The Complete Starfleet Library

The Hal Schuster Empire

Interview with James Van Hise, March, 2003

How much control did the writers have over the finished product?

None. They were often rewritten by Hal Schuster, for no good reason.

Were you happy with the final product, or were you frustrated by the occasional bloopers (like printing one author's name on the cover and another's name on the title page)?

If Hal made a mistake, he laughed it off as unimportant. If anyone else made a mistake it was a crime.

Were you actively involved in the recycling of content from one book to another, or was that more Schuster's doing?

Schuster did that, most notably on the second Batmania book even though I'd written an entirely new one.

Was Enterprise Incidents actually still being published into the late 1980s?

Until 1987, as I recall. There may have been some EI "specials" and one-shots thereafter.

Were some of the contents of the books reprinted from other sources, like Starlog, Cinefantastique, etc?

Just interview quotes, which were always attributed.

Was there much communication between the core writers (yourself, John Peel, and Ed Gross)? Was there any coordination of who'd write books on which subject? Did you suggest ideas, did Schuster assign them, or was it a bit of both?

The writers communicated because there were so few of us.

How much time did it generally take to do one of the books? You and the others were quite prolific, and I know that you were doing other things at the time in addition to the books for Schuster.

An average book had to be written in 30 days and [they] were generally 60,000 words long.

I was under the impression that Enterprise Incidents was your magazine, but an interview with Schuster I read online names him as publisher and editor from 1979 on. Did the whole Schuster empire form out of EI and its writers? Do you know why the company name kept changing? There are books published under the names Pop Cult, Couch Potato Press, Schuster & Schuster, and finally Pioneer.

Trek 25th Anniversary Celebration Hal Schuster took over Enterprise Incidents in 1980 but didn't do anything with it for a year and a half even though I turned in three completed issues. He published issues 9-12 as a direct market magazine and then made his newsstand distribution deal. He kept changing his company names in order to avoid paying bills the previous company had run up. He finally ceased publishing when he felt the returns were diminishing. He moved to Thailand and I later learned that he left behind over a hundred thousand dollars in bills owed to his distributor and his last printer. I know because they tracked me down trying to find him. I pointed them at Prima Books, a small California publisher that he hornswaggled into publishing books which he largely had written by others (Hal Schuster's knowledge of Star Trek was actually quite limited and he'd never even seen Voyager or most episodes of Next Generation), whereupon Schuster would rewrite everything so that it read like it was all done by one person. If you look at the books he wrote the acknowledgement pages lists several people without specifically acknowledging what they actually did.

Amazon lists a few titles by you and Schuster that, as far as I know, were never actually published. Did Let's Trek: The Unofficial Tour Guide to Bajor, Deep Space Celebration 2, Next Generation Memory Book, The Trek Captains, The Unauthorized Voyagers, The Unauthorized Voyagers: The First Season, Let's Trek: The Unofficial Tour Guide to Vulcan, Trek Celebration 3, Unauthorized Trek: Deep Space Guide 2, and Next Generation Tribute Book 3 actually make it into print? If not, had you actually written some or most of them, only to have them disappear along with Pioneer Books in general?

A number of these were written, but never published. I don't think any of those on your list were ever published.

Though they weren't well produced, some of the Pioneer books published material that was pretty much unavailable elsewhere. Are there any of yours that you're particularly proud of or happy with, or that you think filled an important gap in Trek history?

I think some of the books were good such as [Trek 25th Anniversary Celebration,] the 25th Anniversary of Star Trek book (which came out in early 1991, and no one else ever did an official one as Roddenberry's was cancelled at the last minute, 2 months before he died).

My thanks to James Van Hise for taking the time for this Q&A. His website is at http://www.jamesvanhise.com/welcome.html.

More information

Introduction: Files Magazine, Schuster & Schuster, Pioneer, and more...

Hal Schuster Book List