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Monthly Archives: November 2010
Art Deco Custom Computer Keyboard by Datamancer

Filed under Found on the Web

Datamancer's Art Deco Keyboard

Just about everyone must have seen the incredible steampunk keyboards custom built by Datamancer – but this one was new to me. I guess he’s been busy.

And it’s pretty much right up my street, so if anyone’s got about $1500 or so lying around, well, Christmas is coming, right?

This art deco computer keyboard was a custom project for the counter at Cinema 16:9 in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. It’s made of wood and chrome with bright white LEDs and reworked vintage typewriter keys. I’d sure love to spend my days hovering over one like it.

Some of his other recent work is a series of ‘Aviator‘ keyboards, which are sort of halfway between the Deco keyboard and his earlier steampunkery: the Aviator’s a Dieselpunk model. Among the notes and sketches at the Datamancer site are some other Art Deco bits in progress. I guess I’ll be checking back more often now!

Frederik Pohl: 91 years young, today

Filed under Hodgepodge

Frederik PohlAnd speaking of Captain Future… or, more accurately, speaking of the Futurians and the Golden Age… why don’t you go wish Frederik Pohl a happy 91st birthday?

A History of Golden Age Science Fiction Pulps at i09

Filed under Found on the Web

Captain Future pulp magazine cover

At i09, Jess Nevins continues the history of science fiction pulp magazines by bursting into their golden age with the beginning of John W. Campbell’s long term at the helm of Astounding.

Nevins tracks the number of sf pulps across the years – through the war and its paper rationing, not to mention the military service of many Marvel Science Stories pulp magazine coverauthors (which, come to think of it, he doesn’t mention – but pulps being what they were, those publishers would surely have printed something if they were able).

It’s also interesting to see which writers were publishing in each market even though their dizzying array of pseudonyms would make a complete list nearly impossible. But if you look carefully you can see the progress of fan writers like the Futurians beginning to break into the kinds of magazines that they’d lately been reading.

Just last night I read Leigh Brackett’s The Veil of Astellar and Henry Kuttner’s We Guard the Black Planet! – both from the years that Nevins covers here – so this article was nicely timed for me.

Thrilling Tales: the adventure continues

Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Lew Stone gets a lesson in Mad ScienceI’m making pretty good progress on the illustrations for The Lair of the Clockwork Book, even though I’m not as far along as I’d like. I’ve just finished the last of the pictures that takes place in Lew Stone’s lab during his adventure (which may be called Big Headed Guy and the Big Ball of Doom) but I’ve taken longer to get them done than I’d hoped.

Because I Think Too Much, I’ve been considering why that is, and why that is interests me, although your mileage may vary.

The biggest difference between this and the mildly interactive Trapped in the Tower of the Brain Thieves is that this story’s linear. When Lew powers up the Chiralitron and begins his experiment he will always do that, in the same way, and the same thing will always happen. This is Captain Obvious speaking, by the way.

As a side effect of this linearity there are fewer things that can happen – and so fewer illustrations – in any one location in the story. Why isn’t fewer faster?

The problem is that building a complicated environment takes lots of time. Making a single picture in that environment takes awhile, too, but nowhere near as much. So the more illustrations that happen in one place, the less time – on the average – they take. You could say that I’m amortizing the time I’ve spent building the pieces that make the pictures.

So I built Lew’s pristine laboratory and made the four pictures that take place there. Then I had to build Lew’s demolished laboratory and make the four pictures that take place there. If I’d needed to make twelve pictures in each state of the lab, the average time it took to make the pictures would be lower. See?

Why didn’t I, then?

So it’s not terrible news – things are just a little bit slower than I expected. This really bothered me until I did the math and understood why. But for the final set of pictures in Lew’s story I have some very different settings to create and those, thankfully, will go much more smoothly than the sets up to now. I’m concerned about what that does to the Clockwork Book‘s launch date – I’d hoped to start posting the story by the end of the year – but I don’t think I’ll be set back by all that much.

iPhone & iPad Cases at Retropolis; Celtic Ornaments at Ars Celtica

Filed under Works in Progress

Retropolis ipad cases and iphone cases


Yep, it’s that time of year when all sorts of new merchandise becomes available just when everyone would wish things could settle down a bit for the holidays. But we can handle it.

Today’s big news is that I’ve added these swell hardshell cases to my Retropolis site. They’re Speck® cases, which have a fabric back stretched over the body of the case, and it’s on that fabric that I’ve been able to print my designs.

The fabric back – in addition to looking pretty neat – gives the back of your iPad or iPhone a much more grippable surface, or in the case of the iPad, a little more traction on your lap. That’s a practical Celtic Ornamentsobservation that has nothing to do with what you were just thinking.

I forgot to mention last week that I’ve also added a bunch of hanging ornaments (or pendants) to my selection of swag at Ars Celtica. They’re ceramic ornaments that measure nearly three inches across, with designs on both sides.

