Tag Archives: Steampunk

Bard on the Beach 2015

A different configuration for the stage this year, but still simple, and able to represent numerous locations.

A different configuration for the stage this year, but still simple, and able to represent numerous locations.

Last year’s Bard on the Beach was a bust for us – we were ready to go and be entertained on Sunday morning, but it turned out we had tickets for Saturday afternoon. Oops.

This year we almost missed the boat completely. With visitors throughout the summer, it was always an option, but superseded by other events. Lucky for us, Middle Weasel asked about it with just days of performances left, and we ended up booking tickets for the final performance of the season.

The play we booked was “A Comedy of Errors”, one that none of us had encountered before. The production had transformed the setting into Steampunk, and we were all excited to see how that would work. As the photo shows, the set was all brass and cogwheels, with steam and clanking, grinding sound effects from five minutes before the start of the show. The characters wore great outfits – goggles, metal-accented limbs, eyepieces, Victorian styles.

The story concerns two pairs of identical twin boys, who are separated in a shipwreck, and are then amusingly mistaken for and by each other... over and over again.

The story concerns two pairs of identical twin boys, who are separated in a shipwreck, and are then amusingly mistaken for and by each other… over and over again.

It’s no surprise that the performance was excellent. The production values are high, and this was the final performance of the 26th Season of Bard on the Beach – you don’t get longevity like that with mediocre work. But it felt like the last night was giving the performance some extra zing. The actors were clearly having a lot of fun with their roles, and there was more than a hint of in-jokes being played throughout.

The Weasels try out a Steampunk look.

The Weasels try out a Steampunk look.

As always, I was mesmerised by the fact that a simple set – in this case a walkway above and two side entrances plus a central doorway – could be so many locations. I wanted to film the proceedings and post it on the Lazy Bee website to show other playwrights what is possible with a minimal set and a wild imagination. Of course, the person I should be reminding about it is ME.

The evening closed with a brief ceremony to mark the end of the season, with the Artistic Director inviting all the cast, crew and volunteers onto the stage. Each brought a candle, and the AD recited Prospero’s closing speech from “The Tempest” – the lights went down, and the candles were blown out.

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We’ll be coming back next year – Romeo and Juliet is on the schedule, and Middle Weasel is studying that this year. Come along to Vanier Park and see it with us – there’s no better way to see Shakespeare!

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Spotlight on: Brooke Johnson, Author

TheBrassGiant

I’ve blogged before about Brooke Johnson and her books, but she’s recently reworked the book I reviewed for real-world publication as “The Brass Giant” and so I thought I’d ask her some impertinent questions.

1: When did you start writing? 

I started writing seriously (with the goal to be published) when I was about fourteen. I started a fantasy novel that was a horrible conglomeration of Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings, that thankfully died after its eighth or ninth iteration when I decided to write something else five years later.

2: What was your path to publication? 
In a word: weird.
When I sat down to write the book that would eventually become The Brass Giant, I made the decision to self-publish  because 1) I really didn’t want to go the query route and face the months of rejection on that path; 2) I felt that steampunk was “in” and I didn’t want to waste time with traditional publishing when it would be at least a couple of years before the book saw print; and 3) I just really felt like it was the right decision at the time. So that’s what I did.

A year later, Harper Voyager put out an open call for submissions. Figuring it wouldn’t hurt to enter, I submitted the book and promptly forgot about it. Fast-forward another year and a half, I got an email from a Harper Voyager editor saying they wanted to publish my book. After much flabbergasted squeeing, I decided that I’d done what I could with self-publishing and signed a contract with the publisher. In the months since, I have been prone to varying degrees of stress and madness, and will soon have a traditionally published book to show for it.

3: Who was your biggest influence when you were starting out?

It was always a mixture of things when I first started writing, elements from my favorite books, movies, and video games, all cobbled together into one story. Stylistically, probably J.K. Rowling. I still primarily write third-person point of view and I will always write dialogue tags with “said” before the name of the person speaking.

