Jules Verne’s Most Famous Books Were Part of a 54-Volume Masterpiece, Featuring 4,000 Illustrations: See Them Online

Not many readers of the 21st century seek out the work of popular writers of the 19th century, but when they do, they often seek out the work of Jules Verne. Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days: fair to say that we all know the titles of these fantastical French tales from the 1860s and 70s, and more than a few of us have actually read them. But how many of us know that they all belong to a single series, the 54-volume Voyages Extraordinaires, that Verne published from 1863 until the end of his life? Verne described the project's goal to an interviewer thus: "to conclude in story form my whole survey of the world’s surface and the heavens."

Verne intended to educate, but at the same time to entertain and even artistically impress: "My object has been to depict the earth, and not the earth alone, but the universe," he said. "And I have tried at the same time to realize a very high ideal of beauty of style." This he accomplished with great success in a time and place without even what we would now consider a fully literate public.




As philosopher Marc Soriano writes of the 1860s when Verne began publishing, "The drive for literacy in France has been underway since the Guizot Law of 1833, but there is still much to do. Any well-advised editor must aid his readers who have not yet achieved a good reading proficiency."

Hence the need for illustrations: beautiful illustrations, scientifically and narratively faithful illustrations, and above all a great many illustrations: over 4,000 of them, by the count of Arthur B. Evans in his essay on the series' artists, "an average of 60+ illustrations per novel, one for every 6-8 pages of text." Still today, "most modern French reprints of the Voyages Extraordinaires continue to feature their original illustrations — recapturing the 'feel' of Verne’s socio-historical milieu and evoking that sense of faraway exoticism and futuristic awe which the original readers once experienced from these texts. And yet, to date, the bulk of Vernian criticism has virtually ignored the crucial role played by these illustrations in Verne’s oeuvre."

Evans identifies four different types of illustrations in the series: "renderings of the protagonists of the story — e.g., portraits like the one of Impey Barbicane in De la terre à la lune"; "panoramic and postcard-like" views of the "exotic locales, unusual sights, and flora and fauna which the heroes encounter during their journey, like the one from Vingt mille lieues sous les mers depicting divers walking on the ocean floor"; "documentational" illustrations like "the map of the Polar regions (hand-drawn by Verne himself) for his 1864 novel Les Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras"; and portayals of "a specific moment of action in the narrative—e.g., the one from Voyage au centre de la terre where Prof. Lidenbrock, Axel, and Hans are suddenly caught in a lightning storm on a subterranean ocean."

Verne and his editor Pierre-Jules Hetzel commissioned these illustrations from no fewer than eight artists, a group including Edouard Riou, Alphonse de Neuville, Emile-Antoine Bayard (previously featured here on Open Culture), and Léon Benett — all well-known artists in late 19th-century France, and made even more so by their work in the Voyages Extraordinaires. You can browse a complete gallery of the series' original illustrations here, and if you like, enrich the experience with this extensive essay by Terry Harpold on "reading" these images in context.

Together with the stories themselves, on the back of which Verne remains the most translated science-fiction author of all time, they allow Harpold to make the credible claim that "the textual-graphic domain constituted by these objects is unmatched in its breadth and variety; no other corpus associated with a single author is comparable." Human knowledge of the universe has widened and deepened since Verne's day, but for sheer intellectual and adventurous wonder about what that universe might contain, has any writer, from any era or land, outdone him since?

Related Content:

Émile-Antoine Bayard’s Vivid Illustrations of Jules Verne’s Around the Moon: The First Serious Works of Space Art (1870)

Jules Verne Accurately Predicts What the 20th Century Will Look Like in His Lost Novel, Paris in the Twentieth Century (1863)

How French Artists in 1899 Envisioned Life in the Year 2000: Drawing the Future

Hear Rick Wakeman’s Musical Adaptation of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, “One of Prog Rock’s Crowning Achievements”

Petite Planète: Discover Chris Marker’s Influential 1950s Travel Photobook Series

The Art of Sci-Fi Book Covers: From the Fantastical 1920s to the Psychedelic 1960s & Beyond

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

42 Hours of Ambient Sounds from Blade Runner, Alien, Star Trek and Doctor Who Will Help You Relax & Sleep

Back in 2009, the musician who goes by the name "Cheesy Nirvosa" began experimenting with ambient music, before eventually launching a YouTube channel where he "composes longform space and scifi ambience." Or what he otherwise calls "ambient geek sleep aids." Click on the video above, and you can get lulled to sleep listening to the ambient droning sound--get ready Blade Runner fans!-- heard in Rich Deckard's apartment. It runs a good continuous 12 hours.

