TrekCore's Interview with Randy Landers

conducted by Joseph Melvin
in the Spring of 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd like to present Orion Randy, of Orion Press.

Randy Landers has been editing and publishing Star Trek fanzines since 1979. He has published over 40,000 copies of his 300+ zines. His zines have been read by more than 5000 fans over his 27 years as editor. His contributors have included well known science fiction writers (and more than a few Star Trek pro-novelists). He has attended more than 100 Star Trek conventions, and even helped run a few. In recent months, as Paramount and Pocketbooks are asserting more and more that fandom doesn't matter, he's been aggressively refuting that mistaken notion whenever he encounters it. This year, he expects to release two anthology zines as well as the Orion Press Lexicon -- a comprehensive guide to all things related to the original series as well as the original series stories Orion Press has published over the years.

1) Randy, How long have you been a Star Trek fan and what's your favorite series?

Oh, geez, I've been a fan since I first watched the show in 1966. The first episode I recall watching was "What Are Little Girls Made of?" While I've enjoyed TNG, DS9 and even some VOY to an extent, my first and true love has got to be the original Star Trek series, the animateds and the original series Trek movies.

2) Have you always been a TOS fan?

Yep. Even wrote stories about it as a twelve year old. As a 14 year old, I discovered Star Trek Lives! by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Sondra Marshak and Joanie Winston, and I found that other folks were writing Star Trek, too. When Marshak & Culbreath's Star Trek: The New Voyages was published, I submitted several stories to them for consideration, and was referred by them to several zine publishers. Roberta Rogow (herself a professional writer these days) published one of my stories in her fanzine, GRIP. Within two years, I was putting together stories for my own fanzine, and I haven't looked back since.

3) What is it about Star Trek and TOS, in particular, that captured your imagination and motivated you to start your own Fan-Fiction Zine?

I've always loved the characters and the science fiction. Back in the 70's, there was little in the way of pro-novels being published (two or three a year), and not all of it good. So folks turned to producing their own for their own entertainment, and shared them with others. Nowadays, Modern Trek fans have what three or four books per month released? Of course, original Star Trek series stories are sadly lacking. (And before anyone points out this book, or that book, let me tell you, I don't consider a PERRY MASON novel converted to a Sam Cogsley novel Classic Star Trek fan fiction. I see a lot of stuff with with the Original Series labels that are simply using the name to springboard a space station series, or some other non-original series notion that the folks at Pocketbook want to write (as opposed to writing what fans of the original series want to read).

4) How long have you been at the publishing thing and how old were you when you started?

My first zine, STARDATE 1, was published in June 1979. My second issue was published in December. By April 1980, I was a freshman at Emory University and publishing one zine a quarter for years. Once I got out into the real world, production slowed a little, but even today we continue to produce zines on a schedule that most folks have never considered.

5) What's your favorite Trek character and what is it about that character that inspires your interest?

Believe it or not, it's a tie between Jim Kirk and Bones McCoy. I love heroes, and Jim Kirk is the best of the best when it comes to heroes. McCoy is the sort of man I'd like to think I am. Opinionated, irrascible, and sometimes even a pain in the ass, but honest, loyal and possessing a genuine love for his fellow beings.

6) Do you have a favorite author inside and out of the Trekverse?

I think Dayton Ward and Kevin Ryan are the two best Trek writers for Pocketbook. Most of the others are too busy promoting themselves for me to take seriously. I miss the days when fans wrote books, not these self-serving hacks who are full of themselves. I miss Jean Lorrah's contributions to fandom, in particular. Outside of Trek, I read James White's SECTOR GENERAL series, David Brin's UPLIFT series, Tolkein's LORD OF THE RINGS, and I'm almost embarrassed to mention it on a Trek site, but I love HARRY POTTER.

7) Can you give me an idea of who is your favorite TOS screenwriter is, what type of stories interest you?

I think that the characters and the science fiction setting are what drew me to Trek in the first place, so I'd say that two of them: Gene L. Coon and D.C. Fontana, without a doubt, are perhaps the greatest screenwriters Trek has ever been blessed with. I think Jerome Bixby comes in a reasonable third place, and Margaret Armen, David Gerrold and a few others take honorable mentions.

8) Have you read Harbinger? What are your professional thoughts?

