Richard Arnold: The Interview, part 4

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Timothy W. Lynch

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Sep 9, 1991, 9:26:15 PM9/9/91
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This is part 4 of the interview with Richard Arnold. Both this part and the
next part deal with specific allegations made by authors against Richard and
Richard's responses to them. If you don't care, don't continue on.

Tim Lynch

TL: Hmm. Now, some specifics. There've been a lot of...allegations made,
by various parties, all over the place. And, I thought, you'd want to put
your own stamp--

RA: Not my own stamp. I can answer with the truth...because I know that an
awful lot was going around. Certainly the last few days, where I didn't show
up at a convention in New York, because I was in Greece on holiday, and I
didn't show up at the convention in Sacramento because I had never told Adam
[Malin, of Creation] that I would...and I was supposedly going to be at both
places. But the rumors started to fly around that I'd been fired.

TL: Well, clearly _that_ one's not true, because we're here.

RA: Right. And then it exploded to "he _has_ been fired", and then suddenly
people are planning parties and so on, which was very amusing to all of us
here, because, I'm not the only person who reads this, there are other people
here on the show who read the computer networks, and people were calling up
and saying, "gee, it's too bad we're not going to be working with you any
more." It was like, "Oh, NOW what?", right. We were even laughing about
this. These people were being very irresponsible--they never even bothered to
call and check. They just assumed, and said things in, in print form, if you
will, in a public forum, that were terribly irresponsible...and all they had
to do was to call and check. And it's probably, the only reason that we're
sitting here and talking right now, is that it was getting so out of hand that
when people started getting on and said "no, I've just checked, in fact he
isn't fired, I just spoke to him at the studio," rather than everybody saying
"oh, we're wrong, oh how embarrassing," you know, "we shouldn't have said
this," people then started coming on and saying "I betcha that must have
inflated his already inflated ego, that all this happened," which again is
assuming that I'm the bastard bad-guy that they've all believed I am all
along, when none of these people know me. And this is what really hurts, is
other than Peter David, I haven't met any of these people. And it's as bad as
somebody, because they dislike the President for his politics, saying terrible
things about how he is in bed with his wife. That's getting beyond your
disagreement politically, and, and...it's character assassination, and...with
the President, that's probably illegal, because he's the only person you can't
assassinate legally or whatever it is. But I've been targeted for that for a
long time, and basically ignored it, at the studio's suggestion, because it's
probably better that people go after me than Gene anyway--he's got enough to
deal with. He has said that he has more trouble dealing with the publication
of one book than 26 episodes of Star Trek a year. And it shouldn't be that
way. It really shouldn't. There should be a hell of a lot more cooperation
at both ends. But, we're _getting_ it now! We're finally getting it--it's
really starting to work out. But the problem is that, for a couple of years
there, it seemed that every book was a battle. Not every book. We have found
that there are some very strong writers--not necessarily the best, or the most
talented in the style of writing itself, but that can tell a Star Trek story
well, and even though in talking with the writers on this show, their favorite
books have not been my favorite books, but when we talk about which are the
best Star Trek books we agree on that. Which are the best written books, no,
we don't agree on, because, as I've said, I'm not a writer--I don't
know...character arc, I don't know...you know...setup and so on. But I know
when I'm reading something whether I'm picturing Star Trek in my head or if
I'm watching something where I have absolutely no idea what it is. Because
our people aren't involved. And that's where any writer coming in, or anybody
reading the network and knows about how this show works, anybody coming in and
starting to pitch a story to our staff here, will be cut off cold with the
question, "I hear a lot about your characters, but what about our characters?
This show is about our team."

TL: Yes, Robert mentioned some of this to me.

RA: Right, right.

TL: Anyway, some of the allegations that have been...as you say...are...I
guess a mixture of the political and the personal things, definitely things
that have been specifically listing you rather than Gene.

RA: Okay.

TL: One of them, which, depending on how closely you've been reading the
Usenet stuff you have no doubt seen, is the infamous "Robert Bruce Banner"
pseudonym issue of the comic that Peter wrote after he left as regular writer.
Now, at least according to what's been said, that issue had more violence in
it than a storyline which had been allegedly rejected earlier as being too
violent, and yet, this one passed through with virtually no changes. On the
face of it, at least, that doesn't sound good. There may be more to it--

RA: Violence at times in Star Trek is acceptable. Look at "Conspiracy."
Look at "The Best of Both Worlds." If the story's well written. But if it's
for the sake of violence, no. And, in going through those particular comics,
the story is what's important, what it's saying, where it's taking you, is it
necessary at all. And at times, I have questioned the level of violence in
something and Gene's said, "no, that's fine, let them have it," and at other
times, as a writer himself, he can say "this isn't necessary here, and I want
it cut out." The pictorial violence was always a problem with the
comics--that's being toned down, by the way. When Worf hits somebody with a
blow that in the art would _kill_ a human, with literally explosion lines
all the way around, the person being lifted off the ground, their neck being
twisted around backwards...that's unnecessary, and Worf would be in the brig
if he behaved that way. At times, the violence has been overboard,
considering that Gene has always felt that the comic venue is one that
children tend to get more involved in than they might with the show, for
instance, even though the show is, you know, certainly available for anybody
to watch.

[phone break]

Gene maintains...and I know that adult collectors are the majority of the
buyers of the comics, but Gene has maintained for a long time that it is not
safe to assume that, that kids won't be picking those up, and Star Trek has
never been about violence--in fact, it's the antithesis of that. And, in
order to...I'm trying to remember the way he put it...for _image_ reasons, he
thinks that no version of Star Trek should be excessively violent. And that's
why he's never really allowed the phasers to be sold as...as weapons, as guns,
for kids to play with--'cause he doesn't like the idea of kids running around
shooting each other with phasers when they're _only_ a defensive
weapon--they're not an offensive weapon. And that's why he got particularly
upset with FASA, because they were looking to build more and more and more
battle scenarios into the role-playing game...they were looking for
_enemies_...they were doing whole supplements strictly to build in another
enemy to fight with, and that was _not_ what he wanted. And when he got a
fight from them on it, when--and, of course, at the same time the studio was
fighting back against Gene as well--that was when he just drew the line, that
he would not have Star Trek sold as a war game any longer. Even though there
are people that claim that when they play the game, they never "war" it, we've
all seen examples at conventions, of people who maneuver it into battle
scenarios, and on Star Trek, you lose if you fight, you don't win. I mean,
when you resort to that, you've lost. You've lost the philosophy, you've lost
the point. So, violence is not story on Star Trek, and conflict does not have
to resort to violence in order to tell a Star Trek story. Again, anybody on
the show can tell you that it's rarely necessary.

[phone break]

Yeah, I know at times we've said one thing, and at other times we seem to be
saying another, but when somebody drags somebody in, a race for instance--this
is a specific charge--when somebody drags a race in strictly to use them as
an enemy, we say, you know, "don't drag in people that we've used in the past
just for these purposes, be more creative!" And then at other times, we say,
"We've never heard of this race before, you're trying to turn them into a new
major villain, we do not want new major villains, use someone established like
the Klingons or Romulans. So I know it sounds contradictory, but it's really
not.

[phone break]

TL: Okay, there are also a couple of similar things. It's also been alleged
in a couple of forums that you've said, both in public at the odd convention,
and privately to other writers such as Bill Mumy and people like that, that
"Peter David is ruining Star Trek." Well...first, have you ever actually said
that?

RA: No. No.

TL: Okay. Can you elaborate?

RA: I'm sure that anything that I'm saying to you right now today, in fact,
if handled by somebody with a "cause", could be turned against me. Anytime
anyone who's defending themselves from anything, depending on who's
listening, you're gonna hear different things. When talking with Bill Mumy, I
called him up because we were having difficulties with the storyline that he
was writing. His number was right there, on the paper. I called him up,
reintroduced myself--we'd met before. I assumed that he was very much in
conjunction with Gene, on Gene's thoughts about what was going to make a
strong story, and I just let him know that, that he really shouldn't let Peter
try and direct the story too much, because we were having problems with David
in other areas at that time, and that it was important to Gene--because I told
Gene I was calling him--it was important to Gene that we keep the story "Star
Trek meets Lost in Space", if you will, not "Lost in Space" with Star Trek
sidelined. What I didn't know, and found out later, was that Billy wanted to
do a Lost in Space story, he didn't want to do Star Trek, but that there was
no Lost in Space _venue_. And Peter was only helping him, as far as I could
see, make it enough Star Trek to suit Gene. But it wasn't. It was still very
much Bill Mumy writing a Lost in Space story, and using the Star Trek venue to
tell it--which is what Gene didn't want, it was the opposite of what he
wanted. Now, the more they pushed, the farther away they got, because Gene
then said, "Okay. We've got to have more involvement for our people, I do not
want the robot to look like the robot, I don't want the ship to look like the
ship, I don't want the characters to look like the characters," and even the
references to the original series were removed. And then, Peter made a
mistake...and tried to--or it could have been Billy, I don't know--I like
Billy, I have respect for Billy, I'm sorry that this whole thing happened--one
of them decided, "let's have some fun, and use trick names that no one will
get." So the planet became Wirin, which is Irwin spelled sideways,
right...this dying planet, if you will. And Ozrro became the name of the
father, which is Zorro spelled sideways, which is a nice little reference to
Guy Williams. And so on--these clever little things which several authors
have, you know, stooped to, if you will, thinking they can slip things by us.
And we had already been saying for a long time, "Please," to the comics, and
more recently to the books as well, "no cute little references," you know, no
joke references. Let's not put our friends into these books. Let's not put
our friends into these comics. Let's not have fun poking fun at people, or
institutions or whatever, through this venue. This is Star Trek, keep it Star
Trek--don't use this as your personal...vendetta, if you will. And if you
recall, Peter David devoted the book to me, if you will, or...dedicated the
book to me, saying "To Richard, the biggest windmill I've ever known." I am
not the monster that Quixote is fighting. What David--Peter, sorry, I keep
calling him David--what Peter David was fighting was far bigger than me. I'm
just an employee here. What he was fighting was a man with 27 years invested
in his vision, and he was fighting somebody who had never had anything to do
with it, and who was trying to change it. Star Trek is not...a joke. And if
you could have read the original versions of some of the things that were
going to be coming out from Peter, through DC...it was very hurtful. The
planet that Kirk, Spock, and McCoy go to, having gone there once and now have
returned, where it's like the planet is a convention now. And people are
selling Star Trek souvenirs everywhere they go, and they're saying "we didn't
authorize this." And Scotty is saying, "Seen it? I'm judging the costume
competition--have you seen the art show?" And meanwhile Chekov runs by with a
bunch of fat fans chasing him. This is not funny. They go into the art room,
and they're standing by a portrait that is obviously the two of them in a
sexual position, Kirk and Spock, and they're saying "oh, my God...it's
us...and we're..."--now, you don't see it, you only see the back of it, and
the commissioner of the planet or whomever they're talking with is absolutely
mortified and says, "I'll have it removed immediately!" And then in the
rudest slap to Gene yet from Peter, he turns and says, "oh, no! Don't do
that! We would never censor _anything_! We believe in complete freedom of
expression." Now...that's not funny. I hurt for Gene when I read that, and
it hurt me to have to tell him what was going on, and that's when I think he
had sunk to the lowest that he was going to sink...Peter, that is...because he
was now getting personal. And that's when...the war started. I think that
was really the first battle. Up to then it had been minor skirmishes. Now,
Margaret's problems with _Probe_ are so massive that we don't have time to go
into them...
--
Tim Lynch (Cornell's first Astronomy B.A.; one of many Caltech grad students)
BITNET: tlynch@citjuliet
INTERNET: tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP: ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.ca...@hamlet.caltech.edu
"With the first link, a chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first
thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably."
--
Copyright 1991, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...

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