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.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Forecasting Interior Decorating Trends

The other day I watched The Illustrated Man, adapted from the Ray Bradbury collection of the same name.  A crazy bum, who is covered with tatoos, tells a young man he meets that a woman from the future did the "skin illustrations," which "come alive" if you look at them long enough.  This coming alive involves diversions to 3 short sci-fi stories.  It's the first story that concerns me here;  in it, the tatooed man and future woman live in the future in a futuristic house.  The scenery people for IM made the then-common assumption that future interior decorators would work entirely in white.  White walls. White floors.  White ceilings.  White furniture.  Why this whiteness?  One theory:  people in the future will like to show off the fact that they needn't opt for the darker colors that don't show dirt, since they have robots to keep everything spick and span.

The bum/future-man, played by Rod Steiger, complains about the economic necessity (in the future)of allowing people to work only six months out of the year.  What is he to do with that other six months?!  Why couldn't he brighten up his existence with some color?  Hook a red rug.  Buy a blue couch.  If he had invited his young son to help him paper the walls and paint the furniture, maybe they would have bonded.  And his wife and daughter could also have bonded while looking through decorating samples and buying fancy pillows. Interior decorating could have brought this family closer and perhaps the kids wouldn't have set the parents up to get killed.  Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wednesday, November 04, 2009