Sunday, March 17, 2019

Two big "Big River" events coming up

Spring is just around the corner -- and so are two back to back events for Monroe St. Press in the same location. 

We will be participating in the first Big River Steampunk Spring Faire Saturday and Sunday, March 30 and 31 at the Admiral Coontz Armory in Hannibal, Mo. Two weeks later, on Saturday, April 13, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., we will also be among the vendors at the first ever Big River Comic Con. 

At the Spring Faire, our table will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days. Additionally, we will be presenting a workshop at 12 noon both days on Victorian Desktop Publishing. 

The first commercially successful "desktop publishing" device was introduced in 1874 -- the manual typewriter. Today, the typewriter is enjoying a bit of a renaissance in an increasingly wired world. Writers are even gathering for events known as "type-ins" in order to experience a more tactile, distraction-free method of composition. 

In this presentation, Elaine Spencer of Monroe St. Press will discuss the history of the typewriter and give participants an opportunity to try out some writing exercises on vintage (pre-electric) typewriters. All participants are encouraged to bring their own portable typewriters; there may be extra machines available if you do not own one, but this cannot be guaranteed. 

Many other seminars and workshops will also be presented at the Spring Faire (indoor) event -- the first of two steampunk-themed events planned during the bicentennial year of the city of Hannibal. The 6th annual Big River Steampunk Festival (primarily an outdoor event) will still take place on Labor Day weekend as in previous years. More info and tickets for premium events at both festivals can be found at this site

The Big River Comic Con, meanwhile, is NOT affiliated with the Spring Faire or Steampunk Festival -- it is a separate event with a classic "comic con" format featuring the best in comics, sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero art, books, costumes and memorabilia. Admission is $15 (free for kids 12 and under). Tickets may be purchased online here or at the door (cash only). 

Since Monroe St. Press will not be participating in the Labor Day Steampunk Festival this year, we invite all our customers and fans in the Illinois, Iowa and Missouri Tri-State Area to come visit us at either or both of these events. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Winter War 46

Our first event of 2019 was Winter War 46, the largest independent gaming convention in the Midwest, held in Champaign, Ill. 

As always, Winter War features a wide selection of tabletop, miniature and role-playing games in a variety of genres. They include well-known games popular from the 1970s to today, as well as newer games and game systems of more recent invention. Many are based on fictional worlds (e.g., Firefly, Conan, Honor Harrington) while others recreate battles from every phase of history, from ancient Greece to World War II. 

In between stints at the vendor table I got to try out one tabletop war game. Dubbed "Etna Erupts!" the game pictured above is a recreation of a little-known Civil War battle near Etna, Missouri, in 1861, utilizing the Brother Against Brother tactical skirmish gaming system. 

Using a scale model of the battlefield (which consisted of a farm, several dirt roads, open fields and a stand of trees), players may move their soldiers a fixed distance forward in inches on each turn; how far they may move is determined by a dice roll. Players may also use their turn to fire upon enemy forces, with another dice roll determining how many (if any) enemy soldiers are felled. Card draws at the start of the game determine the level of experience of one's respective units and the type and firing range of weapons they will possess. Card draws and dice rolls during the game introduce elements of chance, such as "morale points" that determine how much impact casualties will have upon one's unit in subsequent turns. 

The Brother Against Brother system is particularly useful for games based upon Civil War battles that aren't nearly on the same scale as Gettysburg, Shiloh, Antietam, etc., but require no less tactical knowledge—and luck—to win. The outcome can be quite different from the historical outcome; I played the Union side and got thoroughly wiped out, whereas in real life this battle was reckoned a Union victory. But I enjoyed the game since it was challenging without being too complicated. 

Many thanks to Mark Lueckenhoff (pictured at left) for hosting this game and for all his work in creating the scale model battlefield. 

Some of the other games featured included: 

All Quiet on the Martian Front, which portrays a second Martian invasion of Earth after that depicted in H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. This particular game is set at Arsenal Island near Rock Island, Illinois, which the Army is preparing to defend from a Martian force advancing up the Mississippi River. 

Here's a real Winter War — a reenactment of Napoleon's retreat from Russia in 1812. 

Formula De: Watkins Glen is among a series of tabletop recreations of famous auto races to satify your need for speed....

