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.

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

What I Read in 2014

books2014

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.

  1. Heechee Rendezvous – Frederick Pohl (Wrapping up the original Heechee trilogy.)
  2. The Human Division – John Scalzi (Still love the Old Man’s War universe.)
  3. Among Others – Jo Walton
  4. 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.
  5. Mystery Comics Digest No. 6 – The Twilight Zone (August 1972 – picked this up on Free Comic Book Day.)
  6. The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon – John Harris (GeekDad review.)
  7. Avengers: Assembled – Brian Michael Bendis
  8. The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi – Julius Csotonyi and Steve White (GeekDad review.)
  9. 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.)
  10. 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.)
  11. The Art of John Alvin – Andrea Alvin (GeekDad review.)
  12. The Future of the Mind – Michio Kaku (Fascinating stuff.)
  13. The Importance of Being Ernest – Ernest Cline (Author of Ready Player OneInterior illustrations by fellow Northeast Ohioan and cool guy Len Peralta.)
  14. Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury (re-read)
  15. Chicks Dig Gaming: A Celebration of All Things Gaming by the Women Who Love It – Mad Norwegian Press (GeekDad review.)
  16. 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.)

 

January 1, 2015 Posted by | 1980s, Fiction, geek, science fiction | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What I read in 2012

I only read through 25 books in 2012, compared with 36 in 2011. (And down further from the 38 in 2010, and barely half my 2009 number: 46.) Those books (linked to my GeekDad reviews where applicable) were:

The list does include fewer re-reads than the previous few years, the exceptions being American Gods, the Hunger Games trilogy (read as a psyche-up for the movie), and Revolt on Alpha C, a childhood favorite.

I did specify at the beginning that those are the books I “read through,” because I spent a lot of time in the pages of larger reference-style books, even if I don’t count them as cover-to-cover reads (links, again, to GeekDad reviews):

I also have a monthly Kindle subscription to Lightspeed magazine, which I don’t consume beginning to end every month, but which adds another bunch of short stories and interviews to my count.

I’ll also note that this was my first year owning the Kindle, which led to something that hasn’t happened much to me in the past: Unfinished books. Being able to grab books on the cheap (or for free) made it incredibly easy to load up, and there are several books on the device (or in my Amazon cloud) which I either haven’t started yet or which remain only partially read. Part of it is because I tend to read those when I’m not at home, which is part of the point of the Kindle, after all.

Maybe I’ll put those – plus the ones on the shelf on my new bookcase which I’ve reserved for unread books – at the top of this year’s list.

Once I’ve finished the book I’m reading now, of course.

January 2, 2013 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, geek | , | Leave a comment

Last Visit to Backlist Books

A few months after re-introducing me to Dungeons & Dragons, my friend Paul suggested we visit Backlist Books in Massillon for an afternoon of gaming in the then-newly-relaunched Gamma World. It was the first time I had sat down with a group of strangers (except for Paul, of course) for a role-playing session.

We had enough fun that Fred, owner of Backlist, started a Sunday afternoon Gamma World campaign in a setting of his own creation. It lasted several months, and when we’d completed that quest, Fred asked if I’d be interested in joining one of his Wednesday night D&D Encounters groups. I started in September 2011, and over most of the next year, I played through three adventures with two different groups, and I was learning Pathfinder in the fall when Fred broke the news that the store would be closing at the end of 2012.

Besides gaming, there was always plenty of conversation about books and movies and TV and video games and (for us older folks) 1980s pop culture and alternative music. Fred and I also talked running in the months leading up to the Canton Marathon.

Since becoming a Backlist regular, I made a real effort to order new books through the store and reserve Amazon for buying other things.

Kelsey and I drove over on Monday, Dec. 31, to complete one final purchase:

That’s a Handmade By Fred eight-foot bookcase, now in its new home here in my office. (I did have to fire up the circular saw and lop off about 5 inches from the top, since the room’s ceiling height is only 93 inches.) It’s even constructed with an angled base, so it’s nice and stable. I also really dig having a bookcase with a top shelf that – for me, anyway – requires the use of a small stepstool.

