Archives for category: Photography

So it appears I’m taking a bit of a break from the steampunk/cyberpunk/dark-Victoriana stuff I’ve been doing, and turned my attentions for the moment to anime. But some things don’t change, and just like I corrupted steampunk by inserting handsome, muscular models into scanty steampunkage, I’m doing the same with anime.

Anime is challenging, at least for me, in the way its characters are sexualized. Speaking broadly, both men and women are generally depicted as very young–unless they’re clearly balding or gray-haired or comic. Often the characters themselves are very young: even in anime that is clearly aimed at an older audience, the protagonists can be in a sort of junior-high equivalent, and in those cases in which they’re college-age, they still look more on the junior-high end of things. At least to me. And despite their youth, the characters are often highly sexualized, either overtly through an emphasis on remarkably-developed secondary sex characteristics, or more subtly, through artfully-achieved glances, attitudes, poses, and dialogue.

This tendency is most pronounced, obviously, with female characters, but it’s also very much a thing with male characters as well. Even outside of the gay yaoi (“boy love”) or bishonen (“beautiful boy”) genres, male anime characters are often subtly–and not-so-subtly–sexualized through both art and dialogue.

Anyway, all of this causes a serious sort of cognitive dissonance for me, and no small bit of guilt and anxiety as I realize that the extremely attractive young animated gentleman I’ve grown so fond of is, like, twelve years old. And that is most definitely not OK. Now, anime has an answer: biseinen refers to “beautiful men”–grown male characters who are attractive through their handsomeness, elegance, attitude, intelligence, or even humor. [I’ll refer you this breakdown of the various types: http://blog.honeyfeed.fm/what-is-bidanshibiseinenikemen-definition-meaning/] But that doesn’t help when the protagonists of most more-or-less popular anime, or at least the ones I find interesting, are clearly not grown men.

So to assuage my guilt, I’ve undertaken a new photographic series that takes the inherently sexualized nature of (male) anime characters and–in sort of anime dialogue fashion–melodramatically (and shamelessly) pumps up the bishonen into biseinen. Like my Gentlemen of Steampunk, though, and perhaps even more so, the “Gentlemen of Anime” are not really cosplaying. The anime biseinen, in fact, have been stripped down to the barest prop-and-costume elements necessary to tie them to their bishonen roots, but all suggestion of little-boyishness are gone; these are grown-up versions of the characters they portray.

I decided to do a selective-color approach in most cases, in which the models are rendered in monochrome and their props, costume items, and other key character-identification pieces are color-saturated. My thinking is that this helps pull the models out of the “real” and is more suggestive of an anime or fantasy character.

As I said, this is an ongoing series. I’ve worked with only two models so far, and there will be many more characters and versions of characters to come. The gallery is accessible at EButterfield Photography, and you can see more there. Here, though, are some early samples of what this is all about.

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Mugen from “Samurai Champloo” [model: Quinn Knox]

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Tuxedo Mask from “Sailor Moon” [model: Quinn Knox]

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Ken Kaneki from “Tokyo Ghoul” [model: Quinn Knox]

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Rintarō Okabe from “Steins;Gate” [model: Quinn Knox]

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Shōtarō Kaneda from “Akira” [model: Quinn Knox]

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Mugen from “Samurai Champloo” [model: Osvaldo Romero]

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L from “DeathNote” [model: Osvaldo Romero]

OK so it’s not Father’s Day, exactly, but it’s a day when I’m posting a little post about my dad, so it kinda is.

In my last post, I wrote about my ongoing “Old Red Chair” series. Well, on a recent visit to my dad’s home in Las Vegas, I was showing him some of my recent work, and one of my experimental photos grabbed his attention. It was this one:

Light coming through abandoned house's window

 

From time to time I’ve been known to manipulate photos in Photoshop more than the usual cropping and adjustment that one normally does. Usually, my diddling is limited to ageing and antiquing Steampunk portraits so they look like “found” objects that have been carelessly left lying behind someone’s great grandma’s dresser for some time. But I’ve also occasionally done more elaborate work, combining different backgrounds and filters to create unique scenes, like these:

Here, I placed the model (flipped) into a photo of an old, abandoned room, and desaturated the whole thing to create what I hoped would be a vaguely melancholy, slightly surreal dream image titled Dreaming in a Never Room and captioned thusly: “When I dreamed, I dreamed I was naked and alone in an old abandoned room. The window was barred, and there was no door, no way in or out. I knew I would never leave. I knew the room wasn’t really there. I curled on the hard wooden chair that was the only furniture, and occupied my eternity drawing mystical signs in the thin dust on the rough floor.”

Pretentious and self-important enough? I think so, yes.

Anyway, back to my dad.

