Wait…I’ve been doing this writing thing for how long?

It hit me today while reading a Facebook thread featuring comments from one of the responsible parties: I’ve been doing this writing thing….well, the “paid for my writing” thing…for twenty years, now.

Twenty. Years.

Holy. Shit.

snw1Okay, okay. In truth, I’d been writing for a few years at that point, but it wasn’t until the fall of 1997 that somebody actually decided for the first time – after reading a story I’d submitted to their writing contest, of their own free will and without the assistance of mood altering substances – to pay me for my writing. That someone was editor John Ordover at Pocket Books, and the story was “Reflections,” which I’d sent to be considered for inclusion in the very first Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthology.

Most of you know what happened after that. Secret origin story. Never-ending battles. Truth, justice, and the American Way and so on and so forth. Blah blah bah.

Twenty. Years.

Holy Shit.

Of course, the anthology which was the result of that first contest wouldn’t be published until the following summer, but I mark the letter I received from John as the starting point for what has become my “writing career.” He, along with editor Dean Wesley Smith and Paula Block (who at the time was working for Star Trek‘s licensing department), put me on the path I continue to walk to this day.

(Oddly, the letter is undated, and I find myself unable to recall the date the first contest’s winners were announced. All I remember for sure is “fall 1997,” so I guess a ballpark guess will just have to do. Sucks getting old(er), amirite?)

honor-coverThis is something of a retcon on my part, as back then I had no real aspirations of being “a writer.” It wasn’t a path I’d remotely considered, as at the time I was neck deep in my career as a software developer, having made the transition from military service to the private sector just a year previously. That feeling didn’t change during the next two years, as I submitted stories to the next two SNW contests (and earned a place in the table of contents for the resulting anthologies). Only when John called me and asked if I wanted to write a full-blown Star Trek novel for him did start to wonder – just a bit – if there was something to this whole writing thing.

To be honest, I still wonder that, pretty much all the time, all these years later. And yet, here we are, twenty years later, and I think there’s a chance I might stick with it.

So, yeah: Twenty years. I’m not a “big name” or anything. I’m not one of those writers who will ever be recognized or remembered in passing. There won’t be any big movie or TV deals waiting in the wings for anything I write, but none of that really matters. I’m having fun, and I have a readership who makes up for their modest numbers with their unrelenting enthusiasm and support. I’m totally good with that.

The biggest thing to come out of that first contest was my meeting Kevin Dilmore. What began with him interviewing me as one of the contest’s eighteen winners has become an enduring friendship that I treasure. Indeed, he’s ‘ohana; a member of my family. There a many, many other people I’ve met and befriended since then; people I’d never know if not for this rather odd adventure, which began with that first short story.

I’ve benefitted from several opportunities which I’d otherwise never have received, including a handful of genuine, “Are you kidding me? That that just happen?” moments. There have been a bunch of novels and other short stories during these past twenty years, and there are countless people to thank for this journey I’ve undertaken, so many of whom have expended time, energy, and money in some manner on my behalf. Most important among that group: the readers who’ve accepted the invitation to travel with me every time there’s a new story with my name on the by-line. To anyone who at some point took a chance on me, you have my heartfelt thanks.

Then there’s my wife, Michi, of course. She’s been with me every step of the way, my biggest supporter and loudest, most enthusiastic cheerleader. I literally couldn’t have done any of this without her in my corner.

What will the next twenty years bring? Damifino. Guess we’ll just have to see what we see.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish reviewing this latest novel manuscript.

#AmWriting
#NoReally

The things you find.

Yesterday, I was helping my wife do a few things as she continues preparing for an estate sale at her mother’s place. We removed a few things from the house to bring here, and sorted through some papers and other items.

For those who don’t know, my mother-in-law was Japanese, and most of the reading material she kept in her home was published in her native language. During my tour on Okinawa back in the 1980s, I made a rather pitiful attempt to learn Japanese – both spoken and written – and failed spectacularly on both fronts. Along the way, I purchased a few pop culture/film/TV books and magazines from local merchants, thinking that a familiarity with the original source material would aid in my learning. So, yeah, among other things, there are one or two Japanese Star Trek books in my library, including a translation of Vonda McIntyre’s novelization of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home from 1986.

