I am forty-four years old, and Star Wars has been part of my life since I was six. It first appeared during the long, dry summer of 1977, while I was at primary school, and it opened my mind to the possibilities and excitement of science fiction.
Before Star Wars, I had seen episodes of Star Trek on the old black and white TV we used to have. I enjoyed the adventures of Kirk, Spock and Bones (although I didn’t always understand them at that age), and even had a Dinky model of the USS Enterprise that fired yellow torpedoes and had a little plastic shuttle that you could take in and out of the hangar doors.
I loved Star Trek but, as a six year old, it felt a little constraining. If you wanted adventures, you had to be a grownup Starfleet captain, with a big shiny ship and a crew to look after. You had to follow the rules. Kirk was a rebel, but he still respected the chain of command.
Star Wars offered something different. Star Wars threw me into a dusty, rusty world of droids and moisture farmers, and the hero wasn’t a super-competent Starfleet captain; he was a small-town kid like me.
In those days, we didn’t even have a VHS player. They were around, but they were large and clunky and expensive. If I saw a film at the cinema, I wouldn’t see it again until it got shown on TV. In the meantime, we had to treasure those bright memories, and reinforce them by endlessly repeating lines of dialogue to each other.
I got the novelizations from the local library and ordered the Marvel comics from the newsagent. At home, I played with the action figures. At school, my friends and I spent every break time reenacting the battle of Echo Base.
For years, Star Wars – and later, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi – provided the furniture and backdrops for our imaginations. They shaped the way we understood and enjoyed stories, and sent us looking for more.
I had already encountered written science fiction in the form of the Dragonfall 5 books by Brian Earnshaw. Now, fired by my obsession with space adventure, I pillaged the local library shelves for anything with a spaceship on the cover, and found books by Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven and Harry Harrison.
Without Star Wars, I might never have thrown myself into reading science fiction with such gusto – and I might never have started writing it, either.
The first ‘novel’ I wrote took up three spiral-topped reporters notebooks. I think I was around ten years old when I wrote it. I can’t even remember the title now, but I do remember that the story was a thinly disguised mash-up of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and anything else I might have seen on the television that evening. It wasn’t very good, but it was a start – and it planted the idea in my head that what I really wanted to do when I grew up was write science fiction.
Since then, I have grown up, and I have written a number of novels, including a space opera called The Recollection, that features a disreputable trader in an antique trading ship, blasting her way across the galaxy while trying to stay one step ahead of her creditors.
I have also had the pleasure of introducing the Star Wars films to my own children – and I look forward to seeing the new one with them when it debuts in cinemas this December.
One thing’s for sure, and that’s the electric thrill I’m going to feel when the lights go down and that John Williams score kicks in…
“Chewie, we’re home.”
The Ack-Ack Macaque trilogy is now available from Solaris Books