If you were a sci-fi fan in the 1980s, pre-Internet, your access to the larger “worlds” behind your favorite franchises (Star Wars, Star Trek, Robotech) came from the “expanded universe” novels and comic books. Sometimes the RPGs. But there was only so much of it.
So fans created their own content (a phenomena that started in the 1970s with Trek): fanzines and small-press books jam-packed with commentary, artwork and fiction. The creators sold them at conventions and through mail order catalogs.
These catalogs were advertised in the pages of Starlog magazine—which is how I discovered them, from mail order shops, half of which seemed to have the word “Star” in their name. And gradually I ordered a bunch.
I think the first one I got was an actual, licensed book: Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise, by Lora Johnson (then known as Shane Johnson). I was hooked! The book featured sketches, designs and blueprints of selected areas of the Enterprise, written “in-world” as if you were a Starfleet trainee.
I soon discovered the granddaddy of them all, the Franz Joseph Enterprise blueprints for The Original Series, which was perfect…except for the fact that Engineering was in the wrong place! (Joseph put it in front of the impulse engines in the saucer. Everybody knows it’s in the secondary hull!)
The idea that the Enterprise was a real vehicle, where people lived and worked…and you could mentally explore its nooks and crannies…let’s just say, this was a lot more welcoming of a place to spend time than actual high school.
I even designed my own ship and got some way through doing the deck plans. I used a drafting board and graph paper and first tried to lay out the locations of all the turbolifts…which I think caused me to quit. But I still have this somewhere, in boxes in my mom’s basement. It was a kind of dreadnought (three nacelles) version of the Reliant that I called the “U.S.S. Spaceworthy.” Not a great name; hey, I was 15.
But I also figured out who the crew was. I had an Asian-American captain (way before Michelle Yeoh—so there, diversity) and I did layouts for an “issue 1” of a comic book.
This was probably around 1989-90. Soon I started the newsletter that became Film Score Monthly, and concentrated all my free time into that.
But I had a decent library of these books and blueprints and to this day I love looking at sites like Ex Astris Scientia. I remember the obsessions with continuity and the conflicts within fandom as people defend “their” Trek.
Today, I don’t care…but I remember it well.
There is a website called Cygnus-X1.net archiving dozens of the fan-created Star Trek ship blueprints…and god bless them for doing so.