This is a slightly overdue flashback.
In the fall of 1990, I was a sophomore at Bowling Green State University, and my friend Dave – whom I’m pretty sure I’ve known longer than anyone who’s not related to me – was a sophomore at Miami University. Prior to the start of the school year, James Taylor announced a concert date at Miami U. shortly after fall classes started, and Dave got tickets for me and my friend Jennifer.
Something came up, though, and Jen couldn’t make the trip, so she loaned me her car (Bob – for Bucket Of Bolts), and I invited my high school friend Amy, who had just started her freshman year at BG.
It was about a three-hour drive from Bowling Green to Oxford, a great concert, and an all-around fun trip. I have a few snapshot memories of specific songs – “Never Die Young”, “You’ve Got A Friend”, and the show-closing “Steamroller” – and remember having a really good time seeing Dave and catching up with Amy on the drive. Looking back, I realize what a bridging sort of night it was, where faces and voices of high school past and college present and future swirled and collided and ricocheted.
After the concert, Dave & his friends offered us each a place to crash if we wanted, but Amy and I both needed to get back for early classes the next morning, so we hit the road north again.
It was pretty cold, which I remember because Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” came on the radio, and both of us were all “VOLUME UP, WINDOWS DOWN!” To this day, when I’m alone in the car, that rule still stands, a quarter-century later. It’s been bent here & there, of course – but even in the dead of winter, I will blast the heat and crack the window just enough to get some outside air swirling through.
Picked this up at the Hartville Flea Market a few weeks ago, and bought it pretty much on the cover image alone:
FANTASTIC. Definitely-not-Luke-Skywalker-in-Bespin-outfit and certainly-not-Princess-Leia and possibly-not-C-3PO beneath absolutely-not-a-Colonial-Viper-Cylon-Raider-dogfight.
Screams “shameless unlicensed late 1970s ripoff,” no?
But there’s the kicker: This is from nineteen eighty-four, and its contents mirror a British edition published just a year earlier. So this book is, in fact, five years past the close of the original Battlestar Galactica series, and a year removed from the conclusion of the original Star Wars trilogy.
What’s inside? Let’s ask the back cover blurb:
Seventeen stories from the exciting world of science fiction, including Star Wars and Doctor Who and tales by Jules Verne, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke.
Excellent! Without further delay, then, here are the contents:
- Escape From the Death Star – from Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, by George Lucas
- Trial by Combat, by Jay Williams
- The Lights of the City by Garry Kilworth
- Through the Moons of Mowl – from Dragonfall 5 and the Super Horse, by Brian Earnshaw
- The Star, by H.G. Wells
- Johnson, by Guy Weiner (I did not make this up. – JB)
- The Smallest Dragonboy, by Anne McCaffrey
- The First Half-hour – from Round the Moon, by Jules Verne
- A Walk in the Woods, by David Campton
- Summertime on Icarus, by Arthur C. Clarke
- Baptism of Fire – from Citizen of the Galaxy, by Robert A. Heinlein
- Collecting Team, by Robert Silverberg
- Marooned on Splatterbang – from Escape from Splatterbang, by Nicholas Fisk
- Terrafied, by Arthur Tofte
- Planet-fall on Isis – from The Keeper of the Isis Light, by Monica Hughes
- Half Life, by Rachel Cosgrove Payes
- Return to Peladon – from Doctor Who and the Monster of Peladon, by Terrance Dicks
Interesting mix, and I look forward to reading them.
(Digression: The text of Escape from the Death Star seems to be reprinted faithfully from chapter 10 and part of chapter 11 of the Star Wars novelization, although it does open with an original two-sentence setup: Luke Skywalker, the old Jedi warrior Ben Kenobi, Han Solo and their companions are deep in the heart of the enemy battle station, the Death Star. Danger threatens on all sides as they struggle to free the young and beautiful Princess Leia from the clutches of the evil dark warlord, Darth Vader…)
Here’s what else the back cover promises, though:
This spectacular collection is illustrated throughout with specially commissioned drawings.
And, oh, the treasures here. All the drawings are black-and-white and in the margins either alongside or beneath the text, and feel like they belong in a much earlier science fiction era.
Now, to be fair, I’m really only focused on the illustrations accompanying the Star Wars excerpt, because again, this was a full seven years after the movie’s debut, and we all knew full well what things looked like in that galaxy far, far away. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that at this point, some characters and ships were already considered iconic.
Here’s this edition’s illustration of R2-D2 and C-3PO:
…and here are Han and Chewbacca:
More? OK. Our heroes heading for the Millennium Falcon:
…and blasting their way past the TIE fighters:
And maybe my favorite: Darth Vader vs. Ben Kenobi.
Several of these are highly reminiscent of pre-production Star Wars art, which is also interesting.
As a bonus, here’s an illustration from the Doctor Who excerpt, including the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith.
The artwork and the typeface and the page layouts all combine to remind me an awful lot of the kid-focused science fiction books I loved when I was in elementary school.
It’s been a long time since I stumbled on anything this unexpected and fun at the flea market – and for less than a handful of change.
When I was in elementary school, my friend Mike and I pitched a small orange tent in my backyard and camped out one night. I’m sure we stayed up late talking about Star Wars or playing cards by flashlight or something.
I woke up in the gray light before sunrise, surprised by how many birds were singing. It was a little chilly, with mist hanging over the cornfield behind the house.
We’d brought my dad’s old Boy Scout cooking set and some stuff for breakfast – although we were only a couple dozen steps from the house, at most – and I poured myself a bowl of Apple Jacks.
I went for a run before sunup today. The smell and feel of the air, the chattering of birds, and the color of the sky brought that long ago morning almost back to reality.
Here are the 16 books I read in 2014. Still not near the quantity I was reading five or six years ago, but more than last year (11 total, 5 re-reads), and only one re-read in the bunch.
- Heechee Rendezvous – Frederick Pohl (Wrapping up the original Heechee trilogy.)
- The Human Division – John Scalzi (Still love the Old Man’s War universe.)
- Among Others – Jo Walton
- The Alphabet Not Unlike the World – Katrina Vandenberg (Poetry. Really, really good poetry. Like “Inspires John Green while he’s writing The Fault in Our Stars” good poetry.
- Mystery Comics Digest No. 6 – The Twilight Zone (August 1972 – picked this up on Free Comic Book Day.)
- The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon – John Harris (GeekDad review.)
- Avengers: Assembled – Brian Michael Bendis
- The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi – Julius Csotonyi and Steve White (GeekDad review.)
- Alpha Centauri – Or Die! – Leigh Brackett (I picked this up a couple years ago at a bookstore in the small Ohio town where Brackett and her husband Edmond Hamilton lived. I wrote about it for StarWars.com.)
- Star Wars: A New Dawn – John Jackson Miller (I stopped reading most Star Wars novels long ago, but this one caught me, and it was quick and fun.)
- The Art of John Alvin – Andrea Alvin (GeekDad review.)
- The Future of the Mind – Michio Kaku (Fascinating stuff.)
- The Importance of Being Ernest – Ernest Cline (Author of Ready Player One. Interior illustrations by fellow Northeast Ohioan and cool guy Len Peralta.)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury (re-read)
- Chicks Dig Gaming: A Celebration of All Things Gaming by the Women Who Love It – Mad Norwegian Press (GeekDad review.)
- Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (No, I can’t believe I’d never read it either. What an incredibly fun book.)
I also spent a lot of enjoyable time in the pages of the following four role-playing game books last year, and I expect it to continue in 2015:
- Numenera (core rulebook) – Monte Cook
- Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook (5th ed.)
- Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (5th ed.)
- Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide (5th ed.)
Twenty-five years ago this month, I started my freshman year of college at Bowling Green State University.
Tonight, I drove a few miles out on some of the narrow, field-lined roads here in Lake Township. The sun hadn’t completely set, and there was an unusual (for early August) bit of coolness to the air, even though the corn is tall yet. Perfect night to put the windows down and crank the CD I burned a few years ago and labeled BG 89-91. It’s a mix of songs that take me back the most powerfully to my favorite years at BGSU. The songs are not all from those years, but they’re definitely among those that I listened to the most, and which still dig up the deepest memories and impressions of the friends and the places and the times.
My drive wasn’t long enough to get through the whole CD, but I had a few in particular that I wanted to hear, and as always, they mixed heartbreakingly well with the smell of the fields and the lingering pink-orange clouds.
Here they are, in the order they appear on the CD:
New Order – Blue Monday
Real Life – Send Me An Angel
Depeche Mode – Strangelove
Pixies – Dig for Fire
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Depeche Mode – A Question of Lust
Yaz – Only You
Don Henley – The Boys of Summer
The Cure – A Few Hours After This
I’ve said before how excited I am to have played a small part in this project, so when the finished DVD of Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys landed in my mailbox last week, it was a little like the day I got my Bossk.
Here’s the elevator pitch from the DVD web site:
Like no toys before them, Star Wars toys were a phenomenon that swept the nation, transforming both the toy and movie industries, and ultimately creating a hobby that, 30 years later, still holds sway over its fans.
Plastic Galaxy is a documentary that explores the groundbreaking and breathtaking world of Star Wars toys. Through interviews with former Kenner employees, experts, authors, and collectors, it looks at the toys’ history, their influence, and the fond and fervent feelings they elicit today.
I may not be the most impartial reviewer, of course, but think the movie turned out well. It’s a nice balance of nostalgia trip, toy merchandising history lesson, eye-popping show-and-tell, and behind-the-scenes storytelling. There’s some fun animation work throughout, too.
Several nifty people I’ve met and/or know from fan circles are also in the movie, like Jim Swearingen, and a couple OSWCC and KennerCollector.com friends, and Steve Sansweet, who wrote what’s still one of my all-time favorite Star Wars books, “From Concept to Screen to Collectible.” (A book, which, it should be noted, also inspired Plastic Galaxy. It’s still a good read 20+ years after its publication. Most of what has become common knowledge about the Kenner/Star Wars backstory was unearthed by Sansweet first.)
It’s probably not too much of a stretch to say that if you remember the Kenner brand or coveted the neighbor kid’s Landspeeder or grew up in the twin-sun shadow of the original Star Wars, then Plastic Galaxy is probably in your wheelhouse. You can order it from Brian and Karl’s Futurious Industries.
Postcards from Christmas vacation, 1983:
A Christmas Story came out in November, but I know it had been out for awhile by the time I saw it at the Gold Circle Cinemas. My parents had seen it already, as had this kid at school who told me how it ended after I asked him about it. Seems likely I went to see it over the winter break.
I was a big Bloom County fan This is my best “Bill the Cat” face:
So, if you recall, Return of the Jedi had come out earlier that year. This meant Star Wars gifts were pretty popular at Christmas. My brothers got a a bunch of Jedi toys and stuff: Speeder Bikes, the Ewok Village, action figures, big Presto Magix kits. It was really the last big Star Wars Christmas of the original trilogy era.
As a newly-minted teenager, I had pretty much taken Star Wars toys off my wish list. The last Kenner Star Wars toy I specifically asked for was the Y-Wing. As I wrote in Collect All 21! –
Couldn’t help it. This thing was light years ahead of the old X-Wing, armed with not only that squealing laser cannon, but a rotating top turret and a plastic bomb to drop from its underbelly. And it had a socket behind the cockpit for Artoo units. I may not have actually role-played with my figures anymore, but I did send that ship on many a run over card houses in our living room, and somewhere in our family albums there’s a snapshot of me using the ship to dive bomb my little brother and his Knight Rider-inspired remote-control black Camaro.
Now, for years, I remembered that Y-Wing as a 13th birthday request: But this picture was clearly taken on Christmas, judging by my sweet striped sweater and cool brown corduroy pants – the same outfit as in that first shot. And the Y-Wing box is in the background of another Christmas picture, so while I may have asked for it in November, the evidence suggests I got it on Christmas. I think the only other Star Wars toy I got that year was the Vehicle Maintenance Energizer, which paired up nicely with the ship.
