In Sputnik’s Orbit

A few thoughts to tide you over…

 

A Signature of Authors

If that isn’t the proper plural for a gathering of authors it should be. I recently met up with some of my fellow Tides of Possibility authors to chat about writing and life. We gathered in the forest of our shared imagination, around the roaring fire of Internet togetherness, each equally grateful that Luther, the four-meter-high combat droid who graces the anthology’s cover, had not been able to join us. With me are Mandy Broughton, Brandon Crilly, Lilia Fabry,, and Erin Kennemer, Kyle Russell, and DL Young,

Stuart: So to start things off, what’s something about you that might surprise your friends?

Mandy: I fence competitively. I’ve won a couple of women’s tournaments down in Galveston. The prize was a real cutlass—the broadsword, not the car.

DL: “The Way We Were” is one of my favorite movies. My advice to other writers of dark, dystopian scifi is, never admit this to anyone.

Stuart (grins): I once played Dracula on stage. Capes are totally cool. I admit this to everyone. Kyle, in addition to your stories, you edited Tides, what got you into the business?

Kyle: I’ve always been into writing. When I was a kid I’d ask permission to get on my parent’s computer and write. I would get assignments in school to write a two-page story, and while other kids were writing stories about talking hamsters or something, I’d turn in a twenty-page story about a lost prince living in obscurity. I think the very first thing I ever wrote was fan-fiction for some video game I’d been playing. This was before video games usually came with plots of their own, so I’d give characters names and try to give a plot to what they were doing.

Stuart (nodding): How ’bout the rest of you?

Lilia: My eerie innate need to write. I’ll confuse the names of real people with the names of my characters if I don’t do it often enough.

Brandon: My love of speculative fiction started with Star Wars. I actually watched Return of the Jedi first, then Empire, and finally A New Hope. From that point I was hooked by Lucas’s universe, and started reading the Expanded Universe – which I still do. Somewhere along the way I started imagining myself in that universe, and then new characters, until eventually I moved on from fan fiction and started coming up with new stuff. To be honest, I really only dabbled with writing until I was accepted into the Creative Writing program at Queen’s University, where I first started working with my mentor, Carolyn Smart. Her influence was my first push into “professional writing.”

Mandy: Nancy Drew’s The Secret of the Old Clock. I read that book to my brother when I was in 4th grade. It was game over. I wanted to be a writer and entertain readers as much as I was entertained by the first real book I thoroughly enjoyed.

Stuart: That’s so sweet! I should probably blame my big sister. We spent our summers recording “radio dramas” on reel-to-reel tape, and I always wrote the scripts. It’s amazing how well you can replicate the sound of charging horses by laying a microphone under the covers and pounding the sheets with your fists. Later my friends and I made stop-animation films and I wrote those too.

Which writers or books have inspired you guys the most?

Lilia: In two words: Atwood, Atlas

Kyle: I read so much when I was a kid. I didn’t have a favorite author until I started reading Terry Brooks in high school, and I liked his descriptions so much that I actually studied how he wrote and tried to emulate it. Later I’d do the same thing with Frank Herbert and Edgar Allen Poe. I was obsessed with Poe’s Conqueror Worm and W.B. Yeats’ The Second Coming for a while. Lately, I’ve been studying H. P. Lovecraft.

Mandy: I LOVE Isaac Asimov. Agatha Christie. Isaac Asimov. Sir Authur Conan Doyle. And did I mention Isaac Asimov? Love Ellis Peters too. Brilliant books.

Stuart: Ha ha. Yeah, Asimov was one of the best, and Heinlein, and H.G. Wells. Then I found Spock Must Die! in a thrift store. James Blish, Joe Haldeman, Diane Carey, they become my idols.

DL: My first scifi addiction was Asimov, then I discovered Bradbury. Later my influences moved more to the literary side: Twain, Flannery O’Connor, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Vonnegut, etc. I love it when writers combine scifi concepts with solid literary technique like Paolo Bacigalupi and Ian McDonald.

Stuart: Okay, on the lighter side, Han Solo and Lieutenant Worf get into a fight. Who wins?

Brandon: Han, because he always shoots first. If he misses, Chewie can just rip Worf’s arms off.

Lilia: There’s some statistic that Worf has lost 75% of the fights he’s been in. But my win/loss ratio isn’t much better.

