Fan Writing Panel OR Don't Make Him Say THAT!

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Fan Writing Panel OR Don't Make Him Say THAT!
Interviewee: Sherna Burley, Debbie Langsam, Devra Langsam, and Joyce Yasner
Date(s): 1972 (panel), 1973 (printed in Masiform D #3), 1978 (printed in Star Trek Today #8)
Medium: print
Fandom(s): Star Trek: TOS
External Links:
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the first page of the transcript as it appears in Masiform D #3

Fan Writing Panel OR Don't Make Him Say THAT! is a transcript of an interview/panel discussion. It is advice for fan writers about accurate characterization.

This panel took place at Star Trek Lives! in 1972. The transcript was printed in 1973 in Masiform D #3. You can read it in Masiform D 3 on the Internet Archive.

Some Excerpts

[Joyce]: Our genres of Spock stories....yeah, two kinds of Spock stories, namely, murder the bastard, or get him in bed. "Get-Spock" and "Lay-Spock": these are the two genres. And of course, the better you get, the more you can combine the two; torture the guy, and then get him into bed with your head torturer, whatever - and all sorts of funny things like this.

[Debbie] … the 'lay-Spock' stories. And as fanzine editors, if we've seen one, we've seen six dozen of them.

[Sherna]: I'd like to say a word in the defense of the "Poor Editors," Devra and I started out in this business, lo these many years ago, we didn't know from editing. We didn't know from fanzine writing. We were very very lucky to have a subject that turned people on, and we were horribly heavy-handed. If you think we're heavy-handed now, you should have seen us then! I'm sure you've all heard of Juanita Coulson; she's a very big-name fan, a STAR TREK fan, a fine writer; she's a professional now, a lovely lady,' The first article that she sent to us we laced into stylistically. The article was fine, it went into SPOCKANALIA 1; you can read it -

[Joyce]: Also, when you are creating new characters, I find that basically it's a good idea to have these characters stand for something. A writer who's probably pretty well known to all of you, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, suggests you give the characters something which everybody can latch onto so they'll know who this person is. And he has a specific function in the story; he just doesn't plop in on page 3 and then sort of say "Hi" and that's the last you see of him. It's nice to give him some small thing that you can pick up on later. That's a good way to sneak in foreshadowing, and things like this, so you'll know what's going on. It's sloppy to have superfluous characters floating around in your story, especially if they have no function except decorative reasons.

[Sherna]: Creating new characters is a very difficult job; even being true to the old ones is too much for some people. Ever see "Galileo Seven"? I don't think that SPOCKANALIA would've accepted that story.

[Debbie]: Again, back to the realism. There was one story that we saw in which I think it was Scotty decided to beam down two hours early, without telling anybody. He just decided, "Gee, I think I'll beam down." This would just never happen. That's another part of realism. Another idea about realism is, be realistic in what you're talking about. Now, we had one story submitted in which McCoy quietly vomits in the corner. Now, I don't know whether any of you know anything about the body, and how it works, but I've never heard anybody being sick in that way quietly. it also happened to be at the sight of a corpse, yes, I think, of a rotting rat. Now, McCoy is a doctor. He has probably seen a hell of a many things which are much much worse than that. It's kind of out of character for McCoy to go and quietly be sick in the corner, or even noisily be sick in the corner.

[Devra]: This is a problem that many people who have never written science fiction before have. You can always tell when a main stream author is writing his first science fiction.

[Sherna]: I sometimes think that it's harder for an established writer to write someone else's characters than it is for a new writer. Blish said to an audience at Lunacon, some years ago, before the first book came out, that the reason he was writing these books was that they offered him too large a contract; he couldn't afford to turn it down. I think that he has become more interested in it as time went on and he got so many, many letters, enthusiastic letters, about the books. He doesn't handle the characters right; on the other hand, he knows his science. And he has corrected a few faults, and I think that it's a good idea to take what is available in his stories and just not worry about the characterizations.

[Joyce]: Also, a thing that occurs every once in a while is people retelling STAR TREK stories: regular episodic, real live episodes that've been on the TV. You're reading along and all of a sudden you say, "Wait a minute! I just saw that one last week! What's going on here?" You know, this person has filched stories. And I've actually seen things strung together in long episodic STAR TREK stories. They're just going along, and all of a sudden you've gone from "Naked Time" to "Amok Time" and back and forth and here and there. It's sort of disappointing in one way, you know. You figure, I can watch the show, if necessary resort to Hideous Blish, but still (sorry about that, Mr. Blish, if you're out there) but - you don't want people retelling the stories, unless you can do it better and get it published, which would be nice. This is the kind of thing that you have to watch out for: retelling people's stories.