Monthly Archives: March 2016

Mississippi Queen

Ida and Duffy are back! In the exciting follow-up to Girl in the Gears, the duo make their way to the Free City of New Orleans, where they plan to find some answers for Ida among the eclectic citiz…

Source: Mississippi Queen

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April Calendar

Everything is better with dragons.

Kathleen Jennings

Scratching Dragons

A bewildering variety of dragons for April’s calendar. The ones above are possibly my favourite of all my drawings.

April Dragons

You can download and print it pre-coloured, or to colour it yourself.

Flying Dragon

If you click on the images below, the full-size image should open.

April Calendar - colouredApril Calendar - linesThank you for your patience with monosyllabism. Am in the middle of a convention.

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The ‘Black Beast’ steam blunderbuss

It is 29 inches long and contains parts from a variety of sources, including an old oil lamp, an aluminium water bottle, a 2-stroke model aircraft engine, a blowtorch, a gas cutting torch and the t…

Source: The ‘Black Beast’ steam blunderbuss

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Yes, They Did Have Crazy Cat Ladies in the 1800s

This is the most epic of homages to those furry friends, cats. They are displayed in all their Victorian era grandeur in this American painting commissioned in 1891. Want to do more than just wet y…

Source: Yes, They Did Have Crazy Cat Ladies in the 1800s

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1896 Steam Monobike by Stefano Marchetti

Photo post by @TheRecycling.

Source: 1896 Steam Monobike by Stefano Marchetti

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France Goes Steampunk In The Wondrously Weird ‘April And The Extraordinary World’

The insatiably creative new animated film ‘April And The Extraordinary World’ imagines a world without science, and with robot-lizard-people. Zut alors!

Source: France Goes Steampunk In The Wondrously Weird ‘April And The Extraordinary World’

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Book Review: Clockwork Twist: Waking by Emily Thompson

Clockwork Twist Book One: Waking by Emily Thompson –  4 stars Twist has never left London, until today. Now he’s traveling on an airship—with a crew that insists they’re not pirat…

Source: Book Review: Clockwork Twist: Waking by Emily Thompson

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Let’s Talk Books — The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Warning: Spoilers! I just finished reading an interesting book the other day — interesting in premise, anyway. I didn’t dislike it, but I felt confused throughout the story. I didn̵…

Source: Let’s Talk Books — The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

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Do Genre Restraints Create Ageism?

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to visit with Buffy now that she is middle aged?

Being a middle-aged woman who has been a fangirl most of her life, I find there is a dearth of middle-aged women characters in popular culture (unless you count all the evil stepmothers in fairy tales). And yet, with middle-aged women being one of the largest consumers and creators of pop culture and anything in the fantasy/science fiction genre, you would expect plenty of representation. I can only think of one or two really memorable middle-aged character; most female protagonists are usually very young or very old females.

My favourite is the menopausal witch, Jenny Waynest, in the Winterlands novels by Barbara Hambly.

This image is from the cover of Dragonsbane. That is meant to be Jenny being cradled in the talons of the dragon. As you can see, that damsel is a rather attractive young woman with a strategically torn dress. Jenny is meant to be short, mousy, and not fashion model pretty.

A quick search of the usual fan art sites on the internet comes up with just a few images of Jenny – with only one showing Jenny as a human. Most show her in her dragon form. If I turned up dressed as (the human) Jenny to a cosplay event, I doubt anyone would get my character right. Most would think I was Nanny Ogg or Professor McGonagall, who are considered elderly rather than middle aged (though McGonagall was only middle-aged in the books).

Lady Sybil with her husband Sir Samuel Vimes, the Duke of Ankh Morpork

Even Terry Pratchett has only a few middle-aged female characters, like Lady Sybil Vimes and Lady Margolotta (though, as a vampire, does Margolotta Amaya Katerina Assumpta Crassina Von Uberwald really count?). They are only secondary characters, though Sibyl does manage to play a major role in several Discworld novels. Middle-aged women are nearly invisible in Discworld, think Doreen Winkings (vampire by marriage), Mrs Evadne Cake, and the series of humorous landladies that pop up in the books. It must be noted that in all the Tiffany Aching books, we never learn what her mother’s Christian name might be, though we know her father’s name is Joe and her grandmother was Sarah.

(By the way Disney, you couldn’t do better than to convert Tiffany’s books into animated movies. The story for ‘Wintersmith’ will make everyone forget Frozen.)

 

Thanks to Doctor Who being such a long running show, we have had the opportunity to see characters age, including everyone’s favourite companion, Sarah Jane Smith. Sarah Jane managed to remain feisty, opinionated,and strong willed to the very end; it is a damned shame Elisabeth Sladen died so young and will never get to see an elderly old lady with grit and wisdom. And River Song has to be considered middle aged, even though she isn’t exactly human, as she is played by Alex Kingston who is 53 (same age as me).