Kyle: Worf would win. Blasters don’t have a stun setting. They just blast and burn, so you’d have to shoot Worf a couple times before he went down. And Worf’s not going to let Han shoot him more than once, no matter how lucky Han is. And if Worf is ready for the fight before it starts? Forget about it.

Mandy: (eyes roll) You remember the episode where Worf was paralyzed? He’d still beat Han Solo, paralyzed and without his bat’leth. No contest. No offense to Han–love him–but we know who the real warrior is.

Stuart: Did anyone else find it odd that Worf carries a bat’leth when he’s wearing a pressure suit?

DL: Star Trek beats Star Wars EVERY TIME IN ALL THINGS!

Stuart: Well if I had to choose, I’d probably agree, but I also loved Star Wars. And Jaws. And 2001–though when I watch it now, all I can think of is “who PAID for all this lunar base hardware?” That raises the question, though: should science fiction inspire scientific progress or is it just entertainment, a vicarious escape. What’s your take?

Lilia: The iPad sure does look like the thing on Star Trek – but cooler.

Kyle: In order to say that science fiction is “just” entertainment, you have to really not be paying attention. Of course it inspires. It’s literature. In a hundred years, when literature professors look back on what our generation wrote about, do you think they’re just going to overlook the fact that we valued super-heroes and technology because it was genre fiction?

Mandy: Escapism. Sci-fi is just plain fun. Although, with next year being 2015, I’m really looking forward to purchasing the hover-conversion for my car, as predicted in Back to the Future.

DL: No-brainer here. Ask anyone who works at NASA if reading science fiction inspired them. 9 out of 10 times the answer is yes.

Stuart: You know, Neil Gaiman said when China finally decided to accept scifi and invited him to their first convention, he asked what had changed. They said they went to all the leading western businesses, Apple, Google, etc., and found that without fail, the innovators driving our economy all grew up on scifi. I think it’s both. We read for an escape and for drama, but the best fiction inspires us to think about the world and how we want it to be–both technically and socially. That’s as true of Anna Karenina and Robinson Crusoe as for Star Trek and Hitchhiker’s Guide.

Which fictional character is most like you?

Lilia: Ramona, in both child and adulthood.

Mandy: Dr. Beverly Crusher

DL: Hard to pick just one. I’m cursed with Hamlet’s indecisiveness at times. But on the positive side, I have Captain Picard’s haircut.

Stuart: Leonard from Big Bang Theory. No, Raj. No, Sheldon. No, Penny. No, WHEATON!!!!

What’s your writer’s cave like?

Mandy: My office is in my utility room. I have photos of my books’ cover art and of characters from my WIP, and lots of sticky notes. I have two beautiful Klingon Birds of Prey matted and framed, and a computer with no backspace key (smiles).

Erin: Have laptop, will travel. I write anywhere I get the chance. It wasn’t like that before I had a child, but I guess necessity forced me to be disciplined in my spare time. If I’m at home, I usually write at the kitchen table because there is less to distract me in there. I’m definitely a fan of coffee shops, as well.

Stuart: Yeah, I love a nice quiet corner in a Starbucks or hotel lobby, but I do most of my writing at my treadmill desk or sitting on the Park & Ride bus.

Brandon: I write out of my office, with my desk facing the wall and my computer blaring classic rock. I try to keep minimal distractions around me. But I’m also a huge proponent of writing wherever and whenever the opportunity arises. So I’ll sometimes write in coffee shops or jot down paragraphs on the bus, or while my students are working on an assignment and they don’t need my support.

Kyle: I like open spaces, big windows, lots of light. The best place to find this is outside of the house. I usually hunker down in the corner of a coffee shop or cafe with a cup of coffee and headphones on.

Stuart: Okay, several mentions of distractions and focus, there. What is, or has been, your greatest challenge as an artist?

Lilia: Believing I’m an artist.

Brandon: For me, it’s nailing down a specific project and rolling with it. Right now, I think I have about a dozen short story ideas brainstormed in my notebooks, plus a trilogy I’m working on, and ideas for three other separate series waiting in the wings. The thing that seems to curtail my progress is wondering which project is most deserving of my attention – and, more importantly, which one will be the most fun to write. I can feel characters yearning to be given life, or whole worlds that I’ve only scratched the surface of in my mind. And so I jump around a bit week-to-week so that I can get a little bit done on every project, until I decide which one I want to focus on.

