Saturday, April 5, 2014


(The Robinson Robot in miniature)
The images were indelibly imprinted upon my brain at an early age. There was Underdog, fighting a hoard of giant robots with raccoon eyes in "March of the Monsters." And both Astro Boy and Gigantor, in glorious black and white. Robot John slogged across a lake of molten lava to save his human companions in Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, a bizarre Frankenstein of a movie cobbled together from spare parts -- about space sirens dressed in scallop shell bikinis that crunch down on raw alien eels come feeding time, the second most memorable element of the film. The first was Robot John's sacrifice, which left me a blubbering mess sitting cross-legged before our big, ugly box of a TV set connected to rabbit ears.  Ditto to Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot, a frequent visitor via Saturday afternoon Creature Double-Features.  The final scene in which the giant Egyptian-looking servo-mechanism flies off to save the Earth became the equivalent of a tearjerker for untold scores of boys my age. I'm sure I'm not the only one who wanted a best friend like Giant Robo. And I'll admit it -- I still get a little bleary- eyed, even at forty-eight, when he and the devious Guillotine collide with that smoking meteor.

I never trusted or even liked Robby the Robot, who I first encountered on the brilliant "War of the Robots" episode of Lost in Space, when he battled -- and lost to -- the Robinson's beloved cybernetic pal, Robot B9.  In 1995, when my writing was first starting to reach a national (and international) readership, I got to stand beside and shake pincers with the original Robinson Robot, an iconic friend from childhood, at a science fiction convention in Boston.  Five years later, while writing a big retrospective on LIS for Cinescape Magazine, I interviewed the great, late Dick Tufeld, voice of B9.  He was kind enough to go into character with his classic, "Danger, Will Robinson!" shtick, and mention me by name.  I have the entire interview on tape.  In fact, that particular soundbite got played last summer during the documentary segment on my writing career and broadcast on TV's New Hampshire Chronicle.  Talk about time travel!

In my teens, there was 7-Zark-7 from Battle of the Planets, IQ-9 from Star Blazers, Doctor Who's faithful companion K-9, and a host of giant robot heroes in Force Five, which brought different adventures from Japan to the shores of New England Monday through Friday.  First up, there was Danguard Ace; Tuesdays, the fantastic Starvengers. Wednesdays was the throw-away Spaceketeers.  On Thursdays, Grandizer battled alien horrors.  Fridays was Gaiking, my favorite, about a powerful robot who launched from a flying fortress-carrier in the shape of a space dragon and defended Earth from invaders from the Zela Star Empire. I got so into the Force Five mythos that I began to have dreams about the giant robots and their sinister foes.  Those dreams made their way through fountain pen and onto paper, and the resulting fan fic stories remain, to this day, archived among my files of first-draft manuscripts.  There's still one from that time in my life remaining to be written.  And write it, I will.

(The 'cover', left, to one of my Gaiking fan fics; a sketch
of a Cylon from 1981; the longhand draft of my newest
robot novella)
And oh, how I hated the Cylons, those robotic baddies in the original Battlestar Galactica that made it their mission to hunt down humanity from one end of the universe to the next.  So much so, in the summer of 1982, between story projects, I opened a blank notebook and began to pen '1001 Ways to Insult a Cylon'. Looking back, I was bored, I think. But to my credit, I made it to Number Fifty.  In my twenties, I was mad about Optimus Prime and The Transformers.

Robots have been a significant part of my life from the beginning.  And they're about to become even more so in the weeks and months ahead. Last Saturday, two friends of mine who own the small press Great Old Ones Publishing paid a visit to our new home North of the Notches.  They took us out to a fantastic lunch at the local Chinese eatery downtown, and then, over coffee and cupcakes. asked me to pitch them on a novel idea as part of their upcoming front list.  I did, and the idea was contracted for.  My Tales From the Robot Graveyard (due out in Third Quarter 2014) is, in actuality, three novellas that will total novel size.  I intend to dedicate it to Mr. Tufeld, and to all those robots I loved from childhood.  And here's a nifty bit of news regarding the book's cover: it is being drawn by the talented Eric Chu, who did all the robotic and spaceship conceptual art on the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica.  Yes, the man who re-designed the Cylons will create the cover of my book about giant robots.  More details to follow!