Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Caesar753, Jul 21, 2011.

  1. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Commander Red Shirt

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    I just finished Joel Engel's book Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek. Curious to see if anyone else has read it and what your opinions are.
     
  2. Captain Robert April

    Captain Robert April Vice Admiral Admiral

    It was certainly eye-opening. Personally, I recommend reading all of the bios, including Susan Sackett's torrid little tome about her affair with GR, to begin to get a real idea of the guy.
     
  3. Mysterion

    Mysterion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I thought this was a good book. I think this book has a lot of information in it that a lot of trek fans probably don't want to see, but probably should. It is interesting to contrast this book with the "official" bio of Roddenberry.
     
  4. Daddy Todd

    Daddy Todd Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    I agree with Capt. April. Three Roddenberry biographies/memoirs came out at about the same time: Engel's warts-and-all book, David Alexander's "authorized" hagiography, and Yvonne Fern's "The Last Conversation" (get the Pocket Books trade paperback, which has some new, less-than-flattering material.)

    Reading all three will give you a roundish picture of who Roddenberry might have been. Sackett's book was smarmy trash, but some of it might be true.
     
  5. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    It's a pretty good biography, much better than David Alexander's authorized tome (which is a great source of reprinted primary documents, but awful when it comes to any kind of thoughtful analysis). Engel obviously has an agenda, and although it's mostly supported by the facts, he does go a bit overboard with unflattering descriptions of Roddenberry a couple of times.

    I have the hardcover version. What, specifically, has been added to the paperback?
     
  6. Daddy Todd

    Daddy Todd Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    A new introduction and numerous small edits. It's been 15 years since I read it; sorry I can't remember specifics. Where's Christopher when we need him???
     
  7. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Fern wrote a long-ish introduction for the paperback which addresses the major criticism of the hardcover edition, namely that Roddenberry was too physically ill and too far into his mental decline to have had the long and deep conversations that Fern reported.

    I tend to view Gene Roddenberry: The Last Conversation in the same way that I view Edmund Morris' biography of Ronald Reagan, Dutch -- the book itself is a lie, but it's a lie that reveals a deeper truth. I think that Fern invented some of her conversations in the same way that Morris invented his personal anecdotes of Reagan, but they were inventions in service of the author's search for the truth about their subject.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No idea. Never read that one. I'm not much of a reader of biographies.
     
  9. Steve Roby

    Steve Roby Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    IIRC, David Gerrold accused Fern of making the whole thing up, saying that Roddenberry was simply not capable of holding any real conversation at the time the conversations in the book supposedly happened. I'd like to think the part about Heinlein's Space Cadet being the only SF novel GR could name as an influence was true, partly because it makes a certain degree of sense and partly because it supports the revisionist history from Solow and Justman's Inside Star Trek book, which says that GR basically knew SFA about SF. Their book trashes a lot of myths about GR and the making of TOS. They have their own agendas, but they provide a lot of evidence, too.

    One of the fun things about the Alexander bio is the excuses he keeps making for GR's horrible behaviour, like when he paints GR's blatant and obnoxious attempts to seduce a friend's wife at a party as an example of his irrepressible joie de vivre.
     
  10. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    The most amusing bit in Alexander's biography that I can remember (though I admit, due to the way it's written, there's much of the book I haven't gotten to yet) is a footnote where he notes what's characterized as enormous generosity when Gene Roddenberry offered his ex-wife his rights to Star Trek after the series was cancelled, in exchange for not having to pay that month's alimony.

    Of course, at that point, the rights for the series were worth fuck all, so all Roddenberry was really trying to do was get out of writing a check, but that doesn't fit into Alexander's version of the man.

    This isn't Gerrold responding to Fern, but it does have some choice words about Alexander: http://startrekdom.blogspot.com/2007/07/david-gerrold-began-his-professional.html
     
  11. Mysterion

    Mysterion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^
    Thanks for linking the Gerrold letter. It is very informative, illuminating, and educational.
     
  12. Captain Robert April

    Captain Robert April Vice Admiral Admiral

    Wow.

    Is there any word on whatever happened to that bloodsucking ambulance chaser? I'm hoping for an industrial accident.

    As for Roddenberry, I've always found this exchange from DS9's "Facets" to be rather apt:

     
  13. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Wow, I didn't realize things were that bad with Rodenberry.
     
  14. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Roddenberry's lawyer, Leonard Maizlish, died not long after he did, according to the book this thread was started about -- IIRC.
     
  15. Bob Greenberger

    Bob Greenberger Writer Red Shirt

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    Joel's book represented the Gene Roddenberry I knew on and off since the early 1970s and later had to sort of work with as DC's Trek editor (the real communication handled through Richard Arnold). David Alexander's book may have tons of archival notes, memos and correspondence but whitewashed Gene's excesses and his deterioration in the 1980s.

    His drinking alone contributed to many illnesses along with bitter recriminations about being stuck with Star Trek since every other project pitched in the 1970s failed to get picked up for a series. He was groomed into a futurist, hitting the lecture circuit and found some comfort in that until odd circumstances forced Paramount to hire him for what became TNG.

    From what I gather from those working on the creation of that series, everything was a nightmare as Gene got sicker and Maizlish exercised incredible control despite not having a single creative bone in his body.
     
  16. Captain Robert April

    Captain Robert April Vice Admiral Admiral

    There's a very good reason why the word "maizlish" is considered a derogatory term in many Star Trek stories...
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Huh? I know David Gerrold has made a point of trashing Maizlish in everything he's written for the past twenty-odd years, but I haven't seen that manifest in any Trek fiction I've read. Are you referring to fanfic?
     
  18. Steve Roby

    Steve Roby Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Yeah, Gerrold's work is the only place I remember seeing it. (Boy, did he work out some issues in his Blood and Fire novel.)

    I think that Gerrold letter to Alexander is part of a memorable flame war on Compuserve back in 1994. Alexander didn't come out of it looking very good. Incidentally, Alexander died late last year.
     
  19. Captain Robert April

    Captain Robert April Vice Admiral Admiral

    I thought I saw it in one of Shatner's books, but it may have been in one of Gerrold's Star Wolf books.

    But doesn't it sound like a Klingon term for something you scrape off the heel of your boot?
     
  20. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Did Alexander ever respond to Gerrold, outside of the book?