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Dirk Valentine and the Fortress of Steam
July 7, 2008 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Dirk Valentine and the Fortress of Steam... The year is 1897. For five long years Europe has been ravaged by Baron Battenberg's Steam powered war machines. Led by Great Britain, a handful of defiant countries remain free of the Baron's tyrannical rule. But time is running out for them as his forces grow stronger every day. As dawn breaks high above the Atlantic, a tiny airship arrives at its secret destination. Onboard, Britain's greatest explorer, spy, and master of esoteric fighting arts readies to strike at the heart of the Baron's empire!
posted by Dave Faris (53 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
plz god no
posted by adipocere at 10:43 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is pretty dope! Needs more tacked-on lanterns and brass pipes though.
posted by Mister_A at 10:46 AM on July 7, 2008


You know it's an alternate history because it has airships!
posted by Justinian at 10:48 AM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


You can tell it's old-timey because the controls require two right hands.
posted by DU at 10:50 AM on July 7, 2008


ASDW controls work too, DU.
posted by Mister_A at 10:51 AM on July 7, 2008


After a quick playtest, it's not as completely sucky as the steampunk setting might indicate.
posted by Justinian at 10:53 AM on July 7, 2008


Can I set the player name to "Violet Blue"?
posted by Artw at 10:58 AM on July 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


Steampunk. A non-punk flash in the pan.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:59 AM on July 7, 2008


Wouldn't steam-powered stuff be the worst possible environmental disaster? Coal and wood fueled technology for the 21st century?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:08 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


STEAMPUNKS NOT DEAD
posted by nasreddin at 11:13 AM on July 7, 2008 [5 favorites]


Our thread so far...
posted by Mister_A at 11:13 AM on July 7, 2008 [4 favorites]


Apparently the game is set is an alternate world where they don't have apostrophes.
posted by Bromius at 11:14 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


flash in the pan.

Well, you're welcome to deride it all you want, but since books like The Difference Engine were published in the early 90's, the genre is hardly a flash in the pan, no matter how much you hate Cory Doctorow.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:14 AM on July 7, 2008


Either this was posted in ignorance or defiance. Not that it will matter, of course.
posted by tommasz at 11:23 AM on July 7, 2008




Props for using the Wilhelm scream mind.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:46 AM on July 7, 2008


Dave Faris writes "no matter how much you hate Cory Doctorow."

There are so many reasons to hate steampunk: the name-dropping of Eminent Victorians, the in-joke neologisms in which actual 20th century words and definitions "just happen" to be also adopted by the inhabitants of the steampunk alternate universe and applied to machines that work just like 21st Century machines, but with more gears ratchets and steam, the implicit approval of the colonialism and racism and classi oppression of the Victorian era or the even worse sui generis appearance of typically dressed, typically educated, typically speaking Victorians with atypical and unexplained 20th Century ideologies and mores.

Look, the Victorian Era, whether "good" or "bad", deserves to be understood on its own terms, not just used as a facile analogy to the conflicts of the 21st Century. No, London circa 1880 is not "just like" New York circa 2001, once you add "dirigible airships", "digital speaking tubes", and "difference engine looms".

If you want a taste of real Victorian mores, take a look at the excellent FPP on baby farming. That's the Victorian era. Brunel, not so much Babbage, is the Victorian Era. Cobden and Palmerston the Corn Laws and the Irish Famine. Palmerston and the Crimean. Of course Disraeli and Gladstone and the rise of the middle-class and the conversion of poor into cogs in the industrial machine. Instead we get hack after hack trying to shove the Second World War -- an aggressive Germany, air-war and the birth of computers -- into 1850.

Cory Doctorow's excremental offerings are just a shit-flavored cherry on top.
posted by orthogonality at 12:02 PM on July 7, 2008 [9 favorites]


orthogonality: much of what you've just said can apply to the fantasy love affair with mediaeval Europe, as well.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:11 PM on July 7, 2008


Durn Bronzefist writes "much of what you've just said can apply to the fantasy love affair with mediaeval Europe, as well."

Yes. For a very long time, I've avoided historical fiction precisely because so much of it distorts what the past was really like.
posted by orthogonality at 12:15 PM on July 7, 2008


You know it's an alternate history because it has airships!

Our timeline is the only one where they didn't work out.
posted by WPW at 12:24 PM on July 7, 2008 [6 favorites]


For a very long time, I've avoided historical fiction precisely because so much of it distorts what the past was really like.

You mean people really couldn't cast Magic Missile!?
posted by ryoshu at 12:31 PM on July 7, 2008


orthogonality, I think the key point you're missing here is that airships are awesome. It's easy to forget that sometimes.
posted by brundlefly at 12:32 PM on July 7, 2008


Steampunk settings are a bit oldhat, especially when it’s reduced down to cutesy vicoriana with a few boiler powered robots or whatnot, but hey, at least this is a steampunk setting, not the annoying cosplay variant.
posted by Artw at 12:33 PM on July 7, 2008


orthogonality, I think the key point you're missing here is that airships are awesome. It's easy to forget that sometimes.

