Star Trek Voyager: Pathways When Captain Janeway's crew accidentally gets between the front lines of an ongoing war while being on an away mission on an unknown planet, they are taken into custody. Separated from Voyager and slowly starving to death in a disease-ridden prison camp, to keep up their determination as they plot their escape, they share with each other the unlikely paths that brought them all together and to the Delta Quadrant.
Jeri Taylor was involved in the production process of Star Trek Voyager which lends this book a certain quality in giving life to the characters which is unmatched. On about 500 pages Taylor enfolds the background each character has (except for Janeway whose story is told in the separate book Mosaic). Even those storylines evolving pretty much the way you would expect them to are quite entertaining to follow (like Chakotay's), and the ones that don't are fascinating to say the least (like Tom's). The deadly encounter with the hostile aliens and their prison camp merely serves as the framework for the personal stories of Voyager's leading characters told in the third person which makes them even more pleasing to read besides the fact that they're done in such a convincing and brilliant way one is tempted to take Pathways as canon even without the name Jeri Taylor printed on its cover.
So for every Star Trek enthusiast and even for those looking with an skeptical eye on Voyager this book clearly is an important part of the Trek universe and is therefore to be considered as a "must-have".
Jeri Taylor, Star Trek Voyager: Pathways, Pocket Books,
Star Trek: Death Count In this complex novel the crew of the Enterprise have to deal with trigger-happy Orions, angry Andorians, a mysterious scientist, annoying auditors, a saboteur, and a lily pond.
The good and the bad about Death Count is summarized quickly. It is remarkable that Kirk appeared only infrequently, and that Spock and McCoy were even limited to a few sentences in the entire book. I was pleased that Sulu, Chekov and Uhura are the main characters and the novel is told from their perspectives. It is credibly shown that they can do more than utter an occasional "Yes, sir" and that they have a private life beyond their daily duties.
L.A. Graf successfully recreate the atmosphere of the Movie era and carefully supplement it with new ideas. One problem I noticed is that the novel tries hard to resolve its own complexity, similar to a novel by Agatha Christie. I have the impression that the authors or I myself failed to tie together a few of the loose ends. There are just too many different characters and events that require attention. A few less conflicts and explosions may have suited the story better, and could have rendered it more plausible.
Overall, it is an enjoyable but rather not one of the most exciting Star Trek novels.
L.A. Graf, Star Trek: Death Count, Pocket Books, 1992.
Star Trek Vanguard: Harbinger This is the first book in a new series by David Mack about a space station at the Federation frontier. They year is 2265. The USS Enterprise has just returned from her first voyage under Captain James T. Kirk. In the tradition of spin-offs on screen and in print David Mack draws on well-established characters to introduce a new setting. This strategy works out for the Vanguard series, although I have the impression that the Enterprise should have been involved either somewhat less (just enough to demonstrate "this is the TOS era") or considerably more (as we can hardly visualize Kirk and his crew in secondary roles). Anyway, the depiction of the Enterprise crew is accurate and respectful.
Regarding the new characters, composed of the Vanguard crew and miscellaneous alien and non-aligned people, my apprehension is that they are too much of a mixed bag for a whole series of novels, as they are likely to get in touch only infrequently - unlike it would be among a starship crew. So far T'Prynn, the Vulcan who holds a secret, and Tim Pennington, the ambitious reporter, strike me as the most interesting figures. On the downside, Cervantes Quinn, the sympathetic rogue in the tradition of Harry Mudd and Cyrano Jones, and Anna Sandesjo, the surgically altered infiltrator, appear too conventional to me. The perhaps most important role is taken by the station itself, designed by Masao Okazaki. The fold-out with the station's diagrams is a highlight of the book. David Mack shows a good sense of incorporating Vanguard's spacious interior its into the story, unlike in other novels where time and especially space are not particularly important, but without digressing to technical trifles like it is so often in fan fiction.
The novel is pleasant reading and it thrives on its intense and almost beautiful language, although the contrast between narration and spoken dialogue is a bit harsh at times. I may be spoiled by the TV incarnations. Yet, the language as well as the manners in TOS used to be somewhat different. The same goes for the depiction of bloodshed and sex which naturally had to be toned down in the 1960s. The love triangle in this novel would not have been possible in the time of TOS, and it only adds realism (but isn't it a waste that it ends very soon after the death of a character?). The amount and explicitness of violence, especially regarding Quinn and the Orion Ganz, is a tad too much, however.
A slight letdown of the book lies in its nature as a part of a series. After 374 pages full of action and intrigue almost nothing of the mystery is solved. The novel is neither boring in any way nor would it suffer from the open end, still with a bit more of a conclusion it could have been perfect.
David Mack, Star Trek Vanguard: Harbinger, Pocket Books, 2005.
The Star Trek Encyclopedia Although the last edition dates back to 1999 and the online database of Memory Alpha is far more comprehensive and up to date, this is arguably still the most widespread book about Star Trek, and the most important one too. When it hit the book shops, the Star Trek Encyclopedia was the ultimate guide on Star Trek, and I don't think it has lost much of its fascination.
Mike and Denise Okuda, Paramount's "canon-keepers" were very diligent and very careful in compiling all important facts from 35 years of Star Trek on screen in one book. Considering the sheer amount of data and considering that the Okudas have other things to do than writing we may easily forgive occasional errors like mislabeled images or misread registries of starships. Moreover, the Encyclopedia is the one and only reference book that strictly adheres to the facts established on screen, and in this regard it is more comprehensive and more detailed than every such attempt by fans. This is why I always defend it against fellow fans who take their nitpicking too far and claim they could do everything better. I have no objections when the Okudas supplements the 99% of hard canon evidence with 1% of good interpolation, such as with starship names that may not have made it to the screen but were used behind the scenes.
