Saturday, May 31, 2008

Steampunk Rising



The "Steampunk Computational tower"

Channel Web has a fairly extensive (25 part) article on Steampunk - essentially brief a "Steampunk 101", touching on most of the major developments in the genre over the past few years. Merits a visit, as it has a number of standard (and a couple you may not have seen before).

To read more, please visit:

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Steampunk Travelogue: The Great Exhibition (in SL)



Bird's eye view of the Great Exhibition

A build that I had always thought would be superb were it to see the light of day in SL, was the Great Exhibition of 1851. Fortunately, Mr. Mako Magellen and Miss Elspth Wooley have taken it upon themselves to not only breathe life into this icon of the Victorian age into SL, but attract all manner of vendors and exhibitors, in the tradition of the classic Worlds Fairs. As the Grand Opening approaches, I had received a formal invitation to visit from the group, which stated…



The official advert for the Great Exhibition

"For the last 11 weeks, Miss Elspeth Wooly and I have been preparing the Great Exhibition – SL’s version of the original Great Exhibition of 1851. We have collected together, under one huge glass roof, the best of SL design. The grand opening is this Sunday, 1st of June, from 3pm to 5pm (SLT). We would be delighted to have your company.


The entrance to the main floor of the expo

Please don’t be late, as you may miss the arrival, by royal train, of their royal highnesses Queen Victorian and Prince Albert. In addition to the great beauty of the hundreds of exhibits, there will be guided tours, souvenirs to take home, and, lag permitting, fireworks. Music will be presented by both Mr. Elrik Merlin of Radio Riel and Miss Anu Papp."


Furniture & Dinos on the second floor...

One arrives just outside of the giant edifice, between the Egyptian deities guarding the entrance to Great Exhibition. Just inside is a herd of elephants, the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and to the immediate right, an overall map of the amazing expanse that comprises this build.


Admiring Mr. Rex... from a far!

Across from the fountain, are a number of edifices, comprising of a number of stores, the Irkmade main store (containing a number of era items for sale), and the spacious Marzipan Teahouse (easily identified by the tasteful glass domes adorning it).


Outside the Marzipan Teahouse, with a view of its beautiful domes

The dance floor is large and includes numerous dances, from the traditional SL couples dances, to other era-specific dances. Also, a stage is at the far end, which I imagine will be home to some as-yet-unnamed productions. Finally, the corner of the Teahouse has a small tearoom, for those wishing to indulge in the Marzipan’s namesake beverage.



The spacious ballroom inside ... quiet after hours, but certain to be busy soon!

Taking a multitude of photos would not only defeat the purpose of a visit to the Exhibition, but frankly, would take too many photos to address in this small blog. Do be prepared for a bit of lag, but personally, I shall make it a point of attending – I’m confident it will be a fantastic event!



A fountain marks the center plaza of the grounds

For more information on the RL Great Exhibition, please visit:

To visit directly, please go to:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Post-Steampunk Nightlife: The Charlston

Yes, I do realize that the Charleston didn't reach popularity until after WW 1, putting it *past* the traditional Steampunk era, but after discussions with Metaversal Arts Shop, I understand there may be more (as yet to be determined) dances, some quite genre-specific, in the near future. As the above work demonstrates, these new dances will be something to look forward to (a nice change from the generic "ballroom" dance!)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Some potentially disappointing news…



Front facade of Steamworks

Disappointing News…

While performaing research on another article, I was unable to find Steamworks, and it apperas that it has disappeared. In spite of my best efforts, I have not been able to divine the status of the sim, and its beautiful club, I must assume that it is out of business, which is a shame, as it was a well done effort. Unfortunately, SL business can be challenging, but I still retain a glimmer of hope that its absence is only for reconstruction, ideally. If anyone has any further information about Steamworks, please feel free to drop a comment on its status.



The main dance floor of Steamworks

Steampunk Media: The Gauntlet





A small movie for your entertainment - produced as an excecise in Adobe Illustrator and After Effect. The plotline is a bit simplistic and leaves the story open for a sequel, but it does have a number of Steampunk influences in it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

US Memorial Day - Navy Recruitment Posters



(1918) "These men have come across", by Xavier Leyendecker

A rememberance for Memorial day... I had originally intended to plan a few things to pay homage to US militaries when I had the Quarterdeck (way back when)... but for now I'll have to suffice with offering a few military textures and animations as freebees.



