Third Annual Emory Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium Interview with Robert Bloch and David Gerrold

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Third Annual Emory Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium Interview with Robert Bloch and David Gerrold
Interviewer: conducted by Don Harden, with Tim Farley
Interviewee: David Gerrold & Robert Bloch
Date(s): February 12 and 13, 1983
Medium: print, online
Fandom(s): Star Trek TOS
External Links: entire transcript is here; reference link; Wayback link
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Third Annual Emory Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium Interview with Robert Bloch and David Gerrold was conducted by Don Harden with the assistance of Tim Farley.

The transcript was published in Stardate #18 (March 1983), and Sensor Readings #1 (April 1984). It is also online.

For similar articles, see List of Star Trek Fan Interviews.

Introduction

On February 12 and 13, 1983, the Third Annual Emory Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium was held on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta. The guests of this event included the late Robert Bloch, a Hugo Award winning science fiction, fantasy and horror writer; and David Gerrold, well known to Star Trek fans as writer of several episodes of the series as well as numerous books and magazine columns about the series. In connection with the Symposium, several interviews of Mr. Bloch and Mr. Gerrold were conducted, both separately and together. Material from these interviews has previously appeared in Stardate 18 (March 1983), and in some Emory campus publications. We have here combined these with some new, previously unpublished material for the first time. [1]

Some Excerpts

[Gerrold]: I think that we are seeing the evolution of a whole new medium here. In fact, TV is going to change whether we want it to or not. We've got a 30-year long generation which has taken TV as a passive medium. The marriage of computers, video games and videodiscs will make for an interactive storytelling medium. You'll still have the bombardment of imagery, but you'll have more control over it. One of the positive things with cable pay TV is that commercials have been trimmed out of it. On my cable, there's a classified ad channel and a community affairs channel. So if you want to see something specific, you know where to find it. But they don't interrupt the movies every 14 minutes to tell me what a jerk I am for not using so-and-so's product.
[Bloch]: It's a matter of fragmentation, too—and the domination of the three networks has been a real problem for the last 20 years or so, plus the exorbitant costs. Now, at the time that television came into being, it was similar to much of radio. One sponsor had a program.
[Gerrold]: Then we'd have to find a new way to finance the shows. In England, there is a tax on your TV set, something like 25 bucks a year. Out of that, the shows are financed. So over there, shows aren't financed on the basis of what can pull the biggest ratings, they're financed on the basis of what best serves the audience. What gives the audience a well-rounded diet of viewing? In the U.S., what we have is whipped cream and sugar TV programming with only an occasional steak. You know, they don't neglect the other stuff in the meal. You may not like your cauliflower, spinach and carrots, but it's there. And the level of British broadcasting varies. There's some stuff that's very bad, and there's some stuff that's very good. What is sent to the U.S. is usually the stuff that’s very good. And their good programs are so remarkable in their level of quality that it puts us here all to shame. It's really embarrassing sometimes for me to say, "I write for TV." So I don't--I say, "I write novels."
[Gerrold]: Okay, to the purist, Star Trek is the 79 episodes. In fact, to the real purist, Star Trek is the first two seasons ... because in the third season, Gene Roddenberry, Gene L. Coon and Dorothy Fontana weren't there, and there was a very pronounced shift in attitude because there was a different man in charge. [Editor’s Note: Fred Freiburger] And this man was not as receptive as he could have been to the people that wanted to support him in staying true to the original concept that Gene had initiated.... Yes. So, to the purist, Star Trek is the first two seasons. But let me draw a larger circle into what we should call Star Trek. It's the concept that, here is a ship and its mission is to boldly go where no man has gone before—we get that at the beginning of every episode. In other words, to explore the universe to see who's out there on the other side of the hill and say, "Hi, do you want to be friends? We're you're neighbors." That's it. That's the concept of Star Trek. And that's not dependent on any set of actors because we saw in the first Star Trek pilot, it was Captain Pike, Number One and Mr. Spock was there, but Dr. McCoy wasn't there—however, Spock was the only one who remained after the first pilot. And Christine Chapel was playing Number One, you know, Majel Barrett. But the show is this concept. And there were episodes that stayed true to that concept and there were other episodes that didn't work too well. On the movies—it's funny—the first movie was more true to that concept than the second movie, yet the second one is considered more successful. But that's neither here nor there because that's just the reaction of audiences and there's all kinds of variables in there. On the novels, I haven't read any of the Star Trek novels except for the one I wrote. This is personal, and it's not an encompassing judgment, it's just that the novels are the individual author's opinion about what Star Trek is. There are only two novels written by people who had any connection with Star Trek the TV series. I'm one and the other is Howard Weinstein, who did a script for the animated series. [Editor’s Note: This interview took place before D.C. Fontana’s novel was written and published.] I think there have been some Star Trek novels that have been absolutely untrue to the spirit of Star Trek. And, I say I think that because I have not read them—I've skimmed a couple, I've looked at a couple, I've been given reports on what's in the books by some very skilled readers. Some author friends of mine have told me that there is this whole series of Star Trek novels that go down this road of, you know, the sexual fantasy of fat, overweight ladies who want to believe that Kirk and Spock have something going on between them. There's that subtext, and there's this other subtext over here and so on. I think that the Star Trek novels are nothing more than somebody else's fantasies—they don't relate to the show that Roddenberry originally conceived.
[Bloch]: Well, David Gerrold has almost made a career out of his association with Star Trek. Yes, I was involved with Star Trek, too, and I enjoyed it, but I have been involved in many other things. People are always talking to me about Psycho, for example. That's not to criticize David; it's simply what he has chosen to do.
[Gerrold]: I think it started with Roddenberry, in fact, I know it started with him, who else? Everybody else tapped into it because Gene was speaking to that basic spark of divinity. It's like when you blow on an ember which turns into a flame. That's what happened. The whole crew said, "This is something special, this is no job, this is a life, and it makes a difference on the planet." Ten years ago, a kid with multiple sclerosis was wheeled into a convention in a wheelchair, and this was the highest point of his life because at that point, he had like one year to live. Someone told Gene about him and about how much it would mean to him if he would name him a "Commanding Admiral in Starfleet." From that point on, he was Admiral LaForge, and I even mentioned him in my Star Trek novel. Later, his family wrote and told us that while it wasn't really such a big thing to do, it did mean so much to him that his life was transformed for him. "Gosh, I count! I make a difference!" The Star Trek cast responded to that human spark—that human self. In most shows, the crew is playing gin rummy. Not Star Trek. In Star Trek, there was interest in what they were doing. It was speaking to the best in us. [Editor’s Note: The character Geordi LaForge was named for this young fan as well.
[Gerrold]: [Can Star Trek survive without Spock?]: Let me give you an example of what I feel about that. Peanuts used to be one of my favorite comic strips. In it, Snoopy was a minor character at first, and then he took off and became the star of the strip. At that point, it became a fantasy. It lost touch with the real world. It simply became cute. Spock was unfortunately emphasized on Star Trek to the detriment of the other minor characters. I'm afraid that the larger view of what Star Trek is all about is lost when we analogize and say that Spock is Star Trek.

References

  1. entire transcript is here; reference link; Wayback link