Kickstarter Campaign Launches for Fan-Published ‘Discovery’ Book

An ambitious U.K. Kickstarter campaign may test whether CBS’ safe harbor for otherwise copyright-infringing fan films will also extend to fan-published books.

UPDATE The Star Trek: Shenzhou Kickstarter campaign ended August 20, 2018, having reached 128 percent of its goal, for a total of £2,574 (USD $3,324) from 68 backers.

Star Trek: Shenzhou

The project, “Star Trek: Shenzou,” describes itself as a “Star Trek: Discovery fanbook … styled as though ‘Star Trek: Shenzhou’ was a 1974 spin-off from The Original Series,” featuring a planned 170 pages of fan art and stories.1)

SHENZHOU CONCEPT art likely to appear in the Shenzhou fan book is featured on the book’s Kickstarter campaign page. Click to view larger image Art/Shenzhou Kickstarter

Backer Rewards

The campaign, posted July 1, 2018, aimed to raise £2,000 (USD$2,657) to pay for publishing a hard copy volume. Backers needed to donate at least £20 (USD$27) to receive a copy. Other rewards included specially commissioned character art, topping out at a £200-level (USD$198) donation.

Progress to Goal

The campaign started out strong, raising more than 20 percent of its goal on Day 1. As of this posting date (July 7), the Kickstarter stood at 40 percent funded, with the Kickstarter-monitoring website, Kicktraq, noting the campaign trending toward an eventual funding level of £5,923 (USD$7,871) by the time it was to conclude on August 20 — nearly 300 percent of its goal.2)

NO COMMENT YET AxaMonitor contacted campaign leader En Gingerboom for a comment but he had not responded before this article was posted. Should he reply, this article will be updated accordingly.

Limited Run

However, in an effort to escape the possible ire of Star Trek’s owners, campaign leader En Gingerboom (possibly a pseudonym) of Newcastle, U.K., capped the number of books to be produced at 100.

ALTER EGO Graphic artist and Star Trek fan En Gingerboom created the artwork slated to appear in the fan-produced book, “Star Trek: Shenzhou.” Image/nattherat.co.uk

The Risks

Gingerboom stated that he structured the crowdfunding effort to try to avoid repercussions from CBS, the copyright holder for Star Trek:

It’s very important to me to be respectful with this project; it truly is a labor of love. I’ve looked into CBS’ and Paramount Pictures’ stance on fan projects a lot, including of course their recent rulings on fan films. Whilst I knew (and indeed most of us know) that they’re publicly accepting of fan projects, I don’t think it was until recently that they discussed crowdfunding those projects. As per their rules, I’ve put limit on pledges so that funding can never exceed the amount they state.3)

Gingerboom encouraged prospective backers to donate before the limited number of book copies were ordered, adding he hoped for a second campaign would allow for another printing if he could stay “within the allowed crowdfunding amount, but I can’t guarantee that second printing.”4)

TRACKING THE KICKSTARTER The crowdfunding statistics website, Kicktraq, keeps tabs on the progress of the “Star Trek: Shenzou” book publication project. The £2,000 goal is equivalent to USD$2,657. This graphic updates upon refresh.

Running Afoul of CBS Guidelines

While Gingerboom said he was staying within guidelines established by CBS, those guidelines specifically address only the production of films by Star Trek fans, not any other type of fan-produced media.


« It is infuriating that all Trek fan production media but films can call it Star Trek and offer incentives to backers. The guidelines target and attack one fan medium. » — Former fan filmmaker Kelly Rhodes

Only Fan Films

In explaining the limits of the fan film guidelines, CBS’ vice president for licensing, John Van Citters, said in a 2016 podcast interview they “apply only to video presentations, including animation and even slide shows.” Audio dramas and fan fiction fell outside the purview of the guidelines.

Consequently, the crowdfunding limits Gingerboom referred to do not apply to his book project, putting the ball in CBS’ court about whether to take action.

Crowdfunding Limits

The guidelines limit fan films from raising more than $100,000 (£75,252) for two 15-minute fan-made episodes. While Gingerboom planned to cap his crowdfunding well below that amount, it remained to be seen whether CBS would tolerate any crowdfunding for publishing a physical volume.

