Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Collect All 21! – Five Years Old Today

Five years ago today, I released the first edition of Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek into the wild.

The first batch of pre-orders and sales that summer and fall of 2008 were mostly to family, friends, and the supportive Star Wars fans of the Ohio Star Wars Collectors Club and the vintage forums at Rebelscum.com. They really jump-started this whole thing with their responses to my 2007 online series of Star Wars recollections.

In early 2009, right around the time my last full-time newsroom job was eliminated and I found myself out of work, Rob Wainfur posted one of the earliest completely-neutral-party reviews of Collect All 21!  on his  Retro Finds site, which was a more-than-welcome bit of nice news, and especially neat because Rob’s from Wales.

Around the same time, Adam, my Collect All 21! editor, launched Deus Ex Comica, and suddenly I was like, “Hey: want a cool, professional cover and a foreword, too!” And that’s where Kirk Demarais and David Morgan-Mar came in, generously contributing their talents to the revised version of Collect All 21!, providing me with some amazing front cover art and a kick-ass introduction.

Working with a great digital publishing team, I expanded the book for a Kindle edition in July 2011, adding some new personal material as well as interviews and my magazine-length feature on Lorne Peterson.

Some of the other neat stuff that’s happened along the way:

  • In spring 2009, I got an incredibly kind and supportive email from George Krstic, another Northeast Ohio first-generation Star Wars fan who grew up to write neat stuff like MTV’s DowntownMegas XLR, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Motorcity. We’ve hung out a few times since, and recorded a few Star Wars nostalgia podcasts,  and it’s always a blast. (George also introduced me to Josh Ling, who’s also a first-generation Rust Belt kid that came of age addicted to Kenner toys, and, I think it’s also fair to say, deals with the same old-school v. new-era Star Wars internal conflicts that twist so many of us in geek knots.)
  • Jenny Williams and Curtis Silver both said really nice things about Collect All 21! on the GeekMom and GeekDad blogs, respectively.
  • At PAX East in 2010, thanks to the GeekDad crew, I met Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks author Ethan Gilsdorf, who bought a copy of the book on the spot while we were all hanging out, and later provided me with a superlative blurb.
  • CNN interviewed me for a 30th anniversary story about The Empire Strikes Back.
  • Sharing Star Wars memories became kind of a thing: My friend Jonathan Liu sent me an advance copy of Tony Pacitti‘s My Best Friend is a Wookiee (2010), and I wound up meeting Tony at Star Wars Celebration V to exchange books and stories. A couple years later, in 2012, Gib van Ert released A Long Time Ago: Growing Up With And Out Of Star Wars, which I read and enjoyed on the way to Star Wars Celebration VI. And, of course, earlier this year, Fanboys director Kyle Newman (who also encouraged me regarding Collect All 21! in 2010) put together The Return of Return of the Jedi.
  • Geek A Week artist Len Peralta and I recorded a Star Wars and 1980s conversation/podcast.
  • I got invited as a guest to a couple JediCon WV events, which were tons of fun, and got my name on a spectacular poster by Kenner toy photographer Kim Simmons.
  • Hugo Award-winning author and good guy Jim C. Hines read Collect All 21! and blogged about it.
  • Then there was that time in 2012 when the fantastic Renita Jablonski called me and said, “So, we were thinking of doing a piece on the 35th anniversary of Star Wars, and I said ‘I know a guy,'” and we talked on the phone, and then BOOM! I’m driving to work a day or two later, and right there in the middle of National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” is me. (And five years before that, when Renita was at WKSU, she produced a piece I wrote about not remembering the first time I saw Star Wars, which, again, is pretty much where all this started.)
  • Topless Robot put Collect All 21! on its list of The 10 Greatest Non-Fiction Star Wars Books, which includes the line, “Celebrate the love, yub yub.” Yes!
  • Somehow my book caught the attention of filmmaker Brian Stillman, who visited our house a couple summers back and interviewed me for Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toyswhich should be coming out later this summer.

Crunching some numbers from Lulu and Amazon to figure out about how many copies of Collect All 21! are out there – counting print and electronic versions – I come up with a number somewhere close to 2,500. (I’m always looking to make that number bigger, of course, but hey – that’s not a bad run for a completely independent, word-of-mouth effort.)

I will never be able to say thanks enough for all the encouragement and support from my friends and family and everyone who’s ever bought, borrowed, read, or shared Collect All 21! among fellow Star Wars fans and 1980s-era nostalgia loons (which I can say since I’m one of them).

The Force Will Be With You. Always.

Advertisements

July 2, 2013 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, Books, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Collect All 21! Expanded Edition is back in the Kindle Store

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

Click to visit the book’s Kindle Store page, which includes a preview.

