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First, some comments from previous columns . . .

Television Series Cross-Overs
Beginning with Omer Belsky's comments in the 3/20/98 column

John Latchem: On the crossover debate: Throw "Sliders" into the mix and suddenly everything has the potential to be connected to everything else.

John Myers: Was Dr.Cochranes line given the Capital letters in the subtitles to show he was referring to a TV show rather than simply a trek among the stars? It was slightly jarring but I accepted happily that he meant space voyage, or galaxy travel.

Besides all the references on TNG, DS9, and VOY to "Star Trek" are not reference to "Star Trek", they are references to Starfleets Heroic Age. All the Starfleet personnel have grown up reading stories of brave men and women in their Constitution, Excelsior, or Daedalus class ships. They aren't trekkies like us, this is their military history, heritage, and heroes. Sisko gets a lump in his throat when he met Kirk for the same reason a Royal Navy officer would feel awe if he met Lord Horatio Nelson, or if one of the Luftwaffe pilots in Richtofen wing met the Red Baron.

Mike Deeds: [Concerning Charles Cabe's linking of Bateson to Crane via Cochrane's comments,] There are 2 problems with this. First, Frasier hasn't mentioned anything about the Eugenics War (but Voyager did the same in the time travel episode). Secondly, if the theory is correct; then both universes would treat Star Trek as a fictional TV show. But TNG, DS9 and Voyager often refer to stuff from Star Trek. If I can think of a better way to connect them I will write back.

I have some problems with the so-called TNG/Frasier connection. I think you run into a slippery slope using comic books (or cartoons) to connect TV shows. If you use comic books (or cartoons), you can probably connect just about anything. I will demostrate this in a moment. I think it is better to just use the same medium (i.e. TV shows) to find links. For example, will Phil include the Simpsons episode with Mulder and Scully in a X-Philes Guide Vol. II? My guess is no. It is obvious that the Simpsons exist in some weird alternate two-dimensional universe where people have yellow skin, have four digits on each hand instead of five, and the residents of one town (Springfield) never age despite the passage of time! I also have problems with the American Express Seinfeld/Superman commercial. Is the person in the commercial supposed to be Jerry Seinfeld the comedian/actor or Jerry Seinfeld the character from "Seinfeld" (and there is a difference!). I might be more forgiving on this point if the commercial starred Terri Hatcher and Dean Cain (who are both rumored to be in the final "Seinfeld" episode). However, I will ignore these concerns. There are other problems with this cross-over. As stated before, the comic book "Second Contact" clearly states that the X-Men and the TNG crew are from different universes. Likewise, the "DC vs. Marvel" comic book series also clearly puts each comic book company's characters in two different universes. Now, as to "Seinfeld" and Superman, it seems obvious that Superman is fictional in the "Seinfeld" universe due to the many references in many episodes. So, we are really talking about four separate universes (the Star Trek universe, Marvel universe, DC universe, the "Seinfeld", etc. universe)! Mr. Cabe did raise an interesting point about whether there was a "Star Trek" TV show in the Star Trek universe. Well, the obvious answer is no. I read an interesting essay a few years back that speculated that the effect the original "Star Trek" series had on popular culture has prevented the Eugenics Wars from occurring in our reality.

Now, I will "prove" that by using comic books (or cartoons) that you can link just about anything. DC has had Batman meet the Predator (from the movie of the same name) and Superman has met the Aliens (i.e. the S. Weaver movie series). So, does Star Trek, Seinfeld, Superman, Batman, the Predator, and the Aliens all exist in the same universe? I also remember that Batman and Robin met Scooby Doo in a cartoon! Additionally, one Scooby Doo episode featured the characters from "I Dream of Jeannie". In The Bob Newhart Show 20th Anniversary Special, a character revealed a possible Bob Newhart-Jeannie link! Furthermore, characters from Bob Newhart have appeared on both St. Elsewhere and Murphy Brown. In fact, I sent Phil a snail mail letter containing photocopies from a magazine that show that you can link over 30 different TV shows to The X-Files! I suggested to Phil that the XF cross-over links might make an interesting sidebar in a Vol. II. Guide.

Phil: I testify! I have the list. It was fun!

Mathew Bredfeldt: I thought that I might put my two cents in on this whole crossover thing.

First I was too young to remember the show like St. Elsewhere so I really don't see where that crossover is going, but as a big fan of Homicide: Life on the Street and a semi-regular watcher of the X-Files I do remember the crossover. I also remember in earlier seasons of Homicide that John Munch was saying that he was a somewhat believer of UFO's, so I think that he was a perfect choice for the X-Files Crossover.

I would like to see a crossover between the three NBC programs Law & Order, ER, and Homicide: Life on the Street. I had this idea when the first Law and Order/Homicide crossover. Maybe also a crossover of Pretender and Profiler (the ony two programs that survived the first two years of the Thrillogy.) I think the crossovers of Homicide and Law & Order have produced some of the best episodes of that season.

What would shows would you like to see crossed over into? (So I guess I did come up with a question.)

I woould like to see other than the L&O, ER, and Homicide crossovers, Pretender and Profiler, maybe a X-Files goes to Homicide (have a big scene with Pembelton and G VS Mulder and Skinner.) or a JAG/Practice/Ally McBeal crossover. (This is getting reduclious but you get the idea.)

Bob Canada: Obviously "Pettycoat Junction" and "Green Acres" were set in the same universe, since both shows were located in the town of Hooterville. But I would be remiss if I didn't point out that "The Beverly Hillbillies" was also set in the Hooterverse--Granny was shown romantically pursuing Sam Drucker in several episodes. Which leads us to the fact that Ma Bodine and Kate Bradley looked an awful lot alike.

Also, this week Nick at Night is having "Last Episodes Week," presumably to tie in with all the Seinfeld hoopla. Anyway, I watched the last episode of the "Bob Newhart Show" (the one where he's a psychiatrist in Chicago), in which Bob and Emily Hartley leave Chicago for Oregon. Flash forward to the final episode of "Newhart," (the one with the Daryls). We find out that this entire series was all a dream in Bob Hartley's head. Except that when Bob Hartley wakes up and realizes he's been dreaming the whole "Newhart" series, it appears that he's still in his "Bob Newhart Show" bedroom. So either the bedroom in his apartment in Oregon looks exactly like the one in Chicago, or they moved back to the same apartment later... I know, it was a long way to go for a feeble nit (and I suppose these 2 series were technically in the same universe, since series was dreamed by a person in the other series).

Scott Newton: While we're at it, did anyone notice that Frasier Crane and Morgan Bateson both have the same voice as Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons? They must be related because Sideshow Bob's brother Cecil has the same voice as Frasier's brother Niles. So now we know that The Simpsons and Star Trek exist in the same universe as Frasier/Cheers, etc. And also, the Hills (from King of the Hill) were once seen at a Simpsons football game. So welcome that show into our universe as well.

And Dr. Belman (from Earth: Final Conflict) bears an uncanny resemblance to Lwaxana Troi, though why Star Trek never mentions the Taelons is unclear. (In one EFC episode, Boone even says, "Space is our final frontier!")

And in case you were wondering how Classic Star Trek can be just a TV show (in Frasier) and actual historical events (in TNG, DS9, and VOY), the explanation is obvious: The logs from the various Enterprises, DS9, the Defiant, and Voyager all fell into a wormhole and went back in time to 1960's L.A., where they were found by Gene Roddenberry, who later gave them to Rick Berman.

What, you mean you didn't know that already? How could you not? (snicker snicker)

Ship Naming Conventions
Beginning with Brian Henley's comments in the 4/10/98 column

Matthew Patterson: In the last ask the chief, "Clay" said that his dictionary defines excelsior as being wood shavings. What about this definition in my little dictionary, "always upward?" The entry also included a reference to the word excel (the ever-illuminating "see such-and-such"), so I would guess that the two words are related. That's probably why Starfleet wants it as the name of a ship.

