Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Fun stuff

I was starting to think the Star Trek publishing world was becoming full of unnecessary and gimmicky things -- the latest quote book, the Klingon language picture book, the overpriced chunk of plastic with the Federation book, etc -- but a couple of recent books are great ideas, well executed.

Juan Ortiz's movie poster art has been all over the Internet for some time now. See the gallery at Space.com if you've managed to miss it so far. The new book Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz is a big and beautiful hardcover book printing his posters for each episode of the original series in full colour. Drawing on a variety of poster art influences, from Russian constrictivists to Saul Bass and beyond, the images provide a fresh new way of looking back at those old classics. This is one I'll be going back to.

Another fun new back is Paula Block and Terry Erdmann's tribute to the 1976 Topps trading cards. It's a smaller book, a nicely bound hardcover with a dustwrapper meant to remind the reader of the wrappers of those old bubblegum card packs. The book reproduces the back and fromt of each of the 88 trading cards and 22 stickers in full colour, adding comments for each card. As a special bonus, there are a few new trading cards in an envelope in the back of the book. As someone who became a fan in the 1970s, I get a kick out of revisiting old artefacts from the days when all we had were the reruns of the original and animated series. (You can see some of the cards and stickers on my Stardate 7600 minisite.)

One thing the book explains is that the Star Trek cards weren't as widely distributed as they could have been. They went on sale in 1976 but I never saw them anywhere in Edmonton. By 1977 I had Planet of the Apes, Space: 1999, and Star Wars cards, but I hit the jackpot that summer when we went back to Nova Scotia on vacation and my mother's cousin, who owned a convenience store, gave me an unopened box. 36 unopened packs of cards. I sorted out a full set for me, one for one of my cousins, and gave a bunch of extras to a friend who gave me his Star Trek Enterprise catalogue. Ah, memories.

Anyway, two good books for any fan of the original Star Trek and colourful art books.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

paq'batlh: The Klingon Epic

It looks and feels like a cheap print on demand book. But it's the kind of thing that reminds me of what makes all of this fun.

paq'batlh: The Klingon Epic is a retelling of the classic tale of Kahless as an opera. You get English and Klingon text on facing pages. I'm no Klingon expert so I don't know if they got the story right or the Klingon text right, but Marc Okrand and other knowledgeable types were involved and there are footnote references to several TNG, DS9, and Voyager episodes as well as Michael Jan Friedman's Kahless novel, so I suspect they did their homework.

It's a fairly short work, telling in mythic style how Kahless became the legendary figure revered by the Klingons. I found it pretty enjoyable, and maybe the brevity helped. Anyway, anyone looking for something different in Treklit (and anyone who has the Klingon translations of Hamlet and Gilgamesh) should look into this. You can order this from the publisher or your local Amazon. If you're not sure yet, you can watch the video presentation at http://vimeo.com/32050802.

The future is somewhat uncertain...

I'm pretty sure I'm going to keep the Complete Starfleet Library site going. I'm more than sure that the current version will be going away some time later this year. I've started working on the replacement site at starfleetlibrary.wordpress.com. Nothing much visible yet, and what there is will change, but the goal is to have something that looks and works pretty much the same as the old site. Something that costs less money to maintain, has an easier address to remember, and doesn't require me to keep using an old html editor and an ftp program.

It's the end, but the moment has been prepared for.

Oops, wrong franchise. And it's not the end.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

2013 Star Trek books: my shopping list and comments

So I just search through Amazon looking to see if I missed anything and what I have to look forward to. There's a lot of reprints and repackages from IDW missing here, because I'm beyond tired of IDW's constant recycling.

