Monday, April 26, 2004

No news is no news

Will Enterprise be back for a fourth season? Will there be another Star Trek movie? Has Decipher given up on the Star Trek role playing game? Will those Amazon orders I placed ever actually ship? There are plenty of rumours, reported at TrekToday, TrekWeb, and other places, to answer the first two, but ultimately it's all a waiting game. For all of the above, really.

Star Trek seems to be cursed when it comes to role playing games. I've never played an RPG myself, but back in the late 1980s I picked up one of the FASA role playing game books (the Federation sourcebook) and was fascinated. There was a lot of creativity evident in both the reference sources and the adventures. FASA's writers not only fleshed out the background of the Romulans and the Klingons (with the assistance of novelist John M. Ford, author of The Final Reflection, on the latter), they explored the culture of the Orions and civilian traders. Then they ran headlong into the TNG years and the Star Trek office's new constraints on licencees, and bang! Game over.

About a decade later came the Last Unicorn Games attempt at a Trek RPG. They were ambitious and optimistic -- so much so that many of their planned books never materialized. (Some made it out unofficially in pdf format;someone at may be able to identify their current home on the web.) Last Unicorn lost their licence, but very quickly Decipher picked up the licence and some of the key creators. And they've managed to hit maybe one of their deadlines, they shut down the Los Angeles studio doing most of the work, and haven't made their intentions known, even though there are several completed books ready for publication. Their message board may as well be a ghost town. The only new items since last summer are some adventures available as pdfs from Decipher's website.

There's another alternative, GURPS Prime Directive, from the folks behind Star Fleet Battles, but that's essentially an alternate universe version of Star Trek, and one I'm not very familiar with. I do hope eventually to have a page on SFB on my website, but it's going to take more homework.

(Now playing: Fields of the Nephilim, "At the Gates of Silent Memory," Elizium.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Shirley Maiewski, R.I.P.

Just read on the official Star Trek website that Shirley Maiewski died recently. I suppose the majority of Star Trek fans these days don't recognize the name. But in the 1970s, if you were interested in Star Trek fandom at all, you'd have come across her name. She was a fanzine writer, whose Alternate Universe #4 was discussed in the chapter on fan fiction in the 1975 book Star Trek Lives! That was the first place I can remember reading any detailed information on fan fiction. One of her stories appeared in the fan fiction anthology Star Trek: the New Voyages, published by Bantam in 1976.

But Maiewski was best known for the Star Trek Welcommittee.

Fans didn't have the Internet back in the 1970s. If you wanted to know where to find fanzines, conventions, or even just a list of Star Trek books, you could have a hard time finding it. So the Star Trek Welcommittee came into existence. James Blish provided their address in some of his Star Trek books; you could also find their address in some SF magazines. Volunteers took on the job of gathering information, answering questions, and producing their directory. (When I did my little Stardate 7600 minisite I reproduced the first page of a 1976 edition of the directory.)

The Welcommittee wasn't really necessary in the Internet age, and it disbanded some time ago. But for several years it was the place to go. Shirley Maiewski and the other founders of the group did a lot for Star Trek fandom. It's a shame she's gone.


I forgot to mention the classic example of fan lit yesterday: Nick Hornby. Fever Pitch and High Fidelity prove that you can tell affecting stories about people while also examining what it means to be a fan.

(Now playing: The Who, "Naked Eye," Who's Next (remastered version with extra tracks.))

Friday, April 16, 2004

Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery

My goal, since doing my first Trek-related web page back in 1995, has been to try to offer something that isn't already being done by a dozen other people. (And to focus on content, not style, which should be really obvious to anyone looking at the site.) And even back in 1995 there were sites listing the Pocket Star Trek novels. So my first page was just a book review of Mission to Horatius, which at the time was all but forgotten. (Pocket reprinted it in 1999.) The next stage was something I called Star Trek: The Forgotten Books, which was going to cover the stuff not covered on Pocket's website. Not just stuff from other publishers, but also the early Pocket Trek books that have disappeared from Pocket's institutional memory, like William Rotsler's short story collections.

As I was working on that stuff, I was also using the Internet and other online information sources to find books I'd missed. Books in Print, Amazon, the Library of Congress, whatever might be useful. I kept a Word document with cut and pasted info on a number of books I didn't have, including scheduled or announced but not yet published books. As time went by I was surprised to realize how many of those books never appeared. That, of course, led to the next two sections of the website, and possibly the most popular: the God Thing page and the Lost Books page.

