Wednesday 29 April 2020

Clement Fezandié's Through the Earth, Parts I and II

What would be the most efficient way to pass from one side of the earth to the other? That's the old trick of the two dimensional map: you'd think it would be a straight line, but on a globe that translates into the curved line of airline flight paths. In the 19th century, there was no expedient way to circumnavigate the globe. Jules Verne showed that it could theoretically be done in 80 days, but the average traveler would be spending many more months at it. 

But what if you could just go through the earth?  

That is the question being broached by Clement Fezandié in this four-part serial that was published in the January-April 1898 volumes of St. Nicholas Magazine. The first two parts, presented here as they originally appeared, with illustrations by William A. Mackay (more famous for his role in developing ship camouflage for the US Navy), focus on the theory and construction of a tube from New York to Australia through the earth's core, and how people and freight may be moved along such a hazardous route.

Click on each page to see a larger version, and join us again next week for parts III and IV! 

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Free Book Offer - Death of a Bounty Hunter - A Supernatural Steampunk Western

"I’m in this story, but it’s not about me. It’s about a bounty hunter who comes face-to-face with something we all do: guilt and shame, and the desire to run from them. Not because we're cowards, but because sometimes we just can't stomach ourselves. The Gatling guns, the Occult, the paranormal, and even the demon spawn—all those things are just along for the ride."

From the authors of the Amazon Top Selling time travel novel Timeslingers comes, Death of a Bounty Hunter. Blending paranormal, steampunk, and western genres, Death of a Bounty Hunter creates something altogether different.

To celebrate their new release, Jay Sherer and Nathan Scheck are offering the Kindle e-book version of Death of a Bounty Hunter for free on the next four consecutive Fridays (or discounted to $0.99 every other day). All they’re asking for in exchange for a complimentary copy of the novel is an Amazon review. No obligation, but that’s what they’re hoping you would do after reading it! 

From the Authors:
As Pinkerton Agent Geraldine Abernathy might say, “We live in strange times.” And due to the stay-at-home orders that most of us still face, Nathan and I felt like it was time to give you something to show that we’re all in this together. 
That’s why we chose to release Death of a Bounty Hunter early and at a steep discount (and if you download it on 04/17/2020, free!). 
We hope you love it. If you do, we would appreciate it if you’d consider doing the following (all optional—the choice is yours—but both are incredibly helpful to us): 
That’s it! Stay at home, read Death of a Bounty Hunter, and hang in there! We’ll all get through this together! 
Jay Sherer and Nathan Scheck

Wednesday 15 April 2020

Cinématographe Lumière

The following string of films reconstructs the first ever public film screening, presented by the Lumière Brothers at the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris, France. The very first performance was a private affair on December 28th, 1895, with public performances following a few months later.

Auguste and Louis Lumière were acquainted with photography from a young age, being the children of an accomplished photographer in his own right. After their father passed away in 1892, the brothers were free to explore emerging technologies like those pioneered by animator Émile Reynaud. In 1895 they patented the cinématographe and ushered in the age of modern film.

The playlist for their quite profitable public performances featured, in order: La Sortie de l'Usine Lumière à Lyon ("Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory", also the first film they made), La Voltige ("Horse Trick Riders"), La Pêche aux poissons rouges ("fishing for goldfish"), Le Débarquement du Congrès de Photographie à Lyon ("the disembarkment of the Congress of Photographers in Lyon"), Les Forgerons ("Blacksmiths"), Le Jardinier (l'Arroseur Arrosé) ("The Gardener," or "The Sprinkler Sprinkled"), Repas de bébé ("Baby's Breakfast"), Le Saut à la couverture ("Jumping Onto the Blanket"), La Place des Cordeliers à Lyon ("Cordeliers Square in Lyon"--a street scene), La Mer (Baignade en mer) ("the sea [bathing in the sea]").

I apologize for not being able to provide the rich surroundings of a fin de siècle salon in which to enjoy the following shorts, but a weblog can only do so much...

Wednesday 8 April 2020

La Charcuterie Mécanique and Sausage-Making in Silent Film

Ostensibly the world's first Science Fiction film, La Charcuterie mécanique (1895) by the  Lumière Brothers is a relatively simple trick film with a humourous little twist at the end... An inauspicious beginning for one of the great cinematic genres. It would be up to Georges Méliès to really develop it into something. That said, mechanical apparatus for making a variety of unpalatable sausages would become a sub-genre of its own in succeeding years. Making Sausages (aka: The End of All Things, 1897), The Sausage Machine (1897), Fun in a Butcher Shop (1901), and Dog Factory (1904) all followed suit.   

La Charcuterie mécanique (1895) by the Lumière Brothers.

Making Sausages (1897).

Fun in a Butcher Shop (1901) by Edison Studios.

Dog Factory (1904) by Edison Studios.

Wednesday 1 April 2020

Early Canadian Futurism: Tisab Ting, The Storm of '92, and The Dominion in 1983

Unlike its neighbour to the south, Canada has no strong history of Scientific Romances. It has only really been in the last 40 years that the Dominion has developed a strong voice in Science Fiction as a whole. Even then, amidst the Robert J. Sawyers, A.E. van Voghts and William Gibsons, there is still plenty of ambivalence towards the genre. The great dame of Canadian literature, Margaret Atwood, still seems undecided on whether to allow her works to stoop to being called SF. 

The oddity of our lack of Scientific Romances comes into sharper focus when considering that Canada is, truly and uniquely, an invention of the Victorian Era. From earlier historic roots among Indigenous peoples, fur traders, and early French and British settlers, the Dominion of Canada as a single political institution began life with Confederation in 1867, when the independent colonies of Upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia unified. In 1870, the Hudson's Bay Company sold its vast western holdings to the fledgling nation, all of which became the North-West Territories. Other colonies joined later, and other provinces were carved out of the NWT. Perhaps the most influential member was British Columbia. It joined Confederation in 1871 by the promise that within a decade, a Transcontinental Railway would be built connecting the Pacific coast to the Atlantic.

Not only is Canada a product of the Victorian Era, but it is even more so a product of the Steam Age. Perhaps no country on earth owes as much of its existence to the construction of a single railway. The driving of the last spike at Craigellachie, British Columbia, in 1885 linked Vancouver to the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway at a distance of some 5000 kilometres, allowing for the fast movement of immigrants, troops, and tourists through the rugged Canadian northwoods and beyond. Thanks to Canadian Pacific Railway's fleet of Royal Mail Steamers, the well-heeled could travel from England to Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand by way of Canada, journeying halfway across the world without ever leaving the British Empire.    

Imperial pride reflects in two of the earliest Canadian futurist tales... The only three early Canadian futurist tales to speak of. The Dominion in 1983, The Storm of '92, and Tisab Ting; or, The Electrical Kiss share the same essential conceit of showing the status of Canada in the decades hence. Published in 1883, 1889, and 1896 respectively, all dared to make technological and political predictions while imposing Victorian attitudes upon the 20th century.