A Sci-Fi and Literary Primer for Television-Bred Sci-Fi Fans
Beginning with Mike Konczewski's comments in the 4/24/98 column

Mike Konczewski: I was very impressed with the response to the good SF reading list. I hope that some of the Nitpickers go out and read some of these great stories.

To Mr. Elek's comment about being unsure of where to start--your best bet is to look for one of the numerous theme based short-story collections and start there. Isaac Asimov and Martin Harry Greenberg did dozens of themed collections (my favorite is _The 13 Crimes of Science Fiction_, a collection of SF detective stories). There's a series of alternate history collections (Alternate Kennedys is great), time travel, first contact, environmental stories, etc. Just pick one; it's only $7. If you like one of the authors, check out his or her other work. That's how I found out about Larry Niven.

The author of _Dune_ was Frank Herbert; the author of _Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?_ was Philip K. Dick. For those that don't know, DADOES? was substantially rewritten and filmed as _Blade Runner_. The book is better. (Note from Phil: Yes it is!)

Speaking of books into movies, a movie that never got made was Harlan Ellison's script of Isaac Asimov's _I, Robot_. Reading it is simultaneously a pleasurable and sad experience. Pleasurable because it's so good (whatever complaints you may have about Ellison, he's a very visual author and screenwriter); sad because it'll never get made (we get Godzilla and Lost in Space instead).

Murray Leeder: As a new Clarke fan myself, I'd agree with "Rendezvous with Rama" and "2001" and "2010", but "2061" and "3001" are both sub-par Clarke books. Especially "2061"... it truly fails to justify its own existence.

Joe Griffin: Good gravy! There I go again, posting from work without checking my sources...yes you are right about both the Frederic Brown nit and the Jonathon Swift nit. For the record, I've always mixed up Swift/Paine and occasionally Niven/Brown. My apologies. The price of Guild membership is eternal vigilance, and so I must keep my brain turned on here.

And yes, I was being ironic re: Dr. Who. I'm a fan myself; I just haven't seen as much about the show recently as I used to.

Of course, here I go without a net again: To Adam Horwater's list--Phillip K. Dick wrote "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" and I believe William Golding wrote "Lord of the Flies."

And before I post my own list (I'm determined to actually get to it this week but it's been nuts around here) I would like to say: There's profanity, yes, but read as much Harlan Ellison as you can.

Re: "Brave New World:" I was actually reasonably impressed with the TV movie. They strayed from the actual characters and some plotlines, but as far as representing the theme and tone of the book and conveying its message, I thought they did an admirable job. Not to excuse altering the original, but some very important things from the book remained. It felt as if they used the same world to tell the story, but focused on different people within that world. (With, um, the same names as the characters in the book. Oh well.) I kind of liked it.

Omer Belsky: First and foremost, I'm shocked that no one has brought up ENDER's GAME, by Orson Scott Card. It's as good as any other SCi - Fi classic ever written.

But this brings up the question of the usefulness of this list. What books can we all agree of as 'Must read'?

Let me clarify Myself. I saw many books in those lists which I loved. I also saw books which I couldn't finish. granted, everyone has his own opinion, but what does a list help someone who has to choose books to read?

I enjoied Asimov's early writing, and find them every bit relevant as they were fifty years ago, and perhaps even more so, but I can't say that about all those books. I find both Clarke and Heinelin, the two other 'Grad Masters' of Sci-Fi, as rather doll storytellers, who focous on neat ideas rather then good story tellers. On the other hand, while I truely enjoied 'Do Android Dream on Electric sheeps' the classic novel which later became Blade Runner, I know people who found it boring and unintresting. So the question must be, what good does one get from seeing these lists? If I see a list of books, some of which I like and some not, how should I know which one of the others to pick?

