Way back when, I had a brief Hollywood career. I wrote a few Star Trek spec scripts and one of them got noticed by the producers of Voyager. (Back then you could sign a waiver and actually send scripts to the show.) So I got invited to pitch a few stories by phone to Michael Taylor (an Executive Producer who later worked on Battlestar Galactica). I pitched 5 stories, none of which were bought, but I got invited to pitch again. Full of confidence (or something) I decided to move to Hollywood and make a go of it, figuring it might be better to pitch in person.
I packed all my stuff in a U-haul trailer and set out cross-country, checked into a motel on the Sunset strip where I heard occasional pounding against the walls from next door. I started looking at apartments, and one day I ran into Dr. Julian Bashir of DS9 coming out of an office building. Yes, Alexander Siddig actually walked by me and jumped into a red sports car. As he drove off, I thought I should have stopped him and asked him to get me a meeting with Ron Moore or someone, but I didn’t think fast enough. Still, I felt like this chance encounter meant something magical was happening as I followed my dream, but soon the magic died.
I happened upon an apartment in a lucky way. An assistant manager wanted to impress her manager by renting out a vacant unit in her absence, so she approved my application. The next day, I went to the manager’s office, but the assistant manager wasn’t there. The manager told me a mistake had been made, and I needed a co-signer to secure the apartment. I didn’t have full time work, but I explained to the manager that I could cover the six-month lease on my credit card. That wasn’t good enough; I needed a cosigner. So I contacted family only to find no seed money to live in LaLaLand and nurture my dream. Two weeks later, my resources exhausted and facing the big city blues, I abandoned my attempt at a Hollywood writing career. I never pitched to Star Trek again.
From there, I started looking at my childhood deciding I might write a memoir about how the son of a World War II soldier got a Master of Arts degree—a book about the promise of America. But the chasm of my past proved darker than I imagined. I understand it now in terms of generational memory and a childhood injury hidden from view, but it took a while to unravel all that. Eventually I put out a novel that wrestled with those issues and themes.
I look back now at that brief moment when my move to Hollywood seemed like magic only to be foiled by a lack of support from family, and I wonder how different my life might have been if I had faced my issues with peers writing science fiction television rather than in isolation working on a ‘memoir’. I also wonder how different America might be if I was able to sublimate that darkness within me in a more constructive way by writing for Star Trek, BSG, LOST, or some other show.
This comes to mind now because I met a guy taking ride share who had a career in Hollywood until the writer’s strike of 2008. He does property management but dreams of getting back into the creative. He had nine years in the union—one away from life-long healthcare—when his career got derailed. Around that same time, the economy killed my fledgling career in university television.
These days I try to believe that the connections I make in the world while hiking or giving people rides somewhere matter, but mostly I know that I’m seen as an old man without worth who might want to hurt people or devour their dreams because mine didn’t work out.
There’s no point here, but if you know someone young with a calling to be a writer or artist, give them a little help early on. Magic needs nurturing, so do your part with the money you earn from your wonk job. I try to give but never earn enough to even afford my own health care. I wonder what kind of life I might have had with just a little more understanding, love, and support for my creative side.