First things first: thanks to everyone who dug deep (or shallow) to purchase (or just freely download) a copy of Reason and Persuasion, allowing us to enjoy evanescent ecstasies of semi-upward-mobility into the 5-digit sales range on Amazon for a period of some days now. Now please keep that Amazon aspidistra flying for the next several years running and we’ll have ourselves a standard textbook! (Sigh. I know. No hope. If I want sales like that, I have to update Facebook more than once every 4 years. And be on Twitter. Shudder.)

As I was saying: it is also fun to watch the (no doubt CT-fueled) evolution of the ‘customers who viewed this item also viewed’ Amazon scrollbar, associating our Plato book with all manner of comics and science fiction. I hope the present post shall further enrich that eclectic mix.

Back in December I posted about how I would like a history of semi-popular philosophy of mind, to complement the history of science fiction. Many people left genuinely useful, interesting comments, for which I am sincerely grateful. Today I would like to strike out along a semi-parallel line. Science fiction film, with its special effects, has a strong phenotypic and genotypic relation to stage magic. Georges Méliès was a stage magician. But sf is older than film; stage magic, too. We might enhance our sense of the modern origins of the former by coordinating with the modern history of the latter. I just read a good little book, Conjuring Science: A History of Scientific Entertainment and Stage Magic in Modern France, by Sofia Lachappelle, that doesn’t make the sf connection, but makes it easy to make. (It’s an overpriced good little book, I’m sorry to say. Oh, academic publishing. But perhaps you, like me, enjoy library privileges somewhere.)

It contains some nice sentences, certainly. For example: “While Robertson was presenting his phantasmagoria in an abandoned convent and professors of amusing physics were performing their wonders, scientific and technological innovations were impacting the world of the theater at large.” (118)

As I was saying: history of modern stage magic. I’ll quote passages, and comment, and supplement with relevant images. [click to continue…]