What I like about the Encyclopedia is that, besides the in-universe content, it has episode references and a good deal of background information too. After all, it is always nice to learn how something was created or if a name is a "tip of the hat" to someone or something in the real world. I'm not quite content with the images many of which should be much larger (which is a matter of the costs, of course). There are also many redundant illustrations. For example, I would rather like to see one big image of the Excelsior class than a small one for each single ship of the class.
Anyway, the Star Trek Encyclopedia is a must-have for any fan who wants to have the world of Star Trek in their book shelf and not somewhere on someone else's server. As far as I can tell, much of the content of the Encyclopedia is still not available in the web.
Michael Okuda, Denise Okuda, Debbie Mirek, The
Star Trek Encyclopedia - A Reference Guide to the Future, updated and
expanded edition, Pocket Books, 1999.
Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual Yes, this is my favorite reference book, and I don't want to miss the opportunity to praise it in any respect. At the first glance, there is nothing very spectacular about the black and blue on white page layout with simple line drawings. The fantastic thing about the manual is that it becomes a real companion to the series, that it picks up all conceivable questions and problems - including some real-world annotations in the footnotes. The other way round, the writers for the series seem to have looked up quite a few things here. The last three seasons of TNG evidently profited from the book.
Rick Sternbach's sense for technical correctness (although he's an artist, not an engineer) and Mike Okuda's view for the details make the STTNG Technical Manual as complete and as detailed as it could be. What I like even more is that it makes sense technically and that technobabble can only be found where common sense or real engineering don't apply. It has been criticized that the book doesn't really explain how warp drive, transporter or phasers work. To be honest, even Sternbach and Okuda don't know that! But seriously, in my view exactly this is the most important benefit of the book. What could be the point in explaining the fictional technology on a level where it is impossible to understand (because no half-way workable theory exists) and at the same time easy to disprove (because with some knowledge of real physics one could easily notice that it just wouldn't work)? In other words, the STTNG Technical Manual doesn't impair our ability to suspend disbelief. Furthermore, the book is written like a technical manual for 24th century engineers who operate or service the ship, so I wouldn't expect the very basics to be explained in it anyway.
Summarizing, the STTNG Technical Manual may look like a collection of simple technical drawings, but it is a well-considered guide to a great ship. The book is largely free of errors, the only blatant one being that Rick Sternbach accidentally scaled down the captain's yacht's dimensions to only half of what they should be - nothing compared to all what they got wrong in the DS9 Technical Manual (below). Anyway, for everyone interested in Star Trek technology, the STTNG Technical Manual is a must-have. If you have only the money for one book, this should be it. Buy it!
Rick Sternbach, Michael Okuda, Gene Roddenberry
(introduction), Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, Pocket
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual First off, this book is anything but a disappointment. It is a packed with information on the series and its fictional technology from the station's basic layout to things like tricorders and sensor probes. It has great illustrations, mostly rendered in 3D by Doug Drexler and all in color. This is a quite obvious advancement since the above STTNG Technical Manual.
One reason why I like the DS9 Technical Manual less than its "sister manual" is that its reliability is lacking. This is in part not the fault of the authors, considering that technical specs and especially the size of the station and of the Defiant were always subject to change throughout DS9. Nevertheless, it is dissatisfactory that none of the size figures given in the book correspond with the schematic diagrams in the same book, the latter of which consistently show a smaller 120m Defiant and a station diameter of at most 1000m. The section on starships is even much worse, since ship types and specs are arbitrarily and hastily made up, sizes of well-known ships are wrong and the Saber and Norway class even have exactly the same dimensions. Considering that many fans who took the specs for their websites didn't even notice the latter error, I may be overly critical, but from an official manual I would expect much more carefulness than that.
The other point of criticism is that the Deep Space Nine Technical Manual isn't very technical and it isn't useful as a manual. It is rather like prose that has been supplemented with a certain limited amount of technobabble, a couple of size figures and many nice images. It doesn't tend to the technology in such detail as the STTNG Technical Manual, and if it is only shown how to operate it. Summarizing, as a novel the book is rather boring, while it is just not complete enough for a technical manual. Anyway, at least the drawings are great, especially the fold-outs, and most of the book with the exception of the starship section is pleasant reading, so I clearly recommend to buy it.
Herman Zimmerman, Rick Sternbach, Doug Drexler, Ira Steven Behr
(introduction), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual, Pocket
Star Fleet Technical Manual This is the classic technical manual that inspired a whole generation of fans in the Trek-less time of the 1970's. It is hard to imagine how Franz Joseph could collect all the information and draw all the nifty schematics with ink only, without the help of a computer back in 1975. Showing phasers, communicators, tricorders, floor plans and even uniform patterns in such a great detail, this book is a treasure trove for any TOS fan. It is even more valuable considering that Franz Joseph had access to much of the actual blueprints and props which he transferred into drawings that are often more precise than those of the computer-age technical manuals. Only the quality of his starship drawings is lacking.
Being a true fan and knowing that the series wouldn't continue (at least not so soon), he carefully supplemented the information on screen with his own creations, such as the Articles of the Federation, flags and emblems of member worlds, a design for an orbital Starfleet Headquarters and his famous starships. This is where some sort of dispute is going on. Especially many older fans still regard the Star Fleet Technical Manual as canon, considering that Franz Joseph had Gene Roddenberry's support on it. Some time prior to TNG, they didn't get along with each other any longer, and it is said that Roddenberry intentionally laid out technical specs of TNG so as to disparage Franz Joseph's work - but this doesn't really belong here. If you would like to know more about Franz Joseph's background, please visit Trekplace.
Well, while many of the ideas are very good, it is probably too late to regard this whole book as canon, because the speculation in it is already too detailed. Too much of it, such as the location of Starfleet Headquarters or the map of the galaxy, has been contradicted since. Some things, finally, are simply silly, like the electric circuit schematics or the emblem of the alien civilization of 61 Cygni that -what a coincidence- has a swan in it.
Anyway, The Star Fleet Technical Manual has more than only nostalgic merits. I was a bit skeptical and I waited a long time until I finally bought it only two years ago, but I wouldn't want to miss it.