At some point after returning home and marrying Michi, I showed her mother some of the books I’d brought back with me, and she asked to borrow them. Over time, I forgot about them, but yesterday as I was perusing her shelves, I stumbled across a few titles which stuck out like sore thumbs from the rest of her very much not science fiction or TV/film book collection:

Indy-JapaneseBooks

Yep, those are indeed Japanese translations of the novelizations for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Along with several other books of this sort – many of which I ended up giving away here and there over the years, these were purchased at local bookshops near my base on Okinawa between July 1988 and July 1989. Despite my horrific attempts to learn the language, I still got a kick out of having them on the shelf, alongside or in proximity to their English-language counterparts.

(In hindsight, I don’t think my mother-in-law was impressed with my attempts to understand her language by reading…for example…a Japanese novelization of Robocop. 😀 )

Anyway, I’ll soon be returning these to my own bookshelves, and no….I still won’t be able to read them.

Star Trek: “Mesin Waktu Mr. Spock”

“Excuse me?”

TrekVM-01

TrekVM-05Old school Star Trek fans likely know that View-Master, the wonderful company which has been offering since 1939 all sorts of photographic and (later) stereoscopic imagery goodness for education and entertainment, has not forgotten the Final Frontier.

View-Master dipped its toes into the Star Trek pond no fewer than five times, which packets of stereoscopic “3D” images showcasing the original series episode “The Omega Glory” and the animated episode “Yesteryear” (packaged as “Mr. Spock’s Time Trek”) along with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Finally, the second-season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “A Matter of Honor.”

Of these, the “Yesteryear” adaptation is the most interesting. Rather than rely on set or publicity photography as was the case with its live-action counterparts, “Mr. Spock’s Time Trek” benefits from Filmation’s having rendered special recreations of the selected images designed for use with the View-Master format.

Way back when, the resulting packets of three “card wheels,” each featuring 7 images (2-each, working together to achieve the intended 3D effect), was accompanied by a booklet summarizing the story being told. The text was partnered with illustrations, which in this case are different from those depicted in the images. View-Master actually issued this in two versions: the “regular” edition, and one with a soundtrack narrating the text from the booklet.

You’d think that would be enough glomming onto one bit of Trek lore, right?

Wrong.

A few weeks ago, friend Rich Handley alerted me to the existence of a book he’d never seen in all his travels as a researcher of all things obscure Star Trek. He came across it while searching for rare copies of Indonesian and other foreign language Trek comics, at which time he asked if I was interested in it.

Hell yeah. I love this quirky stuff. So, what did I end up with?

MesinWaktuSpock01

Published in 1979, “Mesin Waktu Mr. Spock” (loosely translating to “Mr. Spock’s Time Machine”) appears to be exactly what it looked like when I first saw it: an Indonesian adaptation not of the “Yesteryear” episode,” but indeed the View-Master presentation of that same episode.

It contains almost but not all of the images from the original reels, accompanied by text which – so far as I can tell – is far more detailed than the story summary provided with the original View-Master booklet. Hardcore Trekkies will grind their teeth and clench their jaws upon realizing that every single image is flipped/reversed/inverted/wrong. Personally, I think it’s hilarious:

And so it was that yet another bit of oddball Star Trek publishing weirdness found its way to my disturbingly large library.

Many thanks to Rich for turning me onto this little nugget of nostalgia. It makes me want to start digging to see what else is out there.

Phaser Daser! Leaf’s 1967 Star Trek card set.

When I was a kid in the 1970s and early 80s, I collected all sorts of trading cards. Baseball and football cards, for sure, but also a ton of “non-sports” cards. Star Wars had major representation in my house, of course, due in no small part to the three…four…six bazillion sets Topps produced just for the first film, followed by multiple sets for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Then there were all manner of sets for a variety of films and TV shows. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Space: 1999, Planet of the Apes, Alien, The Six Million Dollar Man (actually a set of card-sized stickers) to name just a few, along with…naturally, Star Trek.