It *is* pretty conspicuous that we’re the only timeline that doesn’t get them though.
posted by Artw at 12:34 PM on July 7, 2008


I've avoided historical fiction precisely because so much of it distorts what the past was really like

an inspired exception?
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:44 PM on July 7, 2008


Oh, and I, too, am vaguely irritated by the whole "Kings are awesome!" vibe of a lot of fantasy fiction, but it kind of comes with the territory.
posted by Artw at 12:45 PM on July 7, 2008


Some interesting game dynamics. Go to Level 6, score 3250.

Thanks for the post!
posted by darkstar at 12:52 PM on July 7, 2008


*Got
posted by darkstar at 12:52 PM on July 7, 2008


The art style reminds me of Rick Dangerous, which is not a bad thing.
posted by Z303 at 12:58 PM on July 7, 2008


Artw writes "Can I set the player name to 'Violet Blue'?"

Yes, but that means your character is automatically disemvowelled by the Xeni-monster.
posted by orthogonality at 1:01 PM on July 7, 2008


Re: Airships:

O RLY?
posted by Mister_A at 1:04 PM on July 7, 2008


orthigonality: Look, the Victorian Era, whether "good" or "bad", deserves to be understood on its own terms, not just used as a facile analogy to the conflicts of the 21st Century. No, London circa 1880 is not "just like" New York circa 2001, once you add "dirigible airships", "digital speaking tubes", and "difference engine looms".

Of course if we hold all fiction to the same standard, then we are forced to reject everything from Homer, who conflated dozens of separate conflicts over control of the Bosporus into a myth of unified Greece (and let's not get started on Plato's "Atlantis,") to the modern-day. Then there is Shakespeare who pulled his prince out of medieval Denmark, sent him to a hotbed of late Reformation philosophy, gave him two college chums that just happened to share the names of living Danish courtiers, and made him a tragic spokesperson for breaking with tradition. Perhaps we could keep Wuthering Heights but certainly not Frankenstein with its rather romantic notions of contemporary science and exploration or The Scarlet Letter with its caricature of New England. And certainly not almost all speculative fiction since Poe and Verne. (And while we are at it, almost all of the Western genre in film and print.)

To criticize fiction for problems in historic authenticity seems to be missing the entire point.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:10 PM on July 7, 2008 [9 favorites]


Zeppelin NT? Would that involve a BSOD (blue sky of death)?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:11 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, the Victorian era was also full of bloviated excremental psuedo-intellectualism. So....some things never change?
posted by Xoebe at 1:14 PM on July 7, 2008


Well, I did say you can deride steampunk it all you want, but that I thought calling it a flash in the pan was off the mark. You're more than welcome to hate it for whatever reasons you need to hate it for.
posted by Dave Faris at 1:39 PM on July 7, 2008


KirkJobSluder writes "To criticize fiction for problems in historic authenticity seems to be missing the entire point."

Obviously, one strikes a balance. Rather than setting up a strawman and easily demonstrating it can be knocked down, let's examine what that balance is.

Frankenstein's a great work of speculative fiction which also tells us much about the xenophobia (and positon odf women) in Europe in Shelley's time.

Shakespeare is great drama, but it's also explicitly pro-Protestant pro-Elizabeth propaganda; no one would seriously counsel you that Cardinal Pandulph in "The Life and Death of King John" is an accurate portrait of a papal legate; but a historian might tell you that Pandulph rather neatly summarizes Protestant Elizabethans' attitudes and prejudices about the Pope in particular and Catholics in general.

And of course, if a piece of literature is great, you rwad it just for that. I suspect that Melville presents a reasonably accurate portrayal of many aspecytd of whaling in Moby Dick, but I don't think teh Byronic hero Ahab, a stand-in for the Biblical Cain, is representative of most captains of most whalers. But I'll read Moby Dick anyway; the benefit of a great read outweighs the potential shading of my image of whaling ship captains.

The careful reader enjoys Pudd'nhead Wilson, but realizes that while its portrait of society does reflect the time it was written (1893 or then-abouts), it's not strictly an accurate portrait of the pre-Civil War South in which it is set. The distinction is key, the differences are subtle but real.

(And to be honest, when I first read it, I didn't realize it had been authored so late, and it puzzled me, because I kept thinking "wait, wait, would pre-Civil War Southerners have reacted this way, something's off".)

But what's the benefit of reading, oh for example, steampunk dreck? There are no turns of phrase so exquisite (as with Fitzgerald) that we stop us in our reading to repeat them to ourselves, no complex characters, no "a-ha!" sense of connection to anything real. Instead we get a bland washed-out cartoon version of "the Victorian Era" that barely even entertains even as it lends a fake Turner (not the wonderful early Victorian artist JMW, I mean the cable TV Mogul Ted) colorization to our perceptions of what it was really like to live in the Victorian Era.

Again, I'm wary of historical fiction and I try to avoid the really bad pop-cultural cartoonish crap. Of course I don't rule out anything that has intrinsic worth merely because it's historical fiction. I just suggest taking care in what you feed your head, and how you consume it.

I mean, go ahead and stuff your head with whatever candy pleases you, but I'm going to leave this particular junk food out of mine.
posted by orthogonality at 1:45 PM on July 7, 2008


Re: Airships:

O RLY?


