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ASK THE CHIEF
5/30/98

(Also available from Starland mirror site)

First, some comments from previous columns . . .


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

John Myers: Stan Lee (Marvel Comics) said Excelsior was a rallying cry meaning "Onwards and Upwards to Greater Glory!". Sounds good to me.


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

Tim Thompson: Regarding Joe Griffin's comments about Orwell's 1984, I didn't really make my original point as well as I wanted, so I ought to clarify that I'm hesitant to call 1984 science fiction not because the technological elements have come into being since it was written, but because they really weren't science fiction when it was written (c. 1949). It's not really analogous the sliding doors and computer disks of Star Trek... more along the lines of a story written today in which computers have "Pentium III" chips or something. The 1984 technology that I referred to was the telescreen, a sort of integrated television & camera. The only "science fiction" element identifiable here (even by 1940's standards) is that the camera would have to be pretty small. but the advances required to make such a device were a matter of degree, not of kind... just like it would not be impossible today to octuple the hard drive capacity of your computer, merely time-consuming and expensive.

Having said all that, after I gave the matter some thought, I realized that I had indeed been inconsistent in saying that non- hard sci-fi material (like Lewis' Narnia Chronicles) ought to be included in the sci-fi list, while excluding 1984. Although the latter has no genuine science fiction or fantastic elements, it is "speculative fiction" and belongs on that list... just like a novel written today about a post-nuclear-war era in the future would be, even if there were no technological advances beyond our present level included. [Sighs, steps down off cyber-soapbox.]

Phil: Unrelated to Tim's comments . . . this week I'm going to try to pull together the literary and sci-fi must-read list and post it next week!


Bullies on the Playground and the End of the Nitpicker's Guides
Beginning with Phil Farrand's comments at the end of the 5/15/98 column

John Latchem: So if the site becomes automated. . .does that mean you can cover Season 7 of DS9 as well?

Phil: Perhaps! ;-)

Jason Barnes: Be sure to keep us up to date on the future of the Guides as far as Paramount goes. Personally, I think you should find a new publisher besides Dell.

Oh, and you didn't comment on this one but I really, really, think you should contact LucasArts about your Star Wars guide.....if you still want to do the Guide that is.

Phil: I'd be happy to do a Star Wars Nitpicker's Guide. Personally, I think a Sci-Fi Blockbuster Movie Nitpicker's Guide would be even more fun but whichever I can sell would be fine with me!

JoAnna: I know you've probably gotten half a million e-mails about the Dell situation, but here's number 500,001.

I was sorry to hear about the Nitpicker guides being discontinued -- I was really looking forward to a Voyager guide. From what I understand of the situation, I feel that our First Amendment rights are being violated somehwere.

I graduate from high school in a year, and I plan to become, believe it or not, a publisher! (Or an editor, maybe both!) So, Phil, if you want to wait 20 years or so until I own my own publishing company, I will be happy to publish any and all Nitpicker's guides you want to write.

And your fiction, too. If Paramout starts whining, I'll enlist the aid of my friend Allison, who plans to be a Supreme Court Justice about the same time I own my own publishing company. ;)

As our favortie Vulcan once said, "Live long and prosper."

Scott Newton: I'm VERY sorry to hear about what happened. The whole situation makes me sick! Whatever happened to the First Amendment? I don't see the difference between what you do and, say, a movie review. (In fact, a lot of movie reviews are HARSHER than anything you've ever written.) But, like you said, it doesn't matter what we think. Arghhhhh.... Well, all I can say is THANK YOU for making our favorite fictional universes (Trek, X-Files, movies, TV, etc.) more enjoyable. I really enjoyed -- and continue to enjoy -- your work. I wish you and your family the best of luck in all your future endevaors. You'll be in our thoughts and prayers. I think I speak for the entire Guild when I say this!

P.S.: Let's keep this web site going!

Andrew Corcoran: What a lot of replies you had in Ask The Chief! With all the ideas sent in and your comments I remain hopeful that guides could continue, but I understand that is still rocky ground still.

Great idea to automate NitCentral! I would love to see it grow!

Aaron Nadler: Being a fellow nitpicker since a small Trek convention in early 1994, when I won the NextGen Guide in a trivia contest, I have continuously cruised through your website (sometimes daily for weeks at a time), read all 5 books cover-to-cover so many times that I practically memorized citations which I could bring into focus when watching an episode. Being an avid fan since 1992, your series has not only enhanced my fascination with the world of Star Trek and The X-Files, but has improved my observational ability in the world around me.