Est. 1917, author unknown

First, I've always found recruting posters to be fascinating pieces of work, both artistically and memetically. Not only did they have to convey urgency to age-appropriate men to join the military (whose who wern't drafted, anyways), but they had to be appealing and inspriring.



(1917) "America Calls", by Joseph Leyendecker (one of my favorites)

I realize that thes are from WW1, and though there are those who was (perhaps correctly) argue that it is *technically* the Edwardian era, the influences for these posters come from the turn of the century... the Steampunk era. As such, I'll offer them as freebees - just drop me a note card and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.



Not politically correct (or even correct today) but a classic illustration (Girl in Dress Blues)

Additionally, I did toy around with some military animations. I have a US salute, an attention, and a parade rest for military uses. Again, if you wish to acquire a copy, drop me a note card. I will probably not be available unil later in the day today (Monday). Have to attend to some business, but I'll try to get back as soon as I can.



Not as colorful as the previous ones, but era specific for the Union Navy

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Steampunk Travelouge: Airship Caravan



Airship Caravan

Came across a very unique Steampunk build today, a different concept by a different culture. Airship Caravan is a stunning build consisting of a series of airships tethered to each other in the sky, comprising of residential and commercial properties.



Initial TP arrival point

Its owner is Japanese, and though I have attempted to make initial contact with him/her, I foresee that it will be a challenge to find out more on Airship Caravan in this manner, so I’ll work with what I have.



Walk through the corridor...

The initial tp arrival point is a circular metal deck, that leads into the main ship directly ahead. Upon passing through a corridor, one finds a park, with pools (a challenge to get out of when you fall in), columns of light, planted trees, and benches to relax upon (no built in poses on those benches, however).



... and a small piece of nature, artificially enhanced, awaits

Continuing forward, the helm is quite interesting, as it includes three columns with (decorative) controls: One navigational, one with a giant telescope, and one with the Ship’s wheel along with two grouping of gages.



Tapping the gages on the ship's helm

As I wandered about on the rope walkways, I noticed a good number of vacancies here, along with ads for rental opportunities in the sim. I’m gathering that the build is still in its infancy, due to the number of empty locations, and it appears that majority number of its residents are Japanese themselves.



Flying dolphin or Flying Crescent anyone?

Not exactly sure about the adherence to the Steampunk genre, as there is a lot of neon and what appears to be electronics and holograms, but there is a good bit of traditional gear work (not much steam, unfortunately). Additionally, the twist put on the tech (i.e. mechanical flying dolphins, metal moons that one can also fly), add a refreshing change to the typical Steampunk flavor.



One of *many* flying adverts - at least they're upfront!

Unfortunately, the prices charged for rentals seems a bit high, leading to a bit of apprehension about the future prospects of the sim. Nonetheless, it is beautiful, and by all means one should at least visit the Airship Caravan.



Inside the bowles of the factory ship!

**********

An addendum...
The SLurl for this locale is:
http://slurl.com/secondlife/airship%20caravan/13/127/268/

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Telectroscope installed in New York!



For the celebration involving one of RL's greatest steampunk era builds, the Brooklyn Bridge, a Telectroscope has been built, allowing visitors to seen from New York City, across the Atlantic, to London! In operation twenty-four hours a day, it will remain in place until June 15th, so if you have the opportunity to visit this unique RL build, by all means do so!

For more information, please visit:
http://gizmodo.com/392838/massive-steampunk+y-telectroscope-lets-you-see-from-new-york-to-london

For more history on the amazing era technology involved in building the Brooklyn Bridge:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooklyn_Bridge

And information on the bridge's 125th anniversary are at:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2008/05/23/2008-05-23_bklyn_bridge_is_spantastic_fireworks_and.html
http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=1&aid=81862
http://www.riverwired.com/blog/green-its-time-brooklyn-bridge-celebrates-125-years

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The State of Steampunk sims in SL...




The beautiful Art Nouveau / Art Deco arrival point of the now defunct Solarya

Its been just over a year since I started blogging, and quite a lot has changed in SL’s Steampunk corner of the grid. But a growing number of the visitors to New Babbage are asking about SL Steampunk sims, and though I attempt to provide a brief synopsis, it is, in reflection, a good question - What is a Steampunk sim?

