This is not an article for Trekkers.
Trekkers know that Generations, the latest movie in the Star Trek saga, arrives in theaters Nov. 18. They know that a convention starring Marina Sirtis (Counselor Troi) and Max Grodenchik (the Ferengi Rom) is scheduled for next weekend at the St. Petersburg Hilton. Trekkers know all things Trek: conventions, movies, new television shows, but especially books.
Trekkers have turned Star Trek books into a multimillion dollar industry.
According to Pocket Books, which now owns the rights to publish books using the Trek characters and the Federation universe, there are currently in print more than 150 works of fiction and nonfiction based on the Trekkers' favorite television show. Most of these books have reached the bestseller lists. Kevin Ryan, senior editor of Pocket Books, attributes the success of the Star Trek book industry to "the overall quality of the series and growing reader interest that stretches beyond the Star Trek fans to the general public, casual fans and viewers of the show." This public has made the Trek novels one of the best loved and top selling series of any genre in publishing.
Ballantine Publishing first held the rights for the production of the Star Trek novelizations and original paperbacks. When Paramount Studios, owner of the Star Trek universe, bought Simon & Schuster, it transferred the book rights to Pocket Books, one of the book publisher's divisions.
Other publishing houses, however, have also cashed in on Star Trek's popularity. Harper Books recently published William Shatner's Star Trek Memories. The biography of Gene Roddenberry, The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek, by Joel Engel was printed by Hyperion. Dave Marinaccio wrote All I Really Need To Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek for the Crown Publishing Group (see review below), and for those who found some fault with the television series, Dell Publishing last year produced The Nitpicker's Guide for Next Generation Trekkers by Phil Farrand. This month Putnam published Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories by Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Uhura, the first major continuing role in television for an African-American woman. Even Ballantine, no longer able to print new titles, reprinted the third volume in its series based on the classic Star Trek television episodes.
The bulk of the Star Trek books, however, come from Pocket Books which offers novelizations, manuals, and a children's series based at Star Fleet Academy. Pocket Books also publishes each year at least four hardcover novels and nonfiction works based on the Star Trek universe. Q-Squared, a Next Generation novel by Peter David, spent over five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. In November Federation, by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, will hit the stands. This novel gives the fictional account of the United Federation of Planets. Trekkers and non-Trekkers will read of the history of the birth of the United Federation of Planets, from the Cochran warp drive, to Capt. Kirk's place in Federation history, through the adventures of the NCC-1701-D Enterprise crew under the command of Capt. Picard.
Battles in the paperback novels were generally fought over a single planet or maybe even a space station. The Pocket Books' hardcover novels are more grandiose: Nothing less than the universe is at stake. All 12 hardbacks published so far have spent some time on the New York Times bestseller list.
Ideas for the book series are not decided by a committee, but come directly out of writers' proposals. "The Star Trek book program is writer driven," says Ryan. An editorial board may suggest that a certain author such as Peter David do a book on the Borg, a cybernetic life form which has the habit of assimilating other life forms, but it is up to the writer to delve into the Borg collective consciousness and come up with a plot.
In excess of 20 authors regularly contribute to the Pocket Books Star Trek division. Some, like A. C. Crispin and Jan Dillard, were fans who sent novel proposals to Pocket Books. "The Star Trek program is a very successful, highly competitive market which is difficult for a first-time writer to break into," says Ryan. He suggests that anyone interested in learning more about writing for Pocket Books send for writer's guidelines. "As a general rule, the best chance for a Star Trek submission by a first-time Star Trek writer is with a "traditional' Star Trek mission story that follows the Problem on Planet/Problem on Ship format of the shows," advises the guidelines. Watch the television shows and, for the best advice, read the novels.
Of all the series, Star Trek: The Next Generation titles sell slightly better than titles from the other series. With the cancellation of the television show, the Next Generation novels will only increase their sales, predicts Ryan.
Pocket Books publishes about six new titles in each series every year. These 24 books do not include the special novelizations of movies or the technical manuals. In November Pocket Books will publish its first coffee-table book. Where No One Has Gone Before chronicles the entire Star Trek phenomenon. J. M. Dillard wrote the text for what is dubbed "a History in Pictures." Now Trekkers will have the definitive story on how the show was created.
Cacophony, the second original audio novel, appeared this month. This Capt. Sulu novel, written by J. J. Molloy, is about a culture which worships the radio noise that originated from Earth broadcasts. George Takei, who played Capt. Sulu on the original television series, is featured on the tape, accompanied by something called 3-D sound.
Takei's autobiography, To the Stars, also appeared in the bookstores this month.
Overall, Pocket Books expects nine new works this fall. Of these, Federation, Where No One Has Gone Before and To the Stars are hardcover works. The paperback novels coming out this fall will include two that follow the adventures of the crew of Deep Space Nine. The next young adult novel finds Jake Sisko and Nog of Deep Space Nine dealing with a new Bajoran classmate.
Thanks to the adoration of Trekkers and casual fans of Star Fleet, the Federation universe is continuing to expand through books. Trekkers no longer have to wait for their weekly Trek fix. The pile of Star Trek books may some day reach to the stars.
Stephanie Jo Allison is a Times staff member.
Spaced out lessons
In All I Really Need To Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek (Crown, $14), Dave Marinaccio begins with the age old plea: Why am I here?
"As a human being, I had always sought a center in my life, an example to follow," writes Marinaccio. Unfortunately, for Marinaccio that center is Star Trek. In reading this book, I'm reminded of the Saturday Night Live skit in which William Shatner told the Trekkers to get a life.
To be fair, some of his mental games are thoughtful and almost reach that spiritual core he strives so hard to find. "What "Beam me up, Scotty' means," writes Marinaccio, "is that you realize an event is beyond your control but you're going to react with a sense of humor and then move on," rather than reacting in rage or losing control. If all of the excerpts were this succinct, Marinaccio would have written a wonderfully witty book. Unfortunately, most twist and turn for a page or two without making a concrete connection to the Star Trek series or his center of spirituality.
Others are entertaining, such as the rule "never, ever, ever wear a red shirt _ not under any circumstances. Don't do it." We've all seen that unknown crew member dressed in red dye in the first five minutes of the program.
Most of Marinaccio's reflections, however, are merely contrived. "It's hard to infer Star Trek's opinion of pets. No one on the Enterprise has one. No one on the NCC-1701 Enterprise, that is. On the Enterprise NCC-1701-D, the starship of The Next Generation, Commander Data has a cat. Also, in the captain's ready room there is an aquarium with . . . fish? Something that looks like fish, anyhow. Either way, whatever is in the bowl behind Picard's desk really doesn't qualify as a pet. And when you consider that Data isn't human _ he's an android _ no one on the Enterprise D has a pet, either," he rattles on. And then to add insult to injury this pointless extrapolation leads to a discussion about why people who live in cities should not own pets. By the way, he is wrong about pets on the Enterprise: There are six male cats on Enterprise D that belong to humanoid crew members.
Most Trekkers like to laugh at themselves. So please, if you must find your spiritual core, do it with some humor. After all, Star Trek is only a television show.
_ Stephanie Jo Allison