....meanwhile, Hedley Lamar and his band of gunfighters run loose in Rock Ridge looking for anything they can grab in the 1st Annual Blazing Skedaddles Scavenger Hunt! 

Thanks to everyone who planned and staged this event... it's one we look forward to every year. 

Next up on our schedule is the Big River Steampunk Spring Faire in Hannibal, Missouri, March 30-31. Be advised that this year, Monroe St. Press will be vending at the Spring Faire instead of the larger Big River Steampunk Festival on Labor Day weekend. More details will be posted as they become available. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Dime novel sequel & year-end recap

We're closing out 2018 with one last new title... 

The Prisoner of the Mill (1864) is a sequel to The Border Spy by the same author (Lt. Col. Hazeltine). It picks up where Border Spy left off, in November 1861. 

Union forces have just retaken Springfield, Mo., when their commander, Gen. John C. Fremont, is removed. His replacement immediately orders a retreat, leaving Confederate bushwhackers free to prowl the countryside the Federals have abandoned. When a Union soldier vanishes under suspicious circumstances, his sister and his best friend undertake a dangerous quest to determine if he is dead or alive, and who is responsible for his disappearance. 

We've made Border Spy and Prisoner available as separate paperback editions as well as in a combined hardcover edition. All three titles are available at our website. 

Looking back on 2018, it proved to be a year of change and transition for Monroe St. Press. Shifts in the independent publishing industry prompted us to reevalulate our mission, try out new marketing and publishing approaches, and expand into other venues, including music. Expect more changes in 2019 as we participate in new events and new ventures. 

Our sincere thanks to all who visited our website or our vendor booths this year. Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year!

Friday, December 7, 2018

New fantasy and dime novels

Monroe St. Press' two newest vintage titles are the fantasy novel The Wood Beyond the World and the Civil War dime novel The Border Spy

The Wood Beyond the World (1894) by William Morris was written in a style reminiscent of medieval romances. It was among the first modern novels to blend an imaginary world with elements of the supernatural, and influenced later writers such as Lord Dunsany, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. 

Morris (1834-1896) was a British novelist, poet, artist, textile designer and social activist who was part of the Pre-Raphaelite circle and exerted significant influence on the culture of Victorian England. He helped revive traditional textile arts as well as interest in ancient and medieval epic tales. 

Morris' best known literary works include The Defence of Guinevere and Other Poems (1858), an early example of Pre-Raphaelite poetry; The Saga of Gunnlaug Worm-Tongue (1869), a translation of an Icelandic myth; News from Nowhere (1890), his utopian vision of a kinder, gentler and more pastoral 21st-century London; and The Well at the World's End (1896), a fantasy-adventure epic with some parallels to Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

Turning to American literature, The Border Spy; or, The Beautiful Captive of the Rebel Camp (1863) by Lt. Col. Hazeltine is a Civil War dime novel written during the war by a veteran of the conflict, and was among the earliest dime novel titles released by Sinclair Tousey's American News Company.  

The book depicts Union Gen. John C. Fremont's campaign to drive Confederate forces from southwest Missouri, culminating in the First Battle of Springfield (Mo.) in 1861. 

The author is not clearly identified, but may have been a Col. Harry Hazelton of the Benton Cadets, Missouri Infantry, who served in the campaign depicted in this book and its sequel, The Prisoner of the Mill. Some later editions of Prisoner are attributed to Hazelton. Both books combine historical figures and details of real-life military actions with a popular, dramatic dime novel storyline. 

Both titles are available through the Monroe St. Press website. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Recap of Big River Steampunk Festival

Taking our "show on the road" to the Big River Steampunk Festival in Hannibal, Mo., has become a Labor Day weekend tradition for Monroe St. Press, and this year was no exception. 

After 4 successive years of participating in the Festival as vendors, in addition to meeting numerous new customers each year, we have developed a following of returning customers who come to check out our new offerings and tell us how much they have enjoyed their purchases from previous years. 

Christopher Michael Carter, sci-fi/horror/poetry author from Bevier, Mo., bought a copy of The Steam Man of the Prairies anthology edited by John Spencer. 

Meanwhile, Ted Meadows of Hannibal bought copies of Unto This Last, the utopian/dystopian anthology by E.M. Spencer, along with other Monroe St. Press titles. 

