Another year has come and gone for Voyages Extraordinaires: Scientific Romances in a Bygone Age. 2010 was our third full year of posting views and reviews on Victorian-Edwardian Scientific, Imperial and Planetary Romances, both original and their modern imitators, as well as Retro-Futurism, Gothic Horror, Scientifiction, early film and real world history. It was also a year of some controversy and a little value-added to the weblog. This year saw the creation of the VEx Facebook group and a series of giveaway contests that will definitely continue into through new year.
The year began, as every year has, with our running series on the original Doctor Who. At the current rate, there are still two Januaries to go!
So much material accumulated from last year's trip to Japan that it spilled over into February's "Land of the Rising Sun" month and March's 20,000 Leagues-themed "Davy Jones Locker" month. We took a visit to Kyoto to look at its railway heritage, took a ride on the Galaxy Express 999, and entered the fantasy world of the Studio Ghibli Museum. Tokyo Disneysea came after, including the Mysterious Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Fortress Explorations attractions.
The series kicked off, however, with one of the articles I'm most proud of: a history of Japanese Scientific Romances. I also managed to sneak a more general review of the four Studio Ghibli movies rereleased by Disney this past year and a commentary on Disney's controversial Mechanical Kingdom merchandise.
For April's Disney month, I got some mileage out of an old essay for one of my undergrad classes, analysing Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier. The "Frontierland" theme continued with Walt Disney's trip to the Calgary Stampede, the would-be Vernian Discovery Bay and the partnership between Disney and the Sons of the Pioneers. We also took a look at Disney's indulgence of the Gay Nineties in story and song.
Where the Sons of the Pioneers are found, Roy Rogers can't be far behind. And when you're talking about Hollywood's singing cowboys, you can't neglect Gene Autry and his infamous serial The Phantom Empire. For a really provocative deconstruction of the myths of the Wild West promoted by those figures, one ought to turn to Canadian artist Kent Monkman. The romance of the North American frontier includes the national parks throughout Canada and the United States. Therefore I wrote my own paean to the Romance of the National Parks as well as the National Parks and the Romance of the Rails (and Disney's Ranger J. Audubon Woodlore). "National Parks Rustic" month segued into a month of Californiana, including the La Brea Tar Pits and Hollywood (in the 'toons). That in turn brought us to a month focusing on the 1920's, 30's and 40's vision of a gleaming, Art Deco future. One of the most popular of those articles was a recapitulation of the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons, but I also enjoyed the 1921 Italian film The Mechanical Man.
A new habit for VEx was publishing reviews of more recent material. That happened with the aforementioned Ghibli films and Mechanical Kingdom. It also happened in my review of The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack and my gushing over The Anachronism. I waded into the controversy over Philip Reeve's comments on Steampunk and apparently created some in my review of the Steampunk II anthology (controversy accented with Mike Perschon's republication of my old History of Steampunk essay). While people spent the summer kerffufling over things I said, I was off on vacation enjoying Victoria, British Columbia, and a steam train ride through the Rocky Mountains.
October passed with an examination of New Orleans and "Old Dark House" horror, leading into our third anniversary in November. The annual pep-talk essay was on History and Scientific Romances, which was conceptually followed up by another of the year's most popular articles on Jules Verne and the Science of Prophecy. The point of this November's "Voyages Extraordinaires" month was Verne's antecedents, including Cyrano de Bergerac and Voltaire.
The year concluded with December's "Fairy Tale" month, in which I took the opportunity to review two of my favorite genre works, discovered only this past summer during that trip to Victoria. They are Rapunzel's Revenge and Calamity Jack.
This coming year is shaping up to be another exciting one, if I say so myself. Karel Zeman returns, Segundo de Chomón will be introduced, and a whole month will be given over to Studio Ghibli. My home and native land of Canada will join Japan and France as feature nations. Scientifiction month will come back, dragging the Wild West with it. There will be more contests and the Facebook group will still be the place to not only receive the latest updates but also material pulled from across the worldwide telegraphic network.
Most of all, though, Voyages Extraordinaires could not be what it is without your support. Thank you one and all for your patronage. My best to all of you in the coming year!