The SciFi Timeline: Part 2

In the last section of the timeline, we looked back at SciFi's long and detailed past, from its roots to its first cinematic triumph, Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS.  While not comprehensive, I’ve tried to compile a list of the most important and influential works of SciFi since before it began.  It’s much harder to pinpoint the prominent works of the last hundred years, and much easier to argue them.   Think I’ve missed one?  Let me know in the comments.

The Golden Age of SciFi (1928-1945)

1928 – The publication of Philip Nolan's original Buck Rogers story, “Armageddon 2419,” in Amazing Stories is a landmark event.  Stories like these lay the ground work for comic strips and derivative movie serials to popularize science fiction to the mass audience.  Fan groups like the Futurians publish fanzines and organize conventions, leading to the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939.  More and more magazines join the ranks of the pulps selling science fiction like Wonder Stories, Startling Stories, and Astounding Stories.  This era has come to be known as the ‘Golden Age of Science Fiction.’  The key is the transfer of focus from the gizmo itself, to the character holding the gizmo as seen by the titles of the most popular comic strips and serials: Buck Rogers (1929), Brick Bradford (1933), and Flash Gordon (1934).  In other news, someone actually thought ‘Brick Bradford’ was a tough name.

1928 "The Call of Cthulhu," a short story by American writer H. P. Lovecraft is first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales. Considered a Great Old One within the pantheon of Lovecraftian cosmic entities, Cthulhu has since featured in numerous popular culture references including South Park.   Hibernating deep below the Pacific Ocean, the monster is a source of endless fear amongst the islanders.  Lovecraft describes Cthulhu as "a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind." In 2014, Cthuhlu joined the Other Worlds Austin programming team to help bring the best science fiction to Texas.  He replaced a programmer that he ate and then regurgitated into Lady Bird Lake.

1931 James Whale releases his classic film adaptation of Frankenstein staring Boris Karloff.  The famous electrical creation scene uses an actual Tesla Coil. The film received glowing reviews and shattered box office records across the United States, earning Universal $12 million on first release.  Two years later, Whale directs another SciFi classic, The Invisible Man, starring Claude Rains.  In 1998, Ian McKellen was nominated for an academy award in Gods and Monsters, playing James Whale, despite being incredibly out acted by the indomitable Brendan Fraser.

1932 Aldous Huxley publishes Brave New World. Set in London of AD 2540, 632 A.F. (After Ford) in the book, the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning that combine profoundly to change society. Huxley said that Brave New World was inspired by the utopian novels of H. G. Wells, giving him the idea to write a parody. The World State is built upon the principles of Henry Ford's assembly line: mass production, homogeneity, predictability, and consumption of disposable consumer goods. While the World State lacks any supernatural-based religions, Ford himself is revered as the creator of their society.  Characters celebrate Ford Day and swear oaths by his name (e.g., "By Ford!"). In this sense, some fragments of traditional religion are present, such as Christian crosses, which had their tops cut off to be changed to a "T."  Huxley, one of the most vocal advocates for LSD implementation, took the drug on his deathbed.

1933 King Kong, the definitive entry in the ‘lost world’ sub-genre of science fiction, heralds the dawn of big budget special effect films in Hollywood. Willis O’Brien’s use of stop motion animation, which would dominate sci-fi and horror for the next fifty years, influenced a great many future filmmakers, most notably, Ray Harryhausen and Tim Burton.  King Kong, one of the last of his kind, is a giant ape and the "Eighth Wonder of the World." Kong is 25 feet (7.6 m) tall and is capable of lifting twice his own weight. He is both worshiped and feared by the natives of Skull Island.  Here, Kong is surrounded by other ‘lost’ creatures: Archaeopteryx (seen flying around Skull Island as the Venture crew arrives), Stegosaurus (the ship's crew kill it), Brontosaurus (mauls four crew members to death), Megalania (seen climbing up to attack Jack Driscoll), Tyrannosaurus Rex (it attacks Ann but Kong breaks its jaws), Teratornis (seen pecking at the carcass of the tyrannosaurus), Plesiosaurus (tries to strangle Kong, who slams it to the ground and kills it), and Pteranodon (the last major creature on the island that menaces Ann, but it is killed by Kong).  Creatures not appearing in the finished film, but appearing in footage from deleted scenes, include Styracosaurus, Arsinoitherium, a giant spider, a giant crab, a giant tentacled insect, Erythrosuchus, Gigantophis garstini and Triceratops. King Kong is re-released in 1938, 1942, 1946, 1952 and 1956 to great box office success. The film is remade in 1976 by Dino De Laurentiis, and in 2005 by Peter Jackson, not to mention two Mighty Joe Young films of dubious similarity.  King Kong is released on Laserdisc in 1984 by the Criterion Collection, and is the very first movie to have an audio commentary track.  Unfortunately, it did not feature the lead actor.

