Archives for posts with tag: Gentlemen of Steampunk

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

10-2017

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.

 

Sir Christopher Felding-Vendenner and Mister Mendacity Crick, displaying a mutual Affection.

Sir Christopher Felding-Vendenner and Mister Mendacity Crick, display a mutual Affection in an unguarded moment.

The Steampunk universe, which is kaleidoscopically creative in its applied manifestations, is nonetheless consistently embedded in the 19th century. That 19th century (predominantly occurring in the former British Empire or the American West) was not, as they say, gay-friendly. And while Steampunk enthusiasts are a generally accepting sort, and while convenient exceptions are carved to a variety of firmly-held Victorian views on gender, orientation, race, and economic class, those firmly-held Victorian views are nonetheless an inescapable part of the period that inspires the neo-Victorian (or alt-Victorian) subculture.

Here’s the thing: steadfast Steampunks are sticklers for temporal congruity in fabrics and fabrications, and even fantastical constructs (elaborately multi-lensed clockwork goggles; firearms that resemble handheld cannons; aether-driven mechanical versions of modern electronics) are held to a fairly strict expectation of period-appropriateness. (Woe be unto the sad individual who glues some random gears on a hat or tosses on a corset and calls it steampunk! It’s so much more than a mere conflation of its memes.)

So if we’re going to play that way, then we need to at least be conscious that we are ignoring some exceedingly unpleasant aspects of our chosen alternative reality’s reality. And that reality goes back a bit.**

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE DISCUSSION NOW TURNS TO TOPICS AND IMAGES THAT SOME MAY FIND DISTRESSING. IF YOU ARE DISTRESSED BY TOPICS RELATED TO, SAY, THE PECULIAR INTERESTS OF OSCAR WILDE, OR IMAGES OF MALE AFFECTIONAL BEHAVIOR, OR BLOCK-QUOTES OF 16TH CENTURY LAW, YOU ARE URGED TO CLICK HERE, FOR SOME CUTE CAT PICTURES.

Henry VIII, noted paragon of sexual virtue, signed the Statute of 1533 which made sodomy punishable by death.

An Acte for the punishment of the vice of Buggerie (25 Hen. 8 c. 6). Forasmuch as there is not yet sufficient and condign punishment appointed and limited by the due course of the Laws of this Realm for the detestable and abominable Vice of Buggery committed with mankind or beast: It may therefore please the King’s Highness with the assent of the Lords Spiritual and the Commons of this present parliament assembled, that it may be enacted by the authority of the same, that the same offence be from henceforth ajudged Felony and that … the offenders being herof convict by verdict confession or outlawry shall suffer such pains of death and losses and penalties of their good chattels debts lands tenements and hereditaments as felons do according to the Common Laws of this Realme. And that no person offending in any such offence shall be admitted to his Clergy…

The Statute was repealed by his daughter, Queen Mary (there were, apparently, limits to her bloodiness), but re-enacted by his daughter, Elizabeth I, when she came to the throne. In 1540, the first man killed, Walter Hungerford (1st Baron Hungerford of Heytesbury), ironically shared the day’s festivities with Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s chief minister and the primary advocate of the Statute of 1533 (Cromwell was executed for treason, not “Buggerie,” although both executions may well have been more politically- than criminally-motivated). The last men hanged under the Statute, James Pratt and John Smith in 1835, were immortalized by Charles Dickens in “A Visit to Newgate” (Sketches by Boz, 1836).

It is interesting that over the course of 300 years, fewer than ten men were convicted and executed under the Statute. The relatively low number of victims was primarily a function of economics, as was passionately pointed out by Pratt and Smith’s defender, the magistrate Hesney Wedgewood:

There is a shocking inequality in this law in its operation upon the rich and the poor. It is the only crime where there is no injury done to any individual and in consequence it requires a very small expense to commit it in so private a manner and to take such precautions as shall render conviction impossible. It is also the only capital crime that is committed by rich men but owing to the circumstances I have mentioned they are never convicted.

Section 61 of the Offenses Against the Person Act of 1861 graciously eliminated the death penalty for sodomy, but Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment of 1885 included both public and private activity between men (lesbians, apparently, were invisible to the Victorians).

11. Outrages on Decency. Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of or procures (a) or attempts (b) to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency (c) with another male person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable at the discretion of the court to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour.

It was under this section that Oscar Wilde was convicted to two years’ hard labor for his affair with Bosie. (Wilde was only one of the estimated 49,000 men convicted under Section 11, a number that included the father of computer science, Alan Turing, whose resulting suicide likely delayed modern technology by thirty years. (If we’d had personal computers in the 1960s, imagine what we’d be doing now! Then thank Victorian and subsequent homophobia for our inability to teleport.)

Which—having completed our  brief frolic and detour through the merrie history of British moral jurisprudence—returns us to Steampunk, and Those Aspects of Victoriana We Would Prefer to Ignore. I guess my point is that if we’re going to go all alt-hist, we should also consider the social and political aspects that should morph and change when steamtech is added to the mix of Verne and Babbage and dirigibles and goggles and squids.

Some time ago, I introduced the Gentlemen of Steampunk, my humble effort to provide equal-opportunity prurience in a photographic genre focused almost uniformly on scantily-clad women in goggles. The response has been largely positive, as I discussed here, although sales of the associated products (a book and a calendar) have been disappointing. But I soldier on, intrepid little ‘punker that I am, and a second volume of GoS is forthcoming.

