5:30 pm EDT, July 31, 2015

David A. Goodman talks ‘The Autobiography of James T. Kirk’ with Hypable

What inspired you to tell Kirk’s story in particular?

You know, this book was not my idea. It was the idea of a friend of mine, Dave Rossi, who worked at Star Trek: Enterprise with me. I think that Kirk is sort of this great hero character. I mean, one of the things that people don’t really think about in terms of the popularity of Star Trek is that Kirk’s a real hero in the traditional sense. So, he lives for a lot of people. Like Sherlock Holmes, like Superman. It’s an iconic character, as is Spock.

Kirk is a good character to take on because he didn’t live that long, and his life is defined already time wise. But for me, Captain Kirk has always been my favorite character on Star Trek, and I loved the idea of trying to make him a more ‘full’ human being.

Which aspect of Kirk’s past did you especially enjoy expanding on?

I think, probably, the thing that I spent a lot of time on, because I thought it was really important, was Starfleet Academy. It was mentioned a lot in The Original Series, and it was clear that Gene Roddenberry was really drawing from experiences that he’d had of the police academy. He had written for a show called West Point, which was about West Point, which I got a hold of and I was just watching episodes.

Then I read a lot of military biographies, of guys who’d gone to West Point, or the naval academy — Generals like Norman Scwartzkopf and Dwight Eisenhower. Because whenever I’d seen Starfleet Academy portrayed, either in books or even Star Trek: Next Generation, I’d always been a little disappointed. Because clearly Roddenberry’s view of the Academy was that he had a warts-and-all kind of feel to it.

starfleet-academy

Kirk was bullied at the Academy by Finnegan, and I wanted that idea that this was an Academy that says, ‘Okay the rest of the Federation is a paradise, but we need the people that are going to be in Starfleet to be able to follow orders.’ So I wanted to create this place where you could believe it existed within the Star Trek universe, that it wasn’t such a negative place that you couldn’t believe existed, but it had a purpose. An education for Kirk, to go from this farm boy to the man he becomes when he leaves the Academy.

That was probably the thing I took most seriously as a writer. I want Starfleet Academy to feel like it exists. Because, as a fan, I’ve always been disappointed in its portrayal. How does Starfleet Academy work, was my question, and I was trying to answer that question. And I think I have.

Were there any relationships that you loved exploring between the characters?

dr-mccoy-and-captain-kirk

The relationship with Kirk and McCoy was a relationship I enjoyed, and I found a connection that I feel like no one else had found. Because, as I said before, Kirk for his whole Starfleet career was this absent father. Anybody that knows anything about The Original Series knows that part of McCoy’s backstory is he’s an absent father. And the moment where these two men find that connection is, to me, a great moment in the book and a great moment that I found. Here are these two guys, serving together, they don’t really like each other, there’s a bit of conflict between them and then through a series of happenstances they discover this connection and have this moment.

The other thing that I’m very proud of is how Kirk came up with the name Bones. It’s not how it is in J.J [Abrams]’ movie, because in my mind Bones was a shortening of Sawbones, which is an Old West name for a doctor. I wanted something to happen in these guys’ experience where Kirk would coin that nickname, and I’m very happy with that as well, in what I came up with. It involves Gary Mitchell, and it’s a fun sequence.

And then, I had a lot of fun with exploring Kirk and Spock together, in the past, in the 1930s. The thing about “City on the Edge of Forever” is that it’s never clear how long they’re back there. It’s a few weeks at least, maybe a couple of months, and I read Harlan Ellison’s original draft, and I think emotionally he got to something a little truer than the episode — which is Kirk would not want to let this woman die. So I took a little from that, and make the point that this is going to be the regret for the rest of his life and it’s going to affect how he has romantic relationships for the rest of his life. That’s another thing I had fun with.

Do you think books like this being published professionally will open the door to more understanding and respect for fanfiction?

Well, there have been these kinds of books all the time. Fanfiction, to me, is connected to the licensed Star Trek books that have been out since the show went off the air.

I think Twilight is the best example of the legitimacy of fanfiction. You know, writers are writers and the good ones rise to the top. I don’t read a lot of fanfiction, but I do think that anybody out there trying to write these characters, and finding original fiction, may find their way to doing it professionally.

It’s really about the individual writer. Because I don’t think CBS, or whoever owns the licensing for Star Trek, is against these fan created things. There’s fan productions of Star Trek all over the web. CBS doesn’t sue, doesn’t say shut it down. They let it go, and I think they’re happy that there’s this community that explores this stuff, and then the people who’ll be professionals will find their way to be professionals.

What character would you like to see a fictional autobiography written about?

That’s a good question.

There’s a biography of James Bond, written by an author called John Pearson. It’s a British book. It’s a great book. It’s as close to that, but that was written a number of years ago. The idea of someone trying to, now, in the modern age, a modern author doing the autobiography of James Bond, I think would be pretty cool.

Thinking about could you possibly say that one guy is the same guy in Dr. No, that’s in Skyfall. Is that possible? And that, to me, the author that cracks that, I would love to see that book.

Because that was the other thing that I took on in this book was that I have a sense of humor about a lot of stuff. There’s stuff that doesn’t make sense, and I call it out, without breaking the fourth wall of the book. Because there’s a lot of stuff in Star Trek that doesn’t make sense.

How I deal with Star Trek V in the book is also a personal triumph. It’s a very funny take on it, and it’s very subtle. You might miss it if you go past it. But Star Trek V is a Star Trek movie — Kirk, Spock, McCoy, they’re all in it. So I have to address what is Star Trek V. And I do address it, and I think I’m very clever about it.

About the author

David A. Goodman is an American writer and producer and a graduate of the University of Chicago. He was one of the executive producers of Family Guy, beginning its fourth season, joining the show as a co-executive producer in season 3. He was also a writer for several television series, such as The Golden Girls (his first job), Futurama (where he was also a co-executive producer, and writer of the famous Futurama Star Trek parody episode “Where No Fan Has Gone Before”) and Star Trek: Enterprise.

You can follow David A. Goodman on Twitter. The Autobiography of James T. Kirk will be released on September 8, 2015. You can pre-order it from Amazon now.

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