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Mysterious Seismic Disturbance Near Oak Park, IL headed toward Hollywood

Rippling seismic waves seem to target American Cinematheque’s Buck Rogers Cast & Crew Reunion

Guest Author: Pierre Menard

Seismologists are baffled by the continuing series of earthquakes reported in the vicinity of Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The tremors began early yesterday and have been increasing in magnitude over the course of the last twenty-four hours. Scientists are at a loss to explain the phenomenon, which is taking place in an area not known for seismic activity.

“There are no known fault lines running through Oak Park,” said Professor Armitage of the Miskatonic University. “Strictly speaking, earthquakes are caused by shifts in tectonic plates. We are calling this mysterious phenomenon ‘earthquakes’ only because of the percieved effect, not the cause — which remains unknown.”

The series of tremors began with an almost undetectable blip on seismographs in the area. Since then, magnitutude readings have been increasing logarithmically, although intensity levels so far remain at level #I on the Mercalli Intensity Scale (i.e., people do not perceive any movement).

“This is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Professor Armitage said. “The phenomenon is too precise in its repetitions and growth, like clockwork.” Armitage added, “What’s more bizarre is that the epicenter seems to be MOVING!”

Armitage added that the epicenter for each subsequent tremor has been pinpointed by triangulating seismograph readings, revealing a steady progress in a westerly direction. “As the magnitude has increased logarithmically, so has the speed at which the epicenter is traveling,” Armitage said.

Armitage went on to explain that the precision of the phenomenon allowed him to extrapolate the quake’s ultimate destination.

“If the present rate of acceleration and magnitude increase continue at this rate, I predict we will see a massive ‘earthquake[‘ on Tuesday, November 9 at 8:00 o’clock post merdian Pacific Coast time in Hollywood California. The epicenter will be precisely at 6712 Hollywood Blvd, just beneath the Egyptian Theatre. The magnitude will be upwards of a 10 on the Richter Scale, and the percieved effects will be a #XII on the Mercalli Intensity Scale.” (The Mercalli Scale measure earthquake effects rather than the actual magnitude. A rating of #XII indicates rippling waves in the ground, movement of large rocks, objects thrown in the air. Most of the surrounding city would be destroyed.)

Asked to offer a hypothesis to explain this unprecedented phenomenon, Professor Armitage took a deep breath and paused uncomfortably. Pressed for an answer, he finally relented.

“What I’m about to say goes against all my years of scientific training, but it’s the only thing that makes sense: Frederick S. Clarke, the late publisher of Cinefantastique magazine, is spinning in his grave.”

From 1970 until his death in 2000, Clarke edited and published Cinefantastique from his office in Oak Park, Illinois. The magaizne was sort of the thinking man’s answer to Starlog; that is, Cinefantastique took science-fiction, fantasy, and horror movies seriously.

Clarke explained his approach in the October 9, 1986 issue of the Chicago Tribune: “A lot of magazines in our field deal with horror and fantasy, but they do it on a juvenile level…. We treat the genre the way a serious magazine on the art of film would treat filmmaking. Starlog, which is the biggest in the field…will do something like interview Lou Ferrigno and ask him how it feels to play the Incredible Hulk.”

Since Clarke’s death, Cinefantastique was bought by new owners, who have taken the magazine in a direction that Clarke’s restless spirit apparently disapproves of. Armitage cites one specific example that seems to have been the catalyst for the strange seismic disturbances.

“The American Cinematheque recently announced a 25th anniversary cast and crew re-union screening of BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY,” which, Armitage explained, will take place at the precise time and location he expects the massive earthquake to hit.

“I was shocked to see that the event is being co-sponsored by Cinefantastique magazine,” Armitage added. “The BUCK ROGERS television show of the late 1970s represented everything that Frederick S. Clarke opposed in the science-fiction genre: rote repetition of action cliches set in outer space, depthless characters, and a lack of any genuine ‘sense of wonder.’ When the magazine reviewed the pilot episode back in 1979, they called it a ‘no-hitter in terms of grace, style, or wit…’ Yet the new owners of Cinefantastique are now treating this ‘plodding step backwards’ for the genre as if it were some kind of revered icon. I just don’t understand it.”

Armitage added: “At the time of the BUCK ROGERS TV series, when confronted by an angry letter from a sci-fi fan who accused him of not enjoying any of the current crop of genre films and television shows, Clarke responded: ‘If you have a Sense of Wonder, it can never be squashed. If you don’t, however, you may be one of those doomed to sit, zombie-like, through an endless stream of mediocrity that passes for horror, fantasy, and science fiction on the screen today, without even questioning what you see. What keeps me going? I can still feel the buzz from seeing 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY back in 1968, and that could last the rest of my life.'”

After another pause to gather his thoughts, Armitage continued: “Is it any wonder, then, that Frederick S. Clarke can no longer rest easy in his grave, while the magazine he created bestows restrospective glory on a television series that was dismissed in the pages of that very same magazine while he was alive? It’s like extending an open invitation to disaster, and from beyond the grave Clarke is sending an RSPV by way of our seismographs — telling us to cancel the event, or else!”

Armitage fears there is little chance for averting disaster, but he did hold out one small ray of hope. “It is, perhaps, not too late. Even if they can’t cancel the event, Cinefantastique could at least disown it. That might be enough…enough to save us all… Just maybe… We can only try…and hope for the best….”

Guest blogger Pierre Menard is the author of DON QUIXOTE.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.