We first met Mr. Schnaubelt and his wife at the San Diego EQUICON Celebrity
Banquet. They were our table celebrities. The topic all during dinner, advanced by
an earnest little trekkie from Denver, dealt with the lack of a zoology lab
in the Enterprise Blueprints. Unfortunately, some
people are only able to converse upon one subject ... and do so ... ad nausium.
We ate hurriedly and left to see Forbidden Planet
in all its red-tinted glory.
Now that we know Mr. Schnaubelt, we regret that early departure. Not only is
he more interesting than Forbidden Planet
, he has
a lot more to say than why there is no zoology lab on the
. Mr. Schnaubelt lives here in San Diego,
our own local Star Trek
celebrity as it were.
He is a very personable, intelligent, practical man who can occasionally be found
at local S.T.A.R./San Diego meetings and conventions, always surrounded by myriads of
fen. It's a real experience to talk
with Mr. Schnaubelt, and you'll see why as Franz Joseph talks about:
IN THE BEGINNING
How did you begin a project like the
Star Fleet Technical Manual? What were you
doing along the Star Trek lines that started
Nothing. 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
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.
Karen went to her first con in Los Angeles in 1973. After that she and
some of her friends got together at Jean Peacock's house as a group for about
6 months. They decided to enlarge it as a campus activity, and San Diego
State agreed. It is now a standard campus activity and has a faculty
advisor. Karen asked me if I would go along to the formulative meeting
and there I ran into some children of friends of mine with whom I worked
at Convair. (By the way, when I say "kids" I mean anybody three years
younger than I am.) Anyway, they had their dummy communicators and props and
they were pretty fierce--balsa wood, cardboard, tape, and cheap aluminum.
I told them I thought they could do better than that, and they said, "Show us."
Karen had maybe 800 film clips at the time and so we came home and looked at
a few slides, and then I laid out the hand phaser as a drawing. There's
nothing unusual about this. There is a principle of architectural drawing
whereby you take the plans and erect them into a three-dimensional
building in perspective. I just reversed that by taking the pictures and
erecting the plans. I used to do this during the war with captured enemy
photographs or equipment. But anyhow, I did that and made a communicator and
hand phaser. They weren't the world's best drawings, they were just
treatises of a kind. The kids went wild over them. They wanted a lot more.
They wanted everything. They made a whole list of stuff they wanted to see
and I decided well, I would do it if there was an interest in it. That's
how the Technical Manual came about. They wanted bridge stations
and other things concerned with the interior of the Enterprise,
which did not exist except in a book or in somebody's mind as a throwaway
line. So it became rather obvious that I would have to lay out the
Enterprise far enough to get to those areas--to see whether I
could make drawings. This is how the Enterprise Blueprints came
about--in the middle of making the Technical Manual--they were
primarily an afterthought.
The problem with the Enterprise Blueprints came when I had to
loft the ship. I found that the existing drawings didn't jive
dimensionally. So I had to loft it first, get the shapes and dimensions
to agree, and from these I could then take the cuts of every deck.
With those I started laying out the plans.
These plans are not as much dummies as some people think. Those are
real plans for a real starship. The warp drive is science fiction
obviously, but the minute we get hold of warp drive theory, or
someone makes warp drive by any other name, the ship will fly.
It will make the energy level available to lead us to
teletransportation and everything else. We know that right now. We
know everything that's required right now, the only thing that's holding
us back is that we don't have access to the energy to do it.
People talk about the atomic bomb and nuclear fission. That's comparable
to the energy we have to use. However, we are getting data indicating that
the energy is there. Planetary probes and satellites are instrumented to
read magnetohydrodynamics and we have already found the space energy
grid, which we are looking for. That's the basis where warp drive is going
to come from. It is apparently a force field just like the Earth's magnetic
fields, which are all around us by the thousands. They don't affect us;
don't push us around; they don't destroy us internally or anything like
that. Data leads us to this energy; now we need to find it, to
identify it, and to collect it.
Einstein's Theory of Relativity cannot be defied in order to travel
at hyperwave velocity. That theory states that the velocity of light
is a constant which may not be exceeded anywhere in the universe.
Now that is very important. What Einstein is saying is that we, as
biological beings, cannot exceed the speed of light. Mechanically or
mechanical mechanisms perhaps yes, but biological life, no, because
pretty weird things happen to anything alive which exceeds this limit.
