AMT’s U.S.S. Enterprise model at 55!

It’s not the sort of anniversary that a lot of people would notice or care about, and even within the vast Star Trek fandom it’s likely something only a segment of people would even recognize let alone take time to observe. However, for that special subset of fans for whom models in general and Star Trek models in particular are something they enjoy? Yeah, 2022 is something of a milestone, all right.

I guess I’m one of those people, at least to a degree.

While I can under no circumstances call myself a particularly skilled or accomplished model hobbyist, I’ve assembled my share of models. Most of these efforts were undertaken during my youth, of course, but I’ve also gone through phases as an adult where the challenge of building a model enticed me to spend more than a few late nights tinkering with this or that. As a kid in the mid to late 1970s, I built things like the Batmobile, the Eagle transport from Space: 1999, figure models from The Six Million Dollar Man or Planet of the Apes, Star Wars X-wings and TIE fighters, and — yes — several Star Trek models.

Star Trek models with 1970s-era packaging: the “Exploration Set,” the Bridge diorama, and Spock (with snakes!)

Particular favorites from the final frontier included the “Exploration Set,” the Enterprise bridge diorama, and the Spock (with snakes) model. Though I never successfully completed the latter, I did build the version of that kit retooled to tie into the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with the three-headed snake removed and Spock’s uniform now made to resemble his ensemble from the film rather than the original TV series. Yeah, it didn’t really hit home the way the original version did.

And, of course, there was the Enterprise itself.

As a kid, I can remember building the bridge model twice. Same with the Exploration Set (both sets became casualties of playing outside…damn those things were fragile), but the Enterprise? Probably a half-dozen times, and then a couple more later on.

That Enterprise model was created by a Michigan-based company, Aluminum Model Toys or “AMT.” It was created and first released in June of 1967, just a couple of months after the last new episode of Star Trek‘s first season aired on NBC. It’s been around pretty much since then. As years passed, AMT’s Star Trek line expanded beyond the original series to include models from the feature films and spin-off television series. Along the way, the Enterprise model was released and re-released who-really-knows-for-sure how many times over. It was even updated (addressing some long-standing structural and accuracy issues) and released to pretty decent fanfare in 2016 as part of commemorating the original TV series’ 50th anniversary, and was re-issued yet again just last year in time to celebrate the original series’ 55th birthday.

I want this tattooed on my thigh.

And now, 2022 marks the model’s own version of that latter milestone.

Related: Tuesday Trekkin’: The original AMT Star Trek models

Author and one-time NASA chief historian Glen E. Swanson wrote a wonderful article about the original AMT Enterprise model for a 2021 issue of Michigan History magazine. I heard about the magazine and Mr. Swanson’s article through the Facebook/Star Trek grapevine and it was enough for me to purchase a physical copy from the MH website.

To celebrate the 55th anniversary of the model as well as AMT’s enduring connection to Star Trek, Mr. Swanson penned a series of new essays, drawing inspiration from his original article. In addition hosting these on a site he maintains, Liftoffworks.com, the essays are also being shared on the CultTVman, the absolutely off-the-charts awesome website devoted to all things science fiction and monster models. Seriously, if you are at all interested in this topic, you need to bookmark this site. The sheer width and breadth of essays, build walk-throughs, reviews, and other information about models old and new is – in my mind, at least – unmatched. Plus, I don’t mind saying they’ve managed to separate me from more than a bit of my money over the years. You can read all of Mr. Swanson’s Enterprise essays by following this link:

CultTVman.com: AMT’s Enterprise at 55

AMT Enterprise model. Photo credit: National Air and Space Museum

Like a lot of people, building this particular model fired my imagination as a young kid. It fueled an interest in the original series that went beyond just watching those reruns every day after school. Having my very own Enterprise — along with those super groovy Mego action figures — drove me to create my own adventures for Kirk and the gang. It’s not at all a stretch for me to draw a line from those childhood imaginings to the Star Trek stories I now get to write as an adult.

