DeFlip Side #21: 20 Years of Destinies


Welcome everyone. This is DeFlip Side.

Twenty years. That’s five presidencies, or 10 Harlan Ellison appearances at I-Con, or four tours of duty in Star Fleet. Any way you slice it, it’s a hell of a long time. But here we are, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Destinies. And Howard’s been with the show for 19 of those 20 years. I’d like to congratulate him on nearly two decades of broadcasting.

I was flattered when Howard asked me to take part in tonight’s festivities. Ever since I joined the show as a regular contributor, he has always given me first class treatment and a free hand to talk about whatever I feel like. He insists that DeFlip Side is a big part of the Destinies. To which I say, thank you, Howard, but it’s time for a little reality check.

Rambling my thoughts may be, but when all is said and done, they account for a grand total of about eight minutes of airplay per month. And that for only a little over a year now. Take the remaining 1,400 odd minutes of show time each year, times it by twenty years, and it’s easy to see just how insignificant I am in the whole vast scheme of things. A gnat. A flicker. A Johnny-come-lately with a big mouth.

Now that you have this more realistic perspective of my place in the Destinies universe, you might understand how I’ve been feeling a bit intimidated about lending my thoughts to tonight’s retrospective. After all, what do they really count for in the face of this double-decade track record of innovative programming and consistent entertainment? I haven’t been doing anything consistently over the past twenty years, besides maybe reading.

When Destinies got rolling way back when, in 1983, I was all of thirteen years old. Now I have a memory like a sieve. I couldn’t tell you what I had for dinner two nights ago, much less remember what I was doing in 1983. I’ve done some counting on my fingers and deduced that I must have been in seventh grade at the time. Even that means very little to me. Pathetic as this is, the only way I could go back and get an accurate picture of who I was at that point in my life was to surf the net looking for sites dedicated to fads of the 80s: popular songs, TV shows, movies—you know, the meaningless crap that consumes your life at that age. As I got deeper into the retro groove, I began to rediscover Chris, circa 1983:

The album Synchronicity by The Police was a big deal, as was Men at Work’s Who Can It Be Now and Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf. Def Leppard, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Ratt, Quiet Riot: musically, I like to think of this as my crapulence period.

For some unfathomable reason, I began to wear nothing but Puma shirts. I had drawers full. Odd, considering that I’ve only ever owned one pair of Puma sneakers, and never felt compelled to buy another.

And if you thought the music was bad, get a load of the television I liked: Diff’rent Strokes, Knight Rider, Hardcastle and McCormick, That’s Incredible!, Silver Spoons, Webster. And of course, we can’t forget the all time pinnacle of TV stupidity, The Dukes of Hazzard. Yee-haaaaaaa!

But there was some good stuff going on as well: 1983 was the year that I started to get into Science Fiction and Fantasy. I was becoming a rabid devotee of the original Star Trek, tuning in every night at midnight on my little black and white television. The Twilight Zone came on right after, another rerun goldmine.

I was hooked on this new show called Voyagers! where the characters actually traveled in time and had to fix stuff that was wrong with history. They had a neat little gizmo called the Omni that looked like a pocket watch, but press the right button and WOOSH! You were swept into the past. Holy crap! How cool is that? asked my 13-year-old self. Ground breaking stuff for my addled mainstream mind.

That was also the year I read my first genre novel, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin. I liked the dragon on the cover, so I picked it up on a whim at the library one afternoon. Little did I know how it would transform my entire literary landscape. It had magic and shadows and pride and comeuppance and accountability and a wholly adult sensibility that was absent in the books I had been wasting my time on until then. It actually made me think about the kind of person I was and the kind of person I did and didn’t want to be. I probably read it about four times that year, along with its two sequels.

The big movie for me that year was War Games, featuring Matthew Broderick saving the world from nuclear annihilation. What about Return of the Jedi, you ask? Well, you’re right. It was, hands down, the big movie of that year, the one everyone was talking about. But then, as now, while I enjoyed Star Wars, I never saw what the huge deal was. I hadn’t even seen Empire Strikes Back at that point.

When all was said and done, I had just barely taken my first steps into the world of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Now let’s compare my juvenile laundry list with what Howard was doing around the same time: making a conscious decision to become a part of this radio show, plugging away, week after week, dedicated to the strange and wild world that I was just beginning to discover. And he hasn’t stopped. After all this time, his enthusiasm is unflagging, his show diverse and relevant, his dedication beyond all bounds.

Dedication is the wrong word. Try maniacal devotion. You have no clue what goes into producing this show each week. I’m on the show and I barely know. I seriously have no idea where Howard comes up with half the stuff he features week after week. If it were me in charge, I probably would’ve run out of ideas inside a year. This bastard hasn’t aired a rerun ever. And if you think he just slaps this stuff onto a reel and calls it a show, you’re sorely mistaken.

Howard spends hours on each episode of Destinies, week in, week out, selecting content that is diverse, yet has a logical flow; finding just the right music the accompany that content and blend it into a seamless whole. Then he edits the presentation to within an inch of its life, cutting out every stutter, every awkward pause, every blip—even in prerecorded material that has been professionally produced. He perseveres until the show is up to his exacting, exhaustive standards. And then what does he do? At the end of every show, every show, he says that Destinies is produced by a member of the Stony Brook Science Fiction Forum.

I don’t know why he does this. Perhaps out of a sense of loyalty to the folks that let him take this ball and run with it in the first place, all those years ago. But since he seems unable to do it, I’m going to shove his misplaced modesty aside for the moment and set the record straight once and for all: there is no one helping Howard produce this show. It’s him and only him, working his butt off until the wee hours of the morning. Without Howard, there would be no Destinies. He’s the man behind the curtain, the Great and Terrible Oz.

It’s been twenty years, my friend. For the love of god, step out and take a bow already! Take credit where credit is long overdue.

Thank you for your hard work and creativity, your dedication and commitment. Without it, I would have no voice. So here’s to the twenty years gone. And for the next twenty years to come, I’m wishing you the best of all possible destinies.