Science Fiction Filme) Dear Miss Barker. Thank you for the time you give me for this little interview. You are not only the co-author with famous classic STAR TREK writer D.C. Fontana of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel FUTURUS REX but you also wrote some scripts for different TV series like the mid-1980’s reboot of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE and earlier WHIZ KIDS and JASON OF STAR COMMAND. Could you tell us briefly what your career was like before you started in television?
Lynn Barker) Thanks for asking me. After getting a degree in Journalism from the University of New Mexico (famous Navajo mystery author Tony Hillerman (DANCE HALL OF THE DEATH, A THIEF OF TIME) was my professor), I moved to San Francisco where I was a news assistant and associate producer for KRON T.V. news. Deciding that I would prefer writing for entertainment rather than hard news, I moved to Los Angeles where temp work took me to several television networks.
SFF) How did you get into television writing and what fascinated you about this work?
L.B.) Here is where my co-author and dear old friend Dorothy (D.C. Fontana) comes into the picture. I had always admired her STAR TREK episodes ( TOMORROW IS YESTERDAY, 1968/ ENCOUNTER AT FAIRPOINT, 1987) and had always wanted to write for T.V. drama shows. I liked the idea of creating characters and building my own stories and worlds. I wrote a letter to Dorothy asking for tips for someone wanting to break into the T.V. writing industry. To my surprise, Dorothy called me and wanted to meet for dinner. That was the start of our very long friendship. She referred me to her agent and I got my first freelance T.V. writing job on a Filmation series called JASON OF STAR COMMAND then wrote an episode of another Filmation series SPACE ACADEMY.
SFF) How did you and D.C. Fontana come to collaborate on your new novel FUTURUS REX?
L.B.) Long story. A very talented writer/animator/artist Budd Lewis brought the project to Dorothy and I. He had wanted to do it as a graphic novel and had a lot of experience with those but we all decided that it would make a good movie script. We worked together to write that and it got some good responses but most producers said the necessary special effects would just be too expensive. This was in the 1980’s when CGI was not all that great. So, we shelved it. Budd, unfortunately, died in 2014 so Dorothy and I decided that the basic story could make a good Sci-Fi/Fantasy adventure novel. Using the script as a basic outline and expanding on that, we started writing the book but were both very busy with other projects. When she died at the end of 2019, we had several sections finished so during the pandemic, I finished the book.
SFF) What is FUTURUS REX about and what was your intention to write this book?
L.B.) The novel is a fast-moving action adventure story expanding on the myth that King Arthur was not really dead but only sleeping and that he would return when Britain badly needed him. We took this into a far, post war dystopian future in which commonfolk live in Medievel conditions under the iron rule of a Grand Magician and her techno-wizards and are policed by a mutant army. When our heroine, a troubador, a song-sayer becomes the leader of a people’s revolution, she desperately needs a seasoned battle commander and Arthur is awakened for that purpose. There are also beings from a hidden world called The Enchantment who are involved on the good guy side. There is more to it but the book has lots of action, a tame love-triangle and some humor and is just an entertaining read.
Our intention was just to tell a fun and somewhat unique story. Dorothy always loved anything about King Arthur and his knights and the various myths surrounding them. My personal intention after her death, was to honor her and Budd by finishing the novel and getting it out there.
SFF) What freedom did you have in creating the story?
L.B.) Personally, I felt I should continue to follow the outline that Dorothy and I created but I did have to add various chapters and expand various areas. I had all the freedom in the world since this is a freelance work and we weren’t contracted by anyone to do it their way. I did have to work to match Dorothy’s style of writing so you can’t tell where she leaves off and I start. Thankfully, our writing styles are quite similar.
SFF) Although women have always been active in the television and film business, it was certainly difficult to make themselves heard in earlier times. How do you see the development of this industry with regard to this topic?
L.B.) Dorothy and women before her laid the groundwork for women working behind the camera in the T.V. and film industries. Yes, she used her initials (D.C.) so that her work wouldn’t be pre-judged just because she was female but once her excellent writing and her gender was known, she was still hired. In my own long career, I’ve seen women gradually climb the ladder to get top jobs not only as writers but directors, cinematographers, show running producers etc. If you look at the credits of most popular T.V. shows now, whether on networks or streaming platforms, there are a great deal of women involved from the top on down. Same, to a degree, in feature films. Is there still prejudice against women for some jobs? Sure but a lot of progress has been made just in my lifetime.
SFF) You are also a script doctor and script consultant. what exactly do you do there and who have you "helped" and why?
L.B.) When I worked for the CBS Television Network, I was a reader then Manager of the Story Department reading scripts submitted to the network for possible sale then reading subsequent drafts as they came down from the Development department. We would write reports and consult with Development executives and recommend the rejection or purchase of a pilot or T.V. Movie script and how to improve it. Later on, when no longer working for the network, I took on writer clients during various phases of their script work helping them improve their projects. I still do this from time to time.
SFF) Is it difficult, in these modern times, to publish a book with this subject matter?
L.B.) The basic subject matter (King Arthur, the once and future king) has not been very popular in feature films of late but Arthurian subjects and expanding upon ancient myths surrounding Arthur and his round table etc. have always been popular in literature. According to most popular myths, Arthur built an idealistic kingdom with the intent of equality for all and a peaceful, fair existence for himself and his people. In our current, divisive and frankly scary world, who doesn’t want to lose themselves in a fun, fast-moving story of an attempt to achieve that?
SFF) Could you tell us a little about your friendship with Dorothy? What was special about Dorothy?
L.B.) Dorothy’s friendship was invaluable to me. I miss her terribly. She was the most fiercely loyal, supportive friend a person could have. She believed in you when you had stopped believing in yourself and kicked your butt when you stalled. She would help her friends in any way she could from recommending you for a job to being there when life was upsetting you and recommending ways to take action to make any situation better. There are too many wonderful things about the woman to list but of course she was special. She was willing to take the punches that Hollywood dishes out and somehow manage to bounce back. She inspired scores of women (and plenty of guys) to achieve their dreams. I could go on and on.
SFF) What can we expect next from you?
L.B.) Hopefully a sequel or two to FUTURUS REX. Dorothy and I had made some notes for two sequels so her hand would still be in those stories although I, alone, would be writing them. Right now, I’m still publicizing this book and getting feedback from readers on what they would like to see next. After that, I have a few novels of my own, all in the Sci-Fi, Fantasy or horror genres, to write.
SFF) Thank you Miss Barker for this very enjoyable interview. I wish you the best for the future and much success with the book.
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