Monday, January 18, 2010

Abraham Lincoln, The Original Steampunk

This snowy holiday Monday in Boston finds me wishing I'd known about SnowCon, the gaming convention being held this weekend in Orono, Maine. With a 10-year-old deeply into scifi, robots, and Munchkin Cthulhu, I think we would have enjoyed the make-and-take game workshop, and I would have liked the steampunk soiree. We'd also have had a chance to hear Somerville author Ethan Gilsdorf read from his book, Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks.

Instead, we are home, procrastinating about the snow-shoveling and waiting for the Mythbusters marathon to start at 9:00 a.m. EST. This got me thinking of a book I saw this past Saturday at the ALA Midwinter Meeting: Mr. Lincoln's High-Tech War: How the North Used the Telegraph, Railroads, Surveillance Balloons, Ironclads, High-Powered Weapons and More to Win the Civil War, by Thomas B. Allen and Roger MacBride Allen. It came out from National Geographic Books in 2009, but somehow escaped my attention.

I suspect we are the Allens' target demographic. We watched with rapt attention the Mythbusters episode in which the team reconstructs a Confederate rocket. And we recently ventured to our local Home Depot to get all the PVC pipe and pressure gauges and whatnots necessary to build a spud cannon according to the directions in our copy of William Gurstelle's Backyard Ballistics. Something tells me we would enjoy this immersion in the story of Abe Lincoln, Steampunk. He was certainly an Extraordinary Gentleman.

I'm also intrigued by and trying to find a copy of the Zelig-like graphic novel Boilerplate, by graphic novel geniuses Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett, who happen to be married to each other. Boilerplate is a robot who pops up in places like the Klondike gold rush, wrestling a bear, or among the Zapatistas.

The Boilerplate website is extensive, but there is also a good article about the authors and their project over on Watch this space for more about Boilerplate as well as video, once our spud cannon is working.