My father has painted for as long as I’ve known him, which is a fairly long time these days. His preferred subject matter tends toward locomotives, snowy scenes of central Illinois, antique military aircraft, and the small town in which he grew up. But something about Dreaming in a Never Room grabbed his imagination, and he promptly produced his own version, in his own medium. He did, however, choose not to populate the room with a model, nude or otherwise.  While he’s remarkably accepting of my own personal proclivities (I sometimes think he prefers my husband’s company to mine…), I think the nude young man on a chair was just a step too far for his comfort. So his Never Room is unoccupied. I also suspect that he did not burden his room with self-conscious dream-talk, since that’s not really his thing, either. I suspect that if you asked him about it, he’d say “It’s a painting of an old red chair in an old empty room.” Well, in fact, I more than suspect it. Here’s what he said about it in the note he included with the photo of the painting he sent me:

E- I really liked that photo, so got right after a small (9×2) painting. Encl. photo. An interesting little project and came out kind of “16th century.” Of course I left out the model, and call the piece “Red Chair (without Naked Guy).”

His vision was obviously a little different from my own: a little warmer (although suggestively autumnal). More real than surreal. But I was seriously pleased that something I’d done had spoken to him in a way that motivated him to produce something in a medium he loves, and so I share it with you here.

jkboriginal

 

 

 

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE IMAGES IN THIS POST CONTAIN ARTISTIC, TASTEFUL, NON-EXPLICIT MALE NUDITY. However, if you’re annoyed by such images, please click here to see a picture of a cat standing in a bathtub instead.

Still here? Good.

So just before Thanksgiving, a neighbor put out a perfectly nice oak dining set on trash day, clearly in the hope that some worthy scavenger would give it a new home. And indeed, someone came by and took the table and two of the five chairs. After driving past the diminishing set a couple of times on errands, I finally decided to throw dignity to the wind and nab a chair for myself. (I thoughtfully left two behind, since someone who needed chairs for something other than photo props might need a pair of chairs. I’m always thinking about others that way.)

The chair wasn’t particularly old and in fact looked relatively new-ish, with a lovely natural oak stain. But I had other ideas. “What if,” I thought (because that’s how I think), “this chair was red, and kinda beaten-up? And what if,” I thought further (because that’s what usually happens when I start thinking), “I had some fancy, handsome male models interacting with this chair in every way other than how it’s intended to be interacted with?” (Because sometimes, when I’m thinking, I thoughtlessly end sentences with prepositions.) “And finally,” I thought (because usually this is where my thoughts lead), “those models were wearing not a stitch of clothing, so the photos would be all about color and texture and shape and form, but not–” (and here my thoughts turned fairly prissy) “–at all prurient or particularly erotic?” Because non-erotic art nude photos of men trying to figure out how to use a read chair are obviously what the world has been waiting to see. I congratulated myself on my keen market savviness.

So I took the chair into the garage, and quite literally beat up on it with a hammer and some chain. Then I sanded it and painted it red, and then beat it up some more with a hammer and some chain, and some other tools that I used in ways entirely other than how they are intended to be used.

And this is what it looked like, in my studio:

The Old Red Chair in my studio, ready for its close-up

The thing about this Old Red Chair is that, for all the aging and distressing I did, the resulting gouges, bumps, and irregularities that add interest are really only visible up close. From a distance, it’s just a red wood chair. The “oldness” part, though, is still important, because it helps inform and inspire the models–who are, as you will see below, very up close and particularly personal with this piece of furniture–in establishing a mood, and helps keep me mindful of what I’m after. So if viewers can’t tell it’s beaten up, well, that’s their loss.

The point of the Old Red Chair series is to explore the male form in “conversation” with a specific object; the poses change, the chair stays the same, the focus is on the interaction between linear and organic forms. One of my models suggested that the point is that there are multiple ways not to sit in a chair, which is certainly appropriate. I also have been doing some experimentation with selective color, desaturation, and black-and-white images. Anyway, a picture being worth a lot more than my words here, let’s take a look at the Old Red Chair series…

Thanks to the first models who bravely jumped into this series, Anthony and Quinn. There will be more to come as we explore the possibilities of the Old Red Chair. As always, your thoughts and opinions are welcome.

 

Google helpfully sends me alerts in my email when their multitudinous clever little crawlers stumble over a reference to me or my website. That’s good. What’s not so good is when Google helpfully informs me that my book, Ather & Rhyme, Being a Collection of Beloved, Morally-Improving Faerie Tales & Nursery Rhymes from the Dawn of the Great Age of Steam, with Accompanying Illustrative Photography of the Period, is being offered as a free PDF download by a web service in the Russian Federation. Hence the title of this blog entry is “Aether & Rhyme” in Cyrillic (or a close approximation, courtesy of Google’s translation algorithm). Under the circumstances, a bit of linguistic snarkery is probably defensible.

Here is the site I was helpfully pointed to. I’m omitting the URL because (a) I don’t want to help these evil pirates with their evil piracy and (b) I suspect that the download of the Aether & Rhyme PDF from this site may not be entirely free of unpleasant viral hangers-on. Interestingly, when it first popped up from the link Google helpfully provided, the header and much of the text was displayed in Cyrillic, which auto-adjusted within seconds to display in English. (And while I’m woefully monolingual and not at all in a position to mock anyone’s adeptness at a second language, I do take some huffy umbrage at my delightful little confection of steampunk versions of fairy tales and Mother Goose rhymes being referred to as a manual. Here are some sample stories, so you can decide for yourself. “Manual” indeed!)

