Oct 102014

So, I’m sure a couple of people have noticed there are a few more Steampunk Characters that Yami and I are showing up as.

A Boy and His Automaton

Aren’t they cute?

This is Laika Leonne, the partially organic assistant automaton, and Isaac Gautreaux, her creator. The ears are more of a feature as well as a need to not leave ‘unused parts’ from construction. Issac created her to help with his research as well as doing a bit of a ‘magical curiosities’ display that help fund his trips.

As far as his personality, Isaac is rather jovial. Sure, he isn’t the most credited in the field of preternatural species or their applications to Biology, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying life to the fullest. And who says that the ‘fullest’ means how long people normally stick around? There’s plenty of stories about immortal monsters and maybe, with a little luck and study, the good times never have to end.


“There’s a lot of the world to see and good times to be had. And in intend to see it all. As surely as a man can beat a bad night of cards with a good hand, he can beat death with a bit of luck, smarts, and the right ‘cards’.” -Isaac Gautreaux 

Sep 272014

So, one of the first things that comes to mind when one thinks “steampunk” might be “airships”. So, how big of a deal were airships actually in Victorian times?

Well, to discuss that, let’s build up some context first. Hopefully this isn’t too boring/repetitive, but well… I feel the need to set the stage.

IcarusHumans have been fascinated with flight since pretty much the beginning of recorded history. Consider the tales such as that of Icarus from Greek mythology. One might say that people have always been envious of the freedom that birds have and they lack.

Over human history, many tried to achieve flight. Many jumped from towers, while others designed contraptions inspired by birds. I haven’t found particularly solid sources on this right now, but it’s said that in ancient China, kites capable of carrying people were used.


 Turns out things really blew up (so to speak) close to 55 years before Queen Victoria took the throne of the United Kingdom. That is to say… the first case of lighter-than-air methods carrying humans aloft however, was that of the Montgolfier brothers’ balloon in France, which in October 1783 flew with people aboard.

Montgolfier Brothers' 1783 balloon

Montgolfier Brothers’ 1783 balloon



The Montgolfier brothers certainly weren’t the only ones interested however. The air was an exciting new frontier for humankind after all! Apparently in August 1784, just the next year, a fellow by the name of James Tytler was the first in Britain to ascend, beating his rival Vincenzo Lunardi by a mere month.

Jean-Pierre Blanchard

Jean-Pierre Blanchard


The next year, in 1785, a fellow by the name of Jean-Pierre Blanchard crossed the English Channel in a balloon. (Sure seems people like using the crossing of the English Channel as a milestone, eh?)

The Glamorous Vincenzo Lunardi

The Glamorous Vincenzo Lunardi


Vincenzo Lunardi, though not the first in Britain, certainly gave good reason to remember his name, as he went a long way to glamorizing ballooning.

All this excitement ended up being called “Balloonomania”. All sorts of goods and paraphernalia started appearing with themes and inspiration from ballooning. Such excitement it was… but it is worth pointing out that not everyone was enthralled of course, with plenty who doubted the practical utility of it all.







Giffard's Vehicle

Giffard’s Vehicle

While all that continued on for a while, the major events above all were well before Victorian times proper though. So… what were things like in Victorian times?

For one thing, people started trying to make lighter-than-air vehicles which were powered and they could steer, airships so to speak. One which is reputed to be the first successful one created by Henri Giffard in 1852, which was powered by a steam engine and made a controlled flight 27km from it’s launch in Paris.


What’s that I hear? “What about big airships like in many steampunk stories?” Well, hold your horses! You’re jumping too far ahead…. patience…Ones resembling that came about relatively late.

William Samuel Henson's Aerial Steam Carriage

William Samuel Henson’s Aerial Steam Carriage

Let’s see… What about heavier-than-air vehicles? Well, there’s Sir George Cayley, who was considered by some to be the “father of the aeroplane”. Sure, he didn’t end up creating a successful vehicle that could achieve powered sustained flight like the Wright Brothers later did, but Sir Cayley’s work nonetheless important, for it was he who as early as 1799 started making a rigorous study of the physics of flight. It was this work which led to William Samuel Henson coming up with an “aerial steam carriage”, which while it did not fly, was an interesting milestone.




Le Bris' Albatros

Le Bris’ Albatros

In the years following, there were many experiments going on, some even achieving brief hops, but none were particularly practical. Incidentally though, it was in the process of this where a better understanding of aerodynamics started to lead to gliders that were more practical.


