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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Misc. Star Trek > Trek Literature

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

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Old August 30 2012, 10:57 PM   #16
Greg Cox
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Kij Johnson has since become an acclaimed literary fantasist herself, although I'm not sure Dragon's Honor (our zany collaborative TNG novel) is all that representative of her original work.
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Old August 30 2012, 11:32 PM   #17
Sci
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

I do get the impression that OP is looking for Star Trek novels and novelists who are relatively divorced from the kinds of action-adventure-oriented storytelling one finds in many genre stories, so I tried to orient my list towards stories that, even if they feature action and adventure, are more about deeper themes and emotions. To make a comparison: both Atonement and Pearl Harbor are World War II films, but the OP seems more interested in something like Atonement's thematic depth than Pearl Harbor's frenzy of action and melodrama. Or to make another comparison -- something less like 2008's Iron Man and more like 2008's The Dark Knight.
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Old August 31 2012, 01:47 AM   #18
Sho
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

My impression is really that the OP is looking for books that could be considered and enjoyed as great scifi novels independent of the franchise association, i.e. the question is less about quality in an absolute sense and more about quality sans context.

As in, a Star Trek book can be a great Star Trek book because if makes effective use of or subverts characters/situations/tropes from the franchise, but that makes its greatness dependent on that context, whereas some stories may be set in the franchise, but mostly do their own thing. Many of this latter category then come out as lackluster because that own thing just isn't very good and they also don't tap into anyone else's good things - but some are also shining jewels.

The ones that come to mind easily are The Final Reflection and A Stitch in Time, which make really worthy social scifi tales even if ripped out of the greater tapestry of the Star Trek franchise. Quite possibly also Crossroad.
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Old August 31 2012, 02:24 AM   #19
DrCorby
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Don't forget that Joe Haldeman (of Forever War fame) wrote a couple of the Bantam Star Trek novels back in the '70s. They were (IMHO) OK, but not the greatest Star Trek novels, nor among Mr Haldeman's best and brightest, either.
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Old August 31 2012, 09:04 AM   #20
Hugh Cambridge
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

I would like to add "DTI Watching the clock" which is a very good SF book in itself
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Old August 31 2012, 09:08 AM   #21
Twain
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Sci wrote: View Post
I do get the impression that OP is looking for Star Trek novels and novelists who are relatively divorced from the kinds of action-adventure-oriented storytelling one finds in many genre stories (...) something like Atonement's thematic depth than Pearl Harbor's frenzy of action and melodrama.
Sho wrote: View Post
My impression is really that the OP is looking for books that could be considered and enjoyed as great scifi novels independent of the franchise association, i.e. the question is less about quality in an absolute sense and more about quality sans context.
I think both of these are fair characterisations of what I was looking for. Thank you so much to everyone who has made suggestions, especially Sci for his list. John M. Ford has been a repeated recommendation, so I'll begin with The Final Reflection.
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Old August 31 2012, 09:11 AM   #22
Twain
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

DrCorby wrote: View Post
Don't forget that Joe Haldeman (of Forever War fame) wrote a couple of the Bantam Star Trek novels back in the '70s. They were (IMHO) OK, but not the greatest Star Trek novels, nor among Mr Haldeman's best and brightest, either.
A pity, as I'm sure Haldeman has a great Star Trek novel in him. His follow-ups to Forever War were a little workman-like too.
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Old August 31 2012, 11:58 AM   #23
Jarvisimo
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

I would add also Una McCormack's The Never-Ending Sacrifice. I have asked this question before on the boards: whilst I enjoy treklit, I have sought where its more high art elements are. This book my wife read - she really dislikes Trek, is rather snobbish (like me?) - and she loved it, she assessed it, she even critiqued it. It's the book I recommend anyone I know who is interested and who wishes a more ... interesting read. McCormack's style in TNS is very Pasternak-esque, it feels like ... beautiful. I find it has a very lyric, very considered, very allusivie quality to it. It also doesn't feel like 'science fiction' at all, and even doesn't feel like a 'Trek' book, but instead, something - as Sci and Sho each wrote above - divorced from most conventions of this genre. Just wonderful. The author also did do a phd (though I don't know if she finished), and perhaps that level of intention and writing shows through in books like this one.

I would also recommend Ford, and perhaps Robinson's book, A Stitch in Time, again another book that doesn't feel at all like a Trek book really. Though it is hevaily entrenched, perhaps, in knowing the character the author played.
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Old August 31 2012, 12:09 PM   #24
Jarvisimo
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Christopher wrote: View Post
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.
It's really interesting that you write this, Christopher. I am not sure tie-in fiction needs to do this, that in some senses authors should have the chance to do very different interpretations of characters, events and the like. (perhaps a very Abrams-esque, be gone with the sacred cows approach - and not at all commercially-minded?)

I think of it like artists approaching a particular iconography, there are some things that remain the same (the contents, say Christ, the Virgin and St John the Evangelist in most crucifxions) . However the artists' intepretations of the event and traditional elements are dissilimilar (stylistically or formally, compositionally, allusively), so much so that the basic iconography is completely remade, and each achieves very different effects for the audience.

In some senses I do wonder if that is what I like about the better written older books, like Ford, or a singular entity like TNS - they are so much more distinctive reintepretations of the base.

