Sunday, February 22, 2015

What would I like to see?

I want nonfiction books about the Star Trek Online universe, like episode guides of the campaigns, information on their future history, art books, etc.

I want novels and short stories set in the Star Trek Online continuity. I've barely played it at all but it's an officially licenced corner of the Star Trek universe that isn't getting the kind of coverage it could get.

I want unofficial books looking at the fan film phenomenon. Episode guides, making of books, interview books. This is a major phenomenon. It should be covered more.

I want Pocket to expand the ebook line and take more risks. Give me a bimonthly or quarterly anthology series with stories from any series, televised or literary. Let the writers play with ideas that couldn't sustain a full novel, or wouldn't appeal to a large enough audience. Do stories set during the televised runs of the 24th century shows. Do stories at the periphery of known Trek, fleshing out one-off guest characters and worlds.

And I want Star Trek on TV, where it belongs. The last two movies did remarkably well as movies but they've done little for the franchise as a whole.

That's not asking so much, is it?

So, about those Star Trek books...

Hey, look: an old draft I never posted. This is from a few months back.

It's not a great time to be a Star Trek fan, what with no Star Trek on TV, but it's not a bad time at all to be a Star Trek books fan. For example.

Star Trek: Seekers has hit the stores, though Amazon STILL hasn't sent me my copy, so I bought the damn ebook from (Ask me about my Kobos sometime.) Nine years ago, then-Trek books editor Marco Palmieri asked me if I'd like a sneak peak at a new thing they were trying out. I said yes, obviously, and got a preview of the first Vanguard novel. The Vanguard series didn't run for very many books, but it wasn't intended to, and it never overstayed its welcome. It was TOS by HBO, or maybe TOS if it had been able to do DS9-style storytelling... at any rate, it was fresh, new, and just what the book line needed.

So here we are in 2014 and we get the first book in the Seekers series. If you're reading this you almost certainly know the backstory about the artist who loved the 1970s Bantam Star Trek covers  so he created an imaginary series that inspired David Mack, Dayton Ward, and Kevin Dilmore to move forward from the Vanguard saga with the intertwined adventures of the crews of two very different ships. Is it good? Don't be a floon, just go read it if you haven't already. This has the potential to revive my flagging interest in things Trek.

That's not to say there haven't been interesting developments. I have yet to be completely blown away by any of the current series of ebook exclusives, but the writers are starting to take advantage of the novella form to tell different kinds of stories, like Scott Pearson's TMP-era tale of Christine Chapel, Spock, and Dax. It's a pretty succinct story that would suffer from either being stretched out to novel length or being used as a secondary plotline; it's as long as it needs to be, and it tells a story that's worth telling but probably wouldn't rate a novel slot without more of the regulars being involved.

Meanwhile, outside the world of licenced Trek books, a long-dreamt of day has come for anyone who ever perused the Lost Books page. Yes, Return to Tomorrow by Preston Neal Jones is finally happening. It's a long-rumoured in-depth look at the making of Star Trek - The Motion Picture, and I'll be very happy indeed when my copy shows up. Yes, I've ordered it. Don't go looking on Amazon and don't take too much time deciding, because it's a limited edition available only through the publisher site linked to above.

We also have two of three volumes of the remarkably in-depth, extensively researched series on the making of the original series, Star Trek: These Are the Voyages by Marc Cushman, available through the books' website or other retailers. Each season gets a very large hardcover book. I was a bit surprised that the first volume has already had a significantly expanded second edition, but the ebook version is a lot cheaper than print, so I've got the original in print and the expanded in ebook. I'm happy.

But wait, there's more. One of the reasons I started doing the Complete Starfleet Library was to showcase the books that look at the uncovered angles of the Star Trek phenomenon. Bill Kraft was kind of enough to bring his book to my attention (and he sent a free copy; thanks again). A few years back the US Postal Service issued a Star Trek stamp following a hardfought campaign. Kraft's book, Maybe We Need a Letter From God: The Star Trek Stamp, tells the story of the campaign through reproductions of letters from a number of prominent supporters. And by prominent I mean people like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Frank Drake, a number of political and scientific figures, and more. The book is nicely laid out and produced, a labour of love about a labour of love, the long campaign to get the stamp. You can read a bit more about it here and order it from sources like Amazon. Who says philately will get you nowhere?

And I haven't even mentioned Paul Olsen's Creating the Enterprise or the new book on Star Trek comics...

Official hiatus time

So, I posted on Facebook that I'm about ready to close my Well account, and that means the Complete Starfleet Library website will go away. Here's the backup address:

The website is hosted on the Well because that was one of my first Internet hangouts -- I signed up in 1992, and when they provided their users with web space a couple years later, I decided to give it a try. By 1999 or so the Complete Starfleet Library existed in its modern form, and I had a great time tracking down lots of obscure Star Trek books and adding them to the site and, sometimes, writing about them here.

Doing the site was part of a lot of Star Trek books-related fan activity I was doing anyway. I was hanging out on various Trek books sites (simonsays, Psi Phi, and TrekBBS) every day.

I scanned a bunch of my clipped Star Trek comic strips for Rich Handley's first Trek strips project, long before the books were published; I don't know if any of my scans were used for the old CD-ROMs but it was fun being part of a cool project.

I visited the Pocket Books Star Trek office while in New York for a conference and met Marco Palmieri, Keith R.A. DeCandido, John Ordover, and a few others, and got some cool freebies. It never even occurred to me to try pitching a Starfleet Corps of Engineers story to them, I was too busy being a happy fanboy.

I got to read a few Star Trek books before publication, including the Destiny trilogy, thanks to Marco.

Paul Simpson, then editor of the official Star Trek magazine, asked me if I wanted to be a part of the magazine's two-issue look at all of the seasons of all the Trek series, and Robert Greenberger asked me if I'd like to do a sidebar for his unauthorized Trek book. And I even got paid. How cool is that?

A lot of people shared information and some, like Mark Martinez and John Patuto, gave me books.

I had a lot of fun with two of the more unique sections of the site: The God Thing Page, about Gene Roddenberry's unfinished and unpublished novel, and The Lost Books Page, about various books that were conceived and sometimes announced and sometimes actually made it to the printing press before they became unbooks. The God Thing page was plagiarized by other websites, wikis, fanzines, etc. I may post those two pages on Wordpress or some place and do a little updating.

The world of 2015 is not the world of 1999. Personal websites and blogs are retro curiosities. Official Star Trek books are fewer than they used to be, unauthorized books likewise, except for ebooks and self-published books recycling wikipedia content or episode guides or trivia. There's no Star Trek on TV to keep me interested, and I'm not as keen on some of what Pocket's producing as I used to be. Doctor Who's taken a lot of the mindspace Star Trek used to occupy.

So, anyway... I'm on Facebook, I'm on Gallifrey Base, my bloggy stuff is mainly at because few people are still active on LiveJournal. And if we get a new Star Trek TV series and it kicks ass, and it revives the world of Star Trek books a bit, maybe I'll find a new way to bring all this back.