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Interview: David Gerrold

For our first Special Author issue in nearly a decade, Fantasy & Science Fiction editor C.C. Finlay sat down (at his keyboard — this was conducted by email) for an in-depth interview with author David Gerrold. They discuss fifty years of writing: television, novels, series, short stories, fandom, the intersection of his personal life with his writing, and more.

CCF: Looking at your writing as a whole, it feels like you’ve had four or five different writing careers, all of them with remarkable highlights. You’re most famous in some ways for your very first sale, “The Trouble With Tribbles,” to Star Trek: The Original Series, which was also your first Hugo nomination. But you’ve done a lot of other work in television, writing episodes for many classic and favorite science fiction shows — Logan’s Run, Tales From the Darkside, The Twilight Zone reboot, Babylon 5, Sliders. What kinds of things did you learn by playing in other people’s sandboxes?

DG: The first thing to learn is to respect the rules of the sandbox. There are no pockets in the uniforms. The Enterprise will never have a mutiny. (How do you recover from that story anyway?) And if I won’t believe it on the bridge of the battleship Missouri, I won’t believe it on the bridge of the starship Enterprise.

David GerroldEvery show has its own specific structure. The trick is to get inside that construction and understand it from within — not as a set of limitations, but as a foundation on which to build. I created Land Of The Lost for Sid and Marty Krofft, and story-edited/produced all the scripts for the first season, so I had to learn how to create a solid foundation for other writers to stand on and explore. That gave me a lot of respect for the shows I worked on after that.

The challenge for any creator/producer of a TV series is to create a universe that will work for a long run. It’s not enough to have a great pilot and a good first season. You have to ask yourself, “Where will I be and what stories will I be telling five years from now?” You want to plan for the long term. Your show probably won’t last that long, but just in case you do find yourself riding that tiger, you want to know where you’re going, how your characters are going to grow and develop, where your long-term story arc is going to take you.

The other thing I learned — from both sides of the desk — is that you absolutely must respect your writers as creative partners. The truly great producers, like Joe Straczynski on Babylon 5, understand that this sense of partnership is the most vital relationship of all — because if it isn’t on the page, it isn’t on the stage.

CCF: You brought up Land of the Lost, but in the 1980s you were also creatively involved with a cartoon called The Biskitts. Is there anything different about working with children’s programming?

Land of the LostDG: The Biskitts was an imitation of The Smurfs, only using puppies. I turned in a script called The Swamp Monster. It began with a very complicated (but very funny) sight gag — unfortunately it got cut, probably due to the limitations of the animation at the time, but more likely because it had nothing to do with the plot. After that, it was a fairly ordinary story about the littlest puppy confronting his biggest fear.

I also did two scripts for The Real Ghostbusters. The producer was Joe Straczynski, who later went on to create Babylon 5. Working with Joe is always fun. If you do a good job, he doesn’t rewrite just for the sake of rewriting. He did ask me to cut one gag, which he felt was over the top. Other than that, he respected what I turned in.

The challenge — as I said above — is to learn the rules of the sandbox and find the story that those rules demand.

Land of the Lost was a whole other challenge. I story edited/produced the first season. And I think it worked as well as it did because I made two good decisions at the very beginning. The first was to use the best writers I could get, especially writers who understood science fiction — Ben Bova, Dorothy Fontana, Norman Spinrad, Walter Koenig, Larry Niven, Margaret Armen, Dick Morgan, Wina Sturgeon, etc. I told them we were doing a prime time show that would be broadcast on Saturday mornings, so they should write for the adults in the audience as well as the kids.

The second thing I did was to block out the whole season in advance. We had 17 episodes. So I decided three stories for the Paku, three stories for the Sleestak, three stories for the dinosaurs, three stories for guest stars, one story each for Will, Holly, and Marshall, and two wild cards which would be the bookends at the beginning and end of the season. This meant that the viewers would never see the same story two weeks in a row, every week we would go to a different part of the Land. It also meant we could reuse the same dinosaur animation as we needed without it looking like we were reusing it every week. So by planning the season as a whole, I always knew what the specific challenge would be for each script. I could easily come up with three stories for each of those specific elements, so I could tell the writers what story I wanted from each of them and it was their job to bring me back a fleshed out treatment and script. Every single writer rose to the challenge. I was (and still am) very proud of how well we all did.

CCF: So you created tribbles for Star Trek and the sleestaks for Land of the Lost. That’s Pop Culture Hall of Fame work there. Millions of people who have no idea who you are, still know tribbles and sleestaks. Is it ever hard to see those references in pop culture and not get credit for them?

TribblesDG: The best pop culture reference of all is that a tribble went to space and spent five months aboard the International Space Station — and I made a new friend: Astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who took the tribble there and also announced the Best Novel Hugo Winner from space, at the 2015 Hugo Award Ceremony. I have that tribble now, sitting in the same display case with my Hugo. You can’t get a better pop culture award than a spacefaring tribble.

So I have to smile every time I see a reference to tribbles or sleestaks. It’s a wink and a nod and a shout-out. It’s the best kind of “attaboy.” If the writers of a TV show (or any other pop culture thing) want to mention tribbles or sleestaks, then they’re not only recognizing the ubiquity of the critter in pop culture, they’re recognizing that the audience will get the reference too. So when I see those references — and I’m certain I’ve missed more than I’ve seen — I say “hey, that’s cool” and I grin for a while.

Let me add something here. I have no real desire to be crazy-famous. That’s like being one of the cool kids in high school — it’s an overrated experience, with a lot more downside than up. Ask George R.R. Martin how often he gets interrupted by autograph seekers at a restaurant. I don’t know how he manages that, he’s a true gentleman — I’m not, I like my private time. Most people have never seen me grumpy, it’s not a pretty sight.

Limelight contains kryptonite. Fame becomes a barrier between a writer and the source material — other people. If I’m at a convention, I’m famous at the convention, that’s fine, I’m there for the fans — but the minute I walk out the door of the convention hotel, I’m just an ordinary human being again, and I get to be a people watcher instead of a person watched. I prefer that.

Most of the time, I never tell other people that I write. I dodge the subject if I can. Or I tell them that I’m retired. Or that I teach. Or that I’m Pope Daniel the First of the Church of the Chocolate Bunny. Because otherwise, I have to have that conversation again. And there’s nothing new for me in that. I’m not interested in the past. I’m interested in the possibilities of what hasn’t been created yet.

