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“Space Rubbish” Phrase

I’m indebted to fellow slanfan Michael McKinney for the phrase “space rubbish,” which he used in an email to me several years ago.  He was talking about how it was a good idea to use some form of off-site backup for one’s valuable data, in the eventuality that one’s house is destroyed by falling Klingon space rubbish — an apposite pearl of wisdom if ever I heard one.  Every time the phrase swims to the surface of my mind, it makes me grin and chuckle.  Although he doesn’t own a trademark on the phrase “space rubbish” — so far as I know, anyway! — I use the phrase here by Michael’s gracious permission.

I should also mention that this blog is in no way affiliated with the online arcade game Space Rubbish which, by a bizarre coincidence that is surely the product of an Infinite Improbability Drive being used, was announced around roughly the same time I decided to finally start up my blog.  This online game was only drawn to my attention after the fact by the aforementioned Michael.  What with space being so infinitely huge, I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising that there’s a lot of rubbish floating around in it, of different kinds, sizes, and flavors.

Image Credits

The images I’ve used both in the blog banner and as my user picture, are both taken from covers of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. These are scans made from my own magazine collection, not purloined from elsewhere on the net.

Space Rubbish banner

The sad little robot chancing upon the remains of another traveller in the desert wastelands is from the October 1955 issue.  Entitled “Follow Me,” it’s the work of Ed Emshwiller (better known as Emsh), one of the most beloved artists to contribute to the SF field.

cover of Astounding Science Fiction, October 1955

I love this particular work for two reasons (well, okay, three reasons):

  • I love cute robots.
  • The whole composition of this piece is so wonderfully poignant — the rusty-red sands, the razor-sharp rocks, the almost archeological state of the half-buried skeleton, the highly ironic intact first-aid box… and the innocently bemused expression on the robot’s face. I picture him standing there for days or hours, slightly sad and idly curious. Then, I often imagine him tromping off at a steady pace towards wherever he thinks he’s going, leaving short-lived mechanical footprints in the desert behind him. But sometimes I can’t help but wonder — has he been standing there ever since his human companion expired? Will he continue to stand watch over him until the end of time? A classic painting in every respect.
  • That desert scene also strikes a chord with me on a far more literal level. I live in the Californian Mojave Desert, yet am better suited to living in the Highlands of Scotland.  I love cold, rainy, snowy, overcast weather — I lived in Colorado for 9 years, so when I say that I hate living in the dry, hot, windy, dusty desert, it’s not just me thinking things are greener on the other side of the fence.  I also have an intense aversion to any temperature over 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and actually feel better in the cold.  So, indeed, it’s no exageration to say that there are some days during the height of summer, when it can get up to 120 degrees in the shade, that I actually feel more like that poor skeleton in the sand, having long since met his demise. Or, sometimes, not so much being that guy as just wishing I were that guy, because then I wouldn’t be bothered by the ridiculously high temperature anymore.

Icshi profile picture

My user picture is taken from the cover of the March 1953 issue. This is the artwork of Gordon Pawelka, illustrating the delightful story “Thou Good And Faithful” by John Loxmith. Loxmith was in fact the pseudonym of John Brunner, and this story marked his first appearance in the American SF market.

cover of Astounding Science Fiction, March 1955

My reasons for liking this cover are far simpler and less psychologically complex:


In creating and maintaining this blog, I extensively use the marvellous Macintosh program MarsEdit. Its intuitive interface and numerous features make the creation, posting, and editing of blog entries incredibly simple.

For dealing with graphics, I use a variety of Macintosh programs in addition to Preview and iPhoto (which come packaged with Mac OS X):

  • ImageWell — the simplest yet most versatile image editor I’ve ever had the pleasure of using
  • Art Text — very useful for creating banners with text
  • EasyBatchPhoto — superb for shrinking pictures, and converting them from one format to another, with plenty of scalable options for quality and size output

7 responses »

  1. I agree. John Brunner’s story, Thou Good and Faithful, is one heckuva tale. Star Trek before Star Trek. And possibly Brunner’s attempt at emulating the great Eric Frank Russell.

  2. I think you are looking at the image incorrectly. Based on the “Follow me” dialogue, I believe the robot was instructed by the man to follow him on his journey. The man died on that spot, leaving the robot to await further instructions for all eternity.

  3. Aha! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that! Very perceptive.

  4. Funny enough, the “Sad robot” cover is explained in a french SF story published in 1969 (B.R.Bruss “Parle, robot !”), where a 4000 years old discovery of “a “homo sapiens” type skeleton resting near a robot, not far away from the debris of a space lifeboat” allowed, due to the quality of the robot’s preservation, a complete memory exploration, which became the book’s subject. ‘Love it !


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