And with that flash-forward, I wrap up This is Me in ’83.
Big thanks to my mom, who kept and organized shelves full of photo albums that held a lot of these pictures.
I’ve really enjoyed this project. I didn’t wind up writing as much as I thought I would when I started, but I also dug up and rediscovered things I didn’t have in mind a year ago. I also found some other pictures and photos and memories that I want to share and write about.
I hope you’ve had a good year. Thanks for visiting 1983 with me.
This begins with an overdue thanks to the guys behind JediCon WV, who earlier this month published a really moving and heartfelt Tumblr post about Collect All 21! and my presentation at their 2010 convention.
John writes he was six when he was first swayed by the Force. I was more like 11. But so many of his recollections are similar to my experiences. Here he was, five years my junior living in Ohio while I grew up in Virginia, older – not wiser – and it’s like we lived next door to each other.
So I want to thank you, John, for bringing out the Star Wars kid in me once again. Each re-reading brings back memories of the best childhood anyone could’ve asked for. Maybe that’s why I’ve never really left it behind.
I mean dang. Thank YOU. It feels like I’ve said this a million times, but god, that kind of reaction, and hearing that someone read what I wrote and enjoyed re-discovering long-lost secret joys? That’s one of my favorite things in the world, and it’s a huge reason I wrote Collect All 21! in the first place.
So, that’s the first part of the post as referenced in the title.
Naturally, the second part is this: You know what makes a good Christmas present? Unbridled Star Wars,-1970s-and-’80s nostalgia, conveniently packaged in classic paperback format, or in an expanded electronic book edition.
There’s an excerpt, and some nice things that nifty people have said about the book, and things like podcasts and interviews, and some non-Amazon Collect All 21! links here.
Deep and sincere thanks again to everyone who’s supported this book for the past five-plus years and encouraged me to keep sharing my Star Wars memories.
Thirty years ago, I became a teenager.
I wasn’t a huge fan of cake, so mom made me these amazing frozen mint pies with Oreo cookie crusts.
I also received a speedometer for my bike:
Three decades later, I spent a good chunk of my birthday playing a 1980s-era video game (Gauntlet) with my brothers, and the evening with my immediate family – having pie.
Inspired by that source material, I cobbled together my own fantasy adventurer’s costume for Halloween:
No parental assistance required: Sweat pants and a sweatshirt that looks like I removed the collar for that deep-V look that’s all the rage among dragon-slayers; cape from an old…bedspread, maybe? I can remember the material was heavy, but also kind of clingy and stretchy; tunic-vest-thing that I cut and stitched together myself out of some burlap-type cloth mom had around; and a belt that I probably wore every other day of the year, too.
The sword? A yardstick covered in aluminum foil, of course. Which means it stands to reason – as if it’s not completely clear already – that yes, I am in fact wearing a foil hat. (Technically, my helm was a white knit hat covered in foil. Still: FOIL HAT.)
And now that “foil” sounds funny, I’ll move on.
If I remember correctly, my fellow D&D wannabe Mike S. wore a pretty slick elf ranger costume he and his mom had made.
More than once, I think, Mike and I took advantage of the trick-or-treat scheduling differences between the village of Hartville itself – where he lived – and Lake Township: One usually scheduled it on Halloween proper, while the other set it on the closest preceding weekend night, or something like that, making it possible for us to hit both of our neighborhoods. I seem to think we also really liked going out in the early hours of trick-or-treat, dropping off our candy haul at home, and then going back out after dark to roam the neighborhood and try to scare the kids we knew.
Other bits and pieces nicely caught up in this photo: The Halloween decorations – store-bought and handmade alike – that my mom put out every year; the long-gone brick fireplace and wood paneling of our family room; the wooden set of coasters in their little boxy holder up there on the mantle (these go back practically to the beginning of my memory).
For all the dorkiness captured in this picture – of me, that is; nothing against our family decor – I remain oddly proud of this costume, since I made the whole thing myself.
Plus: Foil hat.