Fiction Review: Chrystal Heart

Publisher: Jay Walker Writing
Reviewed by Nimue Brown

270329_320518881397191_307162343_nIndiana Jones and The Fifth Element, only with a kickass female lead and plenty of contemporary Steampunk twists. This is a crisply written, well-paced book that will keep you turning the pages, so don’t start it if you’ve got to be somewhere else urgently! Chrystal is, as the tagline says, a 188 year old bisexual cyborg vampire. None of that is quite what it suggests in practice (except the bisexual bit). The unravelling of the mystery around the enigmatic central character is much of the joy of this story, but Meg Kingston knows that a flash of ankle can be more tantalising than a bare leg, and teases out little glimpses of the backstory without ever letting us become too familiar with her heroine. This makes for an enjoyable read. There’s nothing worse, for me, than writers who have to lay everything bare and explain it all tidily. Expect to spend a lot of time afterwards wondering what was going on behind the scenes in the tale. The plot is wholly satisfying, but isn’t handed to you on a plate.

There’s some really interesting science in the book, along with some great characters, determined villains, action, love interest (too much love interest for a child-reader, but not that explicit). Also there are charming endnotes to let you know what came from where in terms of how science meets fiction. The ways in which Meg has made this both a modern book set in the here and now and an unequivocally Steampunk book are delightful, although I won’t explain further, to avoid spoilers.

I can very much recommend this as a most entertaining read.

Fiction Review: An Airship Named Desire

Publisher: Hazardous Press
Reviewed by Lori Holuta

AirshipCoverSmallWhat’s a steampunk story without an airship? Well, it’s certainly not mandatory, of course, but an adventure that’s centered around an airship provides the perfect opportunity to showcase many readers’ favorite elements in the Steampunk genre.

An Airship Named Desire carries a weighty cargo. Besides the Desire’s intrepid Captain Morris and his loyal crew, she brings along many of the staples of the ‘great Steampunk adventure’: danger; romance; the curse of the inevitable betrayal; strange and exotic locales; swashbuckling men and strong, independent women; daring rescues; dark and stormy nights; corsets and goggles and anachronisms, oh my!

Our story centers around a mysterious locked box the crew’s been hired to obtain. The box is won in a daring mission, but that’s not the end of the story–in fact, the locked box draws the interest of all sorts of shady and dangerous characters. It’s the catalyst that propels the reader on a wild ride that won’t end till the last page is read. This is a rousingly good tale, thick with action, occasionally lightened by witty dialogue, and with enough smart scheming, twists and turns, and surprises along the way to keep the reader riveted.

We experience the entire adventure through the eyes of Bea, as the author has chosen to write the tale entirely in first-person. It’s a tricky point of view to manage, with distinct benefits and drawbacks. On the benefit side, we are able to form a close emotional connection with Bea, who is the main character in our adventure. Nearly all of the action is ‘funneled’ down to us through Bea’s perception. Her emotions and rationale for all her decisions and actions are made clear to us in great detail.

On the drawback side, we are wearing blinders in regards to the rest of Desire’s crew, as well as her enemies and various folk we meet along the way. We know very little about how events are impacting their lives. If they haven’t allowed Bea to understand their thoughts and actions, we’re left clueless as well. I found the entire cast of characters to be an intriguing variety of personalities, and I would like to have had the opportunity to crawl around inside their heads in more depth. Given the constraints of the chosen viewpoint, though, I enjoyed the large and diverse group of people that contributed in their own unique ways towards the completion of Desire’s mission.

Author Katherine McIntyre has written poetry and prose for various publications, but An Airship Named Desire is her first published novel. I suspect that subsequent novels will benefit from experience gained while writing Desire, and perhaps she will choose to step away from first-person storytelling. I hope so, as she has proven her skill at telling a rich, well crafted tale from beginning to end.

In addition, I’d love to see her trim back her dependence on overly descriptive, drawn-out action sequences, and I’d definitely hope to see less use of frequent–and often downright bizarre–similes. (For example, “Their shadow stretched along the crevasse between the warehouses like a mutated black alligator stomping in an aluminum river.”) McIntyre has the chops to write a strong storyline. Now it remains to be seen if she will allow her future work to depend less on novelty styling and simply stand on its own merit. Count me in for the next book.

Les Machines de L’lle

Know what’s really cool? Giant steampunk mechanical animals.

But where to find them? France, apparently.

We’ve posted  Les Machines de L’lle‘s giant elephant before, but here’s some of their other creatures!

Two people ride a mechanical bird at a French themepark.

Mechanical turtle and horses on a merry-go-round.

Issue 9 is Now Available Online!

Our long-awaited 9th issue is now available for download! You can get it on the Combustion Books website or on our downloads page.

This issue is our thickest yet, coming in at 118 pages of mad science, history, interviews, fashion, and fiction!