I don’t know about anyone else, but reading all this stuff and seeing the pictures of different people building and enjoying their models makes me want to break out the tools, glue, and paints and see what sort of trouble I can cause.

Happy 50th Anniversary, M*A*S*H.

We try to play par surgery on this course. Par is a live patient.

Fifty years ago tonight, an odd, seemingly out-of-place TV series made its rather quiet, almost overlooked premiere on CBS. It would struggle through its first season and even face cancellation, but would soon find its audience. Carrying on for ten subsequent seasons, it eventually would go on to become one of the most influential series in the history of television.

M*A*S*H, the TVseries, was based on Robert Altman’s 1970 film MASH, as well as the novel of the same name (actually MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors), which was written by “Richard Hooker” (a pen name for Dr. Richard Hornberger and W.C. Heinz). Developed by the late, great Larry Gelbart, the series began as something of a hybrid. It didn’t so much adapt or continue events from either the film or the book as it used both works for inspiration and points of departure. Certain scenes or lines of dialogue from the novel or the movie were the basis for plot points and even entire episodes during the show’s early seasons.

M*A*S*H first-season cast

As another part of their research, Gelbart along with writer/producer Gene Reynolds and other members of the writing staff interviewed doctors and other servicemembers who had served (or were serving at that time) in real MASH units overseas. The transcripts of those interviews along with other stories, anecdotes, little asides and other details as conveyed to them by the men and women for whom this was or had been real life served as inspiration throughout the life of the series.

Several of the characters, already re-interpreted to one degree or another for the movie, were given still new spins for their television incarnations. Most notable in that regard is the character around which the series would center, Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce as played by Alan Alda. Though Hawkeye bore a decent resemblance to his film and novel namesakes at the start, Alda’s influence not just in his own portrayal but also the writing (and later directing and producing) of the series would see Hawkeye, the rest of the characters, and indeed the entire series evolve in numerous ways as the show progressed.

From the beginning, Gelbart and his crew wanted M*A*S*H to be something more than a simple situation comedy (according to interviews over the years, the cast and crew have said that they never referred to the show as a “sitcom”). In their minds, the setting, a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War, demanded that attention and respect. Even the earliest scripts, played largely for laughs, featured the occasional drift into more dramatic subject matter.

It wasn’t until late in the first season that Gelbart and the writing staff seemed to find the perfect balance between comedy and drama, with the pivotal episode “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet,” in which Hawkeye is reunited with an old friend who later dies on the operating table. By all accounts, this was the episode when the producers realized the true potential of what they could do with the series and its format, provided they had the proper front-office support. Once that support was demonstrated with the show’s renewal for a second season, all bets were off, and M*A*S*H never looked back.

The series would continue unabated for ten more years, earning more than 100 Primetime Emmy nominations (winning 14) and over 20 Golden Globe nominations (snagging 8). It also earned seven Director’s Guild of America, including three for Alan Alda himself, as well as 28 Writers Guild of America Award nominations, of which it took home seven. Its movie-length series finale episode, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen,” still ranks as one of the most-watched programs in television history nearly 40 years after its original broadcast.

After the series concluded in 1983, there was an attempt to continue on with some of the characters and leftover storylines. This took the form of AfterMASH, with Colonel Potter, Corporal Klinger and Father Mulcahy working together at a stateside VA hospital after the war. The show actually did pretty well during its first season (despite there being a noticeable lack of, well, M*A*S*H), and was notable for attempting to bring attention to the ongoing post-war treatment and care of soldiers.

Its second year would be its last after CBS unwisely chose to move it to Tuesday nights, opposite a show you might remember called The A-Team. Whoops. AfterMASH was spanked in the ratings, and was cancelled part way through its second year. I’ve not seen the show since its original airing, and then only part of its first season. It’s not yet been released on any home video format, but I remain hopeful, as I’d like to revisit it with fresh eyes. There also was another spin-off attempt, W*A*L*T*E*R with Gary Burghoff reprising his Radar character, but the pilot was rejected. It aired once on television, but I’ve never seen it.

