Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Coney Island (1917)

After our look at the historical Coney Island amusement park, a turn-of-the-century icon of American entertainment, it is only fitting to present the 1917 comedy short Coney Island. This film stars Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and his then-partner Buster Keaton, but is as notable for both The Great Stone Face's emoting and its scenery of Coney Island.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Monday, 28 April 2008

Coney Island

Meet Me Down at Coney Island (1930)

When it comes to the amusement park... the classic fairyland of boardwalks, sideshows and rickety old wooden rides... there is no greater an icon than New York's immortal Coney Island.

For the residents of New York living in those decades surrounding the turn of the century 19th century, Brooklyn's spit of beachfront property along the Hudson River was shangri-la. It first drew attention in the wake of the American Civil War, with beaches, clam beds, and horse racing. The first carousel was installed in Vandeveer's bath-house in 1876, with meticulously hand-carved horses. Nathan's Famous invented the hot dog there in 1916. A bustling avenue called The Bowery led to the beach and later amusement parks, but also tempted the visitor with sights, sounds and lights, rides and sideshows, gambling, fortune tellers and dance halls.

This was followed by the island's three historic amusement parks: Luna Park, Steeplechase Park and Dreamland. Luna Park was perhaps the most magnificent of the three parks. Originally Captain Paul Boyton's Sea Lion Park, it was purchased as competition against Steeplechase Park and rechristened Luna Park in 1903. A motto on the gate described Luna as "The Heart of Coney Island", and that it was.

Entering the park, the visitor was swept down a surreal promenade featuring, until 1905, a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea cyclorama ride. This was replaced by the Dragon's Gorge, which sent visitors on a trip through the Grand Canyon, North Pole, Africa and Hades. Fir trees and flags lined this avenue to fairyland, welcoming the harried masses to a timeless escape. The main attraction was the Shoot the Chutes, but visitors also enjoyed the Helter Skelter slide, the circus, and the War of the Worlds miniature naval show. At the centre of Luna was the Electric Tower and a crystal lagoon, which lit up at night with 250,000 electric lights. Maxim Gorky wrote, in 1907:
With the advent of night a fantastic city all of fire suddenly rises from the ocean into the sky. Thousands of ruddy sparks glimmer in the darkness, limning in fine sensitive outline on the black background of the sky, shapely towers of miraculous castles, palaces and temples. Golden gossamer threads tremble in the air. They intertwine in transparent, flaming patterns, which flutter and melt away in love with their own beauty mirrored in the waters. Fabulous beyond conceiving, ineffably beautiful, is this fiery scintillation.

Eventually the park fell on harder times. It gained some measure of noteriety by providing the elephant Topsy to Thomas Edison for his filmed exhibit of electrocution by Tesla's Alternating Current. The park suffered a fire in 1944 and closed forever in 1945.

Steeplechase Park was built in 1897 and was renouned for its Ferris Wheel and the steeplechase mechanical horse racetrack ride that surrounded the glass and steel Palace of Fun indoor park. In 1940, the Steeplechase acquired the Parachute Jump from the 1939-40 New York World's Fair, where it has remained despite the 1964 closure and demolition of the park. The inopperable Jump is affectionately nicknamed "Brooklyn's Eiffel Tower".

Of these past amusement palaces, the story of Dreamland is perhaps the most tragic. This was a Coney Island epic... Built in 1904, Dreamland possessed an almost World's Fair-like atmosphere. Stunning Art Deco buildings overlooked a lagoon and housed miniature Swiss railways and Venetian canals, a Japanese tearoom, an airship ride, dance hall and a shoot-the-chutes. There was also the Bostock Circus, featuring liontamer Captain Bonavita. At night, the complex, central tower and lagoon - like Luna Park's - were lit up in a million electric lights.

Sadly, an accidental fire in May of 1911 grew unchecked until it engulfed all of Dreamland. The entire facility was reduced to charred cinders, and never rebuilt. Today, the New York aquarium occupies the same plot of land.

Vesitges of Coney Island's playful past still exist. The Cyclone roller coaster was built in 1927, replacing the earlier Giant Coaster. One of the largest remaining wooden roller coasters, its incredible intensity still thrills riders today. The massive Wonder Wheel ferris wheel, completed in 1920, features both stationary and moving cars along its circumference, and is both a designated historic resource and centrepiece of the family-owned, family-oriented Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. In the tradition of Coney Island's long history of sideshows, there is also the Sideshows by the Seashore arts collective and a museum chronicling the past of this remarkable place of enchantment.