In response to an invitation from Festival organizers Ken and Lisa Marks for presenters of seminars, talks and "make-and-takes," Elaine Spencer gave two talks at the Airship Village, one on the history of Spiritualism in the 19th Century and another on Victorian-era utopian movements. 

(photo by Brandy Jaquet Photography) 

We thank everyone who visited our tent or listened to the talks, and we appreciate your encouragement and suggestions! 

Monroe St. Press' next event will be the St. Louis Indie Author Fair Saturday, Nov. 3, in St. Louis. Watch our website and Facebook page for details. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Erik Satie, Composer of the "Belle Epoque".

The Parisian avant-garde composer Erik Satie (1866-1925), whose Gymnopedie is featured on Aerostat's La Belle Epoque album, is generally regarded as a foundational modern musician whose compositional forms have been widely imitated in classical, jazz, pop, and other styles. His work is considered to be a precursor to 20th-century movements such as surrealism, minimalism and the "Theatre of the Absurd".

His love of experimentation and the unexpected in his compositions was also reflected in his personal life, as evidenced by some of his more eccentric habits:

-- He composed one piece, titled Vexations, that consisted of a single bass phrase to be repeated 840 times. Satie advised anyone who attempted to play the work in full that "it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, and in the deepest silence, through serious immobility." The first known complete public performance of Vexations took place in 1963 under the direction of John Cage (another well known experimental composer).

-- He founded his own religious sect, Église Métropolitaine d’Art de Jésus Conducteur, after a falling-out with a friend who had founded a sect known as the Mystical Order of the Rose and Cross of the Temple and Grail. Satie was the only known member of this sect.

-- Long before "elevator music" was invented, Satie created what he called "furniture music". In 1902 he staged a performance in a Paris art gallery, intended to serve merely as a background while the audience turned its attention elsewhere. He asked the audience beforehand to ignore his performance and carry on with their usual activities, but, perhaps out of habit, they politely hushed when the performance began.

-- He didn't consider himself a musician or composer, but a "photometrographer" whose ideas were entirely based on the science of phonology, or the study of sound. "Science is the dominating factor," he wrote. "I think I can say that phonology is superior to music. There's more variety to it. The financial return is greater too."

More fascinating facts about Satie can be found here. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

"La Belle Epoque"

"La Belle Epoque" or "The Beautiful Era", a term adopted by the French to refer to the years between the Franco-Prussian War and the outbreak of World War I (1870-1914), expresses nostalgia for a time of (relative) peace, prosperity, and progress before the devastation of the "Great War". 

Aerostat's La Belle Epoque

Throughout much of the Western world, these were generally years of economic prosperity, groundbreaking scientific and technological advancement, and innovation in art and music. La Belle Epoque coincides or overlaps the Victorian and Edwardian eras in Britain, the Wilhelmine era in Germany, the Porfiriato in Mexico, and the Gilded Age in America. 

During this era, wealth and progress were publicly celebrated as never before. Inventors such as Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell became household names. Fortunes were made in industries such as railroads, mining, banking, iron and steel production. Monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty were built, as well as lavish public buildings and private estates. 

"World's Fairs" showing off the achievements of the participating nations included the Exposition Universelle (Paris, 1889 and 1900), World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago, 1893), the Brussels International Exposition (1897) and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (St. Louis, 1904). Each of these events was a celebration of the past and present as well as the future; for example, the 1889 Paris Exposition marked the centennial of the French Revolution, while transportation was provided by an innovative 3-kilometer narrow-gauge railway. Major cities such as Paris, New York and Chicago also grew exponentially during this period both geographically and in population. 

Innovators in Parisian art during this period include the painters Auguste Renoir, Henri de Tolouse-Lautrec, and Pablo Picasso. The Parisian avant-garde included composers such as Erik Satie and Claude Debussy, whose works are featured on Aerostat's "La Belle Epoque". 

Although severe social problems and unrest still existed during this period, eventually setting the stage for the wars and revolutions of the 20th century, the optimistic and adventurous spirit of the era lives on in its art, music and literature, and continues to inspire generations. 

For more background on this era, check out "10 Fascinating Facts about La Belle Epoque" at Five Minute History.