Tuesday, July 26, 2005

And speaking of Star Trek comic strips...

The official Star Trek website is introducing an online comic strip, The Trek Life, about three Star Trek fans. They have three sample strips online and the regular series will begin the week of August 8.

I don't know how long you can keep something like this going. I know there are other geek culture comic strips, but none dealing with only one series, as far as I know. One promising sign, though... David Reddick, the strip's creator, is aware of the books, not just the TV series and movies. Two of the three sample strips deal with the starship design contest for the Titan novels.

As to how funny the strip is... well, three strips is a pretty small sample. It's hard to judge. But it's already clearly better than the work of a certain cartoonist who advertises his website in a certain official magazine devoted to a certain TV series who shall go unnamed.

(Now playing: Ute Lemper, "Peter, Peter, Komm Zu Mir Zurück!," Berlin Cabaret Songs.)

Star Trek: The Comic Strip Week 5

Click on above to see the full strip. Remember, this is just from my old personal scans, not the cleaned-up versions you can get from Rich Handley. See http://rhandley.0catch.com/ for more information on his CD ROMS of the American Star Trek comic strip and the British comics.

(Now playing: Ute Lemper, "Alles Schwindel," Berlin Cabaret Songs.)

Monday, July 18, 2005

Star Trek: The Comic Strip Week 4

Click on above to see the full strip. Remember, this is just from my old personal scans, not the cleaned-up versions you can get from Rich Handley. See http://rhandley.0catch.com/ for more information on his CD ROMS of the American Star Trek comic strip and the British comics.

Meanwhile, the last few weeks' worth of updates to the Complete Starfleet Library have been uploaded. Still adding covers, though for the novels right now I'm generally just copying the Pocket scans where available. Still adding Pocket novel blurbs. Finally also adding contents of short story collections and such. I begin to understand why people do things like adding paypal or Amazon tip jars to their sites, or do the Amazon affiliate thing. This feels remarkably like work sometimes.

(Now playing: Saint-Etienne, "Language Lab," Finisterre.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Trouble With Tribbles free ebook at BenBella Books

Okay, so everyone who cares already saw the news story at TrekToday, right? You've already either got the paperback or you've downloaded the ebook from BenBella's website.

But if you haven't...

This is one of those books that anyone who has any real interest in the original Star Trek (or, for that matter, The Next Generation) needs to read. It's an outsider's insider's account of working on the original Star Trek. Insider because Gerrold introduces you to the people who made the show -- Gene Roddenberry, Gene Coon, and the rest. He describes the story pitches he came up with that didn't sell, one of which became the inspiration for a Star Trek novel and a series of science fiction novels (click here for a little more information). Outsider because Gerrold wasn't part of the show's staff; he sold the episode as a freelancer, so his perspective is inevitably different from that of the production staff.

In addition to the summaries of unsold episodes, behind-the-scenes observations on filming Star Trek, and the complete final draft shooting script, BenBella has added a little something extra. It's the introductory chapters of Gerrold's most recent Star Wolf novel, Blood and Fire, the book based on Gerrold's unfilmed Next Generation episode of the same name. If you consider yourself a serious Next Generation fan, you have to read Blood and Fire. So why not download the free ebook, get a taste, and then buy the book?

(Now playing: Harold Budd, "Dark Star," The Serpent (in Quicksilver)/Abandoned Cities.)

Vanguard: Harbinger: thoughts on the first book in a new Star Trek series, written by David Mack

(I wrote this a few days ago and this version's been sitting in the editing bay, as it were, at blogspot. In the meantime, David Mack has created a web page of annotations for Harbinger. There are spoilers there, so wait until after you read the book.)

I posted this elsewhere, but might as well include it here.

Boy, are there spoilers here!

Well, probably at least a couple. You've been warned.

The more I think about it, the more Harbinger reminds me of Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica. It has that kind of collection of morally grey characters, desperate situations, secrecy, subterfuge, sex... it's not quite the usual Star Trek approach.

Here's a spoilerific set of comments I wrote on the book after reading it.

I keep trying to come up with some cover-blurb-style catchy one-liner summing up the book, and it's not easy. There's too much happening in the book to try to convey it so simply, other than going for something positive but uninformative, like "Vanguard is another winner for Pocket Books and David Mack." There's intensity, tragedy, intrigue, adventure, humour, sex, strongly drawn characters, well-used guest stars, everything you could want in the first book of a new series. There are elements of the story that wrap in the first book and tantalizing story arc elements that will carry over into the next book and beyond.

In other words, I like it.

I can imagine some of the comments some people are bound to make. Lesbian Vulcan? We've seen it in New Frontier. Undercover Klingon spy? We've seen it in Errand of Vengeance. Appearance by a core TV series cast? We've seen it several times. Cervantes Quinn? Another of the original series's lovable rogues. They'll say it, but they'll be wrong. T'Prynn being haunted, effectively, by a katra is a chillingly effective idea, the sort of thing that shows how many ideas are implicit in Star Trek but somehow aren't obvious until someone actually runs with it. Sandesjo... still a bit early to tell, though I suspect she may be a little more conflicted than the average Klingon spy. Neither character can be easily pigeonholed.