I got a lot of encouraging feedback in July of 2011 when I expanded Collect All 21! for a digital edition. Unfortunately, while the folks at my digital publishing company were great to work with and did a bang-up job converting the book and pushing it through various channels, they had to make the difficult decision to close their virtual doors earlier this year, ending the availability of the Expanded Edition.

After thinking things over for a bit and pestering some very patient and understanding friends for advice, I decided to go ahead and tweak a couple small glitches and make the Expanded Edition available again myself through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

It’s available for all Amazon Kindle devices and apps, and here’s the write-up from the Collect All 21! Kindle Store page:

Opening that first Darth Vader figure and putting him in a Landspeeder. Imagining a snowy elementary school playground as the wastes of Hoth. Seeing Return of the Jedi on opening night.

Moments like these – and a galaxy more – make up more than three decades of “Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek.” Author and first-generation saga fan John Booth takes the reader from a childhood packed with Star Wars guys (never “action figures”) and Christmas wishes both fulfilled and unrealized, through the years when the trilogy lay dormant to the mainstream public’s eye, and into an age of seeing George Lucas’ universe as an adult while exploring it again as a parent.

Collect All 21! revisits the late 1970s and early ’80s, in all their bad-haircuts-and-Atari glory, then moves beyond those decades and nostalgia to explore the evolution of the Star Wars saga and its fandom.

This expanded electronic edition also includes interviews with Star Wars cast and crew members reflecting on the saga’s impact from both first-generation-fan standpoints and a career spent bringing the universe to life on-screen.

Named by Topless Robot as one of The Ten Greatest Non-Fiction Star Wars Books, Collect All 21! is a love letter from a self-aware geek written under the sometimes harsh light of hindsight, softened with understanding. It captures the innocence and wonder and infinite possibilities of what it meant to an eight-year-old to Collect All 21!

“Like a nostalgic walk through your childhood and growing up geek.”
– WIRED magazine’s GeekDad

“The feeling of childhood magic that pours from its pages will have you reflecting on how much of an impact the Wars have had on you.”
– Topless Robot

“I never thought I’d actually get that Time-Travel Belt, but reading this book is almost better.”
– George Krstic, writer, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Motorcity, and Megas XLR

I’ve also decided to keep the Kindle edition at it’s three-dollar price – which means, yes: More book than the print edition, for less money.

Additionally, it’s available through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, so if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow it for FREE.

And hey – Star Wars Celebration VI is coming up fast, so why not start getting psyched up now?

July 1, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, Books, eighties, geek, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sharing Star Wars Memories with Len Peralta

I have been super lame in neglecting my blog lately, mostly due to the welcome challenge of a completely amazing and inspiring career change. I’m still getting used to the home and work schedule again and am playing catch-up on several personal projects, including this one: a podcast about which I’ve been excited for quite awhile.

I’ve written several times over the past year or so about Cleveland artist Len Peralta and his Geek A Week project, which recently wrapped up with Len’s depiction of – and interview with – none other than Stan Lee. Amazingly cool stuff.

While I was preparing for those times I interviewed Len, I read this Q&A, in which he recalled seeing Return of the Jedi for the first time, and from that moment, I wanted to do a Star Wars Memories podcast with the guy, kind of like the ones I did with sci-fi TV writer George Krstic. Even more so after interviewing Len a couple times and going over shared Northeast Ohio pop culture territory like Saturday afternoon Godzilla movies with “Superhost.” Then Len read Collect All 21! and said nice things about it, which was just bonus points on top.

We finally managed to get it done this week, and it was a blast. We probably would have gone on a couple hours if the Empire hadn’t apparently started jamming Skype because we were having too much fun. (And by “fun,” I mean – well, here’s Len’s post-podcast Tweet.)

I wound up dividing the podcast into two parts, and while I still need to finish editing the second one, here’s Part One. (Right click to download.)

March 22, 2011 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, geek, Ohio, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Familiar ground: The drive home

Five thousand, four hundred forty-nine-point-nine miles later, I’m home, and sitting at my own desk again, looking out the window at trees and houses and a particular color of morning that’s practically part of my DNA.

Yesterday’s drive home began at 4:50 a.m., after packing up camp by the glow of my battery-powered lamp/flashlight and taking a shower. (I was pleased to remember from my first stop at this campground that to get the hot water running, you have to turn the dial in the opposite direction from what the labeling would seem to indicate. Two weeks ago, this was a lesson learned while I waited 10 minutes for the shower to warm up, when a simple shift of the dial was all that was needed for almost instant-hot water.)

