Thursday, 13 November 2008

"Extraordinary Voyages"

For those of a more academic leaning, please peruse the following information concerning the gathering of emminent persons in the location of California during the month of May year next, being 2009, to discuss Mr. Jules Verne and the writings of that illustrious person.

To wit:"Extraordinary voyages have shaped world literature since the Biblical Flood and The Odyssey, but no single writer has done more than Jules Verne to forge this device into a narrative template for addressing modern issues.The UCR Libraries' Eaton Science Fiction Collection, in coordination with the North American Jules Verne Society, proposes a three and one-half-day conference that will examine the traditions Verne exploited, Verne's own extraordinary work, and his far-ranging influence in modern fiction and culture. In 1863, Jules Verne published the first of the sixty-four novels and short story collections that would become known as the "Extraordinary Voyages." Verne's influence on the hardware and the locales of modern science fiction: the center of the earth, the bottom of the seas, outer space, is widely recognized. More significant is his influence on the shape of modern SF: the extraordinary voyage has become a foundational motif by which scientific knowledge is linked to the exploration of richly-imagined worlds. This conference will explore the implications of the extraordinary voyage as a narrative and ideological mode that resonates in world SF down to the present day.
The conference welcomes scholars, collectors, and enthusiasts of the extraordinary voyage."

Those interested might also wish to visit the esteemed Mr Gross's site, where lies a fascinating analysis of Mr Verne's 20,000 Leagues.

The Gatehouse

Interesting musings are on-going over at The Gatehouse, ranging from what Britney Spears would wear as a steampunk to the problem of referencing and discussing Nazi inventions.

A veritable smorgasbord of delights to be tasted, truly acting as a gateway to the wonders to be found on the ethernet, and worth a visit, or even joining the growing membership - which includes some of those on the leading edge of steam- and diesel- punk - for some delectable conversation, discussion and news.

Mr Nicholas Ottens deserves praise for this wonderful establishment.

Steampunk and visions of the apocalypse

Much is made, particularly amongst the cosplayers, within the Steampunk sub-culture not just of alternative history, but of the apocalypse. The two come together in The Peshawar Lancers by SM Stirling, whereby the effective destruction of Britain by meteor impact results in the wholesale moving of the centre of the British Empire to a new home in India. One of the 'ten steampunk books you must read', this is a text most SPs know or have heard of.

Films such as the newHollywood City of Ember, or the marvellous Wormtooth Nation are embedded in the notion of humanity escaping apocalypse, often underground, sometimes on another planet, and the loss of some vital knowledge often pertaining to the way back 'home'.

The current crop of apocalyptic visions have been rife since before the millenium of 2001 (which was actually the start of the new millenium, not 2000). The marking of a key date in the calendar is usually marked by a rise in apocalyptic or millenarian cults and cultural phenomenon - this time around, it was the Y2K bug which would kill all computers and wipe out humanity's collective electronic data, and before that the collective suicide of the Heaven's Gate cult. The end of the nineteenth century saw a rash of cults predicting the end of the world and a rise in spiritualism. Yet the ninteenth century also saw the technological, philosophical and intellectual advances which shaped the twentieth century.

All these elements - apocalypse, spriritualism, and technology - come together in steampunk, with a surprising array of influences and expressions. Western culture has maintained the apocalyptic fervour which grew in the late twentieth century far longer than in previous centuries, and has absorbed it into its fashion, books, films, and television programmes (just think of Heroes for instance). Academic concerns over social collapse continue to look to the past for solutions. Far from being a sub-culture, steampunk is at the confluence of these different cultural elements, but with a focus, with the current worries of climate change and economic collapse, upon how things may have been better with just a tweak here and a nudge there in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. New developments in tackling transport and climate problems are directly influenced by the technologies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The past is more relevant than ever to the future!

Interview with the esteemed Mr Verne

It comes to my attention that, in the year 1894, Mr Jules Verne, that esteemed visionary and literary pioneer, undertook an interview with a Mr Sherard for Mclure's Magazine.

Exploring many aspects of the author's life, this interview provides an intruiguing opportunity to peer into the mind of a man who has inspired many to push the boundaries of what is possible. Comments from more laudable colleagues than I have raised the question of what Mr Verne's capacious mind might have brought forth were he to be living in contemporary times, with the vast resources available to him at the touch of a button. However, I find the question somewhat ill-conceived. Mr Verne, as are all of us, was a product of his time, shaped by his experiences, which in turn were shaped by their unfurling in a particular time and space.

Which does, however, raise the interesting notion of what Mr Verne would make of the modern world in a contemporary interview were he able to step forward along the time-stream, thus bringing his contemporaneous experiences and thought process to the modern era...

Time Travellers of the Worlds Converge

Time being relative, there is plenty left for the brethren and sistren amongst the timestreams to converge in order to mark this newly established celebratory day .

Whilst many pretend, it provides a means through which true travellers may walk unimpeded through this period of the 21st century - at least for 24 hours. Some may have already partaken of the 2008 event, proposed by Dresden Kodak of Portland, Oregon, whilst others who may have missed the 8 December 2007 event have taken the opportunity to since go back and mark the inaugural day. For those experiencing the forward flow, there are still enough diurnal rotations to enable suitable planning for the 2008 event. Fellow travellers may be found here.