Mark Cole hates writing bios. Despite many efforts he has never written one he likes, perhaps because there are many other things he’d rather be writing. He writes from Warren, Pennsylvania, where he has managed to avoid writing about himself for both newspaper and magazine articles. His musings on Science Fiction have appeared in Clarkesworld and at, while his most recent story, “Let’s Start from the Top…” appeared in Daily Science Fiction.

Mark Cole has the following works available at Clarkesworld:

“I Can Build It!” Tom Said Inventively: The Strange History of the Six Tom Swifts

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 169 – October 2020

It started with a motorcycle. Not a flying motorcycle. Not one with jump rockets, magnetic impeller wheels, or wall climbing spikes. Just an ordinary broken-down motorcycle Tom Swift fixed back in 1910. Then it was a motorboat bought at auction. It hardly seems much of a beginning for forty novels—one of the most successful young […]

Boxtops, Secret Rings, and Space Helmets: Those Brave Spacemen of the Videowaves

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 167 – August 2020

It’s hard to imagine its impact. The image was grainy, fuzzy, more tones of gray than black or white. There would be static, constant hissing and popping, lines rolling across the screen or, if the weather, or sunspots, or who knows what else interfered, it would roll around or break up completely. But it was […]

Ray Guns, Robots and Spaceships, Oh My! The Birth of Science Fiction Toys

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 164 – May 2020

When we think of archaeological digs, most of us picture Indiana Jones in search of ancient civilizations, but just as often, they are conducted on far more modern sites to learn how people lived in the recent past. Not long ago they conducted a dig in the Shenandoah National Park. Back in the twenties and […]

Separated at Birth? Occultism, Science Fiction, and Why People Can't Tell Them Apart

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 162 – March 2020

Things are not always what they appear to be. For example, take The Suns of Easter Island (1972), a film by French New Wave director Pierre Kast. The basic premise is familiar. So familiar, in fact, that one has to keep reminding oneself that it was made several years before a certain far better-known film. […]

But Is It Art? Science Fiction that Isn't Really Science Fiction

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 159 – December 2019

It sounds familiar. A tough, intergalactic private eye goes to a city enslaved by a giant supercomputer, to arrest or kill its creator and shut down the computer. But somehow it isn’t familiar—or perhaps too familiar, as Alphaville is just bits of the real Paris. Then, there are the truly strange parts: the bizarre swimming […]

It Came From the Garage! Technology, Film, and the Guy Next Door

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 155 – August 2019

“Who is this guy?” There in the midst of Amazon’s suggested list of horror and science fiction films was a series of what appeared to be lost Fifties films. Except that they were new, and the work of someone named Christopher R. Mihm. “Who is this guy?” This time it was lurid covers promising octopus […]

Melon Farmers! Science Fiction Stumbles on the Way to the Theater

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 146 – November 2018

There’s an old saying about five-star restaurants: you do not want to see the kitchen. Let’s face it: sometimes you are better off not knowing how things get made. That certainly applies to movies. Film is a big business, which devours vast quantities of money and talent—and too often, the talent finds itself at the […]

Metallic Mayhem in the Movies: Giant Mecha, Then and Now

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 140 – May 2018

It’s hard to explain that moment . . . Something moved in the hazy distance of a vast white plain, and an army of machines emerged from the mist. And for an instant, it was no longer The Last Jedi. It was 1981 and the Imperial Walkers had begun their assault on Hoth. It was—and years later, still […]

Why Science Fiction Detective Stories Aren't Impossible

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 136 – January 2018

Perhaps it wouldn’t have been as bad without all the buildup. Episode after episode, Doctor Who regaled us with stories about Madame Vastra, a reptilian Silurian living in Victorian England, and her prodigious detective skills: The police always went to her with their difficult cases. She was the basis for all those stories about Sherlock […]

Science Fiction and the Fall of the Evil Empire

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 134 – November 2017

By the 1970s, no one believed in Communism anymore. Not in the Soviet Bloc, at least. Least of all those running the system and particularly not the KGB and the State Security Apparat. Which didn’t stop the vast machinery of the Communist State from shuddering on, crushing those who dared to resist, while it slowly […]

Cut, Fold, and Conquer the Universe: The Best Models in the Galaxy

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 128 – May 2017

It wasn’t unbelievable. It was something more than that, something you could hardly wrap your mind around. If you’ve seen the Matrix sequels, you would recognize it instantly: the APU (Armored Personnel Unit), a huge, heavily-armed and intensely detailed battle exoskeleton. It wasn’t so much that someone had created a model of this complex machine: […]

