Welcome to Puppetry International's Sci-Fi issue. Our original theme was to be "Sci-Fi/Fantasy." We'd imagined that "Fantasy" would bring puppetry based on genre fiction into the mix– Riddley Walker, Lord of the Rings and so on– but, judging by some of the articles we received, there is no puppetry anywhere in the world that does not have an element of fantasy about it. Can puppetry even exist without fantasy? Not exactly Fermat's Theorem, but something to ponder.
So let's take fantasy as a given and shine our light on "Puppetry and Science Fiction!" Puppets are, naturally, at the forefront of science fiction performance, whether live, on film or other medium. Early robots, a staple of the genre, were necessarily puppets, as they predated the microelectronics needed to function on their own. For a good example, check out "Electro, the Westinghouse Moto-Man," in John Bell's history column [page 16].
Christine Papalexis has had quite a career as a puppeteer in science fiction films where – in the portrayal of aliens, monsters, reanimated corpses and mutant cockroaches – puppets have proven very useful (and, before the age of CGI, indispensable). She details some of her adventures in "A Puppeteer in Hollywood" [page 22].
Conrad Bishop throws new light on the story behind the story of Frankenstein in a discussion of the Independent Eye's production, which is based on Mary Shelley's novel. For the first time I understood how an eighteen-year-old could have mined her own experience for this dark tale of death, and how far Hollywood has led us from its actual genesis and meaning.
We had planned to have an article by Zaven Paré about his time in Japan studying both the latest in performing robots and the amazingly lifelike figures of the National Bunraku Theater. Before we committed to publishing it, his article was picked up for inclusion in a book on robotics (see page 21). In it, he brought up the concept of the "uncanny valley," a term coined by robotics professor Masahiro Mori to express our discomfort at humanoid robots to the extent that their mimicry of human appearance and behavior is less than convincing. Media maker and researcher Alison deFren takes up this subject with a different point of view when she is interviewed by Marsian in "Valley of the Uncanny Dolls," a reflection on lifelike "artificial companions" and the men who love them [page 19].
Then boldly go where no reader has gone before– to Alexander Winfield's portrait of Stephen Mottram, whose gorgeous and surprising puppetry will haunt your dreams [page 4]. Quincy Thomas brings us the story of Gerry Anderson's earliest television puppetry, and the innovations that culminated in Thunderbirds. From the alienarchives of the Cook/Marks collection, Dmitri Carter brings us images of the Tatterman Marionettes' 1934 production of Buck Rogers.
We also have Bradford Clark's photos from the recent UNIMA Quadrennial Congress and Festival in Chengdu, China, and reviews of some fantastic new books on a wide range of puppetry subjects: puppets of Mali, Japanese karakuri ningyo, Punch, Godzilla and more!