You're more a Star Trek fan? Ok, try nodding off to the idling engine noise of a ship featured in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Mr. Nirvosa cleaned up a sample from the show and then looped it for 24 hours. That makes for one long sleep.

Or how about 12 hours of ambient engine noise generated by the USCSS Nostromo in Alien?

Finally, and perhaps my favorite, Cheesy created a 12 hour clip of the ambient sounds made by the Tardis, the time machine made famous by the British sci-fi TV show, Doctor Who. But watch out. You might wake up living in a different time and place.

For lots more ambient sci-fi sounds (Star Wars, The Matrix, Battlestar Galactica, etc. ) check out this super long playlist here.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in March 2017.

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A Concise Breakdown of How Time Travel Works in Popular Movies, Books & TV Shows

As least since H.G. Wells' 1895 novel The Time Machine, time travel has been a promising storytelling concept. Alas, it has seldom delivered on that promise: whether their characters jump forward into the future, backward into the past, or both, the past 125 years of time-travel stories have too often suffered from inelegance, inconsistency, and implausibility. Well, of course they're implausible, everyone but Ronald Mallett might say — they're stories about time travel. But fiction only has to work on its own terms, not reality's. The trouble is that the fiction of time travel can all too easily stumble over the potentially infinite convolutions and paradoxes inherent in the subject matter.

In the MinutePhysics video above, Henry Reich sorts out how time-travel stories work (and fail to work) using nothing but markers and paper. For the time-travel enthusiast, the core interest of such fictions isn't so much the spectacle of characters hurtling into the future or past but "the different ways time travel can influence causality, and thus the plot, within the universe of each story." As an example of "100 percent realistic travel" Reich points to Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, in which space travelers at light speed experience only days or months while years pass back on Earth. The same thing happens in Planet of the Apes, whose astronauts return from space thinking they've landed on the wrong planet when they've actually landed in the distant future.




But when we think of time travel per se, we more often think of stories about how actively traveling to the past, say, can change its future — and thus the story's "present." Reich poses two major questions to ask about such stories. The first is "whether or not the time traveler is there when history happens the first time around. Was "the time-traveling version of you always there to begin with?" Or "does the very act of time traveling to the past change what happened and force the universe onto a different trajectory of history from the one you experienced prior to traveling?" The second question is "who has free will when somebody is time traveling" — that is, "whose actions are allowed to move history onto a different trajectory, and whose aren't?"

We can all look into our own pasts for examples of how our favorite time-travel stories have dealt with those questions. Reich cites such well-known time-travelers' tales as A Christmas Carol, Groundhog Day, and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, as well, of course, as Back to the Future, the most popular dramatization of the theoretical changing of historical timelines caused by travel into the past. Rian Johnson's Looper treats that phenomenon more complexly, allowing for more free will and taking into account more of the effects a character in one time period would have on that same character in another. Consulting on that film was Shane Carruth, whose Primer — my own personal favorite time-travel fiction — had already taken time travel "to the extreme, with time travel within time travel within time travel."

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Reich's personal favorite time-travel fiction, exhibits a clarity and consistency uncommon in the genre. J.K. Rowling accomplishes this by following the rule that "while you're experiencing your initial pre-time travel passage through a particular point in history, your time-traveling clone is also already there, doing everything you'll eventually do when you time-travel yourself." This single-time-line version of time travel, in which "you can't change the past because the past already happened," gets around problems that have long bedeviled other time-travel fictions. But it also demonstrates the importance of self-consistency in fiction of all kinds: "In order to care about the characters in a story," Reich says, "we have to believe that actions have consequences." Stories, in other words, must obey their own rules — even, and perhaps especially, stories involving time-traveling child wizards.

Related Content:

What’s the Origin of Time Travel Fiction?: New Video Essay Explains How Time Travel Writing Got Its Start with Charles Darwin & His Literary Peers

Professor Ronald Mallett Wants to Build a Time Machine in this Century … and He’s Not Kidding

Mark Twain Predicts the Internet in 1898: Read His Sci-Fi Crime Story, “From The ‘London Times’ in 1904”

What Happened When Stephen Hawking Threw a Cocktail Party for Time Travelers (2009)

Pretty Much Pop #22 Untangles Time-Travel Scenarios in the Terminator Franchise and Other Media

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #27 Discusses the Impact and Aesthetics of Star Wars

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Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt grasp the low-hanging fruit in pop culture to talk about Star Wars: The unique place that these films have in the brains of people of a certain age, how we grappled with the prequels, and why we feel the need to fill in and argue about the details.

