Happy Future Day!
Today’s the future!
Welcome to it.
In the course of my life many days have been thought of as the future. 1984 because of surveillance culture; 1999, because that’s what we used to party like it was; 2001 because … fuck knows, something to do with black rectangles and Space Jesus; 2010 because Space Jesus did something to Chief Brody …
All of these days (and more) have come and gone and somehow the future never arrived, I mean we always seem to be living in the now. Star Trek would had us believing the future would involve everyone on each planet wearing the same clothes (or lack of them, if you’re a woman).
That didn’t happen.
2001 would have us believe we’d be harangued by mental computers on our way to Jupiter (or Saturn – depending on whether you prefer the book or the film).
That didn’t happen.
Prince would have us believe the future involves … death? Is that right? Why were we supposed to party in 1999? Is it because the moon got ripped out of orbit and things went correspondingly wonky?
Didn’t fucking happen anyway, but at least women got to wear something on the moon.
Today though, today is actually the future. It’s future day as foretold in Back to the Futures I and II.
We made it! And um … yeah. Very few hoverboards. No flying cars. Can’t see anyone wearing their trousers inside out. In fact, weirdly, everyone I’m currently looking at is wearing clothes from 1985.*
Fax machines are slightly less prevalent than expected. TVs are smaller … but not by much. Portable computer tablet device thingys are here. Weather forecasting … hmm …
But you know what? Who cares? The fact is Back to the Future II was set in the distant, far flung future of today.
I was 12 going on 13 the year Back to the Future came out and I loved it … despite the fact I should have been annoyed by the obvious Doctor Who ripping off – which never bothered me in the slightest and is probably just all coincidence.
Back to the Future was the first film I saw with my friends without grown up supervision. It marked the beginning of adulthood for me, a freedom to come and go (at least as far as the cinema) as I pleased.
I remember coming home and describing the film to my parents in excruciating detail. I can even remember how bored they looked.
It’s one of my favourite films, one of those films I can watch from any point every time I catch it on TV without feeling bored.
Huey Lewis and the News became the first band I decided to like because I liked them, as opposed to liking because everyone else did and they were in the charts. I made it my mission to track down their back catalogue. They kindled my interest in guitars and led (indirectly) to me learning bass a few years later. They were the first gig I ever went to (again on my own, for my 16th birthday – cementing my friendship with the guy who was to be my best man at my first wedding).
I became a little obsessed with Deloreans (didn’t we all?) and used to moon over the Volkswagen Sirocco because it looked a little similar. I even bought one of these …
… for much the same reason.
Okay, maybe not from that angle.
I read and reread the novel until I could no longer distinguish between the film I’d seen and the words I’d read.# Did Marty’s thrilling escape from detention with the chewing gum, the matches and the elastic band happen in the movie or not? I could see it vividly … but couldn’t be sure. No one else remembered it, but that’s no guarantee of accuracy.^
I became obsessed with finding a Walkman which was as small as his … and eventually found one smaller.
I tried (surreptitiously) to copy Marty McFly’s style – for years I never left the house without wearing a t-shirt under my shirt. I even found a body warmer (a Washington Redskins one died black) to wear over my (orange) denim jacket.
I. Looked. Awesome.
I also loved his fifties’ ensemble and have been vaguely in love with fifties’ stylings ever since.
Most of all though, whenever I lose my way with my writing, I think of Back to the Future and I try to remember that it’s exactly the kind of film I want to be writing – adventure and excitement with a heavy dose of comedy.
The sequels I like~, the original I love. I love the world, I love the characters and I love the way they make me feel. I want to write something which has that effect on someone. Even if it’s only one person, that’s my ultimate goal.
It feels utterly bizarre to be in the future of Back to the Future. It feels equally bizarre that my seven year old daughter loves the film – I’m not convinced I’d have loved a film in 1985 which told the tale of someone from 1955 travelling back to 1925. But hey, maybe she’s just more sophisticated than me?
Oh who cares?
The future, we made it.
Happy Future Day!
* This is a lie. The only people I can see from the window of my rooms on the Secret Writing Island are wearing bikinis. Which may or may not be inside out, hard to tell from here.
# Remember this was in a time where it took AGES for films to come out on video … and then pretty much only to rent, buying was still expensive. Going to see the same film twice at the cinema was expensive and pretty much didn’t happen (for me) so the book was the only way to re-experience the movie.Remember this was in a time where it tooks AGES for films to come out on video … and then pretty much only to rent, buying was still expensive. Going to see the same film twice at the cinema was expensive and pretty much didn’t happen (for me) so the book was the only way to re-experience the movie.
^ A similar thing happened to me with Terminator 2 – I have vivid memories of scenes which didn’t show up until the director’s cut because they were in the novelisation.
The opposite happened to me with Return of the Jedi – there was this photo in one of the tie-in books which showed Luke hanging from the grating in Jabba’s Palace. The text described him leaping over the Rancor and going hand over hand along the grate … until the denizens of the palace knocked him back into the pit. Everyone I know insisted it happened in the film, I was adamant it didn’t. By the time the film came out on video I was no longer friends with any of those people and missed out on a rare opportunity to be right.
~ Have you watched Back to the Future II recently? Watched it through the eyes of a writer? Every second scene is exposition. Almost literally every second scene involves someone explaining to someone else what’s going on. Occasionally with diagrams. If you just assumed people understood how time travel works then that film would be about 14 mins long.