The Other-Worldly Exhibit That Puts Pasadena at the Epicenter of All Things Science Fiction Opens Today with Free Intergalactic Party

Baranger Motion Display #M-245 Moon Shot, Baranger Studios, South Pasadena, circa 1957.  Courtesy of Justin Pinchot-Robot Coffee & Tea, Altadena.  Galactica Landing Bay. Battlestar Galactica, 1978. Matte painting. Loan courtesy of NBCUniversal Archives & Collections.Cover of Amazing Stories, May 1929. Featuring the byline of Clare Winger Harris, first female author to publish under her own name. Loan courtesy of Nick Smith.Travelling rocket ship based on hit 1950s TV series, Space Patrol, at the Market Basket grocery store, 1260 North Lake Street, 1952.  Photo by J. Allen Hawkins (JAH7675).Planet Stories Cover, 1954, by Kelly Freas (1922-2005). Gouache on canvas board, 20” x 14”. Loan courtesy of the Korshak Collection.Art for Minolta camera ad, circa 1980s, by Syd Mead.  Gouache on board, 20 x 30”. Loan courtesy of Syd Mead. Dreaming the Dream posterRay Bradbury’s glasses and case.  Loan courtesy of the Bradbury Family.Ray Bradbury at his Wilshire Boulevard office, circa 1975, Loan courtesy of The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, Indiana University.


6:15 am | March 3, 2018

It’s no surprise that Pasadena is synonymous with space travel and cosmic collaborations on a global scale thanks to innovative institutions such as Caltech and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but some experts go farther and claim that Pasadena should also be known as the birthplace of the science fiction genre as we know it today.

Help launch the exhibit in style today during Free Opening Day celebrations, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., where science fiction-inspired attire is encouraged

The new exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of History, “Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction, and Southern California,” pays homage to that local heritage with a partly-wacky, completely enjoyable and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime assemblage of pop culture science fiction artifacts influenced by the imaginations of many Pasadena residents throughout the decades.

The exhibit opens Saturday It features never-before-seen-by-the-public items on public from famous sci-fi movies, literature, art, and more which makes for the perfect otherworldly playground to date.

“The idea of this exhibit is to show the connections between science and science fiction, between the technologies in our daily lives and connect that a little bit to Southern California and its history,” said Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society Board Member and exhibit curator Nick Smith. “There are a lot of connections of [Caltech] students and faculty who were fairly major science fiction writers.”

The exhibit explores the sci-fi movement between the 1930s and the 1980s, which Smith says are the most definitive years for creativity and the genre as a whole.

“The 1930’s are when technology and communication, the publishing industry, and the fans all came together for kind of a explosion of ideas,” explained Smith. “And from the ‘60s and ‘70s you’ve got the science fiction at that time looking at all these cool new ideas. We’ve also got people in the space program looking at all the stuff from science fiction so those are some of the time periods we’re having some fun with,” added Smith.

So what exactly will be displayed in the exhibit? According to Smith, there’s not a simple answer.

“The physical artifacts in the exhibit are what is going to get the ‘gosh/wow’ effect when you walk in because there are things by artists whose work have never been shown together and that have connected stories,” said Smith.

Smith highlighted artifacts that include storyboards and design sketches from movies and TV shows, rare costumes from space age productions, personal items from famous writers such as Ray Bradbury of “Fahrenheit 451” fame, and much more.

“We’re getting some amazing loans from people who don’t normally loan things out and so the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Western Costume and NBC have all loaned us things that had been sitting in their archives that people don’t normally get to see that were used in different movies,” said Smith.

The exhibit spotlights many homegrown authors and artists of sci-fi fame and influence that Smith says have helped shape the genre stemming from the golden era days in the ‘30s all the way up to present day.

“You get all of these weird things going on. There are also people who started at Caltech as students and who ended up finishing their career elsewhere, but who became major writers in the science fiction field,” explained Smith.

The first Caltech student who became a major science fiction writer was L. Sprague de Camp who graduated from there in 1930, and produced a career that spanned 60 years and consists of over 100 books that include novels and works of non-fiction, such as biographies of other fantasy authors, according to Smith.

Eric Temple Bell, a mathematician who came to Caltech during the depression was also a science fiction writer under the name John Taine, says Smith.

“Also being shown alongside the artwork of people like Charles Schneeman who spent the last dozen years of his life here in Pasadena and was doing covers and interior illustrations for magazines at the time,” said Smith about the author who collaborated with Eric Temple Bell during their time in Pasadena.

Clare-Winger Harris was the first woman science fiction writer to get sci-fi literature published under her own name in the 1920’s and her stories often dealt with characters on the “borders of humanity” such as cyborgs, according to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

“She ended up living in Marengo here in Pasadena,” said Smith about the author whose work is featured in the exhibit.

There’s artwork by famous neofuturistic artist Syd Mead whose work can be seen in feature films such as as Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, and more and whose design firm is located in Pasadena today.

Rare award pieces given to “Dean of Science Fiction Artists” Frank Kelly Freas most known for creating will also be on display.

“They’re showing off a couple of his awards because you hear about the Hugo award for science fiction–they’re basically the Oscars of science fiction–but you don’t normally see them unless you go to the awards ceremony. And they’re different every year, which is what people don’t necessarily know about so we’re showing off a couple of widely different ones just to show what the awards can look like,” explained Smith.

The exhibit is expected to change throughout the course of months it will be open to the public, according to Smith, who says is just the way the sci-fi greats would want it to be.

Dreaming the Universe will be on view in the History Center Galleries from March 3 through September 2, 2018.

Visitors are invited to help the Pasadena Museum of History launch the exhibit in style on Free Opening Day, Saturday, March 3, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Science fiction-inspired attire is encouraged; Art 2 Go will help kids (of all ages) make their own space vehicles in the crafts workshop; and a Cosmic Cantina will be pouring Pangalactic Punch!

The Pasadena Museum of History is located at 470 West Walnut Street.

For more information call 626-577-1660 or go to