A recent article on The Millions has hauled Martin Amis’s marvellously titled 1982 book Invasion of the Space Invaders from near-total obscurity into the media limelight and public consciousness.
Thanks to my own predilections and far too much time spent in libraries, Invasion of the Space Invaders happens to be a book I know extremely well. In fact, it was one of the great personal “discoveries” of my brief academic career, and a significant influence in convincing me that my own first book (about video games, natch) was worth writing.
I interviewed Amis himself in January 2010, at his house in London; my own book had just come out, and he graciously allowed me to thrust a copy into his hands, complete with the confession that his Space Invaders had helped inspire me to write it. That fact alone, I suspect, ensured he would never even open the covers.
In any case, the recent mini-flood of Space Invaders interest has led me to dust off a section of my 2005 doctorate, in which I explored Amis’s video game interests in the context of his other work. In mildly edited form, for the geekish delight and delectation of those who just can’t get enough of a good gaming thing, here it is:
In 1982, Martin Amis brought out perhaps his most unusual book, Invasion of the Space Invaders, a non-fictional mixture of essay and how-to-play guide on the nascent topic of arcade gaming, with an introduction by no less than Steven Spielberg.
The book finds Amis playing dual roles: Martin Amis the critic-intellectual, and Martin Amis the avid gamer. The two personalities are kept rigidly separated from one another, with the second half of the book painstakingly (and rather usefully, for 1980s gamers) offering insiders’ tips and tactics, detailing how to beat games and maximize scores.
Here’s Amis, for example, offering sound advice on besting the original Space Invaders:
The phalanx of enemy invaders moves laterally across a grid not much wider than itself. When it reaches the edge of the grid, the whole army lowers a notch. Rule one: narrow that phalanx. Before you do anything else, take out at least three enemy columns either on the left-hand side or the right (for Waves 1 and 2, the left is recommended). Thereafter the aliens will take much longer to cross their grid…Advice:…