So the theory states you can go from here to a distant place
without exceeding the speed of light (I don't care how close you get
to it, you must stay under it to remain a living organism), by
utilizing hyperlight velocity so that it doesn't take you a hundred
billion years to get anywhere, while you, yourself, remain sublight.
Okay. Imagine you are traveling from here to Alpha Centauri. Imagine
two balloons blown up so that the curvature of the surface of the
balloons right together is the 'real' spatial distance between here
and Alpha Centauri. Now your spaceship, moving at warp drive speeds,
will be in its own bubble of subspace between the two balloons.
When you go at warp drive or hyperlight velocity, you pass the
energy of the universe through your system and restore it behind
you. Passing it about you, in other words. All you do is pass
it around this infinitesimally tiny bubble of your ship. The
ship itself can be moving at less than the velocity of light, but
with the energy available, it can move the universe past it at any
speed you wish to theorize, or imagine. This is the way in which
our mission will be done. You use the aerodynamic theory of the
source of "sink." The engine fronts are the source in which the
entire energy of the universe in front is taken in and passed in
a loop through the vehicle. The energy is utilized to operate the
machinery while passing through this loop, and then put out the
back and restored exactly as it was when picked up in front.
How we do this--the methods involved--I haven't the foggiest
idea. The matter and antimatter drive--that's one fancy phraseology
which sounds like it embraces massive explosions. It strains the
imagination. We shall use it, however, to keep it in there. But
in theory you would need only a very, very tiny antimatter-starting
chamber to start the whole mechanism pulling in energy. Dilithium
crystals are very unstable, so with a starting chamber full of
dilithium, a few added atoms of antimatter will provide the
driving force to get the whole system charged up and sucking in
space energy. Now beyond that...
The kids are always asking about the Vulcan Starmap: 40 Eridani is a
trinary system, and 40 Eridani A (which is Alam'ak, the star Vulcan
orbits) is a major K-type star. Eridani B and C are a white dwarf and
an M-type star, respectively, and they revolve around each other with
a periodicity of 240 Earth years. Spock's reference that Vulcan has no
moon is wrong. There must be one to avoid a stagnant sea. So
Vulcan's moon (star-size to them and brighter than Venus) would, in
14 of our years, change from white to red and back to white again.
These, by the way, are all correct stars. Where there is a known
proper name I've kept it. Where they've been given a definition such
as A, B, C or Alpha or Epsilon I've found names for them. After
calculating a list of names and going down the tables, I was amazed
at how uniformly the damn things fit into the map.
I'm using a rather interesting argument to keep up the mystique.
Supposedly Earth has had planetary visitors ever since the existence
of civilization. The space people have members in the International
Astronomer's Society, which was formed 400 years ago to meet
periodically to determine the names of newly discovered stars.
These alien members of the Society see to it that we invariably
get the correct names already in use in space. Now there is a basis
for this. In known anthropological history man evolved above a
primate as a tool-making man and existed this way for almost a
million years with no change. In other words, all he had were simple
tools, no clothing or permanent shelter, no agriculture, skinned
animals or anything. Then lo and behold, about 10,000 years ago he
suddenly blossomed out with all these things. The facts don't go
together. Actually, archeological proofs now being investigated
strongly point to a major visitation. Same thing with the ancient
Greeks: The Greeks have a 5,000 year history of being simple hill
people--no commerce, no literature, language, art. That doesn't
explain itself. There's a discussion as to whether the Greek gods
were space visitors who were again here for a period of time. I'm
using the argument and this is true, that they came from Alpha
Centauri, and that they gave the ancient Greeks their language and
brought centaurs and satyrs with them in an attempt to colonize the
Earth. Some factor in the Earth's environment prevented the
experiment from succeeding. So I'm saying that in the Alpha Centauri
system of planets there is a planet, which is inhabited by centaurs
and satyrs, who are very intelligent people.
Everybody is concerned about that. The common one used in the Technical Manual was one I developed over 35 years ago. It's a notation we gave our sketches as a code so we could get away from having to go through a standard of long system release forms (which are a lot of red tape). We used to just order the number to get prints of whatever we wanted and keep working despite the company system.
Are you designing any more ships at all? Klingons? Romulans? Federation or freighters?