I don’t have much in the way of card sets, anymore. However, Topps in recent years has seen fit to release special books revisiting some of the more popular non-sports sets. The 1976 Star Trek set along with Star Wars and Planet of the Apes, for example. These have proven to be an inexpensive means of revisiting these fondly remembered cards from yesteryear, as finding original sets can be challenging, and pricey.

One set I never expected to see in the flesh is the very first collection of Star Trek trading cards. Produced by Leaf in 1967, they were apparently distributed in limited quantities and were of course long gone from store shelves by the I time was wandering around with loose change in my pockets. I’d seen a few individual cards, sold by dealers at cons over the years, and suffered sticker shock when I saw how much a complete 72-card set might cost me.

Leaf-967-Star-Trek-Wrapper

Like so much other Star Trek merchandise from the 1960s and early 70s, this card set is fun and at least a little goofy. The card images are black and white, which by itself is rather retro and cool. Publicity photos — including a few which had to be taken before the show’s premiere — are mixed in with what look to be stills taken during filming of various episodes. Most if not all of the images are naturally from Star Trek‘s first season, including a good number from the pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

What kills me about this set are the captions on many of the cards. They only rarely have any connection to the image or the episode from which said image was taken, and a few have no link to any episode at all. For example:

I know, right?

Flash forward this year’s Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. I’m wandering the exhibitor hall and come across a dealer selling stacks of card sets. Sitting on the table was a set of the Leaf cards for a rock-bottom price. I was informed this was a reprint set, and that was good enough for me, as I just had to have it.

I’ve since learned Rittenhouse created a different reprint set back in 2006 for Star Trek‘s 40th anniversary, and even included a special subset of “new” cards to go with the originals. I may have to see about hunting those down.

If you’re a Trek or card collector and don’t have these, I’d recommend tracking down a set. They’re like a wacky little time capsule from a period when the original Star Trek was still in production, and therefore hold a charm forever lost to card sets that came years later.

In the meantime, call me “Big Joker.” I have no idea why.

 

Talking “Run, Steve, Run” with The OSI Files!

OSI-Files-LogoIt’s been a while since I last chatted about various things bionic with John S. Drew, but hey! The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman never seem to be far from either of our thoughts, and John had been talking about corralling me for an episode of his bionic-themed podcast The OSI Files for a while, now. At long last, he makes good on his threat, and has me sit down for a chat with him about The Six Million Dollar Man‘s first season finale, “Run, Steve, Run.”

This episode is the midpoint of a loose trilogy of episodes that begins with “Day of the Robot,” the first season’s fourth episode, and ends with the second season’s “Return of the Robot Maker.” I call it “loose” because the only robots we see in this episode appear in flashback sequences from “Day of the Robot.” However, the robot’s creator, Dr. Jeffrey Dolenz (later changed to “Chester Dolenz”) is on hand, with the story focusing on his obsession with learning the secret of how Steve Austin was able to defeat his robot in the first episode (hint: Steve’s bionic). Once Dolenz realizes what makes Steve tick, he’s like a kid in a candy store….or maybe a Radio Shack, as he contemplates the possibilities of exploiting Steve’s bionics to improve the army of robots he wants to build.

While the other episodes–admittedly dated and even ridiculous by modern TV standards–retain huge nostalgic appeal for me as favorites from my childhood, I’m less enamored with this installment. Part of that is that I always thought the Dolenz character was criminally underserved, in all of these stories. Unlike other bad guys who decide they need to teach Oscar Goldman and the OSI a lesson for overlooking their genius when it comes to tech goodness like robots, Dolenz never really gets a chance to shine with this role. That’s a shame, as veteran character actor Henry Jones creates in Dolenz one of those “recurring nemesis” characters like Star Trek‘s Harry Mudd you want to see every so often.

That said, “Run, Steve, Run” is certainly not the series’ worst offering, and full credit to John for helping me soften my stance, as I went into this chat with this episode most definitely not on my “ones I’ll watch on a rainy day” list.

