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Karen Dick
(Interview conducted via email from June 1999 to July 1999)


Page 6 of 6

Q21
Tyler: In World of Star Trek, David Gerrold described Star Trek fandom as it existed in the 1970s. He mentioned how there was a great deal of communication between fans via conventional mail. How would Star Trek fandom of the 1970s have been different had people had access to the Internet? Do you think that Bjo Trimble's campaign to save Star Trek in the 1960s would have been more or less successful had fans had Internet access then?
Dick: The 1970s would have been incredible if we'd had the Internet. Information would have moved at a much faster speed. (Even today, I think of the Internet as the equivalent of the Enterprise's library computer -- you can find information about just about anything!) Then again, all the flame wars and fannish disputes would have moved at a much faster speed, too.
I'm not sure the ST letter-writing campaign could have been improved upon. I've been part of letter-writing campaigns to save other series (Our World, Beauty and the Beast, Forever Knight, etc.) that were broadcast either over e-mail or the Internet, and most of said series didn't get saved in spite of huge outpourings of fan support. Recently, Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman got cancelled despite massive letter-writing, picketing, etc. by fans. The networks just don't give a damn any more -- they'll program whatever they want in a given time slot to attract whatever audience demographic they think is important. Witness the explosion of teen-based shows for the 1999-2000 season, when the majority of the population is much older than that. It's senseless. I think the Star Trek letter-writing campaign succeeded largely because there hadn't been anything like it before, and the network execs were caught off-guard and dumbfounded by the volume of mail. Now that it's been done repeatedly, it doesn't have the same impact.
Q22
Tyler: If there were one question you'd like to ask Gene Roddenberry, what would it be? If there were one question you'd like to ask the folks at Paramount, what would it be?
Dick: Yipes. I don't think there is anything I could ask either of them that I don't already know the answer to already. The answer to any "Why?" questions is: "We were trying to protect our valuable media property and avoid paying royalties to an outsider."
I guess the best question for both is: "My father never intended to do anything to threaten you or hurt your interests. Can't we all just try to get along?"
Q23
Tyler: Is there anything you'd like to say to Star Trek fans, about the Star Trek series or films, your father's works, Trek fandom, or just general comments?
Dick: First, and most important, I'd like to say I still love Star Trek in all its permutations. I've been a Star Trek fan for 75% of my life now. I will be a Star Trek fan when I leave this planet. Just because what's out there has nothing to do anymore with my father's work doesn't prevent me from enjoying it. I still try to see the films on opening day, and I follow the series as best I can with my weird schedule.
Second, this interview should have been done a long time ago, preferably while FJ was still alive. It's been 20+ years, "canon" Star Trek and FJ's design work have diverged so much now that reconciliation is impossible, and I am resigned to that. While FJ learned to use a computer when he was 70, he never got onto the Internet, and never even had email. Therefore, he never had a forum to defend himself to Star Trek fans. Franz Joseph Designs desperately needs a web site and a voice, and I just haven't had the time to put it together. (Anyone out there who's self-employed will understand why.) I want to thank Gregory Tyler for contacting me, and for supplying me with this forum to at least start getting the word out.
I defended FJ once in the mid-1980s on CompuServe's Star Trek Forum, when some innocent fan asked why FJ's ship designs were not being used in the Star Trek movies and on ST:TNG, and Mike Okuda answered that FJ was a fan kook and his stuff was never approved by GR. (I am not mad at Mike; he didn't know FJ and was simply repeating the party line handed to him by GR. I'm not even sure I'm mad at GR any more, but I digress...) After that, I was so caught up in my own life that I had no idea of the accumulated volume of material discrediting FJ's work until I started doing my research for this interview. Now it's a matter of honor for me to clear FJ's name in the annals of Star Trek history.
