The moon has been a source of wonder, myth, and mystery since the first human looked up at the night sky. Few of us actually get to walk on its surface, although perhaps with the promise of space tourism that may soon change. Until that day we have these fantasy works that allow our imaginations to take flight.
Catherynne M. Valente’s Radiance
To me this was the best book of 2015. Inspired by the silent film, A Trip to the Moon, Radiance takes place in alternate reality where Edison’s hoarding of copyrights means that talkie films never caught on, but space travel is commonplace. People now live on the moon and other planets whose native species while being named after creatures on earth are decidedly alien. Valente’s clever creative descriptions of this alien menagerie was only one of the many features which charmed me. This quirky book is told through a variety of found materials including transcripts, gossip columns, and more. This adds enjoyment to the audiobook version (available from Hoopla) as actor Heath Miller brings to life the characters. All together the found materials forms the mysterious story of deceased filmmaker Severin Unck whose life is slowly revealed. Her documentaries were a reaction against her father’s over the top fantastical works and Valente notes that her own filmmaker father helped to motivate her writing of the novel. Retro futurism has never been so delightful or thoughtful. Read it in print from the Hoboken Library or as an eBook from eBCCLS!
A Trip to the Moon
Georges Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon was inspired by the novels of Jules Verne and other science fiction novels from that time period. It uses the effects and the aesthetics derived from the Féerie theatrical productions which were popular in France in the 1800’s; ironically the beginning of film saw the decline of its popularity. Despite the fact that the film was created in 1902, it has kept its charm and due to the recent fad for retrofuturism it seems oddly modern with its depiction of astronomers who use a cannon to launch their rocket to the moon. Beside Valente’s novel, it has been the inspiration for one of my favorite music videos, Smashing Pumpkin’s “Tonight, Tonight.” There is a colorized version of A Trip to the Moon. Although currently films can be colorized via computer, at that time each print of films had to be individually hand colored. The coloring leads another level of whimsy and visual interest to the film. Valente discussed the job in her novel; I would definitely recommend watching the film while reading Radiance. You can borrow the DVD, Méliès le Cinémagicien from BCCLS which includes a documentary about Méliès as well as several of his films.
Adam Rex’s Moonday
If your children, like my three year old son, are fascinated by the moon, then you should check out Adam Rex’s Moonday, where the moon takes up residency in a family’s backyard. Although at first it seems exciting to be able to literally reach out and touch the moon, it soon has some odd consequences including the town’s people’s lack of sleep and a tide that begins to fill up the yard. Rex’s realistic illustrations bring this surreal concept to life. You may remember Rex from previous blog posts as the illustrator of my son’s favorite picture book series centered on Chu, the panda bear with the mighty sneeze, written by Neil Gaiman. Moonday is available from Hoboken Public Library and you can borrow a picture book on video adaptation from Hoopla.
-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is a French film based on the graphic novels of the same name by Jacques Tardi. Adèle Blanc-Sec is an adventurous Victorian-era Parisian reporter who seems a fusion of Nellie Bly and Indiana Jones. She is played by Louise Bourgoin who manages to seem proper and intelligent even in the film’s more comedic moments. Adèle goes to Egypt hoping to find Ramses II’s physician who she believes when revived will be able to heal her sister who is currently in a comatose state due to a tragic hatpin related accident. But upon returning home she finds that the professor she had counted on to bring back the mummy is on death row since he was practicing his telepathic technique by hatching a pterodactyl egg; the pterodactyl is now soaring around Paris causing mayhem. There is also a romantic subplot and lots of humor in this fun French Action Adventure from Luc Besson, the man behind The Fifth Element. If you are a steampunk fan you should love this film as much as I did. You can borrow the DVD of the film and the first volume of the graphic novels it is based on from BCCLS Libraries.
The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber
The Eterna Files is the first novel I had read by Hieber, but I had enjoyed her story, Charged, in the short collection Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: A Collection of Gaslamp Fantasy I wrote about in a previous post. I had the opportunity to see Hieber read at the Steampunk’s World’s Fair and with her background as a trained actress, she truly brought the characters to life. You can see her reading samples of her work on her YouTube channel and for those in the area come see her do a special presentation about the Ghosts of New York right in time for Halloween on October 29. The Eterna Files focuses on two teams of scientists and mystics, one in the United States attempting to create immortality and the other in England investigating supernatural events and attempting to stop the Americans from creating an eternal leader. The Eterna Files is set during the Victorian period and the clothes and locations are vividly described. There are a lot of characters to keep of track of but I enjoyed the interweaving of the two teams’ narratives. A few characters are also featured in her other works and I’m interested to check them out as well, but did not feel that I was at a disadvantage having not read them before The Eterna Files. The Eterna Files and several of Hieber’s other novels are available from BCCLS libraries.
Insider’s Guide to Steampunk Fashion by Hannah Rothstein
For those inspired by these titles and wanting to get in to some Neovictorian fun, check out Hanna Rothstein’s Insider’s Guide to Steampunk Fashion available to Hoboken and other BCCLS card holders through Hoopla. This short nonfiction work will give you a brief overview of steampunk’s inspiration and the different types of outfits that Steampunk cosplayers (fans that dress up in costume) wear to conventions and meetups. Included are full color photographs and hyperlinks to resources for further information. Some of her prose is a bit on the florid side with concoctions of mixed metaphors, but due to the nature of the topic that seems apt. The publisher Hyperink specializes in creating ebooks based on popular online blogs. Rothstein has a background in fashion studies and art and has written copy for popular hipster retro fashion site Modcloth.
-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference