Richard Arnold: The Interview, part 3 of 5

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Timothy W. Lynch

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Sep 9, 1991, 9:22:00 PM9/9/91
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This is part 3 of the interview with Richard Arnold. This section deals with
general problems between him and some Trek authors (Margaret Wander Bonanno,
Peter David, Brad Ferguson, etc.). [Specific allegations will come up in
parts 4 and 5.] If you're not interested, don't read it.

Tim Lynch

TL: Okay...there are a few other "miscellaneous controversy" questions, but I
think, at the moment, because of time, we might want to move on to some of the
other stuff...anyway, most of the net talk, as I'm sure you know if you've
been reading it--at least most of the net talk relating to you; most of the
net talk lately has been about anything else, anything *but* Star Trek, but
putting that aside--most of it's been about the ongoing problems between
yourself and Peter David. I mean, some of the other writers--

RA: By the way, we've never had a fight. This is all being created on paper.

TL: Okay...well, I mean...Margaret Bonanno, Brad Ferguson, and some of the
others, have had problems, but--

RA: Never met Margaret...never met Brad! ...I've met Peter.

TL: But this in print seems to be more of a war than a skirmish. At any
rate--

RA: It's one-sided.

TL: Well, it's one of the biggest.

RA: It's their war. It's their war.

TL: Okay.

RA: Let me give you a quote that I would love to see in print.

TL: Sure.

RA: Because they would prove themselves to be the world's biggest hypocrites
if they continued to claim to be Star Trek writers and had their fight with
_Gene_, they chose me. And they can make all kinds of incredibly libelous
claims, like I write memos and sign Gene's name to them and send them off, or
Gene never reads the stuff at all, he doesn't know anything about what's going
on, and...making claims like, like he found out what I was doing and *fired*
me. I mean, give me a break. I mean, it's *all made up*. The fact of the
matter is, Gene and I go through everything. And yes, I physically sit down
and type the memos--and as anybody in this building can tell you, I go
downstairs, we go through it, he changes it, I bring it up, I retype it, I
take it down, he adds a few things, takes out a few more...it's the most
frustrating thing in the world for _me_, because I'm not that fast a typist,
and I use this dinosaur behind me [pointing at an IBM Selectric II]. That is
one of the more difficult parts of the job, is having to try and guess what his
comments would be. Now, one of my examples was going to be _Fortune's Light_.
I did not think that in the midst of the story, it would be a wise idea, which
we certainly wouldn't do on the show, to have Riker boinking the woman in the
story in the middle of solving the mystery! And Gene had no problem with that
in the _end_ of the story; see, I would have thought he would have just said
"no, take it out," but having written for years, Gene--and I'm not a writer,
never have been, never will be--Gene said "no, the idea's fine--give it to him
as a reward at the end of solving the puzzle." So it was simply "move that
there." But, I was only remembering his difficulty with "Piercing Blade" in
_Masks_, when she and Picard get it on in the tent. And it was very weird,
and it was very out of place, and he did not want it in there, and I had
guessed that. And that was left in there, and the book came out with a
disclaimer.

[phone break]

TL: Okay...hmm...Well, that's the sort of statement I was actually looking
for.

RA: Right...Peter's situation, let me give you Peter's situation. His first
few books were not heavily edited, because at that point there was very little
involvement at this end. And then, more involvement suddenly was dumped on
all of them, and they found themselves being edited, which they'd never
experienced before--and you can talk to Melinda Snodgrass, you can talk to
Harlan Ellison, you can talk to David Gerrold--novelists are not used to being
edited, and in fact rewritten, because that doesn't happen when you're
creating your _own_ universe, right. But they weren't creating their own
universe, they were in someone else's universe. So, it may have seemed
heavy-handed to be coming in saying, "No, there's far too much emphasis on
your characters, we don't like writing in the first person, this should be
told from our characters' perspective and not your characters' perspective,
this is too militaristic, we don't allow war stories, Star Trek is not a
military story..." And all of these suddenly were dumped on them, and
they're basically called the Star Trek Writer's Guide. And suddenly they were
having to follow the same rules that anybody writing for Star Trek, the
series or the films would have to follow, and yet, rather than saying "oh,
well, okay, fine," we got flak heavily back from a lot of people:
Diane...Diane Carey...Peter David not so heavily at first, because we ran into
more problems with later books. When he was writing _Rock and a Hard Place_,
that was a very good "let's see what it would be like if Kirk was in Picard's
time," and, of course his character of Stone _was_ Kirk, I mean, there's no
question about that. And it was well-written. And then we started running
into other problems with upcoming works, mainly because he was determined to
continue, sort of, his...take on things, which, as Gene has said over and over
again, he does not like it when people try to _improve_ on Star Trek. We ran
into more problems with David on the comics--with Peter, sorry, on the comics.
When he tried to force his sense of humor--and he definitely has a sense of
humor that can work at times, as it did in _Q-in-Law_, but that doesn't work
at other times, as it certainly didn't in _Vendetta_--I'm sorry, but that went
out with a disclaimer for that reason among others--that Gene has said "I
don't want crossing of universes," which he did--

TL: What universes? You mean old vs. new series?

RA: Old series and the new, yeah. Gene did not want _any_ background on
Guinan's character, which he won't allow on the show either, and he went a
little too far in that area, and he created what was going to be her sister
originally, and nobody of her race would ever go on a vengeance kick,
ever--they're even more paranoid about interference than the Organians, right.
And there were so many elements that just didn't work--Gene has always said,
"Don't ask your audience to buy more than one coincidence--when you ask them
to buy two coincidences, you've already gone overboard," and this asked for so
many more than that. Wesley originally would not have anything to do with the
"curing", if you will, of the Borg soldier, which in itself was a problem, but
there it is...the Borg soldier _somehow_ survived...Wesley wouldn't help until
he found out that it was a young teenage girl. Now, these are things that do
not work for Gene because the characters would not work this way. Wesley
would help, or he wouldn't help, but it would not be depending on whether he
got a hard-on or not. And so on. Even in _Q-in-Law_, there were some
problems that needed to be addressed; but they were minor, because for the
most part, he's telling a humorous story of Lwaxana Troi and Q encountering
one another, and that went through very smoothly, and that must have stunned
him, because I think he was expecting us to put the quash on it, but...that's
not how it works here at all. If Gene's got no problems with the proposals,
other than--sorry [phone break] --other than a few notes that he might make on
the proposal, that then I type up and he signs, they generally just go back
and they take it from there. But when in a proposal, there are major
problems, and those aren't addressed and it comes back as a manuscript and
they're still there, and then a _long_ memo is then typed up, and that goes
in, and they're still not addressed in the galleys, and then the book comes
out, that's the problem we were having. Of course, that's not just the
authors, that's the editors at Pocket Books, _and_ the studio, who were not
giving Gene as much support as they probably should have always given him,
because they also were not used to what they considered "interference" from
the creator of Star Trek. They were used to doing what they wanted to. So it
was fighting with the studio, fighting with the licensees, and fighting with
the authors. So it became, yes, a major battle for Gene. But it was never me
against Peter, me against Margaret, me against Diane, whatever. Now, again,
they made it that way, because, how could they, without becoming hypocrites,
continue to write in the Star Trek universe, which was obviously created by
Gene Roddenberry, without the fans saying "wait a minute--if you hate Gene so
much, why are you writing in his universe?" So they turned, instead, on me,
which, which is the easy way to do it because also, I didn't really defend
myself in public forums. At conventions, I was always very cautious not to
mention names, unless it was brought up--and believe me, they planted enough
people in audiences--Peter's specifically guilty of that--planting people in
audiences to ask questions, okay. And my favorite one, and this is going to
answer a question you were going to ask, was when somebody stood up at a
convention, shortly after the cruise [SeaTrek], and said, "I was going to go
on the cruise, but when I heard that Peter David was cancelled, I cancelled my
tickets, and I decided not to go. Can you tell me why he was taken off the
cruise?" And, as embarrassing as it must have been for the person asking the
question, I couldn't help laughing. I said, "First of all, you couldn't
possibly have booked your cruise to go on it to see Peter David, because he
was never announced as a guest, ever. At no time was he announced as a guest.
Secondly, after he was invited on the cruise, which lasted about a week, you
couldn't have booked to go on the cruise, because it was sold out already.
So, you're a setup question, and I understand that, and I appreciate that
people are trying to get answers to questions, but I'll tell you what the
simple truth of the matter is, and that is that Peter was the one who decided
not to go on the cruise. Because he was still being invited as a free guest
on the cruise...Gene just did not want him to be an honored guest on the same
dais with him, and this boils back to Peter becoming so public about his
disagreements with the way things were working that, in his column, 'But I
Digress,' he went after Gene. Not a good idea. Gene's not...as forgiving a
person as quickly as I always thought he should be. But when somebody has
publicly said unfair things, it takes him a little while. He and David
