|Type:||fan writer & professional writer|
|Fandoms:||Star Trek, V, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean|
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A.C. Crispin was a fan and writer of twenty-three pro books and created her own original science fiction series called Starbridge.
Crispin was a frequent contributor to letterzines, specifically Interstat. Her letters of comment frequently focused on her experiences with fans and fandom, and her opinions and defenses regarding Trek pro books.
A.C. Crispin passed away September 6, 2013.
Crispin's Comments Regarding Fans and Fandom
(February 1986) After hearing all the debate about what happened to fandom—where are our Jackie Lichtenbergs and Jean Lorrahs?" I wonder if perhaps the answer isn't that many of us don't need Trek anymore—at least not the way we needed it back in the sixties and seventies. For example, take my own situation: when Star Trek first aired, I was sixteen, lonely, and alienated… [some personal stuff snipped]… I needed Star Trek. It gave me a setting for my daydreams, something to focus on when the real world was just too threatening. It gave me hope that maybe planet Earth would continue, that I'd live past twenty instead of ending up a glowing smatter of ash on a radioactive skeleton of a world. At that point in my life I talked Star Trek incessantly with my friends (and it was such a bond that most of us are still close), and even (God help me!) penned a mammoth and untitled Mary Sue novel (which I'm gonna burn as soon as I unearth it—it was awful). Star Trek was as real to me as anything else in my hormone-tossed existence. Sometimes it seemed the only real thing. But now that's all different. I'm twenty years older, and my life is much fuller. I have a family to worry about, a career, and books in my own universe to write (as well as those in the Star Trek universe). I've analyzed Trek in order to write about it. I've made money off it. All of these things change you. Although I still love Trek, and probably always will, I don't need it in that desperate, adolescent way that I used to. I suspect the same has happened to many other fans. Certainly people like Jean and Jackie are busy writing in their own universes, just as I am. Many other fans are also wrapped up in careers, homes, families—all the responsibilities, joys and distractions of maturity. I do know that when I meet over-thirty fans who are still so wrapped up in Trek that it seems like the only real world to them, they're usually people without many outlets, and I feel sorry for them. Often they're stuck in boring, dead-end jobs and have no fulfilling relationships outside their Star Trek friends. At least they have Trek, instead of nothing, but (and here I go, cheerfully larding my values onto others, which I shouldn't do) their lives seem comparatively empty and arrested.
(May 1986) My goodness, what a nest of bees I seem to have raised! perhaps this had better be my last letter to INTERSTAT. I have no desire to get myself in trouble with people that I like, enjoy meeting, and regard as a stellar source of information about what's happening in the Trekfen cosmos. And I don't care to get involved with any of the personal feuds aired in public pages, so I'll just address a few comments in rebuttal, then crawl away into the outer darkness, okay? Firstly, a word of explanation to [Carol P]. I did not intend to be condescending, presumptuous, pretentious, or any of the other things she called me. I never implied there are no "good" Trek writers around (where was I supposed to have said that?). I know many good Trek writers, both fan and pro. I read some of the pro novels, when I have time. I read some fanzines, when I have time. I like some of what I read, but not all. What's so unusual about that? Obviously there are many good Trek authors out there. If I didn't think it was possible to write good Star Trek stories I wouldn't spend so much time trying to do it myself. However, I do believe that Sturgeon's Law applies just as much to ST writing as it does to any other kind of writing. Obviously, Carol, you've been lucky enough to never have met the kind of fans I was referring to in my letter. These people are the ones with the glassy eyes, who buttonhole writers, editors (both pro and fanzine), plus anyone else who will listen and talk about their ideas for (mostly unwritten or unpublished) Star Trek, Star Wars, etc., stories. They live, breathe, eat and sleep their fantasy worlds. Many, sadly, are handicapped in some way. Most are defensive to the point of rudeness about their fan talent, whether it is writing, art, singing, you have it. The ones who are writers will thrust stories at pro authors, with a demand (I am not kidding!) that the pro read their work. If I sound jaundiced about my experiences with this kind of fan, so be it. I've learned a couple of polite techniques to keep from being backed into corners by these people, and I use them whenever possible- Otherwise, these people wind up inviting themselves to dinner with me, ask for my home address (so they can come visit on their vacation!), and give me their ms. to read. (And if I say anything but ecstatic, laudatory things about it. The Great Bird help me!) As you can tell, I've been burned more than once by these people. On the other hand, INTERSTAT readers who have met me at conventions will testify that I am generally pleasant to speak with, polite, shake hands, smile and so forth. I really enjoy 90% of the fans I meet. It's just that fringe element that makes me cautious. And it's the same story for every other writer I've talked to.
(March 1989) At each con, I meet many, many fans. Hundreds...thousands. Since I'm not famous like the Star Trek actors, one of my main functions at these cons, aside from giving readings, panels and autographings, is to shake hands and talk to fans, something the stars can't do, except to a very limited extent.I've found that 99 out of 100 Star Trek fans are people who have families, careers, go to PTA, attend church, pay the rent or mortgage, give yard sales, and shop for groceries on Saturdays, grumbling about the way prices keep going up. In other words, they have a life. They are nice, normal people. With, I must add, rather higher IQ's, as an average, than other Americans. (I can only speak for Americans from personal experience, because I've never done a con anywhere but in the continental U.S. Though I'm willing, please note! I love going new places!) But there's that 1 out of 100... Unfortunately, when the media descends upon a Star Trek con, they're looking for the most sensationalistic coverage they can get—so, more often than not, they seize upon this 1% for interviews and photos. They go for the geekiest, most glassy-eyed, most inarticulate, stammeringly worshipful, physically unattractive fan they can spot. I've watched them do it. And that!s the fan whose coverage makes the evening news. This is what the average "mundane" sees presented as a "typical" Star Trek fan... Let's be frank. These fans do exist. They're pathetic people, for whom Star Trek is their entire life. Just as Pern, Elfquest, Amber or D&D is the whole world to certain fans I've encountered at s.f. cons. People such as this are lacking a sense of self, of raison d'etre, it seems to me. They seize upon some vision that is stronger than they are, so they can have something to hold onto. It's very, very sad. But at least if they find something to hold onto, they're probably better off than totally adrift in a universe they can't handle. Star Trek (or D&D, etc.) represents a coping mechanism.
(October 1989) ...even when Star Trek fan letters are weird, they're usually benign. I think that's because Star Trek folks are a cut above the crowd, just generally decent people.
Crispin, and Other's, Comments Regarding Pro Books
Crispin entered the Star Trek pro book scene during a fast-moving and volatile time. For years, fans had been satisfied with zines and a handful of very early pro books; the latter were often regarded as being poor in quality.
When TPTB realized there was money to be made in Trek tie-in novels, there was much discussion among fans of what constituted canon and who had the right to write it. This was the reality in which Crispin began her pro career.Regarding a proposed boycott of pro books, one fan wrote:
Crispin herself commented:(July 1983) Lisa Wahl and Julia Ecklar may be a pair of Edith Keelers. They have the right idea. Yet their timing may be wrong. My opinion of Timescape books hit an all-time low after Black Fire. It knits. (Spell that backwards, Sonni.) Anything that wretched surely justifies a boycott. Then, I heard from reliable sources that M.S. Murdock's book wasn't half-bad, so I bought it. What a surprise! I found it to be a satisfying action-adventure tale, well-plotted and well-paced. Can there be hope for Timescape? Perhaps so. I also have it...and from impeccable sources, that their next release. Yesterday's Son, is an all-around winner. More to the point: authors Murdock and Crispin are like us. Fen. They know what real Trek is, and they are able to give it to us. These books are not the work of spoiled "pros" who could get their laundry lists into print. These people care! Again let's not harm ourselves. First, by boycotting quality Treklit during the heavy retail season. And second, by depriving ourselves of (finally!) decent, professionally written Treklit. We can teach Timescape a lesson by showing them that they arc on the right path and that wc support this. Above all, let's make this a time in which we show the world what we are. We think for ourselves, we are not a flock of bleating sheep! 
(July 1983) Today I learned that a group called the "Association for Readable Trek" (ART) has proposed a boycott of all professionally-published Star Trek fiction in time for Christimas, "83. As one of Timescape's new crop of "fan-oriented" writers (my Star Trek novel. Yesterday's Son, will be the next release by Timescape), this suggestion disturbed me profoundly. I would like Lisa Wahl and Julia Ecklar to know that I sympathize with their frustration over some of the published Trek books over the years. Yet in promoting a boycott of Trek fiction, they may well be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, for I have it on good authority (the Timescape editors) that Paramount at long last has relaxed the strictures levied against would-be Star Trek writers, allowing them more latitude to experiment with and create in the Trek universe. This increased latitude in theme and structure can result in nothing but more creative, better, and more fan-oriented published Trek. Melinda Murdock's Web of the Romulans is an excellent example. I found it to be well-written, fast-paced, recognizable Star Trek. The characters were perfectly in accord with aired Trek. It is a matter of record that a recent issue of Starlog carried a statement from the Timescape editors saying that many new faces will be featured in the upcoming books, as well as some of the better-known fan-oriented writers, in particular, Howard Weinstein. Let's give Timescape a chance to make good on their stated commitment to improve the quality of the pro Trek novels! My own novel, Yesterday's Son, is definitely a fan-written story. I wrote it originally for my own amusement, with no thought of publication in mind. Its theme is one that has been done many times in fan fiction—and the fact that Timescape and Paramount would allow a story of this type to be published augers well for the future. (As to what the story is about, the title is a strong hint. More than that must wait for publication.) I've been a die-hard Star Trek fan since the third aired episode, and I think those who read my story will be able to tell that it was written by someone who loves Trek and did her damndest to produce a story in keeping with aired Trek. Thanks, Teri, for allowing me to express myself on the proposed boycott. I hope the readers of INTERSTAT (including Lisa and Julia) will like my story and give Timescape a chance to carry through their good intentions. I'd love to hear from you after Yesterday's Son is released (August), as to whether you (and your readers) felt I succeeded.
