Sunday, July 22, 2012

Patched Up

Sometime in junior high school, I discovered the magazine Starlog.  Long defunct, this magazine explored science-fiction in movies and television, and provided some of my first insights into how those shows were made.

Almost as good as the articles and photos were the advertisements: in the age of Big Bang Theory, it's easy to take nerd culture and geek chic for granted, but in the early 80s, there weren't a lot of shops you could stroll into to find Cinefex magazine, or caps like the crew of the Nostromo wore in Alien.

I never ordered anything from the magazine, and I can't be sure whether this was due to lack of nerve, lack of funds, or an unwillingness to convince my father to use his credit card in order to get me an Imperial Fleet Officer's cap from Star Wars.

This all changed when I started coming face to face with paraphernalia at science-fiction conventions like Con-Version in Calgary, following high school.  The dealer tables in the huckster's room provided me with myriad means of reducing the fire-hazard in my wallet, by converting the incredibly flammable paper currency of the time into all manner of obscure and arcane memorabilia.

One of the first things I ever purchased was a set of Colonial Marines insignia from the film Aliens.  I had them sewn on to a black vest, and got more than a few envious "where do I get one of those?" over the years from fellow fans, and some puzzled glances from the mundanes as well.  Unfortunately, the vest got damp while stored in the basement and suffered an ignominious retirement last year, but some of the patches survived, and may yet be redeployed.

I also got a full set of Leonov crew patches from the movie 2010: Odyssey Two, the Soviet spacecraft used to return to Jupiter and the Discovery spacecraft from the first film.  (You can actually see the Discovery silhouetted against Jupiter's equator on the triangular mission patch.)  At one point, these got sewn on to a set of blue coveralls, and became a quick and easy costume for Halloween, but when the coveralls finally wore out, the patches went into a bag, and have languished there ever since.  If I can find a lightweight jacket or vest, or even another set of inexpensive coveralls, I could see them getting used again.

I received a flight-jacket for my birthday this year, and although I was tempted to put these on it, I am opting for some other pseudo-Soviet insignia I picked up at the final Namao Airshow about twenty years ago instead.  That is, once I get off my butt and track down a tailor to sew them on for me.  But that's a blog post for another day...

It's amazing to me how the frightening and oppressive iconography of the Soviet Union seems almost quaint now, two decades after the Cold War.  But when the move 2010 came out in 1984, the idea of a joint US/Soviet space mission was as much fantasy as it was science fiction.  Now, the U.S. space program needs to rely on the space programs of other countries just to into orbit or visit the International Space Station, including rockets from post-Soviet Russia.

In Joss Whedon's firefly universe, the oppressive central power is the Alliance,which assumes a U.S. team-up with China, the surviving superpowers of that future.  Judging from pilot Wash's flight suit insignia, things haven't (or will not have) changed much from the 2010 of Arthur C. Clarke, at least, not in terms of design...

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