CCF: At one point, it seems like you were thinking about acting as well. I think many fans know about your cameo appearances as a crewman in Star Trek: The Motion Picture or the “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode of Deep Space Nine. But you had a bit part in Battle for the Planet of the Apes in 1973 — and also wrote the novelization for the movie — and also did some voice work for Star Trek: the Animated Series around the same time. Was that just for fun or was it a direction you seriously thought about going?

David Gerrold in Star Trek The Motion PictureDG: Acting is one of the greatest challenges and it takes a special kind of person. It’s about creating a character so vivid that the audience forgets that this is all pretend and accepts what they’re seeing as reality. I started out studying film, but went on to Theater Arts because film doesn’t exist without a play — and a play is just words on paper until the actors bring it to life.

It seemed to me then, and it still does, that writing, acting, and directing are not separate skills, but are all parts of the larger process of creation. I believe a person has to learn all three of the jobs so he or she can learn how to integrate them into a coherent whole. But it’s not a lesson that was being taught when I was studying film or Theater Arts. At that time, everything was compartmentalized. I think I was lucky to bounce from art to journalism to film to theater arts — with large side orders of psychology and science. It gave me a unique perspective on how all the jobs fit together.

For a while, I did want to be an actor — until I realized I would be playing characters created by other people. Acting is hard work — good acting requires a total submersion of self into the character. But I wanted to create my own characters. Perhaps that was also part of the process of creating my own identity as a person. The writing was inevitable. There were just too many stories I wanted to read, but nobody else was telling them.

I do enjoy the opportunity to act, but not because I want to be a full-time actor. Mostly I just enjoy tackling the challenge. Now that I have some sense of the job, it’s increased my admiration for actors. I’ve had the privilege of working with some great ones — the great actors make it look easy, but it really isn’t.

CCF: At Worldcon in Kansas City this year you read from “The Dunsmuir Horror,” which is in the latest issue of F&SF. Anyone who’s heard you perform your own work knows what a wonderful storyteller you are. In the last decade, it seems like you’ve done a lot of voice work for animated programs. Are the two skills — storytelling and voice acting — similar or different?

David Gerrold reading The Dunsmuir Horror at Worldcon 2016 - picture by John ONeillDG: It’s all about communication. And communication is about the effect you want to produce in the listener. Back in the 80s, I did a lot of workshops on the nature of effective communication. There were a lot of exercises, both within the course and homework to do on our own — true communication is speaking with the intention to be clearly understood. That requires a lot of training in clarity, precision, phrasing, modulation, and intention.

Too many people think that because they can talk, they’re communicating. They throw sentences out there without much thought, nor do they check to see if what they said was heard accurately. It’s a delusional effort. It’s like thinking that writing is little more than typing. It isn’t. The real skills require thousands of hours of training and practice to build up the internal muscle memory.

In my experience, storytelling, voice acting, giving a speech, sharing a moment — these are all different expressions of the same skill: speaking with the intention to create an experience in the listener.

I’ve noticed that when I’m reading a story to an audience, it usually takes me a few paragraphs to warm up and get into the story myself, and that’s something I have to work on. But by the time I get to the end of the reading, it’s pure passion. (As you saw at Worldcon.)

When I’ve done voices for animation, it’s a matter of taking each line and getting inside of it, working on it until I can say it in a way that conveys not only the information but also the character and his emotions. Animation requires great voice work, even more than live action, but it’s one of the best ways to practice acting. Finding the voice is the critical first step — and that’s true about writing too. Finding the voice of the story is what creates its emotional essence.

CCF: I feel like we’ve barely scratched your screenwriting accomplishments. But at the same time you were pursuing this varied and diverse television career, you were also writing some remarkable early novels with big science fiction ideas, most famously When HARLIE Was One (1972), which was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and The Man Who Folded Himself (1973), which was also a finalist for the Hugo and Nebula. Screenplays and novels require such different skills. What pushed you down the path toward novels?

The Man Who Folded HimselfDG: I love screenwriting, no question. I particularly like writing stories with strong developed characters so I can see what happens when they collide. The heart and soul of drama is character, and character is best expressed in dialog — except when it’s expressed as silence, which is a kind of dialog in itself. I love writing dialog, because it’s where the people truly come to life.

But a screenplay requires production: You need a producer, a director, and actors. You need art directors and set builders to give them a place, costumers, hair and makeup to give them a look, lights, editors, musicians, a small army of creators to provide all the necessary assembly — and most of all, someone willing to open the checkbook to get this all started. So as good as a script can be, it’s just a stack of paper until someone makes a commitment. There are a lot of great stories that will never be filmed.

Whereas. . . in a novel, you get to be all of the characters, you set up the scenery, you direct the reader’s attention, you determine the props and the costumes, you set the mood for everything. You have complete control — it’s your world and you get to be the god who animates it. You get to sit at the keyboard and laugh maniacally with every skillful paragraph, with every eloquent line.

That’s both a good thing and a bad — because the size of that task is enormous. There’s no one backstopping you, it’s all on your shoulders alone. But that’s the heart and soul of great writing — taking on the challenge, engaging all five of the senses, evoking the whole experience for the reader, and making the world a real place for everyone who enters it.

Tolkien, Pratchett, Martin, Heinlein, Clarke, Herbert, Pohl, Lieber, LeGuin, and so many others — they’ve demonstrated what’s possible. They’ve set the standard for the rest of us. It’s a high goal, but that’s the aspiration every time out.

CCF: When HARLIE Was One is famous for including one of the earliest descriptions of a computer virus. How did that come about?

When HARLIE Was OneDG: There was a panel at a Westercon in 1969 (I think), called “The Road To HAL Is Paved With Good Inventions.” A programmer in the audience shared a story, possibly apocryphal, about a program called VIRUS and a counter-program called VACCINE. A year later, when I was writing When HARLIE Was One, I remembered that anecdote — and realized it would solve a major plot problem for me. So I wrote it in.

At the time, I didn’t think to extrapolate beyond the story I was writing. Had I realized that there were far greater possibilities and dangers, it would have been a very different story — but remember, this was still a decade before the invention of the personal computer. And I think that particular black swan caught most of us by surprise.

CCF: Are there any of your early novels you wish got more attention?

DG: Actually, when I consider how awful some of my earliest work was, I’m glad it didn’t get more attention.

A lot of my earlier work contained personal challenges that would force me to pay much closer attention to every word in every sentence. For instance:

Moonstar OdysseyIn Moonstar Odyssey I used Theodore Sturgeon’s metric prose to create a specific rhythm to the language — a poetic voice. I wanted to evoke a whole different kind of human society, one where children chose their gender at puberty, so I used no male pronouns at all. And I spent a lot of time on the world-building as well. It was a noble effort, because it forced me to stretch myself in six different directions at once.