1936 Told in 13 installments, Flash Gordon, appears on film for the first time.  The science fiction serial tells the story of Flash’s visit to the planet Mongo and his encounter with the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless.  The film featured props and shots recycled from other Universal film like the watchtower from Frankenstein (1931), the Egyptian idol from The Mummy (1932), and the rocket ships from Just Imagine (1930). Shots of Earth from space came from The Invisible Ray (1936). Ming's attack on Earth used footage from old silent newsreels. The music was recycled from several other films.  In 1980, the film is remade with a soundtrack by notoriously SciFi band Queen and I develop my first movie crush (Ornella Muti who plays Ming’s daughter).

1937 A young editor named John W. Campbell, Jr. takes over Astounding Science Fiction after writing under three pseudonyms for the publication.   Campbell often suggests story ideas to writers (including, famously, "Write me a creature that thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man"), and sometimes asked for stories to match cover paintings he had already bought.  The most famous of Campbell’s own stories, “Who Goes There?" concern a group of Antarctic researchers who discover a crashed alien vessel, complete with a malevolent shape-changing occupant.  The story was filmed as The Thing from Another World (1951), The Thing (1982), and again as The Thing (2011). It was published the year after Campbell became the editor of Astounding Science Fiction, when he was 28.  He basically never wrote another original story.  He did however, publish L. Ron Hubbard’s first article on Dianetics, so he may possibly have been one of the first to reawaken the phaetons inside of himself, and remembered his banishment to Earth from the intergalactic warlord Zenu.

1938 C. S. Lewis publishes Out of the Silent Planet after a conversation with J.R.R. Tolkien in which both men lament the state of contemporary fiction. Lewis based the lead character Dr. Ransom on Tolkien himself, a brilliant and brave philologist (one who studies language).  Ransom finds himself abducted by a megalomaniacal physicist and his accomplice via space ship to the planet Malacandra, as a planned human sacrifice.  Dr. Ransom escapes upon landing, a stranger in a strange land that, like Jonathan Swift's Lilliput, is enchanting in its difference from Earth and instructive in its similarity.  Lewis’s space trilogy contains no lions, witches or wardrobes, but strangely it does contain a talking fawn played by James McAvoy.

1938 Orson Welles dramatizes H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds on the radio and causes widespread panic. The first two-thirds of the 62-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress.  In the days following, sensationalist accounts in the press covered a supposed mob riot in response to the broadcast, the precise extent of which has been debated. It is sometimes said the American public, as a consequence of the radio performance, received the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor with skepticism. 

1938 To round out the year’s trilogy, Superman appears in Action Comics #1.  Everyone thinks of Superman as a classic superhero, but he is first and foremost... an alien.  Hailing from Krypton, good old Kal-El, as he was born, is sent in a rocket to Earth, moments before his homeworld’s destruction.  Superman is arguably the most famous alien in literature.

1940 Robert Heinlein publishes three short novels, four novelettes, and seven short stories.  Heinlein is often called the "dean of science fiction writers." His stories address themes of patriotism and duty while at the same time stressing the importance of personal freedom and expression.  In Robert Heinlein's 1952 novel The Puppet Masters, the world is taken over by mind-controlling invaders.  His early novels are commonly called "the Heinlein juveniles," and they feature a mixture of adolescent and adult themes. His protagonists are usually very intelligent teenagers who have to make their way in the adult society they see around them.  Heinlein was a vocal proponent of the notion that juvenile readers were far more sophisticated and able to handle more complex or difficult themes than most people realized.

