From Fan-Fiction to our first Feature Film
Here’s our story.
Strange Horizons would never have happened without four very important sci-fi franchises that touched the lives of our staff. Star Trek, Star Wars and surprisingly Quantum Leap and Mork and Mindy. How these connect into the fantastic world-views woven into Trials of Telepathy, The Great Endeavour, and The Mars Conspiracies may not be obvious. So here’s how it all began.
I’m Zach Kalinyak, and, as you might expect, considering I’m serving as spokesperson, the first idea was mine. I spent every teen year honing my writing on Star Trek fan fiction, slowly expanding from solo work to snagging in P.E. Novak to assist with the more complex premises. This led to a stack of fan fiction over 1,000 stories thick. Out of that I’d say only 1% of the characters and races came from the Star Trek franchise, so it was under P.E. Novak’s incessant insistence that I finally had an idea for The Mars Conspiracies, at the time nothing more then Life on Mars.
For this idea I saw a colony of truly diverse international characters and a continuing plot that wove between the lives of colonists, morphing from one language in one episode to another in the next. Each episode following the lives of different ethnic colonists, as they struggle with the unpopular realities of colonizing Mars. This series is the series that started it all, but a short ways after P.E. Novak came aboard with an idea for an episode for the franchise, a new idea presented itself out of scientific theorizing – does antimatter allow for time travel?
This led to a speculative sketched out concept of NASA’s first experimental antimatter rockets working too well and arriving at the colony on Mars about a decade too late. The result of this inspiration was to create a spinoff series exploring the exploits of a crew of NASA astronauts so far out of space-time from their intended destination that they must embark on a Homer worthy Odyssey, trying to get back to their home planet and time. This is The Great Endeavour, which ironically, considering it was the second idea chronologically in the franchise, comes before The Mars Conspiracies. As it is, events that take place prior to and during The Great Endeavour timeline are what allows for Mars colony to be inhabited in The Mars Conspiracies But how does all this effect The Trials of Telepathy you may ask?
Eventually, the Endeavour rocketship arrives on Sileyst (sill-AYST), the home world of Frethik Some (FRETH-ick SOAM), which instigates a mission to make first contact with Earth, years before the Endeavour has its crew assigned, creating a fantastic paradox and a franchise loop that means that Trials of Telepathy, The Great Endeavour and The Mars Conspiracies are basically interlinked in such a complex way any of the three series can be released in any order and the timeline would be just as confusing. Now the premise of Trials of Telepathy initially came from a single piece of fan fiction, when P.E. Novak and I contemplated what would a trial look like with a telepath on the jury. The answer is… unless the participants are thinking about the truth, not what’s going in the court room, the telepath is just as clueless as the rest of us, but aware of different things. This fan fiction piece that originally took place with a Betazoid telepath as the star, became the pilot episode of Trials of Telepathy with the Sileystri telepath Frethik Some filling the Betazoid’s shoes. However… the dynamic relationship between Frethik and his cohort became so likable to P.E. Novak and myself that we chose to serialize their adventures on Earth and continue exploring Frethik’s soap-opera string of occupations as he searches for a job where he won’t interfere, failing every episode. This is where Mork and Mindy comes in as Trials of Telepathy most strongly resemble that ’70s sitcom as its predecessor on television.