Richard Arnold: The Interview, part 2 of 5

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Timothy W. Lynch

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Sep 9, 1991, 9:18:42 PM9/9/91
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This is part 2 of the interview with Richard Arnold, dealing with computer
networks, a problem he had with the USS Avenger recently, and with the
question of canon. Those not interested in the interview or in said topics
should be departing now...

Tim Lynch

TL: Um...one of the other general questions first, I guess. How did you end
up hearing about Usenet and other networks like it, and how do you view groups
like that in relation to the rest of fandom?

RA: I'm going to give you a very honest answer, which I don't think you
really want to hear, but...the computer networks are far...smaller than I
think they realize. And I know that they're talking about numbers in the tens
of thousands of readers and so on, but when you're talking a show that counts
its viewers in tens of _millions_, that's a very small percentage of the
audience, certainly less than one percent. And...nothing is done on this
show, by Rick Berman, or Michael Piller, or Gene Roddenberry or anybody else
to pacify complaints that get raised by computer networks, or
letter-of-comment 'zines, or mail that comes in...

TL: Oh, I didn't mean to imply--

RA: And we have certainly, in reading the comments that have been made, we
have been taken to pieces, much less recently, by the way, than in the first
couple of years, for "ripoffs" of original-series episodes and for
"interference" in dealing with merchandise and so on. And I don't think that
people writing letters into these venues realize that nobody in those
decision-making areas _ever reads it_. I'm one of the few people that does,
and that's because I've been involved with fandom for 25 years
myself...well...it will be, this weekend. When I read it, I go through it
looking for the _drift_, that's all. And I'll go down and talk to Gene and
say "okay, the fans have been saying this, the fans have been saying that,"
and maybe, in a very small way, that has helped him fine-tune a decision or
something. But he has never said "okay, we are going to change this
because"--see, that hasn't happened.

TL: Yeah, I know. I wasn't implying that.

RA: Okay--but see, if you read things like "Interstat", which is now called
"Engage"--it's actually a different publication, but...it was a
letter-of-comment 'zine for a long time...there were people who were
campaigning on their soapboxes there that "we're gonna have to do this and
that." It's like--you don't DO anything. The people here make the show--trust
that they know what they're doing; if you don't like it, you've got a switch
on your TV, you can shut it off. But don't expect them to change it for a
tiny minority. It was like the Moral Majority of a few years ago--as you
recall, they were neither...neither moral nor a majority. And they were
trying to _force_ the networks and so on, to change things to suit themselves.
And it didn't work, and they've disappeared--no one knows who they are. We
know that the Star Trek fans--the approximately 500,000 or so, the
approximately two percent of our viewing audience that buy merchandise, and go
to conventions, and belong to fan clubs and so on--the very involved fans,
beyond just watching it--not passive viewers but active viewers--we know that
they are our strongest support. But we also know that they are our smallest
viewing number. There are more homosexuals watching the show than there are
Star Trek fans. There are more black people watching the show. There are
more...probably Buddhists watching the show than there are Star Trek fans.
But none of them are active--they're just watching it, whereas the Star Trek
fans are the very active fans that watch it. And I know for the longest time
that I believed that we were the driving force behind keeping it alive. But
other than one letter-writing campaign in 1968, no, the fans have had *no*
involvement in the actual shaping of Star Trek. George Lucas and Star Wars
had more to do with Star Trek's existence today than anything the fans have
done. _And_, aside from that, step out of the whole Star Trek picture,
and go over to the accounting offices of Paramount Pictures, and look at the
decisions that are made based on "can we make money on this?", and you'll also
see why Star Trek exists. It's because it's a profit-making venture. If the
books didn't automatically sell 150,000 copies every time they're published,
whether it's...Chinese newspaper between the covers or not, that is the reason
that they're so popular with the studio, is because they make _money_ for the
studio. And for a long time, for several years there, nobody read them at
this end. They were just published. Nobody cared how good they were, whether
they were even in fact _based_ on Star Trek, they were just put out. And
then...the Next Generation began. And Gene at that point in time decided, "I
want a little more control." Because he'd heard enough complaints--at
conventions, and through the mail, on books--and also, I know it came to his
attention when people started asking "are you going to have such-and-such in
the series?" or "are you going to use these characters?", and he had _no idea_
what they were talking about. And, of course, those of us...Susan and myself,
who know the books, and anybody else here who knows the books were saying "oh,
that's a character that So-and-so created," or "that was such-and-such." And
he wanted to kind of get it back to _his_ Star Trek universe, not knowing then
that he was going to have a four-year battle on his hands. Because--and it's
one that's still raging, as you certainly know, being involved in the computer
end of this--We should probably get into your specific questions, because I'm
going to be answering a lot of them if I keep going on in this vein.

TL: Sounds good. Let's see...I have a feeling that the Peter David-related
stuff is going to be the biggest of the lot, so I'm actually going to try to
get through some of the other quick stuff first.

