DIY Steampunk Medal


A steampunk outfit is really made by its accessories.  They at once evoke the Victorian era that typifies the time frame of much of Steampunk culture, as well as adding bits of interest to your outfit.  And no matter what manner of steampunk outfit you wear, you can always think up a reason why your character has been awarded a medal.

I’ve got a few medals that I’ve bought over time.  My airship wings are one of my favorites, as is the George V cap badge from the Royal Engineers that I turned into a pin.  (I know, not strictly Steampunk era, but close!)  But I wanted something unique. Continue reading


Old House Idiosyncrasies #1–Lighting

This post is the first in what will be an occasional series on the idiosyncrasies of old houses, their parts, and their décor. Anyone who lives in an old house knows there are many.

Today, let’s talk about chandeliers. But wait, “chandeliers”, strictly speaking, are lit with candles, even though in today’s vernacular, the term is used for any hanging light fixture. But the Victorians, being ever so precise, invented other terms.

A “gasolier” was lit with gas. Gasoliers can be identified as the shade points upward, and is usually wider to accommodate the gas jet. The light, such as it was, was produced by a rather dim, flickering open flame. Here’s a catalogue from the period which shows several gasoliers. Another way to identify a gasolier is the presence of a valve usually on the supporting arm, but sometimes on the burner. 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”.


Luminosity and Electricity in the Sky

An article by Phil Plait, the “Bad Astronomer” on reminded me that today (September 1) is the 155th anniversary of the observation of the solar flare that within a day would cause the Great Auroral Storm of 1859.

This interesting astronomical event is of special interest to me as it is recounted in my upcoming novel “To Rule the Skies”.

Richard Carrington, an English gentleman-scientist and amateur astronomer, was sketching sunspots at the observatory he built at his estate at Redhill, Surrey, part of a survey of sunspots that went back almost a decade. He noted two bright flares emanating from one particular group of sunspots.  As he watched, the flares moved across the surface of the spot, then disappeared.

Carrington's sketch of the sunspot observed on Sept 1., 1859.  Solar flares observed at points A & C moved to points B & D in 5 minutes.

Carrington’s sketch of the sunspot observed on Sept 1., 1859. Solar flares observed at points A & C moved to points B & D in 5 minutes.

It was later noted that Carrington’s observation coincided with a deviation in the Earth’s magnetic field measured at Kew Observatory. But more importantly, in the next few days, all hell broke loose in the sky. Continue reading

Amazing Internet Archive of Historic Graphics

An American academic at Georgetown University, Kalev Leetaru, has started amassing what will ultimately be 12 million historic public domain images.

Located on flickr, the Internet Archive Book Image currently has 2.6 million images–photographs, graphics, maps, music, advertisements, bits of illuminated manuscripts–all downloadable copyright-free.  The images date from ca. 1500 to 1922 (when copyright restrictions begin).  The images are also searchable.

Some examples I found interesting on the first few pages of the archive.  I have a feeling that I’ll be perusing this site regularly.