Medical minds routinely ask questions in their quest to determine what is. In the world of science fiction, imaginative writers routinely pose the bigger question, "What if??" The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame opened its cosmic, space-age doors in Seattle this summer in celebration of an incredible, thought provoking, and often mischaracterized genre.
Fun for Everyone
The best thing about this $20 million museum, sprung from the lifelong admiration (and wallet) of Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, is that you don't have to be a sci-fi nut to appreciate it. Science fiction inspires critical thinking about society, culture, history, and politics, often addressing crucial human issues through entertainment. It also promotes literacy, expanding the imaginations and often the very consciousness of its audience.
First things first:
If you absolutely must, you may gawk geekily at the chair from which Captain James T. Kirk commanded the starship Enterprise. You can even witness a witty robot tiff in the Metal or Mortal? section of Them!, a marvelous collection of monsters, aliens, and androids. True sci-fi fans will appreciate the interactive Hall of Fame panels of biographies, photos, and complete works listings of genre masters such as LeGuin, Harrison, and Shelley. Sure, there's a massive three-dimensional display comparing the engineering stats of spaceships like Centauri Primus from and the Millenium Falcon from , but the message of this museum is not obsession with eBay-worthy collectibles.
Rockets and Dreams
On a television monitor over the Martian landscape, Donna Shipley barely hides the twinkle in her eye when she reveals that reading Bradbury's tales of space travel as a child inspired her to become a rocket scientist. Shipley's 40 years in aerospace and civil engineering culminated in her management of NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a position she left after many years to become director of this museum.
Oddly, one of the most interesting exhibits is the least flashy. In the museum's Homeworld section, a large timeline charts the developmental eras of science fiction next to the context of the societies in which the works came about. It's fascinating to link great works of imagination to the industrial, cultural, engineering, and biological developments of the modern worldâ€” the post-war optimism of Clarke and Asimov's adventures of space travel, the harsh, street-influenced cyber revolution of the late 1980s embodied in dystopian movies like and , or the topical world issues in current culture like television's , the cartoon , or movies like and .
So, if you are in search of a brave new world, explore the universe of Seattle's Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. You will most definitely be lostâ€”not in space, but in thought.
The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame
At the Seattle Center, next to the Experience Music Project
877-SCI-FICT or 206-724-3428