Robert Greenberger is a well-respected writer and editor who has worked for both Marvel and DC Comics; he’s written many fiction and nonfiction books on Star Trek and books starring Batman, Hellboy and others; and you can find his writing regularly on the Westfield blog. His latest work, Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History from Voyageur Press, is available for pre-order through Westfield now. Westfield’s Roger Ash contacted Greenberger to learn more about the book.
Westfield: Some people may be concerned that this is an unauthorized book. Why shouldn’t they worry about that?
Robert Greenberger: The downside to an unauthorized book is that we don’t have access to the files and graphics at Paramount Pictures, which can impede certain projects. Star Trek, though, has been so thoroughly documented over the last forty years that this is less of an issue. It also means the real stories about some of these incidents can be told as opposed to the “official” version which may nod towards controversial matters but steers clear of some facts.
The fun thing here was reading through all the tell-all memoirs, the unofficial interview books, the official, licensed magazines and books and try to assemble a closer approximation of what happened, who was responsible and what were the repercussions.
Westfield: What can readers look forward to in the book?
Greenberger: One of the things most histories of Star Trek pay lip service to is the fan side of the series. Without the fans, the series would never have gone to film let alone spawn four sequels and a reboot. The science fiction fans who were enraptured by the pilot at the 1966 World Con became the beginning of an unprecedented fan movement. I try to weave in where the fan following waxed and waned along with the franchise itself. Additionally, we look at many of the unheralded people who really helped build the show from Herb Solow the Desilu exec to Manny Coto who helped resuscitate Star Trek: Enterprise. We touch on the series, the fans, and the merchandise so it’s really comprehensive.
Readers can also look forward to some really fun and interesting sidebars from a wide variety of people whose lives were touched by the show or touched the series in turn. We have two astronauts, several TV writers, graphic designer Mike Okuda and his wife Denise, and even some fans and critics. This adds additional voices to the story so it’s not just me and makes for a better reading experience.
Westfield: How much do you go into each version of Star Trek?
Greenberger: I’d say the first third of the book is all about The Original Series from inception through the films then devote chapters to ST: TNG, The TNG films, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise and the reboot. I try to provide some context and analysis along with a dose of opinion (which was fun since licensing can’t object). I really wish there were more pages, I was nearly doubling my output before Scott Pearson, my editor, told me to start trimming.
Westfield: From the description for the book it sounds like much of it is told from the perspective of the fans. Why go with that approach and are there new insights that you gained from approaching the book that way?
Greenberger: When Grace LaBatt, my original editor, asked me to write this, she had already determined the fan element has never been properly integrated with a history of the franchise and thought it was time. I wholeheartedly agreed since I was a fan of the series from the ‘60s and saw what it did to my life and career. I think from me through sidebar scribe high school student Kalliope Dalto, you see the enduring appeal of The Original Series and why it’s still a vital cultural force.
I also reached out to well over a dozen fans from around the world to get them to tell me their stories, most of which I couldn’t fit into the final manuscript but used their essence to help flavor the fan sections. I hope the publisher works out a way to have their anecdotes on the book’s website in the coming months.
Westfield: Did you get any input from people involved with the production of Star Trek?
Greenberger: I reached out to numerous folk but other than being able to interview Manny Coto and getting staff writer Lisa Klink and the Okudas to write sidebars, the schedule I was on prevented me from tracking down cast and crew. On the other hand, they have all given so many interviews through the years, there was probably little fresh to ask so it required lots of digging.
Westfield: How much research goes into writing a book like this?
Greenberger: Tons. I grabbed every non-fiction book about the series off my shelf and ordered a few I never got around to buying. I also combed the web (thank you Memory Alpha!) for interviews, analysis, histories, and other tidbits to help me weave the tapestry. It certainly helped that I have lived, breathed, and written about Star Trek pretty steadily through the years so I had a lot in my noggin. I just needed to research and refresh while playing beat the clock.
Westfield: Any closing comments?
Greenberger: I think we honor Gene Roddenberry’s creation while taking a fairly objective and critical look at the rise and fall. We are honest with where Gene was a genius and where his ego and health let him (and the fans) down. I also take a hard look at how Paramount has consistently mistreated the franchise, notably through the 1970s when they couldn’t make up their mind, and then in the 1990s when they kept going back to the well without consideration of the creative consequences. I really hope the fans enjoy the project because it was a blast to write and an amazing project to see go from idea to printed book in a twelve month span.