Tag Archives: Steampunk Hands

Steampunk Hands Around the World #1: Research Road Trip

A big part of my steampunk life is writing. I create alternative histories, with a twist and a touch of gadgetry.  My biggest tool is research. I make myself more familiar with historic facts and tiny details,  then change certain situations, extrapolate ramifications and create a new story.

So stoke up the fire. Let loose the steam, and buckle up and join me on my most recent research road trip:

Adelaide History:

There are several references to Adelaide’s history in many of my steampunk stories, including Hunted and All that Glitters .
I’m currently doing research for a new book and another steampunk short story. Both overlap on areas of background  research: on family names (story background) and local cemeteries (for setting).
There’s a photo board of early Adelaide settlers in the foyer of the State Library, but did you know you can also access the list online? http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/
But nothing beats a research road trip.
I phoned the Adelaide Hills council to check on historic cemeteries. Modern city cemeteries invoke a picture of isles of green grass and silent serenity. The upcoming scene is set in a small historic cemetery in the hills – a conglomerate of various ones I’ve visited in the past. I needed to remind myself of the atmosphere and the sounds.

Some dates from the day’s research:

In 1860, a law was passed restricting burials to official cemeteries. Houghton cemetery was established in 1854, with records kept from 1864. The earliest headstones I found were from 1862. It is still in current use. 
The newer sections are indeed clothed in luscious green grass but much of the area is compacted earth with gravel roads and paths  (so my fictional gardener is appropriate) .
From a writerly point of view:
  • Sounds included: crows, wind, distant vehicles, gravel crunching underfoot and dry leaves.
  • Smells: dust, eucalyptus, petrichor (love that word); it started raining when we were there.
  • I watched the rain bouncing off black marble which had become a mirror reflecting nearby headstones.
  • There was an air of melancholy calm.
Research is important to me. It gives me the feel of a location, allowing me to attempt to recreate the emotions on the page. I can still hear the sounds of the crunching leaves, the wind in the trees and the serenade of the crows.
I’m a visual person so a lot of my research is recorded in photographic form. I checked with the local council. Photography was allowed. To honour them and in respect to their families, I’m only posting photos that don’t display names of the deceased.
Trees, gravel road and compacted earth.
Decoration from 1862
Decoration from 1886
and later:
I was surprised to find some early headstones with quite intricate carving work.
Headstone makers’ marks:
and 1874
Various materials were used over the past one hundred years: slate, stone, marble. Black marble is used commonly these days. Each weathers differently.  There were entire family plots, the widest ranging I found was from 1880s to current.
My feelings are mixed after this research visit. There are so many stories that we will probably never know and so many lives recorded by their relatives. Yet the memory of so many unmarked graves and unreadable headstones fills me with sadness.
This road trip provided another experience, which may one day find its way into future stories, enriching characters and places.

Bonus – Research Road Trip Video

Photography and film ©2018 Karen Carlisle.

Follow the entire Steampunk Hands Around the World tour HERE
on the FB event page HERE

Steampunk Hands Around the World 2018

Next month is Steampunk Hands Around the World month. I’m going on a road trip. Jump in the wagon and join the ride!

For more information read Airship Ambassador’s

“Steampunk Hands Around the World IV
Get your steam vehicle powered up – we’re going on a Steampunk Road Trip! Join in to see the interesting people, places, and groups which are part of our steampunk community all around the world.”

Steampunks from all over the world share posts via Airship Ambassdor’s webpage and a dedicated FB page.#SHAW #steampunkhands

Artwork © 2018 Alex Xpike

Re-imagining a Better World

Historical re-enactment is often accused of avoiding the real world, ignoring history’s atrocities or hiding in the past. Sometimes all three. In my experience this is not the case. Most re-enactors (and historians) will tell you it is important to look back and analyse history so we can learn from past mistakes, to improve our future.

One of the most important reasons to look back into and analyse the past is to learn from society’s mistakes. Steampunk looks into the past, but with modern eyes; it is a re-imagination of the past, not a slavish re-creation. Colonial England was all about domination and power, a way to fuel the economy of mother England. Instead, we can embrace the diversity of cultures. The ‘punk philosophy’ inspires us to question authority, society’s ethics, politics and gender roles and encourages us to look for solutions for society’s short-falls. Doing so allows us to embrace cultures and celebrate diversity.

Suna Dasi of Steampunk India is one example: “Transferring this and many other aspects of Victorian society to an alternate, Post-Mutiny India, incorporating native characters unhampered by traditional gender roles, seems an opportunity for fiction that is too good to let lie.”

Through steampunk, and Steampunk Hands, I discovered Josué Ramos  award winning writer of science fiction, terror and historic tales. Josué is part of the Spanish steampunk community, organising the EuroSteamCon Madrid and posts regularly on (huzzah, for google translation) his blog Mundosteampunk. You can find my 2015 Steampunk Hands guest blog on Mundosteampunk here.

El Investigator is part of the Mexican steampunk community and has been involved in varied steampunk anthologies.

Beyond Victoriana is another blog celebrating multicultural steampunk. Its founding editor, Diana M. Pho, wrote the introduction for Steampunk World, an anthology published in 2014, and funded via Kickstarter. It contained stories from around the world, showcasing the diversity to be found. I’m eagerly awaiting the follow-up anthology, Steampunk Universe – also funded via Kickstarter. Stories highlight disabled and aneurotypical characters. Both have cover art by steampunk artist, James Ng.

The way we express steampunk is wide-ranging. Events range from family picnics, fundraising events and conventions to music events. Music style varies; rap, punk, folk, jazz, swing and rock are all represented in bands such as Professor Elemental, The Cog is Dead and The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing.

At a local level, we also have participants of varied educational and vocational backgrounds. Even the degree to which individuals experience steampunk is diverse. Some dip their toe in the genre by reading books, watching movies, listening to music or wearing costumes to the local convention. Others delve deeper – creating alternate personas and joining forums. Some immerse themselves, living the steampunk lifestyle to the full or embarking on steampunk-related careers.

For me, the diversity of those who enjoy steampunk is one of its attractions. Steampunk is inclusive. I can be myself, part of a welcoming and diverse community. And it has made my life richer as a result.