Star Trek fans have been creating their own stories since as far back as the 60s. Some of these fan writers have even got their work published. The first of these compilations was "The New Voyages" in 1976. For the last decade Pocket Books has issued a series of fan fiction compilations starting with "Strange New Worlds" in 1998, but that all comes to an end next month with the final planned book "Strange New Worlds 10." However, CBS have just announced a new deal with FanLib.com for web-based fan fiction contest called ‘Kirk v Picard.’ The contest will have fans collaborate to write a script for an ‘episode’ of the ultimate captain showdown with the help of a virtual showrunner in the form of VOY/DS9 science adviser and ENT writer and story editor Andre Bormanis. The contest site goes live Wednesday June 13th [UPDATE: Site is now Live] and TrekMovie.com talked to Bormanis about the project.
FanLib is a new but already popular fan fic destination. It is a place where fan writers can share their stories set in pretty much any franchise you can think of. FanLib has an active Star Trek community on the site but this is their first officially licensed Trek event. “A lot of us at FanLib love Star Trek and have had more than a few arguments about which captain was better and how they’d interact with each other. We thought it would be really cool to see what other fans think and to make a big event out of it,” says FanLib co-founder & CEO Chris Williams. In addition to Bormanis, FanLib have brought on George Takei and Wil Wheaton who will be ‘video blogging’ about the event over the next month. The first of these is already online at the site. FanLib is backed by some industry bigwigs, including one of the top guys at Yahoo. It is worth noting that some fan fiction purists are not comfortable with the commercialization of online fan fiction. For more on that controversy visit the at the website of MIT Professor and Author of "Convergence Culture" Henry Jenkins. However it is encouraging to see CBS embracing fan fiction online, and it may give hope to those who would like to see fan films get the same kind of recognition.
How it works
The Star Trek ‘fanisode’ will be written in stages over a one month period. The first step will be to choose one of four possible ‘sci-fi scenarios’ that brought Kirk and Picard together. Then each week Bormanis will issue a ‘mission’ for fans which will describe the outline of a scene to be written. Writers then submit scenes and people vote and review the scenes. Each week writers and reviewers can win prizes, so you don’t need to be an aspiring writer to both participate and win. Once a scene is ‘elected’ it is added to the script and the process repeats until the script is complete. For more details on the process read the contest rules. Bormanis says that in the end he expects a script to be around 30-35 pages, or somewhat shorter than your typical episode. Prizes will include a Trip to Las Vegas, Apple iPhones and MacBooks and Star Trek merchandise. FanLib may run other Star Trek contests in the future depending on how this first one goes.
Although your rewards are limited to prizes (and CBS will own anything you submit) there may also be some good exposure for an aspiring screenwriter. During the time of Pocket Books "Strange New Worlds"series they found seven authors who went on to be commissioned to write several Star Trek novels. In the case of FanLib, several fan fiction contributors have had their work end up in eBooks and at least one has gone on to get a real literary agent (article).
Why Kirk v Picard?
The premise for the contest is some kind of confrontation of Star Trek’s most famous captains: James T Kirk and Jean Luc Picard. The decision came from FanLib and Bormanis’ discussions on when in Trek’s timeline should they set the story, and they felt they can get two for the price of one. Bormanis explains: "We decided that it would be fun to actually have two time frames involved and one of the perennial question of Star Trek fans is ‘who is the better captain…Kirk or Picard?…We have only seen them together briefly in Generations. We thought it would be cool to see these guys in scenario that is more adversarial.”
Have we met before?
Um Kirk never met Picard right?
Bormanis says that the setting will pit 5 year mission era Kirk with early TNG Picard. Of course the first thing any Trekkie will note is that this doesn’t exactly compute…Kirk and Picard did not meet until later in both of their lives (via the Nexus from Generations). Bormanis promises that the episode will preserve continuity and throws it back to the fan writers to figure out how it all works out. He notes episodes in the past have concluded where those involved did not remember them, such as “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “ Cause and Effect.” So is that just a big reset button? “I hope it won’t boil down to that,” says Bormanis laughing, “Maybe someone out there has a really clever idea on how do deal with these things without using the reset button.” Even though the show will be focused on the captains (and possibly crews) of the TOS and TNG eras it may not be limited to that. Bormanis says that he is at least open to fans bringing in other elements, saying “due to the short length I would be reluctant to want the show to go in too many directions at once…but maybe there will be a cool way to bring Captain Archer or the Gamma Quadrant wormhole into the story.”
A show for today or yesterday?
Even though the premise is bringing together heroes from decades past, Bormanis hopes the show will have modern sensibilities. “Storytelling on TV is more sophisticated than it was in the 80s or the 60s, certainly it is different. I don’t want to take this project and make something that is entirely its own piece and does not seem to fit into the Star Trek universe, but at the same time I don’t just want to try another episode of TNG or TOS.” One example is that of Trek’s infamous ‘technobabble.’ In the first video blog for the project Wil Wheaton even mocks Trek’s sometimes over worn tendency to focus on the technology. Bormanis, Trek’s former science advisor, admits this has been an issue and hopes it wont happen with Kirk v Picard. “There were some examples on Voyager where we would work ourselves into a corner and Janeway would say ‘try and ionize the L Beam transmission’ and that solved the problem,” jokes Bormanis.
Bormanis thinks ‘it will be fun’ to see how the debates on technobabble and tone and style play out with the fan community. Although he will be setting out the ‘missions’ in the end it will be the fans that both write and decide which way to go. “It’s exciting,” says the former story editor, “when you write for television it is a group effort and it feels like being back in the room when you were breaking stories.” He is also ready for the inevitable debates and acknowledges that it may get heated at Trek debates often do, however he notes “the one thing that Star Trek fans have in common despite the disagreements and heated arguments is that we all love Star Trek…we all want to see it thrive.” Indeed.
For more info see the official FanLib trek site.
Trailer for the event:
VOTE who do you think would prevail in a showdown between Kirk v Picard
see poll (right column)
UPDATE: Premise choices revealed
Thanks to ‘Old Timey Fan’ for identifying the first fan fic book from 1976, updated the article.