Literate Trek Novels

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Twain, Aug 30, 2012.

  1. Twain

    Twain Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  2. Twain

    Twain Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  3. Jarvisimo

    Jarvisimo Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  4. Jarvisimo

    Jarvisimo Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  5. Daddy Todd

    Daddy Todd Captain Premium Member

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    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.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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.
     
  7. Jarvisimo

    Jarvisimo Captain Captain

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    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.
     
  8. Lindley

    Lindley Moderator with a Soul Moderator

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    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.
     
  9. ICW

    ICW Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I would recommend Federation by Judith Reeves and Garfield Reeves-Stevens.
     
  10. Jarvisimo

    Jarvisimo Captain Captain

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  11. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Captain Captain

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    Re: Haldeman,

    I would say that Planet of Judgment was the better of the two novels released at the time (the other being Marshak & Culbreath's The Price of the Phoenix), but only about average for the Bantam era.

    World Without End fell into the period when Bantam had fallen into a rut, and literally every other novel was garbage on the theme of "Kirk leads a landing party on a visit to a primitive society that turns out to be something other than what it seems," and while it was arguably the best of the four novels on that theme, it wasn't especially good, and wasn't especially true to the Star Trek milieu.

    Alan Dean Foster's Star Trek Log series led me to his The Tar-Aiym Krang, and his other Flinx novels, and his other Humanx Commonwealth novels, and most of his other works, and David Gerrold's script of "The Trouble with Tribbles," and his book about the episode's genesis, production, and aftermath, led me to When HARLIE Was One. But Haldeman's Star Trek novels did not impart to me any interest in seeking out his other works.
     
  12. Jarvisimo

    Jarvisimo Captain Captain

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    The problem of Articles is that it is a great read, but it doesn't have depth per se. It's a set of problems the characters solve, but it's not a set of subtextual problems the author is resolving. It is very tv-like, in the sense that it is mainly plot and story, with smart-ish dialogue. I wouldn't put it in a 'literary' envelope that the OP suggested: I think it is excellent 'tie-in', paying homage and playing with the bits of Trek. But it doesn't deconstruct the source material, nor present a complex subtext, like perhaps 'literature' does?

    Stitch does do that, since that was an interest on the actor's part. He is often all subtext in interviews!
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Oh, I disagree. I'd say it's one of Bantam's best, second only to David Gerrold's The Galactic Whirlpool. Of course, that's faint praise, since most of Bantam's output wasn't that great, and I'm sure PoJ is below Haldeman's usual level. But while not perfect, it's one of the more intriguing concepts that Bantam did, it shows a good grasp of Trek continuity and characters (though it adds some things that Trek didn't have but arguably should have, like body armor and better military procedure for landing parties, reflecting Haldeman's own military experience), and it delves more into the characters than most of the Bantams did (for instance, giving us our first prose portrayal of McCoy's divorce, though it had been addressed earlier in two issues of Gold Key's ST comic). Its main drawback is that it introduces a number of supporting characters (including a roman a clef of James Blish), sets up a romantic triangle among them, and then seems to forget about them in the last half of the book.


    Well, a lot of the elements of that "milieu" that conflict with the book weren't established until after it was written, so I think that's a little harsh. It wasn't a great book, but it had some interesting worldbuilding and made a decent attempt to flesh out Klingon culture, just in a different way than later creators did.
     
  14. Captaindemotion

    Captaindemotion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I didn't like it at all, though I've never read the Fleming novels.

    I much preferred Jeffrey Deaver's Bond novel, even though Faulkes is regarded by critics as a literary heavyweight and Deaver as 'merely' a popular author.
     
  15. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I would say:

    - Anything by Una McCormack counts
    - A Stitch In Time, definitely
    - Serpents Among The Ruins or the Crucible Trilogy from DRG3
    - The entire Vanguard series, start to finish - 8 books, starts with Harbinger, by David Mack
    - The Destiny Trilogy, by David Mack (now in omnibus!)

    Those are probably the best. A lot of the stuff that takes place after Destiny is also really good, but the interconnected continuity can be a bit much for new readers. Destiny is really accessible, though, and totally great.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I think that's such a spurious distinction, between "literary" and "popular" fiction. Generally it's the more popular stuff that endures through the ages. In Shakespeare's time, plays were popular entertainment, the TV of the era, and it was his sonnets and epic poems that were considered his serious literary accomplishments, but today who remembers Venus and Adonais or A Lover's Complaint? And Arthur Conan Doyle hated that his lowbrow Sherlock Holmes stories got all the attention while his classy literary work was overlooked, but it's Holmes that's endured through the generations. I think it's because the stuff that satisfies the elites of a given place and time is tailored to their ideals and expectations and thus doesn't translate so well to other generations and cultures, while the more popular stuff has more universal appeal.

    So I think all that literary-vs.-popular stuff is just a form of elitism, an attempt to subdivide people into approved and disapproved cliques. It's got nothing to do with what's actually well-written or fulfilling. "Literary" is just another subgenre.
     
  17. Relayer1

    Relayer1 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^ In addition to this, I think the Ian Fleming Bonds are amongst the very best novels that I have ever read - they weren't popular by accident.

    As to their literary merits, they may not qualify as art, but they are superb reads...
     
  18. Captaindemotion

    Captaindemotion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Oh, I absolutely agree - that's why I was careful to place the word 'merely' in inverted commas and to state that that it was critics who held this view.

    I feel compelled to include a link to what is almost certainly the most snobbish, irritating and pretentious article I have ever read. Read it and prepare to be angered and never to want to read anything by the writer again.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/dec/12/genre-versus-literary-fiction-edward-docx
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Edward Docx? Is he a writer or an MS Word file? :D

    I wonder why you British Isles folks call them inverted commas while Americans call them quotation marks. I mean, only the initial ones are actually inverted, and only in certain fonts.
     
  20. Captaindemotion

    Captaindemotion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^I'd never heard of him before the article and I never hope to hear of him again. I'm still not entirely sure he isn't a Private Eye/ The Onion-type send up.

    No idea re the inverted commas/ quotation marks thing. I'd actually use the latter expression as often as the former - it's really a 50/50 random thing and this time I just happened to opt for IC.
     

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