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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.

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

Just in time for Star Wars Celebration VI: Get Collect All 21! for free!

Along with a few other fans, I’ll be heading to Orlando this week for Star Wars Celebration VI. And since I do enjoy sharing a wee bit of nostalgia for the saga, I’m running an Amazon promotion starting on Wednesday, Aug. 22 – the day before the convention opens – through Sunday, Aug. 26, when everyone packs up their big Corellian ships for the jump home.

Over those five days, the expanded electronic edition of Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek will be available for Kindle readers and apps for zero dollars. ($0.00).

As in, “Hey – Over here! Free book!

As in, “You mean if I have an Amazon Kindle or even just the reader installed on my phone or tablet or other we-live-in-the-future-and-it-sort-of-rocks device, I can read one of The 10 Greatest Non-Fiction Star Wars Books for NOTHING?”

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

Yes, that.

But not quite yet: You need to wait until Aug. 22-26, when the Amazon promotion is running. (And no, this doesn’t include the original paperback The First 30 Years edition of Collect All 21! Although if you enjoy the electronic edition, I highly recommend picking up a physical copy: It’s a bit shorter, but the sweet Kirk Demarais‘ cover really pulls a room together.)

During the promotion, I’ll take some time out from my Celebration nerding to share reminders and some nice things people have said about the book.

A fun week lies ahead!

August 20, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel, writing | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

GeekDad’s got some Star Wars Celebration VI tickets to give away!

I’ll be going to Star Wars Celebration VI, and I have no doubt it will be a tremendously fun time.

You should go.

Specifically, you should go to GeekDad, where we’re giving away two four-day passes to this August’s Star Wars Celebration in Orlando. Deadline to enter is next Tuesday, July 3, 2012.

Click the image to go to GeekDad and register for some free tickets.

June 29, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, geek, science fiction, Weblogs | , , , , | Leave a comment

Collect All 21 electronic edition: interview with Dave Filoni

Dave Filoni photo by Jim Carchidi

Please note: As of April 2012, Hukilau has closed its virtual doors, but I have made the expanded digital edition of Collect All 21! available through Amazon.

I’m wrapping up my teasers to the expanded electronic edition of Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek with a clip from my Star Wars Celebration V interview with Star Wars: The Clone Wars Supervising Director Dave Filoni. This excerpt runs about three minutes, and features Dave talking about how the cartoon series ties not only back to the original 1977 film, but how he works to connect the story with different generations of fans.

Dave Filoni at Star Wars Celebration V (Right click to download.)

The electronic version of Collect All 21! includes more of Dave’s interview, as well as interviews with Matthew Wood and Dee Bradley Baker, and much more material that’s not included in the print edition.

January 5, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Television | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Collect All 21 electronic edition: Matthew Wood interview

Matthew Wood photo by Jim Carchidi

Please note: As of April 2012, Hukilau has closed its virtual doors, but I have made the expanded digital edition of Collect All 21! available through Amazon.

Continuing my sneak peeks into the expanded electronic edition of Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek, here’s an excerpt from my interview with Matthew Wood, supervising sound editor at Skywalker Sound and the voice of General Grievous in Revenge of the Sith. Recorded in 2010 at Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando, this clip is a little more than three minutes long and includes Matthew talking about being a science fiction and movie geek as a kid, and, as a teenager, hearing about a job opening at this place out in the middle of nowhere…

Matthew Wood at Star Wars Celebration V (Right click to download.)

As previously noted, the electronic version of Collect All 21! includes more from that interview and additional material not included in the print edition.

January 4, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Collect All 21 electronic edition: Dee Bradley Baker interview

Please note: As of April 2012, Hukilau has closed its virtual doors, but I have made the expanded digital edition of Collect All 21! available through Amazon.

As I mentioned when Hukilau published the electronic “A Few Special Modifications Edition” of Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek last summer, the expanded version includes interviews with some Star Wars personalities about being first-generation fans of the saga who grew up to play in George Lucas’ sandbox.

Photo by Jim Carchidi

Since it seems likely that the recent holiday season has led to a few new owners of e-book readers and tablet computers, I figure it’s a good time to offer a fun glimpse at of some of the material that sets the Hukilau edition apart from the original paperback. I also figure people who like to talk and read about Star Wars would also enjoy listening to people who work on Star Wars projects geek out a little bit about it.