Deathbeast was about learning how to write action. I wanted to start a chase on page one and not end it until page last. It worked, but it wasn’t what you would call a ground-breaking novel. It was the novelization of an unproduced script.

The Trackers duology was written in e-Prime. I eliminated all forms of the verb “to be” from the text. No passive-voice sentences at all. That was hard work because I had to think about every sentence before I could type it. I had to find different and better ways to phrase everything, but it was a great exercise, because it trained me to write a more dynamic prose. That lesson still sticks with me today.

I’m not disappointed in the challenges, I’m disappointed that so few people noticed.

CCF: Lois McMaster Bujold has noted that writing series is a very different skill set and story form, “as distinct from the novel as the novel is from the short story.” Yet, starting in the 1980s, you switched gears again and created several multi-book series including the Star Wolf series and The War Against the Chtorr. What were some of the challenges you faced with that?

DG: Of course, she’s right.

Some stories are complete in one book. Others overflow. Sometimes you just have to go back to that world and find out what happens next. Sometimes you realize that a project is going to require multiple volumes even before you start. Every series is different.

To me, a series is an opportunity to expand the scale of a story for a greater exploration of the world in which it occurs. I get to work my way through everything in much greater depth. I get to spend more time with the characters and find out who they are and what makes them tick.

But just as a novel has to build toward a conclusion, I think a series has to build toward a final resolution as well. The reader expects a payoff and without it, I think a series feels unfinished. (Terry Pratchett is the exception, of course — but that’s because he was exceptional.)

CCF: The War Against the Chtorr included a lot of hard science fiction, with the Teep microchips and the alien ecology. How much work did that take?

The War Against the ChtorrDG: It turned out that the technology in The War Against The Chtorr was the easy part of the series.

I was spending at least $50 a month at the newsstand, buying all the science and technology magazines. I was clipping out articles on every possible advance in technology — especially weapons, armor, materials, engines, tanks, planes, satellites, nanotech, anything that I thought might be part of the future world I was constructing. My files outgrew my file cabinets, and I never did get everything sorted into any kind of a database.

Some of the extrapolations were obvious. Others, not so. And a lot of it was happening faster than I could keep up, so I missed a lot. I think I’ll need to update some of the tech in the series for the next edition.

But the real challenge was the creation of the Chtorran ecology. That’s the hardest science of all, and we’re only just beginning to recognize how complex all the ecological relationships really are — everything from the microscopic level to the macro is interconnected in so many different ways, we’re like the blind men and the elephant. I’ve been studying this for decades now and I’m still barely beginning to grasp the size of the challenge.

Fortunately, I was lucky to have access to one of the real experts in ecology and evolution — Dr. Jack Cohen, who also advised Anne McCaffrey and Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven and many other authors as well. We had a lot of conversations about what was possible and how it would all work. That’s one of the reasons the series has grown so large — there’s just too much story to tell.

CCF: Earlier in your career, you adapted or wrote work set in other people’s universes. One of the things that happened with The War Against the Chtorr is that GURPS adapted it into a role-playing game. Were you very involved in the process and, when the tables were turned, was it hard to let go creatively?

GURPS War Against The ChtorrDG: I didn’t have a lot to do with the actual writing of the GURPS book. I was busy with too many other projects at the time.

But Steve Jackson had the right people engaged in the adaptation and they did a marvelous job. When I saw the final manuscript, I was impressed — I was even a little bit envious because they had created so many great things I hadn’t thought of myself. They expanded on the ecology presented in the books and they stayed true to the series.

Okay, there were a few things they missed, but that’s only because there were some things I’d planned that I wasn’t telling anyone about, so it wasn’t their fault as much as it was my commitment to keeping some things secret.

I would love to see The War Against The Chtorr turned into a video game. I think it’s the right kind of environment for either a first-person shooter or a real-time strategy effort. But I expect I’ll have to finish the series first.

CCF: What kind of challenges did you face with The Star Wolf series?

Voyage of the Star WolfDG: The Star Wolf trilogy grew out of a set of scripts I wrote for a proposed TV series. We came close to selling it a couple times, but we could never get into preproduction, which has been a great disappointment. We have ship designs, costume designs, scripts, a writers/directors’ guide, a story arc, and a lot of good people who want to roll up their sleeves and go to work. Eventually, I novelized the scripts. It was an opportunity to expand the stories and build the necessary backstory.

The third book in the series, Blood And Fire, wasn’t going to be the third book, but the twelfth. That’s how many other stories I wanted to tell before I got to that one. But I had that script too — it had been written for Star Trek, but never filmed — so it was a personal challenge to get it written and published.

At some point, I’d like to revisit that series. I have a few more stories to tell about Jonathan Thomas Korie and the crew of the LS-1187. They’re interesting people.

CCF: Your other series, The Dingilliad, feels much more personal in many ways. How did that one come about?

Jumping Off The PlanetDG: The Dingilliad consists of three books — Jumping Off The Planet, Bouncing Off the Moon, Leaping To The Stars — about the Dingillian family. The series name, The Dingilliad, came about because I mentioned the idea to Fred Pohl and he told me to go for it.

The idea for the first book came from several sources. I’d always wanted to do a story about a trip up a beanstalk and I’d always wanted to write a Heinlein-style juvenile because those books are the best examples that “the golden age of science fiction is twelve.” But I didn’t have a story yet.

Then I was hired for a short-term gig on a TV series in Canada. I took my son with me. He was eleven at the time and the adoption had just been finalized. When we got off the plane in Montreal, even though all our paperwork was in order, they didn’t pass us through customs — they hustled us off to a room where an investigator started quizzing Sean very aggressively. “Is this your real dad? Where’s your mom?” Obviously, the fellow assumed that this might be a child-custody kidnapping.

Now, I had always told Sean that he did not have to answer nosy questions about his past, because it’s none of anybody else’s business. He could tell them that his mom was kidnapped by aliens or that she was living with Elvis and I would back him up. So of course when the investigator asked, “Where’s your mom?” Sean answered, “She was kidnapped by aliens. Now she’s living with Elvis.”

The investigator looked to me, very annoyed, and because I had promised Sean that I would always back him up, I said, “Yep, that’s exactly what happened. Big blue light from the sky. She went right up into the saucer. [Elvis voice:] Thank you very much.” It was worth it for the look he gave me.

