Steampunk and Science

You may have noticed a certain absence of mine over the last few days. I have been in Leeds, taking a small holiday from my academic work, and working (less than steadily, however) on the work I have here on the blog, for irony notwithstanding. Yet, I had the pleasure of tailing my dear steamsona, Lady Summer Chronaire, as she occupied her time in her Sergeant’s airship and at the market in town that appears quarterly.

We also had the great fun of meeting eminent musician Professor Elemental. You may have heard of him. 😉

For me, the Prof’s setlist seemed to go far too quickly. He zoomed through abridged versions of his hits and performed a couple of new songs, but I would have loved to have heard more from the great man. Nevertheless, he’s one of those performers who is so genuine, even on album recordings. The sound quality of his live performances was on par with his albums, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

From The Sergeant’s camera. The lovely Isabella Bunny Bennett of Steam Powered Giraffe (my favourite band) liked this photo when it found its way onto Professor Elemental’s personal Facebook. Now I have a better claim to fame than having been on the same set as Benedict Cumberbatch 😉


The support act, Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers, was also amusing. Apart from the cheese song (I make a point of not liking cheese!), their music was entertaining and I think it appealed to most of the steampunks in the room.

Anyway, musical interludes aside, being immersed in the culture steampunk is so helpful for writing the genre and that of fantasy (which is why I make a note of it in my author’s bio when I query). I think merely seeing how people compose themselves in their costumes and how they are able to wander around in bustles and mechanicals is so useful for the physical, or actualised, movements of fictional book characters. One tends to act differently when in Victoriana, even when one is not constrained by the outfits we wear.

lab gear: Lab gear from Steampunks in Space at Leicester Space Centre, November ’14
lab gear: Lab gear from Steampunks in Space at Leicester Space Centre, November ’14

I was also given the opportunity to test out Lady C’s science value. I don’t know if there’s such a value as ‘science value’, but I mean by it the way Lady C is interpreted by those who first see her. Certainly, Lady C can be better recognised as a [mad or not is to be decided] scientist* if she is in her lab gear – and even in lecture uniform with her lab coat over the top.

Lady C at the Surrey Steampunk Convivial, February ’15, in lecture-wear as she analyses a leisurely game of jenga, photo by Jean Riddler

However, whilst some scientists are obvious in their outfits, I have no choice but to be less so, due to my inability to craft myself something special or primarily unique that screams scientist. When Lady Summer donned a more casual outfit of a blue corset and a green skirt for the Saturday, she had some people mistake her for some Ariel of the Steampunk world. Just imagine! It goes without saying that I was more than a little miffed, but I had someone to hold my hand when I needed it. 😉

However, Sunday’s outfit – although, ironically, it was her first dress and I consider it a more formal one, complete with petticoat and cairngorm – caught attention for the right reasons.

My collection of potions and fruits (necklaces in true form, but used as decorations for this instance) may have helped. I even bought myself another little potion, a make-shift DIY version however, of grey sulci in fluid**. To change this outfit from the regal, straight Victoriana one I wore for Lincoln’s activities, I added Lady C’s belt from her lab outfit, attached the trusty leather phone case, and tucked one of Doctor Geoff’s brains +4 badges above the collection of vials.

Tut tut, Lady Chronaire. Call that holding a flask?
Tut tut, Lady Chronaire. Call that holding a flask?

Next: a squidgy brain toy to carry around. Actually, can I just have one for my birthday? It would help with my revision, I swear! 😉

I had planned to wear my quill and science notebook on the Sunday, but I couldn’t find the quill in the mist of my bag and I doubted the notebook would have fitted in the weave of my belt. If I had the money (which I rarely do, poor starving artist), I might commission a leather holster for my notebook, as the Sergeant has for his tea instruments and the occasional *cough* nerf *cough* gun.

We mustn’t forget my trusty familiar, Gormley. He finally found his balance on my shoulder – sloe gin notwithstanding, though it’s been a couple of months since either of us have touched the good stuff – whispering threats of using my money on pointless objects, such as yet another collectable bookmark, or badges pledging allegiance to our Feline Overlords.***

Speaking of purchases, I finally found a suitable photo-frame. I’ve been searching for one for a while, but have found nothing nice and simple and the right size for your typical printed photo. I only wanted a simple silver one, since the photo in question in rather bright itself. However, I did stumble across one with some background cog decorations and this motif:

There is so much meaningful about that statement that I was pulled towards the frame regardless of my prior interests. When, the Saturday, it was sold, I felt those pangs of regret – and even still when my eyes grazed a very similar copy on the Sunday. I knew I had to buy it. For love.

So, that was my weekend, my market at Armley Mills experience. My attempt at giving Lady Chronaire more of her personality, as I would do one of my fictional characters. After all, being a steampunk is living fiction.

Oh, and The Sergeant and I sneaked into a photo in Sunday’s Yorkshire Evening Post.

Science, my dear gentleman.

Interested in the Steampunk culture or Steampunk/alternative-history fiction? You might like the other posts under the Gears and Cogs Alive! category of this blog. In addition, I frequently blog about my personal experiences of the British Steampunk society, so stick around the site and feel free to message me with questions about the genre.

*To be more specific: a psychobiologist-in-training, a student researcher at the Royal Berkshire University

**That’s brain-matter in blood to those of you not accustomed to psychology terminology

***This is a real thing


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