Between Dimensions is a continuing column about science-fiction and other unearthly matters written by Curt Dwyer.
I had always suspected I was just a step off the main path. The day I found the list confirmed it. Browsing Amazon’s science fiction community, I had drilled down to their top 10 dystopian novels from the last 50 years. I had read them all. No surprise there. But what did it really mean? I was lost in that familiar fugue when Film Junk surfaced. It was an opportunity to review sf movies as well as be editor-at-large on world-tipping issues central to the science fiction genre. So here I am.
I came to science fiction through horror. As a three year old, I was often read bedtime stories. I don’t recall the stories. I do recall the reader. A silver metal strip â€“ bent roughly to approximate a nose â€“ ran down the middle of his face. It was held in place by an elaborate construction of white plaster bandages. Bordered by the bandages were the reader’s eyes â€“ circled by navy blue and deep black skin tones. The reader was my father. He was the goalie for the Georgetown Raiders. Before goalie masks. From these bedtime interludes, I emerged with two passions â€“ hockey and horror.
By the ’50s, my interest in horror had mutated into holocausts â€“ nuclear to be specific. I quickly realized the dire social consequences of displaying that particular obsession in high school. So I sublimated my fears into outer space just in time to take a seat at 1953’s War of the Worlds. In full color and eye-filling detail, the aliens relentlessly pursued Gene Barry and Ann Robinson across a rapidly disintegrating California. Even the atomic bomb (dropped by a flying wing â€“ how cool) couldn’t crack the alien’s protective shields. Humanity was ready for the dumpster.
I confess I never saw the ending coming. (Unfortunately, I’m much better at guessing endings now). As that gnarly, scarlet red, fever glistening alien doomed by earth’s viruses reached out of the saucer, I was amazed at how a great story, well-directed and persuasively shot could become totally real in your head.
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead was another matter. It was showing at the Camden Theatre in North London. Brilliant movie. A genre buster. I was immediately sucked in to the absolute terror. Trapped in a rickety old farm house. Surrounded by the sloppily resurrected dead looking for fresh flesh. Unfortunately the vast majority of the British audience was in stitches â€“ laughter not surgical â€“ from being totally incapable of going with the premise. That movie was another epiphany. Some concepts just don’t travel well. Only with 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead has it become apparent that the Brits now get it.
Besides working on a Vin Diesel perspective and an alienography (two different subjects actually), I am also trying to suss out what the pope is doing with an observatory. Paranoid in the extreme, I came upon this nexus of faith and cosmology when Brother Guy, the Pope’s astronomer spoke to the local astronomy club. (Yes we have a real observatory here called the Custer Institute. And an hour away is the world’s third largest collider. That’s no coincidence).
Brother Guy grabbed his audience’s attention with the front page of the National Enquirer â€“ the one with the devil’s face asteroid. He seemed mildly pissed (scratch any holy man and you’ll find attitude) that the Vatican hadn’t been credited for saving Earth from this particular menace. He then went on to share his real passion – analyzing the components of meteorites. I confess I left after the 6th metallurgical histogram. But not before I realized that this geek faÃ§ade was just cover for a much deeper purpose.