We are in a time when it seems the geeks have inherited the Earth. And yet for all of the massively successful web sites, blogs, TV shows, and other media out there — those of us who cover the genre rather than create it — it seems there are some that have fallen on […]
SEATTLE – EMP Museum recently announced the 2013 inductees to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. New members include author J.R.R. Tolkien, musician/actor David Bowie, artist H.R. Giger, and writers Judith Merril and Joanna Russ. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame honors the lives, work, and ongoing legacies of the genres greatest creators. Founded in 1996, the Hall of Fame was relocated from the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the University of Kansas to its permanent home at EMP in 2004. Nominations are submitted by EMP members and the final inductees are chosen by a panel of award-winning authors, artists, editors, publishers, and film professionals.
David Bowie, British musician and actor
January 8, 1947–
Although Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy Award winner David Bowie is best known as a popular musician, significant aspects of his work have promoted science fiction and fantasy to the mainstream. His breakthrough 1969 single “Space Oddity,” which tells the story of an astronaut’s possibly tragic mission, was broadcast by the BBC during its coverage of the Apollo 11 launch and lunar landing. The song bridged the science-focused world of the space race, rock ‘n’ roll, and popular culture.
Bowie’s 1972 concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars tells the story of one of his numerous alter egos, Ziggy Stardust, a manifestation of an alien who brings a message of peace to Earth on the eve of its destruction. The 1974 album Diamond Dogs is heavily inspired by George Orwell’s novel 1984 and describes a post-apocalyptic world.
As an actor Bowie has often explored the genres of the fantastic with three of his biggest roles spanning science fiction, horror, and fantasy. In his first leading film role Bowie leveraged his cultivated androgyny in the creation of an otherworldly alien visitor for the 1976 adaptation of Walter Tevis’ novel The Man Who Fell to Earth. In The Hunger (1983) he portrayed a vampire’s consort seeking eternal life. In Labyrinth (1986) his portrayal of the Goblin King Jareth was a signature role. In addition, Bowie recorded five songs on the film’s soundtrack.
David Bowie’s work in music and on screen frequently delves into the questions surrounding the meaning of human existence and identity. As an artist, he constantly looks beyond music for inspiration and influence, drawing on literature, art, film, and fashion to create works that break the boundaries of both genre and medium.
H. R. Giger, Swiss designer, painter, and sculptor
February 5, 1940–
Born in Chur, Switzerland, Hans Rudolf Giger began his artistic career studying architecture and industrial design at the School of Applied Arts in Zurich. Fascinated at a young age by all things macabre, his artwork showcases his interest in both human anatomy and machinery. Working as a designer, painter, and sculptor, Giger has had more than twenty books published of his artwork. Perhaps best known among these is Necronomicon (1977). This book convinced director Ridley Scott to entrust Giger with the creature design for his award-winning 1978 film Alien. Adding to its realism, Giger planned out the entire life cycle of the parasitic and adaptable creature featured in Alien, a film which has gone on to spawn numerous sequels and prequels in film and in print.
In 1998 a museum dedicated to H. R. Giger opened in Gruyere Switzerland. The museum serves to showcase both Giger’s own work as well as his extensive personal art collection. Giger’s work has been exhibited internationally in museums such as the Museum Halle Saint Pierre in Paris, the National Technical Museum of Prague, as well as in exhibitions in Australia, Germany, Spain, Turkey, and the United States.
Giger’s numerous awards include the 1980 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for his work on Alien, the San Diego Comic-Con Inkpot Award, the Vargas Award for outstanding contributions to the airbrush industry, and La Médaille de la Ville de Paris for outstanding and profound contributions to the progression of modern art.
Judith Merril, American/Canadian author and editor
January 21, 1923–September 12, 1997
Judith Merril began her career in the 1940s, writing Western and sports stories for the pulps under a variety of exotic pen names. Her first science fiction story, “That Only a Mother” (1948), condenses the horrors of nuclear war down to one family’s struggle with genetic mutation. It immediately established Merril as an important voice in the field. Her World War III novel Shadow on the Hearth (1950) explores similar themes and was adapted for television as Atomic Attack. Her story “Dead Center” (1954) also centers on domestic life, this time against the backdrop of the emerging space race. The story was anthologized in The Best American Short Stories: 1955.