Now for a little trivia side show to give some more historical context! Who’s heard of “Around the World in Eighty Days”? Surely all of you have, as it’s had renditions in many different mediums in modern times, ranging from musicals, film, television, etc. Well, it’s a book published in 1873 by French writer Jules Verne. The book’s premise (summarized greatly) is that a fellow makes a wager that he can travel  the world in 80 days, mostly due to railways. Do any of you associate “Around the World in Eighty Days” with balloons? If so… I’m sorry, balloon was never a mode of transportation that occurs in the story. The addition of that is to be blamed on the 1956 film adaptation (Film adaptations of books, ruining them since… forever?) Don’t give up all hope though… because Jules Verne did write a story about manned balloon flight as it turns out.  “Five Weeks in a Balloon” was the title, written in 1863.


First Zeppelin flight

First Zeppelin flight

So… back to the big airships… well, too bad for Victorian Era, they came about right at the very trailing end. It was in 1900 that over in Germany, Count von Zeppelin’s first airship flew. One might even say the rise of the large airship punctuated the end of the Victorian Era.

… What’s that? You still want more? Well, I’ll give just one more date for some perspective. Everyone knows of the famous Wright Brothers, right? Right? Wright? (I’m not as funny as I sometimes feel like I am…) Well, the first successful powered flight by the Wright Brothers, was in December 1903, just a couple years after the passing of Queen Victoria.

And with that… Red, signing off for now.

Jul 082014

No need to adjust your television sets, folks, that’s a brand new domain name you’re seeing at the top of your screen. We can now be accessed directly at:




You may see some glitches as we complete the migration; feel free to leave a comment if something doesn’t clear up within 24 hours. Thanks!


PS: Feeling lazy? The old sites will remain as redirects, so no need to rush out and update your bookmarks just yet.

May 242014

Greetings! Just a brief check-in here with some announcements about our summer lineup of programming for you all. As Chaos has taken a summer position away from the rest of us core Vanguarders, a few changes will be made to accommodate this temporary parting of ways.


The following regular series will be on hiatus until August:


[list type=”cross”]


  • Movie Night Podcast series
  • Chaos’ regular build posts



Apr 102014

Greetings and Salutations Folks. Red here again. Well, it’s a been a bit quiet here on the Radiant Vanguard site for a bit, but I come bearing good things (hopefully). Another Victorian Tech Column!

This week’s topic is…. metallurgy (‘n bells)! So, I’m writing and posting this on April 10th. Anyone know what happened on one particular April 10th? The (re-)forging of what might be the world’s most famous bell (or at least close to it), commonly known as Big Ben, and officially known as the Great Bell.

Originally the bell in question was cast in 1856, but well… it ended up cracking during testing. On April 10th 1858 the bell was recast, creating what is the current large bell found in the Great Clock at the Palace of Westminster, and was first rung on July 11th 1859. After the recasting all was not well though, because just a short while in September the bell cracked yet again. Four years later, it was fixed by switching in a lighter hammer, and cutting out a piece around the crack to prevent the crack from spreading.

So, anyway, what’s this tangent about bells for? It’s a starting point for talking about the metallurgy of the time. Bells such as that were made of particular type of bronze called bell metal. Bronze is an alloy that was around for a very long time, with the earliest tin based forms of bronze being from around 4500BCE. Bronze an alloy of copper and tin (well, there’s also some alloys of copper and arsenic alloys that are called bronze, among other combinations…), which is generally considered useful because it’s hardness in comparison to it’s constituent elemental metals.

Now, what’s a metal that comes up in the context of steampunk-y stuff besides bronze? Well brass of course. Many people might think of bronze and brass as similar, on account of them looking superficially similar to someone not too familiar with them, but that’s pretty far from the truth. Brass is an alloy made from copper and zinc and is in fact much softer than bronze. Consequently, it is valued not for hardness, but instead for how it is easily tooled and has low friction. Now, where did/does brass end up used? Well, you guessed it, clockwork stuff is one example, along with plenty of other examples such as musical instruments, plumbing, and even jewelry. One useful property of brass is that it doesn’t tend to spark easily. Maybe consider using that in moving parts of your hydrogen-filled airships? Haha. While brass had more development later than bronze, most of the interesting developments in terms of brass making in Europe seem to have been in the 18th century, before the Victorian Era, so well… brass making had matured nicely leading up to the Victorian Era.

