|Also Known As:
|The Great Bird of the Galaxy
|producer, creator, writer
|Star Trek, Andromeda, The Questor Tapes, Earth: Final Conflict, Genesis II, Planet Earth, Spectre, Strange New World, others
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.
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 for fanzines, 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. 
Fandom mourned his death in 1991, and then later the death of his wife, Majel Barrett, in December 2008.
As a Symbol and Proponent of Peace and Optimism
from A Piece of the Action #15 (1974), artist is Janice Scott
Regarding the Crew of the Enterprise: The Capacity for Love
"I have always looked upon the Enterprise and its crew as my own private view of Earth and humanity in microcosm. If this is not the way we really are, it seems to me most certainly a way we ought to be. During its voyages, the starship Enterprise always carried much, more than mere respect and tolerance for other life forms and ideas — it carried the more positive force of love for the almost limitless variety within our universe. It is this capacity for love for all things which has always seemed to me the first indication that an individual or a race is approaching adulthood. I believe that we are at last beginning to understand that love is somehow integral to truth. Much of my pleasure in Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Chekov, Chapel, and Rand had to do with such thoughts. I have always found some hope for myself in the fact that the Enterprise crew could be so humanly fallible and yet be some of those greater things, too."
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 what some fans consider crypto-slash elements: “The Winged Dreamers” by Jennifer Guttridge.
...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 1976, Roddenberry said in an interview:
TT: Have you read much of the fan fiction, the fanzines, and what do you think of them?
GR: I think that it runs pretty much true to Sturgeon's law, "90% of everything is crap!" I have enjoyed fanzines (most of them send me copies), and I always at least flip through them and then stop when something really catches my eye. I've read some very interesting and good stuff in them. I've read some beautiful poetry in one and I particularly love the good humor in one of the magazines with the drawn foldout centerfolds of Mr. Spock or Sulu. I think they're funny. I love it when I see them not taking STAR TREK too seriously; let's have some fun, too.
TT: Have they done you yet in a centerfold?GR: They better not! 
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." 
Apparently, Roddenberry Was Not Always a Fan of Actually Going to Cons
TT: Do you enjoy coming to the conventions?GR: No! I hate coming to conventions. If I could come to a convention, give a talk, spend one afternoon meeting with interesting people, get a chance to say hello to "Ike" Asimov and various friends like that and then go home, fine. By the second day of conventions, really what I would love to do most of all is to go to bed and pull a sheet over my head and have them get me when the convention's over. 
He Utilized Fans, Fans Utilized Him
Roddenberry frequently communicated with fans regarding many projects. He wrote letters and supported their fannish projects, attended cons, spoke at hundreds of college and university campuses, sent films and props to cons, personally called cons, warned them regarding trouble ahead, and directly asked fans to support his projects with letter campaigns. In these interactions, Roddenbery 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 1973, Roddenberry responded to an Open Letter by "S.T.A.B. Paramount" Regarding a Proposed Boycott of All Paramount Productions.
From a 1974 letter:
...this may shock you: Although I like Star Trek and wouldn't mind its return, I do not wish to actively participate in campaigning for its revival. There seems to be too much influence by Roddenberry to use Star Trek to further his own pocketbook. For example, when ST was cancelled after second season, and the fans wrote it back on the air, NBC accused Roddenberry of inciting the fans to do so. (Or so I've been told.) Roddenberry claimed to have nothing to do with the save ST campaign. However, Lincoln Enterprises, owned by his wife, was actively campaigning to save ST (as it is still doing today). And look how much Lincoln Enterprises is capitalizing off of ST... Don't get me wrong; I'm not anti-Gene Roddenberry. He is a fine man and great producer who created the best go between for science fiction fans and the rest of the world. But let him keep his hands clean. 
