The Blish books...

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by LMFAOschwarz, Nov 30, 2014.

  1. LMFAOschwarz

    LMFAOschwarz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2013
    I wasn't sure whether to post this in the literature section, or here. I opted for here because it's not so much about the books themselves, but the covers.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    I've been using artwork from the James Blish books as avatars for a little while now, and it's got me to thinking about the times those many years ago. These books followed me to bed, to school, and who knows where else!

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    My question is what you all thought of the cover art. We all spent time in our youths looking at them, and I was wondering what you thought at the time. Did any make you think of specific episodes, or anything like that?

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    I'm not sure if I'm phrasing the question as best I can, but I think you all get the idea. :)

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Any other related stories to these books would be welcome, too! :)
     
    DeepSouthTrekFan likes this.
  2. BoredShipCapt'n

    BoredShipCapt'n Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2012
    Location:
    Stage 9 forever
    Oh, man, those books! Mandatory reading on the school bus.

    I guess it would have been clear to me from the cover of volume 7 that it represented Apollo... assuming that "Who Mourns for Adonais?" was actually in that volume. :lol: Loved the cover art in general, though. It really lit the spark of imagination, although I was fully aware that the series itself had never looked that good!
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017
  3. Dukhat

    Dukhat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Location:
    Maryland, USA
    The covers are neat, but they are a classic example of sci-fi book covers that have almost nothing to do with the book itself (other than the depiction of the Enterprise and a Klingon battlecruiser). I think a lot of times cover artists make covers and don't even know what the book is about for which they made that cover.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2014
  4. Push The Button

    Push The Button Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2013
    Location:
    Putnam, Connecticut USA
    I love the WNMHGB artwork on the cover of the first book, though it does show Enterprise having some kind of booster rocket on the secondary hull.
     
  5. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2013
    Location:
    New York State
    Volume 1 is an indelibly iconic James Bama painting with lots of markers for WNM:

    - Albert Whitlock's painting of the lithium cracking station is quoted verbatim.

    - The shock absorber that has nearly decayed to lead.

    - The white swap-in control panel.

    - I think the man above Spock's head is supposed to be Kelso in his last moments, but in one of life's little coincidences, he looks a lot like Professor Starnes making a nervous log entry in "And the Children..."

    - The woman looks more like Karen Steele ("Mudd's Women") than Sally Kellerman ("Where No Man..."), whose uniform she's wearing. I wish we knew when the painting was done, and based on what exact publicity stills.

    Volumes 4 and 5 are gorgeous Enterprise scenes, 4 being fancifully re-styled and 5 clearly based on an AMT model kit. Anyway, it's hard not to love them. In fact it's impossible.

    I notice the OP omitted Volume 12 and Mudd's Angels:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The Mudd painting is signed "Bob Larkin '78." By that time, TMP was just around the corner.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2014
  6. HIjol

    HIjol Admiral and Consummate Peacemaker Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2014
    Location:
    In a time and place long past...
    I do not have all the words and all the specific memories to do justice to this thread, but suffice to say that they, too, saved my live in a time of terrible turmoil in my family, and gave me a place to "go" where I was not judged and could not fail. Thank you for the excellent thread topic and these excellent memories! I still have all of the books, ragtagged and lovingly worn.
     
  7. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2011
    Location:
    astral plane
    The cover art is brilliant. The paintings were like both a continuation and reimagining of the series.

    In the 1970s, I was "playing Star Trek" with my friends, or in other words making up new episodes for us to play in. The covers struck an inspirational chord relevant there, in confirming that the adventures of the crew continued beyond the series (in the minds of fans).

    And I love your avatars, LMFAOschwarz. :techman:
     
  8. bbailey861

    bbailey861 Admiral Premium Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2009
    Location:
    Kingston, ON Canada
    These books with their cover art of imagination bring me back to when I was a kid. I used to write short stories with these books sitting beside me on the kitchen table. Lord knows I wish I had kept everything from back then. Happy memories.
     
  9. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    Location:
    Escaped from Delta Vega
    The beauty of the Blish covers is that they were created at a time long before the age of lifeless airbrush copies of publicity photos (see the Pocket books Star Trek novels), with not much script or essence on the cover.

    The late 60s/early 70s was a period where the influence of the Mid Century explosion of dramatic, abstract and suggestive cover art remained in vogue. Ordinarily, tie-in novels from live action TV series lead to common photos slapped on the covers, with no representation of the contents.

