In honor of October being the month of ‘All Things Spooky,’ I promise I’ll do my best to muster up a few scares along the way when if time, space, and opportunity permit. After all, what would science fiction be without a few good scares? Hmm? Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Buckle up, kids! It’s time for another week of all things Sci-Fi!
1958 saw the inauguration of NASA, the nation’s agency responsible not only for American space travel but also general aeronautics and aerospace research. EPCOT – the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow – turned 30 today as it opened its doors for business back in 1982. The park was originally intended to focus on Walt Disney’s vision for the future, but, as it grew and changed through the decades, it’s essentially refocused more on the ‘community’ and less on the ‘tomorrow’ aspect. Auspicious birthdays include STAR TREK’s Stephen Collins (1947), INDEPENDENCE DAY’s Randy Quaid (1950), and CAPRICA’s Esai Morales (1962).
October 2, 1909 saw the birth of Alexander Gillespie “Alex” Raymond, the cartoonist best known for creating Earth’s ultimate savior, FLASH GORDON. Initially, Raymond only wanted Flash to serve as competition for another space-faring ‘toon hero, BUCK ROGERS, but it didn’t take long before Flash, Dale Arden, and Ming the Merciless overtook Buck in popularity. In 1959, THE TWILIGHT ZONE premiered on TV with the episode “Where Is Everybody?” In 2000, Gene Roddenberry’s ANDROMEDA premiered in syndication, and, in 2008, Syfy launched yet another Stargate spinoff, STARGATE UNIVERSE. (I think I’m the only person who watched it!) Auspicious birthdays include sci-fi author Vernor Vinge as well as STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE’s Avery Brooks and STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE’s Persis Khambatta (both, 1948).
I’ve always been a fan of Edgar Allen Poe. In high school, I remember hearing the story about how he was found wandering the streets of Baltimore delirious and demented on this day back in 1849. It would be the last time Mr. Poe was seen publicly before his death. For a kick, Google the poem “The Streets of Baltimore,” a near perfect ‘parody’ of Poe’s seminal work, “The Raven.” In 2008, STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS – arguably, the best thing about the STAR WARS prequel materials – premiered on Cartoon Network. Auspicious birthdays include sci-fi author Boyd Bradfield Upchurch (1919), BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY’s Pamela Hensley (1950), and THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES’ Lena Headey (1973).
The USSR took the lead in the Space Race on this day in 1957 when it launched Sputnik, Earth’s first satellite, into orbit. Two years later, the Soviets were still looking good when their probe, Luna 3, sent back the first photos of the Moon’s far side. In 2004, SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X Prize for being the first non-governmental organization to launch a re-usable manned spacecraft twice within two weeks. Auspicious birthdays include THE OMEGA MAN’s Charlton Heston (1923), novelist Anne Rice (1941), and JUDGE DREDD’s Armand Assante (1949).
Since Unreality celebrates those things called movies, I thought it fitting to mention that today was the birthday of Louis Lumière (1864). Back in 1895, Louis and his brother, Auguste, put their heads together and made the very first motion picture. Those early flicks really weren’t much to get excited about. Rumor has it their first film was little more than workers walking out of a factory. Bring on the popcorn, eh? Other auspicious birthdays? How about BABYLON 5’s Jeff Conway (1950)? STARMAN’s Karen Allen (1951)? Horror author Clive Barker (1952)? Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson (1958)? Not good enough, you say? Well, add LOCKDOWN’s Guy Pearce (1967) to the mix, and let’s call it a day.
In 1995, mankind’s hope for life “out there” took one step closer to reality when astronomers located the Sun-like star 51 Pegasi only a mere 50.9 light years from Earth. Why all the fuss? 51 Pegasi was the first star found to have a planet in orbit around it. Who knows? Maybe that planet’s inhabitants are reading their own version of ‘This Week in Sci-Fi’ right now, daydreaming about when they’ll find Earth. Auspicious birthdays include prolific sci-fi author David Brin (1950), HOLLOW MAN’s Elisabeth Shue (1963), and FANTASTIC FOUR’s Ioan Gruffudd (1973).
Talk about ‘managing’ for the future, Henry Ford instituted the moving assembly line today back in 1913. Rochester (NY) saw the first infra-red photograph taken in 1931. The U.S. manned spaceflight project was officially renamed “Project Mercury” back in 1958. And, on this day back just one short year ago, REAL STEEL battled its way into theatres, and, on television, SANCTUARY began its fourth and final season. Auspicious birthdays include – and let’s not confuse these two – SMALLVILLE’s Aaron Ashmore (1979) and his identical twin brother, Shawn Ashmore, whose claim to fame is playing “Iceman” in the first three X-MEN flicks.
Live long and prosper!