My First Blog-iversary

One year ago today, I took my first tentative steps into this thing called “blogging”, and it has been an interesting year indeed.

I named the blog “Airship Flamel” after the airship that features in my steampunk novel “To Rule the Skies”.  As I was finishing up editing that book, I found that I had accumulated so many interesting stories and historical tidbits while doing research on the time and culture (Victorian). Writing a blog seemed the best and most fun way of writing some non-fiction as well.

Some statistics, thanks to the WordPress Insights page:  This entry is my 89th blog entry of the past year.  That includes re-blogs–I’m not above featuring the work of another blogger on Airship Flamel with proper credit, of course.  No sense re-inventing the wheel, and all that…

The most popular post has been “Did Mark Twain and Charles Dickens ever meet?” which I published back in October and has been read 299 times.  While I found it very interesting to ponder that question myself, the post wasn’t very popular at first, but then really took off in the spring.  I wonder if a teacher somewhere had given the question out as a essay topic.  Before then, my most popular post had been “The Colors of the Past” which examined how poorly early photographic plates recorded different colors, so that we really can’t always be sure what color objects are in period photographs.

In September, my novel was published both as an e-book and as a hard copy.  The second book in the Airship Flamel Adventures series is currently in draft form and my goal is to have it completed by May, 2016.

In December, I previewed Christmas with the Twelve Days of Steampunk Christmas posts which were re-tweeted by Airship Ambassador which generated much traffic to the blog.  They’re still being read almost every day.

In February, I started a new full-time job, which definitely put a dent into the time I had to write.  I’m starting to get the work-life, or rather, work-write balance back on a more even keel, so I predict more regular blog posts in future.

Most of all, I’d like to recognize some of the blog posts that pop up in my reader from some very talented and interesting writers.  Cogpunk Steamscribe gives an always interesting take on steampunk and writing from Down Under.  I don’t know how many times we’ve reblogged each other’s posts!  Another favorite is For Whom the Gear Turns which posts about Steampunk, London, and Making.  Mr. Lee Jackson, a prodigious tweeter, is the author of The Dictionary of Victorian London, an excellent resource for anyone doing research (or just curious) about just about any aspect of Victorian London.  His recent book, “Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight against Filth” is on my to-read list.

Finally, for the 4,481 times that someone has come to my blog during the past year, I hope that I have educated and entertained, and promise that I shall endeavour to continue to do so.

Helpless Victorian Ladies? Think again!

I’m sharing a link to an entertaining post from the blog Strange Company entitled innocently enough, “Newspaper Clipping(s) of the Day” but whose contents belie that bland description.

OK, this woman seems to be over-reacting a bit.

OK, this woman seems to be over-reacting a bit.

Based on clippings from the “Illustrated Police News“, one of the most sensationalist London newspapers of the day, the post contains illustrations of Victorian women taking matters into their own hands when accosted, insulted, or otherwise violated. These ladies are definitely self-rescuing.

I can imagine a female steampunk character emulating these ladies.  In fact, I have a character taking after the woman in March 28, 1896’s drawing when accosted by an evil-doer.

A Japanese View of Victorian London

A View of the Thames by Utagawa Yoshitora, c. 1860s.  Image from the Library of Congress collection.

A View of the Thames by Utagawa Yoshitora, c. 1860s. Image from the Library of Congress collection.

In the spirit of Steampunk Hands Around the World 2015, I’d like to share a view of Victorian London as depicted by a Japanese artist of the time, Utagawa Yoshitora. Whether writing, creating, or defining your steampunk persona, it is always helpful to see through others’ eyes and gain a fresh perspective.

More details on the artist and these prints at the always informative Two Nerdy History Girls blog.

Old House Idiosyncrasies #2–Imbrication

DSC_0271Imbrication is a fancy word that means the overlapping of edges, such as in scales or tiles.  Or shingles, as it turns out.  In architectural parlance, imbrication is the use of specially shaped shingles to create a decorative effect.  Imbrication is often seen in Victorian homes, especially those built in the Queen Anne style, between about 1880-1900. Continue reading

Goldsworthy Gurney–Gentleman Scientist

Goldsworthy_Gurney_-_PD-OLDSir Goldsworthy Gurney is a prime example of that most Victorian of species: the gentleman scientist.  A man of independent means who did not actually need to work to earn his living, and who possessed a scientific mind could make a fair contribution to inventing the 19th century. Such a man was Gurney.

He invented the limelight–a lamp which glowed when heated with an oxygen/hydrogen flame and used to enduring fame in lighting actors on stage.

In the 1820s he invented a steam carriage and proved that it could travel long distances even over the rough roads of the day.

In 1856, he patented an improved heater, called the Gurney Stove, some of which are still in use to this day!

Here’s a link to an article on the BBC website about this interesting and not-very-well-known man.

John Tyndall—The Man who Discovered the Answer to “Why is the Sky Blue?”

John_Tyndall_1I am often amazed by Victorian scientists and engineers who seem to have had infinite curiosity, wide-ranging interests, and, somehow, the time to make pioneering contributions in a number of disparate fields. Francis Galton, Michael Faraday, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel are all examples of these larger-than-life characters. So is John Tyndall.

“Who?” you say. If you ever took an introductory chemistry class, you might remember the “Tyndall Effect” describing how light is scattered in a colloid or another solution containing small particles. It may seem like a pretty narrow and arcane scientific achievement, but as I will describe, light scattering is pretty important, and besides, it was only one of many achievements from this most Victorian of scientists.

John Tyndall was born in Ireland of an English family in 1820. He attended the local schools, learning amongst other things, drafting. This knowledge came into good stead when he was hired by the Irish Ordnance Survey. As the British railways were being built in the 1840s, there was a great demand for surveyors, prompting Tyndall to work for several years in Britain in railway construction planning.

After railway work slackened and intellectual pursuits called him, he left Britain for Germany to further his education in science. At the time, British universities focused on classics and mathematics, and not practical science, whereas Germany schools were known to be more advanced in the practical sciences.

Tyndall landed at the University of Marburg, where he studied under, amongst other people, Robert Bunsen, of Bunsen Burner fame. During his time in Germany, he became adept at experimental and laboratory procedures in a number of different scientific disciplines. Continue reading

A Christmas Carol

Frontispiece and title page of the first edition, 1843.

Frontispiece and title page of the first edition, 1843.

On this day, December the nineteenth, in 1843, Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol (full title: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.) One could debate whether he took advantage of the entire Christmas shopping season by releasing the book only six days before Christmas, but since the first printing of 6000 was completely sold out by Christmas Eve, one must admit that it was a smash hit. And since its debut it has become even more popular, rivaling only, you know, The Bible, as the most known Christmas story. Continue reading