Where This Book Came From:
I actually started selling non-fiction before I sold any fiction; the very first time I got paid to write was a series of feature articles I wrote for a local newspaper, the Bedford Patriot, in Bedford, Massachusetts. I was seventeen.
I focused on fiction through the next decade or so, but in 1983 Don and Maggie Thompson, the new editors of The Comics Buyer's Guide, after reading some of my letters to the editor, invited me to write a column for them.
So I did. "Rayguns, Elves, & Skin-Tight Suits" ran a total of 112 installments before I quit, and I discovered I enjoyed writing non-fiction; it was generally easier for me than fiction. I started selling articles on comic books and movies and books and TV and so on to other magazines and newspapers -- always as a sideline, while fiction remained my career. I had the idea of eventually writing actual non-fiction books, though, and did a lot of preliminary work on a planned history of pre-Comics Code horror comics, to be called Strange! Eerie! Terrifying!, using some of my CBG columns as a starting point. But I never completed it; other people got there first and I decided it wasn't worth the effort.
In 2002, Glenn Yeffeth, publisher of BenBella Books, invited me to contribute an essay to an upcoming non-fiction anthology, Seven Seasons of Buffy. As a big fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," I couldn't resist, and wrote "Matchmaking on the Hellmouth."
Glenn was pleased with it and invited me to write more, which I did, and by the time all was said and done I'd written fifteen essays for BenBella's Smart Pop series. I'd also written, at his suggestion, an entire non-fiction book for BenBella: The Turtle Moves! Discworld's Story Unauthorized.
Inspired by that, I decided to compile those fifteen essays, along with enough other material to get it up to full book-length, into a single volume.
And that's Mind Candy: Twenty-Three Brain-Smacking Essays on Popular Culture. It's got the fifteen Smart Pop essays, revised versions of some installments of "Rayguns, Elves, and Skin-Tight Suits," and a few random bits from elsewhere.
Table of Contents:
- Comic books:
- Dr. Wertham, E.C. Comics, and My Misspent Youth
- The X-Men and I: Growing Up Mutant
- Sgt. Fury's Family Affair
- Superman: Previous Issues
- Peter Parker's Penance
- Wonder Woman: Diana Who?
- How to Write Like Stan Lee
- Mix 'n' Match Superheroes
- A Few Questions for Comics Fans
- Firefly: The Heirs of Sawney Beane
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Matchmaking on the Hellmouth
- Star Trek: Lost Secrets of Pre-War Human Technology: Seat Belts, Circuit Breakers, and Memory Allocation
- I'm in Love with My Car: Automotive Symbolism on Veronica Mars
- Melinda Gordon, Meet Alison Dubois
- Grey's Anatomy: George O'Malley, Unsung Hero
- Books & Movies:
- Pride and Prejudice: A World At War
- Just Who Were Those Martians, Anyway?
- Chinks in the Armor: James Bond's Critical Mistakes
- On the Origins of Evil in Narnia
- Why Dumbledore Had to Die
- Mixed Media:
- The Lone Ranger: Batman of the Old West
- A Consideration of Certain Aspects of Vogon Poetry
- Kid Stuff
- Essays That Didn't Happen
In 2002 a fellow named Glenn Yeffeth contacted me about writing an essay for a book he was editing, to be called Seven Seasons of Buffy, about the TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." That turned out to be the first in a series of similar anthologies about various pop culture phenomena, called the Smart Pop series, and I got invited to write for most of them. I didn't always have anything to say about a given subject, so I turned down several of those invitations, but I wrote a total of fifteen essays for the series before I finally got somewhat burned out and stopped; fourteen of them were published, while the fifteenth, about Wonder Woman, was intended for an anthology that got canceled.
Writing them was fun. I always tried to find something to say about the work in question that I had never seen anyone say before. In some cases, given the huge amount of fannish writing that already existed, that was a real challenge. I may not have always succeeded.
I usually tried to be funny, or at least amusing, as well -- not always, but usually.
I thought some of those essays were pretty good. I kind of regretted that most of my regular readers didn't see most of them -- I mean, someone who doesn't care about "Grey's Anatomy" wasn't about to buy an entire book about the show just because I had an essay in it. Eventually, it occurred to me that there was an obvious solution: Collect them all into a single volume.
While I was assembling it, I realized there wasn't any good reason not to include other old pop culture essays and articles I'd written, or for that matter new ones. Some of those old pieces had appeared in obscure, low-circulation venues, where almost no one saw them, so here was a chance to give them a larger audience. So I dug through all the articles and columns I'd written since 1984, and found a few I thought were worth reprinting.
(1984 was my cut-off because my seventy or so published articles and columns from before that were written on a typewriter -- I got my first computer in August, 1984 -- and therefore weren't available in a handy form.)
I limited this collection to pieces about popular culture, so all the articles about writing and publishing and collecting were excluded; I may put them in another book someday, but not this one. Plain old reviews of books or movies also got cut, as did articles that were just history, without any original angle. (I was somewhat startled by how many straight histories I'd written, mostly about comic books.)
I've updated several of these essays, as many were written before the work in question concluded, or contained material that hasn't aged well -- the Lone Ranger essay, for example, originally included a critique of the 1981 movie starring Klinton Spilsbury, and really, who cares about that anymore? Some stuff is still a bit dated, even after editing, but I'll just have to live with that.
These aren't academic papers or scholarly studies; they're just for entertainment. You won't find footnotes or bibliographies or annotations, just me throwing ideas around. I hope you'll enjoy them.
Takoma Park, 2012
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