Trekplace Interview with Karen Dick

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Trekplace Interview with Karen Dick
Interviewer: Tyler
Interviewee: Karen Dick
Date(s): conducted via email from June 1999 to July 1999
Medium: online
Fandom(s): Star Trek: TOS
External Links: page one, WebCite for page 1; page two, WebCite for page 2
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Trekplace Interview with Karen Dick 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.

Karen Dick's father, Franz Joseph Schnaubelt, is the creator of Star Fleet Technical Manual.

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Some Topics Discussed

  • her views on the different Star Trek series
  • her father's history with Star Trek (he was the creator of Star Fleet Technical Manual
  • hints about troubles with Paramount and/or Gene Roddenberry, but these are not explained
  • defending her father's work

Excerpts

[Dick]: I was 11 years old when I became a fan of the original Star Trek series in its original run (1966-69). My father was directly responsible for my becoming a ST fan, and it's kind of a funny story, because he was never a major fan himself. When ST first aired in 1966-67, it played on Thursday nights, opposite Bewitched. We watched the first couple of episodes of ST, which seemed to be as cheesy as Lost In Space (people being flung all over and bridge consoles exploding in a shower of sparks). I gave up and watched Bewitched for about 6 weeks after that, at which point Dad put his foot down and said we were going to try watching Star Trek again. By the time he decided ST was not as scientifically accurate as he would like and that he didn't care if we watched it or not, I was hooked. The episode that sealed the deal forever was "This Side of Paradise," and I became one of the legion of pre-teenage girls who had a crush on Mr. Spock. Throughout junior high, high school, and college, I wrote about a million words of really appalling Star Trek fan fiction. But that much practice gave me the English/grammar/writing/editing skills that became very useful when I started my tech writing career. Later, when I started making costumes and competing in the masquerades at Star Trek conventions in the 1970s, I acquired the sewing and pattern-making skills that have led to my current career. Over the years, my appreciation of Star Trek has evolved from star-struck admiration of the characters to a real appreciation for the storytelling and the speculative futuristic technology in each episode. Kirk and Spock in the original series started out as men old enough to be my father, later became my peers, and now are "those nice young men." Times--and perspectives!-- change.

[Tyler]: If there were one question you'd like to ask Gene Roddenberry, what would it be? If there were one question you'd like to ask the folks at Paramount, what would it be?

[Dick]: Yipes. I don't think there is anything I could ask either of them that I don't already know the answer to already. The answer to any "Why?" questions is: "We were trying to protect our valuable media property and avoid paying royalties to an outsider."

I guess the best question for both is: "My father never intended to do anything to threaten you or hurt your interests. Can't we all just try to get along?"

[Tyler]: Is there anything you'd like to say to Star Trek fans, about the Star Trek series or films, your father's works, Trek fandom, or just general comments?

[Dick]: First, and most important, I'd like to say I still love Star Trek in all its permutations. I've been a Star Trek fan for 75% of my life now. I will be a Star Trek fan when I leave this planet. Just because what's out there has nothing to do anymore with my father's work doesn't prevent me from enjoying it. I still try to see the films on opening day, and I follow the series as best I can with my weird schedule.

Second, this interview should have been done a long time ago, preferably while FJ was still alive. It's been 20+ years, "canon" Star Trek and FJ's design work have diverged so much now that reconciliation is impossible, and I am resigned to that. While FJ learned to use a computer when he was 70, he never got onto the Internet, and never even had email. Therefore, he never had a forum to defend himself to Star Trek fans. Franz Joseph Designs desperately needs a web site and a voice, and I just haven't had the time to put it together. (Anyone out there who's self-employed will understand why.) I want to thank Gregory Tyler for contacting me, and for supplying me with this forum to at least start getting the word out.

I defended FJ once in the mid-1980s on CompuServe's Star Trek Forum, when some innocent fan asked why FJ's ship designs were not being used in the Star Trek movies and on ST:TNG, and Mike Okuda answered that FJ was a fan kook and his stuff was never approved by GR. (I am not mad at Mike; he didn't know FJ and was simply repeating the party line handed to him by GR. I'm not even sure I'm mad at GR any more, but I digress...) After that, I was so caught up in my own life that I had no idea of the accumulated volume of material discrediting FJ's work until I started doing my research for this interview. Now it's a matter of honor for me to clear FJ's name in the annals of Star Trek history.

[Dick]: I came into this interview very bitter and prepared to paint black hats on both GR and Paramount. Then I started putting together the FJ Timeline as a reference aid based on FJ's work journals. And I read things in the notes that I had never known before. I was 18-20 years old when most of the interaction between GR and FJ was taking place, and FJ didn't clue me in on some of the fine points that I am just now discovering by reading his papers five years after his death. Some of what I'm reading makes me cringe, because I know how FJ thought and acted, and I know what he meant to do, and also I know how his actions must have been misinterpreted by the very people he was trying not to offend.

Then Greg Tyler helped me research and fill the significant Star Trek movie production dates into the FJ Timeline, and YOW! A whole different level of meaning surfaced. If you can read between the lines, you'll see it, too. For me, it's like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I see all the misunderstandings and bad timing and horrible synergy going on between GR, FJ, and Lou Mindling at Paramount, and I want to yell,"No, stop, please! Talk to each other and say what you really mean!" I had no idea. I'm not sure anyone had an idea, even the players themselves. And it's 20 years too late to fix it. I come out of this interview saddened rather than angered, and at least having some understanding as to why GR and Paramount acted as they did to discredit FJ. I just wish FJ was still around so I could explain the epiphany I've had.

Third, all of the above doesn't mean that FJ doesn't deserve a place in official Star Trek history. His were the seminal technical works on Star Trek. They undoubtedly inspired the Blueprints and Tech Manuals for all the "canon" versions, because nobody had ever thought to use those formats before. And STAR TREK production people now put far more thought into Treknology than they ever did for the original series. That's FJ's influence, too.

It also should be apparent from the FJ Timeline and from this interview that GR not only knew FJ, but approved of his design work for at least 2 years. FJ's work deserves to be part of the official history of Star Trek at least as much as any rejected script or aborted TV series.

References