4: What is your favourite piece of writing advice? 

I’ve gotten a lot of bad writing advice over the years, and very little good advice, so this is a tough one… probably “Write the story you want to read.” It’s the one dictum I’ve actually been able to stick to throughout the years.

5: If you could send one Tweet back in time to your past self, what would it say? And would you listen? 

Oh gosh… Um… “Stop wasting time on the internet and get to work. You won’t have the luxury of spare time in a few years.” Would I listen? Probably not.

6: What’s the logline for your latest book? 

When Petra Wade meets Guild engineer Emmerich Goss, she finally has a chance to prove her worth as an engineer building a top-secret, Guild-sanctioned automaton, but as their project nears completion, Petra discovers a sinister conspiracy within the Guild … and their automaton is only the beginning.

7: Do you take part in a writing circle, either online or in real life?

I did when I was in college, but I never liked it–I’m not much of a group person. I also had a critique partner once, but it fizzled out when life happened. These days, I write all by myself and rarely read other writers’ work before publication, though I do often share scenes or snippets with a few close friends to get initial feedback.

8: Finally, what word do you always type incorrectly? 

Jeopardize. Receive. Mischievous. Judgement. Privilege.

So, what about the book?

The Brass Giant: A Chroniker City Story

Sometimes, even the most unlikely person can change the world

Seventeen-year-old Petra Wade, self-taught clockwork engineer, wants nothing more than to become a certified member of the Guild, an impossible dream for a lowly shop girl. Still, she refuses to give up, tinkering with any machine she can get her hands on, in between working and babysitting her foster siblings.

When Emmerich Goss—handsome, privileged, and newly recruited into the Guild—needs help designing a new clockwork system for a top-secret automaton, it seems Petra has finally found the opportunity she’s been waiting for. But if her involvement on the project is discovered, Emmerich will be marked for treason, and a far more dire fate would await Petra.

Working together in secret, they build the clockwork giant, but as the deadline for its completion nears, Petra discovers a sinister conspiracy from within the Guild council … and their automaton is just the beginning.

Releases May 5, 2015

Preorder now ($1.99)

Amazon US: http://amzn.com/B00M719Z06

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00M719Z06

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-brass-giant-brooke-johnson/1121123553?ean=9780062387165

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-brass-giant

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-brass-giant/id904017054?mt=11

HarperCollins: http://www.harpercollins.com/9780062387165/the-brass-giant

About Brooke:

Brooke Johnson is a stay-at-home mom and tea-loving writer. As the jack-of-all-trades bard of the family, she journeys through life with her husband, daughter, and dog. She currently resides in Northwest Arkansas but hopes to one day live somewhere more mountainous.

Website:

 http://brooke-johnson.com

 Social Media:

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/brookenomicon

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+BrookeJohnson

Tumblr: http://brookenomicon.tumblr.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brookejohnson.writer

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5320239.Brooke_Johnson

The Books of June

June has been a pleasant month, especially when compared to the misery of last year – We had Juneuary last year…. This time around it’s been better because of the good weather, the visit of my In-Laws (which was great) and the new job (which was unexpected).

The return of the sun has permitted the Weasels to enjoy the garden.

The return of the sun has permitted the Weasels to enjoy the garden.

Of course, none of the above have slowed my reading, and since the new job is at the library, I could pass off collecting more books as “job research”. Here’s the latest research I have compiled:

It- Stephen King

See my earlier review

Night Train to Rigel – Timothy Zahn

I really enjoyed Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels, so I thought I’d give this trilogy a try. It’s a private investigator story, a real Bogart Knight Errant, once a man of the Authority sort of thing. I liked it, but found the politics a bit heavy going, and the hard sci-fi made my brain hurt a little. The idea of real tubes of metal through hyperspace carrying trains….Too much material, I thought.

