Science Fiction Saturday

Saturdays are, or should be, about those other dimensions, or parts, of our lives that we like to nurture as best we can. When I am not reading about narratology or statistics or working out how the two can be combined in interesting ways — that is, in ways interesting to others as well as to myself — I read science fiction. Right now, I am making my way through Robert Heinlein’s _Methuselah’s Children_, which is interesting both for some of its contents as well as for its plotting, which I want to say is more uneven than other Heinlein work, but, in all honesty, anyone who’s actually read _Starship Troopers_ knows it is about the most oddly paced novel you can imagine. (You can’t really call it plotted because, in some ways, the plot is just there to support the fabric of dense politico-historical tracts. *I know, I know* … no one reads it that way.)

More on _MC_ some other time. In the present, I have the following:

* Gizmodo’s [_Sploid_][] has a [Youtube link][] to BBC’s _Horizon_ segment on the use of glass paintings in the making of _Raiders of the Lost Ark_ and _The Return of the Jedi_. For those of us who grew up in the era of film and grok the idea of multiple exposures, you immediately have a sense of “yes, of course, that’s how they did it.” I showed it to my daughter, who has grown up in a world entirely of digital effects production, and I don’t know what she thought — though, to be her credit, she and her friends have been making Minecraft videos in which they animate Lego figures standing in front of backdrops made up of iPad screens, which they shoot from another iPad. So, in a sense, they have re-discovered/invented [*rear projection*][].
* [io9 has a link][] to a [Castalia House blog post][] which itself is a rummaging about in an October 1991 article in _Publisher’s Weekly_ titled “Science Fiction: Expanding, Experimenting.” The article was written by Robert J. Kilheffer, then SF editor and reviewer, and senior editor at _Omni_ magazine. (_Omni_! Oh, my heart leapt at the memory of it!) Kilheffer’s *modus operandi* was to interview editors at various publishing houses to have them enumerate the trends they were seeing and/or anticipating and then compiling those views in the article. 1991 turns out to have been an interesting moment: the trend toward fantasy had just begun and no one quite anticipated the shift from Walden and B. Dalton book stores in malls to the big box stores of Borders and Barnes and Noble. Certainly no one then was thinking about e-books and/or Amazon and/or self-publishing.
* The comments in the io9 thread are absolutely worth the read, because there are several mentions of ebook experiments going on then, one of which involved a wildly interactive version of Marvin Minsky’s _Society of Mind_.
* A [thread on Reddit][] illuminates the back story behind Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton compiling _Best of_ volumes of each other’s work: they were married and died within a year of each other in 1978-79. And it turns out that the [first draft of _The Empire Strikes Back_][] was written by Leigh Brackett. ([Geeks of Doom have a summary.][]) In Brackett’s version, Darth Vader is not (yet) Luke’s father and the rebel base on the ice planet, not yet named Hoth, is worried about attacks from ice creatures who are looking to get rid of these invaders. It’s only Luke’s force sense that alerts the base to the incoming imperial attack. Later, our merry band of adventurers end up on the cloud planet of Hoth. And, of yeah, Hans Solo has a step-dad.

[_Sploid_]: http://sploid.gizmodo.com/how-ilm-made-you-believe-this-painting-was-a-real-hanga-1676323788/+jesusdiaz
[Youtube link]: http://youtu.be/mw3EvuRkQVw
[*rear projection*]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rear_projection_effect
[io9 has a link]: http://io9.com/heres-where-people-thought-genre-book-publishing-was-he-1677173283
[Castalia House blog post]: http://www.castaliahouse.com/chatter-before-the-coup-1991-and-the-future-state-of-science-fiction/
[thread on Reddit]: http://www.reddit.com/r/mildlyinteresting/comments/2r5zja/these_two_authors_thought_highly_of_each_other/
[first draft of _The Empire Strikes Back_]: http://scyfilove.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Star-Wars-The-Empire-Strikes-Back-Brackett-Draft.pdf
[Geeks of Doom have a summary.]: http://www.geeksofdoom.com/2010/05/15/early-draft-of-empire-strikes-back-reveals-alternate-star-wars-universe

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