Mandy: Knowing what criticisms to accept and what criticisms to ignore

Stuart: Okay, here’s a hard one: What distinguishes your work from that of other writers?

DL: My red hot, all-consuming hate of semicolons.

Stuart: (laughing) Smart A…hem.

Mandy: A happy ending. These days, there is a lot of dark fiction out there. I enjoy dark fiction but that’s not how I write. Things happen in my stories but I always aim for the Scooby Doo ending. Stuart:I can see that. I favor hopeful stories in the spirit of the golden age, but hope can lie beyond a lot of pain or behind horrific warnings. I suppose it’s for others to say, but I’ve gotten some nice complements for my choice of detail in world building and for my clean style of prose. The best, though, is when someone contacts me to say my story is still resonating days later. That’s what it’s all about.

What fear, as an artist or a person, have you faced down?

Erin: I think everyone who has ever put themselves out there artistically knows the fear of rejection. I think my specific fear was living up to the expectations of my sci-fi loving family. It would almost be easier if they didn’t “get me.” The problem is, my mom introduced me to Asimov, Clarke and Niven; and my uncle taught me to be discerning. There were expectations, let me tell you. My family definitely shoots straight, God love them. I think one of the biggest battles I had was about telling them I was going to be published, because it meant I also had to hear the feedback, both good and bad. But, in the immortal words of the Dude, “That’s just, like, your opinion, man.” In my case, everyone ended up being supportive, but I think the fear is there for all new authors.

Mandy: I have to risk making a fool of myself. I want to be funny but playing it safe doesn’t work. I have to put myself out on the line. The greater the risk, the greater the laugh (Looks at Stuart).

Stuart: Me? Did I mention the cape? I think I’m over making a fool of myself. Almost. I have to say, I was more than a little intimidated to go the LA in April. I had to wear a tux–on stage–in front of a few thousand people–including most of the giants of the genre that I grew up adoring. But it all worked out fine. I think, after that, I can do anything.

So, what’s next, guys?

DL: Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

Kyle: I’m working on the sister-book of Tides, a fantasy anthology, right now. I might be putting another anthology on Kickstarter before the year is out. I have a fantasy novel in the hands of beta readers, and a sci-fi novella I want to publish this year, too. So I guess my plans are really big and kind of everywhere. I’m having a lot of fun with it, though.

Mandy: My specific goal is to release two books a year—one sci-fi/horror/thriller and one mystery (cozy). I have a large backlist. Time is my only limiting factor.

Lilia: I’m currently writing a screenplay (film) about four flawed women – representing a certain virtue they haven’t lived up to – who are trapped in what turns out to be a demented form of rehab.

Brandon: In the short term, I’d like to finish the novel I’m currently working on and find an agent. Then, I’ll move on to finishing the rest of the trilogy. In between, I want to keep publishing short stories and getting my name out there. The most important thing to me is to write as much as I can, whenever I can, and to keep having fun doing it.

Stuart: Ahen. As for me, I was stunned and humbled last year to be selected as a Writers of the Future winner. Humbled because I suddenly had people like Tim Powers, Orson Scott Card and Robert J Sawyer taking me seriously as a writer. That’s a lot to live up to. It’s also a bit of a ticking clock, because now I need to capitalize on it. So that’s what I plan to do. I have four novels, three scifi and one thriller, that I plan to complete in the next couple of years. Meanwhile I’ll continue developing my skills and placing short fiction wherever it will get the most readership. I’m in this for the long haul, and I’m just getting started.

Well thanks guys, any last thoughts?

Kyle: The Tides project was a lot of work, a lot of fun, an a huge step forward for me. I love the finished product and I’m grateful for every excellent story that I was trusted with. The authors continue to be excellent colleagues, and I made a lot of friends along the way. I hope to continue working with everyone.

Stuart: Me too, Kyle, and since you tapped me to help edit the sister tides, I know that one is definitely in the cards!

Mandy: Qapla’!

Learn more about our guests and their work here:

Brandon Crilly – brandoncrilly.wordpress.com and on Twitter @B_Crilly

Lilia Fabry – lfabry.com and on Twitter @lfabry93

Kyle Russell – holeinhell.blogspot.com. Also, check out Kyle’s novella, Absolute Tenacity.

Mandy Broughton – www.MandyBroughton.com and on twitter @MandyBroughton

DL Young – www.dlyoungfiction.com

Erin Kennemer – @emkennemer

Stuart – www.cStuartHardwick.com, cstuarthardwick.com, @CstuartHardwick Writers of the Future, v 30

My First Flash Fiction Experience

UntitledSince my writing career has started to gain some traction, I’ve had a few interviews and conversations in which I’m asked why I became a writer. I usually answer that I always remember clanking out stories on my mom’s old Smith Corona and mention Robert Heinlein’s “A Tenderfoot in Space,” or some of the other golden age writers whose work inspired me. All of that it true, but none of it is the truth. I didn’t realize this until recently, when I was updating my daughter’s MP3 player and noticed a familiar title. She doesn’t know this was released in 1971. She just knows compelling narrative when she hears it.

Wanna know why I started writing? Very likey, more than anything else, this is it. Dewey Bunnell‘s, “A Horse With No Name.”

On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky with no clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …

After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …

After nine days I let the horse run free
‘Cause the desert had turned to sea
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
there was sand and hills and rings
The ocean is a desert with it’s life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Under the cities lies a heart made of ground
But the humans will give no love

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …

300 words. Flash before it was a thing.

Leave a note and tell me why you do what you do.

 

A Small Tirade

Where do people get the idea that any long sentence is a run-on, or that a sentence can be “a bit of a run-on?” Is our educational system really so far gone?

A run-on is a sentence in which two or more independent clauses are joined without appropriate punctuation or conjunction. By definition, a sentence containing one or more appositive phrases restating a single independent clausfragmentimagese cannot be a run-on. No sentence containing only one independent clause can EVER be a run-on. It may be too long. It may be confusing. It may suck, stink, and make the reader wish he or she had learned to read on some other, more erudite planet, but it can never, by definition, be a run-on.

Not that the name of a stylistic gaff is so all-fired important. But run-ons are so very basic, and I see this term mis-used so very frequently by people who should know better, that it begins to get my dander up. It’s like a physics teacher confusing mass for weight, or the owner of the gaming store who doesn’t know what AFK means, or a chef who orders piping hot gezpacho soup.

Stop. Just stop. Learn the vernacular of your profession.

Tirade Ends.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by. Leave me a note and tell me, what get’s your dander up?

A Narcissism Test? Really?

Some Facebook friends were recently discussing a video about how co-dependents “always” fall in love with narcissists, to which someone replied with a link to a video suggesting a sort of narcissism litmus test. The suggestion is that a narcissist cannot answer the question “What about yourself would you most like to change,” or experience a normal, human, empathic reaction to movies like Bladerunner and Good Will Hunting.

Now, I don’t know jack about codependency or narcissism, but after taking the Phillip K Dick lure, I was left thinking they might be on to something. If narcissism is what is described in these videos, and if codependents really need such a test, then they are suffering from some serious psychological brokeness.

My radar might must be calibrated a bit lower than others, but to me, long before you get to clinical narcissism, you pass through a whole deteriorating spectrum of self-absorption and delusion and personality nasties sufficient to set me running. I stopped dating a girl once because she wanted to coordinate the outfits we wore on our dates.

Instead, I married a girl who taught science not because she had no other choices but because she thought the world needed more girls who love science. She had joined the army reserves because she felt she needed to grow a spine. She was assigned to a medical clearing company and had just started school to become an army combat field medic when the busload of cheerleaders she was chaparoning came upon a car crash on a rural Louisiana highway.

She ran through the wreckage and found two survivors: a middle aged woman, pinned behind the wheel with trauma to the face and neck, and a teenage girl, presumably her daughter, laying across the far lane in a smatter of blood-soaked brain matter.  An ambulance appeared, but the drivers were not paramedics, just drivers paid by the nearest town and trained in basic first aid. They ran over with a stretcher and started trying to revive the girl as if she had been pulled from the local swimming hole, not hurled fifty feet onto concrete with blown pupils and a crushed skull and a heart too stunned  to quite know to lay still.

