Leonardo Ramirez, young adult author, has a dream: to create an animated short of his young adult steampunk series The Jupiter Chronicles. With the cooperation of Magnetic Dreams Studios — and readers like yourselves interested in diversity in children’s entertainment — he hopes to make that dream come true.
Ramirez plans to launch a crowd-funding campaign to help fund his goal. Interested in learning more about The Jupiter Chronicles? From his website is the series premise:
Ian Castillo is a young boy who, together with his sister Callie, discover their secret; they are the son and daughter of a Jovian king whose world had been subjugated by the evil Lord Phobos of Mars. After a great battle was fought they returned to the steam-powered world of Jupiter where Fireflights and Skyrockets rule the air. Now, as part of the newly reborn Chrono Legion, Ian struggles to find his place in a world powered by steam. The fate of the Jovian Realms are in his hands as he fights against the Martian Doomslayers and seeks to protect Earth from what is to come. A much deeper struggle lies within him. With no father to guide him, Ian desperately searches for the answer to the question he’s been asking himself all of his life:
Why did my father leave me?
Readers can check out his website for more information, including details about the talented creative team behind The Jupiter Chronicles, and watch that space for details about their upcoming crowd-funding venture. You can also sign up for their mailing list here.
Briaan L. Barron, artist and owner of Bri-Dimensional Images and recent graduate from Sarah Lawrence College, contacted me about her senior project: a film about steampunk, steamfunk, and the role of African Diaspora in these subcultures. The final result is her animated short “Steamfunk & Rococoa: A Black Victorian Fantasy” which I’m happy to share here. Also featuring the wonderful Balogun Ojetade speaking about steamfunk!
The inspiration for Steamfunk and Rococoa: A Black Victorian Fantasy derived from an event inspiration board that I came across online. The board, which featured an intriguing medley of metals, vintage artifacts, and African jewelry, was entitled “Afro-Steampunk,” and its description read, “If Erykah Badu and Sherlock Holmes had a wedding.” The visual juxtaposition of these unexpected sources of inspiration led me to delve into more research on the concept of Afro-Steampunk to see if this striking aesthetic could be found elsewhere. My search exposed me not only to more fascinating representations of Black and African aesthetics coalescing with the steampunk genre, but also to a unique set of politics and critiques associated with them.
Closing Credits Music produced by Briaan L. Barron
Okay, for those who know me, I’m very into non-western steampunk. And I enjoy kung fu comedies. A good steampunk film isn’t just pretty-looking with quirky tech, but addresses shifting social and cultural values in light of early industrialization and urbanization. A good kung fu flick has me cheering at the melodrama, holding my breath (or my abs or my head) in sympathy to whatever punches kicks or wall-breaking tumbles the characters go through. At New York Comic Con this past weekend, I attended the screening of Tai Chi Zero, which promised the best of both.
The movement has been around for decades, and in recent years steampunk has become a fascination for mainstream culture. Literature remains a driving force behind its popularity. From books and graphic novels, and the colorful characters created within them, makers of both fabric and fabrication backgrounds bring to life this 19th century that never happened. Musicians such as The Men Who Will Be Blamed for Nothing, Abney Park, Paul Shapera, and even Rush are also finding inspiration from steampunk.
There is one creative arena where steampunk remains not only undiscovered country, but exciting country to explore: steampunk in film. There are many projects in production, some of which are reaching to the community for help in doing it right, but filmmaking—particularly for steampunk—offers incredible challenges. Challenges that, when conquered, can be quite rewarding.
Friend of the blog, Miriam Rocek, aka Steampunk Emma Goldman recently was interviewed by a local New York Times correspondent for a documentary about America’s most famous anarchist and her old haunts in the East Village. I’m thrilled to see how steampunk is gaining some well-deserved recognition for its political potential. Watch the video below and read the accompanying article.
