Sunday, August 14, 2011

A different kind of Prime Directive

Well, this has to be an item with a limited audience. It's a very long meditation on being a father, on being a son, and on Star Trek, the original series. Dietrick's poem, based on fact, is about a man whose difficult relationship with his father had their shared viewing of Star Trek as a rare bright spot. There's a lot of philosophizing, a lot of remembering.

Dietrick has received some impressive praise for his work. Among others, Joe Haldeman, no literary slouch and no stranger to science fiction and Star Trek, praised it. As for me, poetry was never my thing (and me a former English major), but this is written accessibly enough that people who might not expect to like it might find themselves surprised. The book is subtitled A Renga Chain, though according to wikipedia a renga would be a collaborative work rather than something by a single author. At any rate, it could almost be read as prose despite the formatting on the page. Each section is haiku-like, three lines, usually with the standard five/seven/five syllables per line, but few are complete. Sentences may begin in the middle of one section and continue through a few more. Few sections stand alone. There's generally seven sections per page and roughly 120 pages to the main work. This is not some lightweight versifying, unlike so much of the contents of the 2000 anthology Star Trek: The Poems.

The book includes an introduction and a publisher's note by other people and an afterword by the author talking more about Star Trek and his father. The last page of the afterword, with Dietrick taking his father, now suffering from Alzheimer's, to meet William Shatner at a Star Trek con may be the most affecting moment in the book.

So who's it for? Well, middle-aged men trying to make sense of their issues with their fathers and their concerns about being a father themselves who spend time trying to figure out what it means to be a man -- and who grew up watching the original Star Trek -- could find something here. And so, no doubt, could their families. (My dad and I get along fine and I have no kids, so that lets me out.) People interested in seeing a supposedly highbrow artform take on supposedly lowbrow pop culture may also be intrigued. Or just anyone with an interest in Star Trek, in reading, and in encountering something different once in a while.


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