cover – along with some others I dug up while creating it – in a great Flickr group: "Growing Up Star
One of the group’s co-founders is artist Glen Mullaly, whose
art’s got a very cool throwback feel to it. He’s sent me some very nice words
about Collect All 21 and has embedded a picture of my 1977 birthday cake on
his blog post about the photo group, so this is a public thanks for that
support. One of the things Glen mentioned was that reading the book brought up some of his own memories that he hadn’t thought of in awhile, and it’s good to hear that, because it’s a big part of why I started the project in the first place. (Along with the fact that it was a ridiculous amount of fun, of course.)
in the UK
who caught my posts on Rebelscum and ordered a copy, and he gave me permission
to share his thoughts here:
Got the book yesterday, and I got hooked instantly. I had to read it
thru til the end last night, way past my bedtime.
Really enjoyed it, and there was lots I could relate to from my own
growing up as a Star Wars fan (I’m a tad younger, born in ’72). Very brave of
you to share so much of your personal history in the book (I doubt I’d be that
brave), and it made for much more than just another Star Wars fan book. It
added great depth, and I felt like I’d begun to know your family and friends.
In fact in places I wanted more about your family and personal life and less
Star Wars, but I guess that shows you’ve just not written a good Star Wars
book, but a bloody good book full stop.
Thank you very much for sharing, it was a rewarding read. As good as
"The Elfish Gene" by Mark Barrowcliffe, an English chap who grew up
in the 70s as a D&D fan, and also a good read.
WOW and THANKS.
me on a multi-library quest for The Elfish Gene, only to find it’s not due
stateside until November – though I did find this excerpt online, and though I
was never the gamer I wanted to be, it seems like an awfully good read…)
Well, my first official five-mile run is in the books, and I’m pretty happy with it: Forty minutes, 59.75 seconds – well below my original goal of 45 minutes, and just a shade off my secretly-harbored eight-minute-mile pace.
My younger brother Adam and I ran this one together, unlike the two-mile races we’ve done in the past, and it helped me tremendously: For starters, we managed to keep up a conversation for the first two miles or so, which prevented me from starting too fast. The first mile wound through shaded neighborhoods and passed pretty quickly. There was a little girl on a porch cheering everyone one as we passed: "Go faster! Go FASTER!"
Mile two swung us back around toward the Hall of Fame and put us on a nice long downhill stretch. (One benefit of the five-mile course is that, while the finish line is still at the top of the same hill as the two-mile, the five-mile at least gives you a shot to go DOWN the damn thing.) We start taking some long, coasting strides and are really wheeling down this thing before a minor bottleneck at the bottom had us putting on the brakes. At this point, we’re still feeling pretty good, we can see the second mile marker ahead, and we’re thinking, "Hey, not so bad – in the past, we’d be done by now."
Mile three tends to be my toughest mentally, the one where I’m most likely to hit the "just keep the feet moving" wall, and this one’s got a short but steepish climb about three-quarters through. But as we pass the water station and I grab a cup from a volunteer, swish-and-spit and then dump the rest over my head, I feel all right. Adam & I aren’t talking quite as much, but we’ve still got enough wind for a smart-ass comment about making a quick side-trip up the McKinley Memorial steps as we turn around in front of the monument. Someone hollers out in support, "You’re more than halfway there!"
And here’s where my real battle starts: Mile four sucks. Hard. It’s not even the fourth mile in its entirety – just the second half of it, plus the first quarter of mile five: It’s this long, grinding uphill straightaway that feels like forever. This is where I start muttering obscenities under my breath and my brother starts becoming the moral support I need.
One side of the street is lined with houses, and there are people out in front watching the race, including a family with three little kids, who are enthusiastically clapping and cheering and holding their hands out. "Let’s high-five ’em," my brother says, and we swing to the right and smack-smack-smack as these kids grin and their families cheer louder, and I smile and tell Adam thanks, because I needed that boost. We get a shot from a guy with a Super Soaker in another front yard – yes, we asked for it – and then there’s the water station marking the end of Mile Four and another swish-and-spit and another face splash and we’re over the hill and coasting down the unfairly-short other side. The end’s a-comin’. There’s another short uphill into the sun, and then a couple turns later and we’re almost to the bottom of the finishing hill, and we hit the bottom of it and we. Start. To. CHARGE.
