During my senior year in high school, I took a class at Portland State University for 15 college credits called "Einstein's Universe." It was one of several Freshman Inquiry classes the school offered. It was a pretty easy class for me, involving mostly reading and writing, and for our term paper topic in the spring, we had to write about our obsession! A cakewalk for me! Anyway, for those of you who have wondered about me liking BTTF, how I got on the fan club staff, etc, and want the story behind it, here's that term paper that explains the entire long story! (I got an "A" on the paper, BTW).

Going Back to my Future
By Kristen Sheley
Written May 20, 1997

It's quite amusing to me that I finally have the chance to write a paper on my obsession. I've had a variety of obsessions since I can remember, but my latest one has affected me more than any of the others combined, and changed my life in countless ways. I've been asked the question more times than I can remember -- "Why Back to the Future? How did you get into this?" Like most life-changing events, the beginnings of this true obsession were small and completely unintended.

It all started, quite innocently, with a book. A book that I had read a dozen times before as a kid. I was at the library with my mom and brother in early July of 1992, trying to find some reading material for what was only the middle of a long, boring summer. I had quite a pile of substantial reading material collected when I was spinning the young adult rack one last time. I came across Back to the Future Part III, the novelization of the film, by Craig Shaw Gardner. I took it off the rack and looked at it, thinking how long it had been since I read the book. In the sixth grade, it had been my favorite book.

Since sixth grade, however, I had traded the book away at Powell's [a Portland area bookstore chain] because I had read it so many times I had grown sick of it. But I still owned the first novel (which I had only purchased in March of that year when I saw it at Universal Studios Florida) and the second novel, which I had swiped from my brother years before. On that hot July day nearly five years ago, I decided to check out the book and then read all three novelizations in a row. I hadn't done that before.

So I checked out the book. A few days later I was in the middle of the first book when I realized I hadn't seen the movies for a year or so. The last time I could remember watching it was Christmas Eve in the 7th grade. So I called my mom at work and asked her if I could use the laserdisc player, as we owned all three movies then on laserdisc. My dad had bought them about a year before, real cheap.

Mom gave permission and I soon found myself before the TV, watching the DeLorean rush up 88 miles an hour. I enjoyed seeing the movie again so much I decided to watch the second one the same day, which I did. The next day I watched the third movie. When Back to the Future Part III ended that day, I felt sad, empty, and depressed inside. So the next day I decided to start watching the trilogy over again....

If not for several factors, I can only wonder if the obsession would grow as it did. The next Saturday after all this started, I was watching Saturday morning cartoons. The only cartoon I watched at that age of 13 was "Garfield & Friends." When the show ended, I was comfortable and didn't feel like getting up to see the TV Guide or get the remote control. So I decided to see what was on next. If it sucked, I'd go upstairs and get dressed.

What I saw next made me gasp. The show was a cartoon....but it was a cartoon for Back to the Future! I couldn't believe it....although I did remember reading something about the show back in the fall of 1991. Back then I had chuckled and thought, God, what next? Now I was almost jumping out of my skin with shock and sudden excitement. My dad was behind me at the time, I remember, though I don't know what he said about the show. I remember begging with him not to change the channel then.

I watched in fascination as the show unfolded. It was the "Witchcraft" episode, which is my favorite one from the first season. I noticed at the beginning that the opening credits looked vaguely familiar, but it was only later I remembered seeing the show back in November or December of 1991. I saw it about twice, and stopped watching it because of a sudden rush of football games that had aired during that time slot. Until I saw the two episodes from earlier, I couldn't even remember having seen the show before.

Well, it was shortly after I "discovered" the cartoon that two things happened almost simultaneously. I started thinking Michael J. Fox looked kinda cute and I started wanting to read or see a Back to the Future Part IV. The first thing happened somewhat gradually. When I first watched the movie that summer, I thought that Crispin Glover, who played George McFly, was cuter then Michael J. Fox. But in the scene at the beginning and the end, where it showed Michael J. Fox (or Marty McFly) asleep in his bedroom, I thought, He kinda looks cute there! And it wasn't too long before I also thought he looked cute awake.

