Speculative Fiction

The grand opening of the Sci-Fi Hall of Fame was, so far, an unmitigated disaster, until a little boy gives Dana a ray of hope. Originally written as an entry to the NYC Midnight Competition in 2019, I added a tweak here and there and came up with this short story.

The grand opening of the Sci-Fi Hall of Fame was, so far, an unmitigated disaster. The opening fireworks had set fire to the awnings outside, and the large projectors that were supposed to play movies over the walls of the welcome hall were on the fritz and IT could not get them fixed, despite rebooting them! They were now displaying a shaky image of a welcome message that was so fuzzy it could be mistaken for a real an alien transmission from across the galaxy. 

Add to that, the punters were complaining…

“Where are all the alien guns?”

“I thought this was sci-fi; Star Wars is so obviously fantasy!”

Only the hard core sci-fi fans would complain of that one, but Dana only had herself to blame. She raised expectations by doing that interview with Men’s Monthly, and that spot on 2-Tonight. And, ok, she probably overreached with the full page advert in the Gazetteer but she was rooting for the launch to be a success. Instead, she was tearing her hair out as yet another complaint reached her. 

“Hardly sci-fi, more like horror – honestly, what is this place trying to be?” 

Turning, Dana saw a woman and child enter, the little boy bouncing with excitement. 

“Mommy, mommy, it’s Dark Vader and Yoga!” he trilled, causing titters around him. 

His mother looked down and grimaced toothily. 

“Star Wars isn’t sci-fi Marshal!” 

‘Oh ho’, thought Dana, observing the forced smile. ‘Another true sci-fi fanatic’.

“Picture mommy!” Having spotted the handprints of the inaugural Hall of Famers, the five year old was now trying to place his hands into the oversized casts. The woman sighed, getting out her phone, then seeing Dana staring, frowned and marched over. 

“Are you in charge here?”

Dana nodded, defeated.

“Well! Where is the science fiction?” The woman stood with her hands on her hips.

“Actually -” Dana began.

“You know Star Wars is fantasy!”

“Well -” Dana tried again.

“I think it’s very misleading,” the woman continued. “What about Asimov, and the greats?”

“You’ll find -” Dana’s bottom lip twisted.

The little boy tugging on his mother’s arm with impatience. “Mommy, look Chewybacca!” He pulled her towards what looked like a walking shag pile.

The woman looked sharply at Dana, and then down at her son straining with all his might, and something in her expression softened. “I’m sorry, I just get very frustrated with this poor stereotyping.”

Dana tried to grin, “I know what you mean!”

“You do?” the woman took a moment to look at Dana, this time noticing her dishevelled appearance, then thrust out a hand “I’m Athena, hard core sci-fi nerd.”

Dana smiled at the proffered hand. “Nice to meet you, I’m Dana, hard core sci-fi nerd, backed into a corner by investors!”

Athena barked out a laugh, “I should have known! Money talks eh?”

Dana nodded and, straightening up, said “The good stuff is two doors down the hall. I’ll show you, I wouldn’t mind a break from the commentary!”

“Thank you”, Athena followed Dana. “Come on Marshal, we are going to get you educated.”

“Headucated?” Marshal sounded doubtful.

“Sure,” said Dana, “you are going to find out why sci-fi is so cool.”

Marshal looked at her sideways.

The white door slid open with a whoosh earning Dana a wry look from Athena, “Star Trek?”

Dana looked defensive. “Well, it is more science based, than … dare I say Star Wars?” She grinned a little, “And scientists are actually developing real handheld body scanners. Of course the transporter is a little more fantastic, but still.” 

She waved them into her favorite part of the Hall of Fame, in her opinion, the pinnacle of the exhibit. “This is the room of the great futurists!”.

The room was full of real science and technology. Plaques bearing photographs of the likes of Asimov and Clarke flanked robotic arms and gene mapping equipment. At the back of the room was a spacious area with large comfortable sofas and soft bean bags, surrounded by walls of books. A few people were browsing the shelves, and one or two sat around reading.

 “Wow! This place looks like my old Alma Mata’s sci-fi society.” Athena took it all in, “Those were good times! … Look, I’m sorry about earlier.”

“No problem.” said Dana, “I want people to experience sci-fi in all its forms. The main hall is for blockbuster fans, it converts to a cinema, and this room is for the true fan. We have a reading club and the science equipment is all operational, and can be hired out by universities. Only way we could afford to set up this way.” 

“What’s this mommy?” Marshal appeared from behind a bookcase holding a picture book.

“Oh!” asked Dana, “That shouldn’t be in here!”

“What is it?” Athena asked.

“It’s a kid’s book I’m writing. I was working on it earlier. I must have left it lying around.” Dana blushed, “I want kids reading real sci-fi at an early age. It takes the science of today, extrapolates it and takes it to their future.”

“Book!” said Marshal who had settled on a bean bag and started to flip the pages.

“Marshal, don’t touch without asking!” said his mother.

“No it’s ok,” said Dana. “Call it a beta test.”

Athena sat down next to Marshal and they read together. Dana chewed her nails and pretended to help the book browsers find what they needed.

Ten minutes later, Marshal jumped up.

“Meta-John is awesome, I want to be Meta-John,” he ran around, “I want to be a fish-man and live in the oshun.” 

Athena smiled at Dana. “I think you might have something there you know. If the Hall of Fame folds, maybe you can make it as a writer?”

Dana’s heart gave a little skip. Could she? She was just contemplating the idea.

A crash of thunder, a flicker of lightning, followed by sudden darkness made them jump. Dana ran out to the main hall to calm the visitors. There was no need.

“Cool special efforts!” said Marshal, grinning.

“Woah, dude!” a bearded guy was standing at the doors which were wide open. “Bring it on!”

“Awesome”, said a young woman to her partner. “They do a real good show here! Did you see that fire show at the tents?”

“They think it’s special effects?” said Dana with incredulity.

“Looks like you have a hit!” said Athena.  She leaned over to Dana and whispered, “Of course, you should have called it the Speculative Fiction Hall of Fame.”

Dana grinned at that. “No one would know what that meant!” she said, “Although I speculate that the one thing humans will do in the future … is complain!”