Of course, genre has a major impact on the ages of your main characters. In Young Adult fiction, the protagonists are going to be teens or a little older (or at least look like teenagers, even if they are hundreds of years old – I’m looking at you Twilight). Older women might play secondary roles, but they are never going to be the protagonists. However, why does nearly every other television show, movie or dystopian novel assume only young people can be protagonists? Where are the middle-aged female superheroes suffering from menopause and finding it difficult to fit into the same clothes they were wearing in their twenties? Do the genre markers for our various narratives actually encourage ageism?

Captain Janeway – she never seems to garner the same enthusiasm in fans as Kirk, Picard, Sisko or Archer. (Except in slash fiction.)

Genre fiction is supposed to be able to take risks and envision strange, new worlds. So why are middle-aged women so under-represented? If you can think of a middle-aged lady protagonist in any Steampunk narratives (not a secondary character or antagonist) that will rock the world like Buffy, please feel free to let me know!

 

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Filed under Ageism, Characterization, Feminism, Gender and Sexuality, Genre, Genre Markers, Pop Culture, Steampunk Feminist, Steampunk Genre, Steampunk Writer, Subgenres of Steampunk, Uncategorized, writing, Writing Style

The Mutton versus Lamb Debate: Leg o’Mutton Sleeves from a Steampunk Feminist’s Perspective

infanta_eulalia_in_1890s with Leg of Mutton sleeves

Infanta Eulalia wearing a dress with modified leg o’mutton sleeves.

Now, when I was wee child in the Dark Ages, our Australian butchers carried lamb and mutton.These days, everything ovine is labelled as lamb. And yet we still have beef and veal. And this observation has nothing to do with today’s topic … Leg O’Mutton sleeves.They were given that name because they resembled the shape of a roast leg of mutton or lamb.

Leg o'Mutton sleeves

Puffed sleeves, also known as Gigot sleeves or leg o’mutton sleeves, came into fashion in the 1830s, and were part of the Victorian era fashion spiral until the 1890s. In the  1830s, gigot sleeves did not start where the sleeve and shoulder of the dress met. Instead, gigot sleeves began at the top of the arm, helping to create a fashionable sloped shoulder look. The term ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ is first found in print in the journal of social gossip that Mrs Frances Calvert compiled in 1811. One can’t help but wonder if the term inspired the name of the sleeves.

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In L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, the protagonist Anne longs for sleeve puffs. Her beloved Matthew supplies her with a pretty dress with puffed sleeves for Christmas.

“I don’t see how I’m going to eat breakfast,” said Anne rapturously. “Breakfast seems so commonplace at such an exciting moment. I’d rather feast my eyes on that dress. I’m so glad that puffed sleeves are still fashionable. It did seem to me that I’d never get over it if they went out before I had a dress with them. I’d never have felt quite satisfied, you see. It was lovely of Mrs. Lynde to give me the ribbon too. I feel that I ought to be a very good girl indeed. It’s at times like this I’m sorry I’m not a model little girl; and I always resolve that I will be in future. But somehow it’s hard to carry out your resolutions when irresistible temptations come. Still, I really will make an extra effort after this.”

From the middles of the 1890s until the middle of the 1900s,  leg o’mutton sleeves were again highly fashionable. However, they now started at the shoulder seam proper. They were the equivalent of the 1980’s, redefining the silhouette with broader shoulders and imparting a more ‘athletic’ look for women.

Leg o'mutton

This style reflected the change in both dress reforms and in women’s social status.The Gibson Girl  – who was a popular emblem of femininity in America during the late Victorian era and the Edwardian era – epitomised these new, more athletic shaped women. A Gibson Girl could be found cycling or playing tennis, often exercised, and was emancipated to the extent that she could enter the workplace.

That crushed sleeve is giving the game away. Mustn’t be wearing sleeve plumpers.

As well as sleeve puffs, the truly fashionable would have had to have worn sleeve plumpers or puff-stuffers. The excessively voluminous sleeves  would require a pair of extra support underwear, worn to help hold out the sleeves. Women could also use a stiff or starched lining on the inside of the sleeves to help pump up the volume.

As a writer, I find the idea of using lamb/mutton metaphors, with the leg o’mutton sleeves as the signifier, quite tempting. I didn’t even realise that leg o’mutton sleeves needed their own undergarments until I started researching them. The possibility of hiding something important in the puffs intrigues me.

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Filed under Fashion, Metaphors, Steampunk Aesthetic, Steampunk Feminist, Uncategorized, Victorian-era Fashion