Storm of Swords – George R R Martin

A long time ago, I had the chance to read the screenplay for the first episode of the TV version of “Game of Thrones”. It was good, but ended too soon, and I wanted to read more. Naturally, I took the book out of the library, but re-reading material I’d already seen in the screenplay was dull, since the book made much heavier going of it (compared to the screenplay, which is by necessity faster and more superficial) I gave it up as a bad job. Since then, I’ve been kept informed of the rough progress of events on GoT by my friends on G+, and when the storm broke about The Red Wedding, I had to go and find out more. Reading the third book without having read the others was tricky, and it wasn’t until I was about halfway through that I felt comfortable with all the characters. It feels like George RR Martin is playing a chess game on a board that has seventeen sides, and he’s doing it in the back of a van driving fast down a cobbled street. And he’s wearing a blindfold, and the rules change every ten minutes.

That said, I’ll be having a go at book four at some point. Just to see who else dies. To be frank, there aren’t many people left.

Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion

Zombies. Love ’em, even if I don’t get to watch many zombie movies these days. I loved the trailer for this movie, and was delighted to find the book delivers even more. There’s the humour, the unique premise of a zombie being “cured” by love, but also some deep philosophical thinking about what life is and how we choose to live. Best of all, I left this lying around carelessly and Middle Weasel picked it up and read it (in three days! That’s my girl!). Now she’s not so bothered about zombies, at least in daylight.

Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick

I don’t think I’m ever going to watch the movie of this story, even though I like both the leads. The book was easy to read, but the story is tough, coming from the point of view of someone suffering from a traumatic head injury and a fairly sad life too. His up-beat outlook doesn’t quite cover all eventualities, but it’s worth sticking it out to the end of the book. Mainly because you’ll have an idea how his accident happened, but you don’t get it confirmed until you reach the last chapter.

The Return of King Doug – Greg Erbe, Jason Oremland, illustrated by Wook Jin-Clark

I haven’t read a graphic novel for a while, and the cover of this one looked like it promised to be fun. And it was! Doug visits the kingdom of Valdonia as a boy, enjoying himself as he escapes from the real world of his parent’s holiday home, down the well and into the magical land beyond, but when the creatures who live in Valdonia ask Doug to lead them in rebellion against the Evil Queen, he runs away. Years later, Doug is living a loser lifestyle, failing to be a responsible father to the child he shares custody of. When that son finds the entrance to Valdonia and is captured by the Queen, Doug must – finally – face up to his responsibilities as a ruler and a Dad.

The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

Some time ago, someone on G+ posted this article about fantasy novels that are good despite their bad cover art. Mrs Dim said we should track some of them down and give them a go, but every time I found myself in the library, I had forgotten to note any of the titles. The only one I could remember was the name “Patrick Rothfuss” and so I got hold of this book. By then Mrs Dim was stuck into another novel, and didn’t have time to read it, so I tried it.

It’s a fantasy epic, it’s really, really big in scope, though it’s the story of one man. The clue to the scope is the fact that this book could crush a small pony if dropped from the height of four feet, yet it is only “Day One” of the three days the main character is taking to tell his life story. There’s a whole world and tons of history and myth woven through the tale, so the best thing to do is just nod and let it flow through you. I ground my teeth in frustration more than once, but at the end of the book I made a note to get the next in the series. It’s about the same length and is subtitled “day two”. Frankly, if there was a pamphlet with a summary of events, I’d be happy with that.

I’m the kind of person who flips to the back of a gloomy novel to see if it’s worth reading right through to the end. And if it isn’t, I’ll give it up. Life is short enough.

Han Solo at Star’s End – Brian Daley

I mentioned that my In-Laws came to stay. They have a fondness for second-hand bookstores, and I drove them out to one of our local stores one rainy afternoon. Thus I got to browse the sci-fi and fantasy shelves and found this wonderful book that goes with the other two Han Solo books by Brian Daley that I have reviewed in past months. Now I have the whole trilogy again and it’s like revisiting a beloved former home. Also, this is the book that first mentions the Z-95 Headhunter, something that Lego have just produced as a kit because it’s featured in the Clone Wars tv series. I love canon consistency!

