Friday, November 02, 2012


I not only watched Space:1999, I proudly carried the luchbox to school every day, subscribed to the comic book, had both the Eagle 1 model kit and the much larger and more awesome Eagle playset.  My devotion to all things Planet Of The Apes-related led me to own numerous posters, action figures, comic books, the novelization of Beneath The Planet of The Apes (the first quote-unquote adult novel I ever read), a board game and so much more.

Upon starting fifth grade, I was thrilled to discover the middle school library was well-stocked with juvenile-skewing science fiction novels by the likes of Andre Norton and E.E. "Doc" Smith.  More importantly, book-wise, late in 1976 I bought a copy of Jeff Rovin's A Pictorial History Of Science Fiction Films, which was, as its title suggests, full of glorious images from classics like Forbidden Planet and This Island Earth, as well as glimpses of obscurities like the Soviet-made Ikarie XB and forgotten cheapies like Monster from Green Hell.  All these movies had one thing in common: I'd never seen any of them, and aside from the occasional lucky TV broadcast, I never would, not in that pre-cable, pre-VCR world.  I could imagine, but I could never experience.

So I was primed.  Before just happening to spot a full-page ad in the Sunday paper, I'd never even heard of Star Wars.  But that ad, running two weeks before the movie even opened, became the only thing that mattered in my world.  It was kind of hard to make out in the crappy newsprint, but it showed robots, and a girl in a gown holding a weapon, and a guy with some kind of crazy laser sword, or something.  I had to see this!

After relentless pestering of pretty much everyone in my family--I literally couldn't talk about anything else--my sister became the one to drive me all the way to Des Moines, to the cavernous River Hills auditorium, the only theater in the whole state--one of the few in the entire midwest--playing the movie.  The place was packed even two hours before showtime.  The lights went down, the curtains parted, the 20th Century Fox fanfare sounded, there was a written prologue, and then...well, once the Imperial cruiser glided implacably from the top of the screen, I felt a rush such as I'd never known.

This was it!  This was the movie--the experience!--I'd waited for my entire life.  Whatever I'd imagined, hoped, dreamed this movie would be, it was better, so much better than...well, better than anything ever.  There was nothing wrong with it, no boring parts, nothing where you had to pretend it was better than it was.  I bounced up and down in my seat the entire time, fully alive.  Surely this was the defining moment of my life.

Maybe it was.  But, you know, I had just turned twelve.  My life had very little definition to begin with.  Living on a farm in the middle of nowhere--just like Luke Skywalker!--I hated school, had very few friends and just generally felt lost.  These aren't exactly unusual circumstances, and my love of science fiction clearly indicated a desire to be taken away, to leave this farm and this life and this world, to be swept up into a galactic uprising, to destroy the Death Star and learn the ways of The Force.  Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Given all this, I was surprised to discover how indifferent I was to the announcement that George Lucas sold his company to Disney, which promptly announced plans for a new Star Wars movie.  Fandom seems divided between those who dread the Disneyfication of their beloved galaxy far far away and those who hate the prequels so much they are eager to see what Star Wars is like without the direct involvement of Lucas' increasingly heavy hand.

There's no way to minimize what Star Wars meant to me, but it was just one part of my life.  I remember a lot of things about that summer: I moved into a new room in the house, and it had an AM radio so I started listening to the local Top 40 station.  I finally read Fahrenheit 451.  Also, for whatever reason, I suddenly became obsessed with the idea of mortality, and spent a terrifying amount of time obsessing over the inevitable death of everyone I knew and loved.

I remember these things, all the profound feelings of joy and despair, but what I can't quite conjure is the person who actually experienced these emotions.  Twelve year old me is gone forever.  Sure, I'll always love Star Wars, but mostly for what it was, not what it still is.  It's just a movie, and honestly, it's not even all that good.  It's no longer vital, it doesn't matter, not in the life I lead now.  If someone wants to make a new one, good, bad, mediocre, I don't really care.

But maybe there'll be some kid out there, lost and lonely and unsure of his place in the world, and he'll see it, and it will be the most important thing in the world.