Catching Up with Star Trek Author Paul Ruditis

Paul Ruditis author in a Borg alcove

Paul Ruditis is becoming a go-to name in the world of Star Trek nonfiction, with The Star Trek Book, the Star Trek Visual Dictionary, and the Star Trek: Voyager Companion to his credit. TrekMovie caught up with Ruditis at Mission: New York to talk about his previous work, what he has coming up, and the challenges of writing guide books for the 50-year old franchise.

The Star Trek Book cover by Paul Ruditis
Ruditis was at Mission: New York promoting his newest work, The Star Trek Book

Brotherly love – it might seem an idea born from Gene Roddenberry’s idea of infinite diversity in infinite combinations, or at least one that echoes IDIC. It is also however the moniker for Philadelphia, Pa., which is known across the globe as the City of Brotherly Love. Perhaps it is only fitting that several Star Trek alumni hail from the city, such as John De Lancie, Robert Picardo, and Barry Jenner. Add author Paul Ruditis to the list, as the born and raised Philadelphian has left his own distinct mark on the final frontier with publications such as the recently released The Star Trek Book, the Star Trek Visual Dictionary, A Very Klingon Christmas, and the Star Trek: Voyager Companion.

Promoting The Star Trek Book, publisher DK sent Ruditis on a whirlwind tour of events this year, including San Diego Comic Con, book signings in the Pacific Northwest, and Mission: New York. It was at the latter that Ruditis participated as a member of the “Beam Up the Authors” panel in which Ruditis and fellow scribes discussed their experiences pitching and writing in the world of Star Trek. It was actually a rare panel appearance for Ruditis, but it was one he said he could not resist:

“My main approach to the panels is trying not to sound like an idiot,” Ruditis explained laughingly. “I don’t do a lot of panels, as I don’t like speaking in public. Traditionally, I find a lot of the media tie-in panels in general, that it’s a lot of complaining about the tie-in publishing process, and I tend to focus on the positives. What I loved about MNY, it was so positive. Star Trek in general is a positive experience. Most people who have written for Star Trek find it to be an enjoyable experience and talk about the positives.”

“MNY was actually the first Star Trek-specific panel I was ever on. It was a really wonderful experience, talking about the writing, and what we all bond over – authors and fans alike. Other panels you talk about writing in general, with a Star Trek writing panel, everyone in the room gets what you are talking about. We might look at it differently, but we are all there for Star Trek. It is a really wonderful communal experience.”

Writing any book presents its own unique set of challenges. Ruditis seems to excel in divergent ventures when it comes to Star Trek. His most recent work The Star Trek Book, at a high level may appear somewhat similar to his Star Trek Visual Dictionary for DK, but it is actually quite different. The Visual Dictionary focused on images to present its readers the final frontier, while The Star Trek Book was the opposite; it was text-driven with photos used to support the entries.

Captain Janeway page from The Star Trek Book

Sample page from The Star Trek Book

“It was a challenge. First, it was identifying who the reader was. Traditionally, I am thinking of the hardcore fan, the fan who already knows this. So, the first thing I had to wrap my mind around is the fandom is changing, this new generation of fans who might have come in from Voyager, Enterprise or the new movies. Once I had a handle on who the audience was – both the new and hardcore, then I got into the mindset on how I was going to layout the book. The thing about DK books is that you build the outline to how the book is going to layout first. Before I started writing page one of the book, I knew what was on every single page. We had a specific number of pages; single entry, double and four pages. I had to determine which topic would fit in which space. An alien species we’ve barely seen are going to get one page, yet the Federation will get more space. It’s sort of like a puzzle.”

Introduced to Star Trek like so many fans, by a parent, Ruditis said he remembered watching The Original Series in syndication with his father, his young mind recalling the colors and planets and nothing more. His father then took Ruditis to see The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan, and the subsequent films on the big screen. Still, the lasting impact was not there. Finally, when Ruditis was in high school, The Next Generation premiered and he was hooked. This background came in handy when he was asked to pen The Star Trek Book. Pouring over Ruditis’ extensive entries, readers might think the author did an extraordinary amount of research:

“My knowledge of Star Trek comes in handy for these projects. I don’t have remotely the minutiae of Star Trek that say the Okudas have, but my knowledge works because it is not an encyclopedia. A lot of the book I can write from memory, because it is a large brushstroke. We might remember scenes or interactions not exactly as it happened on screen, and that is where most of my research happened, confirming things I already knew.”

“Also, I did not have to get bogged down on research because of my contributor, Sandford Galden-Stone, who wrote these incredible sidebar articles. It was so important and wonderful to have him on the book, especially on the timelines. If I had to figure out the where and when of a hundred years of history, the book would not have gotten done on schedule.”

To boldly go where no one has gone before page from The Star Trek Book

Surprises appear around every corner of the Star Trek universe, which is one of the items that Ruditis said he was hoping hardcore fans could enjoy about The Star Trek Book. The publication is a terrific primer to the Star Trek universe for newer fans who joined due to the Kelvin Timeline films or began watching via online streaming services. Even Ruditis came away with a new admiration of the final frontier after this most recent project:

“I really gained an appreciation of the continuity of the series. I know a lot of people focus on the mistakes or contradictions, but what I appreciated is when you are looking at 50 years and shows of a franchise, and you can track how stories evolved; like the Klingons. You can see the love and care the people had who were creating Star Trek. There is nothing like that in entertainment.”

Currently, Ruditis is writing furiously away at the 2018 Star Trek Daily Calendar, a project he has worked on annually since 2012. In addition, he continues to compose young adult novels, which he said are his passion. Regardless, if Ruditis is writing in the final frontier or high school, he will always be up for the task. Now pardon him as he sits down to watch his Philadelphia Eagles.

Purchase The Star Trek Book from Amazon

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I’m a little jealous. I was supposed to be on DK’s shortlist for TREK nonfiction projects from years back, and then nothing. Kinda makes you wonder what the point is to sending good samples if all it gets you is, “we’re going to be back to you, we like your stuff, just hang in there.’

A new super-censor at TrekMovie? My last two comments have been censored. Someone at TrekMovie should take a look at what the admins are doing and instruct them that free speech is a good thing, especially when the comments follow the guidelines of the site.