To boldy go… Aw, hell–you know the rest.
Waaaaay back when, my 10th grade English class got an assignment to write a short story. The subject could be anything we wanted, so long as we got at least five pages and there were no naughty words contained therein (to this day, I wonder if “frak” or “felgercarb” would have counted).
Being a teenager, I was naturally wild about all things Star Trek. I had practically memorized every episode of the original series, and The Wrath of Khan was just on the horizon. Pure nirvana. So what could be better than crafting my own Trek adventure, and actually earning English credit for it?
Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
The story grew from five pages to twenty by the time I was done–an epic in any high school classroom. My English teacher, Mr. Campbell, proudly gave me an “A+” for my efforts and recommended that I submit my tale for publication in the school’s own literary magazine. I loved the whole idea of people reading my stuff and the recognition that came from it. Besides, it wasn’t a half-bad way to ask a girl out on a date.
Fast forward a bit, and I’m looking at a long summer before my senior year without much to do. My sister had started a couple of “Sweet Valley High”-type novels in her well-worn spiral notebook, but never really came close to finishing one. I figured I could do her one better, and immediately set to writing a novel of my own. Of course, it had to be Star Trek–nothing else could possibly compare.
Three months later, I had a 311 page manuscript. I typed the whole thing out on my Commodore 64 using a quaint word-processing software called SpeedScript–which was so primitive that I had to go over each page to underline the italicized parts with a pencil and type the page numbers in using an electric typewriter. Still, for 1985, this was cutting edge.
Dutchman took the crew of the Enterprise into an alternate dimension, where the people who had disappeared in mysterious disasters throughout time ended up imprisoned on a mystic planet. Captain Kirk has to save his crew by seeking out a powerful crystal that can bend space and return them to their own universe–a convenient plot device, even though it didn’t make much sense. More fantasy than science-fiction, the story featured a dangerous quest, supernatural beings, childhood flashbacks and a boogeyman-like villain. Pretty heady stuff for a 16 year old author.
I mailed the manuscript off to Pocket Books cold, having no real idea how the publishing business worked. A year later, they mailed it back to me with one of those “Dear Author” form letters attached. The rejection stung, but I had actually written a real novel–even though it was a lot harder using that line to get dates once I got into college.
As far as I know, the only paper copy of Flying Dutchman is long since lost, much like the hapless victims that spectral ship carried away. I still have the old Commodore-formatted floppy disks, though. Anybody out there with a working C64 I could use to retrieve them?