The Forgotten Books became the Complete Starfleet Library, and I've tried to keep that uniquely helpful by including as many rare and unauthorized books as I can track down, without crossing the line into fanzine material. That way lies madness.

To get to the point at last: I still regularly search through the web every so often looking for new tidbits of information for the various sections of the site. I try to cite sources wherever I can, and I'm always glad to find new information. I've managed to get information for the Hal Schuster publications page from some of the people who wrote for him. I might never have done the God Thing page if I hadn't had a chance to chat with Michael Jan Friedman at a con.

So yesterday I found something that looked promising. Too promising. It was the table of contents of a printed fan club zine from a couple years ago. Among the articles listed were articles on The God Thing and Unpublished Star Trek Books. Okay, my spider sense did start tingling then, but I didn't want to jump to conclusions. So I emailed the owner of the website, mentioned my sites, and asked whether the articles might have had any useful information that would help me improve my pages. She responded quickly that it appeared one of her members had submitted my material under his or her name, posibly rewritten somewhat, and offered to run a credit for me in the next issue. Since she's been helpful, open, and cooperative I don't want to embarrass her by naming the group involved.

I do wonder, though, what the plagiarist was thinking. If anyone who read the material in the fanzine wanted to find out more, a google search would be the obvious next step, and that would lead pretty quickly to my site, and it would be pretty obvious what had happened.

The moral of the story: the Internet makes it easy to plagiarize, but it also makes it easy to catch plagiarists.

(Now playing: Opal, "Empty Box Blues," Early Recordings.)

Monday, April 12, 2004

I mentioned that I finally got my copy of the Blood and Fire script below. Well, now I've read it and written up a little history on how David Gerrold pitched a Star Trek episode in 1966, tried to novelize it and ended up with something completely different in Yesterday's Children in 1972 and then did a straight novelization in The Galactic Whirlpool in 1980, and wrote an unproduced TNG script in 1987, and published a novelization of it in 2004 featuring a slightly revised version of the main character from Yesterday's Children...

Well, anyway, this page lays out the story, with plenty of spoilers.

In other news, I got an email from Alan N. Shapiro and/or his publisher about his new book, Star Trek: Technologies of Disappearance. It's another academic critique of Star Trek. Here's an excerpt from the email, which I assume is a copy of a press release:

But does Star Trek's worldview coincide with the unbridled high-tech enthusiasm of recent years? Or is there a tension between the show's originality and the Borg-like assimilation of its creativity by the Star Trek industry? Focusing on the stories themselves, the author reveals the basic principles behind Star Trek that contest the ideology of mainstream technoscience, consumer culture, and liberal humanism promoted by Paramount Pictures.

Bringing together the passion of a true fan and an intellectual reflection on science, technology and media culture, Star Trek: Technologies of Disappearance explains the real reasons for Star Trek's global mass appeal for the very first time. The encounter between thought and a popular subject mutually transforms both, and brings about genuine movement in ideas.

I'm intrigued, and I've ordered a copy from

(Now playing: the Velvet Underground, "Foggy Notion," Peel Slowly and See Disc 4.)

Friday, April 02, 2004

Blood and Fire at last!

In 1967, as a young writer, David Gerrold pitched a few stories to Gene Coon, one of which was produced, a few of which weren't. (The one that was produced was "The Trouble With Tribbles.")

In 1987, as one of the creators of Star Trek: The Next Generation, David Gerrold wrote a script that was never produced.

The younger Gerrold decided to turn one of the unproduced pitch stories into a non-Trek science fiction novel. It ended up being a lot different from his original concept. So much so that he was able to turn that original concept into a Star Trek novel a few years later. But that SF novel marked the first appearance of Jonathan Korie, later to appear in Gerrold's Star Wolf novels. And now Gerrold's unfilmed TNG episode, which has become almost legendary among the fans who've heard of it, is a novel in the Star Wolf series.

I've read Blood and Fire the novel but my copy of the script just arrived yesterday. (You can order it through Gerrold's website.)

Blood and Fire isn't just another science fiction novel. It's an important chapter in Star Trek history. The book adapts the most notorious lost Star Trek episode and makes some biting commentary on behind the scenes events at the Star Trek office in 1987. Allegorically, of course. It's not a Star Trek book but it is a book about Star Trek. So, when I've had a chance to read the script, I'll be doing a little feature article about the Star Trek/Star Wolf story on my website.

(Now playing: Third Eye Foundation, "I've Lost That Loving Feeling," Little Lost Soul.)