A long time ago…

This morning, as I scrolled through the tweets of adults who are peeing their pants in anticipation of the new Star Wars movie (and whose main concern in life appears to be avoiding spoilers), I was reminded of my introduction to Star Wars back in 1977. One thing led to another, and I was soon piecing together snippets from Google Books and reading the filmography of Don Johnson.

I am not a Star Wars fan. As I wrote a few years ago, I saw the original movie when it came out in ’77 and didn’t think much of it. I didn’t bother going to any of the sequels or prequels until circumstances put me at a showing of Revenge of the Sith in 2005—a movie that insulted its audience’s intelligence and tried its patience for two hours before finally deigning to present some action in the last twenty minutes. I can’t remember ever being so angry in a theatre.

Anyway, as I said in the post, months before I saw the original Star Wars I read a review of George Lucas’s novel of the same name. Well, it was more a novelization than a novel. And it was really written by Alan Dean Foster. But I digress.

The review was by Lester del Rey in the February 1977 issue of Analog, the science fiction magazine. I don’t remember if I had a subscription to Analog, but I do know that I read every issue of it for a couple of years back then. I also regularly read Galaxy (where Spider Robinson was the book reviewer) and the literally named The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.


Image from ISFDB

In my dim memory of the review, del Rey didn’t like the book, but he believed the upcoming movie would be something science fiction fans would be talking about. A funny understatement if my memory was right. But was it? I tweeted a link to my old post and expressed a desire to reread the review to see if I was remembering it correctly.

Kieran Healy came to my rescue. He found that volume of Analog in Google Books and located two snippets of the sentence I was looking for. This bit:

@drdrang So snippety.

Kieran Healy (@kjhealy) Dec 16 2015 9:39 AM

And this one:

@drdrang Here’s the bit.

Kieran Healy (@kjhealy) Dec 16 2015 10:39 AM

With these excerpts in hand, I was able to find the rest of the paragraph.

This was a book for which I had considerable hopes. At the recent SF Worldcon in Kansas City, there was a splendid display of the special effects of what may be the most important sf movie of 1977, which is to be made from this book Some of the artwork of scenes from the movie were marvelous.

Not exactly what I remembered, but not too far off. And “what may be the most important sf movie of 1977” is actually funnier than my recollection.

The Kansas City Worldcon del Rey mentions is the 34th World Science Fiction Convention from 1976. Robert Heinlein was the guest of honor, L. Sprague de Camp was made a Gandalf Grand Master, and Joe Haldeman’s Forever War won the Hugo for best novel. Giants walked the Earth in those days.

But the state of science fiction films was not so great. A Boy and His Dog, starring, yes, Don Johnson and with Jason Robards in whiteface (you don’t want to know), won the Hugo for best dramatic presentation. It beat out Dark Star, Rollerball, and—I can’t believe I’m typing this—Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

If the Wikipedia article is even close to correct, spoilers were not big concern at Worldcon:

An hour-long slide presentation, made up of 35mm slides of the film’s production artwork and on-set production photos, was narrated live in the Muehlebach’s Imperial Ballroon, the hotel’s largest, to a standing-room-only crowd; this was presented by [20th Century Fox’s VP of publicity Charles] Lippencott. He outlined in great detail the entire plot of the film from scene one through to the final scene.

John Siracusa would’ve fainted dead away.