Really Retro: Your Ultimate Guide to AnachroCon, Atlanta’s Steampunk/Alt-History Con

Posted on: Feb 21st, 2012 By:

Science fiction used to be all about the future, but in steampunk, it’s gone back to the past to create a steam-powered alternate Victorian era full of airships, goggles and rayguns where Tesla trumps Edison. If you think that steampunk is just about creative costumes, there will be plenty walking the halls of AnachroCon, this weekend (Feb. 24-26) at the Holiday Inn Select Perimeter, but there will also be so much more from literary to art to performances. Read more about the many facets of this fast-growing subculture in our recent interview with STEAMPUNK BIBLE co-author S.J. Chambers, then head on down to AnachroCon to experience the city’s biggest annual steampunk gathering live.

As Anachrocon’s Website says, it’s the “place in the South for Steampunk, History, Alternate History, Science, Music, Classic Sci-Fi Literature and the most amazing costuming you’ve ever seen!” Here’s our top nine coolest things to do at Anachrocon. For times and locations, check the full con schedule here.

Mad Sonictist Veronique Chevalier.

1. Costumes Extraordinaire

Men in top hats, boots and goggles. Ladies in their finest Victorian dresses with rayguns tucked into their beaded evening bags. Gizmos galore. In the case of steampunk, accessories make the outfit and it’s not just a look but a way of life for some followers who meticulously craft their eccentric wardrobes in home workshops. Expect to see an amazing array of hall costumes, but the best of the best compete in the Costume Contest at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Or learn to make your own from award-winning costumers in the Fashion and Fabrication programming tracks.

 

Frenchy & the Punk.

2. A Marvelous Menagerie of Musical Acts

If steampunk has a look, thanks to a motley menagerie of talented musicians, it also has a sound – a diverse blend of jazz, ragtime, gypsy, classical, goth and even a touch of rock n roll. At Anachrocon, you can hear some of the best in the region and nation including The Hellblinki Sextet (do we need to say more than pirate cabaret to pique your interest?!), The Extraordinary Contraptions, Frenchy and the Punk, Aeronauts, The Ghosts Project, The Gin Rebellion, The Vauxhall Garden Variety Players, Play It With Moxie and more. Dance the night away to several DJs including “self-described eccentric audio arranger and morally ambiguous scientist” Dr. Q, the mad mastermind behind The Artifice Club which stages quarterly steampunk shindigs and is the official sponsor of the Friday night main entertainment track provocatively titled Fallout Frenzy. Read an interview with Dr. Q here about The Artifice Club here.

Talloolah Love. Photo credit: Mark Turnley.

3. Trick or Tease: Burly-Q and Carnivale Steampunk-style

Burlesque arose out of vaudeville and sideshow hoochie-coo, all of which go back to the bawdy dancers, singers and comedians of the Victorian music hall. Circuses and carnival sideshows for general public pleasure also came of age in the 19th century. See steampunk versions of both this weekend. Award-winning Atlanta burlesque beauty Talloolah Love  invites you to Burlesque At the End of the World (Fri. midnight) featuring  flavors of Bertolt Brecht, The Muppets, and Hollywood heresy; “you’ve never seen a burlesque show like this!” Guest stars include Knoxville’s Rosey Lady, the Blooming Beauty of Burlesque; Katherine Lashe of Syrens of the South Productions; The Chameleon Queen; and Sadie Hawkins and Barbilicious of Blast-Off Burlesque. Meanwhile under the motto of “Doing the extrordinary with the ordinary,” the talented performers of Oklahoma’s Carnival Epsilon (Fri. 5 p.m.) test the limits the human body can be pushed to with sharp blades, burning fire and a silver fork. And Wicked Hips Bellydance, a professional troupe with members from the US and Europe, presents an art form once considered so risque that it would have inspired proper Victorian ladies to grasp their smelling salts (Sat. 7 p.m., Sun. noon).

4. History, Science and the End of the World, Oh My!

Nikola Tesla.

