Wil Wheaton wrote the other day about a very early experience in his life that helped spark a fascination with and love of the vastness of outer space. It’s beautifully written and brought a tear to my eye. (And hey, congratulations on having an asteroid named after you, Wil! Super cool!)
Wil makes a throwaway reference to “listening to Star Trek Power records on my portable plastic record player” and boy, did that bring back memories! I also had a little portable record player and listened to Power Records book and record sets on it, including a Star Trek one, “Passage to Mouav.” I listened to it, reading along with the record, so many times, it was probably more firmly embedded in my brain as *Star Trek* than any episode of the original series. But until Wil mentioned it in his post, I hadn’t thought about it in many, many years.
Looking at the book now, I’m not surprised it made an impression on me, with terrific art by an amazing trio of artist, Russ Heath, Neal Adams, and Dick Giordano, and a story that could easily be an episode of the TV series (and is a damn sight better than the worst Trek episodes, like “The Omega Glory” and “The Way to Eden”). Plus, cats!
Confession: even thought it would be years before I hit puberty, the Caitian communications officer Lt. M’ress made me feel “funny” inside, in the same way Julie Newmar’s Catwoman in the Batman TV series did.
“Passage to Mouav” was an early source of my growing love of science fiction–and imaginative fiction in general–and my growing fascination with space exploration and the dream of space travel. Finding it archived online makes me buzzy with happiness.
Except…seriously, what the hell is up with black Sulu and white Uhura? That’s messed up.
Before I woke up this morning, I was dreaming this:
I’m living in a small town in the Ozarks, where I’m friends with the sheriff. It seems like the night will last forever, the sun not rising, and weird things are going on in town. People call or come to the sheriff’s station complaining of feeling like they’re watched constantly, or they get lost walking short, familiar routes, or they can’t find their keys or a spoon or a bowl or some other small thing, but then later they find it exactly where it should be. I’m helping the sheriff and his deputies take all the statements, but we’re not sure what to do about these complaints.
Dawn finally comes while I’m at the station. A woman in her sixties wanders into town, accompanied by a young man in a three-piece suit. The woman wears a dark blue shawl embroidered with gold suns, moons, and stars, and carries a large handbag, holding it in front of her. She stops at the local mechanic’s garage to ask for help and then comes to the sheriff station. She claims she was driving through the mountains when she got lost and then her car swerved off the road and broke down just outside of our town. She says her getting lost and her car trouble was all caused by the evil machinations of Cthulhu. But wherever the woman and her friend go in town, the people around her suddenly freeze like statues. When she walks away, the people can suddenly move again and they gasp for air, since their paralysis stopped them from breathing. Only the sheriff and I are unaffected by her.
Throughout the dream, this song was also playing on repeat in my head:
When it comes to writing fiction, one of my aims is for my prose to read like Will Sergeant’s guitar playing sounds in songs like “No Dark Things” (especially the break after Ian McCulloch sings “I fell oveeeerrrrrr…”):
I don’t know that I’ve ever achieved that, but I keep trying.
It was 1983 and I was 13 years old. I had recently fallen in love with Doctor Who and wanted to learn more about the show. I stumbled upon a magazine celebrating the 20th anniversary of the show, and while I didn’t appreciate the significance of a science fiction series running for 20 consecutive years, I saw my opportunity to dive into the show and bought it on the spot.
I learned more about the basics of the show, including exactly what the TARDIS was, where the Doctor was from, and why there was more than one Doctor–in fact, the one I had gotten into was the fifth and there were three I hadn’t even known existed! And the show was originally in black-and-white! But the section of the magazine that made the biggest impression on me was the story guide, which gave a very short synopsis of every serial and a preview of the next season to come. I had already seen some paperback novelizations in the SF section of the bookstore with titles that sparked my imagination, like Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars and Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet, but this was a whole new game. Now I had a long list of imaginative and weird story titles, like “An Unearthly Child”, “The Web Planet”, “The Celestial Toymaker”, “The Tomb of the Cybermen”, “The Mind Robber”, “The Ambassadors of Death”, and “Carnival of Monsters.” The story synopses were short enough to let my imagination fill in a lot of blanks, helped along by the rest of the magazine, which gave just enough information about the series to give you the basics but still left a lot to be imagined.
I’d never thought of a series of stories–or even chapters within one story–broken up like that, with evocative titles and summaries that hinted at colorful, mind-blowing adventures, but after reading that magazine ragged, I started loosely planning out comic book series, prose serials, and even tabletop RPG campaigns by coming up with titles that sounded cool to me, and then brief, broad story ideas inspired by the titles. I’ve been doing it ever since. Now I have a Google doc with a long list of titles for stories that don’t yet exist, seeds waiting to be watered and grow into real stories, powered by the potential of the imagination.
I became a Doctor Who fan when I was 13. I wish I could say it was love at first sight, but it wasn’t. But when I fell for it, I fell hard.
This was back in the Before Times, when you couldn’t buy episodes of TV shows. You either caught them when they aired (or were lucky enough to own a VCR that you could program to record when it aired) or you missed it. This was also before many of the 1960s episodes of Doctor Who had been recovered and were aired in the US. Basically, if you came into the show, you were jumping onto the middle car of a passing train and relying on fellow passengers and your own sense of direction to find your way around.
My friend Marc was a big fan of the show and invited me over to his house to watch it. I don’t remember how much he explained about what the show was and I don’t remember much of what we watched. I remember it was a Tom Baker story (which was shown as one long episode, since many PBS stations that showed Doctor Who, including our station in Kansas City, had all of the individual episodes of a serial spliced into one “Doctor Who movie”) and I remember not really getting into it or following it. And then my mom and brother began taking karate lessons on Friday nights and I didn’t go along with them (which is weird in retrospect, since studying a martial art was something I’d been interested in, but who can figure out the brain of a 13-year-old?), so I settled in front of the television with a Swanson’s TV dinner in front of me on a TV tray and flipped through the channels to see what was on. I landed on our PBS station just as the announcer said, “Coming up, a new Doctor Who movie: ‘Kinda’!” (Pronounced “kin-da”, like “cin-da-rella.”) Because Marc loved the show, I figured I’d give it another shot and at least watch the beginning. A very different opening sequence from the one I’d seen before started, with a cool, synthy scream leading into a New Wave-ish theme while the starry vastness of space hurtled at me. I was mesmerized. (more…)