Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Meanwhile, in the world of fan tech...

Though there's a devoted hardcore contingent of Trek tech fans out there, it sometimes seems like the last few years have been less than fulfilling for them. Pocket hasn't been able to make the numbers add up right to produce affordable tech publications, and the golden age of fan tech seemed to be behind us, as well. But now Eric Kristiansen is planning new and revised editions of his Jackill's guides. (That's one of the originals above; I don't yet have a copy of the first of the new editions. Check this space in a month or so.)

And I discovered that I missed a book a couple years ago. This is a somewhat updated collection of three pamphlets first published in the 1970s (and reportedly often counterfeited since), now in the form of a trade paperback. It's a guide for model builders who want their classic Star Trek models to look as authentic as possible. I was crap at building models as a teenager, not having the patience to let the glue dry properly, or the paint, or the decals. Sometimes I didn't even bother reading the instructions closely, with dire results. Obviously I needed this book. It' s no longer the only source on the subject (see Spaceships at the Final Frontier: Building Star Trek Models), but it's detailed, focused, and may also bring back a heck of a lot of nostalgia for anyone who was a fan back in the 1970s and tried building those old AMT kits.

And the comics reprints keep on coming...

It's been several years since there's been a regular, monthly Star Trek comic, but the interest on the part of fans is clearly still there. Checker has published five volumes so far of what might seem to be a tough sell -- the often derided Gold Key Star Trek comics from the late 1960s through the 1970s -- and with only enough uncollected stories for two more volumes or so, they may actually be able to complete the series. Meanwhile, Titan continues its DC Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation reprints on a more regular schedule.

DC Comics themselves reprinted a number of their Star Trek comics in trade paperback format, and there's some overlap between the DC volumes and the Titan volumes. However, DC's collections tended to cherry-pick, going for particular storylines. Titan seems more interested in working through a run of issues. If that continues to be the case, these are going to be the editions more devoted readers will want. Casual fans may find they have enough in their DC collections. Dedicated Peter David fans will want to keep an eye on the Titan books, though, as they're likely to reprint some PAD comics that DC never reprinted.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Just added a couple of items to the Lost Books page. They're both collections of academic papers on Star Trek from the last few years. The editors sent out calls for papers, received a number of papers, talked to publishers, and somehow the books just didn't happen.

I'm disappointed on both counts. The one that's been in the works for a longer period of time was to be a critical anthology on Deep Space Nine. By far the majority of academic writing on Star Trek has focused on the original series and The Next Generation, but Deep Space Nine offered a lot of fertile new ground for analysis and commentary. From its acknowledgment of newer styles of television storytelling to its casting, DS9 was something new in Star Trek.

The second one sounded interesting, too. Called Star Trek: Beyond the US Frontier, it was intended as a collection of papers from academics around the world, examining how the show was perceived and received outside of its home country. There's a bit of that sort of thing (albeit in a more popular, less academic style) in Jeff Greenwald's book Future Perfect, but there's a lot of unexplored territory remaining.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Hey, this is neat...

... though if you're reading this, you almost certainly already know about it. Still...

Over at Psi Phi David Henderson's created a list of blog entries and photo galleries from and about the latest Shore Leave con. I really have to get to Shore Leave some day, but the distance and the fact that it's another country are nontrivial issues. After all, the one time I managed to meet a few of the Pocket folks was when I was in NYC for a work-related conference. As cool as that experience was, it'd be great to meet in person a bunch of the people I regularly interact with online, and Shore Leave really seems to be the place for that.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The $100 version or the $500 version? Decisions, decisions...

If you can't afford to bid a few thousand dollars for anyof the items at Christie's Star Trek auction, you can always buy a copy of the catalogue. There's a two-volume set for $100 (well, $81 if you preorder in the next week or two) and a special limited edition boxed set for $500.

I've never bought anything through a major auction house, but many years ago I did buy an auction catalogue for its illustrations: Sotheby's Roger Rabbit book. I need to get a copy of this catalogue. In the interest of financial stability and marital harmony, I went for the cheaper option.

The auction itself is on October 5, and the catalogue is expected to start shipping a few weeks before the auction.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Summon the Thunder: not too spoilerific thoughts

Enterprise, JJ Abrams's movie, the JMS/Zabel pitch... there's been a lot of emphasis on somehow restoring Star Trek to its roots while telling stories for a 21st century audience, and a lot of controversy. Meanwhile, at Pocket Books, the editors and writers just get on with it with a minimum of fuss and bother.

Vanguard's second novel moves the planned story arc forward in several respects, answering a few questions, telling us more about the new characters introduced in Harbinger, fitting the events into the context of early TOS, and putting things in place to move the story forward, no small feat. But it also introduces a number of new characters. Like Harbinger, Summon the Thunder has a significant body count, and both books make you care about the characters who don't make it to the end of the story. It isn't just a series of anonymous redshirts.

We also get to see some real plot development as well. Though it was clear from Harbinger that the mystery of the Taurus Reach had some connection with the Tholians, we learn more about that connection here, in ways that suggest that this series may end up doing for the Tholians what the DS9 relaunch has done for the Andorians, though this time from an outside perspective, as there's no real Tholian viewpoint character thus far. And the Romulan involvement, which at first had me thinking "again with the Romulans," as the once-neglected culture has had a lot of exposure in recent novels (and forthcoming novels as well), makes a lot of sense, as it's meant to have repercussions not only in the books but in TOS itself, this book occurring before "Balance of Terror." It's a typical example of the consolidation/expansion technique the Pocket books have been doing in recent years, pulling together threads from the actual TV episodes and movies, while at the same time pulling back and showing us more of the backdrop against which those episodes and movies took place. It's all making the Star Trek universe a more complex and believable setting.

With its ancient galactic mystery, the Vanguard concept seems to resemble the JMS/Zabel reboot in some respects, though obviously that's purely coincidental. What Vanguard gets right that the S/Z reboot gets wrong is two important things: it doesn't depend on familiar faces, and it has the kind of large ensemble of characters an epic series needs.

So what can I say about Summon the Thunder? The good: some characters' motivations are made more understandable; some relationships are beginning to develop in new ways; some mysteries are being untangled. In fact, as plot-heavy as the series seems likely to be, given the existence of a story arc mapped out by Marco Palmieri and David Mack, it's the characters I find myself most interested in. That's the challenge that any new Star Trek TV series or movies will have to meet, too. The epic scope of the stories being told in Vanguard (and the Deep Space Nine relaunch and the Titan series, the two other current Trek book series Vanguard most resembles) matters because the characters matter. It isn't just about watching the pieces of the plot coming together, the way Babylon 5 sometimes was.

Not as good: in a couple of spots the prose is a little clunky. Pennington's dialogue could use a little work, too; he's supposed to be Scottish, and writers have mentioned that to an extent he's modeled on Ewan MacGregor, but he comes across as at times as a typical Hollywood Brit of the kind you'd never actually find in south London, Manchester, or Birmingham, much less Glasgow or Edinburgh. Still, any book with a sentence like "As my grandfather used to say, this furshlugginer veeblefetzer's gone all potrzebie" (p. 264) is clearly a work of genius.

So I'm looking forward to more Vanguard, but I'm also looking forward to catching up with my SCE reading. It's good to know there are more adventures with the Lovell crew that I haven't read yet, and I fully intend to get up to speed.