Franz Joseph, Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual,
Del Rey, reprint, 1991.
Federation Travel Guide This little book is fairly well researched and contains anything one would expect from it. On the other hand, anything canon about the planets of the Trek Universe may be found in the far more complete and systematic Star Trek Encyclopedia as well. Considering that there are already several non-canon mentions (of hotels or restaurants) in it anyway, I wonder why the Travel Guide doesn't go the whole way and strives to render the seemingly underdeveloped (save Risa) tourism in the Star Trek Universe a bit more diverse.
The way it is, it can neither convince as very informative nor as particularly entertaining. Some of the (in-)jokes in the book are quite humorous, but many others are just lame. Most images in the Federation Travel Guide are not of very high quality, and the graphic design is very stale for a fun book.
Summarizing, it's a thin and inexpensive $6.00 book, but still I would have expected more from it. It may be a gift for a die-hard fan, but nothing that would either create or satisfy particular interests.
Michael Jan Friedman, Federation Travel Guide, Pocket Books, 1997.
Star Trek Star Charts Fans have long been waiting for a reference book like this. The Star Charts by Geoffrey Mandel combines canon facts, some conjecture and real astronomy and astrophysics in a unique fashion. The book is not only richly illustrated but also competent, especially because it relies on the extensive research by Christian Rühl of Star Trek Dimension, who was the first to develop a workable Star Trek cartography.
The quality of the drawings of the Star Trek Star Charts is both aesthetically pleasing and technically accurate, and this alone is a reason to buy the book. But it is definitely more than just eye-candy, as everything is supposed to make sense, from the voyages of Enterprise NX-01 to the route of Voyager. The real star classes are as skillfully presented as the conjectural planet classification system. Knowing that Star Trek authors have never really bothered about cartography and have changed distances and speeds just as it worked best with their stories, it is not possible that the book could explain away all the inevitable inconsistencies. But it comes up with some very good ideas like a much smaller extent of Federation space than previously thought, which goes along with most observations from the series.
There are rather few definite errors, such as the completely wrong location of Talax, which was actually visited by Voyager in the first season. One more important point of criticism is that canon and conjecture is not really distinguishable. Clearly the positions of most stars are not definite, except for the ones that are also known to real astronomy. Without a little bit of speculation the book wouldn't have been possible at all. Still, I wonder if the author shouldn't have gone without some useless details like the completely made up names of Klingon star systems (which are for some reason all named for ships, or the other way round) and one or two arbitrarily made up civilization emblems which may easily be mistaken for canon ones (especially since many other planets are shown with their obscure but canon emblems).
Overall, Star Trek Star Charts is not a completely reliable reference, something like which may have become too thin and boring. It is a well-researched and carefully supplemented secondary work, particularly enjoyable with its large foldout maps and beautiful planet renderings as highlights.
Geoffrey Mandel, Star Trek Star Charts, Pocket Books, 2002.
Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years Little is known in canon Trek on the early history of the United Federation of Planets since its foundation in 2161. The various TV shows and movies don't give us a clear idea of how this interstellar alliance of Earth, Vulcan, Tellar, Andor and an increasing number of other planets managed to preserve peace and provide prosperity for everyone for more than 200 years. Fan fiction set in the era of the early Federation has an accordingly long tradition. Star Trek Enterprise (2001-2005) eventually showed the events that lead to the inception of the Federation. Still, there is a gap of more than a century that is waiting to be filled with history. This was the right job for David A. Goodman, who not only wrote for Star Trek Enterprise but who is also a self-confessed fan of the franchise.
Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years comes in a voluminous box. The set consists of a hardcover book, a number of "historical documents" in the form of loose sheets and a lighted pedestal that replays greetings from Admiral Hikaru Sulu. I admit I needed some time to warm up with the latter, because I usually don't show off paraphernalia and I don't really have the desktop space for it left. I would probably have preferred to buy just the book, had it been available separately. On the other hand, I can understand that a high-grade collector's item calls for a special way of presentation, and it really looks good together.
The book is broken down into a prologue on Cochrane's warp flight and its aftermath, which is followed by five chapters that span the history of the Federation from 2120 to 2311. Strictly speaking, the content of Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years doesn't quite live up to the title, since half of the pages cover events prior to the year 2161. I wouldn't call that a shortcoming though. Especially the "Vulcan Stewardship" and the Romulan War are interesting chapters that tie in with canon facts. In the following we learn, among many other things, why the appearance of Romulans remained a secret for more than a century, how the Prime Directive was created, and for which other diplomatic failure Ambassador Robert Fox is to blame. One usual issue with novels or secondary reference works is that they add too many new people and events to the canon universe, up to a point that they create something like a self-referenced universe of their own. The other common problem is just the opposite, that the authors seem to be afraid of adding anything new, and they refer to canon events over and over again, as if Kirk alone had determined the Federation's course of history. Goodman, on the other hand, not only knows what he is writing about, he also finds a good balance between canon facts and his own additions.
It should be noted that Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years is entirely written from an in-universe perspective. It doesn't include real-world notes such as episode references, which makes it somewhat less useful as a book for fans who see themselves as researchers and also less accessible to people who are new to the franchise. Yet, I am sure that most readers will catch most of the tie-ins from canon Trek (as well as the tips of the hat to people from the real world and from other pieces of fiction), although they are not explicitly marked as such.
Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years includes a larger number of illustrations, many of which appear in the form of newspaper clippings and notable documents such as the peace treaty between Earth and Romulus or the Articles of the Federation. These insets not only lighten up the layout, they also give the book a semblance of authenticity, as if it were really written by a historian from the future. The same goes for the loose sheets that can be found in a pouch inside the back cover of the book. Since these are not really suited as posters (perhaps except for a transparent anatomical diagram of a joined Trill), I wonder why they are separate, other than insinuating that they are additional documents that were unearthed after the book had already gone into print. Most of the remaining illustrations within the chapters are drawn in an impressionist style (or went through an impressionist filter). While I would have liked to see some clearer images of people and places, I understand that this was done to maintain a consistent style (and perhaps to circumvent copyright issues with photos or screen caps?).