But I’ve also been exploring the Wilde side of Steampunk a bit, and pushing the Gentlemen into previously-unexplored areas of same-sex fluffy-soft-erotica: things like the photos below. These images, which basically portray little more than a very Victorian, steampunky, PG-rated vision of what two ‘punky Nineteenth Century men in love might have been doing in private sometime after 1861 in the alternative steam-driven, aether-powered world in my head. It’s an enlightened, mature world that celebrates diversity and egalitarianism, invention and innovation and technology and practical magic; a world in which the gaslit streets glisten with rainbow puddles of alchemical by-products, and the darkly pungent air is thick with soot, and smoke, and probably some things better left unnamed.

LAST CHANCE TO AVOID DISTRESS! CLICK HERE, FOR PICTURES OF A CUTE CAT DOING ADORABLE CAT THINGS.

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* “The love that dare not speak its name” is a line from the poem, “Two Loves,” by Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas . Bosie was many things. Most famously, he was–for a time–Oscar Wilde’s young lover (he was 21 when he met the 37-year old Wilde). Douglas’ father, theMarquess of Queensbury, forced Wilde to bring a libel suit, which opened the door to the author’s conviction and imprisonment for sodomy. Bosie had a stormy relationship with Wilde, after whose death he converted to Catholicism, married a woman, and became a famous antisemite and homophobe. He was also a fairly dismal poet, as one might expect. However, he did contribute the “dare not speak its name” phrase to the gay lexicon, so there’s that. Ironically, the “Two Loves” poem was used against Wilde in his sodomy trial, as evidence of the sort of Uranian mindset of those with whom he trafficked. Anyway, for whatever charms he held for Wilde, Bosie was a bit of an ass, and so that’s all we’ll say about him here.

**I mentioned previously that the Victorian period includes such unpleasantnesses as slavery, the subjugation of women, racism generally, the commercial exploitation of children, strict economic and social divisions, unequal political power vested in a hereditary ruling class, brutal colonialism—a whole murky stew of institutionalized oppression and narrowmindedness from which the modern sensibility recoils, and which the Steampunk oeuvre sidesteps as deftly as ever did Miss Bendaline Marsicamp turn out a delicate L’été en Quadrille at a country ball, her décolleté exposing shoulders gleaming with joyous exertion, cooled by the graceful flutterie of her ivory eventail au chinois. But I digress. As a gay white male of a certain age,  I have my own special favorite persecution, and it is upon that which we focus here.

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.

Like the Victorians it celebrates, Steampunk is all about the stuff. Elaborate period-accurate costumes built with period-accurate materials, tools, and techniques. Elaborate armaments and mysteriously complex scientific instrumentry;  jewelry and hats and gloves and gauntlets festooned with bits of brass this-and-that; even phone cases and computers dressed up in aged oak and rusted metal. Many of these pieces are jaw-droppingly intricate and beautiful, and I am in awe of their makers. Me, I’m a photographer (or at least I call myself one), and I traffic not so much in the art of making fine, tangible objets d’steampunque as in creating visual images that evoke a sometimes not-entirely-appealing alternate Steampunk reality, peopled by slightly unhinged but often brilliant and well-intentioned (albeit suffering from the effects of overexposure to the vapours, noxious effluvia, alchemical by-products, and general miasma of the Steam Age au Butterfield).

Not that I haven’t tried my hand, on occasion, at making appropriately steamy props and paraphernalia for my photography. The nice thing about making props for photography (or taking things other people have made and augmenting and embellishing them–what we call in publishing a “derivative use”) versus making props for practical cosplay, is that the results don’t have to stand up to a lot of use, and really only have to photograph well from a few angles. So superglue and velcro and one-sided decoration and anything else that feeds an illusion is perfectly fine. Things that someone is going to wear for long periods of time, or carry around at a con, well, people who make those things are Artists.

Anyway, here are some things I’ve made and used as props and costumes in photographs:

gauntlets and jewelry

Leather gauntlets for a “Roman Soldier” costume, augmented with gears, chains, a compass, and a working pocket watch, plus a couple of pieces of jewelry

Little Red Riding Hood's gun

Repainted tot assault rifle modified with gears, hardware, clock parts, drawer pulls, and a doorchain

binoculars

Modified opera glasses

pistol

Handgun constructed from a fishing reel, empty acetylene tank, painted plumbing pieces, and assorted watch parts and a vacuum tube

goggles

Goggles with gears and watch parts on eyepiece

breather

Capt. Nemo’s breathing apparatus, from augmented swimming goggles, watch parts, old knobs and drawer pulls, and a snorkel, Photoshopped.

 

box and ring

Box augmented with radio parts, vacuum tubes, wooden blocks, and hardware

autoinjector

“Auto-injector” using a syringe and antique hand-drill

 

shoe

Steampunk Cinderella’s slipper: a shoe augmented with gears and jewelry chain.

cryptology box

Cryptological device, using radio parts, medicine bottles, gears, watch parts, and wooden blocks

hatter hat

Mad Hatter’s Hat: top hat augmented with geared decoration and tag with context-appropriate printing

gloves

Elbow-length fingerless gloves augmented with a decorated toy telescope, gears, watch parts, and chain

cane

Collapsible hiking stick painted and augmented with gears and hardware

wrist light

Personal Illumination Device: stick-on LED light painted and augmented with gears, watch parts, and chain

 

All of these items worked quite nicely in photographs as props. But here’s another thing I made, that I’m even more pleased about:

Gentlemen of Steampunk

This is a collection of original steampunk “beefcake” photographs featuring male models in neo-Victorian costume reflecting male models who forgot to put on their shirts that morning. Now available in both print and digital formats on Amazon (click the image to go check it out).

 

To read more about the process of making this book, read my post, Good for the Gander.

 

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