Sunday, March 30, 2008

CreateSpace: Trek vanity press books brought to you by

There are a number of interesting Star Trek-related books (and a fair amount of unreadable fanfic) available through the self-publishing website, but they've got competition now: CreateSpace, an Amazon company. So far I've spotted three publications.

The only one listed on the Complete Starfleet Library website is yet another original series episode guide with synopses and commentary. What makes this one different? It's written by Philip K. Dick's widow, Tessa Dick. Otherwise, I think it's safe to say it doesn't really add anything new.

There are also two fanfic books: lulu veteran Austin Torney has a hundred-page book, STAR TREK - The Death Wave: A War with the Klingons Bridges the Old to the New Generation. The blurb describes it as "An original screenplay/novelette that answers the question of how the warlike Klingons of Captain Kirk's era came to their end and were replaced by the somewhat friendlier Klingons of the new generation; however, this story does not dwell much upon the Klingons, but upon Kirk's forced retirement at age 65 and his return from it through a war for the galaxy in which he must become the ultimate chess master."

Michael P. Burkhardt has a 204-page novel, Star Cruisers: "Pirates have now made the bold move of capturing the Paramount space cruiser on a promotional tour and kidnap the passengers, including superstar Jennifer Barns and top executives. Then, Omni-con 3 is attacked by the same pirate craft whose better-armed villains are held off by security till the colonists to secure themselves in emergency shelters. The colonists can only send a weak message and pray - unlikely as it is - someone will hear them, as the pirates plunder the colony. The Enterprise, flagship of the Federation Starfleet is in a position to understand the SOS coming from Omni-con 3, and goes charging to the rescue. Now Starfleet may have a pirate craft, the location of their leader's base may soon be disclosed. Will their operatives at Starfleet be able to keep them one step ahead? If the pirates can't acquire the ore they need, how will they mollify their backers? Can the two scruffy visitors to the mysterious leader really access the ore need without Starfleet knowing?" Unfortunately, not only is Burkhardts's blurb poorly written, there's a "Search inside the book" option. The first couple of pages are so full of basic errors (tense changes, misspellings, grammatical errors, no sign of any understanding of paragraphs, etc) that I just can't imagine anyone literate enjoying the book.

There are really good fanfic writers out there, but they don't seem to be using Lulu or CreateSpace. (Well, Lulu writer Michael Garcia appears to be a few cuts above the competition, based on the first page of his latest.) Maybe they're too smart to call attention to themselves by selling fanfic on Amazon, after the Lori Jareo incident...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

IDW's Star Trek comics

I don't seem to have posted anything about the current line of Star Trek comics yet. I intended to hold off for a few months until I had enough issues to make some kind of worthwhile opinion, but frankly, the first miniseries, The Space Between, nearly crushed my enthusiasm.

I have every IDW comic published so far -- issues of The Space Between, Klingons: Blood Will Tell, Year Four, Alien Spotlight, Intelligence Gathering -- but I've only read the first three complete stories.

Klingons: Blood Will Tell, written by Scott and David Tipton, was the best of the three. Strong art, an interesting Klingon perspective on some familiar encounters, and an actual story arc from issue to issue that came to a good conclusion. The stories were well written and well paced.

The Space Between and Year Four, both written by David Tischman, suffered from the editorial decision to do more or less standalone stories in each issue. It didn't work -- in almost every issue of the two series, I had the feeling that pages were missing. Stories were sketched out, not told in full, or so it seemed to me. Twenty-two pages of comic story is not a match for 45 minutes of screen time. You cannot develop a story and guest characters well enough in so short a space. The Space Between had some arc elements, but there again not enough space was given to make those elements as clear as they should have been. It's hard to figure out the point of doing miniseries of standalone stories instead of just an ongoing series of standalone stories.

IDW's standard practice is to do a five- or six-issue miniseries and reprint it shortly thereafter in an omnibus paperback. From what I read, the comic industry as a whole is moving to collections like these, to the point where there's some concern whether the old-fashioned comic book format is being skipped over by fans waiting for the paperbacks. If the books are the main delivery system, why not tell longer stories? Why not give us feature length stories instead of telling a whole story/episode in what feels like the equivalent of the teaser and the first act, wrapping things up in time for the commercials?

The Ebook Hiatus

The four or five people reading this have probably already read most of the following post on the TrekBBS, but the blog needs content and this is worth saying twice. It's a response to the recent announcement that the original Trek ebooks are going on hiatus after the end of Slings and Arrows. That means, unfortunately, no new Starfleet Corps of Engineers stories in the foreseeable future. That's bad enough in itself, but the fact that some of the key folks involved in the ebook line have known about this since last May and not been able to say anything until recently... that must have sucked.

I may be way behind in reading SCE/COE, but imho it's been an important part of the Trek books mix. Not only because it's had its share of great stories (and it has); not only because it introduced and developed some great new characters and allowed some more familiar characters a chance to shine (Sonya Gomez, to name an obvious example); not only because it was a great way to bring new writers into the mix; not only because it allowed some interesting tie-in stories to other book events (Gateways, DS9R, Vanguard); not only because it had the flexibility to tell a wide variety of stories with a wide variety of tones; not only because it lived up to what a Star Trek series should be -- character-driven science fiction stories true to the Trek universe, from a slightly different perspective... but for all those reasons.

Here's hoping this is a temporary setback.

There's a lot to be said about ebooks, but there's also a lot we don't really know yet. Though the form has been around for some time, there's still no real standardization in anything from pricing to features to copy protection. With luck, in another couple of years, there will have been some industry developments that will make original ebooks a worthwhile proposition for Pocket again.

In the meantime, I'll still think fondly of the never-tried format I've always wanted to see: a paperback Trek fiction magazine that allows for stories of differing lengths that for whatever reason might not be appropriate for a novel. Lower decks stories, or stories featuring all-new characters, or series lacking a more prominent spot in the publishing schedule. Like SCE/COE, for instance. If the idea had a chance of working someone would have made it work by now, and a couple of past general SF attempts (Destinies and Far Frontiers, both created by Jim Baen) had disappointingly short lifespans. But I can dream, right?