'Sherlock' and 'Hugo' get extra steamy
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" is full of the steampunk aesthetic.
December 16th, 2011
01:10 PM ET

'Sherlock' and 'Hugo' get extra steamy

The first time you look into the eyes of a whimsically lifelike automaton in “Hugo” or watch in horror as the exposed clockwork gears of a Victorian bomb tirelessly turn in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” you know that some wondrous aesthetic is at work. It is just enough to enchant audiences, and they may not even know what the visual technique they adore so much is called.

Steampunk  is a subtle presence in these films but a strong and pleasing “applied aesthetic,” according to “Steampunk Bible” author Jeff VanderMeer, that works seamlessly in each. It adds wonder while preserving the very human aspects of the narratives.

“It doesn’t have to be a movement of a definitional thing,” VanderMeer said. “But people seem to really respond to that aesthetic, and partly it’s because we have a lot of sleek modern design right now that is relatively seamless. Like an iPod is really beautiful in its own way, but it’s not cathedral beautiful.”

But directors like Guy Ritchie and Martin Scorsese are careful not to give all of the attention to the machines. The subtlety of the steampunk aesthetic is why it works.

“There would of course be the impulse to over-clockwork it, and then you lose sight of the characters and stories,” VanderMeer said. “The best steampunk fiction is still character-based, because the gadgets are part of the society and messages involved, but they don’t overwhelm the characters.”

While the retro-futuristic subculture has appeared in shows like "Warehouse 13" and "Doctor Who" as well as movies such as “Van Helsing,” “The Prestige,” “Wild Wild West,” “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” "Sleepy Hollow," "The Time Machine," "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and many others, both Scorsese and Ritchie are enhancing the aesthetic to heighten their movies overall rather than making steampunk a focal point. FULL POST

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Thy fearful gadgetry: Steampunk’s mad scientists
Gadgets are just another cog in the clockwork of steampunk characters.
December 14th, 2011
10:41 AM ET

Thy fearful gadgetry: Steampunk’s mad scientists

While crafting typewriter key arm guards, goggles, clockwork corsets and mechanical replacement arms in his workshop, Brute Force Studios owner and craftsman Thomas Willeford often reaches what he likes to call the “Tony Stark point.”

“I’m working on a project and there’s a point in my head where I’m imagining the mechanics of it,” Willeford said. “My first degree is in physics, so it has to make sense and look like it works. It’s as if I’m making the real thing.”

Willeford grew up in a Victorian house with a “mad scientist” grandfather who was a chemist for DuPont and a grandmother who adored Victorian splendor and design. It’s not surprising that Willeford became interested in steampunk as early as 1988, long before he even knew the term for the subculture.

With the exception of his typewriter key arm guards, all of Willeford’s creations are functional. He is also the author of the first book on how to make your own steampunk accessories, “Steampunk Gear, Gadgets, and Gizmos.” But beyond function, what Willeford and other steampunk craftsmen like him value is the narrative thread that pulls steampunk as a movement together. FULL POST

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Goggles, armor and wings: Gifts for nerdy fashionistas
Clockwork Couture offers one-of-a-kind hats for steampunks.
December 7th, 2011
08:20 AM ET

Goggles, armor and wings: Gifts for nerdy fashionistas

You’re wandering through the mall, intent on spreading holiday cheer and looking for gifts that suit the subculture nerds in your life. The last friend on your list without a check next to their name wears goggles in public and makes a show of checking their pocket watch as moving cogs and wheels adorn their Victorian era suit.

Or perhaps they roll on thick black eyeliner, hammer their own swords in the backyard on Sundays or give anime characters a run for their money by bringing impeccable costumes to life.

So what do you buy for your steampunk, Goth, SCA member or cosplayer friend this holiday season?  Luckily, you’ve tuned into the Geek Out shopping wavelength. FULL POST

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‘Trek Nation’ explores Roddenberry’s final frontier
Fans, like this one in full Borg costume, contributed to "Trek Nation."
November 30th, 2011
11:15 AM ET

‘Trek Nation’ explores Roddenberry’s final frontier

Bernadette McDaid will never forget the moment that she first fell in love with Star Trek. She was 4 years old and playing with her dolls in the yard when her brother rushed outside and pulled her in the house to see something “important.” That was the first time she watched the Starship Enterprise seamlessly glide by on the TV screen.

“I remember seeing this incredible spaceship flying through the cosmos, which was an image I had never even contemplated, and I was hooked from them on,” she said.

McDaid, vice president of production for Science Channel, remains a self-confessed Trekker. So when word reached her that Rod Roddenberry, son of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, was working on a documentary about his father and the Trek phenomenon, McDaid thought it was a perfect fit.

Then, Rod’s interviews with George Lucas, never-before-seen home movies and exclusive Star Trek footage began to roll through the network's office. In one of the true gems, a days-old Rod sits perched atop a model of the Enterprise in swaddling clothes, held in place by his parents.

Just profiling Gene Roddenberry would have been enough, but as the project developed, it became a truly personal look at both the creator and his handiwork, as seen through the eyes of his friends, colleagues, wife, actors, fans and ultimately, his grown son. FULL POST

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Frills for your steampunk Fido
November 18th, 2011
11:07 AM ET

Frills for your steampunk Fido

If watching a pug scoot and scamper around in a Wampa costume already made you clutch your heart and giggle at your desk this week, then prepare for the next wave of adorable, nerdy pets.

Steampunks are known for taking extreme care with their elaborate costumes, from the mini top hat perched jauntily atop their heads to the buckled and cog-adorned lace-up boots on their feet. So it's only to be expected that their pooch be dressed to the clockwork nines as well, right?

Enter one of our favorite phenomenons, the steamcritter.

While you may not go all out and dress your dog in a top hat, embroidered vest and tie - like Krusher the steampunk gentleman - you can always perk up your pooch with a frilly lace collar that would match any personal brand of steampunk.

Kristine Hawthorne sells steampunk gowns in her Etsy shop, Helene Hawthorne Fashions, but she also has some frills for Fido as well. We took a moment for a cyber chat with Ms. Hawthorne about her lace collars and why she started putting them up in her store. FULL POST

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