The websites today hosted under the ottens.co.uk domain have been in existence, in one way or another, since April 2002 when it was exclusively devoted to Star Trek. That part of the site was moved to its separate location and called Forgotten Trek in early 2007. But ever since 2006 has the website had a steampunk section and its history is chronicled on this page.
The first website to bear the “Ottens” name came online in April 2002.
The website underwent its first overhaul in October 2003 during which, for the first time, it developed a clear mission and received the name “Ottens Lexicon.”
The tagline of the website read, “history—both real world and Star Trek,” which translated into an historical overview from the third millenium BC up to and including the fictional events of the Star Trek television series and movies into the year 2400.
Where the history section offered little more than a glossary of events, oftentimes covering whole centuries on a single page, the “Epilogue” featured more in-depth entries about, among other things, esoterism, Nazi architecture and Star Trek concept art. These topics would return in future versions, albeit in more elaborate form.
This early website was able to attract some attention, mostly thanks to Bernd Schneider of Ex Astris Scientia, Hielke de Haan of Omicron Theta and Tim Biesbrouck of F1movies, who linked to it. (The latter two no longer exist.)
Midway through 2004, the “Ottens Lexicon” become the “Ottens Library,” maintaining its basic layout up to November 24 of that year, except for a color change from red to green and then back to red again.
The pages of the history section were repeatedly rewritten and extended but increasingly, the “Appendix” features became the true attraction of the website. Specifically, its inclusion of Star Trek concept art was popular and this area was constantly augmented with more background information and sketches.
The November overhaul brought a clear division into four separate sections marked on top of the website: the “Historical Archives” with their amateur overview of Western history; “Third Reich History” which featured articles about Nazi architecture and alleged wonder weapons; “Victorian Steampunk” and “Forgotten Trek,” which would ultimately become the two websites currently existing.
The first steampunk section perpetuated the history theme of the website, providing a speculative overview of nineteenth century events based upon the first two The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels.
Steampunk at the time was still very much a literary phenomenon rather than a movement. Probably the most prominent website dedicated to the genre was maintained by Cory Gross and called Steampunk: Victorian Adventurers in a Past that Wasn’t. The “Victorian Steampunk” front page quoted from that website in describing the genre as,
a nostalgic reclamation of Victorian and Edwardian Scientific Romances, Imperialist Adventures, Edisonades and Voyages Extraordinaires, reminiscing about a more elegant Age of Adventure that never really existed.
The section contained entries on Martian expeditions, Dr Moreau, The Invisible Man, Captain Nemo and his Nautilus submarine, world exhibitions, along with the promise of a “Futurism” page that was never completed for this version of the website.
The beginnings of Forgotten Trek were just three long pages respectively about the original Star Trek series, the Star Trek: Phase II project which was supposed to become a television series during the 1970s, and Star Trek: The Next Generation, all featuring starship concept art and texts which were largely taken from The Art of Star Trek, the reference work compiled by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens in 1995.
2005 witnessed another major change in design, early attempts at setting up a steampunk forum, along with an enormous expansion of Forgotten Trek thanks in part to the contributions of Andrew Probert and Tracy Tobias.
The first attempt to create a steampunk message board community was undertaken in January 2005 with the input of Cory “Palaeogothica” Gross and Krzysztof “Piechur” Janicz of Retrostacja. The only other steampunk forum at the time was attached to the website Gothic Steam Phantastic while genre enthusiasts mostly gathered in discussion groups.
Lack of commitment on the part of the founding “triumvirate” as well as lack of activity prevented this forum, which would have been called the Aether-telegraphical Steampunk Assembly, from moving beyond the planning stage.
Several months later, in March, the website was affiliated with the nov-net community, maintained by Cador “Makaveli” Davis. At several points did that forum host boards where steampunk, and later dieselpunk, could be discussed along with a roleplaying game inspired by the genre. It never managed to become a succes. The last attempt happened in July 2007, in the wake of the creation of The Steampunk Forum, only for these forums at what was then known as cidvision to disappear again by the end of the year. In January 2008 the Smoking Lounge was established instead.
The Forgotten Trek area of the website was vastly burgeoning throughout the spring and summer of 2005, with Tracy Tobias contributing archive material and Andrew Probert, who worked on both Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Next Generation, offering advice and designs.
Each series as well as the feature films received sections of their own, with articles about related starship and planet design, costuming and production being assembled from an array of sources. Interviews were conducted with designers as Andrew Probert and Rick Sternbach while Tracy Tobias added his interview with Richard Taylor to the site. By the end of 2005, Forgotten Trek was blossoming, increasingly renowned and definitely the primary attraction of the website.
In November the website received Bernd Schneider’s prestigious Ex Astris Excellentia Award. He noted the frequent and drastic changes in layout but recognized a “visible progression towards perfect elaboration.” Forgotten Trek, according to Schneider, contained many facts and pictures unseen elsewhere that “shed light on the production of the show.”