RA: Okay, that's fine.

TL: Among other things...besides being on Usenet, I'm also, despite being on
this coast, affiliated with the USS Avenger.

RA: Ohhhhh...yes...

TL: And I've got a question forwarded here from Alex [Rosenzweig, CO of the
Avenger].

RA: Fine.

TL: Recently, you severed your ties with them as an information source.

RA: Well, I was never an official information source for them _anyway_...
The only club that we deal with officially is the Official Star Trek Fan Club.
No one else. And I was being...I won't use the word generous, because that
sounds egotistical, but I was being _tolerant_, I'll say, of Alex's needs for
information, because, even though, at times, I found Alex to be just a little
too self-important at conventions--and believe me, he will argue the point to
death, I'm sure, but he is very much _Admiral_ Rosenzweig when he's at
conventions, and gathers people around him and talks authoritatively about
Star Trek, but he's never worked on it. His involvement is strictly fan
involvement. And whether he's the head of the club or not, that has nothing
to do with us. It's strictly because he _wants_ to, not because he's been
_told_ to or because he's paid to or anything like that. And I admire his
enthusiasm, but he has taken it a little too far at times. And I have stood
and I have _watched_, and I'm sure he's aware of it because he's seen me at
the back of ballrooms watching him with his little clutch of fans around him.
Now, that's fine--this happens everywhere. It happens in England, it happens
in Australia--there's always people who because of their own...it's not
_really_ involvement in Star Trek, it's involvement in "fringe" Star Trek,
have become...BNF's is the old term, "Big Name Fans." But, they're just
fans--they're not involved in the actual production of Star Trek. And I could
give you a list of names that's a hundred names long, it would be scratching
the surface. There are a lot of people that we have problems with. We never
really had _problems_ with Alex. His "Avenger News", although like most
Starfleet is definitely too much militarism for Gene, who has stated more than
once that he _hates_ militarism...it was basically for the group, for the
fans, it disseminated news or whatever, and because of that I tolerated his
frequent--or his _infrequent_ calls, he didn't call often. And if he wanted
to consider me a source, that's fine--

TL: You were usually listed as such in the newsletter.

RA: Oh...I didn't know he was doing that! Even though he sent them, I don't
bother reading those credits. I don't look for my name--I know people think
that anybody in this sort of position, the first thing you do is look for your
name, but I don't. I just tend to read the stuff. When I read the--

TL: The "Star Trek--A Religion?" article...

RA: Yes. When I read the breakdown, when it broke down who does what in
their group--and we're talking a group of less than 200 people--

TL: Only just, but yes.

RA: Okay. Break that down into how many of our 25 million viewers that
equals, okay. When I read in there his own personal commentary as to "well,
this is what this survey apparently means," yes, I was burned by it, because
what he basically said was "well, even though our members seem to for the most
part respect Gene Roddenberry, they don't feel that he is any longer basically
the center of the Star Trek universe and that it has grown beyond him." Well,
I don't believe that, because I work with the man. And Star Trek is what Gene
says it is. And I will not tolerate people becoming big-headed about their
own involvement. That group cannot decide, especially in print, that what
Gene says is not important. Because without Gene, there is no Star Trek, and
without Star Trek there are no Star Trek fans. And you can't say it the other
way around--Star Trek does not exist for the fans, the fans exist because of
Star Trek. You take away Star Trek--there's nothing, and they're going to
have to go back to being terribly involved in...past-only. Right now, there's
present and there's future for Star Trek. And as long as Gene Roddenberry is
involved in it, he is the final word on what is Star Trek. So, for us here--
Ron Moore, Jeri Taylor, everybody who works on the show--Gene is the
authority. And when he says that the books, and the games, and the comics and
everything else, are not gospel, but are only additional Star Trek based on
his Star Trek but not part of the actual Star Trek universe that _he_
created...they're just, you know, kinda fun to keep you occupied between
episodes and between movies, whatever...but he does not want that to be
considered to be sources of information for writers, working on this show, he
doesn't want it to be considered part of the canon by anybody working on any
other projects. In other words, don't use other merchandise to base your
merchandise on, use my Star Trek if you're going to call it Star Trek
merchandise. And that's where the problems come in--is that the writers of
the novels and the comics and so on became _far_ too important to fandom, so
that suddenly they became spokespeople for Star Trek, which they never were,
and they started saying, "well, who is he to tell me how to write Star Trek?"
Not referring to myself, referring to Gene. And it's like "wait a minute--he
created it." And this is when the sandbox theory came up, which we'll get
into later. So--my answer to Alex, you know, why did I sever the ties?
Because...there never should have been any in the first place--I was only
doing it...not even as a favor. Only because I had read the issues over the
last couple of years, and for the most part, he disseminated it _truthfully_.
He didn't read anything more into the information that I gave him, unlike othe
people we won't mention...although someone with initials like Jim Shaun Lyon,
who tends to just really blow things out of proportion, and--he's like Erich
von Daniken; it could be, therefore it _has_ to be, such-and-such. And God,
the rumors that get thrown around some of the networks are _scary_, they're so
inaccurate.