Well, it goes to what I was talking about earlier. Pocketbooks is calling this an original series novel, but how much of it is actually Kirk, Spock and McCoy? Sorry, just another example of how Pocketbooks is deciding (without doing any real market research) that THIS is what Classic Star Trek fans want: a series of novels about a space station. I'd've thought they'd learned with the CHALLENGER nonsense that this is NOT what we want to read. If you want to read a GREAT space station novel, I'd recommend any of James White's SECTOR GENERAL series instead. But I'd also recommend that if anyone buys a Trek novel and doesn't like it, then tell your friends not to buy it, and write Pocketbooks a letter and tell them why you're encouraging your friends not to buy it. Back in the 80's, fans were about to boycott Pocketbooks, and changes were made. Might be time to consider this strategy again.

9) Can you name some of the people that have been most influential to your work? Which of your cast of authors is the most prolific?

I love Rayelle Roe's fan fiction. She would tell these wonderful stories about Kirk, Spock and McCoy going camping, or swimming, or to the beach, etc. I noted that Harve Bennett mentioned her stories at Space Trek in St. Louis back in the early 80's and when STV:TFF came around, wham! there were these two camping scenes. I've always known the origin of those scenes which are regarded by many to be the only redeeming features of that film.

I love James Blish's and Alan Dean Foster's novelizations. I've mentioned Jean Lorrah's works. I'd add Nomad, Chris Dickenson, Linda McInnis and Ann Zewen as fan fic writers I truly have admired (and had the honor of publishing). I should also add Rob Morris, D.G. Littleford and Jim Ausfahl to that list. Rick, Rob and Jim are currently the most prolific writers, but we're ALWAYS looking for new stories to publish.

10) I've got a pre-release copy of your Lexicon and I'm very impressed with the amount of research that has gone into it. Can you give me a little of the backstory involved with that project?

Certainly. Back at college, Tim Farley came to me and signed on as a technical consultant of sorts, and he was wanting to do "The Book" which would be a comprehensive encyclopedia for Star Trek. But we had a falling out over a non-Trek matter, and I ended up moving from Atlanta to the swamp in Southwest Georgia known as Albany. Around 1986, I created the first Orion Press Lexicon for in-house use. It was a means of keeping the contributors up-to-date on what we were doing with the characters. For example, we've got a specific series of events for David Garrovick, and we don't want two different (or three or four) different fates for Garrovick. The thing was distributed to a few contributors and a handful of regular readers. And the hard drive on our Tandy 1000 died, and the data was lost. In 1994, I began rebuilding the information (a pain in the butt), and in 1995, we published the Orion Press Supplemental Lexicon. The original lexicon had listings for all things TOS, but in 1995, with Mike & Denise Okuda and Debbie Mirek's Star Trek Encyclopedia now published, we purged all the non-Orion Press entries and called it a Supplemental Lexicon. Well, that created a problem, because as subsequent editions of the STE came out, there were more and more decisions made to omit TOS material. So in 2000, I started again, not in earnest, but with the goal in mind of restoring all the TOS material we'd deleted. And in 2002, we were ready to publish it, but I sent a few critique copies out and all five readers demanded I listed the sources for the information (e.g. "The Trouble with Tribbles" by David Gerrold, TOS2) included. Well, it took three more years to go back and add in the sources as well as update the book for the stories we've published since the last published Lexicon. So, here it is, nearly ten years in the making, and it's not quite done, but we're shooting for April. {Editor's Note: We missed it by a few months. The Orion Press Lexicon 2006 was published in September.

11) What do you think of the recent offerings that TPTB have deliver to us, the fans.

Well, I think NEMESIS has replaced GENERATIONS as the worst Star Trek movie of all times in my thinking (of course, I've been told that it's replaced THE FINAL FRONTIER for others). I think ENTERPRISE was a failure from day one, and I'm at a loss to explain how two guys who have lost 75% of the Trek market over their past two series remained in power for so long. But they're gone, and I look forward to what's next for us.

12) What did you think of "Generations" and the killing off of Captain Kirk?

Well, it just wasn't necessary. Orion Press contributors and editors will tell you that I sent a video tape of GENERATIONS to Shore Leave (Maryland's Star Trek convention) afterwards with the TOS scenes edited out completely. Guess what? It's a mediore episode of TNG and the TOS scenes just aren't needed.

13) I've always been of the mind that Kirk should have died of the bridge of the Enterprise, going out in a blaze of glory. How do you feel, how would you have written it?

I wouldn't have. I don't have the depth of writing skills needed to accomplish that. Nicole Comtet killed off McCoy of old age in her novella, "Until the End of Time" (available on the Orion Press website), and it was heartbreaking to edit. But I wouldn't have killed Kirk off at all. I think THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY is how they should've ended it.

14) Have you heard the rumors of the next movie, how do you look at the issue as a writer and publisher?

