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Jeff Ayers Chat Transcript

#1 User is offline   master_q 

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Posted 07 February 2005 - 07:26 PM

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NOTES:

This chat was originally scheduled to take place earlier, but due to reasons out of our control it was delayed. The chat took place Saturday, February 05, at 5:00PM EST (2PM PST).

Our next chat will be with Alexandre O. Philippe, who is the director of "Earthlings: Ugly Bags of Mostly Water." "Earthlings" is a comical documentary that captures the life, passions, and quirks of the members of the Klingon Language Institute. It examines the interplay between culture and language, communication and emotion, and the rather delicate line between reality and fiction.

That chat takes place on Saturday, February 12, at 4:00PM EST (1PM PST), in the StarTrekFans.net chat room.

After that "TREK-NEWS-TALK" chat, Dillard will be hosting a Save Star Trek Enterprise meeting. We really hope you can attend both. Let's have a good turnout for both chats this Saturday. :)


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[PART ONE: Semi-Interview to introduce Jeff Ayers to chat room.]

[master_q] Salutations, as most of you know, I’m the moderator of this chat. Welcome aboard. :)

[master_q] Jeff Ayers [jayers] is our special guest on StarTrekFans.net’s “TREK-NEWS-TALK.” Mr. Ayers is in the process of writing a book for Pocket, on the forty-year history of professionally published Star Trek fiction. He has been trying to track down authors of both novels and short stories, and uncover "the stories behind the stories." It is scheduled to be released in July 2006, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the series.

[master_q] Thank you for coming, Mr. Ayers. We also want to wish you all the success with your book. First off, Jeff, could you please tell us a bit about yourself and your own personal Star Trek fandom?

[jayers] I've been a fan of Star Trek as long as I can remember. In junior high, I discovered a book about the original series that listed all of the episodes, so I made a checklist, then proceeded to watch the show every night at 6p.m. until I had seen them all. I fell asleep during "For the World is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky," thanks to some cold medication, so I had to wait almost three months for that episode to come around again. Around this time, the first movie came out. I bought the novelization and discovered a world of novels. I bought all of the ones I could find, and I haven't stopped. This was before the internet, so I would go to the same bookstores every day to see if a new novel had been unboxed and shelved. Sometimes this would mean walking over a mile each way during my lunch hour. I discovered once that calling was pointless-they said it wasn't there, but I went and, what do you know, it magically appeared between my phone call and the walk. After that, I just walked.

[jayers] The novels and the occasional film was all the Trek fan had until Next Generation until 1987. Those novels kept the franchise alive and kept a lot of fans like me from going through painful withdrawal.


[master_q] When and how did the whole idea of you writing a book on the history of Star Trek’s novels & short stories get started, Jeff?

[jayers] I was a history major at the University of Washington. A couple of years ago, I started freelance writing and interviewing authors, including Dan (DaVinci Code) Brown. I also review suspense thrillers for Library Journal, which is about 95% of what I read. One day I was on the Trek BBS site devoted to the novels and saw another person asking about what was a good read. I thought to myself, "Someone should write a Trek novel guide." The more I thought about it, I realized I wanted to write it. So I wrote up a proposal, got myself an agent, and waited and waited and waited and waited...

[master_q] So your book will be like a Star Trek fiction companion guide, correct? Will it be similar in structure to the companion guides like that of the individual Star Trek series guides?

[jayers] Think of the Deep Space Nine Companion-a summary followed by background details from the actors and writers. Using that as my template, I'm creating the history of published Trek fiction, from the Blish novels to present day. I'm talking to everyone involved in the process to create a true and accurate account of the franchise.

[master_q] You have been getting the chance to talk to a wide range of Star Trek authors in your efforts to write your companion guide, what can you tell us about the average Star Trek author? After talking to them, what have you learned about them as a whole & individually?

[jayers] The average Trek author is a huge fan of the show who wanted an opportunity to play in Roddenberry's universe. Having to follow a strict guideline, the authors have to work harder to make the novel a success. I have learned a grad deal of respect for everyone I've talked to, even the authors of the books I particularly didn't like. Also, everyone has had a wonderful and unique story to tell.

[master_q] Jeff, let’s start from the very beginning. When and how did published novels first enter the scene of the Star Trek franchise?

[jayers] The first books were the novelizations of the original series episodes written by James Blish. Funny story about him-he never watched the show. The studio supplied the scripts some of the time, otherwise he had to rely on fans to give him the details. (Remember this is before the DVD/VHS era).

[master_q] What were some of those very first published Star Trek novels? Could you please tell us a little bit about them?

[jayers] The first novel was Mission to Horatius published by Whitman, a publisher of small hardcovers that covered TV shows in the 60's. Blish wrote a novel, Spock Must Die, for Bantam which started a line of approximately 15 novels for them. Alan Dean Foster wrote 10 books that adapted the animated series for Ballantine. Pocket, a division of Simon and Schuster, which is owned by Paramount Studios, published the novelization of the Motion Picture. It took Pocket editor David Hartwell almost two years to convince the publisher that there was a market for Trek novels. (The Bantam novels were never big sellers).

[master_q] As published Star Trek novels were just about to enter the arena, how did those very first authors go about in getting them published legally with the copyrights etc., and was there any initial conflicts with the powers that be due to their own concerns?

[jayers] The novels had to be published by Bantam or Pocket, now totally Pocket. If the publisher didn't want it, then fan fiction was the only other route.

[master_q] What role has fan-fiction had on the development of published Star Trek fiction and this whole scene?

[jayers] A lot of the first authors of Trek were fan fiction writers. Bantam relied heavily on established sci-fi authors, but that started to change when Pocket bought the franchise.

[master_q] Has there been any legal concern having to do with the fan-fiction?

[jayers] I know the editors will never look at the fan fiction sites on the internet.

[master_q] Jeff, how exactly did Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books Star Trek series enter into the picture of publishing Star Trek books?

[jayers] Publishing the novelization for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The editor, David Hartwell, believed that Trek novels could sell, and eventually convinced others.

[master_q] Has there been any conflict between the actual televised Star Trek and that of Star Trek novels & short stories? As most of us know, the Star Trek books are many times called “non-canon,” which mean they are cast as not happening in the “real” Star Trek universe, as compared to the events that have happened in the actual TV episodes or feature films. When and why did the whole “non-canon” label start?

[jayers] Gene Roddenberry said many times that the novels were just stories and not actual canon. He was furious about some of the published stories, and eventually had more control into the novel process. (And that era is another story in itself). No conflict between the novels and shows. The TV folks will occasionally talk to the book editors, and vice-versa. Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, authors of several amazing Trek novels, are on the writing staff for Enterprise this year. They got the job after Manny Coto read their novel, Federation.

[master_q] What are some of the different Star Trek novel series that are out there in the market? Do you have any favorites?

[jayers] In addition to books set in every Trek show, there are novels set after the end of Deep Space Nine and Voyager, plus series set in the Trek universe, but with different characters. Some great book only series include Peter David's New Frontier, the e-books with the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, the early adventures of Captain Picard in the Stargazer written by Michael Jan Friedman, and the adventures aboard the IKS Gorkon, courtesy of Keith DeCandido. You can't go wrong with any of them.

[master_q] For new readers what do you suggest them to start out with? What are your suggestions?

[jayers] Pick your favorite series, then just pick up a novel set in that show. Fans of DS9 should read the post finale stuff, starting with Avatar and Stitch in Time. Fans of short stories should read the Strange New Worlds series of books.

[master_q] Besides just regular novels, Jeff, what about the more reference-like books on Star Trek? Like the technical references to the fictional technology on the series, companion guides, etc. Could you give us a little background on those?

[jayers] I'm not much of an expert on the non-fiction, except I bought those as well. I understand the non-fiction books don't sell anymore. I hope my book will break the trend.

[master_q] How many Star Trek novels are there out there approximately? How many are published a year?

[jayers] One SCE book, plus two novels a month is the average. Throw in some special hardcovers, and you have around 40 a year. (By the way, I've been going back and rereading all of the novels. I've been amazed how much I'd forgotten over the years. When this project is finished, I will have read an estimated 550 novels plus the short stories which totals about 300).

[master_q] With the apparent overall decline of the Star Trek franchise and the latest news about the cancellation of Enterprise, do you believe this decline in the franchise on the television and big-screen holds true for Star Trek's published novels? What effect will the cancellation of Enterprise have on the novel scene?

