Classic SF - Trivia Answers

"R2-D2 cropped up when we were dubbing 'American Graffiti.' We were working late one night and looking for Reel 2, Dialogue 2, and somebody yelled out 'R2-D2.' Both Walter Murch, who was mixing the film, and I loved that name so much we decided to keep it." Straight from the horse's mouth so to speak, that's George Lucas from "The Making of Return of the Jedi."

A "fix-up" in science fiction parlance refers to the act of taking a group of serialized stories that have been previously published and compiling them into one coherent work. The term was coined by A. E. Van Vogt, who got hip to the idea that, with a little additional writing to link the pieces, you could essentially sell your work twice--double dipping so to speak. Everyone wins with the fix-up; those who aren't on top of the science fiction periodicals get a chance to read the work, and those who have read the serialized collection have one less book to buy.

Last time we asked you to name the line originally scripted for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" that became a set piece in three of the "Star Wars" films as a prelude to something really bad happening. The answer? "I have a bad feeling about this." Conceived as a line for Indiana Jones, Lucas reconsidered when it became apparent that there would never be anyone around to hear Jones speak this line because he was generally alone when facing desperate circumstances. With the action more of an ensemble affair in "Star Wars," there would always be someone around to hear the line (which is the dialogue equivalent of that pause at the very top of the first hill of a roller coaster

Terry Gilliam, whose drawings would become a trademark for the comedy troupe "Monty Python and the Flying Circus," briefly worked with Robert Crumb back in the Haight-Ashbury days. Gilliam has directed some of the best sci fi/fantasy of the last 15 years, thanks in part to his aversion to computer effects and, of course, his vast imagination.

Last time we posed this scenario: A recent meteor has unleashed an alien blob that is slowly (but steadily) devouring the inhabitants of your town. How would you go about stopping it? Well, if you had seen 1958's film "The Blob," you would know that extreme cold renders the blob harmless--even likable! Steve McQueen stars in this definitive entry in the "monster movie" genre. Larry Hagman would direct the tongue-in-cheek sequel (which, unfortunately, was not very funny), "Son of the Blob," alternately known as "Beware the Blob."

Last time we asked you to name the Ray Bradbury novel that contains the short story "The Veldt." "The Illustrated Man" is the novel in which Bradbury uses the clever narrative device of a man's richly tattooed body to connect a series of short stories. At night, the tattoos come to life to enact their individual vignettes. "The Veldt" is one of the strongest of this collection, leading to frequent re-printings separate from the other stories.

Last time we asked you to name the 1971 film that combined the look and feel of a legitimate documentary to chronicle the inevitable ascendance of insect over man. "The Hellstrom Chronicle" won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Documentary, though its speculative story--the eventual evolutionary dominance of insects over humans--blurs the line of what really constitutes a documentary. 1970's drug culture--always keen for visual stimulation--took to the intense microphotography of the insect world pioneered by this documentary.

Last time we asked you to name the film adaptation of a certain Philip K. Dick short story that starred "Robocop" star Peter Weller--bonus points are also awarded for naming the original short story title. "Screamers" was 1995's bleak adaptation of Dick's story, "The Second Variety." Weller plays the commander of a military outpost on a distant moon facing a "situation" when military technology used to defend their outpost learns Darwin's first Law. Although it's a fairly faithful retelling, the film--and especially Weller's acting--are a bit like some dry biscuits without the tea.

Last time we asked you about a late 19th-century writer who published an early time travel novel in which the protagonist teaches the Round Table a thing or two. Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" is the correct answer. Here, the titular Yankee finds himself transported from 1879 to the Year of Our Lord 528 A.D. Hilarity ensues when he tries to teach the Knights of the Round Table to play baseball. Kidding.

Last time we asked you to name Robert Anton Wilson's most famous trilogy, noting that it was not his 1988 "Schroedinger's Cat Trilogy." "The Illuminatus! Trilogy," co-written with Robert Shea (Senior Editor at Playboy Magazine), the trilogy is a detailed chronicle of the conspiracy of the Illuminati class that spans centuries. Equal parts history, mythology, science fiction, and detective novel, "The Illuminatus! Trilogy" weaves a complex world of gods and the men who try to fathom their actions.


Last time we asked you to name the enduring character created by Sax Rohmer. Ahh, the infamous "Fu Manchu." Rohmer was inspired to create this enduring character through circumstances arising in the London of his youth. At that time, a mysterious Asian, Mr. King, controlled certain segments of the illicit drug and gambling market. One foggy night, Rohmer was backed into a doorway by a long limousine, out of which stepped a majestic Asian man and his Arabic concubine, who quickly disappeared into a nearby doorway. Whether or not this was the elusive Mr. King Rohmer never knew, but that night Fu Manchu was born.

Last time we asked you to name one, or both, of the early contributors to the television scripts for the "Captain Video" series. One was Robert Sheckley who, you might recall from a previous tip, wrote the novel "Immortality, Inc.," which was adapted for the film "Freejack." The other was C. M. Kornbluth, who is probably most known for his collaborations with Frederik Pohl, which included "The Space Merchants" and "Wolfbane." Damon Knight was another name that would have been acceptable, though his science fiction credentials resulted more from his science fiction criticism than his actual work.


Last time we asked you to identify this ancient writer who was probably the first to put down in writing a utopian vision. Plato was the guy we were looking for, and "The Republic" was his pioneering utopian work. In "The Republic," Plato stressed the importance of permanence over change. On change, he said, "There can be no worse evil for a city than this... Change... is most dangerous for a city." This train of thought influenced utopian writing for millennia but finally crumbled in the 19th century when utopias of sensual exploration came to dominate--thankfully, as they made for much better reading.