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.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

IDW's Star Trek Volume 9: Abramsverse, Q, and DS9?

(Originally posted at Netgalley in exchange for an advance electronic reading copy, though I have the comics in print and will be buying the print collection.)

If "Volume 9" turns off casual readers concerned about long ongoing stories, relax. IDW's ongoing Trek comic tends to do short arcs of a few issues, so any given collection like this will stand on its own fairly well. The key thing to know is that these comics build on the two JJ Abrams Star Trek movies.

All that said... this is a bit of a surprising diversion from most of the comics in the series, being a crossover story with elements from the Abrams movies, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The title and the cover give away the involvement of the powerful and enigmatic Q, who appeared a number of times in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. The Deep Space Nine crossover element comes as more of a surprise, not least because it's set decades later in continuity. Blame Q. Without providing too many spoilers, I'll just say that he's decided to present James Kirk with a real no-win scenario in a possible future. The DS9 characters aren't quite the same people we know from TV, living in a very different timeline, but the comic presents believable versions of them.

The art is strong here, with both character likenesses, settings, ships, etc, recognizable and cleanly depicted, with a distinctive use of colouring to enhance the imagery. The writing also works well, with obligatory cliffhangers or revelations every so many pages marking the points where individual issues ended.

This series hasn't always thrilled or impressed me. I'm not a great fan of the Abrams version of Star Trek, nor do I care for the way the comics revisit original series episodes in ways that are supposed to demonstrate the differences between the two continuities but often simply seem arbitrary and poorly thought through. That's not the case here. Bringing in DS9, even as alternate universe versions, gives this story a freshness I appreciated. Probably my favourite run of issues of this comic so far.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Fun stuff

I was starting to think the Star Trek publishing world was becoming full of unnecessary and gimmicky things -- the latest quote book, the Klingon language picture book, the overpriced chunk of plastic with the Federation book, etc -- but a couple of recent books are great ideas, well executed.

Juan Ortiz's movie poster art has been all over the Internet for some time now. See the gallery at if you've managed to miss it so far. The new book Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz is a big and beautiful hardcover book printing his posters for each episode of the original series in full colour. Drawing on a variety of poster art influences, from Russian constrictivists to Saul Bass and beyond, the images provide a fresh new way of looking back at those old classics. This is one I'll be going back to.

Another fun new back is Paula Block and Terry Erdmann's tribute to the 1976 Topps trading cards. It's a smaller book, a nicely bound hardcover with a dustwrapper meant to remind the reader of the wrappers of those old bubblegum card packs. The book reproduces the back and fromt of each of the 88 trading cards and 22 stickers in full colour, adding comments for each card. As a special bonus, there are a few new trading cards in an envelope in the back of the book. As someone who became a fan in the 1970s, I get a kick out of revisiting old artefacts from the days when all we had were the reruns of the original and animated series. (You can see some of the cards and stickers on my Stardate 7600 minisite.)

One thing the book explains is that the Star Trek cards weren't as widely distributed as they could have been. They went on sale in 1976 but I never saw them anywhere in Edmonton. By 1977 I had Planet of the Apes, Space: 1999, and Star Wars cards, but I hit the jackpot that summer when we went back to Nova Scotia on vacation and my mother's cousin, who owned a convenience store, gave me an unopened box. 36 unopened packs of cards. I sorted out a full set for me, one for one of my cousins, and gave a bunch of extras to a friend who gave me his Star Trek Enterprise catalogue. Ah, memories.

Anyway, two good books for any fan of the original Star Trek and colourful art books.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

paq'batlh: The Klingon Epic

It looks and feels like a cheap print on demand book. But it's the kind of thing that reminds me of what makes all of this fun.

paq'batlh: The Klingon Epic is a retelling of the classic tale of Kahless as an opera. You get English and Klingon text on facing pages. I'm no Klingon expert so I don't know if they got the story right or the Klingon text right, but Marc Okrand and other knowledgeable types were involved and there are footnote references to several TNG, DS9, and Voyager episodes as well as Michael Jan Friedman's Kahless novel, so I suspect they did their homework.

It's a fairly short work, telling in mythic style how Kahless became the legendary figure revered by the Klingons. I found it pretty enjoyable, and maybe the brevity helped. Anyway, anyone looking for something different in Treklit (and anyone who has the Klingon translations of Hamlet and Gilgamesh) should look into this. You can order this from the publisher or your local Amazon. If you're not sure yet, you can watch the video presentation at

The future is somewhat uncertain...

