Monday, April 13, 2009

My Leonard Nimoy Story

Somewhen about 1996, I got a phone call from Marty Greenberg, the world’s premiere science fiction and fantasy anthologist. Marty’s company had the rights to do a novelization of a comic book series called PriMortals. The story idea had come from Leonard Nimoy, with a little help from Isaac Asimov, and while it was originally intended to be part of prose anthology, it wound up at TeknoComics (later BIG Entertainment).

I had done a little work for Marty on another project, and he wondered if I was interested in taking a shot at this one.

The money was so-so, I had projects in progress, my first Star Wars novel had just come out and I was feeling hot; and frankly, I wasn’t all that interested.

Then Marty threw in the sweetener: He would, he said, fly me down to L.A. to meet with Nimoy.

No shit? Really?

Okay, so I admit it, I’m a fanboy. A chance to sit down with an American icon, the guy who was better known to the world as the half-human, half-Vulcan, Spock?

I couldn’t jump on that ship fast enough. I'm in.

So, the meeting was set. We’d have breakfast at a fairly chic hotel in LaLaLand -- me, Nimoy, and a couple of folks from BIG Entertainment.

I flew into town, rented a car, and went to bunk at my collaborator Reaves’s house. Got up on the morning of the breakfast and allowed two hours to travel the ten miles, because on the freeeways in L.A., you never know. A bag blows across the Santa Monica Freeway, and traffic backs up to Redding. Better safe than late.

I got there an hour and forty-five minutes early, of course. I spent the time hiking around the neighborhood, getting the lay of the land, and enjoying the smogless morning amidst the pastel stucco neighborhood.

Fifteen minutes before the scheduled time, I went into the restaurant. The comic book folks showed up, we introduced ourselves.

Nimoy arrived. We shook hands, he sat, and there we were.

Nimoy was dressed in black, had a short beard, and was tired. He hadn’t slept much the night before, he said, he’d been up to all hours writing a play that was destined for Broadway. But, tired or not, he was smiling, affable, and polite to the waiters, whom he knew by name. Always a good sign.

When you meet an icon, there is always a worry: What if the guy turns out to be an utter asshole? You really don’t want that, and happily, Nimoy was polite, funny, enthusiastic, and every bit the mensch I hoped he would be, tired or not.

We talked business, ideas, and the conversation went swimmingly.

I had read Nimoy’s second autobiograpy, I Am Spock, a few months before, and because I knew he was a writer, I asked him if he’d actually written the book or had it ghosted.
(His first autobiography was called I Am Not Spock, by the by.)

I wrote the first thirty thousand words, he said, but I ran into a time-crunch, so the publisher
brought in somebody to help me finish it.

I had guessed as much, since there was an acknowledgement to a writer whose name I knew in the front of the book, but to keep the conversation rolling, I asked him, Oh? Who was that?

His face went blank. He was tired, recall, and I could see he couldn’t bring up her name. So I said, Ah, I see how writers stand in the Hollywood pantheon -- you can’t remember the name of the woman who wrote your autobiography?

He cracked up. Roared, a big, belly laugh, and I grinned, inordinately pleased with myself. I had just made Spock laugh. My stand-up career wasn’t ever going to get any better than that.

We finished the meeting, I went home, cranked on the project. I sent the first draft to Nimoy, he offered suggestions, I incorporated these, and eventually, the book came out. I didn’t figure I’d get a credit on it, but Nimoy insisted, and so it was Leonard Nimoy’s PriMortals: Target Earth, written by Steve Perry. And when you flipped the book over, on the back, there was Nimoy’s smiling face, and I swear, his ears look pointed in that picture ...

3 comments:

steve-vh said...

Nimoy will be in a future episode of the TV show Fringe this season it was announce last week.

James said...

I remember watching the first episode of Star Trek. I thought it was the greatest thing I'd ever seen.My parents said it would never last - it was too "far-fetched". Hah! I won THAT one.
I love that story.
Now I have to buy that damned book.

Lori Koonce said...

That was a great story Steve..

Now, can you set me up with something like that so I can be pleasntly surprised when HE surprises me like that!