I know I don’t usually start these things by roasting Scalzi but in this case…
Kiva Lagos was busily fucking the brains out of the assistant purser she’d been after for the last six weeks of the Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby’s trip from Lankaran to End when Second Officer Waylov Brennir entered her stateroom, unannounced. “You’re needed,” he said.
“I’m a little busy at the moment,” Kiva said. She’d just finally gotten herself into a groove, so fuck Waylov (not literally, he was awful) if she was going to get out of the groove just because he walked into it. Grooves were hard to come by. People have sex, and he was unannounced. If this was what he walked into, it was his fault, not hers. The assistant purser seemed a little concerned, but Kiva applied a little pressure to make it clear festivities were to continue.
“Trust me, so is this.”
Editors are supposed to stop stuff like this from happening. And credit where it’s due, PNH is a halfway decent editor. This means one of two things. Either there was so much garbage that it was just too much work to throw all of it out or (and this is so much worse) Scalzi actually fought to keep this scene in.
Seventy percent of the current bricks and mortar bookstore market is female. Scalzi like any traditionally published author is aware of this and tries to write stuff that will appeal to that segment of market. Which means he honestly thought women would like this.
For a typical woman this is a, put down the book and walk away, “Dude, I can’t even,” moment. This paragraph is deeply and profoundly unaware of what women want from sex.
Now weird ideas (fantasies really) about sex are one of the unfortunate hallmarks of science fiction. But this paragraph speaks to a viewpoint of a straight man who sexually idealizes himself as a woman. Except normal women don’t have sex like this and they never will.
I’m not joking about this fetish either. This whole passage is about projection. Women do not pursue men for six weeks. They just don’t. For that matter most normal men can’t be bothered after getting shot down a time or two. They just move on after that. But Gamma and Omega Males will stalk one woman for months.
This is John Scalzi with his brakes starting to slip. Even in Old Man’s War we first saw the weirdness of his ideas about sex creeping into his work. The orgy that broke out among the rejuvenated soldiers was weird but expected. The reason it was expected was because Forever War had had one. And while Scalzi was claiming that this book was a paint by numbers tribute band to Heinlein, if you have ever read Haldeman and Heinlein you would have little doubt as to where the source of this pastiche was.
Joe Haldeman’s Forever War was a pastiche of Starship Troopers that the proto-SJWs of the 1970s were absolutely giddy about because of the Anti-Vietnam flavor of the book. The fact that it was being provided by an actual Vietnam veteran made their toes curl in delight. They were goofy about this tripe for years. Forever War also had numerous orgies between the boy and girl soldiers.
What it didn’t feature was a coherent or believable explanation for the pile of writhing bodies that would suddenly turn up for no reason. These porn triggers were about as realistic as the housewife who throws herself at the Pizza Delivery Boy just because he walked up to the door.
Where did all this weirdness start?
I suppose the audience had been there all along. But if you are going to look at a modern history of sex in science fiction then a good place to start is Star Trek.
One of my earliest memories is the landing of Apollo 11. My parents woke me up for it and dragged me downstairs so that I could wobble bleary eyed on my father’s lap as Eagle came down to rest at Tranquility Base. I couldn’t make out what Armstrong said. The interference was bad that morning. But even at that age I knew what I had just watched something that was supposed to be important.
Everyone else thought so too.
Apollo 11 was the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria all rolled into one. Armstrong was the new Columbus (For the benefit of Millennials; fifty years ago, Columbus was generally admired in this country. No, really he was.) A new world was opening up and I as an extremely young child was told constantly that I was going to be a part of it.
The Moon was clearly just a steppingstone. After that would come Mars. Then Jupiter, Saturn, the outer planets and… Well, that would probably have to be it for my lifetime. FTL travel was as elusive then as it is now. But an entire Solar System was likely to be the work of a lifetime regardless. There was zero doubt at that moment that we would soon be headed out to the rest of the Solar System.
Star Trek had already been canceled for a month.
My first memories of Star Trek are a lot clearer than Neil Armstrong’s walk-about. They mostly involve my father saying, “Hell no! This is my house and I paid for this damn TV set. We are watching Laugh-in!” There was of course only one TV in the house. My memories of Laugh-in are resentfully blurry.
Regardless, I was promised that I could watch Star Trek during reruns, since Dad didn’t care to laugh at the same joke twice.
And boy-howdy was Dad right. I certainly did get to watch Star Trek in reruns. Star Trek the original series was in syndication pretty much continuously until Next Generation came along.
Despite its short run of 72 episodes it became the most influential science fiction series of all time. No, I’m not exaggerating. Everything that followed it, either had to implicitly accept or reject what it had brought to the table.
This is not to say that it was good.