    With the Blish novels, few of the painted covers had much to do with the episode content, save for James Bama's beautiful NBC promotional art for WNMHGB used for novel #1, or ST 7--clearly taking inspiration from "Who Mourns for Adonais", but as noted above, unlike the then-future with Pocket books, the Blish covers captured an essence and drama of the series.

    That feeling of mystery, distance and the fantastic (particularly captured in season 1) was felt in the artwork. Additionally, the work, along with cover descriptions such as:

    "A chilling journey through worlds beyond imagination"

    "
    The Enterprise blazes new star trails to danger.."

    ...tied in with the art, making the tie-in seem as at home in novel form as stories born in print.

    I recall some were not too happy with the interpretive versions of the Enterprise shape & color from a few covers, but I found that interesting too, again, adding to the mystery and essence of the series.

    I cannot point to a post 70s ST novel cover that is as imaginative or unique as that created for the Blish novels.
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    It was the first story in that volume.



    It was one of a series of promotional posters that NBC commissioned for their fall 1966-7 lineup:

    http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?threadID=40810&forumID=7&archive=1

    It's been homaged on several other Trek covers, including Marvel's paperback collection of their ST:TMP adaptation, DC's first TOS annual, and, to a subtler degree, my own debut novel Ex Machina.
     
  11. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    Those books (along with the inaccurate art) were the precursors to having video copies of the original episodes themselves. Yes, I noticed differences between the adaptations and the actual episodes, but at the time it didn't matter. I simply loved those books and was so excited with each new release.

    While inaccurate some of the covers really caught Star Trek's spirit of adventure. The James Bama cover as well as the cover of Star Trek 8 are my overall favourites, inaccuracies be damned.

    In some ways I liked to think the depictions of the Enterprise were akin to an older version of that type of ship.

    In terms of the adaptations themselves "Balance Of Terror" remains perhaps my overall favourite. I simply LOVED the backstory detail Blish included for the Earth/Romulan War. I still think it fits so neatly with what we actually saw in TOS and to this day I think it's more consistent and more credible than what we saw in ENT. I also really liked the adaptation for "Miri" where the planet is not an identical Earth duplicate, but rather a planet very similar to Earth and Miri and her contemporaries are descendents of a long lost Earth colony.


    Those book covers take me back to when the Star Trek universe was opening up for me. Watching the episodes on television, collecting the James Blish books (including Spock Must Die), reading The Making Of Star Trek and building my first AMT Enterprise model kit along with the Klingon Battle Cruiser.

    And this was before TAS along with Alan Dean Foster's Star Trek Log books (adapting the TAS episodes) and the release of Franz Joseph's Star Trek Blueprints and Star Fleet Technical Manual.

    Man, what an awesome time to be a Star Trek fan. :)
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Blish's "Miri" adds interestingly to the early ambiguity over when TOS was set, since it said that the planet (70 Ophiuchi IV) had been colonized "more than five hundred years ago" and that the colonists had left Earth in "the early 2100s," suggesting a date of the mid-27th century for TOS -- about a century early to mesh with "The Squire of Gothos"'s dating. (As with several of his early adaptations, he ties it into the history of his Cities in Flight universe, saying that they had fled the Cold Peace, a 21st-century era in which America had become just as repressive as the Soviet Union.)

    Odd, then, that it's in Blish's "Space Seed" adaptation in the very next volume that we see the earliest known mention of the term "twenty-third century" in connection with Star Trek.
     
  13. CrazyMatt

    CrazyMatt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2013
    Location:
    Sitting in Kirk's command chair
    In the bad old days of the 70s, when Star Trek could only be seen in syndication on a grainy UHF channel and you usually had to wait months--if not years--to see your favorite episodes, the Blish books were the only way to bridge the gap. And yes, while somewhat inaccurate, the covers were visually striking.

    Unfortunately, the contents of the first few volumes often differed dramatically from the actual broadcast episodes (as Blish adapted earlier versions of scripts). This so bothered GR and DC Fontana that they contacted the publisher to press Blish to adapt the actual shooting scripts instead. Also, they felt that Blish totally underplayed McCoy in the early stories; Blish apparently regarded McCoy as a minor character at the same time the series producers were elevating him to a 'starring' role.
     
  14. TREK_GOD_1

    TREK_GOD_1 Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    May 24, 2006
    Location:
    Escaped from Delta Vega
    That's what I mean by essence--it was not what has been the standard for the past 30 or so years (copied photos as covers), but the interpretation still felt like ST. The moody, colorful spacescapes appeared to be that "final frontier" filled with "strange, new worlds."

