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!!


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.