Galaxis July 2011

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Exclusive interview with superstar physicist Dr. Michio Kaku




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Classic & New SF Interviews space war Reviews Science mecha spaceships






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MAGMA is the magazine industry review In the premiere issue: CondÊ Nast rolls with the punches Bob Guccione’s legacy What went wrong at Starlog? Plus reviews, award-winning covers, columns, and more

Read it online: or buy a print copy: Issue/155387

The Worlds of Science & science fiction


JULY 2011 Volume 1 Number 1

24 26

remembering Moonbase Alpha Heart-to-heart talk


when 14-year-olds saved humanity




The lathe of heaven

36 38

michael medved & robot monster real space, real people







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String Theory’s Father

Q&A with Leonard Susskind: science rock star


In an exclusive interview, Michio Kaku talks about the future – that’s being built today


The Long March of Star Wolf


The paper Rumor mill

David Gerrold’s classic space war novels deserve to be filmed How fans got their news before the internet






Introducing Galaxis; science fiction and science are already everywhere

Galactica back x2? Can America still be a futurist technology leader? And more news

Author and anthropologist Mary Doria Russell

Question Time

Deepak Srivastava talks stem cells

How Gundam puts U.S. animation to shame NASA has broadened our universe Ursula K. Le Guin’s brainy SF classic on TV It’s finally happening: Real people in space

Where can you see a real dinosaur today? We’ve got the photos to show you. Science fiction and fact from around the world: K-20: The Fiend with Twenty Faces, The Secrets of the Chess Machine, Plus: Potter, Kaku, and Eerie Publications The future in Galaxis July 2011 • • Galaxis • 3

Viewscreen D

Made for Each Other

r. Michio Kaku, the cofounder of string field theory, is a science fiction fan. The world’s most famous movie critic, Roger Ebert, is a science fiction fan going back decades. President Barack Obama collects comic books. And let’s not forget KISS rocker Gene Simmons, filmmaker Kevin Smith, actor Nicholas Cage, Dilbert creator Scott Adams, and zillions more. Long ago, people might have believed that fans of science fiction, fantasy, and comics were from a misfit world, unable to adjust to the real world. But Michio Kaku is one of the best-known physicists on the planet, and I won’t be surprised when he wins a Nobel Prize. As for Obama, he has won a Nobel, plus he’s a constitutional scholar. Oh, yeah, he’s also the president. I know many scientists, artists, technologists, writers, cartoonists, and movie producers who all share a love for science fiction – and science. The two go together, each inspiring the other. Here at Galaxis, we’re convinced the two worlds of science and SF deserve to share the same space, to cross-fertilize. So we have put together this inaugural issue filled with science fiction creators and projects, scientists and exploration. We think that if you are excited about Iain M. Banks’ awesome Culture novels of far-advanced civilizations, then you’ll be interested in learning about the people who are advancing our civilization here on Earth. If you love to read about the latest discoveries in the world


Volume 1, Number 1 July 2011 Editor & Publisher John Zipperer Art Director & Design John Zipperer

4 • Galaxis • • July 2011

of science, then you’ll probably also enjoy seeing the ideas from SF creators who are trying to expand the boundaries of imagination and the mind here on planet earth. From a revitalized Star Trek to Harry Potter, from multiple cable science channels to countless public appearances by the most creative people, from best-selling SF to original online comics, there will be no shortage of news and views for Galaxis to cover in the years ahead. I’m glad you’re joining us for this journey. It is a topic that has intrigued me all of my life. Ever since I discovered science fiction tales in junior high school, I have gotten excited about both fictional and fact-based speculation about what Printing and MagCloud Thanks this issue to: Sonya Abrams, Aaron Barnhart, Fred Barzyk, The Commonwealth Club of California, European Space Agency, Paul Eric Felder, David Gerrold, Kara Iwahashi, Michio Kaku, Michael Medved, NASA, Ed Ritger, Mary Doria Russell, Deepak Srivastava, Leonard Susskind, Kin Tso, and Virgin Galactic. ON THE COVER: Galaxis’ premiere issue kicks off our celebration of all things science and science fiction. Old, new, serious, and fun, it’s in here.

happens next on our world, how it all came to be in the first place, what could happen next, and how we can make our time on this little planet better. Galaxis is starting out with this issue that is strong on looking back as well as forward. Some of the interviews in this magazine took place years ago, some just weeks before we went to press. You’ll read about SF movies from decades ago, and about television shows yet to air; scientists talking about what they’re working on today, as well as what could happen a century from now. There’s an old saying: The future is not what it used to be. Probably intended to be humorous when it first was uttered, that statement has simply become trite today. The present is changing into the future so quickly, people and governments and movie studios and businesses haven’t even adapted to the latest inventions and technological marvels before they have to plan for the next wave. If that last sentence excites you and doesn’t scare you, then you’ve just found the magazine for you. Regardless of whether you work in the realms of science or science fiction, you are reading this because you are one of that special breed of person who likes to explore new ideas, see exciting new visions, and think a bit differently than your fellow humans. Welcome. This magazine was made for you. John Zipperer/Editor and Publisher Galaxis is published quarterly by John Zipperer. This is issue Number One, Volume One. All content is copyright © 2011 John Zipperer, except where otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Reprint or reproduction of any part is strictly forbidden without written permission. Galaxis accepts no responsibility for unsolicited submissions, but if they are submitted, they will be considered and, if necessary, returned. All articles in this issue are written by John Zipperer, unless otherwise specified. Please address all communications to Galaxis magazine, including letters to the editor, to or

LaunchTube News & views from today & tomorrow

Richard Hatch, seen here signing autographs at a San Francisco Wondercon, has stayed busy over the years since he starred in the original Battlestar Galactica.

Lining up the Battlestar Crew


he most common words in Hollywood are beginning to be “it’s time for another series of ...” Star Trek has led the way with a slew of live-action and animated series in its past and, we don’t doubt, its future. But we are particularly excited about the continuing onslaught of Battlestar Galactica series and projects. Following the short-lived 1978-79 ABC TV series, Galactica was an even shorterlived revival called Galactica 1980, comic books, novels (script adaptations as well as originals), an attempted revival by original star Richard Hatch, an attempted revival by creator Glen Larson, the triumphant revival/ reimagining by Ronald D. Moore, directto-video movies, the Caprica spinoff series, web-only mini-episodes, and now a different planned re-unimaging motion picture by Glen Larson and Bryan Singer. This LarsonSinger film will not be in continuity with the Moore TV reimagining but will instead take off from the original series. Details, however, are sketchy, and this film is still very iffy. If that isn’t enough for you, then get ready for a new spinoff TV series from the Moore team. Apparently further along than the Larson-Singer effort, at press time SyFy Channel is already putting together its two-hour pilot for Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, which follows a young pilot named WIlliam Adama in the 10th year of the war with the Cylons. The show is set between the events of Caprica and Battlestar Galactica. Production began on the pilot in February 2011. But don’t count out Larson and Singer just yet. Larson is a veteran producer with credits ranging from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century to Magnum P.I. to his credit, while Singer has a film resume that has made him a fan favorite. It seems that having Battlestar Galactica experience on your resume might just be the most helpful tool for getting a job in Hollywood today.

July 2011 • • Galaxis • 5

Launch Tube

MORE MARTIAN CHRONICLES Last filmed for TV more than three decades ago, Ray Bradbury’s classic book The Martian Chronicles is headed to the big screen. Paramount Pictures reportedly has optioned the story for a possible film to be produced by John Davis. No writer had been assigned to the project at press time. This follows a failed attempt by Universal to turn Bradbury’s tales into a film; according

States in early August 2011. It reportedly is not a remake of any of the preceding films.

Blade Runner Alcon Entertainment, the company behind the surprise hit The Blind Side, has been trying to acquire prequel and sequel rights to Ridley Scott’s classic film Blade Runner, notes The Hollywood Reporter. Fans will likely be pleased that a remake is not expected.

When Santa Fell to Earth Your children might enjoy the new film When Santa Fell to Earth, based on the novel by Cornelia Funke, author of the bestselling The Thief Lord (filmed in 2006) and Inkheart (filmed in 2009). Oliver Dieckmann is directing the Santa film, which involves the last “true” Santa in a time when the old magical Santa elements have all been made illegal. Not based on a true story.

Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary Before director David Lynch made his screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic Dune in 1984, Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky made a highly anticipated but ultimately unsuccessful run at making the movie. Now a documentary called Jodorowsky’s Dune is in production and will chronicle the abortive attempt, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

6 • Galaxis • • July 2011

BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH Fans of Alastair Reynolds’ hard-SF writing will be looking forward to the January 2012 publication of the first of his new Poseidon’s Children trilogy, Blue Remembered Earth. Set 150 years in the future

Movie Roundup

Measuring the World Measuring the World, the best-selling novel by German-Austrian writer Daniel Kehlmann, is headed to the big screen in 3-D. Originally published in 2005 as Die Vermessung der Welt, the book became one of the biggest-selling German novels of modern times, and it was soon translated into many foreign languages, including a 2006 edition in English. The book is a fictional account of a real effort by two enlightenment thinkers, Carl Friedrich Gauss and Alexander von Humboldt, to literally measure the world. The film will be adapted by Detlev Buck from Kehlmann’s book. So far, funding has been announced from the German Film Board and the BerlinBrandenburg Medienbord.

Three books at the center of movie chatter include George Lucas’ Star Wars, Daniel Kehlmann’s Measuring the World, and Iain M. Banks’ Use of Weapons.

to The Hollywood Reporter, Steven Spielberg was among the producers who took a whack at making the production work, but eventually took a pass.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes James Franco stars in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, set to be released in the United

Space Battleship Yamato American fans of this Japanese story are still waiting for the U.S. release of the 2010 live-action Japanese remake of the original mid-1970s animated TV series. The film, which debuted in first place at the Japanese box office upon its December 2010 release, retells the story from the first year of the original TV series. No U.S. release date has been set, and American audiences might be in for quite a wait. There has still not been a U.S. release of a 2009 animated film, Space Battleship Yamato: Resurrection. Star Wars redux When George Lucas saw Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, he reportedly was impressed enough with the quality of the computer-generated imagery that he realized he could make the Star Wars prequels the way he wanted. Now, after seeing James Cameron’s Avatar, Lucas says he wants to remake Star Wars in Avatar-style 3-D. Use of Weapons According to a poll of British science fiction fans by The Register, the book they would most like to see translated to film is Iain M. Banks’ classic Culture novel, Use of Weapons. Attention, Hollywood?

in an Africa-dominated world, the tale begins with a mystery on the moon and some family secrets. In Reynolds’ own words, the Poseidon trilogy is “a sequence of books dealing in a fairly rigorous, hard SF-nal way with the expansion of the human species (beginning with an Africandominated 22nd century) into the solar system and beyond, over the next 11,000 years.” Reynolds has a track record of popular novels that have won several awards and been nominated for many more, so reader expectations for this series are understandably high.

SETI Institute Budgetary problems have caused Mountain View, California’s SETI Institute to put into “hibernation” its Allen Telescope Array, which is used in the search for extraterrestrial life. The institute estimates the annual cost of running the array at $1.5 million, plus $1 million for work by the institute staff.

Starlog Group, publisher of Starlog, Fangoria, Comics Scene, Sci Fi TV, and many more magazines. Eisenstein started at the company as a receptionist and eventually became executive vice president, before leaving for an active retirement two years ago. Friends and coworkers have posted notices praising her hardworking approach to her job, her boundless energy, and her ever-positive attitude toward life. She died of cancer at the age of 66, far too young, but she left behind many friends and admirers.