So... I don't really know what point I have if any, but I thought this was worth noticing

Phil: It's true that different people have different tastes. And . . . I wouldn't be surprised at all if many television-bred sci-fi fans have difficulty reading some of the books that are listed here. Remember that television and movies are a confining passive experience. Books, on the other hand, engage the mind. And some make more demands on the mind than others. And some make those demands worthwhile. And, frankly, some do not! But, at the very least, I've always been of the opinion that "quality shows." It's pretty easy to tell if a book has been hurled onto the page or there has been some real research put into not only the ideas and the technology but the settings and the characters. This is the one true goal that I have for my readers if I ever get some fiction published: That they realize I have done my best to be honorable with them; that I'm not just jamming books into the pipeline; that I'm trying to address real issues in a narative, literate form.

Scott Neugroschl: Re: Sci-Fi classics,

How about:

Frank Herbert's Dune (first novel only)

Nine Princes in Amber, The Guns of Avalon, Sign of the Unicorn, The Hand of Oberon, and The Courts of Chaos -- by Roger Zelazny. An interesting discussion of what is reality...

Also, Clarke's The City And the Stars.

Pournelle's Mercenary/CoDominium series is also good (same universe as Mote in Gods Eye)

Desmond L. Warzel: Kudos to your attempts to compile a list of classic works in the SF genre. If possible, however, I would like to submit one writer who will almost definitely be included, were such a list to be compiled, say 20 years from now. His name is Steven Gould, and the most recent issue of Science Fiction Age heaps more glowing praise on him than I ever could. He has three novels out: "Jumper," "Wildside," and "Helm." Read Jumper; it has to be one of the best first novels ever. I'll eat my hat if this guy doesn't turn out to be the next Heinlein.

Douglas B Perkins: I have some books that I would like to add to the lists that are being sent in, both sci-fi and literary.

First, the sci-fi list:

Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation(all by Issac Asimov)In fact, anything by Asimov is good
Enchantress From the Stars(Sylvia Louise Engdahl)
Dream Thief(Stephen Lawhead)
Emperion: The Search for Fierra(ditto)
Emperion II: The Siege of Dome(ditto)
Fahrenheit 451(Ray Bradbury)
Keeper of the Isis Light(Monica Hughes)
Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength(C.S. Lewis)

I think those are all clean, except maybe Fahrenheit 451.

Literary books:

The Three Musketeers(Alexandre Dumas)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, other title Notre Dame de Paris(Victor Hugo)
The Hobbit(J.R.R. Tolkien)
The Lord of the Rings(ditto)
The Chronicles of Narnia, all by C.S. Lewis:
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Horse and His Boy
The Magician's Nephew
The Last Battle
The Arm of the Starfish(Madeleine L'Engle)
A Wizard of Earthsea(Ursula K. LeGuin)
The Tombs of Atuan(ditto)
The Farthest Shore(ditto)
Romeo and Juliet(ditto)
A Tale of Two Cities(Charles Dickens)
War and Peace(Leo Tolstoy) Persevere through this one, it's worth it!
To Kill a Mockingbird(don't remember author) Some coarseness in the trial scene, but a great book.

Maybe I'll think of more later, but that seems fine to start with! :-) I'll for sure be looking up some of the books from the other lists.

Tim Thompson: I meant to respond last week, but got too busy; I had a lot more on my original list, but have edited out duplication of already mentioned by other people.

I really like the idea of the "reading list"... What was said about the massive amount of mediocre sci-fi available is correct. One of the reasons that well-known authors do so well in it is just that -- they're well-known. You're not afraid to spend seven bucks for a paperback by somebody like Asimov or Crichton or Heinlein because you know what to expect, and you're assured of a certain level of quality. The only unknown sci-fi author I've read in a few years is James Halperin, who wrote a novel called "The Truth Machine." Very much a book that "engages the intellect" as you put it; examines societal consequences of inventing a perfect lie detector.

Another author worth mentioning specifically is Harry Turtledove; he is the undisputed master of a sci-fi subgenre called "alternative history." His "Guns of the South" has South African white supremacists using a time machine to help the Confederacy win the Civil War. He also has a tetralogy called "Worldwar" about an alien invasion that happens in the middle of WWII; Excellent characterization of real historical figures like Robert E. Lee and Winston Churchill in situations they never really had to face.