Now that we have those obligatory two covered, what else is relevant to metallurgy of the time period? Well, they had moved a long way past having bronze and brass (though they hadn’t stopped being useful of course). They of course had iron and steel at the time, and the industrial revolution was making good use of those, with some improvements in blast furnaces happening during the era.

So, What metals were more novel at the time? Well, as it turns out this time period was when metallic aluminum first started being produced and used. In 1825 it was first produced via a chemical reaction (anhydrous aluminum chloride with potassium amalgam), which precipitated a lump of the metal, however it’s not like that was a useful method for producing significant quantities. While some improvements to the process were made, it was a metal more rare and valuable than gold for much of the time period. A process called the the Hall-Héroult process was then invented in 1886, which used recently scaled up electricity production for the production of metallic aluminum. This was put into commercial scale production in 1888.

How about metals that weren’t around at all during the time? Titanium is probably a good example, as it was first produced in the pure metallic form in 1910, and wasn’t really commercialized for a few more decades.

I haven’t went as in-depth here as I would have wanted to, there’s a ton of other things one could talk about, but eh… can only make this little article so long in any case.

Mar 272014

Greetings and Salutations, Red here, and welcome to a little series discussing technology from the Victorian era. For this first one, I’ll be talking about the telegraph.

In some ways, the electrical telegraph could nearly be said to be pre-Victorian, in that some early experiments preceded Queen Victoria’s birth, let alone reign, in 1808. It didn’t use anything so fancy as morse code or buzzers, but instead consisted of a separate wire to carry a signal for letter, digit, or symbol. What was essentially a large battery was attached to wires at the transmitting side, which would cause electrolysis to occur in an acid bath at the other side, creating bubbles which indicated to the operator that the transmitting side had selected that letter.

That was one among various other early experiments, the rest of which I won’t go into here. Now, when commercial telegraphy started to become a thing, that’s where things get interesting. Typically when thinking of telegraphs people often think of the dits and dats of Morse Code, however that wasn’t the only encoding used in the early telegraph systems as they began to become prominent. In England, Sir William Fothergil Cooke and Charles Wheatstone (Engineers may would know him the fellow the “Wheatstone Bridge” was named after) created a system which could transmit the alphabet using six wires that controlled 5 needles which allowed the receiving end to easily decode what was being transmitted. It turned out that many wires was a bit too cumbersome and problematic for maintenance though, so a two-needle version was created, though that was a little more difficult to use.

Meanwhile, around the same time in the United States, Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail came up with a telegraph system that is the sort more familiar to most people these days. It was rather to simple to implement in that it only required two wires, and used a code of short and long pulses to send the messages. Eventually in 1851 this became the standard telegraphic device in Europe, however the UK kept using Cooke and Wheatstone’s needle-based system.

As time went on, various improvements to telegraphic systems were made, such as systems to record messages without an operating required at the receiving end, some even printing letters on paper, or ones to transmit images (the predecessors of what we now know as fax machines), all during the Victorian era. By the middle of the century, long telegraph lines had started to be laid between countries allowing long distance communication, and soon even ones crossing oceans were put in place.

After Victorian times, the telegraph continued to be used, and continued be improved with systems for progressively more automation, getting to the point of allowing someone to use a typewriter keyboard to send messages. One could say it eventually evolved into what we now know as the Internet.

Hopefully some people found this interesting. Stay tuned for future articles, they’ll (most likely) be going up at the Thursday/Friday boundary bi-weekly… at least if all goes to plan.

Feb 102014

In an attempt to get a regular event going that the three of us (Chaos, Yami and myself) can do at home, I came up with the idea of watching a steampunk-esque movie every month. And podcast it. While drinking. Yeah, well, it worked kind well for the first podcast so…

Anyway, I poked around Amazon a bit and ordered eight movies so far:

Wild Wild West (1999) with Will Smith and Kevin Kline, one of the more mainstream accessible steampunk movies.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) with Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, which has giant robots.’nuff said.

The Rocketeer (1991) with, umm, Timothy Dalton and Billy Campbell (had to dig for actors there), which is a bit more diesel- than steam- punk but whatever.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) with Sean Connery and some other people. A bit of the supernatural there, but it has Captain Nemo and so instantly steampunk.

Van Helsing (2004) with Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale. More supernatural here but that works with Yami and Chaos’ new characters so I’m kind of hand-waving that the gadgets Helsing uses are all steampowered.

