This column highlights books I’ve written, edited, or contributed to throughout my career, with a new entry posted on Thursdays. It’s “Throwbook Thursday,” ya’ll! (But please do not throw books. It can hurt someone and damage the books.)
It’s been a few months since I posted a “Throwbook Thursday,” so I’m more than overdue. Great Scott! This time out, let’s hop into the ol’ DeLorean, activate the time circuits, power up the flux capacitor, pop in some Huey Lewis, rehydrate a pizza, crank up the lithium mode, and travel back a decade. That’s right, we’re revisiting two Back to the Future reference books I co-wrote for my old publishing imprint, Hasslein Books.
The first, 2012’s A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Lexicon, I penned solo, while 2013’s Back in Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Chronology was co-authored by Greg Mitchell, who came up with the idea of my writing about that franchise in the first place. Greg’s a major Back to the Future buff, and while the books’ designer, the late (and sorely missed) Paul C. Giachetti, and I were nowhere in Greg’s league, we too had grown up adoring the trilogy created by Bob Gale (who thinks I’m insane, by the way) and Robert Zemeckis. We were only familiar with the films, however, and as we learned while working on these two volumes, they’re part of a much larger story.
A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Lexicon covered the entire franchise up to that point: every character, place, and object featured in the BTTF mythos from the movies, screenplays, cartoons, novels, comics (aside from the IDW line, which hadn’t yet been published), video games, card game, amusement-park ride, music videos, and more. It was a mammoth undertaking, though when Greg first suggested these books, my initial thought was “Huh? Back to the Future was only three films. How much could there be to say?” As I soon found out, there was a lot.
This encyclopedia featured nearly 3,000 alphabetical entries detailing every character, scientific innovation, institution, location, vehicle, and business. It showcased a painted cover and more than 25 full-page interior sketches from artist Pat Carbajal, as well as a foreword written by BTTF.com’s Stephen Clark. And it included detailed listings of Doc Brown’s many inventions, along with all known ancestors, descendants, and aliases for every major character from the trilogy. Topping it off was an episode guide to the entire expanded universe, plus a gallery featuring more than 150 covers.
Back in Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Chronology, meanwhile, guided readers through every paradox of the films and their spinoff lore. This book explored the complex timelines of Back to the Future as presented in the films, cartoons, novels, comics, video games, and even McDonalds Happy Meal boxes. That’s how crazy Greg and I went while writing it. It included a detailed chronological history of the mythos, from the dinosaur age to a staggering three quadrillion years into Earth’s future. Pat Carbajal once again provided the cover, along with more than 40 full-page interior sketches. And Dan Madsen, founder and publisher of the original Back to the Future Fan Club, contributed an insightful forward.
Greg, Paul, and I put together a nostalgic essay examining Hill Valley’s prominent families and significant events, from the town’s Old West frontier beginnings to a future world of barbarians, dragons, and sorcerers. We created a comprehensive map offering a comparative view of the businesses and shops of Hill Valley’s Courthouse Square, in numerous eras across divergent timelines; along with detailed family trees listing all known members of the McFly, Brown, Tannen, Baines, Parker, Strickland, and Clayton bloodlines. And we examined the characters’ brushes with fame as Doc and Marty reshaped history, encountered historical figures, and even met characters from other franchises.
A Matter of Time and Back in Time were (clichéd though it may be to say) a genuine labor of love. Both books were jam-packed with information, and it’s only because Paul, Greg, and I enjoyed the process of making them so much that we kept coming up with more to add. I still can’t believe we had the energy to do all this… but we were younger then, and the young are often foolish. If you’re a Back to the Future fan, you might find them to your liking, and you can find ordering links to both in my publications gallery. They’re heavy, Doc (and I mean that both in the Back to the Future sense and literally). So why don’t you make like a tree an’ buy ’em? Whattsa matter, McFly… chicken?