Each year, January 27th marks the beginning of a somber week of remembrance for NASA.
On the evening of this date in 1967 while conducting a routine test of their spacecraft’s power systems, astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chafee were killed when a fire broke out inside the Apollo 1 capsule.
Grissom had been with NASA almost from the beginning, flying missions for both the Mercury and Gemini programs, and White also was a Gemini veteran. The Apollo 1 flight was to be Chaffee’s first space mission.
Though tragic, their sacrifice ultimately played a monumental role in NASA’s effort toward bettering the machines which soon would fly to the Moon, and ensuring the safety of the men they carried there.
IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE SO OTHERS COULD REACH THE STARS
AD ASTRA PER ASPERA (A ROUGH ROAD LEADS TO THE STARS)
It’s a Monday, which called for a bit of nostalgic wallowing in an around tackling the day’s more important tasks. Today, that means another trip to the “Tied Up With Tie-ins,” where I take a gander at a fondly remembered series of novels based on movies or television series.
It’s most definitely an outgrowth of my collecting old books, which often means I’m revisiting something older, such as the many different tie-ins which were all over the place during my childhood and early adulthood. I’m certainly not above covering newer material, including books or book series which in turn inspired a film or television series. One example I’ve added to my “To Do” list for a future entry is the series of “Walt Longmire mysteries” penned by author Craig Johnson and the basis for the Longmire TV series. I’m also gathering notes for a couple of special entries about 1) 1980s movie novelizations, and 2) off-beat choices for movie novelizations. There might be a little overlap between the two pieces (Howard the Duck or Meatballs, anyone?), but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.
Meanwhile, today’s entry is inspired in part because it was 40 years ago tonight that we first heart these words coming out of our TVs:
“Ten years ago, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire…The A-Team.“
Set the Wayback Machine for 1983, and me the wayward teen wandering into one of the numerous video game arcades taking up space inside pool halls or in strip malls, renovated fast food joints and other odd-sized buildings all over the city of Tampa. My pockets jammed with however many quarters and dollar bills I could scrounge, I move past such favorites as Tron and Tempest, on my way to the hot new game I’ve been dying to play:
Your mission, should you insert your quarter(s) and press the button for 1 or 2 players, was to pilot the U.S.S. Enterprise from “sector” to “sector,” defending varying numbers of starbases from varying numbers of Klingon battle cruisers. Some of the enemy ships concentrated on destroying the starbases while others were intent on destroying the Enterprise (and you).
Successfully defending the starbases meant bonus points after clearing a “sector,” so your first priority was taking out the Klingons attacking them. Docking at a starbase also was one means of repairing “damage” and replenishing your various “consumables” — warp drive power, photon torpedoes, and deflector shields. However, docking at a starbase reduced the bonus points it offered for your successful defense. So, the object? Destroy all the Klingons, defend all the starbases, and do so (if possible) without being forced to dock for emergency repairs.
Every five sectors or so, you entered a special “bonus” round where you faced off against the “Nomad probe,” which was busy deploying mines like a rabbit shot-gunning Red Bull. Taking out Nomad without incurring damage from any of the mines meant more sweet bonus points, after which you charged into the next round of “sector battles” with ever more angrier, faster Klingons.
Continue repeating all of the above until your ship is destroyed.
A fossil by today’s gaming standards, Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator was pretty slick when it was released by Sega in January 1983. The vector graphics were typical of the era, but the game also benefitted from Leonard Nimoy and James Doohan supplying their voices for various snippets of dialogue throughout the game. Familiar Star Trek music and sound effects rounded out the presentation. The controls were pretty simple, with a “spin knob” to control direction and four buttons–one each for phasers, photon torpedoes, thrusters and “warp drive” to get you out of a tough jam, at least for a couple of seconds.
The game itself came in two basic configurations: the standard stand-up cabinet model prevalent in most arcades, and the deluxe “sit-down” model that partially enclosed the player in a “captain’s chair,” with the controls set into the arms. Of course, back in those days it was common practice to repurpose arcade cabinets by swapping out the innards and the exterior artwork, so finding an actual honest to goodness sit-down model is a pretty rare event anymore. That said, now you know what to get me for Christmas or my birthday if you chance across one. Until then, I have to make do with what I have:
In addition to the original arcade game version, the game also was made available for home console systems of the day–Atari 2600/5200, Commodore 64, the TI-99, and so on. Stop laughing. The Commodore 64 graphics actually were better than the arcade model. I said stop laughing!