As for M*A*S*H itself, I came to it rather late in its broadcast run. I think I started watching it around the seventh or eighth season, as I recall. By then, reruns of the earlier seasons were airing on local UHF stations, so I started watching them over and over. I remember wondering why the book and film were so different from the show, but once I figured out that I had it backwards, I came to love them on their own merits, and the novel is something I still reread from time to time when the mood strikes. I own the entire series on DVD, and it’s one of those shows for which I’ll stop channel-surfing if I happen across an episode. I’ve read all of the Richard Hooker sequel novels (their continuity feeds off the original novel, not the film or the series), and I even own a copy of the stage play script.

I know there are people who prefer the first three years–before the first of the various cast changes–to anything which came later. There also are folks who don’t watch the latter three or four seasons, because they feel the show began to lose steam at that point. While I agree to an extent with that second stance, for me, I can and do enjoy the entire run, and there are definitely gems and favorites even in those later seasons. The eighth season episode “Old Soldiers,” in which Colonel Potter comes to terms with knowing that the last of his friends from his youth have died, remains one of my absolute favorite episodes, as much for Harry Morgan’s performance as the subject matter.

Other favorites? Wow. How much time do you have? We could be here a while. Suffice it to say I have a lot of favorites, and I’m thinking I’ll be checking out some of them later today.

Happy Anniversary, M*A*S*H.

Attention, all personnel: Due to conditions beyond our control, we regret to announce that lunch is now being served.

The Double Trouble anthology Kickstarter is LIVE!

Last week, you may have read from me or one of the other contributing writers or even an interested fan about Double Trouble: An Anthology of Two-Fisted Team Ups. Edited by Jonathan Maberry and Keith R.A. DeCandido and presented by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW), Double Trouble will be a collection of all-new stories featuring heroes of yesteryear who’ve entered the Public Domain along with a few colorful personalities from the annals of actual history!

“Everybody loves a team-up!

Batman and Superman. Alien and Predator. Zatoichi and Yojimbo. The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan. Hercules and Xena. Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Iron Man and Captain America. 

The popular-culture storytelling landscape is filled with team-ups. Now, the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers (IAMTW) presents a new anthology that takes a whole bunch of classic characters and pairs them up! (In some cases, triples them up…)

Want to see Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote paired with William Shakespeare’s Prospero? Dracula in a story with Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and John Henry? Jane Austen’s Lydia Bennet meeting John Polidori’s Lord Ruthven? The immortal Ayesha coming across the goddess Egungun-oya? Abraham Van Helsing encountering the Medusa and Athena?” 

Awwww yeah.

So, sound interesting? Want to see these and a bunch of other cool matchups?

As mentioned in my previous post, we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign in the hopes of gathering the modest funds necessary to support the costs of assembling the book, which will feature this roster of wily word pushers and the characters they plan to bring together for all sorts of chaos and mayhem:

Marion of Sherwood meets Annie Oakley by Rigel Ailur
Captain Nemo meets Frankenstein’s monster by Kevin J. Anderson
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde meet Dracula and John Henry by Derek Tyler Attico
Gulliver meets Sacajawea and Ernest Shackleton by Diana Botsford
Ace Harlem meets the Conjure-Man by Maurice Broaddus
Van Helsing meets Athena and the Medusa by Jennifer Brody
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die must survive the Night of the Living Dead by Greg Cox
Lord Ruthven meets Lydia Bennet by Delilah S. Dawson
Ayesha, a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed, meets Egungun-oya by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Flaxman Low meets Mezzanotte by Nancy Holder & Alan Philipson
Prospero meets Don Quixote de la Mancha by David Mack
Dan Fowler meets Stinger Seave by James Reasoner
Bastet and Fenrir meet Quetzalcoatl by Ben H Rome
Dr. Moreau meets Audrey II by Scott Sigler
Captain Battle meets Blackout by Dayton Ward (Hey! That’s me!)