We primarily focus on the two most recent emanations of this beast, The Mandalorian and Rise of Skywalker. We talk alien and droid aesthetics (how much cuteness is too much?), storytelling for kids vs. adults reliving their childhood, pacing, plotting, casting, whether celebrity appearances ruin the Star Wars mood, creation by an auteur vs. a committee, and what we'd like to see next.

We had enough to say about this that we didn't need to draw on online articles, but here's a sampling of what we looked at anyway:

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. In this case, it's all just more Star Wars talk, covering droid body dysmorphia and humanization, the cycle of embodiment via action figures and re-presentation on the screen, tragedy in Star Wars vs. Watchmen, making up for racism in Star Wars through sympathetic portrayals of Sand Person culture, watching particular scenes many times, clown biker troopers, and more. Don't miss it!

This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

RIP Syd Mead: Revisit the Life and & Art of the Designer Behind Blade Runner, Alien & More

Has any year ever sounded more futuristic than 2020, the one we all live in as of today? 2019 came close, mostly because it was the year in which Blade Runner took place. Though initially a flop, Ridley Scott's cinematic adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? soon became a contender for the most influential vision of the future ever put on screen. This owes not just to the directorial skill of Scott himself, but also of the many collaborators who set their imaginations to the year 2019 — then nearly 40 years in the future — along with him. Among the most important was concept artist Syd Mead, who died this past Monday at the age of 86.

Mead credited as an inspiration for his own Blade Runner work Métal hurlant, the 1970s French comic book that brought attention to the even more deeply influential art of Moebius. But his own career as an illustrator and industrial designer, already far along by that time, had also prepared him thoroughly for the job. That career began in 1959 with Mead's recruitment to the Ford Motor Company's Advanced Styling Studio, where he spent two years thinking up the cars of the future. He then illustrated publications for other corporations before launching his own design firm in 1970, working with European clients including Philips and Intercontinental Hotels, and later nearly every Japanese corporation that mattered, from Sony, Bandai, and NHK to Minolta, Dentsu, and Honda.

That was in the early 1980s, when we all looked upon Japan as a vision of the future. To an extent we still do, not least because of the Japanified future envisioned in Blade Runner — as well as the one envisioned in its recent sequel Blade Runner 2046, also a beneficiary of Mead's contributions. No matter how much Japan fascinated Mead, Japan repaid that fascination tenfold, seeking him out for film and animation projects, putting on shows of his work, and even publishing a digital collection of his art as one of the very first CD-ROMs. (I myself first heard of Mead from Syd Mead's Terraforming, a Japanese-made video game for the Turbografx-CD that made use of his visuals.) This was perhaps an unexpected development in the life of a kid from Minnesota who spent his youth drawing in solitude, even one who grew up absorbing the sci-fi swashbuckling of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.

But unlike those kitschy, dated worlds of flying cars, gleaming towers, rocketships, robots, Mead created credible, enduring worlds of flying cars, gleaming towers, rocketships, robots. That must owe in part to an instinct, developed through industrial design work, of rooting the fantastical in the possible. A look back at the full scope of his art — which you can glimpse in the trailer for the documentary Visual FuturistThe Life and Art of Syd Mead at the top of the post as well as in the montage video just above — reveals that Mead really believed in the futures he drew. And by having believed in them, he makes us believe in them. The real 2020 may not bring any of the sky-high buildings, impossibly sleek vehicles, or sublimely vast pieces of infrastructure that Mead could render so convincingly. But however the next year — or the next decade, or indeed the next century — does look, it will owe more than a little to the imagination of Syd Mead.

Related Content:

The Blade Runner Sketchbook Features The Original Art of Syd Mead & Ridley Scott (1982)

The Art of Making Blade Runner: See the Original Sketchbook, Storyboards, On-Set Polaroids & More

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“The Long Tomorrow”: Discover Mœbius’ Hard-Boiled Detective Comic That Inspired Blade Runner (1975)

The Giger Bar: Discover the 1980s Tokyo Bar Designed by H. R. Giger, the Same Artist Who Created the Nightmarish Monster in Ridley Scott’s Alien

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Why You Should Read Dune: An Animated Introduction to Frank Herbert’s Ecological, Psychological Sci-Fi Epic

A vision of humanity's future without most of the high technology we expect from science fiction, but with a surfeit of religions, martial arts, and medieval politics we don't; pronunciation-unfriendly names and terms like "Bene Gesserit," "Kwisatz Haderach," and "Muad'Dib"; a sand planet inhabited by giant killer worms: nearly 55 years after its publication, Dune remains a strange piece of work. But applying that adjective to Frank Herbert's highly successful saga of interstellar adventure and intrigue highlights not just the ways in which its intricately developed world is unfamiliar to us, but the ways in which it is familiar — and has grown ever more so over the decades.