A thing does NOT have to be good in order to be influential it just has to have a big footprint. In the days of three networks and not much in the way of other science fiction shows on the air or most especially in reruns, Star Trek couldn’t help but have a big footprint. For ten years there was pretty much nothing else out there. UFO came and went in one year. Space 1999 lasted two seasons and then vanished from the air. There were several one season wonders and a bunch of pilots that never got picked up, I’ll get to that shortly. But nothing challenged the impact of Star Trek because nothing could.
The reason was that nothing lasted long enough to be picked up for syndication.
In the days before cable, syndication was everything. That was the market that made money for the production companies. When a show was on the air for the networks it was more or less being made at cost. But when a show got picked up for the rerun market the money could come raining down for years and the production costs were zero. Reruns were one hundred percent profit.
But and this is the important part… You needed a minimum of seventy-two episodes. At seventy-two, Star Trek was just close enough.
That odd little rule kept Star Trek the Original Series on the air in every market for better than twenty years. It gave Star Trek time to not just move the needle but to set the standard because there was no other show that had that kind of legs. *
In truth it has not stood the test of time as whole. Watching it today tends to be a something of disappointment. You remember it as being better than it was.
The sets look cheap, the lighting looks awful. Shatner’s typical performance was hamtastic but he was hardly alone there. The entire cast was either completely wooden or absolutely over the top. A lot of the stories were silly as hell. Although, granted, a few of them weren’t.
The shows that weren’t terrible all had one thing in common. They had been either written or produced by Gene L. Coon.
One of the big differences between the Original series and those that followed it was the mindset of the men who produced, wrote and indeed watched it. All of them had been in uniform at some point in their lives. The post-World War II paradigm predominates throughout the show.
The Cold War Draft had shaped American society in a way that no one can comprehend today. Between 1940 and 1973, when a young man reached eighteen years of age he was presented with a choice.
1. Pick the service of your choice and volunteer. Volunteers received preferential treatment, MOSs and assignments. Volunteers are always preferable because their moral is fundamentally better. You can always throw it in a Volunteer’s face. “Hey, you volunteered shitbird. Nobody asked you to be here. You wanted this.”
2a. Request deferment for college and then go in as an officer. If you have to be in the band, you are better off being the guy waving the stick. This was how Bill Clinton skipped the draft.
2b. Become something that the US government did not want to be drafted at all. Scientists, engineers and the like. Also, farmers past a certain point.
2c. Get married in college and a have a kid. That usually got you out of the running. Particularly if your new father-in-law was somebody who could go cry for the local draft board on your behalf.
3. Last choice for anyone. Take your chances with the Draft Lottery. If you were a high school dropout you were definitely getting drafted.
In short, the Draft had been used as a very effective club to motivate the young men of America. The Draft had become a societal engineering tool. The exemptions to it strongly influenced the choices of young men to proceed along paths that American Society most approved of for them. Regardless of how they felt about it personally.
Star Trek the Original series is a product of that America.
A lot of hardcore Lefties who would never have considered such a thing, did time in the Service.
And Star Trek was Lefty as fuck. When it started production written Science Fiction leaned to the right. No, I’m not joking here, it actually did. Heinlein, Herbert, Zelazney, Niven, Pournelle. All of them were some species of rightwinger.
Gene Roddenberry on the other hand was a Mercedes Marxist who usually couldn’t afford the Mercedes.
He started out as an LA cop. Then flew B-17s during the war. He became a commercial pilot after the war and following a nasty crash in North Africa went back to being a cop. While being a cop he became an adviser to Dragnet. I have a suspicion that he was the inspiration for “Hollywood Jack” in LA Confidential.
Dragnet was Roddenberry’s entry portal to TV. He worked as a script writer on cop shows, westerns and military dramas. He combined all three when he pitched a Sci-Fi show as “Wagon Train to the Stars.”
The first pilot is quite interesting as it is Roddenberry’s closest iteration of what he wanted Star Trek to be. And The Cage has almost no resemblance to the beloved original series. Stark, dark and gritty come to mind when describing it. Starfleet was an actual military organization. It reflected Roddenberry’s own experiences in the Army Air Corps. The captain of the ship was more fighter jock than Horatio Hornblower. There was a ship’s doctor who acted as older man councilor to the captain. The Enterprise had an actual CPO and that never happened again. Proto-Spock was on hand but he was just some guy with pointy ears.
Roddenberry’s sexual interests were very much on display as well.
Captain Pike’s Number One was a woman. Which in a more Game aware/military aware world could have worked well. The XO is inherently a more maternal figure in the military hierarchy. The sympathetic agency that can be appealed to, and one that is inwardly focused on the running of the organization.
In short, the XO is the Mom who wears the pants in the family. But this Number One.
The woman that could change to fulfill any male fantasy. All three were presented by the alien overminds for Pike’s sexual pleasure.