Russian website offering free PDF of "Aether & Rhyme" book

The text reads (in case you have to squint at the image to see it):

If you are searching for a book by Evan Butterfield Aether & Rhyme: Steampunk Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes in pdf form, in that case you come on to the right site. We presented the utter option of this ebook in txt, doc, ePub, DjVu, PDF formats. You may read Aether & Rhyme: Steampunk Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes online by Evan Butterfield either downloading. Besides, on our site you may reading the manuals and other art eBooks online, or download them as well. We want draw on attention what our website does not store the eBook itself, but we grant ref to site whereat you may load either read online. So if have must to load pdf by Evan Butterfield Aether & Rhyme: Steampunk Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes, then you have come on to the loyal website. We have Aether & Rhyme: Steampunk Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes doc, txt, DjVu, PDF, ePub formats. We will be happy if you come back to us again and again.

OK so this “loyal website” misspelled “Faerie” (or spelled it correctly, but not the way it is used in the title), and while it offers the “utter option” of a variety of file formats, I hasten to point out that not a one of them is an utterly legitimate copy of my book. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what Internet Thievery and Piratical Evildoings looks like.

Anyway, you can imagine my delight.

Now, let’s be clear: it’s not like Aether & Rhyme is a hard-to-find book, so offering a freely downloadable version could somehow be defended as a public service. It’s available for the unconscionable price of 99 cents for a Kindle version (if you’re in the US that looks like this) or $14 for a printed  copy at Amazon:

"Aether & Rhyme" at Amazon.com

And it’s available from a French seller on ebay for about $24.54 (plus more or less $17.60 shipping from Ambonil, France, depending on the exchange rate between the dollar and Euro at any given moment). That seems like a lot to me, but then again the seller assures buyers that it is “Magnifique livre, je le recomande” (“Beautiful book, I recommend it”), for which I say, Merci beaucoup!

"Aether & Rhyme" on Ebay

And of course I promote it on my website:

"Aether & Rhyme" book at www.ebutterfieldphotography.com

But that’s apparently not enough for these particular Russians. Not content with cybernetic mischief-making in the US Presidential election (allegedly, of course, and I promise that’s the last I’ll say about that whole mess), they apparently have so much time on their wicked little hands now that they have nothing better to do than lurk about the Internet searching for random unknown steampunk authors and steal their books. Perhaps in the old Soviet days they would say they were “liberating” Aether & Rhyme and expropriating it for the people. Today they really don’t have the old Leninist go-tos to fall back on anymore, so I’m not sure what the excuse is.

This just goes to show you how fragile copyright protections are. As in, they really aren’t very protective. I mean, to whom do I address my angry email, or where does my lawyer send his saber-rattling cease-and-desist? These folks just don’t exist anywhere in the real, and yet their tech can pull a PDF from somewhere. Still, it makes me wonder: Did they hack Amazon and convert an AZW3 file? Do they have a warehouse full of underpaid babushkas scanning hardcopies?

In fairness, it appears the Russians are not alone in their nefarious disregard for intellectual property rights. A quick bit of net-sleuthery discloses that indeed others have apparently found my little book impossible to avoid stealing:

pirate

Now, I’m not really a greedy person, and it’s not like these things were flying off the virtual shelf. It doesn’t represent a loss per se. But it does represent theft. It’s taking something that’s not yours and giving it away to other people (that’s really all  you need to know about US copyright law, by the way: if it’s not yours, don’t take it). At least all these PDF sites are including my original cover and (presumably, since I didn’t open any links, being fundamentally afraid of opening the door to trojans and polymorphics and worms and boot infectors and multipartite/FAT/web scripting viruses, and heaven knows what else is out there) my copyright page.

And yes, I understand the value of promotional offers and giveaways. I mean, I’m perfectly happy to give stuff away free. But it seems kind of rude for other people to make that decision for me.  As long as it’s my stuff, then I’d kinda like to be the one to give it away, right? Let me say that first bit again so the whole Internet can hear: I’m perfectly happy to give stuff away free.

All during December and on into this month, in fact, I’m offering the Gentlemen of Steampunk 2017 Calendar on my site as a free download (it’s still being offered, although the year is slowly slipping away). For those who don’t recall, the Gentlemen of Steampunk Calendar is a steampunk-meets-beefcake thing in which scantily-clad attractive male models are shown cavorting about with various bits of neo-Victoriana and fanciful goggles (as well as other complicated-looking props and old rust farm equipment). Here’s a little look-see:

http://www.ebutterfieldphotography.com/2017-gentlemen-of-steampunk-calendar

7-july

http://www.ebutterfieldphotography.com/2017-gentlemen-of-steampunk-calendar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I responded to some feedback from folks who loved handsome steampunk boys but were not thrilled with the fleshly display by creating another version, the Gentlemen of Steampunk 2017 Calendar – Proper Victorian Gentlemen Edition. It was also posted as a free PDF download on my site, and is also still there.

(And yes, I know that was a fairly blatant little exercise in self-promotion. But with all these pirates about, a fella’s gotta do something.)

