These are the voyages where the legend began, 55 years ago tonight!
I’ve mentioned this before (about a zillion times), but my earliest memories include Star Trek to some degree. I wasn’t old enough to watch the show during its original broadcast run, but I watched the reruns every day after school. Beyond that, I had the Mego figures and that crazy bridge set. I built the AMT models, and I read the occasional Gold Key comic book or poster book or collection of James Blish episode adaptations.
All of that was just filler of course. Anchoring all of that were the reruns. Always, the reruns.
Back in those far off days of Yesteryear which was the setting for my childhood, you had to wait for your favorite episodes to cycle back around in the rotation on one of your local TV stations. I watched the series on a little black and white television and its crappy little antenna as the show was broadcast on a low-power local UHF channel in Tampa. Depending on the time of day and prevailing weather conditions, I might not always get a decent picture. If I was out in the boonies somewhere–like my aunt’s house–I might have to fiddle with the antenna throughout the episode, and as often as not I might be forced to choose between having a picture or having sound.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that today also marks the 48th anniversary of the animated Star Trek series, which premiered on NBC on this date in 1973. I did catch (most of) those episodes during their initial run, and the show helped to spark a lot of the Trek-related toys and other merchandise which came out in the mid 1970s, like those aforementioned Mego action figures.
Today, of course, I have Star Trek literally at my fingertips: Blu-rays on the shelf or episodes streaming over the internet, and I even have my favorite episodes stored on my phone. Then there are the books (Fun fact: I’ve written a few of those, in case you were wondering), comics, role-playing games, computer games, toys, models, websites, and pretty much anything you’d care to name. Star Trek is everywhere. Hold up a picture of the original Enterprise or Kirk and Spock, and most people will know what you’re talking about.
Meanwhile, fate and circumstances have seen to it that I’m able to continue contributing — albeit in a very small way — to this vast, ever-expanding universe that Gene Roddenberry gave us back in 1966. It is the very definition of a “dream job.” I doubt I’ll ever have another job that’s as rewarding and just plain fun as what I’m currently privileged to do, and I never allow myself to take that for granted. Ever. My only regret is that I didn’t figure this out years and years ago.
Speaking of years? Star Trek looks pretty dapper for 55. Enjoy your cake, everybody.
Has it really been *five months* since the last time I did one of these? Well, I suppose I’ve been busy, and besides…I warned you about this particular blog feature. I believe the words “irregularly recurring” were used.
So, there you go.
For those wondering what this is all about, “Tied Up With Tie-ins” is where I take a (usually) fond look back at a favorite series of movie or TV tie-in books. This often means something older, such as the many different tie-ins which were all over the place during my childhood and early adulthood. Examples include novels based on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, Planet of the Apes, and Space: 1999 among others. That said, I’m not snobby about newer stuff, as I’ve previously written about novels based on one of my favorite TV series of the 21st century, 24 and I’m curretnly eyeballing for future installments shows like Castle and (maybe) the JAG/NCIS franchise. We shall see.
Meanwhile, this latest installment, I’m returning to those thrilling days of yesteryear as we dive beneath the waves and down into the ocean’s murky depths, on a Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea….
“Wait,” I can hear someone saying. “It hasn’t even been a month since the last time Dayton did this. You don’t think he’s trying to make this ‘irregularly recurring’ thing of his more regular, do you?”
Sometimes, I like to change things up and actually do things like this on a more frequent basis than “Oh, holy hell. It’s been eleventy billion months since the last time I did something like this.”
And so, here we are.
For those just joining in our reindeer games, “Tuesday Trekkin’” is basically an excuse for me to wax nostalgic about some facet of old-school Star Trek fandom, be it a fondly remembered bit of funky merchandise, anniversaries or other celebratory observances and “milestones” of important dates in franchise history, convention memories, or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day. The “Tuesday Trekkin’” moniker is something of a tip of the hat to a pair of friends, Dan Davidson and Bill Smith aka “The Hosts of the TrekGeeks Podcast.” Over on Facebook, they have a fan group, Camp Khitomer, devoted to all things Trek where all are welcome to join in their positive vibes and community. They also like to push a #TrekTuesday hashtag over there where they invite members to share updates, links, and/or pictures celebrating their fandom, so this feature is definitely offered in that same spirit.
