Valette’s steam and smoke


Windsor Bridge on the Irwell (1909).

Adolphe Valette (1876–1942) was a contemporary of Lionel Walden, and where Walden was an American who spent some time painting views of Cardiff, Valette moved to Manchester in 1905 where he painted a series of celebrated views of the city. If it’s a commonplace that foreign eyes often see what locals ignore, this has certainly been the case in Manchester. Friedrich Engels catalogued the lethal living and working conditions of the city’s labourers in The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1845, and it took Valette to find a subject for his art in the city’s smogs and polluted atmospheres at a time when many British artists were still painting scenes from Tennyson or the tales of King Arthur.


India House, Manchester (1912).

Valette’s Manchester paintings now reside in the Manchester Art Gallery whose curators have always made much of his being “the Manchester Impressionist”. The term isn’t unjustified even though Impressionism was long gone by the time he began these paintings; there is something Monet-like to a few of them. The gallery contains a large amount of fairly typical Victorian art, including a couple of well-known Pre-Raphaelite pieces, so Valette’s work has always stood apart not only for its urban theme but for its looser technique. My favourite is the view of India House from the banks of the River Medlock. Many of the bridges and buildings in these paintings can be seen today, albeit cleaned and (in the case of India House) gentrified. Valette captures the final years of unrestrained industrial pollution when the air in Manchester, London and other cities was often as bad as it is in some parts of China today.


Bailey Bridge, Manchester (1912).

Continue reading “Valette’s steam and smoke”

Steampunk Reloaded


Cover design by Ann Monn. Cover image by Dan Jones / Tinkerbots.

Here at last is the steampunk anthology I mentioned back in September and whose interiors I designed. This is another Tachyon publication, and also another anthology edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer. I went further with the design for this than I have done for other Tachyon books, partly because if there’s one thing steampunk lends itself to, it’s decoration but also because the book includes illustrations from Ramona Szczerba, Eric Orchard, and others, plus a comic strip by Sydney Padua; adding extra spot illustrations stopped the pictorial material from seeming too isolated.


Title spread. The illustration on the left is one I created last year.

This is a sequel to an earlier steampunk anthology by the same editors but the contents are just as strong as the first collection with excellent stories throughout. (For a review, see here.) By coincidence the book is published in the wake of a recent (and inevitable) backlash against steampunk as science fiction sub-genre and cultural phenomenon. This collection can serve as a repudiation to some of the lazier accusations that writers are ignoring the moral and physical squalor of the Victorian era and the legacies of imperialism; several stories in Steampunk Reloaded address those very issues. For my part I’ve read Friedrich Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England, Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, and Kellow Chesney’s The Victorian Underworld so I don’t feel in urgent need of a lecture on the iniquities of the 19th century, thank you very much.


While we’re on the subject, the cover of The Steampunk Bible, edited by Jeff VanderMeer and SJ Chambers, has been revealed here. Abrams will be publishing this next year and having seen some of the interior pages it’s going to be a splendid book. More about that later. Further pages from Steampunk Reloaded follow.

Update: A couple more reviews here and here.


Contents spread.




A detail of one of the page footers.


Title page for A Secret History of Steampunk, a self-contained section within the body of the book.



Previously on { feuilleton }
Steampunk overloaded!
Skeleton clocks
Vickers Airship Catalogue
The Air Ship
More Steampunk and the Crawling Chaos
The art of François Schuiten
Steampunk Redux
Steampunk framed
Steampunk Horror Shortcuts
The Airship Destroyer
Zeppelin vs. Pterodactyls