Amazingly enough, I didn't even remember that Michael J. Fox had that starring role in "Family Ties"! I sat down one day, realizing I wanted to see more of Michael J. Fox, and thought about how most movie stars were once in TV series. Then, and only then, I remembered "Family Ties." Luckily, that summer the show happened to be on weekdays at 10:30AM on local syndication. And Sundays at 7:30PM. I started watching it and started liking Michael J. Fox even more. But I never admitted it to anyone at the time, not in a million years! I couldn't even admit it to myself! I'd always prided myself on being different, and liking a celebrity was just so stereotypical of other teenagers my age.

At some point in July, I decided to revamp my bedroom wall with all existing Back to the Future [BTTF] pictures I had. I was sick of the animal photos on my wall. So I collected all eight pictures I could find around the house and put them on the wall next to my bed. That should have given me a clue on how big this thing would grow to, but it didn't.

Meanwhile, I was renting all the Michael J. Fox movies I could find while firmly denying my interest in the guy. My brother, Michael, an immature 11 at the time, started teasing me about liking Michael J. Fox. I'd deny it and blush the whole time. My mom even started ribbing me about it, telling the video guy when we rented Doc Hollywood the first time that I had the hots for Michael J. Fox! I was mortified! But that didn't stop me.

At the beginning of August, when my Michael J. Fox admiration was still in its infancy, I started craving a BTTF4 more and more. My mom suggested that I write one myself. I instantly balked at the idea, getting a weird feeling just thinking about using characters created by someone else! But as a few weeks passed and my interest in both MJF and BTTF grew stronger and stronger, I started seriously considering the idea about mid-August. Only a little over a month had passed since my initial liking of the movies began and I was already in way deep. Finally, I decided to try a BTTF4. I didn't tell anyone but my closest friends at the time, Rachel Hegberg and Candace Peterson. I figured if I didn't like the way things were going, I could bury the story nice and quietly.

As near as I can figure, I started drafting the story in late August 1992. I remember trying to figure out the perfect way to begin it when Rachel took me to the State Fair that year. I actually wrote about three or four opening scenes on paper that day, and crumpled each one up, moronically not saving any! It felt so weird to me writing that. Eventually I got over it and surpassed my wildest dreams with that writing project. All through the production of that writing project, I intended to write only one BTTF story "to bridge the gap between the movie and the cartoon series."

By the end of the summer I had rented just about every Michael J. Fox movie and finally admitted to myself and my friends that I liked the guy. I was looking forward to starting 8th grade, figuring that once it started up, my little interest would fade away. Yeah, right! When school got into gear, I began to raid the library's periodicals, reading everything I could get my hands on about MJF and BTTF. I ripped out all color pictures of the BTTF movies and began to wallpaper my wall with it. As time grew, so did my obsession. The BTTF cartoon was on for a second season. My BTTF4 was growing in length. I was tracking down more and more info. It gained strength instead of losing it as time passed.

Today, I am completely out of wall space from all the pictures and posters I have from BTTF. Michael J. Fox remains to be my favorite celebrity. I have a ton of videotape hours taken up with "Family Ties" episodes, Michael J. Fox interviews, BTTF odds and ends, and every "Spin City" episode ever aired. I am working on my ninth Back to the Future story and already have plans for at least two more. Išve done Back to the Future....The Ride and seen the store at Universal Studios Florida and joined the fan club. I have first draft scripts from the movies, and the soundtracks, and almost every cartoon episode on tape or laserdisc. I have assembled quite a collection and memorized quite a lot of BTTF facts and all the movies word-for-word.

But my interest in BTTF is more than mere hobby or interest -- it colors my entire life, how I look at the world, and what I've become today. I have no doubt that I would be a different person today if I had never become obsessed with the series.