One other comment: IMHO, some people placed works in the wrong list. For instance, Dracula, Tolkien's Hobbit/LOTR trilogy and C. S. Lewis' Narnia Chronicles are technically fantasy instead of real science fiction, but I still think they belong in the sci-fi list. Along the same lines, I'm not sure Orwell's 1984 qualifies as science fiction. There are really very few speculative elements in terms of technology, and even those are no longer science fiction... the most technologically advanced system in the book is really no different than television or video-phone.

General Literature Reading List (no particular order):

Complete Tales and Poems (Edgar Allan Poe)
Othello, Romeo & Juliet, Richard III (William Shakespeare)
Sherlock Holmes Canon (4 novels, 56 stories) (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Light in August (William Faulkner)
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)

Science Fiction/Fantasy Reading List:

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Mark Twain)
The Narnia Chronicles (C. S. Lewis)
Nightfall (novel) (Asimov & Silverberg)
Stranger in a Strange Land, Puppet Masters (Robert Heinlein)
Death Gate Cycle, Dragonlance Chronicles (Weis & Hickman)
The Truth Machine (James Halperin)
The Once and Future King (T. H. White)
Guns of the South, Worldwar Tetralogy (Harry Turtledove)
The Andromeda Strain, Jurrasic Park (Michael Crichton)
Ender's Game, the Lost Boys (Orson Scott Card)
Xanth series (Piers Anthony)
Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)

O'Brien's Rank
Beginning with Patrick Sweeney's comments in the 5/1/98 column

Patrick Sweeney: OK, some people wrote in repsonse to my comment and spoke about O'Brian's rank, and my logic for it, and they went ahead and contradicted themselves. First, Joshua Truax said that LaForge had to have gone to the academy, because he knows about required readings in FC, and then says: Laforge used to not be an engineer. That's why he went to the academy. Maybe he minored in Warp Theory? I have to take courses now that don't apply to my major.

I can't explain how O'Brian could be a war veteran, and a transporter chief without going to the academy though. The best I can think of, is maybe he didn't. Maybe he was drafted once he was on a ship in an engineering post? As an engineer he could work a transporter too. Any thoughts anyone???

Nog Taking Orders From A Cadet In "Valiant"
Beginning with Danny Wiese's comments in the 5/8/98 column

Kevin Loughlin: Danny Weise asked why Nog, an ensign, would take orders from a cadet. If you watch the first conversations aboard the Valiant, everyone is careful to call him (and even Jake) 'sir', as would be appropriate. After Nog meets with Watters, joins the crew and gets the Red Squad pin, he joins their field-rank structure, becomes an acting Lt. Cmdr., and thus would answer to the acting-captain and -first officer. He even becomes 'captain' when the higher-ups are killed off, and he sends the 'abandon ship' order.

Corey Hines: In the episode "Favor the Bold", Nog was made an ensign. This means the cadets in "Valiant"(DS9) would actually have to take orders from Nog. This brings up something else regarding cadets. The reason why Nog was on DS9 was because they were on field placement. How come in the 7 seasons of TNG, with the exception of Westley Crusher, we have never seen another cadet. There's no other ones in DS9 and none on VGR. That would have a good storyline or two, a cadet not ready for isolation.

Todd Felton: Regarding whether Nog should be taking orders from a cadet, you'd think that because Nog was a full Starfleet officer, he should have rank pull. But then again, the cadets may each have the equivalent to a field promotion, since they have been working for eight months on the Valiant. But note that although Nog was promoted to Lieutenant Commander, he only had the pips of a lieutenant junior grade--I think that's a nit!

Phil: Thanks to everyone else who sent in similar information!

On to the questions . . .

Amber Heinzel: Wasn't there a discussion in "Ask the Chief" a while ago about shows that spoof Star Trek? I am watching the U.S. Acres part of Garfield right now, and they are in space arming the photon tomatoes. The little guy that has legs but has not hatched from his egg yet is Spock, and the whole thing is a total riot. Kudos to Jim Davis for a good laugh!