Then he got hostile and resumed questioning Sean. After a few annoying minutes of this, I said, “Look, it’s past midnight, you’re wasting my time. This isn’t a child-custody kidnapping. His mother’s parental rights were terminated a long time ago — and our adoption was finalized earlier this year. The studio already filed my work permit, which I told your guy at the booth out there, and. . . etc. etc.”

The man explained that he was the guy who had fought very hard to create a program to catch child-custody kidnappings and. . . uh, we fit the profile. . . “and oh, you’re working on Space Cases? Peter David left some paperwork here, will you deliver it to him?” But he did not apologize for the ugly assumption.

After that, I started carrying a copy of the adoption decree with us whenever we traveled, in case I ever again had to prove I was really Sean’s dad. On the other hand, anyone trying to take Sean away from me would get a personal experience of “The Ransom of Red Chief” — something I fantasized about more than once.

But it quickly became apparent to me that this was the story I could tell as a Heinlein-style juvenile: a child-custody kidnapping up the beanstalk. But when I actually started writing the story, I found myself going to a lot of places Heinlein never did. This family was incredibly dysfunctional, one of the kids was gay, and the kids ended up in front of a judge, divorcing both parents. By the time I finished Jumping Off The Planet I was so in love with these characters I wanted to see what happened next. So it turned into a whole trilogy.

I do have a sequel written, all but the last three chapters. It’s tentatively called Hella. But no publisher yet.

CCF: We’ve discussed screenwriting, novels, and series, but throughout your whole career you’ve also been writing short fiction, with close to a hundred short stories published. In the 1990s, it feels like your short fiction took a more personal turn. This also led to some of your biggest successes. The most famous example of this is “The Martian Child,” a novella that we published in F&SF (September 1994), which won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and HOMer Awards, and was a finalist for the Sturgeon Award as well. What prompted that change and how did you decide to explore these more personal areas of your life?

DG: “The Martian Child” happened by accident. Honest.

The Martian ChildWhen I was first applying for adoption, my caseworker asked me if I was planning to write a book about the process. I said, “Hell no. I just want to be a dad.” And I meant it. I wanted to keep that part of my life private.

After Sean moved in with me, I had to reinvent my life, because now I was sharing it with a four-foot challenge. His well-being became the most important thing in my universe. So I only wrote while he was in school. When he came home from school, it was father and son time.

At bedtime, I’d read him a story, tuck him in, kiss him goodnight, and make sure he said what he was grateful for that day. It was a pretty good ritual. Then. . . after he’d fallen asleep. . . I’d tiptoe back in and spend a couple minutes finding out what he actually looked like — because the rest of the time he was just a blur. Nobody had warned me how fast those little Martians really move.

And one night, seeing this little guy sleeping peacefully in his own bed, finally in the safest place he’d ever known, looking like a little Botticelli cherub — I realized I’d finally, truly fallen in love with my own son.

We’d been playing the Martian game for a few weeks — the incident that triggered it is part of the story — and when I went back to my office on the other side of the house, I just started typing everything I was feeling.

When I got to the end, it was obvious. It was a personal revelation. I don’t care what kind of a Martian he is, he’s my Martian and I love him. I’m keeping him.

Having put it all down on paper, I didn’t know what I’d created. I’d just written something very personal and very different from anything I’d ever done before. Was this an embarrassingly earnest mess or was it a real story? Had I just foolishly gushed about my kid like any new parent or had I revealed something insightful about the nature of a parental relationship?

I sent it off with a great deal of anxiety. Six different editors. And it kept getting rejected — every time. I was ready to give up when I finally handed it to Kristine Katherine Rusch, but she surprised me. She bought it and published it in the September 94 issue of the magazine. It was my first sale to F&SF after 25 years of trying, and I thought that was the real victory. I don’t think either of us were ready for the reader response. The story touched a nerve for a lot of people. I had a hard time accepting that.

It was only at the 1995 Nebula Banquet where Adam-Troy Castro took me aside and hammered it into my head that the story was a breakthrough on many levels — not just as a story, but also as breakthrough for the writer. He was right, but he had to rub my nose in it because I was still comfortably stuck in my own anxiety.

CCF: So the success of “The Martian Child” was a catalyst that changed your writing?

The Strange Disappearance of David GerroldDG: It took a while, but eventually I realized that I could have a lot of fun telling personal adventures. I’ve always put myself into my characters, so I could explore their worlds. That’s why so many of my tales are first person, but when I started putting myself into stories as a character, I got to invent and explore my own fantasy world, a world where Martians and green men and quantum-defibrillators are not only possible, but inevitable.

I admit, I fell into it almost by accident. When I take road trips, I like to take back roads and see how people are living away from the interstate system. I get see things that make me wonder what the story is behind them. Of course, the stories I imagine are almost always weird. That’s where “The Strange Disappearance of David Gerrold” (F&SF, January 2007) came from. I saw a sign that said “Private Hunting Reserve” and I wondered what they were hunting. The story was almost obvious.

As a teenager, I’d always imagined that Heinlein and Leinster and Clarke weren’t just writing their stories — they were actually living their stories and then coming back and reporting what they’d personally experienced. I’d always wanted to live in the world like that and now that I am — well, it’s all source material.

CCF: The story of yours that I remember reading that blew my mind open was “thirteen o’clock” (F&SF, February 2006). It didn’t win any awards or get any special attention from critics, but it was one of the most brutal and honest genre stories I’ve ever read. Can you talk about that story for readers who aren’t familiar with it?

thirteen fourteen fifteen oclockDG: It took a long while, I fought with the concept for years, but I finally figured it out. There is no such thing as “style.”

We talk about style as if it’s a tangible thing — and those conversations only end up confusing the issue. For the longest time, I had no idea what style was. Even Theodore Sturgeon’s eloquent tutorial on metric prose was insufficient.

It wasn’t until I realized that there’s no such thing as style — it’s all about voice — that I began to understand the power of “style.”

This is where my abortive acting career kicked in. If I could get into the character, then I could write in the voice of that person. I wrote “The Martian Child” as myself. Then I wrote The Dingillliad as a resentful thirteen year old. After that, I started experimenting with other voices.

In the case of Chase, the hero of “thirteen o’clock,” that began as a voice without a story. Chase is functionally illiterate, but he’s passionate and insightful. He’s seen a lot of shit come down and he’s rejected the easy explanations for the far more difficult questions. I didn’t know what his story was, but I was discovering his voice by experimenting with paragraphs.