1941 Astounding publishes the 32nd story Asimov wrote, "Nightfall," which has been described as one of "the most famous science-fiction stories of all time."  "Nightfall" is an archetypal example of social science fiction, a term coined by Asimov to describe a new trend in the 1940s, led by authors including Asimov and Heinlein, away from gadgets and space opera and toward speculation about the human condition.  In 1942, Asimov begins publishing the short stories that later were compiled into his seminal work Foundation, which recounts the collapse and rebirth of a vast interstellar empire in a universe of the future.

1939-45 Science Fiction takes another turn for reality when World War Two leads to a number of inventions such as the Colossus Computer used to crack the German’s Enigma encryption. Then the Manhattan Project brings the world into the nuclear age.

Dystopian Shadows From Our World (1946-1968)

1949 George Orwell publishes Nineteen Eighty-Four.  The novel is set in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain), a province of the superstate Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance under ‘Big Brother,’ and public manipulation, dictated by the government's invented language, Newspeak, and all individualism and independent thinking is persecuted as ‘thoughtcrimes. Nineteen Eighty-Four is probably the most famous dystopian novel of all time.

1950 Isaac Asimov publishes I, Robot a collection of stories that set the rules of ethics for robots (the Three Laws of Robotics) and intelligent machines that greatly influenced other writers and thinkers in their treatment of the subject. Asimov notes in one of his biographical pieces that he was largely inspired by the almost relentless tendency of robots up to that time to fall consistently into a ‘Frankenstein’ plot in which they destroyed their creators.

1950 Ray Bradbury publishes The Martian Chronicles, a collection of short stories that relate the colonization of Mars by humans fleeing from a troubled and eventually atomically devastated Earth, and the conflict between aboriginal Martians and the new colonists. The book lies somewhere between a short story collection and an episodic novel, containing stories Bradbury originally published in the late 1940s in science fiction magazines. Bradbury was one of the most celebrated 20th-century American writers. He wrote and consulted on many screenplays and television scripts, most notably It Came from Outer Space, 1953.

1952 Astro Boy, known in Japan by its original name Mighty Atom (Tetsuwan Atomu), is first published.  A Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Osamu Tezuka, Astro Boy follows the adventures of the robot (Astro Boy) created by the head of the Ministry of Science, Doctor Tenma to replace his son who died in a car accident. The manga has sold approximately 100 million copies.

1953 Ray Bradbury publishes Fahrenheit 451, a dystopian novel that presents a future American society where books are outlawed and ‘firemen’ burn any that are found. Ironically, in 1967, Fahrenheit 451 was subject to expurgation by its publisher, Ballantine Books with an edition aimed at high school students. Among the changes made by the publisher were the censorship of the words "hell," "damn," and "abortion;" the modification of seventy-five passages; and the changing of two episodes.  This continued until 1979 when it came to Bradbury's attention and he demanded it stopped.

1953 Arthur C. Clarke publishes “Childhood's End.” The story follows the peaceful alien invasion of Earth by the mysterious Overlords, whose arrival begins decades of apparent utopia under indirect alien rule, at the cost of human identity and culture. Clarke's fiction is credited with combining flawlessly accurate technical details with such philosophically expansive themes as "spiritual" rebirth and the search for man's place in the universe. Of his various technical and scientific papers, one of them, "Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?" (1945) introduces the concept that geostationary satellites could make excellent telecommunications relays. So influential was this work that Clarke is credited as the inventor of the first communications satellite. 

1953 is capped off when The World SF Convention awards the first Hugo Award; the award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the pioneering founder of Amazing Stories.

1954 Gojira (Godzilla) debuts.  A prehistoric monster resurrected by repeated nuclear tests in the Pacific, Godzilla ravages Japan as well as being one giant metaphor.  Director Ishirō Honda filmed Godzilla's rampage on Tokyo with the mentality that the monster's onslaught was a parallel to, and a physical manifestation of, an Atom bomb attack. He stated, "If Godzilla had been a dinosaur or some other animal, he would have been killed by just one cannonball. But if he were equal to an atomic bomb, we wouldn't know what to do. So, I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla." The film initially received mixed to negative reviews in Japan. Japanese critics accused the film of exploiting the widespread devastation that the country had suffered in World War II. The film became popular enough to spawn 27 sequels and inspire countless ripoffs, imitations, parodies, tributes, a 1998 American remake and a 2014 American reboot.

