Wednesday, October 27, 2004

To boldly go 

I first heard of The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame earlier this year when they had the advertising blitz announcing their opening. It was a series of faux commercials featuring the world of the future--things like hover busses and environmentally controlled condos. My first reaction was to wonder why they didn't have a distopian ad as well. Maybe something featuring radioactive panhandlers or a society in the grips of initiative-based totalitarianism. But despite my sarcasm, the seed of the desire to visit this place was planted. So when Thessarabian over at the Old Lutheran board ordered me to scope it out before her Seattle vacation, I gladly complied. (Well, it took me a few months...)

Admission was a bit pricey--$12.95 per adult--though the AAA discount made it more palatable. The first gallery was a general collection of artifacts, a timeline and the Hall of Fame. It focused on the big picture, the nature of SF and its relationship to society. That was the room that contained Capt. Kirk's chair, though I got a bigger kick seeing a couple of Star Trek shooting scripts that once belonged to Nichelle Nichols. (I do wish they had explained the significance of the numbers she wrote on the cover.) I was a bit perturbed that Harlan Ellison wasn't in the Hall of Fame, but I would imagine that his time will come. He was well represented in the exhibits.

The rest of the galleries were downstairs. The stairwell looked like something that was designed to be a service stairwell for the Experience Music Project, but got drafted into service when the added the SFM. They did a good job of decorating the walls and piping in a soundtrack to create a SF atmosphere, albeit more like Dr. Who than Star Wars. The basement galleries carried more of the cinematic artifacts--models, props, costumes. Those were kind of disappointing because they all looked so fake. I was hoping for solid steel bat'leths and real knobs on the tricorders. At least it made me appreciate the contributions made by the cinematographers and gaffers in bringing the special effects to fruition. My favorite section was the spacedock display, where you could peruse a computer database of different spaceships while a video loop of those same ships visiting a spacedock was projected on the wall behind. The oddest thing was a vid which offered a brief, serious analysis of the milleu of The Jetsons. I kid you not.

Overall, the museum was well done and I enjoyed the couple of hours I spent there. It reminded me of the visit I made to the little historical museum in my hometown a couple years ago. There were pictures and artifacts of my community--from places and events I had only heard of to those I actually remember. (Why, oh why did I give away my Revenge of the Jedi button and let my Starlog magazines get trashed?) I felt at home at the SFM, and I think that if I had Paul Allen's bucks and the inclination to spend it on myself, I would enjoy amassing a similar collection. That said, however, my trip through the museum didn't entice me to buy a membership or plan another visit. Instead, I'm more likely to visit a bookstore, rent a video or attend a con. SFM only scratches the surface of the SF fandom.