Mutant Chronicles (2008) with Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman and John Malkovich. Alright, to be honest, I’m not sure if some of these really qualify but Amazon assures me they’re part of the Steampunk genre so I’m going to trust hat the entity that is trying to sell me more DVDs isn’t being overly flexible to move merchandise. Crap.

Steamboy (2005) with the voices of Anna Paquin, Alfred Molina and Patrick Stewart (Picard?). Alright, this one is animated, which could put some off (I’m a fan personally) but the plot is about a guy named Roy Steam who is an inventor.  I think we can safely bet there’s gonna be some steampunk doings going on.

And finally I have Metropolis (1926) with Brigitte Helm and Alfred Abel. It’s a black and white silent film- and thus not the animated movie of the same name I had meant to buy. Whoops. Chaos suggested that we should watch both, perhaps the silent one off-air, then the animated recorded right afterwards.


So those are the movies I’ve gotten already and we’ve already watched Wild Wild West and recorded it (still working on the edits though, sorry) but we’re interested in getting some opinions on where to go from here. Anyone have any suggestions on the viewing order? Or even have a movie or two that you’d recommend we watch that’s not on the list? If I can find it on Amazon for under ten bucks, I’m very willing to give’em a shot. And if it looks interesting, I might go over that to be honest. The only real restriction is that horror movies result in Yami having nightmares and beating up Chaos so we’re going to avoid those. Other than that, we’re going to be drinking so we’ll watch anything. Okay. Maybe not Jack and Jill or Gigli…

 Posted by at 9:33 pm
Feb 012014

Okay, we had some problems getting the photos off the bloody camera (for whatever reason, the computer would recognize the camera was plugged in but trying to access the photos on them would cause the camera to crash and the computer to freeze up. fun times) but success is mine!


I should probably explain what I meant with the title. The CZU (that’s Cleveland Zeppelin Union for those new around here) managed to get use of Parma Township’s public library (well, one of the conference rooms anyway) to host a ‘Making Day.’  What that is, exactly, is the lot of us doing something of a show and tell about some of the things we make to support our obss- hobby. Enjoyable pass time. Activities of interest. For interest, we brought in the business cards Yami has created for our group complete with a short but nifty little slide show. I also whipped together another slide show about general creating idea, using the steampunk wreath we made as the main example.

Gabriel hard at work making a trinket for a curious attendee.

Gabriel hard at work making a trinket for a curious attendee.

We also had a booth showing off some LED creations, one that helped explain some of the common character ‘archetypes’ and paper wind-fish (think of a windsock but made of paper and in the shape of a carp).  It was pretty neat to see how far the gambit can run, from the relatively cheap and easy to make calling cards to the really impressive LED-studded costume pieces that can take weeks or even months to create.  Of course, props and costumes are only as cool as the ideas behind them, so even having a platform to explain to a few people about how to start ‘thinking steampunk’ was really great.  



Some of the CZU members trying to get the FB page up on the projector.

Some of the CZU members trying to get the FB page up on the projector.


The star of the show, however, was Gabriel  and his jewelry, ornaments and doodad creation seminar. He brought his hot glue gun, boxes of small metal, plastic and paste-gem bits and some chains, then did some quick tutorials and demonstrations of how to assemble some very simple creations. I, for example, worked with him and another CZU member to create my Owens persona a fake pocket-watch to go with his new vest.  It’s a simple piece, just a false watch face attached to a metal chain on one end and a decorative weight on the other.



It was half ‘hey, nice to see you all again!’ and half ‘PSA: Hello people, this is Steampunk!’ And personally, I think both halveswent great. Sure, we may not have gotten as many visitors as a panel during a con, but we had at least two dozen or so people attend our little three hour session. That’s not bad for a bunch of people who just want to share their fun.

Not a bad sized crowd.

Not a bad sized crowd.

And we also got to debut some new additions to the  Owens costumes (most of which has been covered elsewhere):

Got some nifty new vests and button-up shirts.

Got some nifty new vests and button-up shirts.


Nothing new technically but we haven't had a 'in costume' photo of Nettie as yet.

Nothing new technically but we haven’t had a ‘in costume’ photo of Nettie as yet.


The new pocket watch (and weight, which is what you can see) for Owens.

The new pocket watch (and weight, which is what you can see) for Owens.

 Posted by at 7:43 pm
Dec 252013

Hey, everyone! This is Chaos on behalf of the entire Radiant Vanguard group saying Happy Holidays to one and all. There’s no posts today, but we’ll return next week. For now, I hope everyone’s enjoying the holidays with those close to you.