Yes, the whole idea of steampunk is based on an alternate history and a different direction in science and energy. Costumes are not mandatory to attend these bonafide actual history and science with fascinating panels on such topics as “the history of passive-resistance and non-violent protest” (Fri. 3 p.m.);  “evolution of small arms” (Fri. 5 p.m.), “Sex in Classical Greece and Rome” (Fri. 11 p.m.), Van Gogh at Remy (Sat. 5 p.m.) and much more including culinary discussions, Vikings, shipwrecks and a Sunday-morning gnostic mass. Well, with the Mayan calendar’s abrupt end this year, we give them some slack for a few more apocalyptic (and maybe not so hard-factual) programs such as “This is the Way the World Ends; Eschatology 101″ (Fri. 2 p.m.), “Mayan Calendar 2012″ (if the world’s coming to an end, it only makes sense there’s also a mead-making 101 class out by the pool at the same time), and “Surviving Those Pesky Zombie Apocalypses” (Sat 8 p.m.). Does that mean we’ll see some Walking Dead Steampunks drunk on mead? Well, we can only hope.

The Traveling Revelers.

5. A Little Etiquette & Indulgence Can Do You Good

The Victorian Age was known for being prim and proper, unlike our uncouth contemporary era, so it seems only fitting that AnachroCon’s newest last-minute programming track is centered on Etiquette & Indulgence. Run by Peter Beer Slayer and Richard Carnival, “their mission [is] to make the world a better place by providing instruction on the Social Graces and how to truly enjoy life by using their combined powers to become the Traveling Revelers!” Take ConSociology classes on “how to meet people at cons” (Fri. 3 p.m.);  “the zen of flirting” (Fri. 7 p.m.); “the art of social cues, green lights/red lights” (Sat. noon),and enjoy a “morning refresher” course (ok, early afternoon, Sun. 1 p.m.). Or engage in proper Tea Dueling at 11 a.m. Sun. morning.

Bill Pacer as Benjamin Franklin.

6. Viva the Revolution – Meet the Founding Fathers

Tea Partiers and Ultra-Liberals, take note! OK, AnachroCon isn’t breaking out the Ouija Board (well, not right now anyway; we kind of think there has to be some Ouija-ing going on somewhere), but professional Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin impersonators (J.D. Sutton and Bill Pacer) will be on hand to share their wisdom on government, electricity and even provide a Q&A. Find out what the founding fathers really thought about freedom of religion, gay rights and sleeping with French prostitutes – we dare you to ask them!


7. Astounding  Alt-History Literature & Pop Culture Panels

At the end of the day, it’s sometimes forgotten that steampunk started not as an aesthetic movement but in the pages of books and now is a lively literary genre. Panels discuss classic influences from Edgar Allan Poe (Sat. 1 p.m.) to a Victorian Science Fiction Roundtable (Sat. 9 p.m.) where we imagine the names Jules Verne and H.G. Wells might get a few mentions. More topics include how to write alternate history (Sat 4 p.m.), modern steampunk literature (Sat. noon) and Growing Up Steampunk (Fri. 7 p.m.). Author guests include Mark P. Donnelly, Kathryn Hinds, O.M. Grey, Emilie P. Bush, Kimberly Richardson, Alan Gilbreath and Dan Hollifield.

Enhanced sonic phaser by Venusian Airship Pirate Trading Co.

8. Sensational Steampunk Marketplace

Need a pair of goggles, a trusty ray gun, a corset, jewelry, custom leather items? All of these and more are available in the Vendor Room, a veritable bazaar of steampunk-related merchandise, with a little Medieval-Renaissance-Celtic thrown in for fun. Well, steampunk does share some roots in modern fantasy which is often inspired by those eras. Be sure to also visit the Artisans Room where you can buy unique, one-of-a-kind creations by jeweler Corey Frison (Labrys Creations), art prints and jewelry by Kerry Mafeo (Fantastic Visions), chainmail by Thandor (and watch him craft it before your very eyes!), the geekiest T-shirts on the planet from Aardvark Screen Printing and works by award-winning artist and illustrator Mark Helwig.

9. Steampunk Boba Fett

Do we really have to say anything else but those three words? OK, you may have seen the Elvis Stormtrooper at DragonCon but Steampunk Boba Fett has taken this helmeted STAR WARS mercenary to a new level of eccentric creativity. Dubbing himself humbly, “the galaxy’s most feared Steampunk Bounty Hunter since 1878 (Earth Time),” to see him is to be inspired! Now go home and get to work on your costume so you’ll be ready to enjoy Anachrocon this weekend!

