I’m a child of the 70s but really grew up in the 80s, a time where things were changing from what they were to what they were going to be. We were living in a world that had hope but they were dark times as well. It was a time when there was some originality, a place where new stories could be told, where ideas could become beliefs and where concepts could become things. Remakes were a rare thing, and new ideas were not. It was a time of crass cashing-in on those new ideas, of marketing and greed but it all seemed like a fairer exchange somehow, since we were getting something out of it that we actually really wanted.
It was a time just after Star Wars, where merchandising had shown the way forward. Cartoon series were popping up on every television screen around the word and were frequently no more than a long advert for toys. Fortunately this was still in its infancy, although many of us could see all too well where it was going.
Sprawling Space-Opera filled the cinema screen but looked ridiculous on the tiny TVs that lived in our houses. There were attempts to re-create the successes of the giant movies on the small screen but they always looked like what they were, poor, second-rate copies. None of them achieved greatness and perhaps, they weren’t really trying.
This left a gap in the hearts of us children, we wanted something that gave us the big movie experience of huge drama, of characters larger than life and of machinery beyond imagination but we wanted it to fit onto the tiny screen in our own homes, and into the backdrop of lives we could imagine ourselves living.
The best way for that to happen was to set the story in our own world, in a place we could readily accept, but to take the tale beyond the mundane and out to the furthest reaches of our imagination.
And so the era of the super-vehicle TV shows began.
The first, biggest and most successful was Knight Rider. It was the story of a man with a talking car that could drive itself. The science made no sense, but it was the 80s so it didn’t need to. Every week the car would drive into a different adventure, each having no connection to the one before, taking the audience into situations that were familiar but different at the same time, all the while being wholly ridiculous.
We didn’t need space-ships and glowing blue swords for another week, we just needed to sit in out dad’s car, while we dreamed of one that could talk, drive through walls and jump through the air without falling apart when it landed.
Next came Airwolf, the tale of a troubled helicopter pilot with a helicopter that had guns and missiles on it. It didn’t matter that that already existed and, in fact, the real things were much more deadly, this one was cooler because it had a nice paint-job.
Blue Thunder came and went quickly, using the props and most of the footage from a movie with the same name, and in the wake of these came a host of others, none of them quite matching the impression made by the black car with the flashing red light on its nose.
Such was the impact of these shows that grown men who had watched them went out and built replicas of the car, many years later. Even my own brother bought a Pontiac Firebird and drove it around, living out his childhood fantasy for a brief time. His was blue and apparently, it kind of sucked. Dreams are, perhaps, meant to stay that way.
My personal favourite was Street hawk, the story of a motorcycle that had guns, missiles and the questionable ability to jump over things. On paper, this was a genius idea. The cost of the other shows was prohibitively high. Knight Rider reportedly trashed a car every episode, Airwolf had to operate several helicopters. A motorcycle was cheap, it could land from a short jump in one piece and was cooler than any car could ever dream of being.
Maybe it came too late, the era was ending or perhaps the lead just didn’t strike the right chord with the audience. For whatever reason, the show lasted only 12 episodes, and it never had the time to find its feet.
By now, the other shows were dying out too. Airwolf had production problems with the lead actor and Knight Rider was descending into desperation. Audiences were turning off, we were growing up and growing out of talking cars, of Mach 2 helicopters and flying motorcycles. These things were ridiculous and we were seeing through them.
It was time for us to grow up and move on.
Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, growing up actually turned out to suck, quite wholeheartedly and in a manner that was emotionally crushing. Adulthood was a place of bills and rules and women rejecting us. My brother went from his horribly American American car to various other cars, each with various degrees of horribleness, never quite managing to find that something that filled whatever gap he was trying to fill.
I tried to shut up the voice inside me that was crying out for faster bikes with offroad bikes, adventure and travel. Inner voices are notoriously difficult to silence, or perhaps its just me? Ultimately none of this was working, there was just too much crazy and it was leaking pretty badly into the outside world where such things weren’t going unnoticed.
I had written some other fictional work, delving in and out of my passion for science-fiction and was discussing the matter with Coal (my editor and confidant,) regarding what should be the next undertaking.