Gerrold have recently buried the hatchet, for instance...which, you know,
probably took a lot longer than it should have, but I think they're both
pretty stubborn. Harlan Ellison and Gene have not had an ongoing war for 25
years, but Harlan still keeps it up just as Bette Davis and Tallulah Bankhead
always kept up their war, and Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. But they've
worked together in the last twenty years--they were working on the Star Trek:
the Motion Picture script together. And I believe Harlan's been invited in to
write on this show. He hasn't done so, which I think is a shame, because he's
a brilliant writer, but I think once burned, twice shy--maybe he doesn't want
to be rewritten again. Novelists are not used to being rewritten. Another
comment that I think is very essential that gets out is that Peter David, and
Margaret Wander Bonanno, and Diane Duane, and everybody else that's involved
in all of this, have never written for Star Trek. I'll take that back--Diane
Duane had a story that came from one of her previous novels, that she and
another writer, who was a writer in Hollywood and therefore they were able to
get it in, bought by the show, then rewritten, changed dramatically, which she
bitches about at conventions, and then that became "Where No One Has Gone
Before." She's the only one with a legitimate connection. None of the rest
have ever written for Star Trek. And they, they should not call themselves
Star Trek writers because they're not. They are writers of fiction based on
Star Trek for licensees, not for Paramount. And, I think I described it best
in a recent letter when I said that Margaret Wander Bonanno--this is because
somebody was writing in because of everything _she's_ been sending out--I said
that Margaret Wander Bonanno has never written for Star Trek. At best, she
has been a writer for hire for a publishing division, Pocket Books, of a
publishing company, Simon & Schuster, that is owned by a parent corporation,
Paramount Communications, that owns the studio, Paramount Pictures
Incorporated, that makes the series Star Trek. That is as close as she has
ever been. And for her to make such a fuss out of Gene wanting her work to
reflect what he created...is, is scary to me, because it says that her ego has
definitely gotten in the way of her talent. She can write--she just has not
been able to write good Star Trek lately, and this certainly began with
_Metamorphosis_...not Margaret, but Jean Lorrah. _Metamorphosis_ was the last
straw for Gene. This was when this flurry of disclaimers started, because
these books were all in the works, never approved by Gene--from proposal on it
was no, no, no, no, no--and it was, the war was between Gene and the studio
and the editors at this point. And suddenly, they started to cooperate, both
Pocket Books and Paramount. And finally, we were getting the cooperation that
Gene should have always had. There should never have been anything from the
studio but, because of contractual agreements, "Yes, Gene." What they got was
"but...but...but," which doesn't work, especially when it's your baby. You
don't want people mistreating your children. And he sees both of them as his
children. So, they then had to turn it back on the writers and say "well,
you've _got_ to cooperate, because these are now the rules." But the studio
and the editors at Pocket, and at DC, then started doing the same thing that
the authors were doing, and that is, they were blaming Gene. Rather than
saying, "these are simply the rules now, and you're gonna have to comply with
them if you wish to write in the Star Trek universe," they were saying, "well,
this is what Gene wants, so don't yell at us," you know, "he's the one who's
rewriting your story." And you can ask me about any book, you can ask me
about any specific storyline in _anything_ and I can tell you why the changes
were being made...what it is about Gene's...vision, if you will, that it was
distorting or it was changing. You have to remember that writing for Star
Trek is like the famous comment about spelunking, caving--"leave nothing but
footprints, take nothing but pictures." Do not change anything. When authors
in books decide to change the universe to suit themselves, they've just
screwed it up for everybody else who wants to write in that universe. And it
would never be allowed on the series. And you can't have twelve different
universes coming out a year in book form. It's got to comply with...and,
trust me, if it were George Lucas, you wouldn't be sitting here talking to me,
because it would have been stopped at the beginning. But Gene just wasn't
involved back then.
--
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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