[Long-overdue 2000 update: Michael Okuda contacted me in summer of 1999 before this website "went live." He'd found me through my review of the Tech Manual on amazon.com. He wanted to include FJ in a sidebar in a new book he was working on about the evolution of the Enterprise. And he really shed some light for me on why he'd made the comments he had on CompuServe back in the mid-'80s. It seems he had written FJ a fan letter back in the 70's when the TM was originally published -- long before Mike was involved with the production end of ST at all. FJ had written back in his "Federation bureaucrat" persona in a somewhat patronizing tone (sometimes, his answers to technical questions were something like "You primitive 20th Century humans aren't ready to understand that information yet"), which had (a) understandably put Mike off, and (b) made him think FJ was *ahem!* more than a little "eccentric." Hence the "fan kook" comment I attributed to Mike in the 1999 interview. However, Mike and other ST production designers genuinely admire FJ's contributions in trying to quantify the guts of the Enterprise and figure out what 23rd Century technology might be like (which is best expressed in the booklet that comes with Rick Sternbach's Star Trek: The Next Generation Enterprise Blueprints), and he wanted to make sure FJ got a positive mention in his upcoming book. Naturally, I am very pleased about this "tip of the hat" to FJ.]
[2001 update: For all of you who have been contacting me and asking what happened with Mike Okuda's book on the evolution of the Enterprise -- it was cancelled by Pocket Books before its publication, as Star Trek is now a "soft" market. Perhaps the new Enterprise television series will generate more interest for a book of this type.]
I came into this interview very bitter and prepared to paint black hats on both GR and Paramount. Then I started putting together the FJ Timeline as a reference aid based on FJ's work journals. And I read things in the notes that I had never known before. I was 18-20 years old when most of the interaction between GR and FJ was taking place, and FJ didn't clue me in on some of the fine points that I am just now discovering by reading his papers five years after his death. Some of what I'm reading makes me cringe, because I know how FJ thought and acted, and I know what he meant to do, and also I know how his actions must have been misinterpreted by the very people he was trying not to offend.
Then Greg Tyler helped me research and fill the significant Star Trek movie production dates into the FJ Timeline, and YOW! A whole different level of meaning surfaced. If you can read between the lines, you'll see it, too. For me, it's like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I see all the misunderstandings and bad timing and horrible synergy going on between GR, FJ, and Lou Mindling at Paramount, and I want to yell,"No, stop, please! Talk to each other and say what you really mean!" I had no idea. I'm not sure anyone had an idea, even the players themselves. And it's 20 years too late to fix it. I come out of this interview saddened rather than angered, and at least having some understanding as to why GR and Paramount acted as they did to discredit FJ. I just wish FJ was still around so I could explain the epiphany I've had.
Third, all of the above doesn't mean that FJ doesn't deserve a place in official Star Trek history. His were the seminal technical works on Star Trek. They undoubtedly inspired the Blueprints and Tech Manuals for all the "canon" versions, because nobody had ever thought to use those formats before. And STAR TREK production people now put far more thought into Treknology than they ever did for the original series. That's FJ's influence, too.
It also should be apparent from the FJ Timeline and from this interview that GR not only knew FJ, but approved of his design work for at least 2 years. FJ's work deserves to be part of the official history of Star Trek at least as much as any rejected script or aborted TV series. It certainly has been seen by more people and had more influence than either of the latter items. It should be obvious in my answer to Q19 that some of FJ's "corrections" to the original series made in the Tech Manual later became "canon" in the movies or TNG -- with no credit to FJ, of course.
It's also obvious to me that GR and Lou Mindling must have really liked FJ's design work because, despite repeated conflicts, they continually went to bat for him. GR got FJ the Planet Earth design job and the Smithsonian display at the National Air and Space Museum. Mr. Mindling played matchmaker between FJ and Ballantine Books, and bent over backwards to see that the Technical Manual got published, despite having to make unheard-of concessions on Paramount's part. Mr. Mindling also tried repeatedly to get FJ involved with the first Star Trek movie project. At any point, both of these very powerful men could've said, "Screw you, you're an amateur out of your league, take your drawings and go home." The fact that they did not is very telling to me.
