Continued from the previous post. Part 2 of repurchasing my childhood.
Cosmos (show and book)
I don’t think there was any single TV show or book that influenced me as much in my teen years as Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. I remember securing the TV on Sunday night to watch the first episode, which Wikipedia tells me was on September 28, 1980, so I was almost 12. I watched every episode after that as though watching a high budget Hollywood action film. After several weeks, I insisted that my parents take me to the B. Dalton Bookstore, as our favorite magazine and book shop didn’t not carry the book version of the show. I handed over $20 and spent days reading the book and waiting for the next episode. I must have bought that book at least three times over the years because I somehow repeatedly convinced myself that I should sell it to a used book store, only a year or two later discovering that I really needed to re-read a section of it. I bought the TV show as well. It still holds my attention rapt and sends my imagination soaring through the universe. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to finish watching the Neil Degrasse Tyson reboot.
I didn’t read much fantasy as a kid, but one book I did read was the Thieves’ World short story collection. Concurrently, one of childhood friends introduced me to roleplaying games, Dungeons and Dragons in particular. This then led to buying the Thieves’ World Adventure Pack, a boxed set of RPG world books and maps. Unfortunately, my friend’s parents went full Evangelical on him and literally burned all of his D&D books lest he fall prey to the surge of witchcraft. It was the 80s. People believed those things then. I recently found a copy of the boxset online and bought it. I haven’t had time to dig into it much yet, but the maps still tickle a part of my brain I doubt neuroscientists have fully explored. They leave me itching to grab a sword and strap on some leather armor and wander the dangerous maze of Sanctuary.
Unable to play fantasy RPGs, my friend and I turned to other RPGs, like James Bond, Gangbusters, Paranoia, and the one that got the most attention, Traveller. I recently bought the first 5 game books again for about what I originally paid for the first 3 books 35 years ago (yes that makes me feel old..but also frugal). Much like the Thieves’ World game books, I haven’t had time dig into the books all that deeply, but it does leave me wanting to write an epic space opera, which is part of the reason I bought it in the first place, to do a little world building research for a series I hope to write one day.
Space Shuttle Operator’s Manual
I came across the Space Shuttle Operators Manual when I was about 14 and it filled my head with wild fantasies of running away to Florida and Cape Canaveral, and somehow sneaking past security to stow away on a Space Shuttle mission. Yeah, I was that kind of kid. Unfortunately I lived in Michigan and getting to Florida was always the vaguest part of that fantasy. But I loved pouring over the book with all its instructions, checklists, diagrams, and illustrations for hours and daydreaming about being an astronaut. If only I was any good at math I might have pursued a career in science instead of the arts and who knows what might have happened.
Future Life Magazine
I’ve written about this before, but no magazine defined my teen years like Future Life Magazine. A few years ago I managed to buy all 32 issues for $20 on ebay. A steal. I started reading it when I was 10 and I still remember almost all of the articles and images from the various issues. It deepened and solidified a conjoined interest in science and science fiction that stuck with me for the rest of my life. I wish there was a magazine like this today. Unfortunately, nothing really comes close.