Pff. Theres been almost-going-to-happen airship schemes and the odd tourist airship all my life, and yet it never really takes off properly.

BTW, Nevile Shutes book on his experiences building the R100 is highly recommended for those wondering why airships never hit it big.
posted by Artw at 2:02 PM on July 7, 2008




Holy crap, can we please have a thread that is not about Cory Doctorow and his website?
posted by Eideteker at 2:18 PM on July 7, 2008


In some kind of alternate reality, sure. But you'd be wearing a top hat and look a bit of a twat.
posted by Artw at 2:20 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fuel costs inspire era of dirigible dreamers.

Yup. I'd love to be proved wrong but I suspect I'll be seeing variants on that article till the day I die, with no perceivable progress.
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on July 7, 2008


I like the part where you shoot the chains.
posted by Mister_A at 2:55 PM on July 7, 2008


In defence of Doctrow, Bruce Sterling will blog about steampunk matters too, and I’m always all about how cool Bruce Sterling is. I do, er, frequently forget to read his blog though.
posted by Artw at 3:22 PM on July 7, 2008


Yeah, lots of Steampunk is sucky, and ain't historically accurate, and there's all the cosplay silliness but... League of Extraordinary Gentleman, from my cold dead hand. From. My. Cold. Dead. Hand. (Movie? La, la, la, not listening)

Oh, and the game... got into it, got stuck...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:44 PM on July 7, 2008


orthogonality: But what's the benefit of reading, oh for example, steampunk dreck? There are no turns of phrase so exquisite (as with Fitzgerald) that we stop us in our reading to repeat them to ourselves, no complex characters, no "a-ha!" sense of connection to anything real. Instead we get a bland washed-out cartoon version of "the Victorian Era" that barely even entertains even as it lends a fake Turner (not the wonderful early Victorian artist JMW, I mean the cable TV Mogul Ted) colorization to our perceptions of what it was really like to live in the Victorian Era.

Which, strikes me as an easy and cheap straw man idea of what steampunk is or can be. While there is a fair quantity of dreck (Young Sherlock Holmes and Five Fists of Science) that simply name-drops characters and throws together anachronisms as an alternative history, I also think there is the potential for some great fantasy set in the middle of an industrial revolution. City of the Lost Children for example uses the industrial city, in the same way that Snow White uses rural pastoralism. To one extent it has become a bit of a fad, leading to lots of dreck, but on the other hand it opens the door for fantasy writing to a wide variety of settings between Tolkien's Deep Medieval, and Lukyanenko's contemporary Moscow.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:17 PM on July 7, 2008


Of course City of the Lost Children was quite capable of existing without having a steampunk epithet slapped on it after the fact.
posted by Artw at 7:19 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Artw: Of course City of the Lost Children was quite capable of existing without having a steampunk epithet slapped on it after the fact.

These kinds of epithets are almost always created "after the fact." The term was coined retroactively in the late 80s to describe a loose collection of speculative fiction works dating back at least as far as 1979. Of course, this gets into the big question of how do we define steampunk? If the genre is exclusively defined as pastiche of Victorian history and its scientific romances, then orthigonality has a valid point. But if the genre is defined broadly enough to touch with some weird west and include Miyazaki's Laputa, then City of the Lost Children definitely falls into its scope.

I prefer to consider the glass half-full and consider that there is more to steampunk than just Victorian-Edwardian pastiche. High fantasy, pulp, urban fantasy, cyberpunk, and space opera are just as riddled with bad cliche-ridden works, but never draw the same level of bad knee-jerk criticism here on metafilter.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:33 PM on July 7, 2008


That's because they don't have the cos-play and sprinkle-hose labeling treatment.
posted by Artw at 8:47 PM on July 7, 2008


Artw: That's because they don't have the cos-play and sprinkle-hose labeling treatment.

Um, what? Because the last I checked fantasy and science fiction cosplay was quite alive and well. Did the world suddenly change since the press-time of my local weekly, which runs announcements for scifi cosplay groups? Are there really no more trekkers in uniform or wannabe jedi with plastic light-sabers? Did the market for capes and fantasy swords wither along with the housing market and the demand for SUVs? No more wannabe vampires? And were the reports I heard of a studio marketing leather jackets and fedoras just a media hoax?

I suspect that it's probably a rule somewhere that if something is produced, someone will cosplay it. Hating on something because people cosplay in the same genre strikes me as rather foolish.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:16 PM on July 7, 2008


I like the part where you shoot the chains.

Same here. What the hell is in the water here that makes you wankers go off on so many useless tangents?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:18 PM on July 7, 2008


Because, heck I know there are people who cosplay Fitzgerald and Melville.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:19 PM on July 7, 2008


Oh, they exist, they just don't have the same capacity for getting out and bothering normal folks.
posted by Artw at 8:10 AM on July 8, 2008


KirkJobSluder writes "heck I know there are people who cosplay Fitzgerald and Melville."

Please FPP this, so I can mock it so we can discuss this fascinating occurrence.
posted by orthogonality at 8:12 PM on July 8, 2008


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