I had a paragraph about the sweltering heat of the delta. I had a half page that would eventually become the opening paragraphs of the story. I had a couple other lines of description. They sat and lurked for a while, because I wasn’t sure of the story. But I was pretty sure that all these fragments were part of the same narrative.

One night, I sat down to see if I could actually get into the voice long enough to write an actual narrative. I wasn’t sure where it would take me or even if all the pieces would tie themselves together — it was very much like writing “The Martian Child” — only coming back from the far side. Everything just flowed into the keyboard, only this time the fragments were coming from a vastly different place and the narrative flowed like raw lava.

I ended up with half a story and I wandered around for a couple of weeks not knowing if there was any kind of a resolution — until I realized that despite the brutality of the narrative this was really a Theodore Sturgeon story, it was about love. Not the airy-fairy, rose-petals and moonlight, idealized picture of love, but that much more brutal connection that occurs when two people get emotionally naked with each other.

After that, the rest of the narrative poured into the keyboard and onto the screen. I can look at it now and I can see how it all ties together, but I have no memory of actually writing any of it.

It was your praise of the story that inspired me to return to Chase’s life. It turned out to be easier to get back into his voice than I expected. That surprised me a lot. But I just started typing and let Chase tell his own story. He had a lot to say. It was ugly and horrific and truthful on a level that startled even me. It was scathing.

I ended up with “fourteen o’clock” and “fifteen o’clock” and I put all three of the tales together as a novel, very brutal, very graphic, and very blunt. When the whole thing came back as a book, I was able to look at it with fresh eyes, and I had the strange realization that this is the level of writing I’ve been aspiring to for nearly half a century. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written. I’m very proud of it.

CCF: We have one small thing in common — I know that a handful of readers cancelled their F&SF subscriptions after reading “thirteen o’clock,” and the same thing happened when my story “Pervert” was published (F&SF, March 2004). How did that kind of backlash affect you?

DG: I was very disappointed.

torches and pitchforksI was hoping for a mob with torches and pitchforks.

I was hoping for Pat Robertson to condemn me on national television.

I was hoping for the kind of uproar that would make me famous — because other people’s outrage is a great way to discover that you’re getting the job done.

Instead, I had to settle for a lot of five-star reviews on Amazon.

It’s a disappointment, to be sure. But I can live with it.

CCF: You’ve mentioned Theodore Sturgeon a couple times now. One of the new novellas we published in this issue is “The Further Adventures of Mr. Costello,” which is based on a character that Sturgeon created. Can you tell us a bit about the original story for readers who aren’t familiar with it, and then talk about what motivated you to revisit and develop this character?

Mr Costello HeroDG: Theodore Sturgeon wrote an odd little story called “Mister Costello, Hero.” The backstory is that he was so angry at Joe McCarthy that H.L. Gold (who was then editing Galaxy) told him to put all his anger into a story. The result was “Mister Costello, Hero.” In it, Mister Costello is a charming manipulator who, with just a little bit of blackmail and manipulation, managers to turn a whole culture paranoid. Sturgeon resolved the problem with something of a deus ex machina — that there was a larger authority able to step in.

A couple years ago, I stumbled across a fascinating way to catch wild hogs — I realized that it would also be a near-perfect metaphor for capturing an entire society. After that, it was obvious to me that Mister Costello would be the kind of man who would attempt such a thing. So I asked permission from the Sturgeon estate. Noel Sturgeon was very cooperative and I’m very grateful. I’m pretty sure that Ted would have approved as well.

Along the way, I did have some fun with the characters and their relationships, but I tried to stay true to the original themes and Sturgeon’s way of looking at the world.

CCF: Twice in this interview you’ve mentioned Sturgeon’s metric prose. You talk about it briefly also in your note for “Further Adventures.” We know that a lot of writers read these interviews: without reference to your own story — because I think that would spoil the effect — can you explain the technique and give an example of it?

Theodore SturgeonDG: The short version:

Establish a specific rhythm, the kind of rhythm you might use writing a poem. Write to that rhythm. Speak the sentences aloud if you need to. Every rhythm creates its own particular mood. The reader won’t see the rhythm on paper, but when the words flow like a song, the reader will experience it as the feeling of the prose.

Then, if you shift the rhythm, if you change the meter, the reader will feel it. The feeling changes. You’ve gone from silk to sand paper.

Those two preceding paragraphs were written in two different meters. You should be able to feel one as a somewhat liquid read, while the other has a staccato beat. English is an iambic language anyway — we have a natural heartbeat in our prose. Lub-dub. Lub-dub. So that’s our natural rhythm. When we break away from that rhythm, we create a different voice. Additionally, we recognize the accents of other languages partly because they have a different rhythm. “Would y’notice now, how the Irish have a different lilt?”

One of the advantages of metric prose is that writing to the meter forces you to find other ways to phrase a sentence, sometimes better ways to make the point.

Ted never used it more than a paragraph or two at a time. I didn’t know that — I tried to write a whole book that way, alternating metrics to represent different voices (Moonstar Odyssey.)

I think someone who writes poetry every day would probably be more successful at metric prose than I am, but I’m still ambitious enough to attempt it where I feel it will help the impact of the story.

CCF: “Night Train to Paris” is another more personal story that marked another new milestone for you by winning the Stoker Award. You’ve discussed the story at length, but can you talk about the awards in general. You’ve won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Stoker, the Hal Clement Young Adult Award, the Skylark Award for Lifetime Contribution to the field, and some others I’m sure I’m forgetting. These awards demonstrate an incredible range. There have to be very few writers who’ve won so many diverse awards and been nominated for so many more. What does that mean to you?

The Bram Stoker AwardDG: Oh, come on. I haven’t won a Sturgeon. I haven’t won a Tiptree. I haven’t won a Shirley Jackson. I haven’t won an Edgar. I don’t have a Pulitzer. And the King of Sweden still hasn’t hung a medal around my neck. So there’s still a long way to go.

Okay, seriously. . .?

I learned a long time ago to put up an emotional wall between myself and awards. Not because I don’t value awards, but because I do. There are some acknowledgments so big, they’re impossible to process. And that’s simply the wrong place for an author to put his or her energy. I have to remind myself regularly, that the real award is not the trophy — the real award is the work itself.

What the readers want is a good story. An award tells them that a lot of people thought this story was well worth the time, but there are many brilliant stories that never even make the ballot, and there are a lot of brilliant writers (Bradbury and Vonnegut, for instance) who never took home a trophy, so you can’t look to the awards as the only source for validation.

Ray Bradbury may have said it best, “You must learn to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” By that, he meant that the author has to remain focused on the truth within the work, regardless of audience reaction. But I admit that’s a hard lesson to learn.

