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February, 2006 : Essay:

To Seek Out New Books

Adventures in the Star Trek Publishing Universe

The Star Trek publishing universe is a big place. I already knew that. But it wasn't until I attempted to figure out how big it really is that I realized... well... how big it really is.

It all began at 8:30 P.M. EST, on September 8, 1966—a Thursday night—with The Man Trap, the first episode of NBC's new science fiction series, Star Trek. Ratings were respectable, if lower than expected, but declined steadily over the show's three-season run.

The last episode of the original series—TOS, as it is now known—aired on June 3, 1969 and by then the Star Trek publishing industry was in its formative stages. Bantam Books released the first Star Trek book in January 1967, just four months after the show's debut.

The 136-page book was titled—appropriately enough—Star Trek. It was later renamed to Star Trek 1, when it became clear that a series was getting underway. James Blish, a well-known and respected science fiction writer even before he turned to writing Star Trek books, set the pattern for the fictional works that followed, taking seven episodes from the series and reworking them as short stories.

By the end of 1968, the number of Star Trek books were still at a manageable number—four. The three new releases—the second in Blish's series; The Making of Star Trek, which was the first non-fiction spin-off, and Mission to Horatius, by Mack Reynolds, the first original Star Trek novel. In 1969, the year of Star Trek's demise, two more Star Trek titles came out, including Blish's Star Trek 3.

The next five years were quiet ones. Star Trek books came out at about four a year, according to The Complete Starfleet Library, a Web-based database of Star Trek books maintained by enthusiast Steve Roby. Around 1975, things began to pick up, with ten Star Trek books hitting the shelf. That number jumped to about fifteen titles a year until 1979, when Star Trek: The Movie premiered.

With the release of subsequent Star Trek movies, not to mention four more Trek TV series, not to mention the extreme interest—sometimes bordering on mania—in all things Star Trek, the flow of books steadily increased.

Roby says that the Star Trek publishing phenomenon peaked in the mid-Nineties. The top year—1996—saw nearly eighty titles released. Roby estimates that about fifty new titles a year have been issued since then, though the flow has lessened in recent years.

The lion's share of this output is fiction. There are fictional series based on characters from each Trek TV series, not to mention another twelve fiction lines, among them Starfleet Corps of Engineers, The Captain's Table, New Frontier and Day of Honor.

But fiction, though more numerous, is certainly not all there is. There's nonfiction, and plenty of it, covering a range of topics so wide-ranging that it might even cause the staid Mr. Spock to lift an eyebrow.

Speaking of Spock, there are biographies, autobiographies and memoirs, the first of which, according to Roby's site, is Leonard Nimoy's I Am Not Spock, released in 1975. Nimoy had a change of heart over the next two decades, releasing the follow-up volume—I Am Spock—in 1995.

Since then, there have been at least thirty books published in the biography category, covering all major characters from the original series, as well as many lesser characters, a few from other Trek TV series, a few about Gene Roddenberry—creator of Star Trek—and even Star Trek's Greatest Guest Stars.

William Shatner alone has turned Star Trek publishing into a thriving cottage industry, churning out numerous works of fiction and non-fiction and even veering off into non-Trek writing projects. Shatner, who has been the subject of works like Captain Quirk: The Unauthorized Biography of William Shatner and the Encyclopedia Shatnerica, has mined an apparently bottomless store of memories to produce books like Star Trek Memories; My Star Trek Memories; Star Trek Movie Memories; Star Trek Movie Memoirs: Behind the Scenes of the Epic Movies; Get A Life!; The Captains Log: William Shatner's Personal Account Of Making Star Trek V—and more.

Trek nonfiction ranges far and wide. There are scores of Star Trek encyclopedias and technical manuals, including many that deconstruct various Star Trek ships in painstaking detail. There are books that cover the making of, the world of, the ethics of, the metaphysics of, the monsters of, the music of, the physics of, the religions of, the ships of, the special effects of and the biology of Star Trek, just to name a few.

There are high-falutin' scholarly analyses of Star Trek, works like Multicultural Communication and Popular Culture: Racial and Ethnic Images in Star Trek and Narratives from the Final Frontier: A Postcolonial Reading of the Original Star Trek Series.

Looking for a book on Star Trek cuisine? You're in luck. The Official Star Trek Cooking Manual, published by Mary Ann Piccard in 1978, features more than one hundred Star Trek-themed recipes. The Trek Cookbook, published in 1998 by Ethan Phillips (Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager), offers up more stellar cuisine.

Ready to learn Klingon, the language spoken by Star Trek's most notorious bad eggs? Try The Klingon Dictionary, Klingon for the Galactic Traveler, or The Klingon Way: A Warrior's Guide, all written by Marc Okrand, the man who devised the Klingon language. Of course, once you've mastered Klingon, you'll need something to read, but fear not. Some enterprising souls have taken the trouble to translate the epic Gilgamesh into Klingon, along with Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet.

