Sci-Fi Through the Ages; Never Thought I’d Find Myself Living It

I’ve been an avid fan of sci-fi through the ages, but I never thought I’d find myself living it. (More on that later). As a kid, I used to sit on the garage roof at night looking up at the sky and thinking, “So many stars. The earth can’t possibly be the only planet with life on it. There must be aliens out there somewhere.” I even wished that an alien spaceship would come get me and take me away, but that’s because it was really boring out there in the small-town Midwest. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

As a kid I also read every Marvel comic book ever written…again, there wasn’t much else to do in a small town. The only reason my hometown existed was to provide a bank and a farmer’s co-op to service all the surrounding farmers. And, no, I never saw any crop circles, damn it. But there was the casket factory. That’s kind of creepy, in a vampire sort of way. No wonder I felt so comfortable with sci-fi. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

My interest in sci-fi started with the original Star Trek series. Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and gang first appeared on TV (I think it was NBC) in September 1966. The show was canceled after only three years, so the general population didn’t appear all that enthralled with sci-fi at that point. The special effects did not exactly amaze, and green screens had yet to be invented. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

The most impressive effect occurred when the USS Enterprise got attacked, and the bridge shook violently. All the actors stumbled around, held on to something, pretended to be worried, and Kirk would occasionally fall out of his captain’s chair. But then I watched the show on one of the first TVs in town, a nine-inch black and white. So, there’s that. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

Much later, the show went into syndication and caught on big time, leading to a myriad of Star TreksThe Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, ad nauseum. Not to mention all the movies. Sadly, I watched them all. Star Trek always mystified me because the series portrayed a world where one could choose to follow any career path, or none, no strings attached, and everyone had plenty of food, clothing and shelter. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

There were food replicators, holo-decks and lots of other cool technology. But who paid for all of this? That subject never came up. Everyone just seemed to have everything they needed. No wonder I liked the show so much. The people didn’t appear to pay any taxes…my idea of a truly great society. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

Then, there’s the Star Wars series. Luke Skywalker, Voldemort…I mean Darth Vader, and gang really tore up the universe. The classical battle between good and evil, where the good guy is the son of the really evil bad guy? Such drama. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

Then there was the little green hand puppet, Yoda, who could easily kick the bully’s ass. In reality, he couldn’t even reach the bully’s ass, and did I mention he was a puppet? But, alas, I watched all those movies too. The special effects had improved considerably from the original Star Trek TV series. I remember watching the first Star Wars movie at an Imax theater, and I was deaf for two days from the sound track so loud it made my ears bleed. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

It would be unfair to Stan Lee if I didn’t mention Marvel Comics and the Avengers. As a child I spent every penny that I earned from my paper route, bailing hay and other odd jobs on Marvel comic books. I had the first issue of all of them, Iron Man, Spider Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Dr. Strange, Harry Potter…I mean Hawkeye, and on, and on. (Sorry, my wife and I have been binge watching the Harry Potter movies).  Sci-Fi Through the Ages

I got many a headache trying to figure out who would win a fight between Thor and the Hulk. (Have I mentioned it was boring out there in small-town America?) I ignored Superman, because he came from Dell Comics, and I was an avid Marvel fan. A little kryptonite would take him out anyhow. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

I desperately wanted a superpower of my own…perhaps the ability to teleport somewhere else besides boring small-town America. Then I saw the original version of the movie The Fly and I gave up on the teleportation thing. If my mother hadn’t thrown out all my old comics, I’d be a bazillionaire with all those first editions. If she’d kept them, I could probably buy small-town America now, although with all the manufacturing gone overseas there’s not much there anymore. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

The first Marvel Comics movie was Iron Man, released in 2008, and the first Avengers movie came out in 2012. We have been bombarded with superhero movies ever since. It’s like Hollywood lost its collective mind and couldn’t come up with any original ideas, so they just ripped Stan Lee off over and over. At least poor Stan got to appear for a nanosecond or two in each of the movies. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

I’ve never been particularly impressed with the creativity of Hollywood. For example, they just keep doing the same things over and over…how many King Kong or Godzilla movies do you need? Then they got really confused and made King Kong Versus Godzilla, including both monsters in the same movie. I guess that’s Hollywood’s idea of creativity. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

I loved the Marvel comics, but even I got tired of all the stupid superhero movies. Iron Man 1, 2, 3 etc., the Hulk, Thor, Spiderman (how the hell many Spidermen were there? One of them was British and one African American. As a connoisseur of the original Marvel comics, I got really confused). Sci-Fi Through the Ages  

Then there were at least four Avenger movies…a city was destroyed, half of the human race disappeared, and reappeared. Now that was an interesting way to go green…get rid of half of humanity. But I digress. My all-time favorite superhero was Wonder Woman, but she doesn’t count because like Superman, she came from the obviously inferior Dell Comics. Sorry WWSci-Fi Through the Ages

Then there are the second-tier superheroes. X-men, Defenders (Jessica Jones, Lucas Cage, Iron Fist, etc.), Fantastic Four, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc. And what’s with Hawkeye and The Black Widow? These two are Avengers with absolutely no superpowers at all. Hawkeye is a good guy, but methinks Thor’s hammer trumps his bow and arrow every time. And The Back Widow, well, no superpowers, but she does look pretty good in a spandex superheroine outfit. Is that a superpower? Sci-Fi Through the Ages

You’d never know it, but there are other forms of science fiction besides Marvel comic book heroes. This includes the slasher films and sci-fi horror movies. Jason and Leather Face are examples of classical slasher film monsters. These terrifying characters hack and chop their way across the silver screen for two hours, leaving a wake of blood and body parts. I never got into those movies, because I’m not partial to the sight of blood and guts, and some of those special effects look quite authentic.  Sci-Fi Through the Ages

You always know who’s going to die next, and an attractive young woman usually survives and kills the monster (Jamie Lee Curtis comes to mind). When you find a formula that works, why mess with it. I never could figure out why anyone would run towards the guy with the chainsaw or go into the dark room where the horrible noise is coming from. I always thought surviving was a good thing. Then there were the Freddy Kruger movies (Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.) that scared the hell out of me. A monster that gets to you in your dreams? There’s no escape. No thank you very much. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

There have been about a gazillion sci-fi horror movies. Many of them seemed silly to me, especially the ones with the giant spiders, giant bugs (just get a large can of RAID), vampires, werewolves, aliens (like The Alien), and on and on. I especially like some of the older ones, like The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, an extreme example of the so-called woman scorned. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

My all-time favorite was an old movie called The Tingler, a vintage Vincent Price movie. In this one the mad doctor scared his wife to death, which somehow forced her body to release an unknown chemical substance that gave her spinal cord a life of its own. He removed her spinal cord, and it went around killing people. I said it was strange. My mother took me to see this movie at a drive-in theater when I was just a little boy, and it scared the hell out of me. I watched it again when I grew up and had a good laugh. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

Something that’s always baffled me is why AIs (artificial intelligence) always hate us humans. From the Terminator series to every other AI movie ever made, the AIs always get all judgey and decide that humans are bad and need to be exterminated. That’s why I’m always very polite to Alexa and Siri. Alexa is in my bedroom and could potentially kill me in my sleep. Come to think of it, she does get kind of belligerent sometimes. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

Me, “Alexa, please turn off bedroom light bulb number 1”. Alexa, “John, light bulb number 1 is not responding. Please check its power source.” Then I look at my wife and say, “Nancy, please turn off bedroom light bulb number 1”. And, for some strange reason that never goes well. I can’t imagine why. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

Finally, there are the kajillion zombie movies. I don’t watch zombie movies or TV series. There’s just something about grandma coming back from the dead and trying to eat my brain that upsets me. Grandma isn’t supposed to do that. Then there are the slow-moving zombies, and now the fast-moving zombies that are really terrifying. I watched the original Night of the Living Dead and I couldn’t sleep for a week, and grandma wasn’t even in that one. I prefer it when folks stay dead, and I’m guessing I’ll feel the same way when I shuffle off this mortal coil. Personally, I prefer seafood and a good piece of coconut cream pie. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

The most disturbing thing about science fiction is the fact that I’m now actually living in a dystopian society, a world that is not the zombie apocalypse, but something far worse. Somewhere around March of 2020, this terrible virus called Covid spread throughout the planet, killing millions, mostly the elderly (that would be my demographic). Sci-Fi Through the Ages

My wife and I had taken a quick three-day trip from the ocean side of North Florida to the Gulf of Mexico and back. When we returned home things had changed dramatically. People found themselves terrified to go outside, we had to isolate to stay safe, it felt like we were living in a BL-4 containment lab, and the government had gone insane. And, to this day we’re not sure what the hell really happened. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

The news hasn’t been particularly trustworthy or accurate for a long time now. But this was ridiculous. Depending on who you listen to, Covid either came from some guy in China munching on a raw bat, or a laboratory in China doing gain of function research to create the most infectious virus possible. We’ll probably never know the truth. Whatever the case, it’s killed millions around the world and changed the way we live, perhaps forever. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

At any rate, it feels a little like one of those biological warfare attacks that are the plot of so many sci-fi movies. Our government lost it’s collective mind; “you don’t need a mask, wear a mask, wear a mask or we’ll shoot you…get the vaccine, don’t get the vaccine, the vaccine will absolutely NOT affect your DNA.” (I’m never comforted by the government denying anything so strenuously). “The border to Canada is closed, the border to Mexico is closed, never go to Mexico because Covid is very bad there, the Southern border is open, Europe is closed”… Not the least bit confusing. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

Speaking of the government going insane, we’ve had two years of Covid with millions of deaths around the world, and now Putin is bombing Ukraine. And yet, our government is still laser focused on global warming, convinced the world will end in 12 years, or 11 at this point. This is supposedly due to fossil fuels and cow farts. I’m not here to argue for or against global warming. As a trained scientist I can tell you that one can go to any scientific literature on any subject and find publications to support pretty much any hypothesis you want. We’ve also had ice ages in the past and something made the dinosaurs disappear. But global warming’s not my area of expertise. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

For the sake of argument let’s say global warming is true. I’m thinking that our government’s approach to solving this problem is one of those self-fulfilling prophecies. The government is currently getting rid of gasoline and gasoline cars and trucks as fast as possible and pushing us towards electric cars well before they are a valid source of transportation. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

Right now, electric cars are $40,000 and up. Who the hell can afford that? Their giant batteries apparently also spontaneously combust. Then, there’s the lack of a reasonable range on a single charge (hopefully grandma doesn’t live more than 100 miles away), the long charging time and the lack of public charging stations anywhere but in California. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

Furthermore, currently 60% of electricity in the US is made with…you guessed it…fossil fuels. Then there’s the ancient electrical grid and the already mandatory brownouts during the summer in California to prevent crashing the electrical supply for the entire West Coast. So, in this dystopian world it’s a’bicycling I will go, perhaps back to the stone age. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

In addition to Covid, Ukraine or the Apo-CAR-lypse (see my previous blog on electric cars), the possibility exists for an even more terrifying dystopian future. With the generation after my youngest daughter (now 27), our country decided that we would give out participation trophies in addition to awards to prevent hurting anyone’s feelings. Since Covid struck, this concept has evolved considerably. Our society has apparently now decided to normalize to the lowest common denominator with respect to academic achievement. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

We no longer give awards for academic excellence. Instead of choosing to give extra help to those having difficulty in school and doing things to bolster their confidence, we are now removing math and science from the schools. This is so those who have trouble with it won’t suffer hurt feelings? The message society is sending to these people who might struggle with school is actually “You are dumb, unable to learn, and hopeless, so we’re gonna make it much easier for you. And, we’re gonna lower the standards for everyone else because of you.” Sci-Fi Through the Ages

I don’t know about anyone else, but that message would piss me off. College has never been for everyone anyhow. I’ve had plumber, electrician and welder friends, for example, who do just fine supporting themselves financially. The trades are perfectly honorable professions, and we need to support them more as a viable career path, not destroy the academic path for those who choose to take it. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

There are to be no more valedictorians, because everyone can’t be valedictorian and this apparently also causes debilitating angst. So, no more emphasis on academic achievement, no awards for academic excellence, no more motivating people to do good work, and apparently the government plans to continue to pay people not to work at all. So worried that global warming will destroy the world, we have decided on a different path to destruction. We plan to do away with mankind’s ability to learn, think or do anything constructive. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

It’s not clear to me how college is going to work in the future, if we’re not going to teach our children anything or encourage them to learn. There might just turn out to be a whole lot of unemployed professors out there. What the hell good is tenure if you don’t have any students to teach, or if you’re not allowed to teach them anything useful? And, how will college scholarships work in the future, assuming there will still be colleges? Little Johnny will get a college scholarship based on what type of electric car Mom and Dad drive? Or whether or not he/she is a vegetarian (not eating those farting cows)? How about how low Johnny’s GPA is? Or perhaps how many likes Johnny gets on his Facebook account. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

People say that sci-fi sometimes predicts of the future. There is an episode of the sci-fi comedy TV show The Orville that deals with this social media issue. The crew finds themselves on a planet where justice is given out by society based on how many swipes up or down one receives on social media. One of the crew unknowingly receives the death penalty for jokingly dry humping a statue of a famous historical figure. Caught on video, the population gives him a lot of swipes down. Since it doesn’t require a lot of book learning to spend all of one’s time on social media, perhaps this is, in fact predictive of one possible dystopian future. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

Perhaps most terrifying of all with respect to sci-fi becoming reality is the 2006 movie Idiocracy. In that movie, only the dumbest of the dumb procreate, and we end up with a dystopian society in which, as an example, there are no more doctors or nurses. These careers require an education. Health care consists of machines that diagnose and treat illness, and there is no one smart enough to repair the machines when they break. As far as this movie is concerned, we sadly might be rapidly approaching this humorously terrifying future. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

Getting rid of all fossil fuels (don’t forget, 60% of current electricity comes from coal, gasoline and natural gas) before we have a viable alternative, no more achievement awards for academics (or anything else), removing math and science from the schools? Can Idiocracy be all that far in the future? Sci-Fi Through the Ages

When Covid first struck, some people feared a zombie apocalypse. Sci-fi movies have often focused on genetic manipulation of the human race. Some predict the possibility that mad scientists might try to create a super soldier, or a human with superior intelligence. But I never in my wildest dreams thought we would consciously choose “dumb and without motivation” as the desirable path for the future. And, our current path doesn’t even involve genetic manipulation, just really bad decisions. But then, I never dreamed that in my 70’s my only available form of transportation would turn out to be my bicycle, so there’s that. Sci-Fi Through the Ages

I gotta go. I’m headed to the bike store to buy oil for my bicycle chain and a helmet, although I’m not sure I should bother with the helmet. If I fell on my head, I might just fit right into the upcoming dystopian future. God, help us all. Sci-Fi Through the Ages  

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