What are we yammering about today? Old-school art that graced various Star Trek books way back in the Before Time. This is one of those topics which can go off the rails pretty quickly, so for today’s look back we’re sticking with those books published by Bantam Books during the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s. That means we’re starting our conversation with the covers that graced the set of original series episode adaptations written by James Blish.
At long last, after traversing the odyssey that has dilated time beyond all ability to comprehend, Kevin and I are finally attending our first in-person convention in nearly two years. We’re emerging from our hidey-holes today and venturing into the (hopefully) warm and welcoming environs of Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City for this weekend’s Planet Comicon, the Midwest’s largest pop culture convention!
(No, they didn’t pay me to say that.)
What will be doing all weekend? Most of the time, we’ll be manning tables in the Artist/Creator Alley area of the con’s main exhibitor floor. If you’re attending the show, feel free to stop by booths 1639 and 1641 and say “Howdy.”
A number of our writing friends will also be in attendance, including our neighbors on our Artist Alley aisle, Jeni Frontera and Jason Arnett. Located elsewhere on the floor will be Kevin J. Anderson, Keith R.A. DeCandido, and John Jackson Miller, with them and others setting up shop at the Bard’s Tower booth. And we can’t forget Elizabeth C. Bunce, Dennis Young, and the incomparable Timothy Zahn, who will have their own tables in the alley.
As I write this, Kevin and I are confirmed for at least one discussion panel: “My Search History Is Interesting.” Conjured and to be moderated by Jeni Frontera, this one promises to be informative and funny as hell as we recount the trials and tribulations of being a writer while conducting research by tunneling into the deepest, darkest corners of the internet. Elsewhere, during past Planet cons Kevin and I sometimes have gotten drafted into other activities such as playing announcer/host for trivia contests, costume contests, and the like. I have no idea if anything like that will happen this time around, but I’ve learned to never say, “Never.”
Other than that? Pushing books, and wandering the con seeing what’s what. I have one daughter who’s absolutely beside herself that members of the cast from the Supernatural TV series will be in attendance, and another who just loves the vibe of a good con.
For those of you traveling to Kansas City for the con, please note that our mayor has re-instated a mask mandate for all indoor public activities, and this certainly qualifies. Masks will be required for all attendees, including staff and guests. No worries, though. I’m ready to receive visitors.
“A shadow shall fall over the universe, and evil will grow in its path, and death will come from the skies.”
Heavy Metal is 40 years old today.
I’m not talking about the music genre, which is even older; I mean Heavy Metal, the animated movie based on the self-styled “adult illustrated fantasy magazine (itself based on the French magazine Métal Hurlant),” which premiered in theaters on August 7th, 1981. Unless you’ve been living on an asteroid or suspended in cryogenic freeze lo these many years, you’ve at least heard of this movie, and are even likely familiar with at least one image associated with the film. Check it, yo:
The summer of 1981 was pretty good for movies, especially if you were a 14-year old boy like I was. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Escape From New York, Clash of the Titans and For Your Eyes Only to name but a few were all in theaters, and this was back in the days when movies where “HELD OVER!” for weeks upon weeks, so long as they brought in decent coin. So, it was with no small amount of curiosity that my friends and I, after ostensibly purchasing tickets to see Indiana Jones do his thing for the seventh or eighth time, instead took advantage of lax theater oversight and snuck our way into our first R-rated cartoon.
Dayton, his young, impressionable eyes opened.
And so it went: A mysterious green orb brought back to Earth from deep space proceeds to tell its tale of how evil it is to the young daughter of the astronaut who brought it home. As for the astronaut? Well, he did bring the thing home, so that was his ass. The orb, which refers to itself as the “Loc-Nar,” reveals its story to the girl (and us) through a series of vignettes, each set in different a time period and/or on a distant world, with tons of violence, bad language, and gratuitous animated nudity…and all of it set to a first-rate musical score courtesy of legendary composer Elmer Bernstein, along with what is arguably one of the most KICK-ASS collections of rock music ever to be lumped together under a “movie soundtrack” banner.