01-2017

07-2017

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Anyway, the bottom line is I don’t have any capitalistic deep-seated aversion to content being made free. In a lot of cases, particularly the odd little niche in which I operate, it’s more realistic to view “success” in terms of downloads and usage and clicks and visibility than in dollars. God knows, if I measured my photography’s success purely in revenues generated, it would be a very sad measurement indeed. But if I adjust my expectations and align myself with the hard fact that the sales market for steampunk photographs of pretty people–particularly, I suppose, the sort of dark-and-strange sort of approach I take–is much, much smaller than the universe of people who would be delighted to look at such images, then notoriety becomes a much more achievable measure of success than the 45 cents Amazon occasionally lets me know I’ve earned on a download of Aether & Rhyme.

So no, I don’t hate free per se. And I’m perfectly happy, as I said, to give stuff I’ve created away for nothing.  It would just be nice if I were the one to make that decision, please.

Spasibo and dosvedanya.

 

When I was a child, about four or so, I had a vivid nightmare that I still remember, mumbldy-mumble years later: I’m going down the steps into our basement (the massive, multi-armed furnace and my mom’s washer/dryer; my dad’s workshop (it was the early ’60s, remember)–the warm smell of sawdust and the sweetly metallic tang of gun oil–into the darkness that one always braved before finding the light switch at the bottom. And out of the shadows, a painfully thin, pale figure with a massive head like a ball of fur, an impression of eyes and teeth, and it says in a deeply baritone voice, “I’m going to chase you out of house and home!” (I was a dramatic child.) and proceeded to run across the floor and up the stairs toward me. In the dream, I turned to run, and that was that. I recall something about hiding in the oven, but that may be a false memory added on later.

ANYWAY, so the point of this is that I’ve gone a little less steampunk and a little more nightmare-y in my photography lately (sorry for the Long Silence over the past few months, gentle reader–emphasis on the singular–I’m sure I was missed.). It started with the notion in my head to add a porcelain doll head to a pair of goggles, and progressed rapidly to my personal nightmare when I found a half-mask made of pheasant feathers on eBay, which had become the source du jour for my rusty and odd photo props. The half-mask, although feathery, bore a striking resemblance to my dream monster’s head, so it was off to the races. In the ongoing series, shot with several excellent models, I’ve been playing around with the image–adding an Archimedes Drill here, a vintage headless doll body there, and, through the Magic of Photoshop, going del Toro’s Pale Man one better by creating a creature that pulls childrens’ faces into its hands (again, thanks to antique doll heads). It’s not exactly my “chase-you-out-of-house-and-home” fur-head, but it may exorcise a demon or two.

Maybe this one:

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Leather Demon, with Anthony Scarcello

As if to psychologically make up for the nightmarish images, I also did some “angel” images…although even those are perhaps more flawed angels than fully angelic ones. And of course I can’t stay away from tarting up an old camera with steampunk paraphernalia and nine additional lenses, because that’s fun–although even those images have their own nightmare-ish quality: I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to live in the weird and vaguely alchemical alt-hist I’ve constructed in my head. Sort of like my imaginary friend being mean to me, I guess.

These photos were shot in my new in-home studio (OK, it’s a pretty tiny third bedroom, but it holds my backdrop and tripod and shelving for props, and has a closet for the various neo-Victorian costumery I make people put on, and I couldn’t be more delighted–and thank you to my noble husband for letting me expropriate a chunk of our house for myself). As usual, shots are taken with my Nikon D7000 hooked up to an umbrella light.

So that’s where I am at the moment. Take a look at some of the photos here, and let me know what you think! Larger versions are available on my website, www.ebutterfieldphotography.com.

For I dipt into the future far as human eye could see;
Saw the Vision of the world and all the wonder that would be.

Steampunk is all about the past; an alternative past, of course, but the past nonetheless. Victoria, and massive steam-driven, gear-whirling complexities; the apotheosis of Science and Engineering, and all the applied wonders they provide, augmented by the burgeoning alchemic technologies. It’s the streets of 19th Century London with an overlay of leather and brass, or the streets of Wild West America with piston-driven, steam-churned equinomatics and smoke-belching multi-barrelled firearms with laser and plasmid enhancements. But it’s all the past.

“What if…?” is a question that echoes throughout steampunkery, and it’s one that echoed around the emptier parts of my brain recently: What if that past existed, but not frozen in time like a bit of clockwork in amber, but living and evolving and changing with the passage of time? What would a steampunk future look like? If, like Alfred, Lord Tennyson in “Locksley Hall” we “dipt into the future,” what would we find?

So with the help of a good deal of spray paint, random plumbing supplies, and a copious quantity of superglue, I took a peek in to the Future of Steampunk. Like all steampunk visions, it’s an idiosyncratic conceit, unique to its creator, and has little or no bearing on anyone else’s vision. I make no claims to have defined the steampunk future for anyone but me. It’s a let’s-pretend timeline that I’ve been slowly constructing through random asides, footnotes, captions, and images in the Gentlemen of Steampunk (and its sequel), and in the steampunk/Mother Goose mash-up, Aether & Rhyme, and in occasional postings on steampunk social media. It’s my world, and welcome to it. Thanks to the models pictured here: Michael Justice, Hollywood Hawk, Richie Olson, Louis Daprile, iFlyRobin, and Morgan McDonnell.