When I pulled onto Interstate 44 eastbound, sunup was still a ways off, and this was the first “dark” highway driving I’d done since day one. It wouldn’t last long, but as I sipped my Circle K coffee and ate my morning breakfast bar, for a moment it felt like one of our straight-through overnight drives to or from Florida.

The sky slowly brightened as I passed St. Louis and crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois. I listened to Morning Edition for awhile, and then another This American Life podcast.

When I reached Indiana right around 8 a.m., the Time Gods of Traveling Westward took back the last hour they’d loaned me, and though I was sad to see it go, it at least meant that I’d be hitting Indianapolis at 10 a.m. rather than during the morning rush hour.

Two Star Wars Celebrations have earned Indianapolis a special place in my heart, so while seeing the downtown skyline this trip struck nostalgic chords both times through, I was thrown a bit by the sight of Lucas Oil Stadium, which replaced the RCA Dome and actually occupies the former spot of the hotel where Jim and I stayed to cover Celebration III. I get that the new building is a throwback fieldhouse-style architecture, but there’s something odd about the way it looks against the skyline: Because it’s a gigantic structure but isn’t built to look like a massive stadium, it seem out of proportion with the rest of the city, like someone took a one-quarter-scale model and placed it in a one-tenth-scale skyline. I’m sure I’d get used to it if I saw it regularly, but it was jarring this time around.

The remaining five hours home were filled with some radio listening, a phone conversation with my brother Nick, and reflections on this two-week odyssey and settling back into work and life at home. My mom met me at the rental car agency in Canton, where we unloaded Serenity – in all seriousness, this Versa was an excellent car for this trip, and I will miss her and hope she’s treated to an oil change and a good bath to remove 5,400-plus miles worth of bug goo from her front bumper and side mirrors – and not long after, I was back in my own driveway and Kelsey and Jenn were coming out the front door, and one of our cats escaped into the bushes, and things were just the way they should be.

There remain a lot of small moments and other things from the trip that I’ve been saving in note form, and I took more than 300 pictures, and all of these will take some complete narrative shape eventually, although this is my last dedicated vacation blog post for now.

Many sincere thanks yet again to the several new friends I met for the first time in real life, and in particular to the fantastic people who helped me along and shared their homes and company and friendship: Kirk Demarais, Jim Rafferty, Ramona Nash, George Krstic, Jenny Williams, and Jonathan Liu and their families are all just plain super-nice and generous people and the universe is a better place for their presence in it.

I’ve been inspired and refreshed and energized in many ways, and while I’m almost overwhelmed right now with things I need and want to accomplish, this trip was absolutely worth the time and effort and planning and budgeting in every way, and I’m so glad I did it.

My parents, Pam & Jeff Caldwell, get their own thank-you for all their support and for coming all the way to San Diego to cheer Kelsey on and share a few great days together in southern California. And my brother Adam never hesitates to keep an eye on the house and our pets while we’re gone, which, since he’s got a super-busy family and home of his own, is greatly appreciated.

And to my wife Jenn and daughter Kelsey, who supported me in this whole effort in every way and never stopped encouraging me even if you thought I was a little bit off my rocker; you also never failed to understand why I did it and how much it meant to me: You two are always my home, wherever we are.

And it’s good to be home.

June 30, 2010 Posted by | geek, Ohio, Travel, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

WhirrrClankBuzz

My friend and damn fine writer George Krstic has some very cool news over on his blog.

You should go read it, especially if you’re a fan of this sort of thing:

Image courtesy of GeorgeKrstic.com

Just sayin’.

April 4, 2010 Posted by | geek, science fiction, writing | , , | Leave a comment

Clone Wars Season Two, George Krstic and Star Wars Flashbacks

With this Friday’s premiere of Star Wars: The Clone Wars season two just a few days off, I’m excited to share another podcast/interview/reading with George Krstic, who wrote “Cargo of Doom,” the second episode of the one-hour season opener! “Holocron Heist,” the first half-hour, gets things started at 8 p.m. on Cartoon Network.

We chatted about the upcoming premiere and The Clone Wars in general (George also wrote season one’s “Downfall of a Droid” and “Storm over Ryloth”), and then dove into recollections of growing up as kids hooked on our Star Wars toys. I read/recalled some scenes from a chapter in Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek, while he jumped in with a bunch of fun memories of his own – including his nominee for Worst Star Wars Toy Ever (aka “How My Little Brother Wound Up in the Emergency Room”).

Grab your old plastic Darth Vader case and dump your Kenner guys on the floor: There’s some fun to be had!

The podcast runs about 30 minutes and is here in mp3 format. (Right-click and “save as” for an easy download.)