January

Star Trek The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation Vol. 2 by Scott Tipton, David Tipton and J.K. Woodward (Jan 11, 2013)
 Star Trek: The Original Series: Allegiance in Exile by David R. George III (Jan 29, 2013)

February

Trek in Texas: the 1970s Star Trek conventions by Gordon Bailey Jr. (Feb 9, 2013)
Star Trek: The Original Series: Devil's Bargain by Tony Daniel (Feb 26, 2013)
Stuck on Star Trek by Joe Corroney (Feb 26, 2013)

March

Star Trek: The Next Generation: on Board the U.S.S. Enterprise by Michael Okuda (Mar 14, 2013)
 Star Trek: The Original Series: The Children of Kings by David Stern (Mar 16, 2013)
Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary by DK Publishing (Mar 18, 2013)
Star Trek and History (Wiley Pop Culture and History Series) by Nancy Reagin (Mar 18, 2013)
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Stuff of Dreams by James Swallow (Mar 25, 2013)
Star Trek: The Original Series: The Weight of Worlds by Greg Cox (Mar 26, 2013)

April

Star Trek: Light-Up Phaser (Mega Mini Kits) by Running Press (Apr 9, 2013)
Star Trek Vol. 4 by Mike Johnson, Stephen Molnar and Tim Bradstreet (Apr 10, 2013)
Star Trek Classic Quotes: A Little Seedling Book by Cider Mill Press (Apr 16, 2013)
How to Speak Klingon: Essential Phrases for the Intergalactic Traveler (Star Trek) by Ben Grossblatt and Alex Fine (Apr 23, 2013) Star Trek: Prima Official Game Guide (Prima Official Game Guides) by David Knight (Apr 23, 2013)  Treknology: Star Trek's Tech 300 Years Ahead of the Future by Justin McLachlan (Apr 23, 2013)
Star Trek: The Next Generation - Hive by Brannon Braga, Terry Matalas and Joe Corroney (Apr 24, 2013)
The Star Trek Craft Book: Make It So! by Angie Pedersen (Apr 30, 2013)
Star Trek: The Original Series: The Folded World by Jeff Mariotte (Apr 30, 2013)

May

Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness by Mike Johnson and David Messina (May 15, 2013)
Star Trek Cross-Stitch: Explore Strange New Worlds of Crafting by John Lohman (May 28, 2013)
Star Trek: The Original Series: The Shocks of Adversity by William Leisner (May 28, 2013)

June

Star Trek FAQ 2.0: Everything Left to Know About The Next Generation, the Movies, and Beyond (Unofficial and Unauthorized... by Mark Clark (Jun 18, 2013)
Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures by Christopher L. Bennett (Jun 25, 2013)

July

Star Trek Volume 5 by Claudia Balboni, Mike Johnson and Ryan Parrott (Jul 16, 2013)
Star Trek: The Original Series: From History's Shadow by Dayton Ward (Jul 30, 2013)

August

Fan Phenomena: Star Trek (Intellect Books - Fan Phenomena) by Bruce E. Drushel (Aug 15, 2013)
Star Trek: The Fall: Revelation and Dust (Star Trek, the Next Generation) by David R. George III (Aug 27, 2013)

September

Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz by Juan Oritz (Sep 3, 2013)
Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series by Paula M. Block, Terry J. Erdmann and The Topps Company (Sep 10, 2013)
Star Trek: Light-Up Starship Enterprise by Chip Carter (Sep 24, 2013)
Star Trek: The Fall: The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack (Sep 24, 2013)

October

Star Trek: The Stardate Collection, Volume 1 by John Byrne, Patrick Zircher, Greg Adams and Josep Maria Beroy (Oct 1, 2013)
Star Trek: The Newspaper Strip, Vol. 2 by Ron Harris, Padraic Shigetani, Bob Myers and Ernie Colon (Oct 8, 2013)
Star Trek: The Fall: A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack (Oct 29, 2013)

November

Star Trek Volume 6: After Darkness (Nov 26, 2013)
Star Trek: The Fall: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow (Nov 26, 2013)

December

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Home Again by Una McCormack (Dec 1, 2014)
Star Trek: The Fall: Peaceable Kingdoms by Dayton Ward (Dec 31, 2013)

