phillipa Ballantine
Lou Antonelli channels Harlan Ellison by writing in public.

Attendees came from the North, South, East, and West

Publishing scams panel
Steampunking

Who’s Who in the pictures, if not identified in the captions:

1.  l. to r. :  Gloria Oliver, Shanna Swendson, Perry the Platypus, Cathy Clamp, Todd Caldwell, Rhonda Eudaly
2.  Brad Denton and Steven Silver
5.  unidentified
6.  L. to r.:  A. Lee Martinez, Rachel Caine, Tee Morris, Cathy Clamp, Selina Rosen, Amy Sisson
7.  unidentified