Tag Archives: steampunk

Light Up Your Summer Nights With Some Great Gaslight Fantasies: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec and The Eterna Files

22 Aug

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

extraordinary-adventures-of-adele-blanc-sec
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is a French film based on the graphic novels of the same name by Jacques Tardi.  Adèle Blanc-Sec is an adventurous Victorian-era Parisian reporter who seems a fusion of Nellie Bly and Indiana Jones.  She is played by Louise Bourgoin who manages to seem proper and intelligent even in the film’s more comedic moments.  Adèle goes to Egypt hoping to find Ramses II’s physician who she believes when revived will be able to heal her sister who is currently in a comatose state due to a tragic hatpin related accident.  But upon returning home she finds that the professor she had counted on to bring back the mummy is on death row since he was practicing his telepathic technique by hatching a pterodactyl egg; the pterodactyl is now soaring around Paris causing mayhem.  There is also a romantic subplot and lots of humor in this fun French Action Adventure from Luc Besson, the man behind The Fifth Element.  If you are a steampunk fan you should love this film as much as I did.  You can borrow the DVD of the film and the first volume of the graphic novels it is based on from BCCLS Libraries.

The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber

eterna-files
The Eterna Files is the first novel I had read by Hieber, but I had enjoyed her story, Charged, in the short collection Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: A Collection of Gaslamp Fantasy I wrote about in a previous post.  I had the opportunity to see Hieber read at the Steampunk’s World’s Fair and with her background as a trained actress, she truly brought the characters to life.  You can see her reading samples of her work on her YouTube channel and for those in the area come see her do a special presentation about the Ghosts of New York right in time for Halloween on October 29.  The Eterna Files focuses on two teams of scientists and mystics, one in the United States attempting to create immortality and the other in England investigating supernatural events and attempting to stop the Americans from creating an eternal leader.  The Eterna Files is set during the Victorian period and the clothes and locations are vividly described.  There are a lot of characters to keep of track of but I enjoyed the interweaving of the two teams’ narratives.  A few characters are also featured in her other works and I’m interested to check them out as well, but did not feel that I was at a disadvantage having not read them before The Eterna Files.  The Eterna Files and several of Hieber’s other novels are available from BCCLS libraries.

Bonus Book:
Insider’s Guide to Steampunk Fashion by Hannah Rothstein

steampunk-fashion
For those inspired by these titles and wanting to get in to some Neovictorian fun, check out Hanna Rothstein’s Insider’s Guide to Steampunk Fashion available to Hoboken and other BCCLS card holders through Hoopla.  This short nonfiction work will give you a brief overview of steampunk’s inspiration and the different types of outfits that Steampunk cosplayers (fans that dress up in costume) wear to conventions and meetups.  Included are full color photographs and hyperlinks to resources for further information.  Some of her prose is a bit on the florid side with concoctions of mixed metaphors, but due to the nature of the topic that seems apt.  The publisher Hyperink specializes in creating ebooks based on popular online blogs.  Rothstein has a background in fashion studies and art and has written copy for popular hipster retro fashion site Modcloth.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

The Past, Present, and Future Tech: How to be a Victorian, The End of Absence, and Neuromancer

20 May

In the past 11 ½ years that I’ve been at the library, I’ve seen a huge change in how people access materials and stay connected.  Back in 2013, we had a few people using laptops accessing our wifi, but now along with large amounts using laptops, I see many people using smartphones and tablets as well.  We had a few reference databases when I started, but now you can access even more 24/7 reference resources, eBooks, downloadable music, and now even movies and TV shows from Hoopla.  It truly is an exciting time to be a librarian, as libraries and society quickly evolve in ways Melvil Dewey, Thomas Hatfield (HPL’s first librarian), and other early librarians could not have imagined.  In honor of this I wanted to look at three books that span the tech revolution from life in the early industrial revolution days of Victorian England, our present information revolution, and William Gibson’s classic cyberpunk dystopian view of the future.

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection, by Michael Harris.

end-of-absence

I was intrigued to read Michael Harris’ The End of Absence which focuses on what we as a society and individuals might be losing with all the exciting technology gains we are making.  My life would be very different today without the digital world since I found my current job, my husband, my grad school roommate, my previous apartment, some friends, and three pet cats all online.  Harris likens the current changes to those that followed the invention of the printing press and a move away from oral traditions to the printed word.  The End of Absence is part sociology, part philosophical work, with a bit of memoir thrown in.  I found the studies he quoted were mentioned so briefly and the meandering focus, made me drawn to the more personal aspects of the piece that occurred in the second half including when he attempted Analog August where he attempted to return to the lack of tech of his childhood including taping a cord to tether his cell phone so he couldn’t use it outside his home.  For someone who was taking a stance towards the negatives of technology, he surprisingly met his partner online.  I think in the end, the world The End of Absence describes calls for a need for balance.  Technology has great promise, but should not replace basic human interactions.  As the library has increased our digital offerings, we have also increased programs and study space to feed the need for social interaction and quiet learning that may be even greater now in the evolving digital age.

Neuromancer, by William Gibson.

neuromancer
I couldn’t help when reading The End of Absence thinking of the Cyberpunk genre of science fiction, where the future may be high tech, but society has begun to fall apart.  My husband is a huge fan of cyberpunk including movies like the Matrix and his favorite Blade Runner.  Nothing typifies this genre like William Gibson’s 1984 classic Neuromancer, which I was inspired to reread again twenty some years after I had my first encounter.  The novel tells of a damaged computer hacker, Case, who is “fixed” by his mysterious employer in order for him to assist in an epic dangerous hack.   I felt the slang that Gibson uses for his characters was engaging and the twists and turns the story takes as told from the addled perspective of the main character were exiting even if some of the technology depictions seem now dated.  Although the characters with their criminality are not the most sympathetic bunch, I found there was something very charismatic about Molly, the main female protagonist, who due to having permanently had lenses affixed to her eye sockets can no longer cry, but when sad must spit the way her tear ducts have been rerouted.  She also retractable cat-like claws.  This engaging femme fatale first appeared in Gibson’s Johnny Mnemonic and returns in his Mona Lisa OverdriveThe dystopian high tech Japan Gibson created as the main background is compelling, even if as with the rest of his future world, you might not want to live there.

How to be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life, by Ruth Goodman.

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All this talk of high tech dystopia, made me long for the simpler times of the past.  Ruth Goodman’s How to be a Victorian does a great job of capturing the Victorian daily life.  What I especially liked is she brings some of her personal experiences as a reenactor to the account so she describes not only what would have been worn such as a corset or tasks which would have done such as doing laundry, but as a modern woman what that experience is like.  It made me realize how often we look back at the past with nostalgia, but that often new technologies free us from hard manual labor.  The book looks at the lives of all levels of Victorian society from the poor, to the working class, to middle class, to the wealthy.  Although Goodman is British and the book was originally published in the UK some specific American differences in lifestyle for the Victorian era are mentioned.  I especially thought the section dealing with medical practices was fascinating with its look at the balance between the new “scientific” beliefs of male doctors as contrasted with the herbal and folk remedies practiced by wives and mothers.  It made me wonder which of our medical practices in another hundred years may appear to be barbaric and silly.  Goodman spends quite a bit of focus on Victorian dress and styling so those looking to create authentic costumes or get inspiration for fanciful Steampunk creations may enjoy her descriptions.  There are some black and white and a few full color illustrations included.  As much fun as going to a recreation Victorian tea party may be, I feel lucky to live in our present era with its washing machines, dishwashers, and other modern conveniences.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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