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STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION - THE GORN CRISIS: Kevin J. Anderson, Part 2
In part two of Fandom's interview, the writer discusses exploring and developing Gorn society.
By Matthew F. Saunders
November 15, 2000
Popularity isn't everything. The Gorn have fascinated Star Trek fans for more than 30 years, ever since they debuted in the original series episode 'Arena' in 1967. But what do we really know about these cool alien lizards? Sure, they're big, green, extremely territorial and can smack Captain Kirk around with the best of them. Beyond that, though, not much.
When writer Kevin J. Anderson and his collaborators, wife and co-writer Rebecca Moesta and artist Igor Kordey, began working on the Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Gorn Crisis
hardcover graphic novel, one of their missions was to put the unknown to rest. In addition to plotting the story, much of their prep time was spent delving deeply into Gorn culture. While most of what they came up with appears only in the background, window-dressing to the story at hand, it marks the first in-depth examination of this intriguing race. No longer just big, green lizards, the Gorn are now a full-fledged, functioning society.
In part two of his interview with Fandom, Anderson discusses this newly developed society, the creative freedom and collaborative processes involved in creating it, and the Gorn's future in the Star Trek universe.FANDOM:
THE GORN ONLY APPEARED IN 'ARENA,' SO WE DON'T KNOW A LOT ABOUT THEM. WERE YOU GIVEN A LOT OF FREEDOM TO DEVELOP THEIR SOCIETY AND CULTURE?Kevin J. Anderson:
Yes. The artist, Igor Kordey, was able to develop the architecture, the culture, the look of the Gorn homeworld. Plus, I remember in my script, one of the pages was the Gorn spacefleet launching off to attack. If you remember 'Arena,' we never actually got to see what the Gorn ship looked like. It was a bright light in the distance, probably because they spent all of their special effects money on the big rubber suit. And in one page in my script, when the Gorn fleet is launching, I just wrote in the instructions, 'Igor, this is your chance to design every Gorn ship you ever wanted see.' And he did. There's a page where there's just all kinds of neat battleships and warcrafts flying off, with a distinctly Gorn design.
So we had a lot of freedom as far as how everything looks. We developed a racial and caste system in the Gorn civilization. Paramount let us do I think everything that we asked for. We told the best story we could and sent everything in for approval. And they changed a few words and lines and things here and there, but overall it was a very streamlined process and we think the book came out with all of the energy we could possibly pour into it. In fact, Igor did so much prep work before he started this. He designed all the different breeds of Gorn, the different castes and what their society is like. So there's an appendix to the book, which is all his original development sketches, with some words he wrote describing how he built up this society based on different species of reptiles on this planet, plus extrapolating certain things.
SO WHAT'S THE SOCIETY LIKE?
There are warriors and politicians. There are different uniforms, different weapons, the different architecture and symbols that they use. It's all the kind of thing the reader will see in the background as enriching the whole experience, but we try not to shove it into your face. We want it to be part of the landscape, rather then drawing big arrows to them, 'Look here, this is a different kind of building,' and 'This is a different kind of costume that they're using.' It's all part of the overall story.
We also had to develop a lot of biological things, because if you extrapolate from them being reptiles, therefore being cold-blooded, then their entire civilization would be based around a different diurnal cycle and how they would have to live much of the time underground in very hot places and keep themselves active. So they're entire philosophy is based on the weak must be defeated, which is what one of their catch phrases is, and they're tired of feeling weak themselves.
So, this is at least one of the castes. And then there are scientific castes and industrial castes; it's a genuine civilization. It's a space-faring society, so they're not just big alligators walking around hissing at Captain Kirk. You don't get to that point in a civilization unless you've got a complex society, because you need to have some reason for becoming a space-faring race.
DID YOU CONSIDER REDESIGNING THE GORN'S APPEARANCE AT ALL, TO PERHAPS ADD MORE DEFINED REPTILIAN CHARACTERISTICS?
Igor wanted to redesign the Gorn so they really looked more dinosaur-ish and a lot sleeker, kind of like how the Klingons got a makeover when they went into the movies. But Paramount didn't want that. They said just draw them the way the rubber suit looked, only make it look a little bit more realistic, because they understood that the fans had such a love and warm-fuzzy feeling for these cold, scaly guys that they wanted to keep the look the same. Some of the warriors still have their gold vest and the little short skirt that they're walking around in.
In fact, that was one of our challenges, because to the human eye, all these guys are going to look very similar to each other. So when you have separate Gorn characters, we had to be careful to use distinctive uniforms, scars, modeled colorations or other things so that you can distinguish between one character and another when you have a bunch of lizard guys standing around in a room talking. You need to make them distinct enough so that the characters show through.
BETWEEN THEIR APPEARANCE, THE SHIPS AND THE OVERALL LOOK OF THEIR CULTURE, IT SOUNDS LIKE THIS WAS A VERY COLLABORATIVE PROCESS.