Below, you’ll find some glimpses into the technology and culture of the steamy future, and a few illustrative photographs, both of which derive from a dip into the future currently in progress…

I. VICTORIA RESIN & GOGGLES EVOLVED

Perhaps the foremost technological advance of the past century was the development and subsequent perfection of Victoria resin. Invented in the alchemical laboratory of Professor Redalard Monsuvial (MPE) in 1918 (and named in honour of Victoria II (1901-1934), and not–as myth would have it–for the first Victoria, the resin’s adaptability, hardness, and ubiquity are legendary, and most common household items, industrial tools, and even personal accessories and augments are today comprised at least in part of Monsuvial’s substance. Definitionally, it is an alchemically-manipulated blend of coal-combustion by-products with natural aetheric effluvia that results in a non-metallic, non-Newtonian solid with significantly higher tensility than alloyed steel. In addition to its remarkable strength, Victoria Resin is a thermosetting plastic, and (in its pre-set state) liquefies at a relatively low temperature (660oC/1220oF) for easy casting and forming. Once set, however, Victoria Resin is heat-resistant to well over 1510oC/2750oF, and highly insulative, making it an attractive and appropriate vessel for micro-steamaegines incorporated into modern personal devices and firearms. VR quickly supplanted brass and steel in clockwork mechanisms and gearage devices, and by the mid-20th century its use was commonplace and uniquitous.

Hadther & Gully

Hadther & Gully “Ventura” spectacle augments include traditional alloyed-steel and enhanced brass componentry mounted on a lightweight frame of Victoria resin

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Above and below, Denbarr Monoculars are manufactured primarily from Victoria resin (with some metallic components). The pembrooke device (below) is also constructed almost entirely from lightweight VR, making wrist-mounted informatics far less burdensome than the originals.

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Benten, Phermick & Bunsun Labs'

Benten, Phermick & Bunsun Labs’ “Personal Observatorie” spectacle augment is primarily composed of a variety of Victoria resin pieces, including the frame, enclosed recording lensorium, and the observatory-grade telescopular. Some minor couplings are metallic, and the lenses themselves, of course, are glassite.

II. ROYAL ALBERT ORBITAL PLATFORM

In the late 1960s, His Majesty’s Near-Earth Manned Orbit (N.E.M.O.) Programme established the first permanent “space station,” dubbed the Royal Albert Orbital Platform (R.A.O.P.) in honor of Victoria I’s Prince Consort. Access to the R.A.O.P. is a three-stage process: “Nemonauts” (the appellation accorded to participants in the N.E.M.O. programme) are lifted aloft using adapted Aegyptian solar thermi schooners launched from high-altitude dirigibles. (The Aegyptians have used papyrus balloons covered with a sheathing of thin solar-heated metal panels for clean, silent flight for more than a millennium. The “nataro”–or “thermi schooners” as we refer to them–are pleasant commonplace sights in the sky above the Aegyptian imperial capitols of Ramses, Thebes, and Amarna, where they are used to convey travelers and cargo across the vast deserts of the Aegyptian Empire.). The schooners moor with cables trailed by R.A.O.P., and the Nemonauts are brought up to the platform in slender box-shaped elevators that run on the cables. R.A.O.P. orbits the Earth circularly at 330 km (205 mi). At any time, the RAOP, which resembles a short hatbox, may host up to fifteen Nemonauts in its 55 m (180 ft) diameter disc.

Nemonauts can walk on the outer hull of the R.A.O.P. with the use of magnetical boots. They can also travel off the surface of the platform via skiffs, one-man shuttles propelled and maneuvered by focused, high-intensity steam jets. Nemonauts typically wear deep blue shirts with gold piping, and carry a multi-purpose tool. Nemonauts are intensely trained and prepared for occasional excursions into the vacuum of space to conduct Scientific experiments or perform repair and maintenance activities. Nemonauts are also armed with deadly aether-propellant rifles specially designed for orbital use, in the event of uninvited–and unwelcome–visitors.

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Orbital Group Captain Sir Inslef Margrynton (a direct lineal descendant of the illustrious Commodore Lord Jovial Margrynton, hero of Tinderton, the decisive battle of the brief but bloody Restoration War (1939-1942), which ended the Whitbury Regency and returned Victoria III (the present monarch’s mother) to the throne) is seen here in his official photographic portrait aboard the Royal Albert Orbital Platform. Rising to become one of the Empire’s first Nemonaut officers, Margrynton served on the original design and test team that constructed the platform under the auspices of His Majesty’s Near-Earth Manned Orbital programme, and flew the first manned mission into the upper thermosphere, conclusively demonstrating that human habitation in orbit was possible. In this portrait by the illustrious (and enduring) photographer Luxet Tenebrae, Margrynton is show holding his helmet along with an aether-charged rifle designed specifically for use in the near-vacuum of space. 

