Monday, August 22, 2011

Star Trek Blogfest

What a weekend. I did nothing I intended, and tons of stuff I did not. Figures. A few weeks ago I signed up for the awesome Star Trek blogfest hosted by Ellie Garratt and couldn’t wait to really get cranking on it. I wanted this to be the best blog post ever.

Yeah, well, that didn’t exactly work out. So I threw a bunch of crap together at the last minute.

The stated rules of the blogfest are to list 5 Trek things that I love, episodes, scenes…songs? Books?

Ooh. Books.

I may (or may not) have mentioned in the past that Star Trek was my gateway drug into sci fi. Now, that isn’t to say that I encountered Trek first. Although, I actually think I did, I believe my first ever memory has an episode of Star Trek playing on the TV while I confessed to having a potty training accident. I was 16, no, probably younger, the years get all blurry after a while.  

But I had a pretty wide, if shallow, exposure to science fiction as a kid. I read comics when I was young, watched movies and TV, loved Star Wars, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Man from Atlantis, The Incredible Hulk, E.T., it was all great. But those weren’t the things that turned me on to reading. As a young lad I also read real books, Asimov, John Varley, Those awesome Riverworld books, all terrific. But nothing really got to me. I read them and forgot them. As I got older I moved away from reading, instead doing other things with my time, especially during my teenage years.

These guys changed my life!
Flash forward to the summer before my junior year of high school. We didn’t have anything so fancy as cable, but we did have a TV. And on that TV, every single night at 11:00 I got to watch reruns of the Original Series. I watched those episodes and loved them. I had seen all the movies and miscellaneous episodes over the years. So that summer I fell in love with the crew of the original series. But what I didn’t know was that it was all a prelude to TNG premiering that fall (I am doing this by memory, don’t shoot me if I have the dates wrong here, it's going on 25 years). I was hooked right away. I remember those early episodes so well, despite the fact that I cringe at the cheesiness they had in such abundance. But wow. When Starfleet was infiltrated by those scorpion parasite things, when the Romulans made their return in that epic looking Starship that dwarfed the Enterprise, those were goosebump moments for me.

I almost did a countdown of epic TNG episodes, I almost wrote about how that summer that separated Best of Both Worlds I & II changed my life. How the appearance of Spock later in the series made me cry like a baby. God, all those memories.

But still, Star Trek did something else for me, something I can’t begin to express my gratitude for, something that made me the man I am today, for better or for worse.

It made me love to read. Now, you have to understand that the governing body of Star Trek came out at some point well before my time as a reader and categorically decided that anything written was non-canonical. Stupid choice. But, maybe because of that, they let some stories go that clearly have no place in the larger Star Trek mythos because the events or history they portray were later touched on by the movies or TV shows, many times those shows did things much more poorly. But whatever, just keep that in mind as you read this list below.

So, here it is folks, a list of 5 star trek books that changed my life.

5) The Romulan Prize – I found this used a few months ago and picked it back up, it was .10 cents. I haven’t tried to read it again, and I’m not sure I will. This was the first ST book I ever read. It was new when I got it the first time, and was just having a hard time waiting for the next episode to air. I do remember that Picard and the crew explored a manufactured worldlet filled with sci fi wonders. Specifically, nanotech. This took the concepts way further than the show did with Wesley’s nanites. I was enthralled and I wanted to learn more about them. In those pre internet days it wasn’t that easy. I wrote a short story years later that was published in a local anthology about two kids discussing the possibility that the unknown metal canister they found is holding nano technology that will run amok if released… that story had its genesis from this book.

4) Dark Mirror – Before the Mirror Universe got done a lot in DS9, it was explored in this novel. I don’t remember much about it except that it rocked. I don’t know why, but this book made me want to write, something I had never seriously considered before. I believe this inspired a fanfic about an enlisted guy trying to get the replicators to produce an authentic Chicago style deep dish pizza, and then stealing ship board equipment to just cook one himself… then nearly gets the enterprise blown up because they actually need that stuff to, you know, not die. Anyway, it was an idea that was better than my ability to tell it, it was my first short story. I’ve since lost it.