My first sample comes from a recorded interview with Dee Bradley Baker, the voice of Captain Rex – and the entire Clone Army – on Star Wars: The Clone Wars. (Also Perry the Platypus on Phineas and Ferb, Squilliam Fancyson on SpongeBob SquarePants and a ton of other voices on really cool cartoons.) We chatted in the press room at Star Wars Celebration V back in 2010, and in this two-minute clip, he talks a little about the things that inspired him as a kid, and about seeing The Empire Strikes Back for the first time.

Dee Bradley Baker at Star Wars Celebration V (Right click to download.)

There’s much more from that interview – as well as additional material not included in the print edition – published in the electronic version of Collect All 21!

January 3, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Television | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Moviemaking, nostalgia and Star Wars toys

Fresh off last night’s world premiere of The Meat Locker (an incredibly fun evening about which I’ll write more when I can share the movie online), and on the brink of leaving for Star Wars Celebration V on Monday, it seems a good time to share this bit of nostalgia:

That’s a scrap from the floor of my room in the house where I grew up. My youngest brother and his family live there now, and they’re replacing this carpet – which, it should be noted, is the only original remaining carpet from when we moved into the house in 1976.

This particular piece includes the evidence from this recollection in Collect All 21! (Chapter – “Along A Different Path: Taking Star Wars into Our Own Hands”)

When I was in middle school, I fished our family’s old 8mm movie camera out of the crawlspace, shelled out my allowance for batteries and a light bulb and tried to make my own Star Wars films.

One winter, I took it outside in the snow, dug a makeshift Death Star trench – I added twists and turns to make it, you know, more exciting – and then filmed my own point-of-view attack run, never thinking that, duh, I was holding the camera by its handle – in other words, upside down.

I was a little more successful with the flick I made using my little brothers’ Scout Walker. I managed to do some fairly steady stop-motion animation of the AT-ST’s head rotating back and forth, its side guns twitching up and down, and then I had my brother Adam work its legs, stomping them up and down while I shot a close-up. Then we stop-motioned the top hatch opening and a Scout Trooper emerging (okay, he didn’t so much “emerge” as he popped into existence from one frame to the next) and then – gasp! – quick cut to a skyward shot and a streaking meteor that was, in actuality, a lava rock my parents had brought me back from their 15th anniversary trip to Hawaii. And again, not so much streaking against the sky as being dropped by my brother with my textured white ceiling in the background.

Poor trooper never saw it coming. Caught it on the noggin, and… as the black haze closed in on his battle-scarred mind, he barely felt his walker toppling, its legs crumpling, never to stride into war again.

Aaaaaaaaand – scene.

Trooper down!

The four-minute film reel containing this 30- or 40-second masterpiece survived long enough to make it onto a DVD we compiled as a Christmas present for Mom a couple decades later. Holding up the cardboard sign labeled “Assistant: Adam Booth,” – I’d taken top billing as director and cameraman, naturally – my youngest brother looks like he’s squinting into binary suns, the lamp on the movie camera’s so freaking bright. We actually melted a tennis-ball-sized circle of carpet during filming when I accidentally put the bulb housing on the floor after a shot.

It’s actually probably closer to racquetball-sized, for the record. And I can still remember the sour plasticky smell that tipped me off to the puff of smoke rising from my bedroom floor, and how for years afterward I would pick absentmindedly at the little misshapen fused lumps of carpet fiber.

August 6, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Family history, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Star Wars Celebration V: T-minus One Week

Star Wars Celebration V begins a week from today! Watch for my vehicle on Interstate 77 southbound:

There's a Post-It on the dashboard reminding me which side the gas tank's on.

Image: Jim Carchidi, photographer extraordinaire.

It’s been almost five-and-a-half years since the last Star Wars Celebration I attended. As I wrote in Collect All 21

The biggest, best, craziest part of the Episode III build-up was the trip Jim and I made to Star Wars Celebration III in Indianapolis, just about a month before the movie’s May 2005 premiere. We planned this sonofabitch for more than a year and got ourselves a freelance assignment for four days of web coverage and a print feature on the movie.