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Unbeknownst to his commanding officer, Flight Lieutenant Denderly Phipps III ventured out from the comfortable confines of the Royal Albert Orbital Platform and maneuvered his steam-propelled skiff (commonly contracted by seasoned nemonauts as a “spiff,” it was a type of small, open-topped one-man craft designed for short-distance travel in the vacuum, utilizing a highly efficient compressed steam-jet propulsion system developed by Dr Fensworth-Bruel especially for use by the Near Earth Manned Orbital programme) to a point a few kilometers away from the platform. After enjoying a spectacular view of the Earth, its Moon, and the wonders of the heavens, Phipps shut the valve to the steam-jet and allowed his spiff to drift languidly, turning gently in the mysterious particle eddies. It was at that moment that he observed the approach of an object that caused him serious alarm, and he was seized immediately with regret that he had only come armed with his standard-issue maintenance tool and not a more persuasive firearm…

A young man aboard (or apparently not quite aboard, if we are to believe his headgear) the Royal Albert Orbital Platform. As a member of the Near-Earth Manned Orbital programme, he is referred to as a

A young man aboard (or apparently not quite aboard, if we are to believe his headgear) the Royal Albert Orbital Platform. As a member of the Near-Earth Manned Orbital programme, he is referred to as a “Nemonaut.” The wonders of the heavenly firmament abound about, awaiting Man’s next noble steps into the cosmos!

III. MASK-MOUNTED AUGMENTATION DEVICE (MMAD)

The recent fashion trend, particularly amongst young people, is the MMAD (Mask-Mounted Augmentation Device), a more sleekly stylish variation on the traditional goggles and augments that continue to be a life-style accessory staple. It seems that the appeal lies not so much in the identity-concealing nature of the masks, but rather in their flush-to-the-face flatness that, counter-intuitively, actually conceals character less than their bulkier counterparts. Thanks to micronization of technology and Dr Wintner’s work in Neural-Confluent Aengeneering, the MMADs can be needle-pricked into the wearer’s skin, and information exchanged directly with the suboptic vision centres of the brain—eliminating the need for artificial displays. Not everyone, of course, is comfortable exchanging this degree of intimacy with their devices. “I worry,” said Lady Custerfield in a recent telephone-interview, “about the little things, like how clean are those pins that I’m popping into my face? I really can’t be sure, so I prefer the old-fashioned spectacle-augs, myself. I think they’re prettier in any case!”

Underweil's limited-edition

Underweil’s limited-edition “Forebear” MMAD is a VR mask with both aelectrickal and traditional gearwork mechanisms (note the use of recovered 19th century metallics in the main frontal lobular drive)

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The “Venturi GH” MMAD was Bishopp & Wraithington’s top-line augment at this year’s International Exhibition at Ketteridge, with an innovative suspended isenglass monocular incorporated into the VR mask matrix. Lobal interfaces are set at the mid-temple regions, but the insertion pins branch once introduced subdermally. This permits a sleeker visage and minimal weighty metallics. Also pictured: Chrittensheim’s “Escalator” aetherplasmic carbine, featuring an easily-replaceable aether ampoule and VR-insulated body to prevent unpleasant heat-generation. The Parkridge & Shyoak pembrooke is driven by an incorporated steam engine with minimal off-smoking thanks to a tubular recapture system that recaptures coal particulates suspended in the engine-generated gases and returns them to the integrated firebox for refiring. The P&S pembrooke includes standard wrist-augment functionalities along with a unique “categoriser” aengine.

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The mandibular MMAD patented by Academy Arts provides the wearer with enhanced vocalisation and auditory recording augments. Paired with optional headphones, it permits subvocal communication across substantial distances. The subdermal pins lock to the masseter and orbicularis oris muscles, with an internally “swallowed” wire-anchored pin that autonomously seeks and attaches to the vocal chords. Also shown, Benten, Phermick & Bunsun Labs’ “Personal Observatorie” spectacle augment.

[There follows here the Compleat Tenth Chapter, including Illustrations and Notes, from Mr. Butterfield’s recently-published Gentlemen of Steampunk 2, being a companion volume to its predecessor, currently available for purchase at The Amazon Store.]

Perhaps no single individual did more to establish the character of what we think of when we hear the phrase, “Imperial Age of Steam” than did Phenabel Dartsworth. While a minor figure in the annals of imperial history, and certainly little more than a discreet footnote in the archives of the great Academies and Institutes, Dartsworth nonetheless holds pride of place in the pantheon of those who made the first century of the Steam Empire what it is in the minds of men and women today. For it was Phenabel Dartsworth who, in a dimly-lit workshop situated just off the tiny kitchen of his unnoteworthy flat in the area of the central City known then as Pilford-Temmish (today’s Riverside Muse), invented the augmented disintegumentation-matrix ocular enhancement device, or, as it is more popularly known, the “goggle.”

The early “goggles” created by Dartsworth bear little more than superficial resemblance to the elaborate and stylish eyewear manufactured today by Penthwaiter & Scalpion or Oculus-Orbis, Ltd., and certainly held none of the modern enhancements we enjoy today. However, though his squint-worthy, bulky, uncomfortable, and variably functional devices are far-removed from even the now-ubiquitous P&S Sinistrae II, Dartsworth is nonetheless rightly called the “Father of the Look,” insofar as the Steam Age is popularly imagined.

In his memoir, ‘Membrances in a Mind’s Eye, Dartsworth described the very evening on which he first conceived of the need for—and basic design of—the ocular enhancement.[i] In a moment of exultant inspiration, he initiated the “look” of an age, the symbol by which a century is instantly recognized.

