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Where no fans have gone before

Terry Erdmann and Paula Block became Trekkies almost by accident.

The Jacksonville couple recently left long careers in the entertainment business in Los Angeles, during which time they both found themselves transported into the vast, complex Star Trek universe.

Erdmann worked as a publicist for Paramount Pictures and was assigned to the set of "Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier."

"I spent every minute on that set," Erdmann said. "After that, I became Paramount's Star Trek person. In the entertainment business, when you do one thing, you suddenly become an expert on it."

Block, who worked at Paramount's licensing department, joined Erdmann on the Star Trek set.

Soon, the pair were assigned to write a companion book for the "Star Trek: Deep Space 9" series.

More Star Trek-themed books followed and suddenly they morphed into Trek experts.

You want proof? Their work is cited on several Star Trek Wikipedia pages including the entry dedicated to one Capt. James T. Kirk.

"Appearing at the bottom of Wikipedia articles about Star Trek was an experience," Block said. "You know you've made it when that happens."

Though the couple have an office packed with Trek memorabilia and refer to William Shatner as "Bill," they described themselves as enthusiastic, but not obsessive, Trek fans.

"It's not that we don't love Star Trek, we do," Block said. "But I'd say we're more entertainment industry fans."

In addition to the Star Trek books, they have written companion pieces to shows such as "Monk" and "The 4400" as well as for major Hollywood films, including "The Last Samurai."

But their Trek books remain the most popular, according buyer feedback posted on Amazon.

'We read everything our critics have to say," Block said. "It's nice to hear when people enjoy something you've done."

It's not easy to please Trek fans, Block said.

"If you say something incorrect in a Star Trek book you will get hate mail," Block said. "You must be accurate."

Their latest project is a primer book titled "Star Trek 101: A Practical Guide to Who, What, Where and Why."

The book is geared toward the causal Trek fan, who might feel daunted by the show's sprawling mythology.

"This book is for the sister of a Star Trek fan," Block said. "It will get her up to speed so she can talk with a huge fan."

Block says Star Trek fans are a misunderstood lot, stereotyped as social rejects who live in their parents' basements.

"We've been to sci-fi conventions and met Star Trek fans who are nuclear engineers and pilots," Block said. "For the most part, they are such friendly, passionate people. What sets them apart is their love for a show set in space."

Block blames the media for misrepresenting Trek fans.

"When the TV stations show up to conventions they ignore all the normal-looking people and focus on the one person wearing fake ears," Block said. "Yes, some of them are wearing costumes, a red shirt with a gold medal over the heart, but by golly, these people are smart."

They appreciate Trek's ability to tackle serious social issues in the guise of sci-fi entertainment.

"Star Trek was always about something important," Block said. "It approached subjects like race, Vietnam and gender issues in intelligent ways."

The couple cites "Deep Space 9" as their favorite Trek spin-off series. They also were fans of this summer's big-budget remake directed by JJ Abrams. They wrote a glowing review of the film in the Jacksonville Review.

Though the life of the freelance writer can be hurried and stressful, the duo seem to enjoy pounding out hundreds of thousands of words about Star Trek.

Sometimes, though, the assignments are as daunting as taking on a Klingon Bird-of-Prey.

They scored a gig writing trivia cards for a Star Trek board game. The company ordered 1,000 cards and set a 10-day deadline.

"We had to produce one trivia question and answer every four minutes to meet the deadline," Block said. "We got it done, and found time to eat and sleep."

Some of their favorite Trek memories come from the time they've spent with those who played the iconic characters.

"For the most part, they are the nicest people," Erdmann said. "You can't help but like Bill Shatner. He loves joking around and is the first one to laugh at himself."

Her days in the product licensing department at Paramount put Block in humourous situations with Trek stars.

One time she was overseeing a series of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" comic books and was faced with concerns from Patrick Stewart, who played Capt. Jean-Luc Picard.

"He was disturbed by the artist's rendition of his head," Block said, laughing. "He though it looked too large and round."

A page from the comic hangs beside their writing desk. The panels shows a Picard drawing with a slightly smaller melon. Above the picture, Stewart wrote, "Nice head!"

"It was so refreshing to work with show business people who didn't take themselves too seriously," Block said.

The couple remains mum on whether a new Trek book brewing.

"We don't like to jinx things by talking about them," Block said.

For now, they will continue to hustle for jobs and enjoy their new home in Jacksonville, which they share with two lively collies.

"We do enjoy it, but Star Trek isn't the center of our lives," Erdmann said. "Our dogs are the focus of our lives."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

Paula Block and Terry Erdmann of Jacksonville write about the entertainment industry and are best known for their books on Star Trek television shows and movies. - Jim Craven