For instance -- whenever I see black Toyota trucks, I automatically think, Hey, it's Marty McFly's truck! And whenever I see a DeLorean, I instantly go through the roof with excitement -- not only are those cars extremely rare to see and I want one, but it's also Doc Brown's car! I feel like a piece of the movie is coming to me in my world. I'll watch movies with Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson, Christopher Lloyd, Tom Wilson, Elisabeth Shue -- whoever was in those films -- and I'll think, Hey, it's Doc Brown/MartyMcFly/Lorraine/Biff/Jennifer acting like ----! Sometimes I'll find myself subconsciously imitating the characters -- like locating nearly dead-on ringers of Marty McFly's Nikes. Or starting a pin collection on the right pocket of my denim jacket -- like Marty McFly.

At times, I feel like those characters are almost real people. Such as, when I read the stories that I've written or others have written. I often catch myself wondering -- Where is Marty McFly now? Would he and Jennifer be married by this point? Is she pregnant with their first child now? How old would Doc Brown be now? Etc. To me, Hill Valley, California is more than mere fiction -- it's a place where I can escape to when my life gets too hectic. It's a place where I have very dear friends that I adore spending time with. Sometimes the urge to have these characters be real is so hard that it hurts! But as I've grown older that urge has come less and less. I know and I understand that BTTF is merely a film, the characters mere characters. But to me -- and others -- they are so much more than that! For instance, Doc Brown's advice to Marty in the first film is something that I truly believe in and live my life by -- if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything!

I'm not the only BTTF fan out there, though it may seem so at times to me. In May 1994 I discovered a BTTF fan club was in existence. I immediately joined up, and the event changed my life forever -- for the better. For the first time, I felt as if I belonged somewhere, where I could talk to people who felt the same about the series that I did. I immediately impressed the president of the BTTF fan club, Stephen Clark, with my talent of turning up obscure information about the stars and film. In April 1995 he asked me to come on board as "Research Assistant." I happily obliged -- not everyone was asked to join the fan club staff! I was certainly the only teenager. Then, in September 1995, the new film critic bowed out and Stephen, knowing my talent and love for writing, asked me if I'd like to be the new film critic. Once again, I jumped at the chance. I'd have free membership, my own column, and valuable practice and experience for entertainment journalism, which I hope to major in at college. And I also have the thrill of knowing that some of the stars have seen my name and read my writing. I then became the youngest and only female on the fan club staff and remain so to this day.

The BTTF fan club has not only given me an incredible feeling of comradery and experience for my future career, but it gave me a social life. Before the fan club, I annoyed everyone around me by talking about BTTF non-stop. But after I joined the fan club, I had an outlet for that and I stopped torturing my local friends. Not coincidentally, I gained many more friends after that!

I've also met very interesting people through my obsession. I've had an e-mail account since I was nine, as my dad was one of the early members of America Online, but it wasn't until I was about 15 that I started using it. With the technology of the internet and e-mail, I built my own web page last summer dedicated to BTTF, putting my original stories up on it for people all around the world to read! And they've been a rounding success so far -- I've gotten letters from Australia, to England, to South America from other BTTF fans praising my stories, which feels really neat. I've also gained many BTTF friends through the magic of e-mail. I've even met two of them in person this past year. It's such a mind blowing experience for me to sit down with people in person and talk about BTTF with them - and have them like it just as much as I do and want to talk about it as well!

When I look back on the way I was before my obsession, I am amazed. I can hardly remember what I was like before BTTF -- I was truly a child then. In a way, BTTF was my bridge to the next phase of my life. It doesn't surprise me that once I started getting into BTTF that I found playing with Barbies boring and writing more interesting than before. Perhaps my obsession on BTTF will last only while I am a teenager, fading away when I enter my 20's and cross into adulthood. Perhaps it will last for a decade or more; my mother's sister has been obsessed with"Star Trek" since the 1960's! It's fascinating to me how much my life has changed since I checked out that one book from the library nearly five years ago. That one action created waves that I still feel to this day. You can only wonder how much your life would differ if small - though powerful - moves like that were never made....

Go back to the home page.