As already mentioned, Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years is not a reference book for Trek fans in the first place. Despite the high quality of the illustrations, of the graphical design and of the print I wouldn't call it an art book or coffee table book either. Well, it could have included posters for that matter. It can best be classified as a fictional history book of the Federation, written in the early 24th century and consisting of first-person accounts. This way David A. Goodman ties together the loose ends of this era of Star Trek in a competent and intelligent fashion and without becoming formulaic. I wouldn't go as far as calling Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years a must-have for fans, but it is a quality collector's item that is worth its price (at least its reduced price of $59.99).
David A. Goodman, Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years, 47North, 2012.
The Making of Star Trek This is a classic. It is the first book of its kind, and probably the first book about Star Trek at all. But The Making of Star Trek is much more than any of the later books with similar names. This book doesn't glorify or simplify the making of the series. It doesn't enthusiastically praise everything and everyone involved in its production. It is an authentic and meticulous report on how TOS in particular and a TV series in general comes to life. It shows that it is a process of try and error, that aspects have to be taken into account the viewers wouldn't think of, and that the responsible persons don't always know exactly what they want ("I need some device that does something...").
The story how Stephen E. Whitfield (aka Stephen E. Poe) asked Gene Roddenberry if he could write a book about the series sounds like a fairy tale, but is true. The Great Bird was very forthcoming, and Whitfield was granted access to everything behind the scenes of the still running show, seemingly without any restriction. The book shows production schedules, budgets, private notes, script drafts, production sketches, all things that are usually kept secret or edited for a larger public. I don't think that something like this would be still possible today. Compared to The Making of Star Trek, Whitfield's last book (he passed away in 2000) on Voyager seems rather superficial.
The Making of Star Trek may be over 30 years old, but it is of more than only historical value. It demonstrates that TV is a business that sometimes doesn't allow technical or artistic perfection. It also shows how many things we may take for granted and that are essential parts of the Star Trek Universe today have taken a rather surprising course change. Who would like Vulcans with names like "Spook, Spork, Splak, ..." as frequently suggested in the early days, or who would think that one race was originally described with the words, "Honor is a despicable trait.", namely the Klingons?
Stephen E. Whitfield, Gene Roddenberry, The
Making of Star Trek, Del Rey Books, 1968.
The Art of Star Trek This is a fantastic coffee table book with sketches and photos of story boards, costumes, props, sets and starship models from TOS to Voyager. All images are in high quality, and some of them are in full-page format. The Art of Star Trek is almost like seeing all the stuff with one's own eyes at an exhibition.
The most fascinating are the shots of starships in space, especially of the Enterprise refit, with a better resolution than on screen. What I love too is the close look at the many props from tricorders and phasers to exotic alien devices. As perfect as they look on screen, as simple is their construction from wood or plastic. The Art of Star Trek is an art of illusion, but I don't think that the knowledge about its true nature could ever spoil the fun. On the contrary. It is also interesting to see how the techniques have changed since the time of TOS, not only with the introduction of CGI. On the other hand, many things essentially remain the same, like the already mentioned fabrication of "primitive" props.
The text doesn't play as great a role as in other books, but is competent and is just sufficient to guide the reader through 30 years of the Star Trek Art Department. Only the captions are sometimes too scarce. Most of the aliens and their devices remain unnamed, although in many cases they were supposed to be someone or something specific. Another minor point is that I would have wished some more images of finished items as they appear on screen. The way it is, the concept sketches slightly dominate the book. On the other hand, it is nice to see a development from the sketch to the final version.
The Art of Star Trek is a fascinating look behind the scenes for fans with a lot of fun. I was happy to purchase it for only a third of its list price. Now that I know it better, I would gladly have paid much more for it.
Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, The Art of Star Trek,
Pocket Books, paperback, 1997.
Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission This book is something special in that it combines the usual prose of a "Making of..." with a wealth of large-size images and illustrations as well as a detailed guide to the seven seasons of TNG. Included are sections on "Generations", "First Contact" and, in the newest edition, "Insurrection". Although some of the images are already known from The Art of Star Trek, this is another great look behind the scenes. More than the rather loosely arranged images in The Art of Star Trek, this book really tells the story of a series that is developed through seven seasons.
The Continuing Mission is probably the best book about TNG with all of its aspects. It was obviously written to be entertaining in the first place, so it never gets too profound. Nevertheless, we learn a great deal, for instance, where Guinan's name comes from, how many writers mingled together the script for "Yesterday's Enterprise", or how a shuttle may become a big starship. The only slight criticism I have about it is that the text is mostly separate from the images. Although there are captions, I would have liked to know more about several of the images.
The sub-title of the book is "A Tenth Anniversary Tribute", and it is a worthy tribute in any respect.
Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Star
Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission, Pocket Books, updated
Fan Phenomena: Star Trek This book is an anthology on the Star Trek fandom, and part of a series that is concerned with Star Wars, Doctor Who, Batman and other fan cultures in a similar fashion. Being a more or less scholarly approach to the cultural phenomenon of Star Trek, Fan Phenomena: Star Trek is written for cultural scientists, sociologists and other researchers in my view, rather than for the fans of the franchise.
The introduction by Bruce E. Drushel provides an overview of the Star Trek fan culture and of the topics that are covered in the book. Most notably it points out that the Star Trek fandom is anything but a monolithic and secluded culture. People around the world become fans irrespective of their age, sex, race or religion, and they establish many links with mainstream culture. These considerations will form the backdrop of the following essays.