1954 Monster from the Ocean Floor, the first film produced by Roger Corman, debuts. The film was sold to Lippert Pictures for $110,000 and Corman received a $60,000 advance, which, establishing his modus operandi, enabled him to make his next film.

1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by Don Siegel, is released. The story depicts an extraterrestrial invasion that begins in a small California town. The invasion begins when alien plant spores grow into large seed pods, each one capable of reproducing internally a duplicate replacement copy of each human.  As each pod reaches full development, it assimilates the physical characteristics, memories, and personalities of each sleeping townsperson placed near it; these duplicates are devoid of all human emotion. When the film was released domestically in February 1956, many theaters displayed several pods made of papier-mâché in theater lobbies and entrances, along with large lifelike black and white cutouts of McCarthy and Wynter running away from a crowd. 

1956 Forbidden Planet, directed by Fred M. Wilcox and starring Anne Francis, and Leslie Nielsen, is released, featuring a robot bound by Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.  In a sign of the times (see 1957) Forbidden Planet is the first science fiction film in which humans are depicted traveling in a starship of their own creation.  It was also the very first science fiction film set entirely on another world in interstellar space, far away from the planet Earth. 

 1957 The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1, the first man-made craft to leave Earth’s atmosphere.  The surprise success precipitated the American Sputnik crisis and triggered the Space Race, a part of the larger Cold War. The launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments in the US. Together with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), ABMA built Explorer 1 and launched it on January 31, 1958. Before work was completed, however, the Soviet Union launches a second satellite, Sputnik 2, on November 3, 1957, the first satellite to carry a living animal, a dog named Laika.

1958 “The Time Element,” the pilot episode of The Twilight Zone, debuts on CBS.  The show featured a time travel plot and a teleplay written by Rod Serling himself.  Serling developed the show to get around the era’s strict censorship and used the series as a vehicle for social comment, as networks and sponsors who censored controversial material from live dramas were less concerned with seemingly innocuous fantasy and sci-fi stories. Frequent themes on The Twilight Zone included nuclear war, McCarthyism, and mass hysteria, subjects that were avoided on more serious primetime television.  Serling wrote or adapted two-thirds of the series’ episodes himself and appeared on camera, often steping into the middle of the action while the characters remain oblivious to him.  Other writers included leading authors such as Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Earl Hamner, Jr., George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, Reginald Rose, and Jerry Sohl.  The Twilight Zone, though not the first anthology series to deal with science fiction storylines, was certainly the first successful one.  It was followed soon after by The Outer Limits, Out of the Unknown, Mystery and Imagination, and, on the more Macabre side, Night Gallery, The Hitchhiker, Tales From the Darkside, and Takes from the Crypt.

1959 Philip K. Dick publishes Time Out of Joint. Although he’s been publishing for 9 years, the novel epitomizes many of Dick's themes with its concerns about the nature of reality and ordinary people in ordinary lives having the world unravel around them. Dick explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes in novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments, and altered states. In his later works, Dick's thematic focus strongly reflected his personal interest in metaphysics and theology. He often drew upon his own life experiences in addressing the nature of drug abuse, paranoia, schizophrenia, and transcendental experiences. In addition to 44 published novels, Dick wrote approximately 121 short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines during his lifetime.  Although Dick spent most of his career as a writer in near-poverty, eleven films based on his works have been produced, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, The Adjustment Bureau and Impostor.

