Creating Universes: A Writers' Panel: Winston A. Howlett, Jean Lorrah, and Pat Paul

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Creating Universes: A Writers' Panel: Winston A. Howlett, Jean Lorrah, and Pat Paul
Interviewer: Roberta Rogow
Interviewee: Winston A. Howlett, Jean Lorrah, and Pat Paul
Date(s): 1989
Medium: print, online
Fandom(s): Star Trek, Shared Universes, and Original Fiction
External Links: interview is online here; reference link
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Creating Universes: A Writers' Panel: Winston A. Howlett, Jean Lorrah, and Pat Paul was printed in Wulfstone and is also online.


[Jean Lorrah]: I think Winston and I created our universes the same way: by falling in love with a character. He fell in love with Uhura and I fell in love with Sarek...
[Winston A. Howlett]: Now, I started off with one story: ... ‘Last Skimmer to Jericho.’ I wanted to do a TREK story for my own zine, because my first issue of PROBE had no Trekfiction in it. It had TREK articles, it had crossword puzzles, it had all kinds of nice things, but no Trekfiction. So I decided for my second issue to cook up a quick Uhura story. It started out as an adventure piece, it turned into a drama piece, and by the time I was through with it, I was very proud of it. I’d wanted to do a throw-away, but the characters turned on me and said, ‘You’re going to write a good story, or else!’ So, I did.

And then I decided to write a sequel to this story when somebody asked me to, so I wrote ‘A Plague of Dreams.’ But in going through the course of that, I got rid of Uhura saying (high voice) ‘Captain, I’m frightened!’ (Laughter) which I could not stand. I killed that off and made her psychologically independent of Captain Kirk, so she’d never run to him any more whenever she needed help. And when I ended that story, I said, ‘All right, where do I go from here?’ The whole thing was published as GODDESS UHURA, PROBE Special Number One. That’s all it was.

Then I started looking at some Paul Rivoche artwork at a convention, and I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got some great ideas for stories!’ just from looking at this artwork. I said, ‘How about if I make Uhura the captain of her own ship?’ Because she was now independent of Kirk; she didn’t have to hang around and trail around behind him. She could do anything she wanted now. So I put together five stories for an episodic novel to make CAPTAIN UHURA. And when I was through with that layout, I thought I was through with Uhura stories. But two thirds of the way through the novel, I was informed that the book was way too long. My editors — Fern Marder and Carol Walske — said, ‘You’ve got too much here. You’re going to have to make two books out of this.’ (Jean chuckles) I said, ‘Okay, fine. So now I’ve got three.’ But then I said, ‘No, wait a minute — I’ve got to go deal with that monster I created in GODDESS UHURA, so I’d better make it four.’
[Jean Lorrah]: I have two STAR TREK universes, and then I’m involved in other things. Some of you may be familiar with EPILOGUE, which is one of my TREK universes, which is a closed universe. That is, it is a complete novel in two volumes — eight chapters — and the eight chapters tell independent stories, with beginnings, middles and ends. But they are not really independent of one another, even though the first three appeared in TRISKELLION, way back in the early 1970’s. They don’t leave you satisfied, they leave you wanting the rest of the story, but it’s closed. There’s no more EPILOGUE. I will not write any more and no one else will write any more that in official EPILOGUE. You cannot prevent someone else from writing a story, but I will not recognize it—no matter how brilliant it is — as part of that universe because that one is complete. Now, that particular universe came out of a tragic period in my life... [much snipped] And that is what EPILOGUE is all about. If you’ve read it, then you know it’s about a war, in that case. You see, when you write fiction you translate your experience into something else. There was no war involved in my experience. But, you remember, EPILOGUE begins with Kirk as a very, very old man . . . facing senility . . . losing his memory . . . having lost the people who were like family to him . . . having lost his position. He’s been retired, not kicked out. He’s just grown old and been retired. It’s facing up to loss . . . and I was working off my own frustrations writing the first part of EPILOGUE. And then I came back and wrote part two after I had lived through and come to terms with that period of my life, and I had a book to complete. And then the artist goes on and finishes the story that was begun out of the emotion of a particular period. But it’s probably because it is so close to my own life that I don’t want anybody else fiddling around with it. It’s complete in itself. Now, that’s one kind of universe, where you as sole author, or perhaps with a collaborator write a particular thing, you finish it and that’s it. You don’t do any more. “Then there’s the NTM universe, which is wide open. That one is much more of a conventional TREK universe, in that it came purely out of questions that I had about the series . . . questions I had had about ‘Journey to Babel’ in particular . . . explanations of the way Sarek treated Amanda, which bugged me for years before I came up with my solutions.
[Pat Paul]: Well, anyone who would want these characters is more or less welcome to them. Probably nobody has ever heard of the stories I have written, the few there are. One was in a fanzine that deserves to go unmentioned. Another one is on sale upstairs — GRIP 7 — if anybody wants to pick it up... [snipped]... And now I’m actually writing the story, in which I get to play with experimental theology.
[Winston A. Howlett]: You didn’t start out with a series, and neither did I. (to audience) I started researching African culture, because I wanted to put some Swahili into the stories, I mean, Nichelle Nichols spoke a little Swahili in episodes like ‘Man Trap’ and ‘The Changeling’, though they always cut that part out of the syndicated version of the ‘Changling’ episode in New York. So I started trying to figure out what she was saying, to begin with, and then I started going into what happens to the language and the culture. And then I started falling in love with African poetry, not just Swahili, but all different types. And little things began to inspire larger things, like justification for using the poetry. And when you start getting involved with a universe, just in dealing with your one central character, there are a number of questions you have to start asking yourself . . . What’s the size of his family? . . . What’s his religion? . . . What is his overall philosophy about life? . . . What is the most traumatic thing that ever happened to him as a child? . . . What is the happiest thing that happened to him?