If only the tale had ended there, and it could happily be reported that Phenabel prospered both personally and financially from his success. Alas, however, he was urged by his solicitor, Mr. Ombulant, to sell his patent in toto to a then obscure maker of eyeglass frames, a Mr. Charles Kenderish Penthwaiter for the sum of ₤45—a notable amount in the previous century, to be sure, but laughably dwarfed by the true value of the patent.

Phenabel only came to realize some years later that Ombulant had been secretly acting as Penthwaiter’s agent, and although he took legal action  for damages (aided by a new solicitor), the sales contract was adjudged free of duress or unlawful compulsion after Phenabel was forced to give up his suit in the face of an overwhelmingly complex (and potentially ruinous) defense case offered by Penthwaiter & Scalpion’s elite legal team.

Sadly, Phenabel died in poverty, ironically living long enough to see both the opulent rise of Penthwaiter & Scalpion and the near-universal adoption of what had been—for a brief time, at least—his great invention.

Let us then celebrate the brilliant, unfortunate Phenabel Dartsworth: unsung factorem primaria of the Steam Age’s mise-en-scene!

1.3 1.2 1.1 1.0 1.41.5

NOTES

[i] The air was particularly heavy with particulate that day, and visibility was barely a matter of a few dimly-perceivable feet. The general colour of the day was a grayish yellow, as were many of the days then, and the sun itself was dimly differentiatable as a slightly brighter area of a generally uniform grayish yellow sky. Thornbrussel had introduced the Personal Respirational Filtre the previous year, due to the persistently poor quality of the air giving rise to an endemic of lung ailments, shortnesses of breath, and irritation of the mucinous membranes. I had acquired a P.R.F. for myself, but my eyes were red and swollen from exposure to airborne irritants, the particulate and gaseous by-products of the large-scale coal fires required to run the growing number of machines, coupled with the unregulated production and experimentation then going on with alchymical science, about which little was known but much was being done.

It occurred to me in a moment that what was needed was a P.R.F. for the eye, and in the next moment I realized that while a mere protective filtration-type device could be adapted from simple welders’ goggles, there was an opportunity to not merely protect and maintain vision, but to enhance the individual’s perception of the world about him—particularly when that world was shrouded in mist and murk!

I set to work immediately, applying my professional knowledge of ocularity (due to my then-employ with a manufacturer of bespoke eyeglass lenses), and adapted a number of filtres, adjustable lenses, and vision-enhancing components that might, to some extent, penetrate the pervasive pollutants and give the wearer a more useful sense of his surroundings, that he might better and more productively perambulate. I showed my work to my employer the following day and—he being an honest man and not one to steal another man’s ideas—sent me directly to the Patent Office, where I registered my first invention, retaining Mr. Fenworthy Ombulant of the illustrious patent law firm of Finister, Raile, Marburky & Ventch as my personal representative in the matter. [Dartsworth, ‘Membrances in a Mind’s Eye, Chapter VII]

Ever since I started the whole “Steampunk Beefcake” thing (handsome, fit young gentlemen in an assortment of neo-Victorian fantasy costumes and proppage) I’ve been hearing one comment fairly consistently: You should do a calendar.

So I did a calendar, and I’m shamelessly promoting it here. So before I go on to opine about the calendar-making process, the desirability of calendars, and the appropriateness of objectifying men’s bodies for the purpose of keeping track of what month it is, let me get this out of the way:

The calendar looks like this on the outside:

2015 Gentlemen of Steampunk calendar

and like this on the inside:

Gentlemen of Steampunk calendar interiorand you can Preview the whole interior HERE, which is also (conveniently) where you can purchase it at a reasonable price as well.

Thank you for your patience.

So I finally took the advice I was being given from numerous interested parties, and decided to make a calendar. Thing is, I have virtually zero interest in hawking calendars (OK so it would be hard to notice that, given the preceding blog-column inches, but keep reading before you scoff) at cons (see how a couple of words really modify what I’m saying?). I truly admire the dedicated craftspeople and artists who take up vendor space at sci-fi and steampunk conventions, sitting patiently at tables and discussing their work with buyers, potential buyers, possible later buyers, people who just want to chat about their own stuff, and people who say rude and unpleasant things when they really should just keep their criticisms to theirownselves.

The vendors at cons are amazing folks who do creative things and then lay them out for sale to passers-by. I am not amazing: my inherent shyness (no, really), coupled with a skin whose thickness may be accurately measured only by the finest micronometric devices, combined with a tendency to be viciously snarky and sharply defensive when praised with any perceptibly less than utterly ardent fervor, makes me a poor candidate to be taken out in public generally, much less planted at a tabletop and expected to sell people calendars (or books, such as the related Gentlemen of Steampunk biographies or the “wickedly clever” fairy tales of Aether & Rhyme, the digital versions of both being currently on sale for a mere 99 cents at Amazon). I think I would be very bad at it, and the whole affair would doubtless end in tears.

For that reason, I needed to find someone who would do the selling for me. There are, you will not be surprised to learn, a number of online companies that have set themselves up to do just that. I explored a number of them, and actually tried setting up calendars at three: CafePress, Zazzle, and Lulu. All three offer similar build-and-storefront services, but in the end, I found that Lulu’s was the easiest for me to work in: clean, simple, and largely intuitive, with a WYSIWYG interface. The choices of calendar templates was a bit limited, and the cover template isn’t exactly what I’d envision, but it’s free to use and the revenue structure is reasonable, with a base price on which users can build margin and discount structures. Your mileage may vary, but it works for me.