I had a passion for motorcycles and my written work certainly reflected that. I had become interested in telling a story that included 2-wheeled transport and sci-fi. I had an idea floating about in my head, a stupid, terrible, horrible idea that somehow didn’t seem stupid, terrible or horrible in the confines of my own head. It just seemed that on the other side of my skull, this was going to be the kind of idea that just couldn’t work and was going just going to be a big pile of silly.
I explained to Coal that I had a story which probably wouldn’t, shouldn’t and couldn’t work. It was a story set in the present time, with futuristic science-fiction technology that was actually reminiscent of the 1980s. The story would have the same tongue-in-cheek feel as the old TV shows we’d grown up on, it would be self-debasing, humorous, despite the seriousness of the issues it would discuss, and be deliberately ridiculous.
It would be based on the super-vehicle shows I had previously enjoyed, re-telling the entire era with a particular focus on my favourites. It would feel like the pilot episode of an 80s television show. It would introduce the characters in unlikely ways, it would set up super-villains that would come back time after time and it would end with a touching and funny scene that didn’t fit the rest of the narrative.
It would be like watching a movie version of your favourite 80s show but re-made for a modern, nostalgic audience.
I would treat the technology respectfully, explaining how things actually worked as we’ve all now come to expect. The story would be multi-faceted, with human drama overlaying the mysterious tale of drugs, murder and conspiracy that lives at its heart. It would have the awful darkness of the 80s, the threat of real menace lurking in the shadows that we tried to pretend we didn’t see, but would be filled with hope, the hope that we can change it, that it wouldn’t be able to swallow us whole.
The characters would be the type we would expect, but modernised, of course. Modern remakes play with reversing genders, they mix up ethnicities and include diversity in places that it often doesn’t belong. I would follow this trend to give this a modern feel, so it strikes the right chord.
I tried to do it in a way that kept the characters believable and real, I mixed things up to keep it fresh and interesting and to bring a smile to the face of the average reader. I didn’t just swap genders for the sake of it, I made the change an integral part of the plot.
There is now a female main character. I wanted her to be real, for the reader to connect with her and realise that while a strong person, she’s also horribly flawed and in a situation she’s not in control of. I tied to give her real strength, so she doesn’t go around kicking people in the head, instead she has a huge well of power that comes from her motherly instincts and takes on that role in the story, pulling together the other characters and giving the whole tale a centre. Anyone who has ever dealt with a mother knows there’s nothing more terrifying, nothing more dangerous on this planet and a part of the narrative is focused on this.
The story is new, a modern sci-fi in literal terms. It’s meant to be entertaining first, but I’ve tried to aim a little higher than pulp fiction. Like any good sci-fi, it discusses real-world issues and addresses problems in society and those that individuals face every day.
Ultimately I thought that a modern story about a super-vehicle would be a terrible idea but Coal encouraged me to try, even after hearing the idea in gory, graphic detail. Every chapter I forwarded on to him, he read them as I produced it and I waited for feedback, waiting to hear that it was just too silly, not believable, just wasn’t interesting or fun to read.
But it never happened, he kept on encouraging me. Perhaps since we grew up at the same time, meeting at secondary school and sharing a chunk of childhood, he kept saying that he was liking what he was seeing, the story resonated as much with him as it did with me. He fed back the surprises as the plot twisted and turned and showed a connection to the main characters. It actually seemed like the story worked.
Once it was finished, I took a break and asked him what he thought I should do next. He replied earnestly that he’d like to read more Hawk-Eye. I thought about it for a moment while sipping on a cup of coffee. It’s great fun to write, it’s funny but not comedy so it’s not quite so demanding to create. I loved the characters and wanted to do more with them, to explore who they were a little more. The featured motorcycle had got under my skin so much that I was already building a replica of it.
I thought about it and the plot simply sprung to mind, a whole new story just painted itself in my head.
It seems that Hawk-Eye is here to stay.
I hope it’s more than just a parody, I would like to believe it stands up as good science-fiction in its own right, and I would hope that it’s accessible to anyone. Most of all, I hope people enjoy it as much as I do.