ON EXHIBIT: “It Came From Schenectady” @ the Mabee Farm, 3/22/15
Review and photographs by Stanley A. Johnson
The Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction, a place know for looking deep into the area’s past, was visited by interstellar travelers of the imagination.
“It Came From Schenectady: Science Fiction in the Capital Region”, an exhibit of science fiction memorabilia, including some with local ties, was launched with a lecture and reading by Barry Longyear, author of the short story collection “It Came From Schenectady.”
Longyear read the short story “Dreams” from the collection with the local connection. The prior evening (Saturday, March 21) he had appeared at Proctors in Schenectady for the ongoing film series that bears the name of his book for screenings of “Forbidden Planet” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”
The title, Longyear explained, came from an answer that Isaac Asimov used to give when asked “Where do you get your ideas?”
Longyear’s most famous book, “Enemy Mine,” was a Nebula and Hugo Award winner that inspired a movie starring Dennis Quaid and Lou Gossett, Jr. Unfortunately for the author, the second half of the movie was completely changed, so that it had little to do with his book. “Someday they will make a movie of ‘Enemy Mine,'” he said.
Recently, Longyear completed training as a private investigator and is now involved in writing mystery stories, including his latest book, “The Hangman’s Son.”
The science fiction exhibit at the Mabee Farm includes many rare and first edition appearances of classic science fiction stories such as “The Mountains of Madness” by H.P. Lovecraft in Astounding Stories and “Dune” by Frank Herbert in Analog magazines.
Original art from these magazines, such as “The Elemental” by artist Jack Gaughan, which appeared on the cover of Analog Science Fiction and Fact in December 1984, was hanging in the exhibit, as were large-scale reproductions of other books, movie posters and comics, including Spiderman.
The exhibit also included some models and action figures from “Star Trek” and “Star Wars,” which seemed to co-exist nicely in this universe. There were several costumes displayed, including one from “Star Trek.” But one real Apollo EMU spacesuit, on loan from NASA, was also part of the exhibit, as well as a costume replica that you can try on yourself.
The hands-on part of the exhibit also included a typewriter similar to one that Kurt Vonnegut used in creating some of his books. Vonnegut, who lived in Alplaus and worked at General Electric in the late 1940s, was represented by a first edition of “Player Piano” and a carbon copy of a press release he wrote while working at GE.
“Player Piano,” which appeared as a paperback under the name “Utopia 14,” was one of several of Vonnegut’s books that drew from or referenced the Electric City. Another story, “A Deer in the Works,” in the collection “Welcome To The Monkey House,” gives a particularly vivid description of life and work at the giant plant in those days.
A talk on Kurt Vonnegut’s time in Schenectady will be presented at Mabee Farm at 2pm on Saturday, April 11 by Dr. K.A. Laity. Another program, “Science Fiction in Hollywood and the 1950s,” will be presented by Dr. Rob Edelman at 2pm on Saturday, May 9.
“It Came From Schenectady: Science Fiction in the Capital Region” will remain on exhibit through Saturday, September 12. Admission to the Mabee Farm Historic Site at 1100 Main Street in Rotterdam Junction on Route 5S is $5. The museum is open Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm and most Saturdays from 9am-2pm.