The Mammoth Book of Steampunk – Edited by Sean Wallace

I love collections of short stories. For one thing, it’s easy to get to the end of a tale and put the book down when you have something to do, which is harder with chapter books (Just one more! Just one, then I’ll start…) For another, if the quality is good, it’s like reading a dozen novels in a row. This collection only had a couple of stories that didn’t pull me in, though Steampunk seems such a vague genre that the stories vary wildly in time, location, technology, character and outlook. If you haven’t tried Steampunk, this might not be a bad place to start.

This post being late, I’m already into my next set of reading. What’s on YOUR bedside table right now?

The April Bookshelf

Trotting off on a road trip to San Diego for the first half of April put quite a dent in my reading. Since we were packing all five of us and our gear into the one car, it seemed unwise to take up too much space with reading material.

Lucky for me I have a kindle.

The Steampunk Megapack

I’ve been reading this collection of stories on and off for a while now. Not because I couldn’t get into it, but because there’s SO MUCH in it. The first few tales are short stories, but before long the content is padded with entire novels – I really enjoyed re-reading Conan-Doyle’s “The Lost World” and experiencing “John Carter and the Princess of Mars” for the first time.

As with most of the collections I’ve read, not all of the stories were to my taste, which isn’t surprising. What was surprising and a bit annoying was that very few of the stories were genuine Steampunk. Though the term itself is only a loose classification, I really feel there does need to be an “alternate universe” feel to the setting. The basic idea of Steampunk is that modern technology, like electrical devices and gasoline-powered vehicles were not developed along the same lines, and that Steam Power achieved most of the same results. In addition, there’s usually more than a touch of Victoriana about the mannerism and the dress code, if not the time zone.

The majority of these stories were based in the right era and thus had the language, but hit none of the other checkpoints. Value for money, but not the product it’s claiming to be.

Behemoth and Goliath – Scott Westerfeld

I mentioned the first of Westerfeld’s “Animalistic Steampunk” trilogy last month, and this month I tracked down the next two in the series. I really enjoyed these books – partially for the plucky female lead, and partially for the excellently real, yet fantastic world they’re set in. I also give Scott credit for stopping World War One in his world. Good job, that man.

The Girl of Nightmares – Kendare Blake

Picked entirely because of the beautiful artwork on the cover, I found this was at least the second or third in a series. The story goes that a mystic group imbued a knife with the power to release the unquiet dead – to “kill” ghosts. Now, in the modern day, the wielder of the knife lives in America, and only “kills” the “bad” ghosts, plus he’s fallen in love with a dead girl, and wants to know if the knife can be used to rescue her from hell. Now, aside from the other practical issues here, what kind of mystic group goes to all that trouble then leaves their mystic warriors to their own devices for TWO GENERATIONS? Were they twiddling their mystic thumbs all this time?

I rushed back to the library to hurriedly NOT book out the other books in the series.

Shada – Gareth Roberts

When Eldest Weasel bought herself this book for her birthday, I was intrigued to note that it had Douglas Adams’ name on the cover. DA wrote three Doctor Who episodes for the Tom Baker era Doctor, but the third one was not one of his favourites, and was never completed due to strike action at the BBC. Now the scripts from that story, his notes and the knowledge of the books Douglas wrote later have been brought together to create this novel. It was very good, even though I spent a lot of time tutting and saying “Hitch hiker….Dirk Gently…Dirk Gently…Huh…” as I recognised bits and pieces here and there. Well worth the read if you are a fan of Adams, Doctor Who, Dirk Gently or all three.

