What does space travel look like? Even now, in the 21st century, very, very few of us know first-hand. But we’ve all seen countless images from countless eras purporting to show us what it might look like.
As with anything imagined by man, someone had to render a convincing vision of space travel first, and that distinction may well go to 19th-century French illustrator Émile-Antoine Bayard who, perhaps not surprisingly, worked with Jules Verne.
Verne’s pioneering and prolific work in science fiction literature has kept him a household name, but Bayard’s may sound more obscure; still, we’ve all seen his artwork, or at least we’ve all seen the drawing of Cosette the orphan he did for Les Misérables.
“Readers of Jules Verne’s early science-fiction classic From the Earth to the Moon (De la terre à la lune) — which left the Baltimore Gun Club’s bullet-shaped projectile, along with its three passengers and dog, hurtling through space — had to wait a whole five years before learning the fate of its heroes,” says The Public Domain Review.
When it appeared, 1870’s Around the Moon (Autour de la Lune) offered not just “a fine continuation of the space adventure” but “a superb series of wood engravings to illustrate the tale” created by Bayard.
“There had been imaginary views of other worlds, and even of space flight before this,” writes Ron Miller in Space Art, “but until Verne’s book appeared, these views all had been heavily coloured by mysticism rather than science.
Human missions to the red planet could follow in the path of the Curiosity rover (above) as soon as 2033. Photograph: Alamy
Wanted: smart, fit and unflappable applicants for humanity’s first mission to Mars. Must have: crazy wig, oversized boots and a big red nose.It is enough to make Neil Armstrong spin in his grave, but researchers have found that the success of a future mission to the red planet may depend on the ship having a class clown.
Rather than the cool personality that underpinned the Right Stuff in the Apollo era, future astronauts may need to prove they have something very different: the Silly Stuff. An onboard comedian is a proven way to unite teams in stressful situations, research shows.
“These are people that have the ability to pull everyone together, bridge gaps when tensions appear and really boost morale,” said Jeffrey Johnson, an anthropologist at the University of Florida.
“When you’re living with others in a confined space for a long period of time, such as on a mission to Mars, tensions are likely to fray. It’s vital you have somebody who can help everyone get along, so they can do their jobs and get there and back safely.
How can we not feature something that boasts airships, Arctic wastes, tentacles and sensuality – all at once? Impossible, I say! So here is the “Airships and Tentacles” Series by Myke Amend, combining Vernian and Lovecraftian atmosphere and concepts into strange-fiction fantasy horror mashups:
—- What are your influences, besides the obvious Lovecraft references and airship-induced themes?
“I would count my artistic influences over my lifetime as: Gustav Dore, Pieter Brueghel (the Elder mostly, but I admire the entire family’s work) Zdzislaw Beksinski, Bethalynne Bajema, Michael Whelan, Derek Riggs, Dave McKean, and Gerald Brom – though recently I have found myself very drawn by the works of newer artists such as Brian Despain, Travis Louie, Chet Zar, and Chris Mars.
I don’t see any of which really showing in my works, regretfully, but they are there – each encouraging me to try something new and experimental in the styling, media, or feel of each work I do.
I am also influenced by the written works of Edgar Allen Poe, Algernon Blackwood, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Robert W. Chambers, Gordon R. Dickson, Tolkien, Jules Verne, Terry Brooks, H.P. Lovecraft, Mary Shelley, Neil Gaiman, and Warren Ellis.
In my teen years, it was music – gloomy gothy music, deathrock, horror punk ordered by mail or shared through duplicated cassettes – and the largest assortment of obscure and semi-unknown metal and progressive metal bands – many of which I picked out of the music store almost entirely according to their album art, hence Derek Riggs (Illustrator for Iron Maiden) listed in my artistic influences.
Most influential, especially in my youth, outside of Dungeons and Dragons and Dark Sun campaigns, were the entire series of Final Fantasy games, the Dragon Warrior games, as well as Chrono-Cross and Chrono Trigger – leading into my earlier adult years with games such as the Heroes of Might and Magic series, Xenosaga, Dark Cloud, and Dark Cloud II.
Audio-visual eye-candy tends to grab me more than anything else these days. This perhaps because I regrettably find myself with less time for reading or for visiting my favorite museums.
Doctor Who, Torchwood, The Golden Compass, Stardust, Mirrormask, Pan’s Labyrinth, City of Lost Children, Chronos, Howl’s Moving Castle, Casshern, Brazil, the Adventures of Baron Munchausen account for much of what I have been doing over this last year or so.”
“The Machine” was done for for Josh Pfeiffer/the Steampunk Industrial Band “Vernian Process”.
Michael Kerbow is an artist based in San Francisco who works in a variety of mediums including painting, assemblage, drawing and digital photography.
Of particular note are his large oil and acrylic paintings that depict surreal and at times nightmarish visions of the future, where industry and human development has grown without regulation or care for the environment.
My work explores the way in which we engage with our surroundings and the possible consequences our actions have upon the world in which we live. Through my work I attempt to question the rationale of our choices, and try to reveal the dichotomy that may exist between what we desire and what we manifest.
Recently my work has focused upon the mechanisms that power our society and examines how they may influence the construct for a possible future.
Portrait of Margaret Cavendish in the frontispiece to her Grounds of Natural Philosophy (1668).
The image is also used as frontispiece to some editions of The Blazing World — Source.
It is the middle of the seventeenth century and a Bear-man is helping an empress attempt to examine a whale through a microscope. After this task is found to be impossible, a group of Worm-men explain how creatures can exist without blood and how cheese turns to maggots.
In her turn, the empress scolds an assembly of Ape- and Lice-men for their pursuit of tedious and irrelevant knowledge, such as the true weight of air, and commands they instead get busy with “such Experiments as may be beneficial to the publick”.
Armed with such knowledge of the natural world and equipped with the resources of her vast dominions, she then sends flocks of Bird-men and navies of Fish-men to a parallel planet to make war on and conquer her many enemies.
Such are the links between life, learning, and power within The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World, a piece of prose fiction published in 1666 by the “Thrice Noble, Illustrious, and Excellent Princesse the Duchess of Newcastle”, better known as Margaret Lucas Cavendish.
The narrative blends utopian fiction, imperialist travelogue, and natural history to tell the story of a “young Lady” who is kidnapped from her homeland but soon escapes to a new and mysterious land filled with human-animal hybrids.
On arrival she is made empress and quickly establishes societies of natural philosophy, funds theater and the arts, and destroys her enemies with fire and fury.The plot is often convoluted, with descriptions of military invasion or discussions with fantastical chimeras interspaced with short lessons on lenses or lectures on the nature of solar eclipses.
Yet there is much that can be learned from Cavendish’s Blazing World, including the way it sheds historical and literary light on conceptions of gender, natural philosophy, political theory, theology, and the life of the author herself in seventeenth-century Europe. For example, in the emphasis on the stability of a realm in which everyone —- from the lowest Flea-man to the highest Emperor —- knows and respects their place in the natural hierarchy, we can see echoed Cavendish’s Royalist sympathies.
Histories of feminism have also mined Cavendish’s works, as they reveal the ways in which she saw her own position limited within a society shaped by both gender and class.
However, less examined is the way that the narrative illuminates the history of seventeenth-century European imperialism, and how ideas about power, race, and conquest related to those of gender and knowledge.