Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Science Fiction Past

I recently watched Colossus:  The Forbin Project, made in 1970, for the first time.  This computer-overthrows-its-masters flick impressed me more than I thought it would. The acting, music and camera work were all pretty good, at least according to my untutored taste.  At the time this movie came out, I was satisfying my science fiction needs with grade B Tokyo Monster Mashes and radiation-enlarged bug invasions.  (John Taine's The Iron Star, 1930, started the rage for mutations in sci-fi, which became very popular after the atom bomb.*)

I was a science fiction fan from early youth to High School.  I remember the Space Cat series of books from my youth: Space Cat Goes to Mars; Space Cat and the Kittens.  Robert Heinlein then Isaac Asimov were the favorites of my mature years. I got very picky about the kind of sci-fi I'd read.  No spells or wizards allowed; I wanted hard science.  Hard, but not too hard.  I hated stories wherein interstellar travel took years and years, and the crew was either in suspended animation or was spending their whole lives in space so their grandchildren could get to a new planet.  Screw that!  There had to be warp drives.

Another rebellious-computer movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, came out a couple of years before Colossus.  The technology in 2001 thoroughly awed my 13-year-old self.. The stuff that should have awed me didn't.   The black monolith, the space baby, the philosophical implications of HAL's rebellion passed through me like water in a sieve.  Here was a serious sci-fi movie showing me, as accurately as it could, what space travel would be like in my lifetime.  Sure, they didn't have warp drives, but at least a person could get to the moon in relative comfort.  My future in space looked bright.
My sci-fi bug died off in college.  I no longer want to go to the moon.  An interesting article from the Guardian of London talks about the psychological problems the moon astronauts had after returning to Earth.**  After, all going into outer space is heaps different from going to sea.  Living in a space station would be like living in a very small shopping mall with no stores and really bad food.  And taking a walk on the deck requires a spacesuit.

*Brian Stableford Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction Literature, The Scarecrow Pr.: Lanham,MD, 2004. p.243.
**The Guide: Lost in Space: Space it's big and scary and does funny things to your brain. Andrew Mueller blasts off in search of the astronauts who left their marbles somewhere in the upper atmosphere. The Guardian (London) - Final Edition, March 31, 2007 Saturday, page 10.

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