Looking to hone your business management skills? How about Make It So: Leadership Lessons From Star Trek: The Next Generation, by Wess Roberts and Bill Ross? Want to know how those ubiquitous Star Trek conventions are put together? Try Joan Winston's The Making Of The Trek Conventions: Or, How To Throw A Party For 12,000 Of Your Most Intimate Friends. Ready to tackle the ancient Japanese art of origami? Andrew Pang's Star Trek: Paper Universe may be the book for you.

Robert Bly, best known for Iron John: A Book About Men, is one of the more famous writers to pen a Star Trek book. In 1995, Bly published The Ultimate Unauthorized Star Trek Quiz Book, following it up the next year with Why You Should Never Beam Down in a Red Shirt: And 749 More Answers to Questions About Star Trek.

In Treks Not Taken: What If Stephen King, Anne Rice, Kurt Vonnegut, and Other Literary Greats Had Written Episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation? Steven Boyett speculates on what have resulted if some truly famous writers had taken up the Star Trek mantle. If your literary interests lean more toward verse, then you're in luck, thanks to Valerie Laws, who edited Star Trek: The Poems.

So exactly how big is the Star Trek publishing universe? Excellent question, Tribble Breath, and one to which there may be no truly definitive answer.

In 1999, in Future Perfect: How Star Trek Conquered Planet Earth, Jeff Greenwald—who interviewed Trek fan the Dalai Lama—estimated that nearly 20,000 Star Trek books were sold every day in the United States. Which doesn't really answer the question, but it's a pretty nifty statistic even so. A search for the phrase "Star Trek" at Amazon's Books section brings back approximately 3,043 results which, again, doesn't settle the question, but is pretty damned impressive.

A better idea of how many Star Trek titles are out there comes from those who make it their avocation to track Star Trek publishing. Steve Roby puts the tally of Star Trek titles at more than one thousand. The Complete Starfleet Library site lists—at last count—1,059.

Steve Mollmann, who maintains the Star Trek Novel Rankings site, also places the total number at more than one thousand titles, but says it's tough to be too precise. Star Trek fans who cast their votes at Mollmann's site chose the 1985 novel, Uhura's Song, by Janet Kagan, as the most popular Star Trek book of all time, in case you're interested.

The Star Trek LCARS Book Database, another impressive collection of Star Trek publishing data, lists a total of 1,211 titles in 65 categories. John Patuto, who brought the site online in 2004, says he has another twelve books to add to the site and guesses that there are another thirty to thirty-five books out there that he hasn't catalogued—not including comic books.

What's interesting about Patuto's site is that it lists Star Trek books that are part of his own collection, which he says is recognized by Paramount—owner of the Star Trek franchise—as the largest privately held Star Trek book collection.

Patuto's Star Trek collection started in 1978 with a casual purchase—a photonovel called The Galileo Seven—and snowballed. Among the rarities are The Supervillains of Star Trek, The Star Fleet Medical Reference Guide and Sing a Song of Trekkin'. Patuto says, of the latter, a songbook which contains twenty Trek songs, that knows of no other copy aside from his own. The book Patuto covets most is Empire, Aliens & Conquest: A Critique Of American Ideology In Star Trek And Other Science Fiction Adventures, a 1985 work by Jay Goulding. Patuto ran across copies of the book, he has been unwilling, thus far, to part with the one or two hundred-dollar asking price.

For all intents and purposes, it's safe to say that there are at least 1,250 unique Star Trek titles in the universe, and possibly more. Oh, and don't forget that there are probably still about forty books a year being released lately, according to Patuto. Oh, and there are also the hundreds of comic books Patuto leaves out of his official tally. Truly devoted fans, not satisfied with this vast output, can always turn fan fiction. Alt.Startrek.Creative (that's usenet speak, but don't worry, you can access it on the web at TrekiVerse.org had over 10,000 stories archived in 2002, so you can bet there's more there now. And that includes Star Trek erotica, the original Slash! And that's not all: there's also good old Fanfiction.net, which offers nearly 10,000 more fan fiction stories across six Star Trek categories. But if fan fiction isn't your thing, there's always Stasis: Your Guide to the Scholarly Literature of Trek, which contains links to another 500 abstracts, summaries, and references and whatnot and... you know what? My head is starting to hurt. That's all for me.

Read long and prosper.


Copyright © 2006, Bill Lengeman. All Rights Reserved.

About Bill Lengeman

William I. Lengeman III is an Arizona-based freelance journalist. His Web sites include My Star Trek Year and Dog Oil Press

COMMENTS!

Feb 9, 13:54 by IROSF
Thread for the discussion of all things Star Trek.

The article is here.
Feb 10, 13:07 by Elise Tobler
How about the Strange New Worlds contest anthology, published annually?

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