I’d argue it’d be a sim with a relatively strict adherence to a merging of Neo-Victoriana ethos and the quirky visualization of Steampunk technology (plenty of steam, gears, and other crazy tech – just google "Steampunk", and you can come to your own conclusion of it). The genre has grown amazingly quick in SL, and new sims have sprung up to meet the growing demand for involvement in Steampunk. But how does the "State of Steampunk" look in SL? Well, here are my biased opinions…

The Steampunk Establishment (over a year in SL)


New Babbage

Originally designed as a "Steampunk-themed" sim, New Babbage has held true to its original goal since its inception (early 2007), and works hard at remaining true to its theme. Early growth was a bit slow (compared to Caledon), but its owner, Mayor Sprocket, has diligently worked towards maintain its urban Steampunk genre.


Serenity Steamworks in Port Babbage

Steam, gears, cogs, street urchins, airships, submersibles, and just about anything else one can envision (and more) tangential to Steampunk happens in New Babbage.


Loki's Absentine Bar in the Babbage Square

With its recent expansions, the Vernian Sea (representing the aquatic aspect of Steampunk) and the Palisades (apparently more entertainment focused, especially with the advent of Novem), and its future expansion with Brunel Heights and the (as yet to be titled) Steampunk academy sim, it appears that New Babbage has emerged into the forefront of SL Steampunk.


The Independent State of Caledon

From a handful of sims at the beginning of 2007, to over thirty sims (as of this writing), Caledon is the largest Neo-Victorian sim in SL, and often the entry point for those interested in Neo-Victoriana and Steampunk. As time continues and it expands, however, I’m beginning to hesitate to characterize it as Steampunk sim.


Photo outside SteamSky City, Southern Caledon
Though much of its appearance is reminiscent of the era, but with its massive expansion, I feel it has lost much of its older Steampunk aesthetic, and is heading down the path of becoming one of the many themed community, albeit a huge one.

Ordinal Malaprop iconic Steampunk store in Caledon I

Though there are spots of Steampunk within it which are quite good (e.g. SkySteamCity, Ordinal Malaprop’s main store, and many other small pockets of the genre), the lack of (an apparent) focused growth plan has lessened its emphasis on the specific Steampunk genre, and I would argue that it leans more towards an idealized Victorian theme (aka Neo-Victoriana). Keeping the residents dedicated to a strict adherence to the theme is reminiscent of the old EDS commercial about cat herding – every cat (Caledonian) wants to do its/his/her own thing, and its hard to keep everyone on the right track, so to speak.



Caledon has a very active community in a large sim (e.g. Radio Riel, a plethora of specialized in-world groups), which can be good (e.g. there is always "something" going on in Caledon, its very pro-active RFL program) and bad (e.g. the angst about titles and hierarchy among residents, griefers making more "visits" to the Independent state – requiring more policing). It is a dynamic location, but with 1930’s aircraft, skybox raves, and assorted individualisms, it tend to dilute its theme.



Caledon Eyre (*from early 2007)

There are those who like this eclectic and though not necessarily a bad thing, I wouldn’t call it Steampunk.




Steelhead

The Steelhead Boardwalk

I’m not quite sure how long Steelhead has been in existence, but I do know it has been around since late 2006. At the time (to my understanding), it was… addressing some internal issues, but as of mid/late 2007, those have been resolved, and Steelhead has begun a cautious expansion, maintaining its unique Steampunk-esque Pacific Northwest theme.


Downtown Steelhead

I do have a soft-spot for people who are willing to try new things, and Steelhead is certainly making that "leap" into a "different flavor" of Steampunk. As a developing community, including the ever-busy Steelhead Ballroom, it is quickly emerging from Caledon’s shadow towards crafting its own identity. Will they stay on track to develop their own unique brand of Steampunk or will they head down another path? Time (and future expansion, with Steelhead Boomtown) will tell.

The Emerging Lands (less than a year)


Antiquity - Ironclad battles

As a previous resident of Antiquity, I do have a fondness for this rapidly growing sim (over twelve, including water ones, since August of 2007). It has many positive aspects (e.g. superb sim managers, many events and busy social calendar, active rp), but to call it Steampunk is certainly a mis-representation, as it has more of an early "Neo-Victorian" air to it – nary a cog or steam plume in sight.

The Antiquity Township Rotunda

With one exception. The Royal Antiquity Navy and, its numerous weekly battles with era ships – Speculaas combatants and Murakami ironclads – provide those with a nautical bent to exercise their maritime frustrations. All are invited to participate, and as long as the rules of engagement are followed (which they almost always are). I don’t harbor any belief that Antiquity will lean towards Steampunk in the near future, but the regular opportunity to battle opposing ships, especially ironclads, inclines me to place Antiquity here.



Nautical Battles in Antiquity Lagoon - now extending throughout the many Antiquity water sims

Steeltopia

A new and impressive build on the SL Steampunk roundabout, Steeltopia is working to develop into a Steampunk sim with a focus on air ships, and developmental rp. Built by Jenne Dibou (the same builder who designed numerous other SL Steampunk architecture, including the New Babbage Palisades City wall), Steeltopia is a fascinating destination to experience.

The Art Nouveau/Steampunk Trolley provides a unique trip around the sim, but unfortunately, it is often empty. Not quite sure why that is, but I do know that a second sim is on order (the Obsidian Sea), and a third potential residential sim is in the works. How this will play out for Steeltopia is yet unknown, but developing a higher profile will be an essential part of any growth to this sim.
http://jdmtf.blogspot.com/


The New Frontiers (less than six months)



Enjoying a moment at the Laputa Skyport

Laputa

The sky city has gone "public" only this month, and as a new Steampunk sim, it appears to hold quiet a bit of promise. Mr. Crunch has built a small (aero) town, with a library/art gallery, giant skyships, and brewery, and aside from the occasional accident (e.g. falling off the sidewalks into the ether), it is a very good build. How it will progress remains to be seen, but "spreading the word" about it (assuming it becomes more than a simple destination) would seem to be its priority – aside from those in Laputa’s group, knowledge of it is sparse, even in SL Steampunk/Neo-Victorian circles.


At the arrival point of Laputa

###


At the Arrival Point TP of Solarya

Solarya (defunct)
This sim started out in early 2008 with a unique premise – mixing a Steampunk aesthetic with a genre that normally wasn’t associated with Steampunk (the Gorian/BDSM community). As I understood it, they were working to develop a new forge a new background that had focused on more adult themes than traditional Steampunk did. The build for it was marvelous – the arrival point was one of my favorites (one tp’ed to an airship, onto a raised Art Nouveau / Art Deco merchant area), and the clockwork plaza was a work of art.


The clockwork plaza of downtown Solarya

Unfortunately, although it had an active community, I summize that some internal disagreements caused the eventual demise of Solarya. Upon hearing of its "re-adjustment", I tp’ed onto a blank slate, with many of its unique constructions lost to… "renovations". I was sorry to see its demise – I did admire the attempt to try something new in Steampunk.
This is not a comprehensive list – I’m certain I’ve left off a sim, nor did I include what I categorize as shopping/entertainment specific Steampunk sims (e.g. Steamworks’s club, Opus Free Port’s Tesla Lounge). I am, however, looking forward to what the next year in SL Steampunk will hold…

But I did want to thank all those who have taken a few moments out of their day to visit this blog. Knowing there is a cadre of people in the RL who care about Steampunk is the motivation that pushes me to keep on reporting.


Thanks.

Monday, May 19, 2008

First year celebration (and poll results)...



Its been one year since my first post, a meger attempt to write a fictional blog that eventually transformed into a SL Steampunk resource (if I may immodest about it). Currently working on a larger article, but it appears that it will have to wait until later this week.

This being said, from the most recent poll results, it looks as if the state of Steampunk activity is quite strong and optimistic, with 95% of all respondants confident that the beloved genre is on the upswing, contrary to the fish-wrapper hacks employed at the New York Times. (Who were the 2 other votes? (lol))! Nonetheless, my gratitude for pushing the Heliograph into not only being one of the most popular SL Steampunk blogs, but one of the most actively read SL blogs! Again - a humble thanks!
v/r,

Rafael Fabre

Friday, May 16, 2008

Neo-Victoriana: Houses with Names



Shibden Hall exterior

As I was building the tower, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to call it. Naming it the "clocktower" was bland and indicated no character or creativity, so after a bit of reaserch, I found a small section in a reference book that has provided a bit of inspiration toward a name...

---

Many of the great English novels take place or develop in houses with grand-sounding names – Thrushcross Grange, Thronfield Hall, Ullathorne Court, to name a few. In some cases, a residence even gave its name to a novel, notably Mansfield Park, Bleak House, and of course, Northanger Abbey and Wildfell Hall as well. Examinations suggest that some of the generic residence names reveal something about the nature of the dwelling, those that lived there, or both.



Thrushcross Grange exterior details

Court – A residence constructed around some kind of courtyard. So, at any rate, Trollope tells us in his description in Barchester Towers of Ullathorne Court, which he says, "properly so called; for the house itself formed two sides of a quadrangle, which was completed on the other two sides by a wall about twenty feet high." Originally, such buildings were constructed for defensive purposes, with windows facing inwards, so life within the dwelling could proceed in the courtyard even in the midst of an armed attack.