The first thing every combat field medic learns is triage, the art of sorting out the doomed so the living might be saved. So she explained that and had them free the mother, reminding them how to protect her spinal cord. By now the woman’s throat was swelling shut, so she walked them through the second thing she had learned, an emergency tracheotomy. Then, when they had the poor woman stable and ready to transport, she told them the third thing she had learned: when a woman on the precipice of death opens her eyes and asks after the daughter already cooling in the morning sun, you lie.

The ambulance pulled away. She walked back past the buses, sending the girls back to their seats before a car or a snake or God knew what could come along, and in the ditch behind the buses, threw up. Some of the others brought water with which to wash, a blanket behind which to change, and a giant T-shirt to replace her blood stained clothes. She wouldn’t board the bus in front of the girls until the shaking stopped.

Narcissim? Fuck that.

Blog Hop: #MyWritingProcess

I don’t often do these blog hops because they quickly take on the character of a chain letter, however, Gibson Michaels was kind enough to tag me, so I’ll dip my toes in the pool. If you’ve been following #MyWritingProcess, you know that this one is four little questions about the process of writing, and they are pretty good questions:

#MyWritingProcess: What are you working on now?20140409 - ASI - WOTF - WRITERS WORKING ON 24 HOUR STORY _1MW3960
Stuart: EVERYTHING. Winning Writers of the Future sort of threw me for a loop, because now I have a book to promote and marketing and social things to attend to that I didn’t expect until a bit later.

Writing is a little like mountain climbing. You start with a little bouldering, find out what skills and tools you need to master, and then move on to more challenging terrain once you’re fit and ready. I’ve invested a lot in my craft–gone back to school even. With my skills list in mind, I hadn’t planned to return to serious work on novels for another year, but I’m adapting. Turns out, that’s on the list, too.

In the last six months, I’ve started a new novel based on my winning WotF story, built a new website, met and become active in new writing and social groups, and kept busy with signings and appearances. I’m also working on several shorts, am in a new anthology (Tides of Possibility) and am co-editing it’s sister fantasy anthology. Despite all this, I’m still reading and learning all I can.

#MyWritingProcess: How does your work differ from others in the genre?
Stuart: I’ve been praised for the creativity and sophistication of my stories. I’d like to think that’s valid, if only for the effort I put into research and story detail. I always say that even a short story has to take place in a logically coherent world–just don’t weigh down the pages with that world’s crust and beach sand.

I grew up on an airbase on the prairie in South Dakota. At night, you could see the spine of the Milky Way. You could watch satellites pass overhead and wink out as they crossed the terminator. In the morning we’d hike past ghost towns and gold rush relics to find dinosaur bones in the mountains. It was a place of remarkable contrasts, where ancient and modern, scientific and mythic all crashed together. I grew up thinking about the connections between those worlds, and that affects how I approach story craft.

I was heavily influenced by the golden age of scifi, by Heinlein and Clark and Asimov. I try to start from the character of that breathless time in mid-century, when the future seemed so clear, but with the textures of today’s culture folded in. It seems to me that man is forever poised between greatness and doom. It’s my job to dance along the precipice, muse at the echoes, and try to have some fun along the way.

 

#MyWritingProcess: Why do you write what you do?
Stuart: The little people in my head have to get out somehow. I mean, have you seen the points on their sticks?

Seriously, though, the first story I ever sold arose from a friend’s idle comment–a careless sentence so evocative and beautiful, all the literary neurons in my brain lit up. I kept thinking about it for months until first a character, then a conflict, then a concept evolved around it.

It’s been said that all writers are arrogant, that writing is an inherently arrogant act. I think I’d agree. I mean, if you aren’t writing because you think you have something to say that the world needs to hear, I don’t know why anyone would do it. It’s hard and it’s lonely, and not very profitable for most people. That’s not the question, of course, but it’s related. I write the stories I do because I think they need to be written. I make them the best stories I can, filled with humor and adventure and struggles to tug at the heart strings and soul. But when it comes down to it, I write the stories that emerge around me, like dinosaur bones washing out of a cliff face. You find something like that, and you want to dig it out and know it, to understand and share it–because you can, because you’re the one who stumbled on it.