RITA EISENSTEIN As we went to press, we received word of the passing of genre publishing executive Rita Eisenstein. For about 30 years, she worked at

Can America Still Build the Future?



n her landmark science-fiction novel China Mountain Zhang, writer Maureen F. McHugh takes her young hero to China, where he rides a fantastic public bus that assembles and disassembles its separated cars depending on their individual destinations. When they’re all together as one, they make up a large, multi-car, double-decker bus, but each car will go soaring off on its own route, or will join up with the rest of the bus as their routes merge. From that admittedly inexact description, McHugh’s vision might be hard to imagine. But in the award-winning book, China has become the leading power in the world, with the United States reduced to a near vassal-like status. All of the innovation and energy in the world comes from China. It would be overstating things to say that that’s becoming the situation today. But when we heard about proposals for a Chinese superbus that would coast over other vehicles on the road, we thought, “Isn’t that the kind of socrazy-it-might-work futuristic idea that America is supposed to create?” Or Germany created before it went kablooey last century? About a decade ago, Chicago was touting new technology on its city buses that would let them prolong a green light if they were approaching an intersection. This was expected to speed up travel, where buses were averaging around a mere 13 mph in city traffic. Now consider China’s superbus, which completely reimagines how a bus should work in a crowded urban environment. China Mountain Zhang aside, China’s ascendancy to the pinnacle of world power is not likely in the near future, but it is rapidly rising up the ladder of economic power. It recently became the number-one user of energy on the planet, outdoing even us profligate energy-wasters in America. It also overtook Germany as the world’s third-largest economy, and soon thereafter it supplanted Japan as the second-largest economy.

In addition, China – and a number of European countries – lead the United States in green energy business technology, as well as building the infrastructure (roads, bridges, canals, etc.) that a modern economy needs, while America’s infrastructure crumbles. And while Americans actually still debate whether climate change is an important concern, China is designing entire new cities that will be dramatically more efficient and environmentally helpful. Should Americans be afraid of a wealthy and powerful China? Not necessarily, though we would prefer it be a democratic and free China, rather than the authoritarian and sometimes brutal China that it is. But it is no longer a Maoist China, thank god, and its rise – along with India’s – will help counterbalance the threat of violent extremism in the Middle East and elsewhere. Also, China is unlikely to supplant America as the world’s most influential and powerful nation any time soon. Or possibly any time. China faces incredible internal pressures from economic dislocations, income disparities that surpass an American libertarian’s wildest dreams, and widespread corruption, and it’s surrounded by often pliant but also nervous neighboring nations. No country rises so far without tremendous disruptions. The United States tore itself in two with its civil war. England went through horrific civil wars and persecutions. France invented modern state terror and marauded across Europe. Germany lost control of its crazies and thereby lost control of its civilization. Japan turned itself over to brutal imperialist leaders who left mass murder in their wake. The list goes on. Eternal peace and freedom and prosperity are to be hoped for, but China is just as likely as other countries to hit the wall of its internal contradictions at some point. We can only hope it comes out of it freer and more peaceful than it came out of the horrors of the Maoist period. Until that happens, we’ve got the possibility of giant buses soaring along Chinese streets, plus the appearance of ultra-modern green-friendly Chinese cities. America should be building those, or dreaming those dreams. Instead, we’re dithering and consumed with infighting. We want the buses.

July 2011 • • Galaxis • 7

Leonard Susskind The founder of string theory explains what drives a rock-star physicist.


By John Zipperer Landscape (Little Brown, 2005),

tanford physicist Leonard Susskind is one of the most accomplished and respected scientists in the world. But he still shows up for a speech before a San Francisco crowd looking relaxed, friendly, and approachable, wearing a green fleece sports jacket over his t-shirt. Not a tie in sight. Susskind is one of three scientists who independently came up with what we came to call string theory, a way of describing the fundamental landscape of reality. He is the author of The Cosmic

8 • Galaxis • • July 2011

which explores the anthropic principle in search of an explanation of why life exists in the universe, and The Black Hole War (Little, Brown, 2008), which recounts his friendly debate with Stephen Hawking over the nature of information loss in black holes. In 2007, he agreed to answer our questions about the lighter side of his work. His accomplishments in science have been so deep – including the holographic principle, m-theory, quark confinement, and much more – and his awards so many – including the American Institute of Physics’ Science Writing Award, the Saku-

“Everywhere I go, people want to know about string theory, black


holes, and the universe.”

rai Prize, and the Boris Pregel Award – that we were almost embarrassed to ask him some lighter questions. Fortunately, we persevered. ZIPPERER: You write that a lot of your research time is spent daydreaming. Could anyone come up with string theory without an active imagination? SUSSKIND: Good question. I don’t think so, but I think I do a lot more talking to myself than most people. I can spend hours just explaining things to an imaginary student. I guess I don’t know how unique I am that way. ZIPPERER: In the forums on Michio Kaku’s web site, someone includes you on a list of the “top ten rock-star physicists.” Is it difficult to explain your complex work to popular audiences? Why do you do it? SUSSKIND: Why do any rock stars do it? For the money, of course. No, I’m joking. The answer is simple. I enjoy it. Part of it is the fun of explaining things to people who really want to know. Part of it is the fun of figuring out how to explain difficult things. I learn from explaining. ZIPPERER: When The Commonwealth Club of California has controversial speakers, [they] occasionally have protestors outside the building. If there are protestors for your speech, who are they likely to be and why? SUSSKIND: Hmm. I never thought

of that. I once was picketed at San Francisco State. It was a conference about searching for quarks. I was there to tell them why quarks are always locked up inside protons and neutrons, and a bunch of undergraduate physics majors marched with signs saying, “Free the Quark.” The only people that I can imagine protesting now are the intelligentdesign enthusiasts who might be upset that I expressed ideas that run against their agenda. ZIPPERER: Do you share some people’s view that Americans nationally have less interest in science than they did a couple decades ago?

SUSSKIND: As far as I can tell, Americans are more interested in science than ever before. The Bay Area is way out front, but everywhere I go, people want to know about string theory, black holes, the universe, etc. ZIPPERER: I’ve read both that string theory is growing in acceptance and that it is in crisis. How would you diagnose the health of this theory today? SUSSKIND: I think that both are true. But it’s not just string theory that is in crisis. It’s physics in general, or at least that part of physics that attempts to probe the microscopic world. In fact, the problem has less to do with theoretical physics than with the increasing difficulty of doing experiments on smaller and smaller scales. Here’s a fact: an accelerator – think of it as a microscope – that could probe the sizes that string theory studies would have to be as big as the galaxy and require a quadrillion barrels of oil a second to fuel it. That’s the crisis. At the same time, there is a growing consensus, at least among physicists who are actively engaged in trying to unravel gravity, particle physics, black holes and cosmology, that string theory may be the best mathematical framework, or the only framework, to study these questions, at least at the moment.

July 2011 • • Galaxis • 9

One of the world’s busiest physicists and futurists sits


By John Zipperer

or a 64-year-old, Dr. Michio Kaku makes me think of Captain James T. Kirk’s comment at the end of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. Asked how he’s feeling, the aging Kirk sighs, “I feel ... young.” Kaku looks, acts, and even usually behaves young, but he thinks with the brains and wisdom of someone who was not only a wiz kid in Silicon Valley in his youth but is now an accomplished physicist who is arguably the best-known popularizer of complex scientific theories

and exploration, making all of it understandable to the non-scientific layman. His books include Hyperspace, Einstein’s Cosmos, Parallel Worlds, Physics of the Impossible, and others, including his latest, Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100. When I had the opportunity to speak to him, he was in Palo Alto, the old stomping grounds of his youth. Kaku had shown up to give a speech about Physics of the Future and to answer audience questions, and I had the pleasure both of interviewing him privately before the speech and of asking

MICHIO scientist on down long enough

to talk with us.

10 • Galaxis • • July 2011

weekly radio programs, he has a video blog, he appears regularly on numerous news programs as an expert (including offering his very sobering thoughts on the nuclear reactor troubles in Japan), and he makes numerous public appearances. He smiled and said that he’s a theoretical physicist, so his office – his laboratory – is anywhere that he has a pen and paper. Thank goodness for it. By writing his books, making public speeches, appearing on Fox News and ABC News, and being a prolific online presence, he has become the leading representative of science. He is able to speak to nonscientific people without

making their eyes glaze over. He can put complex ideas into simple language that everyone can appreciate. He can put his audience at ease with humor. And he delivers a steady message about the present and the future that is optimistic and intelligent. The evening after I spoke with him, he was due to fly to New York, and early the next morning he would go on to Switzerland. But he was making arrangements for a news media hookup so that even from Europe, he could explain one or another important idea to a wide audience. For Kaku, the present is never too busy, and the future is always beckoning.

O KAKU on a mission

July 2011 • • Galaxis • 11


him audience questions on-stage following his speech. After our interview and as we stood in the wings of the stage, waiting for the prespeech announcements to be complete, we chatted. He smiled when he noted that people often say that books about science don’t sell, yet he’s written two best sellers with the word physics in the titles. I jokingly told him he should just push his luck and actually put a scientific equation in his next title. I also asked him what seemed to me to be an obvious question: How can he do so much? He writes bestselling books, he hosts television series, he hosts no fewer than two

ZIPPERER: In your book, Physics of the Future, you’re talking about developments 30, 50 and 90 years in the future. You’re talking about developments in technology and even in nations and such. Would you care to say what you think life in the Bay Area will be like in the year 2100? How will it be different from today? KAKU: Okay, let’s talk about the big picture, then specifically the Bay Area. Let’s say you were to meet your great grandparents of 1900. Probably they were dirt farmers. They lived in a time when the average life expectancy was in the forties. And back then, long-distance communication was yelling, and long-distance travel was a horse, if you were rich, or a donkey. That’s life in 1900. High-tech was the telegraph, if you had money. How would they view you today? You have iPods and iPads and internet connections and GPS and satellites and nuclear weapons. How would they view you? They would view you as a wizard, a sorcerer, able to create images and go great distances. Now let’s say you meet your great grand12 • Galaxis • • July 2011

kids of 2100. How would you view them, given that technology accelerates? It doesn’t slow down at all; it accelerates over time. We would view them as gods. The gods of mythology. Think about that. Go back to high school. Zeus could think about things and materialize things, think about ideas and – boom – they would come to be. But there are perks to being a god, because Venus had a perfect body, a timeless body. As far as transportation, Apollo had a chariot. As far as life, they had Pegasus; they could manipulate life. We will be like the gods. They will take it for granted. They will say, “How could you live in the year 2000, where a table was just a table; you couldn’t talk to it? Where pictures were dumb, pictures didn’t move? How could you live like that? I mean, that’s caveman days,” they would say. Right? [Science fiction author] Arthur C. Clarke had an expression: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” My spin on it is: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from divinity. Because we will have the power of

gods, and take it for granted and bellyache that we don’t have more. ZIPPERER: Obvious question: Do we stop believing in God and gods? KAKU: Oh, no, I personally think that we are genetically disposed for that. It was good for evolution. Tribes that used religion to hold together, succeeded at holding together. Those tribes that bickered and argued fell apart. Their descendents and genes are not here to discuss this thing. Now, about the Bay Area. We were blessed with the rise of silicon. But I’m a physicist. I know that silicon power cannot last forever. Sooner or later we’re going to enter the post-silicon era, and it’s not clear who will pick up the mantle of Silicon Valley. But whoever does will reign supreme in the 21st century. The problem is two-fold. Transistors are getting so small, so powerful, they get hot. So hot they melt. You could fry an egg on a chip of the future. Plus the fact that they get smaller, therefore they leak, because of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. So ultimately silicon power will collapse. Now we can squeeze a little bit here, a


little bit there. But Moore’s Law is already beginning to slow down a bit, and by 2020, Moore’s Law will flatten out. That could cause a depression in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley could become a rust belt, unless we take measures very soon. Now, there are replacements for silicon, but none of them is ready for prime time. They are DNA computers, quantum computers, molecular computers, optical computers. But none of them is ready to pick up the mantle of silicon. So it’s something to worry about, the fact that silicon power may be exhausted in the coming decades. ZIPPERER: You mentioned grandchildren being alive, and our great children. I don’t know if you remember a small magazine called Future Life, published in the late 1970s. A small Omni competitor. But they loved to go for the big picture, futurist looks at stuff. And there were a number of articles in there with: “If you’re alive today, and you’re under the age of 40, you will not die.” That sort of thing. How much of that might be true today – not that you won’t die, but that you could still be alive in 2100?

