A local sf convention had asked me to be on a panel about television science fiction. At first I was tempted to decline, because the panel always has the same structure: Somebody whips out a list of all the tv sf from the past 20 years and reads the titles and everybody agrees how terrible they all were. (Keep in mind that this panel was before some recent pretty good television sf came on.)
And then I thought, What if…
So I go to the convention; I go to the panel. I sit next to a young guy who whips out a list of all the tv sf from the past 10 years (he was too young to remember anything from 20 years earlier) and starts reading the titles and inviting the audience to agree how terrible they all were.
And then I told them the plot.
By the end of the panel, I had everybody eating out of my hand, believing Starfarers had existed but had been so misscheduled and unadvertised that every single audience member had missed it. I claimed I had heard of some bootleg tapes floating around but as far as I knew recordings of the show could not be purchased.
A local filmmaker, sitting in the front row, jumped up at the end of the hour and said “I’m going to find those tapes!” and rushed out of the room.
After a moment of disbelief (and disappointment), he grinned and said, “I’m going to make you a trailer.”
He did, and it was terrific.
He and some other friends who were in on the joke (and started the Starfarers fan club) joined me in several other Starfarers panels. The trailer was so good that it fooled some screenwriters who were sitting in on the Starfarers panel while waiting for their own panel to start. We kept describing it as “The best sf tv miniseries never made,” but people kept not hearing the “never made” part. We did usually manage to tell our audience that we were having them on, and people took it in good grace.
After a while I realized it was a good story that I wanted to tell, so I wrote the Starfarers novels: Starfarers, Transition, Metaphase, and Nautilus. I like to think of them as one very long novel that I couldn’t afford to write all at once. I got to be very fond of the family partnership of Victoria Frasier MacKenzie, Satoshi Lono, and Stephen Thomas Gregory, and the alien contact specialist J.D. Sauvage, and the diver Zev, the Minoans Europa and Androgeos, and the aliens: The Largerfarthings, the Smallernearers, the Squidmoths.
And I wished it were a real tv series.
At one point my former LA agent asked if I had a tv series proposal. I suggested Starfarers.
“It’s a hardware show,” she said. “They don’t want a hardware show.”
“It’s not a hardware show,” sez I. “You could film it in someone’s back yard.”
“Vonda,” she said, using that irritated and condescending “I don’t think you’re listening to me and I’m certainly not listening to you” tone that was one of the main factors in my ending our business dealings, “they think it’s a hardware show, so it’s a hardware show. Don’t you have anything else?”
(I did, but that’s another story.)
I have some ideas, but I’d like to hear what you think.