Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Susan Sackett on The God Thing

Inspired to update The God Thing page following an active thread on the subject of The God Thing at TrekBBS, I emailed Susan Sackett and asked if she'd be willing to answer some questions about her experiences working on the book. She responded quickly, and graciously allowed me to reproduce her answers. And for the heck of it I'm posting them here as well as on the slightly revised God Thing page.

Q: Walter Koenig said in his autobiography that he worked on The God Thing at one point, adding 83 pages to Gene Roddenberry's 69 pages. Did you go back to GR's own work and drop Koenig's work from your version?

A: Yes. I didn't have any copies of Koenig's work, and really don't remember it.

Was there really so little of the story written by GR?

Yes. He had the completed screenplay, of course, but the ms. based on it was a work in progress.

Friedman told me that what he had was about novella-length and needed a lot of expanding to become a full-length novel.

Correct. That was why Fred and I were requested by Gene and Pocket Books to "flesh it out."

Do you still have the work you did on the book?

Probably, but I have no idea. I'm a pack rat and have trouble throwing things away! I might have an old-style floppy disc with it stashed away somewhere. My secretary, Jana, was doing that for us at that time -- typing Gene's original and putting it on floppies for us to work with. But since we didn't have a deal hammered out, we didn't really do much work on it.

Had you gone beyond outlining some planned expansions and begun writing new material?

No, I think Fred and I were still outlining where we wanted to take it.

Did you think GR's work was a good beginning, or did it need a lot of work?

Gene was the genius behind the idea, and he had a good beginning, middle and end. It needed a lot of description added, as I recall, and perhaps more action. It's been such a long time -- hard to recall all this.

Do you think it would have much relevance now, when Star Trek has faded somewhat from the public eye? Or, on the other hand, with the reportedly anti-religious attitude of the story, do you think it could be more relevant and timely now that writers like Richard Dawkins and several others have bestselling books on atheism?

It's not really anti-religious or pro-atheism. Perhaps it is anti-religious dogma. The premise was that the entity who demands worship and praise and all that turns out to be the "great trickster," i.e., the entity commonly called "Satan" in Earthlore -- nothing supernatural at all, just an alien life form who can do things that seem like magic to those who are ignorant of the mechanism (I believe this was something Arthur C. Clarke once stated -- "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.") It was certainly an iconoclastic way of looking at things, and Gene was very much the iconoclast. It would certainly have relevance to today's favorable climate for people who are challenging ancient superstitions -- people like Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett et. al.

Thank you.

You're welcome. Hope you liked Inside Trek -- tell your friends!

Monday, July 21, 2008


Here be spoilers!

Tokyopop's third Star Trek manga is out now, and it's... okay.

The big news is the involvement of Wil Wheaton and David Gerrold, but neither writer hits a home run. Wheaton's story is solid but familiar; we've seen Kirk get court-martialled, we've seen Kirk get along with Klingons in order to save the day. The nice touch is the parallel trial scenes involving the Klingon commander, whose fate isn't quite the same as Kirk's.

Gerrold's story is likely to be new to most readers, but it isn't. It's based on a pitch he made to Gene Coon back in 1967 and described in his 1973 book The Trouble With Tribbles. Interestingly enough, he provided some criticisms of his own story. But those criticisms are aimed at getting a full hour-long episode from the idea, and this is a shorter story, faithful to the original outline without Gerrold's own suggested improvements.

The story by editor Luis Reyes has Spock learning how to cope with a mission gone wrong that sees a number of Enterprise crew killed, but we saw something like that already in "The Galileo 7," and this one is on so much bigger a scale (a fifth of the Enterprise crew is killed) that I can't buy it. Part of the willing suspension of disbelief in a media tie-in story is about the story in itself, but part of it is also about believing the story could fit neatly in along with the TV and movie version. And I can't buy so great a catastrophe happening between regular TOS episodes. Finally, unless I missed something (not impossible, with the book's tiny print) a couple of key events are never really explained.

Finally, Nathaniel Bowden's story is just kind of meh. Kirk gets his gang together in a shuttle to go visit the surface of a planet where warp trials have resulted in a ship reaching warp speed, which means they're ready for first contact -- but the Enterprise crew does so without the usual scanning of communications channels that we generally see. As a result, they blindly stumble into a despotic nation state that keeps its scientists locked up and wants to finish its war with the planet's other major nation state for good. The female alien warp scientist falls for Kirk, the alien despots bluster, etc etc etc.

The art? It's competent.

Bottom line: if you liked the others, you'll probably like this. If you didn't, it won't change your mind.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Pocket Schedule from Shore Leave

I've added all the new info from KRAD's TrekBBS post in the appropriate spots on the ol' Complete Starfleet Library website.

It's a really well-balanced list, with something for just about everyone. All the TV series are represented, as are several of the books-only series (New Frontier, Titan, Vanguard). There's novels and collections of shorter work, familiar faces and a couple of new names, traditional fare and other books that are less so, stuff I'm really excited about and...

Well, to tell the truth, of the newly announced, non-reprint/omnibus titles, there are only two that are leaving me profoundly unexcited. I didn't care for Kevin Ryan's first trilogy and can only wonder how much effect becoming a professional right-wing Islamophobe has cut into his Trek-writing time; as far as I'm concerned, the ideal solution would be for him to focus on that for the benefit of the ever-decreasing rabid Republican and Libertarian ranks. And speaking of Republicans and Libertarians, I have yet to be particularly impressed by Dave Galanter's Trek fiction, so I'm not terribly thrilled about him getting one of the other limited TOS slots. But hell, I'll buy and read it anyway. I'm always open to the possibility of being pleasantly surprised; being proved wrong can be a good thing, sometimes.

On a cheerier note: a Saavik novel by Margaret Wander Bonanno at some point in 2010? How do I volunteer to be a beta reader on that one? Saavik -- and I mean the Saavik of Star Trek II, the one whose untraditional heritage is evident despite its arguable lack of canonicity, not the generic "playing a Vulcan means playing an unemotional and autistic plank of wood" Saavik from ST III -- is the best character to come along in the movies, and it baffles me that so little has been done with her.

Not to mention more DS9, more Vanguard, more Titan, and the chance to see if the Voyager relaunch can be salvaged by another writer.

Boy, I hope this schedule isn't too badly hit for the gremlins of tentativity and subjectivity to change.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Fearful Symmetry -- brief comments

It's interesting that the publication delays in that resulted in Fearful Symmetry being so long delayed made it possible to have it come out immediately following the Terok Nor trilogy, because a great deal of Fearful Symmetry is flashback material that nicely complements the Terok Nor books. Readers interested in Kira and Dukat in particular will want to to read this.

The problem is, as good a book and it is (and for a first-timer, it's very good indeed), it's going to be seen not merely as the novel Fearful Symmetry by Olivia Woods; it's also going to be seen as the latest chapter in the DS9 saga, and the first one in two years, and some fans will inevitably be disappointed that the book fills in the gaps of the Kira Nerys/Iliana Ghemor story, looking back rather than forward and not doing a whole lot to move the story forward.

Still... Terok Nor and this. Four DS9 books in a row. Can't complain.