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April 26, 2004

Respectability at last. The Bush Administration mobilizes against impending climate-change disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow:
“Urgent: HQ Direction,” began a message e-mailed on April 1 to dozens of scientists and officials at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

It was not an alert about an incoming asteroid, a problem with the space station or a solar storm. It was a warning about a movie. […]

“No one from NASA is to do interviews or otherwise comment on anything having to do with” the film, said the April 1 message, which was sent by Goddard’s top press officer. “Any news media wanting to discuss science fiction vs. science fact about climate change will need to seek comment from individuals or organizations not associated with NASA.”

Now, official recognition of the importance of science fiction to public debate has been long in coming, and of course my branch of the media welcomes the Administration’s new interest in the issue of “science fiction vs. science fact.” Presumably in the coming months we can expect Administration initiatives regarding public discussion of the Vingean Singularity, the relationship of “hard SF” to epic fantasy, the increasing role of women in science fiction (note to Karl: demographic opportunity? Discuss w. Karen soonest), and other important controversies inside our field.

Grateful though we are for the attention implicit in a gag order of our very own, though, we have to wonder just how far it extends. Specifically, which of our authors who work for NASA, or who have served on various NASA boards and commissions, will no longer be able to discuss climate change with us? To say nothing of the several astronauts whose books we’ve published over the years. We trust clarification will shortly follow. Thanks again for the attention! [09:39 AM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Respectability at last.:

Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 10:47 AM:

We already know that Karl Rove and George W. Bush are big Babylon 5 fans; unfortunately, they seem to keep taking the wrong lessons from it.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 11:50 AM:

Darn. I was hoping NASA was going to weigh in on what constitues hard SF and on Stan Schmidt's qualities as an editor.

alkali ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 12:08 PM:

This just in: interminable debate about definition of SF, fantasy and other genres to be settled by soon-to-be-issued federal regulations. Imminent death of Usenet predicted.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 12:17 PM:

Hmm . . . the same morning that this is posted the random quote I check every morning (via RSS) is from Dan Quayle: "It is now time for the human race to enter the solar system."

Coincidence? I wouldn't be too sure.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 12:56 PM:

It was dated April 1. Dare we hope it was an April fool's joke?

And if not does it extend to contractors? One of whom is sitting in bed next to me as I type...


Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 01:00 PM:

From spaceref.com:

According to NASA sources the New York Times article wasn't quite accurate. Indeed they got the polarity of the email's intent reversed. There was indeed an email and it was quoted correctly.
However, that email message had to do with NASA employees who had worked on the film (as individuals) proactively seeking interviews by the media in conjunction with the movie. The email had nothing to do with concerns over the editorial content or any attempt to limit response by NASA employees if asked.
The film's directors had apparently worked with NASA's Earth Science people on the script, but, after working with NASA personnel for several years, they failed to eventually sign a Space Act agreement. Signing such an agreement, as was the case with films such as "Mission to Mars" and "Armageddon" is a standing requirement for any project NASA cooperates with. In fact, word has it that NASA is waiting for the film to be released to see if it illegally uses the agency's logo.
Some of NASA's Earth science people were actually anxious to get out there and talk about the movie. NASA is reportedly ready to respond to any and all inquiries but the agency is concerned that it not be seen to promote the film in any way. It would seem that the NY Times did not follow this story to the depth it needed to be followed--and got the story wrong.
We will endeavor to get both the NASA HQ and NASA GSFC memos online - verbatim - in the next day or so.

Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 01:06 PM:

The moral of this story? The NY times is badly broken, and needs a culling of top staff, and I deeply resent the fact that this administration makes PNH feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 01:20 PM:

Hmm, this post got me to read Tor's FAQ for (I'm ashamed to say) the first time. Would have kept me from saying some dumb things if I'd read it earlier. It has a definite feel of Teresa's writing...did TNH write the Tor FAQ?

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 01:28 PM:

Ah, if only I'd read the whole thing...never mind.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 02:03 PM:

I'm hardly surprised that Rove and Bush are Babylon-5 fans. Way back before 9/11, when Bush attempted to intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute by essentially telling both parties to cut it out, the resemblance was strong to the way Bruce Boxleitner ends the equally implacable Shadow War by telling both parties to cut it out.

The only difference is, in science fiction this works.

By the way, if we're to discuss the Vingean Singularity, I found this a provocative article arguing that no such thing is going to happen, because humans aren't smart enough to do it.

Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 06:05 PM:

Mr. Jasper says, "The NY times is badly broken, and needs a culling of top staff..."

In that you appear to be in agreement with Howard Raines, at least according to his article in the latest Atlantic Monthly.

anon ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 06:29 PM:

Wunce agane, the NYT fale us...

