Kraith Round Robin

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The Kraith Round Robin was created by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and others as a quality-control exercise for others writing in the shared universe of Kraith, specifically for Kraith Collected.

About the Round Robin's Creation

The round robin was started in the early 1970s as a way for fans to expand on Lichtenberg's universe in a highly controlled setting. "In the beginning there was Star Trek. Star Trek begat Star Trek fan fiction and Star Trek fanzines. One of these offspring was Kraith... Jacqueline Lichtenberg's Kraith series is one of the most well-known and important series in Star Trek fan literature. In the past few years, however, Ms. Lichtenberg has turned her talents to professional writing, and thus spends less time on the actual creation of Kraith material. Instead, most of the new Kraith stories being produced comes from other fans."[1]

The Round Robin

The round robin was intended to maintain the quality of writing and to monitor the continuity of the series. It was also meant to be a writers' workshop, through which writers from around the country could help each other through constructive criticism. The round robin consisted of fans, mostly Kraith creators in their own right, who have touched upon some aspect of the story in question, or who have simply proven themselves to be capable writers and editors.

When a story was submitted to Lichtenberg for approval, a list of potential critics was made up. The story was then sent to the first on the list. This person read the story, commented on it, and sent it to the next person on the list. This next person read the story and the first person's comments, wrote her own comments on both, and sent it to the third person, and so on down the line. Copies of all the letters were also sent to Lichtenberg and the original author.

The early round robins were small, but sometimes a story would go through a cycle of fourteen people, a process that could take many, many months, particularly if the story took on a radical or new concept. This meant the work would get tied down in letter arguments. Many stories were never finished due to the amount of time it took for approval. Sometimes the author was asked to make so many changes that she or he simply gave up on the story.

The members of the round robin commented on everything from Kraith values and concepts, to plot line and story development, to paragraph organization and grammar. If a similar point of criticism occurred repeatedly in the letters, the story had to be rewritten and sent back to the robin a second time. Any changes in the final draft could only be made by Carol Lynn and Debbie Goldstein (the editors of Kraith Collected) and by Jacqueline Lichtenberg herself.

For an example of some of the rules, see Kraith: the section "Procedures for Submitting a Kraith Story".

Disadvantages

One major disadvantage was the time it took for a story to clear all the hurdles of the round robin, again a process that took many, many months.

The round robin roster itself could also be a sticking point. "Anyone who has ever done anything relative to the Kraith universe is liable to find him/herslf on a round robin. Forever. The 14-person robin contained at least one person who had specifically asked not to be sent stories for criticism, one who had dropped out of fandom years ago, and one who is no longer at the address given."[2]

The cost of mailing all these stories was quite costly as they were required to go first class, and as the story made its way through the robin, the added comments and paper made the package heavier and heavier.

And, to top it off, these packages were all at the mercy of what fans called the Post Awful, an outfit blamed, often unfairly, for a variety of fannish woes.

How Many Copies?

A first draft of a story had to have at least five copies: one for Lichtenberg's master file, one for the round robin, one to the Kraith Collected editors, one which the author was expected to circulate among personal friends not on the robin, and one the author was supposed to keep as a working copy. Each time a major change was made, more copies were made, and then sent to their respective recipients.

Even Letters Became Robinized

Letter writing itself became complicated. Two Kraith fans, one an author working on a story, and another interested fan, found themselves corresponding in quadruplicate: one copy to the respondent, one copy to keep on file, and two copies to Lichtenberg, who wrote comments on one, which she returned to the writer, and the other to the Kraith file.

The Dropouts

When Kraith creators dropped out of fandom, or just out of Kraith, they often did not inform Lichtenberg or the Kraith Collected editors. This was a problem when said fan had been working on a story at the time. "The latest list of Kraith stories in Kraith Collected #5 lists one story that was started seven years ago. Due to the many changes made by Lichtenberg and the creators, the author never finished the story and dropped out of ST fandom. Nevertheless, the story remains numbered on the list."

Another problem with dropouts: "[An author who has abandoned her story] has a "hold on a given slot in the Kraith series which prevents anyone else from writing about that part of the universe... After a reasonable amount of time, a story which has been reserved and never written should be questioned... and if necessary, the slot should be opened to someone else."[3]

Round Robin and Improvement in Writing?

"Most of the original stories submitted [to the robin] do need a lot of working -- every bit of work put in by the round robin, every line of rewrite. The final reworked product is a vast improvement over the original. However, while the integrity of the Kraith series is reflected in the improvement, the growth of the contributors, as writers may not be. An examination of a number of original/early drafts of stories by the same author indicated that if anything, both the conceptualization and the writing values of the early story were better than those of the most updated one. One my conjecture that either the writer had learned relatively little from the workshop experience, or that, after a few times through the robin, the writer decided that it was not necessary to put forth a best effort, knowing that the Kraith creators on the robin would do the necessary editing to polish the story into something worthwhile."[4]

References

  1. from "Inside Kraith" by Daniela Kendall in Probe #11
  2. from "Inside Kraith" by Daniela Kendall in Probe #11
  3. from "Inside Kraith" by Daniela Kendall in Probe #11
  4. from "Inside Kraith" by Daniela Kendall in Probe #11
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