Grange – A residence like Thrushcross Grange of the Lintons in Wuthering Heights or Mr. Brooke’s Tipton Grange in Middlemarch was so named because it was a grain storehouse or granary, sometimes attached to a large monastery. By the 1800’s, the term designated isolated farmsteads, too, a description that would fit Thrushcross Grange and also Moor Home, the "sequestered home" of St. John Rivers terms "this crumbling grange," where Jane Eyre stumbles upon her cousins.



Sudsbury Hall fronal view

Hall – As in Mr. Rochester’s Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre or Sir James Chettham’s Freshitt Hall in Middlemarch. The word "hall" in the name of a dwelling meant that the house had centered on a great hall for entertainment, dining, and ceremonial living on a grand scale, as in feudal times. The term thus connoted both a certain grandeur ("a small, humble place," a servant describes her cousin’s ancestral home to Jane Eyre, "naught to compare wi’ Mr. Oliver’s grand hall down i' Morton Vale") and the sort of ancient architecture likely to be associated with an old, august family. Vavasor Hall in Can You Forgive Her? belongs to "a family so old that no one knew which had first taken the ancient titular name of some old Saxon landowner – the parish or the man."



Bleak House and surrounding grounds

House – There is, of course, Bleak House and Netherfield House, which Mr. Bingley rents at the outset of Pride and Prejudice and which occasions all the events that follow. The coming into use of the term "house" reflects a period when residential comfort was increasingly of concern and the period of naming things "castle", "abbey", or "manor" was long past. Moreover, it is interesting that neither Bingley nor Mr. Rochester are titled.

Manor – The dwelling to which Mr. Rochester withdraws when Jane Eyre leaves him and Thornfield Hall burns is Ferndean Manor. The term "manor" implied a dwelling inhabited by a lord of the manor whose tenants lived on and worked the surrounding land. Obviously suggestive of a rather grand social status as well as a lineage dating back to Norman times, when the manorial system originated. In Tess, the country home of her ersatz d’Urberville relatives "was not a manorial home in the ordinary sense, with field, and pastures, and a grumbling farmer, out of whom the owner had to squeeze an income for himself and his family by hook or by crook." Thornfield Hall was in fact probably more of a manor than isolated Ferndean Manor; Jane Eyre describes it as a "gentleman’s manor-house" at one point. Characteristically, a manor house was often the dominant architectural feature of the local village, which was evidently the case at Thornfield. "A little hamlet, whose roofs were blent with trees, straggled up the side of one of those little hills; the church of the district stood nearer Thornfield; its old tower-top looked over a knoll between the house and gates".

Park – As in Mansfield Park. Originally, a park was an area which the king permitted a large landowner to enclose for the sake of chasing down deer. Park came to mean a closed-in area, often landscaped with trees and lawn to present a pleasing and aesthetically appropriate picture. Both Mansfield Park and the park belonging to Sir Leicester Dedlock in Bleak House are the property of baronets, and having a park certainly connoted gentlemanly status; a lager one is attached to Thrushcross Grange. It advertised that you had both the means to withdraw otherwise productive land from cultivation for purely esthetic appreciation and the leisure time to enjoy it.



Inside Shibden Hall

One should not conclude that every park at one time had been the result of a special grant from the king or that each manor was the remnant of a feudal estate. Buying land and blending in with the landed gentry, after all, was the chief means of advancing into the upper echelons of English society in the 1800s. There were no doubt innumerable parks, halls, and manors whose existence dated from no earlier than the contractor’s men had first begun laying the foundations for some new magnate’s country estate.

Also, as the case of Thornsfield Hall suggests, one dwelling could combine the features of several different types of residence. Mr. Bingley’s residence in Pride and Prejudice, for example, is referred to as different times as Netherfield House and Netherfield Park. Partly this was an estate or house might have multiple architectural and social features, and it was also because, depending on one’s point of view, the same dwelling was notable either for its social-political function i.e., a manor house that embodied social and political dominion, or for an archtictural characteristic, such as a large hall or a big, central court.

Ref: Pool, D., (1993). What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, pp.194-196. Simon & Shuster, Inc., New York: New York.

---

The English influence on Steampunk cannot be understated - though there are are plenty of other avenues for the genre (e.g. the American West), the tradtional source has been the Victorian era. That being said, a creative name to a building would add color to any avatar's background (I feel). Hopefully, this piece might be a springboard of sorts away from the common titles for abodes.