The 1990s were a very challenging time for me. Leaving my childhood and youth behind, I got married in the summer of 1989. By that fall, I was enrolled at Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, ND. Within a month of arriving, my wife announced that she was pregnant with our first child. Four years, two sons and a Bachelor’s degree later I was off to Seminary. These were undoubtably the best years of my life in certain respects. Ellendale is a small town. Even with the college in session it could boast only about 1500 people. The nearest town of any size was across the border in SD and about forty miles away. Most of the time, the order of the day was entertainment. It is very lonely in Ellendale without friends but we had some close ones. My time was divided between studies, reading (We had no TV) and playing Avalon Hill games with my friends. No job, there were none to be had. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in those four years.
Seminary was a different story. Wilmore, KY is not to far from Lexington and I had plenty of things to do. My father died in my second year but I finished just the same graduating in 1996.
From then till now, I have been the pastor of three churches and watched my kids grow up. Through all that time, reading and watching science fiction and fantasy has been for the most part my comfort. It has enabled me to cope in some of life’s toughest situations.
1990s (Including 2000)
I was for the most part a student and then an assistant pastor in the 1990s. I didn’t get my first church until 2000. My kids were born and grew up to being at the end of their elementary school days. In 1994 my father died and I had a real hard time of it being very depressed for most of the rest of the decade.
1. Movie: Total Recall 1990 (1991 nominee) I have to laugh in retrospect. This movie was pretty cool at the time. It has been recently remade and flopped badly as a remake. I saw this one the summer of 1990 when home on vacation. My movie watching began to plummet mostly because of being in school.
2. Movie: Dracula 1992 (1993 nominee) I think this is still the best Dracula movie made. It made me want to go and read the book. In the days before CGI effects in movies like Twilight, the special effects were masterfully done. Summer of 1992 while home on vacation I saw this one.
3. Movie: Jurassic Park 1993 (1994 winner) I actually didn’t see this one until a couple of years later. One line still sticks with me “You scientists should quit asking yourself ‘Can we do this?’ and start asking yourself “Should we do this?”. Of something like that.
4. Series: Babylon 5 1993 -1999 (four nominations over those years with two episodes winning) Babylon 5 was the first television science fiction series to abandon models entirely and go completely with CGI. The first season you can tell they were doing the best they could but after that it got better and better. You could tell that they were not sure that the CGI thing was going to carry things so they sey out to write a damn good story as well. Babylon 5 has some special significance for me. The summer of 1994 I watched it every chance I got. I had moved my family back to Michigan and was traveling back and forth every other weekend to Kentucky to school. In early October, I was heading back the next morning on a Monday. Sunday I watched Babylon 5 and my dad talked to me afterwards. He had to head out early Monday so we wouldn’t see each other for another two weeks. He hugged me, asked how I was doing and said he loved me. He then went to sleep, It was the last time I would see him alive. While in seminary the next week I got the phone call he had died. I have always connected Babylon 5 and my dad. Every time I watch an episode I think of him.
5. Movie: Independence Day 1996 (1997 Hugo Nominee) I mention this one only because it was the first time I realized movie writers could abandon science fact with such reckless abandon. If you have a ship a quarter the size fo the moon you only need to park it close to earth to destroy everything with the tidal forces. 15 mile wide saucer sections do not need a primary weapon. Just fly over the ground, the added air pressure will flatten everything. The list of this stuff goes on and on. Good thing Will Smith was in it.
6. Three Movies: Men in Black 1997 / Fifth Element 1997 / Starship Troopers 1997 – Seminary had ended for me and I was working as a substitute teacher and associate pastor. Movies were all I had time for most days. Fifth Element was pretty good and Men in Black OK. Thank God for Bruce Willis and Will Smith. Starship Troopers however was a BIG disappointment. More on that in another post.
7. Two Movies: The Truman Show 1998 (1999 winner)/ Pleasantville 1998 (1999 nominee): I loved both of these for pretty much the same reason. One basic theme of both is that freedom means risk and it is a necessary risk. In both movies the characters wrestle with that issue.
8. Movie: The Matrix 1999 (2000 nominee) That’s right nominee, not winner. Galaxy Quest won the Hugo that year. I love Tim Allen, but what the hell. The Matrix singlehandedly changed the whole way science fiction movies were thought of and done. How did it not win?
2001 to present
Oddly enough, my science fiction and fantasy thirst continued into my professional career. In this time frame I have pastored three churches, watch my three children graduate from high school and have a mid-life crisis. In 2007, I had a crisis of faith but came out of it with a completely revamped way at looking at my faith and in large part thanks to science fiction and fantasy.
1. Harry Potter: The Hugo Awards first give a nod when they acknowledge the book: The Goblet of Fire in 2001. The years have followed with this being one of those series of books and movies that has dominated the decade. What can I say about it? I can’t say much. I have yet to read any of the books and I have only watched the very first film. I find the ideas entertaining but not intellectually stimulating. Probably why I haven’t gone ape over it like the rest of the western world.
2. Lord of the Rings: (2002-2004) All three movies were winners. Not surprising really. The unique thing about this series of films for me was that me, my wife and my three kids all saw every film together. It was a real family thing and a rare one because every single one of us liked it. It was one thing during some very tough years professionally that our family could get a laugh about and talk about. I read the books when I was still in elementary school and it was a series I read to my wife when she was pregnant with our first child. I did dislike some of the changes the screen writers made, but all in all a great job.
3. Two Movies: Shrek 2001 and Monsters Inc. 2001. Both nominees in 2002. My kids loved these and so did I. The idea of cartoons being done purely with CGI still causes me problems, but the stories were OK.
4. Pirates Of the Caribbean Series: (2003 – present) It still may be going on. I liked the story on this one except the end of the third film. Johnny Depp and Jack Sparrow are one and the same and that is what makes this series good.
5. The Chronicles of Narnia (2005-present) Three films have been done. I cannot underestimate how long this series in book form has been a part of my life. This was definitely my first look at fantasy books and I read them at the age of six. When the movies came out I was glad to see the CGI did not take over.
6. This next part I can only refer to as stealing my childhood. Remaking Battlestar Gallactica and Doctor Who? Sacrilege I say!
7. Movie: Avatar 2009 (2010 nominee). One of the most overhyped disappointments I have ever watched. Don’t get me wrong, the CGI was good, some of the best. The story however was one of the most overdone in Hollywood. Nature and those who hug trees are good; technology and those who love machines are bad. Liberal crap from a story point of view.
8. Movie: Inception 2010 (2011 winner) As mentioned in a previous post, this is probably the last science fiction movie I saw in a theatre. Loved it. Dreams are not a new science fiction theme, but this movie took it to a whole new level.
9. 2012 winners – I have a confession to make about this year winners. I have heard of some of the movies; I have however not seen any of them. I also have not heard of or read any of the authors at all. Have I fallen out of touch?
These later years, I feel that I have grown more as a person from science fiction and fantasy. How can that be? Well let’s be honest, lectures are boring but story is exciting. The thing is both can have a message, but which one is more readily received? The story-teller is always welcome, the lecturer is shown the door. The stories always a have a point of theme just as much as the lecture, but one will be accepted and submitted to, the other resisted and rejected. In a way science fiction and fantasy make the medicine of genuine thought and ideas an easier and more enjoyable pill to swallow.
Of course, there are many things I like outside the Hugo Awards in science fiction and fantasy I like. However, every year I am reminded of all the past influences of these great genres on my thought and ideas and it is always a pleasant trip down memory lane.