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Karen Dick
(Interview conducted via email from June 1999 to July 1999)


Page 1 of 6

Q1
Tyler: Please tell me some things about yourself.
Dick: BORING PERSONAL STUFF: I was born March 25, 1955 in San Diego, CA. I was an "only" child, though I grew up with near-same-age cousins (also Star Trek fans!) on both sides of the family. I attended Helix High School, where I was valedictorian of my graduating class, and San Diego State University, where I acquired a B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology. While I was acquiring my degrees, I worked for the local school system as a Teacher's Aide. After I graduated, I worked a series of jobs which eventually led to my becoming a senior technical writer in Silicon Valley.
In 1990, I quit the Corporate life and moved east to join husband Ricky. We have lived in southwestern PA for 8+ years now, but I will always consider myself a displaced Californian, and he will always consider himself a displaced New Jerseyian. We own a 100+-year-old piece-of-junk Victorian house, drive eccentric cars (my current ride is a 1985 Buick hearse), and live a fairly Bohemian lifestyle (we're the neighborhood's resident "whacko artist" types). Ricky's 10-year-old daughter Caitlin visits us part-time (she lives and goes to school in MD). I am currently owned by two cats, which are the latest in a long line of cats, dogs, and reptiles, including a pair of green iguanas.
Both Ricky and I are self-employed as suppliers/consultants to the Halloween and haunted house industry. In October, we operate a seasonal dark attraction called CASTLE BLOOD. I also self-publish a reference book called The Whole Costumer's Catalogue, currently in its 14th edition. You can find more information about all these businesses on our web site, www.castleblood.com. I also continue to manage my father's business, FRANZ JOSEPH DESIGNS, which still has licensing agreements with Ballantine Books, Amarillo Design Bureau, and GameScience miniatures. And in my spare time, I fold paper bags...
Hobbies? I don't have time any more. Basically, our hobbies evolved into our businesses. My husband and I both used to compete heavily on the science fiction convention masquerade circuit (that's how we met). Between the two of us, we have won Best In Show multiple times in regional (Westercon, Balticon), national (Costume-Con), and international (Worldcon) competitions. Our costume work appears in The Costume-Maker's Art (Thom Boswell, Lark Books, 1992). Unfortunately, neither of us has competed since 1994, although we are still creating new costumes all the time for clients and for CASTLE BLOOD. I am the founding chairperson of Costume-Con, currently in its 18th year (for more information, see www.costumecon.org), and hold a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Costumers Guild (see www.costume.org ).
HOW I BECAME A STAR TREK FAN:
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.
Karen Dick and father Franz Joseph in 1993
Karen Dick and father Franz Joseph in 1993
Q2
Tyler: Please tell me some things about your father, Franz Joseph Schnaubelt. (Is Franz Joseph Schnaubelt his real name or a pseudonym, what sort of things did he do in WWII, etc.)
Dick: Franz Joseph Schnaubelt was his real name. (At least that's what was on his driver's license and all his legal papers.) He was christened Francis Joseph Schnaubelt, but adopted Franz sometime in his twenties, probably because he thought it sounded more sophisticated. (I see his first documented use of it on a Christmas card in 1936.) He did all his independent industrial design work as Franz Joseph (no Schnaubelt).
FJ was born on June 29, 1914 in the suburbs of Chicago, the middle child of 6 very close-knit siblings (3 brothers, 2 sisters). He attended Catholic school and was something of a prankster/troublemaker (he described with great glee wearing orange on St. Patrick's Day so he would get sent home from school and get the day off). Much to the despair of his teachers, he was left-handed, and failed the "Palmer Method" of writing because he did it perfectly, but not with the right hand. He had an avid interest in art and did elaborate linoleum block prints for the family's Christmas cards, his bedroom curtains (a War of the Worlds motif featuring stylized Martians, and his older sister Emrie's evening gowns (making an "alligator" pattern to print onto velvet and lame'). FJ's other artistic strengths were technical drawing, pen-and-ink sketches/caricatures, and watercolors.
