Monthly Archives: February 2017

Suffragette Toys: A Steampunk Feminist Perspective

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A card game – similar to ‘Old Maid’

When I was growing up, I wanted science-based toys and books, and I was very lucky to have supportive parents who gave me a chemistry set and a bug catcher (among other outstanding gifts) for my birthday and Christmas presents. Dolls didn’t appeal to me, as I preferred living creatures like babies, puppies, and kittens – I ended up studying zoology at university to obtain a Bachelor of Science. I often wonder if there were girls from earlier era felt the same way. This got me to thinking about suffragettes.

Suffragettes were a social  and political phenomenon existing for over a century. Doll and toy makers would have to be tempted to capture the likeness of suffragettes in their items. Just a quick investigation turned up quite a few games and such. The suffragettes made a few dolls and games to sell at rallies to raise funds. Others were made by those politically against women’s suffrage, and were often less than flattering, if not downright scary (like the Jill-in-the-Box).

However, if I had been around in that era, I would have been purchasing suffragette toys for my daughters.  Because you can aspire to be someone you know nothing about. What I like about these toys is that they show the women active and involved, not passive. Even if they hadn’t seen representing suffragettes, they showed women with agency.

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Althof Bergmann suffragette drummer toy

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George Brown hoop toy

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Mechanical tin suffragette selling pamphlets.

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Suffragette Kewpie doll

 

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Filed under History, Steampunk Feminist, Suffragettes, Suffragists, Uncategorized

The Victorian Gazing Ball: A Steampunk Persective

Cogpunk Steamscribe

Is there anything quite as magical as a mirror? A mirror contains a whole universe trapped in a film of silver paint, reflecting, reversing, and distorting reality. Everything you see in a mirror is a trick of the light. Thanks to scientific advances in the Victorian era of Industrialization, there were new methods for mass-producing large, flat panes of glass and new methods for chemical-coating those same panes, so that glass mirrors became easily available and much more affordable. And so there was a fashion for using mirrors as decoration and not just for their invaluable assistance with keeping tidy and checking for food in your teeth. Gazing Balls, also known as Gazing Globes or Orbs, were considered a fashionable  and amusing addition to both the Victorian home and garden.

What made these gazing balls popular was the way they distorted their surroundings, as well as the beautiful way they dispersed light into…

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What happened to Crabtree and McGee’s Writing Careers?

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Jonny Harris as George Crabtree

Two of my favourite television characters have a lot in common, even though they exist in two very different universes. Constable George Crabtree, played by Jonny Harris, is a science-loving gentleman with literary ambitions. Special Agent Timothy McGee, played by Seam Murray, is  science geek & computer nerd who has literary ambitions. At one point, the literary ambitions played a major role in the plot lines of their respective shows. However, both seem to have abandoned the writing life.

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Sean Murray as Tim McGee

Now, I was thrilled when these young men wrote their books and saw them published. Sure, they were given a hazing by their friends and colleagues, but they were successful authors! In both television series, their new status as authors played a part in the plots of several episodes. However, all that has fizzled out. If their books or writing careers are mentioned, it is only in passing.

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Crabtree teaching a writing class containing L. M. Montgomery, the author of ‘Anne of Green Gables.

I think it is a shame that this aspect of their lives ended up put on the back-burners (so to speak). I know they are both characters in predominantly crime-fighting shows, but these  shows have had decade long runs with plenty of time to build up the background and personalities of their characters. George and Tim just aren’t about their jobs. No character should be defined by just one aspect of a life.

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From writer to action man?

Both characters were light comic relief at the start of the run of their shows. But these are characters that have shown immense growth and added maturity. I hope that ‘growing up’ didn’t mean that they had to give up their writing careers. Writing isn’t a kiddies’ game.

I’m hoping that they both still write, but have developed the sense to keep it from their workmates.

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Filed under Characterization, Murdoch Mysteries, NCIS, Pop Culture, The Writing Life, Uncategorized

Paddle Steamers: Steampunk Technology – Part Two (added bonus: Mark Twain)

Cogpunk Steamscribe

As requested by Paul: Paddle Steamers

The Paddle Steamer 'Victoria' in Auckland The Paddle Steamer ‘Victoria’ in Auckland

One of the genre markers of the Steampunk literary genre is the use of steam to power the technology and gadgets. From a personal viewpoint, one of the most elegant vehicles using steam power are the paddleboats or paddle steamers. I blame my delight in old musicals and ‘Showboat’, and reading too much of Mark Twain’s fiction as a child.

Mark Twain in Nikola Tesla's Laboratory Mark Twain in Nikola Tesla’s Laboratory

As a tangent: Mark Twain isn’t considered a Steampunk author, but his story ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’ is certainly science fiction, using 19th century technology. The time-travelling engineer, Hank Morgan, is able to build up Medieval England into a passable imitation of Victorian England, with an education system, newspapers, steam and electrical  technology. Mark Twain was friends with Nikola Tesla, one of the darlings of the Steampunk Community, and was fascinated by technology…

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Friendship versus Shipping

spock-kirk

Kirk and Spock were the original shipping couple. It is easy to understand why this was the case when you see photos like the ones below.

There was a real homoerotic overtone to their relationship. This didn’t stop Spock being the fantasy fuel for millions of women. After all, everyone likes the idea of a romantic partner who is also their best friend.

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However, these days, just about any intense friendship seems to be an excuse to ship a couple. Sometimes, this can add a certain mystique to the couple. Sometimes it interferes with the concept of platonic friendship. A good friend is just as important as a romantic partner, and can be just as much fun.

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Oy! We’re just mates, sunshine.

I do a bit of shipping myself, but I tend to keep it to myself. However, sometimes it seems a shame that best friends don’t take that final step until it is too late. What are your feelings towards this topic? To ship, or not to ship?

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Style: with help from a visual definition

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Every so often, I get asked to define my writing style. Style is subjective. What one person loathes as purple prose in a text, another might adore as poetic and lyrical. How long is a piece of string?

However, this image above – by the talented illustrator Miyuli – gives a masterful summation of style, by showing how style effects the representation of the same subject.

With writing, how you say something is just as important as what you are saying. My style adapts to the genre I am writing in, so my style changes from text to text. I have a much dryer style when I am writing nonfiction to when I am writing fiction. The language in my blog is much more colloquial’ compared to the language I might use in writing a travelogue for a client. So, asking me what my style is, is like asking me what I had for breakfast. It changes, to suit my mood and the project.

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CapriCon – get up close and personal with Cogpunk Steamscribe

CapriCon

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Cogpunk Steamscribe – in her alter ego of Lynne Lumsden Green, will be attending CapriCon to discuss Australian Steampunk Authors.

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Filed under Alternative Subculture, Personal Appearance, Personal experience, Pop Culture, Steampunk, Steampunk Genre, Uncategorized