Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Stolen Dreams
by Joseph Green
and R-M Lillian

Boon’s Mutiny
by Harold R. Thompson

Dancing in the Right of Way
by Cyn C. Bermudez

Esterhazy’s Cadence
by Guy T. Martland

Ghosts of Space Command
by Milo James Fowler

by Jeremy Szal

White Russians and Old Lace
by K.C. Ball

Shuttle 54, Where R U?
by Jack Ryan

Shorter Stories

Faraday Cage
by Timothy J. Gawne

Rose Coloured Tentacles
by Gareth D. Jones

Screaming His Scream
by Tim Major


Making Real Life X-Men
by E.E. Giorgi

Taking the Temperature
by Pierre Duhem



Comic Strips





Shrink Rap

RECENTLY A COLLEAGUE REFERRED me to a new Google online service that offered to analyze a website’s compatibility with smartphones. The reasoning here, I think, is that smartphones are destined to become a major Internet surfing device. Really? I had always assumed that the smartphone’s primary purpose in life was voice communication. You know. “Hi, Marge, I’m going to be late for dinner. Don’t wait up.” Or, “I’d like to schedule an appointment for my colonoscopy.”

Smartphones can additionally be used as a GPS device. They can maintain searchable address books. You can even, in fact, send short text messages with them ... but not while driving. You really shouldn’t use your smartphone for anything while driving. And definitely not in a packed theater. But people do, regardless.

What I cannot understand is why anybody would want to use their smartphones to surf the Net. Oh, all right, maybe for a quick check on the location of that new Asian fusion restaurant everyone is talking about. Or today’s weather report. I confess to enjoy reading the newspaper mornings over breakfast on my Kindle HD. But that’s a reasonably easy on the eyes nine-inch screen. On a smartphone? What is that? About 720 pixels by 1080 pixels of LCD real estate? Forget it. I’d go blind.

Text on smartphones is best limited to stock reports, or the pubescent “OMG, Gregory is adorbs! R U going out with him?” Not reading “War and Peace.” Perhaps email at the absolute upper limit. Definitely not expanded news coverage from “The New York Times.” Even zoomed-in. Especially zoomed-in. Something about having to read a much longer text one twenty-five word chunk at a time doesn’t sit well with me.

Designing websites to be comfortably read on a plastic window the size of a playing card, then, is about as ridiculous as watching a two-and-a-half hour, blockbuster movie on one. And that is another strange consequence of the current multimedia revolution.

When I was a child in the ’50s, the family would regularly huddle around our fourteen-inch black-and-white Philco TV to watch “The Ed Sullivan Show,” or “The Dinah Shore Chevy Show.” As soon as Dinah began to belt out “See the USA in your Chevrolet ...” which signaled the end of the show, it was bedtime for us kids, which I resisted, like most kids. Even to this day when I hear that song I am filled with a certain amount of trepidation.

Movies were aired on television back then. Mostly late at night, before the station ended its broadcast day with the stirring sounds of the National Anthem, followed by a quick test pattern. We actually watched movies on those little TV sets. But it was OK. They were old movies, low budget, easily forgotten. Nothing like the luxury of going to an actual movie theater to see a widescreen epic in Technicolor and stereophonic sound. You watched “Calling Bulldog Drummond” on television. There was no question about going to see “Around the World in 80 Days” at the local RKO Keith’s.

Fast forward to several years out of college. I was living in New York City and editing one or another trade magazine. My brother had also graduated and, until he decided what he was going to do with the rest of his life, worked for a film rental company. Mostly he’d cart 16mm prints and a projector to various institutions, like assisted living homes for the elderly, and provide “movie nights.” He’d take everything home with him because it was easier to return the stuff in the morning when he went back to work.

Sometimes he could take an extra movie that he’d particularly like to see, and run it later that evening at his apartment. I’d often drop by for the show. It was almost like having a home theater. We’d remark to each other how cool it would be to have a room in the basement (when we got our own houses) permanently equipped with a projector, big screen, recliners, and a collection of 16mm films. Of course, this is exactly what many wealthy people did, indeed, have. Wishful thinking for the two of us.

Decades later, thanks to advances in technology, I have a 42-inch widescreen HD TV in my living room, along with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound system, and an impressive collection of DVDs. The TV is many years old; at 42-inches, it is beginning to look asmartphone little puny, but still provides a reasonably accurate theatrical experience. You can get TVs now upwards of 80-inches.

Along about the time when TVs were getting bigger and brighter, something weird happened. Personal computers took a sharp left turn away from the utilitarian—word processing, databases, software programming—and focused on multimedia. Part of the sales pitch was you could watch full-length feature films on your computer. Say again? I’d rather not watch Batman defeat the Joker at my desk, thank you. But I do have a 27-inch widescreen computer monitor, so, I have to admit that, in a pinch, watching a big movie on my computer wouldn’t necessarily be all that bad.

Tablets, on the other hand ... Tablets are cool. I can think of a dozen uses for tablets. Watching movies isn’t one of them. Admittedly, I’ll often tune my Kindle HD to a TV show, like a classic “Twilight Zone” episode, or a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and watch while eating. There was a scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey” where David Bowman watched the news on his tablet while eating. Fine. TV shows, YouTube videos. Maybe even low-budget documentaries. I can appreciate that. Let me add, however, on several occasions I’ve tried to watch a big-budget feature film on my Kindle. It did not go well. After less than thirty minutes, I gave up, made some popcorn, and finished the movie on my home theater setup.

It gets worse, though. I’ve seen ads presenting smartphones as the next “small” thing on which to watch movies. You can stream Netflix on a smartphone! OMG! Somehow, I think Godzilla will lose all his swagger strutting across a screen that I can fit into the palm of my hand.

I ask you. Aren’t we heading in the wrong direction here? Back in the fog-enshrouded era before the personal computer, wasn’t movie-going an experience? The darkened theater. The huge screen. The air-conditioned comfort. The sound effects that would vibrate you down to your very bones. For better or for worse, a significant number of movies are now being made in 3D. Isn’t that saying something?

Just as there is a terminal velocity for falling objects, I think there is (or should be) a terminal screen size for viewing, at the minimum. There should be a terminal screen size for periodicals. There should be a terminal screen size for television. There should be a terminal screen size for movies. I can dream.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the incredible shrinking interface. Recently, I’ve noticed many new ads proclaiming: the Apple Watch is here! Say it isn’t so.

Sam Bellotto Jr.













benday About Our CoverthumbBill Wright has a science background and a bachelor's degree in microbiology. His work has been published by The Planetary Society and used in Promotional campaigns for the National Space Society. Starting out with traditional media, he recently transitioned to the digital palette, using Photoshop.