Looking at the year, there's not a lot of interesting unauthorized stuff. There's not a lot of variety in the Pocket novels. Most of what's left is gimmicky stuff for casual fans: quotes, crafts, etc. The most productive company, when you include what I left out of this list, is probably IDW, and I'm at the point where I don't care if they lose or give up the licence to do Trek comics because I'm so completely uninterested in what they're doing. Retelling original series episodes with the new crew, with random changes that half the time don't have much to do with the changes to the timeline, doesn't feel like a viable long term plan, But IDW is happy enough with that, and with "official" prequel and sequel comics for the movies that get contradicted almost instantly. And don't get me started on the fans who think those comics are canon.

As for the novels, while they're often as good as ever on a novel-by-novel basis, I don't like having half a year dedicated to standalone original series novels and half a year devoted to the ever-more tangled and depressing post-TV continuity. I can't help but find it all frustrating compared to a few years back, when we had more than just a novel per month (plus an ebook or two a year) and when we had multiple discrete series with different styles and sensibilities. I also liked it a lot more when editors, writers, and fans hung out in places like TrekBBS, and we had more of a sense of who was running the book program and where they were heading.

Meanwhile, how has the success of the JJ Abrams movies affected the book line? Not much. There's no novels based on the new continuity except novelizations and a handful of YA Starfleet Academy novels.

We've had two big stories about the books this year. One was that they're a big success story, with lots of new publishers being licenced to produce new books -- but those are resulting in things like the TNG quote book. Meanwhile, we also heard, if less officially, that Abrams thought he was getting full control of the Trek franchise, not realizing it's split between CBS and Paramount, that he wanted to stop TOS stuff from being produced, etc etc. While I would have liked a world in which there are new continuity novels and a new TV series, I don't want it coming from Abrams and his crew, who do not fundamentally understand Star Trek. Let them play with Star Wars and let's find someone who wants Star Trek to be less stupid and action-packed than Transformers movies. What's Ira Steven Behr doing these days, I wonder...

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Star Trek Into Dumbness

Laura and I saw Star Trek Into Darkness a couple of weeks ago. We had a pretty good time, too -- the cast is likeable, the special effects are great, the story moves quickly, and there's plenty of action. Plus Benedict Cumberbatch. It's entertaining eye candy.

But the first.

It's entertaining, bu damn, this movie is stupid. It's stupid in terms of the things that happen in it, and it's stupid in outside the box ways, too. It's stupid in inside-the-movie stuff like parking your ship underwater. It's stupid in trying to recreate the emotional impact of Star Trek II with a bunch of noobs we barely care about yet. As for plot holes... they've been covered in enough detail all over the web by now, and I don't have the energy or patience to enumerate all of them here.Let's just say that I'm not eager to read the novelization. The movie at least has some good performances and visuals. The novel has Alan Dean Foster's prose. Not really a great incentive for moving it to the top of the TBR pile.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a big dumb film full of dumb, simple mischaracterizations. It's Star Trek by and for people who don't know or care about pre-2009 Star Trek while thinking that it's faithful to the original. It's nowhere to go for all the things I ever loved about Star Trek over the years.

But the second. Star Trek Into Darkness is bad Star Trek, but... so are most of the previous Star Trek movies. With a couple of possible exceptions, they all tried much too hard to be big skiffy spectacles with lots of action. They warped the characters, they had plot holes, they learned the wrong lessons from The Wrath of Khan (it's about the characters, not the villain). Even the ones generally agreed to be the best -- Wrath of Khan, First Contact -- don't hold up under close scrutiny. You can tear apart pretty much every Trek movie ever made without much effort.

The best we can hope for from most Star Trek movies is that they don't make us yell "oh, come ON" until after they're over. And that they do well enough to keep Star Trek as a brand alive. But the best place to rediscover what made Star Trek the phenomenon it was for so long isn't a movie theatre. It's in the individual episodes of the original series, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine. TV Trek is the heart and brain of Star Trek. (And the books are what keeps them alive.)

