Showing posts with label science fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label science fiction. Show all posts

Sunday, July 07, 2013

I Never Went to the Moon

I just read the 1959 edition of You Will Go To The Moon.

It is a beginner's book with a 186-word vocabulary.  It's possible I read it as a child, but I don't remember.  I would have enjoyed it.

An unnamed boy representing "you" takes a trip to the moon without his parents; so I guess it's like summer camp, except he's the only child there.  The authors were aiming for scientific accuracy.  As you can see from the illustration, they use a 3-stage rocket.  They stop off at a space station on the way, just like in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The Moon looks like a swell place.  I'm glad I did not read this book earlier, or I might have become embittered.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Olde Tyme Science Fiction

Harvard Magazine has a section in which readers may ask if anybody can identify a certain quotation, poem, story, etc.  A recent supplicant asked for help identifying a 1950s science fiction story vaguely remembered.  I immediately recognized the plot as an Isaac Asimov story.  Though I could not remember the title, Wikipedia's detailed bibliography of Asimov's short stories allowed me to track it down.  I then e-mailed the information in, hoping to have the glory of being the first responder.  Damn!  I was not fast enough.  The guy who won hadn't even read the story; he'd only heard a description of it.

I started reading science fiction pretty young; I remember reading the Space Cat series and Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars.

In later years I had a subscription to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  There are some stories that stick with me but, like the questioner above, I cannot recall the title or author.  In one such story, the Earth passed through some kind of field that stripped animals of the ability to kill other animals.  I think the plot stuck with me because war disappeared without pain or effort.  Along comes this field; violence is banned.  A bullfighter could not bring himself to to his bullfighting job.  A lion starved to death, because he was an obligate carnivore.  I felt sorry for the lion, though the author said it was necessary for the New World to flourish.

Now I realize that such a New World is unworkable.  Rabbits, deer, small fish, and other former prey would eat all the plants in no time.  Soon the whole animal kingdom would starve to death, cursing that allegedly utopian field!  Good thing it was just a story!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The All-Seeing Mechanical Eye

Today’s  topic is Mechanical Remote Viewing, (as distinct from ordinary Remote Viewing).  MRV devices allow an operator to view scenes live at a great distance without the intermediary of a spy satellite, helicopter, or surveillance camera.  Some MRV devices can even see through fog, walls, and mountains, and some can also pick up audio.  MRV turns up in science fiction and action shows with a hi-tech component. 
I was thinking about this recently as I watched the wonderful 1950 classic Radar Secret Service.  The cops in this movie had “tele-meters” which allowed them to watch their colleagues clash with bad guys out on the roads just as if they were watching a movie.  The miracle of radar made this possible.  (Did you know that radar started out as an acronym for radio detection and ranging?)

Of course, Captain Video was the king of MRV with his Opticon Scillometer.  Check out some of the episodes here, here, and here.

The Martian Spaceship of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians had a MRV screen that a clear view of various Santa Clauses on the city streets of Earth.

The scientists in Riding With Death manage, in the 2nd half of the movie, to come up with a remote-viewing TV that allows the female lead to watch the male lead’s activities in a bar and parking lot.  The movie’s writers felt obligated to explain scientifically the male lead’s ability to become invisible at will (radiation accident), but the remote-viewing TV is pretty much taken for granted.

My Dad was visiting in mid-October, and we watched the new Hawaii Five-O.  At one point McGarret needed to know if there were any people in a boat on the deserted wharf, so he calls up a Navy friend who pushes a button and retrieves a thermal image of said boat showing one person inside.  She didn’t have to wait for a spy satellite or surveillance chopper.  It had to be Remote Thermal Viewing
Perhaps the audiences of the 50s were prepared to accept MRV because of precision bombing during WWII. Paul Fussell explains that "precision bombing" was something of a misnomer: "The fact was that bombing proved so grossly inaccurate that the planes had to fly well within anti-aircraft range to hit anywhere near the target, and even then they very often missed it entirely.  As the war went on, 'precision bombing' became a comical oxymoron relished by bomber crews with a sense of black humor.  It became obvious to everyone except the home folks reading Life and The Saturday Evening Post that although you could destroy lots of things with bombs, they weren't necessarily the things you had in mind."*   But civilians believed that each dropped bomb landed exactly where it was meant to. If you could drop a bomb precisely from 7 miles up without worrying about wind, then why not MRV?

I found a precision bombing propaganda pamphlet that Fussell mentioned and  scanned it.  Here's one image from it:

 Please check out the pilot I have pointed the green arrow at.  Tell me what you think: "Dude looks like a lady," "Dude, that is a lady," "Other."

*Paul Fussell, Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, New York: Oxford UP, 1989, p 14.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Catching Up

Lately I've been watching old TV that I missed the first time around.  I was only 5 when the series Thriller started up; it's a good thing I discovered it on Netflix, because it had many good episodes.

