February 18, 2008

Steam Week: Ahoy!

Welcome to day 5 of Steam Week. Today I am thinking about Pirates, and how steampunk relates to the pirate genre. Now pirates and nautical imagery is another thing that does not usually appeal to me. I am finding that my tastes are broadening into genres that I don't particularly care much for in this research of steampunk, which is an exciting thing. But as I think about the steampunk pirate, I am vaguely recalling many times I have seen this sort of thing in films, two of which I will highlight below.

First, a picture of a new carving, still very rough and in process. It is a shipwheel, like from a pirate ship. I only had about an hour on and off to play with it last night, because I had orders to work on, so it is still very sketchy. I wish I had more time to work with it in the leather hard stage, but I was tired. Now it is very dry, like plaster, or chalk, so I will carefully carve it, scraping a little at a time, with dental tools, and occassionally using a damp tiny paintbrush to smooth the dry carving marks.
So the first sort of steampunk pirate I am thinking about was in the film Stardust, which I saw at Gencon in August and really enjoyed. Robert Deniro played Captain Shakespeare, and his character was so great! The dance scene in his captains chambers alone is worth seeing this movie for, it was so funny! So anyway, these are pirates of sorts, with all the traditional pirate ship imagery, but they are are on an airship instead of in the water. A post on Brass Goggles taught me that the ship is likely powered by lightening, how cool is that? I didn't remember that bit.

And the air ship is sort of half pirate sea ship and half of a dirigible or zeppelin sort of ship. I am curious now about steampunk pirates in a more traditional, on the water type setting. Or in submarines. Anyone have any examples of this?

Here's a little trailer from the film Stardust, presented like tourist guide, which is fun. Oh, and I love Ricky Gervais in it (love him in anything really) It was an excellent cast and I really enjoyed it!

Link to Video on You Tube

Ok, so last night I was remembering that a Miyazaki movie that we own on DVD had an air pirate theme to it too. So I rewatched that last night, it was Laputa, Castle in the Sky. Quite a charming movie, full of action. I love that there are scenes on the earth, underground, and in the sky...it's all over the place! And there was an excellent steampunk train/locomotive sequence that inspired me to do more research...how can I forget steam trains?

Laputa involves a young girl and boy, trying to save the world, or at least to save the Castle in the Sky from falling into the wrong hands. It is a magical place. And they join a band of air pirates, led by the crazy maternal figure Dola, and her sons, who travel in search of treasures in thier wild flying ships. Here is a little clip of the film, set to some Disney boy band called the Jonas Brothers, with a poppy, piratey song. Its cheesy, I know, but cute.

And because I feel like I cannot mention Pirates without just a little Jack Sparrow, even though I don't think he is really related to this conversation, here you go:


  1. Hi Melanie,

    I am really loving your new work! (I haven't seen Castle in the Sky yet - must go rent it...).

    Anyway, I was tagged by Lorelei Eurto, and I'm passing the tag on to you. If you would like to participate, here are the rules:

    1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
    2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
    3. Tag 7 people* at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
    4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

    If you'd rather not participate, just let me know - I'll pick someone else.


  2. Oh, I LOVE Stardust! I can't believe I didn't think of the lightning ship when we were coming up with steampunk movies.

    I've read the book probably 4 times, and the graphic novel twice, so I was thrilled when the movie managed to capture the same spirit (despite making some major story changes).

  3. Surely the ultimate Steampunk pirate in a submarine was Captain Nemo? Rebel and ex-slave, the Captain murdered and plundered and retreated to his secret hideaway.

    Then of course you've got the airpirates of the Hungry Cities Chronicles and the aether pirates of Larklight and Starcross.

    I'm sure there are dozens more, but submarine, air and space should be handy to continue your line of investigation.

  4. Melissa,
    I think you will like Castle in teh Sky. Its a good one!

    Thanks, I emailed you...

    I bet its a good book, the movie was so fun!

    Now I am tryign to think of more locomotive steampunk films. Got any?

    ooh, thanks, great suggestions! I appreciate them and will have to check them out!

  5. Melanie

    Fascinating posts! Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your creative process.

    My daughter and I watched Stardust this past weekend and we both loved it. What a great film.


  6. Margot,
    Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I loved Stardust too. I saw it with a group of fantasy illustrators at Gen Con, at a late night show. So adventurous for me! I have great memories of it...