Roddenberry was the proto WorldCon goer in this regard.
The first pilot was scrapped but a second was ordered. This new one was less militaristic in nature but still didn’t feel like Star Trek. Roddenberry stayed true to his horrible vision for the first 13 episodes.
His vision of the future, by the way, didn’t include the likes of us. We were pretty much expected to conveniently die off in WWIII. This event that was hinted at very strongly through out the series but was never fleshed out in much detail. Which was typical for the sixties. Everyone expected the Cold War to one day turn hot and this expectation also colored the show through out.
After this cleansing by fire, all primitive thinking nationalists would be extinguished. And the only thing left would be noble, scientific globalism. Ready to head to the stars. Even here Roddenberry was an unoriginal hack.
Roddenberry’s insecurities were apparent from the start. He fought with the studios, the network, the writers, anyone who crossed his path. “During the first year,” he says, “I wrote or rewrote everybody, even my best friends, because I had this idea in my mind of something that hadn’t been done and I wanted to be really there. Once we had enough episodes, then the writers could see where we were going, but it was really building people to write the way I wanted them to write.” But no one could do that. Roddenberry never stopped rewriting. “The problem,” says his biographer Joel Engel, “was that he basically couldn’t write well enough to carry it off.” For 25 years, a script never left Roddenberry’s hands without becoming worse.
Then along came the unsung hero, who is unsung because Roddenberry tried to write him out the picture in completely and in a world before the internet you could totally do that.
Gene L. Coon is the real creator of Star Trek. He was brought on board to be the show runner after Gene Roddenberry lost interest in the project.
Coon is the one who created every hallmark of Star Trek. The United Federation of Planets, the Klingon Empire. Starfleet Academy, Starfleet Command and of course KHAAAAAANN! He oversaw the second and truthfully only good season of the show.
Roddenberry couldn’t forgive him for being more talented than he was. He eventually forced Coon off of the show and took credit for everything he did.
That didn’t play well in certain quarters.
“Shatner actually took it up a notch while the “Great Bird of the Galaxy” was still alive. Even though he had not nearly as large a bone to pick with Roddenberry as, for example, his co-star Leonard Nimoy had, Shatner apparently felt damned if he would let Roddenberry get away with the perceived injustice. On 6 June 1991 shortly before celebrating the 100th episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Producers Building at the former Desilu studio lot was renamed “Gene Roddenberry Building”, and Shatner was one of the speakers at the dedication ceremony. During his speech, Shatner purposely dropped Coon’s name a few times, in an effort to embarrass Roddenberry. Very shortly after Roddenberry’s death five months later, Shatner, not in the slightest rueful, explained himself, “In my opinion, Gene Coon had more to do with the infusion of life into STAR TREK than any other single person. Gene Roddenberry’s instincts for creating the original package are unparalleled. He put it together, hired the people and the concept was his and set in motion by him, but after 13 shows other people took over. Gene Coon spent a year and set the tenor of the show and there were several other producers who were writer/producers who defined its character. Gene [Roddenberry] was more in the background as other people actively took over.” (Cinefantastique, Vol 22 #5, p. 39) Shatner in particular, has not let the issue slide, nor did he mellow over time, when he, as late as 2008, wrote in even harsher tone in his autobiography, Up Till Now: The Autobiography, “After the first thirteen episodes writer/producer Gene Coon was brought in and Roddenberry became the executive producer, meaning he was more of a supervisor than working on the show day -to-day. After that his primary job seemed to be exploiting Star Trek in every possible way.”
Coon died long before the Star Trek’s rise to dominance in the 1970s.
It was during that period that Roddenberry showed his true genius…as a marketer. And what he was marketing was a product called Gene Roddenberry, Genius. He didn’t actually produce anything to back this up I’m afraid.
Of his failed pilots there was Questor Tapes about a sentient android that was part of conspiracy to save the world through globalism. There was Genesis II, which was some Buck Rogers scenario about a scientist trying to bring about globalism in a post WWIII world. Roddenberry kind of went back to his roots with Haven/Future Cop about an android cop. A second version of Genesis II, this time starring John Saxon as a male sex slave. And finally, Spectre, which was basically a supernatural Sherlock Holmes and isn’t anywhere near as good as it sounds.
There were other projects as well.
There had been an earlier attempt at a Star Trek film that Roddenberry took from Green Light to Red Light with his constant demands for incompetent artistic control.
However, after Star Wars came out, interest at Paramount drastically accelerated. A second live action series was planned and then scrapped in favor of a motion picture.
And when Star Trek the Motion Picture began production Roddenberry’s inner id went off the leash.