Check out the conversation, which is followed by an interview with “Run, Steve, Run” guest star Melissa Greene, here:

The OSI Files Episode 004: “Run, Steve, Run”

Many thanks to John, with whom I always enjoy talking all things bionic, for having me on. We’ve already discussed possibilities for follow-up chats, so who knows?

SMDM-seriestitle

“The Secret of Bigfoot, Part 2” on Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast!

At long last….the cliffhanger is resolved!

Back in October(!), hosts John S. Drew and Paul K. Bisson of Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast, continued their retrospective of The Six Million Dollar Man by plunging headlong into the series’ third season by taking a long look at the first half of the epic, landmark two-part episode, “The Secret of Bigfoot.” I yammered all about that installment of the podcast right here.

And now here we are, with Part 2!

cyborgs_bigfoot2_promo2

As was the case with Part 1, covering the second half of this legendary episode was too big a job for John and Paul to handle on their own, or even with the assistance of a single guest host. With that in mind, they enlisted the help of three guests to help shoulder the burden. In addition to my dumb geeky ass, the podcast features Matt Hankinson (chief creative consultant for Time-Life’s definitive The Six Million Dollar Man DVD collection), and bionic guru Joe Burns, webmaster of The Six 1973.

Do we really need to recap this episode? Hell no. It’s a classic slice of 1970s TV sci-fi cheesy goodness, most of it presented in slow motion. What’s to know? What’s not to love? Let’s just get on with it, all right?

Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast – “The Secret of Bigfoot, Part 2″

As always, many thanks to John and Paul for inviting me back to the podcast. They’re always fun to do. Here’s hoping I can get back there again, one of these days.

We’re gonna Die Hard again?

Seems that way.

Last night, I saw this bit of news flash across my Facebook feed:

ComingSoon.Net: Die Hard 6 Planned as Both a Prequel and a Sequel

To say that I was bitterly disappointed in the previous outing, 2013’s A Good Day to Die Hard, would be an epic understatement. That came after being left somewhat entertained though very much wanting in the wake of 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard. What the hell had happened to one of the greatest action heroes of the 1980s and 90s? I mean, even Rambo managed to make a decent comeback after lying dormant for two decades, so John McClane should’ve been able to get in there for another round or two, right?

Maybe not.

Even though U.S. audiences chewed up and spit out A Good Day to Die Hard, it did excellent business overseas, which is why we’re now sitting here talking about a potential sixth movie. Okay, I admit it: I’m a sucker for nostalgic shenanigans like catching up with older heroes/stories that haven’t been visited in a while. That whole “Return of _____” genre of TV movies from the 1980s was made for people like me, for crying out loud. Hell, I’ll even watch The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission if it happens across my TV screen in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. The struggle is real, people.

So, Die Hard 6.

According to the Coming Soon piece, the idea is to make this new installment both a sequel and a prequel, with Bruce Willis returning to the role of John McClane to bookend a story that will take place in 1979, when McClane was still a uniformed cop for the NYPD. The basic premise of a Die Hard prequel isn’t new; BOOM! Studios published a short-lived (8 issues) comic series, Die Hard: Year One, which covered some of the same ground. I’ll admit, the setup here intrigues me: Will something from his younger days come back in the Here and Now to bite McClane on the ass? That sort of thing’s already been done once (see Die Hard With A Vengeance), but that story hinged on what we all loved about the original film: namely, McClane sending Hans Gruber for a long walk off a tall building.

This prequel idea would (you’d think) provide an opportunity to delve deeper into McClane’s past and a part of his life about which we know little. Hell, how meta would it be to get Joseph Gordon-Levitt to play the younger McClane? He already portrayed a younger version of Willis’ character Joe in 2012’s Looper, and totally owned the role. That would be insane. Plus, Levitt’s riding high right now (see what I did there?) with his new film The Walk.

Look at me, being all optimistic, and shit.

john-mcclane(Photo collage courtesy of GeekNation.)

For my money, there’s no topping the original Die Hard. Not only do I think it’s the best 80s action movie, but I think it holds its own against just about anything that’s come before or since. It is–in my mind, anyway–a clinic on how to plot a perfectly paced action film with compelling characters, including a hero you cheer on and a villain you can’t wait to see get what’s coming to them. The only sequel to even come close to hitting that mark is the third film, Die Hard With A Vengeance. The second movie is serviceable, the fourth film is tolerable, and the fifth just makes me want to punch things.

