Thursday, February 10, 2011


Hello! The RIC Media Studies Blog would like to offer you, the reader(s), our sincerest apologies for the long absence. This month, we bring you a brief chat with Bruce Rosenbaum of Massachusetts-based SteamPuffin who was generous enough to let us in on a few events in the area that will certainly be of interest to the RIC Media Studies community and beyond.

SS: What is Steampunk?

Steampunk can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people and is difficult to describe. However, my take on it is this: Steampunk is a re-imagining of two (or more) distinct time periods and the fanciful and functional inventions that are produced. For example, imagine (or re-imagine) if the Victorian or Industrial age happened at the same time as the modern or information age what would have been produced in inventions, innovations, gadgets, art, dress and jewelry.

What do Victorian or Industrial Age aesthetics have to offer modern technology and so-called "new media?"
In the age of sleek, modern design, anonymous technology and short shelf life, Steampunk creations provide us with a tangible way to 'feel' and experience the world around us more immediately. New technology and digital devices such as the iPad are not handmade and the typical user cannot figure out how it actually works (without voiding the warranty). It’s human nature to create, be entrepreneurial and figure out how things work. Just as small children need to touch everything around them to learn, we all like to know how an object works by picking it up and holding it in our hands.

SS: To the uninitiated, what are some obvious points of entry in film, music, theatre, visual art, etc.?
Books like Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1869) and H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895). Georges Melies’ Trip to the Moon (1902) and his film version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1907). The Disney film version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea that won an Academy Award. Victorian science fantasy role-playing games such as Castle Frankenstein Final Fantasy IX, World of WarCraft and Bioshock and MYST. Authors such H.G. Wells, H. Rider Haggard, George Griffith, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Garrett P. Serviss, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain and Edgar Rice Burroughs along with inventors like Charles Babbage, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. Recent Authors such as K.W. Jeter, James Blaylock, Tim Powers, Cherie Priest, Christoper Priest and Michael Chabon. Recent movies such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Wild Wild West and Sherlock Holmes.

SS: What is SteamPuffin?
Steampuffin offers unique ‘Steampunk’-inspired architectural salvage and antique items and modified Steampunk Victorian modern appliances and inventions to Steampunk enthusiasts, home restorers and designers around the world.

SS: Please tell me about the two exhibits you're involved with at the moment.
Steampuffin’s Steampunk Form & Function – An Exhibition of Innovation, Invention and Gadgetry brings together outstanding Steampunk design innovations, details the design process and promotes the role of the Steampunk designer/craftsman. Along with recycled items, all Steampunk design solutions are primarily built using authentic Victorian (1850s to early 1900s) objects, salvage items, clothing and antiques that incorporate modern technology and have specific functions for modern day, practical uses. Sponsored by, Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation (, ModVic LLC ( and Steampuffin (, the selections in Steampuffin’s Annual Competition represents the best work across the world in creative Steampunk design for housing modern day technology and conveniences, as chosen by a distinguished jury of design peers. All Steampunk design projects, along with other examples of Steampunk art and design will be exhibited at the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation in Waltham MA from October 22, 2010 to May 10, 2011.

Nemo’s Steampunk Art & Invention Gallery
curated by Steampuffin ( and sponsored by 5 Wits ( have come to together to show you what kind of technology and art could have been on the Nautilus if Nemo was piloting his submarine today. The 1000-square-foot Nemo's Steampunk Art & Invention Gallery will feature primarily museum quality 3D artwork/inventions from 30 Steampunk artists across the country. The artwork will be for sale and can also be customized for clients. The Gallery will be open from February 12, 2011 (OPENING NIGHT) through May 30, 2011. Also it will be the premier of – 20,000 Leaguesthe interactive walk-through adventure that will transport guests into fantastic worlds using Disney-caliber set design and special effects. Guests must work in groups to complete a series of puzzles, riddles and tasks. Each decision made by the group affects the storyline and outcome, making the experience different with each visit.There will also be live entertainment --The Gypsy Nomads and light refreshments. Award-winning Imperial Pizzas will be supplied by The British Beer Company and local, great tasting beer from sponsored by the Blue Hills Brewery.

Bruce also told us about some SteamPuffin projects in the works including
an American drivable version of Dr Who’s Tardis, a mechanical potion making machine for the Official Witch Shop in Salem and the conversion of an 1894 firehouse into a Steampunk bar and tavern.