And if you missed George’s “Spaghetti Artoo” story in our first podcast, you can find that one here.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Fiction, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Collect All 21! – Special Enhanced Podcast Excerpt

(If you just want to nab the George Krstic-enhanced “Collect All 21” podcast, it’s here in mp3 form, so you can right-click and “save as” for an easy download. The blog entry below tells about how it came to be, so feel free to come back and read and leave comments and feedback.)

UPDATE – George K. and I recorded a second one, too!

I’m a bit hyper about this little project having become a reality, so I’m asking forgiveness in advance for any fits of nerdbabbling.

Remember a few months back, when I got that note from “Clone Wars” writer George Krstic? Well, we’ve stayed in touch since then, and I mentioned that I’d love to do a sort of interactive podcast reading from “Collect All 21,” with George sitting in and sharing his own memories and thoughts on growing up addicted to the original trilogy.

So a couple weeks ago he let me know that he’d scheduled his usual summer return to Northeast Ohio, and we planned on hanging out and geeking for awhile and giving the interactive reading a shot.

Tuesday afternoon, then, we met up in Cuyahoga Falls for beer, pizza and wings, and passed a couple ridiculously fast hours talking writing and science fiction and cartoons and toys and video games and crazy people we’d known and cross-country road trips.

Then we headed over to my friend Keith’s house to record the podcast, which we built around the book’s second chapter, “The Droids We Were Looking For: How Kenner Took Ownership of My Childhood.”

(We actually got to Keith’s much later than we’d planned because we passed a Target and stopped to check out the Star Wars toys. I haven’t bought much of the new Hasbro stuff lately, but I picked up a very cool IG-86 Assassin Droid from The Clone Wars cartoon line because a) I was totally caught up in the evening’s geekdom and b) come on, I’m checking out Star Wars stuff with the guy who wrote “Downfall of a Droid” and created this character!)

IG86

Recording the reading and conversation with George was an absolute blast, and I hope the fun comes through in the finished product and gives some insight into what “Collect All 21” is all about. I can’t stress enough (again) how much I love hearing other Star Wars fans’ remembrances of their own experiences growing up on the toys and movies and books and comics of that era, and sitting down face-to-face and hearing some of those memories from a writer and guy like George was just an amazingly enjoyable experience.

The finished podcast runs about 45 minutes, and you can find it here.

MassiveSuperColossal Collect-‘Em-All Thanks to George – visit his web site to see the ton of neat stuff he’s done – for taking some time to nerd out and revisit the days when Real Action Figures Had No Knees, and to Keith for sharing his house and his recording setup and making this podcast possible.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Television, writing | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Amazingly cool coolness from Clone Wars writer George Krstic

Just before I headed off to Penguicon, I received an absolutely jaw-dropping email about “Collect All 21!

It started off with one of the sentiments I love to hear most about the book, along the lines of how my recollections echoed or reawakened someone else’s memories of their own Star Wars-infused childhood. (This never gets old. Seriously.)

Then it went on to mention the sender growing up not only in the same era, but in the same corner of Northeast Ohio.

Okay, so that doesn’t happen very often…

And then this came along: “…finally, my ‘wasted’ youth paid off when I got onto ‘Clone Wars,’ so…”

WHAAAA-?

>re-read the email subject line<

>flick eyes to signature and URL link<

>begin excitedly pointing at screen and babbling while Jenn watches with mild concern<

This. Is. SO. Cool: It’s from George Krstic, writer on Star Wars: The Clone Wars on the Cartoon Network!  (He also co-created “Megas XLR” and was a story editor and writer on MTV’s “Downtown.“) WNJC-AM’s “Fictional Frontiers” has a great interview with him here.

Honestly, just so stunningly amazingly neat that I actually held off on emailing him back for a couple days because otherwise it would have been a note like: “OMGbabblebleargh/CloneWarswriterproducer/fumblemumbleSqueee!”

And check it out – he wrote this blurb about “Collect All 21!” :

Whenever I’ve been asked where I would go first if I had a Time-Travel Belt, I’ve always said: Akron, Ohio – 1979 – the Children’s Palace Toy Store on Old Route 8.

The toys, the time, and the vibe were all amazing. The wonder of old-school “Star Wars” figures and ships stacked to the rafters, the simple joy of being a kid and loving a robot called R2-D2, and the anticipation of all of the cool sequels to come.

I never thought I’d actually get that Time-Travel Belt, but reading this book is almost better. (Except for the whole not being able to buy a mint-in-box vintage 12-inch Darth Vader, meeting my younger self and ruining the time-stream thing…)

I ask you: HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!?

The guy has been super nice and encouraging in the emails we’ve exchanged, and I can’t publicly thank him enough for this note and his thumbs-up, so expect me to write and say many more good things about him in the future.

May 11, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Fiction, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Television, writing | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

%d bloggers like this: