Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Seattle's New S.F. Museum & Hall of Fame

Well the wraps came off Paul Allen's much anticipated Science Fiction Museum (SFM) (aka The Science Fiction Experience) when it opened tonight to give card carrying members a sneak preview. Well, they would be card carrying if the SFM had given anyone cards. FWIW, someone already had a website named ScienceFictionMuseum.com, and somebody is camped on SFM.com, so Allen borrowed part of the title from his Experience Music Project (EMP) in the same building for a domain name.

Since I had ponied up the cash for the Terran category membership, I had the opportunity to get the tour. Frankly, I was disappointed.

The SFM is shoehorned into some space previously occupied by part of the aforementioned EMP. If you have ever seen the exceptionally ugly EMP building, it is very weirdly shaped. As a result, the exhibits in the SFM occupy two oddly shaped nooks on two different levels.

The content is a mixed bag. Most of it consists of glass showcases filled with books that might have come off of my own shelves, old movie props, and some posters. The Las Vegas Star Trek Experience (SFE) (there is that Experience name again) does a better job of this. Not to mention the SFEs killer interactive rides and effects.

The SFM literature mentions a restaurant. It was not open, but the hors d'oeuvres they were serving were pretty lame. I went to dinner afterwards.

There is a Hall of Fame display highlighting famous authors, but IMHO the list is too short. Many important writers have been overlooked, including Larry Niven, Clifford Simak, Fletcher Pratt, C.S. Lewis, Cordwainer Smith, and the great H. Beam Piper to name a few.

The SFM has a (small) display of SF art, notably two pieces by Chesley Bonestell, one of which is unattributed. I hope they sell prints in the (yet unopened) gift shop. They don't even mention many other major artists, such as Frank Frazetta, Frank Kelly Freas, Boris Vallejo, Vincent Di Fate, etc.

The best part of the museum are the holograms. One displays a beachball sized planet rotating in a tank. Different planets from SF literature can be selected for display. The real prize though is the "Spacedock" display, or as I dubbed it: "The Holographic Trivia Tank". It has an eclectic series of spacecraft coming and going, including the Enterprise-A, New York City in a spindizzy field, an Imperial Star Destroyer (accompanied by a Tie Fighter, with a X-Wing Fighter too), Flash Gordon's Spaceship and the Planet Express Ship from Futurama. But again, major ships are missing, such as the agro ship from Silent Running, the Battlestar Galactica, and the Jupiter 2 from Lost in Space to name a few. At least, I didn't catch them. There were also quite a few I couldn't identify, but with the crowd that was there I only spent a few minutes watching the tank.

Speaking of the crowd, it was kind of interesting. I would guess that the median age was about 35. At least half the attendees were women. Maybe 5% were in some sort of costume, many of which I couldn't identify. A 45-ish 6'4" tall man dressed as a Starfleet command officer (STNG) struck me as kind of lame. Or sad. At least I didn't see any badly done faux Kilingon foreheads. The woman dressed in an excellent Lewis Carroll Queen of Hearts costume just left me puzzled.

Overall, I'd grade it as a C+. I do plan to go back to look more closely, but all-in-all it's too small, with too many relatively mediocre static displays. Still, maybe its the start for something better to come.


At 4:19 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

I'm the guy who posted the review on /., and overall, I'd have to say I agree with you. I think once the crowds clear out (which by my estimate should only take about 3 - 4 weeks at most), us "Terrans" will get a chance to look over some of the more interesting exhibits in greater detail.

Also, when I spoke to one of the museum staff, they mentioned that some of the exhibit items will be swapped out for new things on occasion, and hopefully some of the more dreadful features (such as the extremely lame "Experimental Societies" exhibit) will undergo a serious revamp.

I'm also hoping the museum will begin doing some additional programming; lectures, readings and the like, that will provide something more substantial than just a fancy way for Paul to store some of his stuff.

BTW, I notice the website has undergone a MAJOR renovation...


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