Find out more about Coney Island and its restoration efforts from Anotehr magnificent site is The Coney Island Pages.

Friday, 25 April 2008

West Edmonton Mall

West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, was one of the first megamalls in the vein of the Mall of America that included theme parks, aquaria, mini-golf and other large-scale diversions in order to bring in customers. Over the past decade, in order to revitalize itself, the mall has been adding massive amounts of fibreglass in the shape of neat things.

Of the greatest interest are those around the former submarine lagoon. It was once joked that West Edmonton Mall had a larger submarine fleet than Canada itself... Much like how it was joked that Disneyland had one of the largest sub fleets in the world. Like the Disneyland version, this one involved a trip to a ship graveyard, an attack by squid and the discovery of Atlantis (as well as one of the original sharks from Jaws and an underwater T-rex locked in mortal combat with an anaconda, for some reason). Where the W.E.M. version differed from the Disneyland version was that the mall's had real fish: actual glassed aquaria were set into the heavily chlorinated water of the ride. The showpieces were the lavish tanks also visible from the underground Sea Life Caverns aquarium and the underwater view of the dolphin enclosure.

The submarines are long gone now, lying motionless along their former track while bumper boats and radio-controlled pirate ships use a postage stamp of the lagoon's real estate. The trick-performing dolphins are gone as well... Victims of the unhealthy, recycled air of the mall. A group of performing sea lions have taken their place. But to bring some life back to this part of the mall, they've neatly dressed it up in fibreglass imitations out of Jules Verne and Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

The main piece is the entrance to the Sea Life Caverns, which looks like a piscine submarine. Descending the stairs, the interior mostly retains the Victorian metalworking look.

Also lurking around the former submarine lagoon is this drydocked subpod...

Which thematically links to an identical fountain/subpod at Professor WEM's mini-golf course...

Once upon a time, the mini-golf course at West Edmonton Mall was a scale replica of the famed Pebble Beach course. Rather elegant with its rockwork, streams, ironwork bridges and the like, Pebble Beach visually matched quite nicely with the Europa Boulevard shopping area above it on the second floor. Formerly a wonderful place for fashion shopping or taking in a light breakfast at a cafe (inevitable if you were staying at the mall's Fantasyland Hotel), Europa Boulevard is a soaring, skylighted, Vienna-themed district.

Times change and in the place of the course's elegance and credentials, it is now a heavily-fibreglassed wacky-putt with the sole saving grace of being a Victorian mad scientist's cartoon fantasy. The centrepiece is Professor WEM himself, in his flying machine (which, unfortunately, reaches up and into Europa Boulevard's visual range).

West Edmonton Mall also sports a theme park called Galaxyland (formerly Fantasyland, until Disney filed a lawsuit), a waterslide/wavepool complex, a skating rink, multiple movie theatres and casinos, the Bourbon Street and Chinatown shopping areas in addition to Europa Boulevard, the Fantasyland Hotel with numerous theme-rooms (including Polynesian, African, Arctic, Victorian Coach, Railroad, and Old West), and a full scale replica of Columbus' Santa Maria.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Jules Verne's Master of the World (1961)

Vincent Price is one of the most well known and beloved celebrities ever to have graced the silver screen. Known primarily for his horror roles, especially in a series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations and other films for American International Pictures, Price was a true Renaissance man. In fact, horror films comprised less than a third of his total film output! Between films, Price was a noted appreciator of American art and poetry as well as a chef and author of numerous cookbooks (his leather-bound Treasury of Great Recipies is perhaps the ultimate Gothic kitchen item). But with regards to film, Price did comedy, romantic leads and starred in several Science Fiction films, including 1958's original The Fly and Return of the Fly. One of these Sci-Fi films was the Jules Verne adaptation in the mold of the Atomic Age, Master of the World.

In Master, released in 1961, Price starred as Robur, the infamous conquerer of the sky and aeronautic equivalent to Captain Nemo. Opposite Price, Charles Bronson played (barely) U.S. Agent of the Interior John Strock, Henry Hull played balloonist and arms manufacturer Mr. Prudent, Mary Webster played his daughter Dorothy Prudent, and David Frankham played her gentlemanly fiance Philip Evans.

The first thing one has to admit is that the plot is lifted almost directly from Disney's famous 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The United States government sends a group of people to investigate mysterious goings on. They soon become prisioners aboard a mad scientist's amazing craft and confront his insane plan to rid the world of violence through this same craft. In the end, the mad scientist's zeal proves to be his undoing. When compared to 20,000 Leagues, Master of the World has both its hits and its misses.