So yeah, I’m a treasure hunter, and when I find something cool, I want to shine it up and share it before it’s lost forever. And then there are the we little STICKS! 😉

 

#MyWritingProcess: How does your writing process work?
Stuart: There’s this box, see, and in the box are gears which I lubricate with fingers greasy from pop-corn eating , and inside the box is Lon Chaney’s brain and… no wait. Different process. Forget I said that.

Some people try to plan the work, some people try to wing it. I like to plan the work and then wing it. Each story begins with an idea, maybe just an image, maybe a scene or premise. I start writing what I have, and as I do, the characters and world take shape in remarkable detail–far more than I need to write down on the page. I focus on just the details needed to help  really envision that world or that character. Then, when I’ve got a good start, I go back and assemble whatever I have and make sense of it. I organize around an idea, and that suggests plot, and that suggests concept.

There’s a lot of cutting and taping and bleeding and chocolate. There is no chocolate. The concept and plot suggest more scenes and ideas and characters, and I go write those I’m most excited about, then the cycle repeats. Then I pull down the shelves and graph the story arcs and pacing across the walls. I don’t really do that. That would be crazy. Why are you looking at me that way? Often, the beginning and ending arise fairly early. Just as often, they change dramatically. It’s a very iterative process. I wish I could do it all much faster. I need to go paint my walls. Do you know how to get permanent marker off the rafters?

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So there you go. Writing makes you crazy. Or is a perquisite. The rule book is not clear on this.

If you are following the #MyWritingProcess hop, drop by to see fellow scifi author, Kyle Russell at holeinhell.blogspot.com, or go check out last week’s victim, www.gibsonmichaels.com

Doing It With Authority

A writers group to which I belong recently got into a discussion of common “mistakes” that lead readers to bail from a work. I pointed out that it may be a mistake for those in the businessaad094e93c9593a4612cac7155fc568a even to attempt self-guidance in this reguard, as the things that drive writers and editors batty may not be the same things at all that typical readers care about.

For example, did you notice that I put even in the grammatically preferable position in the previous sentence? I rest my case.

Lists like this are invaluable, but it’s probably counterproductive to think of anything in writing very prescriptively. Novices (at anything) are apt to take such lists too much to heart, and the result can be crippling.

Dave Wolverton talks about “writing with authority,” writing in which the author’s intelligence, command of the language, and intent are immediately clear. I think I know what he means, and if you read very much, you probably do to–or you will now that you’re looking for it. It’s that intangible something so often missing from otherwise fine stories up for critique, invariably present in the Hugo and Nebula winners, and which is often enough to justify my patience with whatever pet peeves a particular work may violate.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s “dark and stormy night” is universally derided in the business today, yet it pleased enough readers that we’ve all heard it. Dachiell Hammet founded an entire genre on static character description and copious repetition. Games of Thrones has a prologue.

Whether you are a writer or not, in the end, you must choose what kind of artist you are and what kind of work you are aiming for. The best advice I can give is, learn from the very best.

ApolloCon X

I just got back from ApolloCon where I made some friends, learned a few things, and surprised local Wrbarbarianiter’s of the Future finalist DL Young with some swag.

This nice barbarian let me take his picture, but the mean evil Star Fleet officers beamed up from the other end of the conference center before I could catch up to them.

One of the highlights was a talk by David Gerrold, one of the original Star Trek writers who gave us “The Trouble With Tribbles” and more recently, The Martian Child.

Gerrold says he loved and respected Gene Roddenberry, a man “loved by everyone who never worked for him.” He said Gene had a knack for assembling just the right team of just the right talent–and then not listening to any of them. He “could always take a crappy story and make it into a good script, but could also take a great story and turn it into a good script.”

He said the fans probably shouldn’t have blamed the network for the show’s cancellation. “They knew Star Trek was bringing in a demographic they wanted to reach, they were just sick of dealing with Gene.” It didn’t help that by the third season, Gene was working on other projects and brought in Fred Freiberger to produce the show. Gerrold said the first words Freiberger ever said to him were “I screened Trouble with Tribbles this morning. I didn’t like it. Star Trek is not a comedy.” It’s worth noting that others have stated that Freiberger did everything possible to boost the show but that, as Nichelle Nichols puts it, “Star Trek was in a disintegrating orbit before Fred came aboard.” Still, he was wrong about the tribbles. The through-line of humor, respect, and idealism, is what made the show (TWT missed winning the Hugo that year by three votes, it lost to Harlan Ellison’s script for the Star Trek episode, “City on the Edge of Forever”).