KAKU: Okay, I’m a physicist. I’m not a science-fiction writer. I don’t speculate about the future. I interview the physicists and scientists who are building the future in their laboratory. Unless they have a prototype, unless they have proof of principle, I don’t interview them. That, of course, weeds out all the quacks. So all the quackery is weeded out of my book. But the stuff that remains is astonishing. You realize we are 98.5 percent genetically equivalent to the chimpanzee? A handful of genes separates us, but we live twice as long as a chimpanzee. So among a handful

“There are a lot of quacks out there advertising fountains of youth. They’re all idiots.”

Facing page: Galaxis Editor John Zipperer (left) fields audience questions for Dr. Michio Kaku at his Palo Alto, California, appearance. Above: Kaku previews the future.

of genes are the genes responsible for doubling our lifespan. And in the future, all of us will have a CD-ROM with all our genes on it. It’s an owner’s manual for the body. It’ll cost about $100. Computers will store millions of these genes in their memory. We will take the genes of old people, subtract them from the genes of young people, and that’s where aging takes place. We will isolate the genes responsible for aging. Think of a car. Where does aging take place in a car? The engine. That’s where you have wear-and-tear, moving parts, carbon deposits, oxidation; it gets hot. What’s the engine of a cell? The mitochondria. So we actually know where aging takes place. We know what aging is. It is entropy; it is error. Genetic error. Cellular error. That’s what aging is. Now we can’t reverse it. There are a lot of quacks out there advertising fountains of youth. They’re all idiots. However, it is defiJuly 2011 • • Galaxis • 13


nitely within the realm of possibility that our grandkids may want to stop aging at 30 and just cruise. Just cruise at age 30 indefinitely; that’s well within the cards. For example, did you know that skin cells can be immortalized? This is a verb that has entered the English language only recently: to immortalize. If you take skin cells and hit them with Telomerase, an enzyme, they live forever. Inside a petri dish, of course. They’re not cancerous; cancer cells also live forever. [But] they’re not cancerous; they just divide forever. Normally skin cells divide 60 times, get senescent, and later die. Sixty times. That’s the Hayflick limit. We can break the Hayflick limit. We could have skin cells live forever. Now, no one has a fountain of youth. But I say we have pieces, little pieces, of the fountain of youth. That’s really, really astounding. ZIPPERER: You touched on one of my topics. When I first heard you speak in New York in 2000 or 2001, you were using Star Trek as a springboard to talk about ideas. So let’s talk a little about science fiction. KAKU: Sure, sure; I love it. ZIPPERER: Yes, you’re not a science-fiction writer, but you have been inspired by it. KAKU: Oh, I love the stuff. I read as much as I can. Of course, most of it is nonsense, but still, it’s a great ride. ZIPPERER: Let me ask you, who in science fiction has done the most accurate job of making predictions? KAKU: Oh, hands-down, I think it would be Isaac Asimov. I mean, his Foundation series just blows you away. The trilogy [Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation] is the greatest sciencefiction novel ever written. 14 • Galaxis • • July 2011

And it really taught me something as a physicist. You see, a lot of physicists, when they say certain things are impossible, really mean it’s impossible in 100 years. Like flying saucers. They say, “Ha. Flying saucers are impossible.” Well, maybe. But I’m open to the idea of flying saucers. Yeah, distances are very hard to go through between stars. But to make that a principle, that there are no flying saucers because the distance between stars is so great, that’s a leap of logic. Because what happens if they’re a million years ahead of us in technology, forget 100 years ahead of us in technology? That’s what the Foundation series did for me. The Foundation series is set something like 50,000 years in the future. That’s the kind of logic we have to have, because civilizations from outer space could be millions of years ahead of us, in which case, new physics opens up. Professionally, I work in something called string theory. I’m the cofounder of string field theory, one of the main branches of string theory. And we work in something called the Planck energy; that’s the energy of the Big Bang. At that energy, new physics opens up the possibilities of stargates, the possibilities of time travel, the possibilities of warp drive, dimensional gateways. They’re not possible at our energies, but they’re definitely a possibility at the Planck energy. So that’s what the Asimov series taught me: Don’t laugh, just because [something] violates the laws of physics at your energy scale. At someone else’s energy scale, they may be well within the laws of physics. ZIPPERER: In the beginning of the book, you were talking about some of the science fiction predictions that were made that were of course now either in common use

“When a lot of physicists say certain things are impossible, they really mean it’s impossible in 100 years.”

– cell phones and the like – or are in the laboratories and are obviously fully possible. I’m wondering if it even makes sense any more for a science fiction creator to set a story a mere 200 or 300 years in the future, or if they’d be, like Asimov, 50,000 years in the future or, like Iain M. Banks and his Culture books, which are like 100,000 years ahead of us in development. KAKU: Well, whenever I see a science-fiction movie, I kind of grimace, because I see all the violations of the laws of physics. Explosions in outer space, rocketships banking left and right, left and right. But then I say, “Hey, wait a minute. This is entertainment. Go with the flow.” Because it’s the larger plot that’s intriguing. Because science fiction does raise a lot of deep sociological implications. However, I was watching Star Trek the other day. I’d say 80 percent of what’s in Star Trek is already available. Cell phones, typewriters that type by themselves, talking computers, universal translators – we almost have that; very close. So what’s the big deal? The only thing we don’t have are teleporters and warp drive. Now, warp drive is something that I work on. I work on energy at the Planck scale. Teleporters – yeah, we think it’s possible, but it might take a few centuries to master. But Star Trek takes place in the 23rd century, so maybe by the 23rd century we’ll master teleportation. So [Star Trek creator Gene] Roddenberry wasn’t too far off. I think he underestimated the speed at which robots and computers would progress, and he maybe overestimated other things. But it’s a jolly ride. It’s a good ride. ZIPPERER: Speaking of jolly rides, in your first chapter, you begin with a quote from Helen Keller: “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.” KAKU: And Eisenhower said, “No pessimist ever won a war.” ZIPPERER: She said it nicer. KAKU: Yeah. ZIPPERER: To what degree is optimism crucial for [your work]? KAKU: Oh, it’s essential. When the telephone first [appeared], people denounced it. You know that? Read the old editorials denouncing the telephone. “Dinner table conversations will disappear.” “We’ll talk to this mechanical, cold voice in the ether someplace.” “And steel and mechanical parts will replace warm human interactions.” Well, you know something? The critics were absolutely right. We do spend less time talking to each other. We do talk to this mysterious voice in the ether. But you know something? We love it. We love it.

“Civilizations in outer space could be millions of years ahead of us, in which case, new physics opens up.” When electricity first came out, it was denounced, quite roundly. [Thomas] Edison wired up Pearl Street in Manhattan, not too far from where I live. People denounced it; they said, “First of all, houses will be electrocuted, burned down, because cables will be right next to our children. People will be electrocuted, houses will be burned down.” And you know something? Every day, a house burns down. Every day, someone gets electrocuted somewhere on the planet earth, and electricity – we love it. Technology is very strange. It progresses in three stages – our reaction to it. In stage one, we say, “Oh, I don’t like it. It’s cold. It’s mechanical. It separates us humans from each other.” Step two, we say, “Hey, I could use a word processor, and you know, I wouldn’t mind having a new liver grown from my own cells. I wouldn’t mind living a little bit longer. And hey, I can locate my kids,” and so on and so forth. And then stage three, people say, “Ha. I knew it all along. In fact, I thought of it first.” ZIPPERER: You’re in Silicon Valley tonight, so we know that half of the audience is going to be Stanford physicists and the other half works at Google. Does the reception you get in the Bay Area differ from the reception you get elsewhere in the country? KAKU: Well, I speak to a lot of high-tech audiences. One thing about them is that they’re very narrow. Their time frame is two years. You have got to get the product out the door in two years or you’re fired. So sometimes you don’t see the big picture. These are obviously very intelligent, very well-informed people. But you have to look outside the box, and say “What’s going to happen in 20 years? 50 years? 100 years?” And that, I think, is good for them. It makes them, first of all, appreciate that they’re part of a larger progression. Plus, it stimulates ideas, so they can say, “Ah, yes, this is going to be big in the future.” Previous page: Kaku autographs his new book, Physics of the Future, for fans in Palo Alto. Right: Kaku is optimistic about the future, because he has seen it in its embryonic stages in scientists’ laboratories.

QuestionTime Mary Doria Russell

ZIPPERER: After writing in the science fiction genre, you turned to historical fiction [with Dreamers of the Day]. What interested you about each genre? RUSSELL: See, they don’t really strike me as all that different. Whether you’re writing about 60 years from now, or 60 years ago, you’re still writing about a time and a place that are not your own. You have to develop a good grasp of historical trends or of history itself. As much as possible, you become aware of your own assumptions and try to get out of your own times. You make it your business to imagine and understand the continuities over a century’s time, in either direction from now. And you make yourself aware of what is truly contemporary and therefore anachronistic outside your own time and place. Actually, when I was writing The Sparrow, I thought of it as a historical novel that takes place in the future. I imagined that the story was being told by someone with both hindsight and wisdom, while the characters themselves were still trying desperately to understand what had happened and why. What ties it all together for me is a conviction that human emotions and personal relationships are key to understanding how history works – history we’ve already lived and history that is still unfolding. That’s what a novel can do that nonfiction can’t: make you feel what it’s like to live another person’s life. ZIPPERER: In a May 2007 interview, you said that your anthropology major – RUSSELL: It wasn’t just a “major,” it was a whole damn doctorate. Some people just do not know when to quit... 16 • Galaxis • • July 2011


The anthropologist and author has brought together history, science fiction and religion to captivate readers.

ZIPPERER: You said that it “could not be a better background for a novelist.” Why? RUSSELL: For one thing, the odds against getting a first novel published are vanishingly small, so it was very helpful that when I was an anthropologist, only 11 other people on the planet found my work interesting or significant. I was used to laboring for years on something hardly anybody else cared about. And really, even if The Sparrow had never been read by anybody but my step mom and my Aunt Mary? Going from a readership of 11 to 2 is not that much of a drop. Plus, I was a classically trained “four fields” anthropologist. The four fields are social and cultural anthropology, linguistics, archeology, and biological anthropology. We were taught that the study of other cultures, past and present, required us to understand systems from an insider’s point of view, while simultaneously maintaining enough objectivity to understand the system from the outside. That’s a lot like seeing a story from a character’s point of view while maintaining authorial understanding of the plot and themes.

ZIPPERER: The Sparrow and its sequel, Children of God, tell a story of faith within the genre of science fiction, a genre that has often been skeptical if not outright hostile to religion. How were the books accepted within the genre? RUSSELL: Well, jeez... They got a whole bunch of SF awards and prizes, so I have to assume they were pretty well accepted in the genre! But I know what you mean – there was some question about whether the books were really science fiction. My answer to that was, “Listen, they don’t give the Arthur C. Clarke Prize to mysteries!” Genre is a tool. I didn’t start out by saying, “I want to write a science fiction novel.” I started out with the characters and the big themes: the moral or ethical dilemma, the big questions underlying The Sparrow. Then the question became, What’s the best way to get these characters to reveal their story? First-contact science fiction was the best way to do that. Shifting from one genre to another is not considered a good career move for writers, but to me, that’s what makes each book fresh and interesting. I’m sort of a genre slut, really. I stand on the literary street corner, and I’ll get into any genre that promises to take me to a good party!

Why hasn’t one of David Gerrold’s most cinematic stories made it to the big or small screen yet?


David Gerrold’s novel Starhunt was first published as Yesterday’s Children. It was originally intended to be a Star Trek story, but the author reworked it into a standalone book.

