Saturday, January 10, 2009

2008 in review

2008 was a mixed bag of a year for Star Trek books. Some great books were published and some long-anticipated events came to pass. But the original ebook line came to an end with the conclusion of the TNG miniseries Slings and Arrows, it was the first year since 1997 without a Strange New Worlds anthology, and one of the guiding lights of Star Trek publishing over the last several years, Marco Palmieri, was laid off in a cost-cutting exercise.

On the upside, it was the year we finally got Myriad Universes. The idea of doing a series of "what if?" alternate universe takes on Star Trek had been discussed for years. Not only did it finally happen, it was worth waiting for, with six short but good novels in two books. For fiction, it was almost a case of big event books every time out. DS9 fans had the Terok Nor trilogy and the latest post-finale novel; TNG fans had the latest post-Nemesis novel, which in turn led up to the big Destiny trilogy; Enterprise fans had the latest post-finale novel setting the pieces in place for the Romulan War. Neither last nor least, the IKS Gorkon books morphed into Klingon Empire, with a big, sprawling story of life in the Empire as we've never seen it before. Add the latest SCE omnibus and the end of the ebook TNG anniversary Slings and Arrows miniseries, and it was a remarkable year for fiction.

Illustrated fiction -- i.e., comics -- had a pretty good year, too, as IDW continued publishing a variety of comic miniseries and reprinting them in trade paperback collections. They've published more than Wildstorm, the last Trek comics publisher, and I'll be surprised if they aren't around for a while yet. Their Archives project is interesting, though also frustrating -- they've reprinted material that was recently reprinted in Titan's run of reprint collections. But then duplication is inevitable from here on out. Everyone bought the Star Trek DVD-ROM comics reprint collection, right? Not a book, of course, but for Star Trek comics fans, this reasonably priced disc was one of the year's must-buy items, collecting almost every Star Trek comic published prior to the IDW run. Tokyopop produced their third Trek manga this year, too, helping IDW make up for the relative shortage of TOS content in the novels.

It wasn't a great year for nonfiction, authorized or otherwise. Pocket published two relatively lightweight books, one useful, the other just a novelty item. Star Trek 101 was the useful one, being an episode guide to all the Star Trek TV series. Captain Kirk's Guide to Women... well, it's not the silliest Star Trek-related book I've ever bought. But it's close.

It was a mixed year for William Shatner. There's no sign on the horizon of Trial Run, the second Star Trek Academy book, but as a pop culture icon, he's doing fine. He published his third autobiographical book, this one dealing with his career Up Till Now instead of just his Star Trek Memories. He's also the subject of the Encyclopedia Shatnerica, the second edition of which was published this year.

In other nonfiction, there's The Wrath of Kant: Star Trek and Philosophy, one in a long running series of books with articles looking at various pop culture phenomena, and the BFI TV Classics book simply called Star Trek, a short but insightful critique of the various Star Trek TV series. More conventional fan-targeted books: Star Trek: The Collectibles and the latest in the vanity press-published Star Trek Reader's Reference books looking at Star Trek fiction. Out at the fringes, there's a vanity press episode guide worth mentioning only because of its author (Tessa Dick, Philip K. Dick's fifth wife). The Klingon Language Institute moved beyond Shakespeare and Gilgamesh to produce Tao Te Ching: A Klingon Translation: pIn'a' qan paQDI'norgh. And, finally, though Star Trek is only a small part of the book, there was some excitement early in the year over Beyond the Clouds: The Lifetime Trek of Walter "Matt" Jefferies, Artist and Visionary. It's a nicely produced and beautifully illustrated tribute to one of the unsung heroes of the original series, the man who designed the U.S.S. Enterprise.

2008 was a long way from the peak years of the mid-1990s, when twice as many books were being published, but it's a lot better than 2005, which holds the record for the fewest Star Trek books published since 1990.


At 3:19 PM, Blogger Bones Rodriguez said...

Hey Steve!

I am the Author of "Captain Kirk's Guide To Women", and I appreciate you writing about my book!
I can say that although it IS written with a lot of humor, I am often surprised when people don't "get" the real information on romance in it.
I hope you read it again, laugh again, and take to heart some of the advice.
Thanks again, and I hope you're looking forward to May as much as I am!

At 4:40 PM, Blogger darfyn said...

Excellent informative review of star trek literature . It's very difficult to keep up with the fiction and all the nonfiction works - there were a lot of changes last year !


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