Thursday, March 02, 2006

COLLECTIBLE OF THE WEEK: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, a Media-Tie In

Today, movie and TV tie-in books are gorgeous and slick. Better yet, they're written by a stable of outstanding authors who really understand (and admire...) the material they're adapting; like Peter David, Keith R.A. De Candido, Greg Cox, or Lee Goldberg.

When you read one of their tie-ins you get the feeling you're in the hands of not merely of a fine storyteller, but one who thoroughly understands the details of the genre, and the particularly universe where they're dabbling.

Today, for the "collectible of the week," I'm looking back at what might be termed the pre-history of these media tie-ins, in particular, a book I've owned since I was a little kid. It's the "authorized edition" of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea by Raymond F. Jones. Whitman Publishing Company (in Racine, Wisconsin) published this hardcover tie-in to the Irwin Allen series back in 1965...over forty years ago.

The book is 212 pages (of fairly large type), divided into eleven chapters with titles like "Doom Beneath the Sea," "The Magnetic Field" and "Farewell to Minos." Also - as a real plus - the book is peppered by a series of illustrations from Leon Jason Studios. These pictures are basic, and yet I find them rather lovely.

I always had a fascination with submarines when I was young. One of my favorite movies was the Walt Disney adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea starring James Mason, and I also owned a toy GI Joe submarine (replete with giant squid!) that could go diving deep below the surface of the backyard swimming pool. So Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was a natural for me. I always enjoyed the adventures of the Seaview and dreamed of piloting the Flying Submarine myself. When I was young, I didn't detect that the series became campy as it went along. To me, it was just a grand adventure.

This sturdy, solid book has remained with me through adolescence and now adulthood, its pages increasingly yellowed and parched; it's spine still strong, if tattered in a few spots. And you know something? The writing isn't half bad, either. Here's an excerpt:

"THE SEA mothered the giant gray submarine. With easy strength it lifted the vessel on long, rolling waves, then plunged it beneath the surface, only to raise it once more and bathe it in whitecaps and spray.

Captain Lee Crane stood at the huge, square observation ports in the bow of the Seaview and watched the breaking waves expectantly. At each plunge the water surged over the ports and drowned the world outside. Then, as the ship lifted, the water drained in shining cascades and sunlight poured in."

Well, I must have read this particular adventure of the Seaview a dozen times, and dreamed of wild adventures beneath the waves, manning the torpedoes or standing at the giant windows of the observation bay. So I just wanted to share my memories of this book today.

I have no doubt that - in some fashion - reading novelizations and tie-ins (like the James Blish Star Trek books...) - only stoked my enthusiasm for TV, film, and I feel good knowing that fine authors are performing the same duty for the next generation...


  1. Hi, John! Oh, this brings back memories! Whitman started those media tie-ins back in the movie days, with books starring Jane Withers and Betty Grable and stories about Roy Rogers and Red Ryder, but television really started the book boom. I still have many of my old Whitmans: all the Lassie and Rin Tin Tin and Fury books, plus the original Star Trek: Mission to Horatius, the two Mission: Impossible novels, one of the two Spin and Marty books and the F Troop book, plus the Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Blackbeard's Ghost movie tie-ins.

  2. Hey Linda!

    Thanks for stopping by to share your recollections of these wonderful volumes. I would love to see that F Troop book today. I watched F-Troop all the time as a kid. I guess it's pretty goofy now, but back then I thought it was great. I've read about Star Trek - Mission to Horatius but never actually seen it.

  3. Anonymous1:09 PM

    Wow -- thanks for the kind words, Ken!

    I devoured tie-ins as a kid. I still have my Whitman HAWAII FIVE-O tie-in somewhere...

    Lee Goldberg

  4. Lee Goldberg!! Lee Goldberg!! Thanks for visiting the blog (and for all the good work you do for the genre and for writers in general). Welcome!

    Call me John,- I only use the pretentious-sounding "John Kenneth Muir" appellation because there's a lot of John Muirs out there writing already and I needed to distinguish/identify myself in the Age of Google/search engines.

    HAWAII FIVE OH - now I bet that's one cool tie-in book. I hope somebody out there is collecting a museum or exhibit for all these great pop culture memories from yesteryear...

  5. I loved those Whitman books, cheap little hardcovers that any kid could afford to own, colorful covers, lots of interior illustrations, and of course in some cases, familiar subject matter. Not all were tie-ins. The Whitman edition of H.G. Wells "War of the Worlds" is one of the first real novels I ever read, and that was also how I discovered "Huckleberry Finn." But I recall having a "Lassie" tie-in, some westerns (Bonanza?) and a few others.

    I didn't have the "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" book, though it's likely I'd have bought it if I'd had the chance. I loved that show as a child (I did have a toy "Seaview" submarine, the Aurora Seaview model, and a "Voyage" board game. And it's interesting that you should mention the GI Joe submarine (an Adventure Team Sea Wolf from your description). I had GI Joes as well, more the earlier military ones, but I admired the Adventure Team even when I was "too old" to own them myself. The Adventure Team was part of an entire adventure gestault that ran through popular culture in the 60s. "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" was part of it, as was the GI Joe Adventure Team, the Cousteau undesea specials, and TV shows like "Ripcord," "Daktari," and "Sea Hunt." I grew up in that wonderful soup, soaking in it like a pickle in brine.

    Now, as an adult, I'm writing tie-in novels, collecting GI Joes, and trying to figure out how to work it all into my original fiction. I guess it may have had some influence.

  6. maxmike11:43 AM

    Wow! What a flashback. The best part is, I still have that book--and it's still as exciting as a grownup as it was when I was 9. The interesting part is, it sits on the shelf next to it's British counterpart, a novelization tie in for the Gerry Anderson STINGRAY TV show. Let's face it; everyone likes a superpowered atomic submarine with big glass windows.