By Dwayne Wilder
Special to the Herald Democrat
Dwayne Wilder

I love science fiction, sci-fi, for short.

For me, it is the concept of what can be, and of course, all the cool gadgets! I read sci-fi regularly; and even some fantasy to expand my horizons and imagination. As I write this column, I think back about the origins of my love for this genre.

It has to be due to my introduction to science reality of the late 1960s. I am a child of the Space Age and the Space Race. I grew up with all things Apollo and Gemini and command modules, Saturn V rockets and burn ratios. Oh sure, I watched “Lost in Space” and “Star Trek” on television, but why worry about those ‘stories’ when you had it happening for real right in front of your eyes! It was so cool to watch the astronauts and listen to Mission Control in real time (or what passed for real time, at that time).

One could not help but be fascinated by and enamored by the idea of space flight, manned missions and science in general when your entire society was caught in its grasp almost on a daily basis. Basically, you woke up and pondered what wonders would occur during the day. Wow! What a time to live!

So you see, I come by it naturally. As a child during this time, there were other aspects of science and science fiction that grabbed my attention as well. You can’t discuss childhood without talking about toys…

Everyone, and I mean, EVERYONE (well, the boys) wanted a certain toy during this time: Major Matt Mason. This action figure was space explorer extraordinaire! He flew in space and set up his space station on planets far from earth. He and his trusted colleague, Sgt. Storm, fought space aliens and generally did good work in the universe.

I wanted this toy so badly that I could taste it. For a nine year old who just watched a man walk on the moon, there was no choice but to want this incredibly topical toy. If Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (I almost wrote ‘Lightyear’) could walk on the moon, then I could pretend with Major Matt Mason and be there with him on planets unheard of in our vast galaxy.

My parents saw this want in my eyes (and heard the pleas from my mouth most hours of most days) and finally surprised me Christmas Morning with my very own MMM set complete with Sgt. Storm and Space Station. It was simply the most excited I’ve been in my life; to wait for so long for something I wanted so much just blew me away that morning. I played and played with those toys for at least two years- and probably longer- until the preteen years came. They were stored away; and forgotten to be replaced by driving and girls. (Speaking of ‘Toy Story’ and the plot of its third movie!)

Anyway, MMM and Sgt Storm were destroyed in a fire we had in the early 1980s. I was in my 20s by then; and hadn’t even thought about them much since we packed them away. Now, I couldn’t take them out of a box and look at them; I couldn’t save them for my children; I couldn’t even keep them for posterity. But I never forgot them…not a chance! My childhood had been enhanced by those wonderful toys; and solidified my love of science and science fiction. It was the stuff of dreams…

Yes, in these days and times, I can look on the Internet and simply order a vintage set of MMM and have it for nostalgic reasons, but what is the fun in that?! It is part of my past and should remain there in memory and wonder. Unexpectedly, in 1990, I was visiting an out of state city and went to a bookstore, which had some toys, too. I looked up on the shelf and couldn’t believe I was face to face with MMM that day. It was a complete set (just like mine some twenty years earlier). Yes, I could have bought it, but I left it in the mists of my mind. I didn’t see MMM again until I went to the action figure museum (inside another bookstore) in Paul’s Valley, OK. I did want to see all the action figures, but I secretly hoped to see my favorite spaceman. Surely, he would be there, right?! He was famous—a classic.

I began looking at the massive display and almost was disheartened until I saw a clearing in the center of the display—there he and the sergeant were! Literally, in the middle of a lifetime of action figures in America; surrounded by every conceivable replication of heroes and heroines in American literature and culture. I was stunned that MMM was the feature figure in the entire collection of the entire genre of toys in American history! Wow! I knew he was special, but that was incredible.

I think often about seeing MMM in that display; now that it’s been some five years. I remember my time with him in the front yard (or should I say ‘distant planet’). We conquered the galaxy and made discoveries beyond mere mortals’ comprehension. Those were the days of wonder with my constant companion who was literally (and figuratively) out of this world!

Dwayne Wilder is a Sherman native who currently lives in Denison. Wilder’s Whole World is his commentary about life in Texoma and the world. Wilder can be reached at cmandad17@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.