The Art of James Ng

If you’ve ever searched for steampunk art, there’s a good chance you’ll have found James Ng’s “Imperial Airship”. But did you know this is only one in a series of artworks? Called Imperial Steam & Light, they depict a world in which China, not the United Kingdom, industrialized first.

The Hong Kong-born Ng imagines the possibilities:

Maybe skyscrapers would look like Chinese temples? Cars would look like carriages? Perhaps China will still be in imperial rule? And maybe we would have fantastical machines that look both futuristic and historical.

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Lost Cause: Genre Trope to Avoid

Now that monuments to the Confederacy have been torn across the United States, non-Americans may be wondering why the country honored a rebellion in the first place.

The reason is the “Lost Cause”: an extensive mythology developed in the aftermath of the Civil War by Southern artists, authors and politicians, which denied the true cause of the conflict (slavery) and idealized the Antebellum South.

Gone with the Wind

The best-known example is the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind, which was based on a 1936 novel of the same name by Margaret Mitchell. But there were many more books, magazines, poems, songs and statues that promoted the Lost Cause. Cities, streets and military forts were named after Confederate leaders. The Confederate battle flag was incorporated into the state flags of Georgia and Mississippi.

The goal was to give defeated white Southerners a new sense of pride and purpose and roll back the emancipation of freed slaves.

Given how omnipresent the Lost Cause was in Southern art and literature, and how widespread Confederate nostalgia remains, it can seep into our alternate histories if we aren’t careful. So let’s take a look at what the Lost Cause is and how it can work, so we know what to avoid.

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Kevin Steele’s Steampunk Books Archived at Never Was

For the last four years, Kevin Steele published hackneyed book reviews and lists at his website, Steampunk Books. A fan of Mark Hodder, Stephen Hunt and China Miéville, he recommended A Red Sun Also Rises, The Court of the Air and the Bas-Lag trilogy that started with Perdido Street Station. Among his popular articles were the ten best steampunk books, four steampunk clichés and steampunk novels that should be made into movies.

We exchanged links and some content with Steampunk Books, so when Kevin’s website went down we happily agreed to host his stories in an archive here at Never Was. Visit the overview page or follow the tag to find them all.

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The Times of Scrooge McDuck: The Buckaroo of the Badlands

The Buckaroo of the Badlands

Much like he entered the steamboat business at the dawn of the railway era in The Master of the Mississippi (annotations here), Scrooge seeks his fortune in the American West when it was scarcely “Wild” anymore in The Buckaroo of the Badlands (1992). At age 15, Scrooge is employed by Murdo MacKenzie, the Scottish-born Montana cattle baron, and meets the later president Theodore Roosevelt (although he doesn’t know it yet).

Keno Don Rosa skillfully integrates the tidbits about Scrooge’s cowboy days Carl Barks had revealed over the years, starting with “Only a Poor Old Man,” published in the very first issue of Uncle Scrooge (1952), in which the then richest duck in the world tells Huey, Dewey and Louie he made his fortune “on the seas, and in the mines, and in the cattle wars of the old frontier.”

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Mortal Engines

Mortal Engines

Mortal Engines has one good idea: put cities on wheels. The rest of the movie is a succession of clichés.

Humanity has nearly destroyed itself in the equivalent of a global nuclear war. What remains of Western civilization are bandits and imperialists. In the East, peace-loving people thrive behind the protection of an enormous wall. Angry girl Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) eventually mellows and falls in love with well-intended but naive boy Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), who together avert doomsday at the last minute.

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Why a Message Board Is Better Than Facebook

When I got involved in diesel- and steampunk, most of the online communities were message boards. Now most are on Facebook.

It has not been an improvement. Interactions in message boards were more civil and informative than they typically are on Facebook (or Twitter for that matter). Message boards were never enormous, so you could become a well-known member and make friends. Some of the fellow alternate-history aficionados I met in message boards are still acquaintances and in some cases Never Was contributors.

The problem with Facebook is that everyone is on it. But that is also its power. It’s why most people, when they want to create a community, create a Facebook group.

That’s not what we did for the Never Was Lounge. Here’s why.

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Dreams of Arab Unity

Proposals for unification of the Arab world are more than a century old. Sharif Hussein ibn Ali of Mecca, the steward of the holy cities of Islam, was the first modern Arab leader who sought independence for his people from the Ottoman Turks.

The British, who at the time controlled Aden and Egypt, promised to support Hussein’s ambitions if he would revolt against the Ottomans during the First World War; a promise Britain infamously reneged on.

It would be the first of many disappointments for pan-Arabists.

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