I'm pretty sure I'm going to keep the Complete Starfleet Library site going. I'm more than sure that the current version will be going away some time later this year. I've started working on the replacement site at Nothing much visible yet, and what there is will change, but the goal is to have something that looks and works pretty much the same as the old site. Something that costs less money to maintain, has an easier address to remember, and doesn't require me to keep using an old html editor and an ftp program.

It's the end, but the moment has been prepared for.

Oops, wrong franchise. And it's not the end.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

2013 Star Trek books: my shopping list and comments

So I just search through Amazon looking to see if I missed anything and what I have to look forward to. There's a lot of reprints and repackages from IDW missing here, because I'm beyond tired of IDW's constant recycling.


Star Trek The Next Generation/Doctor Who: Assimilation Vol. 2 by Scott Tipton, David Tipton and J.K. Woodward (Jan 11, 2013)
 Star Trek: The Original Series: Allegiance in Exile by David R. George III (Jan 29, 2013)


Trek in Texas: the 1970s Star Trek conventions by Gordon Bailey Jr. (Feb 9, 2013)
Star Trek: The Original Series: Devil's Bargain by Tony Daniel (Feb 26, 2013)
Stuck on Star Trek by Joe Corroney (Feb 26, 2013)


Star Trek: The Next Generation: on Board the U.S.S. Enterprise by Michael Okuda (Mar 14, 2013)
 Star Trek: The Original Series: The Children of Kings by David Stern (Mar 16, 2013)
Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary by DK Publishing (Mar 18, 2013)
Star Trek and History (Wiley Pop Culture and History Series) by Nancy Reagin (Mar 18, 2013)
Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Stuff of Dreams by James Swallow (Mar 25, 2013)
Star Trek: The Original Series: The Weight of Worlds by Greg Cox (Mar 26, 2013)


Star Trek: Light-Up Phaser (Mega Mini Kits) by Running Press (Apr 9, 2013)
Star Trek Vol. 4 by Mike Johnson, Stephen Molnar and Tim Bradstreet (Apr 10, 2013)
Star Trek Classic Quotes: A Little Seedling Book by Cider Mill Press (Apr 16, 2013)
How to Speak Klingon: Essential Phrases for the Intergalactic Traveler (Star Trek) by Ben Grossblatt and Alex Fine (Apr 23, 2013) Star Trek: Prima Official Game Guide (Prima Official Game Guides) by David Knight (Apr 23, 2013)  Treknology: Star Trek's Tech 300 Years Ahead of the Future by Justin McLachlan (Apr 23, 2013)
Star Trek: The Next Generation - Hive by Brannon Braga, Terry Matalas and Joe Corroney (Apr 24, 2013)
The Star Trek Craft Book: Make It So! by Angie Pedersen (Apr 30, 2013)
Star Trek: The Original Series: The Folded World by Jeff Mariotte (Apr 30, 2013)


Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness by Mike Johnson and David Messina (May 15, 2013)
Star Trek Cross-Stitch: Explore Strange New Worlds of Crafting by John Lohman (May 28, 2013)
Star Trek: The Original Series: The Shocks of Adversity by William Leisner (May 28, 2013)


Star Trek FAQ 2.0: Everything Left to Know About The Next Generation, the Movies, and Beyond (Unofficial and Unauthorized... by Mark Clark (Jun 18, 2013)
Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures by Christopher L. Bennett (Jun 25, 2013)


Star Trek Volume 5 by Claudia Balboni, Mike Johnson and Ryan Parrott (Jul 16, 2013)
Star Trek: The Original Series: From History's Shadow by Dayton Ward (Jul 30, 2013)


Fan Phenomena: Star Trek (Intellect Books - Fan Phenomena) by Bruce E. Drushel (Aug 15, 2013)
Star Trek: The Fall: Revelation and Dust (Star Trek, the Next Generation) by David R. George III (Aug 27, 2013)


Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz by Juan Oritz (Sep 3, 2013)
Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series by Paula M. Block, Terry J. Erdmann and The Topps Company (Sep 10, 2013)
Star Trek: Light-Up Starship Enterprise by Chip Carter (Sep 24, 2013)
Star Trek: The Fall: The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack (Sep 24, 2013)


Star Trek: The Stardate Collection, Volume 1 by John Byrne, Patrick Zircher, Greg Adams and Josep Maria Beroy (Oct 1, 2013)
Star Trek: The Newspaper Strip, Vol. 2 by Ron Harris, Padraic Shigetani, Bob Myers and Ernie Colon (Oct 8, 2013)
Star Trek: The Fall: A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack (Oct 29, 2013)


