Monday, May 15, 2006

Science Fiction Hall of Fame

On June 16th, Master of Ceremonies, Neil Gaiman, will induct George Lucas, Anne McCaffrey, Frank Herbert and Frank Kelly Freas into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle.

Neil Gaiman is probably best known for his Sandman series of comics that inspired Goths everywhere to pick up comic books, t-shirts and other paraphernalia. The series, published by DC Comics started as a cult book that exploded by the time it ended. He is also author of novels such as American Gods and the children’s story Coralline. Two of his books are currently in pre-production for movie versions.

George Lucas has influenced almost every movie made since he became a filmmaker back in the early Seventies. Even with films such as American Graffiti, Lucas has been changing the way stories are told and the technical aspects of filmmaking. Most famous for his Star Wars series, which has continued to push the limits of filmmaking from stop motion to digital animation. He was also co-producer and co-writer of the Indiana Jones series of films. He single-handedly made the career of Harrison Ford by placing him in many of his films. Along with maverick filmmakers of the 1970s like Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Altman, George Lucas breathed life into an ailing and stagnant industry. Some may argue that the blockbuster was invented with films like Jaws and Star Wars and that the industry has suffered since with ever increasing fluff produced trying to capture the bang-whiz of those films but the intention at the time was to make really good films. The Star Wars films (yes, even the prequels) are probably the biggest and most expensive independent films ever produced. If there is one thing that George Lucas has, it’s vision. His “Empire” has expanded beyond movies to all types of merchandising. Many a kid, on Christmas Eve in the late Seventies and Early Eighties went to bed dreaming that the next morning there were Star Wars Figures waiting to be opened. He inspired a generation and changed the way movies were made – for better or worse. Of course we can all forgive him for Howard The Duck, right?

Frank Herbert wrote the first Dune book in the 1960s and it is fitting that he and George Lucas are inducted in the same year. Many have commented on how Dune is an influence on the cinematic space opera from the desert planet of Arrakis inspiring Tatooine to the Bene Gesserit influencing the Jedi. Herbert’s vision of a future world dependant on Spice for youthfulness and interstellar travel where political and religious groups vie for control delves into the most important human themes of politics, religion and survival. The Dune series spanned thousands of years in the story and decades in the telling. Comparable to Tolkien in his detail and realistic depiction of the world he created, Herbert surpasses what most writers working today can achieve in drama, emotion and braiding of plot and subplot. His characters weave through and around each other with clear motives and hidden agendas. What stands out most of all is that all his characters seem so human. This explains why each generation rediscovers the Dune saga through books and movies. When Herbert passed, the mantel of telling the tales passed to his son who continues to write in his father’s memory from notes he left behind.

Anne McCaffrey wrote the Dragonriders of Pern series and became the first woman to win a Hugo award. In 1967 she published her first novel and changed the way we thought about women in Science Fiction. Her female characters broke from the mold of the 1950s cardboard cutout, damsel in distress or the vixen. Since then McCaffrey has been quite prolific writing more than 50 novels and 14 in the Pern series alone and 8 in her Ship series. Being different and opinionated are traits that she applies to herself and a good thing too or we may never have known Anne McCaffrey’s books. She currently lives in Ireland and although arthritis has now prevented her from enjoying her love of horses she still can spend time with them on her farm, Dragonhold-Underhill.

Frank Kelly Freas is one of the most prolific science fiction illustrators of all time. His paintings have graced nearly every major magazine published in the genre at one time. His work began in the 1960s and ended in January of 2005 when he passed away in his sleep. In addition to illustrating for science fiction periodicals, Kelly painted album art, books, and Mad magazine. He was commissioned by NASA to paint the Skylab insignia and when in the Army Air Corps he painted pin-up girls on the noses of WWII fighter planes. Among other awards, Kelly was the recipient of 11 Hugo awards.

Finally, the Science Fiction museum was opened in 2004 and funded by Paul Allen, co founder of Microsoft. The museum offers guests a comprehensive view of science fiction on television and the movies through props and costumes. It also traces the roots of science fiction as far back as Leonardo Da Vinci!


The Phoenix said...

Is there anything Leonardo DIDN'T do?

Man, I totally forgot about Howard the Duck! It was already a surpressed memory until your post.

ObilonKenobi said...

I know. I read that on the Science Fiction Museum webpage. I thought it fitting though. He was a Renaisance man! My wife loves that movie while I hate it more than Radio Days and Willow, which was OK. I will have to rewatch it.

Phats said...

Do you come to Indy for the star wars convention?

ObilonKenobi said...

Unfortunately, too far. When they host it in New York City I'll think about it. I find that most of the writing and fan cons occur somewhere other than NYC for some reason. I would think once in a while something would happen here but I guess it's too expensive.