David Gerrold has long been on my personal list of the best science fiction authors. Other than Robert Heinlein, I doubt there is another writer who had more influence on me during my childhood. David Gerrold was not only the author of the classic Star Trek episode The Trouble with Tribbles, he was also the creative force behind Land of the Lost. If you are a longtime reader of this site, you know I sing the praises of the that show whenever I get the chance. We even have an entire hour long podcast “showdown” explaining why it is superior in every way to the short lived Spielberg dinosaur abortion called Terra Nova… You can listen to the podcast here Prehistoric Hysteria. We are very privileged to bring you this interview.
The Hitchhiker asks…
Question 1. The Star Wolf series and Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda seem to have quite a few things in common. The Morthan Solidarity is very similar to the Nietzcheans. Did you have any input into that?
I have absolutely no information about Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. I never saw it or anything connected to it.
Question 2. Land of the Lost probably had more influence on me as a small child than anything else I watched. First I want to thank you for creating the show. Second I would like to know if many people tell you that this show influenced them? I became an archaeologist because of my interest in the Sleestaks and the Pakuni.
I always appreciate hearing from people who watched Land Of The Lost as a kid — especially the notes about how the Sleestaks made them wet their pants. Several people have told me that they became interested in science because of my writing, but you’re the first archaeologist.
Question 3. Robert Heinlein seems to have been a major influence for your work and so many others. What do you think our modern world would look like without his influence?
Hard to imagine a world without Heinlein. His hard-science stories demonstrated such a clarity of thought that he may very well have been the most influential author of the 20th century. He wasn’t afraid to discuss ideas and possibilities in a way that made people aware that these were very real things. More than anyone else, I think Heinlein’s work made readers believe that space travel was not only possible, but inevitable.
Question 4. I have been eagerly waiting for the next War Against the Chtorr novel. I believe that Jim McCarthy is one of the first non-heterosexual literary characters I encountered as a teen. In many ways my introduction to him shaped my first impression of all gay, lesbian, bi, and transgendered people. Do you believe that positive literary examples have paved the way for the current LGBT social movement?
Positive literary examples are always the first step in changing the public perception of anything. Look at Mark Twain. Huckleberry Finn and Puddinhead Wilson were subversive novels for their time. The most noble character in Huckleberry Finn is the slave, Jim. Just about everyone else is a scoundrel.
I don’t think there were very many positive LGBT characters in science fiction before the seventies. Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthology was a challenge to authors and one of the challenges was sexual issues.
My own book, The Man Who Folded Himself was the first SF novel with an openly gay hero and possibly the first mainstream novel with a positive ending for the gay hero. Instead of brickbats, it got award nominations. Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand Of Darkness made it possible to think about transgender people and John Varley’s stories set on Luna often included gender-fluid characters. Joanna Russ won a Hugo for “When It Changed” which blew up the cliched idea of the planet of beautiful women.
Most readers seemed to welcome honest discussions of sexuality in SF worlds. But some were appalled and even today we still hear the occasional homophobic whine. But I think that SF not only predicted a wider acceptance of LGBT people, but that such predictions also helped turn the possibility into an inevitability.
Question 5. We generally ask a political question. I realize that our site is mostly read by libertarians, but we have often given a forum to people who disagree. Can you give us a brief summation of what you believe and how libertarians can relate to your work even if you don’t relate to libertarian ideas?
My political views are very simple. Be kind to everyone, whether they deserve it or not — or at least until your threshold of bullshit is overwhelmed. Take care of the children, educate them well. Feed the poor, heal the sick, honor the elderly, because that’s how you pay it forward.
The mechanics of living that philosophy are left as an exercise for the reader.
Thank you for taking time out to do this interview. I really appreciate the work you have done in the science fiction genre.