Michael Chabon Says Wrath of Khan Director Made Him Want to Be a Professional Writer


The complicated Star Trek timeline and canon will be a huge part of the upcoming TV series Star Trek: Picard, but, the real reason why we’re all excited is that we just freaking love the character of Jean-Luc Picard. Enduring franchises are not a series of Easter eggs, it’s all about great characters. Which is why, if you’re remotely familiar with the writing of Michael Chabon, the fact that he’s the showrunner of Picard is a huge deal. This is a writer who helped humanize Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2, to say nothing of his award-winning genre-defying 2001 novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. In other words, I’m excited for Picard not only because it’s a low-key Next Generation sequel, but because the head writer is literally one of the greatest novelists of the past twenty years.

And in a twist of overlapping fate, it turns out that if it weren’t for another novelist-and-Star-Trek-writer, Michael Chabon may not have become a writer himself. Recently, Chabon revealed to me that a Star Trek-adjacent Sherlock Holmes book inspired him to pursue his own writing career, which by extension, led to the existence of Star Trek: Picard.

Recently, I talked to Michael Chabon on the phone about his experiences writing the Short Treks episode “Q&A.” But, he also detailed how his love of Nicholas Meyer’s Sherlock Holmes novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution specifically led to his decision to become a writer in the first place.

In a recent video interview recently published by StarTrek.com, Chabon explains that while his father was a Star Trek fan during the show’s initial run in the 1960s, it was a cool babysitter who introduced him to the actual fandom in 1973. “When I was 10 years old and I had a babysitter named Allison Felix,” Chabon tells StarTrek.com. “Which is right when Trek fandom is first getting going. The first convention was in 1973. So she was an early and really passionate Star Trek fan.” That same year,  Chabon wrote his first piece of “sustained fiction” at 10-years-old, and was in fact, a Sherlock Holmes/Jules Verne mashup called “The Revenge of Captain Nemo.”

But the moment where Chabon went from being a precocious 1o-year-old to considering a serious career in writing, was thanks to Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer, whose Holmes novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution was published in 1976.

“[Meyer] was a huge, huge influence on me. I honestly don’t think I would be a writer without him,” Chabon told me. “I was a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, one of my first major literary passions was those Sherlock Holmes stories. And then I read Seven-Per-Cent Solution shortly after it came out. I said to myself: wait a minute; I can write my own Sherlock Holmes story — you can do that? Before that, the first thing that I wrote [as a child] was a Sherlock Holmes story. I loved doing it. But it’s not hyperbole, without Nick Myer and Seven-Per-Cent Solution, you know, it wouldn’t have happened the way it did.”

Meyer is known to Trek fans as the writer/director of both The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country, and in the latter, he even implied a direct bloodline connection between Spock and Sherlock himself. Meanwhile, in 2004, Michael Chabon fulfilled his boyhood dream of writing a Sherlock Holmes book when he published the novella The Final Solution, a book in which an aging Sherlock Holmes (think: Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes) deals with a Nazi code-machine that may or may not be a talking parrot.

These days, Meyer and Chabon are starships passing in the night. If you pick up Meyer’s new Sherlock Holmes book, The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols, you’ll see praise from Chabon on the back cover. Though Meyer was a consulting producer on Star Trek: Discovery in season one, he’s seemingly done with Trek until that pesky Khan miniseries makes a comeback. Meanwhile, Chabon is just getting started with his own Star Trek adventure.

These two literary giants both made their mark on the world letters before beaming into the final frontier. And, if Nick Meyer had never written The Seven Percent Solution, he certainly wouldn’t have landed the gig to director The Wrath of Khan. And 37 years later, Michael Chabon wouldn’t have been brought on as a co-creator and showrunner of Star Trek: Picard.

For all you time-traveling terrorists out there, intent on preventing The Wrath of Khan or Picard from ever getting made, here’s a tip: Your first stop will be the year 1887, where you’d try to stop the first Conan Doyle Holmes novella —A Study in Scarlet — from ever being published. Because without Holmes, there’s no Wrath, and without Wrath, in a roundabout way, there’s no Picard.

When Picard debuts on January 23, 2020, and the credits start rolling, feel free to say “Elementary, Dear Chabon.” Whoever gets the joke is either your best friend or a time-traveling vagabond.

Ryan Britt is a longtime contributor to Tor.com and the author of the book Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths (Plume 2015.) His other writing and criticism have been published in InverseSyFy WireVulture, Den of Geek!the New York Times, and StarTrek.com. He is an editor at Fatherly. Ryan lives with his wife and daughter in Portland, Maine.


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