For Star Trek, Gerrold said, he bigger problem was Gene’s lawyer, “an evil man who enjoyed hurting people,” and he said the man (Leonard Malzish) had said as much in his presence. I won’t repeat some of what Gerrold asserted about Malzish, but he said it’s funny that even when Gene and Majel were having financial troubles “the lawyer never was”. It’s a fact that, near the end of Gene’s life, Malzish was banned from the Paramount studio where Star Trek TNG was being filmed.

By that time, Gene’s health was in decline and Gerrold had quit the show. Malzish, he said, “was afraid others were trying to take control away from Gene, so what he was doing was undermining everybody that might be a threat. But I wasn’t trying to take anything away from Gene,” Gerrold told us, “I was trying to win him that Emmy he so deserved (and never got).”

It’s all a bit sad. Ironic too, because Gene had supposedly brought in William Shatner to captain the Enterprise because Jeff Hunter (who played Pike in the original, un-aired pilot) had an overbearing wife who annoyed people on the set. The meek may inherit the earth, but it apparently takes ego to get things done. On the bright side, it was fan uproar over Star Trek’s cancellation that helped give rise to the modern era of cons and fandom and the ready market for the franchise and it’s extended legacy, so you just never know how things will turn out.

Gerrold didn’t just talk about Star Trek. He said that as writers, our jobs are to shake things up. “I realize that some of you here may be offended by some of my remarks,” he said, “and if that’s the case, let me say, good!” He also said the caliber of scifi being written today is astounding, that “scifi is becoming not just a genre but literature.” For that alone, I went up and shook his hand. As a new writer and current Writers of the Future winner, I told him that if that’s true, its because the bar has been set very high.

I Love People Who Love Reading

Okay, this isn’t a real blog post. I just copied this from Levar Burton, because it’s just THAT AWESOME. Seth McFarlane is kicking in a cool mill in matching money to help Reading Rainbow. I manned up with my (mumbled into sleeve) dollars. Have you done your part yet? You have? Yeah? Well I donated BLOOD yesterday, so…yeah.

Project Update #22: MORE BIG NEWS! Kickstarter’s Most Successful Projects (Pebble, OUYA, Pono & Veronica Mars) Are Here to Help!

Kickstarters!

LeVar again. It’s Friday, June 27, and we’ve now got just four days left in this campaign. But the response to Seth’s $1,000,000 matching offer has been incredible.

Hundreds of you have written and commented to tell us that you’re increasing — even doubling — your pledges to take advantage of the matching. That means everything to us, and I hope you’ll be proud of what we accomplish together.

And guess what: this afternoon, I’ve got even more amazing news.

With the renewed momentum, we are now one of the TOP 5 Kickstarter Projects of All Time:

That alone would have been incredible news, but the real news is even better. 

This afternoon, the teams behind every other Kickstarter in the Top 5 – Pebble, OUYA, Pono and Veronica Mars – are all stepping up to help us go even farther. Every single one of them.

 

Encouragement

I got a letter yesterday from Tim Powers, the man who wrote “On Stranger Tides,” who’s sold options to Disney, who in his youth, used to chauffeur Phillip K Dick around Southern California.Issue03_powers_241x303

I had posted him a note, so he posted me back, just a little line of encouragement.

Deep down inside, I must be a Lutheran. You know, the deep-in-the-pores, Lake Wobegon sort who knows the world is nothing but other shoes just waiting to fall. I can’t tell you why I write – you probably wouldn’t want to know – but it isn’t for money or fame. I’m not that naïve. And so for the first part of my journey, I could tell myself it was just a hobby, like sight-reading chords in Chopin’s preludes or puttering around with the house’s plumbing. Then I win Writers of the Future. I meet all these souls who have dreams a lot like mine, some of whom are just starting out, some of whom have trudged the trenches and written the guidebooks.

And that’s what it’s all about, really. When Tim Powers tells you you can do it, that he’s pulling for you, that he looks forward to being able to brag on having taught you, what can you say?

Yes sir, Mr. Powers…Tim…I’m on it.