3) Federation – Kirk and Picard – before Generations – I thought this was so epic. Like most of these ST Novels, I don’t remember a damn thing about it, except that the two captains never actually get to meet. But the narrative was told by taking the reader back and forth through time as the plot unfolded. If memory serves, this was one the better Trek novels I read.

2) Vendetta – Best ST Novel I ever read, makes me think of Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space books, back when the Borg were still more or less mysterious, and way before the TNG episode, I, Borg, took the same concept and did it much less epically, or Voyager turned the concept into the 7 of 9 character. This one told the tale of a girl saved from the collective and all the screwed up things it did to her. Bad. Ass. It was the first time I realized a book could tell better stories than the TV show could. 

1) The Devil’s Heart – This is what killed ST Novels for me. At the time I read this, I didn't think it was possible for reading anything ST related to be bad. I changed my mind while in the middle of this mess. It also prompted me to think that I might be able to write something worthy of publication one day. Because if shit like that can see print with huge fanfare, then it’s fair game for me too. Anyway, I recall being so excited while I waited for its release. There was even a big story about the release in my local newspaper. I was so there when it came out. I had poured over all the previous TNG Novels (that I had access to, I did miss some, and the more romance related ones weren’t as enticing to me, although I did read Imzadi, so, um, there you go.) and was itching for more. While waiting for this to come out I got desperate and bought and read Ring and Timelike Infinity, by Stephen Baxter, Ringworld, Rendezvous with Rama, and a few others that I’ve forgotten, and started finding some of the ideas expressed in those books were hooking me in much the same way ST had, but delved into those subjects much more deeply… I was moving on.

I try to watch the show from time to time now. It doesn't feel like it used to, that 'wow' feeling I used to get each time the opening sequence would air is gone. It's sad. But I'll always love and support Star Trek.

Thank you Gene, you made my life.


Rogue Mutt said...

Some of the original series novels were the first more grownup novels (if you consider ST novels for grownups--they're at least not filed in the kids section, right?) I read. For whatever reason though I liked the ones that didn't focus so much on Kirk, Spock, etc. but made up side characters who interacted with the main characters sometimes.

Rogue Mutt said...

Though actually my favorite ST novels were the "New Frontier" series by Peter David. They took place in the TNG universe but focused on another ship with a different crew exploring a sector of space not mentioned in the TV show or anything.

Oh yeah and I have a Star Trek novella fanfic!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I was in college when TNG came out and lived for that show. I still have some of the books, and some really old ones from the first series. Think we still have one on cassette somewhere. Yeah, don't laugh, at least it's not the 8-track.

Danette said...

Very nice. I am enjoying the variations on the blogfest a lot- that not everyone is strictly following the rules. I never read any of the books (probably never will) and enjoyed hearing why you liked them! Live long...

M Pax said...

I think Star Trek changed my life, too. Sure made me think different.

Congrats on the book release, Rusty. I'll have to go bookmark it.

Michael Offutt said...

I never read any of the Star Trek books.

Tonja said...

I loved your post. I had no idea there were ST books.

Hutch said...

Awesome list. I read the books for a long time, Diane Duane was one of my favorite writers of the Trek universe. I secretly wanted to write a Trek story, but haven't tried yet. Thanks for sharing!

Christine Rains said...

Fantastic post. I've never read the books, but I loved the show.

Andrew said...

@Mutt -- That's because Peter David is just a great writer. At one point, he was, beyond doubt, the greatest comic book writer around.

I wish I had great Star Trek stories or memories, but I just don't. I watched the original series when I was a kid (I remember watching it at my grandparents' house), but... well, we just won't talk about what happend later.

Belle said...

I read Star Trek books years ago and many of them were good. I'll take your list to the book store. Thanks.

CPatLarge said...

