Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Dad Bought Me "Spacewreck" in 1979

A Fathers' Day recollection. I first saw this over-sized hardback book as a child in the late 1970s in the gift shop of the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and begged (begged!) my dad to buy it for me. To my great surprise, eventually he did, which was very unusual for him. (He had a real antipathy for museum gift shops in those days.) I'm still not sure why he broke down and bought this book for me that day. But I have always been glad that he did.
From the moment that I first pored over it in the back seat of the family car on the way home, this book was (and has remained) one of my most prized posessions. The interior consists largely of lavish full page and double-page paintings of various spaceships that long ago crashed on far off alien worlds and now lie derelict. Each of these paintings is accompanied by a half page or so of text describing what led up to the pictured wreck. This text contains brief allusions to prior events and personalities which place these paintings in a fictional universe that seems layered and complex, with a long history.
Thinking about it now, when first published in 1979, this volume must have been specifically targetted (like a lazer) at 9 year old boys like me who loved "Star Wars" and "Planet of the Apes."
Only today have I learned that this book was actually one of a series of four by the same author, Stewart Cowley, which collectively described an entire science fiction setting called the Terran Trade Authority. These original 1970s books are apparently quite rare and now sell for over $40 each on Amazon. My copy still has the original price sticker: $4.98. (You can buy Spacewreck on Amazon from a re-seller by clicking on that title in red.) Today there are even fan sites devoted to this "universe."
A series of new books based on this classic series ("updating and expanding" it) is now being published. Though these new books have received very lukewarm reviews on Amazon, in part because they are not direct reprints of the classic books, unfortunately.

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