This issue covers such subjects as: dieselpunk, anti-fascist fashion, DIY miniature airships, paper dolls, the New Orleans general strike of 1892, loaded dice and swindles, the Red Fork Empire, surrealism, machine intelligence, and post-mortem communications!

Including interviews with Cory DoctorowCherie Priest, Eric Larson, the VagabondsFrenchy & The Punk, and BB Blackdog.

Fiction by Katie Casey, reginazabo, Erin Searles, David Z. Morris, and the Catastrophone Orchestra.

Introduction to The Nautilus Project

An older man works on a model submarine.Captain Mobius is just your average everyman: he’s fifty-something, retired with a partial physical disability… and he has a mission: you see, he’s recreating the Nautilus from Walt Disney’s ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ as a 36-foot, 5 passenger lake-going boat, and doing it single-handedly.

In a recent conversation from an undisclosed location somewhere in Georgia, Captain Mobius explained his manifold motivations for the Nautilus Project.

The seed was planted in 1962, when his father took the then 6-year-old Captain Mobius to see Disney’s ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’. “I would make believe I was every character in that movie except the giant squid,” he chuckled reflectively. This early experience fostered life-long loves of both science-fiction and the sea. He taught himself to sail by age 30, scratch-building several sailing vessels over the years.

Had ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ movie not been released in 2003, the Nautilus Project might never have happened. The CGI imagining of Nemo’s massive Nautilus in that film was an affront to Captain Mobius. CGI had freed film-makers from respecting physical laws, and Captain Mobius felt that version of the Nautilus was just all wrong. “The great movie model-makers are all gone. At least they made things look like they’d work!” Perhaps we should be thanking them for providing the impetus for the Nautilus Project.

So Captain Mobius started to work, designing with pencil, ruler and paper his homage to the only rightful movie Nautilus, the 1954 masterpiece made by Harper Goff for the Disney production. He spent three years planning every detail and every stage of the construction, using only techniques available to the average, self-educated person (like him).

Concessions had to be made to the techniques used and the scale of the design. The size of the main hatch had to be adjusted, as it would have scaled to only 12 inches wide. He also had to build his Nautilus replica from the outside in, rather than the inside out technique usually employed. This meant building the outer skin to exact alignments and dimensions before adding the interior ribbing and keel; it was the only way he could do it single-handedly, which was a goal central to the project. “I wanted to shake people’s notion that the disabled are feeble. And I wanted to show what an average person can do if they just set their mind to it.”

He’s accomplishing this feat of nautical engineering using only hand tools and materials available at the local home improvement store. “There is no piece of lumber more than 16 inches wide because I had to move them all in a Toyota Sentra”. Pyrex bowls have been pressed into service for the semi-submerged hemispherical viewports on port and starboard.

When complete, the wooden structure will be sealed in a fiberglass skin before being cunningly painted to match the original Nautilus.

Except for the trolling motors and batteries to power them, “there are just three things I didn’t buy: the wheel and two cleats from my 1955 Chris-Craft. Those have sentimental value.”

The good Cap’n Mobius doesn’t consider this his final project, by any means. He has more fantastic vessels planned, but alas, those plans are still top secret!

The Nautilus is slated for launch in a gala ceremony in late July, near Atlanta. Keep tabs on the Nautilus Project via Facebook ( or follow them on Twitter @NautilusAtlanta.

Release Party at Steampunk World’s Fair!

Will you be at Steampunk World’s Fair in a few weeks? We will be, and we’re throwing a release party for our new issue! Join us for a surrealist-themed shindig with parlor games and silent films, 10pm-midnight on Saturday in the Centennial Room at the Embassy Hotel.

Issue 9 Now Available For Pre Order!


SPM Issue 9 cover: A cloaked, top hat wearing man riding a mechanical wildebeest.
Steampunk Magazine Issue 9 is now available for preorder!


This long-awaited issue is our thickest yet, coming in at 118 pages of mad science, history, interviews, fashion, and fiction!


This issue covers such subjects as: dieselpunk, anti-fascist fashion, DIY miniature airships, paper dolls, the New Orleans general strike of 1892, loaded dice and swindles, the Red Fork Empire, surrealism, machine intelligence, and post-mortem communications!

Any purchase from our site that includes this issue will ship once we have the magazine in our hands, which will be no later than May 20 2013. The magazine will also be made available online at that time.