The newsletters and the website have graciously filled the void of waiting a full year to hear of any new nitpicking reports. As others have suggested, writing Rick Berman, George Lucas, or any other of the legal eagles that contributed to the discontinuation of your series would be a very influent way of getting their attention. After all, why would Paramount can your books? I mean, 4 books on the big francise haven't drawn a word from them. Why would another one? I know that Dell is nervous after the "Godzilla" ruling, but with a good word from Paramout, I'm sure they would be happy to take you back. (Note from Phil: In all honesty, I've never been too popular with the creators! ;-)

Option Number 2: A petition! I can guarantee that the 9000-some members of the Nitpickers Guild would grab a pen as fast as they could, if it meant keeping the Guides on future publishing calendars. All you'd have to do is make a single sheet of paper that said something like " I wish to have my name on the 'Save the Guides' petition_________", and put them all in a giant envelope and send them to Paramout. Include it an upcoming newsletter, and you would reach everybody in the Guild! For those of us On-Line, sending it over the e-mail, us printing it out, signing it, and sending it back would not only make it simple, but it would save you a lot of money. Believe you me, I know that us Guildians would graciously pay a dinky little 32 if it meant having a chance to save our favorite authors' writing career.

Until this happens, though, I will be keeping you, your family, and all of the Guild in my prayers, hoping that we can see the bright light at the end of the publishing tunnel.

Phil: I appreciate the offers and the kind words. My agent, Steve Ettlinger is still talking with Del Rey. Who knows? Something may develope there. We weren't rejected out of hand that the editor *had* heard of the Nitpicker's Guides!

Chris Ng: As to the comments that perhaps you should try to make your Nitpicker Guides authorized... Sorry, but I don't think it would work. The Creators--Brad Yacobian, Merri Howard, Rick Berman, Winrich Kolbe--are ALREADY Nitpickers. I guess the Creators just don't like us undermining their work. One of the major points about Star Trek is that it FEELS REAL, and if we poke holes in each episode left and right, it just doesn't feel real anymore.

Well, that's it. Good luck finding a new job, Phil. I think I can say, with some degree of conviction, that we'll always be here if you need help.

Meg Gillespie: I can't belive that the Star Wars book isn't coming out. I was hoping to buy it. I hope things can get better. I was so forward to getting the Star Wars edition to my collection of nitpiking books.

Write George Lucas. Tell him what you do, and about your situation. Maybe, if you tell him very nicely and by the grace of God, he would let you publish it. The worst answer you could recieve is "No."

And keep nitpicking. I saw this Dilbert cartoon where one of his co-workers said, "Out of all the joys in life, I think I prefer nitpicking the best." That joke decribes me, and you helped me find happiness in finding goofs. I hope the web page doesn't go. I come to it everyday, and it is almost a companion.

Phil: I've been waiting to write Lucas until I've exhausted any other available avenues. Of one thing, writing Lucas seems a last ditch-desperation tactic. The chances of him actually reading that letter and responding are practically zero so I'm more inclined to put my energies into better possibilities. But . . . we'll see what develops! ;-)

Joel Croteau: I just had a radical thought about all these Paramount lawsuits. Two words, boycott Star Trek. Hey! Get your hand off that mouse! Of course, this only applies to people with ratings boxes. Think about it if Star Trek's rating start to drop then hopefully Paramount will get the picture and stop these lawsuits. If they don't well, it was nice while it lasted. Now, I know it will be difficult but we must stand firm. Remember, it it for the greater good. To preserve the peace. And if that doesn't work. Get a TV with a V-chip and block it out.

Phil: It'll never happen! Trekkers need their Star Trek fix! ;-)

B>Murray Leeder: Do you get much money off royalties? Anything close to a livable amount?

Phil: Up until a few years ago, that would have been a possibility but the Trek fandom phenomenon has waned and the sales of Trek related merchandise had dropped accordingly.