Chapter 1 by Elizabeth Thomas is titled "Live Long and Prosper: How Fans Made Star Trek a Cultural Phenomenon". The chapter recounts how letter writing campaigns, fan clubs and conventions not only provided the fans with a powerful voice, but created a form of attachment to the franchise that Gene Roddenberry never would have hoped for. The focus of this chapter is on the first three decades of Trek fandom, and so it acknowledges the development of the online fandom in just one paragraph. In this regard it is unfortunate that the author gets essential facts wrong in this paragraph, because TrekWeb.com is neither officially endorsed by Paramount as she alleges, nor does Paramount exclusively own all Star Trek properties.
The next essay, "Not Your Daddy's Star Trek: Rebooting a Franchise and Rewriting a Fandom" by Catherine Coker, is concerned with the impact that the 2009 reboot movie by JJ Abrams has on the Star Trek fandom, and on fan fiction in particular. The author points out that the redefinition of the characters and of their universe imposes challenges on the writers of fan fiction. After the introductory notes on the Abrams movie she explains how fan works always used to link themselves to the official Trek series and movies. Most of the rest of the essay, however, boils down to the specific question how slash stories may work in the new universe. This is where the author loses me, because like 99% of all fans I simply don't care for slash fiction, which in my view is an overrated by-product that has little to do with the actual idea of Star Trek. I am sorry, but I can't take an essay seriously that mentions worries about how Uhura interrupts a "canonical K/S subtext", instead of addressing relevant quality and continuity issues of the Abramsverse.
In Chapter 3, "A Utopia Denied: Star Trek and its Queer Fans", Bruce E. Drushel summarizes the decade-long efforts of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer fans to get acknowledged in canonical Star Trek in some fashion. David Gerrold's "Blood and Fire", featuring a gay couple, was considered for TNG's first season, but never made it to the screen. After many debates with LGBT(Q) fans, Gene Roddenberry said he would show gay crew members on TNG, but this promise remained unfulfilled after his death in 1991. Drushel tells us how Star Trek repeatedly tackled LGBTQ issues in the form of allegories, such as in TNG: "The Outcast" (sexual discrimination) or ENT: "Stigma" (AIDS). But he also quotes LGBTQ activists who would prefer direct references to same-sex relationships over allegories. The essay then switches to George Takei and Zachary Quinto coming out in real life. Drushel closes with considerations (or rather speculation) about cast members that could have been gay, namely Garak, Q and Kivas Fajo -- fortunately without putting them into a slash fiction context!
Chapter 4, "Trek in the Park: Live Performance and Star Trek Culture" by Michael Boynton, is an interesting read, although or just because it is an event of only regional impact (in the Portland area, USA). The author reckons that the main draw of the live performance is the subject of Star Trek, although the audience is not primarily composed of recognizable Trekkies. Boynton analyzes the way that Star Trek is being presented as a live performance in a park, as well as the interaction of the actors with the audience. Comparing "Star Trek in the Park" to something like "Shakespeare in the Park", he sees that the alleged "low culture" of Star Trek is being elevated through this form of presentation. Although it manages to maintain a certain academic distance to the subject, this essay is written so affectionately that I am sad I don't have the opportunity to attend the festival!
The next essay, "Assimilate This! Computer-Mediated Communication and Star Trek Fan Culture" by Kimberly L. Kulovitz, is a sociological study, and as such more scholarly than most of the rest of the book. The study is based on the hyperpersonal model of computer-mediated communication (CMC), a theory that acknowledges advantages of CMC over personal face-to-face communication. One example is that a message meant to start a romantic relationship with a coworker can be prepared more thoroughly in a CMC channel. The author investigates the communication in two forum threads, one from startrek.com and one from trekbbs.com, where she identifies individuals who exaggerate their membership in a certain fan category, as well as groups setting themselves apart. On of the key questions with regard to the hyperpersonal model, however, can't be definitely answered according to the author: Could the same kind of discussions take place in face-to-face communication just as well?
Chapter 6 is titled "Lost in Orbit: Satellite Star Trek Fans". Bianca Spriggs, a longtime fan herself, has interviewed six other individuals that can be described as "satellite fans", meaning devotees who are every bit as knowledgeable as the authors of fan fiction or YouTube videos, only less visible in the community. The result is a broad range of impressions and opinions, but with the common pattern that these people do much more than simply watch the show, even though it ultimately doesn't rule their lives.
Chapter 7, "Star Trek Fans as Parody: Fans Mocking Other Fans" by Paul Booth, is the perhaps most interesting one in the book. The author points out how specifically Star Trek fans bear the brunt of prejudices against fans of science fiction. He examines how fans are being mocked in two films, "Galaxy Quest" (1999) and "Fanboys" (2009). In "Fanboys" the Star Wars fans are being portrayed as obsessive, but they are outclassed by a group of "Trekkies". In a similar fashion, "Galaxy Quest" features a boy who is an ardent fan of the old TV series of the same name, while the aliens in the movie, the Thermians, are totally hyperreal, meaning that they can't distinguish at all between TV and reality. The author concludes that the depiction of fans in the two movies is insidious, because it invites fans to dissociate themselves from the extreme forms of fandom, thereby only reinforcing the stigma.
In the next chapter, "Lieutenant Sulu's Facebook: 'Professor' Takei and the Social Networking Classroom", Nathan Thompson and Kenneth Huynh investigate the activity on George Takei's Facebook page. The veteran actor frequently posts memes in the form of funny pictures but also clear political statements on gay rights, as well as on racial discrimination. Takei doesn't receive only positive feedback. In fact, some visitors complain that he goes over the top with name-calling when he criticizes what he sees as bigotry. The authors of the article see Takei's Facebook page as a big classroom, and Takei as a professor who ultimately wants to reach everyone with his "lesson", and not only those who would agree with him anyway.