Alex Otis: One of my most favorite lines from Trek is as follows:

Man talking to Dax- "I like your spots!"
Dax- "You've already told me that."
Man- "I know. But I really like your spots!"

Thing is, I can't seem to remember which episode it's from. It might be from "Meridian", but I can't find my tape to find out.

Phil: Um . . . "Meridian" has something similar to that but I don't think it's exact. Close, though!

Aron Kay: How come Star trek doesnt usually show combat knives made of duranium and stuff like they mention in the Star Trek role playing books and novels? Any answers? They did show it in a Voyager episode called Macrocosms where janeway stabbed the alien creature with a starfleet issue combat knife .

Phil: The choice of weaponry is always the perview of the creators!

David D. Porter: The discussion on SF authors got me thinking. Take a look at some of the people who wrote episodes for TOS: Robert Bloch (What Are Little Girls Made Of?, Wolf in the Fold, Catspaw), Theodore Sturgeon (Shore Leave, Amok Time), Harlan Ellison (The City on the Edge of Forever), Norman Spinrad (The Doomsday Machine), Jerome Bixby (Mirror, Mirror; The Day of the Dove, Requiem for Methuselah). These were all established SF authors at the time, and had won many awards among them. Other epsiodes were also written by established SF writers, as well as some who established themselves *with* ST episodes (David Gerrold). You won't find names like these in the writing credits of the later series. If you see some of your favorite episodes up there, look up that author. The original screenplay for Ellison's 'City' is available in book form. It's instructive as well as entertaining.

Now, I do *not* intend to imply that no published authors have written TNG/DS9/Voy stories (Diane Duane and Melinda Snodgrass are noted SF writers) or that there is no quality writing in those series. But the fact remains, no authors of the level of those I mentioned in that missive are to be found.

Phil: Hmm.

Phil Farrand: Ee-yup, that's right. It's me!

I'm afraid I have some bad news. I've pondered the best way to release this information but there's really no good way to do it. So, I'll give it to you the way it was given to me.

My current writing career ended sometime around noon last Monday when my agent Steve Ettlinger called. (Quite a way to start the week, eh?)

Here's the facts as I know them. Apparently, there was an unauthorized movie guide for Godzilla that was due to be released in conjunction with the new movie. In mid-April, the copyright and trademark owners of Godzilla won an injunction against the publisher of the unauthorized guide and stopped it's release.

Unfortunately, the judgment in the case was written quite broadly.

At the same time, Paramount has been stomping through the unauthorized publishing niche--as they did on the web several months back--firing off letters to anyone and everyone that they feel might be infringing on their copyrights. A few weeks ago, I spoke with a fellow author whose publisher had yanked his DS9 trivia book after he had already turned in the manuscript.

In all honesty, I've been somewhat surprised that Paramount hasn't taken this kind of action before. In my opinion, unauthorized episode guides and unauthorized trivia books are really nothing more than a rehash of copyrighted material. As I understand the copyright law, "fair use"--i.e. the ability to use copyrighted material in a new work--is restricted to works that have substantial new material. This is the reason movie reviews are legal, along with any other kind of critique, commentary and analysis of a copyrighted work even though the copyright holder is not involved. It's the fabled "freedom of speech" protected by the First Amendment and disallowing anyone to profit from the discussion of copyrighted works unless you have the copyright owner's permission in tantamount to a gag order. In my opinion, it is an explicit violation of one of the most fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

Anyway, the judgment in the Godzilla case has sent Level Ten shudders through the publishing industry.

To understand why, you have to understand that there isn't much profit in the publishing business and litigation is expensive. So, it's really not a question of what is legal. It's a question of what is risky.

Now, as far as I've been told, the Nitpicker's Guides are as legal as you can get in the unauthorized publishing business. They are critique, commentary and analysis and Dell has never had any problem with the Guides evoking the threats of lawsuits from copyright holders. (I was even told by an insider that Paramount's lawyers said they knew that what I did was legal. Likewise, when Paramount "cleaned up" the web, I never heard "boo" from them. I had nitpickers writing in a panic saying, "Is Paramount trying to shut you down?!" And I'd write back, "Nope! Haven't heard a thing from them. What I do is legal!")

