Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.

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Steampunk: If you can’t learn from your mistakes… learn from mine

Effie Cotter, reporting

On Friday afternoon of the Wild Wild West gathering, I attended a scintillating panel on “learning from our mistakes.” Initially, I thought this would be a rollicking panel with tales of derring-do and vicious duels fought between man and machine.

I was not disappointed, dear Reader!

Mr. Joe Hernandez, Captain Whittacker of the Steampunk Isabella, and Mr. Steampunk Boba Fett all engaged us with tales of extreme steampunk crafting, the kinds of stories that involve delicious words like “grinder” and “black lung” and “regeneration.”

Indeed, Mr. Hernandez does seem to be quite the anomaly among men, my friends!

Suggestions, if not admonishments, were provided for how to work with the glues, solvents, grinders, punches, drills, springs, and materials that we are all familiar with when cobbling our gear (and gears) together. Among the recommendations: An N95 dust mask, a respirator, safety goggles, close-fitting gloves, and a conveniently located radiology department or Geiger counter. I would add a nearby hospital to that list, given the occasional need by Mr. Hernandez for the surgical reattachment of appendages. Oh, and crazy glue. Because, although one might not wish to “glue some gears on it,” it can be used in a pinch as an emergency liquid bandage. We are living in the future, my friends!

Why, you might ask, would one need such things?

Well, among the injuries our fine panelists reported, we heard about heavy metal poisoning from combining an unfortunate mix of chemicals and metal, sepsis, a minor amputation, and a number of cuts, punctures, and scratches. All from Mr. Hernandez– who was sitting among us as hale and hearty as any regenerating cyborg might be expected!

Captain Whittacker contributed with his fine demonstration of “steampunk land mines,” a fancy little device found inside most modern clocks and which, when opened, releases a spring with approximated forty feet of tightly-wound metal, all under high torque. The fine captain related the story of a young man who lost a duel to such a machine and now sports a wicked (if, perhaps, a bit dashing to our more impressionable ladies!) scar running from his forehead to his jaw, diagonal across his face, where such a spring once opened and split his face in twain.

Not for the weak of heart, my friends!

Of course, you may now be wondering why one might need tools to detect Madame Curie’s finest discovery? Indeed– many of us are familiar with paints and other substances that glow in the dark. These substances are relatively harmless when safely encased behind wristwatch glass. But when that glass breaks, the paint may rub off onto other materials in a “junk box” and contaminate other items. Although I am sure we have all heard of the invigorating power of radioactivity on the body, particularly when consumed in water, these effects are, perhaps, less beneficial when one makes jewelry, particularly earrings, out of materials which may contain trace amounts of the stuff. Have a care for your lady friends and their health and run a Geiger counter over your repurposed materials before using them.

One of the more entertaining sections of the panel was an instructive look at “how to weather an instrument,” such as a wrench or other large, heavy item. Mr. Fett was very kind to provide instruction about this process, which seems to involve throwing heavy artifacts around a train yard until the gravel and asphalt do the job of weathering the device. Suggestion: learn to dodge wrenches before commencing this activity. Pin torch distressing can also be a viable way to artificially “age” material, but be wary of doing so indoors, on wooden furniture or banisters, as one may find oneself distressing an article this weekend, but repairing burn damage to the house on the next.

Finally, only engage in the safest of crafting endeavors when time is in short supply. Nothing will quite make you question your priorities like the event of Mr. Hernandez’ friend who, in a last-minute fix, minutes before the crew left for the aeroport, rammed a leather awl into his arm causing a deep puncture wound and a few profanities. Chief among the complaints of the victim and his friends was that this event may cause them to be late for the flight, a possibility which was not welcomed by any of the crew. Fortunately, a few dozen bandages and some understanding flight staff meant they arrived safely and sought medical care at their destination. Nonetheless, such injuries can cause unnecessary delays, not to mention the need to explain your pale countenance and blood-soaked bandages to the trained professionals who are diligently trying to divest you of your nail clippers and tweezers.

In summary, play safely, dear Readers, for we are not all so fortunate to have the hardy constitution and regenerative powers of Mr. Hernandez!

Steampunk – The Red Fork Empire

Effie Cotter, reporting

I had the delightful dilemma on Friday afternoon of deciding between attendance at the Red Fork Empire panel, or the League of Supremely Evil Revolutionaries. I opted for the Empire.62481_10151532021332139_1401259259_n

The Emperor had boldly included visual aids in the form of a pantomime performer, who was skilled at his craft, though not so skilled at remaining silent. Nonetheless, he provided more entertainment, unfortunately, than the emperor himself.

I often find myself at events in which I ask how much more lively the engagement might be if, perhaps, one entity were to engage in some form of rivalry, friendly or otherwise, with other entities. The Red Fork Emperor’s prime nemesis appears to be himself and “the Dull,” which is, of course, boredom. Well, Dear Reader, as you already know, your humble correspondent is never bored, and considers bored people to be boring people. To be so perpetually bored that one might wage war on dullness seems to me to show a weakness of imagination.

Consider, instead, if one were to engage more vigorously with one’s co-presenters at an event such as this weekend! Here we had two factions– Red Fork and L.O.S.E.R.– perfectly poised to deliver scathing commentary on one another. To be driving forces of conflict, story, and derring-do! Had these two engaged more fully, we could have had attendees aligning with one group or another, brandishing impeccable fashion sense like razor-sharp wit! Tea duelling would become not merely a past-time for the Aristocrat Lounge, but an engagement fraught with honor, not only for oneself, but for one’s empire or league!

As I am a reporter of all social news, then, I feel it is my duty to report that the Emperor spoke no words of condemnation for L.O.S.E.R., nor did they ever speak ill of his eminence.

How very… dull!

Steampunk – Hat Trims and Fiddly Details

Transmitted for your edification by Effie Cotter, Correspondent

hatsedwardianI attended the Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention this weekend, and had a magnificent time! I also took notes.

I took a lot of notes.

Over the course of the next few days, I will endeavor to organize my notes into something useful for you, Dear Reader, such that you might benefit from my wisdom.

On Friday morning, I attended the “Finicky Bits: Lost Arts Explained” workshop, which was supposed to be run by Susan Spenser, but was instead substitute-taught by Susan Holt. The curriculum covered cleaning and shaping feathers, trimming hats with ribbon and bits, fabric painting, attaching sequins, and cutting quills.

Unfortunately, there was poor lighting in the Sheriff’s office where the workshop was held, so my photos are limited in scope.
Continue reading Steampunk – Hat Trims and Fiddly Details

Short story contest– I’m a Winner!!!

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So, last week, one of the Kickstarter projects I’m backing issued a short story contest for stories involving their products and setting. The deadline was short– just one week to write a short story worthy of submission?!? Crazy!

Well, I managed somehow to write it up and submit it.

This morning, they announced the winner– me! And posted my story and the runners-up to the website.

My prize is an extra one of their toys, when the Kickstarter rewards ship out.

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