Sunday, March 4, 2012

My inspiration to be a writer? Star Trek!

I received an email from a fan recently that asked what inspired me to be a writer.  I had to think about that for a while.  Ultimately what drove me to being a writer was…brace yourself…Star Trek. 

I was a child of the 1960’s and 70’s.  When I came home after school, every day at 5:00pm, Star Trek was on.  This was not the sanitized Star Trek of The Next Generation, this was Captain James Tiberius Kirk.  Those shows rocked.  Say what you will about William Shatner, but you can’t bad-mouth James Kirk.  The man could beat a Vulcan and three-dimensional chess, beat the crap out of Klingon, and had no problems scoring with the ladies. Oh, I respect Picard – but the guy I’d like to sit in a bar and have a drink with is Kirk.  Three words here – Flying Leg Kick.   

Yes, the special effects were cheesy by today’s standards…but the stories were great.  It was the first time I watched TV and said, “the guys that write this are the real stars.” I remember looking at the show and thinking about the characters and their dynamics – how they interacted with each other.  For me I started thinking for the first time about the work that went into creating good characters and how important their dialogue was. 

And I saw the impact of good story telling.  You may not remember this, but when NASA rolled out the first space shuttle they had a contest as to what to name her.  The winner, by far, was Enterprise.  This was a case where fiction overtook the real world and made a deep impression on me.

I went to college at Central Michigan University with a business management major.  We had a kick-ass school paper then – the CM Life.  I decided I wanted to write an editorial column for the paper – to test out my creativity.  I drafted three columns, typed them (on a typewriter – boy am I dating myself!) and went over to the editorial offices to push for the job.  I was going to be competing against people that were going into this field as a career…business students simply didn’t write for the paper.  I remember thinking, “pull a Kirk here – bluff and bravado can pull this off.”  I met with the editor and got the job.  For three years I wrote columns for the newspaper and I didn’t take a single journalism class.  People were asking me “how come I never see you in my journalism classes?” and I would shrug.  The reality was I was taking classes at the other end of campus in the school of business.  James Kirk got me that job. 

My last year in school a role playing game came out from a little company called FASA based on Star Trek.  I played D&D and the chance to play sessions aboard the Enterprise was appealing.  I came up with an idea for a scenario set for the game and wrote it up.  I sent it into the publisher and waited.  Nothing.  I was bummed.  After I graduated I wrote them a follow-up letter and they came back and said they wanted to buy it!  But first, before that came out, they had a new game they wondered if I would write for – Battledroids (BattleTech).  So I became a part-time writer for them.  Eventually my Star Trek material came out – The Strider Incident.  That led to me writing other Star Trek sourcebooks and game product.  My experience there led me to write computer games tips books for Star Trek games for Brady Books.  Yup, you got it – Star Trek got me into writing for the game industry. 

When I was writing the tip book for Star Trek Generations I was sent out to California to meet with the programmers.  They had some of the props from the movie for filming the scenes in the game.  I got to sit in a Klingon captain’s chair straight out of the movie.  Face it, a number of you are jealous right now - aren't you?  Up close it was a little disappointing, it was a Chevy Vega bucket seat with a cheesy plywood base around it – but I didn’t care.  The guy from Paramount told me that the season wrap party for Star Trek Voyager was the weekend after I was slated to go back…and I could come if I wanted.  I couldn’t!  I always regretted that.  Three words – Seven of Nine. 

Writing game material led me to write BattleTech novels.  Writing those novels let me write business management books (Cubicle Warfare) and military history.  But, when you look back, the origins were me sitting on the floor of my Battle Creek home watching my folks black and white TV, watching Star Trek after school. 

Thank you Trek!  I owe you big time. 


  1. It's interesting how many people Star Trek has inspired to go on and do great things! We had a speaker at my workplace not long ago, astronaut Bernard Harris, and he spoke about how watching Bones on Star Trek was what inspired him to reach for the stars... literally.

    Great post!

  2. "Say what you will about William Shatner, but you can’t bad-mouth James Kirk."

    "I have enjoyed all of the Enterprise captains, but none as great as Kirk.

    The Picard character was well created but as a captain I have to say "are you kidding me?" Here was the captain of fleet's flagship and how many times was he kidnapped? At least once per season we find Picard kidnapped, magically transported, tormented by a Ferengii, the list goes on and on. Picard the man GREAT Picard the captain, not so much.

  3. To me, Picard was thoughtful where Kirk favored action. Kirk was cunning where Picard was diplomatic. The political correctness of the period corrupted the character. I side with you - give me Kirk any day of the week.