Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

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

International TableTop Day 2015: What We Played

Celebrated International TableTop Day with nine straight jam-packed hours of gaming, graciously hosted by my friend Tom. So much fun. Here’s what we played:

Started the day learning TakenokoI’d been hearing good things about this one for awhile, and it was pretty easy to pick up, and a lot of fun.

Takenoko

Followed up with two brief Mars Attacks: The Dice Game contests –

MarsAttacks

and head-to-head Star Wars Trivial Pursuit(Classic trilogy, of course.)

SWTriv

Then Munchkin Loot Letter.

LootLetter

And then our game crowd grew, so we played a tremendously fun game of Cockroach Poker (another first for me) –

CockroachPoker

– and an 8-person game of Tsuro that ended in a two-dragon tie. (I was the last dragon to actually lose.)

Tsuro

Even more folks showed up, so we split the party into three tables. I introduced a couple friends to Roll For It (which we played twice) –

RollForIt

– and then Zombie Dicewhich we played once with the standard rules, and once with the School Bus expansion.

ZombieDice

I wrapped up my day with back-to-back games of Betrayal at House on the Hillwhich I’d never played before, and really enjoyed. The explorers triumphed over the betrayer both times, although my character died along the way in the second game.

Betrayal

So I learned three new games, played several that I don’t get to tackle very often, and spent a full day reveling with friends in dice, luck, strategy, and fun. It was almost like a mini-Gen Con – including the “Hey-it’s-almost-nine-o’clock-and-I-never-ate-dinner” thing. Not complaining in the least.

April 12, 2015 Posted by | Games, geek | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

OSWCC Summer Social 2014

simmons37crop

Image from a photo by Kim D.M. Simmons

I signed up to join the Ohio Star Wars Collectors Club shortly after Jenn & Kelsey & I moved to Ohio fifteen years ago, in the summer of 1999.

I had learned about OSWCC through the vintage Star Wars collecting Usenet newsgroup, and was intrigued by the idea of a group of collectors getting together in real life to geek out and swap stories, trade stuff, and share new finds and favorite pieces.

I seem to remember that the club communicated mostly through email lists at the time, and even though I soon felt comfortable contributing online, it was still quite awhile before I actually found the nerve to attend one of the monthly meetings of the North Region. I remember being nervous about actually meeting my fellow OSWCCers in person, and wondering whether the few pieces from my own collection I’d brought to share would be blown off as lame, and whether I’d feel odd and left out. It was kind of like heading off to a week at Camp Tippecanoe when I was a kid.

Turns out it was really cool and low-key and just a bunch of Star Wars fans hanging out and nerding it up for a few hours. And I loved it. For a few years there, I hardly missed a regional meeting, and I spent a crazy awesome 30+ hours with OSWCC friends at Star Wars Celebration II in Indianapolis.

In 2001, I had to cancel my trip to what was supposed to be my first OSWCC Summer Social, due to a seriously violent 24-hour-case of the barfs that swore me off Chik-Fil-A for life. I started a 10-year streak of Summer Social attendance in 2002, though, making it a priority every year even though along the way, my attendance at the regional meetings had trailed off. And the social was a highlight every year: road tripping with friends or bringing Kelsey along; catching up with everyone and browsing the tables; picking up really cool pieces and meeting some really interesting folks.

The OSWCC gang was my first audience for the essays that eventually became Collect All 21!and my friends there were the first to embrace and support it.

My trips to Celebrations III, V, and VI included more fine times hanging out with OSWCCers.

My social attendance streak came to an end in 2012 when we were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation, and I missed last year’s as well, due to a family move.

And honestly, I wasn’t sure about this year – again, I haven’t been to meetings or active in the club forums for some time – until my friend and fellow OSWCCer Matt asked if I’d like to share some of my Star Wars nostalgia with a presentation at this year’s social in Cincinnati. (The location rotates annually between the Cleveland, Cincy, and Columbus regions.) It had been awhile since I’d done one, so I accepted the invitation, stayed up late the night before the July 12 social writing and rehearsing, and hit the road that Saturday morning with my daughter and her friend.

Digression: Kelsey had not been to a social since 2007, and had only been to one other before that. It was a pleasant surprise when, the Thursday before this year’s, she said, “Hey – you didn’t invite me! What’s up with that?”

We left early and met up with my buddy Josh in Ashland to share the rest of the there-and-back-in-a-day trip. (Yes: More time on the highway that day than actually spent at the social. Still worth it.)

Man, what a fantastic day: Scott D.M. Simmons and his dad, Kim D.M. Simmons were there – that’s a Kim Simmons vintage Kenner photograph up at the top of the page – along with a bunch of OSWCC friends who I had a ton of fun catching up with. Many of us have now known each other long enough to have seen each others’ kids grow up.

Despite the support OSWCC has always given my writing, I was really nervous about my presentation, because these are people I know. It’s different doing a reading at a library or convention where the audience is people you’ve never met. But you know what? Once I started, I wound up having fun. And people said some incredibly nice things to me afterward, and I was grateful to Matt for the opportunity and glad to have made a few people laugh, and happy to have sparked some other childhood memories.