Would I go see Too Young to Die Hard another Die Hard? Hard to say at this point, but I’m obviously not rooting for this thing to fail. I was pretty sketchy on the idea of a fourth Rambo flick, and I was happy to admit my wrongness on that one. Now I’m sitting here, waiting for the oft-rumored fifth movie to get on with it.

Yeah, shit. Bring it on, McClane.

Yippee Ki Yay, Mr. Falcon!

“A Time to Reminisce” – Looking back at Star Trek: A Time to…

Back in 2004, Pocket Books launched a rather ambitious “mini-series” focusing on Captain Picard and the U.S.S. Enterprise-E and designed to fill in some of the time gap between the last two Next Generation feature films, 1998’s Star Trek: Insurrection and 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis.

Conceived by then-editor John Ordover, the original plan was for twelve books, released one per month for the entire year, and lending detail and context to several of the notable changes we see in the status quo that are evident at the start of the latter film. For example: Worf, who at the end of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine television series, had taken up the duties as Klingon ambassador to the Federation, was now inexplicably back in a Starfleet uniform and with Picard and the gang. Commander Riker was about to be promoted to captain before assuming command of the U.S.S. Titan, which would be bound for a new region of unexplored space. He also was getting married to Counselor Deanna Troi, with whom he had rekindled a romantic relationship as a result of the events of Insurrection. Beverly Crusher was bound for Starfleet Medical (again)…or was she? And why the hell was Wesley Crusher there (in a deleted scene), in a Starfleet uniform when he was last seen as having evolved into a cosmos-hopping “Traveller?”

These and other questions and changes were worth exploring, right? John certainly thought so, and the result of that idea hatching was a little something he decided to call Star Trek: A Time to…

ATT-Covers

What began as an idea encompassing twelve novels eventually was whittled down to nine. After a couple of authors from the original roster had to bow out, John contacted me and my writing partner, Kevin Dilmore, and asked if we were interested in participating. At that point in time, I’d only published three Star Trek short stories (in the first three Strange New Worlds anthologies), two Star Trek: Corps of Engineers novellas (co-writing with Kevin), and one full-length Star Trek novel. For us, getting invited to partake of this high-profile project was the Star Trek writing equivalent of being called up from the minors to play Major League Baseball. The A Time to… series marked our “promotion” to the starting lineup in Pocket’s Star Trek writing stable, which is where we’ve been ever since.

(He says, knocking on any and all wood within reach.)

atts-cover atth-cover

And so it was that we joined fellow Star Trek scribes John Vornholt, Robert Greenberger, David Mack, and Keith R.A. DeCandido, and the rest is…well, you’ll have to read and decide for yourself.

Now, after more than a decade, Unreality SF columnists Jens Deffner and Daniel Tostevin have decided to take a long, hard look at the mini-series and its eventual, lasting impact on Pocket’s entire Star Trek fiction line. We didn’t know that was going to happen at the time, of course…it just sort of snuck up and surprised most if not all of us. Here we are, all these years later, and the continuity that “began” with these and other novels published during that same period is still expanding, almost with each new book. It’s been a hell of a ride to this point, I must say.

So, wanna see what all the fuss was about? Check out this three-part retrospective penned by Jens and Daniel, over at Unreality SF:

“A Time to Reminisce” Part 1
“A Time to Reminisce” Part 2
“A Time to Reminisce” Part 3

Many thanks to Jens and Daniel for putting this together. It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to really talk about these particular books, and what it ended up meaning for my writing career. Besides, it gives me another reason to drag these gag cover mockups out of mothballs…..

suck-blow-coversHeh.

“The Secret of Bigfoot, Part 1” on Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast!

Holy cow! How long’s it been since I got to do one of these?

We’re here, folks. This is it! The one episode of The Six Million Dollar Man that everybody knows, even if they’ve never seen the show. Some argue that this is where the series “jumped the shark,” but what those people say is unimportant, and we do not hear their words! What are we talking about?