This is just what you get if the campaign makes its original fundraising goal. Stretch goals brings with them the chance to include stories by:

Jane Trent, Science Sleuth and Fantamah and Fury by Debbie Smith Daughetee
Tang Sanzang, a.k.a. Tripitaka, and Emperor Taizong by David A McIntee
Moon Man and The Man in Black by James A. Moore

If any of this sounds at all interesting an cool to you, then head over to Kickstarter and check out the project’s Kickstarter page. There, you’ll get the full low-down on what we’re doing as well as all the sweet perks available to enthusiastic backers.

On that subject, I’m throwing into the backer perk pot a new, yet-to-be-named collection of short fiction I’ve written over the years, including pieces previously available to very limited audiences. For example, “Texas Pride: A Tale of the Last World War” is a story I wrote years ago for the long defunct Amazon Shorts publishing program. Other than being offered as a perk for another Kickstarter campaign a few years ago, the story has lain dormant in my archives, wondering why I don’t get off my butt and leverage it along with other vagrant tales to maybe earn me the odd coin or two. My intention here is to make this new collection an exclusive “early release” for Double Trouble backers, and then offer it up to a wider audience in a year or so.

We’re gonna make some Double Trouble and want you to come along for the ride with us. Whaddaya say?

DOUBLE TROUBLE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF TWO-FISTED TEAM-UPS – Kickstarter Now Live!

Happy Breakaway Day!

Yep. On this date 23 years ago, the lives of the 311 men and women living and working on Moonbase Alpha…took a turn.

Moonbase Alpha, September 13th, 1999: And you thought your day sucked.

This is another one of those holidays I think are tragically overlooked by the various greeting card companies. Come on, Hallmark! You’re leaving money on the table!

Anyway, here’s hoping you can spare a thought or two for the Alphans while you’re going about your day.

Coming Soon: Kickstarter for new anthology DOUBLE TROUBLE!

If you’ve been around here long enough, you’ve likely at least seen a post or two where I talk about the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW). Basically, it’s an ever-growing group of writers who – like me – write various works that tie into other intellectual properties such as movie and TV franchises, video game or comic series, and so on. A bunch of us decided to band together so we could help elevate awareness and discourse about this often misunderstood field of writing, as well as correct certain pervasive misconceptions and just plain myths about how such works are created. Those of us who write them enjoy doing so, and indeed we take pride and satisfaction in the end result.

Turning the Tied, edited by Jean Rabe and Robert Greenberger, March 2021

Early last year, the IAMTW produced its first anthology, Turning the Tied. It’s a collection of short fiction written by IAMTW members and featuring all-new stories focusing on literary characters who’ve entered the Public Domain. Sherlock Holmes, John Carter, Dracula, Mulan, the Three Musketeers, and so on. Proceeds from sales of the book go toward the World Literacy Foundation, so feel free to click on that title up there and read about it, and if you’re of a mind to do so maybe consider buying a copy to support the cause.

Skip ahead to NOW: the IAMTW is once again developing an anthology of all-new tales that will feature heroes of yesteryear who’ve entered the Public Domain as well as a few colorful personalities from the annals of actual history! This time around, accomplished wordsmiths Jonathan Maberry and Keith R.A. DeCandido are taking on the truly monumental task of herding an all-new gaggle of cats for Double Trouble: An Anthology of Two-Fisted Team-Ups.

To help realize this particular project, we’re launching a Kickstarter campaign later this month. It’s hoped we can raise the modest funds necessary to support the costs of assembling the book, which will feature this roster of wily word pushers and the characters they plan to bring together for all sorts of chaos and mayhem:

Marion of Sherwood meets Annie Oakley by Rigel Ailur
Captain Nemo meets Frankenstein’s monster by Kevin J. Anderson
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde meet Dracula and John Henry by Derek Tyler Attico
Gulliver meets Sacajawea and Ernest Shackleton by Diana Botsford
Ace Harlem meets the Conjure-Man by Maurice Broaddus
Van Helsing meets Athena and the Medusa by Jennifer Brody
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die must survive the Night of the Living Dead by Greg Cox
Lord Ruthven meets Lydia Bennet by Delilah S. Dawson
Ayesha, a.k.a. She Who Must Be Obeyed, meets Egungun-oya by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Flaxman Low meets Mezzanotte by Nancy Holder & Alan Philipson
Prospero meets Don Quixote de la Mancha by David Mack
Dan Fowler meets Stinger Seave by James Reasoner
Bastet and Fenrir meet Quetzalcoatl by Ben H Rome
Dr. Moreau meets Audrey II by Scott Sigler
Captain Battle meets Blackout by Dayton Ward (Hey! That’s me!)