Star Wars Omnibus “Menace revealed”

I couldn’t resist adding such a thick collection of Star Wars comics to my library list when I found out they were gathered together in one volume. This bunch includes a couple of tales about Jango Fett and Zam Wesell which changes my view of their working relationship as portrayed in “Episode 2” and a couple more  about Aurra Sing, the mysterious Jedi Hunter. The final few were simply advertisements for toys, being reprints of the short comics that came free with the vehicles and figures on sale, but I enjoyed the first stories enough to make the loan worthwhile.

4th Doctor Who anniversary story: The Roots of Evil – Phillip Reeve

There are some cracking authors in this anniversary series. I’ve been a fan of Phillip Reeve since picking up “Mortal Engines” on a whim and reading the whole series thereafter. Now THAT’s a series begging to be a movie AND  a computer game. I would pay good money to fly the Jenny Hanniver from Traction City to the Air Market… But that ‘s NOT what this book’s about. This is an adventure of the fourth Doctor, traveling with the wonderfully savage Leela and discovering an entire floating world made from a single, enormous tree.

Plain Kate – Erin Bow

When I began reading “Plain Kate” I really felt like I had stumbled across a good old fashioned children’s story. The world was recognisable, but old, the characters were simple, but believable and there was a touch of magic. Things got dark quickly, however, and I raced on through the book, waiting for the tide to turn and Kate’s life to improve.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll say it’s definitely worth the read. It’ll strain the heartstrings of even the toughest reader, and I would hesitate before offering it to any of the Weasels, since they all have such soft hearts. Mrs Dim is working through it now, and “enjoying” it.

Michael Vey: The prisoner of cell 25 – Richard Paul Evans

I’ve seen a brilliant map that someone has created, showing many of the lands from fiction as if they shared the same world: Middle Earth, Westeros, Narnia, Panem… I was thinking there should be a similar thing to show the many bunches of renegade kids with super-powers running about the place.

This book doesn’t have much new to say on the subject of being a kid with superpowers, but it was an engaging read and I found myself flying through the book to see if the villains get their comeuppance at the end. Rather than answer that question, I’ll just say there’s a second book in the series….

The Bughouse Affair – Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini

I have to be honest, I picked this one up, assuming it to be another steampunk detective piece, but it’s not – it’s a period detective piece. If you’re a fan of San Francisco, or the 1890’s, or of books that feature cameos by Sherlock Holmes, then this may well be a book for you. Or maybe you just like central characters that say “Bah!” a lot. Sadly, I don’t fit into any of those catagories, and I also have a peculiar need for the title of a book to bear some relation to the content of the book. This book is entitled “The Bughouse Affair” and deals with burglaries, pickpocketing and Sherlock Holmes. NOT elementary.

From a Buick 8 – Stephen King

I’ve been a King fan for years, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read this particular book. It’s an interesting story, particularly if you’ve worked your way through the rest of the King canon, because what the book is about is a piece of a much larger story, yet you don’t NEED to know that other story to appreciate this one.

Troop D are keeping an old Buick in a shed, and it has a dangerous and strange history. When the son of a trooper who was killed in a roadside accident begins to ask questions about the shed, it’s time to tell the strange story and lay the ghosts to rest.

Apologies for linking all these books to Amazon.com, and not having the techno-savvy to allow the link from the picture to show the inside of the books.

I know some of my reviews are harsh, both here and last month, but these are the books that I stuck with to the end. They may not, in some cases, have made my favourite list, but they were engaging enough to hold my attention. There are books not mentioned here because I didn’t finish them.

And, of course, the other book I’ve been reading a lot in the last month is my own : The Great Canadian Adventure .  I’ve been putting this account of our first year in Canada together for the last couple of years, but a concerted effort this month has produced the kindle edition, complete with colour photographs and hyperlinks. I certainly haven’t seen another kindle book like it. Let me know what you think of it.

I DO have all the links for this one:

Amazon.Com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CKZQUX4
Amazon.co.uk : http://amzn.to/12WTomY
Amazon.ca : http://amzn.to/ZWv5XD