I’ve missed this. And even if I don’t meet my goal of making it to a North Region meeting again soon, I’m awfully glad I made the trip.

(Also: If you’re a Star Wars fan and you live in Ohio, and you haven’t looked into joining OSWCC, why the heck not?)

 

 

July 19, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Talking about storytelling, part two – Change in (about) 100 words

From a recent exercise in storytelling. Assignment: In roughly 100 words, describe a time when your life changed.

At the last minute, I threw out my first, more serious draft, switched topics entirely, and wrote on the fly –

When we got home, I couldn’t get to my crayons fast enough.

I couldn’t find the black one, so I skipped Darth Vader and drew my stormtroopers in blue-green.

That’s how I remember the first time I saw Star Wars. I was six.

Since then, I have seen better movies. I have read better stories.

But this was more than spaceships and lasers and robots:

Star Wars is what got me interested in science and writing and history and mythology; in authors, characters, symbols, and archetypes; in storytelling and classically-inspired music and film-making.

This was a Big Bang. This was my world blowing up.

Also: spaceships and lasers and robots.

I liked the way it turned out, and it got a good reception. I saved it because I enjoyed looking deeper than nostalgia and remembering the first time someone else’s art really inspired me.

Look sir - droids!

April 6, 2014 Posted by | 1970s, geek, writing | , , | Leave a comment

The Wookiee in Winter

About five years ago, I started measuring our heavier snowfalls using the galactically-recognized Giant Vintage Kenner Chewbacca scale.

DeepChewie

January, 2009

It’s been a particularly wintry winter here in Northeast Ohio, and I was asked recently how Chewie was faring this season.

Truth is…he quit. Just up and disappeared. Then, this weekend, a friend emails me a link to these pictures on Facebook:

Ah. Looks like Chewie headed for warmer climes.

… and maybe wanted to play tourist.

Oh. Well then. I hope he’s partyyying responsiblyyy.

Uh-oh.

(Chewie’s confession in the caption: “I don’t remember this.”)

Huge thanks for these pictures to über-talented photo geek extraordinaire Jim Carchidi, who once again goes above and beyond in responding to a nerdy request. He’s put this whole Chewie gallery in a public Facebook gallery, and you should go check out his portfolio, especially if you’re a fan of portraits, concert photography, Bike Week in Daytona, or Star Wars stuff.

March 3, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 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

What I read in 2013

In terms of quantity, I had kind of a lousy year in 2013: I only finished 11 books, and five of those (marked with asterisks below) were re-reads.

The list:

On the other hand: Quality. I really enjoyed all of them, and my six first-time reads were a nice mix of popcorn fun, mind-bending, gut-punching, and thought-provoking.

January 4, 2014 Posted by | Books, geek, science fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is Me in ’83 – December

Postcards from Christmas vacation, 1983:

A Christmas Story came out in November, but I know it had been out for awhile by the time I saw it at the Gold Circle Cinemas. My parents had seen it already, as had this kid at school who told me how it ended after I asked him about it. Seems likely I went to see it over the winter break.

I was a big Bloom County fan This is my best “Bill the Cat” face:

So, if you recall, Return of the Jedi had come out earlier that year. This meant Star Wars gifts were pretty popular at Christmas. My brothers got a a bunch of Jedi toys and stuff: Speeder Bikes, the Ewok Village, action figures, big Presto Magix kits. It was really the last big Star Wars Christmas of the original trilogy era.

As a newly-minted teenager, I had pretty much taken Star Wars toys off my wish list. The last Kenner Star Wars toy I specifically asked for was the Y-Wing. As I wrote in Collect All 21! –

Couldn’t help it. This thing was light years ahead of the old X-Wing, armed with not only that squealing laser cannon, but a rotating top turret and a plastic bomb to drop from its underbelly. And it had a socket behind the cockpit for Artoo units. I may not have actually role-played with my figures anymore, but I did send that ship on many a run over card houses in our living room, and somewhere in our family albums there’s a snapshot of me using the ship to dive bomb my little brother and his Knight Rider-inspired remote-control black Camaro.

Now, for years, I remembered that Y-Wing as a 13th birthday request: But this picture was clearly taken on Christmas, judging by my sweet striped sweater and cool brown corduroy pants – the same outfit as in that first shot. And the Y-Wing box is in the background of another Christmas picture, so while I may have asked for it in November, the evidence suggests I got it on Christmas. I think the only other Star Wars toy I got that year was the Vehicle Maintenance Energizer, which paired up nicely with the ship.

I still have my Y-Wing. You can see it in this shot from Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys:

YWingShelf

And with that flash-forward, I wrap up This is Me in ’83.

Big thanks to my mom, who kept and organized shelves full of photo albums that held a lot of these pictures.

I’ve really enjoyed this project. I didn’t wind up writing as much as I thought I would when I started, but I also dug up and rediscovered things I didn’t have in mind a year ago. I also found some other pictures and photos and memories that I want to share and write about.

I hope you’ve had a good year. Thanks for visiting 1983 with me.

December 24, 2013 Posted by | 1980s, geek, Ohio | , , , | 1 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

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.

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

%d bloggers like this: