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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old August 30 2012, 06:36 PM   #1
Twain
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Literate Trek Novels

I am - generally speaking - not a reader of fiction based on TV series, so I thought I would ask this question of the experts...

Are there any examples of well established, critically acclaimed authors writing Trek novels? And are they any good?

Michael Moorcock has written a Doctor Who novel. It's not his best work, but is a distinct cut above others I've sampled and quickly binned.

I know there were some fine science fiction authors who worked on TOS (Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson and so on).

How about Trek novels?
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Old August 30 2012, 06:55 PM   #2
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Greg Bear wrote a Trek novel, Corona, early in his career, just before his fame really started to take off. David Gerrold got his start writing Star Trek on TV and then went on to become a widely acclaimed author of original SF; he wrote one original Trek novel, The Galactic Whirlpool, for Bantam in 1980, as well as the novelization of TNG's pilot "Encounter at Farpoint." Other, more prolific Trek authors who are also well-known and highly regarded for their original work include Diane Duane and Peter David.

However, perhaps the most famous, important, critically acclaimed science fiction author ever to write a Star Trek novel was Robert Sheckley, but his Deep Space Nine novel The Laertian Gamble is widely despised as not feeling a lot like DS9. Similarly, K. W. Jeter is a well-regarded SF novelist, but his DS9 novel Warped just didn't feel right and was so unpopular that it killed interest in hardcover DS9 books for over a decade.

So people who are acclaimed for their original work won't necessarily produce acclaimed tie-in literature. It's a different discipline with different demands. It's necessary to balance an original voice and perspective with fidelity to the voice, characters, and continuity of the work you're tying into, and authors who are used to doing their own original work can't always make that transition -- can't always adjust their own voices and sensibilities enough to produce an authentic and satisfying tie-in. (No value judgment there; it's just that not every artist can adapt to multiple disciplines. Screenwriters aren't automatically novelists, painters can't necessarily sculpt, and being a great violinist won't make you a great sax player.) So it's unwise to assume that fame or reputation alone is the only measure of quality here. There have been some brilliant works of Star Trek literature published over the past dozen years, but few are by anyone who'd be considered a big name in broader literary circles (at least, not yet, he said hopefully).
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Old August 30 2012, 06:58 PM   #3
Greg Cox
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

I'm tempted to nominate the late John M. Ford, who wrote at least one award-winning alternate history novel as well as a widely-acclaimed Trek novel, The Final Reflection.
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Old August 30 2012, 07:00 PM   #4
Twain
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Thank you for your reply Christopher. May I turn the question around a little, then, and ask which Trek novels are a match for the best in Science Fiction? In other words, which are closest in quality to the best output of those acclaimed names?
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Old August 30 2012, 07:09 PM   #5
CNash
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but you seem to be coming in with the assumption that most tie-in fiction is by definition inferior to "literature" or even mainstream science fiction. I know that sci-fi isn't the most respected literary genre, but to dismiss huge amounts of published work like that is quite unfair.
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Old August 30 2012, 07:13 PM   #6
Twain
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

CNash wrote: View Post
Forgive me if I'm wrong, but you seem to be coming in with the assumption that most tie-in fiction is by definition inferior to "literature" or even mainstream science fiction. I know that sci-fi isn't the most respected literary genre, but to dismiss huge amounts of published work like that is quite unfair.
That was not my intention. I am a seasoned reader of both sci-fi and contemporary literature. As I said, I have not read very much tie-in at all (though the little I have read, aside from the Moorcock novel I cited, is risible). I posted this query to learn.
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Old August 30 2012, 07:29 PM   #7
Greg Cox
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Well, to be fair, some tie-in books are probably more "literary" than others.

I've heard good things about A Stitch in Time by Andrew J. Robinson, although I haven't had a chance to read it myself. It sounds like it might be what the OP is looking for.
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Old August 30 2012, 07:54 PM   #8
Sci
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

With the proviso that I object to the term "literary" in general, as I think it denotes a level of snobbishness directed at perfectly good stories as somehow being untrue literature...

The most sophisticated, best-written Star Trek novels I've ever read would probably be:
  • The Final Reflection by John M. Ford
  • DS9: Hollow Men by Una McCormack
  • DS9: The Never-Ending Sacrifice by Una McCormack
  • Terok Nor: Day of the Vipers by James Swallow
  • Typhon Pact: Rough Beasts of Empire by David R. George III
  • Typhon Pact: Plague of Nights by David R. George III
  • Typhon Pact: Raise the Dawn by David R. George III
  • Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game by David Mack
  • Destiny by David Mack
  • Mirror Universe: The Sorrows of Empire by David Mack
  • S.C.E.: Wildfire by David Mack
  • Articles of the Federation by Keith R.A. DeCandido
  • Spock's World by Diane Duane
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Old August 30 2012, 08:09 PM   #9
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Hey Twain,

If you're familiar enough with DS9 so that you don't need to rack your brain when previously established characters and events occur, then I would recommend to you Una McCormack's The Never Ending Sacrifice

Ms. McCormack is not a famous established writer, at least not on the order of those who you have mentioned above, and in fact has spent most of her life writing fan-fiction but thank God I didn't know this when I thought about purchasing that novel.

I'll quote myself from three years ago:

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I haven't come to this site in nearly a year and I haven't talked about anything Trek related on here for several more but I absolutely had to log back in to say what an absolutely terrific novel this is.

I started reading it late last night right before bed, planning to stop once I got sleepy. I stopped at four in the morning because that was when I had finished the book.

I have probably read close to a hundred Trek novels and every time I pick one up, my expectations are that it will be an enjoyable and entertaining diversion for the duration of the time that I read it; I do not expect an engrossing novel which makes me emotionally invested in their lives of complex and flawed characters, which makes me think of the contradictory and reciprocal qualities and frailties found within an individual and within society, which makes me view such timeworn topoi such as love and duty in a different light. And yet this is such a book.

If you're looking for a novel that simply advanced the main DS9 story arc or is about managing to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow within the flux capacitor to close the subspace anomaly, you will be disappointed. But if you're looking for a profound and well-written bildungsroman that shows the zeniths and nadirs of human (or Cardassian or Bajoran) nature, Trek related or not, science-fiction or not, I heartily recommend this one and send my thanks to the author for having written it.
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Old August 30 2012, 08:11 PM   #10
Relayer1
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

I'd agree with most of Sci's selections, and I'd add that possibly the first tie-in literature that I thought stood on it's own as a novel was Peter David's 'Imzadi'.

It has been something like 20 years since I read it though...
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Old August 30 2012, 09:57 PM   #11
hbquikcomjamesl
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Let us not forget that Alan Dean Foster (of the Humanx Commonwealth and Spellsinger series, as well as a number of Mad Amos short stories) did the print adaptations of TAS, and some of the earliest story work for TMP, and the novelization of the inaugrual Abramsverse film, as well as three Star Wars books (ghosting the novelization of IV for George Lucas, and writing two original novels).

At any rate, I definitely second the nominations of Diane Duane and John M. Ford (and not just for the works cited), and also Greg Cox as well, especially for anything involving Gary Seven, Khan, or time travel.
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Old August 30 2012, 10:35 PM   #12
Starbreaker
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

You can't go wrong with the big names writing today: Mack, George, Bennett, Beyer. The restraints have been lifted now that all the series are over and the authors are free to tell stories on a grand scale that have lasting consequences for the characters and the Star Trek universe overall.

There's a lot of horrible to mediocre Trek fiction out there, but everyone has their favorites that they put head and shoulders above everything else. For me, it's books like The Destiny Trilogy by David Mack, Mission Gamma: Twilight by David R. George III, The Buried Age by Christopher L. Bennett - stuff that breaks the formula.

Laurell K. Hamilton wrote a TNG novel called Nightshade, and she is certainly a hit among the vampire romance (?) fans. They managed to get that one reprinted in TPB last year.
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Old August 30 2012, 10:41 PM   #13
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Sci wrote: View Post
  • Spock's World by Diane Duane
It's probably worth noting that this first Pocket ST hardcover originally came out without the words "Star Trek" on its spine. It often stood proudly in the main SF section of many bookshops when it first came out.
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Old August 30 2012, 10:49 PM   #14
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

I remember back in the early 2000's when "Star Trek" got much smaller on the book covers for a while...
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Old August 30 2012, 10:54 PM   #15
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Well don't forget that Peter David is also known for his Hulk stories and his episodes of Babylon 5.
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