Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Careful What You Wish For... [Guest Post]

By GW Thomas

I was recently ruminating with my cousin about how our kids, now all in their twenties, don't want the legacies we have gathered. Legacies? Millions of dollars? No, but millions of words. I'm talking about "The Collection," a mass of speculative fiction and comics going back to the 1970s. Sure, you can eBay it, but what we always thought we'd do with it was pass it along to our kids.

Only thing is... they don't want it.

It's hard to believe. They don't want boxes and boxes of treasures: gems like copies of Crypt of Cthulhu, complete runs of Dragon magazine, Erbdom, Doctor Who videos (the early stuff before Christopher Eccleston), Gold Key Star Trek comics, paperbacks by Silverberg, Goulart, Chalker, and on and on.

First, this raises the question: why are these treasures? Well, despite the '70s being pretty good for Science Fiction and Fantasy (think Space 1999, Kolchak the Night Stalker, Joe Kubert's Tarzan, Barry Smith's Conan the Barbarian, and those wonderful Hildebrandt LotR calendars!), most of the time it was still a desert, with small oases of delight. The rest: dull. Watergate, Viet Nam, the Energy Crisis. Well, if not dull, at least terrestrial. We had the Moon Landing, but we wanted the stars...

And so we hoarded with a possessiveness that only Gollum could match. Dragon-like, we kept all our Uncanny X-Men comics in a pile and slept on them (including that precious #94). Despite the addiction to the Fantastic, we were willing to share, because there just weren't enough of us out there. Folks who could discuss why Star Trek was better than Star Wars while a third muscled in that Doctor Who was better than either.

But if you were born in 1990, you entered an entirely different world. My kids grew up in a world where Sword and Sorcery was a click away on a game console. They didn't have to watch The Man from Atlantis religiously or write letters to networks to rerun Hawk the Slayer. Their dinosaurs were CGI, not the rubber ones of At the Earth's Core. So when you guide them through the labyrinth of boxes to the center of that great SF/F/H trove, they look at it and say, "Meh."

Tears well up. You want to disown them. And this raises the question: where did we go wrong? We thought we were raising them right. Magic the Gathering cards instead of hockey cards. Hobbits, not hobby horses. Velociraptor instead of bunnies. Damn it, we did our duty as fan-parents (I think I just coined a new word!) and yet...

Meh. An expression so bland and disengaged you want to punch it in the face. Meh. Did I not give you Edgar Rice Burroughs? I would have died without old ERB. He was the gateway drug that lead to Leiber, Lovecraft, Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Stephen King, all of it. Eddie Burroughs made me a reader first, and a writer second. Without that first Neal Adams-adorned copy of The Jungle Tales of Tarzan in the black Ballantine wrapper I'd be... much more ordinary. And my treasure trove would be... I can't imagine it as I shudder with George Bailey-like terror down the street this way and that. "Mother, don't you know me?" "My son died when he was eight years old, crushed by a stack of Weird Tales." (Slam!)

So be careful what you wish for. Because I can remember in 1973, that second issue of Thongor in Creatures on the Loose #23 clutched in my sweaty ten-year-old hands and thinking, "Why can't this stuff be everywhere?" I can remember dreaming back in 1979 about a world in which Star Wars could be available to you at the push of a button (that was when an 8-minute super 8 highlight reel sold for a whopping $100.)

And I think we got the dream. Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror are everywhere, from The Walking Dead to Spider-Man movies to the Lord of the Rings franchises to video games that let you run whole armies to (orgasmic delight) a John Carter of Mars film. We are living in world that has embraced SF/F/H. It's all gone mainstream.

And I should be delighted, but instead I'm looking at this stack of Burroughs' Venus novels (with their superb Frank Frazetta covers) and thinking my kids don't care. Amtor, with its winged klangaan warriors, its bug-eyed monsters, its maze of seven deaths. What's that compared to FallOut 3 or World of Warcraft or Skyrim?

But I take what I can get. A little 1st edition D&D with the boys when I can. Arkham Horror is a nice middle ground between the old Call of Cthulhu box set and the latest multi-million selling X-box game. One kid likes Eragon, the other Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I didn't fail completely. Or perhaps at all. It's not like they call me up and say "Hey, what did you think of that Oilers game, eh?" Maybe, just maybe, we all need to gather our own treasure trove, only to cast it away when we die. Or better yet, to have it piled around us and set on fire, Viking-style. Yes, that's what I want. To go up in smoke along with my Turoks, and my Lancer paperbacks, my old D&D character sheets, my Doc Savage, Man of Bronze books and a complete set of Arak, Son of Thunder. Up I'll go. And my boys can look on. Who's "Meh" now?

GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is gwthomas.org. He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.

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