"Following an ancient war with robots, humanity has forbidden the construction of any machine in the likeness of a human mind," says Dan Kwartler in the animated TED-Ed introduction to the world of Dune aboveThis edict "forced humans to evolve in startling ways, becoming biological computers, psychic witches, and prescient space pilots," many of them "regularly employed by various noble houses, all competing for power and new planets to add to their kingdoms." But their superhuman skills "rely on the same precious resource: the spice," a mystical crop that also powers space travel, "making it the cornerstone of the galactic economy."




Herbert sets Dune — the first of five books by him and many successors by his son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson — on the desert planet Arrakis, where the noble House Atreides finds itself relocated. Before long, its young scion Paul Atreides "is catapulted into the middle of a planetary revolution where he must prove himself capable of leading and surviving on this hostile desert world." Not that Arrakis is just some rock covered in sand: an avid environmentalist, Herbert "spent over five years creating Dune's complex ecosystem. The planet is checkered with climate belts and wind tunnels that have shaped its rocky topography. Differing temperate zones produce varying desert flora, and almost every element of Dune's ecosystem works together to produce the planet's essential export."

Herbert's world-building "also includes a rich web of philosophy and religion," which involves elements of Islam, Buddhism, Sufi mysticism, Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism, all arranged in configurations the likes of which human history has never seen. What Dune does with religion it does even more with language, drawing for its vocabulary from a range of tongues including Latin, Old English, Hebrew, Greek, Finnish, and Nahuatl. All this serves a story dealing with themes both eternal, like the decline of empire and the misplaced trust in heroic leaders, and increasingly topical, like the consequences of a feudal order, ecological change, and wars over resources in inhospitable, sandy places. At the center is the story of a man struggling to attain mastery of not just body but mind, not least by defeating fear, described in Paul's famous line as the "mind-killer," the "little-death that brings total obliteration."

The scope, complexity, and sheer oddity of Herbert's vision has repeatedly tempted filmmakers and the film industry — and repeatedly defeated them. Perhaps unsurprisingly Alexander Jodorowsky couldn't get his plans off the ground for a 14-hour epic Dune involving Pink Floyd, Salvador Dalí, Moebius, Orson Welles, and Mick Jagger. In 1984 David Lynch managed to direct a somewhat less ambitious adaptation, but the nevertheless enormously complex and expensive production came out as what David Foster Wallace described as "a huge, pretentious, incoherent flop." Dune will return to theaters in December 2020 in a version directed by Denis Villeneuve, whose recent work on the likes of Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 suggests on his part not just the necessary interest in science fiction, but the even more necessary sense of the sublime: a grandeur and beauty of such a scale and starkness as to inspire fear, much as every Dune reader has felt on their own imagined Arrakis.

Related Content:

The 14-Hour Epic Film, Dune, That Alejandro Jodorowsky, Pink Floyd, Salvador Dalí, Moebius, Orson Welles & Mick Jagger Never Made

Moebius’ Storyboards & Concept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune

The Dune Coloring & Activity Books: When David Lynch’s 1984 Film Created Countless Hours of Peculiar Fun for Kids

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Why You Should Read Crime and Punishment: An Animated Introduction to Dostoevsky’s Moral Thriller

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Pretty Much Pop #22 Untangles Time-Travel Scenarios in the Terminator Franchise and Other Media

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Time-travel rules in The Terminator franchise are notoriously inconsistent. Is it possible for someone from the future to travel backwards to change events, given the paradox that with a changed future, the traveler wouldn't then have had the problem to try to come back and fix? Neither the closed-loop series of events in the first Terminator film nor the changed (postponed) future in the second make sense, and matters just get worse through the subsequent films.

Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by Brian's brother and co-author Ken Gerber to talk through the various time travel rulesets and plot scenarios (a good starter list is at tvtropes.org), covering Dr. Who, Back to the Future, Looper, Dark (the German TV show), time loop films a la Groundhog Day (Edge of Tomorrow, Happy Death Day), time-travel comedies (Future Man), historical tourism (Mr. Peabody and Sherman), Timecop's "The same matter cannot occupy the same space," using time-travel to sentimentalize (About Time) or clone yourself (see that Brak Show episode about avoiding homework), and freezing time (like in the old Twilight Zone).

Some articles we looked at included:

You can find the Brian and Ken short stories we talk about at gerberbrothers.net. Listen to them podcast together and read the science fiction stories they publish at constellary.com. The Partially Examined Life podcast episode Mark hosted where the dangers of AI are discussed is #108 with Nick Bostrom.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

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