I don't know what to do in this area.
Youngsters send me drawings all the time. I haven't gotten into the area of the Romulan or Klingon ships at all, those were planned to come along later. From what little I can gather, the Romulan ship was a very hurried job. The show had to have a Romulan ship model, and I understand that Irving Feinberg took the disk of an Enterprise, fixed the engine barrels on each side of it, filled the thing with cardboard, put some detail on it, painted it up and that was it. Some time after that another episode wanted to use the model and nobody could find it. So they said to hell with it, it was a mess anyhow, and they cooked up the theme that the Romulans had made a treaty with the Klingons and now are operating Klingon equipment. That's why in laying out the Technical Manual galaxy I show an access corridor to justify this.
There's a kid who did a very beautiful job of drawing a set of plans for the Romulan ship and sent them to me. But he tried too hard to copy mine. When you look at it, you can see he stitched the Enterprise inside the Romulan ship. I had about a dozen local fans give me the same opinion, but I would need to know something of the Romulans to be able to know how the ship would be laid out inside. These kinds of plans will probably be coming along. Ballantine is talking about wanting to produce them.
One of the things I've been thinking of doing is making up a standards sheet to draw to. Anybody can make up a real valid idea, do some qualified work and thinking, and I could use them. Just say these are Class II Federation ships or something like that. You'd have to devise the system for them. A standards sheet would simplify all that. So far there hasn't been time to get into it.
I have a Klingon Ambassador here and one in San Francisco who are both doing a Klingon history, culture and language. Both of them are doctors of linguistics, so these are not kids playing around. While they differ in certain respects, neither one of them are that far apart, even on the languages. As a matter of fact, it is very easy to develop two primary languages. They're that close. You can follow both of them along. Ballentine has assured them that if they can put something together that I agree with, and we make the ship plans along with it, Ballantine will buy and publish it. So I'm trying to get them to put together a primer. In other words, when the Klingon capture a society there would be a primer given to the conquered population. The primer would outline forms of address the people would have to learn in order to work with their rulers easily. The language to be learned would be Klingonese, and there would be protocol instructions and that type of thing. Now what I'm going to do is make a set of captured Klingon plans completely in Klingonese with Federation translations under them. We would use the primer and plans as a starting basis. If it takes off as I think it will, then both people will have a published name and both can write individual works as far as they want to go.
I had to make choices in the Technical Manual because there are lots of youngsters to please. I have legal eagles that want all the legal papers. There are those people who want the piping and plumbing and wiring diagrams. But that's great! They like that kind of thing, but nobody else does. So I had to make a choice and spread the topics out and try to get everybody a little something of what they wanted at first and then gradually fill it in as we find out if there are enough people who want other statutes, if there are enough that want other astronomy data, enough who want more uniforms, whatever, it can be built, I have a master outline that would classify 50,000 subjects. It can be built into an entire shelf of papers and books. I'm not going to do it by any stretch of the imagination, but it can be done. And it can be added to and corrected forever. Suppose that in getting back into STAR TREK, Roddenberry goes into a new design for the uniforms. All those technical orders can be issued as amended to replace the old ones, just exactly like we do in the real world. What I'm slowly doing is educating the kids in this field--maybe I'm building a bunch of future engineers, I don't know. The range is just unbelievable on the ideas I'm getting.
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. In fact, here's the best story I can tell you: I had a fellow call me who works at the Jet Propulsion Lab. He's a science symposium coordinator between JPL and Rockwell International to facilitate an exchange of ideas between the two of them and NASA. He called me and said, "Hey, I wrote to the United States Military Courts at Washington for a copy of that security docket (the entrance examinations and recommendations to Star Fleet Academy) and it came back from the Washington Post Office marked 'insufficient address.' So whom do I write to?" I said, "You didn't really believe it, did you?" But apparently it's that real. I've also gotten letters from Canada asking the same thing. Can they write to the Military Court in Washington and get a copy of that document? So anyhow, as long as they want to believe I'd like to keep it in this regime of believability even though I think everybody seriously knows no, it's not--but it can be.
I have no interest in Star Trek, and I have no interest even in the new series. The interest I have here is for a potential space community, a potential space force. There's nothing wrong with the Enterprise Blueprints, and there are a lot of people working in this area. What is fascinating for me, and for other people, is how close can we guess to what it may be then? This is what I'm trying to say: Those Articles of Federation are not corny. That's a real document. Also, although it's not in the Technical Manual yet, this is the Statute of the Interplanetary Supreme Court of Justice (an 8-page document). And this is the statute regulating interplanetary commerce (a 28-page statute). These are also real documents. These will be put out as packets to include how the ships are certified, how facilities are set up, how interplanetary spaceways are utilized, navigation buoys, the whole bit. Sooner or later people are going to have to get into this area from Star Trek. They could begin a space colony or something like that and these documents will be here as guides.
How has Star Trek changed your life?
I still do everything I did before. I have been official advisor to the County of San Diego for a number of years. I was vice-chairman of the Long-Goal Planning Association for the last five years, developing a long-goal plan. Right now I'm busy leading an annexation of this area to La Mesa. We ran into a snag between our local governments that I hope to have cleared out in the next couple of weeks. It's held over much too long. I am also working hard as a consultant with the City of La Mesa on other problems they have.
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.
Have you thought about doing the documents for the General Orders?
I don't think they can be done. Nobody seems to know what they are. Apparently they were dreamed up by the production staff when required by the script. As a matter of fact, when I first wrote to Roddenberry about this idea, I said the reason I have not done this before was the fact that I assumed he already had such a thing. As you know, when a writer had to know what a ship's name and number was, or other facts for continuity, there was a Star Trek Writer's Guide they could go to. I was very surprised that the General Orders were apparently never taken and recorded. Here again, yes, I've been asked to write them. But if I do, then I feel I'm stepping on Gene Roddenberry's toes. If anybody should write it, he should. It was his idea, his baby. This is my opinion. I've told him, for instance, that everybody wants me to do space uniforms. His dress uniforms do not conform to international convention. In order to make actually acceptable uniforms I told him I'd have to make some changes. I could do it and stick within his formula as best I could, but there would be small changes, I said if he was interested I would draw them up, but I wouldn't use them without his approval.
What would some of these changes be?
As the uniforms stand now, they are not identifiable as a uniform or as a service. For one thing, they have no insignia on them. Under international convention, which has, as far as I know, 120 nations as signatories, you have to wear a designated uniform, a designated militia, of the United States or whatever. It has to be a part of the convention and it has to be published so that all uniformed militia know this. In case of warfare, your rights as a non-combatant are dependant upon compliance with this convention and whether you are treated as a POW or a spy depends on this. My argument is that it's taken 10,000 years of warfare on the Earth between all societies to get this far; to get some civilized rules of warfare and the he treatment of people. In the 23rd Century we aren't going to throw this away; rather, we're going to improve on it if anything. So the dress uniforms; yes, they can be different and fancy, but they still have to be a recognizable uniform--which they aren't. Whereas the Klingons were all very definitely recognizable as part of one military force, and so were the Romulans.
Here again, this is a production necessity. They had only the Enterprise sets. They shot some episodes that were supposed to occur on other Federation ships. What can you do? What they did was change the insignia of the people to indicate another ship. (The youngsters are still arguing this with me.) But the predominant insignia shown for the divisions that were on the Enterprise -- have to be the same for everyone in Star Fleet. What I want to do is develop insignia for Headquarters, for Command Level, etc. I would like to junk the one Nurse Chapel wore; it was out of sequence--here you have all the rest of the Medical Force using the Science Insignia and she comes up with the red cross. What Gene and the director tried to convey was a tie in so people thought International Red Cross--Florence Nightingale and all that stuff. I can't blame them for their thinking, and that's what got across so their logic was right. But still there are the technical realities of the whole thing. Also, I found out that the real reason for the three different female uniforms was because the three principal female actors would not be caught dead in the same thing that one of the others was wearing. In the real service you wouldn't have this: the WACS all have one uniform--the WAVES all have one uniform.
Another thing: The reason behind the weird seaming was because Bill Theiss only had so many uniforms and had to put a lot of actors in them. With that seaming he could easily adjust it to them and they were thrown right on them. Again, this is movie stage set, but it doesn't fit reality. In that era they would have been made seamless. They would be manufactured by machine or out of atomic materials. This is why in the Technical Manual I've put it in as a non-computerized pattern. If you had a duplicator you could duplicate it out of yardgoods found on your planet. But it would not be what was used on Star Trek.
Has Gene Roddenberry contacted you about even consulting with the movie on designs?
I really don't have any interest in working with it. 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.
The kids now consider the Technical Manual to be real because it's in their hands. They can have it and own it. And so what's happening is that we're clashing against one another, which shouldn't be, and I don't know what do to about it. I've asked Gene Roddenberry and I've asked Ballantine. If the Technical Manual is in competition with Star Trek, then I won't do any more. The Technical Manual should be an enhancement of Gene's idea. The idea is whatever they want to do with it. Even if they want to go on with glaring mistakes and change the ship and change the name and change the captain and the crew and the uniforms and everything, they have a right to do it. I would never dictate to anybody on this regardless of what I'm doing.
Perhaps there is a way to get the idea across to the fans that Star Trek is the movie make-believe of the Technical Manual; take it for what it is and enjoy it. In time, this Technical Manual, with amendments and additions, could be a NASA Space Manual; a United States Government Space Manual; A British Space Manual; what have you. It's like a Boy Scout Handbook. It is taking all the technical bookshelf and putting it in a simplified form that can be understood and seen. You get merit badges for it and you like it and you can buy this and that and the other thing. There ought to be some way that this can compromise itself, but right now I really don't know where or what to do.
A REALITY & PHENOMENON
The last I heard, the Technical Manual has been the Number One best seller in the United States since mid-December (this interview with Mr. Schnaubelt conducted in February 1976). I have not gotten anything from Ballantine recently. I'm about due for another packet jammed full of fan mail. I just finished getting the last batch done.
Whenever I write to the fans I always write to them from Star Fleet. I imagine half the kids who've gotten these are convinced that there has to be a Star Fleet and a United Federation out there because they've got a piece of paper that shows it. I keep compiling terminology. I try to maintain the fiction. I know it's make-believe, but they want to believe and I'm not going to be the one to destroy it for them.
The kids always go through this phase. My daughter was that way, and she's still a firm Trekkie, but she knows that it's make-believe and there are other things in the world. They all grow up. But there's an amazing phenomenon involved in this that I spotted way back: I see others who now begin to mention the same thing, so I think I'm on the right track. There are two things that Roddenberry did that no body realized: not Roddenberry, not Paramount, and not NBC. In fact, you aren't that old either, you were probably born right about the beginning of World War II. If you were here at that time, after the first atomic bomb tests in 1946 and 1947, you'd know that the public, particularly in the United States, was genuinely scared. As far as 50% of the scientific community was concerned, we didn't know what we were doing. We had powerful forces, according to terracentric thinking, and we were genuinely scared. Our whole society went into the ělive for today because tomorrow the whole place may have been blown to kingdom comeî attitude. It took a long time to get out of that.
Now you've gone through the typical school training. In the high school I went to we covered in a half semester what are now full-year college courses. We either made the grade and covered it, or we flunked. There was no mollycoddling in my day. The schools were more than happy to flunk you and point out to your parents how much of an idiot you were. It's different now. I've seen three generations and I know that it's true.
Okay, so atomic power had scared us and there was no future. The hippies of the 60s showed that the young generation was completely disillusioned with our establishment. A young person could come out of high school all set up to beat the world, and after beating his head against the brick wall for ten years, by the time he's 25, he says, "Forget it! I'll drop into my niche and stay there for the rest of my life. We were promised a democratic society where everybody has life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--only it doesn't appear. It's a pretty dirty world and it's a pretty lousy world."
Somewhere after World War II this country went on a crazy binge. We gave up all our morals, our ethics, and everything else that we spent 100,000 years developing. Why, I'll never know.
The magic Star Trek had was that it showed that Earth and civilization had survived to three centuries. It showed that people in this time got what they were promised: survival and fulfillment. That's what I think has got to be the Star Trek attraction. Regardless of bad filming, production, or anything else, it had stories of survival and promises come true. I think these are two ingredients that stand out in the original episodes and in the work that's being done on an amateur level.