The final chapter is titled "The Borg: Fan Pariah or Cultural Pillar?". Here Charles Evans Jones, Jr asks the question whether the Borg are really the embodiment of evil. He describes the Borg Collective as governed by moderate-act consequentialism, meaning that they always choose the alternative that produces the best results. He quotes a number of fans who vote against hunting down the Borg, or who appreciate the idea of achieving perfection by linking together individuals. Charles Evans Jones investigates the episode TNG: "I, Borg", in which Hugh was separated from the Collective and regained his individuality. While this example demonstrates that the Collective consists of more than mindless drones and that it may not be right to kill all of them, it doesn't really address the question what the driving force of the Borg Collective is. I could name half a dozen Borg episodes that may have illustrated the author's theory better.
As already mentioned in my introductory note, fans are not the target readers of Fan Phenomena: Star Trek. However, as a fan I enjoyed most of the articles, although some of them are rather academic and may not have been meant to be entertaining in the first place. For me, reading this book with its overall respectful and sometimes affectionate external view of the fandom was a pleasant departure from the usual way I look at Star Trek and at myself as a fan.
Edited by Bruce E. Drushel, Fan Phenomena: Star Trek, Intellect Books,
Boarding the Enterprise This book is a multi-faceted collection of essays dealing with the original Star Trek. It combines personal accounts of people working for the show with a look at Star Trek as a media phenomenon, complemented with more or less serious scientific analyses of the fictional technology. The content is so diverse that Boarding the Enterprise deserves to be summarized chapter by chapter.
In the introduction, award-winning science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer who acts as the book's editor emphasizes Star Trek's impact on our pop culture. David Gerrold, the other editor and TOS and TAS writer, carries on with a perspicuous analysis of Star Trek's position in the world of media, the role of its fans and how science fiction is different and has to be different from other literary genres. One of Gerrold's key points, that Star Trek, in his view, often doesn't go further than just showing an innovation without consequences, remains debatable though. Norman Spinrad who wrote "The Doomsday Machine" adds considerations how Star Trek could be established in a world where sci-fi was still seeking its place. His homage to Spock as a completely new type of TV drama character is especially intriguing. D.C. Fontana of "Journey to Babel" fame (among other notable episodes she wrote) remembers her time as part of the staff and particularly how Gene Roddenberry worked out not just the basic framework of the show but also cared about seemingly minor details. Also, everyone joining his team had to prepare to become the victim of one of his notorious practical jokes. In the following essay Allen Steele looks at the show from an author's perspective.
My three favorite essays are those of cultural theorist Eric Greene, author Michael A. Burstein and philosopher Lyle Zynda. Eric Greene goes into great detail linking the original Star Trek to the ongoing Vietnam War. His theory is that while the Federation is quite obviously modeled after the USA in the Cold War era, Kirk embodies John F. Kennedy who always sought peace but was determined to fight for freedom just like the equally vigorous 23rd century starship captain. Overall, in Green's view Star Trek represented rather the official government policy than the counter-culture which was cropping up in the late 60s. He picks out many examples of the classic "cultural intervention" cliché of TOS where, with a couple of notable exceptions, the freedom-oriented position prevails. Although in some cases he may have over-interpreted statements and observations from the series, it is a thought-provoking read. Michael A. Burstein looks at how religion is presented in Star Trek. He comes to the conclusion that the absence of anything religious that would be commonplace in our world (and definitely was in the 1960s) clearly promotes a secular society. Even Edith Keeler, a church social worker of the 1930s, doesn't mention God once in her address to the homeless! While this anti-religious attitude may be attributed to Gene Roddenberry's decided atheism, Burstein takes into consideration that it reflects a general tendency in science fiction and in the American society just as well. "Who am I" is the title of Lyle Zynda's essay which asks the question whether a human "essence" or "soul" in an android body could still be one and the same person - or someone reassembled using the transporter, for that matter. He devises two models, one in which identity requires the presence of a body or soul and one in which it is defined through a pattern that can be duplicated. Zynda examines several occurrences and comes to the conclusion that the evidence is very contradictory.
On the more light-hearted side (at least so I hope because otherwise it would be defamatory!) writer Don DeBrandt explains why Vulcans are not as logical as they claim to be. Sci-fi author Lawrence Watt-Evans comes up with the weird(?) theory that the 23rd century human society must be based on strictly Darwinian principles, as there could be no other explanation for the lack of very basic safety systems on the otherwise cutting-edge starship USS Enterprise. Robert A. Metzger, in his role as a sci-fi author and scientist, contributes a homage to Scotty - in his view the most important crew member and the only one to know how to create custom Kirks for specific missions and to revive him in the transporter each time the captain is killed on a mission. Praise for Star Trek's role in promoting science, even if it is cheesy at times, comes from astronomer David DeGraff, while author Adam Roberts surmises that sci-fi has become more interesting than the real thing, ultimately killing the space race. Fanfic author Melissa Dickinson explains and justifies why especially female fans irrespective of their sexual orientation come up with slash fiction, and she quotes romantic aspects as the most important reasons - although it is my impression that in many cases it may be the mere sexual desire. Paul Levinson, another award-winning writer, points out how Star Trek taught Paramount and the networks a lesson when it flourished in syndication seemingly against the rules of the television industry. Writer Howard Weinstein concludes the colorful mix of essays with the statement that Star Trek was always about "being better". It is only sad that some of the articles implicitly and this final one explicitly presuppose that Star Trek has degraded in its later incarnations which is simply not true.
Although its general tone is light-hearted and at times ironical, Boarding the Enterprise is anything but superficial for the most part. Several of the essays are at least entertaining, even though their statements are not really new to fans. In other chapters the book tackles philosophical questions and raises sometimes controversial issues. I for one don't read non-fictional books to agree with everything, and here is a nice opportunity to form or change an opinion on a number of things. But most importantly, Boarding the Enterprise is an affectionate contribution to Star Trek's 40th anniversary. Written by knowledgeable fans, it stays true to the series and does not digress like some other non-fiction books with "Star Trek" in the title.
Edited by David Gerrold, Robert J. Sawyer, with Leah Wilson, Boarding the
Enterprise - Transporters, Tribbles and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene
Roddenberry's Star Trek, Benbella Books, 2006.
