6.0568 Rs: Multiple Author Universes (3/91)

Mon, 8 Mar 1993 16:06:30 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0568. Monday, 8 Mar 1993.

(1) Date: Wed, 3 Mar 93 07:29:14 EST (45 lines)
Subject: Roddenberry's World and Others'

(2) Date: Wed, 3 Mar 93 9:41:03 CST (25 lines)
From: Norman Hinton <hinton@eagle.sangamon.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.0564 StarTrek

(3) Date: Wed, 3 Mar 93 11:30:17 EST (21 lines)
From: Charles L. Creegan <ccreegan@uncecs.edu>
Subject: Star Trek as Multiple Author Universe

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 3 Mar 93 07:29:14 EST
Subject: Roddenberry's World and Others'

Alan Bloch writes:
>My Trekkie son has begun to infect me with Roddenburriasis; one aspect
> of the Star Trek subculture which impresses me is the facility with
> which any number of seemingly unrelated authors manage to ring the
> changes on standardized sets of characters and relationships, much
> like so many chess players creating uncountable games using the same
> pieces. My query, for those who studied literature while I read it:
> is there a jargon term for this phenomenon? If so, what are its
> concomitants or implications? How prevalent is the phenomenon of
> multiple authors contributing to a corpus of disparate stories based
> on a common list of Dramatis Personae?
In science fiction and fantasy fandom and publishing, this is currently
called a "shared world." It began, in a sense, with authors developing
a consensus of what Mars might be like based on Schiaparelli's mistaken
observations and Lowell's proselytizing starting in the late 19th c.
Robert Heinlein's "future history" which he actually created on
unrolled brown wrapping ppr began to appear as stories about 1940 and
soon became a standard future history for other writers who were
poaching. Much later, the Roddenberry phenomenon arose in obvious
response to the practices of tv writing but also because the novelizations
sold. Some people (e.g., Robert Asprin with his *Thieves' World*) then
began designing fictional "universes," writing rules for them, and
publishing books-by-many-hands set in them. This clearly parallels
the development of complex Role Playing Games which have massive
"bibles" to guide the players in their own inventive questing.
Finally, some authors, like Anne McCaffery, who have created
"universes" for their own serial novels (a phenomenon pushed by
publishers after the initial success of Tolkien's Ring Trilogy)
have actually begun to license the use of their worlds to other
But, hey, why not? Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor both
used a world made up by others and didn't even bother paying
a licensing fee.

Eric Rabkin esrabkin@umichum.bitnet
Department of English esrabkin@um.cc.umich.edu
University of Michigan office : 313-764-2553
Ann Arbor MI 48109-1045 dept : 313-764-6330
voice msgs: 313-763-3128
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------35----
Date: Wed, 3 Mar 93 9:41:03 CST
From: Norman Hinton <hinton@eagle.sangamon.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.0564 StarTrek

On a group of dis[arate authrs using/treatig the same characters and
settings: the Arthurian legend is the easiest example to point to.

If you are interested in St and ST-TNG ("The Next Generation") you might
liketo consult
_Star trek: An Annotated Guide to Resources on the Development, the
Phenomenon, the People, the Television Series, the Films, the Novels, and
the REcordings_ by Susan R. Giberman. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1991.

My University library had a copy and I imagine manyothers will as well.
Every thng from gushing fanzine notes to serious psychological/psychiatric

There is also David ("Trouble with Tribbles") Gerrold's paperback on Star
Trek, which is long out of date but has a good analysis of how Roddenbury
and company rang the changes on the personnel , technology, setting, etc.
(the word "formula" is most ofe\ten used in pop culture criticism for this
sort of thing, but see also John Cawelti's book on genres in pop fiction: I
don't hve the title here but I think it was U of Michigan Press)

Norman Hinton hinton@eagle.sangamon.edu
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------37----
Date: Wed, 3 Mar 93 11:30:17 EST
From: Charles L. Creegan <ccreegan@uncecs.edu>
Subject: Star Trek as Multiple Author Universe

There are two reasons I know of for the multiple author universe
phenomenon in the case of Star Trek. One is trivia fanaticism, of
course: trekkies pushed the original authors of this universe to specify
it fully by insisting on answers to questions the authors hadn't thought

The other reason is even more mundane. At least in the case of the TV
series and authorized books, the creators generated a "bible" of correct
practice and terminology, and by virtue of controlling what works are
accepted they ensure that everyone sticks to it. In the case of the
original show, at least, this often meant that the script editors did
substantial rewrite on non-conforming scripts.

It's still an interesting phenomenon, but I don't think there's any
further metaphysical explanation!

Charles Creegan NC Wesleyan College