Diane Carey's "Ghost Ship" Letter

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Open Letter
Title: Diane Carey's "Ghost Ship" Letter
From: Diane Carey
Addressed To:
Date(s): late 1988
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: The Next Generation, and by default Star Trek: The Original Series
Topic:
External Links:
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Diane Carey's "Ghost Ship" Letter is a 1988 open letter by Diane Carey, a Star Trek: The Next Generation tie-in author.

It was written in response to a fan's review of her book ("Ghost Ship") in a zine called Enterprise America.

Permission was granted to reprint the letter in Data Entries #6, where the author of the original review, and recipient of Carey's letter, wrote:
I'm enclosing a review I did of "Ghost Ship" along with Diane Carey's reply. Ms. Carey has authorized me to send her letter along to the zines [1], because she wants the fans to be aware of what's really going on in the publishing business. Her comments make me more grateful than ever that we have fanzines, where we can write anything we want, without fear of censorship.

The editor of Data Entries [2] replied:

Due to lack of space in this issue, I am unable to reprint [the original review by Debbie Gilbert]. For those who would like to read it catch the October issue of "Enterprise America." Diana [sic] Carey's reply is sizzling. I was reluctant at first to reprint it, but I've always been an advocate for free speech.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts

I don't usually respond to reviews, but you've been so attentive and had some good points that I'd like to inform you and your readers about a few "novel" facts that might help in your judgments.

Regarding my latest Trek, GHOST SHIP, I've been getting wonderful responses from enthusiastic fans who liked the look into the character's minds, and of course a few (two, really) who didn't like it. No problem there; if I could please everybody, I'd be a daisy. And there'd still be someone out there who'd sneeze. The most common complaint is the one you had: that the characters seem different from those on the show. There's a reason. Pocket books called me last summer and asked if I'd write the launch book for the TNG novel series. At the time I was enthused and eagerly agreed.

The book was proposed BASED ON THE CHARACTERS IN THE ORIGINAL WRITERS' GUIDE (the novelist said frantically) provided by the Star Trek office at Paramount. I developed a prejudice in Riker for Data's android nature because that's what the Writer's Guide said would happen. I developed Data's quandary about his true nature because that's what they said would happen. I worked on an unrequited relationship between Riker and Troi because the Writer's Guide said it'd be there. (All these good possibilities were abandoned.)

My husband/collaborator Greg Brodeur and I shook together a synopsis which showcased the feelings of most of the characters (since we couldn't figure out and still can't who they wanted to be the core characters). We had to polish the synopsis and have Pocket approve it, have it sent to Paramount, who took at least a month to approve it [...] then write the actual novel after we'd seen three or four of the first episodes. Once written, the book had to be read and approved by Pocket, then read and approved by Paramount. All this means time.

At that early juncture, I was looking forward to a gritty, no-holds-barred approach. It hadn't happened on the show. We haven't seen any relationships hashed out at an emotional cost, which is my definition of drama. We've had no Kirk-McCoy-Spock-type toughing it out emotionally, as I'd hoped for. There wasn't time for me to revamp and go through the whole approval process again.
By the time GHOST SHIP was written, the program had only aired about half a season, and Gene Roddenberry was waffling on the relationships. Indeed, D.C. Fontana walked off the show, David Gerrold likewise, two actresses and many producers have now have left because of creative inconsistencies and disagreements, and the art director has also gone now. The characters either changed for no reason, like the origin of Data, or simply were left undeveloped. I still had a book to write. There wasn't time to work up a whole novel's worth of new dialogue, feelings, motivations and descriptions. Hence, inconsistency becomes unavoidable.

There are other matters which I simply chose to downplay, like Data's inability to use contractions. [...]

We're in a tough spot, us Trek novelists. The Trek office has turned possessive. For instance, they wouldn't tell us for sure if Tasha Yar died until the rest of the world was also told. Fandom knew, mind you, but the novelists weren't supposed to know yet. They'll provide no information beyond what we can glean from rumors and can substantiate on the side through personal contacts. That makes writing novels extremely difficult and necessitates guesswork .

