Ask Dayton 99 – One for the Books
As a writer you have written many great books. Some are prized by many a fan. But, what I want to know is, what books are considered some of your prized possessions?
First off, thanks very much for the kind words. I’m glad you dig what I do.
As for your question? Holy shit. How much time do you have?
I’m not kidding. Go take a leak, refresh your drink, and settle into your favorite chair. We could be here a while. A long fucking while.
Okay, okay. I’ll try to keep it contained.
I’ve been reading and have loved books for as long as I can remember. I was lucky, in that while growing up my parents both were big readers, and so too were several members of my extended family. My uncle’s home library is still one of the most impressive collections I’ve ever seen, as much for the sheer number of books as for the width and breadth of subjects it covers. For years, I thought he was something of a snob when it came to books, what with all the history and high-brow literature to be found on his shelves. It was only later that I discovered that he, like the rest of us, also has his “guilty pleasure” leisure reading pursuits, and we’ve had some wonderful discussions every so often over the years about favorite books and authors.
Some of my fondest memories involve summers I spent with my aunt and the trips we would take to the library. It was there, when I was probably seven or eight years old, that I happened across my first ever collection of adaptations of original Star Trek series episodes, written by James Blish. Once I realized that I could read all about Kirk and the gang without waiting for the local UHF station to get around to my favorite episodes in their rerun rotation, that hook was set. A Star Trek reader was born that day, and the habit has continued unabated ever since.
I even had neighbors who got in on the action. Living behind us at one time was a retired couple, and when the husband discovered I was in to Star Trek (and Star Wars, by that time), he went into his house and brought out a pair of paperbacks, each in its own little mylar bag and looking like he’d bought them that morning. Both of them were older books from the 1950s, with 50 and 60 cent cover prices. The first was Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and the other was Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D., which is more commonly known as “the Original Buck Rogers Novel.” I hung on every word in both books, and when I went to return them and tell my neighbor how much I’d enjoyed them, he told me to keep them. He helped open my eyes to the larger world of science fiction just waiting out there for me, and it was thanks to him that I discovered Arthur C. Clarke, Richard Matheson, Harry Harrison, Andre Norton and so many other wonderful writers. That was thirty years ago, and he and his wife have long passed, but I still have both of those books, in their protective bags and as pristine as the day he first handed them to me.
Then there are books I acquired during my military days, which hold varying degrees of sentimental value. Marine Corps Essential Subjects, which every recruit was given on their first day of boot camp, is one I kept because it’s a tangible reminder of those three really fucking odd months at Parris Island. I also still have my worn copy of FMFM 1, Warfighting, issued in 1989 to every Marine by order of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alfred M. Gray. I thought General Gray was the most kick-ass Commandant ever. He was the one who got the Corps back to basics (“Every Marine is a Rifleman,” etc.), redefining our central mission and reason for being after several years of the message getting blurred a bit. He also is and remains the only Commandant to have his official portrait taken while wearing camouflage utilities, which is total bad-ass all by itself.
Elsewhere on the shelves, I have multiple editions of favorite books, such as The War of the Worlds, I Am Legend, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and so on. These are books I first read at a young age, which for one reason or another left lasting impressions on me, and I’ve read and reread uncounted times over the years. It was as a kid that I also read and was continually fascinated by A Night to Remember, Walter Lord’s seminal recounting of the Titanic disaster. First published in 1955, it’s never been out of print so far as I know, and I have no less than five editions of the damned thing, including a special deluxe version with illustrations and photographs Kevin gave to me for Christmas one year, and a super-duper edition my wife got me for a birthday, which even was autographed by Lord before he died.
Speaking of autographed books, one of my other prized tomes is Apollo, a collection of paintings by astronaut Alan Bean, who walked on the Moon during the Apollo 12 mission. That also was a gift from the Mrs., but I had it signed again when Bean visited Kansas City several years ago. You’d think I’d brought the guy a kitten when he saw me unload that thing on him.
And lest ye think I’m forgetting or somehow trying to whitewash my Star Trek collection while talking about other books, have no fear. I have several “prized possessions” from the Trek, as well. I still have the bound galley pages, complete with laser-printed cover and the whole thing secured with thick black tape along one spine, of the very first Strange New Worlds anthology, in which my first-ever published story appears.
Other Trek stuff? I have my mint first-edition copy of Stephen Whitfield’s The Making of Star Trek from 1968. I have autographed copies of Star Trek books written by people I’m proud to call friends. But so far as “cool” goes in this realm? Remember the very first edition of the Star Trek Encyclopedia from 1994? Well, check this out:
Yep. Long before I started writing Star Trek for Pocket, I helped one of the people working on the book (Debbie Mirek) by answering some obscure Trek trivia questions one day on America Online, and a few months later this thing’s in my mailbox. At the time, I thought it was cool all by itself, but looking back on it now? Shit. It’s like it was fate, right?
I’m gonna cut it off here for now. Hit me up on Facebook or the blog if you want to continue this talk, because it’s one I can keep going with no problem.
But before I go….here’s one of the weirder books I have that I’ll probably never get rid of. It’s one of those writing help books, and the person who gave it to me and a few other writer friends must’ve known how useful I’d find it:
Fuckin’ A right, yo.
But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.