So. . . to finally answer the question, yes, I do have a glass case for my trophies. It’s in a corner of my bedroom, mostly out of sight, so I can ignore it easily. Ignoring the awards is an important part of staying focused on the story that’s attempting to escape from the keyboard.

Nevertheless, every so often I remember my first writing instructor, the one who pulled me up in front of the room to tell me, “You will never be a writer, you have no talent, you’re wasting my time, you’re wasting your time, you don’t have what it takes. You will never be a writer.”

And when I remember his words, I take my Hugo out of the case, polish it gratefully, and check its heft — yes, it would be a perfect murder weapon. It would leave a satisfying dent in that man’s skull.

The award is very satisfying evidence that he was wrong. It’s evidence that I haven’t been wasting my time.

CCF: Speaking of trophies, after winning the Stoker Award for horror, you wrote “The Thing on the Shelf” (F&SF, July/Aug 2016), another personal — but this time humorous — story about the trophy. This is another direction in your writing. Over the past decade, you’ve written The Further Adventures of David Gerrold, a series of stories that satirize yourself. It started with “The Strange Disappearance of David Gerrold” (F&SF, January 2007) and has continued intermittently up through “The Dunsmuir Horror” in our latest issue. These stories are so much fun. One wonders how they can possibly come out of the same place as stories like “The Martian Child” or “Night Train to Paris” or “thirteen o’clock.” Did something change in your life that pushed you in the creative direction or had it always been there?

DG: That story in particular — “The Thing On The Shelf” — was always intended as a big thank you to the members of the Horror Writers Association. But yes, it is part of a larger narrative that I call The Further Adventures of David Gerrold. These stories are almost always triggered by some unexpected moment of surreality.

And fortunately, there are a lot of surreal things in the world I live in.

I’d always wanted to be able to do something that nobody else was doing, something that was uniquely me and I stumbled into this almost by accident. “The Martian Child” was the story that uncorked it. It let me discover that I could be a raconteur, rambling through a peripatetic exploration of a world turned slightly sideways. It’s not something I want to do every time out, but it’s something I really enjoy doing when it does happen.

CCF: One of the things that I respect most about you is that even though you’ve been writing for five decades, you keep trying to do new and different things. In F&SF, we recently published “The White Piano” (Jan/Feb 2016), which, incredibly, was the first ghost story of your career. At a point in your career when many other writers would be happy to copy previous successes, what pushes you to keep trying new things?

DG: I don’t know how other people do it, but when I go to Disneyland, I always go to the new rides first.

Same thing with writing.

I hadn’t ridden this ride yet.

CCF: Apart from your writing career, in all of its aspects, you’ve also been involved in fandom for five decades. You’re probably most recognized for your contributions to Star Trek fandom. But on the other end of things, you’ve also been lucky enough to have friendships with many of the writers you looked up to — Heinlein, Sturgeon, Ellison. Can you talk about what it’s been like to be both a creator and a fan?

DG: I can’t differentiate between writer and fan.

I’m a fan of science fiction. I’m such a big fan of science fiction that I’ve spent the last half century writing the stories I want to read but no one else is writing. I could have done a lot of other things, but science fiction is my biggest passion. The sense of wonder is an addiction.

I’ve said it elsewhere — I think that being a science fiction writer is one of the best jobs in the world. I get to go anywhere in space and time, all the possibilities and all the impossibilities. I get to be a literary time lord — and yes, every book is bigger on the inside.

But more than that, science fiction is the only subversive literature — it says that the way things are is not the way things have to be. We have possibilities, lots of possibilities — and where we have possibilities, we have choices. Science fiction predicts, it warns, and it prescribes. It’s the research and development division of the human species. Science fiction is a way to ask the impossible questions, “How does this universe work? What is our place in it? What does it mean to be a human being?”

I’m not sure that there are answers to these questions, certainly not answers that we are going to find easily — but the asking of these questions is a transformative experience. It stretches us, it makes us more aware of ourselves. It’s part of that thing that Plato said (although I think he was quoting Socrates), “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Science fiction is a way for us to examine life on a massive scale. That’s what the very best SF writers are doing — and that’s one of the reasons why I admire the very best SF writers.

So. . . hanging out with Ellison, Sturgeon, Heinlein, Fred Pohl, and all the others, that was not only an amazing privilege, it was the opportunity to participate in a masters’ level class in taking on big challenges. I learned from them — most especially, I learned to be unafraid of the challenge of the keyboard. Ever since, I’ve felt that I have to live up to the standards they set. Otherwise, I’d be betraying the gift of their friendship.

CCF: You were the Guest of Honor at the 2015 Worldcon in Spokane (congratulations), and co-host for the Hugo Awards ceremony, which could have been a very difficult and controversial job. But your attitude and manner of handling the awards was remarkable for turning it into a positive experience and a celebration of fandom and creativity. It couldn’t have been as easy as you made it look. What went into your preparation for that?

DG: There’s no modest way to respond to that question, you know.

CCF: It’s the David Gerrold Special Issue of F&SF, so I wasn’t really expecting modesty! But we’d still like to hear the story.

David Gerrold and @DalekRainierDG: I’m going to have to give you the long version, the extremely detailed version. More detailed than I’ve ever told anywhere. Feel free to edit — or not.

Let me start with this:

I’m shy, you know. Very shy. I just cover it well.

That’s why I took speech classes in college and acting classes, and classes in communication dynamics, so I could better understand how people connect with each other. Later on, I did communication workshops and seminar series about how to lead seminars. I did standup comedy, I taught screenwriting for nearly twenty years at Pepperdine, and of course, I did panels and speeches at conventions. I conducted workshops and led seminars. And for a while, I was licensed to lead one of the most powerful training courses in the world.

So after a while, you start to learn a little bit of what works and what doesn’t work. It all adds up.

When you’re at the front of the room, you need to own the whole room. Whatever happens in the room, you have to include it, otherwise the event is about what you’re pretending isn’t there. Most important, you have to get into relationship with everyone in the room, so you have their permission to be at the front of the room. These are all skills that have to be practiced and practiced and practiced until they become an ingrained part of oneself. If you do it right, it shows up as a kind of confidence or charisma. Harlan Ellison is a master of this.

So. . . in April of 2015, when I realized we had been handed a problem —

Let me do a sidebar here. When I adopted Sean, the caseworkers were very blunt. They did not think the adoption would succeed. They felt Sean had been so damaged by everything he’d been through (including eight foster homes in six years) that there was no possible way we’d make it all the way to finalization. They couldn’t even be sure he’d ever become an independent adult. I hated hearing that. I felt as if they were trying to talk me out of adopting him.

