Gene Roddenberry

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Name: Gene Roddenberry
Also Known As: The Great Bird of the Galaxy
Occupation: Television: producer, creator, writer
Medium: Television
Works: Star Trek, Andromeda, Earth: Final Conflict
Official Website(s):
Fan Website(s):
On Fanlore: Related pages


Gene Roddenberry is best known as the creator of Star Trek.

Gene Roddenberry puts that in his pipe and smokes it, from Satire Trek Comicordance

He is often referred to by fans as the "Great Bird of the Galaxy."

from The Incredible Star Trek Book, tarot card by Donna L. Astin

While Star Trek was on the air, and afterward, Roddenberry was a willing and entertaining convention guest. A few years after Star Trek went off the air (and as it was gaining in popularity through syndication), Roddenberry was going through hard times creatively/financially. He was encouraged to go on lecture tours, talking about Star Trek, showing the blooper reel and original pilot.

a 1974 photo of Gene Roddenberry and unknown person at an unknown locale, the photographer is Jim Van Hise

Later, when he started working on the Star Trek movies, and Star Trek: The Next Generation, he continued to communicate with fans; dropping hints and even giving interviews to lzs, etc. Because of these frequent chances to see and talk to him, fans felt that they knew him (or at least knew someone who knew him). It could be argued that he shaped fannish ideas of how the showrunner of a genre show should act: how accessible they should be, how friendly to fans, etc. In many ways, Gene Roddenberry's interactions with fans set an example that was often challenging for those who followed. [1]

Fandom mourned his death in 1991, and then later the death of his wife, Majel Barrett, in December 2008.

His Views Regarding Fanworks

Gene Roddenberry wrote about fan creativity in his 1976 introduction for Star Trek: The New Voyages, a Bantam published book edited by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath. This was a collection of original Star Trek stories that had originally been published in fanzines. Given that this was a professionally published book, the collection was entirely het and gen. It included only one story with crypto-slash elements: “The Winged Dreamers” by Jennifer Guttridge, author of the first-ever K/S story, “The Ring of Soshern”, in 1968.

Gene’s intro:
...Certainly the loveliest happening of all for us was the fact that so many others began to feel the same way [about Star Trek as we did]. Television viewers by the millions began to take Star Trek to heart as their own personal optimistic view of the Human condition and future. They fought for the show, honored it, cherished it, wrote about it--and have continued to do their level best to make certain that it will live again.

...We were particularly amazed when thousands, then tens of thousands of people began creating their own personal Star Trek adventures. Stories, and paintings, and sculptures, and cookbooks. And songs, and poems, and fashions. And more. The list is still growing. It took some time for us to fully understand and appreciate what these people were saying. Eventually we realized that there is no more profound way in which people could express what Star Trek has meant to them than by creating their own very personal Star Trek things. Because I am a writer, it was their Star Trek stories that especially gratified me. I have seen these writings in dog-eared notebooks of fans who didn't look old enough to spell "cat." I have seen them in meticulously produced fanzines, complete with excellent artwork. Some of it has even been done by professional writers, and much of it has come from those clearly on their way to becoming professional writers. Best of all, all of it was plainly done with love. It is now a source of great joy for me to see their view of Star Trek, their new Star Trek stories, reaching professional publication here. I want to thank these writers, congratulate them on their efforts, and wish them good fortune on these and further of their voyages into other times and dimensions. Good writing is always a very personal thing and comes from the writer's deepest self. Star Trek was that kind of writing for me, and it moves me profoundly that it has also become so much a part of the inner self of so many other people.

Viewers like this have proved that there is a warm, loving, and intelligent lifeform out there--and that it may even be the dominant species on this planet.

That is the highest compliment and the greatest repayment that they could give us.

In the first authorized biography of William Shatner, Shatner: Where No Man by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath, one chapter is devoted to an interview with Roddenberry. The authors compared Kirk's friendship with Spock to the bond between Alexander the Great and his friend Hephaistion. In context, a series of historical novels about Alexander's life by Mary Renault were appearing at the time this book was being prepared, and Roddenberry had read them. Shatner had played Alexander in a 1968 TV-movie, and both he and Roddenberry described themselves as fans of the historical Alexander.

"There's a great deal of writing in the Star Trek movement now which compares the relationship between Alexander and Hephaistion to the relationship between Kirk and Spock -- focusing on the closeness of the friendship, the feeling that they would die for one another --" "Yes, there's certainly some of that, certainly with love overtones. Deep love. The only difference being, the Greek ideal... we never suggested in the series... physical love between the two. But it's the... we certainly had the feeling that the affection was sufficient for that, if that were the particular style of the 23rd century." (He looks thoughtful.) "That's very interesting. I never thought of that before." [2]

He Uses Fans, Fans Use Him

Roddenberry frequently communicated with fans regarding many projects. He wrote letters and supported their fannish projects, he attended cons, he sent films and props to cons, he called cons, he warned them regarding trouble ahead, and he directly asked them to support his projects with letter campaigns. In these interactions, he played the role of both the man in charge, and the man who was a fellow fan and "one of you."

Roddenberry understood the power that he had over fandom, and the power that fans had in shaping that fandom. Fans were both something to enjoy and encourage as well as something to use.

In 1977, fans were told he was in their corner regarding rip-offs:
In the past, STAR TREKTENNIAL NEWS has tried to present you with news, features, puzzles, contests and other items of interest. Beginning with this issue and continuing in subsequent issues as we feel necessary, we will be bringing you editorial comment. We feel that it is justified when STAR TREK fans are being ripped off, taken unfair advantage of, or being "used" by unscrupulous people who see STAR TREK spelled with a capital "$". One such person is a man who calls himself "Commodore" K. Harmon, of Box 8, Palm Bay, Florida. Mr. Harmon, who is out to gain money from STAR TREK fans through fraudulent means, will sell you, for the incredible sum of $9.95, a perfectly worthless piece of paper he calls a "Starship Commission." He claims that Gene Roddenberry himself has such a "Commission" hanging on his office wall! Nothing could be further from the truth! Gene himself has written to Mr. Harmon asking him to cease and desist from selling these "Commissions" by using the copyrighted name of STAR TREK to take advantage of the fans for his own profit. But here is the real damage this man is doing to the good name of STAR TREK: he claims that he has now founded a non-profit "church" — the "First Church, United Federation of Planets," and that all donations you send him are tax deductible. BEWARE! This is not supported by Gene Roddenberry in any way. In fact Gene has called this "church" ridiculous and has warned Mr. Harmon to cease solicitations at once. The STAR TREK office in Hollywood is here to help protect fans from such things. If you receive any sort of solicitation in the mail from which you think other Trekkers should be protected (such as the above ripoff, offers of STAR TREK films or tapes for sale, which are illegal, etc.), please send us this information and we'll do our best to protect you from ripoff artists. Write to: Paramount Pictures, STAR TREK Office, 5451 Marathon St., Hollywood, CA 90038. We'd appreciate any copies of flyers you receive, and your name as a source will not be given out to anyone. [3]
inside page from Engage! #23
Even after his death, his name and memory were utilized for gain. One example is this 1993 full-page plea from his wife, printed in Engage! #23:
GENE RODDENBERRY NEEDS YOU AGAIN! You Saved the Future Once -- Help Do It Again! A Plea from Majel Barrett Roddenberry: Remember when NBC wanted to cancel Star Trek and you saved it with a massive letter writing campaign? WE DESPERATELY NEED YOUR HELP AGAIN! The Space Station, our critical first step into the future of Gene Roddenberry's vision, is an danger of cancellation by the Senate. If we lose the Station we will lose ail of our human spaceflight program. NOW IS THE TIME! We need your calls and letters and those of your friends and relatives as well. Pass the word. Get as many copies of this flyer to those who will act as soon as you can. Write or call your two Senators, Senator Barbara Mikulski, and Congressman Louis Stokes. Tell them we need the Space Station as a first step toward insuring that future generations will be able to realize Gene's dreams of a kinder more gentle world. Or tell them that space technology is crucial to continue our economic leadership. Or just say, "I support the Space Station. Please vote for it." Use your own words — whatever matters most to you... [snipped] Gene Roddenberry showed you the future. Make it so.

Some examples of Roddenberry's utilization of fandom took the form of open letters. Some examples:

See Also

Gallery of Fannish Roddenberry Art


  1. See George Lucas.
  2. Gene Roddenberry, quoted in Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath's Where No Man...: The Authorized Biography of William Shatner (Ace, 1979), chapter 7 - p. 145, 147-8).
  3. from Inside Star Trek #22
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