Friday, March 19, 2010

A Chip Off the Old Block

Some guys may recall an unspoken bond between them and their Dads while watching television sports together - without ever discussing the games before or afterward. I think I experienced this same bond around my Dad's impeccable taste in science fiction material. I used to sit in front of the bed while he kicked back on top and watched the original Star Trek episodes for the first time together. It was with my Dad that I saw Soylent Green and marveled at its prescient themes long before it re-entered the pop culture consciousness. I watched the original Planet of the Apes with him and found the philosophical discussions more interesting than the ape suits. Many of the obscure vintage sci-fi films that I began to search out as an adult were the ones that he exposed me to, such as Phase IV, Quatermass and The Pit, John Pertwee episodes of Dr. Who, Logan's Run, and others that I still have not yet been able to identify. They often terrified and often fascinated me and are worthy of their own later entries in this blog. It's weird that we never talked about them, yet it remains a mysteriously shared experience.

My father was a certified "Techie", a name granted to him by my sister and others around our Pasadena, CA community because he did his graduate work at Caltech. Our home was only a block away from the campus and I grew up learning of the local Caltech lore from the many Tech-ers I knew (that was the name they gave themselves). In fact, our next door neighbor, Richard Dickerson, was a Caltech professor himself with five kids that used to babysit us now and then, and one of them was my vocal coach for a season. But I digress...

The point is that my Dad was a really smart dude and I believe he was attracted to material, both fictional and non, that was intellectually stimulating. I think I inherited that attraction along with a love for the evidence of real creativity - in visual form, concept, or storytelling. My father and I both studied Physics and that is something we did have many discussions on, especially in later years. Being grounded in science, I have always found more satisfaction in fiction that could convince me that it might be real - that the laws of Physics and of realistic possibility were not violated but were actually being appropriated in some new way. This, I believe, is part of the essence of what makes science fiction such a draw for many fans. It's a strange combination of escapist fantasy grounded in real world possibilities. And along with that, good sci-fi has an element of philosophy - something that makes you think or see things in a different way.

My father passed on just over 2 years ago, but much of him lives on in his 7 children. I guess I'm the one to carry on this part of him to the next generation. I've started a DVD collection, and I wonder if my 2-1/2 year old boy will one day see what I saw in some of these old crazy movies.

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