If one had Zadie Smith, Ian MacEwan, Sebastian Faulks and Iain Banks write Treklit, wouldn't it be a total shame if they were not given the chance to write their own version? I guess the question that underlines what I write, is what is 'tie-in' literature and what can it be and not be.
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Old August 31 2012, 02:16 PM   #25
Daddy Todd
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Jarvisimo wrote: View Post
If one had Zadie Smith, Ian MacEwan, Sebastian Faulks and Iain Banks write Treklit, wouldn't it be a total shame if they were not given the chance to write their own version? I guess the question that underlines what I write, is what is 'tie-in' literature and what can it be and not be.
Sometimes "radical reinvention" simply becomes parody -- like Galaxy Quest, K/S fan fiction or, to pick a "literary" example, Scalzi's Redshirts. It could be argued that all three are radical reinventions of Star Trek.

At some point, "radical reinvention" stops being tie-in literature and becomes something else.

People purchase and read tie-in and series literature because they want a fresh, but familiar experience. Not too familiar, lest it become tiresome (as in much Treklit published between 1989-1994) but not to radically different, lest it become too strange and new. (We want our "strange new worlds" to be comfortably familiar, too -- just look at the angst caused by Janeway's death or Sisko's divorce.)

Striking the right balance isn't easy. Writers who can consistently scratch our itch for "sense of wonder" as well as our yearning for "comfort food" are rare. Fortunately, the current stable of regular Treklit writers seems to hit that sweet spot far more often than they miss it.
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Old August 31 2012, 02:49 PM   #26
Christopher
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

There's certainly room within Trek Lit for authors to express their own distinctive voices and worldviews. My Trek novels are profoundly different in style and tone from, say, Peter David's or Margaret Wander Bonanno's or Diane Duane's. You read a Trek novel by Duane and you're reading a Diane Duane novel, a book that's in much the same voice and conveys much the same ideas and sensibilities as her original works like the Young Wizards series. You read a Trek novel by David and it feels a lot like his comic-book writing or his original novels, with the same edge, absurdism, and snarky wit (and having conversed with him at Shore Leave just weeks ago, I can safely say that the way he writes is the same as the way he talks). You read a Trek novel by me and you get the same hard-SF sensibilities and the same overall voice and attitude that you'd get in my original work, allowing for the need to adapt to the ground rules and tone of Trek.

But as I said, the key is balance. If a book doesn't feel enough like Star Trek, or if it gets certain things about it wrong, then that can alienate readers. Not to mention that a number of original-SF writers, let alone "literary" ones, tend to see tie-in writing as slumming, so they might look on a Trek novel just as a quick-and-dirty way to make a buck and not put a lot of care into it, if they bothered to do it at all. The best tie-in writers for a given franchise are generally fans of it, people who really know it well and care about it and are willing to put their best work into a tie-in novel about it. You can be an accomplished original/literary writer and love Trek and thus produce really top-notch Trek novels -- but if you're a hugely acclaimed, accomplished author who's never been much of a Trek fan and doesn't have strong feelings about it, then your attempt to produce a Trek novel might not work very well as either a Trek novel or a self-contained literary work. After all, good writing entails passion toward your subject.

I'm reminded of what happens when respected "mainstream" authors decide to dabble in science-fiction themes for the first time. All too often, the ideas that they think are so fresh and innovative and daring are things that more "lowbrow" SF writers had already mined quite thoroughly decades before, and are just warmed-over cliches that aren't even handled as deftly as the SF writers did. I was once at a book fair event seated next to an author who was so proud of this book he'd written as an attempt to plausibly extrapolate where our society was going and where it would be in 30 or 40 years, so convinced that it was this revelatory, cutting-edge piece of work -- and I didn't have the heart to tell him that he was just rehashing a bunch of hackneyed, obvious dystopian-future tropes that science fiction had beaten him to by decades and already thoroughly played out in countless books and movies. It doesn't matter how accomplished you are in your own field -- if you switch to a new field, you're still gonna be a beginner there.
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Old August 31 2012, 03:00 PM   #27
Jarvisimo
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

Good points, D.Todd and Christopher. I even remember your anecdote, Christopher! And yes, your style is your own: I wouldn't ever deny that. Looking forward to your new novel to see what is different about it and your tie-in

I did include Faulks in little line up because of his brilliant Bond novel, which was very Flemming, and little like Bird Song though perhaps a bit like Charlotte Grey. Anyway, good points & I see what you both mean.
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Old August 31 2012, 04:44 PM   #28
Lindley
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

A Stitch In Time is Garak's autobiography, written by the actor who played him. It's fantastic.

Articles of the Federation is sort of Star Trek meets The West Wing, if that seems interesting. It's a little bit tied into the ongoing continuity of the post-series novels, while still standing well on its own.

Q-Squared is one of my favorite older books. It's been years since I read it, so I can't say how well it would hold up now, but it's just a lot of fun.

I'll also second the mention of Imzadi.
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Old August 31 2012, 05:12 PM   #29
ICW
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

I would recommend Federation by Judith Reeves and Garfield Reeves-Stevens.
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Old August 31 2012, 05:12 PM   #30
Jarvisimo
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Re: Literate Trek Novels

The Crucible books are wrapped around core images, themes and events, and very beautifully written. They are each analyses of the three central characters of Kirk, McCoy and Spock, very ambitious and rather more 'literary' in aspiration than most trek lit texts (including David R George III's other works).

Crucible: McCoy: Provenance of Shadows

Spock: The Fire and the Rose: Spock

Kirk: The Star to Every Wandering
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