1959 Robert A. Heinlein publishes Starship Troopers, a controversial coming-of-age story about duty, citizenship, and the role of the military in society. The book portrays a society in which suffrage is earned by demonstrated willingness to place society's interests before one's own, at least for a short time and often under onerous circumstances, in government service; in the case of the protagonist, this was military service.  His next book, Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), human Valentine Michael Smith comes to Earth in early adulthood after being born on the planet Mars and raised by Martians. The novel explores his interaction with—and eventual transformation of—terrestrial culture. Heinlein's deliberately provocative book generated considerable controversy.  The free love and commune living aspects of the Church of All Worlds led to the book being excluded from school reading lists. After it was rumored to be associated with Charles Manson, it was removed from school libraries as well. The book also contains an early description of the waterbed, an invention which made its real-world debut a few years later in 1968. Charles Hall, who brought a waterbed design to the United States Patent Office, was refused a patent on the grounds of Heinlein's descriptions in his novel 7 years earlier.

1961 Stanisław Lem publishes Solaris in Russia, probably the most important science fiction novel in the communist world.  The book is about the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species.  In probing and examining the oceanic surface of the planet Solaris from a hovering research station, the human scientists are, in turn, being studied by the sentient planet itself, which probes for and examines the thoughts of the human beings who are analyzing it. Solaris has the ability to manifest their secret, guilty concerns in human form, for each scientist to personally confront.  Andrei Tarkovsky’s film version of Solaris won the Grand Prix at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival.  The book received an American adaptation in 2002, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney.  Although many people consider SOLARIS the ‘Russian 2001,’ the novel predates the Kubrick classic by 7 years.  In fact, Kubrick’s original letter to Arthur C. Clarke proposing, “doing the proverbial ‘really good’ science-fiction movie” is labeled as being from ‘Solaris Productions, Inc.’

1961 The USSR again kicks the US’s butt as Yuri Gagarin becomes not only the first human to travel into space, but also to orbit the Earth.  Vostok 1 takes 108 minutes from launch to landing.  The USSR also puts a man into multiple orbits and in orbit over 24 hours before the US reaches one orbit in 1962.

1962 Hanna-Barbera’s The Jetsons debuts as the first program broadcast in color on ABC-TV. The original cartoon series had several futuristic devices that did not exist at the time but subsequently have not only been invented but are in common usage: a flatscreen 3D television, newspaper on a tablet computer-like screen, a computer virus, video chat, a tanning bed, treadmill and more.  Forbes magazine valued George Jetson’s company, Spacely Sprockets, at $1.3 billion, on its "The 25 Largest Fictional Companies" list. 

1963 Pierre Boulle publishes La planète des singes, aka Planet of the Apes. The novel tells the tale of three human explorers from Earth who visit a planet orbiting the star Betelgeuse, in which great apes are the dominant intelligent and civilized species, whereas humans are reduced to a savage animal-like state. The novel has inspired a media franchise comprising eight films, two television series (one animated), and comic books. 

1963 Doctor Who airs on the BBC. The program depicts the adventures of the Doctor, a Time Lord—a time-travelling humanoid alien. He explores the universe in his TARDIS, a sentient time-travelling space ship shaped like a blue British police box.  Doctor Who is listed in the Guinness World Records as the longest-running science fiction television show, and the "most successful" science fiction series of all time—based on its over-all broadcast ratings, DVD and book sales, and iTunes traffic.  During its original run, it was recognized for its imaginative stories, creative low-budget special effects, and pioneering use of electronic music.  In August, the series will see its 12th Doctor in Peter Capaldi.

1963 Oh yeah, the Soviet Union also launches the first woman into orbit.  It takes the US 20 years to man up and send Sally Ride on the space shuttle.  Valentina Tereshkova went on to become a prominent member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, holding various political offices. She remained politically active following the collapse of the Soviet Union and is still revered as a heroine in post-Soviet Russia.  In 2013 she offered to go on a one-way trip to Mars if the opportunity arose.  At the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics she was a flag-carrier.

1965 Frank Herbert publishes Dune, which wins the Nebula Award for best novel. Set in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which noble houses, in control of individual planets, owe allegiance to the Padishah Emperor, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose noble family accepts the stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis. As this planet is the only source of the "spice" melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe, control of Arrakis is a coveted — and dangerous — undertaking. The story explores the multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the forces of the empire confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its "spice." Herbert wrote five sequels to the novel Dune: Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. The first novel inspired a 1984 film adaptation by David Lynch, and the 2000 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries. The world's best-selling science fiction novel, Dune is also considered by many critics to be the best ever written. 