After Yesterday's Son was published, Crispin had much to say about canon, nitpicking, fanfic, and the place of pro books in the Star Trek universe. Many of her comments were directed to Joan Verba who had commented on the value and quality of pro books. See many issues of Interstat in 1989 for more on this vigorous debate.One of Crispin's early comments regarding pro fiction (February 1986):
I notice that the fan/pro novel controversy continues to smolder, occasionally shooting up active flames of protest from mostly the anti-pro novel folks. I'd like to address a comment or two to those who maintain that the pro novels are absolutely without worth and that those who pen them are lousy writers, if I may. As I pointed out long ago (I#74), the pro Star Trek novels are not just aimed at the audience of truefans, they're aimed at a mass-market audience that numbers in the hundreds of thousands. Most of the fanzine novels I've seen (or most of the short stories for that matter) would be of only peripheral interest to a mass-market audience—they're too insular, and not enough action-oriented. Fanzine stories tend to be long on emotional impact, characterization, character interaction, with lots and lots of talking about feelings, problems, etc. They also tend to involve the characters in life-changing situations: cancer, blindness. Kirk and Spock's realization that they've fallen in love with each other, the death of one or the other of the Big Three and the effect that this has on the remaining two the list goes on and on. Many of these stories are good (and many more are crappy, to be blunt), but all of them in this vein involve changing the ST universe, which is verboten for pocket Books to do. Paramount still screens everything they propose putting out, remember, and they're very paranoid about possible changes creeping in. So in order to sell the number of ST books Pocket Books sells, they must market them for the mass-market audience, not just the truefans like the folks who read INTERSTAT. Anyone who feels they can write a fanzine-type novel that would appeal to everyone and sell it professionally is welcome to try. Another point to remember about the pro/fan novel controversy is that the people who denounce anyone who reads and enjoys a pro ST novel as a drooling cretin are doing a disservice to fans whose pockets aren't as lined as theirs obviously are. Face it, folks, you can buy a Trek novel for $2.95 or $3.50, and get a Star Trek story to read. A novel-length fanzine will run $10.00 to $15.00, and possibly more. Lots of the younger fans will have trouble forking over that kind of dough very often. Admittedly, out of six pro Trek books a year, maybe two of them are really good, another two are okay, and the remaining two are rather poor. (And this percentage was better in 1984—most of the books belonged in the okay-to-good category, IMHO.) But are the percentages any better in fanzines? How many really top-quality fanzine novels or short story collections are published each year? Not that many, folks. And, of course, the average fanzine has a run of maybe 500 copies if it's a biggie. So 500 people get to read a top-notch story, while, with a pro novel, 250,000 people get to read it. I have a feeling that the two factions will never resolve the controversy, but it would be nice if a more "live-and-let-live" attitude could be fostered among the anti-pro novel people. After all, nobody is twisting your arm to make you buy or read pro Trek novels, friends! It's fine with everyone if you prefer to read only fanzines. But I'm tired of having my literary taste (not to mention my sanity!) sneered at for enjoying many of the pro Trek novels. I realize I probably sound a bit thin-skinned. But as I sit here, getting ready to plunge back into TIME FOR YESTERDAY, working hard to make it the best book I can (while taking a significant cut in pay to write it), I began thinking about the fan/pro novel controversy, and decided to stick my two cents' worth in.
Crispin's Comments Regarding Other's Pro Novels
(May 1986) I never made any "veiled negative comments" about the quality of KILLING TIME: . I made no comment, for precisely the reason stated. Whether it's in front of con audiences, or in INTERSTAT, I don't comment on the other pro Trek novels. (I believe I may have said I enjoyed THE VULCAN ACADEMY MURDERS, because Jean is a personal friend and "enjoy" is a pretty inoffensive term.) I don't comment not because I don't necessarily like them, but because I don't think it's right to do so in a public forum. I generally keep my opinions, both positive and negative, to myself, unless I'm speaking directly to the writer involved. I want to publicly apologize to Della Van Hise. I didn't realize you were an INTERSTAT reader, or I would have kept silent. The version of the KT story I recounted was told to me by Karen Haas, and, as you say, was apparently correct as to the bare facts. But you are right, of course—I shouldn't have theorized as to your motives, thoughts, or actions. The only reason I said anything was to make the point that your book had not been subject to censoring by Paramount after it had already been published. What happened was obviously just one of those things, and I reiterate my sincerest apologies and wish you the best of luck with further books, in or out of the Trek universe. I hope we meet someday, so I can beg your forgiveness in person.
Tributes and Memorials
- From the Bird's Beak - Remembering Ann Crispin -- Flamingo, Archived version
- Remembering A.C. Crispin -- Steven H. Wilson, September 10, 2013
- Tor Books: A.C. Crispin, 1950-2013, Archived version
- A.C. Crispin dies at 63; author of sci-fi and tie-in novels - The Washington Post, Archived version