This is just what you get if the campaign makes its original fundraising goal. Stretch goals brings with them the chance to include stories by:

Jane Trent, Science Sleuth and Fantamah and Fury by Debbie Smith Daughetee
Tang Sanzang, a.k.a. Tripitaka, and Emperor Taizong by David A McIntee
Moon Man and The Man in Black by James A. Moore

If any of this sounds at all interesting an cool to you, then head over to Kickstarter and check out the project’s pre-launch page. Sign up to be notified when the campaign goes live as well as receive updates about backer rewards, opportunities to be “Tuckerized” (a character named for you in a story) and other goodies to be revealed when the time’s right.

So, who wants to make some Double Trouble with us?

August writing wrap-up.

And just like that….we’re already to the “–ber” months of 2022.

I apologize for things being quiet around here the past several weeks. In my defense, I was working a good bit of the month but also taking time here and there to unwind, catch up on some projects around the house, enjoy a bit of leisure reading as well as some TV binging from my ever-growing “To Be Watched” list.

One of my favorite things watched during August was the first(?) season of HBO’s revamped Perry Mason series. At best, I was only a casual viewer of the Raymond Burr series, which of course was already rerunning in syndication for years by the time I happened across the odd episode during my childhood. I never watched any of the TV movies that came after, but I have read a handful of Erle Stanley Gardner’s novels, so the revamped approach in this new version didn’t bother me. The proto-L.A. Confidential vibe held a definite appeal, as did Mason’s connections to World War I. The season’s storyline could’ve possibly been wrapped up with one or perhaps even two fewer episodes, but as I don’t particularly mind a good slow burn I’m okay with how things ended up. I’d watch a second season in a heartbeat.

Anyway….the writing.

Lots of things being juggled about during August. In addition to continuing the process of birthing my next novel, Kevin and I will be busy for the next couple of months as we work on a couple of new projects, and still other projects wait in the wings.

Wanna see what’s what? Check out last month’s scribblings:

Continue reading “August writing wrap-up.”

Happy Judgment Day!

Roses are Red
Violets Are Blue
Humanity’s toast
Suck on my big fat CPU.

Love, Skynet.                                             

Judgment Day: August 29th, 1997. Sunblock optional.

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of humanity and the rise of the machines.

Here’s hoping you can get out, enjoy it, and maybe take advantage of all the sales!

Happy Birthday, Gene.

Today would’ve been Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s 101st birthday.

“I would hope there are bright young people, growing up all the time, who will bring to [Star Trek] levels and areas that were beyond me, and I don’t feel jealous about that at all….It’ll go on without any of us, and get better and better and better. That really is the human condition–to improve.”

– Gene Roddenberry, 1988

Thank you, Mr. Roddenberry, for giving us such a wondrous sandbox in which to play and dream.

Tuesday Trekkin’: Favorite “Behind-the-Scenes” Trek books!

Yep, it’s Tuesday.

A check of my blog tells me it’s been a little over a month or so since my last entry in this stuttering, staggering, “irregularly recurring” feature that’s little more than an excuse for me to babble on a bit about some bit or bob of Star Trek fandom. This usually translates me to waxing nostalgic as I recount a fondly remembered bit of oddball merchandise or collectible, anniversaries, “milestones,” or important dates in franchise history, convention memories, or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day.

As for the “Tuesday Trekkin’” moniker, it’s a salute of sorts 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.

