Amazon has the pin at left advertised as a “Harry Potter” character, but I immediately saw R. J. MacReady from John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982).
Omni in the 1980’s was an absolutely unique magazine dedicated to science fiction and science fact — it was always weird and occasionally wonderful. Its content was consistently a good deal trippier than anything you’d find in more mainstream contemporaries like Scientific American or Discover — futurism, the paranormal, and short stories that were pretty damned abstract. (I remember Patricia Highsmith’s “The Legless A” being a real head-scratcher for me.) And the covers to Omni were frequently awesome.
I had a subscription around 1989 or so — I believe I got a year’s subscription as either a Christmas or birthday present. I still remember it arriving in the mailbox. I think I had all of the issues you see below — except the third one. That issue is from January 1983, and I never had it. I’m including it here because it’s too interesting not to share.
Stephen King fans will recognize Don Brauitgam’s artwork for the cover of King’s classic 1978 short story collection, “Night Shift.” Brautigam apparently sold it to the magazine later. (Interesting, too, is the similarity of the artist’s name to a key character in King’s subsequent “Hearts in Atlantis” and his “The Dark Tower” series — the kindly psychic, Ted Brautigan.)
Anyway, if you were geeky enough to enjoy this back in the day, the entire run of Omni is currently available at Amazon for $3 a pop. It was available online for free for a while, and I think you can still find all of the short stories uploaded in pdf if you google them — I found a bunch, including Highsmith’s story. (I wonder if I’d get a better sense of it if I read it today.)
I’m happy today to be able to share The Bees Are Dead’s release of my audio recording of “Operation Staffhound,” by Philippe Atherton-Blenkiron. This truly excellent poem is an excerpt from his 2014 dystopian novel in verse format, “The Pustoy.” (I quite positively reviewed the book both here at the blog and over at Amazon, where it can be purchased — “Operation Staffhound” might be my favorite poem in the complete work.)
“The Pustoy” is a particularly dark science fiction epic that imagines a genocidal dictator, Lev Solokov, ruling a nightmarish future Britain. The brutal “Staffhounds” are his fascist foot-soldiers in the streets.
I had great fun reading the poem. I’m grateful to Philippe for allowing me to interpret it, and to The Bees Are Dead for sharing my recording with its audience:
I really missed the boat with last week’s Throwback Thursday — it was the 50th anniversary of the entire “Star Trek” franchise, with the first episode of the original series airing on September 8, 1966. (And even the term “franchise” seems way too narrow to describe “Star Trek” in all of its incarnations — it’s really more like a permanent part of western popular culture.) I’m not old enough to remember the show’s original run, which was a surprisingly scant three years. But I remember it in syndication when I was not much more than a baby in the mid- to late 1970’s.
“Star Trek” was something that my older brother and maybe my father watched. (I was fixated on programming that was more comprehensible for young kids, like “Land of the Lost” and reruns of “The Lone Ranger.” Seriously, the original black-and-white serial western was still in reruns back then.)
But “Star Trek” was definitely something I was attracted to as a tot, doubtlessly resulting, in part, from the contagious ardor for it that I saw in my older brother. (He might not admit it today, but he was a bit of a hard-core science fiction fan long before I was.) The show was on at our tiny house in Woodhaven, Queens, quite a lot. He also had toys and posters connected with it. (And anything my older brother owned was something I endeavored to play with when he wasn’t looking.)
He had that Captain Kirk toy among the figures produced by Mego that you see in the bottom photo. (Again, 1970’s “action figures” were often pretty much indistinguishable from dolls.) In the early 1980’s, he had a totally sweet giant poster depicting diagrammed schematics for The Enterprise in surprising detail. I’ve Google-searched for it, but found only similar pinups. The one hanging in the room we shared was blue.
I remember him annoyedly correcting me because I called it “Star Track.” (I did not yet know the word “trek.” I myself was confused by my own mistake; I knew that there could be no “train tracks” in space, even if I studied the opening credits one time just to make sure.)
I was precisely the sort of pain-in-the-ass kid who fired off an incessant barrage of questions when I saw something on TV that I didn’t understand. My father was patient to a fault when I punctuated his World War II movies with inane questions. (I’m willing to bet I eventually acquired more knowledge of the war’s European theater than the average six-year-old.) My brother was not always so forbearing. I actually remember him changing the channel away from shows he was watching, like “Star Trek” or “MASH,” if I joined him at the little black-and-white television we had in our room. (The poor guy needed me to lose interest and go away, so that he could at least hear the damn show.)