Joshua Harrel: I'm so sorry to hear about your job. I have enjoyed reading all four of your Star Trek guides, and was looking forward to your Star Wars guide next year.You have done a great job writing and I hope that you and your family will be blessed whatever you find to do. One question, you mentioned that your agent is contacting Del Ray to see if they would like to do an authorized Nitpicker's Guide. And that you are talking to another publisher about the possibility of doing a small book that only covers the movies. My questionn is this, would writing letters to Del Ray or the other Publisher help your case at all? Because if it did I'm sure that many nitpickers ,including myself, would be more than happy to help.

Phil: I appreciate the offer. I just don't know if it would help or hurt!

Jason Allan Haase: In last weeks column you mentioned that another publisher had expressed interest in doing a Star Wars Guide, but it might just cover the three movies. I just wanted to encourage you to persue this. Even though all of us Nitpickers would probably enjoy a 400 page book like you were working on, I think I'm not the only one who will be happy with whatever we can get! Maybe in a smaller book you would be able to add a lot more of your commentary about the trilogy. Your opinions are what I enjoy reading the most of anyway. But of course I also like the nitpicking. Who knows, maybe they would be more interested in doing the stuff that has actually been on television like the Ewok movies and cartoons and the Droids cartoons.

Shirley Kolb: I would like to join all the other nitpickers in offering my condolences as to the news about Dell. It appears that they have gone into a panic over nothing and you are bearing the brunt of it. I join with everyone else in telling you how sorry I was to hear the news. I hope that perhaps the other company you mentioned will pick up at least the Star Wars guide, and who knows? If that does well maybe they will decide to let you do more Trek guides. I am glad to hear you may be able to combine training for a new career with keeping your website going. I appreciate your site very much & would really miss it if you have to shut it down. I especially appreciate your point of view on many topics that are discussed in "Ask the Chief". As another nitpicker mentioned, you are a houshold name at our house. My husband and son always know who I mean when I say "Phil says...." My prayers are with you as you determine what to do next.

Tim Thompson: I hope that Del Rey is agreeable to the idea of an official SW nit guide... I was really looking forward to reading it. Or more accurately, I was looking forward to getting a free copy by suggesting the best title; thank goodness I didn't put "unauthorized" in it, so my original submission is still potentially viable. :)

Mike Cheyne: Whoa. I haven't checked in on ASK THE CHIEF in a while, and when I check up on the ol' mailbag, I find anarchy. Pure anarchy.

I don't want to comment on this sad state of affairs. I just want to say:

Thanks for the books, and the many hours of enjoyment.

Good luck to you, and may God bless you!

Phil: I'm tellin' ya . . . ya miss a couple of weeks around here and you never know what's going to happen! Thanks again to everyone for your kind words. No matter what happens, most of all, I'm glad you've enjoyed the work. ;-)


On to the questions . . .

Scott Neugroschl: I was recently rereading some of the Brash Reflections for "Future's End". There was a whole slew of items regarding the Eugenics Wars and whether or not they occurred after Voyager&Co went to 1996... In the DS9 episode where Bashir is going to become the new EMH ("Dr. Bashir, I Presume?"), weren't the Eugenics wars were given as the rationale for the illegality of genetic engineering?

Phil: Yes . . . but to further confuse matters . . . the date given for the Eugenics Wars by the admiral in that episode was 200 years off! ;-)

[From Someone Identified Only As AdmSpornan]: I don't know if anyone else noticed this, or maybe I missed some DS9\voyager episode explaining this...

But Weren't the borg individuals in Descent? Have we seen them since then? What did I miss?

Phil: Apparently, the Borg that we saw in Descent were only a small part of the Collective that had been some how separated from the rest of the Collective.

Donald Carlson: I recently read over on Harry Knowles Aint It Cool News website some interesting news about Shatner and Nimoy hosting a series of "special edition" original Trek episodes on the SciFi Channel. The person reporting the news claims the episodes will have never before seen footage edited back in, presumably scenes cut for time or other reasons when the episodes orignally were edited.

AICN is usually pretty accurate about advanced news, but this seems VERY unlikely (even though it would be massively cool). I read in several articles and books that Roddenberry had raided the film library at Desilu, hauling off reels of Trek footage so he could sell "clips" of Star Trek through Lincoln Enterprises to fans. (I actually bought some of these back in those days.) I remember reading that GR had taken so much footage that the film editor during the last season would go looking for a particular stock shot, only to find out that Gene had sliced it up for sales to fans. Seems unlikely that any significant footage of deleted or alternate scenes still exist, and even more unlikely that these scenes have never surfaced before now.

