In celebration of all things Star Trek, and the winding down of the year, we asked some of our Simon & Schuster authors if they had any Star Trek memories they'd like to share with our fans. After recieving an outpour of hearfelt submissions, we have picked the best to pass along to you. Here's one from Jonathan Waldman:
When I started writing RUST, I never thought the subject would cross paths with Star Trek. Then I met Dan Dunmire, the nation’s highest-ranked rust official. Technically, he’s the director of the Department of Defense’s Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight, but he has called himself the nation’s corrosion czar. He is loud, animated, devoted, and also a serious Trekkie.
For Star Trek’s 40th anniversary, Dunmire went to Vegas dressed as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. In public, this Pentagon official with top-secret clearance walked around with the emblem of the United Federation of Planets’ Starfleet Command on his chest. As usual, he spent a lot of time talking about rust — so much, in fact, that at one point a woman sitting near him leaned over and told him to shut up. “Dude,” she said, “you’re obsessed with the Kyrosians, they were only in two episodes, and I’m trying to watch Worf!” To her, Dunmire said, no, not Kyrosian, corrosion! — and began telling her about his role in the nation’s war on rust. Corrosion inflicts $20 billion of damage annually on the Department of Defense, and poses the number one threat to the U.S. Navy. It turned out the woman was a video producer, and they began working together. Returning to the Star Trek convention the next year, they saw LeVar Burton, aka Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge. That’s when Dunmire realized he’d be perfect as the Pentagon’s public face for rust. Go figure that the producer knew him.
Since then, Burton has hosted seven corrosion-themed videos produced by Dunmire and funded by tax dollars. They are, in the world of rust, uniquely accessible and informative and hokey — exemplifying the type of outreach Dunmire is after. He aspires to captivate sailors, soldiers, officials, and civilians, and wake them up from complacency regarding this invisible foe. He dreams of turning the fight against rust into a social cause. If a Star Trek actor making Star Trek puns is what it takes to get us there, he’s happy to make it so.
At a studio in Florida, I watched Burton film one of the videos, and during a break, I asked him about them, and in particular what he told his friends in LA. “I don’t tell them,” he said. “No, I say, I’m doing some work with the Department of Defense. Then, when their eyes glaze over, I move on.” He also told me that the military-industrial complex is obsessed with Star Trek. But Burton has also admitted that he’s become a rust evangelist because of Dunmire, whom he has called a force of nature, and compared in spirit and authenticity to the greatest men he’s known, including Gene Roddenberry.
Dunmire’s superiors have not bought off on Burton’s rust videos, but I suspect they’ll come around. The Government Accountability Office has credited Dunmire’s small office with saving billions of dollars over the last decade, and Dunmire proudly admits that a good part of his outreach efforts is about planting seeds. Of course, he’d say it differently. He’d say it’s about serving the next generation.
Jonathan Waldman is the author of Rust.