I had just started a new job, and my first few weeks, Jim and I emailed back and forth constantly, ironing out details about what to cover and how to handle it, setting up deadlines, checking the event programming to see who was going to be there and figuring out how to drink it all in. We were seriously, ridiculously psyched.

A lot’s changed since that spring: That new job is the same one which landed me in the role of full-time freelance writer in March 2009, thanks to staff cuts, and these days, I’m the parent of a recently-minted teenager.

But here I am again, a week from Star Wars Celebration V – which is literally right down the road from Jim’s house in Orlando – and even without the buzz of a saga’s conclusion to drive the hype, I’m awfully excited about the week to come.

For lots of the same reasons, of course: Geeking out with Jim, being among fellow Star Wars fans, checking out props and artifacts and old toys.

But I’m also excited for a few different reasons. For one, Kelsey will be spending a day at the convention with me. (Just one, which I absolutely understand. She has a friend in Orlando she’s excited to visit, and relatives we only see once a year, tops, and while she does enjoy Star Wars, one day immersed in the fandom is all she’s looking for. Now, if this were a Kids in the Hall convention…)

I’m also providing coverage for GeekDad this time around, and I’ve already got what should be some fun interviews lined up.

Then there’s this Pre-Celebration V party and trivia contest from 3-10 p.m. August 11 at Heroes Landing in Clermont (a quick & easy drive from the Orange County Convention Center). I’ll be there with copies of Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek, and Adam Besenyodi is signing Deus Ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan. Cris Macht, director of The Force Among Us, is supposed to hang around awhile, and the gang from the Star Wars Action News podcast is hosting a trivia contest to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Central Florida. (Where Jenn used to work, as it happens.)

So that should all be fantastic fun and a nice pre-con psyche-up.

Mostly, though, I’m looking forward to meeting people in person whom I’ve only met either online or through interviews or through Collect All 21! The best parts of my previous two Star Wars Celebration trips – I did a whirlwind 36-hour trip to Celebration II in 2002 – were the ones that just grew out of moments spent in the company of friends, talking Star Wars and nostalgia and expectations and life both here and in that galaxy far, far away.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Fiction, Film, Games, geek, science fiction, Travel, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Five years go by at point five past light speed.

My friend Jim attends Star Wars Weekends annually, and this year marked the first time he’s crossed paths with modelmaker Lorne Peterson since we met him at Star Wars Celebration III – and suddenly I can’t believe that trip was already five years ago. From Collect All 21

I had just started a new job, and my first few weeks, Jim and I emailed back and forth constantly, ironing out details about what to cover and how, setting up deadlines, checking the event programming to see who was going to be there and figuring out how to drink it all in. We were seriously, ridiculously psyched.

It was four days of total immersion in Star Wars fandom and there’s not a second of it I’d give up, even those frustrating times fighting deadlines and cramped media quarters and uncooperative laptops.

Friday evening to Saturday afternoon was particularly packed with “I-can’t-believe-we’re-here” moments.

Jim and I met, photographed and interviewed original Star Wars model-maker Lorne Peterson. This was a blast. I’d expected, at most, maybe a five-minute chat. We wound up talking for close to half an hour and it was just a very neat thing, thinking that this was a guy who had, quite literally, helped build part of my childhood.

I wound up talking to him a couple more times in the months after C3, and those interviews were the basis for a feature that ran in the October/December 2006 issue of Filmfax (“The Magazine of Unusual Film, Television & Retro Pop Culture!”). At 5,000 words, it was easily the longest piece of non-fiction I’d ever written for publication and also my first freelance magazine sale. Seeing it in print accompanied by some ILM-supplied photos and a couple of Jim’s shots from C3 was a total adrenaline rush. That these personal milestones were tied to Star Wars only makes them that much more meaningful.

I really like this shot Jim took of Lorne pondering a Millennium Falcon model onstage at Star Wars Weekends, and here’s a follow-up interview I did focusing on the release of Lorne’s “Sculpting A Galaxy” book.

May 31, 2010 Posted by | Film, geek, science fiction, writing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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