Blog No. 391
Since I don’t have much in the way of writing news and I doubt many people would be interested in a weekly word count update on the Invasion Novel (85 000 at the writing of this post) I’ve come up with something else to write about. Look up at the title (assuming you either ignored it or forgot what it sad like I always do). That’s right, I’m going to somehow (I haven’t worked out the details even thought I’m writing it right now) do posts about some of the stories that have stuck with me over the years. Some of them are from books, or television, or movies, and some may be from real life. That’s not to say they are all excellent, but there was something about them that took up residence in my subconscious and come back to me when something triggers the memory. I figured talking about how I first experienced those stories, guessing at what about them impacted me, and how the memories come back would be something interesting I could play around with while there isn’t much news to share.
The first one I’m going with is the 1986 movie Aliens. Not because it’s the best one, but because I have a visceral memory of the first time I saw it. I was never allowed to watch horror movies as a child (a direct contrast to Christian and one of the reasons we’re twisted in totally different ways). I would say that I don’t know why I wasn’t allowed, but I have to admit, I was a timid child with an active imagination. The thing that most drew me to movies is what made horror films so scary. I could easily insert myself into the story and come up with a way in which my character would interact within that universe. There is another story about how I did finally see one of the Friday the 13th movies at a sleepover and was confused about what all the fuss was about, but I’ll save it for another post.
I was not allowed to watch horror movies and I was prone to nightmares. That’s the important part. The first Alien is a classic and while it’s tame by today’s standards, it was definitely a horror movie. Aliens is an action film, but since it was of no interest to my parents, they didn’t know of care. I did care, however, because I loved sci-fi. The weirder the better. One Friday or Saturday evening when my mother was out (likely at work) and both my older brothers weren’t home, I was watching the old wood framed tube tv with my dad. I don’t know what year it was or how old I was, but I was in grade school and we were living at what I think of as our old house. It was well before there was a third movie. He was dozing on the lazy-boy and I was flipping through the channels by pressing the actual buttons on the TV itself. As the youngest child, I doubled as the remote control.
Several UHF stations played movies on the weekends and I had flipped to TV-20 (I’m pretty sure it was channel 20 and not 50). It was showing Aliens and it was the opening scene. There was a spaceship and someone in a cryobed and something was cutting through the door. Not knowing what it was, I was hooked. I must have asked my dad what movie it was and he must have looked it up in the TV Guide. We figured out it was Aliens and had a really brief discussion on watching it or not that may have been fewer than ten words. For some reason, he agreed that I could watch it and he would watch it with me.
My family has always watched a lot of movies. It was something we would do together all the time. My parents had a VCR early and going to the local rental place was a regular activity. We would watch all kinds of movies and as the youngest, I was often allowed to watch things rated higher than my age. Adult themes were nothing new to me by that time. Out of all the genres my family would watch, sci-fi was not one of them. Not usually. Sure, they liked Star Wars and the odd blockbuster, but I was the fanatic. I remember being surprised that my dad, likely exhausted from work, agreed to watch Aliens with me. I don’t remember much else about that first viewing other than the awkward and stilted commercial breaks, but I loved it.
I pestered my parents to let me rent the movie and copy it (something we were known to do). (Shh. Don’t tell the FBI). After that, I had my own blurry, faded copy of Aliens on a Kodak tape. It joined the huge collection of copied and purchased movies on the shelf and I would go back to it often. Home alone on a Saturday, why not watch Aliens. Thursday night with homework I should be doing and the family busy doing their own thing, sure I’ll put Aliens in and give it a watch. It wasn’t the only movie I would watch and not even the only one I would watch often, but it was exciting, interesting, and best of all, set in space, in the future no less.
Eventually I got the trilogy box set and have seen them all (including the terrible fourth movie, but mostly the first two) many time since. But Aliens was always special. Something about the action in that setting. The marines trapped on a hostile world, the aliens themselves, a perfect, deadly organism, the child they find, the station, the ships, it was all a perfect tapestry for me to make up my own stories. I never wrote any of those stories down on paper, but I would lie in bed imagining myself in that place, with those characters. I’d relive the tense moments, but I was there too. It was one of the earliest movies that really captured my imagination. Not only was it science fiction, but it was fun, exciting, and cool.
As I got older, my fantasies turned away from living the movie to coming up with my own continuation of the story. I’d imagine myself being the filmmaker. I think it’s one of the reasons I decided I wanted to write. I didn’t have to try to come up with the ideas. They would just come to me. That feeling and the story the movie tells have lived within me since that moment I changed the channel and my dad and I watched Aliens on TV. I couldn’t say exactly what triggers the memories, but to this day, when I’m in bed, struggling to get to sleep, one of the stories I tell myself is some variation of being in the movie Aliens. Another space marine, another survivor on the planet, someone completely new to the story. Any idea is fair game.
Hopefully that was interesting. I plan on doing more of these over the coming months, but I have no idea what stories I’ll talk about or when. Maybe I’ll stick to the format of this post, or maybe I’ll tell it in some new way. Not sure. I kind of liked writing it, so that’s enough for me to try it again.