Interview: Progress the Series

Oscar Lerwill, a Victorian hacker in a button-up shirt and newsboy cap.Progress is an upcoming web series about Wiki-leaks style adventures on a steam-powered Victorian internet. I chatted with the creators about some of the inspirations for the series. Check it out at their website; you can also support their IndieGoGo campaign!
Tell us a bit about the world of  Progress. How does wiki-leaks happen in a 19th century style world?
Armando: How could it not happen?  In the 19th Century technology advanced much faster than law or society norms.  Inventors (the original hackers) were breaking barriers every day and challenging all beliefs.  It’s only logical that, if they had the means, they would have created a channel to expose corruption and hypocrisy.
What were some of your inspirations for Progress?
Armando: During one of the many Wikileaks scandals last year a couple of TV pundits were bashing the whistleblowers: “”these people are nihilists!” “Terrorists!”  “Murderers!” “They’re like Jack the Ripper with Internet access!” — and we thought “hey, that’s a great idea for a series!”
The main character, Oscar Lerwill, is in trouble with the government for exposing Jack the Ripper. Why? You’d think they’d be thanking him!
Armando: Oscar is a hacker and, like all hackers, he does the right thing the wrong way.  He breaks protocol and asks no one for permission.  This is seen as a serious offense in Victorian times (good thing those silly repressive laws change, don’t they?)
Progress includes some transmedia elements – can you tell us about those?
Armando: We’re developing a lot of stuff with other steampunk enthusiasts, including a virtual world with a steam-powered web — but, in the meantime, we can tell you that everything in Progress is a clue wrapped in a riddle.  The names of the characters, for example, can you decipher them?
Nicole: I think the transmedia elements are going to be awesome! We have two companion websites that we are developing to go along with the story. Once the series airs, fans can log into the pages and decipher clues about who the killer is and who the next target will be! These puzzles will keep you guessing! Like Armando said, we are developing a lot of stuff with other steampunk filmmakers and designers too! Stay tuned as we will soon be releasing more details about these developments!
Who’s your favorite character in the series?
Armando: Everybody has a favorite.  Fans identify with Oscar Lerwill because he’s a heroic hacker; producer Nicole identifies with Lila DeClide because she’s a smart girl hindered by a retrograde society; screenwriter Armando identifies with Adam Rhett because he’s a troll… and wait until you meet Mr. Humbbaugh!
Nicole: I agree with Armando, everybody has a favorite! Lila DeClide has a lot of fans already! Our character Mr. Humbbaugh wasn’t introduced in our teaser video but just wait until you see him in the series — he is hilariously controversial and some people have desribed him as a 19th century Rush Limbaugh!

Fiction Review: The Wailing

Reviewed by Anna Burwell

16119160Enter ‘Professor’ Leland, existing furtively in the chaos surrounding the Blitz with his roommate (of sorts), Rowan. Employed—as he seems to have always been—by the mysterious body known in-narrative as ‘the Management,’ Leland is charged with doing his part for the war effort in this time of crisis. In this case, eliminating something slightly less German and slightly more supernatural—an individual known only as ‘Signe.’ Armed only with a photograph of his target (along with a small arsenal, a wizard, and his taciturn roommate), Leland tracks down the mysterious Signe to do his part for King and Country.

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much from a story of a scant seventy pages and some change, but I was pleasantly surprised. Naturally, it isn’t without its faults. Because it’s only seventy-six pages, the same plight that affects short stories is still applicable. That is to say, it’s very condensed, leaving precious little elbow room for particulars in regards to characterization. Unfortunately, thanks to the narrative style and the pace, it takes about half the story before The Wailing hits full stride. When it finally does reach that point, the reader can take a break for devious grins if so inclined.

It’s often been cited that leaders of writing workshops encourage the participants to be complete devils to their poor, unsuspecting creations. Graham does just that. I feel I should have seen the twist coming, but the narrative immerses you in Leland’s own thoughts, as well as his disastrous oversights. In fact, I felt it made up for the lack of surprise when the barest particulars of his backstory were revealed. Of course, one can’t simply have a dieselpunk dark fantasy set during World War II without death and destruction running rampant. I commend Graham for what [s]he did within a small span (the plodding section in the beginning aside).

The ending, however, will most likely leave the reader feeling more than a smidge unsatisfied. Strangely, it’s not so much a matter of how it ended, but what was tacked onto it. Said issue leaves the Professor’s story open-ended enough to continue (if the author should see fit), but it detracts from The Wailing as a standalone work.

Despite the somewhat disappointing finale, I enjoyed The Wailing. It’s dark and grungy, and—like many in the deiselpunk genre—the author isn’t afraid to take often-given (but hardly-heeded) advice and end on a decidedly unhappy note. I’ll forgive the death of a relatively flat minor character for the sadism and delightful writing style alone.

[4/4/13: edited to correct gendered pronoun]

Dreampunk! Call for Submissions!

Our friends at Vagrants Among Ruins are looking for submissions to a new zine, Dreampunk!

Dreampunk is the search to build a better world in the ruins of the old. To build a world of equality, liberty and community that reaches for wonder, invention, and a more balanced relationship with ourselves, one another, and with the wild world around us.

Deadline is June 1st. Check out the link for more information.