Fun Friday: Steampunk Sparklies

And yet another Fun Friday rolls around!  First up, let me give shout-out to my Big Sister, who spent much of this week in the hospital, recovering from surgery.  Lillie, the Clarkson girls have spent too much time with doctors this year; time to give somebody else a chance.  But as soon as you’re up and about, we’re hitting the Indian restaurant; we’ve been waiting entirely too long for both of us to be well at the same time, and I need an infusion of curry!

So the other day I was minding my own business, and I was attacked by the Dreaded Vorpal Plot Bunnies.  True story!  I have this rogues’ gallery of characters in my idea notebook (and stomping around in my head, sometimes), going begging for a story to be put into.  Sometimes they languish for years, waiting for inspiration.  The other day, inspiration struck in a big big way; fifteen short story ideas all struck me at once, regarding this pair of characters that I’ve been keeping on life support for a while.  After talking with some experts (hi, Cantina!), I decided that these stories would be most fun in the Steampunk milieu (that’s how I’m spending my weekend:  writing short stories and playing with my grandsons, though not necessarily at the same time).

But I had to tweak the raw ideas in order to make them fit the setting and genre.  And this brings me to a minor peeve of mine, something I notice in a lot of Steampunk fiction.  I don’t mind the Gadget Girl trope; in fact, I think it’s great!  However!  What is the deal with the clothes and attitude?  Why must a Gadget Girl automatically be a tomboy?  Trousers or knickerbockers, hair tucked up under a newsboy cap, smudge of grease on her forehead or pert little nose is a fine idea, but every single time?  Really?  If I were of the radical feminist bent (clue:  I’m not), I’d say that rather implies only males or faux-males can like that sort of thing, which just isn’t true.  Why can’t a Steampunk girl be into gears and galvanism, and still like pretty dresses?  You don’t have to be a girly cheerleader type to appreciate the joys of playing dress-up.  I was a tomboy once upon a time myself (I grew up on a farm, catching snakes and climbing trees!), but I had my girly moments; heck, I even made my own dresses!

So!  As you might imagine from the mini rant above, I’m going against type in this short story cycle (I hope it’s a cycle; have to see how smoothly it goes).  If I have a Gadget Girl (I haven’t quite made up my mind on this; I’m technobabble-challenged at the best of times), she’s not going to live in trousers and oversized men’s shirts, and will recognize that strategically-placed smudges of soot and grease, while sexy, are not an appropriate fashion choice outside the workshop.  This may blow up in my face.  But if it doesn’t, I’ll share the resulting stories on Fiction Mondays.  Or not.  We’ll see how it plays out.

Okay, with that mini-tirade out of the way, let’s move on to something more fun.  As usual, I have been collecting tidbits from the Interwebz and hoarding them for y’all.  I was surfing through the collection and realized I had a goodly number of Steampunk themed videos y’all might enjoy.  So today is a Steampunk Video Fun Friday.

We’ll go from shortest to longest.  Which means we start with Lindsey Stirling.  For those of you who don’t recognize the name and squee right off, Lindsey Stirling is a “hip hop violinist” and dancer/performer out of Utah, who did the indie musician thing on YouTube to become pretty huge, actually (that’s how I heard about her; I love indie artists like Peter Hollens, The Piano Guys, Sam Tsui, etc.  When she did the Skyrim duet with Peter Hollens, I had to follow the links).  She was a quarter finalist on America’s Got Talent, she has done two collaborations with my favorite group, Pentatonix (a cover of Imagine Dragon’s Radioactive, and a cover of French singer Stromae’s hit Papaoutai), and she’s got two albums out on iTunes, not to mention a metric ton of EPs and singles, collabs, etc.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Her music is not Steampunk.  It’s rock and roll, hip hop, kind of all over that end of the map.  Her style is also in that end of the map.  However, she did one video that I thought you’d enjoy.  It’s called Roundtable Rival, and it’s…. well, it’s rock and roll, but I like to pretend it has kind of a Steampunk vibe to it.  Okay, maybe not, but it’s still really good; I love her work (my current favorite is this one and Master of Tides, which also has a fun video, combining a flash mob and kind of Jules Verne-meets-Lovecraft vibe, which means it might be slightly Steampunk, too)

The video for Roundtable is SO Steampunk.  She plays a Wild West saloon owner trying to use her gadgeted-up violin-weapon-thingie (no, I don’t know how that works, something about sound waves being dangerous, don’t diss the thingie) to stop a bank robber who has his own gadgeted-up-electric-guitar-weapon-thingie and they have a weapon-thingie-sound-waves shootout (I told you I’m not good at technobabble).

