Fairfield writer boldly goes from comics to Star Trek chronicler
Clark Kent lives in comic books, on television and movie screens as the mild-mannered newspaper reporter whose alter ego is the superhero Superman.
Robert Greenberger lives in Fairfield disguised as a civil servant and soon-to-be secondary school English teacher. His alter ego is that of an acclaimed science fiction expert, news editor and award-winning freelance writer. He is a prolific author of short fiction, novels, and comic books whose latest effort, "STAR TREK: The Complete Unauthorized History," (Voyageur Press) will be released to the public Monday.
The book covers the entire Star Trek franchise, including all the TV series, movies, merchandise, behind the scenes dramas and Star Trek's enduring place in pop culture. Greenberger was only given three months to finish the manuscript last fall. He relied on his years of interacting with the actors through his writing and appearances at conventions, reading the autobiographies of the Star Trek actors and he interviewed Manny Coto, the producer of the third and fourth seasons of the original series. "His quotes help enliven the book," Greenberger said.
He will be available to talk with Trekkies, or Trekkers -- Greenberger says both nicknames are correct -- at a meet-and-greet at the Fairfield University Bookstore, 1499 Post Road, from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, where copies of his book will be available for purchase barring any interruption of shipping due to Hurricane Sandy.
"STAR TREK: The Complete Unauthorized History" is a 75,000-word manuscript. But it is not Greenberger's longest work. That "award" goes to his 316,000-word, "The Essential Batman Encyclopedia."
Greenberger's colorful career, he said, was influenced by Clark Kent.
"I was inspired by Clark Kent being a journalist. I grew up on the George Reeves Superman re-runs ... I wrote for the high school paper, I worked on the college paper and knew I wanted to be in publishing," he said.
Greenberger's work comprises wide-ranging responsibilities and experiences, including former director of publishing operations for Marvel Comics, senior editor of Collected Editions for DC Comics, manager-editorial operations for DC Comics, and editor of the Star Trek comic book for eight years. He also created, launched and edited the first newsstand magazine, "Comics Scene," to cover the comic book, animation and comic strip market.
Star Trek also played a major role in his career path.
"I have distinct memories of watching the occasional episode even though it was passed my bedtime when it was originally on NBC (in 1966), but I really didn't embrace it until it was re-run and in syndication in the early 1970s and then it really grabbed me and my family, so we watched together," he said.
"I liked the characters, I liked the camaraderie, I liked the stories. They were interesting. I had seen nothing like it before. I thought some of the dilemmas were interesting. I liked the action, I liked the humor. Every episode had something that really grabbed me," he said.
Those weekly television shows, created by Gene Roddenberry, led to his interest in science fiction, which his father fueled by buying him books. "I went straight from Star Trek to Isaac Asimov," he said.
Greenberger went to his first Star Trek convention in 1972. "Back then the shows were small enough where authors like Dr. Asimov and Hal Clement mingled with the fans. They weren't isolated in any way," he said. Later, he was a frequent presenter at many of the conventions.
For some the Star Trek TV series, its numerous spin-offs and movies were purely entertainment. But Greenberger said they have a more important place in the cultural psyche.
Greenberger said Star Trek was relevant when the TV series was first introduced because the production staff took themes from the 1960s and applied them in a future setting so it gave them the freedom to have this social commentary within the episodes.
Set against the assassinations of several important political figures, such as President John Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., an unpopular war in Vietnam and a generational divide that developed between the World War II generation and the Baby Boomers, Star Trek became "a much-needed, optimistic lesson that people could grab onto and hold out for hope," Greenberger said.
Star Trek is not just responsible for Greenberger's choice of work. It has influenced countless numbers of people. He dedicated a whole chapter of the book to astronauts, scientists, artists and writers whose interests in their fields were nurtured by Star Trek.
Comic books and science fiction, in general, also helped to shape Greenberger's character and led to his community service work. He served on the Fairfield Representative Town Meeting and was the Fairfield representative to the executive board of the Greater Bridgeport Regional Planning Agency. He is currently the vice chairman of the Fairfield Democratic Town Committee and a member of the Fairfield Arts Advisory Committee.
His next role is that of classroom teacher. With the uncertainties of the publishing industry in the Internet age, Greenberger went back to school to get a master's degree in education. He is currently student teaching at a school in eastern Fairfield County. And while he looks forward to shaping young minds the way Star Trek and Superman shaped his, Greenberger said he will continue to write.
"I like writing. It's nothing I want to give up," he said.
For more information about Greenberger's latest book visit: www.facebook.com/StarTrekBook