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written by David Gerrold
A REJECTED 2-PART STORY OUTLINE, dated September 1966

report & analysis by Dave Eversole

 

The Voyager, a "generation ship," one whose slow sub-light speed would take it several thousand years (and several generations of inhabitants) to cross the gulfs of space, was launched hundreds of years ago with Human colonists onboard. The Enterprise finally discovers it drifting through space, being drawn inexorably toward a star and certain doom.

Unfortunately, after all this time, the colonists have forgotten they are onboard a spaceship. The interior of the ship is the totality of their universe. A long-ago mutiny divided the colonists into two camps. The elite "lightmen" from the "upper" levels (the spherical ship created artificial gravity by spinning, producing centrifugal forces, thus "upper" refers to the "central" interior of the ship, "lower" refers to areas near the hull) are descendants of the victors in the failed mutiny, consider themselves the "chosen ones," and live in the best part of the vessel near the control room. The downtrodden, poorer people -- the "demons" -- are descendants of the mutineers, and scrabble out a meager existence in the lower areas. Both sides conduct periodic raids against each other.

The problem is quickly laid out for Jim Kirk. The lightmen have charge of the Voyager’s control room. The demons have control of the eight nuclear power plants which provide propulsion for the vessel. He must bring the two sides together before Voyager is drawn into the gravity of the star. He must convince them to work together to restart the engines, and he must show them how to operate the ship from the control room.

But each side considers the boarding party members from the Enterprise to be spies from the enemy.

The first hour of the story involved Kirk and crew being chased, captured and interrogated by both sides, and laid out the backstory.

The second part would involve Kirk’s solution to the problem.

McCoy is welcomed by the demons in the lower levels because of his medical aid to their children. Kirk uses this to his advantage and tries to talk the leader in this darkened area into reactivating the lights. The lower level people have lived in darkness for many years. The dark provides them a level of protection from the lightmen because they can't see well enough to raid in the dark. Kirk’s plan is rebuffed.

Spock offers another suggestion. He has observed that the ship’s librarian -- Specks -- wears glasses. He suggests that eyewear be fabricated for the Enterprise crew and the accompanying party of raiders who wish to retake the control room from the lightmen. They will turn the ship’s lighting up so bright that everyone will be temporarily blinded...save for those wearing the special glasses.

It is done, and Kirk and crew restart the power plants, storm the control room and capture it. There, they reset the course, and the Voyager flies past the star.

The two elderly leaders of the lightmen and demons are removed from power, and younger, saner heads are put into their positions.

All ends well.

 

This story is of course strikingly similar to two stories by Robert A. Heinlein -- "Universe" (1941) and its sequel "Common Sense" (also 1941) (both of which have been packaged as a novel under the title Orphans of the Sky since 1963). (Click here to read a synopsis of the book.) Ironic, considering the similarities between Heinlein's flatcats and Gerrold's tribbles. (See "The Trouble with Flatcats" article.)

But to be fair, Heinlein did not originate the concept of spaceship inhabitants who believed their vessel was the entirety of the universe. He merely popularized it. Scientist and author J. B. Bernal is credited with originating the idea in his 1929 work "The World, The Flesh and The Devil." Other writers who have dabbled with the notion include (but are by no means limited to): Brian Aldiss, Samuel R. Delany, Harlan Ellison, Harry Harrison and Gene Wolfe.

It is also a fairly spot-on parable of 1960's liberal political sentiments: "Get the old folks out of office; let the young'uns take over."

On October 3, 1966, Gene Coon rejected the outline with a nice note to David Gerrold’s agent in which he complimented Gerrold on his imagination, but opined that he had actually written an ideal two-three million dollar motion picture outline (remember, this would be in 1966 dollars--easily $19.5 million dollars in 2007) instead of a viable television story. He did invite young Gerrold in to pitch...and the rest is history.

Over the next few years, Gerrold heeded Coon’s advice and turned the outline into a motion picture script. When this failed to sell, he adapted the story as a novel, repopulated with original characters. Yesterday's Children was published in 1972. He reworked the story as The Galactic Whirlpool, a Star Trek novel in 1980. He again culled material from the premise for his 1990's Star Wolf series of novels.

Never waste a single idea!


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