Enough talk.  Here, look at it for yourself!

The name penny farthing apparently comes from the actual coins. Apparently the old British penny and farthing (a fourth of a penny) had a similar size comparison to the wheels of this bicycle (which was originally called an “ordinary.”

Okay, on to the next video.  This one is just a hair longer than Roundtable Rival, and doesn’t have near as many pretty dancers or cool costumes and gadgets.  However, it has a Penny Farthing.  For those who are new to the Steampunk world, a penny farthing is one of those early bicycle incarnations you’ve seen pictures of, the one with the tiny little back wheel, and the really enormous front wheel.

So a few years back I got to see one in real life at a museum.  But I had never seen one being ridden.  And it’s a fixed axle machine, which means no chain and no gears, so for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to get on one, much less how to get it going before you fell on your face.  Nobody at the museum had a clue, and it’s not like penny farthing riders are common in the darkest jungles of Appalachia.

Then I found this guy on YouTube.  He knows his stuff, and demonstrates it.  Not only demonstrates it, but he makes it look easy.  No, he’s not as glamorous as dancing violinists.  But take a look anyway….

BTW:  when I pulled up this page, the top video recommended on the right was entitled Penny Farthing Crash.  I don’t know if that’s what it’s showing for y’all, but if it isn’t, here, take a look, it’ll blow your mind.  Who knew a penny farthing could go that fast?  And who knew a rider could be that crazy?  And I’d give money to know what those other cyclists thought when the Jules Verne wannabe went flying by.

Now, the last video of the day is the longest.  I kind of blundered into this one.  I found this video on YouTube, going by the name, “Steampunque.”  Here, take a look.

Pretty freaking cool, huh?  Wait!  I’m not finished!  You can’t just throw a video like that in front of me and expect me to just kick back and watch.  I needed more information.  So, I limbered up my Google Fu, and found out some very interesting stuff.  This video is not the entire piece; it’s just a tiny fraction of a movie made in 1958 —  no fooling, 1958!!! — by a Czech director and animator named Karel Zeman.  He was considered quite the innovative genius, specializing in combining animation and live action.  Here’s the Wikipedia article describing him and his work.  This guy got to the live-action-with-animation party way before Disney’s Mary Poppins, guys.

The tidbit I found on YouTube is a clip from his 1958 film,  Vynález zkázy, literally The Deadly Invention. In the English speaking world, it was released as The Fabulous World of Jules Verne.  According to what I’m reading, the movie pulls from several Jules Verne novels, but primarily Facing the Flag.  According to Wikipedia, the animation is supposed to look like the original woodcut illustrations of Verne’s work.  I happen to be a HUGE HUGE fan of Victorian woodcuts (Sir John Tenniel is my hero), so I’m here to testify, Zeman succeeded; it looks great.

And here’s the exciting thing:  the whole thing, the entire movie is on YouTube.  Yeah, I know it might be a violation of copyright.  But it’s there all the same.  It’s also available on DVD from Amazon.  Here’s the YouTube playlist, in case you’re feeling impatient.

Okay, I think that’s it for me.  You know the routine:  write, share, tweet, comment.  And remember what I said earlier about Gadget Girls automatically being Tomboys?  Tell me what you think:  am I being too judgmental?  Are there tropes that you don’t like, wish you could subvert?  Let’s talk about this!

You can contact me through the comments here, or at my email, ajwriter-at-ajclarkson-dot-net.  If you have a contribution for next week’s Fun Friday, if you have something to say that won’t fit in a comment box, or if you’d like to throw some fiction my way, that email is where you can reach me.  I’ll be back on Monday, hopefully with some audio drama headed your way.  In the meantime, enjoy your weekend, but don’t enjoy it TOO much.  And if you do, don’t get caught!  Later!

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