First the misses: produced by American International and directed by B-movie maestro William Witney, the cost that went into Master was terribly low. About the only thing that is really worth its weight is the fantastic Albatross flying machine, a design easily the equal of the Nautilus in Disney's production. The sets look cardboard, though this is amusingly explained by a characteristic of the Albatross... The walls look like paper becuse they are paper, compressed and glued to a stiff building material to help make the airship lighter.

The Albatross, however, sails across clumsy stock footage vistas. I don't know where they pulled this footage from, but at least they could have checked it out first. London at the height of the Victorian era looks suspiciously like London at the height the Elizabethan. Blue screen is par for the time, but much of the acting isn't any less flat. The players are all subdued, and Bronson is practically a manniquin. Only Price is able to really affect anything, that is only by the strength of his natural charisma.

So why bother watching this movie at all then? Where this movie gets a hit on 20,000 Leagues is the script. Written by Richard "I Am Legend" Matheson, the story of Master is far more ambiguous and therefore compelling than Disney's counterpart. The Disney story is fairly simple: Nemo is plainly rendered mad by grief, Professor Arronax swings from scientific sympathy to moral outrage, and Ned Land and Conseil are just along for the ride. Master isn't quite so simple.

While the romantic interest and her rather reprehensible arms-dealing blowhard of a father are your average stock characters, their companions are not. Strock is a suspicious character... Beyond his secret machinations which we are privy to but the other characters are not, he still manages to confound the viewer when one thinks more deeply about him. He claims that he is all for Robur's plan to bring peace, but that he merely disagrees with his methods. Is this so? After all, Strock is an agent of the United States government and thus his loyalty is to that government. Strock also tries to galvanize his allies by saying that Robur is a threat to the world... But Robur is not a threat to the world, merely its governments and armies and especially the American government. Is the cardboard Charles Bronson really a master manipulator of all around him? Could Strock be using obfusicating and passionate rhetoric for his own purposes? Would the American government ever do that?! Noooooooooo...

Then there is the fiance, a gentleman's gentleman. He is the idealist who lives by his codes of proper conduct. He is forthwright, two-fisted, polite but steadfast. For a while, at least. Jealousy and the demands of the "real world" see him become unhinged as Strock is stealing his girl and threatening the validity of his ideals. This confusion eventually drives Evans to duplicity and near murderous madness.

Finally comes Robur, who is even more conflicted than Evans. His motives and personality are far less discernable than Captain Nemo's... We don't know why Robur has decided to wage war on war. The only clues he gives are his apocalyptic quotes from Scripture, and his cause is imbued with far less certitude. He's obviously sure that he wants to do this - to use the threat of invincible power to force the governments to lay down their arms or else - but he is also quite obviously shaken at the destruction he causes for this mission. When the Albatross launches it first assault on an American naval vessel, the whole crew seems grieved and confused over it.

Over the course of the film, Robur becomes increasingly unglued. He treads a fine line between compassion and cruelty, both in his interactions with his captives and in his mission. He is stern with Strock and company while at the same time polite in the extreme. When they are caught in a plot to escape, Robur punishes Evans and Strock by dangling them on ropes beneath the ship. But after passing through a storm, he remembers the two men and panic-stricken, pulls them back aboard and is profusely appologetic. In his mission, after finally growing cold to the destruction he causes and doing away with even the fig leaf of justification in giving the soldiers time to escape their ships and battlements, he cracks and begins a mad bombing run on helpless soldiers.

The picture painted of Robur is that of a man who desires peace but is driven cynically to the means of war, and is slowly unhinged by becoming exactly like what he hates. It is hard to say how Master was intended by its makers or received by its audiences (it is entirely possible that they alike thought that Robur's desire for disarmament was itself mad and that Strock was the red-blooded hero), but today the films speaks as a negative affirmation of pacifism and non-violence.

Instead of a preachy message from a saint, Robur gives us an example of the futility of violence, showing the madness of trying to end war through war. The use of violence destroys him both spiritually and phsyically... Within he is driven insane by the dueling desires of peace and hate, while in the end his mission becomes a victim of its own use of violence. In his zealousness to destroy, Robur damages his own ship. Meanwhile, the very existance of the armoury helps the captives to sabotage the ship, symbolic of Robur's own turmoil and representative of how even admitting violence as an option plants the seeds of one's own destruction.

