Like many fans I can recite all too many lines from Monty Python sketches or Firesign Theatre albums but am indifferent to memorizing verse or literature. For example, Diana is still waiting for me to memorize the St. Crispin’s speech from Henry V, an ambition I mention to her whenever I see Kenneth Branagh’s movie.
That’s why I am a little surprised to discover I do know by heart a line from Christopher Marlowe’s “The Tragical History of Dr. Faust” — “From infernal Dis we do ascend to view the subjects of our majesty.”
Now, I’ve never read Marlowe’s “Tragical History.” The reason I know the line is because Tim Powers quoted it in Expiration Date. Ever since I read his novel it has stuck in my memory.
Realizing why I know even a single line of a Marlowe play has set me to thinking how many more examples of art, music and literature I have been introduced to by science fiction writers.
When Valentine Michael Smith needed a national anthem for Mars, in Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, he was prompted to choose the Mars movement of Holst’s Planet Symphony. Reading that piqued my curiosity to listen to the symphony for the first time, and over the years I’ve enjoyed its music again and again. The same Heinlein novel also led me to appreciate the sculpture of Rodin — who can forget Jubal Harshaw’s critique of Fallen Caryatid Carrying Her Stone?
Nor have I forgotten how Harlan Ellison challenged anyone in the audience of his appearance at the 1975 NASFiC to tell him why the dog in A Boy and His Dog was named “Blood.” No, it wasn’t to foreshadow the story’s surprise ending. It’s a reference to a Housman poem: “Clay lies still / but blood’s a rover; / Breath’s a ware that will not keep.”
I wonder if any of you have cherished memories of cultural landmarks discovered in the pages of science fiction?