Richard Arnold: the Interview, part 5 of 5

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Timothy W. Lynch

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Sep 9, 1991, 9:28:13 PM9/9/91
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This is the fifth and final part of the interview with Richard Arnold,
containing more allegations and responses with respect to Richard and several
Trek authors. A post containing impressions and commentary will follow.

Tim Lynch

TL: Right. Now...another...battle in the Peter war, I suppose...another
thing that's been said is that you have, you know, again at the occasional
convention and so forth, said to fans that you consider Peter's writing not to
be Star Trek, and have suggested--at least the claims are that you have
outright suggested that they not buy his work.

RA: Never.

TL: Okay.

RA: Never. Now, here's the thing--Peter's a very good writer. I know that
because he gave me a book called _Howling Mad_ which was very funny.

TL: Yes, I rather liked it.

RA: But, he is _not_ a good Star Trek writer. Not all the time--he's
inconsistent. When it's a story that works with his sense of humor, as in
_Q-in-Law_, as in _Rock and a Hard Place_, fine. But when he tries to change
the universe in order to tell a story he wants to tell, as in _Vendetta_, then
you've got a problem. Because you can't always make it fit. My God, do you
know how many scripts we buy out of a thousand that come in? Maybe six!

[knock on the door]

TL: Okay...so...

RA: So, I have never said that Peter David can't write. I know he can
write--he can write very well. There was a scene at the end of _Rock and a
Hard Place_ that literally moved me, and this was in the manuscript. And--I
believe it was David Stern, he's gonna kill me for saying this, who changed
it. It was a wonderful, moving scene. What it said to me is that Peter's
probably a dog person as opposed to a cat person, because of the scene at the
end with Stone and this wolf-creature, whatever it was, at the very end...and
it was such a powerful scene, and I think David changed it because...either he
didn't understand it, or because he felt his way worked better. And...I've
often wondered if it was not the change of that scene in particular that set
him off, because it wasn't us at all. In fact, if I'd had any say in the
matter, which believe me, I have never had, I would have said "Oh, for God's
sakes, turn that back to the way it was." He can write--but he...I think
Peter's biggest problem has been...again, saying "Yes, Gene." Sticking within
the format. Following the rules that any writer writing for the show has to
follow. Do not star your own characters. Do not change anything about our
characters, because then that changes it for everyone after that. Do not
attempt to overestablish background, because that's for us to fill in, at this
end. Tell a story that involves our people, and has a point to it, that tells
a tale. Howard Weinstein's become very good at that--he picks his issue, and
wraps a Star Trek story around it. That's what good writing is for Star Trek.
You do your AIDS parable, you do your environmental parable, you do your story
about prejudice, right--the original series and the new series have been very
strong with that. The original series, certainly, had some stronger writers
right up front--it took us a long time to get very strong writers on this
show, because of the problems that we discovered of people coming in, writing
for a while, and then deciding that they were celebrity writers, or...I don't
know exactly if that's the best way to describe it or not, but...people who
from a couple of successes suddenly became too important and started breaking
the rules on the show. You can't do that...I mean, again, Gene wouldn't allow
that. So--good writers left the show in anger, because Gene was rewriting
their stories, to again keep it within the format, and there've been a few
who've been extremely public about that as well. When people bring up the
subject at conventions, absolutely I will defend my position, and I will
defend Gene's position. But I have never set out to attack any of these
people, because I think it would very much have gotten back to me through my
position here at the studio if I ever did anything like that. They're very
trusting--they know that I go to these conventions, it's not really part of my
job. It's actually a perk. It's a wonderful benefit of this job, is that I
get to go to all of these conventions, and when I am up there, and people ask
me questions that are _very_ political...I will answer them as best I can, as
honestly as I can. And if I can't give them the answer I want, I'll
apologize. When people started confronting me about this issue about not
having any homosexuals on Star Trek, I gave them the answer that I knew Gene
would give, which is...if somebody said "why haven't we seen any homosexuals
on Star Trek?", I would say, "what does one look like?" And they would say,
"well, you know what I mean," and I'd say "no, I don't know what you mean!
What do you want, two men in bed together? How do you want us to show that
someone's homosexual? We can't use any of the stereotypes, we can't have them
sashaying down a corridor, we can't put pink triangles on them, we can't have
them holding hands--we don't show the _heterosexual_ crewmembers holding hands
walking down the corridors. How do you want us to show it? Why don't you ask
a more intelligent question: 'When are we going to see a story which deals
with the problems that the gay community faces today?' Besides AIDS, right.
Not just AIDS--there's still the inequality in the workplace, and housing and
everything else, that still--even though it's now illegal, I believe, there's
still a lot of problems that the gay community faces. And they need a full
story, a script. And Gene has always said, "If a good script comes in, of
course, we'll consider producing it." But to just say, "show me a homosexual
on Star Trek...", it's like the old joke, "'My mother made me a homosexual.'
'Oh, great, if I give her the wool, will she make me one too?'" Nobody can
_make_ anybody anything that they don't choose. Life is about choice. And
unfortunately, you cannot by looking at somebody see what their choices are,
_unless_ we're talking stereotypes--if someone's wearing a yarmulke, you can
probably guess he's Jewish. If someone's wearing a giant cross, you can
assume he's Catholic, but not necessarily--it could just be jewelry. And
political choices, and sexual choices, and so on--you cannot really, by just
looking at someone--no one would have known that Sammy Davis Jr. was Jewish
just by looking at him. Rock Hudson shocked the world, this "manly man"
confessed he was gay. So, I answered that question as intelligently as I
could, considering the parameters of the show, and I got attacked for it for
six months in the gay press. So, it's very hard to answer global questions,
it really is--and I always say at the end of these answers, "I hope that
answers your question--if it doesn't, I'm sorry," and I've frequently been
told "it doesn't!" And I say, "well, I'm sorry, but that's the only answer I
cdan give you." So, I'm sorry that Peter has made this personal. I can't say
that, that, that Margaret and I ever got along because I never met her. And I
know people who have met her and who have said that until you bring up this
subject, she seems--I hate to use the word normal, but--she seems pretty
normal. But she's obviously got a bee under her bonnet, or a burr under her
saddle, or whatever, on this whole subject, and it's because she doesn't
understand what happened with her book at this end. You have to read her
six-page diatribe that's been published in various letterzines and around the
computer networks as well...and her side of it is so different from the truth.
It's interesting how she perceives what happened. A lot of it really needs to
be blamed on the Merchandising & Licensing division, and on Pocket Books, and
the way the process works. And Gene--yes, he had a lot of changes that he
wanted made, but after a certain point, all he said for about a year was "No,"
period. That's all his input was. Everything else was the studio and Pocket
Books insisting on continuing with this project, and the editors there
suggesting these changes, making those changes, causing this rewrite and so
on, with not one single directive from this end. And she was not aware of
that. I think she assumed that--I mean, other than the comments that were
made such as "this features characters from this author's previous books, and
we do not want authors continuing their own characters through these novels,
and therefore this is unacceptable." We did not say, "take these out and it's
acceptable," but see, at this point in time, this was the solution, was to
throw bandages on a gaping wound. And, unfortunately, the wound never
heals--you have to go in and do surgery. And eventually, Jeanne Dillard--I
think everybody knows this now, because Margaret's being very public about
it--who is a very good writer, was brought in, but again she only did
patchwork where she was told to. She was not given the case to handle
herself; she was brought in as a consulting doctor and only worked on the
things she was told to work on. And there were still whole areas that needed
to be healed, and that's why it is _still_ going through the rewrite process
right now. But, as David Stern can tell you, as anybody in Merchandising and
Licensing can tell you, the meeting that took place recently at Gene's house,
about this book, was definitely on the down side of the hill as far as the
process of getting through this. But the book is almost ready.

TL: It will be coming out, then?

RA: Oh, yeah! I mean, it's just a matter of getting the last things changed.
And I sat there listening, and I was very pleased, because David Stern was
listening to what Gene was saying about what the problems were with the book.
And, you know, I was certainly putting in my two cents, and where Gene
disagreed with me, _believe me_, I got stomped on too--everybody gets stomped
on. He's very clear on what is right and what is wrong for Star Trek--and
he's the only authority who has any right to say what is and what isn't right.
I don't. I can _guess_, and if I'm wrong, I'm wrong, and I find out before
the memo goes out. So...that's about as much as I can say on the subject.
Peter is not my enemy. Ignorance is my enemy. And, as long as there's this
kind of rumor and innuendo and ignorance running around the computer networks,
this is going to continue to be a problem. But it's one I haven't addressed
until now because...it's really been...pointless. Because I'm sitting in an
office here and these people are spread out all across the country, or the
world, depending on which network it is, and they can't hear the tone of my
voice. They can't see the functionality of my position here. They don't know
how things work. I mean, I can't invite everybody in to go through these
sessions with Gene, to go sit and listen to see how it actually works. It's
my word against...and this is gonna sound bitter, but it's not...against the
word of so-called Star Trek celebrities. Because they have never written, as
I said earlier, Star Trek--they have written for hire, books based on Star
Trek.

TL: Okay...two more quick questions...or actually, one question and an offer,
more or less. The only other question I'm going to deal with as far as
Peter's concerned is, there've also been tons of stories about exactly what
happened surrounding the publication of _Vendetta_. The...certainly the side
that Peter seems to be presenting is that the manuscript sat in your
briefcase, or on a desk somewhere, for six weeks and that nothing was said,
and that eventually Licensing just sent back their own changes.

RA: Every manuscript that comes into these offices goes to Gene. It then
eventually would come up here. I would then go through it and make my notes.
We would then have our meeting on it, and the process could never take more
than two weeks because that's always the amount of time we were given. Ten
working days, to go through it and send it back. Gene's problems with
_Vendetta_ had been from the proposal stage, and it was "no...this book is not
to be published. This book does not tell a Star Trek story--a vengeance story
is not a Star Trek story." Okay.

TL: Well...then, how was it published? If Gene was that opposed to it, what
happened?

RA: This is one of those books that, as they say, slipped through the cracks,
if you will, in this process of healing the relationship between Gene and the
studio, and Gene and the publishers, and the studio and the publishers. I
mean, all this--we have a new president of that division, who was working very
hard to see that all the parties involved started to work together in a more
productive way. And, we all knew this would be a long process, because
some of these books go through a couple of _years_, in the process. And
because that was a giant novel, that was one of these ones that went through
for a very long process...and the answer to the very end on this was No. This
would have to be completely rewritten, and what we got from the studio was
"well, there is no time," you know, "we promise this will never happen again,
beg beg please please can we put it out with a disclaimer on it?" And Gene at
this point had already said, "I allowed a disclaimer _once_, and that was at
my own generosity. This was not to then become the routine, that every book,
whether I hated it or not, whether I loved it or not, would just have a
disclaimer on it so that you wouldn't have to deal with me." Well, _Vendetta_
was just one of those books that went out with a disclaimer, because there
was no time. It was being printed "as we speak," you know, was basically
what we were being told. Gene was very unhappy about that, but, he knows the
business well enough to know that you can't say no to everything, especially
when it's now gotten to the point where it's going to be very, very difficult.
But, as I understand, that was the last one that was ever going to be allowed
to come out that way. Now, I've heard that David claimed that it was taken
away from us, from _me_, and that it was allowed to go out, period. Well, it
was allowed to go out with a disclaimer because Gene said so. He said, "okay,
but this is the last time." It's as simple as that. Again, he couldn't
possibly know what happened at this end, unless the publishers, Pocket Books,
David Stern and Kevin Ryan, unless _they_ were told by the people who were at
that meeting. And believe me, the people who were in that meeting were the
President of Marketing _worldwide_, the Manager, if you will, of
Merchandising, and the President of Merchandising. I mean, these were the big
three, who came in to beg, to say "please", because obviously their division
wants to see these things out on a regular basis for the income. I'm not
making them bad guys--I'm making them businesspeople. These decisions are
made for business, and they would have had a gap. Now, there have been
gaps lately, because Gene will not allow disclaimers any more. And books,
like _Probe_, have had to be rewritten. And books will not go out with
disclaimers any more, which means that...we're getting the cooperation from
both Pocket Books and from the studio now, in that things _must_ be written to
satisfy the format, or they won't go out. And that is something that I would
think the fans would be happy about. I love reading some of the comments in
the last few days that "it's only because of Richard's interference that books
like such-and-such and such-and-such got out." What's amazing is that those
are books that we never touched. Those are books that got out as the
_authors_ wrote them. I won't mention any names, because I don't want to hurt
anybody. It's not because that's what _we_ did to them, it's because we
didn't do anything to them. They got out that way because we hadn't touched
them. And yet the books that the fans jump up and down, and praise and cheer
about how wonderful they are...they should have seen the original versions of
them. And yet, do the authors say "well, this really isn't entirely my
story...the entire ending of this book was suggested to us through the Star
Trek offices because the ending that we had for it didn't work, but, no, I'm
happy to sign it for you and take all the royalties"--which we don't get a
penny of. That's painful, when you see--especially when I go to conventions
and see onstage somebody going on and on about this wonderful book they've
written, and I know damn well that half the suggestions came from Gene...that
made it work in the Star Trek format. And, again, any author's going to
disavow that, too...they're going to completely disagree with it..."It was all
my own idea, sure." Harlan's taken the accolades for City for 25 years, and
at the same time behind Gene's back bitched and complained about it. He's
perfectly happy to take the royalties...he's perfectly happy to be "the author
of 'City on the Edge of Forever'"...and I love Harlan dearly, and if this ever
gets back to him, believe me I'm going to get a phone call from him...'cause
he and I have spoken many times over the years, and he has given me some very
strong advice, about _this sort of thing_, not dealing with this sort of
thing. But at the same time, he's been very public too. And Gene's kept his
tongue all this time, because Gene knows that if you're going to continue to
work with people that you've got to stay on good terms with them. Now...this
whole interview that we've just done...will not make me friends with the
authors, believe me. It's gonna feed the fire. That's all. But, for the
innocent readers, such as yourself--and I never knew who you were, I just kept
seeing your name with interesting comments--that don't know what's going on,
they're finally hearing another side of the story. I'm not saying that this
is the _only_ side of the story; this is my side of the story. They've heard
the authors' side of the story. And maybe they can sift through it, and see
that it's a bigger picture than they know. And it's not a pretty one, I'm
afraid. It's very unfortunate that this whole thing's been aired in public
like this.

[last question deleted, as it was a private one relayed by me from Jim
Griffith, who's already been contacted. If anything comes of it, Jim will no
doubt let all of us know. Jim, if you want the complete transcript of the
answer rather than the short form I gave you, let me know.]

TL: Okay. Well...thanks for large amounts of your time.

RA: Hey, no problem. We handled the calls as they came in.

TL: And I have no doubt that people will be following up, and trying to call
you with followups.
--
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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