In the end, Robur experiences a final moment of clarity... Realizing that his own madness was the cause of his undoing, he finds final solace in Scripture. Not the warnings of apocalypse this time, but the stirring hope of the Prophet Isaiah: "and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

Despite its artistic failings, Master of the World is a masterful and meaningful film which uses Victorian Scientific Romance to critique modern society. For this reason, it is well worth seeing.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Dirk Valentine and the Fortress of Steam

This game has been making the round of weblogs and message boards, and for good reason. It's a wonderfully conceived and often challenging pixel-art game. Levels 21 and 22 are especially tough, but there are only 26 altogether, making it a great recreational game. Click below to play!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Steampunk (2008)

Last weekend, we took a special exemption from our usual schedule to extend an offer made by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer for a pre-order discount on their Steampunk anthology. Having done so, it seemed worthwhile to actually review the volume, so that any interested parties might know if it's worth taking up the offer.

As I noted in that previous post, the anthology has a deplorable name that, unfortunately, cannot be helped. I'm loathe to use it myself, due in no small part to the fact that I weigh in closer to what Jess Nevins, in his article in the anthology, refers to as "second generation steampunk" for whom the genre is not "primarily English, urban, static, or melancholy" and divested of (or never possessing of) "The politics of the punk position". Thank goodness.

Despite these personal reflections, Nevins' article is one of the gems of the anthology. Before diving into the meat of the selections by renowned fiction authors, the Vandermeers enlisted the aid of a trio of critics to provide some historical background. Nevins, author of a series of encyclopedias and annotations for Victorian fiction and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics, provides an analysis of Steampunk's roots in 19th century Edisonades. Edisonades were a popular American genre of literature (named after the fact by John Clute) in dime novels that exemplified values of invention, capitalism and expansionism in the North American frontier. Steampunk, Nevins argues, is the counterpoint to this: the gritty, urban fiction of the imperial capital, questioning and punishing invention, capitalism and expansionism.

Rick Klaw follows Nevins' theory piece with a practical survey of where Steampunk has stretched across the pop-culture landscape. He begins with wistful reminisces of Ray Harryhausen films, into the modern Steampunk cyberscape, down through role-playing games, around to television, past anime and back again to the most recent movies. It provides a relatively succinct list of the pinnacles of modern Scientific Romances. Bill Baker brings up the rear with a specific focus on Steampunk in comic books.

After the historical and theoretical articles, the anthology launches into its fine collection of fiction. Represented are such luminaries as Michael Moorcock, Joe R. Lansdale, Paul Di Filippo, James Blaylock and Neal Stephenson. Other names may not be as familiar if one is not a heavy reader of current Science Fiction, such as Mary Gentle, Jay Lake, Ted Chiang, and Rachel E. Pollock. There is an excellent cross-section of material from the past 30 years, though it could certainly have used a biblography at the end recommending further reading, especially for those authors not represented in the anthology. However, as a reader in modern Scientific Romances, the volume is to be recommended.

To take up the Vandermeers' special offer, click on Steampunk Anthology Special Offer

Friday, 18 April 2008

The Original Doctor Who: Edge of Destruction (Story 3, 1964)

The third story of the first Doctor Who, starring William Hartnell, was essentially a filler piece. Costs were running high on an already underfunded show between their previous encounter with the malevolent Daleks and their coming historical run-in. (which we'll look at next time) In order to pad out the episode schedule and to do so on the cheap, writers came up with the two-episode Edge of Destruction.

This was the first of a very few "in the TARDIS" stories, which took place entirely within the confines of the Time Lord's ship. At the end of The Daleks, as the TARDIS was speeding away from petrified Skaro, something shook the ship and knocked out The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara. The quartet finally wakes up, but something has changed... At first they are suffering lethargy and amnesia, barely remembering each other and where they actually are. Inexplicable events - like opening and closing doors, melting clocks and scenes of a cosmic explosion on the viewscreen - lead to paranoia, threats and fisticuffs before the crew can finally come together to solve the crisis.

Edge of Destruction is both a curiosity and a pain to watch. On the positive side, it quite neatly ties up threads dangling over the first two stories, back to the very first episode, while setting the stage for the remainder of the series. As we recall, teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright were unwilling adventurers, kidnapped by The Doctor aboard the TARDIS in order to protect the identities of himself and his granddaughter Susan. So from the outset he has been suspicious of them, and they rightfully angry at him. The problem was only compounded by The Doctor's duplicitous antics in prehistory and on Skaro.