By John Zipperer

n 1980, a small but beloved science-and-science fiction magazine, Future Life, reported on an exciting attempt to bring thought-provoking science fiction to the big screen. A startup production company announced its effort to develop David Gerrold’s 1972 novel, Yesterday’s Children, as a film. It was, alas, not to be. More than a decade later, author Gerrold made a run of his own toward the same goal, this time developing the novel as a weekly television series. That effort also proved unsuccessful. But as with Spock in that other well-known science fiction franchise, death is never permanent, and this remains a good idea for a series. In his introduction to the 1995 edition of Starhunt (as Yesterday’s Children was renamed upon republication), Gerrold describes the origins of Starhunt, which started out as a story pitch to the original 1960s Star Trek. It concerned drama aboard a generational deep-space ship. Gerrold authored two other scripts for Star Trek, but this story pitch went nowhere. After being rejected for that series, the author pursued the story as a novel, eventually finding a more compelling story in the interstellar war aspects that were originally going to be mere framing for the larger story about the deepspace ship. What resulted were two novels, with the original idea becoming the Star Trek original novel The Galactic Whirlpool in 1980, and the space war developing into our subject here, July 2011 • • Galaxis • 17

Starhunt and its planned TV production spawned a short series of three additional novels by the author.

one of the gems of modern science fiction. Part of the attraction of Yesterday’s Children/Starhunt lies in its depiction of war in space. Gerrold has noted that in productions such as Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica, fighter ships zip through space and bank and roll as if they were World War II fighter planes flying through atmospheres (which was, in fact, the inspiration for George Lucas in designing his Star Wars dogfights). They’re fun to watch, but there is another, more-realistic portrayal of war in space that can be just as exciting and even better at building dramatic tension. Like Lucas, David Gerrold also went to earth wars for inspiration, but instead of looking into the skies he looked under the seas, where submarines tried to track each other and surface ships across our water planet. The unfathomable expanse of space would resemble the submarine hunt more than the aerial dogfight, so Gerrold wrote Yesterday’s Children against that backdrop. For a ship, he placed his characters on a none-too-trustworthy bucket of bolts that made the crew members unsure if they were tracking enemy ships or their own ship’s sensor shadow. When Grayson Productions tried to convert the novel into a movie in 1980, the company’s leaders spoke proudly of producing an intelligent deep-space science fiction film. “We want to show the commercially oriented film world that you can put drama and true-to-life situations in a science fiction property, produce it for a reasonable cost, and still make it a marketable film,” producer Mark Nelson told Future Life. The group hired a director, brought in ace designer Andrew Probert [see sidebar] to do production designs, and began working on a script. Neither script nor designs would ever be filmed, however. “The 1980 Grayson Productions attempt went down in flames,” Gerrold told me in 18 • Galaxis • • July 2011

1999, and he took the property back under his control. What happened? Visual Veteran Gerrold, a Hugo and Nebula Award winning writer, made his mark in science fiction as a college wunderkind when he wrote the celebrated “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode of the original Star Trek, but he is no babe in the woods today. In addition to further contributions to classic Trek and its animated spinoff, he has written episodes of Tales from the Darkside, Sliders, Babylon 5, Land of the Lost, and others. He gained an entirely new level of fame in 2002 when Forge published his novel The Martian Child, about a single gay man adopting a child who believed he was a martian. (In 2007, that wellreceived book was made into a movie starring John Cusack.) For many years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he catered to the science fiction audience with a popular column in Starlog magazine. He also worked on the first year of Star Trek: The Next Generation; following that stint, he was involved in other science-fiction television projects that led him back to Starhunt. (There are four books in the Starhunt series: Voyage of the Star Wolf, The Middle of Nowhere, Starhunt, and Blood and Fire.) Soon came an attempt to produce a Star Wolf series. Telescene, the Montreal-based producer of The Hunger, Urban Angel, and other TV series, was the base for this effort. Again, designs were made, names were named (including TV veteran D.C. Fontana – a fellow Trek alumnus – as a supervising

producer and Gerrold as co-executive producer), and Gerrold wrote six scripts for the show’s first year, along with rough drafts of about four more hours. After a promising start, including securing international financing, a U.S. market proved elusive, and the attempt failed. Telescene dropped out and the project — again — dropped back onto the author’s lap. A decade ago, Gerrold described to me the status of the project to me as “exhausted. We’ve been all over everywhere. Everyone loves us. Conditions aren’t right at this studio. That one has this other obligation. This fellow doesn’t understand science fiction. That one is already invested in another show. These folks don’t have the money. Those folks don’t have the foreign market. Nobody can quite put all the pieces together. But we haven’t given up. We’re still pitching. At the moment, all options have expired, so we’re starting at square one again.” The Sci-Fi Channel (eventually renamed SyFy Channel), which has undertaken successfully some major first-run series, including Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, First Wave, and the always-mutating Stargate franchise, would seem to be an obvious target, but the management upheavals there at the turn of the century also made it difficult for the Gerrold camp to set up a deal. Besides, the author was hoping for a nonnetwork berth for his show. “There’s little advantage to a network premiere — you get a little bit more publicity, but you often get a whole lot of people in suits giving you instructions on how to do your show right,” he noted. “There aren’t as many suits in syn-

For his deep-space books, Gerrold also went to earth wars for inspiration, but instead of looking into the skies he looked under the seas.

The Star Wolf stories emerged from a failed story pitch to Star Trek. Part of that original story became the Starhunt novels (beginning with Yesterday’s Children, aka Starhunt), and the other portion of the idea became the 1980 Bantam original Star Trek novel The Galactic Whirlpool.

dication. Syndication also gives you the luxury of a whole season at a time. I would prefer syndication or satellite first-run — but I wouldn’t turn down a network either, if I felt comfortable with the folks I was working with.” Lost Chance? Why would The Star Wolf be a series worth watching? Why is it still worth making by somebody? Because of David Gerrold. In his fiction and nonfiction, the author has served as a wonderful teacher, leading his readers through life and tackling troublesome philosophical issues, all the while producing enjoyable prose and good stories. He did so with the tired and scared crew in Starhunt and its sequels; he has done so spectacularly in his ongoing series of novels surrounding the colonization of earth by the destructive aliens known as the Chtorr; and he did so in a quieter setting with such early novels as The Man Who Folded Himself and When Harlie Was One. Now, after serving in other people’s science-fiction television universes, Gerrold has a chance to create his own, to be the George Lucas or Gene Roddenberry of his own galaxy. When I asked him to give some explanation for his success as a writer, Gerrold demured, claiming that it’s better to write than to talk about writing. One can be forgiven for thinking that he was being a bit puckish with that answer; it would have been a bit more believable if Gerrold didn’t have a lot of experience as a teacher of writing classes, as well as having authored numerous columns in Starlog magazine and posts on his blog in which he explores his craft and demonstrates that he

thinks about it quite deeply. But maybe he just doesn’t give out such advice freely. As someone who has a foot in both the television and book worlds, Gerrold knows he can achieve different things with each medium. “TV lets you have visual impact, emotional impact, that is a lot harder to achieve in a book,” he argued. “The effect of a single TV image is much more overwhelming. The image of Kirk up to here in tribbles is historic. There are few books that can get that deep into the collective cultural conscious. But a book universe is a lot more personal and a lot more detailed, and you can go places you don’t have time for in a TV universe. “A book is a detailed canvas that the author has to fill in himself; this gives the author the luxury of tangents, explanations, digressions, extrapolations, and all kinds of personal touches,” Gerrold continued. In the visual media, “you don’t have the luxury of a profound in-depth conversation. People reach for the clicker. So you have to move from moment to moment as fast as you can and make sure that the series of moments gives the illusion not only of motion, but of meaning as well. Most directors will tell you that it’s all in the script, all in the planning, but few films really demonstrate that kind of concern for meaning.” We’ve waited nearly four decades since Yesterday’s Children’s original publication and three decades since Grayson’s abortive attempt to bring the story to visual life, so viewers can wait a little longer. Let’s just hope the wait is worthwhile, and the money people get together with the production people and finally agree that there’s an intelligent and entertaining science-fiction franchise sitting in their laps.

What Do Andrew Probert, Gil Gerard and David Gerrold All Have in Common?


e won’t make you wait too long for the answer to the question posed in the headline above: All three of them have been involved in fan productions of Star Trek. Star Trek: The New Voyages is a series of new Star Trek episodes that are fan-created, which means they were not produced for commercial reasons nor by Paramount, though with the tacit acceptance of the studio. Fans of the show were understandably excited a few years ago when writer David Gerrold signed on to direct the script he wrote for the show. “Blood and Fire” was originally proposed as an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation as an AIDS allegory, but it reportedly was rejected by the studio because of its inclusion of openly gay crew members. Gerrold resurrected the idea as a book in his Star Wolf series, but it came full circle when he was able to direct it as an episode of The New Voyages. New Voyages has also corralled guest star Gil Gerard (best known for starring in Glen Larson’s Buck Rogers in the 25th Century series in the 1970s) and Andrew Probert, a prolific artist and designer who has done a ton of work on various Star Trek projects – official ones, that is. New Voyages also has included guest stars such as George Takei, Denise Crosby, and Walter Koenig, among many others. July 2011 • • Galaxis • 19

the paper rumor mill A look back to the days when a movie was anticipated and dissected not online but in the pages of genre magazines.


By John Zipperer

ome time traveling with us. Go back three decades to an age when the dreams that began on large movie screens could be stoked and sustained by small staffs of magazine editors and writers around the country. They put together highly anticipated cover stories that were often the only way fans could learn behind-the-scenes stories about their favorite films and TV shows. The cool photos were often more than half of the fun. That was how most fans learned in-depth information about such films and TV shows as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Christopher Reeve’s Superman, and Alien. Perhaps at no time was that more true than between the releases of the initial Star Wars film and its first sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. Before the internet moved out of military testing labs and into the real world, science-fiction fans found other ways to share rumors and news of upcoming science fiction productions. For relatively small groups of them, there were clubs and conventions. But for large numbers of the fans, especially those located in smaller towns across the country and around the world, there 20 • Galaxis • • July 2011


Above, left to right: Mediascene, from comics artist Jim Steranko, went with a painted Star Wars cover; so did Famous Monsters, in this monster-less cover; Cinefantastique published its first double issue in 1978; Fantastic Films’ most evocative cover gave Chewie his day in the limelight; and Fangoria #6 featured the horror-free Empire. Below: Star Encounters (far left) and Reel Fantasy both debuted with George Lucas’ mammoth hit on their covers.

were science-fiction media magazines, which exploded in popularity following the blockbuster release of the first Star Wars film. Some magazines were professional productions, publishing articles by journalists who actually spoke with the creators and researched their articles; others were quickbuck projects that only lasted a few issues and then faded away, remembered by no one but the publisher’s banker. Star Wars super-charged the entire field. Following the release of the first film, these magazines were filled with descriptions of how the movie magic was made and speculations about what might happen in future installments. Starlog columnist David Gerrold, for example, wrote a column looking at the implications of the film’s events and famously asking “What makes a kessel run?” At competitor Fantastic Films, Alex Eisenstein wrote one of his own typically long, thought-provoking and controversial articles examining the deeper meanings of the Star Wars films. And fans gobbled them up and filled letters columns with their reactions.

