Science fiction wasn't born in Southern California, but it definitely grew up here. By way of film and television, Hollywood unleashed pulp fiction's time travelers, triffids and tentacled mutants on the three-dimensional universe and took pop culture to the outer limit. That proud heritage is being celebrated in "Barsoom to Blade Runner: Science Fiction in Southern California," on display at the Fullerton Museum Center. Through books, photos, manuscripts, costumes, props and models from film and television, the exhibit excavates the missing link between literature and the final frontier.
Curator John Karwin got the idea for the show two years ago after viewing the staggering book and memorabilia collection of science fiction guru Forrest J. Ackerman. Karwin also culled material from the Pollak Library at Cal State Fullerton, which houses an extensive science fiction repository that includes Ray Bradbury's original manuscript for "The Fireman," which became "Fahrenheit 451," and onetime Fullerton resident Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" which became the 1982 film "Blade Runner." Karwin credits the library collection to Dr. Willis E. McNelly, who taught one of the first courses in science fiction at Fullerton in the 1960s.
As source material, the exhibit features early edition books originating outside Southern California, such as Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine." A 1930s book illustration of Frankenstein as a long-haired ogre is juxtaposed with the Frankenstein mask prototype created by makeup artist Jack Pierce for Universal Pictures' classic 1931 film starring Boris Karloff. Pierce consulted with surgeons on the concept, which entered the collective unconscious as the archetypal horror-show Frankenstein. "Seventy years of product is based on that design," says Karwin.