THE STAR WARS AND STAR TREK IN MY STEAMPUNK
Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.
I am 50 years old. JFK is my birth President. To most of you reading this column, I am ancient. I am Obi-Wan Kenobi shuffling out of the desert. I don’t feel so old, but there you have it.
Being of this age, one of things that happened to me was the arrival of the first Star Wars movie. I was 14 years old in the summer of 1977, ready to enter high school (in Canada) and a serious science-fiction nerd. It wasn’t so cool to be a sci-fi nerd then, but Star Wars would do a lot to change that. A steady diet of Star Trek reruns fueled my addiction to that point, along with plenty of books by Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Wells, Verne and LeGuin. Great stuff. But Star Wars blew the lid off. On the weekend that Star Wars opened (it wasn’t a big deal yet) my family was on vacation, driving to a timeshare condo in Florida. I forced my parents to stop, marooning them and my sisters at a mall as I walked across the parking lot to the cinema where the movie was playing.
Star Wars was it. It was the perfect science-fiction space opera with effects that blew the mind (and largely still hold up today). I saw the move 36 times in the theater, often sitting through two or three showings in a row with my friends. We would mumble the dialog before the characters said it, annoying other patrons. We developed out own set of dialog and inside jokes so we could make it through yet another viewing of the move. Crazy? Yes. George Lucas owned us. I waited for the next two films with a heightened anticipation which I have rarely felt with any other trilogy except Indiana Jones.
Star Wars did not replace Star Trek for me, but rather opened a new door in a different universe. I still hold on tightly to Star Trek, to James T. Kirk and Spock, and that show will always be my first love as far as science fiction television goes.
Even today, as I write my steampunk adventure series, The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin (RomulusBuckle and the City of the Founders is the first installment), I can feel the influence of Star Trek and Star Wars flowing through my brain goo and oozing into my writing. When one is bred on such stuff dreams are made of it is impossible to escape, I guess. And that’s a good thing. My series follows the bridge crew of a zeppelin with characters you can easily draw Star Trek parallels to, including a somewhat stoic alien. The captain is a swashbuckler, a man created in the time-honored tradition of Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood, Han Solo, and Captain Kirk.
All hail the ancient archetypes we find brilliantly reborn in Star Trek and Star Wars. They explore what is best and worst in us. And experiencing that journey through the self is what we read stories for. And write them, too.