Raise shields, folks, and let’s prepare for another week celebrating the peoples, places, and events that have influenced science fiction throughout the years! Engage!
On this day in 1912, author Edgar Rice Burroughs published “Tarzan of the Apes,” the seminal adventure about a man raised by apes. In 1984, US President Ronald Reagan announced his ‘Teacher in Space’ program. In 2003, the planet Mars made its closest approach to Earth in almost 60,000 years, passing just over 34 million miles away. Auspicious birthdays include producer Dean Devlin (1962) and author C.S. Forester (1899), whose series of books on ‘Horatio Hornblower’ influenced Gene Roddenberry in molding the Captain Kirk character.
Born on this day in 1917, Jack Kirby grew from humble origins to become one of the biggest names in the world of comic books. Just how influential was he? Kirby had his hand in the creation of such characters as Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk for Marvel Comics. He didn’t feel he was treated all that well by Marvel, so eventually he jumped ship and joined DC Comics, where he continued to change the way books and stories created their own mythology. Why not celebrate his birthday with a quick jaunt to your local comic book store? Auspicious birthdays include director David Fincher (1962), veteran sci-fi character actor Brian Thompson, and STARGATE: SG-1’s Amanda Tapping (1965).
All the way back in 1831, Michael Faraday demonstrated the first electric transformer on this day. In 1949, the Cold War had its curious beginnings as the USSR exploded its first atomic bomb. And in 1965, astronauts Cooper & Conrad completed 120 Earth orbits aboard Gemini 5. Auspicious birthdays include actor Richard Attenborough (1923), director William Friedkin (1935), and genre-favorite Carla Gugino (1971).
Relations between the United States and the former Soviet Union took a turn for the better on this day in 1963 when the ‘red phone’ hotline between the two great nations went into operation, and sci-fi has been making great use of this form of communication ever since. Auspicious birthdays include renowned radio astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell (1913), American business magnate and prognosticator Warren Buffett (1930), and two acting talents who’ve contributed great performances to superhero flicks: Michael ‘The Thing’ Chiklis (1963) and Mark ‘Sinestro’ Strong (1963).
Inventor Thomas Edison was always ‘pushing the envelope.’ In 1887, he patented the Kinetoscope, a device that gave him the ability to produce motion pictures. Ten years later, he stepped it up again with the Kinetograph, his movie camera. In 1955, William Cobb put sci-fi on the front page when he demonstrated the first solar-powered car at General Motors’ Powerama exposition. Auspicious birthdays include sci-fi author Robert [Franklin] Adams (1932), STAR WARS voice actor Dee Bradley Baker (1962), and THE FIFTH ELEMENT’s Chris Tucker (1972).
What should be said about Edgar Rice Burroughs? Well, as I’ve already mentioned above, he was responsible for the creation of Tarzan, but one of his other creations – the legendary John Carter of Mars – has served as an inspiration to, literally, thousands of artists tinkering in the worlds of sci-fi and fantasy. He didn’t start writing regularly until his late thirties, and, before his death in 1950, he completely nearly seventy novels … but he got his start on our plane of existence on this day back in 1875. Have you seen JOHN CARTER? Shame on you, if you haven’t. It ain’t perfect, but it’s still a respectable attempt.
Back in 1902, the silver screen came alive with the debut of A TRIP TO THE MOON, long revered to be the very first science fiction film. In 1987, the Philips Company revolutionized the way movies and home video would eventually be shot when it introduced CD-video. Auspicious birthdays include THE MATRIX’s Keanu Reeves (1964), genre babe Salma Hayek (1966), and SPACE: ABOVE & BEYOND regular Kristen Cloke (1968).