And of course in the middle of all that commercial product mongering I’m trying not to lose ground on The Lair of the Clockwork Book. I’m well along with the demolished version of Lew Stone’s lab, and once that’s all done I’ll be able to turn out the next four illustrations. This is always a crazy time of year for me; but if it was easy, they’d have got someone else to do it.

Do Not Trifle With the Big Brain! Also, a T-Shirt sale

Filed under Works in Progress

Do Not Trifle With the Big Brain
The Big Brain Will See You Now
Big Brain Coffee Mugs


The Big Brains have moved into Retropolis this week: their teeming minions started out by invading my T-shirts, but before I knew it they’d moved out from that beachhead into my coffee mugs and mousepads. The way things are going I can’t predict where they’re likely to show up next. It’s a problem.

In order to solve that problem, at least on the T-shirt front, there’s a sale this week on my shirts: you can save $5 on an order of $25, $10 on an order of $50, or even a big brain-boggling $20 on an order of $100. That sale runs through November 20: note the informative banners at the sites where the sales are running.

That’s the T-shirt sections at Retropolis, as well as the Celtic design shirts at Saga Shirts.

So where did these invaders with the immense brainpans come from, anyway? They’re based on a minor (but important) character from my Thrilling Tale in progress, The Lair of the Clockwork Book. Once I saw how the little guy turned out I couldn’t help but put him on shirts and whatnot aimed at the Big Brained among us. Because there’s just not enough rampant holiday merchandising that’s aimed at people whose brains are bigger than Venus, is there?

Hey, I find a niche, and I decorate the crap out of it. It’s my mission. Or at least that’s what my mind believes is happening… ever since the Big Brain trained his glowing, thought-controlling eyeballs on me. Also, I make him sandwiches.

Eric Joyner’s Robots and Donuts, a book of his Tin World paintings

Filed under Found on the Web

Fog of War - Robots and Donuts

Robo Kong PrintI can’t imagine how I’ve managed to miss the paintings of Eric Joyner, but now that I’ve corrected that I can at least enjoy sharing them with you.

A San Francisco illustrator, Joyner has painted this series of pictures that combine larger than life, vintage toy robots with other toys, world domination, and – inevitably! – donuts.

His Tin World series shows us a universe where giant robots really do look like old tin toys. Let the rest of the world beware! Shown above is what’s possibly my favorite: Fog of War, in which the situation does look pretty dire. Giant donuts roll out across the landscape amid the punishing fire of robots in their pressed-tin rockets, while robot soldiers march over the battlefield with their sparkers sparking and their lights flashing.

Robo Kong, on the other hand, is a more intimate view of the top of the Empire State Building… where the eponymous robot swats at determined baby pilots in their tin toy airplanes.

The series is all wrapped up in the book Robots and Donuts, while individual pictures are also available as prints.

Thrilling Tales: Lew Stone’s Lab, Continued

Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

We Shall Meddle in Things That Man Was Not Meant to Wot Of

I think I’ve got the major elements of Lew’s laboratory pretty well set: there was a lot of shifting and moving involved because at one point, which you’ll see if you embiggify the image, Lew’s experiment is underway and you have to have a pretty clear view of what’s going on.

I still need to do a little rework on the Chiralitron (that’s the big machine in the left foreground) and run some cables across the lab. But it’s pretty well set at this point.

Of course I’ve paid so much attention to that important view that when I pull back out to look at my other angles I’ll find some more to add. But it’s definitely getting there, if by "there" you mean here, but a little more so.

The first couple of dozen illustrations for The Lair of the Clockwork Book include Lew’s adventures, which begin in this room and end up somewhere inside the orbit of Venus. I decided to do this bit first because I want to be fully back up to speed when I work on the opening scenes and the illustrations of the Book itself.

Genuine Thermos Thermal Containment Units Available at Retropolis

Filed under Works in Progress

Thermal Containment Devices from the Future!‘I wouldn’t dream of entrusting my thermally sensitive materials to anything less than a genuine Thermos® device.’

– Harry Roy, Shift Supervisor, the Ferriss Moto-Man Corporation

Harry Roy knows his thermal containment devices. As you can guess, his work at the Ferriss Moto-Man Corporation demands the most effective thermal containment possible in today’s modern world: whether Harry brings a flask full of coffee to work or – daringly! – if he abandons convention and brings a flask of lemonade instead, Harry’s position requires him to keep that vital fluid at a constant temperature.

But how can it know? How can any thermal containment unit keep hot things hot, while also keeping cold things cold? How can it possibly know the difference?

Well, it’s just lucky for Harry (and for you!) that the mad geniuses behind these stylish, stainless steel Thermos® units have solved that problem for us all.

It’s great to live in the Future, isn’t it?

Yep. Like Harry Roy, you too can keep your hot things hot and your cold things cold without wondering which way to throw the switch, through the advanced retro-futuristic technologies of Retropolis, and those Thermos® guys.

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Down in the Basement. Where it Strains Against its Chains and Turns a Gigantic Wheel of Pain, for all Eternity. Muahahahahaha.