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Really Retro: STEAMPUNK BIBLE Co-Author S.J. Chambers Muses on the Appeal of Alt-History & A Paranormal Fantasy at This Saturday’s Mechanical Masquerade

Posted on: Nov 10th, 2011 By:

When The Artifice Club presents the 2nd annual Mechanical Masquerade: A Paranormal Fantasy this Saturday Nov. 12 at Blue Mark Studios, a renovated 110-year-old church, they couldn’t have picked a better judge for their ghost story contest than S. J. Chambers, co-author with Jeff VanderMeer of the critically acclaimed THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE (published by Abrams Image this spring). S.J., you see, suffers from Poepathy, a dread affliction whose symptoms include “daydreaming…reveries that include black birds, scents of an unseen censor or aberrant alliterative applications.”  She contracted it, she says mournfully (or enthusiastically, depending on your point of view), from excessive contact with the works of  seminal American horror author, Edgar Allan Poe, on whose works she has penned a frightful quantity of essays and journalistic works.

Lately though, S.J.’s journalistic adventures have sailed towards Steampunk, a fast-growing international movement whose participants dream of an alternate world powered by steam technology and resplendent with airships, corsets, goggles, mad scientists and other fantastical wonders of a Jules Verne-ian nature. Lavishly illustrated, THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE is the first definitive guide to the wildly, weirdly imaginative literature, art and costuming of the subculture, which has a vibrant chapter here in Atlanta. A Tallahassee resident (she also treated us to the Cute and Creepy art exhibit review here), SJ also will be signing that esteemed tome at the Mechanical Masquerade, The Artifice Club’s most elaborate event yet—planned to play out like a story itself in which a supernatural-themed masquerade ball is staged on a magical rift accidentally created by one infamous Montague Jacques Fromage whle experimenting with a curious invention in service of her majesty Queen Victoria. And yes, masks are not just encouraged but required (come unfashionably without one, and we’re told you may be asked to leave or to purchase one from the lovely Dread Sisters). The fantastical festivities start with afternoon seminars on topics such as Steampunk Burlesque (see this week’s Kool Kat feature on Indigo Blue here). Then the main event runs from 5 p.m. to way past midnight and features a bazaar, libations, costume contest and performances by an eclectic ensemble of talent including the Mezmer SocietyDoc Volz and his Steampunk TrunkThe Ghosts ProjectVauxhall Garden Variety Players and the Fantasia de Mode Fashion Show presented by The Steampunk Chronicle.

ATLRETRO asked S.J. to demystify steampunk for the uninitiated, tell us what she learned about steampunk abroad on her recent book tour to England and France, and tease us with a sneak peek into her role in the Paranormal Fantasy. She not only kindly obliged, but then some…

What’s the origin story behind THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE (Abrams Image) and how you personally became involved? 

It did some editorial work for Ann and Jeff VanderMeer with [surrealist flash-fiction anthology] LAST DRINK BIRD HEAD and some other miscellaneous projects, so my role with THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE began as an editorial assistant. However, Jeff loved what I was doing, and saw how much I was getting into the project, that he asked me to contribute to the writing. One thing lead to another and we were co-authors. I can’t say enough what a great experience it has been to work side-by-side with Jeff. He’s full of wisdom and one of the best writers alive, imho.

Why are you excited to be attending THE MECHANICAL MASQUERADE: A PARANORMAL FANTASY and what will you be up to while you’re here?

There are several reasons why I am excited about this event.  First, I have an extreme case of Dance Party deficiency, so I can’t wait for DJ Doctor Q to start spinning at midnight. Second, I’m excited about wearing a costume, which I don’t usually do.  The clothes I wore on tour are pretty much what I wear normally, even the more Pre-Raphaeliteish pieces, so this is my first true sojourn into Steampunk chic. Not sure how great it’ll be, as everything I touch seems to turn Regency, but it should be fun.

But vanity aside, what I am REALLY excited about is the ghost story contest that I am judging. From 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., I am challenging guests of The Mechanical Masquerade to scare me! Contestants will have five minutes to spin a paranormal yarn—doesn’t have to be gruesome horror, but must have something of the unexplainable and strange.  If participants are reading this, I’ll give them a clue as to what endears me most.  I love stories—and this goes for any type of story really—that strike me emotionally. So, if you make me split my petticoat with laughter, or drown my veil in tears, you’ll get a lot of bonus points. Being the Poepathist that I am, some of my favorite tales involve haunted houses and dead lovers, and the more monsters the merrier.

