Saturday, November 15, 2008

A visit to the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame

(Copied from my blog at Hardcore Nerdity)

In early October, my wife Lynn and I took a couple of days trip to Seattle with another couple, mostly to do a little cross-border shopping. (Fortunately, we managed to squeak this in before the sudden recent plunge in the value of the Canadian dollar. Excellent timing!) But as part of the trip, I decided I needed to visit the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. It's very close to the the city's famed Space Needle and was practically across the street from our hotel.

That's a view of the building from our hotel room. Only half of it is the SFM, with the other being another museum called the Experience Music Project. That funky design is thanks to Canadian designer Frank Gehry. Oh, and the Seattle monorail runs through a big hole in the building.

The entrance is pretty cool. The windows are plastered with collages of SF book covers...

...and images from a host of SF films and TV programs.

However, these scenes are all in danger from the nasty looking spaceship digging its way into the windows!


Anyway, once inside, photography is not really allowed so I only have a few photos from this point on (all of them washroom related - you'll see) and will just list some of the highlights. (I'm sure you can see some pictures at the Museum's site).

The first thing you see when entering is a great big replica of Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still. And, damn, he is tall. Immediately after that are some public washrooms. We didn't need to use the facilities, but spent some time gazing at the signs on the doors. And why is that? Here:

When we finally entered the Museum proper, we were greeted to the sight of a large ball hanging from the ceiling with a projector inside, flashing montages and planetscapes onto the ball-shaped screen.

Then, the first true display. And it's for (surprise, surprise) Star Trek. They've got a nice little selection of actual props and costumes from the classic series. An actual captain's chair from the set and an actual captain's uniform worn by William Shatner. And, man, you realise how slim the Shat used to be. There's also a replica of Nichelle Nichols' script for "The Deadly Years". The script is "annotated" by Nichols, which seems to mean doodling and underlining her own lines.

Further along, one display includes Neal Stephenson's hand-written manuscripts for his massive "Baroque Cycle". Hand-written. It's four and a half feet tall.

Blade Runner outfits. Neat. But, boy, was Sean Young tiny.

A section on Social Commentary in SF, mostly literary. Books about subjects like gender issues and overpopulation.

Ooh, a big video wall made to seem like we're looking out on a massive spaceport with dozens of ships from TV, film and books flying by. It's a little jarring seeing the Enterprise followed by the 5-mile-long Red Dwarf.

There's an actual Gemini astronaut's space suit. We boggle at how... flimsy it seems. It reminds one of the crazy/brave thin line. I can't believe people went into the vacuum of space in these things!

A display of vehicles, both large (although in reality small, like the model of the Galileo 7 from Star Trek) to the one-person (like Griff's hoverboard, "Pit Bull", from Back to the Future Part II).

"The Armory"! Nice selection of weapons, both long-range laser types and close-range melee types (bat'leth anyone?). And I can't believe it when I see a Fun Gun from the Doctor Who (classic) story "The Happiness Patrol"! "I'm glad you're happy!" "And I'm happy you're glad!"

A Mars display featuring original editions of The War of the World by Wells, The Martian Chronicles by Bradbury and Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy.

And now, the SF Hall of Fame. Looks pretty slick.

All the images of the inductees are etched into blueish glass in a 3D fashion. Very spiffy. There's also a console which allows you to watch brief bios of a number of the inductees.

Next up, a neat display of a number of SF awards, including a number of Nebulas and the 1953 Hugo given to Forrest Ackerman, basically for being the uber-fan that he was.

Speaking of fans, there's a nice, big display devoted to fandom, with a whole bunch of fanzines and a selection of fan-made costumes. We boggle slightly at the incredible detail put into the costumes.

Now we reach the robot display. There's Twiki from Buck Rogers; I discover that it is in fact impossible to see Twiki without automatically going "bidi bidi bidi". There are also copies of Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet and the robot from TV's Lost in Space. They each go through a loop of lines they delivered in their movie/series. The thing is, they've been set up to make it seem like they're having a conversation! They introduced themselves to each other, have a big of an argument and then make up!

Speaking of Forbidden Planet, at some point, we found one of Anne Francis' outfits from that film. Damn, again, another actor who must have been insanely tiny! She must have been something like a size -1!

Another video display, cycling through views over a number of future cities. There's the placid, imaginary world from The Matrix, the dark dystopian Los Angeles from Blade Runner and... the world of The Jetsons! Well, I know which one I'd rather live in.

It just goes on and on. It's delightful! There's just too much to describe it all here. Any SF fan visiting the Seattle area really must give this place a visit. Just make sure you give yourself a good couple of hours.

One last picture. We used a second set of washrooms. I started slightly on entering, confronted with a huge movie poster of Alien Vs. Predator. When exiting, Lynn smiled at me and asked, "Did you have one in yours as well?" "What, you mean the AVP poster?" "That's not what was in mine. I took a picture. I'll show you later." We get back to the hotel room, and Lynn shows me this:

She knows me so well. Now, I just need to find one for our home bathroom.