Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On book collecting: does RPG stuff count?

One of the problems with collecting Star Trek books (not to mention doing a website about Star Trek books) is defining what counts as a Star Trek book. Everyone draws a line between Star Trek books and not-Star Trek books, but not necessarily in the same place. Do you include only licenced materials? Do you include only the printed word, or do comics and graphic novels count? Do you include any fan-produced materials? Do you include everything that's bound in a paper or cloth cover that's entirely or primarily devoted to Star Trek? Do you include stuff that other people would consider booklets or pamphlets?

Do you include role playing game materials?

On the website, I've included the Last Unicorn Games and Decipher Star Trek RPG books because they're very obviously books, some hardcover, some paperback. The content may be a little different but the format is familiar. The original role playing game, though, the 1980s game from FASA, has been somewhat ghettoized, given a page of its own instead of being included in the main part of the site.

The thing is, the FASA RPG materials are often not quite booklike enough. Most of them are stapled, not bound; they're booklets, really. And they often come packaged with other material. Many of the supplements were sold in plastic wrapped packages of two books or booklets, or a booklet and a map, or... and given that they were meant to be sold together, do you consider The Orions: Book of Common Knowledge and The Orions: Book of Deep Knowledge one item or two?

So, all that adds up to why I didn't incorporate the FASA stuff as part of the main site. The thing is, I can't ignore it. There's way too much fun and interesting stuff in those FASA publications. I started buying them in 1986 or '87, even though I'd never played a pen and paper role playing game (still haven't, actually). I think I saw the Federation Sourcebook and picked it up for the hell of it and thought damn, this is actually pretty cool. Sure, some of it's game-specific, but basically it's a fun reference book that makes up a lot of interesting stuff about the Federation that's never been dealt with onscreen. There's other neat reference publications, too, filling in the backstory of the Romulan and Klingon wars, explaining why some types of Klingons look different from others, exploring everything from the culture of the Orions and other civilizations to the role of Starfleet Intelligence, and generally boldly going where canon in that pre-TNG age had rarely gone before. Hell, John M. (The Final Reflection) Ford wrote some of the Klingon material.

Then I picked up some of the adventure modules. Granted, they're for people running RPG campaigns, not for people who want to read a short story or novel, but they're still Star Trek fiction of a sort. It's just that that it comes as a series of infodumps on the situation, setting, characters, and so on. Some of them were pretty interesting, and the art was often very good.

And then came The Next Generation, and in another year or two, FASA was no longer in the Trek RPG business. I remember hearing rumours that the, um, highly speculative material in the TNG Officer's Manual annoyed the Star Trek office, and that the White Flame starship combat module was seen as inconsistent with Roddenberry's new unmilitary vision of Starfleet, but who knows.

But FASA's vision of Star Trek is worth remembering, so I'm punching up the FASA page. More covers are up, and eventually more information.

If you're still here, it may be because you're waiting to ask, okay, Steve, what about Star Fleet Battles?

FASA isn't always booklike enough to be easy to cover on a book site. But Star Fleet Battles is something else entirely, which is why it's so underrepresented on the site. You can buy something like New Worlds II, which looks like a trade paperback in plastic wrap, but what's inside the plastic wrap is not a book. Instead, there's a cover, a 64-page, stapled, hole-punched booklet called Captain's Module C2 - New Worlds II, a 48-page, stapled, hole-punchless booklet called Captain's Module C2 SSD Book New Worlds II, and a card with a bunch of punch-out ship markers. Not a book.

Most SFB material is unbooklike. It's also occasionally revised, replaced, and sometimes apparently abandoned. And then there's the related stuff: Federation and Empire, Prime Directive, Federation Commander. I've been meaning to do something about SFB on the site for years, but aside from a few obvious books, I have no idea how to handle it. There's too damn much. But there will be something. Eventually.


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