It was a dark and stormy night. A shot rang out in the dark. A scream was heard. Lightning flashed through the windows of the desolate hospital. Flint Mitchell was born.
Oh well. When writing down one's life, the tendency is to emphasize the interesting things, and de emphasize the mundane. Most peoples' lives are drab, punctuated with occasional encounters with the extraordinary. Mine is no different. I had the standard childhood, in a number of ways. My parents were in their mid 40s when I was born, and memories of such events as the great depression and WW2 still affected how they reacted to the world.
Fast forward to September 1965: I am 5 years old, lying on my father's lap, while he is watching a new TV show called "Lost in Space." I remember being restless. This was no kid's show. The show that would affect so much of the rest of my life sparked no interest in me when I first saw it.
Fast forward to September 1967. I am now a big fan of the show. I remember arguing with my sister all the time about whether robots could have emotions. Years later, it turns out that I was right: robots can indeed have emotions, if you program them into them.
I remember very distinctly watching "Condemned of Space" on our old black and white TV (my father refused to get a color set-- when his father died and he inherited the old man's set, we finally got a color TV). It's amazing how memory can work: I remember the original scenes of the robot floating in space. All other considerations, including the homework I had to do for the next day, were secondary in light of that show.
Fast forward again to the summer of 1968. Suddenly, one week they showed a second season episode, "A Visit to Hades." I was confused. The next week, I was angry, because another program, "The Good Guys," came on instead of LIS. What was going on? We didn't have the obsession with entertainment that we do today. The cancellation of LIS was announced in a few industry newspapers, and that was it.
Growing up, I went through that typical kid stage where the toys of my earlier age suddenly became more fun to destroy than to play with. There went Captain Action. There went GI Joe. There went my REMCO LIS robot, torn apart first to use the motor to make a crude car toy. After the car stopped working, the motor's magnets were harvested-- simply because I liked magnets. The robot itself got thrown away. I didn't want it any more. I felt I was too old for that sort of thing: too old for my own past.
Young adulthood came. I went off to college. I had been publishing fanzines of a sort since my early high school days. One, a ditto-printed fanzine called "Spider," is notable because it got me a two week suspension from school. The school principal didn't have a sense of humor at all.
The last pre LISFAN zine I had done was called "Ostara." This was German for "Eastern Star." I just liked the name because it sounded cool. "Ostara" was like a lot of fanzines now: a mix of inept art, bad fiction, and the usual "sorry this issue is late" commentary. If there was a theme to "Ostara" it was "I like science fiction." That wasn't enough of a concept to keep interest going. "Ostara" was completely and totally forgettable.
Next up, I decided to start a LIS fanzine. I figured that LOST IN SPACE fans called themselves LIS fans, so the idea for the name LISFAN came about.
What I find amusing is that the few fans who don't like LISFAN invariably spell it LISfan or even LISFan. This has always made me chuckle a bit. What are they trying to say?
I had a friend named Marty Klug who published a comic book fanzine called WHIZZARD (it was the fad back then to use made-up words for fanzine titles). He had a friend, a great artist named Ken Holland-- who also happened to be a LOST IN SPACE fan.
I met ken at Archon 2 (a local science fiction convention) in 1978. Ken drew the back cover for LISFAN #1 that year. By the summer of 1981, with much prodding, he had the front cover and interior art done.
I went to General Printing in Columbia, MO (my college town at the time) and had them do the printing. I didn't have much money, so I went with only 100 unstapled copies. While most fanzines go through a stage where they're Xeroxed and then eventually printed via photo offset, LISFAN, from its very first issue, was printed via photo offset.
I put an ad for LISFAN in Starlog magazine's classified section. For media fans in the early 1980s, Starlog was an incredible resource. Their classifieds section went on for several pages. Starlog bragged that they had a million readers, and I believed; it. Figuring out the percentages, I figured that thousands of people would respond.
It turns out that either the percentage of Starlog's readers who were LIS fans was either very small, or they didn't have a million readers (later I found out that they figured on a high pass on ratio when figuring that number-- they surveyed readers, and found that X number of readers would let X number of other people read their copies. So just multiply actual paid readership by X, and you have the total circulation).
Starlog's classified section has been killed by the internet. It's less than a single page now. Why pay $33.00 for a basic classified ad when you can advertise on the internet for free?
At any event, I got a good number of responses. I still had a good sized stack of copies of LISFAN 1 left, so I took to cutting a couple of copies up to do various ads for the fanzine.
The word about LISFAN quickly grew. After issue 2 came out in 1983, things exploded. LISFAN #1 sold out. I relaid out the issue for a digest size, and started the first of what would be many reprints.
Each issue had its own milestone. The magazine continued growing, as did my frustration. It was hard to get art for LISFAN. Sometimes I would be promised art, and then it wouldn't be delivered. The issues were always held up because of that.
I am not giving my personal life short shrift here. It just so happens that all while LISFAN was a going concern, my social life, my hobbies and so on orbited around it. For fun, I would put out a catalog or write an article. For a social life, I would go to conventions and sell stuff. To make money, out would go another catalog-- and so on.
My one big project, the one that completely eclipsed LISFAN magazine, was my book "You Can Build the LOST IN SPACE Robot."
The whole idea for my robot book was almost an afterthought. I figured I would print up 1000 copies of it, and that would be that for a few years. I contacted a comic book distributor and a professional printing company.
I started a new fanzine, LISFAN Monthly, to finance the robot book-- which it did, quite successfully.
The book came out. It sold out in a couple of months. I did a second edition. A few months later, that sold out. The third edition sold out a couple of years later. My book is now listed on at least one website as being one of the most sought-after books out there.
One story is that I stopped reprinting the book because of pressure from New Line Cinema. That is untrue. I simply ran out of money. When I get the funds together to do a new edition, it will be published.
While all of this was going on, I eventually did find time for a social life. For the first time in my life, I started dating regularly. My one bit of advice: NEVER date someone you met at a science fiction convention. If it doesn't work out, you'll be seeing that person at conventions for years to come. It's just not worth it.
Eventually, so slowly; I didn't even notice, emphasis in my life shifted from producing a fanzine to creating web pages and selling on ebay. Ebay is such a large part of my life, and the life of science fiction fandom, that I wonder how we functioned without it.
The story that I call "The Collapse" is a part of my life that I am still going through.
I refer to this period as The Collapse, because at one time I believed that at some point in my life I would lose everything. I was wrong about that, in that I had assumed it would happen all at once. Instead, it happened in stages.
Let me condense the history this way: in late August of 2002, I had a job, a car, a house, a computer, and a whole lot of cool stuff.
In October of 2002 I had a five way bypass and the first round of many amputations on my toes and leg.
In November of 2--2 I went into a nursing home, where I am still lodging.
In May of 2003 I lost my house. One year later, almost everything else I owned was stolen by former friends.
Along the way, I managed to get a computer, and enough money so that I could get back on the net. I went back to my old hobbies: composing web pages and selling on ebay.
In September of 2004, my mother died.
It's amazing how a cosmic throw of the dice can sometimes come up badly over and over again. But even disaster has its limits. I met a wonderful woman who works here. Where that relationship will lead is anyone's guess. I never thought I would find someone in a land where hearing people shout incoherently is a normal thing. But it happened.
And this is where I am now. I stand to inherit a decent sum of money. With it, I shall be able to get out of this place and back to some semblance of my old life.
I have learned the value of patience. In fact, if there are any lessons to be learned from this ordeal, I am sure I have already learned them. It's time to move on, hopefully to future triumphs.