Hasslein Blog: Bob Gale Thinks I'm Insane


Hasslein Blog

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bob Gale Thinks I'm Insane

by Rich Handley

For a writer, playing in someone else's sandbox can be a bit daunting. Will the creators of that sandbox approve of the castles being built? Will overprotective fans deem those castles unworthy of the sand from which they're made? Will this paragraph take the already shaky sandbox metaphor just a bit too far?

Having written articles and short fiction pieces for the official Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, I'm all too aware of how touchy those running such properties can be, and how easy it is to inadvertently upset the highly territorial fan base. So when I and Paul Giachetti launched Hasslein Books in 2008, it was with more than a little trepidation. How would fans view our efforts? More importantly, how would the creators of those universes feel about what we do?

Thankfully, I can report that fan reactions to our books have been quite positive. Unfortunately, we've had no way of knowing what the creators themselves thought. Until now. (More on that in a minute.)

Our first two books, a Planet of the Apes encyclopedia and a timeline, were marketed to a fandom with a long history of being lukewarm in its acceptance of licensed publications—so you can imagine how nervous we were, given that our titles would be unauthorized, and thus vulnerable to skepticism and bias. Many readers assume unlicensed books to be of inferior quality, rushed to press by hacks looking to cash in and make a buck or three off someone else's creations... and in many cases, they're right, as proven by the glut of cheaply printed, unprofessional-looking, fan-made reference books that hit store shelves throughout the 1980s and '90s.

Paul and I have done our best to do well by the franchises we cover. We've hired top-notch talent, including Pat Carbajal, whose amazing cover and interior illustrations have gone a long way toward helping us move past the "unlicensed barrier." And we've turned to the experts for each mythos—people like Simian Scrolls magazine editors Dave Ballard, John Roche and Dean Preston; Planet of the Apes Wikia page administrator Neil Moxham; BTTF.com's Stephen Clark; and Back to the Future Wikia page administrator Steve Greenwood—to proofread our books, and give us an idea of how the most avid fans will react.

From time to time, we've had people express surprise at how much effort we put into these works. And admittedly, we sometimes wonder if it's all worth it.

Yesterday, we stopped wondering.

At around 8:00 PM, I received an e-mail. On the "FROM:" line was the name Bob Gale. I stared at it for a moment, my jaw slack in disbelief. Bob Gale? THE Bob Gale? The co-writer of the Back to the Future trilogy... was writing to me?

Oh, man, Doc, this was heavy!

A hundred scenarios immediately played out in my head, ninety-nine of which involved the words "cease" and "desist," as well as the words "lawsuit," "@$%&" and "see you in court, butthead." I knew that Stephen Clark was providing Mr. Gale with a copy of A Matter of Time: The Back to the Future Lexicon, and that by now, he likely had received it. So with dread, I prepared to be told off. But to my amazement, the subject line announced:

"Great Scott, I love your book!"


:::blink blink:::

Now with a DeLorean-sized grin plastered across my face, I opened up the e-mail and read the following:

Rich, you are certifiably insane! But I'm glad you are! And now YOU are THE authority on all things BTTF! Jeez, there's stuff in here even I didn't know...or didn't want to know...or wanted to forget! (However, I admit that I never played the 8-bit Nintendo game for more than 10 minutes — and if you did, you are either dedicated beyond the pale or a masochist!)

Anyway, two gigantic thumbs up from me!


I'm sure this doesn't even need to be said, but I was floored and humbled. Bob Gale... liked my book. The man who co-created Emmett Brown, Marty McFly and Biff Tannen... liked my book. No, scratch that—he said he loved my book. *

Great Scott!

I confirmed with Stephen that this was, in fact, Bob Gale's e-mail address, since he's a friend of Gale and had given him the book. Woah.

The astounding part? This occurred on the SAME DAY that Mr. Gale publicly condemned Mattel for the apparently shoddy work the company had put into its overpriced, underwhelming Hoverboard prop replicas (see story at Beyond the Marquee). So basically, he wrote a letter apologizing to fans for Mattel's disappointing licensed Hoverboards, and then wrote me a letter praising my unlicensed encyclopedia.


Heavy, indeed.

So now we know Bob Gale's reaction, and I feel like hopping around a storm-ravaged Hill Valley, yelling "It works!" But would his co-writer, Robert Zemeckis, react as favorably?

As it happens, Bob G. is giving Bob Z. a copy of his own... so stay tuned!

* And, it should be noted, he granted me permission to reproduce the letter on this blog. Thanks, Bob!

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At December 11, 2012 at 8:18 AM , Blogger ivyagogo said...

Couldn't happen to a nicer, more insane guy.

At December 11, 2012 at 8:23 AM , Blogger Hasslein Books said...

Aw, shucks, Ivy!


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