I don’t even know where the energy came from, other than I could see the finish line and I just wanted to be on the other side of it.
My legs are screaming, I feel like the veins in my temples are getting whacked with mallets and my brother and I are flying side-by-side and we pass a few people and I hear my name over the loudspeakers and Adam and I split to go around a guy on either side and then we’re through the gate and it’s over and we did it and that’s my first five-mile and I take the sopping wet cold paper towel from the volunteer and slap it on the back of my neck and I feel kinda like puking just a little, but I don’t.
I plop on the grass for a minute to take the timing chip off my shoe, but I don’t want to stay there because it’s in the sun and I want my water and, even though it’s not even 9:30 a.m., my sandwich and my hot dog and my banana and my ice cream. (Seriously: I saw a girl wearing a shirt that said, "I Run To Eat." There’s no food like post-race food.)
We didn’t hang around for the awards, because we knew we were nowhere near the top. The results posted online a couple hours later. Adam actually finished FIVE-HUNDREDTHS of a second ahead of me. Dammit. We were in the top half overall, and we won – oh, fine, HE won – the Booth Division. (Turns out there were five other Booths running, though nobody we knew. One from San Jose, Calif., one from Atlanta, and one from Hudson, Ohio.)
After the drive home, I showered, had some spaghetti and dozed for awhile watching "Firefly."
When Adam called me to tell me about the 25th Anniversary theatrical showings of WarGames, I spazzed a little. Growing Up Nerd in the 80s – I was 12 years old the summer the movie came out, and it was just a few weeks after Return of the Jedi, which amazes me because the films seem to embody two such different personal eras – WarGames was the perfect blend of thriller, teen angst movie and geek video-gaming coolness.
So I’m driving to the theater last night, and it’s a gorgeous Ohio late afternoon, and the sun’s golden and it’s warm and I’m shuffling an all-’80s mix in and out of the CD player to get myself in the mood. Playlist: "Heat of the Moment" by Asia; "He Can’t Love You" by the Michael Stanley Band; "Synchronicity II" by the Police; "99 Luftballons" (German version, and yeah, I know the lyrics) by Nena.
Halfway there, this funny realization: I’d had no clean undershirts yesterday morning. Knowing that my work day would include no formal meetings, I opted for a gray novelty T-shirt and a plain blue button-down, though I kept it buttoned up through the workday. Now, on the way to see WarGames, my shirt was untucked and I’d undone the top three buttons because it was warm out.
Then it hits me: I’ve unintentionally donned the default high school outfit of the 1980s. Sadly, my "Bloom County" Steve Dallas shirt is long gone.
While I’m laughing about this to myself, I pass a car sitting for sale in someone’s yard: It’s a silver Porsche 924S, and now I’m practically howling with nostalgic delight while I’m singing, "Many miles away, there’s a shadow on the door…"
I meet up with Adam, and we take the center seats in the top row of the theater. The 25th Anniversary lookback, with its interviews and behind-the-scenes tidbits, is OK. The Dead Code trailer is laughable.
And then WarGames starts, and sonofabitch, I’m so far back in time I’m stunned. Not just drawn into the movie itself, but shocked at the deep nerves it’s hitting: God, I can actually remember what it was like lying awake late on summer nights like this, hearing the wind in the cornfield behind our house and wondering what the hell WOULD happen if there was a nuclear war. And it wasn’t sci-fi cool post-apocalypse stuff, it was scary and sad and lonely.
