I am so jealous of everyone that managed to get to go to Dragon*Con
this year. (Dragon*Con: The only convention big enough to warrant
a star in the middle of its name.). Due to financial variances,
I haven’t been able to get there since 2003, and I think I might
be starting to enter withdrawal. However, Labor Day Weekend
was still quite enjoyable and geek-related for me, thanks to
some very good friends in Seattle — a great couple that
I met, coincidentally enough, at Dragon*Con.
Seattle is a great city, and my annual trip is usually a highlight
of the year. It rains a bit much, but the climate’s nice, the
bay is beautiful, it has serious coffee and is home of the Space
Needle, something that everyone should see. But that’s not what
I’m writing about today. Nestled near the base of the Needle
is another place that all genre fans should make their way to
once in their lives. Inside the unique Frank Gehry building,
sharing space with the Experience Music Project, is The
Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. For a mere thirteen
bucks, you can get a look at some of the coolest stuff on earth.
When you walk in, you immediately know you’re in for something
special. There are replicas of the United Planets Cruiser C-57D
from Forbidden Planet, the Martian craft from the 1953
War of the Worlds, and a life-size Gort from The Day
the Earth Stood Still. There are mini-Gorts for sale in
the gift shop — and one now sits on my computer desk —
as well as movie posters and other cool swag. Sadly, their shirts
don’t really come in “big geek” sizes. There’s also a display
about Spaceship One, winner of the X Prize. This is all before
you even get in the museum proper!
Once you do get inside, it's enough to send most geeks into
an overdrive of ecstasy. I lost track of how many times I shouted
out “Oh, cool!” and “Hey Lance, come check this out!”
The museum is divided into five sizable sections: Homeworld,
Fantastic Voyages, Brave New Worlds, THEM!
and the Hall of Fame itself.
Each section is stuffed full great exhibits. Beside each piece
is a card explaining what the item is, its importance, and how
the museum received it. Each section has a set of permanent
items and a few bits that go with an ever-changing featured
exhibit, which at the moment is The Changing Face of Mars.
and the Hall of Fame
Homeworld covers the basics of science fiction, with little
essays about the roots of the genre and why it’s important to
our culture. They have bits on early fandom and the first conventions,
including a looping video with interviews of George Takei, Ray
Bradbury, and Uncle Forrey, AKA Forrest J. Ackerman, who is
considered the grandfather of fandom.
In the exhibit section they have Kirk’s chair, Uhura’s uniform,
and costumes from Blade Runner including Sean Young’s
sexy black dress and Zhora’s rain slicker. The have the actual
Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, one of the saucers from Earth
vs. the Flying Saucers and the model Capitol building it
crashed into. There are also tons of first edition books, magazines,
letters by various authors and programs from some of the early
conventions. It’s a great look at the beginning of the genre.
The Hall of Fame proper is in this area, and is a large wall
covered with etched glass blocks. On each block is a portrait
of the member and a quote. There are also several touch screen
panels that let you pull up a full biography of the members.
They have a pretty good group in there; Asimov, Vance, Phillip
K. Dick, Sturgeon, Wells, Heinlein, Verne, Bester and more.
The Hall was started in 1966, every year they induct four more
people, and this Museum is the Hall’s permanent home. It’s a
great tribute to the legends of the genre.
Fantastic Voyages and Brave New Worlds
From here, you head downstairs past some classic movie posters
and into the rest of the exhibits. The Fantastic Voyages section
is all about the cool tech that gets us out there, and the various
theres that we are headed to. In other words, it's
full of all kind of cool props. There are helmets ranging from
Vader’s black hat to a 1930s Buck Rogers helmet to the
one worn by Qarlo in the Terminator-inspiring
Outer Limits episode “Soldier,” written by man-god Harlan
Ellison. There are also more classic books, magazines and
a ton of weapons.
They have more Bat’leths than you can shake a phaser at, a
ream of guns from Starship Troopers (perhaps because
no one else wanted them), sections of a real space suit, the
armor, helmet and pulse rifle used by Hicks in Aliens,
patches, ray guns and a complete set of the original run of
Hasbro Star Wars figures. I wonder how often they have
to clean the drool off of the glass in this place, anyway?
There’s also a huge screen that looks like you’re gazing out
of a spacedock view port, and a loop of a huge number of spaceships
— the Planet Express ship to the Close Encounters
mothership, a Star Destroyer, and the Red Dwarf fly
by. On several panels in front of the display, you can pull
up a datafile on each vessel that gives the specs of the ship
and where it came from. This can easily suck you in for a long
Next up is Brave New World, which covers all the different
futures that various science fiction creators have come up with,
from the utopia of The Jetsons to the dystopia of Fahrenheit
451. They have a Big Brother poster whose eyes follow you
no matter where you go. It’s subtly creepy. They also have the
Cornelius, Dr. Zaius and Taylor costumes from Planet of the
Apes, a first edition of A Canticle for Liebowitz,
and the costumes worn by G’Kar, Delenn, and Londo.
In the corner of the exhibit, a huge window runs a loop as
if you were looking out onto some of these future worlds. On
a side monitor they have running a little documentary about
the world being shown,. It is cool looking out into the vista
from Blade Runner and hearing Ridley Scott discuss its
THEM! is all about the nonhumans of the genre, from BEMs to
robots. On the bot side they have a full size Robocop suit,
a T-800 endoskeleton, Robbie the Robot, B9 (Lost in Space),
an old-school Cylon, R2-D2, and scariest of all: Twiki. The
coolest part is that both Robbie and B9 talk, and seem to be
having some kind of bizarre conversation.
On the alien side, they have a Predator head, one of the cocoons
from, well, Cocoon, a spot where you can listen to the
Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast, and an egg
and facehugger from Alien. This leads me to the biggest
piece in the place: From Aliens, they have the full-size
alien queen. Having your face about eight inches from her maw
is an amazing feeling, even with the glass between you and her.
Sitting off to the left of her majesty is a little “baggage
claim” area (because the aliens are arriving for a visit, don’t
you know) and in there is the power loader that Ripley drove
to fight the alien queen. After seeing it, all I have to say
is that Ms. Weaver is a tiny woman. Spread around in front of
it are various other bits, including a box of Tribbles and one
of the stop-motion Martians from Mars Attacks. I really
wanted to take him home, but he was too well secured.
All in all, the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame is
someplace that any science fiction fan worth his or her salt
should find a way to visit at least once. I've only listed the
highlights, and you can easily spen a very long afternoon exploring
everything. Afterwards, you can top off the visit by heading
up in the Space Needle for a great view of the area. The only
real downside of the place is they don’t allow any cameras inside,
so you just have to rely on your memory and the gift shop for
So while it might not have the teaming throngs of costumed
geeks of Dragon*Con, or the panels, or a massive dealer’s room,
I think I managed to be just as geeky as anyone who was at the
con. They only thing geekier I could have done would have been
to go to the museum in costume. I might just
do that on my next visit out.