TL: I've got a question/offer about that in a bit, actually.

RA: And all it ever takes is to pick up the phone. See--I've always been
available for that, and very few people have ever taken advantage of that, is
that I'm _listed_. All you've gotta do is pick up the phone and call
Paramount, and say "I'd like to speak to Richard Arnold." And I'll tell you,
the most accurate sources of information are the ones that actually check with
the source, rather than guesswork, or rumors.

[phone break]

TL: Actually, some of the canon-stuff you were mentioning...One of the hordes
of questions I'm sure that you're getting is "Exactly what _is_ part of the
canon at this point?"

RA: That's been stated so many times, including in "Starlog", and that
certainly got a few letters my way. To Gene, anything that he did was canon.
Now, I know he did the animated series, but we've avoided that ever since this
new series began, because he never really thought that there would be any more
live Star Trek. He really didn't. He knew that the fan phenomenon was
happening, but like everybody else, he thought it'd just sort of peter out
and die, and quietly go away--not that he wanted it to, certainly, because it
was his income at the time, he was going to conventions and making speeches,
you know, drawing twenty thousand people at different colleges around the
country. But, it kept growing and getting bigger, and eventually, obviously,
the new series, films, it was gonna happen. But this was in the early '70s,
when it was--he could have _bought_ the property, at the time, for $150,000.
And if he'd had the money, he probably would've, but he didn't think it would
be a good investment at the time. [**phone break**] So aside from the
original series--

TL: Is it *all* of the original series? I've been hearing just the first two
seasons.

RA: Very _firmly_, except where it's contradicted and then we have to kind of
play with it...see, people can easily catch us, and say "well, wait a minute,
in 'Balance of Terror,' they knew that the Romulans had a cloaking device, and
then in 'The Enterprise Incident,' they don't know anything about cloaking
devices, but they're gonna steal this one because it's obviously just been
developed, so how the _hell_ do you explain that?" We can't. There are some
things we just can't explain, especially when it comes from the third season.
So, _yes_, third season is canon up to the point of contradiction, or where
it's just so bad...you know, we kind of cringe when people ask us, "well, what
happened in 'Plato's Stepchildren,' and 'And the Children Shall Lead,' and
'Spock's Brain,' and so on--it's like, please, he wasn't even producing it at
that point. But, generally, it's the original series, not really the animated,
the first movie to a certain extent, the rest of the films in certain aspects
but not in all...I know that it's very difficult to understand. It literally
is point by point. I sometimes do not know how he's going to answer a
question when I go into his office, I really do not always know, and--and I
know it better probably than anybody, what it is that Gene likes and doesn't
like. And there've been times, for instance--

[knock on the door--scratch that subject]

TL: I think we've pretty much covered the canon stuff.

RA: Yeah. The novelization that Gene wrote himself, of Star Trek: the Motion
Picture, he does not consider canon either, because he also went off on
tangents, that he said that it's okay for individual writers to do that, and
he certainly had some fun with it himself, filling in parts of the puzzle that
he never would've been able to do on film, it would've been a ten-hour movie,
but he doesn't want even that used for canon, because otherwise, where do you
draw the line? Which books are accepted and which aren't? _The Making of
Star Trek_, as a reference. Bjo's Concordance, as a reference, and even that
has errors. And Allan Asherman's Compendium, _revised edition_. Not the
first one, because Allan had a lot of supposition and...I literally made four
hundred corrections in the first edition before it was revised with the films
for the first time. And we took off the cover, "the most thoroughly
researched volume in Star Trek of all time," because it wasn't--he basically
took the Concordance, disseminated what information he could out of that,
and...if he in fact reads this and decides that that's grounds for a lawsuit,
we've got several dozen instances where he misspelled things the same way she
had, where he used the wrong names where she had accidentally used the wrong
names...for instance, for years, everybody wondered whatever happened to
Susan...er...Howard, I think...the actress who was in "Day of the Dove," and
it was because she had used the wrong name in her Concordance, and he used the
wrong name also, just as she had referred to somebody as "somebody Johnson,"
and that wasn't that person's name at all, it was something else, it was
because she had just typed in "David O. Lawson, Lt. Johnson, so-and-so as
so-and-so Johnson," and she got the name confused, right. Well, there were so
many instances of that that it was so obvious that he had just lifted all
kinds of information from the Concordance even though he claimed he hadn't.
And that was where, in the...because we weren't involved when the first one
came out...when the second one was coming out, by then we were becoming
involved. It was a simple case of going through and making all the
corrections...it was a simple process to go through the book and find all
the misspellings and make all the corrections, and Allan was very generous in
giving me a thank-you at the beginning of the book, not specifically for
anything in particular, but just for my contributions...
--
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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