Assassin's Creed Unity scene

Airships of War

In the real world, airships weren’t successful weapons of war. Zeppelins were terrifying but inaccurate. Navigation, target selection and bomb aiming were difficult under the best of circumstances. In darkness, at high altitude and amid the English clouds, accuracy was too much to ask for.

British propaganda poster
1916 British propaganda poster depicts a German zeppelin being shot down

German zeppelins were initially immune to attack by aeroplane and anti-aircraft guns. As the pressure in their envelopes was only just higher than ambient, holes had little effect. But once incendiary bullets were developed and used against them, their flammable hydrogen lifting gas made them vulnerable at low altitudes. Several zeppelins were shot down in flames by British defenders. Others crashed on the way to England. The Germans started flying higher and higher, but this only made their airships even less effective.

The zeppelin campaign proved to be a disaster in terms of morale, men and material. Many pioneers of the German airship service were lost.

But why let such facts stand in the way of a good story?

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Mauro Cerati artwork

Nothing to See Here, Steampunk Is Doing Fine!

My “Who Killed Steampunk?” story from April continues to make the rounds with an unfortunately common reaction being to stick one’s head in the sand. Many people seem to believe that because they’re still doing steampunk, or because there is a well-attended steampunk event in their region, the entire movement must be doing fine.

The introduction to a recent op-ed by performer Professor Elemental in The Steampunk Explorer goes so far as to reassure readers that not only “everything is fine,” but steampunk is “better than it ever was in fact.”

It contains no evidence for this “fact”. I’m not even sure it’s what Elemental believes. In his op-ed, he recognizes that blogs and message boards have disappeared (although I think he’s overly optimistic when he writes, “Fewer blogs and message boards about steampunk means there are fewer blogs and message boards, not less steampunk”), that events have been canceled, and he has noticed the same attitude I blamed in April for “killing” steampunk: a tendency to scrutinize every steampunk costume, creation and story for signs of Eurocentrism, imperialism, misogyny and racism.

As Elemental puts it:

Subcultures like ours don’t do well under extreme scrutiny.

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Carnival Row, Season 1

Carnival Row

Carnival Row, Amazon Prime’s neo-noir Victorian SteamGoth fantasy series, has come to the many fortunate enough to be able to watch it. Combining the worlds of the fae and humanity has never been so well done.

A lot of it is hitting a little close to home: immigrants trying to build a new life after fleeing their wartorn homelands, intolerance, discrimination, ghettos. It’s clear the creators took a good look at human history — Victorian, World War II-era and contemporary.

It shows, not just in the storyline, but in the cinematography. The wardrobes, the uniforms, everything. This is the best fantasy with horror elements since Penny Dreadful (our review here) and it is a shame it isn’t more easily available, because it has a strong story with a talented cast.

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Lantern City concept art

The Art of Lantern City

Lantern City was an ambitious attempt to create a trans-media steampunk experience. Set on a parallel Earth where the majority of the population is oppressed by a ruling class that literally lives above the rest, the franchise focused on an underground resistance movement.

The project spawned an illustrated novel (2013) and comic book series (2015-16), but a planned TV series never got underway.

Luckily, we still have the concept art!

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Amsterdam Damrak Boulevard design

Unbuilt Amsterdam

Amsterdam could have had a Parisian-style boulevard.

Around the turn of the last century, the city council accepted proposals for a new commodity exchange. It initially favored a design sponsored by hotelier W.P. Werker, who would have demolished a whole street of buildings between the Dutch capital’s central railway station and the Royal Palace on the Dam Square to create something of a miniature Champs-Élysées.

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