The presence of two licensed Trek products in the gaming world was a bit of a mystery back in the early ’80s. Both companies maintained that they were the exclusive license holders but the story I got a about the situation was murky at best.
In the mid-70s Franz Joseph Designs produced two wonderful licensed Trek items: a set of blue-prints for the starship Enterprise and a Starfleet Technical manual. For some reason they were able to grant a sub-license to Lou Zocchi to produce a line of injection-molded styrene plastic miniatures based on the ship designs in the technical manual (and if I may add they were positively beautiful). Not so long after that Task Force Games was granted a sub-sub license to develop a tactical ship game based on the miniatures.
How plausible is this? Well, Paramount never shut down the TFG Trek line, though to be honest the back story for that game had morphed over the years to something quite unlike the main Trek universe. I know that the licensing department was very casual when first started doing the FASA trek covers; at the beginning I signed the covers along with a copyright bullet but it was two years before Paramount came back with ” Well, you probably shouldn’t be doing that”.
There was also talk in late 85 about Paramount granting a non-exclusive license to West End Games for a Trek tactical starship combat game – I know because I worked up comps for Jordan for a similar game that FASA would have rushed to market to fight the West End product….but all along Task Force games churned out their version of Trek and finally I was asked to do a painting for them.
Central to the book was a new cruiser class for Starfleet and the accompanying sketch is the concept I came up with – I felt it did a good job of splitting the difference between the class TV series version and the current movie version. It wasn’t until I submitted a cover sketch that I had the boom dropped on me.
The game designer sent Task Force a four page hand-written letter demanding that I NOT be used for the cover, and unfortunately by contract he had the right to do so. I had produced a cover for their STARFIRE game a couple of years prior to this; he felt that my work was too stylized and abstract to represent the Starfleet Battles game system. I lost, but the art director gave me another STARFIRE cover assignment ( the Gorm-Khanate War) that I always thought was one of the best covers I did during that time period.
Epilogue: In early 1987 I got a frantic call from Task Force Games – they needed a cover and their regular artist was unable to take the assignment. At this point I was indelibly connected with the FASA Trek series so I didn’t feel like taking the job was appropriate – and I had just taken a non-gaming assignment with a short deadline ruling out any other work. I was kind of glad for that as I didn’t want to look like I was thumbing my nose at Task Force .
There was a point in the first Harry Potter movie when the hair stood up on the back of my neck. It was the scene showing the train ride to Hogwarts – it triggered a spasm of nostalgia that made my stomach hurt.
I don’t know if the Alaska Railroad still gives a student discount, but when I started school in 1971 they did – you bought a regular ticket and upon arrival it was endorsed with a special stamp to make it “good” for a return trip. The trip up just before the fall semester was just a regular Alaskan summer excursion ( jaded a kid could get after living in the Last Frontier for nine whole years); it was the trip back at Christmas that was magic.
You left before the sun came up – and was up for only about four hours so most of the trip was completed in the dark. It was a magic dark though with moon-shine, star-shine, the Aurora Borealis and countless homestead lights sprinkling the countryside with bright little beacons that fired your imagination. The track paralleled the highway in several places so you also got the treat of amber and red car-lights flashing by. Overlaying all of this was the ever present fog and mist drifting in from not just heating stoves and automotive exhaust but from nearby streams and rivers.
…and it wasn’t just the trip – the terminals at both ends reeked of drama and strong emotion. While leaving or arriving at the Anchorage terminal was usually a very “flat” affair, the very opposite could be said about Fairbanks. It was like you were in a movie – tearful promises and farewells, hugs and kisses – I half expected French genedarmes or German storm troopers to come bursting through the door after me as the train left.
I wish I had a better photo of both the train and the school – this one dates from the mid-1980s but still looks pretty close to the way it did when I went there. Looking at the school in the cold light of day its just a unspectacular little land-grant school – but in the fall of 1971 it was the start of a movie that I was going to live in, making made it the best place in the world.
“4M” (Mixed-Media/Mixed Method) on Strathmore Hot-Press Watercolor board painted in early 1986. Lots of bubbly acrylic wash involved in the rocky texture background. “Imbalance of Power” marked several firsts and transitions for me – and my family.
The first “first”? This wasn’t a wrap-around cover and the single-side format would continue (with one exception) until my time with the series ended. FASA was starting to make a decent amount of money and I had kept my prices down to keep from “killing the goose that laid the golden egg”. The understanding was (to quote John F. Kennedy) “A rising tide raises all boats”: when they did better they’d pay me better. There was some murmuring at a raise in rates but as a compromise they changed the format – which meant less time on each painting which in turn increased my dollar-per-hour figure on each painting.
Another first: I drew the rough/comprehensive sketch for this painting while I was attending BOSKONE. It was a little clumsy working on a tiny little hotel room table but it saved me time and gave me something constructive to do while everyone else was drunk.
Third “first”: It was the first major piece of art I did while living in “the blue house”. The first (not quite) 3 years of free-lancing were spent in a tiny little studio that had been converted from the tiny little garage for tract housing that had been built in the 1940s for workers at the Geneva Steel works in Orem, Utah. Early in 1986 we had the opportunity to move a huge distance (1/2 mile) to another larger house – the blue house – with a large studio built atop a garage instead of inside it. We moved in stages and started living in the new house before we got everything out of the old one so I had to do all the airbrushing and painting with the board ( and my fourth-point-of-contact was sitting atop the cardboard boxes and plywood sheets we were using for furniture until we got the contents of the studio moved over.
It was also a sad time. After three years of freelancing we felt secure enough to have another child. Lori became pregnant almost immediately and was doing well, but had a miscarriage while I was just starting this painting. As I said it was a sad time – but it was made more so by some of the brain-dead comments people would make – but I will leave that for another day.
The little bodies are there – trust me. They are floating at the periphery of the exploding D-7 but between the photo-reduction of the original art, the printing process and then scanning they’ll be hard to spot.
When I first got the news about the Challenger I thought about painting them out, but then I thought it would be better to leave them in as a hidden memorial.