by Sherwood Smith
I want to talk about Book View Café’s newest member.
It’s the summer of 1977.
The buzz along our apartment building in Hollywood is that Star Wars is better than it sounds. I’m thinking, gheck. Except for the Salkind Three Musketeers movie, I loathed seventies films, especially the sf ones: either they were fight-the-monster movies, or else long, boring screeds in which the furniture was plastic, and everyone wore these jump suits that looked like they’d take an hour to get out of if you wanted to pee.
This one (Star WARS? Oh please) sounded like car-crash derby only with space ships.
The rest of the gang in our loose friendship association along three apartments went to see it while I went to bed (I had to rise at four for my job in those days) but when they came back, the reaction was a surprise: this disparate group of people who usually couldn’t agree on anything, but had fun arguing, all loved it.
My next-door neighbor, Dave Trowbridge, whose tastes matched mine in so many ways, said with great intensity, “You will go and see it.”
So late the night before my day off that next week, we walked down to Grauman’s Chinese and got in line. This was before they switched it across the street for the next few months. Lines! I had never seen lines before a movie before, or at most five or six people.
But we get in at last, and there’s that Twentieth Century Fox fanfare….how many even now hear that and get a faint echo of that intense expectation, that joyous sense of expectation payoff? I know I sure do.
Anyway, after the exciting crawl, on comes that big sky, and the smaller space ships running, wow, lookit the detail instead of the old cigar shapes or tin-hat-shaped flying saucers–and then that big sucker comes thundering across the screen and I am just totally swept away. I do. Not. Care. that you can’t hear sounds in vacuum, it was the sound effects and the music as well as the loving detail and the wisecracking, and oh yes, for the first time we’ve got a female who isn’t sporting B-52s in a tight outfit wiggling and squealing for the guys to rescue her, or help her, and then serving as trophy at the end.
Younger people cannot imagine what a breath of fresh air Princess Leia was at the time, after years of Doris Day and Bad Girls/Good Girls, all of them equally helpless before a male. And when the Millennium Falcon took off into hyperspace, there was a general suckage of every molecule of air out of the theatre and we all pressed back into our seats–and I felt that swoop behind my hip bones that I get at the top of a roller coaster just as it begins to rocket down. Woooo–eeeeeeee!
We get out at two a.m. (we’d miraculously gotten into the midnight showing), passed the enormous line waiting for the next showing, and Dave grins at me and says “Well?”
“I’m going back.”
And we did. We did for about six weeks, every weekend, and then we said, “We can do that.” So we got together one evening (I still have the notes) and wrote down all the elements that we loved in fiction that had been missing from movies for years, that Star Wars was tapping into, and we wrote down every extravagant swashbuckling trope we adored and wanted in a story, came up with Exordium, our space opera extravaganza.
The two of us had become friends when he introduced me to Jack Vance, and I introduced him to Dorothy Dunnett. (Er, the works of. Neither of us traveled in high literary circles!) We both loved the Three Stooges, and classical music, and swashbuckling. Over the years since, we’ve shared books and jokes back and forth, as well as our collaborations: now, when Dave introduces himself in the context of writing, he will often say that he is joined at the heart with his excellent, creative wife, Deborah J. Ross, and he’s joined at the wallet with me.
Since those early days we’ve both developed careers and had families, but (some of our relatives lament) we have not lost our taste for swashbuckling–or humor. When I turned forty, he gave me a pink and purple, nerdapproved (TN) Disguster Gun, which we found so funny that the two of us nearly had heart failure, while my ten year old daughter looked on in utter disgust, wishing her mother would grow up some day. An unfulfilled wish!
Because Dave’s wife is a writer, too, she totally understands the snickering that emanates the rare times we are in the same space-time continuum so we can plot and plan. But when Dave and I are not busy with our space opera, we will sit with Deborah, or other creative folk, and speculate about every subject in the universe. Like those days in 1977, and that glorious sense of Oh, that was just what I wanted. Which then turns into, Oh, I have to do that!
Art inspires art. Not every inspiration is all about cashing in, though yeah, that happens too. But sometimes the new art snags so deep into our DNA that we want to make ourselves a piece of it, and so we throw ourselves into the artistic conversation that it begins, and make our own artistic conversation that propagates its themes outward, whether the form is fanfiction, new stories, movies, music, etc.
It’s interesting to look back through history and trace the parabolas of these art forms, from first appearance through inspired conversations with it. Arthuriana, I think, has the longest arc for Western Europe. Like Harry Potter, it’s too soon to predict if Star Wars will last past a couple of generations, but it’s sure fun to look back at their first splash into the the world.
Anyway, Dave has now joined Deborah and me at Book View Café, and he will soon blog here about high tech computer stuff, futuristic Internet theory, the Stooges, playing in a chamber orchestra, organic gardening, and many other subjects. So a hearty welcome to Dave–and hey, if you have a Star Wars story, share it here!
by Sherwood Smith, (whose co-written space opera is coming out in ebook form, first volume here)