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Happy birthday, Unreality SF!

Five years of tie-in reviews -- presented much more regularly than this sorry excuse for a blog has managed in some time -- is worth celebrating. I have reason to believe there are some birthday surprises, too. Happy birthday to Jens, Steve, Dan and everyone else.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

At last! The Star Trek newspaper comic strips


Back in 2005 I first posted about Rich Handley's efforts to get the TMP-era newspaper comic strips into print, and I've had the comic strip book on the Lost Books page for several years. And now volume 1 is out, thanks to IDW. It's a big, beautiful hardcover. So what makes this such a thrill? Well, it's a TMP-era story sequence in graphic form, and there aren't a lot of those -- and at its best the newspaper strip was infinitely better than Marvel's comic at the same time; at its worst, well, it's no worse than Marvel's comic.The art, especially when Thomas Warkentin was working on the strip, was often very good. And legendary SF novelist Larry Niven wrote one of the stories.

Some of the strip was published in a very hard-to-find sort-of comic book format many years ago. The strips have also been made, not very officially, available on CD ROM and online. But this is the best presentation yet. If you've never read these strips (hell, even if you have), and you like TOS, I shouldn't even have to tell you to go out and get this.

It's been a good week or two for me as a media SF fan -- new Blake's 7 novel, new Doctor Who Magazine comic strip collection, new Space: 1999 graphic novel. But for me this is the big deal. Roll on volume 2!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Overdue update

The desktop PC has been dead for some time now and shows no sign of a miraculous resurrection, and the laptop doesn't like having a browser, Dreamweaver, and Photoshop all open at the same time... and for some reason it can no longer connect to wifi when it's upstairs in the computer room. So... not ideal circumstances for updating, but I intend to do something eventually. As for Trek books... I remain unthrilled by IDW's Trek comics. The one thing I'm really looking forward to is the old newspaper comic strip collection. I collected that as long as I could back in the day, cutting out the strips from the local paper from December 1979 through June 1980, and then we got transferred across the country and I couldn't find a newspaper with the strip any more. So when Rich Handley started his program to get high quality scans and ultimately made all the strips available, I was thrilled. But I'm even happier to have the option to read them in print, rather than on a screen. I guess I can take that out of the Lost Books page. What next, The God Thing? Maybe IDW should adapt it as a comic miniseries. Or have the Phase II fan film people already adapted it?

Speaking of fan films, I've seen very few of them. I find them hard to get into, though I do think they have considerable importance as a part of modern fandom. It'd be nice for someone to put together a good-sized book looking at the phenomenon, with interviews, episode summaries, etc. After all, in the Doctor Who world, we just recently got a great book about the legendary Doctor Who Audio-Visuals, a series of cassette audio dramas that ultimately led to the birth of Big Finish, the professional Doctor Who audio company. There are a lot of great unauthorized DW nonfiction books being published these days; it'd be nice to see more high quality ST nonfiction.

Which in turn leads me to Robert Greenberger's unauthorized history of Star Trek, a fun, colourful, and insightful book that covers decades of Star Trek and fandom. I'd like it even if I hadn't been asked to contribute a page on Trek books and stuff, and there are half a dozen or so images of items from my collection in there as well. Bob's been both a Trek fan and a Trek pro for many years, he knows and loves the show, he did his research, and he got a lot of interesting people to provide sidebars. (It's one of those wow, what am I doing here kind of things, like when I saw the list of contributors for Star Trek Magazine's ultimate guide a couple years back.) So the book is fun, it includes fandom as a key part of Star Trek, and it has a lot of images I haven't seen before. I think it was SFX magazine's review that complained that the book's unauthorized status meant a lack of official, licenced, familiar images in the book. Well, yes, instead of all the same promo shots you've seen a thousand times, there are photos in here you've almost certainly never seen before, and some of them are pretty darn cool. That's not a bug, SFX, it's a feature. So check it out. And thanks to Bob and to Scott Pearson, too.