But as I argued with myself about whether or not I could handle the responsibility, I realized that if I didn’t take the chance on him, no one else would either. And with all the training I’d done, all the workshops and seminars and courses — and all the research I’d done into adopting an older child — there was simply no one else who might have the skills, the understanding, and the absolute commitment he was going to need. If I couldn’t do it, no one could. I couldn’t shirk that responsibility.

It turned out that this little Martian was nowhere near the impossible problem everyone believed — yes, there were things to deal with, but never once did I ever come near the idea that I should give up on him. I couldn’t do that — that was what everyone else in his life had done. I wasn’t going to be one of those people. And the result, the reward, is that he has grown up to be someone I can be very proud of. He’s found the most wonderful young woman, she’s the right one for him, and as I write this, they are planning a December wedding.

Okay, that’s the sidebar. Back to the question at hand.

When it became apparent that we were heading into a difficult situation (and there are parts of this that have never been made public) I had a lot of friends in the SF community saying to me that they were so sorry that this was happening during my Guest of Honor opportunity, and especially the Hugo Award ceremony.

But while they were seeing the downside, I was looking at the challenge and thinking, “Y’know, with all the trainings I’ve been through, with all the experience I’ve had, I should be able to figure this thing out.” It took me a few weeks, but I realized it was a matter of simply setting the right context. Once you set context, content is inevitable.

So I asked myself, “What does a great Worldcon look like?” And I started thinking about all the great Worldcons I’ve ever been to — which includes all the Worldcons I’ve ever been to. That was the moment I realized, we all go to the convention to have fun, to celebrate our love of science fiction, to hang out with old friends and make new ones, and to meet the writers and artists and editors we admire. A Worldcon is a celebration of our community. I couldn’t imagine anyone coming to a Worldcon to have a miserable weekend, so I began with the assumption that the great majority of attendees would be coming with the intention of having a great time.

So I had three months to set that context — not just for the SF community, but for myself as well. I had to make it real, I had to make it a commitment. So I posted it repeatedly on Facebook. “Worldcon is a celebration of science fiction, the Hugos are a celebration of excellence, and the award ceremony is about honoring the nominees.” Every time someone said, “Yeah, but — ” I repeated my commitment. I had to keep putting it out there. It was as much to remind myself as it was to keep from buying into all the free-floating negativity.

But actually planning the Hugo ceremony consumed at least three months. There were a lot of things that might have been fun to do — a full-size Tardis, a working transporter — but ultimately would have been too expensive, too time-consuming, and simply not worth the trouble.

At the same time, there were some things we knew we could do that would liven up the evening for everyone. Kevin Roche was willing to build a giant grim reaper costume that we could use as a tribute to Terry Pratchett, so that was our opening skit. Charlie Logan had built an amazingly accurate Dalek so I asked him to present the Best Dramatic awards. That turned out to be a great moment too.

I wasn’t working without a net. Vince Docherty, a two-time Worldcon chairman, reviewed the script with me — every line of it. In fact, we were working on the script right up to the moment we got in the car and started driving north. I can’t remember the last time I worked so hard on either a script or a presentation. But I think all that preparation served us very well. By the time, Tananarive and I walked onto the stage, we were very clear on the task at hand. No matter what, we were going to have fun. If we had fun, then the audience would have fun with us.

We began by saying welcome in as many different languages as we could — our way of acknowledging that the Worldcon has become an international event.

Then I did a thing I’d learned from some of the seminars I’d been in. I had various categories of people stand up to be acknowledged/applauded — current nominees, past nominees, editors and artists, first time Worldcon attendees — so that we created a sense of community for the audience. We also did that thing they do at the Oscars, calling out some of the famous people in the community and making some affectionate jokes. I introduced Connie Willis as “the Meryl Streep of science fiction.” I said that George R.R. Martin had been kicked off twitter for killing all 140 characters. A few more jokes in that spirit — to show that we weren’t going to take ourselves too seriously.

Then I repeated what I’d been saying on Facebook for months — that tonight was about the nominees, we were here to celebrate excellence. We were here to celebrate the sense of wonder. And I think all of that worked to set the right mood and make it easier to tap dance through the minefield.

We also honored the traditions of past ceremonies by inviting Connie Willis and Bob Silverberg to speak, and they were both show-stoppers. Having Bob Silverberg lead three thousand fans in a “Hare Krishna” chant was … well, you had to be there. Another high point was having Nina Horvath, the TAFF winner, hand out the fan Hugos.

At the same time, we knew there was an elephant in the room. We had to find a fannish way to deal with it, we couldn’t ignore it — so we acknowledged that this was “the year of the asterisk.”

Sasquan Hugo AsteriskBecause Terry Pratchett was the master of the footnote, Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station made up some wooden asterisks as tokens of the event, we put them up for sale and raised nearly $3000 for Sir Terry’s favorite charity, the Orangutan Foundation. (Some people thought that the asterisks were the wrong thing to do. There are four hundred orangutans in Borneo who would disagree with them.)

Tananarive and I knew that there would be categories without a winner. (The committee had told us the day before that there were five categories where we would have to announce “no award.”) So we had some time to think about how to handle it. Before the ceremony, Tananarive and I went through the script and determined which of us would hand out which trophies, so that neither of us would have to be the sole bearer of bad news. We knew that some people would applaud, we knew that other people would feel hurt, so we decided to stay as neutral and as professional as we could manage. I think we were as fair as humanly possible.

Fortunately, we were able to end on a high note. A very high note. Several hundred miles high, in fact. The Best Novel Hugo was presented by Dr. Kjell Lindgren, broadcasting from the International Space Station. It was a wonderful moment for the SF community because it brought science fact into the world of science fiction. I remember thinking, “I wish Robert A. Heinlein were here to see this. This is everything he believed in.” I think that helped a lot. You always want to end with a feel-good moment.

And we did. Tananarive did a great closing speech — it wasn’t in the script and I don’t know if she’d planned that or if it just came from her heart, but it was absolutely the right note on which to end.

Afterward, I can say I learned a lot about hosting. The first is to keep it as simple as possible. Have as few moving parts as you can.

The second is to give away as much of the job as possible. Bring up other people and give them their moment in the spotlight. This not only shares the fun — it keeps the audience from getting tired of the host.