Well, I worry about TPTB screwing it up -- and they did royally with both NEMESIS and ENTERPRISE -- but I can't allow myself to worry about what they do or don't do. When they added knots to the Klingon heads, we created the Kh'myr subrace, a genetically engineered subrace of Klingons created by the other three races of Klingons (highlighting the fact that there were three Klingon makeups used in the original series). When they came out with "Blood Oath" on DS9 (interestingly enough, Nomad first used the "Oath of Blood" in 1980 in Stardate 5's "The Wages of Vengeance") and Kor, Koloth and Kang had the knot-headed makeup, we changed those into "wisdom ridges" -- the genetically engineered Kh'myr were born with them (like Alexander) while the parent races ("Segh vav") didn't get them until they were in their middle years. Other things that have been done present similar challenges that have been met head-on. Will the next movie or series throw something add us? Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on who's in chage, you know?

15) You've been doing this for quite some time, do you ever feel like you've reached the saturation point?

Me? Well, in a way, I usually can tell when I'm reaching the burnout point and pick up "The Hobbit" or "Startide Rising" or even "Harry Potter" and read. But I can honestly say that I'm just as fervent of a Trek fan today as I was thirty-two years ago.

16) What do you think of the recent offerings in fan made continuations of TOS?

I truly believe that fan-made films are the fanzines of the 21st century. Some of them are good, some of them are bad. Some of them have good people working for them, some of them have jerks working for them. But that's true of fan fiction, conventions, websites, and any other aspect of fandom. And it's not limited to Star Trek. You haven't lived until you've run into a Broncos fan who wears his jersey every Sunday, videotapes every game, calls you up about a work-related matter and ends up discussing draft picks. Yet these are the same people who consider Star Trek fans "wackos, weirdos and geeks."

17) If you could rewrite any episode, or movie, which one is the one you'd like to change the most?

I really wouldn't change anything about the original series, the animated series or the original series movies at all. And as far as reimaging special effects, I'm afraid ST:TMP DE ruined that notion for me forever. What a waste... *sigh* So many things they could've fixed and chose not to. Prior to ST:TMP DE, I'd've probably liked to have revised the rock man ending of "The Final Frontier" so that we see Rock Men or Devilish Imps as originally intended. But I'd REALLY like to see someone come in with a love of the source material and simply do something NEW, something with QUALITY and CRAFTSMANSHIP in mind. Can they do it? I dunno. I just hope fans will give them a chance.

18) Can you tell us about your coming projects, what you have on your plate that you're really excited about?

Aside from ANTARES 14 and the ORION PRESS LEXICON 2006, I'm working on updating the ORION PRESS website so that some of our Classic Trek non-fiction material (such as our interviews with David Gerrold, Robert Bloch, Jack Williamson; Steven K. Dixon's article on shuttlecraft landing procedures, and Steven's article on Romulan uniforms) can be read and enjoyed.

I'd also like to make a few recommendations to your site's visitors and members. Joan Marie Verba has an excellent history of Star Trek fandom and fan history on her website. You can either order the hardcopy or download the PDF:

Go there and read the true story. So many of the current "idiots in charge" at Pocketbook and Paramount have no idea what really happened because they weren't even born at the time fandom was at its zenith. One of these "professional writers" said he'd never even heard of zines. Geez, I guess he's never read STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES or STAR TREK LIVES! And I'd recommend both of those books as well to every fan. ST:NV was a collection of fan fiction previously published in fanzines (as opposed to the STRANGE NEW WORLDS stuff that has supposedly never been printed before). And STAR TREK LIVES! details what it was like to be a fan in the 70's. And don't forget Joanie Winston's THE MAKING OF THE STAR TREK CONVENTIONS which has some wonderful material.

Lastly, I have a request from several of my contributors to make. Some folks on various Star Trek websites throughout the Internet have used the phrase, "[insert crappy episode/movie title] was just like fan fic." Usually, this sort of disparaging remark is uttered by Modern Trek fans who've never really bothered to read fan fiction. They've just "heard it was bad" as one of them told me when I took her to task. I referred her to Chris Dickenson's KEEPER OF THE KATRA and Nomad's I NEVER SAID GOODBYE and asked her to read them. She did, and then she apologized for the remark, saying both stories had moved her deeply.

Give fan fiction a chance, folks. Come visit our website and check out any three stories. If you don't find any of them worth reading, well, accept my apologies. But you might open a new door, a new avenue of entertainment to you, one that you might find yourself wanting to be a part of. And believe me, we would welcome you.

Randy Landers

Our thanks to TrekCore for the interview. Visit their website today!


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