Monday, April 17, 2017

What if Asimov had written Tom Swift?

Then he'd have been called Lucky Starr, Space Ranger.

I have to admit that my favorite Stratemeyer Syndicate property is Tom Swift, even though it's, at best, a distant third compared to either Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. And that is because of the third iteration of the series, which came out in the 80s, which was clearly influenced by the works of Asimov and Heinlein.

It definitely isn't because of the original series!

One of the things that both Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys had going for them from the get go was that their ghost writers honestly tried to do better than the boilerplate formula method that was pretty much the hallmark of the series put out by the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

Not so the original Tom Swift books. The original Tom Swift fit into the flat-as-cardboard, all white, all American model that got churned out by the syndicate mill. Even worse, the plucky comic relief character of Rad Sampson is easily the most offensive racial stereotype I've seen in a Stratemeyer Syndicate. And there is competition for that tittle.

More than that, the core concept of Tom Swift does not age as well as well as teenage detectives. An all American boy and his gee whiz use of new fangled technology gets dated and obsolete fast. How fast did his first gadget, a motorcycle, get old fashioned?

(To be fair, the original series, by not pushing the envelope, did a decent job predicting future technology)

The third series was set in the definite future with colonies in space, intelligent robots and even aliens eventually. Which definitely solves that whole dated problem.

And, when I got older and actually started reading Asimov and Heinlein, I realized that whoever ghostwrote the third Tom Swift series had clearly mined Asimov and Heinlein (and probably Clarke and Niven and who knows who else) And maybe if I had been reading them before, the third Tom Swift wouldn't have the impact.

I'm pretty sure the series didn't get reprinted and it's not available as e-books so I haven't gone back and reread any of them. So I have no idea if they are actually any good or if they're actually dreadful.

But they did make an impact on me. 

No comments:

Post a Comment