Forty years after I first played it in that long-gone arcade, I still love this thing. I don’t play it every day, of course, but every so often the itch needs scratchin’, you know? The model which currently sits in my home office was acquired soon after we moved into our house, allowing me to cross one item off my Bucket List (“Own actual Star Trek arcade game.”).
(Sadly, “Own actual Tron arcade game” is still on the list, so remember: Christmas or birthday. I’m not picky.)
Happy 40th, Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator. Who’s got quarters?
December picked up where November left off, with me and Kevin continuing to work on our “big unannounced project” (see below). That and the holidays commanded most of the month, along with the usual sorts of tasks associated with my consulting duties and other things. Once we get past the Big Thing in front of us – or at least hand it off for review and approvals – I’ll start zeroing in on the next short story I’m scheduled to write, and I still have some other things I’m hoping to tackle in the next couple of months.
But first, let’s put a cap on 2022 with the December rundown:
I suppose it depends on where you land with various things. We celebrated successes, our own as well as those close to us. We enjoyed the company and love of family and friends. We endured heartache. We mourned.
Elsewhere, it seems people are starting to wake up to the fact that elections have consequences. We were warned, of course, but we wouldn’t pay attention. We were told to look three and four moves down the board and consider pesky things like Supreme Court nominees and gerrymandering and voting rights and women’s rights and civil rights. People seemed to wake up a little in response to some of the more egregious moves. Better late than never, I guess.
I try not to get too political in this space, but suffice it to say the midterms gave me only slight cause for hope as we – slowly – take steps to mitigate the damage that’s already been done. Here I am, with my fingers crossed that it’s a small but growing trend away from the insanity of the last several years and the utter chaos that certain segments of our elected leadership seem all to happy not just to egg on but indeed instigate or assist.
NOTE: If you’re reading this and taking issue with those previous paragraphs, I understand and respect it but I have absolutely no interest in discussing or debating it with you. I also respect that you might feel the desire or need to find the exit ramp from this little banal corner of the internet, and if that’s the case then I wish you well.
Yeah, I have a thing about commemorating influential people on their birthdays, even after they’ve passed.
This usually means someone who had an impact on me at an early age, and in particular when they continued to provide inspiration as I began finding my way as a would-be writer. Gene Roddenberry, Gene Coon, and Rod Serling are obvious examples. I imagine I’ll have something to say about Richard Matheson in a few years when we reach that milestone.
And while these days I would be described at best as a casual comics reader, there’s no denying the influence the medium had on me when I was a kid. Writers such as Jack Kirby continue to inspire, to say nothing of the admiration I hold for current creators like Jason Aaron, Gail Simone, Garth Ennis, Stephanie Phillips, Brandon Easton, Mike Johnson, Ed Brubaker, and Marjorie Liu – among so many others – just to name several off the top of my head.
And of course the guy responsible for a lot of the comics feeding my young, impressionable imagination all those many years ago was the Generalissimo himself, Stan Lee.
Today would’ve been Stan’s 100th birthday, and until his passing he was at the epicenter of comics for more than seventy years. I still have my copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, which I purchased when I was a youngster. One of these days, I’ll tell you how at one time I had aspirations of being a cartoonist if not an actual comic artist. I used to draw – a lot – and I enjoyed it, but reality soon asserted itself and I came to understand I would never possess the talent necessary to succeed in that world.
Still, Stan and so many others working in the trenches when I found my first issues of various comics set the hook deep. His was a ubiquitous presence in the pages of just about every Marvel title in those days, either as a writer or editor, or his caricature showing up on ads or in his “Stan’s Soapbox” column. He was everywhere. Countless writers and artists chose to pick up a pen, pencil, or brush, or sat down at a typewriter or computer, because he put that thought in their heads.
We’re careening toward the end of the year and while this is supposed to be something of a slow week (HAH!), I’m hoping I can try resuscitate this blog-type thing on some level during 2023. To that end, feel free to offer suggestions for things you might want to see more (or less) of around here.