David Lightman’s onscreen obsession with video games – and how sad is it that I think I caught a flaw in his Galaga game during the movie? – and computers was echoed in my real-life addiction to our Atari and later the Timex Sinclair 1000 that I bought for ten bucks, and then the Commodore 64 I finally talked dad into. I wanted so much to program a BASIC "Joshua" that I could pretend to play WarGames with, and I still love the sound of computer keys that clack and aren’t velvet-wrapped tickings. And has there ever been a computer voice better than Joshua’s? The closest we got on our street was playing with the "You Type It Talks" cartridge on the neighbors’ Magnavox Odyssey 2 system. (Did we program it to sing "Mickey" by Toni Basil? Well, DUH.)
When WarGames hit cable, I recorded what I thought were the best lines using a boombox set in front of our television: "Goddammit, I’d piss on a spark plug if I thought it’d do any good!"; "Well, that’s a load of shit! (To president) No, not you, sir.";" "Hold the door! Hold the door!" >pause while door inexorably closes< "Hold the goddamn door!" Swearing, you see, was inherently funny to a 12-year-old kid. Adam and I were pleased to find that, on this night, it still was.
Plus, you know, David Lightman, the DORK, hooked up with Jennifer the BABE, and being a guy right on the edge of teenagerdom and still wearing thick plastic glasses and sporting brown corduroys regularly, I took this as was a sign of hope, just like when Billy Joel married Christy Brinkley.
The only flaw in this screening was a failure in the satellite feed that caused about a short intermission, but given the movie’s plot, it was pretty amusing. Seeing the Microsoft Windows task bar appear on the bottom of the screen during the reboot made it even funnier.
And yet for all the jokes during that break and for all the quiet anticipatory snickering during most of the movie, the last 20 minutes or so were as tense as they ever were, and I couldn’t blink when those white glowing dots and their cold static hum explosions started mushrooming over the world map one by one, then in clusters, then in hyperspeed fireworks followed by those amazingly perfect final few lines from Joshua echoing through a NORAD movie set in the 1980s and reaching to a theater two and a half decades later.
After we left, I got in my car and realized I wasn’t quite ready to be back home in 2008 yet. The throwback selection was a little more cheesy, but the kind that tugs a little in ways I can’t quite explain: "Shadows of the Night" by Pat Benatar; "Go Insane" by Lindsay Buckingham; "Dreaming" by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark; "When You Close Your Eyes" by Night Ranger.
It was cooler out now and I had about one song’s worth of driving to go, out between the fields and woods. With the damp night air swirling through the car, I put on Don Henley’s "Boys of Summer" and sang out of tune at the top of my lungs until I got home.
I’ve been to a couple of Jeff Harper’s productions in Akron and Canton with Adam, and though they’re small-scale by design, there’s a good level of enthusiasm there. And Jeff’s very open to supporting local and independent artists and writers, which is always a plus. I’ll be taking as many copies of the book as I can get before then, and I’ll be tweaking the display I set up at the OSWCC social earlier this month. I may be sharing a table with one of the other guests, depending on space, but hey: All the copies of my book look the same, so I don’t necessarily need a lot of setup room.
All that said, maybe I sell a few books, maybe not – at the very least, I’ll have driven to Columbus for a few hours hanging out and talking Star Wars and toys and comics, and there are far worse ways to spend an afternoon than that.
I never thought I’d feel this rejuvenated traveling to the ocean and back home inside a five-day window, but we got back from North Myrtle Beach last night, and DAMN was it a good trip. About three and a half days of solid beach time with the family, big condo right on the coast and lots of time in the surf. There are some notes worth an entry on their own, but right now, I’m going back a week:
July 12 was the annual OSWCC Summer Social, a six-hour blast bookended by a 4.5-hour road trip each way with a half-dozen fellow Star Wars fans. Kim Simmons, who shot a lot of the packaging art for the old Kenner toys, and his son, Scott D.M. Simmons, who sometimes helped out with those shots and grew up to work at Hasbro for awhile, were there to show off some slides of those shoots. (Hm. I should email Scott and see if that’s his hand shown on my "Hoth Ice Planet Adventure Set" box flat.)
I delivered a few pre-ordered Collect All 21! copies and sold five more while I was there, so I actually have to order a couple more – which is not a bad problem to have at all, of course.