The Host of Thriller
Most of the plots had supernatural elements.  I've just finished season 1, in which I saw a very young William Shatner in  two episodes; but the fun doesn't stop there!  In The Hungry Glass Shatner played opposite Russell Johnson (a.k.a. the Professor on Gilligan's Island).  In The Grim Reaper Shatner was joined by Natalie Schafer (a.k.a. Eunice 'Lovey' Wentworth Howell on Gilligan's Island).  Small world!  What are the chances of running across two people from the same island?

So my Thriller-watching inspired me to seek out Thriller-host Boris Karloff's lesser-known films.  First I saw The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936), which was a classic mad-scientist story with the familiar theme of mind transplant.  By working really, really hard, Dr. Laurence manages to construct a machine that switches minds into different bodies.  But the scientific world won't even give him a chance to demonstrate his machine; they just walked away scoffing.  Then Laurence thinks of a practical use for his machine when his backer threatens to take away his lab...  Another noteworthy aspect of this flick is its strong female character, the lovely Dr. Clare Wyatt, who ends up saving the day at the end.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This and That

I've been watching all sorts of stuff made before I was born.  Destination Moon was based on a novel by Robert Heinlein, my first favorite sci-fi writer.  Heinlein's stories aimed to educate.  He was always finding ways to slip in science facts.  DM used its comic relief, an ignorant engineer who had to replace a sick crew memeber at the last moment, as an excuse to explain things.  Joe Sweeney is always wailing variations on "What's happening?" in his heavy Bronx accent, so his crewmates can explain about weightlessness, outer space, and Newton's Laws of Motion.  Also, the guy who builds the rocket is a private businessman who has to raise funds for the project, so he shows the following cartoon to his rich prospects:

Very Educational.  (Though it implies that gravity is made by giant magnets.)

The other interesting thing I've been viewing is Tales of Tomorrow, a TV show that ran from 1951-1953. The DVDs include the advertisements, which were made in the same studio.  Live TV!  A couple of times I heard coughs or loud things drop while the end credits were rolling.  Perhaps they got sloppier as the night wore on.  Some good actors were in that series.  Burgess Meredith played the lead in the best one I saw: The Great Silence.  Most of the episodes were sponsored by Kreisler.

Friday, September 17, 2010

An Ed Wood Clone?


Invisible Invaders and Plan 9 From Outer Space both came out in 1959.  If I hadn't known better, I would've guessed that II was some lost Ed Wood creation.  Perhaps Ed Wood had some influence on II director Edward L. Cahn or vice versa.  Certain similarities, such as continuity problems, generous use of stock footage, and recycling of shots can more easily be explained by low budgets.
However, a small purse cannot be blamed for both films using an omniscient narrator or the common theme of aliens who respond to earthlings's nuclear development by resurrecting dead humans, who then attack live humans.  No sir!
I do not believe that 1950s alien invasion films are really about Communism.  I believe that subconscious eruptions fuel our fear of both aliens and Communism (and a lot of other stuff).  The walking dead could be the return of the repressed!  I think of these films as modern folklore, that reveals our collective uncoscious.
In any case I videoed the opening scene of II, which I think is awesomely bad!  You can watch trailers on youtube.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Aliens R Us

Inspired by Chuck's recent post, I was checking out what Google searches were leading people to my blog.  One searcher from Norway who retrieved my post Who Are These Aliens Anyway? had used the search terms Colleen and aliens.  Could it be that my thoughts on 50s science fiction had risen to fame-level?!

Perhaps.  Or maybe The Norwegian was looking for this Colleen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Real Thing

First, I have added a few new old sci-fi magazine covers to a Picasa album.  You may want to check it out.

 Second, you may have noticed my new profile picture with my new glasses.  I also got magnetic clip-on sunglasses in amber with little purple crystals on the magnets.  That's not clear in the accompanying shot,  But you can always look at a similar pair here.

Third, as an extra, added, free, bonus gift (at no extra charge) I got this lens cloth in a case that doubles as a certificate of authenticity. What a comfort to know that I can silence any  doubters that come my way!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Big Heads? Bad Idea!

In the world of old science fiction (60s and earlier) your super-advanced aliens and your super-evolved human beings usually have big heads, like Gwyllim Griffiths (top) in the Outer Limits episode The Sixth Finger or like the aliens from the Star Trek episode The Menagerie

It makes sense.  Our pre-human ancestors had smaller brains, so our descendents a zillion years from now should have gigantic brains.  But I notice that these beings pictured above still have spindly necks like the current homo sapien.  How could a neck that thin support all that extra brain and skull?  I say it couldn't.  If we want to grow bigger brains, we must concurrently grow thicker, more muscular necks.

However, there is another evolution solution.  We now know that the brain isn't the only place with neurons; just look in your gut.  The gut brain rests on a solid base and could safely grow much bigger.  This is the place for brain evolution.  Guts are the thinkers of tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Captain Future: Wizard of Science

While catalog-surfing I discovered that Widener had a science fiction pulp magazine form the 40s called Captain Future.  I requested it form the depository and scanned some of the covers.  Recently, I decided to use the new scan and deliver service to get scans of all the covers.  The new ones are higher quality.

Fall 1940
I'm putting them all in a Picasa web album.

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.