Physical Products

One of the obstacles standing in Gingerboom’s way is CBS’ objection in the fan film guidelines to physical products being offered as rewards — essentially “sold” — in crowdfunding campaigns.

According to Van Citters, fan film crowdfunding campaigns ended up becoming more about the physical items being offered in exchange for donations instead of “supporting a fan production for its own sake.” Consequently, the guidelines prohibit offering of physical perks in exchange for backing crowdfunding efforts.

UNAUTHORIZED novels, like those by author Stephen Fender, have been crowdfunded in the past. In Axanar’s wake, however, even Fender has backed off attempting such projects.

Other Crowdfunded Star Trek Fan Books

“Star Trek: Shenzhou” is not the first crowdfunded fan-produced book, however.

Fender's ‘Four Years War’ Series

Author Stephen Fender ran a series of Kickstarter campaigns from 2014 to 2015, publishing four unauthorized novels and technical manual chronicling “The Four Years War” — the conflict between Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire, as well as a series of novels about Earth’s Romulan War.

Fender’s most recent Star Trek Kickstarter effort, in 2015, raised $18,968. In total, his crowdfunding raised more than $35,000.

ALEC PETERS

The Axanar Connection

Fender’s “Four Years War” is the same one that was to be tackled in the unmade feature, Axanar, produced by OWC Studios head Alec Peters, who has cited Fender’s novels as part of his inspiration for Axanar.

A “making of Axanar” behind the scenes video that was to have been produced by Peters featured an interview with Fender. In the wake of CBS’ and Paramount’s copyright infringement lawsuit against Peters and his Axanar Productions, however, Fender distanced himself from Peters and his project.

Also, Fender deleted his Kickstarter account,5) though his Kickstarter campaigns’ pages remain on the crowdfunding site.

CBS allowed this fan publication on condition the author never sell Star Trek merchandise again. Image/‘Ladies of Kirk’ Kickstarter

‘The Ladies of Kirk’

A 2015 Kickstarter-funded fan publication, “The Ladies of Kirk,” by Kelley McMorris, raised $11,253 before CBS’ attorneys stepped in.

The book was advertised as “an illustrated guide to all the women Captain Kirk ever kissed.”6)

CBS allowed McMorris to fulfill the promised rewards for the book on one condition, as McMorris explained to backers:

Unfortunately there will be no more Trek-related projects from me. A few weeks after the Kickstarter ended, I was contacted by CBS’ legal team about my unauthorized use of the copyrighted Star Trek content. They graciously allowed me to fulfill my promises to my Kickstarter backers if, basically, I agreed not to sell any more Star Trek stuff. On the bright side, that means that all your Ladies of Kirk copies are super limited edition!7)

Mixed Fan Reactions to ‘Shenzhou’

While the “Star Trek: Shenzhou” Kickstarter fared well in its first week, it garnered few comments from donors. In other forums, however, Star Trek fans wondered about “Shenzhou”‘s likelihood to attract a “cease and desist” letter from CBS’ attorneys.

On Facebook’s Fan Film Forum, a generally pro-Axanar discussion group, former fan producer Kelly Rhodes, forced to have “scrapped my plans due to the fan film guideline restrictions,” said he believed “the guidelines should either apply to all Trek fan productions or none. It is infuriating that all Trek fan production media but films can call it Star Trek and offer incentives to backers. The guidelines target and attack one fan medium. I know CBS and Paramount do this because their medium is live action productions and that’s all they really care about. Still, it’s frustrating when other Trek fan production mediums can still do what Trek fan film makers have been told they can’t do.”8)

Publishing Experience

Gingerboom explained he has been successfully self-publishing books since 2010, and has led successful crowdfunding campaigns in the past, funding his original projects, “What Is It Katy?” on Indiegogo, and Twenty Thirty Three via preorders.9)

“I’m experienced in self-publishing books like this,” Gingerboom said, “and anticipate no difficulty in this regard. I have and will continue to be transparent about the progress of the book.”

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Keywords

2)
Kicktraq page for Star Trek: Shenzhou, retrieved 7/7/18. Kicktraq cautioned that its trends are not projections.
7)
Ladies of Kirk Kickstarter page, Update #13, 10/27/15.