Our tour of the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame's new exhibit begins with a robe. One white robe, wide ribs, pressed flat. Joe Turkel wore it in "Blade Runner" when he played Eldon Tyrell, master manufacturer of android "replicants." He confronted his own creation, played by Rutger Hauer, and died horribly. Pressed and mounted in a case, the robe appears quite benign. It is only by reading its history that significance blooms.
Many of the costumes and outfits from the museum's "Out of This World: Extraordinary Costumes from Film and Television," which opened June 15, share this neuteredness. George Reeves' Superman outfit from the "Superman" television show, though, looks ready for its late owner to leap back into it, up up and away. It's the colorized version of the suit, not the shades-of-gray original used in the series' black-and-white days. And a Gorn, one enormous upright lizard who menaced Captain Kirk on the original "Star Trek" series, gazes fiercely, if sightlessly, from his rectangular prison.
"You guys are geeking out? That's good," smiles museum publicist Maggie Skinner. She leads us to the Sky Church, where this year's induction ceremony for the Science Fiction Hall of Fame commences. Local SF writer Neal Stephenson, suggesting a thinner, slightly more jovial Anton LaVey with his bald head, goatee and droll delivery, advises us, with a nod to the Experience Music Project housed within the same building, to "settle down ... we don't want the rock and roll people calling the cops on us again."
Artist Ed Emshwiller, who forged a lucrative and well-regard-ed career painting covers for SF books and maga-zines, is up first. The tribute notes that he stepped away from the easel to start all over again as an experimental filmmaker, endearing himself to critics and film students, even as his wife and children may have fretted over the bank balance. SF writer and Seattle resident Eileen Gunn accepts the induction on behalf of Emshwiller, who died in 1990, and reads a note from his widow.
To induct Gene Roddenberry, creator of the "Star Trek" universe, actor Wil Wheaton, Ensign Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and vouched for by Stephenson as "a geek," ascends to the podium. Quoth Wheaton: "I wish our world leaders would watch more 'Star Trek' and less '24.'" Great applause. Wheaton greets Roddenberry's son, Eugene "Rod" Rodden-berry, and presents a special gift: the senior Roddenberry's own ensign stripes from the real United States Armed Forces. "I wore Gene Roddenberry's shoes on the set," mentions Wheaton, "but Rod wears them all the time."
Next up, New York transplant and film publicist Warren Etheredge, inducting film director Ridley Scott. "I am not wearing Gene Roddenberry's shoes," Etheredge be-gins, "but I am wearing Ridley Scott's thong right now." He waits for that to sink in. The video tribute to Scott, curiously featuring a great deal of Warren Etheredge, admits that Scott only has two SF movies to his credit, "Alien" and "Blade Runner." "Alien" and "Blade Runner," however, constitute two of the most-watched, most influential and most engaging SF films of all time. Charles de Lauzirkia, accepting for Scott, who's in Europe planning his next film, remarks that the definitive edition of "Blade Runner," several years in the making - enough time for Scott to shoot seven other movies, in fact - should be upon us quite soon.
To induct writer Gene Wolfe, the only honoree in attendance, his editor, David Hartwell, stands about 3 feet back from the microphone, curiously eliciting feedback from that distance. Wolfe creates intricately layered multi-volume stories, very much the SF equivalent of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and accountrement. Shuffling slowly up to join Hartwell (he's 76), Wolfe generates the evening's only standing ovation. Speaking wryly in third person, the author says of "Gene Wolfe": "There are a number of people out there who know him better than I do. He has always seemed to me a frightened little man, hunting for an idea he could do something with." He descends to laughter and more applause.
"I just learned a new word," concludes Stephenson. "This is the 'outro.'" And the ceremony concludes, shockingly enough, more than an hour ahead of schedule. "Good night," our host bids the room full of cerebral flyers, "and don't operate motor vehicles if you're drunk."