Collector’s Dream


ow many of the magazines pictured here did you own? Sadly, of all of the magazines represented on these pages, only Fangoria remains alive and kicking, though that horrorfocused magazine would not dream of putting happy droids on its cover today. Many other science fiction magazines have come and gone in the ensuing 31 years, and more than a few found reasons to feature Star Wars on their covers, even before the release of the original trilogy special editions and the debut of Episode I, II, and III. It might seem ironic to feature genre magazines with Star Wars covers. The George Lucas blockbuster was one of the first science fiction films to break out of the “genre ghetto,” landing on the covers of People, Time, Us, American Film, and Reader’s Digest. But those publications still had to explain the strange spacey laser-beamed world of Star Wars to their audiences, who were usually more interested in celebrity dating or diet tips. July 2011 • • Galaxis • 21

In fact, the late 1970s and early 1980s were probably the last time when science fiction fans could get everything they needed or wanted to know from the genre press. All too soon, mainstream publications would be featuring Star Trek: The Next Generation and the Star Wars prequels on their covers as their publishers realized that even mainstream audiences had grown interested in science fiction. TV Guide would eventually find ways to produce variant covers showcasing Star Wars prequels or Star Trek characters, because its editors knew that science fiction sold magazines. Surely, the world was ending for the old-time news magazine editor. That’s because studios soon began ignoring the genre press for many films and television series. Leaving aside the irrationality of ignoring your fan base, this presented the problem of exactly what content mainstream magazines would report about science-fiction productions. After all, celebrity dating and dieting tips continue to be among the biggest-selling topics on magazine racks, as evidenced by anyone in a grocery store checkout line who has had to gaze at covers of Us Weekly and In Touch while they wait to buy their groceries. But let us not forget those days when a fan might have to wait months for an interview with a favorite actor, or for the story about how the special effects were put together. It might seem like an eternity to wait today, but then again, that time lag gave editors the opportunity to doublecheck their information, talk with multiple sources, and acquire the best photographs to accompany the article. All of that is often missing from today’s online free-for-all, in which wild rumors often carry just as much weight as official proclamations from the mouth of God. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a fairly large number of magazines serving the avid science-fiction fan. Starlog. Fantastic Films. Starburst. Future Life. Questar. Famous Monsters of Filmland. Star Force. Space Wars. Science Fan-

A fan might have to wait months for an interview with a favorite actor, or the story about how the special effects were put together. 22 • Galaxis • • July 2011

Above, left to right: Science Fantasy Film Classics thought stormtroopers would sell copies; Science Fiction Horror & Fantasy magazine went to the dark side with its first cover; Media Spotlight was another short-lived SF media magazine that went for the gold with this wookie-heavy cover; Space Wars, a production of Myron Fass’s publishing empire, launched its first issue with the sure-fire crowd pleaser on its cover (which just happens to be the same photo as Media Spotlight to its left); and Future Life featured a deceptively calm photo of R2D2 from Empire. Below, left: Questar was an ambitious but short-lived magazine that in barely more than a dozen issues featured Star Wars twice on the cover. Bottom right: The alltime champion science fiction media magazine, Starlog, featured some of the most iconic Star Wars covers.

tasy Film Classics. Cinefantastique. Trek. Media Spotlight. Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy. Star Encounters. And more. Some of them were printed on paper so cheap that the ink rubbed off on your fingers; others were higher quality; almost all of them are collectors items today. So who is “the other” promised in Empire? What makes a kessel run? Who is Darth Vader? What the heck were the Clone Wars? All of those questions would be answered one way or another in the eventual films themselves, but part of the fun of being a fan is speculating about things that muggles don’t care about or are happy to have revealed to them only on the big screen. There were plenty of incorrect answers proffered by the print magazines, but compared to what replaced many of them, they arguably did a better job of vetting and disseminating information than do the plethora of rumor-mongering web sites. A few professional journalists can do wonders for factuality. So consider what passes for insightful discussion of science fiction films, television, and books today, and you might miss those days of popular SF magazines. July 2011 • • Galaxis • 23

Rememberin Thirty-five years ago, they worked on an ambitious science-fiction TV drama and brought it to life on screen.

24 • Galaxis • • July 2011


By John Zipperer

n the mid-1970s, British filmmakers and fan favorites Sylvia and Gerry Anderson made a dramatic play to break into the bigtime American science fiction game with Space: 1999. The syndicated television program was an ambitious tale of the residents of Moonbase Alpha, exploring space and confronting aliens of many types. The show only lasted two seasons, but it was a high point for nonnetwork SF programming in that decade. Nearly a decade ago at the Main Mission: 2000 science fiction convention in Manhattan, one of the stars and some of the writers of Space: 1999 explained what made the show interesting to them.


The Space Writers riters strikes come and go, but there will always be writers. Yes, that’s a particularly bland statement, until we add that it’s the good writers with talent and original ideas that at times seem to be endangered. This point was in mind as eager fans listened to three writers discuss their experiences battling production hell; the veteran writers reminded us often impatient and harsh-judging viewers that writers have numerous obstacles to navigate to get to the point where they can deliver an excellent script that will not only entertain but will poke our consciences or otherwise make us think. The Space: 1999 writers told their stories as they appeared together on a panel at MainMission. Having worked on this syndicated British science fiction series at a time when first-run syndication was still largely untested in this country, they knew what it was like to be flying below people’s radar; perhaps it’s more accurate to say they could identify with a small group of people shot into space to confront unknown wonders, which is what they wrote about. The television writing process is sometimes likened to going through a meat grinder. The key to getting one’s ideas

from mind to paper to screen certainly includes intelligence, talent, and thought, but there’s another critical element in television: “Discover the best producers,” according to George Bellak, a writer on Space: 1999 and The Tenth Level. A good producer can fight some of your battles for you, as well as give you a few of your own, leaving you to decide where you want to compromise. “Either you are going to say ‘This is what I want to do, buy it, Jack’ or you do it Hollywood’s way,” said Bellak. Sometimes Hollywood (or the Brit equivalent) lets you do it nearly your way. One of the best features of science fiction is its ability to explore questions beyond who’s sleeping together or who killed the guest star, and the assembled Space writers were asked about how they tackled the sometimes-metaphysical stories of that series. “We never set out to write a metaphysical story,” said Johnny Byrne, who, in addition to serving as a writer of 11 episodes and story editor for Space: 1999, counts Doctor Who, All Creatures Great and Small, and Heartbeat among his credits. Byrne, who passed away in 2008, said Space’s scribes had a different priority: They set out to write quickly. “Like the [Moonbase] Alphans, we had been pitched out...and we were searching for stories to write.” Bellak agreed. “You don’t sit around discussing philosophy,” he said. “It emerges.” Bellak was a story consultant during the show’s development period and wrote the pilot “Breakaway,” in which the moon was sent unphilosophically hurtling through space away from planet earth. Writers for television today might face a different paradigm, where they not only have to go through a producer, but through a battery of producers, who take the story idea, tear it apart, repace it, rework it, and make sure it fits every nuance of the series they work on every day. It can be a dispiriting experience, as one audience member – a writer of two Star Trek: Voyager episodes – noted. The writer explained that after breaking in relatively easily through an interview with one of

Voyager’s producers, they then faced the staff of writer/producers for which that series was famous. As a result, the final scripts sometimes had little in common with the original story idea. But the producers are trying to ensure that the show fits its mold, and if that means they shave off a few rough edges of incoming scripts, so much the better, they must think. Though they may try to impose a standard story formula of pacing and character interactions on all new scripts, even that can be overcome by a good enough and determined enough writer, or so said Chris Penfold, a writer of more than a half dozen scripts and a story editor on Space: 1999, and a contributor to EastEnders and Midsomer Murders. Penfold has taught writing and has done script editing, and when he chooses writers, he tells them “to ignore as much as possible the baggage of the show, the formula, and to write a stand-alone show.” If the story can stand alone, then fit it to the needs of the show afterward. That flexibility can have another advantage. “A writer has to be grateful for that kind of a hook” in a show’s formula, said Byrne. “It gives you an entry,” helping to set up a story that might otherwise require much exposition. “A writer can take that and the world is your oyster,” he adds. “I’m absolutely in favor of that.... It’s only when the formula becomes all-controlling that it’s a problem.” Luckily, writers have an ability to destroy when necessary to protect their abilities to create. “I named all my characters after friends,” said Johnny Byrne. “And the ones I didn’t like were always being sucked out into the vacuum of space.”


The Space Star espite all of the work that went into its production, Space: 1999 was on the bubble after its first season, so the show was retooled for its return season. Fred Freiberger, a veteran of shows such as the final season of the original Star Trek series, was brought in to run the show. And a new character was added: Maya, a shape-shifting alien played

by Catherine Schell. Rarely is popular perception so accurate as when it comes to questions science fiction fans ask their heroes at science fiction conventions. Yes, people really begin questions with, “In episode Such-and-Such, in the scene where you and Martin Landau were stranded on the ship...” It’s proof that fans have incredibly strong memories, and that Galaxy Quest wasn’t too far from the truth. People probably won’t ask such questions of the Two and a Half Men cast 20 years hence, but for well-loved but short-lived science fiction series such as Space: 1999, the chance to meet the people who brought those series to life and ask them questions that have long remained unanswered is a treat too good to pass up. Actress Catherine Schell was on the receiving end of this treatment when she made a rare convention appearance at MainMission. Schell was as gracious as, well, as only Europeans can be when confronted with hundreds of adoring Americans. While there, she did the usual: signing autographs, helping auction Space materials for the con’s charities (Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the National Parkinson Foundation), and answered a lot of questions about the series and her other work. Perhaps the hardest thing for science fiction actors to do is convince their fans that the actors have professional careers apart from the SF series or film that first attracted the fans. Schell, whose nonSpace work includes Return of the Pink Panther, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and Doctor Who, says she also once had a shot at working with Federico Fellini. Her agents told her Fellini was waiting to interview her at a hotel. “I knew he liked strange people, and I’m far too straight. So I had to do something to myself,” she said. She borrowed odd shoes and redid her hair and makeup. “I looked very odd; I actually looked a bit like a tart. I went to the hotel for the meeting. Now, at this hotel, there were ladies of the evening in the lobby, and they probably thought I was one of them.” Told to wait for Fellini, she sat and smoked – setting a plant alight in the process, but otherwise seeing no action;

Fellini was at his office, not the hotel, and the two of them never met. “I didn’t get the part,” she said. “And I tried so hard!” Unlike the audience member in the writer’s panel discussion, Schell was spared the task of navigating the producer-hell writing process of Star Trek: Voyager. But she did have hopes of being a part of that show. It was a role that would have been a ticket to a lifetime of science fiction conventions: Captain Janeway. Alas, she confirmed that her agent had sent in her resume, but nothing came of that. “Obviously, I didn’t get the part,” she laughed. Acting in a science fiction series like Space: 1999 had its own challenges, with special effects, monsters, human-to-alien transformations, and whatnot. Schell says she got along with producer Freiberger, who has a negative reputation among many fans for his presence during the final seasons of Space and Trek. “It is a very civilized place, in England,” she said. “No one brings guns to work.” Whether Freiberger’s reputation is deserved or not is up to others to decide, though even Trek scribe David Gerrold, who has had some wellpublicized complaints about the producer, has said he at least understands some of the pressures Freiberger was under, being brought in to save troubled television series. But Schell said she found it fruitless to bring her concerns to the producer about certain directions of the series, in particular the trend in presenting aliens as hairy apelike monsters. Despite the Galaxy Questers present hoping to hear her give behind-the-scenes secrets of their favorite series, Schell had to beg off when asked for specifics on individual episodes, remembering one only after prolonged prompting from the audience established that it included location shooting, a rare occurrence for that stage-bound series. And her memory of that was largely limited to the fact that the entire cast was ill during the filming, thanks to a drought and a heat wave in England at the time. As for her favorite episode, she protested with a smile, “I don’t know them anymore!” Don’t tell that to the writers.

July 2011 • • Galaxis • 25

PHOTOS BY NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

ng Moonbase Alpha

Heart to Heart What do the secrets locked in our cells have to tell us about curing illnesses? Meet the man who’s searching for the key.


By John Zipperer ZIPPERER: What, if any, identifiable damage has there been to medical research

t the center of stem cell research is Deepak Srivastava, director of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease at the University of California, San Francisco. We spoke to him a few years ago about heart disease and stem cell politics.

from restrictions on stem cell use in this country – or is it all political background noise while research continues ever onward? Srivastava: The restrictions on embryonic stem cell research in this country have led to the unusual situation where the United States is not the clear leader in this critical area of biomedical research. The complexity of human embryonic stem cell research, due to restrictions, has made many scientists shy away from the field, and the paucity of [National Institutes of Health] monies for such work has further stymied interest. Research around the rest of the world is continuing, but without the leadership and resources of the United States, the advances are not moving as fast as they might otherwise. So the restrictions have slowed the pace of discovery and greatly disadvantaged the United States in what could be the most promising form of biomedical research for the next few decades. ZIPPERER: California has put money behind stem cell research [through a voter-approved initiative]. In your view, is the state doing enough? If not, what else would you like to see it do, and what results could that extra effort likely have? Srivastava: The California initiative will likely transform the landscape of stem cell research, given the wealth of scientific excellence in this state. A rapid infusion of funds in the next few years has the potential to catapult the United States back into a leadership role and will attract top stem cell scientists from the rest of the world. It is difficult to tell if the initiative will be enough as currently planned, since it is just getting started, but I do believe it will be important for the leadership to support and encourage innovative and sometimes risky approaches. ZIPPERER: Cures for Alzheimer’s or similar diseases are often talked about as hoped-for breakthroughs that can come from stem cell research. Why is it important in the field of heart disease? Srivastava: Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States in adults and in children. Once a heart is damaged, it cannot repair itself on its own, and there are no current therapies that promote regenerative repair. Thus, replacement of damaged heart muscle with new stem cell-derived muscle could benefit the 13 million people affected by heart disease in the United States. ZIPPERER: If you hadn’t gone into medicine, what other career do you think you would have pursued? Srivastava: I was an economics major for many years and have always been fascinated by the world of finance. I probably would have been an investment banker had I not made the wise decision to pursue medicine. While I imagine I would have enjoyed that as well, it would not have been the best use of my talents. I feel that I have the best job in the world and wake up every day excited about the potential discoveries that could help patients that I care for. ZIPPERER: What was your first or most memorable experience in the Bay Area? Srivastava: I completed my medical residency in pediatrics at UCSF, and those were some of the best years of my life. I met my wife during that period, when she was a nurse in the UCSF Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and I suppose I left my heart in San Francisco! I did fall in love with the unique outlook of people in San Francisco, its great diversity and the creativity intrinsic to the Bay Area.

photo courtesy Deepak Srivastava

“The complexity of human embryonic stem cell research, due to restrictions, has made many scientists shy away from the field.”