From a January 28, 1975 speech Roddenberry gave at Stanford University:
WHERE STAR TREK IS GOING. To answer that I'll have to first tell you a little about Star Trek fans. They are a lovely but rather peculiar life form which seems to be born with a typewriter in one hand and a roll of stamps in the other, which means to say they write letters constantly and thank God from our point of view, since Star Trek was saved from cancellation the second season by one million letters from the fans to the networks. They've been at it again, Paramount has suffered a year long deluge of mail demanding a Star Trek motion picture - they've finally cried "enough" and we are now concluding negotiations for a wide screen theatrical release Star Trek motion picture. (CHEERS). We're very pleased about it too). Because with that kind of a budget we can do some things we couldn't do on television - they tell me I will now be able to show belly buttons and things like that. The negotiations have not always gone smoothly. In our first meeting Paramount informed me that they could recast it if course, put in proven box office names .. (groans) I suppose they meant something like Richard Burton for Captain Kirk, and Robert Redford as Spock. I agreed that these are no doubt excellent actors, but I didn't think the fans would be happy with that and somehow word got out to the fans, I don't know quite how, and the mail started all over again and it reached a point where the studio head called me, rather bitterly - it seems the fans had gotten his home address. It was actually taking him two hours every morning to go through his mail to find things like the laundry bill. And his demand to me was really simple - CALL THEM OFF - OR ELSE; which is rather frightening... coming from the studio that made the Godfather. I will admit the fans can be annoying to television executives. M.I.C. for example during the great fight to keep Star Trek on the air went to the Rockefeller Center, sneaked into the·· executives' garage and for some months after, the executives of NBC were running around in limousines with "SAVE STAR TREK" bumper stickers. At NBC, some enterpising fans managed to put the Star Trek theme into the building's music system. Somehow these people in the industry have the idea that I control what the fans do. As if I have a secret telephone somewhere and pick it up and say 'OK George, tomorrow we send 10,000 screaming fans against NBC". I try to explain to the Paramount executives the same thing I tried to tell NBC -and this is the truth -if I could do that I would get the hell out of show business and into politics. At any rate, the second deluge has caused Paramount to change their minds, When we begin shooting Star Trek we will have the original cast. 
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. 
Some of this fannish influence got out of hand. One example was in 1977. There was heavy promotion of Roddenberry's project, Spectre, in many issues of Star Trektennial News, so heavy, in fact, that the editor issued a sort-of apology to fans after the majority of issue #21 was used as a spotlight for the show, and encouraged fans to write to the network to express their support. In the next issue of this newsletter (July/August 1977), Susan Sackett addressed this over-reach:
STAR TREKTENNIAL NEWS wishes to apologize to those STAR TREK fans who were offended at our urgings last month that you write to NBC about SPECTRE. We may have been over-confident and presumptuous in assuming that you would support any project by Gene Roddenberry which you hadn't seen yet. Also, we should have stated that if you wished to write, these were the people to write to. We did not mean to sound manipulative; we were just exuberant and hoped that our enthusiasm would be contagious. However, we do not feel an apology is necessary for devoting so much space to SPECTRE.
In September 1981, Roddenberry distributed a letter (via Susan Sackett) to many fan clubs. In it, called upon fan support as he exonerated himself from blame regarding the rumors of Spock's death in the next Star Trek film. See I cannot imagine who or what gave you the idea that I want to kill off Mr. Spock of STAR TREK.
In 1989, Roddenberry addressed the effect of fan letters:
IST: How much do fan letters affect the show and do you feel any pressure from them?GR: No, because letters from fans reflect a diversity. We stay in touch with fan attitudes, but we’re not about to let the fans bully us into doing a job because it’s our job to decide. We don’t mind advice, but it’s our job to decide who the characters are and what their beliefs and feelings are. Also, if I had listened to the fans too closely there never would have been a "Next Generation.” From the first, the fans said, ”If you don’t have Kirk and Spock, you don’t have a show.” In the end, it’s my job and writers and producers job to consider all the possibilities. 
Roddenberry also spoke in 1989 of why he accepted so many invitations to speak at lectures:
I used to do a lot of lecturing, but I do less and less now. In fact, after "Star Trek” was thrown off the air, Majel and I kept body and soul and mortgage on the house together by lecturing at colleges. People were not really anxious for me to be writing things because I was the guy who produced that great failure, ’’Star Trek”. But we kept, literally, body and soul together because the fans, God bless them, were anxious for us to come to their college. It was rough, however, flying airplanes around the country in the dead of winter, strange towns, never enough sleep... 