In any case, we will have lots of prizes for winners, including a first prize of signed copies of THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE and Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s wonderful, new anthology THACKERY T.LAMBSHEAD’S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, which I have a sundry tale in, and a $25 gift certificate to Octane Coffee.  Not bad for five minutes.  If you don’t want to vie for a copy of THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE via the competition, they will be available for purchase and signing throughout the night.

The Mezmer Society. Photo credit: Farad Rezei of Rakadu.

THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE seems to be thriving in a time when books and authors in general are having a tough time. You even had a whirlwind signing tour which took you through New England and to England and France. What’s the secret to its success and why is steampunk so popular right now? 

I would say publishing is in a state of transition right now, thanks to e-publishing, and in trying to figure out what that means in the grand scheme of things, on top of the recession, authors and books are having to work double-time to stay afloat. I definitely know that I, Jeff, our editor Caitlin Kenney, our publicist Amy Franklin, and the wonderful people at Abrams, as well as our contributors, believed very strongly and worked really hard on promoting this book. So, I attribute a lot of the success we’ve had to our collective sweat and tears.

The fact that, in this burgeoning world of two-dimensional and grey e-books, the THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE is very tactile and visually pleasing hasn’t hurt. This is a book with a lot of textual as well as visual content, and it invites people to peruse it in both ways, which really appeals to readers.  I think this attraction ultimately ties into the same technological fatigue that is making the Steampunk spirit very resonant: the world is tired of being spoon-fed culture and knowledge. We need Steampunk in our lives because it promotes imagination and ambition, it promotes awareness of how things work and also sustainability. People think of Steampunk as a fashion fad or a science fiction trend, but it is an umbrella term for a lot of reactionary and revolutionary philosophies on modern life, which we try to touch on in the book.

Speaking of England and France. You even went to a steampunk convention over there, didn’t you? How do English and French steampunks or steampunk fans differ from the American variety?

While I did an event in London, and an event in Paris, I am afraid I didn’t make it to the Weekend at the Asylum in Lincoln.  Towards the end of planning the Europe Tour, an assignment in Paris came up, so I had to take those few extra days to make sure I had time to work on it.  I was sorry to miss it, as I had just met Jema Hewitt and Kit Cox who were going, and I would have loved to spend more time with them, as well as meet some of the U.K. Steampunk luminaries like John Naylor and Professor Elemental.

The differences between U.K., French and U. S. Steampunk are subtle. U.K. tends to be more Victorian-oriented because that’s where she reigned and that’s their direct history.  However, I think we over here in the states misunderstand U.K. Steampunk as nostalgists ignoring skeletons in the Empire closet, and I found that to not be true. At the Last Tuesday Society event, there was a lot of interest in multicultural Steampunk, and I think that dialogue is just waiting to burst through the gates there.  French Steampunk was very interesting because a lot of its participants are interested in CosPlay, but there aren’t really any venues for that. The fine folks of French Steampunk, like Morgan Guery and Franck Gouraud are trying to promote conventions around France, and I think that will contribute to a very strong and cohesive scene there. Also, just like U.K. Steampunk operates within their history, so do the French Steampunks.  Queen Victoria and the Empire is irrelevant, and while we had our Civil War, they were dealing with their own strife with the Paris Commune and the reign of Napeoleon III. It has led to a lot of beautiful and innovative art like Sam van Olffen, Futuravapeur and Anxiogene.

The “Sultan’s Elephant” at The Machines of the Isle of Nantes exhibit, Nantes, France. Photographed in 2009 by Yann Langeard - Le Chatrou Electrique.

What makes a literary work, piece of art, costume steampunk at the most basic level and do goggles have to be involved?

Ha! No goggles do not need to be involved, nor necessarily cogs, nor gears. Tor editor Liz Gorinsky explained Steampunk best when she compared it to porn—“I know it when I see it”—which perfectly encapsulate the difficulties of defining this aesthetic. I know I should have an elevator pitch-like answer for this, but the real answer is too complex.  It is why we wrote a book about it.