In an unreleated but welcome bit of synergy, today is also National Book Lovers Day, so now I’ve got a perfect excuse to roll out some fannish observations about a few of my personal favorite Star Trek books. For this exercise in full frontal nerdity, I’ve opted to take a look at a handful of my favorite “Behind the Scenes” from various corners of the Trek franchise. You can do that sort of thing when you’re an alleged adult. People dont even look at you weird when you check these out of the library or plonk them down on the counter at a bookstore. Go figure.

First up? The daddy of all such tomes devoted to the care and feeding of the Final Frontier: The Making of Star Trek. It doesn’t get any more “You Are There!” than this, written by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry and published in 1968 while the original series was still in production. It chronicles the show’s creation and development through its two pilot episodes and transition to weekly series, and recounts various production highlights through the conclusion of its second of three seasons. This very much makes it a time capsule from that period, not just as a Star Trek reference but also an insider’s look at just how a television series of the late 1960s was made.

Considered by fans as a companion piece to The Making of Star Trek, The Trouble With Tribbles is David Gerrold’s in-depth recounting of the development and production of one of the franchise’s most memorable episodes by the man who wrote it. Featuring initial concept notes, script drafts and revisions, as well as notes and insights as his story was put before the cameras, told from the unique perspective of someone who was there as it happened. This wonderful morsel of Star Trek production history is currently available in electronic format from Mr. Gerrold’s website, along with another book he wrote which is also a favorite of mine, The World of Star Trek. These books along with The Making of Star Trek, which I first encountered while still in elementary school, ignited an interest in the show’s production that fascinates me to this day.

Though written as a retrospective, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story still makes for a nice bookend with The Making of Star Trek to round out a history of the original series. This first-person tale recounts the show’s genesis, production, and enduring legacy, presented by two of the three men who were there from “Day 1,” Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman. Despite a few factual errors – likely misrembrances owing to the passage of more than 30 years from the show’s production to the book being written – the insights offered from people in the trenches makes Inside Star Trek is still one of the better entries in this category, and does its own bit of fueling my continued obsession with the production of the original series.

The most recent of the books I’m calling out here, Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Inside the Art and Visual Effects is an absolutely gorgeous, oversized coffee-table tome brought to us by authors Jeff Bond and Gene Koziki. Published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the film’s theatrical release, the book takes a detailed look at the unleashed imaginations and artistic brainstorming of the numerous people who guided the first (and, arguably, still the most ambitious) Star Trek feature film from concept to reality. Of course I had my copy pre-ordered the nanosecond I heard about it, which ended up being about a year ahead of the book’s publication.

Sticking with the current theme, I have tip my hat to Chekov’s Enterprise: A Personal Journal of the Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Walter Koenig (who’s definitely no slouch as a writer, either) presents a very candid diary from the perspective of Lieutenant Chekov himself. Like The Making of Star Trek, there’s a definite “There on the set” vibe permeating the book’s every page, offering a lingering look at the daily grind of the film’s production. Mr. Koenig gives us welcome insight into the process of the cast “re-learning” how to do Star Trek after so many years away from their roles, along with the numerous obstacles face by Gene Roddenberry, director Robert Wise, and the entire crew to bring the film to fruition. It’s not all roses and unicorns, but you can’t beat the insider perspective Mr. Koening provides.

To close out this installment, I’m stepping away from the original series to salute not just one of the best Star Trek behind-the-scenes books but perhaps one of the best such books written about producing television, period. I refer to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, published in August 2000. Working from notes and interviews compiled as the series progressed from initial concept to its final episode, authors Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block offer us as complete a history of the series’ seven seasons as we’re ever likely to see. Worth the price of admission all on its own is the collection of anecdotes and interviews from the production staff, who give us a no-holds-barred look at the show, episode by episode and never shying away from telling us what they thought worked and — more interestingly — what they thought fell short….in some cases, very short. As a sort of companion to the Companion, Erdmann and Block along with DS9 visual effects supervisor Gary Hutzel wrote The Magic of Tribbles, an e-Book exclusive which details the development and execution of “Trials and Tribble-ations,” the show’s wonderful 30th anniversary tribute episode to the original series.