There’s a lot of space on those shelves occupied by bits of former Backlist inventory – books from several editions of D&D; science fiction new (Ready Player OneThe Inexplicables) and old (Gateway; At the Mountains of Madness); TSR “Endless Quests” books to replace the ones I bought in middle school and lost long ago; John Green, and Jim C. Hines, and a pulpy-covered paperback collection of vintage Star Wars comics.

All in all, a fine reminder of a few years of really good times.

Thanks, Fred!

December 31, 2012 Posted by | Books, geek, Ohio, Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Dungeons & Dragons: Into the Unknown

Over at GeekDad, I’ve published a review of Dungeons & Dragons – Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook.

Dungeons & Dragons Into the Unknown

Click the cover image to visit the post at GeekDad.

July 5, 2012 Posted by | Books, Games, geek | , , , , | Leave a comment

What I read in 2011

I read 36 books in 2011, which is two fewer than my 2010 total, but a number which still pleasantly surprised me, given that I landed a full-time career-changing job in February.

Mostly fiction, by far. The eight non-fiction reads included two biographies, an essay collection, a book on gaming and society, and four pop culture niche explorations.

Nine books on the list are re-reads, although one of those was the extensively annotated Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition. If you want to get technical, it’s ten counting Pillars of Pentegarn although it’s been probably 25 years – at least – since I last read it.

Obsessive streak: I closed the year on a 10-day break from work, during which time I read volumes 2-7 of the Harry Potter series. (I had planned to read the entire set, but then realized I had already read Sorceror’s Stone over the summer.)

Shared joy: My daughter and I fell in love with the Scott Pilgrim series after I bought her the first volume and then went to the library within a day or two to check out the other five.

I have Adam to thank for two books on the list which were gifts: John Landis and Manhood for Amateurs. Excellent call on both.

I reviewed twelve of the books for GeekDad.

The list:

And first on the list for 2012:

Ganymede by Cherie Priest


January 1, 2012 Posted by | Books, Fiction, Film, geek, science fiction | , , , , | 3 Comments

Kirk Demarais’ Mail-Order Mysteries: Two See-Through Thumbs Up

My friend Kirk Demarais’ new book is coming out this month, and if you grew up marveling and wondering at comic book ads promising magical voice-throwing powers or an army in a footlocker … all will be revealed!

Kirk Demarais Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads

Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads! is a lot of fun (the exclamation point in the title practically guarantees it, right?), and as I mentioned in my GeekDad review, Kirk lets his love for all these bits of cheesy goodness shine through.

Kirk also took some time to answer email questions for a GeekDad interview, and demonstrates a couple of the novelties in this video on YouTube:

And when you have 15 minutes to spare, his short film Flip is another great tribute to this part of childhood:

Got more than 15 minutes? Go lose yourself at Secret Fun Spot for awhile. Then buy his book so he’ll keep digging up all these treasures to share.

October 1, 2011 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, Books, eighties, geek, science fiction | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Harry Potter: At the Close.

On my way into work yesterday morning, coming off about three hours’ sleep following the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and hopped up on caffeine and sugar, I got to thinking about the books and movies and what they’ve meant to me as a geek and – more importantly – as a dad over the past 12 years. I turned those reflections into a piece which is posted (appropriately enough) over at Wired – Harry Potter and the Nostalgic GeekDad:

Harry Potter GeekDad

I couldn't assemble all seven books for the photo, because they're so rarely all on the shelf together. I think that's cool.

I really enjoyed writing this one, and hope you enjoy reading it.

July 16, 2011 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, Film, geek, Ohio, writing | , , , , , | Leave a comment

2010 in Books

When I went through my journal to log this year’s books, I learned I’d been a bit lazy and had completely failed to record five of this year’s reads. Fixed.