This all comes to a head with the recriminations going back and forth in Edge of Destruction. The accusations and frustrations fly as nobody really knows what in the blazes in going on. The reconciliation in resolving the crisis and afterwards lays out a new groundwork where the group comes together more as a time-tossed family, thrown together by circumstance and error but joining together out of respect and necessity.

The negative points are that the pace is as lethargic as a David Lynch movie... You can tell the characters are amnesiac because they all talk really slowly. It's almost surreal, which in a Lynch movie isn't such a bad thing but in Doctor Who can make things rather tedious. And what causes the crisis is, in itself, rather ridiculous.

However, that said, there are still glowing moments of performance. Most notable is William Hartnell's closing speech... Growing older and more irascible himself, Harntell was famous for fumbling his Sci-Fi-laden lines. The Doctor's constant stumbling over words was, in fact, Hartnell's own stumbles kept in the canon by virtue of the fast-paced filming of the show leaving no time or tape for retakes. In Edge of Destruction, he really delivers... Hartnell flawlessly executes a soliloquy on the birth of a galaxy with a mix of giddy excitement and awe-filled dread. Stunning!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The Original Doctor Who: Aboard the TARDIS

To help put some faces to some names, here is a photo-journal of the first crew of the good ship TARDIS...

William Hartnell as The Doctor

Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright

William Russell as Ian Chesterton

William Hartnell as The Doctor,
watching over his granddaughter,
Carole Anne Ford as Susan Foreman

Monday, 14 April 2008

The Original Doctor Who: The Daleks (Story 2, 1963-64)

When last we left the first (and ostensibly greatest) Doctor Who, he had just taken on a pair of companions in addition to his granddaughter Susan. These were her history teacher Barbara Wright and her science teacher Ian Chesterton, who intruded unceremoniously upon the TARDIS and for their troubles were catapulted 100,000 years into the past. Unfortunately, this First Doctor is new at cascading through time and space and, well, can't quite get them home again.

After the pilot storyline, we now have the proper set-up for the classic British Sci-Fi series Doctor Who... A group of time-tossed travellers aboard a police call box, under the guidance of the mysterious Doctor, going from world-to-world meeting the weirdest aliens ever amassed on screen. As originally conceived, Doctor Who was supposed to have some kind of redeeming, educational value for its Saturday afternoon children demographic. An Unearthly Child took us on the first half of the scheme, taking us into the past to see historical events as they unfold and meet historical personalities as they lived. The second story would deliver on the other half, by taking us into the future and onto alien worlds to nest a little bit of science within rousing tales of Science Fiction.

In the process of this second story, writer Terry Nation would introduce the villains that would turn Doctor Who from a Saturday matinee kiddie show to a national phenomenon. From these humble beginnings, they would come to be as recognizable as the TARDIS itself and grow in stature to become the Doctor's greatest villains. 40 years of television later and they would reach such might that they became capable of destroying the Doctor's own people, the Time Lords. We are talking, of course, about the Daleks.

What is most remarkable about this first contact with this genocidal race of pepperpots is how unremarkable it is. Where 40 years elevated the crotchety old William Hartnell to the cosmic god-like David Tennant, 40 years also elevated the rather humble Daleks to the status of demiurgical devils. When The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara land on the desolate world of Skaro, they do not find an evil empire expanding into space, but a fearful race hiding in its secluded city.

Skaro is a petrified world... Cold and silent, the victim of a nuclear holocaust thousands of years ago when the violent Thals waged a war against the otherwise peaceful and scientific Dals. And in one horrifying moment, the world of Skaro was irrevocably scarred by a doomsday device that laid waste to the planet and its inhabitants.

But the Dals survived, locked away in their technological cities. Or, they survived in a fashion, mutated and disfigured beyond recognition. Their only hope for survival was to imprison themselves in tank-like mobile units powered through a static-electric link with the flooring of their city. It was these new breed of Daleks - emotionless, genocidal, xenophobic monsters - that the TARDIS crew discovered when The Doctor's curiosity overpowered his good sense.

The First Doctor once again demonstrates his early reckless and malicious streak by leading Susan, Ian and Barbara into danger. Desirous of visiting this mysterious, silent city beyond the petrified forest, he concocted a broken fluid link in the TARDIS to have an excuse to investigate. Unfortunately, they found more than they bargained for. Barely escaping with their lives by disabling and costuming themselves in a Dalek shell, they discovered the living race of human Thals. However, the undamaged fluid link came into possession of the Daleks, forcing a daring raid on the city.