[jayers] I was saddened to see that Enterprise was cancelled, particularly since the show has been, for the most part, outstanding this year. The addition of Trek novelists Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, plus Manny Coto's promotion, made this the best season of Enterprise yet. I think if they looked at other factors beside the ratings on Friday night, they would see they have a hit on their hands and reconsider. I sent a letter to Leslie Moonves, and I would everyone floods his mailbox with our outrage.

[jayers] For the book franchise, the novels are better than they have ever been. The editors for Trek are obvious fans and have opened up a huge potential for storytelling. The books sold well when there was no Trek on TV and I don't see that trend changing.


[master_q] What do personally believe are some of the best “next generation,” meaning most creative and compelling, Star Trek novels or authors out there that are relatively new?

[jayers] Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore; David Mack; Michael Martin and Andy Mangels; Keith DeCandido

[jayers] There are obviously some other great novelists-these have just started in the last four or so years.


[PART TWO: Jeff takes some questions from the chat room participants.]

[master_q] We shall now be moving into all of your questions and comments for Jeff Ayers. Thanks so much for making time to come this Saturday. :lol:

[Daniel_Berry] Will the Companion cover cancelled projects and "lost books" as well as those that were published?

[jayers] I will have a section discussing some of the cancelled projects. This includes a Federation trilogy that Diane Carey, Stephen Goldin, and Dave Stern were going to write. I have also talked to Robert Sawyer about his "lost book" and Mike Friedman about God Project, Roddenberry's book.

[jayers] Otherwise, it will be all of the professional Trek fiction over the almost forty years.


[David_R._George_III] My question is, how much did Ward pay you to mention his name as one of the most creative and compelling writers?

[David_R._George_III] I actually just wanted to thank Jeff for the project, and for his professionalism in conducting his interview with me. As a fan of Trek novels myself, I’m looking forward to his book very much.

[Daniel_Berry] :)

[jayers] It was either mention how much I like his stuff, or have him claim I stole his project. :)

[David_R._George_III] Oh, Dayton always does that.

[David_R._George_III] (When in fact, they're really my projects.)

[DaytonWard] I'm trying to emulate Keith DeCandido as much as possible. :)

[jayers] David, Thank you for all of your assistance with my project. At some point, let's talk about your upcoming TOS trilogy.

[David_R._George_III] You have my e-mail address.

[David_R._George_III] And Dayton, does this mean you're transforming into a mugato?

[DaytonWard] Well, the day's young.

[jayers] Wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. :)

#2 User is offline   master_q 

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Posted 07 February 2005 - 07:29 PM

[Odie] I have been reading Star Trek books for over 15 years. I have enjoyed them very much.

[jayers] I have been reading and buying them for over 25 years. yikes! I'm amazed I'm still sane after going back and re-reading them.

[Odie] I do have a one question. How would TNG format be after the next movie since Data is "no long in the land of the living" so to speak?

[jayers] I haven't read Mike's book, Death in Winter yet. My understanding is that he will start a new series aboard Enterprise E. Mike and Andy are starting a new Titan series. That should be in stores next month.

[Kor37] Will you include James Blish, who while not a writer of original Trek fiction, did transcribe the TOS episodes into book form?

[jayers] Yes, I'm including the Blish books. I'm hoping to talk to his widow, Judith Lawrence, soon. I've also talked to Frederick Pohl, who edited the Bantam line.

[Kor37] I look forward to your book. I've been reading Trek books ever since "Mission TO Horatius", the very first Trek book

[Kor37] I was interested in a local girl, AC Crispin. She wrote several Trek books but I haven't seen anything from her for quite some time. Do you know what she is up to?

[jayers] Yes. She was going to write a Zar Trilogy, but that will not be happening now.

[Kor37] ok

[Ghiaman74] Where did you find most star trek authors come from? Does Star Trek look for previously published authors, or do the authors submit manuscripts in hopes of being hired?

[jayers] Their parents. :)

[Ghiaman74] lol

[DaytonWard] Some of them still live with their parents. Dilmore, for instance.

