I know how I got here…
My interest in weird Victoriana/Scientific Romances/steampunk was whetted when I was a youth in the 1970s and I ate up reruns of old films like the 1956 version of Around the World in Eighty Days, 1964’s First Men in the Moon, and, of course, Disney’s iconographic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (also from 1954). Though my favorite was, and is, George Pal’s take on The Time Machine (1960).
I loved movies made before I was born about a time before the birth of grandparents.
Later my friends would fall in love with Dune and The Lord of the Rings, but I was devouring War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and the Barsoom books.
In the 1980’s Mystery! (the PBS program) started showing the Granada Television productions of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Admittedly I had been ambivalent to Sherlock Holmes prior to this. I tried reading the stories, but they never grabbed me (The Lost World was much more up my alley). I did like some of the films that I had seen based on Doyle’s creation, especially The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976).
But then there was Jeremy Brett. Manic-charming-dark-smug, he brought the character to life in a style that took my breath away.
My interest in Victoriana took a deep, deep root.
I had started playing roleplaying games in 1980, when I was ten. (I started with Advanced Dungeons and Dragons as was typical of the time.) Gaming had fired my imagination in a way I never expected. Worlds came to life. Weird worlds. This suited my just fine.
Like most gamers of that era, I usually discovered a new game by paging through the advertisements in magazines like Dragon. I discovered many a fine, and strange game in this fashion (I’m looking at you Skyrealms of Jorune). In the late 1980s there was a new game in the advertisements:
I loved the title’s dorky take that/homage at the old Space 1999 TV series. The cover art looked *great*. And then there was the tag line:
Everything Jules Verne could have written.
Everything H. G. Wells should have written.
Everything Arthur Conan Doyle thought of, but never published – because it was too fantastic.
How could I not want this?
I picked up a copy as soon as I could.
I couldn’t put it down, it was everything I wanted in a game. And the color art that was included (rare for the day) would not let me go.
This when my interest in what would become known as steampunk became ingrained into my soul.
I know how I got here. It was Frank Chadwick’s Space 1889.
Finding players was a challenge, but I squeezed in some sessions between rounds of AD&D, Marvel Superheroes, and Call of Cthulhu.
From then on if I could work a bit of strange Victoriana into a game I would. And I do, I’m 45 now and I still play roleplaying games.
They’re still fun, they still inspire me and keep my imagination running. Just as steampunk does.
Steampunk, as I’ve said before, should be fun. If it’s not fun you’re either restricting yourself too much, or are in the wrong subculture.
Every time I pick up Space 1889 I smile. I still want to run a game based on Chadwick’s world. I still want to dress as the characters, and steampunk allows me to do that. To take what inspired my gaming and make it inspire my everyday. It has changed my vision, the way I look at the world and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thank you Mister Chadwick.
And just today, I see that folks here in the United States are receiving their copies of the newest version of Space 1889 a version crowdfunded by fans that more than doubled the publisher’s goal.
Not gone, and certainly not forgotten.
This newest version is published by Chronicle City/Clockwork publishing.
– If you’re lucky enough to live in the UK you can order a hard copy here: http://shop.chroniclecity.co.uk/epages/es146440.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/es146440/Products/CHC18890
– If you’re outside of the UK, head over to RPGnow and pick up a pdf for $25: http://www.rpgnow.com/product/139315/Space-1889-Core-Rulebook
In 2011 Pinnacle Entertainment Group published a great adaptation of the setting for the Savage Worlds system: Space 1889 Red Sands. It’s still in print, order it here: https://www.peginc.com/store/space-1889-red-sands/
If you want pdfs for the original rules Heliograph republished them a few years back. They have a bundle of all the books originally published by GDW for $39.95: http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/78610/GDWs-Space-1889-Complete-Set-BUNDLE?manufacturers_id=2551
– You can download a free introduction to Space 1889 here: http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/81908/Introduction-to-Space-1889?manufacturers_id=2551