So, here’s what I read in 2010:

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins. My first daughter-recommended science fiction reads. Proud parenting moment.

The God Engines – John Scalzi. Dark. Bizarre. Innards-tangling. Not for the faint of heart, and a real deviation from Scalzi’s usual writing paths. I liked it.

Sailing to Byzantium – Robert Silverberg. I’ve liked Silverberg since I read Revolt on Alpha C as a kid, and when Kelsey was little, we read Lost Race of Mars together. This collection’s much more for the grown-up science fiction fan, and his take on Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer is fantastic.

Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi (re-read)

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling (re-read)

The Gone-Away World – Nick Harkaway. The 100 Stories for Haiti anthology reminded me that I had been meaning to read this, and I loved it. Post-apocalyptic and mind-bendy and still human. Plus it has both Pirates AND Ninjas.

Math, Science and Unix Underpants – Bill Amend

Mainspring – Jay Lake

Cleveland’s Greatest Disasters – John Stark Bellamy II

The Sagan Diary – John Scalzi. Listened to this one on the drive back from Providence in March.

PvP Levels Up – Scott Kurtz. Bought from the man himself at PAX East, signed & Scratch Fury-ed.

Fantasy Freaks & Gaming Geeks – Ethan Gilsdorf. Couldn’t put this one down: gaming and nostalgia and adventures and explorations galore.

The City & The City – China Mieville. For me, this was 2010’s equivalent to last year’s Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It’s a mental workout to read, especially in the beginning, but absolutely worth the effort.

FoxTrot: The Works – Bill Amend

Wildly FoxTrot – Bill Amend

Quixote: A Novel – Bryan J.L. Glass. Adam introduced me to Bryan at the Pittsburgh Comicon in April. ‘Cause I’m a sucker for tilting at windmills and all.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Player’s Handbook – Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, James Wyatt

The Specific Gravity of Grief – Jay Lake. Reviewed this one for GeekDad, though I would have read it regardless.

Goblin Quest – Jim C. Hines

Daemons Are Forever – Simon R. Green. This is the second book in a series – it was a freebie from the author’s lit agency – so I started a bit behind the curve, but it was so unlike just about anything I’ve read that I got hooked pretty quickly. And James Bond references tend to go over well with me.

Found – Margaret Peterson Haddix

Scenting the Dark and Other Stories – Mary Robinette Kowal. The only thing I didn’t like about this book? Too damned short. And I wish it could have included “Evil Robot Monkey”.

Red Hood’s Revenge – Jim C. Hines. The subject of another GeekDad review, and my favorite in his Princess series so far.

Locke & Key: Vol. I, Welcome to Lovecraft – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

My Best Friend Is A Wookiee – Tony Pacitti. A Star Wars memoir from a younger fan’s perspective, growing up when the originals could only be seen on TV or videotape, and coming of age in the prequel era.

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins. The kick-ass conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. Reviewing it for GeekDad earned me some serious bonus parenting points because it meant my daughter had it waiting for her when she got home from school on release day.

Dreadnought – Cherie Priest

Clementine – Cherie Priest. Both of these are set in the world Priest created for Boneshaker, though neither is really a sequel in the strict sense. I like this universe.

The Odious Ogre – Norton Juster. With illustrations by Jules Feiffer, this reunited the Phantom Tollbooth words-and-pictures team for the first time in almost 50 years.

Oddball Ohio: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places – Jerome Pohlen

A Western Journal – Thomas Wolfe. Inspiring me to revisit my cross-country road trip in journal form.

Little Fuzzy – H. Beam Piper. A classic of which I had no knowledge until Scalzi announced his upcoming take on the book.

Brody’s Ghost, Book 1 – Mark Crilley

Armor – John Steakley. A different, brain-cramping (in a good way) angle on the space-trooper genre tale.

Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children – Trace Beaulieu (Illustrated by Len Peralta)

Bloom County: The Complete Library Vol. 3 1984-1986 – Berkeley Breathed

Dungeons & Dragons Essentials – Dungeon Master’s Book – James Wyatt. As someone who only recently returned to D&D, I hadn’t really begun to think about taking on the DM’s role yet. This book, though, made for a great and encouraging read in that vein – thanks Kato and Wendy! – but I also got an awful lot out of it as a new player still kind of learning the finer points of the game mechanics and structure.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Steve Sansweet and the Tales of the Blue Snaggletooth

18 years ago, Steve Sansweet – who’s leaving his position at Lucasfilm next spring – validated a tiny, almost-forgotten piece of my childhood.

From Collect All 21!

During this second surge of Star Wars stuff, my family and I paid a visit to grandma over in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. Among Upper Sandusky’s claims to fame are an old Wyandot Indian mill, a cemetery headstone recognized by Ripley’s Believe It or Not because it says “Feb. 31”, and being the home of a character in the Infocom text adventure “Leather Goddesses of Phobos” when those games were the computer geek rage in the 1980s.

My grandma was a librarian at the Carnegie Public Library in Upper, so I spent a lot of time there. Classic old brick building with narrow staircases and a basement that felt dark all the time. I can almost imagine into existence the wood and plaster and book-page smell of the place.

Up near the front door was a glass case where people would display collections of things, and on one visit, my grandma wanted me to see the collection of Star Wars toys in there. And that’s where I saw something that would confound me for years: an action figure that looked kind of like the short, red-suited Snaggletooth I had – same face, same hands, same belt buckle design – but this guy was tall and blue and had shiny silver moon boots.

I stared at this thing, trying to figure out what it was and where it had come from and why wasn’t it in any of the Kenner Star Wars catalog booklets and how, good God, could I get my hands on one?

I remember telling my friends about it, and none of them had seen or heard of one of these things either, and I probably sounded like that kid on my street talking about his supposed Grand Moff Tarkin toothbrush. It didn’t help that I never saw another Blue Snaggletooth as a kid.

I was eight or nine years old at the time. Fast-forward to 1992, when I’m 21 and in the middle of a difficult stretch of my life. Walking toward a Waldenbooks in a Toledo, Ohio mall, I see this staring out at me from a storefront display:

Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible by Stephen J. Sansweet.

Though it’s hard to remember, this was a time when there weren’t whole shelves full of Star Wars books and piles of Expanded Universe comics – so seeing this black-and-gold Darth Vader visage was a very cool sort of shock.

Inside is the incredibly detailed story of how the Kenner Star Wars guys I loved as a kid had come to life. And as I flipped through these pages, taken back years by the pictures of action figures and spaceships and sketches and models, here’s the one that had me giddy:

Because there it was: That BLUE Snaggletooth that I hadn’t seen or heard of in ages, and which part of me had maybe started to believe had been a figment of my imagination after all. It was REAL – and it had a HISTORY – and I wished somehow I could reach back through time to those incredulous looks I got from my friends when I was talking about this figure and point them to that page and say, “See? Seee?!?!”

I still think this is the best book Sansweet’s ever done, partly because it holds a special place in my memory, and partly because from a purely journalistic point of view, his writing and reporting roots shine through in the interviews and research and the level of work he put into in covering the early Star Wars merchandising history – work which hadn’t been done by anyone at that point. I think it’s fair to say a large part of the roots of vintage collecting archaeology trace back to this book, and I know it played a big role in re-igniting my own memories and fandom.

I got to meet Steve for the first time at Celebration V in August, and had him sign that very same and by now well-worn paperback. “Gee,” he wrote inside the cover, next to a smiley face, “can’t you afford a better condition book?”

Not one that would be worth as much to me as this one.

October 20, 2010 Posted by | 1990s, Books, Current Affairs, Film, Games, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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