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Friday, November 9, 2012

Movie Memories 08 | Justin R. Macumber

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A Long Time Ago, In A Drive-In Far, Far Away…

We human beings are such a mess of thoughts, histories, experiences, and emotions that it’s hard to know why we are the way we are. The smallest incident can have the biggest impact, yet we can be oblivious to the large changes that shape our psyche. As the bard said, “Man is a giddy, flighty thing.” I’m sure thousands of therapists and psychiatrists would agree. I’m just as prone to it as the next guy. But, there was one moment in my past that I clearly remember as a pivotal one in my development not just as a human being, but also as a life-long geek. It happened on a dark evening in the summer of 1977, in a dusty Kansas drive-in, with me on the roof of my parents’ car. If you’re a fellow geek, you know exactly what I’m talking about.


Yep, I can remember it as though it happened yesterday. I was four and a half years old, pie-eyed, and sweaty from having played with other little kids in the drive-in’s playground in the space just in front of the huge movie screen. The screen was really just some whitewashed boards, but to my young mind it was a portal to another world. Once the sun was down and the speakers hanging from metal poles crackled to life, I ran my tiny legs off to get back to the car so I could see what new delight was in store. When the 20th Century Fox logo blasted across the screen with John William’s music, a huge smile spread across my face. But, what was to come would take that smile and turn it into something truly special – a slack-jawed “O” of amazement.

What was my young mind to think when the diamond-speckled black of space was eclipsed by that massive Star Destroyer as it hounded Princess Leia’s blockade runner? I’d never seen its like before, and my synapses shot sparks as cannon fire and explosions rocked the screen. Then there were men in stark corridors, some frightened and some resolute, but all holding a blaster and ready to defend their ship. Suddenly more explosions! Bad men in white armor! Red and blue energy bolts lancing this way and that! Death! Smoke! And then… Oh, and then that figure in black, with the helmet and the breathing as he strode onto his conquest. I’m telling you, it was enough to send me reeling. I was mesmerized, captivated, enthralled. It was just too much, yet in a strange way it was also only the beginning.

Little did I know at the time how much, and how deeply, George Lucas was affecting my brain. Over the course of that evening I was wholly turned into a sci-fi loving nerd of the highest order. Sports? Boring! Police shows on television? Meh. For me, if it didn't have lasers and starships, I wasn't interested. Over time I discovered the fantasy elements that were not-so-subtly ingrained in the Star Wars story, so I came to love the fantasy genre as well, and then in my teens I came to love horror too. But, my first love was Star Wars, so I will always be a sci-fi guy in my deepest core, and I couldn't be more proud.

Being a geek from such an early age brought a lot of great things into my life. It brought a love of reading, a love of gaming (both electronic and paper & dice), a love of technology, and most importantly a love of writing. When other kids were off playing baseball, I was at my desk writing stories, learning how to operate a computer, or reading Asimov. Now that I sit here as a pudgy older guy I think perhaps I should have given that sports thing another try, but I wouldn't trade a day of my past if it meant giving up who I am. I love who I am. I was a nerd before it was cool, and I’ll be a nerd long after it’s passed out of fashion. My wife, who’s a fellow nerd herself, loves me too, and we encourage each other to be all the geeks we can be.

Thank you, Mr Lucas. I wouldn't be who I am right now were it not for you. People can hate on you all they like, cast all the aspersions they want at the prequel trilogy (I have issues with them too), but I will always owe you a great debt of gratitude for helping me become the man, husband, son, friend, writer, and nerd that I am today. You started me on this journey, and I feel blessed that my introduction into this strange life was begun by your visionary tale of a farm boy on another planet whose destiny was greater than he ever imagined. You made me think I could be that boy, and my destiny will be the same. Thank you, and may the Force be with you.


Justin R. Macumber

Justin is the author of HAYWIRE, a science fiction novel published by Gryphonwood Press and available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, the iTunes Bookstore, and His second novel, a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy entitled A MINOR MAGIC, is forthcoming by Crescent Moon Press. His website is at He is also the creator and co-host of the Dead Robots’ Society podcast, a podcast made by writers for writers. It can be found at You can also follow Justin on twitter.

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