Tag Archives: Star Trek

McIntyre Interview with Quintin Kreth

Special thanks to Vonda. This project was only possible with her help and generosity. VondaVignette-PSDtoGIF

Throughout this term, I have primarily studied the life, correspondence, and published works of Vonda N. McIntyre, a Pacific Northwest science fiction author. McIntyre was born in Louisville, Kentucky on August 28, 1948 and has lived primarily in Seattle since  her family settled there in the early 1960s. She is a 3-time winner of the Nebula Award and also won the 1979 Hugo Award for her acclaimed novel Dreamsnake.

After McIntyre spoke to our class in early November, I decided that I wanted to go further in-depth with my questions and conduct an interview with her to share with the class. You now have that interview, below. To develop my questions, I worked in the University of Oregon’s Special Collections, mainly in the Joanna Russ and Ursula K. Le Guin papers. It was a really interesting experience to be able to read through the letters of someone only a few years older than myself experiencing an earlier moment in history. McIntyre’s letters gave me a different, and better, perspective on many of the issues facing the country and young women in particular in the 1970s.

For additional background on Vonda, please see Kelsie’s excellent Wikipedia article: Vonda N. McIntyre. It provides a nice biography and bibliography.

flourish

Quintin – In your early 20’s, you left your PhD program in genetics at University of Washington and consequently began to write for a living. At that time, did you think writing would be your career, or something to do with your BS in Biology? At what point did you consider yourself a professional writer, as opposed to an amateur? What did that change mean to you?

Vonda – When I quit grad school, it was because I realized that as a research scientist, I made a very good SF writer. I already considered myself a professional writer. I had sold several stories, beginning in the summer of 1969, and had joined SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America, now Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, www.sfwa.org ), and had some interest in my first novel.Walking on DNA

How did your relationships with other members of the sci-fi community change as you made the transition from fan/amateur to peer? (Especially Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin, James Tiptree, etc.)

I met Russ and Le Guin after I’d sold a number of stories.

Russ was one of my instructors at the 1970 Clarion Writers Workshop in Clarion, PA. Our relationship was generally that of teacher and student.

I met Ursula at the 1971 SFWA Nebula banquet in Berkeley, CA. After talking to her for about 37 nanoseconds, I asked if she would teach at the first Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle that coming summer. She agreed. (She was wonderful, and taught at all three sessions of the first incarnation of Clarion West, 1971-72-73.) She has always treated me as a peer, even when I was an ignorant pup, for which I’ll be eternally grateful.

I never met Tiptree. Our by-mail relationship began when Susan Anderson and I bought “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” for our humanist anthology of SF stories, Aurora: Beyond Equality. She called me when she knew Tiptree was about to be outed. She was afraid people would hate her for not being Tiptree. I don’t know of anyone who changed their high opinion of Tip/Alli after the revelation. I was glad to know her as both Tip and as Alli. Aurora

You spoke a lot with Joanna Russ about your take on the feminist movement in the 1970s as a young woman. What do you feel has changed for women today, both at the university-level in general and in the sciences specifically? What about for beginning female authors?

As I’m neither an academic nor a scientist, I’m not qualified to answer the first question. There’s a good bit of discussion going on about the subject on various science and academic blogs, and I encourage you to search them out.

I would have hoped that things would have changed more, forty years down the line, but you still run into people who think there’s little or no room for women (or people of color) in SF — as writers, as readers, as characters. I thought we already fought that fight in the 1970s, and am appalled by the abuse directed at women SF writers and writers of color. This despite their having invigorated the field with original work and new perspectives. You have to wonder what some people are afraid of. Emilie du Chatelet

Something Kelsie pointed out was the parallel between your apartment in Seattle getting robbed in college (and your files taken) and Snake having her journal stolen by the crazy in Dreamsnake. Did real life inspire fiction here? How do things in your own life inspire your writing?

I don’t remember consciously making that connection, but it certainly could have been an inspiration. I don’t often base stories on specific events in my own life. I think events have to go through a fermentation process before they’re fit for fictional use. Fermentation

As a young author, you didn’t hire a literary agent until after you won your first Nebula Award in 1973. Was this a conscious choice? I also saw that you continued to handle a lot of business affairs as an anthology editor and workshop organizer, even afterward. Do you like the financial management aspect of authorship, or was this a bit of Northwest DIY-ism?