The third thing is to not be afraid. The audience is on your side. They want it all to work. If there’s an elephant in the room, find a way to defuse the discomfort and make it work for the event. (When all else fails, turn it into a fund-raiser for something worthwhile.)

And finally, a great ad-lib is a joy to behold. Looking back on the evening, the funniest lines were the ones that were not in the script but just happened in the moment. My personal high point was being upstaged by a Dalek. I just gave up and let it happen. The audience loved it and I was delighted that the moment worked so well.

The whole thing was a collection of little moments of fun, all strung together, most of which worked very well. Some didn’t, and I have since made apologies to a few people who felt hurt by some of the proceedings. But I think our approach was the right one — that the Worldcon is a celebration of science fiction and the Hugos are a celebration of excellence. It was our job to honor that tradition. Nothing else.

I have to say that none of it would have worked as well without a lot of hard work from a lot of good people. I’m especially grateful to the convention committee for their unconditional support, and especially the tech crew behind the scenes who kept all the pieces working, no matter what happened on stage. I can’t thank enough, Tananarive Due, Vince Docherty, Laura Domitz, Kevin Roche, Charlie Logan, Jim Wright, Connie Willis, Robert Silverberg, and everyone else who helped. They deserve a lot of credit for making the evening as fun as it was. It was a genuine privilege to work with them.

CCF: It’s probably time to start wrapping this up, but I have one more area I want to discuss. Most writers get famous by finding one or two things they do well — screenwriting or novels or series or short stories or young adult — and then pursuing that track to success. Do you ever wonder if you might have been more famous if you stayed on one path in your career — four Hugo Awards instead of four different Awards?

DG: Y’know. . . four Hugo awards would take four times as long to polish as one Hugo award.

I’d rather be writing.

I honestly don’t want to be famous. I just want millions of people to buy my books when they see my name on the cover.

CCF: Is there anything else you would do differently in your career, if you had to do it all over again?

DG: Probably everything. There are opportunities I missed that I should have taken — and there were situations I stepped into when I should have run away and hid somewhere deep inside a cave where they couldn’t find me.

Uncle Daddy Will Not Be InvitedI’ve enjoyed directing, and that could have been an interesting career path — but directing (like acting) is an interpretive craft. Writing is still the heart and soul of creation. And as much as I’ve enjoyed the various tangents, I keep coming back to writing. I have to be a writer.

A few years ago I wrote and directed a play called Uncle Daddy Will Not Be Invited. It was a two person play, not science fiction, and it got standing ovations at every performance. I enjoyed that experience a lot. Putting on a play for a live audience is an incredibly powerful experience for a writer, so I wonder what kind of a career I could have had as a playwright. I have an idea for at least one more play, and possibly another after that.

The thing about life is that whatever else it is, it’s always a learning experience. There are no failures in the creative world, not if you turn them into opportunities to say, “Well, there’s something else that doesn’t work.” And I can honestly say that I know a lot of things that don’t work.

Besides, I figure that if a person can make it this far without many regrets, he probably didn’t get out of the house much.

CCF: What do you want your legacy as a writer to be?

David GerroldDG: What will my legacy be? I think we both already know the answer to that question. No matter what else I do in this world, the first line of my obituary is going to reference that episode of that TV series.

Remember Guy Raymond? He was a very talented character actor, dancer, comedian. He had a long and illustrious career. But when he died in 1997, the LA Times’ obituary went on at length about his appearance as the bartender in “The Trouble With Tribbles.” That’s how they remembered him.

Remember William Schallert? He played Nilz Baris. He once told me he got more attention from fans about that one appearance on Star Trek than he ever got from playing Patty Duke’s father for three seasons.

Shall I go on. . .?

CCF: But my question was what do you want your legacy as a writer to be?

DG: I can tell you what I don’t want it to be. I don’t want my stories being pored over by academics, analyzing the life out of them. And neither do I want high school teachers inflicting my work onto their students for the drudgery of book reports.

The War Against The Chtorr Book 1Probably I’ll be remembered as a man who tried on a lot of different hats. But even that is putting the emphasis in the wrong place. I want my good stories remembered for being good stories. Nothing else. (And if the bad ones are forgotten, that’ll be a good thing too.)

I want people to read my stories for the fun and the adventure and occasionally a bit of useful insight. I want people reading for enjoyment because reading expands the soul. A great story evokes the experience of tackling life head-on. That’s the kind of tale I want to be remembered for.

I think some of my stories might be good enough to survive for a while. I’d like it if The Martian Child continues to touch the hearts of parents. I’d like it if The Dingilliad could attract younger readers into science fiction. I’d certainly want thirteen, fourteen, fifteen o’clock to survive as an example of courageous writing.

But if I had to pick one, I’d want The War Against The Chtorr to be considered as an important contribution to science fiction — especially because it makes people more aware of how ecologies work. And that might be the most important message to leave to the future.

CCF: In many ways, asking about your legacy seems like a ridiculous and premature question. You won the Skylark Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1979 — that’s 27 years ago, and you’ve contributed another whole lifetime’s worth of achievement since then. There’s no signs that you’re slowing down. You’re one of the most prolific writers I know, constantly pursuing new ideas and new directions. What challenges do you see ahead of you and what kinds of projects are you currently working on?

DG: Well, let’s see…

F&SF David Gerrold Special IssueI have at least four dozen short stories I want to write. And there are at least three anthologies of other people’s work I’d like to assemble.

I want to do a Land of the Lost novel. (I have permission.)

There are a couple of Star Wolf adventures I still want to write.

And I have at least one more play I want to write and direct.

But first I intend to finish The War Against The Chtorr. Book five is finished, it just needs some editing. Parts of books six and seven are also written.

And I intend to someday publish my memos about the creation of Star Trek, The Next Generation. There’s a lot that’s been written by people who weren’t in the room. There’s a lot more that hasn’t been told. And I’m thinking about a general autobiography as well. I’ve had some great adventures and achieved a few insights from them. I’d like to share them.

But most important, there’s a project I’ve been working on for a long time, called Footnote. It’s about the single biggest challenge I ever faced — the turning point in my life that made everything after that inevitable. If I can write it as well as it deserves, it could turn out to be the most important thing I’ve ever written. It would certainly be a major contender for a legacy work.

CCF: Thank you, David. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to talk about your career and appreciate all the time you spent answering these questions.

DG: You asked great questions. Thank you.

* * *

“The Dunsmuir Horror” and “The Further Adventures of Mr. Costello” appear in the September/October 2016 Special David Gerrold issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here:

You can subscribe to F&SF here:

Visit David Gerrold’s website at


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