So, my question is, have you or any other guild member heard about this? Ever hear about this footage before?

Phil: It news to me! Anybody heard anything about this?

Jeff Winkle: I know you are busy with the Star Wars nitpicking, but I was wondering if you are also taking DS9 nits or have you passed that responsibility over to someone else?

Phil: I'm still taking DS9 nits but . . . um . . . you might want to read my comments at the end of the Ask the Chief 5/15/98 column!

Howard Durdle: [Concerning the Brash Reflections for the Second Season Voyager,] Ok, I know requests are futile, but I think we've whipped the Borg often enough to not worry about that!

If you really did archive them because you don't have enough space, would you consider hosting them on a separate server? I have 15Mb to do with what I please; while I have used some of it for my web site (www.duckman.force9.co.uk) I'd be happy to create a /nitcentral directory and store stuff you can't hold any more.

Let me know if you would like to do this. I know previously you were worried about having to pay people who helped because you advertise your site, but my space is free, I don't pay for it and wouldn't ask for any money from you. The pleasure from your books (and knowing I'm helping) would be enough.

Phil: I appreciate the offer but unfortunately, it's a bit more complicated than that! (Ain't it always!) Several months ago, I goofed and accidentally overwrote all my archive copies. The files does exist any more. I *do* have all the message that I have received on the episodes but the information isn't coallate and it's going to be a *long* time before I have time to coallate it again!

Scott Neugroschl: Please forgive me, and I hope this doesn't revoke my membership in the guild, but what does WIVRON mean? I can't find it in the glossary...

Phil: You have to do a lot worse that ask a simple question to get kicked out around here! In fact, if I recall, I think I've only ever kick one person out of the Guild and that was because he was abrasive and an all-around unlikeable fellow! ;-) As for WIVRON . . . it's one of the unofficial terms. I believe John Latchem made it up. It's pretty self explanatory. It stands for: What Is Voyager Ripping Off Now?

Meg Gillespie: I'm just wondering, but when are you going to update the movie flies. I've got this curiosity to see what the guild wrote about _Lost in Space_ and _Godzilla_.

Phil: I am hoping to have things settled down enough around here to do a Brash Reflection file on the X-Files movie and then start doing files on the rest of the summer blockbusters.

Allan Fix: This is really a ridiculous question but it's kind of bugged me ever since finding this page. Isn't there a Classic Star Trek episode where Kirk is sitting in the command chair and actually "picks a nit" off his tongue?

Phil: Um . . . I'm drawing a blank. Anybody?

Michael Marks: Have you decided what your next Guide will be (after the Star Wars one, which I am very eagerly awaiting)? Will you do one for Voyager? What about an updated general Star Trek one to cover the remaining seasons of DS9 and the more recent TNG movies? Or perhaps you could do other sci-fi film series such as Aliens, Back to the Future or The Terminator?

Phil: You might want to read my comments at the end of the Ask the Chief 5/15/98 column as well! ;-)

Shirley Kolb: (SPOILER INFORMATION AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN'T CAUGHT UP ON EARTH FINAL CONTACT YET), (GO WATCH THE SEASON FINALE IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT)

I was wondering what your opinion is on them killing off Boone in the season finale. I just couldn't believe it. They kept saying that one side was going to lose an important person in the previews, but I never imagined it would be Boone! He was just such a central character, I can't envision the series without him. Did you hear anything? Did Kevin Kilner just want to leave the series? Or is Boone really not dead? (As far as I could tell, being turned into blue dust doesn't bode well for future life but maybe I'm missing something?!)

Phil: Well, it wouldn't be the first time that the creators have killed off a main actor and then ressurected him or her! Kirk, Spock, Picard, Worf, Mulder, Mulder . . .

Patrick Dorsey: Got a question for you thoug--they took Voyager of the air in my locality, and a frienf of min and I were trying to figure/remember some things concerning Wildman's daughter . . .

1) who's the dad?
2) how old is she now?
3) what's her name? Isn't it Naomi or something like that?

Phil: Dad is back in the Alpha Quadrant. Naomi should be about three now (if I remember correctly) and Naomi is Naomi! Have a great weekend, everybody!


If you would like to submit a question or comment, send it to: chief@nitcentral.com 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.