At the time, a writer didn’t need an agent to submit short stories, and I believe that’s pretty much still true. The payment for short stories is so low, for most SF writers, that it isn’t worthwhile for an agent to negotiate a short story contract.

I negotiated the contract for my first novel myself. It ended up being a pretty good contract, partly because Fawcett Gold Medal, which published The Exile Waiting, had a decent boilerplate contract that didn’t require a great deal of negotiation, and partly because SFWA has a lot of information available for new writers about contracts. And also because the editor, Joseph Elder, was a good and fair editor.

Contracts these days are grabby and greedy. Often the most objectionable clauses are the least negotiable. Even with an agent watching your back, sometimes you have to say “No” and walk away.

When I was ready to submit Dreamsnake for publication, I was also ready to find an agent. I was lucky in my choice, Frances Collin, who still represents me.

I don’t particularly enjoy financial management. After Aurora, I didn’t edit another anthology till Nebula Awards Showcase 2004. I didn’t handle the finances of the first incarnation of Clarion West (1971-1973), and though I’ve taught at the second incarnation (1984-present), other folks run it — much more competently that I would have done. The Exile Waiting Cover Art

I grew up on the eastern side of the Oregon Coast Range, and I’m curious about how you were affected by your experience living at the Le Guin Cabin in Rose Lodge, Oregon? I understand you primarily lived there as you gained notoriety as an author and produced your first novel. How did the isolation of the PNW rainforest affect you? 

I was very grateful to have the cabin to stay in. I enjoyed the solitude. If I was notorious as a writer I was, I’m afraid, unaware of that. I don’t believe I’ve been back to Rose Lodge since I moved out of the cabin and returned to Seattle and, after a year or so renting a Lake Forest Park mother-in-law apartment, bought a house.

by Charles Le Guin

by Charles Le Guin

More so than other authors we’ve read in our class, you have worked in Hollywood and in television. What motivated you to take your work in that direction? Were you influenced by Harlan Ellison? Could you talk a bit about the upcoming production of The Moon and the Sun?

I haven’t worked in Hollywood or in television. I wrote some teleplays when I was a pup — if I wrote an on spec teleplay, the series was sure to be cancelled the day after I finished.

I wrote two screenplays at the Chesterfield Company’s Writers Film Project (sponsored by Amblin Entertainment and Universal Studios) in Los Angeles, one of which turned into the novel The Moon and the Sun, which is scheduled to begin filming in the spring of 2014. They aren’t, however, using my screenplay. I can’t tell you anything more than you can find on the Internet, except that it’s going to be beautiful.

You may be thinking of the tie-in novels that I’ve written, mostly for Star Trek. They were great fun, but they don’t qualify as “working in Hollywood.” Most tie-in writers don’t hang out on the set or with the actors or the producers or the directors. Most tie-in writers for movies don’t get to see the movie before the book has to be finished. You’re lucky if you see a few publicity stills. (Any or all of that may have changed since the last time I wrote a tie-in novel.) The deadlines were usually pretty ferocious, so mostly what I did was write till I was too tired to work any more, sleep for a while, get up, and go back to writing. VondaNMcIntyre_Starfarers600x900-1

I’ve blogged about tie-in work a couple of times. You might find the essays interesting, or at least amusing:

http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2013/06/20/best-of-the-blog-writing-star-trek-novels-or-why-dont-you-get-a-morally-acceptable-job/

http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2013/08/30/my-first-computer-osborne-i/

And of course the Starfarers Quartet started out as the best SF miniseries never made:

http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/starfarers/

http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2009/10/18/casting-starfarers/

http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2009/10/25/casting-starfarers-update/

http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2009/12/27/the-starfarers-quartet/

http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2010/03/21/starfarers-the-miniseries-cast/

Citations:

McIntyre, Vonda N. University of Oregon Special Collections (Eugene, OR), Joanna Russ Papers, “Correspondance with Vonda  N. McIntyre, 1970-1988,” Box 8, Folders 18-25. Accessed October-December 2013.

McIntyre, Vonda N. University of Oregon Special Collections (Eugene, OR), Ursula Le Guin Papers [RESTRICTED], “Correspondance with Vonda N. McIntyre,” Box 22, Folders 11-14. Accessed November 2013.

