by Laura Davis, managing editor
We at SCIFI.radio would like to wish David Gerrold a very happy 70th birthday! Gerrold is an icon in the sci-fi community, known for his work as a screenwriter and novelist. He created the Sleestak race for the television series Land of the Lost, and is often remembered as the man who wrote Star Trek’s “Trouble With Tribbles” episode. In a 2011 interview with BBC Cult, Gerrold was asked if he ever got annoyed that people just think of him as the tribble man.
Gerrold replied, “No. You cannot believe how many doors the tribbles have opened for me … What I wish is that people would look beyond the tribbles and see I’ve written some other books that I really would like people to notice … but I don’t mind it, it’s fun, and I live in hope that somebody will tell me a tribble joke I haven’t already heard.”
They asked him for a tribble joke, and he responded with a limerick he’d written. “Since I first wrote that damn script for Gene/And the electrical picture machine/Tribbles have chased their creator/From here to Decatur/Nobody knows of the tribbles I’ve seen.”
So, now we’ve dealt with the tribbles.
When I contacted Gerrold for an interview for this article, I promised not to ask any questions about tribbles or when the next Chtorr book would be available. I asked him what he feels is his most enduring work to date.
“Well,” he replied, “the one that endures the most is that episode of that TV show, but that’s because it’s that episode of that TV show. But most enduring is probably The Man Who Folded Himself. Most endearing is The Martian Child.”
In 2013, Gerrold staged a workshop preview of his one-act play, “Uncle Daddy Will Not Be Invited” at California State University, Northridge, and published the script in e-book form. Both readers and audience connected strongly with the play which is at once intense in its simplicity and tenderness, and boggling in its complexity and brutality. Although it’s a story built around two men planning their wedding, it is, at its core, a story about both the best and worst of human relations, and how love can save or condemn each of us. I asked Gerrold whether there were any plans in the works to take “Uncle Daddy” on the road, and whether he’d be writing and staging any more plays.
“I have another play half-written, yes. It’s called ‘Footnote.’ I have plans to direct a filmed version of ‘Uncle Daddy’ later this year, but first I have two books to finish.”
Gerrold recently announced that he has signed a contract with Audible.com for production of 13 of his novels as audiobooks. I asked him if there was any news he could share on that project.
“At the moment,” Gerrold explains, “all I can say is that I’ve signed the contract. No final decisions have been made about anything else. I might do the reading on one of the books, but that’s a possibility not a commitment.”
I also asked about the rumors that have been fluttering around fandom regarding the possibility of Gerrold writing for The Big Bang Theory in the future. The rumors seem to stem from Gerrold’s attendance of some tapings of the show and his lavish praise of its writing.
Alas, his response was, “It’s just wishful thinking. As much as I would love to contribute to the show, they have a marvelous staff of writers and producers, truly gifted men and women. I’m in awe of what they do week after week after week. Just amazing.”
Those of us who grew up on Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Huxley, Herbert, and their ilk have had the opportunity to watch “our” science fiction blossom into reality. From waterbeds to wireless communications, and ray guns (military laser weapons and sonic guns known as Long Range Acoustic Devices) to robots, tablets, the Internet, soma (OK, anti-depressants), flat panel view screens, genetic engineering, space tourism and cars that drive themselves, bionic limbs and eyes, it’s coming true, to a degree that most of us never thought we’d see in our lifetimes. I asked Gerrold who, in his opinion, is now writing the science fiction that our kids and grandkids will see in the real world, and whether he feels that the gap between science fiction and science is closing.
“Ooh, that’s a tough one. I haven’t been able to keep up with everyone who’s doing near-future fiction, but of the writers I have kept up with, I think David Brin has the best handle on what’s possible and what’s inevitable.
“The problem with predicting the future is that there’s so much of it.” He grins. “Even worse, it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with the accelerating pace of scientific advancement.
“I do believe that the best and most enduring science fiction of this decade/century will be the work that continues to focus on the human adventures created by all the new possibilities that will occur.”
How will Gerrold be celebrating his birthday? “I am going to have a humongous party so I can thank all of my friends for putting up with me all this time. The party isn’t about me — it’s about how much I admire and love all the people who have helped make my life so much fun. It’s a great big thank you from me to them.”
I asked what’s on Gerrold’s Bucket List, and what plans he has for ticking any of those items off the list this year.
“My bucket list, huh? I intend to finish the Chtorran septology within three years. I want to visit Japan and Tahiti and Israel. And I want to lose fifteen pounds.”
Well, we’d planned to wish Mr. Gerrold a year of good health and success, handsome redheads, and dark chocolate. Maybe we’d better leave off the chocolate.
If you’d like to make a charitable contribution in honor of Mr. Gerrold’s birthday, his charities of choice are AIDS Project Los Angeles’ Necessities of Life program, and The Science Fiction Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund.