Cornfield Meet

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Flea Market Find: Beyond the Stars: Tales of Adventure in Time and Space

Picked this up at the Hartville Flea Market a few weeks ago, and bought it pretty much on the cover image alone:

BeyondTheStarsCover

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:

BeyondTheStarsDroids

…and here are Han and Chewbacca:

BeyondTheStarsHanChewie

More? OK. Our heroes heading for the Millennium Falcon:

BeyondTheStarsEscape

…and blasting their way past the TIE fighters:

BeyondTheStarsSpaceChase

And maybe my favorite: Darth Vader vs. Ben Kenobi.

BeyondTheStarsDuel

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.

BeyondTheStarsDoctorWho

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.

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July 19, 2015 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, geek, science fiction | , , , , | Leave a comment

Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys

PlasticGalaxy

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.

February 2, 2014 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, eighties, Film, geek | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Collect All 21! – Big Thanks and A Shameless Plug

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.

Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek - Expanded Edition

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.

December 16, 2013 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, Books, eighties, geek, science fiction | , , , | Leave a comment

This is Me in ’83 – Never Say Never Again

Released October 7, 1983, Never Say Never Again was the first James Bond movie I remember seeing.

I suppose it’s possible I saw bits and pieces of the classics prior to that, and although I remember the theatrical releases of both Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only, I didn’t see them.

I do remember my parents being excited about this guy Sean Connery, and that because of their enthusiasm, I had decided that he was my favorite James Bond – despite having not seen a single 007 movie.

Mom dropped off me and friend – I seem to think it was my Dungeons &  Dragons partner, Mike S. – at the Gold Circle Cinemas for a Never Say Never Again matinee, and we were entertained as hell by the movie. (Of course, we were 12 years old: “James Bond – Urine Specimen! Hi-LARIOUS!” “That world domination video game was AWESOME!

Post-’83, it was another few years before I really developed a fandom for the character, sparked by a kid I had met at the North Canton Playhouse during my sophomore year of high school. He loaned me an old Signet copy of Thunderball, which launched me into a rabid pursuit of All Things Bond for a couple years.

My friend Aaron shared the interest, and one of our ongoing jokes was a “serious” debate over which yacht had the better name: The Disco Volante from Thunderball, (Aaron’s pick) or the Flying Saucer from Never Say Never Again. (You see it coming, don’t you?) This debate ended the day I encountered a paragraph in my Spanish class referring to someone spotting “discos volantes” in the sky. Oh. Well. There you go.

October 21, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Film | , , , | Leave a comment

This is Me in ’83 – How I Spent My Summer Vacation

It’s been two full months since my last “This is Me in ’83” post, and yet the break seems somehow fitting, because man, was my summer of ’83 just packed.

For starters, it was my first full summer as a member of our church youth group, and while I’d attended the weekend winter retreat at Camp Wanake, the week-long summer retreats to Lakeside, Ohio were the stuff of older-kid legend.

Our youth group always rented the same big old three-story house: It was called Rockledge – still is, in fact (although only the second and third stories are available to rent now, and specifically not open to youth groups).

The week had a fair amount of structure: One day was spent on a trip to Put-in-Bay, for instance; another included a visit to the beach at East Harbor State Park. Evenings always included some kind of group after-dinner activity. But we also had what felt like a ton of free time to spend playing mini golf or shuffleboard or getting “suicides” (fountain drinks with a bit of each kind of pop mixed in) from the snack bar/video arcade down by the dock. I also liked walking around on the rocky part of the lakeshore, dodging the waves and the spray when the lake was choppy.

We could just wander around the town, checking out the limited book selection in one of the shops, getting ice cream and, in the mornings, fresh donuts. (There’s a place called The Patio – I’m pretty sure it’s the same place I remember – that served up the only cake donuts that I ever really liked. Raised donuts have always been my preference, but fresh baked cinnamon-sugared donuts still warm from The Patio? Dang.)

What I really remember was kind of neat feeling of independence.

The only photos I have from Lakeside ’83 are Polaroid instants of other people: a shot of a cross-dressed singing quartet from our “skit night,” and a picture of my friend Aaron – our junior high youth group years were really where our friendship started – performing a song-and-dance routine doled out each night as punishment to the last person to show up for dinner.

So: No Lakeside ’83 photos.

Later that summer, though, I spent a week in Roanoke, Virginia, staying with my friend Jacob. He and I had been best friends from (I think) third through fifth grades – the entire time he was in our school district. When his family left Hartville, it was the first time I’d had a real close friend move away.

I don’t remember how I got down to Roanoke – maybe our parents each drove halfway or something – but do remember a really fun week.

We spent a day at Lakeside Park (no connection to Lakeside, Oh.); we watched MTV in hopes of seeing the video for “Mr. Roboto” (We didn’t. We had to settle for “Don’t Let It End.” Which isn’t even close.); we saw Return of the Jedi – a repeat viewing for me, but I think it was Jacob’s first time; we drove up to the Mill Mountain Star.