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Star Trek: A Natural Continuation of McIntyre’s Feminist Works

In Changing Regimes: Vonda McIntyre’s Parody of Astrofuturism, De Witt Douglas Kilgore is responding to the claims of Frances Bonner that feminist SF authors whose works were published in the 1960’s and 1970’s have reverted to writing in a “masculine genre.” Instead, Kilgore argues, using Vonda McIntyre’s work as his primary focus, that it was rather a form of tactical feminism using the conventions of Cold War astrofuturism as a thoughtful reengagement in response to critics who sought to limit the impact of the feminist speculative fictions. “McIntyre’s recent work can be read not as the abandonment of her earlier feminist project bus as a refusal to accept its containment within a subgenre” (261). As I understand it, astrofuturism is the idea that humanity will reinvent itself when it achieves its destiny in space; which, in itself, could reflect any political mindset/values. However, it has often been associated with the reproduction of militaristic colonialism.

Kilgore then breaks down McIntyre’s subversiveness in the Star Trek and Star Farer series citing as one example amongst many, her Star Trek novel The Entropy Effect in which “a security chief, a starship captain, a defense attorney, and a brilliantly inventive engineer represent the types of women who make up McIntyre’s future” (261). Why would Star Trek be a worthwhile site of feminist discourse if anchored in patriarchal narratives? Kilgore argues that “while the feminist/anti-racist politics of the 1960s and 1970s made it possible to talk seriously about racism, sexism, class bias and other antagonisms, they did not negate the imaginative power of these regimes within sf’s mainstream” (260). I find myself easily convinced that McIntyre did try to bring in a certain amount of subversiveness in these texts as she herself expressed in class last week. “Poor Kirk, he always gets turned down in my novels.” (Vonda McIntyre, UO – Nov 7th.)

Kilgore, De Witt D. “Changing Regimes: Vonda McIntyre’s Parody of Astrofuturism.”Science Fiction Studies 27.2 (2000): 256-77. Print.


To: Ms Joanna Russ, From: a new fan

Ms. Joanna Russ,

Hello my name is Richard,  a student at the University of Oregon. I have been reading some of your papers that the UO has in the special archives. Of particular interest to me have been your unpublished works. I have read two Kirk/Spock stories and a stage play of The Hobbit. I have to say you are an excellent writer though I suppose that much is obvious. I particularly like how you depict the characters in Star Trek. In my opinion the best part of the Star Trek show is the acting between the main three characters. While at many points in the show, the writing is weak the actors carry the show regardless. You have captured that sense of humor and friendship perfectly in your writing of your Kirk/Spock stories. As I rewatch some of the original Star Trek episodes, it is hard not to imagine that the slow smiles and knowing looks between Kirk and Spock are the beginning of an as of yet unspoken relationship. But I have to say my favorite part of the story has to be McCoy. From his perspective, you see a good man struggling with realizing that his bigoted assumptions on homosexuality are completely wrong. McCoy’s journey from bigotry to understanding culminates in him apologizing to Kirk and Spock and asking for their forgiveness. It is beautiful. Coming from a more conservative part of Oregon I have many friends from high school who are good people but have some particularly intolerant views on homosexuality. I wish that they could undertake the journey that you have written for McCoy in your short story.

All gushing aside I should probably ask you about your opinions on the gender roles depicted in the world of Star Trek as I am writing a research paper on that topic. Star Trek seems to elevate the status of women slightly over what it was in the 1960’s but not all the way to equality. I would also like to hear your views on Tolkien’s work as I have found nothing from you on his work other than the aforementioned stage play. I think it highly unlikely that you will respond to this letter but if you do I would be thrilled. I would have you know however that after this class I will be reading more or your works for pure entertainment when I have the time.

Thank you,

Richard C. Cramer


Protected: Russ on Porn and Star Trek

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Scalzi’s Redshirts

Scalzi’s Redshirts

Margaret mentioned this in class earlier this week — audio version sounds fun.


Protected: The Humor in Anger

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Protected: Kirk/Spock Where No Man Has Gone Before… except not really at all.

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Ada Test Site

For experiments!

Ada Journal Review

Review site for the Ada Journal

James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award

"Best way to teach flying is to fly." - Joanna Russ

Queer Geek Theory

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Comments for SF Signal

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"Best way to teach flying is to fly." - Joanna Russ

Ursula K. Le Guin: New on the Website

"Best way to teach flying is to fly." - Joanna Russ