Michael Lauck was born into a strange, alien world after an evil wizard and his army of karate robots invaded his home planet… Or at least that is what I used to think about when I was a kid back in St. Louis.
My birth certificate maintains I was born on Earth, in St. Louis, Missouri in 1972 to young parents surrounded by lots of family. We never did have a lot of money but we never went hungry. And we were never hunted down by evil karate robots.
Truth is I was just another kid in the 1970s incubated by the pale blue light of my black and white Magnavox babysitter. I grew up on Star Trek, Space: 1999, Battlestar Galactica, Gamera movies and Saturday morning cartoons. I ran home from school to see Battle of the Planets and that first GI Joe mini-series. I played with Micronauts, Shogun Warriors and Lego sets (most of which I still have) and I made up stories.
I would be a damned liar if I pretended as if television did not have a major influence on my life. Preschool? That was Sesame Street. Kojak, Police Woman and the guys on Adam-12 reinforced everything I knew about right and wrong. Never did trust Barnaby Jones, though… that dude looked just like Jed Clampett!
When I was a little kid my family had one black and white television and I never got to choose what was on… although I did get to change the channels for my parents once I learned my numbers! Late in the seventies we got our first color TV. If we were good my brother and I could sit on my parents’ bed and pick what we wanted to watch on the black and white set.
They say television rots your mind and maybe it can. No, wait, I am sure it can. But for a working class kid in the midwest, TV connected me to amazing new worlds where Superman flew past stock footage while Batman, Robin and Spider-Man pantomimed their ways up the sides of buildings and the Six Million Dollar Man moved so fast they could only show him in slow motion. That is fast.
The public library brought me into the amazing worlds of Prydain, the Knights of the Round Table, cursed Odysseus before introducing me to pulp heroes like Buck Rogers, King Kull and the Lensmen. And then I discovered Dungeons and Dragons, Car Wars and comic books.
I never really wanted to learn how to read when I was a kid because a grown up was already around to read to me if I wanted to hear a story. Honestly, it probably never occurred to me that I could learn how to read before I was old enough to learn to drive. But once Mrs. Heitman (I think that was how you spelled her name) made me learn to put letters to sounds to words a floodgate was opened.
If television was a gateway to the world then books opened whole universes! And even better: you could take a book with you. Remember, this was like 1978. There was no VCR in my house or in any house I had ever seen. But now, through a beat up old paperback, I could take the Enterprise or Luke and Han or Tarzan or Doc Savage with me everywhere! Let Mom try on clothes or compare prices of soup cans for hours at a time because I could plop my little self down in the aisle and instantly escape to Ceti Alpha 5 or Barsoom or the moon. Science fiction and fantasy paperbacks took me to role playing games (I am pretty sure my soul is still intact even though I remember rolling up characters in the church basement) and that led me to comic books. Anything with a story, a good story, and I was there!
Not to be dramatic, but it really was the movies that changed my life…
Okay, that does sound a little sensational but it is true in many ways. My uncle ran a movie theater and later was a syndicated film critic. My first real, pay your Social Security and get a check job (at age 9) was to deliver the flyers announcing his theater’s schedule to bars, bookstores and record shops around St. Louis. I would work in movie theaters in high school, college and beyond. I met my wife while we where both working for a major movie theater chain in the 1990s.
But let’s rewind a bit… Back to about the age of 9 or 10 when an older relative stuck watching me while the girls were all out shopping got desperate, turned on the TV and I saw Billy Jack for the first time. It is a long story why it affected me so very deeply but the important thing was by the time the credits hit I knew that I was destined to learn martial arts. And I did. Who would I be today without the Wu family system of Shaolin Black Dragon Fist in my life?
There are lots of other parts and stories that went into me, but those are the big pieces making me who I am and the kind of writer I am… Stories about first responders in the depths of space and families of valiant martial artists on a never-world patterned after pulp sword and sorcery tales and Shaw Brothers kung fu movies. I just hope you will come along for the ride… The just and righteous might not always prevail but I promise you they will put up one hell of a fight!