Thursday, August 13, 2020

Comedy, As Black & Cold As Space (a look back at the novelization of “Dark Star” (1974))


Dark Star by Alan Dean Foster, adapted from a script by Dan O’Bannon & John Carpenter

First printing/Ballantine Books: October 1974 ($1.25)
Third printing/Del Rey-Ballantine: October 1978 ($1.75)

The intelligentsia have always sneered at mass-market paperback novelizations of popular Hollywood movies (and even more when those read-‘n’-toss books routinely ended up on the NY Times bestseller lists), and perhaps understandably so.

But the novelizations (or box-office tie-in/reprints)—

Star Wars, Logan’s Run, Alien, First Blood, The Black Hole, I Am Legend (The Omega Man), 2001: A Space Odyssey, Make Room! Make Room! (Soylent Green), Jaws (and its sequels), The Island, not to mention Planet of the Apes, the 1970s Battlestar: Galactica, or Star Trek tie-ins—

These (along with comic books) were what really got me interested in reading when I was a kid, so I don’t look down my nose at them. What? You think I found out about Heart of Darkness through one of my teachers? Ha! Apocalypse Now pointed me in the direction of Joseph Conrad (and back in the day, the book fair paperback Heart of Darkness had a sticker affixed to it proclaiming paternity of the film).

These movie/TV tie-ins helped me, and I recognize that—and I am absolutely certain, this sort of media cross-pollination can assist students—I have seen it happen in my own classrooms!

And, So…
(about five or six years before I ever got around to seeing the film itself—
and then it was a 16mm projection in a side-room at a Star Trek convention) probably the first movie novelization I read was Alan Dean Foster’s adaptation of Carpenter & O’Bannon’s cult classic, the black comedy Dark Star.