As for Cervantes Quinn, he's not the comic relief character I thought he'd be. The name certainly echoes Cyrano Jones, complete with the literary/historical illusions of the first name combined with the more prosaic surname, but I can't imagine the tribble-selling Jones surviving some of the things Quinn experiences. Even Harry Mudd, who has a harder edge than Jones, might think twice before getting involved with an Orion crime boss like Ganz. (Incidentally, is it safe to assume David Mack came up with Quinn's name? The name of Quinn's ship is certainly appropriate for a guy named Cervantes, but it's hard not to think that the starship Rosinante is a Rush reference.) And of course you can't actually just use Jones or Mudd, because Kirk et al. haven't encountered them yet. Quinn is also a bit reminiscent of Quark, but Quark was in a comfortable, privileged position compared to Quinn, having the stability of a fixed business establishment and the assistance when necessary of Odo and Starfleet, despite his occasional
criminal activities.

Speaking of references and in-jokes... I spotted a few, but in general didn't find them disruptive to the story's flow. I assume the Yocarian mentioned on p.204 is inspired by Yossarian from Catch-22; the sonic screwdriver is an obvious tip of the hat to Doctor Who; and there are a couple of lines from Casablanca aptly used on p.356. No doubt I missed some, but that's fine. It's not only possible to overdo that sort of thing, there are writers who overdo it regularly. (By the way, for some reason a description of Manon reminded me of Magen (http://members.fortunecity.com/pjc1/tas/images/1st/12/12magen.jpg),
from the animated episode "Time Trap," though perhaps I'm reading too much into it.)

The appearances by familiar characters were well done. Setting the story early in the TOS timeframe gave us a different look at the usual faces, and some not so usual, like Piper, D'Amato, and M'Benga, who got more character moments here than they did on TV. Having the Enterprise crew encounter a Starbase they didn't expect to find, during that long trip home from "Where No Man Has Gone Before," added to the mystery of the situation. In short, though we've seen the original crew so many times by now, Vanguard finds fresh new ways of making use of TOS.

As for the new characters, I like the fact that Mack gave some physical descriptions as well as a good mix of species and races. Despite the large cast, we were also able to see a number of the characters grow, change, and experience relationships. The character work was strong enough that I really was surprised when the Bombay was destroyed. Its officers weren't just nameless redshirts, and the battle scene is, I think, going to have people talking.

As for the "DS9 in the TOS era" tag some people have already stuck on it... in some respects, it reminded me more of Babylon 5, which did a lot more with the idea of ancient alien mysteries than Trek generally did, and the new Battlestar Galactica, with its frankness and openness about sex (I also sometimes found myself picturing Reyes as looking like Edward James Olmos). That's not to say that the book feels like a knockoff or an imitation of something else; they're just minor points in common. Vanguard has established its own identity.

Like DS9, though, it looks like this has the potential to be very much a character-driven series. There's no shortage of plot that can be developed from the setting and situation, with the Tholians, Klingons, Orions, and Shedai, but the characters could easily inspire a number of interesting stories that don't necessarily have a lot to do with the major arcs. If Vanguard does as well as I expect it to, maybe a few books down the road we can hope for an anthology of short stories based on the individual characters, along the lines of The Lives of Dax or No Limits.

Vanguard itself is well described, not only through the wonderful schematics but also through the way the story takes us to so many different places within the station. We've effectively been given a tour of the station and it's an environment that I can already picture some areas of pretty well.

I'm happy. I think the people who've enjoyed the DS9 post-finale books, the Lost Era books, Taking Wing, Articles of the Federation, Ex Machina, and the other widescreen Trek fiction we've been getting will also be happy.

Well, that's what I thought before I started seeing some of the negative reactions, anyway.

And for the record, I don't see the Iraq thing at all.

(Now playing: Ivy, "No Guarantee," Realistic.)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Shore Leave

It's becoming a tradition to release news about new Star Trek books at Shore Leave, the Star Trek con in Baltimore that treats the books as an important part of the Star Trek universe. David Henderson's blog gives the tentative publishing schedule for the next year or two.

Because of the cut in the number of books, there aren't as many surprise announcements there as I expected. There'll be a few TOS books next year for the 40th anniversary of Star Trek (and rightly so, despite the kvetching by the younger whippersnappers at the TrekBBS). I think the only thing that I don't recall hearing any hints about before is the Mirror Universe project due in 2007: two trade paperbacks with three novels each (Enterprise, TOS, TNG, Voyager, DS9, New Frontier).

One surprise: the next book in Kevin Ryan's Errand of Fury trilogy is currently scheduled for release in 2007, with no word on the third volume. I wasn't a fan of the first trilogy, Errand of Vengeance, but this is not a good thing. It may, however, reinforce the point that bigger standalone novels are the way to go when you've cut back the schedule while introducing more new series.

(Now playing: Bill Nelson, "Crimsworth," Crimsworth.)

Star Trek: The Comic Strip Week 3

Click on above to see the full strip. Remember, this is just from my old personal scans, not the cleaned-up versions you can get from Rich Handley. See http://rhandley.0catch.com/ for more information on his CD ROMS of the American Star Trek comic strip and the British comics.

(Now playing: Barbara Montgomery, "Falling Grace," Ask Me Now.)

Monday, July 04, 2005

Star Trek: The Comic Strip Week 2

(Click above to see full image) (Previous week)

(Now playing: The Smiths, "This Night Has Opened My Eyes," Hatful of Hollow.)