Up the Walls of the World

I am continuing my way through old science fiction as I look to lower the number of books I own to what fits on existing shelves (this will take forever).  Up the Walls of the World is by James Tiptree, Jr. which is a pseudonym for Alice Bradley Sheldon.  According to Wikipedia, Tiptree’s true identity (and sex) was revealed in 1977.  Up the Walls of the World, by James Tiptree, Jr.  was published in 1978 and the author’s photo is on the back of the dust jacket.  Presumably the pen name was retained to attract existing fans.

The most interesting thing about this book is how much a central concept has in common with the primary plot of Star Trek the Motion Picture.  An extremely large space faring entity absorbs a Voyager spacecraft and poses a threat to life.  The female lead merges with the entity as part of the solution.

Another similarity is the book seems to go on and on in an effort to describe the entity with the same effect as the endless trip through V’ger in the movie.  That effect being the reader’s (viewer’s) thought “Can we get on with this?”.

The movie is just one year after the book so clearly the movie did not steal the plot directly.  Over at IMDB, the trivia on the movie includes:

Writers who contributed ideas or draft scripts in 1975-77 included Gene Roddenberry, Jon Povill, Robert Silverberg, John D.F. Black, Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, and Ray Bradbury.

One might posit that one or more of these authors knew Tiptree and was made aware of the outline of her current work.  But Tiptree’s identity was unknown and Silverberg and Ellison were both on the record with their belief that Tiptree was a man.  Perhaps Up the Walls of the World was an expansion of an earlier short work by Tiptree.

Other than the Star Trek “connection”, Up the Wall of the World is not all that interesting.

What Presidents Demonstrate

This is from Four Brands of Impossible by Norman Kagan,  a short story of science fiction copyright 1964 by Mercury Press, Inc.:

“…Did you know we have a top-secret Congressional Project to automate the presidency?  Fact.  The chairman of the Department of Cybernetics told me the system philosophy behind it:  Roosevelt showed that someone could be President as long as he liked.  Truman proved that anyone could be President.  Eisenhower demonstrated that you don’t really need a President.  And Kennedy was further proof that it’s dangerous to be a human President.   So we’re working out a way to automate the office.”

Leaving aside the question of why those demonstrations lead to the conclusion that the office should be automated, if Mr. Kagan was writing today, I wonder how this would change.  FDR still stands as the best evidence that someone could be President as long as he liked, though I suspect there are many who feel Reagan could have held the office as long as he wanted if not for the constitutional limit.

That anyone could be President might have been more recently shown by Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

That we don’t really need a President by Ford perhaps, or maybe Reagan’s second term?

That it is dangerous to be President?  Reagan is the only President to be shot since Kennedy.

So, really, if the paragraph was written today, Reagan could be used to fulfill all of the categories!!

2001

The recent Academy Awards reminded me of a bit of trivia that I’ve had rolling around in my head for many, many years.

I have been a big fan of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey since I saw it in the theater in 1968 when I was 13 years old.  I believe I managed to see it in the theater two or three times, an unprecedented event for me (and has rarely, if ever,  happened since).

In 1970 the book The Making of Kubrick’s 2001 came out.  I bought it promptly.  There are a couple of pages devoted to the efforts required to make men look like ape for the opening sequence of the movie.    At the end is a quote from Arthur C. Clarke: “2001 did not win the Academy Award for makeup because judges may not have realized apes were actors.”    For a few decades I remembered that with the small addition that the award for make-up went to Planet of the Apes.    It turns out that the Best Makeup category did not exist until 1981.

But Planet of the Apes “was given a Special Honorary Oscar for John Chambers’ ground-breaking, outstanding makeup.”   Perhaps this is what Clarke was referencing.

For those who may not remember what 2001’s apes looked like (the baby apes are real):

That makeup leaves the apes in Planet of the Apes looking very bad indeed.

Another bit of trivia that I learned from The Making of… is that  “in the middle of Absolutely Nowhere, Africa, the 2001 car ran into an oncoming truck and two of the photographers were injured.”  I have cited this in conversation once or twice in my life when someone observed that a certain driver was safe because there was no traffic where he or she was driving.  The car of photographers was in Africa taking pics to use for the backgrounds of the ape sequence that was filmed in the studio in England.