Jake’s parents had a station wagon, and we loved riding in the way, way back, in the rear-facing bench seat. The A-Team had made a big splash earlier that year, and one day on a trip to a department store, Jacob and I had convinced his mom to buy us a couple plastic M-16 rifles with the built-in ratatatat-type noisemakers. We sat in the wayback with the window down and pretended to shoot stuff all the way home. (I know. And this was in the era well before toy guns had to be made in tiger stripes and fluorescent colors. These were solid matte black plastic.) We spent a lot of time that week running around Jacob’s yard, surviving as soldiers of fortune and helping people who had problems that no one else could solve. Jacob took this Polaroid shot of me crouching in wait – and though he warned me that you couldn’t even see my rifle against the dark green bush, I told him to take it anyway:

Cover me, Faceman.

So that was obviously a great week.

Finally, there was that summer’s annual family trip. We used to caravan to Lake Cumberland in Kentucky with our neighbors, the Millers. Our families would rent a houseboat together, and we’d spend a week on the lake inner tubing and waterskiing.

The summer of ’83, the trip was extended, if I recall correctly: They swung down to Roanoke to pick me up, and then we took a side trip through the Great Smoky Mountains on our way to Kentucky. We did some tourist-y type stuff, visited the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower, and stayed at a campground that had a stream running through it, with some rocky rapids ideal for tubing: (Note: Same tennis shoes as in the previous picture, now available in Soaking Wet.)

…and here’s me ruining a perfectly good family photo: Yes. I’m hilarious. And yes, I’m wearing the same damn shirt as when Jacob & I were A-Teaming it up. I like to think maybe Jacob’s mom was kind enough to do a load of laundry the week I was visiting – otherwise, my overly dramatic “something stinks” look here exhibits a painful lack of self-awareness.

Onward, then, to Lake Cumberland. In addition to the waterskiing and inner tubing, the shore was loaded with steep, rocky ledges perfect for jumping from. You could also find crinoid fossils by the handful, and geodes on occasion as well.

Such style. And waving? Living. On. The. Edge.

All part of the summer of ’83, which, in retrospect, was pretty freaking cool.

August 5, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Family history | , , , , , | 1 Comment

This is Me in ’83 – WarGames

WarGames came out just a few weeks after Return of the Jedi, yet the films seem to embody two such different personal eras for me. One marked the close of the most influential storytelling in my childhood, the other feels very much tied to my early teenage years.

Not quite five years ago, Adam and I went to the WarGames 25th Anniversary theatrical showing. Here’s part of what I wrote the next day:

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?

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.

And the last 20 minutes or so were as tense as they ever were. 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.

Now, I could be wrong on the timing, but it seems very likely that the summer of 1983 was also when my friend Mike and I took a kids’ introduction to computer programming class at the Stark County campus of Kent State University, working on Timex Sinclairs. While I can’t say for certain it was that year, I do have a vivid memory of our instructor challenging Mike and me with a problem one day, offering a pad of graph paper as a reward because he knew we loved using the stuff for Dungeons & Dragons.

I probably didn’t see WarGames more than once in the theater, but it was one of those movies we recorded onto VHS and watched over and over again. And as I wrote for GeekDad, it holds up.

June 4, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Film, geek | , , | Leave a comment

This is Me in ’83 – Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

I watched a lot of M*A*S*H when I was a kid, although I admit I have no recollection of differentiating between new episodes and reruns airing in syndication. Much of the show’s serious themes went over my head, I’m sure, but I loved the characters and the snappy dialogue and the humor. (Another admission: On a visit to my grandma’s once, I tried to watch the original movie, but I lost interest when I saw that it had different actors than the TV show. I never have watched it.)

When I thought of my dad serving in Korea in the early 1970s, I always imagined it being like M*A*S*H.

I seem to remember my parents liking the show, too, so it was kind of a big deal when the final episode aired – thirty years ago today – Feb. 28, 1983. I was 12 years old, so I literally could not remember a time when M*A*S*H was not on TV.

The whole opening sequence of Goodbye, Farewell and Amen – with Hawkeye in psychiatric treatment and relating the story about the bus and the chicken and the baby – really threw me off, because it wasn’t like the M*A*S*H I was used to watching at all.

It did settle back onto more familiar ground. And this was my first “big finish” to a TV show, so I got really caught up in the emotions of all the characters saying goodbye and wrapping up their storylines, and when it was over, I felt a little sad.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Family history, Television | , , , | 1 Comment

This is Me in ’83 – Winter, Western New York

My Uncle Rob and Aunt Becky had their second child – my cousin Justin – in the last few days of 1982, so my family began 1983 with a trip to western New York.

NY_Jan_83

That’s me in the middle, and my brothers, who are on skis. My glasses were of the oh-so-cool-automatically-darkening-outside variety.

I don’t remember if this was in Olean or Portville, New York, although there are photos of us eating pizza from the Portville Snak Shak: the restaurant which introduced me – on a later trip, I think – to the deliciousness of buffalo wings.

My grandpa had made the trip from Ohio, too – I don’t remember if he drove separately, or if grandma was there, or if we all traveled together – and I think I remember him playing pool with Dad and Uncle Rob in a basement room of my aunt and uncle’s house.

This trip was either during the last weekend of winter break, or possibly a bit into January ’83, since I didn’t go back to school immediately due to the Lake Local teachers’ strike.

January 28, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Family history | , , , , | Leave a comment

This is Me in ’83 – Introduction and Part One.

Over the Christmas / New Year’s holidays, inspired in part by Alison Haislip’s AliMinus20 Twitter feed , I started thinking back to thirty years ago: 1983.

The original Star Wars trilogy concluded that year. So did M*A*S*HJaws 3-D and A Christmas Story both came out. I wasn’t really into listening to music yet, but that year saw the release of “99 Luftballoons”, “It’s a Mistake”, and “Every Breath You Take,” all of which I eventually owned on cassette, either as part of the entire purchased album or recorded off  MTV using a boombox placed in front of the family room television.

I’m pretty sure sixth grade was the year I finally made it all the way through reading The Lord of the Rings. And in November 1983, I became a teenager.

Point is, it seemed like it’d be a fun year to revisit through pictures and memories and whatever else I can dig up. And as Doc Brown says, 30 years is a nice round number for time traveling.

My plan is to try and unpack these memories over the course of this calendar year, so for starters, here’s about what I looked like three decades back:

Christmas1982

When the year began, I was 12 years old and in my first year – sixth grade – at Lake Middle School. This picture is the closest I can get to January of ’83 – it’s actually from late December 1982, and we’re visiting my aunt and uncle in western New York over Christmas break. I’ve used this one because the next pictures of me in our family photo albums don’t show up until March. (Those Capsela kits were awfully freaking cool, by the way.)

Lack of personal photo documentation aside, 1983 did get off to an interesting start: The Lake Local Schools teachers’ union went on strike on January 3 – our first scheduled day back at school following the Christmas break.

My parents kept me home – whether out of support for the teachers, or due to a lack of available busing (this would be less of an issue as the strike continued), I’m not sure. But I remember thinking it was great having an extended winter vacation.

I’m not sure how long it took – a week, maybe? Week-and-a-half? – for mom to get it into her head that I should be doing school-type stuff instead of playing Atari and watching cartoons – but I know that the day she assigned me to write a book report was the last I stayed home. By that point, several of my friends had gone back to school, where substitutes teachers were filling in.

I don’t remember being nervous about walking past the teachers picketing in the parking lot or anything like that. I remember that it felt weird to be back, since a lot of the kids were still staying home, and since the substitutes were kind of more or less winging their lesson plans, which had little to do with whatever it was we’d been working on in December.

Looking through the Canton Repository archives to find out how long the strike lasted, I found this in the January 26th edition:

LakeWalkout

I remember that day: And yes, I seem to recall having the Fear of the Permanent Record being put into us as far as the penalties for participating in the walkout. There were adults stationed at the building exits, sitting at student desks which had been moved into the hallways for the occasion. In one of my classes, the teacher took attendance and, reaching a gap in the roll, asked if anyone had seen the absent student. “He excaped!” one of my classmates blurted out with vicarious glee.

I believe a couple of the older kids on our street – high schoolers – did participate in the walkout.

The strike ended on Feb. 15. Pictures in the newspaper archives showed the teachers wearing their “TOGETHER WE CAN DID!” buttons, which I had forgotten about. The paper noted that 28 teachers had been arrested over the course of the strike. I have a vague memory of the whispered buzz about this side of things.

Unrelated notes from January and early February 1983:

  • That’s Incredible anchored my Monday night prime-time viewing.
  • Gas hit the $1 per gallon mark in Stark County on Feb. 11
  • The Toy, Airplane II: The Sequel and The Dark Crystal were all still in movie theatres.

January 21, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Ohio | , , , | 4 Comments

Backstage with Vader and Luke

Finding some odd stuff while cleaning and reorganizing my office. Here’s a newspaper archive photo of James Earl Jones and Mark Hamill:

FencesArchive

I love it: It feels genuine.

According to the caption information, it’s New York, September 1987, following a Broadway performance of Fences, which Jones was starring in at the time. (The caption also notes their roles in Star Wars, indicating that the saga connection might be what prompted Associated Press photographer Frankie Ziths to get the shot.)

January 3, 2013 Posted by | eighties, Film, geek, photos | , , , | 2 Comments

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