Saturday, December 22, 2007

Mars Products

The three shops opened their doors to the public at ten A.M., on the tenth of March -- in local time and day. In New York, the letters spelling out MARS PRODUCTS had been displayed for eight days, and a good deal of curiosity had been aroused, both among the public and the press. But until actual opening, no information had been offered.

During those days, four objects had been on display in the shop windows. No doubt the reader of this précis has seen or examined these objects, each of which stood upon a small crystal display-stand, framed in black velvet, for all the world like precious jewels, which in a sense they were. The display consisted of a clock, an adding machine, an outboard motor and a music box...
This advertisement was hardly the first word in the press concerning the Martian shops. Already, every columnist had carried an item or two about what was, without question one of the most imaginative and novel publicity schemes of the space age.

Futurist colleague Howard Rheingold, in Honolulu with his family last week, drew to our attention a 01959 science fiction short story by Howard Fast (01914-02003) called "The Martian Shop".

Fast, a versatile, prolific, and politically conscientious writer, was at one time a member of the American Communist Party and was blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee. He may be known to movie buffs for Spartacus, a novel which he started writing while serving three months in prison for contempt of Congress, and on which the Stanley Kubrick film was based.

Anyway, the work we've been doing with public installations of future artifacts reminded Rheingold of the story, a nifty account of the intriguing, sudden appearance of luxury stores showcasing Martian technology in Tokyo, Paris and New York. Fiction, yes, but a tale of proto-future-shock therapy nonetheless (or so I'd like to think).

The full text of "The Martian Shop" can be found here. It's well worth a read.

Thanks, Howards!

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