Probably one of the strongest influences on my life from a very young age was the original Star Trek.
Rerun in syndication almost endlessly, the original Star Trek was huge in my life growing up. I knew the characters so well you’d think they were family. I could quote episodes like the best convention goer, though I myself had never attended one (and didn’t know such things existed).
For me, Star Trek was equal parts wild imagination and rip-roaring adventure. I was absolutely in love with that show like no other before or since. I was a Trekker to my core.
When I discovered that there were novels based on the adventures of the Enterprise crew that took them beyond the show I knew so well, I was floored. I spent a lot of time and no small amount of money, buying up these books every chance I got.
Bolstering my addiction and my collection, mom would tell people how I read these books often and always cover to cover, sometimes more than once, and so many of them began giving her their own copies for me. She would come home from work (she was both a waitress and a bartender) with half a french dip wrapped in aluminum foil (which I would greedily take to school for lunch the next day) and a sack full of slightly used Trek novels for me to read.
It was fantastic.
Some of the very first things I wrote were Star Trek fan fiction. I dreamt of joining the ranks of such wonderful authors as Diane Duane, D.C. Fontana, A.C. Crispin, Vonda N. McIntyre & Howard Weinstein. I’m here to tell you, I wrote some pretty terrible crap back in the day… But that’s okay – we have to write crap in order to learn and grow. I may wince (and groan) today when I look at old, yellowed pages full of Trek fanfic born from my brain, but it was necessary.
This obsession with all things Trek only grew when The Next Generation debuted and, although I loved Star Wars as well (and could essentially quote the movies verbatim), there was just more Trek to be had at the time, so it tended to be forefront on my brain.
Computers (and technology).
A second great influence on my life has been computers and technology. I used to stare, fascinated, at the scanners on the conveyor belts at the grocery store, trying to figure out how the lasers knew what things were and how much they cost.
Star Trek (and other movies and television shows) painted a universe where computers did things they could not, currently, do. I wanted in on this.
The first chance I had for any sort of hands-on computer stuff came in the fifth grade, I believe. My school, a Catholic elementary, was offering a special computer education course for a separate fee (Catholic schools are tuition based). I begged my mom to let me attend these classes and she relented/agreed/paid for it.
They setup the computers in the library and we went through a lesson plan that taught us BASIC (Beginners All purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) and some DOS (Disc Operating System), all on Apple IIE’s. I want to say that the classes didn’t last very long but I honestly don’t remember. We did simple things, wrote simple programs, used their software to learn to type – that sort of stuff. I do remember being hooked. I liked messing around with these computer things and wanted more.
I didn’t get much ‘more’ until high school, when I took the same essential course on a Radio Shack TRS-80 (which we affectionately called ‘Trash 80’s’). I also owned my very first home computer, the Radio Shack Color Computer II complete with a 5 and a quarter floppy drive. I mostly used it to play games, but I also learned a bit more about BASIC, DOS and graphics in general.
Lastly, I took electronics as an elective, which meant I got to learn how these things worked in the first place.
At some point, my mom decided that I needed to work for my uncle so I could be close to his eldest son who, at the time, was heavy into computers and programming. Through Don, I learned about UNIX and eventually, HTML and the Internet. I also took my first steps into graphic arts, design, desk top publishing and advertising working for my uncle who, one day, set me down in front of a Macintosh IIcx with Adobe Illustrator and Aldus PageMaker and told me to learn all about them so I could start making flyers and catalogs for the company.
So. Star Trek fed my imagination with a steady diet of scifi and futuristic technologies which lead me to want to know more about these things later on. I wouldn’t be me without these particular influences in my life and you can see (I believe) how these things have affected my writing (hopefully) today.
Even though these have been huge influences, there’s still more. (You know what’s coming next…)
…and I’ll talk about that tomorrow.
(you totally saw that coming.)