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Making of a Sci-Fi fan

When I watched Star Wars for the first time, I left the movie theater transformed. The year was 1978.

Wait. Didn’t the first movie premiere in 1977? It did, but it was not available in cinemas in Germany until the next year. Growing up in the Western part of the still divided country, I was fortunate to see it at all, even considering the serious 6-12 months lag for everything pop culture crossing the Atlantic. “Krieg der Sterne”, as it was called, was banned in Eastern Germany altogether. Different times.

German newspaper advertisement for the premiere of the movie Star Wars

My dad took me to the theater and watched the movie with me. We lived rural with a capital “R” and visiting a “kino” required a trek two towns over. He didn't mind the drive, but I don’t think he enjoyed the movie much. He didn't vocally complain (like he did in the following year, during the endless opening sequence of ‘Superman’) but I could tell the presence of Alec Guinness was the only redeeming factor for him; the screen veteran seemingly out of place in an otherwise not-so-serious space adventure.

German edition of the original Star Wars book

But these are just tangential recollections, pieced together from fading memories. I still remember exactly how the movie made me feel. My young sponge brain absorbed every scene, every to-be-iconic line of dialogue, and the visual spectacle with the brilliant musical score swept me away. Long before Luke’s X-Wing dove into the Death Star trench, I was convinced that this movie was going to be the best piece of entertainment I had ever seen and would ever see in my life.

While my life added quite a few more memorable episodes (luckily, I didn’t peak at the age of 9), the evening out with my dad still ranks high, and solidly in the top ten. The transformation I underwent was real. I read a lot already, but then switched my literary diet to science fiction: Pulp, classic, stupid, smart, soft, and hard. If it was in the genre, I would read it. If sci-fi was on, big screen or small, I would watch it. Many engineers of my (or the previous) generation claim their fascination with the subject began with Star Trek. For me, it was androids and computer cores. Once home computers became available, they sealed my geeky destiny, and I majored in Computer Science years later.

Maybe it is nostalgia leading me to overrate the impact of this singular event. But—there are moments that have a ‘before’ and ‘after’ and they will stick in your memory. I never looked back to 1978 and thought “I wish I hadn’t become a science fiction fan”—so I guess it’s all good!

What turned you into a fan of this genre? Did you have a singular "Making of a Sci-Fi fan" moment, or was it a chain of events?


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