Certain “Star Trek” episodes remain memorable to this day, even if I understood maybe 15 percent of what transpired onscreen. The was The One With The Domino-Face Men, which the Internet now tells me was actually titled “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.” Then there was The One Where Kids Ruled Themselves on a Deserted World, which made a really big impression on me. (The Internet tells me this one was “Miri.”)
As I grew up, the show faded from prominence in my child’s psyche. It was just never my fandom of choice. Nor was it for many other kids I knew … by the 1980’s, it was already considered “an old TV show.” The kids on my street were always excited about the feature films; even if we were underwhelmed by the “slow” first film in 1979. Blockbuster movies were major events back then, and fewer, and they were enigmatic in a way that is impossible after the Internet’s arrival. (I think that Millennials will never be able to understand that, in the same way that you and I can never appreciate the vintage “serials” that our parents watched before the main feature at a Saturday matinee.)
In the 1980’s, just about every boy I knew was preoccupied with the space-fantasy of “Star Wars.” On television, we had cheesefests like the original “Battlestar Galactica” and “V.” As we got older, we gravitated toward the “Alien” and “Predator” film franchises. At home, I read Orson Scott Card and Harry Harrison, and as I approached college toward the end of the decade, I’d discovered Arthur C. Clarke. If we’d known another kid who was really into “Star Trek,” I’m not sure we would have considered it “nerdy.” It would just have been very weird, because it we viewed it as a campy tv show from maybe two decades prior, like “Bonanza” or something. I don’t think I ever even thought of the franchise as really relevant or popular until I was at Mary Washington College in the 1990’s. “Star Trek: the Next Generation” would regularly draw kids out of their dorm rooms into the lobby at New Hall.
Still, it’s hard not to develop an emotional attachment to something that stimulated your sense of wonder as a tot. I … felt pretty damn sad when Captain Kirk died in 1994’s “Star Trek: Generations.” I saw it in a theater in Manassas, Virginia, I think, with my girlfriend at the time. She actually felt she had to console me after seeing how doleful I was on the drive home.
My dear friend Lade Saint gave a terrific interview over at Book Goodies about “Window To The Soul: Light, Darkness and Paranormal Gifts.” You can find the interview right here:
And her book is available at Amazon right here:
If you’re in the mood for some unnerving late-night reading, then check it out!
Here’s another Throwback Thursday post that is a relatively obscure, but might be a treat for my fellow HNAM’s (Horror Nerds Approaching Midlife). Who remembers the nationwide syndicated broadcast of 1955’s “Revenge of the Creature” in 3-D in early July 1982?
Your parents had to pick up the 3-D glasses for you from a local Pizza Hut or 7-Eleven, I think … This was a pretty big deal, especially if you were a nine-year-old boy, as I was. My good old Dad got the glasses for me, and he patiently explained to me how depth perception the 3-D technology worked. Good Lord, how I looked forward to this.
And I wasn’t disappointed. I remember the effects being actually pretty damned good. I was thrilled. It was my first 3-D movie. (In fact, it might actually have been the only 3-D movie I’ve ever seen …)
The Neato Coolville website has a far better account of the event than I could write — check it out right here:
The movie itself, in 3-D format, is also on Youtube. I’d love to view it on my laptop, but I don’t have any 3-D glasses handy. I might have to rectify that with my next Amazon purchase.
My reaction to the pilot episode of “The Man in the High Castle” (2015) here will be brief. I am inclined only to praise it, and that would just be redundant with the accolades already heaped upon it by better reviewers than me. (Yes, I still have only seen the first ep.)
It’s wonderfully well written, directed and performed, with some layered world-building and unexpectedly interesting character interaction (particularly among the bad guys). I’d give it a 9 out of 10.
I might not be quite as confident as other viewers, however, that this show can continue to sustain my interest at this level. The espionage subplots are well executed, but seem by the numbers. The world has seen a hell of a lot of spy fiction and cinema since Philip K. Dick wrote this source material in 1962. It might be tough to keep those elements fresh. And this might be an even greater challenge for a story somewhat constricted by 1960’s-era technology, as opposed to a modern technothriller.