Dear Kail Tescar
In 1967, while hospitalized in the US Air Force, I had begun writing in earnest to take up the time spent in one bed, in one position, weeks and months on end. I also had made friends with various of the ward orderlies, especially a tall, thin, befreckled guy from New York (?) named Ron Carey. Most Thursday nights, he and I would watch STAR TREK in my single hospital room. Since I was spending my days teaching myself to write science fiction, Ron asked if I could write him his own STAR TREK story.
That seemed novel enough, so I put that on my list of to-dos. During another week some time later, I went up for surgery on my left leg. The anesthetic apparently was allowed to go too light and I went into convulsions and anesthetic shock. Though I was not to know about it until months later, they barely pulled me through. When I awoke in post-op, I was as sore as a train wreck. I had no voice, and I couldn't even raise my head.
Ron was there, looking much worried and taking care of me at the same time. He asked me what my name was, then who he was, and what day of the week it was. I rasped out his nickname: "Rabbit..." The nurses tried to make him leave, as ward medics weren't allowed in except to drop off or pick up patients. He stayed, taking my pulse and blood pressure off and on. A doctor came in, asked how I was, and then said, "What are you doing here, Airman Carey?" Ron replied that he was taking care of me because I was his friend. "Good man," the doctor said, and he went away.
Days later, I still was as helpless as a baby. Ron fed me, washed me, changed my clothes and bedclothes, and otherwise hovered like the friend he was. At last, the soreness and paralysis went away, and I set to work on Ron's STAR TREK story. On a Thursday night some time later, we watched STAR TREK, and then I gave him his STAR TREK short story. He read it, and he cried, and as we shook hands, I told him it was my thank you for what he had done.I kept a copy and, when I finally returned to my own home Air Force base, made new friends who always wanted to read my stories.
One special new friend, Steve Gillette, read that STAR TREK story and then told me something amazing. He had joined the USAF in California with his buddy. That buddy was Rick Fontana, and his sister was Dorothy C. Fontana, the story editor for STAR TREK. Could he write to Rick, who then would write to his sister, and maybe she might take a look at that STAR TREK
story. Sure, what could it hurt?
At about the time I was exiting the USAF, I got a letter from Dorothy Fontana, complete with studio releases, saying her brother had recommended my story. I sent it, it went under consideration for the third season of the series, and then --BANG!-- NBC drove everyone away from the creative end of the show. The new people tossed out almost all the stories left by the departing staff, including mine. Dorothy wrote to explain what had happened, and I thanked her anyway. I mean, just getting that far was an adventure!
But it wasn't over yet. The following year, Dorothy recommended me for the Writers Guild's minority writer training project, The Open Door. Advised by the Federal Government that they sorely lacked minority representation in their writer ranks, they had decided to tarin such people themselves. I was accepted to be among the first 150 trainees. During my third week in the school, I interested Gene L. Coon (former STAR TREK producer) in myself and my writing, and in less than a month I was working with him on THE NAME OF THE GAME at Universal Studios.
In 1973, Dorothy contacted me that there was going to be an animated revival of STAR TREK to be done by Filmation Studios. She had always wanted to see an Indian STAR TREK crewman and a story about 'the little men from the stars' that Native Americans note in their legends. I wrote the script, "The Patient Parasites," but it wasn't quite what she asked for -- sure, I created Dawson Walking Bear, a Kiowa crewman -- but the story was just a STAR TREK story. In the interim, Gene L. Coon, who was both my friend and my teacher, suddenly passed away. I made up my mind then that my next try at The Animated STAR TREK would be an honor and a tribute to Gene Coon's memory.
The following season, I asked a filmmaker friend and animator about how you write for animation, and then the two of us set to work on a story I called "The Thunderbird," using the legends of my people as its basis. As we worked, I realized that the same legends are more well known as being the winged dragon-like beings of the Aztecs, Toltecs, and the Mayans: Quetzalcoatl and Kukulkan. Gradually, the story switched itself to be about Kukulkan, a space visitor who came in prehistoric times to give his knowledge to humans.
Now, I always had been outraged that Europeans said the vast cities in Central and South America could not have been built by the "savages". They had to have had help: the Egyptians, or the Chinese, or the Phoenicians, or even the Atlanteans came, taught the poor Indians how to build their civilization, and that's how it all happened. Horse breath! So, the story about Kukulkan became that Kukulkan visited ALL races of mankind, taught them his knowledge, and then departed. Now the story said that NOBODY on Earth invented a damned thing! They all got their knowledge from somebody else!
As well, and this is the most important point, the story "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth" deliberately is modelled on the STAR TREK episode, "Who Mourns For Adonais?" because it was one of my favorite episodes both produced and written by Gene L. Coon. I got it all in one story: write for STAR TREK, write that Native American story that Dorothy had sought, write a story that vindicated my people's history, and write to honor the man who taught me almost everything I knew about the film business.
There are too many inside matters to list here, such as to how Filmation used a crew of Japanese artists to do "Serpent's Tooth" to help finish out a contract for their feature, "Journey Back To Oz," and how David Gerrold upset me and my co-writer by saying his episode, "BEM," was to be the very last Animated STAR TREK episode, or how we got to be present when the original STAR TREK actors recorded their parts... Too many things! And all of them one of the best set of adventures I ever have had!
Suffice it to say that the episode got great reviews from fans and teachers and children, became the only credential submitted when Filmation received an Emmy nomination for the series, and thus was instrumental in the winning of a 1975 Emmy Award (their first! and also the only one ever won by STAR TREK on the creative side), a Melies Prize, a Robby Award, a Fantasy Film Fans Federation Award, and finally becoming the American Entry in Children's Programming at the Fifteenth International Television Film Festival of Monte Carlo.
All because a friend and fellow USAF Airman asked me to write him a STAR TREK story so long ago, and then that friend helped save my life! I guess it was the least I could do, because it wound up doing worlds of things for me!
Now, how's that for a story?
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