The day I came up with the idea for the Nitpicker’s Guide, I told my wife, “I’m going to spend the next year watching every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and I’m going to write down everything they do wrong.” And she said, “That’s nice, dear.”
At the time, we had concluded the the buyout on the music notation system I wrote so I didn’t really need to work for a while, and she knew that. Even still, it was an odd idea. And, there were plenty of people along the way that said it wouldn’t work. There were people “in the know” that said the title was wrong, too negative.
And so, an unknown, unpublished author came up with a little idea and put together an odd book that sold 70,000 copies its first year in print. Which is not too shabby for a non-fiction book about a television series.
There were five guides published in all.
The Nitpicker’s Guide for Next Generation Trekkers was published in November 1993.
The Nitpicker’s Guide for Classic Trekkers came next in November 1994.
The Nitpicker’s Guide for Next Generation Trekkers, Part 2 followed in November 1995.
The Nitpicker’s Guide for Deep Space Nine Trekkers appeared in 1996.
And The Nitpicker’s Guide for X-files in 1997.
(I’m sure I still have the first 100 pages of that guide around somewhere. If I could ever find them I would self-publish it.)
The really fun part of the guides was hearing from their readers. By the time it was all said and done, I received over 10,000 letters. Often, they would start with, “What have you done to do me?! I can’t watch anything anymore without nitpicking it.”
I knew exactly what they meant. Nitpicking is contagious because it allows you to “peek behind the curtain.” The creators of television shows and movies do a masterful job of of crafting an alternate reality but they aren’t perfect. And they never will be.
Because of that, there will always be nits. Little anomalies that are easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. But when you see them, all of a sudden, your mind opens and you see not only the nit but the cameraman and the director and all those people that hover on the edge of their reality and work so hard to hide. Often I would watch a scene half a dozen times before I found the reflection of the microphone in a mirror or the vase that turns back and forth between camera angles.
I’d love to tell you that the guides are still available in print, but I have seen them in used bookstores and on the internet, check with amazon.com or half.com or ebay.com . Be forewarned though: they might be “well loved.”
Back in the days when I would attend Star Trek conventions, more often than not, the books I signed held the marks of a great deal of use: dog-eared pages, tattered covers. I took that as a high compliment.
On the other hand, some of the Guides are on the Kindle now! (Thanks Mike B for the nudge to update this!)
Some have asked if I’m ever going to write another guide. While I’ll never say “never,” I find it highly unlikely. As you can see from the menu on the left, I have plenty of ideas of my own.
In fact, I have no doubt that if I could somehow start writing fulltime today, I could easily spend the rest of my life churning out novels. So…in all likelihood, the guides will remain a fond memory of a cherished time in my life.
Sometime, just for grins, if you are interested in seeing what these guides have birthed, go to google.com and type the phrase “nitpicker’s guide” (make sure you include the double-quotes) and remember that–as far as I know–before the Nitpicker’s Guides on this page appeared, the phrase “nitpicker’s guide” didn’t exist in the global lexicon.
If you do google it, you’ll find the internet enjoys the term.
As I’m fond of saying, I know I didn’t invent the practice of nitpicking television, movies and every other form of entertainment but I certainly popularized the sport!
Having done that, it’s time for me to be a creator and see what nits others can find in my work! (And that is as it should be.)