After his death, his widow continued to utilize Roddenberry's name and memory. One example is this 1993 full-page plea from his wife Majel Barrett Roddenberry (owner of Lincoln Enterprises), 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 all 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:
Other Roddenberry shows:
- The Questor Tapes
- Earth: Final Conflict
- Genesis II
- Planet Earth
- Strange New World
The Paul McCartney Project
One of Roddenberry's projects was one with Paul McCartney. It was to have involve a concept album and film about an invasion from space that would involve Paul’s group, Wings, and Paul as an outer space rock singer. 
From issueInside Star Trek #20 (March/April 1977): "PAUL McCARTNEY and WINGS have made a deal with Gene to produce a new motion picture for their group. Gene is writing the story, based on an idea by Paul (a big TREKfan, incidentally); Paul is writing all the music for the film, to be produced later this year. WINGS will perform music and act in the movie."
From an interview with Roddenberry in "Inside Star Trek" #24 (November/December 1977): WHAT OTHER PROJECTS DO YOU HAVE IN DEVELOPMENT? I have delivered a first draft of a screenplay story to Paul McCartney for his Wings group. If they want to do it right away, it doesn’t appear that I’ll have a chance to go ahead with it, to work with them on it, because I’ll be very involved with STAR TREK for the next year or so."
A number of books about Gene Roddenberry were published after his death. These contain interviews, conversations, and reprinted writings from Roddenberry. They include the following titles:
- The Man Who Created Star Trek: Gene Roddenberry, by James Van Hise (1992)
- Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry, by David Alexander (1994)
- Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek, by Joel Engel (1994)
- Gene Roddenberry: The Last Conversation - A Dialogue with the Creator of Star Trek, by Yvonne Fern Solow (1994)
- Inside Trek: My Secret Life with Star Trek Creator Gene Roddenberry, by Susan Sackett (2002)
- Conversations at Warp Speed (interview with Gene Roddenberry), by Anthony Wynn (2012)
- The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, Creator of Star Trek, by Lance Parkin (2016)
- TPTB's Involvement and Interference
- The Roddenberry Phone Call
- The Powers That Be
- Leonard Maizlish, article at "Memory Alpha Wiki" about Roddenberry's lawyer (accessed February 2019)
Gallery of Fannish Roddenberry Fanworks
from Triskelion #1, artist is Jane R. Miller
from The Logbook #3, artist is not credited
art from Star Trek Action Group #111, artist is Luanne Sharman
from The Incredible Star Trek Book, tarot card by Donna L. Astin
from Spock #5, August 1977, cover art by Sue Keck
from Enter-comm #2, artist is Brendan Hawley
a filk from The Temple of Trek Revival Hymnal #3 (1989): "Roddenberry, Best of Men"
from Trekkin' #2, artist is W.C. Pope
from v.3 n.2 of The Agonizer, a Klingon zine: "Marg sutai-H'Havraadh suggests that Klingons who want to honor the creator of the Star Trek universe consider a formal, public gesture: perhaps a death-howl when we are assembled in uniformed groups to attend Star Trek VI--The Undiscovered Country. Mrak and Koch K'Nera encourage Klingons to adopt a commemorative black splash on the left cheek--of some dark substance like shoe polish or black lipstick--about two inches long and as wide as a finger."
- See George Lucas.
- Guttridge wrote what many consider the first-ever K/S story, “The Ring of Soshern”, in 1968, but it was a private work, published only once in Alien Brothers (1987), without her permission.
- from Trek Times #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).
- from Trek Times #2
- from The Clipper Trade Ship #3
- from a transcript in Archives' Log v.2 n.2/3
- from Inside Star Trek #22
- from Inside Star Trek #36
- from Inside Star Trek #36
- Paul McCartney hired Star Trek creator to make Wings Sci-Fi film (June 29, 2016)