Meanwhile, it’s Tuesday, which means it could possibly also be time for another installment of “Tuesday Trekkin’,” one of several irregularly recurring features you newcomers might find here. This one is really just a shoddy excuse for me to yammer on a bit about some nugget of Star Trek fandom. Most of the time, this means me babbling about some fondly remembered bit of goofy merchandise or collectible, anniversaries and “milestones” or important dates in franchise history, convention memories, or whatever else tickles my brain on any given day.
The “Tuesday Trekkin’” moniker is also a tip of the hat to Dan Davidson and Bill Smith, aka “The Hosts of the TrekGeeks Podcast.” Their fan group over on Facebook, Camp Khitomer, is devoted to all things Trek where all are welcome to join in their positive vibes and community. Sometimes, they also like to push a #TrekTuesday hashtag over there, inviting members to share updates, links, and/or pictures celebrating their fandom, so this feature is definitely offered in that same spirit.
I’d actually planned to do this one a couple of weeks ago for reasons which (hopefully) will become clear as I proceed, but December kind of got away from me with work, family stuff, the holidays, and so on, but here we are! Those of you who follow such things know that Harm’s Way, a new Star Trek novel penned by friend and fellow word pusher David Mack, was published back on back on December 13th. In addition to being an original series tale featuring Captain Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise in their prime during their historic five-year mission, the new story also ties into one of my very favorite aspects of the Star Trek “expanded universe,” the Star Trek Vanguard novel series.
Yeah, it’s been quiet around here lately. All I’ve got is that it’s been busy on the work front(s) and with other stuff going on leading into the holidays. Hopefully things can throttle back a bit during the next……you know what? I’m not even going to finish typing that sentence. Fate has already been tested enough, and it’s only Monday.
That said, I knew I should come in here and blow the dust off this blog-type thing, if for no other reason than to make room for new dust.
For those of you who’ve only recently discovered my little corner of internet banality and haven’t yet poked around too much, one of this places “irregularly recurring features” is something I like to call, “Tied Up With Tie-ins.” It’s here that I take a fond look back at a favorite series of novels based on movies or television series.
Given my penchant for nostalgia and collecting old books, I figure this is a nice intersection for those two interests, which often means I’m revisiting something older, such as the many different tie-ins which were all over the place during my childhood and early adulthood. That said, I’m certainly not above babbling about something published much more recently if it trips my trigger. A few of the subjects previously tackled represent books or book series which inspired a film or television series, so that’s obviously on the table. One example I’m pondering for a future entry is the series of “Walt Longmire mysteries” penned by author Craig Johnson and the basis for the Longmire TV series. I guess we’ll see, eh?
For this entry I’m actually straddling a bit of fence with respect to this property’s publishing history. Created during the same era that gave us the original Star Trek series, it’s a show that’s also experienced its own reboots and re-imaginings over the decades since its original television heyday. Despite enjoying a similar, near-continuous public awareness, it never cultivated the sort of tie-in publication history that Star Trek has commanded since the days of the original show being in active production. This, despite being one of those shows that to this day still has its ardent fans.
So, it’s not the U.S.S. Enterprise we’re talking about today, but rather the Jupiter 2 as we join the Robinson family, their Robot, and Dr. Zachary Smith as we all go and get Lost In Space.
When I was a kid, this time of year usually meant a slew of Christmas specials on TV. Charlie Brown, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and the Grinch to name just a few folks who stared out from the family television all through the month of December. Nowadays, you can’t go a single day of the month without running into some channel airing something holiday related, and that’s without considering streaming/on-demand options or the really hard core folks who break out a Blu-ray, DVD, VHS or Beta tape, or LaserDisc.
(If you’ve got How the Grinch Stole Christmas! on LaserDisc, you are a holiday binge watching beast.)
Know what else is good to do this time of year? Curl up with a good book. Make it a holiday-themed book if you really want to be so sweet you break out with spontaneous diabetes. Would I ever write such a book? Sure, if I was able to conjure an idea. I thought I had the makings of a pretty decent one several years ago, but it turns out I wasn’t the only one with that same notion, and they beat me to the punch. Take a guess.
Until then, there are several books, old and new, I consider favorites for this time of year, each of them written by an author more capable than myself.