James Blish

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Patrick O'Brien, Jul 10, 2012.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't think he never saw it; hbquikcomjamesl just meant he hadn't yet seen it at the time he did the first few volumes. After all, the first book came out in January 1967, just a few months after the show premiered, so he would've had to write it before the show premiered.

    Much the same was the case with the earliest novel tie-ins to TNG, DS9, VGR, and ENT. They all had to be outlined, and in many cases written, before the shows premiered, so that they could be published reasonably soon after the premieres. And they ranged from debut novels like TNG: Ghost Ship -- which was based only on the writers' bible and the pilot script and is all but unrecognizable as TNG -- to DS9: The Siege -- which was based on the first five scripts and still holds up remarkably well in retrospect, aside from the retrospective continuity error of blowing up the indestructible Rio Grande.

    I'm not sure who would've been responsible for picking Blish to write the books; I know Fredrik Pohl edited the original Bantam Trek novels, but I'm not sure he would've been responsible for the '60s episode adaptation volumes. But anyway, it's no surprise that they would've picked a famous, successful science fiction author to do the adaptations. After all, when they commissioned the first volume, the show wasn't on the air yet and it was an unknown commodity from a producer who didn't have much of a track record. They had no idea if it would amount to anything. So they brought in a big-name SF author to do it on the theory that his name would draw in the readers.
     
  2. iarann

    iarann Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    It's also important to note that even when he did get a chance to see episodes, it's not like today where one could just record the episodes to review later to get a better impression of the setting and characters. I remember reading in Voyages of the Imagination a lot of authors would review episodes they recorded or DVDs over and over to get a feel for things so it would be as authentic as possible. James Blish did not have these luxuries, the best the studio could do was get him the final shooting scripts (which may or may not have been altered during filming causing some discrepancy) and visual guidelines. He did watch the show with his wife, but they didn't always have TV and they missed episodes. After he passed away, his wife was able to get access to screenings at the BBC and record the audio for the episodes, but she only had the Mudd episodes left at that point.
     
  3. Patrick O'Brien

    Patrick O'Brien Captain Captain

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    Thanks for the clarification Chris and Iarann. I'd like to read book one, just to see how it reads, compared to the episodes he could not have seen. Must be an interesting take on things?
     
  4. Garrovick

    Garrovick Commander Red Shirt

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    This thread got me curious, and I've been taking another look at my copies of the Blish volumes. Blish states in the preface to one of the later adaptations, I believe it was Star Trek 11 but it may have been Star Trek 12 (which his wife finished up and published after his passing) that he did alter the ending of one episode because he felt that the ending as aired just didn't work well on the printed page, but it was strictly a one-time thing. But he didn't specify which episode it was - my guess is The Doomsday Machine, but I don't know that for certain. But that episode reads quite differently than the aired version.
     
  5. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    A couple months ago, I read a blog(?) with a series of entries chronicling the major differences between the episodes and Blish's stories, but I'll be damned if I can find them now.
     
  6. iarann

    iarann Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Hmm, I would have to look as well. I know that for the Menagerie he cut out the framing part of the plot and did a straight adaptation of the Cage, but that's the only deliberate change I remember because he said it didn't work well.
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I just used the first volume as an example. There are significant differences in the first several volumes. It wasn't until the later volumes in the '70s, when the show was airing constantly in syndicated reruns, that Blish and Lawrence were able to make their adaptations more exact. And as I said above, it's not just a factor of unfamiliarity; the attitude toward adaptations in the '60s and '70s was that it was perfectly okay for the adaptor to alter the story to fit his own style and preferences, that the goal was to use the original work as inspiration for a prose work that would be judged on its own independent merits. After all, in the '60s, people read more and watched TV less, or at least had far less guaranteed access to a given program, so for many readers, the prose version would be the only incarnation of the story they'd ever see. So the priority was to make it work as an effective short story in its own right, not to make it a faithful record of a TV episode.

    People have talked about the changed ending of "The Doomsday Machine," but that's nothing compared to "Operation: Annihilate," which is in the second volume and is almost completely different from the final episode: Kirk's family isn't there, Aurelan is just a random Deneva native who coincidentally happens to be related to the guy who flew his ship into the sun, Spock is never blinded, it's magnetism rather than UV that kills the creatures, and the Enterprise backtracks the creatures to their system of origin to destroy them all.
     
  8. Defcon

    Defcon Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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  9. Patrick O'Brien

    Patrick O'Brien Captain Captain

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    ^Awesome, thanks for the link DEFCON:bolian:

    I would guess many people's first exposure to Star Trek could have been Blish's books? As Chris stated back in the late 60's and early 70's more people read than watched TV. Incidentally, did the books sell well?
     
  10. Sho

    Sho Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, I don't know if that's true. I just said that reading was more common then than it is now, and TV-watching was less ubiquitous then than now. But I think that just means that TV had a smaller lead back then, not that it was behind.

    Well enough to get 13 volumes done and spawn a line of original Trek novels from Bantam. So it seems they sold decently, at least.
     
  12. Patrick O'Brien

    Patrick O'Brien Captain Captain

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    ^Good point, at 13 volumes someone was buying the books:D