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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Changing the World: The Geography of Alternate History

In this great chain of causes and effects, no single fact can be considered in isolation.

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859)​

Alternate history is all about contingency. In layman’s terms, asking “what if?”

We look at what did happen historically and we ask “what if it had happened differently?” What if a certain famous battle had been won by the other side? What if a famous statesmen or politician had never been born? What if a great empire had never risen? When we ask these questions we instinctively understand the notions of cause and effect — one event drives another; actions have consequences. What happens in history is contingent upon what events happened before.

If you change the past, you change the future.

Alternate history is a rejection of historical determinism. For it to be possible for events to have occurred differently to those in our own timeline, history cannot be predetermined. If you set your point-of-divergence back far enough, nothing in history is inevitable.

But what if some things are? What if certain circumstances in history actually do make certain outcomes inevitable, or at least highly likely? How might the deck be stacked in favor of our timeline, and what does this mean for alternate history and for the stories and timelines we want to write?

In this series of articles I’ll be exploring the concept of geographical determinism as it can be applied to alternate history — and specifically how physical geography influences the course of history.

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Steampunk Has Its Own Cancel Culture

Noam Chomsky is probably the world’s most famous anticapitalist. David Frum is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush. I doubt they agree on much, but they agree free and open debate is vital to a democracy — and that it’s currently being attacked by the far left as well as the far right.

With 151 other leading intellectuals, including Margaret Atwood, Francis Fukuyama, Michael Ignatieff, Garry Kasparov, J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie, Gloria Steinem and Thomas Chatterton Williams, they caution in a letter to Harper’s that resistance to the illiberalism of the right must not harden into a dogma of the left.

Specifically, they worry that the “censoriousness” of so-called cancel culture is creating a “stifling atmosphere” in which authors self-censor their stories, books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity and editors are fired for publishing controversial opinions.

Their laments will sound familiar to anyone who has been involved in the politics of steampunk. The movement has been taken over by social-justice warriors, who brook no dissent from woke orthodoxy.

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Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns: A Complete Lady’s Wardrobe

Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns: A Complete Lady's Wardrobe

In my review of Patterns of Fashion 2, I mentioned that there are alternatives to that work. This is one of them. Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns (1999) has all the garments a lady living in Victorian-era America was supposed to own. Plenty are geared toward the upper-class woman, but the books contains patterns for a variety of outfits.

All the patterns are reproductions from a dressmaker’s journal called The Voice of Fashion. (Of which this is not the only reproduction, but I digress.)

Personally, I find these patterns much easier to work with than those in Patterns of Fashion 2. Not only are we provided with a short introduction shedding light onto the cost of an American lady’s wardrobe, and what should be in it according to polite society at the time; the methods needed to turn these patterns into a garment that fits your body are pretty well explained.

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The Green Wave

The Green Wave

Cassandra Kelly’s debut novel, The Green Wave, is a most enjoyable one, taking us on a wild adventure with Rosalyn Flynn, Reverend to the Enlightenment Church and airship pilot, from Canterbury to Sydney and far beyond. Along with a cast of characters that are well fleshed-out and equally interesting as the Reverend herself.

Even though the backstories of the characters are kept to a minimum, we are given ample information about them not to be left with tons of questions. Action scenes are descriptive, but short enough to keep you from becoming bored with detail. The author has definitely found that fine line between going in-depth and being overly descriptive.

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Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s Dresses and Their Construction c. 1860-1940

Patterns of Fashion 2

To those who habitually sew historical garments, the Patterns of Fashion series is probably nothing new. To those who don’t: Patterns of Fashions is a series often referred to by costubers, especially those working recreating garments from the past century and before.

Do they live up to the hype?

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The Times of Scrooge McDuck: The Master of the Mississippi

The Master of the Mississippi

The Master of the Mississippi (1992) is the beginning of Scrooge’s American adventure.

Having worked as a cabin boy for passage across the Atlantic, the 13 year-old lad from Scotland finds his Uncle Angus “Pothole” McDuck — who also sought his fortune in the New World — down on his luck in Louisville, Kentucky. But Pothole wins a steamboat, the Dilly Dollar, in a poker match and hires his nephew as deckhand, introducing him to both a lifelong ally — Ratchet Gearloose, the grandfather of Duckburg’s eccentric inventor Gyro — and lifelong enemies: the criminal Beagle Boys.

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Death Shall Come

Death Shall Come

A country manor in the middle of nowhere. The largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in private hands. A curse and the duo of Ishmael Jones and Penny Belcourt. Throw these things together and you know you’re in for an excellent murder mystery.

Is there a curse? Is there really a mummy afoot? Or is it something else entirely?

In this fourth book of Simon R. Green’s Ishmael Jones series, Death Shall Come, we are presented with the same formula of “Ishmael and Penny need to solve a mystery”.

Those who have been reading the series from the beginning will inevitably ask themselves the question: How many people will survive this time?

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