26 • Galaxis • • July 2011


urrently, Gundam Unicorn is making its way through cinemas and DVD players around the world. Unicorn is only the latest in a never-ending succession of TV series and films (and books and original videos and games) based on an animated science fiction program that first premiered on Japanese television on April 7, 1979. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when American animation viewers were watching such uninspired TV fare as Superfriends and Scooby-Doo, Japanese and other Asian audiences were treated to the likes of Mobile Suit Gundam. As Americans would later discover from watching bootleg copies of Gundam, their Pacific Rim counterparts had the better deal. More recently the series has resurfaced in legit form. In the ensuing three decades between Mobile Suit Gundam and Gundam Unicorn, American animation has diversified and improved, particularly on the big screen. But to watch those vintage 1979 Gundam episodes is to realize how poorly served American audiences have been by their animation studios until very recently. In the spirit of rediscovery, let’s look at what we Americans have missed. For those of you who have never enjoyed

When 14-year-olds Saved Humanity July 2011 • • Galaxis • 27

PHOTO BY NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

Often uncertain of what to do and disgusted with the situations in which they’re placed, Mobile Suit Gundam’s young heroes find themselves forced to save the planet – at the controls of giant mecha.

By John Zipperer

In 2010, Bandai released a new edition of Mobile Suit Gundam on DVD (left). Yoshiuki Tomino’s novel (right) tells a slightly different story.

anime (Japanese animation), you are in for a cultural jolt when you see Gundam and others of its ilk. As Kin Tso, a friend and Gundam fan, asked, “Did you ever notice that American science fiction shows center around adults, but Japanese shows center around kids? All those 14-year-old boys piloting giant robots.” That may be a generalization – there also are 14-year-old girls piloting robots – but it’s close enough to the mark. Like the popular video series Neon Genesis Evangelion, the star of Mobile Suit Gundam is a teenage boy – and yes, he pilots a giant fighting robot. How to explain the recurrence of giant robots? And why do the Japanese keep putting in giant robots when there are probably other fighting vehicles that would be more realistic? Beats me; but then again, I can no more explain the entire American comics subgenre of superheroes. In both cases you either buy into it or you don’t. The series Mobile Suit Gundam premiered in the late 1970s in Japan and appeared on Hong Kong TV and in other Asian markets several years later. With the release a decade ago of the three-video box set, American audiences could see the early episodes of this cult favorite series compiled into movie-length form. The videos are Mobile Suit Gundam I, which is based on the first 13 episodes of the series; Mobile Suit Gundam II: Soldiers of Sorrow, based on episodes 16-30 and adding one-third new footage; and Mobile Suit Gundam III: Encounters in Space, based on episodes 31-43 and with about 70 percent all-new animation. This box set includes more than seven hours of Gundam story, 28 • Galaxis • • July 2011

How to explain the giant robots? I can no more explain the entire American comics genre of superheroes. In both cases, you either buy into it or you don’t. and it’s thick with story; you can’t nod off for two minutes and not expect to miss a lot of plot. There are newer series of Gundam episodes still being released in Japan, but they receive a mixed response from the show’s fans. Some of the series are wild successes, such as Gundam Wing, which brought a whole new generation of fans to the franchise. Others have been less successful. So before you taste the new ones, you may want to start with these originals, and wipe away a tear that you were watching Josie and the Pussycats while Japanese audiences got this great stuff. Mobile Suit Gundam features Amuro Ray, a boy in his mid-teens who is drawn into an active role in the battle between the Earth Federation and the rebellious Duchy of Zeon. The combatants are using mobile suits, which are giant fighting robots that battle on land, air and in space using missiles and light-sabor-like swords (and occasionally their own metallic fists). When the Zeon fighters attack a giant orbiting space station (whose design would probably have made scientist Gerard K. O’Neill proud), Amuro is separated from his fa-

ther and discovers that he has a special talent for piloting the Gundam, the prototype mobile suit the Earth Federation is hoping will help turn the tide of the war. His Gundam belongs to a battleship called the White Base (which also features a huge Guncannon and Guntank). The White Base loses a great many people during the battle, but it picks up a lot of young civilians who become the new crew (including the three most annoying little kids in television history). The White Base leaves the embattled space station and heads toward its base on earth, fighting skirmishes with the Zeons the entire way and simultaneously dealing with the war-shock of its new civilian crew. Despite his success in piloting the giant Gundam, Amuro is one of those shocked civilian crew members. His case is complicated because his talent marks him as a special fighter – a “newtype” with special abilities who supposedly represents the next step in evolution – but who practically blanks out from the horror of having to kill people. His own mother even tries to disown him when she learns that her sweet, nonviolent son is now a fighter in the stupid war ravaging both sides. Amuro and the war both progress through the three videos, a welcome change from the typical animated series practice of showing no change in your characters. (Flashback to the insipid Battle of the Planets anime that ran in the United States three decades ago.) In the first video we see Amuro struggle with a war he doesn’t understand and with his role that he fails to fully comprehend.

Anime-savvy audiences have become fans of the Gundam franchise. In San Francisco’s downtown Metreon mall, two large models from the original Gundam series made appearances. The head of the original Gundam (below) is arguably more intimidating than the enemy Zeon mobile suit (left).

In the next video Amuro is more experienced, but he’s still not reconciled to his role, and he even runs away from the White Base at one point. By part three – the best video of the trilogy – the Earth Federation is trying to take its battle to the heart of the Duchy of Zeon. Amuro is a veteran at this point, but still not so much that he isn’t tongue-tied upon meeting his chief Zeon opponent, Char, on a neutral space station colony. And all through the series, we see the backroom political and personal battles among the Zeon’s leadership, the petty bickering of the White Base’s crew, and the growth of every major character. Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino has also released the story in novel form, which was published by Stone Bridge Press in English translation in 2004. There are many differences between the anime and the novel, which makes the book a must-have for Gundam fans. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 folks liked to poke fun at Japanese anime as being little more than violent porn cartoons. Admittedly there is more violence

American distributors of Japanese anime needed to make death on the battlefield less traumatic for the kiddies. in these Japanese originals than in typical American animation or even in most Japanese animation distributed over American TV. Sometimes, as when Americans brought over the Japanese Space Cruiser Yamato and distributed it in altered form as Starblazers, robots were substituted for humans because American distributors needed to make death on the battlefield less traumatic for the kiddies. That’s arguably counterproductive. Since no humans suffer in these violent scenes, what happens to the moral message that killing and violence are wrong? At least the people in Gundam grieve for their lost companions and rage against a senseless war that kills good people.

As for sex, there are a couple very brief shots of an unclothed female character’s upper torso. No leering, no Americanstyle Barbie-doll impossible physique. Just a woman. These are TV shows adults can and do watch and enjoy, and their themes and stories are accessible to all ages. Quite simply, they put American animation to shame, especially contemporary animation of the mid-to-late 1970s. In just one example, there’s a scene in the third Gundam video in which Amuro stops while driving in the rain, watches a beautiful bird fly through the rain and drop down in a lake, after which Amuro meets a beautiful woman who turns out to be a newtype like himself. It is a scene unfamiliar to casual American animation viewers, who expect quick editing and silly lines; instead we get a slow pace, ambiguity, and some dialogue worth puzzling over. Mobile Suit Gundam remains a standout example of animation for all ages that doesn’t spend most of its time pandering or debasing. That makes it worth checking out. Even if you’re 32 years late to the party. July 2011 • • Galaxis • 29

A Larger View A little space music, please.


In this March 20, 2011, photo by the Expedition 27 crew on the International Space Station, we can see a low pressure system in the North Pacific Ocean. The multidirectional view from the station’s Cupola allows the crew to monitor space walks and docking operations, as well as get a spectacular view of Earth. 30 • Galaxis • • July 2011


ASA gave the world a view beyond the earthbound locations to which we have been restricted since the beginning of human time. It also gave us a wider view of life, with astronauts helping to change our views of our place in the universe. NASA has gone through practically an entire new persona every decade. It has been called upon to rescue the United States’ selfimage following the Soviets’ beating us to orbit. It downsized for the recession-ridden 1970s, and produced the first reusable spaceship. It almost abandoned human presence in space in return for robotic exploration. And now it is being called upon to cooperate with private space ventures. We’re thrilled to see the private space business pick up, as you can tell from our article on Virgin Galactic. But let’s not forget that it first took the might of the American people to land on the moon, explore the universe, and bring it all home in living color. As space enthusiasts, we appreciate images of stars, galaxies, and other celestial bodies for their own sake. But we also know that for many people, the view from space gives them a valuable new view of good ol’ planet earth.


Above: This image combines data from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) missions. The GALEX ultraviolet data were from the far-UV portion of the spectrum (135 to 175 nanometers). The Spitzer infrared data were taken with the IRAC 4 detector (8 microns). The Hubble data were taken at the blue portion of the spectrum. Photo includes contributions from NASA, ESA, A. Zezas, JPL-Caltech, GALEX Team, J. Huchra et al., JPL/ Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

32 • Galaxis • • July 2011

Right: Outdoing any special effects image from science-fiction movies, this NASA photo from more than 40 years ago captures the morning sun reflecting on the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, as seen from the Apollo 7 spacecraft on Oct. 20, 1968.



Left: At the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the space shuttle Endeavour prepares for its twomile move to the Orbiter Processing Facility.

July 2011 • • Galaxis • 33

SF WITH BRAINS Remembering TV’s The Lathe of Heaven

At a time when televised science fiction was mostly big hair and tight shirts, and dumber than bricks, public TV’s WNET brought us the brainy side of SF.