Kubrick to Scott: Relevancy and Realism in Cinematic Science Fiction

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 122 – November 2016

By the time 2001: A Space Odyssey arrived, everything had changed. Behind the Iron Curtain the Soviets launched their own science fiction boom, one far more realistic and adult-oriented than ours. Pavel Klushantsev’s 1958 documentary, Doroga k zvezdam (Road to the Stars), strongly influenced Kubrick. It starts with a brief history lesson, then moves into […]

Méliès to Bonestell: Relevancy and Realism in Cinematic Science Fiction

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 121 – October 2016

The future looks a lot more real than it used to. Or at least that’s the impression given by movies like Gravity and The Martian. For over a century filmmakers have wowed audiences with voyages to space. Unfortunately, most of them look silly now—and even fewer would hold an audience’s attention for ninety minutes. Will […]

The Age of the Excessive Machine: Psychedelic SF, On-Screen and Off

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 114 – March 2016

In 1975, a group of talented young men started work on an epic film version of Dune. It would have featured extravagant visual design, never before seen effects, an all-star cast (including Orson Welles, Salvador Dali and Mick Jagger)—and would have sparked a new age of spiritual awakening for the entire world! At least, that’s […]

You Wouldn't Be Reading This If It Weren't For Buck Rogers

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 110 – November 2015

Buck Rogers. The name is often spoken with a sneer, as if all of science fiction could be summed up with a single, iniquitous name—which makes it very hard to appreciate how much we owe him. Buck freed SF from the confines of the adventure pulps and a narrow, specialized audience and put it in […]

“Fans Are Slans”: A Study in Campbellian Influence

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 107 – August 2015

In September of 1959, Jason Howley walked into the Golden Casino in Reno, Nevada, carrying a small, black, plastic box. Within a matter of minutes, he’d won over three hundred thousand dollars. When the device was opened up by investigators, they found nothing in it but a plastic lens, two silver contacts, white paint, and […]

What in the World Do They Want, Anyway? The Myth of the Friendly Alien

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 101 – February 2015

It was one of those typical open line nights on Art Bell’s late night radio show, the talk drifting easily between the serious, the bizarre and the ludicrous. Somehow—perhaps the recent release of both Independence Day and Mars Attacks! started it—it settled into a discussion of how the movies have portrayed aliens. Why did so […]

A Sympathy of Light and Shadow: Science Fiction, Gothic Horror and How They Met

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 90 – March 2014

The decade started well enough. We boldly set out into the stars, confident we could conquer every peril. We faced unknown hazards, unexpected consequences of our own actions, beings vastly more powerful than us, and even the darkest corners of our own psyche. Yet we knew the universe would open all its secrets to us. […]

Aliens, Robots, Spaceships and . . . Popsicles? SF on American Radio, Then and Now

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 84 – September 2013

It took a long time to heat up. It was nothing special, just an old plastic GE radio. First silence, then crackling and hissing static, and then—if you were very lucky, if the weather conditions were perfect, if the stars were in the right conjunctions, who knows—then came the faint strains of a familiar theme […]

The Great Leap Sideways: SF and Social Media

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 77 – February 2013

Science Fiction isn’t always about the big things. Nor does it get it right all the time. Consider the first SF visions of the internet: for William Gibson and the other pioneer Cyberpunks, the online world was home to a chosen few—the corporate elite on one hand, the radical fringe of cowboys and hackers on […]

Foundation and Reality: Asimov’s Psychohistory and Its Real-World Parallels

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 74 – November 2012

“Psychohistory dealt not with man, but with man-masses. It was the science of mobs; mobs in their billions. It could forecast reactions to stimuli with something of the accuracy that a lesser science could bring to the forecast of a rebound of a billiard ball. The reaction of one man could be forecast by no […]

Life After Quatermass: Hammer Films' '60s Science Fiction

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 70 – July 2012

Hammer Films: The name conjures images of sinister images in garish color, of Frankenstein, Dracula, and a thousand other terrors of the night. Like some monstrous creature in one of its own films, Hammer has returned from the dead. After a 43-year absence, The Woman in Black recently hit American theaters, with the promise of […]

Spaceships, Time Paradoxes and Duct Tape: The Joys Of Independent SF Film

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 61 – October 2011

To most movie buffs, the phrase “independent film” conjures up images of intensely personal low-budget films. While the term actually applies to any film outside the studio system, the Independent Film Movement has transformed the Indies into a fertile ground for nurturing new talent and exploring ideas that the mainstream film industry would never touch. […]

Cinema 2.0: The Future of Movie Making?

NON-FICTION by Mark Cole in Issue 54 – March 2011

Film producer Matt Hanson calls it Cinema 2.0. Using a radical new model derived from the social networking web phenomenon and the Creative Commons/Open Source movement, this unprecedented evolutionary step in the development of cinema throws aside traditional studio production methods in favor of a decentralized, web-based approach. Several high-profile projects on the web have […]