After graduating high school, FJ worked many odd jobs, including delivering handbills and being a motorcycle courier, sometimes driving up to 250 miles/day. He attended commercial art school for three years, but quit before receiving a diploma. He worked for "the Studio" (Sanford Studios/Bon's Studio) from 1936-1937 as Designer and Studio Director. His duties included commercial art, picture framing, and teaching drawing, illustration, design, and perspective. When the studio went out of business, FJ spent the rest of the year remodeling the dining room of the family home (covering the walls with photorealistic wildlife murals). In 1938, he was employed as Chief Designer by Exhibit Engineers, a company that made commercial signs and display cases. When Exhibit Engineers went out of business in 1939, FJ and the former shop foreman formed an independent company of their own, Design Engineers. This business lasted through 1940, when they closed shop because it was too difficult to do the business as a garage-based operation.
Also during the 1930's, FJ was very active with Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts, and helped develop the Cub Scout program at that time. He missed becoming an Eagle Scout himself by only one merit badge.
Franz Joseph in his early twenties
Franz Joseph as a young man in his early twenties. The photo was pasted on the first page of a scrapbook started in 1935 or 36, when Franz Joseph was trying to put together a portfolio demonstrating the scope of his talents to potential employers.
When WWII arrived, his brothers joined the services, and FJ (who was 4F due to poor eyesight and a bad back) moved to California in 1941, where he applied for work at Consolidated Vultee Aircraft (a.k.a. Convair, now known as General Dynamics) as a draftsman. The sample of work he submitted was a blueprint drawing of a single-engine airplane that happened to be the personal favorite plane of his interviewer. He was hired on the spot. He took a few classes at San Diego State College (aerodynamics, higher math, and engineering), but never attained a degree. He met and married Hazel Henrietta Van Kampen in 1945, and I came along in 1955.
FJ worked for General Dynamics for nearly 30 years as a design engineer, both in the aerodynamics and hydrodynamics divisions. His drawings of planes appeared as illustrations in the Collier's Encyclopedia. He was part of a team that built and flew a full-size reproduction of the A-1, the first military seaplane. (He also designed the logo for the A-1 program.) His biggest claim to fame was the design of the bomb pylons on the F-111 fighter plane, for which he was given an award by Convair for cutting costs without sacrificing quality. His services were loaned to other aircraft companies (such as Ryan) by Convair due to his expertise. For being a man who was vehemently opposed to war, FJ certainly worked on some of the most formidable war machinery of the '40s, '50s, and '60s.
Franz Joseph at Convair in 1949
Franz Joseph at work at Convair in 1949.
FJ was laid off from General Dynamics in 1969, 3 years after receiving his 25-year pin, replaced by younger men with college degrees. He always referred to the event as "taking an early retirement," but it was not voluntary. In 1973, he decided to draw the Star Trek props and ships as an intellectual exercise. The rest is history. In 1974 and 1975, these works were published by Ballantine Books as the Booklet of General Ship's Plans (a.k.a. the Enterprise Blueprints) and the Star Fleet Technical Manual. (For more details, see the FJ Timeline.)
FJ attended Star Trek conventions and book signings from 1975-1983, then withdrew from most public appearances to care for my mother, who was a homebound invalid due to advanced osteoporosis and multiple strokes. He always enjoyed meeting and corresponding with Star Trek fans, and when he did attend conventions, you could always find him in the hotel lobby or on the lounge chairs by the pool, deep in conversation with a cluster of fans, even at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m.
Franz Joseph at Starcon 1977
Franz Joseph from Starcon 1977, enjoying his status as published author and elder statesman.
FJ died on June 2, 1994 of sudden cardiac arrest. He was only a few weeks shy of his 80th birthday. He remained bright and active, and continued to live independently until the very end; indeed, he was a guest speaker at a local San Diego science fiction convention only a month before his death.
Q3
Tyler: What is your opinion of Star Trek today? How do you believe that it has changed over the years? (You noted in your Amazon.com comment about the Star Fleet Technical Manual that Franz Joseph's depiction of the Star Trek universe is more utopian and less Earth-centric than it is in the recent Star Trek films and shows. Please elaborate on this.)
Dick: I think Star Trek today is divergent from GR's original vision. I think the ST TV series have gotten weaker (or at least further removed from GR's ideals) with each successive spinoff. I think Berman's & Piller's vision of ST is very different from GR's, and, for good or ill, it shows.
THE SERIES:
First, let me say that I really like the idea of having all the different TV series. In the early 1970s, FJ always said that Star Trek could be just as interesting if it were "These are the explorations of the United Federation of Planets" instead of "These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise," and I concurred. TNG, DS9, and Voyager have certainly proven that this theory was true.
In my opinion, TNG took 18 months to get its legs under it and film some decent original scripts. I thought it lacked something crucial until the middle of its second season. The turning point came with "Loud As A Whisper" and "Measure of a Man." Then I became a fan and accepted most of it. I didn't like having the large civilian population on the ship, although they were downplayed in most stories.
I love DS9, but the things I like about it are what make other people hate it. I don't mind that it's on a space station instead of a starship. I don't mind that the Enterprise isn't involved on a weekly basis. I don't mind that it's dark and moody and Machiavellian, that there are multiple factions all plotting against each other, and that half the characters can't stand the other half. It more closely resembles BLAKES 7 than Star Trek (but with much better special effects than B7!). I love the political maneuvering and the spiritual/religious aspects and the complexities of the stories, but those are the things that make it deadly dull for the more action-oriented fans.
Voyager, unfortunately, is a deeply flawed program. I really like that the Captain is a woman, and the Holographic Doctor is a hoot. It has had its moments of brilliance, and some of the individual stories have been outstanding, but the overall premise of this series is not space exploration, but desperation -- desperation to get home to the Alpha Quadrant, and failure, week after week, to do so. Failure was not in the vocabulary of the original Star Trek. Captain Kirk would always manage to figure out a solution and get a positive outcome, all within the single-episode timeframe. So Voyager is the antithesis of the spirit of the original Star Trek. Furthermore, in a lot of the episodes, Our Heroes end up in a worse situation at the conclusion than they were in at the beginning. When my husband Ricky and I pointed out this stuff to one of the Voyager production team at Toronto Trek in 1996, it was a real revelation for him. I don't know if the series has improved much since then, as I pretty much gave up on watching it about 2 seasons ago.
THE MOVIES:
I am pretty much in-line with the opinion of other fans. Overall, I like the even-numbered ones, and dislike the odd-numbered ones. My personal favorites are Wrath of Khan/Search For Spock as bookends, followed by Undiscovered Country and First Contact. I abhor Final Frontier and Motionless Picture, and I don't like Voyage Home as much as everybody else does -- I just can't get beyond those time paradoxes big enough to drive a Mack truck through.
I wanted Star Trek: The Motion Picture to be wonderful. We had worked toward and waited for years for a revival of Star Trek in some form. I even had friends (Fran Evans, Bill George, Kelly Turner) who worked as grunt labor on the V'Ger effects team. What I got was big and slow and ponderous, lots of effects and very little characterization. I remember shaking with frustration and rage through most of the first showing (especially because of all the uncredited FJ references), and I actually fell asleep during the V'Ger flyby during a subsequent theatrical viewing. Robert Wise had no clue what Star Trek was about, and when I heard him speak at a junior college a few months after the movie came out, I realized that the parts he described throwing on the cutting room floor were the parts that should have stayed in the film. Later, I saw storyboards for a final effects segment where V'Ger releases the Klingon ships (and everything else it had digitized) when it goes with Ilia and Decker to a higher plane. The Klingons are pissed off and confused and attack the Enterprise in Earth orbit. The Enterprise's engineering hull is badly damaged, and the crew has to do a saucer separation to come back and beat the Klingons. The effects team was waiting with a hack saw, dying to cut the Enterprise model apart and make it happen, but the segment was shelved. Sad. It might have provided some much-needed action in an otherwise slow movie.
Wrath of Khan is Star Trek at its best. Good action, tight writing, and the superb characterizations that drive the show. Even now, if I'm clicking channels and come across it, I get sucked in -- it's that powerful. And Search For Spock, while a weaker movie (Robin Curtis was a poor replacement for Kirstie Alley), is a suitable bookend. I adore the planet Vulcan segments at the end. They're everything I envisioned Vulcan to be since my teens, including the priestesses in the diaphanous gowns. Leonard Nimoy's concept of Star Trek must be very close to my own.
Voyage Home. Lots of fun, but also lots of time paradoxes and scientific inaccuracies. What happened to the time-travel lessons Our Heroes learned in "City On the Edge of Forever" and "Tomorrow Is Yesterday?" What happened to General Order Number One? Yikes!!! Am I the only one that thinks bringing Gillian back to the future was a really bad idea???
Final Frontier. Feh. Wish this one had never been made. It was horrible, from Spock's half-brother to Kirk arguing with God to the total waste of David Warner as an actor.
Undiscovered Country: Some of the most excellent Klingons we've ever encountered. I felt the parts with Spock and Valeris seemed contrived -- it's as if the screenwriters were trying to recapture the Spock/Saavik chemistry from the second movie, and failing miserably.
Generations: The transition from the classic cast to the TNG cast. Not much of the classic cast was present, and the ones that were had pretty wimpy roles. I thought Kirk's death was not as glorious or heroic as he deserved. (And Kirk is not my favorite character by a long shot. But he deserved better.)
First Contact: What can I say: the Borg. And Zephram Cochrane. A little uneven, and more time paradoxes, but overall, a fun ride.
Insurrection: Why am I paying movie prices to see a mediocre 2-part TNG TV episode? (I think the movies with the TNG cast are having problems with being impressive enough for the big screen. It was one thing when the original Star Trek series made the jump to movies. The quantum leap from 1960s' production values to big screen special effects really had a major visual impact. The TNG television series already had such high production values and "epic" stories that the movies don't look any different, leading to questions like the one I pose at the beginning of this paragraph.)
FRANZ JOSEPH'S VISION OF STAR TREK:
FJ put a lot of thought into the Technical Manual. Because the original Star Trek television series followed the adventures of one starship, we never had a clear view of the background workings of the society the crew came from. There were references to the United Federation of Planets, Star Fleet Command, Star Fleet Academy, etc., but we were never shown these things. Earth was supposedly just one member of many in the United Federation of Planets, and Star Fleet was the UFP's exploration and enforcement/protection arm. FJ postulated that for the sake of neutrality, Star Fleet headquarters should be in space instead of on the soil of any world. Ditto its training academy for its officers. To that end, FJ designed the Star Fleet Headquarters space station seen in the Technical Manual, which also housed the Star Fleet Academy. Star Fleet would need different types of ships for different kinds of missions, so FJ designed a whole fleet of them.
Franz Joseph's logo for the United Federation of Planets
Franz Joseph's logo for the United Federation of Planets
The UFP "two faces and starfield" logo was an attempt to come up with a non-Terracentric representation for peace in the galaxy. The starfield depicts Federation-held space (based on actual starmaps!), and the faces represent the humanoid species that occupy it. (In GR's Star Trek universe, most intelligent space-faring species are humanoid with two genders, so this was not discrepant. There was even an episode of TNG -- "The Chase" -- designed to explain it.) FJ deliberately chose not to surround the starfield with laurel branches (as the movies later came to do) because laurel branches only symbolize peace for Earth humans, and none of the alien species would know what that meant. Obviously, in the Star Trek universe as it has evolved in the movies and subsequent TV series, Earth is the premier member of the UFP and designs all the logos and doesn't give a damn if the aliens get the meaning or not. I guess this reflects current events, with the U.S. being the last superpower still standing after the Cold War.
Long after the Tech Manual was published (about the time ST:TNG started), Gene Roddenberry made some comment in an interview about how Star Fleet was not a military organization (as FJ's Star Fleet Armed Forces obviously was). My only response to that is: "Yeah, right. That's why they all dress in uniforms and call each other 'Captain' and 'Lieutenant.'" From Franz Joseph's notes (with comments by Karen in brackets): "FACT: The wording Star Fleet Armed Forces appears in the 2nd line of Paragraph 4, Article 47, Chapter VII of the Articles of Federation [which Gene Roddenberry had seen and read as of August 28, 1973]. At no time during the preparation of the Manual did Gene [Roddenberry] ever mention that he objected to this, or any other wording."
Q4
Tyler: Do you continue to enjoy Star Trek, or have you "outgrown" it?
Dick: I must confess I haven't seen a single episode of DS9 or Voyager this season (1998-99). Our local independent stations change their schedules so often that it's hard to find the shows, and some of them play opposite other series I'm following. It's not for lack of desire, although I will admit that Star Trek is not the most important thing in my life any more. However, no other show holds any "must-see" status for me, either.
I have caught an occasional "enhanced" classic Trek on the Sci-Fi Channel, and have enjoyed those immensely.
Hope to get caught up on DS9 in re-runs somewhere. Voyager is lower priority than that.
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Interview copyright 1999 by Greg Tyler and Franz Joseph Designs.


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