By John Zipperer

ay “low budget” to science fiction audiences, and they’re likely to think of 1950s monster features or modern-day SyFy Channel Saturday movie product. Say “public television science fiction” to them, and if they think really hard, they might come up with Doctor Who or Red Dwarf. But in 2000, they were offered a reminder of an excellent example of thought-provoking, low-budget science fiction when 1980’s The Lathe of Heaven was re-released to public television stations two decades after it first aired. Based on the 1972 novel of the same name by Ursula K. Le Guin, Lathe was made at a time when science fiction was definitely not common on PBS, then better known for William F. Buckley Jr. and nature shows. “In public television, science fiction was kind of a no-no in those days,” the film’s co-director, Fred Barzyk, told me in 2000. “So we snuck it through under ‘speculative fiction,’ and they didn’t know what the hell that was, so we were able to get our funding.” The Lathe of Heaven tells the story of George Orr, a young man who has “effective dreams,” which means that his dreams appear to influence events and they do so in some very unpleasant ways. When a therapist, Dr. William Haber, works with him and discovers the truth of Orr’s dreams, those “unpleasant ways” are 34 • Galaxis • • July 2011

pretty dramatic, including the creation of a plague that devastates the planet’s population. Haber decides to take advantage of Orr’s apparent powers and tries to direct his dreaming to create conditions for the betterment of the human race; the doctor even builds a machine that will allow him to do the effective dreaming himself. The two have heated debates about the doctor’s attempts to fix everything he thinks is wrong with the world. George: Don’t you see, those things are not problems. They don’t have answers you can find in your arithmetic book....Your attempt to use my dreams to make the world a better place will destroy it.... Haber: Isn’t that the purpose of man

on earth? To act? To change things? It’s a good argument. Haber is not an evil genius out to enslave humanity and give himself riches. He’s trying to help people avoid the misery of overpopulation and warfare. But to George, who has had to deal with these dreams and their effects ever since he was a teenager and his dreams killed his aunt, the issue is one best left alone. He wants to stop dreaming, not perfect his dreams. And, as you would expect from any self-respecting film that deals with dreams, the very issue of reality is at issue, as when George asks Haber, “What if I’m not the only one who can dream effectively. What if everyone could do it and reality was being pulled out from under us all the time and we didn’t even know it?” To catch the significance of that last statement, you’ll want to watch closely from the opening scene of Orr crawling through a destroyed city to the two lead characters’ confrontation and its aftermath at the end. But paying attention pays off with this film. (WNET, the public television station in New York that produced the film back in 1980, also distributed a new interview of Ursula Le Guin by Bill Moyers, so maybe she’ll clear up any questions you still have.) WNET claims that Lathe is the most requested program in the history of the public television archives. Its fame extends to some unlikely places; Barzyk recalls getting a request from the office of Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame for a tape of the film. It was not clear that it would last so long when it was first broadcast. The director says the critical reaction “was muted, but it was respectable,” and the ratings were merely decent. But it scored with

Lathe was made at a time when science fiction was definitely not common on PBS, then better known for William F. Buckley Jr. and nature shows.


younger audiences. “It stuck in the minds of those who were between 12 and 20,” Barzyk says, and now that those viewers are older, they are behind the requests for the revival. The film has some great talent behind it. George Orr was played by Bruce Davison, who went on to star in The Crucible, Six Degrees of Separation, and Longtime Companion (and who has a role in the X-Men film). William Haber was played by Kevin Conway, whose credits include Looking for Richard, The Quick and the Dead, and Elephant Man. Margaret Avery, who plays George’s lawyer and eventual lover, was nominated for a best supporting actress Academy Award for The Color Purple. On the production side, after abandoning an early script that Barzyk says was too expensive to film, they turned to Diane English to script the project. She, of course, went on to produce the long-running Murphy Brown series for CBS. It takes a lot of talent to overcome a constrictive budget, even though they had more money to play with than the typical PBS production at the time. “Our budget was so small we couldn’t do retakes,” author Le Guin recounts on her website, “As for special effects, well, the alien spaceships are frisbees, and we had to choose which one of the alien’s arms could move, because it cost too much to make both its arms move. But the directors understood the story and the actors did a beautiful job. The film is an oldie now, but it’s still a goodie. “ Shooting on location in Texas, the production got a lot of help from the state film commission to use the local modern office buildings to represent a near-future city. But when the end called for something special, Barzyk says it was “pure luck” that they ran across a Texas company that was working with lasers and was willing to let the Lathe crew use their equipment. There, the actors ad libbed their way through an up-tempo climax, which the director says “was pretty effective at illustrating what was going on.” Barzyk, who began in the industry in 1948 at Boston’s WGBH, has worked in public and commercial television for more than five decades, including completing the first high-definition drama for PBS. Sadly, his partner in directing and producing Lathe, David Loxton, died in 1989, and Barzyk says his promotion of the re-release of The Lathe of Heaven is meant as a tribute to Loxton. “This is for David Loxton, who deserves to have his name live on.”

The woman who started it all: Ursula K. Le Guin , the Hugo and Nebula awardswinning author of The Lathe of Heaven. July 2011 • • Galaxis • 35


Robot Monster’s Biggest Defender Cultural critic Michael Medved reflects on his journey from liberalism to a conservative radio talk show host. Along the way, he praises a “breathtakingly bad” science-fiction movie. By John Zipperer ZIPPERER: You’ve lived in places known for their liberal politics – Berkeley, Los Angeles, the Seattle area. Did the political climates of those areas play a role in your political evolution? MEDVED: In his eloquent eulogy for W.B. Yeats, W.H. Auden wrote, “Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.” To paraphrase that observation, Mad Berkeley hurt me into conservatism. I lived in the South Campus neighborhood at a time – 1972-76 – when pleasant Willard Park across the street from my flat had been renamed Ho Chi Minh Park in honor of the North Vietnamese dictator. The East Bay political struggles of that addled era pitted McGovern Democrats, my faction, against Che Guevara Democrats, who mostly won. Berkeley at the time provided a living laboratory for leftist lunacy – how’s that for alliteration? – and for many residents, the experiment clearly failed. 36 • Galaxis • • July 2011

On a deeper level, I’ve always been a proud contrarian and non-conformist – that’s the way my endearingly bohemian parents always raised me. Living in parts of the country dominated by reflexive liberalism allows me to function as a rebel and provocateur, even as an aging theo-con. ZIPPERER: You’re a former movie critic. Name a bad movie you are embarrassed to admit you love. MEDVED: I’m never embarrassed to confess affection for bad movies – after all, my brother and I wrote four affectionate books – count ’em, four! – about the worst movies ever made. One of the films featured in two of those books (The Golden Turkey Awards and The Fifty Worst Films of All Time) which I particularly enjoy is Robot Monster (1953) – an ambitious sci-fi saga about robots from the moon who invade the Earth disguised in gorilla suits and deep-sea diving helmets. The strained seriousness and vaulting artistic ambition of the movie, complete with a rousing film score by Elmer Bernstein, make it both breathtakingly bad and indelibly endearing. The fact that the youthful writer-director Phil Tucker attempted suicide after the film’s critical drubbing only adds to its incomparable appeal. Fortunately, the auteur survived for a lengthy – if dicey – career in the entertainment industry. ZIPPERER: Do you get more enjoyment from your radio program or writing books?

MEDVED: I greatly prefer the radio show – an everyday adventure – to the lonely, pressured, often maddening process of writing books. It’s the difference between playing catch – throwing issues back and forth with callers and guests – and laboring over a school assignment that requires hundreds of pages of carefully crafted prose. Unpredictability and spontaneity are naturally more fun than careful planning and meticulous follow-through. ZIPPERER: What was your most memorable experience in the Bay Area? MEDVED: My most cherished and important recollection ... involves my mid-’70s work with the police departments of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond on a minority recruitment campaign. Through a bizarre combination of circumstances, I ended up writing and producing ads for TV, radio, and billboards. More important, I got to work closely with some outstanding and colorful cops, and that interaction moved me decisively toward the Right. There’s no question in my mind that I ultimately learned more from these police officers than I did from any of the professors in my academic experience. Their lessons – delivered with a combination of realism, idealism, ferocity and unstinting courage and flair – still apply to the actualities of life in the San Francisco area and around the country.



Dinosaurs Among Us


ong after they became extinct, dinosaurs can be found all around us. People, clearly, like looking at the last great species before humans to rule the planet. Perhaps in a million years, some new species will do the same with humans. Above: Visitors to the California Academy of Sciences museum in San Francisco see this fellow soaring above their heads. Below Left: Mock mom-and-child Rexes gambol at the entrance of the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Right: This real-life Brachiosaurus was on loan from the Field Museum of Natural History to the United terminal of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

July 2011 • • Galaxis • 37

Real Space, Real People Richard Branson is realizing the dreams of millions by taking space travel out of the hands of governments and putting it into the hands of private citizens.

ver since President Obama announced his budget plans for NASA, there was worry from supporters of the space program that by curtailing our return to the moon, the United States was downsizing its extra-terrestrial ambitions. Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin wrote on the Huffington Post that the truth is quite the opposite, that Obama is positioning us to be better able to pursue our goals in space and to reap the rewards of the burgeoning private space investment that has stolen NASA’s thunder. The embrace of private space activities (including spending money to give U.S. astronauts rides on private spaceships) is causing consternation among two groups: people who think space should be strictly a public enterprise, and people who have made careers working in NASA-funded industries. Beyond those two groups, everyone should be thrilled with private space activity. It gives us a feeling of “at last, we have traction.” Things are really happening, and it’s getting exciting for the non-astronaut. But it also makes financial sense. Let private industry do the investment. Government has to do certain things that private investment won’t or can’t sustain, but it needn’t do everything, and it can wisely step aside when private initiative has its own momentum. NASA and the ESA are no longer the standard bearers for the long-term project of ensuring that humanity isn’t stuck on one planet forever. That’s good news, because Western governments have long-term financial hangovers from the economic crisis. Furthermore, NASA’s glory has been tarnished somewhat by the underwhelming 38 • Galaxis • • July 2011

performance of the space shuttle, slow progress on the space station, and other issues. Part of the problem with NASA’s operations and goals as set by President George W. Bush is that ambitious plans for reaching Mars and for returning to the moon were combined with the odd tactic of not providing funding. Buzz Aldrin, the second human to step onto the moon, writes of Bush’s project to return to our nearest satellite: First, the President failed to fully fund the program, as he had initially promised. As a result, each year the development of the rockets and spacecraft called for in the plan slipped further and further behind. Second and most

importantly, NASA virtually eliminated the technology development effort for advanced space systems. Equally as bad, NASA also raided the Earth and space science budgets in the struggle to keep the program, named Project Constellation, on track. Even that effort fell short. It will be difficult for anyone to predict how well the Obama administration will carry out its space plans. Luckily, private industry is chomping at the bit to do its part. British billionaire and wunderkind Richard Branson is helping to change that. Following in Aldrin’s steps (at a lower altitude) are young spaceship pilots such as Pete Siebold and Clint Nichols. On May 4, 2011,



By John Zipperer


these two men piloted Virgin Galactic’s spaceship VSS Enterprise in a successful test flight to demonstrate the ship’s reentry method. As Virgin Galactic noted, this was the third test flight in two weeks, and its seventh solo flight since it was unveiled in December 2009. The company’s CEO and president, George Whitesides, praised the ship’s “feathered” configuration, in which its tail is rotated upward to slow the ship during descent. He said the flight showed that “the unique feathering re-entry mechanism, probably the single most important safety innovation within the whole system, works perfectly.” The flights proved not only Virgin’s success in the space race but that it is supporting a burgeoning private space industry, including Scaled Composites, the Mojave-based designer and builder of Virgin’s spacecraft. Virgin Galactic is the private space firm headed by Sir Richard Branson, and it is the leading reason you or I might actually get into space. It had earlier announced the successful inaugural “captive carry” flight of the VSS Enterprise. Captive carry refers to a flight in which a mothership supports the secondary ship – in this case, a spaceship.

Enterprise’s flight over the Mojave desert (from the Mojave Air and Spaceport), was “a huge success,” according to Virgin Galactic. “Watching VSS Enterprise fly for the first time really brings home what beautiful, ground-breaking vehicles [designer Burt Rutan] and his team have developed for us,” said Branson. “It comes as no surprise that the flight went so well; the Scaled team is uniquely qualified to bring this important and incredible dream to reality.” As Virgin racks up successful test after successful test, it will likely eat away at that group of people who oppose privatized space travel because they do business with NASA. Business with Virgin Galactic and other private space companies will become their new goal and sustenance. In a way, what we are seeing today is a resumption of private initiative that was strangled in its crib decades ago. More than 30 years ago, Future Life magazine published an article by James Oberg on OTRAG (Orbital Transport und Racketen AG), a company based in then-West Germany and focused on private space travel. Back in those Cold War days, space travel was dominated by the Soviet Union and the United States, and private space ventures were still the stuff of science fiction or futurist dreams. OTRAG’s plans were to “be able to attract the space launch business on a grander scale [than NASA launches], wooing the communications-satellite corporations for a start,” wrote Oberg. Though Oberg included the skeptical reactions of scientists and others to the venture, an important cautionary note in the article ultimately meant more for the end of OTRAG: “By dipping into a political stew, ... OTRAG has unavoidably unleashed

a flood of repercussions. ... Western governments see [OTRAG’s staff] as a threat to national space programs. Russia views them as the perfect tool for a propaganda putsch.” Indeed OTRAG was undone by those jealous world powers. Political pressure, particularly from France and the Soviet Union, forced OTRAG to give up plans to use African nations as launch sites for inexpensive rockets. There are a lot of complicated politics behind the debacle, but it remains a good example of overbearing governments killing an entrepreneur who could do things cheaper and faster – and fairer, because OTRAG wanted to share its technology and access to space with poorer nations. Skip forward to today. Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic are not the only ones doing exciting things in this area, but they are arguably at the forefront of the commercialization of space. And for people who instinctively dislike the term “commercialization of space,” know that the most likely alternative is the “militarization of space.” We were reminded of this kind of opposition to private space travel when Virgin Galactic demonstrated its craft to reporters in California’s Mojave desert a couple years ago. By calling the craft the Virgin Space Ship Enterprise, Virgin does two things: it pays homage to Star Trek, which inspired generations of space and science fiction enthusiasts, and it emphasizes private enterprise. VSS Enterprise is a super-sleek vehicle that will take people off-planet to experience short periods of weightlessness for a reported $200,000 ticket price. There has been the expected criticism of these people who are paying a lot of money for a very short thrill ride, and the Financial Times’ John Gapper wrote that the project feels “more like a practical joke than a giant leap for mankind.” The hand-wringing over the ticket buyers is off-base. Every new technology or exploration relies on big-pocketed people, and in the space race it has usually been taxpayers. But as Gapper also notes, “the U.S. public finances are over-stretched and most Americans would prefer private sector involvement to hitching a lift with the Russians.” With Virgin Galactic and similar efforts, taxpayers aren’t picking up the bill for a small group of Navy pilots to get their shot at fame and immortality. Instead, a relatively small group of rich people are paying the big prices now to get the company off the ground. Like investors in any early-phase company, they put in a lot of money. Unlike investors in most early-phase companies, they will actually get something for their money. After that, so will we. And in this way, President Obama’s forced penny-pinching at the federal government could do more to spur human migration into space than if he had just funded NASA to the hilt. July 2011 • • Galaxis • 39