Leaving Star Trek for a moment to talk about a space opera TV series about a star-spanning Federation, Big Finish has released its second Blake's 7 novel (they've also done a few audios). B7 had a hardcore fandom that apparently produced tons and tons of fanfic, some of it by now familiar names, but its book line was cursed far beyond those of Babylon 5 or Farscape. Just a few novelizations and two original novels, one a post-finale novel that really didn't feel like the show at all, the other a novel about the early days of a key character written appallingly badly by the actor who'd played him. (Seriously, Paul Darrow's Avon: A Terrible Aspect really is as bad as everyone says it is. And Big Finish has him doing another B7 novel soon. With a co-writer or ghostwriter, I hope.) Anyway, anyone who reads Trek and Who fiction should be aware of the B7 novels coming out now, which are set during the series and make much more of an effort to be true to it. And if you've never seen B7, give it a shot. And then another. It took me a few tries before I got hooked. That's long enough for one post, I think...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Conversations at Warp Speed

A few years back, Bearmanor Media announced a collection of Trek cast interviews under the title Talkin' Trek and Other Stories, by Anthony Wynn. And then it didn't appear. And it was delayed and then seemingly disappeared. Sounds like a Lost Book, but it managed to avoid that fate. With a new title and a new cover, the book is now available as Conversations at Warp Speed. I haven't read it yet but I have bought a copy. It's always good to see a happy ending to what may have been a bit of publishing hell. Now, if there's some good news on the horizon about Herbie Pilato's long-ago-announced Bearmanor book on the animated Star Trek, I'll be happy.

Voyager: The Eternal Tide

The Eternal Tide coverYes, there will be spoilers. Big ones.

Seriously. BIG spoilers.

You've been warned.

As Star Trek TV series go, Voyager and Enterprise never meant much to me. They were announced as rules-breaking, game-changing departures from the norm and too often weren't. As captains go, Janeway and Archer were my least favourite, with Janeway in particular suffering from being inconsistently written over the show's run.

And yet Kirsten Beyer's latest Voyager novel was the novel I was waiting for this year, pretty much. I'm still absorbing what should have been the event of the year for me -- David R. George III taking on DS9 in two novels that reboot the stalled relaunch -- and I don't have any kind of final reaction to that yet, other than a general sense of yay, can we get back to telling DS9 stories on a regular basis now?

But Beyer has done wonderful work with the Voyager novels, going in some very unexpected directions, sometimes to the loudly expressed discontent of a few diehard Voyager/Janeway fans. Some of the people who've enjoyed her new direction are those who were never very fond of Voyager or Janeway, like me. So there's been a lot of heated debate about whether Janeway should be brought back from the dead. Many of the folks at TrekBBS who liked the new Voyager thought it would be cheapened by yet another Trek character coming back from the dead. The thing is, regardless of what authors or editors said about Janeway's permanent or temporary state of deadness, she was last seen walking off into the sunset with a Q being told she was dead. My reaction at the time was, (a) Q lies, and (b) dead people don't have conversations, and (c) Janeway will be back.

So I raced through The Eternal Tide wondering how events would play out. What kind of price would be paid? What kind of reset button would be pushed? How many plotlines would be resolved?

As it turned out, many things were resolved, many changes were made, and the status is very much no longer quo. Whatever happens next, it won't be more of the same. And I'm happy with a lot of it. I'm happy, being a big ol' shipper, to see Janeway and Chakotay get a chance at happiness. I'm happy to see the sword no longer balancing over Miral's head. By and large I'm satisfied with where The Etermal Tide leaves us, with how it characterized the regulars and the guest stars from the Q continuum. I did find a lot of the story to be heavy on the woowoo but the characters pulled me through.

So... another great read in the Voyager novel series. I'm eager to see what happens next. Who would have expected that a decade ago?

ETA: I was glad to see that the crisis in this novel was a result of future Janeway's actions in Endgame. I also liked Kirsten's author's note after the end of the story.