Steampunk Mania

August 19th, 2011

twenty thousandDear Librarian: What in the world is a Steampunk book?

Dear Reader,
Oh, I am so glad you asked that question. I love Steampunk! Excessive amounts of coffee and Steampunk books are my two favorite guilty pleasures. According to, Steampunk is “a genre of science fiction set in Victorian times when steam was the main source of machine power.” Technically, that definition is right on, but it sounds a bit too boring for me. Personally, I like this definition from “To me, Steampunk has always been first and foremost a literary genre, or at least a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy that includes social or technological aspects of the 19th century (the steam) usually with some deconstruction of, reimagining of, or rebellion against parts of it (the punk).”

Dear reader, keep in mind that there is no strict, absolute or final definition for this imaginative fiction genre, so you may find some disagreements out there. Classic Steampunk titles include Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Some current popular Steampunk titles are The Map of Time by Felix Palma, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld & Keith Thompson, Clockwork Angel (Book One of the Infernal Devices series) by Cassandra Clare and my personal favorite Soulless (Book One of the Parasol Protectorate Series) by Gail Carriger. For even more titles, try out this list of favorites from our staff, Steampunk: Gears, Goggles and Great Adventure. Cecil County Public Library carries all the titles mentioned here, plus lots more!

Steampunk has even influenced fashion, decor and movies in recent years.  To see interesting pics of Steampunk styles and read more about the trend, check out this New York Times article.

What do you think of the Steampunk movement? Are you a fan?

This article is an excerpt from a recent “People Are Asking” column, published each Tuesday in the Cecil Whig.

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The Golden Age of Radio

June 8th, 2011

Have you ever heard this before? “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

radioIt’s the famous intro to the radio drama The Shadow.  The Shadow was an invisible avenger who learned the “mysterious power to cloud men’s minds, so that they could not see him.” Even though I wasn’t born until long after the show ended, I know that line and so do many younger than me. That quote speaks to the powerful legacy of radio.

Take a step back in time and imagine that radio is an essential part of American daily life – no television, computer, smart phone, ipod, gaming consoles, and so on. Radio is what informed and entertained an estimated 82 out of 100 Americans of all ages from the early 1920 to the mid 1950’s. That, my friends, is the Golden Age of Radio…

Throughout the 1930’s, radio kept people connected to their country and to each other. Franklin D. Roosevelt, president from 1933-1945, delivered his “fireside chats” via radio to keep Americans informed and inspired. During these chats, FDR spoke about critical issues like unemployment, the economy, national defense and eventually World War II. Radio was an essential part of American life, and families and friends gathered around their radios to be informed and entertained.

Some think of radio today as a boring medium, but the Golden Age of Radio showcased a vibrant offering of programs. Radio listeners had options: children’s programs, westerns, comedies, dramas, mysteries, musical varieties, classical music shows, quiz shows and even horror. Shows such as The Shadow, Amos and Andy, Abbott and Costello, Blondie, Dick Tracy, and Little Orphan Annie were immensely popular.

Still think radio sounds boring? On October 30, 1938, thousands of listeners who had unfortunately tuned in late thought that Martians were actually attacking America. Needless to say, they panicked! What they really heard was not a news report, but a radio adaptation of H.G. Well’s The War of the Worlds produced by a young Orson Welles.

On Monday, June 13th at 6:30 p.m., join us at the Chesapeake City Branch for a Golden Age of Radio program presented by Michele Ringger-Weil of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. For those of you who experienced this era firsthand, come reminisce with memorable faces, voices and shows of the Golden Age of Radio. For those of us who didn’t, come learn about fascinating radio programs and personalities from times gone by.

What are your favorite memories of radio?  Is there still a place for radio in our tech-saturated lives?

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