These Will Be a Reality Sooner Than You Think: Interview with Franz Joseph Schnaubelt

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Interviews by Fans
Title: These Will Be a Reality Sooner Than You Think: Interview with Franz Joseph Schnaubelt
Interviewer: Gerry Williams and Penny Durrans
Interviewee: Franz Joseph Schnaubelt
Date(s): conducted February 15, 1976, published in October 1976
Medium: print, online
Fandom(s): Star Trek: TOS
External Links: www.trekplace.com, Archived version
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These Will Be a Reality Sooner Than You Think: Interview with Franz Joseph Schnaubelt was conducted by Gerry Williams and Penny Durrans for the print zine Subspace Chatter #8. It was later posted online at Trekplace sometime after 1999.

Franz Joseph Schnaubelt is the creator of Star Fleet Technical Manual.

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Excerpts

I was doing nothing with Star Trek. But my daughter, Karen, has been a trekkie from the first episode. I did look at the first two and decided they weren't so hot. I enjoyed Lost in Space, which was running at the same time, because it was a space-age soap opera. Then it got to be way too wild so I started to watch Star Trek with Karen, but I've never been a fan of the show. What surprised me, though, is that even after seeing 50 reruns or more, the stories are still good. They hold up. I like to check the technical details. When you start doing this you see so many thousands of errors that most of the fans don't know exist. But that still doesn't ruin it. I understand very clearly that it's sometimes the errors and boo-boos that make a story. Without errors the stories would not be as exciting. They would be good stuff for public television or Russian TV, but not to sell to the general public on prime time. I've never bothered with science fiction, and I've never bothered with Star Trek.

As I told you at the beginning, I'm not an avid fan. Sure, it's great--the kids are having fun and everybody enjoys it and more power to them. I have to compliment the production and the acting, but some of the stories were fierce! [NOTE: We think "fierce" used in this way is a 40's colloquialism meaning "terrible," or the opposite of "bitchin'."] But nevertheless, they still hold up as reruns. From what little I know about the business, I would say this is the mark of some very good work.

I'm asking the kids who write to me to write to Ballantine and tell them what they want. Ballantine has never had an experience like this before--to take an engineering work and make a best seller out of it like I did is quite unusual. So they literally don't have a feeling on how far to go.

Right now people are interested in getting me to put material out in certain various areas. I'm dealing with them more or less. The main problem seems to be that they want to get the material out first and I want quality. I'm trying to be like Charles Schultz. I want the fans to get quality material at a decent price. But it seems that if someone else puts out the material first, even if your product has quality, it's useless to be second.
Also, one of the other things that are coming up deals with Star Fleet Academy. I have people (not kids, some of these are ex-military) who have asked for the entrance examinations and recommendations to Star Fleet Academy. There are a lot of them, and apparently it's real enough that they want to believe it.
It's the fan letters we enjoy. Everybody enjoys them because they are quite fascinating reading. It's really amazing. And to some of them I write a response on the official stationery. In fact, I just had about nine kids write me from the southeast somewhere. They want to get real communicators, hand phasers and tricorders, and because now they're in the Technical Manual these kids are sure that there are real ones and they want to get hold of them. So they wrote to me as the officers of the USS Hood and said they are on a survey mission to study the society of the planet Earth in the 19th century. (They've got that all mixed up.) They're trying to follow the future format, and apparently they've lost their ship; their shuttlecraft is down; they're out of food; their phasers are shot and won't work. I've had a couple of letters from them, and have replied. The last letter I wrote to them was an official directive to place themselves under arrest for actions unbecoming officers of Star Fleet. I told them we were sending a destroyer to pick them up, and it would be in orbit over Earth on March 2nd, and they should be ready to be beamed up and brought back to Star Fleet Headquarters for or an official investigation. I'm waiting to see if I get a response to this. I imagine it's taken some of the wind out of their sails.

I really don't have any interest in working with [the Star Trek movie]. My feeling is that I would be out of place. If I were a technical advisor, I'd have to tell them "to be technically correct, you must do it thus and thus," which I realize they cannot do. I know how to create make-believe, how to get around it and make it adhere, but I realize that if you do this it isn't a fascinating story. Not that it's too real. That kind of accuracy is exciting to me but the general public, whose interest is in baseball and football, would seldom find that kind of technical accuracy exciting. I think Roddenberry's stories are the same kind of exciting as the ball games. It's easier, like he said in the past, to fire ideas to the Rand people and utilize what he could and ignore the rest. I've written to him recently about the error problem. The kids like Star Trek the way it is, and in certain episodes there are errors. In certain areas I've found I can't do anything about these errors because the kids don't want any deviation. So in that case I just leave it out of my work because I don't want anything with errors in there, because that just compounds the argument.

The thing that's happened now is the kids know that Star Trek is studio make-believe. They know it was done by human actors. But still they love it. It lives for them. I don't know what the charm is. Now that the Technical Manual's been published, it's not Star Trek: It's the Federation, Star Fleet--it's the background of the nuts, bolts, and nails of a thing. It's not even science fiction--well, some of it is. Even the warp drive is potentially real.

At the present time the National Science Institute is trying to get public interest generated to put pressure on Congress to fund Doctor O'Neal's space colony. This could be a reality by the year 2000. I attended a 2-day conference at Los Altos in January that was concerned with the possibility of tapping the interest in Star Trek to build a bridge between Star Trek fans and NASA reality.

This could be done inside of the existing Star Trek convention formula. There could be the usual huckster's room if you wanted; a film room to show some of the tired old episodes; but instead of the regular con activities, a series of workshops would be set up. Bring in people who are experts in pertinent fields and moderators of the workshops. Let the kids use their imaginations. Let them roam--just hold them to the central idea so they don't get too far off in left field. The plan would be to conduct an increased number of these Star Trek cons across the country, culminating with a three-day super-convention in the United Nations Building, which would be dressed as the United Federation Headquarters. The people who are talking about this have contacted some of the foreign embassies and received favorable response. Now, at this point it is no longer science fiction. It would become reality. We would have found some ways to carry real science to the everyday level or science fiction that kids are playing with now.
I like to meet people and talk with people. I really enjoy meeting the kids and talking to the kids at the S.T.A.R. meetings. The main reason I go to them is because people know I'm here and they have their Manuals and they want signatures. But when they get around to showing the movies I usually leave. Conventions bore me--these kids get so excited and all starry-eyed. I've avoided even thinking about going to conventions.

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