Reviewscreen k-20 image copyright Viz Pictures

The New, the Classic – and Some Undiscovered Gems

A Stylish Science-Fiction Surprise from Japan K-20: The Fiend with Twenty Faces By Robert Löhr Viz Pictures, 2010 DVD release 137 minutes $24.98


ometimes I don’t know what to expect from a movie before I see it. I go knowing that I’ll see something different – not just the latest Jennifer Aniston comedy or generic Hollywood actioner – but I don’t know much about a film’s story or background. I just go hoping it’ll prove to be a good experience. I went to see K-20: The Fiend with Twenty Faces (aka K-20: The Legend of the Mask) at least as much because I wanted to see a different type of movie as because I wanted to experience a new theater. Viz Cinema is located in San Francisco’s Japantown. (If you’re at all familiar with the famed anime/manga producer/distributor Viz Media, then you know Viz Cinema’s parentage.) I had not been aware that this new theater had opened until I stumbled across it in the online movie listings. I’m glad I went to test out the new theater with this movie. The underground theater is clean and comfortable, with plenty of good seats and fine presentation of the film. 40 • Galaxis • • July 2011

And the film itself? K-20 is not going to win any awards on the originality of its storyline – in that category, it’s fairly conventional. But the style and design and frankly the gusto with which it tells its story carries you through those moments where you’d lose all interest in a connect-the-dots-type Hollywood product. The moment the film started, with an aerial shot of a fictional Japanese capital city in 1949 – complete with a police airship dispatching small airplanes to monitor the city – I knew I’d like this film. I never wavered in that. The story is set in a timeline in which World War II never happened, so the old ruling classes continue to rule Japan. (Early on, we’re shown a headline declaring that the war was avoided by a peace treaty with the United States and the United Kingdom; we’ll not squabble here about the fact that Japan had been at war – and quite viciously so – in China for about a decade before the U.S. and UK got their fingers burned in the conflict. But whatever.) In this milieu, a masked thief named K-20 has become notorious for stealing valuable objects from the rich. When an innocent circus performer, Heikichi Endo (Takeshi Kaneshiro), is framed for the crimes, he must clear his name and find the real culprit. Hunting down the thief is a dashing baron

and his teenage junior detective assistant. The baron also happens to be engaged to a duchess who’s not sure she wants the pampered life of an aristocrat. Heikichi Endo is helped by a local band of small-time thieves to train as a master thief himself, the better to catch K-20 and clear his name. Most of the above description is no good for getting across to you the joy of watching this film. Because it’s often in the stunned expressions of the other characters to an unexpected exclamation from the duchess, or a sudden twist in the arsenal of the story tellers (the junior detectives caught me off-guard, and I was even more pleased that they didn’t over-use the device), that you realize you’re watching a film that was made to be enjoyed, not just consumed. If you’re like me, you’ll probably guess K-20’s real identity very early on. But again, that doesn’t take away the enjoyment or the suspense. Will Heikichi Endo be able to clear his name? Just what is the duchess up to? What’s going to happen to all those orphaned kids? It’s worth the ride to find out. One casting note: Heikichi Endo actor Takeshi Kaneshiro starred in the 2002 Japanese science fiction film Returner. That’s another film worth checking out.

Turk photo by carafe at en.wikipedia

Robert Löhr’s Pre-Steampunk Chess Playing Automaton True Science Fiction Novel The Secrets of the Chess Machine By Robert Löhr Penguin Press, 2007 (English translation) 352 pages $24.95


s you can tell from the headline, it is difficult to succinctly sum up Robert Löhr’s novel The Secrets of the Chess Machine (original title, Der Schachautomat, Piper Verlag, 2005). I purchased this English translation of the German novel about a chess-playing automaton when I found it in the science fiction section of a local bookstore. Set in 1770 and thereabouts, it tells the story of Wolfgang von Kempelen, a Hungarian knight in the world of Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, for whom he builds the titular machine. Kempelen goes on to showcase his creation across and beyond the empire, and he is hailed as a mechanical genius and a darling of the empress. Unknown to the admirers but suspected by a few, the automaton was a fraud. Built in humanoid form and seated at a cabinet with a chess game atop it, the Turk – so-called because of its turban and the mystery such a connection provided to the Austrians in the age of the Ottomans – had back doors and front drawers and more that could be opened to give the audience a peek inside, demonstrating that there wasn’t a human inside performing the automaton’s chess moves. But in fact there was a human inside, a dwarf who was able to remain unseen because of his small size and some false-backed drawer

wizardry that kept him hidden. Unknown to me until I was mostly finished reading the book is that it is based on a very true story. Von Kempelen really did construct the machine; he really did have a small person inside playing the chess matches; and he really did wow the public of late 18th-century imperial Europe. (A replica of the original Turk is pictured above; the original was destroyed by fire in 1854.) But, as Löhr writes in the author notes at the end of his book, there is a fair amount of the story that Löhr needed to fictionalize, including the sympathetic dwarf who is both von Kempelen’s aid and antagonist, as well as von Kempelen’s character, which Löhr admits deviates in the book from the known facts about the inventor and author. It is fascinating to follow von Kempelen’s little charade and to wonder how it would be greeted today. In the novel, he worries about a loss of his status should he be found out, and this provides much of the drama between him and his assistants. But Löhr explains in his own words that the dividing line between science and showmanship was a bit different in those days, and

“Is The Secrets of the Chess Machine science fiction? Historical fiction? Both? Neither?”

Above left: The Secrets of the Chess Machine. Above right: A recreation of the Turk, the real chess-playing machine. von Kempelen freely tramped across the line with ease. In our own modern times, we also have a complicated relationship with chicanery and spectacle. Technological marvels still earn people millions of dollars and years of fame, but then so do fake spectacles such as professional wrestling and public magicians. A writer recently noted the difference between the British and Americans when it came to showmen such as David Blaine, who likes to pull public stunts with his illusions. She argued that whereas Americans go all ga-ga over his tricks, the UK public reacted with mocking and hurled fruit when Blaine suspended himself over the Thames in a glass box without food. The difference, she said, was that the British know the difference between performance and selfpromotion. Is The Secrets of the Chess Machine science fiction? Historical fiction? Both? Neither? In the end, it doesn’t matter. If you love science fiction, you will likely enjoy both the mechanical wizardry in the book and the Enlightenment themes. If you like historical fiction, you’ll be well-served with the many real actors who appear in this novel. If you just like a good book, then you’re in for a treat. With a little translating luck, we’ll get more good books. This was Robert Löhr’s first book. He has since written two more: Das ErlkönigManöver and Das Hamlet-Komplott. Neither, as far as we can tell, is available yet in English, but we look forward to reading them when they are. July 2011 • • Galaxis • 41

Reviewscreen I

f you liked what you read in this issue’s Michio Kaku interview, then you will definitely want to pick up his newest best seller, Physics of the Future. Told in clear language and with the physicist’s trademark humor and occasional sciencefiction references, this book is a welcome factbased look into our future. It’s based on fact, not the science fiction Kaku and Galaxis love so much, and that’s what makes this book even more exciting. Kaku has not written a “what if ” book about possible technology and social changes; he has written about technology that is actually being designed and built and tested in labs around the world today. Each chapter examines a different topic, such as artificial intelligence, medicine, or space travel. Kaku explains where research is right now with each topic, and then he explores where we will be in 20, 50 and 90 years from now.

Next Issue E

ven before we completed the inaugural issue of Galaxis magazine, ideas began to form for what should be in the second issue. We’ll introduce you to some classic short science-fiction stories in our first step in publishing fiction. Plus we’ll look back at the heyday of The X-Files, Star Trek sequel series, and more. You can also look forward to more reviews of SF films, televi-

42 • Galaxis • • July 2011

This is an intelligent and accessible book that should be on every futurist’s and SF fan’s bookshelf, and it is a great gift for anybody who might shy away from a book with “physics” in the title but who might still be receptive to some positive news about our future together. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I Directed by David Yates Warner Home Video, 2011 146 minutes $35.99 (3-disc Blu-ray)


hen the second Harry Potter movie came out, one reviewer marveled at how young children would actually stay still for the entire long movie. Grateful parents across the country duly paraded their kids to the cineplexes to give themselves some quiet time. “Too much quiet time” has been a recurrent complaint about the latest Harry Potter film: The Deathly Hallows, Part I. Too much of the film, critics say, is taken up with our heroes camping in the wilderness and talking about how hopeless their quest is. But that’s not a bad thing;


sion shows, and new technology. On the international scene, we’ll explore the exciting days of German science fiction, from the pathbreaking work of Kurd Lasswitz, through the dark days of the interwar period, to the reformed works of the postwar years.

from the world of science, upcoming SF movie and television news, great color photos, and much more. Look for it all in the second exciting issue of Galaxis magazine. Galaxis #2: Coming in September 2011.

PLUS: Reports on exciting scientists, developments

Find us online at

the quiet times in movies have been devalued to the point where many directors forego all of the mood and character insight you get from a slower pace. As a result, the viewer misses out. This film, now out on Blu-ray and DVD, does a great job of deepening our connection to our three main heroes, Harry, Hermione, and Ron. We know that Part II will provide a lot of action in the film series’ climax. So thank you, director and writers, for giving us moments like Hermione and Harry dancing to an old radio tune. There’s plenty of action in this film, but the real payoff is giving us the deepening relationships and maturity we deserve after so many years spent watching our heroes battle basilisks and multi-headed dogs. The Weird World of Eerie Publications By Mike Howlett Feral House, 2010 340 pages $32.95


small publishing house that sometimes churned out 50 black-and-white magazines in a single month, Eerie Publications was either one of the most innovative publishers in America or it was the king of exploitation. Take your pick. But if you were a young SF fan in the late 1970s, chances are you saw and maybe even bought some of the crude titles it produced: Space Wars, Star Battles, Star Warp, Space Trek, Space Encounters. There were ongoing titles and one-shots that tried to take advantage of every trend in science fiction at the time. Eerie didn’t just focus on science fiction and horror, though. Over several decades, it published magazines on everything from comics to sex to politics to cowboys to, well, name a topic and then page through this book to see if Eerie didn’t produce at least one magazine covering it. Weird World also gives us the behind-thescenes tales of life in Eerie’s offices, which was apparently even weirder than many of its magazines. This is an entertaining and enlightening look back at a time and place in publishing that touched many fans. And their pocketbooks.

Andromeda PHOTO: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/J. Fritz, U. Gent; ESA/XMM-Newton/EPIC/W. Pietsch, MPE

Physics of the Future By Michio Kaku Doubleday, 2011 389 pages $28.95

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