Anyway, so I built the Gentlemen of Steampunk 2015 Calendar, using the best images from the book along with some new photos destined to appear in the sequel. I posted cheery notices on my personal and professional Facebook pages, and posted on some special-interest steampunk pages as well. Thusfar, that has been the extent of my aggressive marketing campaign, and the numbers support the enormous effort I’ve put in: 1. (Actually, that “1” is a lie, because it was the proof copy I ordered myself. The actual number of legitimate sales has been somewhat south of that.)

Gentlemen of Steampunk calendar

A physical copy of the Gentlemen of Steampunk 2015 calendar, and the envelope it came to my home in.

So, boys and girls, here we find Your Humble Blogger, sitting on the very cusp of the new year, the fresh annus mirabilis laid out before him ripe with opportunity and straining at its seams with refulgent potential and undiscovered delectations, and he–he is ready to number its each passing sublime and inflorescent day, because he, dammit, has a calendar!

And, somehow, so can you.

Self-Portrait of the Noted Photograveur Luxet TenebraeI’m not generally one to take the lazy way out, but sometimes other people just do the work better. Just in case you haven’t heard nearly enough of my opinions, the delightful, intelligent, discerning, and prepossessing proprietor of the ever-fascinating Airship Ambassador blog (an aspect of the highly-recommended Airship Ambassador website) recently conducted a wide-ranging interview with me on the subject of Steampunk in general and the specifically my recent photography and publications, which I am sharing in this space with my heartfelt thanks to the merry (and profoundly patient) interlocutor.

My famously loquacious nature (some have referred to my tendencies in less-complimentary terms) compelled the Ambassador to serialize our interview into five parts, lest the sheer volume of my erudite verbiage threaten to overwhelm and capsize the Hartley-Farnum Brazen Vapourware Server Engines on which the site is hosted. Here’s Part One (given my–shall we say–“loquacious nature,” . Part Two may be discovered here. I’ll add links to the other Parts as they are discovered.

Airship Ambassador

This week we are talking with photographer Evan Butterfield, creator of Gentlemen of Steampunk.

Airship Ambassador: Hi Evan, thanks for joining us!

Evan Butterfield: It’s a pleasure.

blog-Evan

AA: What is Gentlemen of Steampunk about?

EB: Well, “about” could get a little complicated, because it’s not a story with a plotline, but let’s give it a try. I’ll do a short answer and a long one, and you can sort it out.

The short answer is that it’s a collection of photos of attractive, athletic men wearing Steampunk clothing, who seem to have forgotten to put on their shirts.

The long answer is a little more complicated. It’s about a few things. The first is part of my ongoing world-building effort. I have this Steampunk world in my head that is a little bit unpleasant in some ways, and a little bit better than ours in others, and in…

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So recently I attended BentCon, showing some of my steampunk-beefcake photos in an invited, juried gallery. BentCon describes itself, with some accuracy, as “the premiere convention that celebrates and recognizes LGBTQ (and Allies) contributions to pop-culture and geekdom.” Think of a much smaller, less chaotic Comic-Con, in a Burbank airport hotel rather than the San Diego Convention Center, and you’re there. If you’ve read my more recent posts (“recent” in terms of the geological timescale, given my rather alarming failure to post with anything approaching regularity, consistency, or timeliness) the you’re familiar with my current explorations of “Steampunk-beefcake“–a turning-on-its-head of the traditional Steampunk photographic aesthetic of a buxom lady overflowing her corset and wearing a skirt of vapour-inducing, swoon-worthy petticoatless microscopy. As you might guess, faux-antique photographs of lean, muscular male models wearing goggles and top hats proved to be just the thing for the Bent-Con demographic. (Although to be truly, geekily precise, BentCon’s focus is more on comics and superheroes than Steampunk, but there was enough genre overlap that, in the vernacular, “my peeps were there.”

I was delighted with the reception my photos received, which was highly positive (a particularly surprising occurrence in a gallery that included photos and other graphic artworks that featured a more, shall we say, “intimate” image of the male form). And I was especially delighted that four of my seven pieces sold–a function no doubt of their awesome artistic merit as well as their price-point, which the curator suggested could have been boosted a bit. But pricing is an interesting puppy, and I have some thoughts on that. While I may be long of tooth and ancient of years, I am quite baby-fresh and new as a photographer, so I am not at all comfortable with pricing my work–regardless of its undeniable beauty and artistic merit–as if I were Steichen or Liebovitz. Some artists in the gallery with me clearly did not share my relativistic view, and their work, sadly, did not especially sell. In the end, it proved once again that it pays to be cheap. (In this case, since you may be wondering, “cheap”=$25 for an 11×14 print.)

Scroll down to take a look-see at my photos that appeared in the BentCon gallery.

Steampunk photo

SOLD!

Steampunk Vincent 522b

SOLD!

Javier 167aC1AAF

SOLD!

Steampunk Photo

Joe Filippone 235E

SOLD!

Steampunk Vincent 474ab

Steampunk photo

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