Igor was 150 percent involved. He was sending us sketches and we were brainstorming on the phone. That doesn't always happen in comics. A lot of times you write a script, and some months later the finished pages come in and say, 'Hope you like them!' Igor was very much involved in the entire creative process and putting everything up for discussion. He took some parts of the scripts, especially some of the battle scenes and things, and suggested ways of forming the panels. And of course he was always right, since he was the artist with the visual sense and was looking for the best way of showing the flow of action and stuff. So this was really a collaborative action between me, Rebecca Moesta, my wife and the co-author on this, and Igor.
WHAT'S THE COLLABORATIVE PROCESS LIKE BETWEEN YOU AND REBECCA?
Well, we've done over 20 novels together, we've won some awards, and about 14 of them were bestsellers. For this thing, though, I've got a lot stronger comic background than she does. We brainstormed the whole story, kind of the event-by-event what happens throughout the 80 pages. I would sketch out the pages, but then we would talk each other through the dialogue as we sat there kind of arguing over, 'No, no, Riker wouldn't use that word,' so that it all sounds right. We would read the stuff aloud back and forth, and Rebecca would rewrite a bunch of the dialogue. I did the first draft of getting the panels down, but she added a lot of the background dialogue and we plotted the whole story together.
I'm a storyteller, and it's kind of like telling a story around a campfire. When I have a collaborator, it's like we're telling this story to each other, and building up on what the other person says. And somebody comes up with a plot twist or argues that no, that character wouldn't react in such a way. Two heads are better than one, and we work out all of the problems, we hope, before it gets down on paper, so that when the book is finally finished, it's already been through some sanity checks.
HOW WAS THE HARDCOVER FORMAT DECIDED UPON?
All of that was really out of my hands. I'm delighted with how they did it. When Jeff Mariotte approached me, he just wanted me to do some Star Trek comics, and I wanted to do the Gorn story. I originally thought this was going to be a four-issue, regular comic book. But all the factors kind of came together, that first off, they were making a big deal of my being a known person that they wanted to put on the cover. Also, the fact that Paramount is letting us do the Gorn, and because the fans love the Gorn so much, they decided to do something a little bit bigger and more special about it. And then the third thing, I think, was when they landed Igor and he did so much with the painting. They decided to give him the free reign to run around, and with all those factors put together, they decided we had to do more than just four monthly issues of a comic.
YOU'VE WORKED A LOT IN THE STAR WARS AND X-FILES UNIVERSES, BUT THIS IS YOUR FIRST STAR TREK PROJECT. HOW DID YOU ENJOY IT?
When you work with different licenses, like Star Wars, X-Files or Star Trek, you have to be a deep and devoted fan in the first place. It's just way too much work to get it all right if you're not already twigged into it. And I've loved Star Trek for so long. I enjoyed telling a story for a show that I've adored since I was in high school. Back when I was an aspiring writer, one of the biggest milestones was when I finally got an article published in a magazine that I actually read. And that's kind of like this with Star Trek, that I'm finally doing a story for something that I've already loved for so long.
IS THIS LEFT OPEN FOR A SEQUEL, PERHAPS TO EXPLORE THE GORN FURTHER OR INCORPORATE THEM MORE INTO THE STAR TREK UNIVERSE?
Yes, and I hope that's what happens. We don't want to tell the whole ending, but it doesn't end with the Gorn hiding in the corner again with their entire empire walled off. There is an opening, and if Paramount wanted to, they could reintroduce the Gorn into other stories. We left a lot of room there to explore more. And I would like to more overtly get into some of the Gorn culture and society that we kind of put in the background with this book.
I know Igor's gotten so excited that he's come back to me and said 'We could do this story, we could tell this part of it.' And that's certainly a possibility. But, I just signed up for three more 800-page Dune
novels to write, so I'm kind of busy on those. But I'm good at juggling different projects and I never like to say, 'No, I'm not going to do it.' We'll see how the reaction is to this one, how it sells and whether Paramount wants new things or not. But I do believe it will be a good idea to bring the Gorn back just because everybody loves them so much, whether it's in my work or somebody else's.
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THE BOOK?
It's just a gorgeous book. And because this is such a big story, and it's got the hardcover format, we hope that Star Trek fans will branch out. I know a lot of them don't read the comics because they're 'just comic books.' But I'm hoping that people will use this as a way to kind of step inside and read the graphic novel universe of Star Trek stories, too. Let's face it: Star Trek itself is a visual medium. It began as a TV show, and then moved into the movies and things. You're used to seeing Star Trek with pictures. And the graphic novel format seems to be a natural with all of the weird races, ships and uniforms. So we hope even the people who wouldn't normally look at a graphic novel will pick up The Gorn Crisis
and see what a cool story it is.