SecretBigfootPart1

Yesssssssssssssssssssss.

Hosts John S. Drew and Paul K. Bisson bring us yet another scintillating edition of Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast, continuing their bi-weekly retrospective of The Six Million Dollar Man‘s third season. This installment was just too big to be shouldered by them and a single guest host, so this time John and Paul bring in three–count ’em, three–guests to fill up steve-bigfootthe roundtable. Along with my nerdy self, we’ve got bionic gurus Joe Burns (webmaster of The Six 1973) and Matt Hankinson (chief creative consultant for Time-Life’s definitive The Six Million Dollar Man DVD collection) on hand as we all discuss the first half of the classic two-part episode, “The Secret of Bigfoot.”

Does this story even need an introduction? Hell no. Steve Austin fights Bigfoot, and finds aliens living in the California mountains. What more do you need? Let’s just get on with it, amirite?

Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast – “The Secret of Bigfoot, Part 1”

Thanks as always to Paul and John for inviting me back to play. These podcasts are always a gas to do, and you know Part 2 has to be coming soon, right? We actually recorded both parts as one show, and even with Paul’s editing the first part still comes in over 1 hour and 45 minutes. That’s a lot of bionic babbling, right there, y’all. Stay tuned for news about the second part of “The Secret of Bigfoot!”

Topps Star Wars trading card goodness…in book form!

Oh be still, my fanboy heart.

When I was a kid, “non-sports” trading cards were all the rage. Yes, they’re still a thing these days, but way back when? They were special. Long before the internet or home video, a set of trading cards might help you relive a film one glorious frame at a time, or page through images from a favorite TV series.

I had boxes of these things. Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Superman, The Six Million Dollar Man, and on and on.

Oh, and Star Wars, of course.

Holy shit. Star Wars cards. Out. The. Ass.

Topps, the company responsible for most of the card sets I was collecting back in those days, kinda sorta lost its damned mind for a while there, starting in the summer of 1977. Okay, not really, because they opted to release not one, not two, and not even three but five separate sets of supremely awesome trading cards and accompanying stickers, snarfed up a few at a time by me and legions of eager kids, along with a sticker and a piece of that wretchedly tasty bubble gum. You know what I’m talking about. The blue set. The red set. The yellow set. The green set. The orange set.

They never stopped. I had boxes of the damned things. I was able to complete the first three sets, but I ended up with gaps in the latter collections. Curse you, trading card gods!

Of course, all those are lost to time. I don’t remember whatever became of them. However, a suitable substitute is coming. Behold, yo:

Topps-StarWars01 (Click on the pic for more info.)

Abrams ComicArts is on the case once again! Coming our way later this fall will be a new book showcasing the art/photos from all five sets of cards and their stickers. Even the dust jackets are made from the same wax paper as the original wrappers. And they’re including all-new bonus cards? Are you kidding me? This is a total instabuy.

What? There’s more? Check it:

Topps-EmpireStrikesBack01 Topps-StarWarsGalaxy01
(Yep. Clicky click.)

For The Empire Strikes Back, Topps ended up releasing three different sets of trading cards, and Abrams will also be releasing a volume devoted to those. As for the Star Wars Galaxy cards, I never collected those as they came out much later and long after I stopped chasing such things (I’ve resisted that sort of thing at numerous points over the years, you understand).

I’ll probably end up buying it along with the other two books, because…you know…Star Wars. Besides, they’ll look great on the shelf next to my copies of these other books Abrams published that celebrate two of my other favorite card series:

 trek-topps
(Again, click click click away.)

Anyway, if you’re an old-school fan like me and either don’t have the cards or your collection got tossed eons ago, these books are the perfect antidote. Yeah, I’m buying ’em.

And hey! Abrams ComicArts people! If you’re reading this, I hope you might consider a similar tome for the Star Trek: The Motion Picture cards you did back in the day. Or, if you really want to tickle my fanboy funny bone, you’ll think about these bad boys:

Topps-PlanetApesMovie Topps-PlanetApesTV

Oh, and did I mention I write and stuff? Just puttin’ that out there.