||Uncharted Content from the Final Frontier - Since 1999
(Interview conducted via email from June 1999 to July 1999)
Page 1 of 6
Please tell me some things about yourself.
BORING PERSONAL STUFF: I was born March 25, 1955 in San Diego, CA. I was an "only"
child, though I grew up with near-same-age cousins (also
Star Trek fans!) on both sides of the family.
I attended Helix High School, where I was valedictorian of my graduating class, and
San Diego State University, where I acquired a B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology. While
I was acquiring my degrees, I worked for the local school system as a Teacher's Aide.
After I graduated, I worked a series of jobs which eventually led to my becoming a
senior technical writer in Silicon Valley.
In 1990, I quit the Corporate life and moved east to join
husband Ricky. We have lived in southwestern PA for 8+ years now, but I will always
consider myself a displaced Californian, and he will always consider himself a
displaced New Jerseyian. We own a 100+-year-old piece-of-junk Victorian house,
drive eccentric cars (my current ride is a 1985 Buick hearse), and live a fairly
Bohemian lifestyle (we're the neighborhood's resident "whacko artist" types).
Ricky's 10-year-old daughter Caitlin visits us part-time (she lives and goes to
school in MD). I am currently owned by two cats, which are the latest in a long line
of cats, dogs, and reptiles, including a pair of green iguanas.
Both Ricky and I are self-employed as suppliers/consultants
to the Halloween and haunted house industry. In October, we operate a seasonal dark
attraction called CASTLE BLOOD. I also self-publish a reference book called
The Whole Costumer's Catalogue
, currently in its
edition. You can find more information about all these businesses on
our web site, www.castleblood.com
I also continue to manage my father's business, FRANZ JOSEPH DESIGNS, which still
has licensing agreements with Ballantine Books, Amarillo Design Bureau, and
GameScience miniatures. And in my spare
I fold paper bags...
Hobbies? I don't have time any more. Basically, our hobbies
evolved into our businesses. My husband and I both used to compete heavily on the
science fiction convention masquerade circuit (that's how we met). Between the two
of us, we have won Best In Show multiple times in regional (Westercon, Balticon),
national (Costume-Con), and international (Worldcon) competitions. Our costume work
appears in The Costume-Maker's Art
(Thom Boswell, Lark Books, 1992).
Unfortunately, neither of us has competed since 1994, although we are still creating
new costumes all the time for clients and for CASTLE BLOOD. I am the founding
chairperson of Costume-Con, currently in its 18th
year (for more information,
and hold a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Costumers Guild
HOW I BECAME A STAR TREK FAN:
I was 11 years old when I became a fan of the original
Star Trek series in its original run (1966-69). My
father was directly responsible for my becoming a ST
fan, and it's kind of a funny story, because he was never a major fan himself. When
ST first aired in 1966-67, it played on Thursday
nights, opposite Bewitched. We watched the first
couple of episodes of ST, which seemed to be as
cheesy as Lost In Space (people being flung all
over and bridge consoles exploding in a shower of sparks). I gave up and watched
Bewitched for about 6 weeks after that, at which
point Dad put his foot down and said we were going to try watching
Star Trek again. By the time he decided
ST was not as scientifically accurate as he would
like and that he didn't care if we watched it or not, I was hooked. The episode
that sealed the deal forever was "This Side of Paradise," and I became one of the
legion of pre-teenage girls who had a crush on Mr. Spock. Throughout junior high,
high school, and college, I wrote about a million words of really appalling
Star Trek fan fiction. But that much practice
gave me the English/grammar/writing/editing skills that became very useful when I
started my tech writing career. Later, when I started making costumes and competing
in the masquerades at Star Trek conventions in the
1970s, I acquired the sewing and pattern-making skills that have led to my current
career. Over the years, my appreciation of Star Trek
has evolved from star-struck admiration of the characters to a real appreciation for
the storytelling and the speculative futuristic technology in each episode. Kirk and
Spock in the original series started out as men old enough to be my father, later
became my peers, and now are "those nice young men." Times--and perspectives!-- change.
Karen Dick and father Franz Joseph in 1993
Please tell me some things about your father, Franz Joseph Schnaubelt. (Is Franz Joseph
Schnaubelt his real name or a pseudonym, what sort of things did he do in WWII, etc.)
Franz Joseph Schnaubelt was his real name. (At least that's what was on his
driver's license and all his legal papers.) He was christened Francis Joseph
Schnaubelt, but adopted Franz sometime in his twenties, probably because he
thought it sounded more sophisticated. (I see his first documented use of it on
a Christmas card in 1936.) He did all his independent industrial design work as
Franz Joseph (no Schnaubelt).
FJ was born on June 29, 1914 in the suburbs of Chicago, the
middle child of 6 very close-knit siblings (3 brothers, 2 sisters). He attended Catholic
school and was something of a prankster/troublemaker (he described with great glee
wearing orange on St. Patrick's Day so he would get sent home from school and get
the day off). Much to the despair of his teachers, he was left-handed, and failed
the "Palmer Method" of writing because he did it perfectly, but not with the right
hand. He had an avid interest in art and did elaborate linoleum block prints for the
family's Christmas cards, his bedroom curtains (a
War of the Worlds motif featuring stylized Martians,
and his older sister Emrie's evening gowns (making an "alligator" pattern to print onto
velvet and lame'). FJ's other artistic strengths were technical drawing, pen-and-ink
sketches/caricatures, and watercolors.
After graduating high school, FJ worked many odd jobs, including
delivering handbills and being a motorcycle courier, sometimes driving up to 250 miles/day.
He attended commercial art school for three years, but quit before receiving a diploma.
He worked for "the Studio" (Sanford Studios/Bon's Studio) from 1936-1937 as
Designer and Studio Director. His duties included commercial art, picture framing, and
teaching drawing, illustration, design, and perspective. When the studio went out of
business, FJ spent the rest of the year remodeling the dining room of the family home
(covering the walls with photorealistic wildlife murals). In 1938, he was employed as
Chief Designer by Exhibit Engineers, a company that made commercial signs and display
cases. When Exhibit Engineers went out of business in 1939, FJ and the former shop
foreman formed an independent company of their own, Design Engineers. This business
lasted through 1940, when they closed shop because it was too difficult to do the
business as a garage-based operation.
Also during the 1930's, FJ was very active with Boy Scouts and
Sea Scouts, and helped develop the Cub Scout program at that time. He missed becoming
an Eagle Scout himself by only one merit badge.
Franz Joseph as a young man in his early twenties.
The photo was pasted on the first page of a scrapbook started in
1935 or 36, when Franz Joseph was trying to put together a portfolio
demonstrating the scope of his talents to potential employers.
When WWII arrived, his brothers joined the services, and FJ
(who was 4F due to poor eyesight and a bad back) moved to California in 1941, where
he applied for work at Consolidated Vultee Aircraft (a.k.a. Convair, now known as
General Dynamics) as a draftsman. The sample of work he submitted was a blueprint
drawing of a single-engine airplane that happened to be the personal favorite plane
of his interviewer. He was hired on the spot. He took a few classes at San Diego
State College (aerodynamics, higher math, and engineering), but never attained a
degree. He met and married Hazel Henrietta Van Kampen in 1945, and I came along in 1955.
FJ worked for General Dynamics for nearly 30 years as a
design engineer, both in the aerodynamics and hydrodynamics divisions. His drawings
of planes appeared as illustrations in the
Collier's Encyclopedia. He was part of a team that
built and flew a full-size reproduction of the A-1, the first military seaplane.
(He also designed the logo for the A-1 program.) His biggest claim to fame was the
design of the bomb pylons on the F-111 fighter plane, for which he was given an
award by Convair for cutting costs without sacrificing quality. His services were
loaned to other aircraft companies (such as Ryan) by Convair due to his expertise.
For being a man who was vehemently opposed to war, FJ certainly worked on some of
the most formidable war machinery of the '40s, '50s, and '60s.
Franz Joseph at work at Convair in 1949.
FJ was laid off from General Dynamics in 1969, 3 years
after receiving his 25-year pin, replaced by younger men with college degrees. He
always referred to the event as "taking an early retirement," but it
was not voluntary. In 1973, he decided to draw the
props and ships as an intellectual
exercise. The rest is history. In 1974 and 1975, these works were published by
Ballantine Books as the Booklet of General Ship's Plans
(a.k.a. the Enterprise
Blueprints) and the
Star Fleet Technical Manual
. (For more details,
see the FJ Timeline
FJ attended Star Trek
conventions and book signings from 1975-1983, then withdrew from most public
appearances to care for my mother, who was a homebound invalid due to advanced
osteoporosis and multiple strokes. He always enjoyed meeting and corresponding with
Star Trek fans, and when he did attend
conventions, you could always find him in the hotel lobby or on the lounge chairs
by the pool, deep in conversation with a cluster of fans, even at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.
Franz Joseph from Starcon 1977, enjoying his status as published author and elder statesman.
FJ died on June 2, 1994 of sudden cardiac arrest. He was only
a few weeks shy of his 80th birthday. He remained bright and active, and
continued to live independently until the very end; indeed, he was a guest speaker at
a local San Diego science fiction convention only a month before his death.
What is your opinion of Star Trek today? How
do you believe that it has changed over the years? (You noted in your
Amazon.com comment about the Star Fleet Technical Manual
that Franz Joseph's depiction of the Star Trek
universe is more utopian and less Earth-centric than it is in the recent
Star Trek films and shows. Please elaborate on
I think Star Trek today is divergent from GR's
original vision. I think the ST TV series have
gotten weaker (or at least further removed from GR's ideals) with each successive
spinoff. I think Berman's & Piller's vision of
ST is very different from GR's, and, for good or
ill, it shows.
First, let me say that I really like the idea of having all
the different TV series. In the early 1970s, FJ always said that
Star Trek could be just as interesting if it
were "These are the explorations of the United Federation of Planets" instead of
"These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise,"
and I concurred. TNG,
DS9, and Voyager
have certainly proven that this theory was true.
In my opinion, TNG took
18 months to get its legs under it and film some decent original scripts. I thought
it lacked something crucial until the middle of its second season. The turning
point came with "Loud As A Whisper" and "Measure of a Man." Then I became a fan
and accepted most of it. I didn't like having the large civilian population on the
ship, although they were downplayed in most stories.
I love DS9, but the
things I like about it are what make other people hate it. I don't mind that
it's on a space station instead of a starship. I don't mind that the
Enterprise isn't involved on a weekly basis. I
don't mind that it's dark and moody and Machiavellian, that there are multiple
factions all plotting against each other, and that half the characters can't
stand the other half. It more closely resembles
BLAKES 7 than
Star Trek (but with
much better special effects than
B7!). I love the political maneuvering
and the spiritual/religious aspects and the complexities of the stories, but
those are the things that make it deadly dull for the more action-oriented fans.
is a deeply flawed program. I really like that the Captain is a woman, and the
Holographic Doctor is a hoot. It has had its moments of brilliance, and some of
the individual stories have been outstanding, but the overall premise of this
series is not space exploration, but desperation -- desperation to get home to
the Alpha Quadrant, and failure, week after week, to do so. Failure was not in
the vocabulary of the original Star Trek.
Captain Kirk would always manage to figure out a solution and get a positive
outcome, all within the single-episode timeframe. So
Voyager is the antithesis of the spirit of the
original Star Trek. Furthermore, in a lot of
the episodes, Our Heroes end up in a worse situation at the conclusion than they
were in at the beginning. When my husband Ricky and I pointed out this stuff to
one of the Voyager production team at Toronto
Trek in 1996, it was a real revelation for him. I don't know if the series has
improved much since then, as I pretty much gave up on watching it about 2 seasons
I am pretty much in-line with the opinion of other fans.
Overall, I like the even-numbered ones, and dislike the odd-numbered ones. My
personal favorites are Wrath of Khan/Search For Spock
as bookends, followed by Undiscovered Country and
First Contact. I abhor Final Frontier
and Motionless Picture, and I don't like
Voyage Home as much as everybody else does -- I
just can't get beyond those time paradoxes big enough to drive a Mack truck through.
I wanted Star Trek: The Motion Picture
to be wonderful. We had worked toward and waited for years for a revival of
Star Trek in some form. I even had friends
(Fran Evans, Bill George, Kelly Turner) who worked as grunt labor on the V'Ger
effects team. What I got was big and slow and ponderous, lots of effects and very
little characterization. I remember shaking with frustration and rage through most of
the first showing (especially because of all the uncredited FJ references), and I
actually fell asleep during the V'Ger flyby during a subsequent theatrical viewing.
Robert Wise had no clue what Star Trek was about,
and when I heard him speak at a junior college a few months after the movie came out,
I realized that the parts he described throwing on the cutting room floor were the parts
that should have stayed in the film. Later, I saw storyboards for a final effects segment
where V'Ger releases the Klingon ships (and everything else it had digitized) when it
goes with Ilia and Decker to a higher plane. The Klingons are pissed off and confused
and attack the Enterprise in Earth orbit. The
Enterprise's engineering hull is badly damaged, and the
crew has to do a saucer separation to come back and beat the Klingons. The effects
team was waiting with a hack saw, dying to cut the
Enterprise model apart and make it happen, but the
segment was shelved. Sad. It might have provided some much-needed action in an
otherwise slow movie.
Wrath of Khan is
Star Trek at its best. Good action, tight writing,
and the superb characterizations that drive the show. Even now, if I'm clicking
channels and come across it, I get sucked in -- it's that powerful. And
Search For Spock, while a weaker movie (Robin Curtis
was a poor replacement for Kirstie Alley), is a suitable bookend. I adore the planet
Vulcan segments at the end. They're everything I envisioned Vulcan to be since my
teens, including the priestesses in the diaphanous gowns. Leonard Nimoy's concept of
Star Trek must be very close to my own.
Voyage Home. Lots of fun, but
also lots of time paradoxes and scientific inaccuracies. What happened to the
time-travel lessons Our Heroes learned in "City On the Edge of Forever" and "Tomorrow
Is Yesterday?" What happened to General Order Number One? Yikes!!! Am I the only
one that thinks bringing Gillian back to the future was a really
Final Frontier. Feh. Wish
this one had never been made. It was horrible, from Spock's half-brother to Kirk
arguing with God to the total waste of David Warner as an actor.
Some of the most excellent Klingons we've ever encountered. I felt the parts
with Spock and Valeris seemed contrived -- it's as if the screenwriters were
trying to recapture the Spock/Saavik chemistry from the second movie, and failing
transition from the classic cast to the TNG
cast. Not much of the classic cast was present, and the ones that were had
pretty wimpy roles. I thought Kirk's death was not as glorious or heroic as he
deserved. (And Kirk is not my favorite
character by a long shot. But he deserved better.)
First Contact: What can
I say: the Borg. And Zephram Cochrane. A little uneven, and more time paradoxes,
but overall, a fun ride.
Insurrection: Why am I
paying movie prices to see a mediocre 2-part
TNG TV episode? (I think the movies with the
TNG cast are having problems with being
impressive enough for the big screen. It was one thing when the original
Star Trek series made the jump to movies.
The quantum leap from 1960s' production values to big screen special effects
really had a major visual impact. The
TNG television series already had such high
production values and "epic" stories that the movies don't look any different,
leading to questions like the one I pose at the beginning of this paragraph.)
FRANZ JOSEPH'S VISION OF STAR TREK:
FJ put a lot of thought into the
Technical Manual. Because the original
Star Trek television series followed the
adventures of one starship, we never had a clear view of the background workings
of the society the crew came from. There were references to the United Federation
of Planets, Star Fleet Command, Star Fleet Academy, etc., but we were never shown
these things. Earth was supposedly just one member of many in the United
Federation of Planets, and Star Fleet was the UFP's exploration and
enforcement/protection arm. FJ postulated that for the sake of neutrality,
Star Fleet headquarters should be in space instead of on the soil of any world.
Ditto its training academy for its officers. To that end, FJ designed the
Star Fleet Headquarters space station seen in the
Technical Manual, which also housed the
Star Fleet Academy. Star Fleet would need different types of ships for
different kinds of missions, so FJ designed a whole fleet of them.
Franz Joseph's logo for the United Federation of Planets
The UFP "two faces and starfield" logo was an attempt to come up
with a non-Terracentric representation for peace in the galaxy. The starfield depicts
Federation-held space (based on actual starmaps!), and the faces represent the humanoid
species that occupy it. (In GR's Star Trek universe,
most intelligent space-faring species are humanoid with two genders, so this was not
discrepant. There was even an episode of TNG --
"The Chase" -- designed to explain it.) FJ deliberately chose not to surround
the starfield with laurel branches (as the movies later came to do) because laurel
branches only symbolize peace for Earth humans, and none of the alien species would
know what that meant. Obviously, in the Star Trek
universe as it has evolved in the movies and subsequent TV series, Earth is the premier
member of the UFP and designs all the logos and doesn't give a damn if the aliens get
the meaning or not. I guess this reflects current events, with the U.S. being the last
superpower still standing after the Cold War.
Long after the Tech Manual was
published (about the time ST:TNG started), Gene
Roddenberry made some comment in an interview about how Star Fleet was not a military
organization (as FJ's Star Fleet Armed Forces obviously was). My only response to
that is: "Yeah, right. That's why they all dress in uniforms and call each other
'Captain' and 'Lieutenant.'" From Franz Joseph's notes (with comments by Karen in brackets):
"FACT: The wording Star Fleet Armed Forces appears in the 2nd line of
Paragraph 4, Article 47, Chapter VII of the Articles of Federation [which Gene Roddenberry
had seen and read as of August 28, 1973]. At no time during the preparation of the
Manual did Gene [Roddenberry] ever mention that he
objected to this, or any other wording."
Do you continue to enjoy Star Trek, or have you "outgrown" it?
I must confess I haven't seen a single episode of DS9
or Voyager this season (1998-99). Our local
independent stations change their schedules so often that it's hard to find the
shows, and some of them play opposite other series I'm following. It's not for lack
of desire, although I will admit that Star Trek is
not the most important thing in my life any more. However, no other show holds any
"must-see" status for me, either.
I have caught an occasional "enhanced" classic
Trek on the Sci-Fi Channel, and have enjoyed those
Hope to get caught up on DS9
in re-runs somewhere. Voyager is lower priority than that.
Interview copyright 1999 by Greg Tyler and Franz Joseph Designs.
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