Unfortunately, it ultimately makes no difference whether what I do is legal or not. The fact is: It's expensive to fight off a lawsuit even if you're right. While the Nitpicker's Guides have provided me a comfortable living, lawyers--charging hundreds of dollars an hour--would quickly chew through any profits that Dell has enjoyed from them.

In addition, Dell changed lawyers some time back and I've gotten the distinct impression that the new lawyer has never been thrilled with the Nitpicker's Guides. The lawyer was responsible for the deconstruction of the cover of the DS9 guide and the removal of the space station from the cover. And, if I recall correctly, there was some prediction of the lawyer's discomfort when I initially discussed the possibility of the X-phile Guide with Dell.

When you combine a broadly-written judgment with a skittish lawyer and a publisher whose profit margin is slim to begin with, you get this:

Dell has canceled the Star Wars Nitpicker's Guide and has stated that it has no interest in publishing any other Nitpicker's Guides.

However, as far as I know, Dell will continue to sell the current spate of Guide. But . . . my relationship with them has ended.

And . . . it seems unlikely that another publisher would be willing to take on the risk--given the atmosphere of the market and other current lawsuits.

You may or may not know that Citidel recently released a book called The Joy of Trek. From what I understand, it's a light-hearted look at how to improve your relationship with a Trekker. It's fun. It appears to me at least, to fall well within the "commentary" guidelines. Yet, Paramount has sued Citidel for copyright infringement.

I'm told that there's only 10,000 of the book in print. It's a trade paperback and lists for something like $10.95. I would be stunned if the combined profit and royalties for the book exceeds $50,000.

From what I understand, Paramount has sued for 22 million.

This is ludicrous.

Put simple, the bullies have taken over the playground.

And they will continue to dominate the playground until some publisher stands up and fights. And that, dear friends, is not going to happen any time soon. Believe me.

So . . . I am in the process of starting a new career. I've been careful with my money. I have some breathing room. I will probably brush up on my programming skills. I used to be a cracker-jack programmer. It's skill you never lose because you're born with it. I plan to see if I can drum up some contract work. (If you know of any business looking for contract-programmers that don't have to relocate, let me know! As for my aptitude in different languages and application-builders, I have demonstarted many times over in the past that I can learn anything. And I catch-on very, very fast.)

I think it would be nice to work from home and have a bit of time to continue the attempt to get some fiction published. But . . . if that doesn't work, I'll just find me a cubicle! ;-)

I'm really okay with this. The friends I've talk with in the last few days have said, "You're sure taking this well." I just figure that you win some and you lose some. I've done the best that I can do. I feel like I've put out some good product. I have plenty of other employable skills and, frankly, it'll be nice to get back into a field where talent and discipline are actually rewarded.

There was really only one moment when I came close to losing it. Last Monday, I spoke with my editor Kathleen Jayes as well. She feels horrible but there's nothing she can do. At one point she said, "I just hate to see you leave writing." After a choked pause, I explained that I have a family to support and if writing can't support my family, it's time for me to do something else. And I went on to say that I had learned enough about the publishing industry to realize that there are thousands of people who write better than me who will never get a book published and there are hundreds of people who write poorly who will--and will be successful in terms of making money. (Reading twenty-five Star Wars novels has certainly convinced me of this fact all over again. "Mara Jade wore a tight-fitting jumpsuit: her curves looked like the hazardous paths through a complex planetary system." Oh man. What . . . is she lumpy?!)

I've gotten five books out the door. That's not too shabby. And, as far as I know, Dell will continue to stock the Guides that are already in print.

So, for the time being, I'll continue the website.

Life goes on.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

If you would like to submit a question or comment, send it to: with "Ask the Chief" or "Question" in the Subject line. (Remember the legalese: Everything you submit becomes mine and you grant me the right to use your name in any future publication by me.)

Copyright 1998 by Phil Farrand. All rights reserved.