Eerie Animated GIFs

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Artist Kevin Weir takes photographs from the collection of the Library of Congress online archive and converts them to animated GIFs.  The result is somewhat steampunky, and very eerie. Some of them remind me of Terry Gilliam’s animations from Monty Python’s Flying Circus (which is not necessarily a bad thing…).

The results are thought provoking and definitely worth the time to scroll through them.

To Rule the Skies — Now available!

I am happy to announce that my debut novel To Rule the Skies is now available.

140814 COVERgradient2Set in a Victorian world in which events happened slightly differently, To Rule the Skies is a story of airships and scientists, robber barons and airpirates. I plan this book to be only the first in the Airship Flamel Adventures series.

Professor Nicodemus Boffin, late of the University of Edinburgh and protégé of the great Michael Faraday, serves as the Scientist General of a semi-secret British institute to further scientific knowledge and technological advancement for Queen, Country, and Empire. Boffin and his crew travel the world aboard their advanced airship Flamel on a voyage of discovery. In desperate times, however, Flamel is called upon to perform “extraordinary duties”. Boffin is tasked to search for the cause of the sinking of HMS Bellerophon, the Royal Navy’s flagship which was secretly carrying a huge gold shipment from the Canadian gold fields to London. He must uncover who or what is behind the disaster before tensions between long-time transatlantic enemies, Britain and the United States, bring the two nations over the brink to all-out war.

To Rule the Skies is available at Amazon for the Kindle,  iTunes for iBook, and Smashwords in many ebook formats.

Paperback version coming soon!

CSI: Victorian London

Take one part Dr. Gregory House, add a bit of Sherlock Holmes and a pinch of modern forensic science, and you have Dr. John Snow, a man who solved one of the largest mass killings in Victorian London.

The culprit: cholera. Ever since it first appeared in Britain in 1831, cholera periodically ravaged the cities, leaving thousands dead in its wake. In 1848-9, over 14,000 Londoners died; in 1853-4, another 10,000 succumbed. That the disease was somehow related to the deplorable conditions of British cities at the time was clear, but the means of transmission was believed by all authoritative men of medicine to be via “miasma”. Miasma was thought to be a sort of poisonous vapor or mist originating from decomposing matter, called miasmata. (Similarly, the word “malaria” comes from the Italian meaning “bad air”.) To prevent outbreaks, it was thought to be a simple matter of removing the miasmata. That many of London’s cholera outbreaks occurred along the banks of the Thames, the stinking fetid pool that was the depository of much of the capital’s sewage, only served as proof of the theory’s validity. Continue reading

30 Days of Filth

Writing historical fiction, or even alternate historical fiction (or is it alternate fictional history?) as I have been, requires lots of research. In order to create a believable world, you have to get the details right. Or at least make them sound plausible.

For those interested in the Victorian Era, and especially Victorian London, a great source of that kind of detailed information is the website of Lee Jackson, Victorian London, which comprise his Dictionary of Victorian London, his blog The Cat’s Meat Shop, links to purchase his ebooks on Victorian London, and his photography of bits of Victorian London that have somehow survived to the present.

I’ve used this website extensively in researching my book, and it has not failed yet to provide some insight on a specific tidbit I was curious about.

At the moment, Lee Jackson is in the midst of a blog countdown titled, “30 Days of Filth” , marking the publication of his book “Dirty Old London–The Victorian Fight Against Filth”. Today is Day 9 and the blog talked about “Climbing Boys” the youngsters “apprenticed” to chimney sweeps to climb up the chimney flues.

Previous days have included essays about such manner of things as the London sewer system and what it replaced, how to pack more dead bodies into overflowing churchyards, and nude bathing in Hyde Park. The series so far is deliciously filthy, sooty, and muddy, and reeks of sulphurous emanations. This blog (and the upcoming book) will disabuse you of any sunlit fantasies of “the Good Old Days”.

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To Rule the Skies–Anteprologue

In anticipation of my upcoming novel To Rule the Skies, I present its Anteprologue, a little teaser which takes place immediately prior to the beginning of the novel, and introduces a few important characters and a bit of the world in which the novel takes place.  Enjoy!

Professor Boffin turned from his conversation as Lord Clarendon entered the room. He had expected Clarendon to attend the retirement dinner for the Captain, but he had not expected the person who followed him.

“Elizabeth!” he exclaimed, ignoring his benefactor and father-in-law altogether as he rushed to his wife. “What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to see you before you flew off. Father says that Flamel is to depart in the next couple of days.”

Boffin looked quizzically at Clarendon. “Is this true, sir? I’ve heard nothing of new orders.”

“I apologize, Nicodemus. I heard of it just before leaving Newton Hall this afternoon. I’m afraid all the details have not coalesced as yet. I am still waiting to receive the details from the Admiralty. Anyway, when I mentioned it to Elizabeth, she insisted upon accompanying me here to Croydon.”

Although Professor Nicodemus Boffin was the Expedition Commander of Her Majesty’s Research Airship Flamel, it seemed to him sometimes that he was the last to hear when Flamel was ordered on what was termed “extraordinary assignments” for the Government. And Boffin did not like the feeling of his position being ignored and disrespected. His wife saw the irritated look on his face and took him aside.

“Nicodemus, do not worry about what orders you may be receiving.”

“Why? Why am I the last to know? Do they not respect me at all?”

“Let tonight be an enjoyable time. For the captain.”

Boffin’s troubled visage softened. He could not resist his wife’s combination of logic and honest sentiment. He looked at her face, turned up to his with one eyebrow raised hopefully.

“Yes, of course, dear. Tonight is in celebration of the captain. I shall not let what may come tomorrow interfere with the festivities. But I do have some matters that I must discuss with your father before dinner.” Continue reading

Nigh comes the Anteprologue!

I am putting the finishing touches on a stand-alone Airship Flamel piece.  Chronologically, it comes immediately prior to the beginning of my upcoming novel To Rule the Skies.  Think of it in the same vein as the Doctor Who webisodes between seasons or the Marvel One-Shots that give more background to various characters in the Marvel Universe.  The problem is:  What to call it?

Even though it’s a prologue to the novel, I can’t title it “Prologue”, because the novel already has a Prologue.  There doesn’t seem to be a word that means “the chapter before the Prologue”.

So, I’m inventing one–Anteprologue.

It’s analogous to the ultimate, penultimate,antepenultimate, preantepenultimate series (I just discovered that last one).  And I like chewing through stacked prefixes (so long as they make sense like “hemidemisemiquaver”–a 64th note).

Which reminds me of two favorite and, I believe, useful words in German:  vorgestern and übermorgen which mean, respectively, “the day before yesterday” and “the day after tomorrow.”  I don’t know if any other languages have these useful words.  English apparently did at one point–ereyesterday and overmorrow–which are direct parallels of the German words.  They’re cited as being first used in the 1500s, and seem to have immediately not caught on.

So, watch for my Anteprologue on the overmorrow or so!

DIY Steampunk Eyewear

Steampunk culture is very closely aligned to the Maker and DIY Movements.  Because let’s face it:  we’re recreating a past that never existed. We have to make our own artifacts.  More importantly, steampunks love to talk about their creations and I’ve found them almost universally very generous in giving advise and help to newcomers trying to make their own steampunk gear.

In that spirit, let me share two of my early steampunk creations which happen to both be eyewear–a tricked out pair of  jeweler’s loupes and a pair of goggles. Continue reading