Imzadi, and Imzadi II, and tons of others.

Also, love the B&W NG cast photo! Thanks for sharing.

Rusty Webb said...

Rogue - I did read several TOS novels, it seemed to me that my post was quickly becoming a TNG thing so I decided to exclude a lot of stuff I might have otherwise put in there.

And I'd quit reading the Trek books by the time the New Frontier stuff came out. I did hear those were awesome, and Vendetta was written by Peter David, so he gets tons of respect from me. One day I'll go back and read some more I hope, but for now, I'm still doing other things.

And I read your intro to your novella. Sweet. I'm bookmarking for a later read.

Alex - I still have a bunch of Trek video cassettes myself. I have one lying around somewhere that has George, from Seinfeld, dressed as a ST captain and doing all sorts of weird Trek related things as part of the 25th anniversary of Trek.

Oh, and I have a video of ME doing that skit at Universal Studios when they had that ST movie thing. If you don't know what I'm talking about then forget it, but if you do, then you know how incredibly awesome that is.

Danette - I've read as many as I could today, which isn't but a few, Monday's are bad days all way round for me. But I'm not entirely sure what the rules really were, I probably should have re read them before posting.

M Pax - Thanks, I appreciate your support.

Michael - I'm not sure at this stage I would actually ever recommend them, I'm very aware that reading time is precious and there is so much out there that is better. But if you ever do decide to read any, just know that I've read a bunch too.

Tonja - You must not venture to the Sci Fi section of any of the chain bookstores I frequent, there are still racks of space devoted to nothing else.

Hutch - I kept thinking there was more than just that one book by Diane that I read and loved, but that was the only one that came to mind. I'm sure your right though. It's someone who really knows how to write ST stuff.

Christine - like I told Michael, I would stop short of recommending any books to anyone, but believe it or not, some of them were really good.

Andrew - No worries, I missed out on some shared nerdy things that get all sorts of people worked up now. We can't all share all the same experiences, there'd be no reason to share if we did.

Belle - Don't forget to avoid my #1. It's not there for being good, but bad.

CPat - Like I said, I did read Imzadi, and I did like it. If I read the second one I didn't care for it as much, but I can't recall. Thanks for stopping by.

julie fedderson said...

Wow, I had forgotten about these little treasures--quick and dirty reads that gave you a head rush like pixie sticks.

Laila Knight said...

I've never read any of the Star Trek novels...very good of you to mention them. I thought the introduction of the romulans was a nice touch. And Star Trek was a key reason why so many of us love Sci-fi. :)

Rusty Webb said...

Julie - Ha, I never thought of them that way. Pixie sticks.

Laila - Yeah, I know I'm not the only one. But it was a real big deal for me. It's almost like visiting a childhood home or something. I'm very nostalgic for those days.

msmariah said...

Great twist on the blogfest. Good choices.

kelworthfiles said...

Thanks for sharing a different kind of list on the blogfest. The only one on your list that I clearly remember reading is "Dark Mirror", which I also loved, and has a disguised shout out to Diane's Young Wizard novel "Deep Wizardry." And I love the dedication, which tells a very vivid story in less than a page - also involving pizza!

The other Star Trek novels I really loved are:

If you get a chance, check out a fellow writer's zombie story and help me make him wear an embarrassing shirt next year! It's the ultimate grudge match between social media and the zombies. Details are here:

James Garcia Jr said...

Hi, Rusty. It was cool to get a different view of Star Trek. No one really mentioned the books.
I love the Hulk and Six Million Dollar Man mentions, too.


Rusty Webb said...

msmariah - thanks.

kelworth - Thanks, I didn't read very carefully, or if I did, I forgot. I should have planed more carefully. I did read Q-Squared, Imzadi, Metamorphosis and.... I'm not sure about the others, I don't think I've read those.

James - Hulk is on Netflix too. Another show to waste my life away watching. Haven't found the Six Million Dollar Man there yet. I'd love to see him with that bionic bigfoot one more time.