The old paperbacks! (updated below)

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 Horrorthon Posts

I dropped by my parents’ house today on unrelated business (my Mom’s computer…don’t ask) and finally decided to deal with this specific box of old paperbacks that has been sitting in the corner of my old bedroom for about twenty years. It’s not like my parents even live very far away—it’s like a fifteen minute walk—but, for some reason, although I’ve frequently poked through a lot of my old stuff, I’ve never actually retrieved the famous “box of old paperbacks” and brought it home…until today. There are still many, many old books of mine over there, but this box contained a bunch of stuff that I “outgrew” at a certain point and removed from the main Jordan library that I’ve shlepped around to college and from apartment to apartment. Anyway, look! (Click for larger images.)

Star Trek!

Space: 1999!


James Bond!


Crazy other stuff!

Oh, man…I don’t even know where to start. I’m going to be up for hours looking at these; I’m sure of it. A couple of points:

1) You will note that Gene Roddenberry, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Glen A. Larson all have their names on the covers as “authors” of the novelizations of their stuff. I know for a fact that Alan Dean Foster wrote the Star Wars novel; I think he wrote Close Encounters too.

2) Yes, I had Chariots of the Gods? Feel free to make fun of me.

3) Those James Bond books were, I think, swiped from my Dad’s library…I don’t have a clear memory of reading them (except for The Spy Who Loved Me, which isn’t a real Ian Fleming novel).

4) The Alan Dean Foster Star Trek stuff, based on the animated series, is much better than the James Blish books (which re-tell the TOS stories). None of it’s that good, though. But it’s all better than the Space: 1999 stuff. It’s so strange to see this stuff today and realize (for, really, the first time) that the authors were just guys my age or younger taking a paycheck for a few weeks’ work.

5) All the novelizations follow their respective screenplays so faithfully and so doggedly that you can almost visualize the actual 1970s script pages they’re working from. It’s combined with whatever weird approach the author takes to the characters and the parts you don’t see on screen (or the deleted scenes that were still there in the script that the author’s working from).

6) Alan Dean Foster looms very large over this whole collection, doesn’t he? An unsung hero of sci-fi and fantasy. I still remember reading some of his stuff, years later.

7) All the Trek books were published during the ten-year gap between the cancellation of the original series and the first movie. So, according to these paperbacks Star Trek is over. (But many of the authors speculate about how they expect it to come back someday.)

Anyway, a trip down memory lane. It felt strange to take those books out of my parents’ apartment, since they’ve basically been in the same room for thirty-five years. I’m sure the rest of you have equivalent memorabilia that you resist removing from your old bedroom (if your original bedroom still exists, as mine does). I wonder what I would have thought back in the seventies if I’d known that I’d still be going to the movie theater to see James Bond and Star Trek in the year 2010. (I would have been all, “Star Trek movies? Really?”) (“eleven of them?”)

UPDATE: I’ve noticed a couple of things about these books: First, most of them are bad. Like, REALLY bad. The appetite for this stuff is so strong that it can drive you to some embarrassing lengths just to get your fix. These books are the work of a whole underclass of writers who sometimes bust out and sometimes don’t, but there’s a particular miserable quality to the adaptations and novelizations that I’ve never really encountered since. It’s kind of like the television writing in the sixties or the seventies: when you hear some of that dialogue, you just don’t picture hip young up-and-coming television writers; you picture middle-aged guys with horn-rimmed glasses living in split-level homes or residency hotels, earnestly writing. You can see why Alan Dean Foster looms like a giant over this stuff; he’s actually got talent, and a genuine sci-fi sensibility as well.

Second, a realization that hit me like a thunderbolt: there was no home video! That’s the explanation for all this…that’s how Ballantine Books could make a fortune selling a series of paperbacks containing nothing but the original Star Trek television scripts re-written by a British hack. Because you can’t rent or buy (or download) the stuff so you’ve got to feed your Star Trek monkey in this fashion. In 2010, I’m sitting in a room wherein, if I want, I can watch any Star Trek episode (not to mention 620 movies) at a moment’s notice. It makes me less likely to crack open a Star Trek book, unless it’s an original story that passed through a legitimate editorial vetting process, like people read today. (I mean, I’m still not going to do it, but I’m much more likely.) Back then, pop culture (especially genre or fringe pop culture) was like a Western frontier village, with circuit riders coming through every week with the mail and newspapers. Today, it’s Las Vegas.