The Thals themselves almost made an interesting social commentary until it was undone in a ridiculously ham-fisted reproof of pacifism. Formerly a warrior race, they dedicated themselves to the simple, nonviolent life of hunter-gatherers who avoided the city... Seeing the devastation that war wrought to their entire planet, they really had no choice. However, in order to whip them up into a commando unit, Ian shatters their illusion of nonviolence by provoking a fight over a woman. Because after all, in all sarcasm, nonviolence is just a frivolous luxury to be discarded at the earliest provocation.

At least the TARDIS crew had some reservations about conscripting the Thals into helping them get their fluid link back. Their job might have been easier had they known that the Daleks were planning to launch another atomic weapon and further irradiate the atmosphere, as suited their irradiated, mutated forms. Nevertheless, they've overturned millennia of Thal pacifism with one enraged fist-fight and strike out on a cave-crawl to the city.

The Daleks themselves, as perhaps evident by now, were transparent analogs of the Nazis, right down to raising their plungers in a fascist salute. The war that made the Thals pacifists in turn made the Dals into genocidal xenophobes, drunk with the ideology of their own superiority and fearful of other species to the point of systematic extermination. Their haunting city even has shades of German Expressionist influence in its lifeless halls.

Almost overnight, The Daleks turned this new show Doctor Who into must-watch television for everyone in the UK. The eponymous aliens became phenomenons in their own right, which didn't work so well when the millennial conflict between the Thals and Daleks finally came to its end at the close of episode six. However, when you're bouncing back and forth through time, what meaning can that resolution really have? It wouldn't be the end of the Daleks after all...

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Weekend Update: Steampunk Anthology Special Offer

We're breaking our usual routine of weekday updates with this weekend announcement...

The title is appalling, but Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have put together a fine anthology of modern Scientific Romances and Victorian Cyberpunk stories, including such authors as James Blaylock, Michael Moorcock and Paul Di Filippo. To celebrate its release, they've politely asked us to extend an offer to you:

Publishing house Tachyon Publications and editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have agreed to make their new fiction anthology, Steampunk, available for pre-order at a discounted price. This volume, priced at $14.95, is being offered at $12.00, including free shipping within the United States. Shipping outside the United States will be by Global Priority Mail: $9.50 to Canada and $11.00 to our friends in Europe.

In addition, books ordered through this offer will arrive signed by the editors. Signed and personalized…they will even draw little zeppelins!

What might one expect to find within the covers of this anthology? Metal men, clattering clogs, hydraulic horrors, dashing daredevils, corseted courtesans, and, of course, many and various airships—along with all the thrills and rarified pleasures that you could ever hope to enjoy.

Steampunk features work from Michael Chabon, Neal Stephenson, James P. Blaylock, Joe R. Lansdale, Mary Gentle, Ted Chiang, Michael Moorcock, Jay Lake, Molly Brown, Stepan Chapman, Ian R. MacLeod, Rachel Pollack, Paul Di Filippo, Rick Klaw, Jess Nevins and Bill Baker. In addition, a recommended reading list and other resources are included for your further reading enjoyment.

Be sure to reserve your copy before May 15, the expiration date for this kind offer.

Payment can be made by PayPal to or via check to:

Jeff VanderMeer
P.O. Box 4248
Tallahassee, FL 32315

When ordering, be sure to include where you read about this offer.

More about Jeff VanderMeer:
More about Tachyon Publications:

Friday, 11 April 2008

Isle de Madagascar

I promise, this is the last time you'll have to indulge my vacation slides! Not content to leave out accounts of Madagascar to still photos and dead words, here is, at long last, our full colour and sound video of our adventure. Enjoy!

Click to watch Isle de Madagascar on

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Emily Loizeau: "Je Suis Jalouse" (2006)

As a follow-up to our entry on Dionysos' album La Mécanique du Coeur, we present this quite enjoyable and thematic music video by one of the Dionysos' guest singers, Emily Loizeau. Enjoy Je Suis Jalouse!

Friday, 4 April 2008

More of Madagascar '08

Since I'm not so willing to quickly sweep a globetrotting adventure under the rug, I've decided to showcase more sights of Madagascar. I've even decided to step out from in behind the camera and the keyboard to prove that I, in fact, actually was there!

An antique steam engine, and your humble
journalist tracking lemurs, Berenty.

The war monument in Antananarivo.

The French-influenced Bank of
Madagascar, Antananarivo.

The urban landscape
of Antananarivo.

Isalo National Park, recalling
Conan Doyle's Lost World.

Scenes of Fort Dauphin.


A friendly dog from the Lutheran seminary.

Coffee time.