But where Lehman has completely missed the point is that he uses Star Trek to justify his own beliefs while overlooking the much more important fact that Star Trek, The Original Series wasn’t about the engineering as much as it was about the “Social Justice Warriors Glittery hoo ha” stuff.
I was there. I know what Gene Roddenberry envisioned. He went on at length about it in almost every meeting. He wasn’t about technology, he was about envisioning a world that works for everyone, with no one and nothing left out. Gene Roddenberry was one of the great Social Justice Warriors. You don’t get to claim him or his show as a shield of virtue for a cause he would have disdained.
Okay, some fandom history, why show writers and authors say “for legal reasons” the can’t read fan fic.
Back in ancient times in the 1970s there was a show called Star Trek the Animated Series. It was on the air as fandom culture around Star Trek was really taking route and there were many fanzines (things on actual paper that people bought) being published and the first conventions to attend.
David Gerrold was a writer for Star Trek the Animated Series who had also written one of the most famous episodes of the original series The Trouble with Tribbles. While he was around the production office for STtAS he was introduced to a couple of fans who proceeded to tell him all about their ideas for an episode–essentially a sequel to his famous episode–which it so happens he had already written a script for. When that episode aired he received a letter from one of those fans lawyers demanding “credit”. It so happened that he could prove that the episode existed before the meeting but the involvement of lawyers and a threat to sue became widely known.
Marion Zimmer Bradly was, before recent horrifying revelations decades after her death, a titan of fantasy writing. She also welcome fan fiction and published it in anthologies and in a magazine she published. One day she opened a story sent to her and the plot of the story was essentially the plot of a a novel she had nearly finished writing. More than a years worth of her work was now unpublishable because it was provable that she had read this story with this similar plot and she couldn’t prove the work on the novel existed before she saw the story. She stopped publishing anthologies and fan fiction and in particular the MZB story is the one a lot of professional writers know as representative of the dangers of fan fiction.
So when a writer says they can’t read fan fiction for legal reasons it’s that their own lawyers are protecting them from outside lawsuits.
And this is why knowing your fandom history matters.
While filming “The Trouble With Tribbles,” Gene Roddenberry realized that the titular creatures were similar to an an animal featured in Robert Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones, “Martian Flat Cats.” Heinlein’s creatures were described thusly:
Angelo tickled it with a forefinger; it began to purr like a high-pitched buzzer. It had no discernible features, being merely a pie-shaped mass of sleek red fur a little darker than Castor’s own hair. “They’re affectionate little things and many of the sand rats keep them for pets - a man has to have someone to talk to when he’s out prospecting and a flat cat is better than a wife because it can’t talk back. It just purrs and snuggles up to you.”
Gerrold admitted had read the novel years before but said he honestly didn’t remember the creatures. Kellam de Forest, Star Trek’s in-house researcher, followed up on Roddenberry’s realization and the office reached out to Heinlein, who was happy to waive all rights. It turns out that his original inspiration might have been the 1905 story Pigs is Pigs by Ellis Parker Butler.
I’m for things that make life worth living. I want people to have lives they love living. I celebrate empowerment.
I’m against hate-mongering, stupidity, ignorance, rabble-rousing, lying, and bullshit. And I will speak out against that kind of bullshit because silence equals death. I’ve paid the price of silence, more than once. I’ve paid the price of not taking a stand, more than once. I’m done with that.
Yes, I’m a cranky old man. I’m working for my black belt in curmudgeonry. Get off my lawn.
starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols with Whit Bissell, William Schallert, Stanley Adams, Michael Pataki, Charlie Brill, Paul Baxley, and William Campbell
written by David Gerrold, directed by Joseph Pevney, created by Gene Roddenberry
“We come to fandom because fandom is one of those places where we get
to invent whatever identity we feel comfortable in. Our village is a
very inclusive one – not perfect, not yet, but we’re working on it,
we’re starting to talk about those issues, we’re starting to address
them, and pretty soon those conversations will produce real results.
But we come to fandom because it is the identity we’ve chosen, created,
and established for ourselves – and as fans, we like to acknowledge
each other for the contributions we’ve made. Sometimes we stumble. But
most times, we pick ourselves up and keep going.
And one of the
best things about fandom is that for all the shit that gets thrown –
most fans rise above it, because there are so many more things more
important than feces-flinging. Because the core identity of fandom is
how much we love the sense of wonder and the landscape of imagination.
For my part, it’s not about how big anyone is. It’s about how big their
heart is. Oh – that was what I said 24 years ago. “Let me meet the
little guy. If he has a big heart, I’ll know it in the first five
I thank fandom for that – because fandom was the place where I learned how to recognize big hearts.”
–David Gerrold, inventor of Star Trek’s tribbles, science-fiction author, gay man and equality rights advocate, and single dad, upon receiving F&SF’s special dedicated issue authorial honor (x)