Future Perfect "This means something!" Star Trek has succeeded to keep people being interested in it for more than 30 years. So there must be more to it than just pure entertainment. This is the setup for Jeff Greenwald's "Future Perfect", an attempt to explain what is behind people's fascination with Star Trek. So he travels around the world to meet with people and talk to them about the influence Star Trek has on their lives.
Greenwald's initial theory of Trek awakening a collective human yearning to get out into space and explore the final frontier in earnest is proven wrong by the interviewed people. Star Trek instead appears to be a deep and maybe eternal need for something to believe in - something that makes sense. At this point the question Greenwald is asking has changed without him noticing. The question is no longer "what is it?" but "why is it?"- it has become questioning the movens. Greenwald's search for the definition of Star Trek therefore requires a different method to deal with than the chosen one of collecting impressions. Even his description of Trek being a contemporary myth still misses the point, because myth and enlightenment are bound together in a dialectic way (since even the myth is enlightening in it trying to explain what's behind things while enlightenment itself has become mythological to the non-expert). As a form of literature Star Trek has to be regarded as and treated by means of literature. Star Trek makes sense. Sense does not mean to control reality by establishing a mutual understanding what has to be regarded as such at a certain point (that's happening every day and quite trivial regarded from a philosophical point of view). Sense is closely related to surely knowing what really is. If there's one thing characterizing the modern times best, than it's the absence of sense apriori. Sense has to be found or to be set, and this underlines the above question: that's the difference between controlling reality (which is always possible defining things at a given time) and knowing reality (which may be impossible).
Concerning the production of reality the techniques used to control the terms and conditions of its production process are leading to the media involved. Greenwald needs media theory to get closer to his subject but he decides to do without it. Interesting questions are touched but left unanswered. Assumed there is a strong correlation between history and corresponding forms of art making use of media competence, Star Trek could be described as the contemporary modern art it is: reflecting the social state and evolution process of mankind, dealing with contemporary problems but presenting an optimistic solution instead of showing Armageddon. Seeing Star Trek as a visual form of a literary genre would explain why it can not be just black and white like a fairy tale, why time and continuity are so important and how they are achieved. Without media theory acquiring a growing understanding for his subject and linking the different impressions contributed by different people from different cultures is not possible. Things keep being fragmented.
This is the biggest drawback in an very amusing and entertaining book: lacking competence for media it stays anecdotal and does not lead to an understanding what makes Star Trek so desirable besides that it's presenting an optimistic an peaceful outlook to the future without being an utopian idea neglecting life in all is aspects.
So if you are involved in the show and already knowing at least the basics Greenwald's book is very enjoyable reading, but if you're new to it and keen on being told what's Star Trek all about you certainly will be disappointed because the book can not keep its promise to tell the whole truth about the longing called Star Trek.
Jeff Greenwald, Future Perfect: How Star Trek Conquered Planet Earth,
Penguin Books, 1998.
The Physics of Star Trek Although the title suggests otherwise, this is not really a book about Star Trek. Lawrence Krauss, a physicist, quotes Star Trek, but his further explanations largely neglect what can be seen in the series and, rather than that, strictly adhere to the laws of real physics. This alone is no criticism. We need popular books about physics (and this is a good one), but the title just doesn't suit it.
A typical chapter begins with examples from the series, but subsequently it becomes like a general analysis of science (and) fiction where one could easily replace "Enterprise" with "Star Destroyer" or any other starship from any other sci-fi universe. In the chapter on warp propulsion, for instance, Krauss discusses a general theory of FTL travel without even once mentioning the term "subspace" which is actually the key to Star Trek's warp drive, even if it is a purely fictional concept. The same happens in his reflections on the transporter. He assumes that a human being should be reduced to bits, although we know that Star Trek's transporter transmits the very matter of an object or person. Agreed, from the viewpoint of actual physics Krauss is right, and I would wish that he gave certain Trek authors a few repetitional lessons in physics. Anyway, I don't understand why he calls a book with rather few Trek-specific content and much more real world physics The Physics of Star Trek and not "The Physics of Science Fiction". I usually don't like to speculate, but maybe because the book sells better with "Star Trek" in the title, or does he intend to disillusion or even convert die-hard Trek fans? Well, I rather go with a positive explanation that Star Trek just covers all facets of fictional science and technology, so it was the obvious choice.
Speaking of disillusions, this book will have several for those fans who firmly believe that it just needs a bit of research until we get warp or only impulse drive or a transporter to work. Krauss makes very clear how much fuel it would take to accelerate a starship to "only" 0.5c and decelerate again (6561 times the ship's mass!), and what a resolution would be required to beam up a person's atoms from a planet surface (that of a lens as wide as the distance to the planet!). As I said, I think the book isn't supposed to spoil our fun of Star Trek, and I hope it won't have this effect on anyone. So if we keep in mind that Krauss is just talking about general concepts and not about how the technology works in Star Trek, this is a very good lecture for all who like Star Trek and all who like to know more about the limits of physics.
Lawrence M. Krauss, Stephen Hawking (introduction), The Physics of Star Trek,
Harperperennial Library, 1996.
Star Trek: The Magazine Of all periodicals about Star Trek, Star Trek: The Magazine is the most comprehensive and most important one. This is for once because the monthly magazine has very close ties to Paramount. Everything presented here is not only licensed (which merely means that a company may use the name "Star Trek ®"), but acts as an official medium for first-hand information and announcements. Star Trek: The Magazine, quite unlike the Star Trek Fact Files to which it is often compared, is not meant as a strictly canon database that lists everything that ever appeared on screen. On the contrary, about 60% of each issue deal with the real world, like news about the franchise, behind-the-scenes reports, interviews with actors and reader letters. I miss all this in the Fact Files. What I like even more about it is that Star Trek: The Magazine shows that Star Trek is a community and not just a one-way communication from company to customer.