Star Trek Volume 6: After Darkness (Nov 26, 2013)
Star Trek: The Fall: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow (Nov 26, 2013)


Star Trek: The Next Generation: Home Again by Una McCormack (Dec 1, 2014)
Star Trek: The Fall: Peaceable Kingdoms by Dayton Ward (Dec 31, 2013)

Looking at the year, there's not a lot of interesting unauthorized stuff. There's not a lot of variety in the Pocket novels. Most of what's left is gimmicky stuff for casual fans: quotes, crafts, etc. The most productive company, when you include what I left out of this list, is probably IDW, and I'm at the point where I don't care if they lose or give up the licence to do Trek comics because I'm so completely uninterested in what they're doing. Retelling original series episodes with the new crew, with random changes that half the time don't have much to do with the changes to the timeline, doesn't feel like a viable long term plan, But IDW is happy enough with that, and with "official" prequel and sequel comics for the movies that get contradicted almost instantly. And don't get me started on the fans who think those comics are canon.

As for the novels, while they're often as good as ever on a novel-by-novel basis, I don't like having half a year dedicated to standalone original series novels and half a year devoted to the ever-more tangled and depressing post-TV continuity. I can't help but find it all frustrating compared to a few years back, when we had more than just a novel per month (plus an ebook or two a year) and when we had multiple discrete series with different styles and sensibilities. I also liked it a lot more when editors, writers, and fans hung out in places like TrekBBS, and we had more of a sense of who was running the book program and where they were heading.

Meanwhile, how has the success of the JJ Abrams movies affected the book line? Not much. There's no novels based on the new continuity except novelizations and a handful of YA Starfleet Academy novels.

We've had two big stories about the books this year. One was that they're a big success story, with lots of new publishers being licenced to produce new books -- but those are resulting in things like the TNG quote book. Meanwhile, we also heard, if less officially, that Abrams thought he was getting full control of the Trek franchise, not realizing it's split between CBS and Paramount, that he wanted to stop TOS stuff from being produced, etc etc. While I would have liked a world in which there are new continuity novels and a new TV series, I don't want it coming from Abrams and his crew, who do not fundamentally understand Star Trek. Let them play with Star Wars and let's find someone who wants Star Trek to be less stupid and action-packed than Transformers movies. What's Ira Steven Behr doing these days, I wonder...

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Star Trek Into Dumbness

Laura and I saw Star Trek Into Darkness a couple of weeks ago. We had a pretty good time, too -- the cast is likeable, the special effects are great, the story moves quickly, and there's plenty of action. Plus Benedict Cumberbatch. It's entertaining eye candy.

But the first.

It's entertaining, bu damn, this movie is stupid. It's stupid in terms of the things that happen in it, and it's stupid in outside the box ways, too. It's stupid in inside-the-movie stuff like parking your ship underwater. It's stupid in trying to recreate the emotional impact of Star Trek II with a bunch of noobs we barely care about yet. As for plot holes... they've been covered in enough detail all over the web by now, and I don't have the energy or patience to enumerate all of them here.Let's just say that I'm not eager to read the novelization. The movie at least has some good performances and visuals. The novel has Alan Dean Foster's prose. Not really a great incentive for moving it to the top of the TBR pile.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a big dumb film full of dumb, simple mischaracterizations. It's Star Trek by and for people who don't know or care about pre-2009 Star Trek while thinking that it's faithful to the original. It's nowhere to go for all the things I ever loved about Star Trek over the years.

But the second. Star Trek Into Darkness is bad Star Trek, but... so are most of the previous Star Trek movies. With a couple of possible exceptions, they all tried much too hard to be big skiffy spectacles with lots of action. They warped the characters, they had plot holes, they learned the wrong lessons from The Wrath of Khan (it's about the characters, not the villain). Even the ones generally agreed to be the best -- Wrath of Khan, First Contact -- don't hold up under close scrutiny. You can tear apart pretty much every Trek movie ever made without much effort.

The best we can hope for from most Star Trek movies is that they don't make us yell "oh, come ON" until after they're over. And that they do well enough to keep Star Trek as a brand alive. But the best place to rediscover what made Star Trek the phenomenon it was for so long isn't a movie theatre. It's in the individual episodes of the original series, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine. TV Trek is the heart and brain of Star Trek. (And the books are what keeps them alive.)

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Happy birthday, Unreality SF!

Five years of tie-in reviews -- presented much more regularly than this sorry excuse for a blog has managed in some time -- is worth celebrating. I have reason to believe there are some birthday surprises, too. Happy birthday to Jens, Steve, Dan and everyone else.