Fourth, I ask of all Star Trek fans out there, please, please, please (!!!) take my father's works for what they are: things that were created in the 10-year gap between the first series and the first movie, when even GR didn't think there would be any more live-action installments in the Star Trek universe. It's not fair to compare FJ's design work with subsequent movies/series, as FJ had no idea these things would come to be. In fact, if he'd known there were going to be future movies/series, FJ never would have drawn anything extrapolative at all because he had no desire to be in conflict with GR or any of GR's creations.
Yes, the TM looks dated. It was drawn 25 years ago by an artist with a design aesthetic acquired in the 1930s and '40s. The text was typewritten on a manual typewriter, or was painstakingly laid out using zip-a-tone rub-on lettering. Today, it would be laid out on a computer using the latest in desktop publishing programs. Maybe it wouldn't be in book form at all, but on a CD-ROM. As I related above, my ex-husband and I wanted to update it, and Paramount wouldn't let us do it. I want to put a Forward into the Tech Manual, explaining some of the things I've discussed in this interview and explaining why FJ's designs are discrepant with "canon," and Ballantine is evasive about letting me do it. (I swore to them I can do it without saying a single nasty word about Paramount or GR.) Yet Ballantine continues printing a new edition of the book every 5 years, and Paramount lets 'em do it. I m grateful that it keeps FJ's name and work out there, but I don't get their motives.
Yes, a lot of the stuff in the Tech Manual is not "canon." "Canon" did not come to exist until a minimum of 4 years after the TM was published. In fact, large parts of "canon" apparently were developed to discredit the TM. Don't let the political part of "canon" ruin your appreciation of FJ's groundbreaking design work. Just because Star Trek has evolved in a different direction from what FJ postulated doesn't mean that FJ wasn't part of the process, or that FJ's design work is totally invalid. FJ's concepts are internally consistent, and I think they would have worked with the right storylines to back them (indeed, they seem to work fine for Star Fleet Battles). If events had fallen differently in 1973-1976, you might be watching a different Star Trek today -- one with Dreadnoughts' and a Star Fleet HQ space station. Take the kindly view and think of FJ's designs as an alternate universe, or a road not taken, not as blasphemous heresy that has to be nuked out of existence.
And yes, of course I'm defending FJ's work because he was my father and I loved him and I wish, above all things, to honor his memory. But from all the fan letters he received over the years, and from all the email I still receive from complete strangers on the basis of my book review of the TM posted on www.amazon.com, I am not alone in my thinking.
Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who takes the time and effort to read this interview. I know it's long and convoluted and verbose, but most real-life stories are.
And yes, the contents are copyright 1999 by Greg Tyler and Franz Joseph Designs and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without express written permission, and any references to Star Trek are not meant to violate copyrights held by Paramount Pictures Corporation. And yes, some of the contents are my opinion and may conflict with the opinions of official Star Trek sources.
Anyone wishing to contact me to discuss Franz Joseph, Star Trek, or anything else within reason, may do so at franzjosephdesigns@yahoo.com. If you disagree with my opinions above, that is your right, but please, if you choose to contact me, keep your discussion civil. I am a tired, middle-aged lady with numerous battle scars from the flame wars of my youth. Served my time in Star Trek club politics in the 1970s, anime and Blakes 7 club politics in the 1980s, and costume competition politics in the 1980s/1990s. Been there, done that, don't want to waste what's left of my life in arguments with other people. Let's just agree to disagree, OK?
As Franz Joseph would say: "Peace in the Galaxy,"
--Karen (Schnaubelt) Dick
P.S. [added January 2, 2002] As of this writing, Ballantine has not published the Blueprints in at least 15 years, and the Technical Manual in over five years (they skipped Star Trek's 35th Anniversary in 2001). I would self-publish to get them back in print, but Ballantine holds the publication rights "in perpetuity and in all media." So if you enjoyed these publications and want to see them in print, please write to Ballantine Books Inc., 201 E. 50th Street, New York, NY 10022, and tell them so. Thank you.
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Interview copyright 1999 by Greg Tyler and Franz Joseph Designs.


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