Point of Contact: Bob Jacobs, Code PM, 202-358-1600

Movie Support Clarification

News reports in recent days have suggested that NASA has attempted to "muzzle" researchers from responding to the issues raised in the upcoming movie "The Day After Tomorrow." To the contrary, NASA expects that as colleagues, we will speak our minds, regardless of whether those views work to the advantage of the agency or not.

Diversity of opinion is a valuable resource and plays an important role as we work to successfully fulfill our mission objectives.

To clarify the specific issue, a number of NASA colleagues assisted with the film's development. However, we require producers to sign a cooperation agreement before offering any
formal advance promotional support. This is a standard agency policy that has successfully worked with other entertainment blockbusters such as "Armageddon" and "Space Cowboys."

But, the producers of "The Day After Tomorrow" have not signed an agreement. As such, NASA does not plan any specific support of this production.

This direction should not be interpreted as an attempt to keep scientists from speaking out on the issue of climate change. We encourage our researchers to openly answer all appropriate questions regarding the science explored in the movie.

Glenn Mahone
Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 06:56 PM:

Uh-huh. Nice try, Anon. Now tell me, if all the White House meant was Don't plan any formal, official support, then why didn't they say that? What they actually did say was "No one from NASA is to do interviews or otherwise comment" and "Any news media wanting to discuss science fiction vs. science fact about climate change will need to seek comment from individuals or organizations not associated with NASA", which is a hell of a lot more restrictive than what Mr Mahone is claiming.

Ron In Portland ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 08:47 PM:

The Bush administration's ideas about science could only be described as science fiction which is really too bad as it gives real science fiction a bad name.

Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2004, 08:58 AM:

Many thanks to Simon for the pointer to Jaron Lanier's article in Edge. I wanted to stand up and cheer while reading it.

"I'm hoping the reader can see that Artificial Intelligence is better understood as a belief system instead of a technology."

I've been saying this for years. It's a relief to know that some recognized experts in the field are equally skeptical about the Technological Rapture.

Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2004, 01:55 PM:


X-Authentication-Warning: spinoza.public.hq.nasa.gov: majordom set sender to owner-multimedia using -f
X-Sender: bfergus1@mail.hq.nasa.gov
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2004 12:22:36 -0400
To: multimedia@spinoza.public.hq.nasa.gov
From: bobbie ferguson
Subject: Movie "The Day After Tomorrow"
Sender: owner-multimedia@spinoza.public.hq.nasa.gov

20th Century Fox is scheduled to release the feature film "The Day After Tomorrow" Memorial weekend.

NASA worked with the producers, writer and director during the preproduction of this film. This included script research and development.

NASA did not participate in this film due to the fact that the producers, director and studio would not sign a Space Act Agreement.

It appears that we are now getting requests from reporters wanting to interview NASA personnel regarding this film.

Please remember that we cannot participate in any publicity regarding this film. If you have any questions, please contact me at 202-358-4702.

Bobbie Faye

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2004, 02:10 PM:

Josh, I'm not sure what the point of that post was. What point of mine did you think you were addressing?

Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2004, 12:43 AM:

Avram: It was more information from the organization (NASA). Sorry. I was having a day of "When Alergens Attack!" and had all my neurons clogged.

adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2004, 11:17 AM:

I've been thinking about this--not about NASA, but about Hollywood. How did they take a Robert Heinlein title, put it on a John Barnes story, and end up with a Jerry Bruckheimer movie?

Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 09:07 AM:

Actually, when I first heard of the title, I was afraid that they might have filmed the godawful thriller novel of that title by Allan Folsom, that received so much good buzz for so little reason back in the mid 90's.

Now that I know what the actual premise of the movie is, I keep thinking of Tom Petty singing, "I can't decide which is worse..."

Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2004, 04:56 AM:

What got me was all the hoohah over what looks like such bad fantasy alleged SF. Like, yeah, riiiiiggghhhttt, giant Walls of Water are going to hit the US coasts from global warming. Snort, snort, snort.

There hasn't been a film called "Tsunami," has there? Now that, -could- happen, but not over both coasts Incoming.

It just utterly boggles me that the Bushites think that people a/r/e a/s s/t/u/p/i/d a/s t/h/e/y a/r/e think that the events in piece of bad fantasy like The Day after Tomorrow could happen that way and that the film is -credible-...

"No, global warming is NOT going to sent tsunamis around the planet, a many story wall of water is not going to come smash into New York City. Wall of water waves HAVE hit coastlines, from tsuanmis-- Krakatoa blowing up set one off. Tsunamis have hit Japan. There was probably a huge one where Thera blew up. There wasn't one when Mt St Helen erupted because it's inland on dry land and didn';t propagate an earthquake underwater to generate a hydaulic shock wave to create a giant waves heading out to crash onto shores hundreds of miles away."

On the other hand, if it makes people question the Bushites and decide that the Bushites are louts requiring excision from the US Government, that apparently appalling piece of garbage film, shall have served a noble purposel