The Trouble with Tribbles (book)

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Commentary
Title: The Trouble with Tribbles
Commentator:
Date(s): 1973
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek
External Links: online here
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The Trouble with Tribbles is a pro book by David Gerrold. It was first published in 1973.

It was one of the first professionally published books about Star Trek. The topic was Gerrold's background and experience in science fiction, his description of writing for television, specifically the Star Trek: TOS episode "The Trouble with Tribbles." He also discusses fans and fandom. The book includes several detailed descriptions of Trek episodes by Gerrold that were never filmed.

The illustrations were by Tim Kirk.

Some Excerpts

STAR TREK has become a new mythology, and STAR TREK fandom has become a Phenomenon, almost a cult. The worldwide devotion of the show’s followers sometimes borders on the fanatical.

There must be a reason for it.

I like to think that it’s because STAR TREK was—despite its faults, and there were many—an imagination-stretcher. It tickled people’s minds, it made them think—and most of all, it looked toward the future with a hopeful and optimistic eye. STAR TREK’S very existence said, “There will be a future! And we must learn how to make it the best of all possible futures!”

And because of that, STAR TREK was for the young and for the young-at-heart —the people who would live in the future and the people who looked forward to it with anticipation and hope. STAR TREK provided a dream, and the viewers responded with intensity and enthusiasm.

One of the ways they responded was with story ideas and script outlines. In just one year, STAR TREK received more than six thousand scripts, outlines and stories from would-be STAR TREK writers.

Six thousand!

At best, a television show will buy thirty stories in a season. On numbers alone, the odds against any new writer breaking into STAR TREK were 200 to 1. The odds against any particular new writer selling them a story were 6000 to 1. Or more. Remember, he’s competing with more than just the other would-bes, he’s also competing with all the professionals who are trying to sell their stories too. And the professionals have the edge—after all, it’s their game.


And yet, the hopefuls keep trying. It must be more than just the money — there are easier ways to get rich. It must be more than the credit too—who notices a TV writer? I suspect it’s the desire to share in TV’s special magic—a desire to be one of the magic-makers themselves. Every season, year after year, hundreds of amateur writers mail thousands of amateur manuscripts into the Hollywood studios. The process is continual. But there was something about STAR TREK that attracted more of them than any other TV show in history.

Maybe it was STAR TREK’S own particular kind of wizardry that intrigued them, or maybe it was the unlimited scope of imagination that the show’s format allowed, or maybe it was the special rapport of the characters and actors who played them— but it had to be more than just the desire to break into the promised land of TV writing.

I believe that it was just plain wanting to get closer to your favorite TV series. Once a week wasn’t enough—you had to have more of STAR TREK, more! So you sat down and wrote your own stories — you acted out your private fantasies and put them on paper. And then even that wasn’t enough, you had to share them — so you put them into an envelope and mailed them off to Gene Roddenberry at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and hoped that He too would recognize how special this dream of yours was—and He would reach down from the bridge of the Enterprise and say, “Yes, this is an official STAR TREK adventure. Yes, we’ll share it with the rest of the world.” He would anoint you and lift you up to join the ranks of STAR TREK’S exalted—the special dreamers! And you would glow forever—because now you too were one of the people who actually made STAR TREK!

The intensity of those who wanted to make that big leap was incredible. It still is. (They’re still writing their STAR TREK stories even though there’s no longer a STAR TREK to sell them to. But that doesn’t stop them, not at all. To a real Trekkie, STAR TREK goes on forever.)

The difference between myself and all those other hopefuls is simple — I was the one who made it. (Hey, who’s that gawky kid rubbing shoulders with the Vulcan?) And the reason I made it is that I was training to write for STAR TREK long before there ever was a STAR TREK to write for. I had always been a reader of science fiction, I had always wanted to write it; I had wanted to make movies and work in television as well. And that’s what I studied to do. STAR TREK provided the opportunity. And this is the story of it.

A television script is broken into four acts, each fifteen minutes long. This allows for lots of commercials, equally spaced, but it is a headache to the writer. For one thing, it means that he needs three major climaxes, each one bigger than the one before—the idea is to keep the viewer so hooked that he won’t change stations during the commercial. So right there you have the whole structure of your story: Fifteen minutes and bang, a climax, (commercial), fifteen minutes and bang, another climax, (commercial, station break, another

commercial), fifteen minutes and bang, a big climax, (commercial), and fifteen minutes in which to have the biggest climax of all, resolve the conflict and tie up all the loose ends. Did I say TV writers were prostitutes? Hell, we’re crib girls, banging and climaxing every fifteen minutes.

References