By Philip Schweier
December 12, 2014 - 10:09
It has been
argued that sometime around the age of 12, as childhood gives way to
adolescence, a young boy will begin to form the interests that shape his teen
age and adult years: cars, power tools, rock music, etc.
When I was that age, I’d already been a comic book fan for quite a while and tales of good vs. evil were my bread and butter. Needless to say, my tastes at the time were hardly refined, even by the standards of a young teenager. I was a year or so into reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, Conan the Barbarian, and had not yet seen all the original episodes of Star Trek.
Then, in May, 1977, Star Wars was released, leading to an amazing time to be a fan. Film companies, television networks and publishers all tried to cash in on the science fiction gravy train. TV shows came and went in the blink of an eye, and just about anything with the word “star” in the title was made available to any one willing to roll that dice.
By May of 1983, when Return of the Jedi was released, the bloom was off the rose of science fiction, and audiences had grown weary of the high number of cheap imitations. As a recent high school graduate, I suddenly found myself far too sophisticated for adolescent fantasies. On the verge of moving from northern Indiana to central Georgia, it became necessary to whittle my library down.
Four years later, I was a college graduate with a bright future ahead. My mother politely requested I remove the rest of my library from her house. Another purge managed to bring my collection down to a single storage tub that I hauled around from one apartment to another for the next 15 years.
A few years back, I picked up a Kindle, and because I’m cheap, I loaded it up with books in the public domain. Some of them were books I should have read a kid, such as Treasure Island and The Three Musketeers. Others were books I did read as a kid; Edgar Rice Burroughs, mostly. With the release of the film version of John Carter, it seemed a good time to revisit his work.
As much as I enjoyed the stories as a kid, they seem unbelievably bad today. Not the ideas so much, but when it came to crafting a narrative, ERB’s imagination seemed stuck in first gear. Many of his novels recycle the same plot devices, ad nauseum.
Despite the shortcomings of the stories, I always believed I would some day pass the books on to my son. Or nephew. Or neighbor kid. Now, more than 10 years after getting married, it’s clear there’s no one with whom to share my collection. The boys I know are far more interested in World of Warcraft. In this age of e-readers, they’re not inclined to pick up any of my old paperbacks. At first I was saddened by the thought, but the fact remains that each generation creates its own heroes.
With the advent of the Internet and
other forms of electronic media, I came to the conclusion that my collection of
paperbacks had served its purpose. Even the Tarzan novels, with covers by Neal
Adams and Boris Vallejo, hold little value for me.
I can be sentimental at times, but now is not one of them. It’s not as if I’m being forced to sell. It’s akin to losing weight. I enjoyed the experience, but now it’s time to jettison unneeded baggage, and I’ll feel the better for it. It’s a rare occasion in my life when I am no longer looking backward with longing, but looking forward with hope. Often, such is the message of science fiction.