As just flipping through the book will show, there are a lot of characteristics that bind artists together under the umbrella Steampunk—like the iconic goggles, a retro ambiance, gears, cogs, rayguns, hoop skirts, leather corsets, mecha animals, steel and steam—but it is also an ever-changing and evolving aesthetic that can feature a lot of versatile and disparate characteristics informed by cultural history, and even era. What was once a retro-futurist movement that looked only as far back as the 19th century has participants looking back even further, evaluating our present on all aspects of past failures and successes. The Steampunk of today will not be the Steampunk of tomorrow.

To the uninitiated person who wants to experience steampunk, what three authors could they read and get a good sense of what it’s all about?

Jules Verne, Cherie Priestand Scott Westerfield. I know I am cheating with Jules Verne, but I feel like if you don’t understand Verne’s world, you are missing a key part of Steampunk history and its context. Also, since I’ve already cheated once, it won’t hurt to cheat again. I would say Steampunk newcomers would find a lot of guidance in Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s two STEAMPUNK anthologies, as they do a wonderful job of displaying the movement’s full literary spectrum.

What was your favorite part about researching THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE?

Getting to talk with artists, makers and writers about their craft, and finding contemporary work that I really identify with.  The past 10 years of my life can be characterized as observing Remodernism, but not quite understanding where I fit in with it. THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE changed that for me.

S.J. Chambers.

What did you learn about steampunk that surprised you the most?

That most people working within the Steampunk aesthetic, icons like Jake von Slatt and Libby Bulloff, did not begin doing so consciously. Steampunk adopted them. To me, the fact that all of these disparate figures were unknowingly working within a common aesthetic attests more to the aesthetic’s importance. It’s a zeitgeist, not a fad.

The art direction on the book was stunning. Were you involved with that part or what can you tell us about that side of the book’s development?

Jeff and I were very much involved with the art direction. Jeff had the wonderful idea of the Jules Verne Hetzel cover, and Abram’s designer Galen Smith did a wonderful job of that.  We were responsible for gathering the images, and organizing them with the text.  The nice nuances that really tied it all together, like the margins, the font and chapter covers were all Galen Smith’s genius.

How’s the popularity affecting you personally and your career? Do you have any time left for Poe, and where else can we read your work?

This has been one of the most stimulating and positive experiences in my writing life.  There are numerous outcomes that I am thankful for, including getting to go on tour and meet people that have quickly become kindred spirits and friends. I have been busier than I am accustomed too, but it has been a good busy, and I’ve been able to begin a few projects that I hope will really pick up steam next year. One of them does involve Poe, but on that for nonce, I’ll say nothing more.

I try to keep my blog The Flightless Philosopher updated, but lately my Twitter [@selena_jo] has become a more immediate marquee for my whereabouts and publications.  You can also find other work in the wonderful and very curious THACKERY T. LAMBSHEAD’S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, in which I adapted my “Poe-Bug” essay into a short story, and I’ve been reviewing a lot lately for Bookslut.

Tell me more about THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE, VOLUME 2.0?

Volume 2.0 is our sister site that has been running extra content from the book, like raw interviews, dispatches and exclusive interviews.  There is a lot in our archives, and I had to construct an automaton, Mecha Underwood, to help me manage and man the helm of this beastly webship. Poor Mecha! She really has it hard since I built her with a Lachrymose 5000 chip, and seeing Jeff and I gallivant around the states last summer has made her a bit morose.  She yearns for sand in her gears, and forgets to post sometimes, but I have found that a gauntlet of oil and some Keats poems rolled into her printing case cheers her right up.

Finally, what question has nobody asked you yet which you wish they had? And what’s the answer?

Is Spongebob Steampunk taking it too far?  [The answer is] I don’t know. It would depend on whether the movie version incorporating Spongebob Steampunk, Geary Gary and Colossal Squidward in a battle against Corporate Nemo’s Krabby Patty takeover will successfully capture the Steampunk Spirit. Can’t be worse than THE THREE MUSKETEERS (2011), but you never know.

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Really Retro: Lisa Stock’s THE JULES VERNE PROJECT Mashes Up Steampunk, a Sea Monster, LORD OF THE FLIES and Old-School Cinematic Slapstick

Posted on: Oct 16th, 2011 By:

In epic tales of man vs. nature, we find champions in MOBY DICK, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA and 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA: fierce battles to overcome insurmountable challenges from the deep. If these heroes can confront such odds, then surely we can take on whatever troubles we are facing in real life. We use these stories as illustrations of bravery, loyalty (to ourselves and others) and endurance. Literary symbols of courage when things get to be too rough.

