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Creation Date: March 1st, 2010 07:15 PM
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Musings of a Knight of the Imperium.
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In Moot Member Blogs Stewart Cowley 2 Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #575 New July 3rd, 2019 06:32 AM
Suffice it to say that the TTA books, in a time that was pretty mundane, were another bright spot in a world that seemed to be going backwards or standing still.

You younger readers have to imagine a time when you couldn't just log on and look up some factoid. Oh sure, you could call the library and ask a question, and they'd happily look it up for you, but rarely did anyone do that, and it was kind of a pain because you had to interact with someone. There were cars, phones (land lines), radios, TVs, and a lot of trappings of "modern life", but no data flowing like it was today unless you were one of the big telecommunication's companies or a major network that actually did transmit data over huge bus bars.

The artists Stewart Cowley absconded for his publications were well known in scifi circles. In fact I exchanged emails with William Keith about the very topic, and he told me he had some of those coffee table books, and enjoyed them. And the appreciation for the genre didn't stop there. I remember as a boy I was in my friend's bedroom watching Star Trek on an old black and white "portable" TV. And in walks a woman in her late 20s or early 30s, and she squats down on her knees to watch the episode with us. I think it was "The Omega Glory", but I'm not certain … it may have been the one where Kirk joins a native American tribe after getting zapped by the local temple. I can't remember. At that time digital clock displays were novel. It was that of an environment. And so when Star Wars hits the theatres, and Stewart Cowley published his books … it's like the mundaness evaporated.

If you've ever seen "The Bad News Bears" then you're getting a window as to how a portion of bratty American kids behaved. No joke. There were kids exactly like that in the movie. How I survived that I'll never know. But Trek, the game store, the local bookstore, and the occasional convention, took you away from all that. It showed you a better tomorrow. Or, alternatively, another place that was full of adventure and really cool looking places.

If you've ever seen some of the old Bantam Star Trek novels' cover art, then again you're getting a taste of how much artistry was injected into scifi paintings because other than that new movie Star Wars, there really wasn't much of anything scifi-like out on the mass media marketplace. And for those of us who considered becoming astronauts (I seriously tried for that career at one time, much to my failure) the "in the future" concept art by artists like McCall added more flavor. You could go to some place like NASA Ames or one of the local Science Centers and read about life on the moon if we ever established a moonbase. Or how nuclear rockets might cut down travel times to other planets to mere weeks.

And then the game stores with the LBBs on the rack hanging off the back wall. There were only a few at first, but as the 80s took everyone by storm, there were more LBBs with colored banners. The whole atmosphere of break time from reality, from stuff like homework, cleaning up after the Vargr unit , or dealing with the social pressures at school, was very inviting.

The real problem was that there wasn't the explosion of tech that we have today. So, it's like you can get in your parents car, drive to the store, get some food and other stuff, come home, shove it in the refrigerator and turn on the TV, but the technology was typically limited to one use, and if it broke, then you needed to be a real expert in the field to fix it. It wasn't like today where you could watch a video online and then have a crack at …. I don't know … fixing your dryer or something. And if you were tinkering with electronics, as I was, then you were pretty much delegated to those Morse code sets, or one of those old electronic play things where you could swap around resistors, capacitors and light bulbs....whopper do. Your ability to create something as per today in some hacker dojo, was limited because you needed to be a real craftsman to fabricate your own walkie talkie, much less a computer. Tech wise there was a lot of everyday technology around you, but it didn't have the aura of being technological so much as utilitarian and uninteresting.

And again that was the feeling with scifi media. My only regret is that I didn't have more traditional and good guidance putting me onto a path of science and engineering, as opposed to being manipulated from afar into a media career. And media, at that time, on television that is, tended to celebrate past glories with movie stars from the 50s and 60s appearing on gameshows or "special TV events". And TV today is vastly improved over the BS that was one when Star Wars and Stewart Cowley's books hit the scifi media sphere. Seeing some actress sing songs she did in some film released ten years before … at the time it was kind of blasι, and something to see, but in retrospect it was really insulting. But maybe I'm being too hard there.

