In just one hour, Jim Kleefeld took his audience from 19th century London, through two separate fantastical wars, all the way to a Wonderland that no one could truly deny having seen before.
On July 31, the Galion Public Library, led by Heather Tiffany, Children’s Librarian and head of the Children and Teens’ Activities, hosted The Phantasmagorical Steampunk Extravaganza. Tiffany encouraged the kids to attend, and at the back of the room had steampunk books out and organized for those who wanted to hurry up and start reading after the presentation.
The presentation itself aimed to show teens what steampunk is and why it matters. Combining education with magic, Kleefeld showed how our history and steam-powered inventions can still be very entertaining.
Throughout his presentation, Kleefeld made note of authors such as Scott Westerfield (“Leviathan”), Jason Anderson (“Gears of Wonderland”), and, of course, H. G. Wells (“The Invisible Man”). He combined the synopsis of each story with a magic trick involving a member or two of the audience.
The first was a trick very similar to “Pick a Card,” except much more important, considering the person was inevitably choosing which side of Scott Westerfield’s World War I he or she would be fighting for. The audience member would choose a symbol that best described his or her personality—or simply the one he or she liked best—and Kleefeld would guess it and tell which army was suitable. One young man was declared by Kleefeld to be a “born leader,” only to become a “five-star general” for the Steam-Power army, as he had been found to have picked the star as his symbol.
Another trick was simply turning on a light bulb, except not so simple. Kleefeld started by plugging in a board with four light bulbs attached and connected to four switches. He proceeded to individually turn on each light bulb. After turning each one back off, he unscrewed the light bulbs and switched their positions, pointing out to the audience that each bulb had a different colored tape on it that matched one of the switches. He then proved that no matter where the bulbs were, the color-coordinated switch worked only with its matching bulb. To shock the crowd further, he then unscrewed the switches and moved them around as well; still, the same thing happened.
This trick relates back to a previous one which was based off of the radiometer invented by Sir Williams Crookes. The object used is called Crookes Residual Ectometron, and as shown by Kleefeld, the wheel will continue to turn even with the battery removed to create enough energy to turn on the light bulb.
A few last attempts to encourage his audience to read included discussing a steampunk trilogy he described as graphic novels. Branching off of the graphic novel interest, he mentioned his son, Sean Kleefeld, author of “Comic Book Fanthropology,” who used this book to look into the minds and lives of comic book readers a part of fandoms.
The idea of this book entertained the audience, and if they did not look for the trilogy after the presentation, it is still very possible they looked for Sean Kleefeld’s novel. It is fair to say that maybe not all of the audience members were readers, but Jim Kleefeld was still able to entertain them with the stories told out loud and his nifty gadgets.