Ivan Reitman (as in Animal House, Stripes, Ghostbusters and…yes…Kindergarten Cop), co-produced the film, which features stories written by Dan O’Bannon (Alien) as well as frequent Heavy Metal magazine contributors Bernie Wrightson and Richard Corben. The voice talents of folks like John Candy, Harold Ramis, John Vernon and Eugene Levy add to the fun. The animation, much of which was derived by “rotoscoping,” or drawing animated figures by tracing over filmed live-action footage of actors, has its ups and downs, though a lot of it looks pretty dated when compared to modern efforts and even some earlier animated features. Still, it does have a distinctive style which remains recognizable.
To be honest, Heavy Metal isn’t that great a flick. I mean, we got a huge kick out of it back then, and I’ve watched it however many times during the intervening years, but it’s not a masterpiece. I enjoy many of its components individually more so than the resulting entire package. Regardless of what I might think, there’s no denying it’s a cult classic, with no small amount of charm doing its best to mask the flaws contained therein.
That’s not to say I think it’s a bad movie. It’s cheesy fun, and while it appealed more to 14-year old me than 54-year old me, I still have a soft spot for a couple of the segments (“Captain Sternn” and “B-17,” for those keeping score). What I remember most, and still love to this day, is the music. Holy shit, what a line-up! Sammy Hagar, Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick, Nazareth, and even Journey and Grand Funk Railroad, just to name the ones off the top of my head. I must have gone through a half-dozen copies of the soundtrack on cassette (Remember those?), and waited for years for the damned thing to be made available on CD. Same with the Bernstein score.
As for the movie itself, I unabashedly admit I own it on Blu-ray, along with its lesser sequel, Heavy Metal 2000 (on DVD, natch). I’ve also followed the magazine off and on across the years, up to and including recent issues from its current iteration, and some of their spin-off comics projects have also caught my eye here and there.
There have been rumblings off and on in recent years about some kind of new animated Heavy Metal film project. While that hasn’t yet happened, HM’s had its fingers in a few other screened projects. First, there was Métal Hurlant Chronicles, a French-Belgian anthology series which took its name from the original magazine. After airing in Europe beginning in the fall of 2012, its two seasons made their way to the U.S. in 2014 and showed up on the Syfy network.
Elsewhere, Kevin Eastman, at the time the owner and publisher of Heavy Metal magazine, co-produced War of the Worlds: Goliath, a 2014 animated steampunk sequel to H.G. Wells’ original novelThe War of the Worlds. Uh…they had me at War of the Worlds. Anyway, Eastman made sure the magazine promoted the film in the run-up to its release, including featuring several tie-in stories released culminating in a “War of the Worlds special” issue. And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the film’s novelization, written as it was by friend and fellow word pusher Adam Whitlatch.
Most recently, there’s the Netflix series Love, Death & Robots, which premiered in 2019 and is basically a reimagining of an idea for a Heavy Metal movie series developed by David Fincher and Tim Miller. LD+R has produced 26 episodes to date across two seasons, with a third season of eight episodes slated for 2022.
So, you know: feel free to check out all of that stuff. You know you want to. You can’t refuse. “If you refuse, you die; she dies…everybody dies!”
:: Ahem. ::
Anyway, Happy 40th Birthday, Heavy Metal the movie.
Welcome to this irregularly appearing latest installment of my irregular recurring blog feature, “Tuesday Trekkin’.” Basically, it’s a place for me to wax even more nostalgic than usual about some older, perhaps little known or even wholly unknown aspect of Star Trek, Trek fandom, Trek collecting, and whatever other Trek-related thought tickles my fancy. For this latest excursion down Memory Lane, we’re going back – waaaaaaaaaaaay back – all the way back to 1967, but first? A bit of set up.
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 of my childhood: 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.
Like so much other Star Trek merchandise from the late 1960s and early 70s, this card set is fun and more than a little hokey. 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 to the 2017 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. One of these days, I’ll have to see about hunting those down.