Roddenberry's office has put an iron bar around the novels. There is to be no developing a past or future for these characters; the novelists are allowed to do nothing with the characters' relationships. Their redesigned Prime Directive is so inelastic that it means, "Stay home. You are not part of anyone's destiny."

All we have to work with is a very limited present. Those who would be critical and impatient with the TNG novelists are welcome to broach the subject with Paramount or come up with plotlines inoffensive enough to pass the test.

Here's a new development that gives me little pleasure to tell you: Gene Roddenberry's office is now actively censoring the novels. This includes reaching back to reshape original Trek in TNG's image. They are cutting out the author's voice and adding large passages of mediocre writing by non-published yes-men. Those added sections will be easy to pick out of upcoming novels and audio cassettes; the passages are out of line with the story lines, and all are mousey, "stuck-in" valentines to Roddenberry's Utopia, at the expense of character interaction and plot. Readers might not agree with GHOST SHIP'S approach, but cherish it because it'll be one of the last Treks that isn't whitewashed. There will be no more IDIC in Star Trek.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm either lighting a candle or a torch.

Best destiny, Diane Carey

Fan Comments

I'd like to comment on Diane Carey's letter in DE #7 and things I've heard during the past few conventions I've attended.

I remember watching the original series from the age of 5 to 8. Then came the reruns.
 I admired Gene Roddenberry for his vision, for his characters, and for his Enterprise, he gave us a dream.

NBC pulled the plug on it after 3 years, but that wasn't the end. We dared to go on. We kept Star Trek alive...in the conventions, the novels, fan clubs. It came back to us in the early Seventies, in the form of a Saturday morning cartoon, giving a new generation a chance to get to know the Enterprise and its crew. Again, NBC pulled the plug. Again, we kept right on going.

I think it's time for Mr. Roddenberry to realise that he did give us a dream, that we helped keep it alive, especially through the novels. Hell, if it wasn't for us, the original Star Trek would have faded into television history; a pleasant memory, good for Trivial Pursuit.

Truthfully, he does have a right to be involved with things, to be kept informed of future novels. But censorship and restrictions....I personally don't agree with that. Nor the friction going on during ST:TNG. Maybe D. C. Fontana took too much of the credit, but then again, maybe she didn't.

As a fan, I admit the fact that I'm on the outside looking in, and it's quite possible that I'm looking through a prism with too many different views to look at and consider. (Why does there have to be all this garbage?)

The thing that disturbs me the most is that it seems, to me, that Mr. Roddenberry has a bit of an ego problem. The master of all...no ifs-ands-or-buts. hey, I don't know anymore what's truth or what's rumor. What I do know is that many are losing interest in the shows and movies because of the fighting and the had press. If, and I'm saying if Mr. Roddenberry has to be the master of all, then someday I feel he'll be the master of nothing. What it boils down to is you have a creator, a product, and the people buying the product. No one factor, out of the three, can take credit for the overall success. You can't have one without the others. [3]

Further Reading/Meta

References

  1. It is unclear if "zines" was a typo and was instead meant to mean simply "Data Entries" #6, or if "zines" was on purpose and was meant to mean any and all fanzines.
  2. The editor of Data Entries issues #1-6 was Christina Mavroudis. This was the last issue she edited before turning her duties over to someone else. Her decision to print this letter, one that was critical of Star Trek TPTB, was gutsy, as she announced in the same issue of Data Entries that she was leaving that zine to become the editor of the official Star Trek zine Inside Star Trek. Inside Star Trek, however, did not resume under Mavroudis and, and in fact, did not resume at all. See Data Entries #6's editorial for more information about the difficulties for a fan to cross the line into the professional world and its sometimes conflicting loyalties.
  3. from a fan in Data Entries #8 (July 1989)