Now, take that concept, add some slapstick, put it on the silver screen – and you have Lisa Stock’s next venture: THE JULES VERNE PROJECT. This short film aims to combine all the physical humor of Buster Keaton, the cut-throat survival tactics from LORD OF THE FLIES and the unblinking focus of a voyeur come across a scene of outrageous monster mayhem. ATLRetro readers will remember Lisa as the director who staged Neil Gaiman’s SNOW, GLASS, APPLES in East Atlanta this past August (read our Really Retro piece on Lisa here). We recently sat down with Lisa to discuss THE JULES VERNE PROJECT and her crow-funding efforts to make it happen.

Ed. Note: If you’d like to be a part in bringing this film to life – an Indie Go-Go campaign to raise its modest production financing runs only until Friday Oct. 21! (details below)

ATLRetro: What is THE JULES VERNE PROJECT?

Lisa Stock: THE JULES VERNE PROJECT is a short live-action sea monster movie. I refer to it as: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT meets LORD OF THE FLIES meets Laurel and Hardy meets Jules Verne. It’s a story of shipwreck, bravery and the dire consequences of alienating your allies. Basically – we take a Strongman, a Deck Hand, and a Lady with a Parasol and strand them on a desert island with a big giant tentacle on the loose! Oh – and there’s a hot-air balloon shot out of the sky too.

How would you classify it? Comedy, adventure, silent film, steampunk, retro?

Yes.

Your creative projects, such as SNOW, GLASS, APPLES and TITANIA, have often been staged/filmed unconventionally. How is THE JULES VERNE PROJECT different in that respect?

Well, first of all we’re going to do the entire film in one take, one shot. No editing of multiple angles. The camera will even be stationary. So most of our tricks will have to be done “in the camera” – which is why I’m opting for a fabricated sea monster tentacle as opposed to a CGI one. I really want to push my boundaries as a storyteller and filmmaker and do something I’ve never done before.

There will be some effects done in post-production, such as the hot air balloon, but 90% will be done on a beach, one shot, all in one tableau – my actors and puppeteer are going to love me. Haha! But that’s the fun of it – we’ll all be pushed passed our normal limits, and who knows what we’ll discover.

So, if it’s all done “in the camera,” what won’t we see? 

Hopefully, our tentacle puppeteer! We’ll have to do this several times, I’m sure, to get a take that is mistake-free. But it’s short. And we’re going to have to do a lot of wiping footprints and tentacle marks from the sand in between each run-through.

In addition, I’m planning to do something really cool with the actual image in post – in terms of frame rate, that might be a nice surprise for our epic battle sequence.

What are you going to do with the film once it’s complete?

As much as I think film festivals are valuable to the indie realm, I want as many people to see this as possible. So we’re going to put it up online in April. There’s little to do in post, and that will give us a very short turnaround time. I want people to see it and enjoy it. The movie will also be a good example of what we (me, my cast/crew) can achieve as filmmakers, and it will give us the opportunity to tell a story that is hilarious and poignant.

Tell us about the Indie-Go-Go campaign.

We’re currently doing an Indie Go-Go campaign to raise funds for the film. But only until this Friday – Oct. 21! I did a Kickstarter campaign last year for my film THE TITANIA PREQUEL and was successful. I like getting my projects funded this way – because it comes directly from an audience I can give back to directly. No middleman to take away all their money, and take away all of my inspiration. So many independent artists are getting funded this way now. People who like your work or are interested in what you’re doing can donate. And what you see is what you get. I’ve supported a lot of projects like this myself. It’s important to let artists be artists – I think the results are much stronger.

We’re raising funds now mostly for the massive tentacle puppet. We need to get started on that for it to be ready for our April shoot date. And give ourselves ample time to rehearse with it. Donations for THE JULES VERNE PROJECT start at $1, $10 and go up from there. And this time we’re getting really creative and fun with our donor rewards! Everything from messages in a bottle to downloads and personalized notes and treasures from the set. To donate visit: http://www.indiegogo.com/The-Jules-Verne-Project

You’re also giving 10% to a charity?

Yes, when I do a large project, I like to give back. A couple of months ago I lost a friend I’d grown up with. He was only 37. There was an animal rescue he was fond of and we’ve decided to give 10% of what we raise with this campaign to that animal rescue in his name.

