Comte writes "About three hundred charter members, local sci-fi cognoscenti and assorted geeks got a sneak peek last night of Paul Allen's $22 mm Science Fiction Museum prior to its official grand opening this Friday." Comte peeked, and contributes his impressions of the museum -- read on below to see what it's like. If you're in Seattle with a few hours, he says it's worth dropping in. (The rest of the text is his.)
The Museum, incorporated into Allen's "Experience Music Project" in the Frank Gehry-designed "Blob" at the foot of the Space Needle is divided into several sections, with "Homeworld" taking up the bulk of the mid-level. This exhibit includes "The Sci-Fi Hall Of Fame," along with a nifty timeline of s/f related events from history; a display system that projects stunning 3-D representations of planets onto a globular surface; "Not So Weird Science," focusing on how fiction has influenced scientific and technological innovation; and my personal favorite, "The Science Fiction Community," displaying examples of fan-fic, 'zines, and memorabilia that will have the most rabid s/f geek drooling in admiration: the legendary Forrest J. Ackerman's first published letter to Amazing Stories back in the 1930's (Ackerman is listed as a member of SFM's Advisary Board, along with other notables such as Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury & Greg Bear, just to name a few), a first-draft manuscript by Theodore Sturgeon, Ellison's Smith Corona manual typewriter, a signed, first-edition copy of Aldus Huxley's "Brave New World," the first Hugo Award presented to Ackerman in 1953, and other juicy items (many of which presumably come from Ackerman's personal collection).
One floor down are the other exhibits. "Fantastic Voyages" includes the much anticipated "Space Dock," a virtual representation of famous sci-fi spaceships (although a number of notable examples are missing: there's no TV Jupiter II, none of the ships from the "Alien" series, only one example from the "Star Trek" franchise, and no "Liberator," Eagles or TARDIS -- the Brits being generally underrepresented throughout the Museum), as well as the bulk of the prop and costume displays. Although this area tends to be rather heavy on TV/film memorabilia, there are still some choice items here: a model of the U.S. Capital dome used by Ray Harryhausen in "Earth Versus The Flying Saucers," original models from "Land Of The Giants," "Alien," "Close Encounters," the TV "Buck Rogers," "ET," and "Trek," along with a literal arsenal of weapons, including original phasers, a LIS blaster from Season One, a crossbow used by Jane Fonda in "Barbarella," and an original 1930's-era raygun from the Buck Rogers serials, among many others.
This is followed by perhaps the most disappointing section, "Brave New Worlds," encompassing the "Cities of Tomorrow" display, a CGI-driven exhibit similar to "Space Dock," but which only shows environments from three sources: a rather whimsical view of life in the 4th millenium courtesy of "The Jetson's," Ridley Scott's 21st-Century Los Angeles from "Blade Runner" (look for Dolly The Sheep on one of the rooftops!), and depictions from "The Matrix." This is followed by "Experimental Societies," basically just a display of the usual genre literature, and "Out Of The Ashes," currently limited to a few costume pieces from the 1968 "Planet Of The Apes."
The final section: "Them!" is pretty much what you'd expect -- a representation of aliens exclusively from TV/film media. The Queen Alien is pretty impressive up close, and there's a funny interplay set up between "Robbie The Robot" and "LIS's" B-9 using cleverly interspliced voice clips. At the end is a small gallery of sci-fi artwork, mostly inconsequential book-cover art, but with several pieces from acknowledged masters such as Chesley Bonestell, Frank R. Paul, and the real treat -- practically the entire collection of artwork produced by Fred Freeman and Rolf Klep for Werner von Braun's 1953 "Colliers" magazine series.
Overall, I'd say if you're interested in seeing a pretty good collection of items that encompasses more than just a "Planet Hollywood" style display of film memorabilia, then this is probably worth the $12.95 admission if you're in the neighborhood, particularly if you have at least two hours to spend going through the interactive exhibits. I'm not totally convinced it's worth the $40 to cough up for the annual membership, however, in speaking with one of the Museum staff, I was informed that some of the exhibits will change over time, with new items from Allen's extensive collection being swapped in and out. Otherwise, most of the displays are considered "permanent," although it seems pretty clear at least some of them can be replaced -- and in the case of "Brave New Worlds," probably should.
Photography is prohibited in the Museum (and the lighting level was too low for me to sneak any decent shots with my Zire 71), but if you want to take a gander at some press snaps of the exhibits, check out the Seattle Times "Inside" section.
Thanks to comte for the report.