    Interesting perspective.

    Same here. Fun times to be a ST fan.
     
  15. Michael

    Michael [ˈmɪçaːʔeːl] Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2007
    Location:
    Aloha Quadrant
    While I'm not old enough to have been around when these books originally came out (I'm in my early 30s now), I sure am a big fan of those old novel covers that were actual paintings as opposed to mere Photoshop pastiches. When it comes to Blish's books, I'm especially fond of this cover for the “Spock Must Die” reprint:

    [​IMG]

    It's inaccurate with the story it represents, but it's a great artwork nonetheless. Interestingly, the cover for the first edition print of this novel had been a lazy photomanipulation of a Leonard Nimoy publicity photo.
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2014
  16. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

    Joined:
    May 12, 2004
    Location:
    Lancaster, PA
    That's seldom the artist's choice. Production schedules being what they are, it's not uncommon for the cover art to be completed before the author has finished writing the book.

    And sometimes publishers buy pieces of "generic" stock art instead of commissioning a unique painting for each individual book. And why not? Sometimes a nice piece of astronomical "space" art (or an all-purpose dragon or spooky landscape) works just as well--or even better--than a literal illustration of a scene from the story.

    Heck, back when I was responsible for commissioning the CONAN covers at Tor, I always tried to have a couple of "generic" CONAN covers in inventory just in case we ran into a deadline crunch and there was no time to have somebody paint something specific to that book.

    (Just to be clear, I'm talking about publishing in general here, not the Star Trek books specifically.)
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2014
  17. Joe_Atari

    Joe_Atari Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2007
    Location:
    Where truth is better than fiction
    Amazing thread; Volume 8 FTW!

    I still have all of my original copies and I will never give them up. Might in fact have to crack open one or two!
     
  18. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2003
    Location:
    Brockville, Ontario, Canada
    The original cover for Spock Must Die actually evoked the book's idea because Spock Two was actually a mirror of Spock One. And in the novel no one sees the duplication take place because the transporter alcove had been enclosed so the revised artwork isn't strictly accurate.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    And often filtered them through his own interpretations. These days, the convention is for novelizations to hew as closely to the original as possible, but back then, they were treated more like distinct works that were based on the episodes/movies but free to reinterpret them in their own ways. (E.g. Asimov's Fantastic Voyage novelization wherein he rewrote the movie heavily to make the science more plausible.) As I said above, Blish approached the first few volumes as if they were set in the universe of his own fiction, and so he modified a number of the episodes to reflect his own ideas and sensibilities. For instance, there's no indication that "Miri" was ever meant to take place on anything other than the duplicate Earth we saw; changing it to a colony on 70 Ophiuchi IV was probably something Blish did on his own initiative because the duplicate-Earth idea made no sense.


    Do you have a source for this? Only the first three volumes came out while the show was in production, and it wasn't until later volumes that they really became faithful. For instance, in Star Trek 3, the "Mirror, Mirror" adaptation eliminates Marlena Moreau entirely and says that Mirror Kirk assassinated Captain Karl Franz rather than Christopher Pike, and the "Assignment: Earth" adaptation reduces Roberta Lincoln to a nameless bit character and has the climax play out aboard the Enterprise, with Spock's discovery that Isis is Seven's alien handler being the key to resolving the story.

    Volume 4, published in 1971, is generally more faithful, but still trims things down and takes some liberties; for instance, the "Menagerie" adaptation skips the frame entirely and just adapts "The Cage," and the "Enterprise Incident" adaptation reveals up front that Kirk was only feigning instability for a spy mission.

    My understanding has always been that the reason later volumes got more faithful was because Blish received complaints from fans, which in turn was because the widespread syndication of the show let fans become intimately familiar with the details of the episodes and be more aware of how the adaptations differed. But by that time, Roddenberry and Fontana would've moved on to other things.
     
  20. feek61

    feek61 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2011
    Location:
    In the Sunshine!
    The earlier volumes were based on some of the earlier versions of the scripts and not the final shooting scripts. Reading the stories and reading the early version of the scripts it makes sense. Some of Blishes story changes came directly from the first drafts of the scripts. I also read the DC Fontana story and her complaint to GR regarding the adaptations.

    As far as the covers go I still remember the first one that I saw (and bought) which was the 10th volume with the Klingon ship getting hammered by the Enterprise. I must have spent hours imagine what was happening in the cover art. Loved those books! I also have the "Star Trek Readers" which were the hardback versions.