If you’re a Star 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 series 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.
“41.6?” I can hear someone calling out from the nosebleed seats. “What the heck is that about?”
So, it’s like this. The annual Shore Leave convention has been navigating some tricky obstacles over the past…what? Fifteen or sixteen months? At least? The 2020 show was supposed to have been Shore Leave 42 but when it morphed into a virtual event thanks to COVID restrictions on mass gatherings, the online edition of the con was dubbed “Shore Leave 41.5,” with the expectation that this year’s show would be given the official “42” designation, and we could celebrate Life, the Universe, and Everything as originally intended.
With COVID restrictions and guidelines lingering far enough into 2021, a decision had to be made at some point a few months back, and with the information available to them at the time the valiant members of the con’s committee made the hard decision to keep things within the virtual realm again this year. Hence, “Shore Leave 41.6,” and we all hope we can be back together in the real world for 2022’s show, where we really can celebrate, Life, the Universe, Everything, and everything else we’re not getting to do this year.
And so it goes.
Anyway, a pretty stuffed schedule has been put together to fill out the con’s two days of programming for this coming Saturday and Sunday (July 10th and 11th), and I glance at the doc sent my way tells me I’ll be on four discussion panels – three on Saturday and one on Sunday. These and all of the other panels will be available for viewing via Zoom, Discord, or other “webinar” platforms, with links and such to be provided as we get closer to the con. I’d suggest bookmarking the Shore Leave Programming Page so you don’t have to keep hunting for such things, as that’s where you’ll find all the juicy deets.
Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of the mischief and shenanigans for which I’ve enlisted this weekend:
(All Times Eastern) Saturday, July 10th
“The New Age of Star Trek” – 11am-12pm: Join the authors as they discuss the new age of Star Trek we’re living in, and talk about Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks, Strange New Worlds, and Prodigy, and how these new series connect to the legacy series and carry the torch for new generations of fans. Moderated by Keith R.A. DeCandido, and I’ll be joining fellow authors Derek Tyler Attico, Kirsten Beyer, Kelli Fitzpatrick, and David Mack.
“40+ Years Later: Is Star Trek: The Motion Picture Better Than We Recall?” – 5pm-6pm: The Motion Picture: Better than we recall, or worse? The answer is “Yes,” but sure; let’s talk about it for an hour. Moderated by Howard Weinstein, and I’m hanging with fellow guests Derek Tyler Attico, T.A. Chafin, Kevin Dilmore, and David Mack.
“Star Trek Adventures Roleplaying Game Update” – 7pm-8pm: Modiphius Entertainment’s Star Trek Adventures RPG heads into its fifth year. Check in for the latest news on current and upcoming releases and Q&A with the STA project manager and several STA writers. Moderated by Jim Johnson, and I’m joining fellow STA contributors Derek Tyler Attico, Christopher L. Bennett, Kelli Fitzpatrick, and Scott Pearson.
(All Times Eastern) Sunday, July 11th
“What’s New In Star Trek Literature” – 3pm-4pm: Authors of current and upcoming Star Trek titles discuss their work. This is where we’ll chat about the various novels and other publications coming out over the next several months, and also discuss what was published since last year’s show. Moderated by Scott Pearson, I’ll be there along with Christopher L. Bennett, Kirsten Beyer, David Mack, John Jackson Miller, and James Swallow.
One programming note for this Sunday panel: I’m also doing my volunteer thing at the National World War I Museum and Memorial that morning, so I’ll be racing home to get back in time for the panel. Worry not, though: the team sitting in for this one can more than cover for my silly ass if I happen to be running a few minutes late.
And there we go! Many, many thanks to the good folks at Shore Leave – in particular, Inge Heyer and Aaron Rosenberg – for navigating the thankless task of organizing the programming and making sure the rest of us make it to our appointed places at the proper time. If any of us show up without pants or whatever, you can rest assured that won’t be Inge or Aaron’s fault.
(Okay, we might still blame Aaron, but not Inge. Never Inge.)
I hope to “see” a bunch of your smiling faces sometime during the coming weekend, and I’m very much looking forward to an in-person con next summer!