If you enjoy fantasy, historical fiction, romance, and intrigue, you may be unaware but you’re likely a Gaslamp Fantasy fan, also known as Gaslight Fantasy (but not to be confused with “gaslighting” which means to purposefully alter a person’s surroundings to make said person believe they are going crazy). Gaslamp Fantasy instead refers to stories that take place in Britain (or its former colonies) during the Regency, Victorian, or Edwardian time periods (just as gas lamp posts were being introduced to the seedy streets of London). Though similar to its Science Fiction cousin, Steampunk, Gaslamp lacks the science and machinery elements and has a firmer connection to a real time and place.
Why would you want to read a Gaslamp Fantasy? Britain in the early 19th century combines well with fantasy elements as people still clung to their traditional beliefs at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. By using a historical setting, Gaslamp Fantasy also engenders a sense of emotional nostalgia. Add into that, witty dialogue, spirited heroes and heroines, and a bit of intrigue, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a book you can’t put down.
So without further ado, here are some of my favorite Gaslamp Fantasy novels.
Set during the Napoleonic Wars, this is the delightful story of stuffy yet true-hearted British Naval Captain, Will Laurence and precocious Temeraire, the dragon. While patrolling the seas, Captain Laurence and his crew take over a French frigate on its way back from the Orient and discover in the cargo an unhatched dragon egg. However, before the ship can make it back to land, the dragon hatches. Dragons must agree to be harnessed shortly after hatching or they become feral beasts. So when Temeraire agrees to take the harness from Laurence it means that he must give up the command of his ship and join His Majesty’s Aerial Corps to become the dragon’s aviator.
Set in the Regency Era and told from two characters’ perspectives, the book begins with Zacharias Wythe, a freed slave who has managed to become England’s Sorcerer Royal where he stands as Britain’s most influential magician. However, a national shortage of magic, tense relations with other magical world leaders, racial prejudice, and rumors that Zacharias murdered the previous Sorcerer Royal combine to endanger his position. The novel then switches to the perspective of Prunella Gentleman, the daughter of an English magician and an unknown Indian woman. She lives at a school where well-bred young ladies learn to subdue their magical abilities. Convention forbids these “gentlewitches” from practicing magic, as their weak frames could never withstand sustained magical effort. When Zacharias visits the school and witnesses both Prunella’s immense talent and the dangerous methods of suppression used there, he begins to question the longstanding ban.
Practicing English magicians have all but disappeared as the 19th century begins to unfold. Replacing practicing magicians are an aristocratic breed of theoretical magicians who dedicate their lives to studying magic but would never dream of sullying their family names by actually participating in a spell. Unbeknownst to these magicians, one lone man, Mr. Norrell, has decided to serve his country by bringing magic back to England. He is soon joined by Jonathan Strange, a young man who seems to have a natural gift for magic. Together, these two magicians set events in motion that could spell doom to the entire British Empire.
Jane and Melody are two sisters hoping to make advantageous marriages. A notable young lady in Regency England must not only be beautiful and carry herself with deportment but be accomplished in music, art, and magic by being able to weave the subtlest of glamours into her home and personage. It must not be anything too garish, just simple things like making the fire glow a little brighter or swaying trees in a painting. So how do two sisters find advantageous matches when Jane has all the talent and Melody has all the beauty?
Not ready to take the full plunge into the Gaslamp Fantasy sub-genre? Check out this anthology of short stories to explore a wide range of settings, characters, and themes by both newcomers and experts in the Gaslamp Fantasy realm.
The world is becoming a bit of a scary place. New disasters are reported every day and I would like it to stop. So, I’ve decided to invent a time machine and go pack to Provo in…say the late 1870s. I think I would enjoy a slower pace and a simpler time.
In preparation, I’ve been perusing our copy of the city ordinances from 1877, just in case the laws have changed over the years, because nothing spoils a time-traveling vacation quite like getting thrown in jail. Here is a list of some of the ordinances I may need to know about:
You better get hitched! If you own a hotel, store, shop, or private residence, fronting on any street of the city, you must supply a hitching post and maintain it. And if you have an animal outside a residence or business, you must use said hitching post. (Title 7, Chapter 4, Sec. 128 & 130)
Lock it up, or it’s fair game. Between November 1st and the April 1st anyone with a stack of hay or grain in any area without a lawful fence cannot complain if any animal trespasses on or consumes any of it. (Title 9, Chapter 3, Sec. 164)
Please play responsibly. Obstruction of the sidewalk or street could result in a fine up to ten dollars. This includes activities like playing ball, quoits, marbles, jumping, rolling of hoops, flying of kites, or other games that “annoy”. (Title 9, Chapter 4, Sec. 174)
Enforcing your day of rest. Do not fish, hunt or indulge in “secular out-door amusements, or conspicuous or noisy secular labor” on Sunday. (Title 9, Chapter 8, Sec. 185)
Approved skinny dipping hours. Do not bathe “nudely” in the Provo River or any canals or streams in view of a house or road between the hours of 4:00 am and 8:00 pm. (Title 9, Chapter 8, Sec. 187)
Tone it down a little. Be sure not to disturb the peace by the “ringing of bells, blowing of horns, or other instruments”. (Title 9, Chapter 6, Sec. 181)
Freedom for fowls. Keep your chickens contained between October 1st and April 1st or they can legally become your neighbor’s dinner. (Title 7, Chapter 2, Sec. 124)
Polling your weight. All men between the age of 21 and 50 are required to pay a poll tax in the form of up to two day’s labor for the Supervisor of Streets. Or you can just pay $1.50 in lieu of each day of work. (Title 6, Chapter 2, Sec. 87)
Interested in performing your own investigation into the matter? Stop by our Special Collections to find these or other historic Provo documents.