Lisa Stock. Photo credit: Jaclyn Cook.

It seems you like the sea. Recently, you started an Internet radio show called SRN: THE SIGNAL.

That’s right! Sirens, sea monsters – the ocean inspires me! SRN stands for the mythic siren. The show discusses all things mythic, fantasy, fairy tale, sci-fi, etc. I’d like to say we have a traditional format with a twist – but as it’s looking each show will be really different. Our next broadcast is Oct. 30 and we’re discussing graveyards and ghost stories with some Atlanta-based cemetery caretakers. In future broadcasts, we’ll be talking to the folks at High Rez Studios about their forthcoming game, SMITE, based on Greek mythology, and we will also have some well-known writers and actors coming by. Hope you’ll tune in!

Anything else our readers can see of yours currently?

I have a poem being published in Burial Day BooksGOTHIC BLUE BOOK out on October 28. It’s all about the legend of the Wild Hunt and Furious Host. And, not currently, but in the spring, I hope to do a dark and scary stage version of HANSEL AND GRETEL.

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Tis the Season To Be Spooky: Netherworld’s Billy Messina Raises Your Darkest Retro Nightmares and Treats You to Raw Meat

Posted on: Oct 14th, 2011 By:

By Angie Weiss
Contributing Blogger

Before I tell you about Netherworld, I must give full disclosure: I am easily scared. Like crazy scared. There can be the mere suggestion of something potentially frightening about to happen, and I curl up in a little ball. I can know that something lurks around the corner, but if said thing jumps out at me, I will scream like a baby anyway. So this post is not about whether or not Netherworld is scary. I’m certainly not the one to ask. But if you are looking for something that is psychologically thrilling, visually stunning and an overall can’t-miss Halloween experience, then I can tell you that Netherworld, open every night in October (and Nov.4-5), is the haunted house for you.

Now in its 15th year, Netherworld is divided into two attractions. “The Nightmares” is the main event, a huge haunted house that feels like it goes on forever, through hallways of old manors and gardens of gargoyles. “Raw Meat” is smaller, gorier and chock full of turn-your-stomach scenes.

In “The Nightmares,” a mix of illusions, animatronics and stellar actors work together to play off your worst fears. Monsters? Vampires? Voodoo priests? They’re all here to toy with your mind. The suspense factor in this one is quite strong, as the hallways wind through mirrors and tunnels and you never know what lies waiting around the next bend. Sure there are some jump-out-of-your-skin moments, but for me, this is more of an overall creeptastic experience that you’ll want to take time to enjoy. It may be tempting to run through the house out of fear, but slow down and absorb everything that’s going on. The intricately detailed sets alone are well worth the price of admission.

“Raw Meat” is, well, much like if you took a subway into a sewer and encountered THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Gone are the supernatural beasts of “The Nightmares,” and here come the cannibals and clowns. These earthly horrors make the situations in “Raw Meat” all the more real. The special effects are aimed at your senses, fully taking advantage of what sight, touch and sound can do to your psyche.

I had an absolute blast at Netherworld. I left feeling adrenalized, my mind racing with what I’d just seen. I had to find out more about what’s behind this brilliant haunted house, so I asked Billy Messina, Netherworld’s co-creator and co-owner with Ben Armstrong, a little more about it.

ATLRetro: This is your 15th year. How has your vision for Netherworld evolved over the years? If someone hasn’t been to Netherworld since its first year, what is the one big difference they would see? 

Billy Messina: The Scale! Netherworld has always been about intense scares and extreme detail, but now we have more resources to bring to the table. In the early years, we still did a pretty good job of creating cool stuff, but now the scale of what we are able to do each year is much greater!

“Nightmares” plays off fears that many have. I have to ask – after all this time in the business, does any of it scare you?

We have lots of things that come from above. If I am not paying attention, it is a natural reaction to duck when something is coming down on you!

There is a really cool Victorian/steampunk aesthetic in “Nightmares.” Can you talk a little about how that subculture has affected your design? 

We loved that entire steampunk look long before we ever heard the term! Fifteen years ago we talking about looking like the Nautilus or Jules Verne. A lot of what we do in Netherworld is influenced by H.P. Lovecraft, one of the progenitors of modern horror and science fiction.  I think we have always had sort of a more mythic, more literary focus than most haunts, and we also always loved the look of classic horror like the original James Whale BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Now that sort of thing is almost mainstream, it suits us just fine!