Note from Ay-leen: On the blog, I reviewed Professor Lameman’s one-shot comic The West Was Lost. It’s a pleasure to have her speak here about her newest Native steampunk work, The Path Without End. This short film will be screened at the upcoming art festivals: imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, October 19-23, 2011, in Toronto, Ontario and the Skábmagovat Film Festival, January 26-29, 2012, in Finland.
The Path Without End is a retelling of Anishinaabe stories of Moon People who traveled here from the stars by canoe. The title is a direct reference to Basil Johnston’s retelling. In this telling, I recreate the Human and Moon lovers as they travel, propagate, and face the unending chase of colonization.
I have been largely inspired by my mother, Grace L. Dillon, whose scholarship is in what she refers to as Indigenousfuturism. She advocates for Indigenous writers of science fiction. In fact, Indigenous peoples have been telling science fiction stories from the beginning. In a sense, in The Path, the planets are both the cosmos themselves but also spiritual planes and representations of the landmasses on earth. There is no single reading of the story.
What does a futurist, a cultural historian, and one of the world’s leading tech companies have to do with steampunk? Perhaps, well, a lot more than you think. The Tomorrow Project by Intel is a series of conversations with leading scientists, engineers, thinkers, historians, and science fiction writers about how today’s most imaginative minds can construct new ways of seeing the future. One of their documentaries, Vintage Tomorrows, filmed by Byrd McDonald of Porter Panther Productions and produced by Brian David Johnson, proposes that steampunk is one method people are using in order to understand the impact of technology today. A highlight of my weekend at New York Comic Con was watching a rough-cut version of this film, where the question of steampunk, technology, and social change comes into play.
For Steampunk Week, we’ve featured a variety of perspectives on what steampunk is and what the community is becoming. One thing that fascinates me most is what the frak makes us so appealing to people outsideof the steampunk community.
Obviously, steampunk’s become a buzzword and has been getting media coverage up to wazoo; acting as a news sniffer for all things steam for Tor.com has kept me aware of the best and the worst of what people think. Sure, we’ve got the shiny, but what else makes the community so attractive? Is the general trend of geek chic just expanding to include everything brassy and classy? Are we just a quirky niche that fits neatly into a five minute evening news segment? Most interestingly, though, is why steampunk now? And what does that say about greater shifts in geek & pop cultures? (Yes, I’m in academia, these questions intrigue me.)
Everyone’s looking for an answer. Besides the plenty of newssourcesinourowncommunity, I’ve run into mainstream reporters and indie filmmakers recording their own stories about steam for the non-initiated. To wrap-up this theme week, then, I had a roundtable discussion with two documentary-makers, Don Spiro and Martha Swetzoff, who took some time off from interviewing others to let me ask them about some bigger questions about what they’ve experienced in steampunk.
Note: While I’m enjoying Wiscon this weekend (con report forthcoming), check out my latest review over at Tor.com. Delayed updates to Con Extravaganza & Asian Identities, Crossing Borders will be posted later this week.
During the Tribeca Film Festival, I managed to catch a showing of Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. Watching the preview, this film promised big set pieces, lots of fiery explosions, and awesome martial arts action. A film that has Chinese alternate history and features a detective worthy of Sherlock, a black market underground beneath the Forbidden City, and a plot involving the mechanics of building a 800-foot tall Buddha—it all sounds pretty steampunk-esque. When a post about it went up on Tor.com Steampunk, people scratched their heads about whether it would qualify, or if, yet again, a fad word had been plopped in by marketing.
Contributor in Sarah Hans's Steampunk World, Winner of the 2015 Steampunk Chronicle's Reader's Choice Awards for "Best Fiction"
Winner of SteamCon's 2013 Airship Award for Community Contributor
About Beyond Victoriana
The Nutshell Explanation Beyond Victoriana is the oldest-running blog about multicultural steampunk and retro-futurism--that is, steampunk outside of a Western-dominant, Eurocentric framework. Founded in 2009, Beyond Victoriana focuses on non-Western cultures, underrepresented minorities in Western histories (Asian / Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, First Nation, Hispanic, black / African & other marginalized identities), and the cultural intersection between the West and the non-West.