[jayers] Dayton, it all makes sense now. :)

[jayers] Seriously, the Trek cycle kind of goes in waves. Bantam and Pocket for a time looked for professionally published authors. Now anyone can submit a proposal as long as you have an agent.


[WEAREBORG4102] What is your favorite book about Q?

[jayers] I love Q-Squared by Peter David and the Q Trilogy by Greg Cox.

[WEAREBORG4102] What do you think of Paramount's treatment of Trekkies, considering Enterprise's ratings compared to other UPN shows?

[jayers] I wrote a letter about this and signed the petition on this website. I think UPN tries to be a network, but fails. How many shows beside Enterprise do we watch on upn?

[Alterego] 0

[SpaceTigger] 0

[Kor37] They have other shows?

[Alterego] lol

[jayers] As for Paramount's treatment, I still don't think they realize how many people really like the show. For Enterprise, I know in my part of the country, they show it twice and everyone I know watches it on Saturday.

[WEAREBORG4102] What do you think will happen with the Trek franchise now that Enterprise has been cancelled? If you think there will be another series, when do you think it will be made?

[jayers] I would say that we might see a movie in two to three years. If it is a huge hit, they will probably start another series. Please, not on upn.

[jayers] I think they should make a series of two hour films for television. Make six a year, can put some good money into them, and show them on cbs.


[Alterego] Do you ever get flax from the "canonites" and if so how do you deal with them?

[jayers] I have received some nice flannel. :) Actually, it has not been an issue at all. You are the first to mention it.

[Alterego] I just pulled it out of thin air.

[master_q] Reflecting on the themes of all of the Star Trek novels, is there some theme that stays almost constant in all of them?

[DaytonWard] "Buy me."

[master_q] True :lol

[jayers] The core values of Roddenberry's vision and the characters stay true to what we love. Otherwise, Dayton is absolutely right.

[master_q] Why do you think Star Trek and its novels are so popular among so many people?

[jayers] It's a great way to enjoy more adventures, plus the stories are so darn good. (Most of the time).

[Ghiaman74] It seems that Star Trek Novels must need to be published on a timely schedule (i.e. to coincide with a movie or important episode). What kind of time frames/deadlines are the authors held to? How long are they given to write a novel?

[jayers] It depends. For the folks I've talked to, it has ranged from a year to a week. Maybe Dayton or David should pitch in here...

[DaytonWard] A "typical" novel can take anywhere from 18-24 from concept to seeing it in the shelf.

[DaytonWard] 18-24 months, that is.

[DaytonWard] Though it runs the gamut.

[DaytonWard] Novelizations are naturally on a faster track due to the timeliness of releasing them in concert with the film/episode(s), and those lead times, from what I hear, are insane.

[SpaceTigger] With the sad news of the cancellation of Enterprise are there any chances or plans for an Enterprise novel in the future ?

[jayers] Dave Stern will have a new Enterprise novel out in May. I think the novel centers on Hoshi.

[master_q] What effect are eBooks having? Do you think they will have a big impact in Star Trek fiction?

[jayers] I understand the ebooks are doing well. I have to admit that the SCE stories are pretty cool. I hope everyone is at least reading the stories when they are released in paperback. If the ebooks were not doing well, they would quit writing them.


[master_q] Does anyone have any last minute questions for Jeff? Here is your chance if you do. :) Thanks so much for coming everyone.

[DaytonWard] "What's a Nubian?" (official no-prize to first person to catch the reference.)

[jayers] Thanks for the opportunity. I have enjoyed my time.

[David_R._George_III] "The Squire of Gothos."

[David_R._George_III] Thanks, Jeff. Very interesting stuff.

[master_q] Well, thank you, Jeff, so much for coming and taking your time to be with us here at StarTrekFans.net. We look forward to your book and when it comes out we hope to chat with you again. :lol:

[master_q] Thanks much. :)

[jayers] Count me in. Thanks again.

[DaytonWard] Looking forward to reading this book, Jeff. Given the ground you're covering, will it come with its own molded carrying handle?

[jayers] That will be in the signed leather bound limited edition only.

[SpaceTigger] Thanks for chatting with us!

[jayers] If anyone has questions you think of later, feel free to let George, master_q, know. I'll be happy to answer. Take care.

[Kor37] Thanks for coming!


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