Your actors are incredible. Where do you find them? And who does their makeup? 

Many of our actors have been with us for years. Generally we don’t go looking for them any more, they sort of come to us, as most of them are former patrons. The makeup staff is lead by Roy Wooley who has been with us for 14 years, and this season on an average evening we have approx 8-10 make-up artists working.

“Raw Meat” is gory, dirty and downright disgusting. In other words, fantastic. Do you have more license to push the boundaries with the smaller haunt?

When we started Netherworld, we wanted to stay away from outright gore, but over the years that has obviously changed! The concept is to have the main show be something almost anyone can attend ( if they are not too freaked out) but to have the downstairs show be a little more nasty. If the upstairs show is THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the downstairs show is SAW. We wanted to have both haunts sort of work together to be a total package, so yes the boundaries are pushed further in “Raw Meat”!

The houses are so detailed and elaborate. When do you start planning for the next Halloween? Do you work in that space all year? 

We are always planning . Every day I have to push the new ideas away because we  have to focus on running the 2011 shows! You can bet we are already to get going on 2012.  Normally we don’t touch the physical haunt until about April, but this year we started in February. Of course, we begin at once on theming, planning, beginning complex effects, costuming and new creatures, basically anything that doesn’t require clearing any scenes. We like to keep it intact until we are 100% sure about what is coming down.

Speaking of next Halloween, can you reveal any details about what’s to come for Netherworld in the future? How do you continue to top yourself? 

Well, one thing we are planning in 2012 is a very expanded gift shop that is more like a themed walk-in store. It should be pretty cool when we are done and will be open year-round; at least that is the plan! As far  as the shows themselves, it is a bit too early to reveal anything, but you can be assured they will be way over the top!

Thank you so much for your time! If you have one piece of advice for attendees, what would you tell them?

Come see us this year because every year the shows change! We are open every night in October and the first Friday and Saturday in November, so come on down anytime, we will be lurking for you!

Netherworld is located at 6624 Dawson Blvd. in Norcross (30093). For tickets, hours and directions visit www.fearworld.com

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Blair Crimmins Releases the Kraken at Fernbank’s Martinis & IMAX Tonight

Posted on: Mar 4th, 2011 By:

Forget Hollywood’s cheesy 3-D CLASH OF THE TITANS. In fact, ATLRetro hopes you already have. Instead you’ll have much more fun at this week’s Martinis & IMAX at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, redubbed “Night of the Kraken,” which promises to be fantastically out of time and marvelously in tune with the recently opened MYTHIC CREATURES: DRAGONS, UNICORNS AND MERMAIDS special exhibition. Attendees are encouraged to compete in a fantasy-inspired costume contest hosted by Professor Morte, “ghost host with the most” of the Silver Scream Spookshow. Bartenders will be serving up mythic-themed cocktails including a Krakentini, featuring Kraken rum. And playing in the shadow of the skeletons of the world’s most gigantic dinosaurs—primeval beasts whose bones perhaps inspired medieval belief in dragons—fittingly is one of Atlanta’s most imaginative bands, Blair Crimmins and the Hookers.

You might think of ragtime as kind of quaint, but you wouldn’t be talking about Crimmins’ take on this 1920s form of jazz. Remember that they didn’t call the Twenties Roaring for nothing. In fact, you might even describe Crimmins’ high-energy style as “in your face” as rock ‘n’ roll. Except the groupies would be flapper girls, and the band is playing instruments your grandparents would approve of from banjo to accordion, saxophone to piano, trumpet to trombone—and may be accompanied by antics inspired by the best vaudeville comedy. What does this have to do with mythic monsters? Well, let’s just say in the midst of the madcap mania, some of the lyrics are also decadently dark.

ATLRetro caught up with the mastermind behind this one-of-a-kind act for a last-minute preview of this not-to-be-missed hootenanny themed around a giant monster of the deep.

1. What drew you personally to the ragtime, 1920s sound?

Early Ragtime jazz and Dixieland represents a time when jazz was brand new and exciting. People [were] taking classical instruments and making these wild sounds with them. It’s like the first time someone turned up the overdrive on their guitar amp. It made people turn their heads and say “What the hell is that sound?!”

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