I got a letter last fall from a youngster--when do they just begin to write fairly well--about the 4th grade? They all learn the trick--the first thing is the buttering-up process: "I've gotten your books and everything else and all by friends (meaning all the people in the world) have them." And then they get down to the nitty-gritty. What this kid wanted was construction prices--a page and a half. How much is the bridge? How much is each bridge station? How much is this corridor? How much are the engines? The photon torpedoes? He wanted the whole thing price-listed. I got to thinking, why did he write this? Then it dawned on me: He's got a piggy bank. He gets a quarter from his mother, a quarter from his dad, and some when a relative drops in; but he's got the thing figured out: "If I had the prices I could maybe buy that door this week, that corridor next week, and one of these days I'm going to have the whole thing in the backyard there and I'm going to take off."
I've had six people around the country write to me who want to built a full-sized Enterprise as a Disneyland-type attraction, I've tried to discourage them. I don't think they know what they're getting into. I personally can't believe that it would have enough universal appeal to even pay for its maintenance, let alone the original cost.
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.
Workshops are something I'd like to see tried at the San Diego meetings. I don't know how much the youngsters here would be interested in something like that, but I think the on-campus moderators would be interested in coming over and leading it. Let the kids go wild with their imaginations and get fired up. This is all right. There are so many stone walls for kids to hit against. Instead of that, we could tap the enthusiasm and get something out of it before society chills it. They could talk about anything they want to. This is fine because you see the youngsters there trying to do things, and you know a bit which can help them, give them some clues, a little training. Why not?
One area I would like to see a workshop explore would be, "Can you write a story for prime-time television in science fiction that is technically and scientifically accurate and still have it be exciting?" I saw the first Space: 1999 and it was so unacceptable that that was the end right then and there. They did just as Isaac Asimov said: they even defied the ability to be called Scientifically Illiterate. There wasn't even a guise to trying to hold to technical reality.
I would like to see a definite, scheduled exploration of the moon--manned exploration--because the moon is a natural museum of the universe. Since that's where the record is, that's where we need to go and look. Like O'Neal's space colony. I haven't met Dr. O'Neal yet; I'll probably meet him sometime this spring. But I have an argument with him. I would rather see the colony built on the moon than built in orbit. The simple fact of the matter is whether it is built in orbit or whether it is built on the moon, we have to expend the same energy. But if it has to be lifted from the moon to orbit, additional energy is expended and I don't see why. It would be nice to put it in orbit just to show it can be done, but by now we no longer have to do this type of thing. Let's get our greatest dollar value for our money. The solar panels can be manufactured on the moon just as well and towed into orbit from there. That makes sense. But right now I would argue with him unless he could show me other valid reasons, there is no reason why the colony needs to be in orbit. It has to be rotated to give artificial gravity. When you put it on the moon you have gravity. If you want construction in pure vacuum without gravity, then build a small orbital station just for that. Not constructing on the moon would be awfully silly because the machine-work that dug the excavation for the base would create piled up materials. Those very same materials could be used to create the shell. Once the bubble shell is built, the rest of the material can be taken and converted to oxygen, fluorine and everything else needed to provide atmosphere. Its so much easier, that's all.
There is no reason in the world to consider manned probes at this time for Mars, Venus, etc. Because it can be done better, cheaper and faster with unmanned probes. If we turn up something that can use the logic that a man applies, okay, then talk about sending a man.
I don't like the idea of getting into space with the Earth's military. I don't want our military ideas carried into space. I'm firmly convinced there is an intelligent society out there, and there is no reason why we should contaminate them. As a matter of fact, I hope they are smart enough and powerful enough to have us quarantined so that they can at least protect the rest of the galaxy. We can't protect ourselves.
What do you do for a living? What kind of job do you hold?
I'm retired. I retired 6 years ago. But I'm a professional industrial designer and I worked for General Dynamics for 30 years as Design Engineer. I also spent 20 years in marine sciences. I've had a fairly varied career, primarily in industrial and commercial designing. I'm also supposed to be an aerodynamics expert. The formats I established for reports back in 1945 are 146 have been adopted by the Department of the Navy and are still in use.
How do you feel about your fan response?
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.
People call from all over the United States to talk with me. And they are real people who are interested in something. I'm happy to talk with them. I'm happy to discuss ideas in the Technical Manual. Whether it's a popular thing or not, it wouldn't change its value to me or make any difference whatsoever.
Special thanks to Gerry Williams for providing this interview to this web site, and for granting permission to host it here.
Interview copyright 1976 by Gerry Williams and Penny Durrans. Reprinted with the permission of Gerry Williams.
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