Okay, I suppose that’s enough babbling for one day. There are, of course, numerous other titles I could’ve included in the mix, but then we’d be here all day. No, I didn’t forget your favorite but feel free to share it down in the comments. Happy #TrekTuesday, and Happy National Book Lovers Day!

(Note: Some of this material repurposed from an article I wrote for StarTrek.com in 2014.)

I AM LEGEND: One of “those” books.

“On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.

If he had been more analytical, he might have calculated the approximate time of their arrival; but he still used the lifetime habit of judging nightfall by the sky, and on cloudy days that method didn’t work. That was why he chose to stay near the house on those days.”

The opening lines from Richard Matheson’s classic novel I Am Legend, released on this date in 1954.

There are stories you encounter at a certain age – movies, TV shows, and most definitely books – that stay with you. As my good friend Kevin has described this phenomenon, this period of your life is something of your own personal “golden age” or “sweet spot,” usually your early teens or even before, where things encountered and enjoyed stick with you from that point forward. The love you have for this “thing” might be a fleeting sensation you revisit on occasion yet remember fondly each time that happens, or it might be something that remains with you, easily recalled with little or no provocation and never failing to bring a smile to your face.

For me, I Am Legend fits squarely in that latter category.

I first read the novel in 1979 at the age of 12 after stumbling across it at a local library. I was so enthralled with the story that I scoured bookstores for months until I found a copy to call my own. I haven’t been without at least one copy since.

In the decades since its original publication, the novel continues to provide inspiration. Pretty much the modern “zombie” subgenre of horror fiction – beginning with George A. Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead and spinning out from there – owes something to I Am Legend. As of this writing, Matheson’s book has itself been (officially) adapted for the screen three times: 1964’s The Last Man On Earth starring Vincent Price, The Omega Man from 1971 with Charlton Heston, and Will Smith’s 2007 film I Am Legend. This last one is currently being eyed for a sequel (or is it a prequel, or both?), and there was a time when I would’ve considered a follow-up to a film from more than just a few years after its predecessor an odd idea. Movies like Blade Runner 2049 and especially Top Gun: Maverick pretty much slapped that notion out of my head. Elsewhere, I long ago gave up trying to keep pace with the uncounted homages and flat out rip-offs of the original tale.

As for the book itself, I’ve turned hunting earlier editions of it into an idle passtime. In the early 1990s, Eclipse Comics published a 4-issue adaptation of the novel. I was lucky enough to find those at the time, and I enjoyed the graphic novel’s approach to slyly updating the story for the modern reader while remaining true to the original narrative. Years after Eclipse went under, IDW Publishing in 2003 produced a lavish hardcover edition of the adaptation. I missed it the first time around and after casually spending years hunting for it I finally landed a copy last year.

None of that compares to Matheson’s original novel, which 40+ years after I first read it remains one of my all-time favorite stories. I lost count ages ago how often I might pull it from the shelf, if not to reread it outright (it’s a short book) then simply to revisit favorite scenes and passages. When the 2007 film came along, a new audiobook edition of the novel was released, allowing me to enjoy the book in a whole new way.

I can quote passages from memory. Whenever in find myself driving around on an overcast day, I almost always consider the novel’s opening lines quoted above. I can’t drive past “Cimmaron Street” in my neighborhood without recalling that’s the street on which Robert Neville lived in the novel. Indeed, it was also the street on which Matheson lived while writing the book.

As I’m sure is the case with many other writers, the story itself along with Matheson’s superb crafting of such a memorable tale has influenced my own writing here and there. It’s just one of those titles that sticks with you, and I’m absolutely certain I’ve never assembled any sort of “Favorite Books” list that didn’t include it. For me, it’s most definitely one of “those books.”

When my oldest kid started taking an interest in reading supernatural horror and vampire stories in particular, I introduced them to Matheson and I Am Legend. They devoured the book in one sitting and immediately asked to read more by “this guy.”

#DadWin

Happy 68th Anniversary, I Am Legend.