In terms of new stuff for the collection, I picked up a 1999 ILM Siggraph shirt, a 1983 Scholastic Books slipcase with all three storybooks from the original trilogy (yes, I have
all of these already, but I’d never seen them in a single case, so I snagged it), and this Steve
Buccellato signed color guide sheet from Classic Star Wars #6, which I remember buying when it was new back in the early 1990s. I picked one of these up for Adam, too.
And a fellow OSWCCer gave me a bizarre but cool roman candle firework with a bootleg Darth Vader image on it. It was hard to scan, since I had to roll it along the glass as the scanner bar passed beneath, and it was a little wide for the bed, so you can’t see the Shazam-style lightning bolt and the white sunbursts coming out of Vader’s upraised "Thunderous Torch," as the thing’s labeled." Gawd, I love this crap.
I’m heading off the grid for a bit, but when I’m back, we’ll talk about the awesomely fantastic OSWCC Summer Social, the new additions to my Star Wars collection, and a little bit about how freaking cool it is that I’m having to order more copies of "Collect All 21!"
ManohmanohMAN I hope this story about the cities in the running to host Star Wars Celebration V is accurate. I missed the last one because I couldn’t make the trip all the way out to L.A., much as I wanted to, but I’ve sworn since then that as long as the next one’s east of the Mississippi, I’ll be there.
My preference among the finalist host cities is Orlando – I lived there for six years back in the 1990s, and Jim‘s place would make for convenient digs during C5. (Plus it would even things out from 2005, when he flew up here to go to C3.) Also would make a nice excuse to make the trip a family affair, since my wife & daughter could hang out with friends and family. Caveat: If it’s in Orlando, C5’s gotta be earlier on the calendar – it starts getting too hot in May.
Indy gets a familiarity & proximity (for me) nod; Baltimore’s not much further, but I’ve never been there, and Chicago has been the leader of the rumor pack for awhile, which I’m OK with. I guess I’d really only be disappointed if it were Minneapolis. Would I still go, even though this is technically WEST of the Mississippi? Abso-freaking-lutely.
In other Star Wars news: I’ve been stunned by the response to Collect All 21! – when the books start coming in, I’ll be shipping to (among other places) Sweden and Denmark! And I’ve had requests from England and Scotland, too. The first two batches of pre-order books are on the way to me and should be on their way to their owners within the next 7-10 days, and I’ve had to order more. I’m very excited about delivering a few copies at Saturday’s OSWCC Summer Social.
Per request, I’ve added a chapter excerpt to the book’s home page and a link to the WKSU radio piece that helped get the ball rolling on the project. The pre-order discount and free U.S. shipping offer goes away this Friday, so spread the word!
Still, it makes a geekdad proud to see his daughter excited rather than creeped out by her discovery of a garter snake in the backyard.
Even more so to witness her genuine concern about the little guy(?)’s bugged-out, milky-looking left eye. We set him(?) free back by the woods.
That reminds me, we probably should plan our Fossil Park trip before summer gets totally away from us…
Its roots go back to early 2007, but I can finally say my SECOND BOOK IS DONE!!! May I present "Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek – The First 30 Years."
The past month or so has been an absolute workfest of the best kind: Digging up old photos and home movies, working on the cover,and several intense back-and-forth editing sessions with Adam, who really put his heart into bringing out some writing I feel good about.
Now, it’s time to set it free: Before opening it up to full distribution through Lulu.com, I’m offering an early-buyer pre-order discount and free U.S. shipping. Click here for the order page and more info.
Some of the best Star Wars-related times I’ve had as an adult have been just talking with other people who grew up in that era and remembering how we played with our Star Wars guys and where we saw the movies and who our friends were in elementary school and how much fun it was just to be a kid back in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. My hope is that this book sparks more of those trips down a hyperspace memory lane.
(Click the next picture to embiggen a shot of the back cover if you want a closer look at some of my Star Wars artwork from 1978.)