Provo City. Provo City Council. Revised Ordinances Of Provo City. Provo, UT, Utah: Provo City, 1877. Print.
It’s no secret that our kids and teens are wildly fluent in computers and video games. In fact, those may be their primary languages, and the lenses through which they see the world. At the library, we have many patrons who are excited by the possibilities of their children learning more about the technology in their lives, but there are still some who harbor some skepticism about their kids’ relationship to computers – and in particular video games.
There seems to be an eternal struggle between parents and children when video games are involved. Parents wish for games to be less time-consuming and to have more educational content, and children want their favorite games to stay, above all else, fun. While there may be further questions about the ethics and qualities of games in general, this debate the proper ratio between distraction and information will likely never disappear. One game, though, has transcended these generational divides over the past few years and proven itself both as a tool for entertainment and education. That game, of course, is Minecraft.
For the uninitiated, Minecraft is a resource-management game that involves the player mining and farming their resources in order to build structures and create the rudiments of civilization. Over the past five years, it has sustained its place as the most popular computer game for children. Kids love being able to build their own world, manage their own supplies, and explore their terrain. The game teaches basic principles of architecture and geometry, not to mention its subtle instruction in practical mathematics. All of this is done transparently – Minecraft never stops to teach the player, but rather lets them develop their skills organically.
We at the Library adore Minecraft, and it has become an important part of our programming. Teens can come to our weekly club, which meets every Friday night from 6-8. More information can be found here. But for our younger patrons, each Wednesday at 4, the Library hosts Minecraft groups for children aged 8-12. We alternate each week between creative mode (where players build freely with unlimited resources) and survival mode (which features management and enemy monsters). Signups begin each Monday on our website.
As STEM education becomes more and more vital in our schools, video games can play a valuable role in teaching children the skills they need. A game like Minecraft proves how important they are now, and indicates how much more important they will become.
We librarians here at Provo City Library have been abuzz about Marie Kondo's 2014 book, THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP, the #1 New York Times best seller that has been inspiring people to declutter their homes so much that thrift stores across the nation have been flooded with donations.
If you’re like us and you’ve been inspired by the Konmarie method, or you’re simply raring to tidy up, improve your home, and prepare for a busy summer ahead, check out our librarians' favorite home care books!
This is an invaluable book for anyone who owns their own home and wants to care for it properly. It covers all areas of your home, including things from how to keep your faucets drip-free, to growing the best lawn on the block, to preparing your home before you go on vacation. It also includes easy repairs for appliances, plumbing, flooring, walls, furniture, driveways, and more.
This book is a great reference, and, because I'm kind of strange, I'll also sit down and read it for fun sometimes. The writing is surprisingly engaging, and HOME COMFORTS includes thorough instructions for caring for just about every aspect of the home (including deciphering those little hieroglyphics on clothing tags). Relying on thorough research, Mendelson describes not only how to keep house, but the scientific and historical reasons for why we do. Since the author is a lawyer, she even includes a section on laws that might affect homeowners. You'd be hard pressed to come up with a question about housekeeping that this book doesn't answer.
If you hate mowing the lawn as much as I do, LAWN GONE! is the book to alleviate your woes. While short, it is considerably broad in range, spanning the pros and cons as well as tips and tricks for a yard with little to no lawn. Whether you have a small or large yard, are looking to replace grass with gravel or mulch, flower beds, garden space, shrubs, or sitting areas, the ideas in this book are sure to inspire. I particularly found the numerous color photos, before and after examples, and lists of regional plant recommendations to be particularly useful for a novice landscaper like myself.
This amazing book is a quick read, as about a third of the book talks about how to actually get everything done in one day, and the rest is filled with 150 recipes. I especially liked the recipes because they are quick and easy to do - you won't find too many with more than 5 or 6 ingredients and steps. I pared it down to 10 meals for my first trial-run. I spent about $50 on the groceries, two hours in the kitchen, and packed 9 meals away in the freezer (we ate the 10th that night). I actually found the process kind of fun, and the tips and guidelines she gives in the instructional part of the book really did help a lot as I put this all together. Plus, what I've eaten so far was yummy!
I look at this as the nontoxic equivalent of Mendelson's HOME COMFORTS book. Sandbeck points out that we use harsh chemicals so often in our homes that they are actually more polluted than the outdoors. In our obsessive effort to rid our homes of germs, we have actually compromised our immune systems and created "super bugs" that are resistant to disinfectants or antimicrobial medications. Sandbeck discusses how to prevent messes as well as clean them, and she offers a few green, nontoxic formulas to replace traditional cleaners.