The big disappointment with the Stewart Cowley books was that after Star Wars there were no more really cool space movies. Star Trek motionless boring Picture was a snorer, and garbage like "Battle Beyond the Stars" or high camp like Gil Gerard in a 70s update of Buck Rogers, really didn't help very much.. One expected films other than Star Wars, but with a space theme and a lot of energy, to come to the theater. The genre had proven itself to be worth investing in. Cowley's books provided all kinds of imagery from other scifi authors that could mined and presented for an audience that was starving for the stuff.

But it never happened.

My academics were suffering, and I wanted to go into science, but I simply couldn't keep pace with the real geniuses in the class. So, I geared myself for the arts, which was another dead end. But all that time I kept wondering, "when's the next big space adventure movie going to come?" And I'll bet millions of other people were wondering the same thing, and we would have to wait for three years for "Star Wars 2".

And so after I got into Star Fleet Battles, saw all of the games on the market, and had a whole new world filled with incredible narratives to explore, I again was sure that some producer or studio would just buy up properties and run with them way back in the early 80s.

But it never happened.

Asteroid Zero Four. Kung Fu 2000, Ice War. Ogre and GEV. Car Wars. Trailblazer. Second Empire. …. somebody did Starship Troopers, but that was a book long before it was turned into a game … but again, the Stewart Cowley books, both the TTA series and the series that came after that, really helped bolster the scifi mediasphere. I mean Ballentine books was selling the Star Wars' sketchbook showing the concept drafts for the various things in the film, and they even sold a set of the production conceptual paintings. I mean that was right up there with the Stewart Cowley books … so how come we don't get more space adventure movies with really rocking stories, characters, backgrounds, and music? I mean, the art is here, right?

But it never happened.

Well, almost. There was that highly insulting D&D cartoon. Remember the one? Dungeons and Dragons is about adventuring in forbidden fortresses, or vast subterranean complexes, armed only with a sword, and maybe a shield or some kind of armor for protection. And by adventuring I mean avoiding lethal traps and killing monsters and armed bandits or implacable wizards who are bent on your destruction. But what people, read that as kids, got, was some cartoon about brain over brawn solutions where the only thing that dies was the attention span of the veteran D&D player. No taking on hordes of goblins with your plus one sword. No shooting bad guys with your bow and arrow from some hidden vantage point. No emulating that bugbear with a fireball, or yourself being emulated by some ancient fire breathing dragon.

It never happened.

So, the big media blitz that I expected to happen never came, or rather Stewart Cowley's books would be delegated forever to the realms of paper until the last ten years. Now that I understand Hollywood a bit better, knowing all the BS sociology that goes on behind closed doors to rework someone's screenplay, it's like how much more of a disservice can you do to the American public by denying exposure to more Star Wars like media? I don't get that. And instead of getting more top of the line SW like media, we get Buck Rogers and the original Battlestar Galactica. I mean, for kids' shows I guess they're okay, but they had the heir of religious conservatism underpinning them. Trek and Wars they weren't.

Thanks goodness those days are permanently over with. One of the few bright spots were the Stewart Cowley books. And imitation I guess is flattery as Mister Keith absconded some of the images for amore than one Traveller publication. Whatever.

Hopefully things will only get better. Maybe someday people can travel on either the Martian Queen or the Star Blade. Or witness a Colonial III transport precariously hovering over their city.. Maybe someday we or our offspring can go book a flight to Saturn's moons at the Miami Spaceport. Or perhaps travel to witness from afar the City Ships of Alpha. Those books, the Starfleet Wars' miniatures' game. Ogre, GEV, Car Wars, and even Star Fleet Battles or Tunnels and Trolls, really turned an ordinary time to be a child into pure adventure. Whether you were riding a winged Pegasus in Barbarian Prince, jumping to Imperia in your Antelope Class starship, or reading about that mysterious object in the TTA books by Stewart Cowley, when school or work had gotten you down, Cowley, Jackson, Miller and others could lift your spirits.

And hopefully, with Mongoose and T5 those fair times will come again.

Prepare to jump
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