After doing a few months without a steampunk section, in January 2006, “The Past of Dreams” was added, including steampunk and fantasy imagery along “Places of Imagination” and retro-futurism.
The “Third Reich” section was gradually expanded during 2006 and eventually included besides an Albert Speer biography, entries about most of his architecture, articles about Nazi “myths and miracles,” including their nuclear program and foo fighters, along with information about the German V-weapons.
There were, by the end of the year, dozens of Forgotten Trek pages, with many articles about starship design and behind the scenes information, costuming and make-up and &lduqo;lost” material, retrieved from old magazines and the personal archives of designers. It had become by far the most complete online resource on everything to do with the production of Star Trek.
By 2007 there were truly two separate websites, one labeled “Ottens,” the other being Forgotten Trek. Until May, their design was derived from the previous version. In June a brand new layout was unveiled, using red and orange colors that would come to define the website well into 2009.
While the history pages were omitted from the new version, Forgotten Trek continued to expand, specifically with articles about the different series and motion pictures of the post-The Next Generation era. The website described itself as,
a tribute to those forgotten heroes who created Star Trek—from the Enterprise herself to the uniforms worn by her crew. This is a shrine to the men and women who made Star Trek possible and took good care of it for decades [...]
In October 2007, the website announced that it could be considered “more or less complete.”
The new steampunk website, called OTTENSteam, also featured an extended dieselpunk section along with pages dedicated to “Future Past.” Each contained “History,” “Culture,” “Technology” and “War” pages which produces articles about, for instance, the British Empire, dystopia, propaganda, Nazi supersoldiers and Futurism.
OTTENSteam was renamed The Gatehouse in December 2008 and starting in February of the next year, began to report on steampunk and dieselpunk news with regular updates appearing on the front page. Forgotten Trek meanwhile remained largely unchanged in terms of content.
The new steampunk section was organized according to “rooms” which were initially accessed through a floorplan displayed in the right menu. The Gatehouse featured a “Dieselpunk Parlor,” a “Colonial Chamber,” a “War Room,” and, of course, the “Smoking Lounge,” the new forum. These “rooms” were replaced with regular pages near the end of the year.
The inclusion of news and regular updates of artwork contributed significantly to the success of The Gatehouse. During 2008 the website managed to attract more and more visitors as it established itself permanently within the online steampunk community—for the first time, under its own domain, ottens.co.uk.
As part of The Gatehouse the message board community the Smoking Lounge not only attracted veteran members of previous experiments at nov-net and cidvision but soon welcomed many steampunk and dieselpunk enthusiasts at a time when these genres attracted mainstream attention and developed into something of a distinct subculture.
Throughout its existence the Smoking Lounge has remained a relatively small message board, far surpassed in size and membership by the popular The Steampunk Forum. Until Tome Wilson established Dieselpunks late in 2009 however it was the only community specifically dedicated to “the darker side” of steampunk, including dieselpunk, and up to this day, it remains an active place where all facets of these genres, as their politics and more sensitive topics, are freely discussed.
Members at the Smoking Lounge forum suggested that The Gatehouse should publish its own magazine in the summer of 2008, in part in reaction to the release of the first issue of SteamPunk Magazine, a publication specifically dedicated to “putting the punk back into steampunk.” The Smoking Lounge has always been somewhat more of a conservative establishment and its membership was skeptical about steampunk’s newfound anarchistic streak. Besides, there was no magazine dedicated to dieselpunk yet, so the Gatehouse Gazette was born.
The first issue contained a review of Toby Frost’s new steampunk novel Space Captain Smith along with an interview with the author. Hilde Heyvaert wrote her first “Steampunk Wardrobe” column, a regular feature since. Col. Adrianna Hazard, by then a moderator at the Smoking Lounge, drafted her first “What are they Smoking Lounge?” comic and Piecraft, a dieselpunk expert, contributed with an introduction to the genre and later composed three extensive articles on the history of dieselpunk.
The Gatehouse Gazette has been in regular production since its first edition hit the online newsstands in July 2008 with a new issue appearing every two months.
In 2009 The Gatehouse switched to a Habari blog platform which replaced both the front page and the old “rooms” with their dedicated content.
The new blog made it easier for material to be posted while visitors were now able to comment on posts directly. The Gatehouse continued to expand in this period with sub-blogs being added, the first being the former Steampunk Pics in May. Stefan, a dieselpunk artist whose work had been featured at the blog several times and was until then shared exclusively at deviantArt, was next to join the team. Sean Schönherr, or Sigurjón Njálsson, a Gatehouse Gazette contributor and member of the Smoking Lounge, began submitting Golden Era movie reviews to the blog under the banner of Cinema is Cinema in November. He still maintains its companion edition.
In May 2010, The Gatehouse switched to the Tumblr blog platform.