Despite these and other successes, Merril stopped writing fiction in the early 1960s and turned her full attention to editing and criticism. She helmed a number of science fiction anthologies. Especially notable was her annual The Year’s Best S-F series from 1956 to 1968. She recognized the importance of science fiction’s New Wave early on, and later would edit the first Tesseracts, an anthology of Canadian science fiction. She helped found the Milford Conference writers’ workshop, which led to the creation of the Science Fiction Writers Association.
Merril’s personal book collection, which she donated to the Toronto Public Libraries, formed the seed of the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy, an important archive of speculative works. In 1997 the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America named her an author emeritus.
As an editor, Merril helmed a number of genre anthologies. Especially notable was her annual The Year’s Best S-F series from 1956 to 1968. In 1997 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named her an author emeritus.
Joanna Russ, American author and critic
February 22, 1937–April 29, 2011
Most of Joanna Russ’ work—fiction, criticism, and scholarship—form a career-long narrative that uses science fiction and fantasy to explore feminism, gender, and patriarchy. She pursued fiction writing and academia simultaneously. Her first novel, Picnic on Paradise (1968), nominated for a Nebula Award, features a time-traveling barbarian, thief, and mercenary named Alyx. Her best-known work of fiction is the novel The Female Man (1975), which intertwines the stories of four versions of the same woman, each living in different, parallel worlds. Russ uses these worlds, and the attitudes and reactions of the women who move between them, to investigate female identity in society and to explore alternatives. The novel was awarded a retrospective James Tiptree, Jr. Award in 1996. The novel We Who Are About To… overturns the classic science fiction trope of brave survival by a (star)ship-wrecked crew, offering a grim alternative. Russ won a Hugo Award for her novella “Souls” (1983) and a Nebula for the story “When It Changed” (1972).
Russ also wrote numerous works on literary criticism, feminism, race, and gender. How to Suppress Women’s Writing (1983) concisely outlines all the ways writing by women and minorities is marginalized. Other work includes Speculations on the Subjunctivity of Science Fiction (1973) and Magic Mommas, Trembling Sisters, Puritans and Perverts (1985). She also reviewed speculative fiction for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. In 1988 the Science Fiction Research Association awarded Russ the Pilgrim Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction scholarship.
J. R. R. Tolkien, English author and linguist
January 3, 1892–September 2, 1973
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings became international best sellers and are often listed among the most influential works of fiction of the 20th century. Tolkien showed a keen interest in languages from a young age. By his teens he had mastered both Latin and Greek, and had started crafting his own languages. During World War I, Tolkien enlisted as a first lieutenant in the British army, fighting in the trenches in France until he was released from duty due to illness. While recovering, he spent much of his time writing and giving shape to the stories and languages he had imagined in his youth.
At Oxford University, while grading papers, Tolkien famously began writing The Hobbit (1937) on the backs of student blue-book pages. Originally viewed as a children’s book, the novel incorporated sophisticated themes that would be further built upon in later works. The Lord of the Rings was released in three volumes beginning in 1954 with The Fellowship of the Ring and followed by The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Influenced by his study of languages, religion (Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic), Finnish, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse mythology, as well as his personal experiences in the military, The Lord of the Rings is regarded as Tolkien’s greatest work. Due in part to an unauthorized publication, The Lord of the Rings became extremely popular in the United States in the 1960s, embraced by the counterculture movement, which identified with its environmentalist message. In the years since its release The Lord of the Rings has become one of the highest-selling novels in history.
The popularity of Tolkien’s work continues to soar, evidenced by the award-winning film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. His works have almost solely defined the genre of high fantasy and inspired a generation of writers, filmmakers, and game producers.