Long before Forrest Ackerman coined the term Sci-Fi man had imagined escaping the confines of this planet and exploring the vast unknown regions of outer space.
Space tourism is a burgeoning field but with a cost of about $20 million for a window seat it is a trip that most of us will never make.
My suggestion is to settle on the next best thing: a visit to your local library!
Here is a list of materials to make you feel as if you're traveling through space, or at the very least, on another planet.
So without further ado:
three, two, one,
- Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra - Composed in 1896, this tone poem was inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche 's work of the same name. The book and the composition shared the name for over 70 years until 1968, at which point "Theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey" became the commonly used popular title for this iconic piece of music.
- That brings us to Arthur C. Clarke. My plan for this list was to avoid the obvious, such as the Star Wars films, Ray Bradbury, Alien, Sunshine, Phillip K. Dick, etc… and just stick to personal favorites that I feel in some way epitomize the feeling of the final frontier. With that said, as for authors, I’ll just say that Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov make up the Big Three of Science Fiction.
- Deep Purple: Space Truckin - Some songs transport you peacefully to the quiet solitude of space. Others propel you violently. At light speed. By the seat of your pants. Space Truckin' is a fast and furious rocket ride through the solar system.
Come on. Come on. Come on. Let's go space truckin.
- The entire body of work of one Jacob Kurtzberg. Also known as Jack Kirby. He was, and is, the King.
- David Bowie: Space Oddity - Which persona do you prefer? Are you in the Thin White Duke camp? Camp Ziggy? Or maybe you prefer Special Agent Phillip Jeffries? Inspired by Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and released less than a week before the Apollo 11 launch, Space Oddity was David Bowie's first major hit, launching a successful and many-faceted career.
Ground control to Major Tom.
- Pink Floyd: Side two of Meddle - When I was about 10 years old The Wall was released. "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2," clocking in at 4 minutes, was radio-friendly and played constantly on the airwaves. I was also familiar with classics from Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here from hours upon hours of FM radio.
For Christmas of that year I asked my grandmother for the new Pink Floyd record. I told her the newest one was a double LP, and I must not have known it was called The Wall because my only instructions to her were to buy a double LP which was thicker than a single LP.
At Christmas I ripped open my present to find Meddle. It wasn't the new album. It was also a single album in a gatefold cover which made it appear to be a double album. As far as my grandmother was concerned this successfully met the requirements of my Christmas request.
The record store clerk is to this day probably still telling the story of the time a little old lady came in and asked for the thickest Pink Floyd record he had.
I rushed to my room and listened to the first track, the largely instrumental "One of These Days." I say largely instrumental, because the only words in the song were the distorted and abstruse: "One of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces."
I hid in my closet for about an hour before giving side two a try.
I flipped the album over and noticed the lack of the familiar lines that visually separated the tracks. The label at the center of the disc listed only one song: "Echoes" 23:29. I was young, but even at that young age I knew that 23:29 was not a radio-friendly song length. I dropped the needle.
The music of Pink Floyd has been described in many ways: progressive, sonically experimental, psychedelic. "Echoes" is all of these and will certainly give the listener the experience of an other worldly trip.
- Rush: 2112 - Like Pink Floyd's Meddle, Rush's fourth album also contains a side-long track: a sci-fi dystopian Ayn Rand inspired epic in 7 parts totaling 20:33 minutes in length.
Attention all planets of the Solar Federation: We have assumed control.
- Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” - three words: albino. keyboard. madness.
- John Cage: 4:33 – Look at your watch, or take out your cell phone and use it as a clock, and listen quietly for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. You’ve just performed the famous piece by composer John Cage! Where you perform the piece will effect the final outcome of your performance. Even in the middle of nowhere, in the darkest of night, it wouldn’t come close to the absence of sound in the vacuum of space. Most sci-fi movies don’t get this aspect of space right. All those loudly exploding planets, blaring rockets, and pinging laser blasts are scientifically inaccurate. Kubrick got it pretty close. So did Ridley Scott. Like the tagline for Alien stated: “In space no one can hear you scream."
- Gustav Holst: The Planets, Op. 32 - This is a perfect orchestral journey through our solar system. Holst did not include Pluto, which was discovered four years before his death. He was not interested in composing a movement for the newly discovered planet. In 2006 Pluto was downgraded from a planet to a drawf planet, so it appears Holst had it right all along.
- Solaris - I've always loved the work of Andrei Tarkovsky. I heard a story that once at a film festival he was asked why he was wearing a business suit when the majority of the other directors went for a more self-consciously arty look. He replied, “I don’t have to look like an artist, because I am one!”
My favorite film of his has always been The Mirror. Such amazing scenes: the fire, the breeze that flows across the grassy field towards the camera… His film that relates to this post would probably be Stalker, but I’ll suggest Solaris. Watch it and then compare it to the Steven Soderbergh remake with George Clooney.
- Juan Garcia Esquivel - You might not know his name, but you have probably heard his music in movies and TV commercials. Ridiculously unpredictable, fearless, quirky, and complex, his recordings had a revival of sorts in the 1990s, kick-starting a craze of space-age lounge music that, though sometimes seeming satirical and far from serious, was ear candy for the masses. His "Whatchamacallit" and "Mucha Muchacha" are classics, but my favorite is his arrangement of "All of Me." It's Frank Sinatra meets The Jestons, in “Living Stereo” set to an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink orchestra with slide guitar and a full chorus of vocal sound effects. Unbridled audio zaniness! Sadly the world lost Esquivel on January 3, 2002 but we still have his music.