It’s hardly a secret that Science Fiction fans lean heavily to Gamma socio-sexual status. The same can often be said for the writers themselves. Although this isn’t always the case. Robert Heinlein’s earlier works clearly indicated that he had a functioning knowledge of Game. Yet, he was also one of the worst offenders. His later works frequently featured borderline pedophilia and a grotesque fascination with incest.
Gene Roddenberry was also a player. Which is unsurprising, he was bomber pilot, turned airline pilot, turned cop, turned Hollywood producer. Fine the personality archetype of player was clearly and obviously present. And in the best of aviator and Hollywood traditions he fucked around on his wives constantly. He was given to keeping long term mistresses on call and providing them with whatever employment he could send their way.
Yet he too was very weird about sex.
That is clearly reflected in the first draft of the script for STMP.
“(H)e made a deal with Sir John Whitmore, an eccentric former race-car driver who wanted him to write a screenplay about a group of extraterrestrials, the “Council of Nine,” who Whitmore believed were bound to return to Earth any day now. Roddenberry set to work. He shared his draft with friends. “I read this script and the hair began to rise on the back of my neck,” says writer Harold Livingston, “because that’s his, Gene’s, story. He was totally unaware of what he was writing. He was also writing his various sexual perversions, which I certainly don’t hold a grudge against, because I’ve got my own problems. But there’s something very, very amiss there.”
Harold Livingston wrote the first draft. As usual, Roddenberry rewrote it. “Then he brought it in,” Livingston says, “gave it to us in a bright orange cover, and there it is: In Thy Image, screenplay by Gene Roddenberry and Harold Livingston.
He took first position. We all read it and I was appalled, and so was everyone else. We sat around looking at each other and somebody said, ‘Who’s going to tell him it’s a piece of s—t?’”
The draft was marked November 7, 1977. Roddenberry’s opening scene: Kirk and a lady friend skinny-dipping. Starfleet hails. But Kirk is distracted when his girlfriend pulls him underwater. After a beat he surfaces, responds to the hail, and says, “I was attacked by an underwater creature.” There is more. The crew of the Enterprise is sent to investigate a mysterious probe heading towards Earth. In one scene, “shapely female yeomans check out the young and inexperienced Xon, straight out of the Academy and the new science officer, and asks him about pon farr,”.
Admiral Kirk tells another new member of the crew, the empathic Ilia from the planet Delta, “I know that Deltan females are not wanton, hairless whores.” At this Ilia laughs and says, “On my world, existence is loving, pleasuring, sharing, caring.” Kirk asks, “Have you ever sexed with a human?”
One theme that become clear throughout any of these 1970s works is a driving desire to have twenty-year-old women behave like middle aged gay men. That sex should be as uncomplicated as a girl walking up to you and saying, “lets fuck, now.”
Part of this was pure projection on the part of men who couldn’t fathom what women wanted so they just assumed it was the same thing they did and would thus go about getting it in the same way that they would.
Part of this was liberal men adopting a tenant of Second Wave Feminism that they really, really liked. That sex should be uncomplicated and freely available to women. They were super cool with this idea for the rather selfish reason that if there was tons and tons of hot Playboy sex going on everywhere, they were bound to get some.
And as we all know it didn’t even come close to working out that way.
The top fifteen percent of men who had been getting laid in Don Draper’s day were now getting flooded as women began throwing themselves at them without the slightest loss of social status from being a slut. As for the rest a great sexual starvation moved in as women found that thanks to government programs they no longer really needed (and I mean life and death needed) a husband.
Where was I?
Star Trek the Motion Picture was supposed to have a budget of 10 million. Under Roddenberry’s guiding hand, the budget ballooned to a studio busting 35 million. In those days that was big enough to kill a studio, if it bombed. It raked in 85 million, but it was a hair raising few months at Paramount before that happened.
They were done with Roddenberry.
His job title was changed to Creative Consultant and he was quietly kicked off the movies. So, we never got to see the one where the Enterprise travels back in time, Kirk becomes besties with John F. Kennedy and Spock is the shooter on the Grassy Knoll. I’m not joking about any of that, Roddenberry tried to sell that script for years.
Star Trek the Next Generation suffered through it’s first couple of seasons for the same reasons that everything else touched by Roddenberry turned to shit. Although in that show’s case they were rescued Roddenberry’s health issues brought on by booze and coke.
He had to step aside and let the show be taken over by younger men who had been inspired by Gene L. Coon.
Even if they thought they were being inspired by Gene Roddenberry.
*The Whovians are cordially invited to shut the fuck up. Yes, the Doctor has been on the air a little bit longer but he has always been a much smaller market.
Lost in Space was science fiction for the first six episodes and pretty good Sci Fi at that. But after those first six it quickly turned into high camp comedy. Hell, Guy Williams could barely say his lines without laughing.
**Yes, this ecological nightmare has been brought to you by the Left Wing.