It is obvious that with this approach the extent of information, especially for the "technical briefings", needs to be restricted to certain topics of common interest. The selection of topics is rather arbitrary, of course. This is why not every issue is equally exciting. On the other hand, Star Trek: The Magazine reacts much faster on new episodes than the Fact Files (most obviously on Enterprise), so their coverage is often more interesting because more recent for most of the fandom. It is hard to find a specific piece of information in a pile of magazines. Well, the contents on the covers make it a bit easier. One point of criticism is that there are many images in Star Trek: The Magazine, but most of them fill only the sixth of a page and, moreover, are very blurred. Actually, standard resolution screen caps are usually better than most of the images. Only the CGI images and drawings are always of superb quality, if only many of them had not a page fold right through the middle.
Something I would never want to miss is the background information about actors, writers, producers and the people in the Art Department. They are the one who make Star Trek, and to me it matters a lot what their work looks like and what they think about their work. Star Trek sometimes looks very different from their perspective, and this is especially interesting for someone who just can't get enough of it. I have only one problem with this part of the magazine. I know that's Hollywood, but I always find it strange if people praise themselves and each other in every respect and describe just everyone and everything as "exciting, amazing, cool...". Where something in the course of the production went wrong or time and money was wasted or people are known not to get along with each other, they still make a nice anecdote of it. I like reading the articles, but a bit more self-critical attitude would suit the magazine better. On the other hand, this may be necessary because it is an official publication.
The price of Star Trek: The Magazine is comparably high, especially if we consider that there are advertisements and that also a few pages of the actual content are dedicated to promote merchandising items. Compared to the Star Trek Fact Files, however, each issue of Star Trek: The Magazine has about four times the content on over 100 pages for a bit more than twice the price. I think that those who live in North America are lucky to have this magazine. There is much additional stuff in the weekly Fact Files, but only a rather small part of it is relevant, and it comes at a high price.
Star Trek: The Magazine, created by Midsummer Books Ltd.
The Official Star Trek Fact Files The Star Trek Fact Files seem to be the European and Australian surrogate for Star Trek: The Magazine which isn't available here. It appears on a weekly basis. Although some of the material is the same, the Fact Files have a quite different, stricter concept. As the name says, everything is arranged in sheets which have to be filed in folders, yielding a complete, searchable and extendable collection of Star Trek stuff. About every 20th issue comes with a new folder for that purpose. The main sections are dedicated to general information (about races and planets), Starfleet and its ships, alien starships, characters, technology and devices, episodes and, finally, an A-Z Encyclopedia.
The big advantage over the ST Magazine is that everything is rather easy to find. At least, looking up a personnel or starship file in a certain folder is much faster than sifting through a huge pile of magazines to find the same (provided that it was already covered in the ST Magazine at all). As a collection of data on the fictional Star Trek Universe, the Fact Files was more complete after a year or so than the ST Magazine with its limited coverage could ever be. On one hand, it is pleasant that there are no advertisements of any kind and none of the sometimes annoying quasi-ads about merchandising articles (that are lacking any critical distance in the ST Magazine). The true fan, on the other hand, will be sorry that nifty background information is completely missing in the Fact Files. Star Trek, as presented in the Fact Files, is not a TV series, but something that really takes place in the far future. There are no actors, no writers and producers, no sets and props and no special effects, but only strictly canon in-universe facts. There are not even side notes of the kind of the ST Encyclopedia or the TNG Technical Manual. Going through the Fact Files, I really have the impression that I'm missing half of the truth, and that the makers of the series, as much as they celebrate themselves in the ST Magazine, don't get their deserved credit in the Fact Files. Especially for long-time fans the Fact Files provide few facts to make up one's mind.
Another point of criticism is that the Fact Files are becoming increasingly redundant. Every single file (only some of them have fold-outs for larger images of starship exteriors or interiors) consists of exactly two pages that have to be filled with text and images (the latter usually of a quality that doesn't make them worth scanning). This is why sometimes scarce information on a subject has to be inflated to texts that repeat themselves or digress to something completely irrelevant. Many of the files actually have a true information content that could be expressed in two or three sentences. The images are usually chosen very well, but of just too bad quality to catch my interest. I wish there were much fewer but larger images. A typical example of a file with much redundancy is the five files (so far) on Starfleet Academy, a topic that could easily be covered on a single page. The redundancy within the character files is even greater. It seems the authors are always making up new topics of the kind "Kirk and the women, part VI". Moreover, many files in different sections have essentially the same information.
The Fact Files with its redundancy may be well researched, and there are rather few errors in it, considering its large extent. On the other hand, there is rather little additional information compared to the sum of the Star Trek Encyclopedia, the TNGTM and the DS9TM, which cost only a fraction of the Fact Files. The Fact Files have much more precise information about what exactly happens in each episode, but all the essential facts (as characters, planets or ships are concerned) are already known from the other publications. If I were to name anything that can be found exclusively in the Fact Files (and which may be available some day in the ST Magazine too), I could only tell of the large starship schematics (especially of the alien ships) and the drawings of bridge and other sets. They are great, but they alone don't excuse the relatively high price, especially since one is supposed to buy them all. There are one or two interesting files in each Fact Files issue, and ten that I file without even reading them. Something I don't like either is that the Fact Files are useless as a source of quotes. The main text doesn't have any references, episode names are mentioned only occasionally. It is very hard to verify their information. As I said, they are usually right, still, some errors and misconceptions were directly taken from other reference books, although it seems the Fact Files authors have reviewed all the episodes.
Summarizing, the Fact Files is a nice collection of data, but the ST Encyclopedia is much less expensive as a reference book and there are much better sources for pictures. What makes the Fact Files special is that every topic is exhaustively covered, and it's the publication with the most canon information ever carried together. Another advantage of the Fact Files over any other reference is that it will never become dated, but one pays a high price for that.
Star Trek: Die offiziellen Fakten und Infos, developed by Aerospace Publishing Ltd., London, distributed by GE Fabbri Ltd., deutsche Fassung Thema GmbH, München.