My Life in Star Trek
Today marks 50 years since Star Trek‘s first public airing on American broadcast television, with the episode “The Man Trap,” written by George Clayton Johnson. The series has had a long and sometimes tumultuous history, but along the way it has inspired countless lives with its vision of a future in which humanity learned to overcome its differences to build a civilization dedicated to peace and scientific curiosity.
I grew up watching the original series in syndicated reruns. By the time I was 7 or 8 years old, I think I had seen every episode at least twice.
In 1977, along with the rest of my generation, I was swept up in the marvels of Star Wars, but after I experienced the wonder of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with its vision of humanity’s thirst for knowledge and self-improvement first coming home to haunt them, then proving to be their salvation, I knew that I would be a Star Trek fan for life. Star Wars had better glitz, but Star Trek had intelligence and soul. It had compassion.
In 1987, when I was leaving home to enroll at NYU Film School, Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted. My parents taped it for me while I was away at college, and I binge-watched it when I came home on holiday and summer breaks. I don’t know how I first heard about the show’s “open door spec script” program, which started during its second season. What I recall is spending a summer between semesters laboring away on my first attempt at a Star Trek spec script.
I never did break out of the slush pile at TNG. And for a few years after I graduated from NYU, I fared no better at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
That all changed in 1994, when my friend Glenn Hauman introduced me to John J. Ordover, who was then an editor acquiring Star Trek fiction for Simon & Schuster.
I had requested the meeting because I thought that selling a Star Trek novel might be easier than selling a Star Trek script (it wasn’t; and it was harder work, to boot). But after I discovered my “brilliant” novel idea violated every single one of the S&S writers’ guidelines for Star Trek fiction, I threw my manuscript away. I might also have burned it. This led to me and John becoming friends (because I had chosen not to waste his time).
John had an open line to pitch stories to DS9 and Star Trek: Voyager, but he had little to no experience in scriptwriting — a format in which I had a degree. So we teamed up.
In March of 1995 we made our first pitches to the producers at DS9 and Voyager. Jeri Taylor bought a Voyager story from us on our first meeting, and a week later we made another sale to Ira Steven Behr at DS9.
It was never that easy again.
We pitched dozens, perhaps hundreds, of story ideas to both shows over the next few years, but we never replicated that early success. Frozen out of the television side of Star Trek, I got serious about my work for the print tie-ins. I started out reading slush manuscripts for the editors. Then I graduated to writing reference materials for other authors. Or writing emergency filler copy on manuscripts that came in short and late.
In early 200o I was offered my first book contract by S&S, for The Starfleet Survival Guide. That led to further invitations, to write for the S.C.E. eBooks, and later for the paperback novels. Now, 16 years later, I’ve written more than two dozen Star Trek novels, and three of them have reached the New York Times bestsellers list. I’ve had the pleasure of writing for Star Trek comics, computer games, nonfiction, prose, and television.
Star Trek has been a part of my life for as long as I’ve been able to remember. Its vision of a future has helped to shape my view of the world and my respect for the maligned, the misunderstood, and the marginalized. I feel very honored to have been able to contribute, even if just in a small way, to this hopeful vision which has meant so much to me through the years. I hope Star Trek continues to live on and prosper for another 50 years and beyond, so that future generations can continue to boldly go toward a brighter, better, more accepting future for all thinking beings.