1965 Based on Gold Key Comics’ The Space Family Robinson, 20th Century Fox Television airs Lost in Space. Their mission (in 1997 J) is immediately sabotaged by Dr. Zachary Smith — an apparent agent for a foreign government — who slips aboard their spaceship and reprograms the robot to destroy the ship and crew. Smith is trapped aboard, saving himself by prematurely reviving the crew from suspended animation.  Originally written as an utterly evil but extremely competent would-be saboteur, Smith gradually becomes the troublesome, self-centered, incompetent foil who provides the comic relief for the show and causes most of the episodic conflict and misadventures. Another popular charater, The Robot (a Class M-3 Model B9, General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot), was designed by Robert Kinoshita, who was also the designer of the iconic Robby the Robot of Forbidden Planet. Although a machine endowed with superhuman strength and futuristic weaponry, he often displayed human characteristics, such as laughter, sadness, and mockery, as well as singing and playing a guitar. This may be the first step is getting up to accept robots among us as equals, a truly disturbing trend (I say, eyeing my roomba suspiciously).

1966 Star Trek is first broadcast in the United States.  Created by Gene Roddenberry, the series follows the adventures of the starship USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) and its crew, roughly during the 2260s. Led by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), first officer and science officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and chief medical officer Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Star Trek was pitched to the networks as "Wagon Train to the stars".  Shatner's voice-over introduction during each episode's opening credits stated the starship's purpose: “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”  Even though the show didn’t complete its ‘five-year mission,’ being cancelled after three years, it has spawned 5 more television series (one animated), 12 films, and countless novels, video games, and comics.

1967 The Prisoner debuts in Great Britain. The series follows a British former secret agent who is held prisoner in a mysterious coastal village resort where his captors try to find out why he abruptly resigned from his job. Although sold as a thriller in the mould of the previous series starring writer/director/actor Patrick McGoohan, the show's combination of 1960s countercultural themes and surreal setting had a far-reaching effect on science fiction/fantasy programming, and on popular culture in general. In ‘The Village,’ they do not use names but instead assign everyone numbers, which give no clue as to any person's status (prisoner or warder). Potential escapees therefore have no idea whom they can and cannot trust. McGoohan is assigned Number Six, and is watched over by Number Two, the Village administrator acting as an agent for an unseen Number One.

1968 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is released. The screenplay was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and was partially inspired by Clarke's short story "The Sentinel."  Clarke concurrently wrote the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was published soon after the film was released. The story deals with a series of encounters between humans and mysterious black monoliths that are apparently affecting human evolution, and a voyage to Jupiter tracing a signal emitted by one such monolith found on the Moon. Thematically, the film deals with elements of human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence, and extraterrestrial life. It is notable for its scientific accuracy, pioneering special effects, ambiguous imagery, sound in place of traditional narrative techniques, and minimal use of dialogue.  2001 features one of the most memorable characters in science fiction, the sentient computer HAL 9000.   When the astronauts on board the Discovery One consider disconnecting HAL after he exhibits faulty reporting, the computer decides to kill the astronauts in order to protect and continue its programmed directives. HAL's capabilities, like all the technology in 2001, were based on the speculation of respected scientists. Marvin Minsky, director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and one of the most influential researchers in the field, was an adviser on the film set.  In the mid-1960s, many computer scientists in the field of artificial intelligence were optimistic that machines with HAL's capabilities would exist within a few decades. For example, AI pioneer Herbert A. Simon at Carnegie Mellon University, had predicted in 1965 that "machines will be capable, within twenty years, of doing any work a man can do," the overarching premise being that the issue was one of computational speed (which was predicted to increase) rather than principle.  In the 1982 novel (and 1984 film) 2010, it is made explicit that HAL’s malfunction was caused by his inability to resolve a conflict between his general mission to relay information accurately and his specific orders that he withhold from Bowman and Poole the true purpose of the mission. With the crew dead, he reasons, he would not need to lie to them.  Apparently, this is a workaround on Asimov’s three laws.