The Great Chronological Run-Through

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Deranged Nasat, Jul 28, 2014.

  1. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    So, I've decided to begin my long-planned chronological run-through of the Star Trek universe; that is, the Star Trek universe as I engage with it, which means the modern literary continuity along with the canonical stuff (hence why I'm posting here, not in General Trek). I'd like to evaluate it all as one extended narrative, exploring this fictional setting as it tells the story of an growing galactic community, as handled by a wealth of writers in two different media. That's not usually how it works, of course, nor how it would be experienced by anyone in reality, but to me personally the modern novels are just as important to my sense of what Star Trek is as the TV shows - I was introduced to both at more or less the same time (around 2001-2002), and have always experienced them together. Add to that my love of continuity and consistency, and I think it's worth following the story of Humans-in-space across the centuries.

    So I'll be reading and commenting on novels, short stories and other novel 'verse outings, as well as the TV shows and films, with a particular eye to how they enhance each other or how my take on the latter might be altered by viewing them through the prism of their relationship with the novels. I'll also be working through it all in terms of internal chronology, and that means not everything will be read in the same way I read it originally (nor indeed how it was intended to be read). Basically, I'll sometimes be reading/commenting on parts of books rather than the whole thing, depending on what I think works in each case. Some things on my list I'll watch or read twice, at different points. Yes, it's gimmicky, but hopefully it will also mean a new angle on some of the material.

    I have no idea how far I'll get, but this will be ongoing.

    I was going to start with First Contact, the big opening event (the first viewing; there'll be another in time, assuming I ever get there). But I think first I need to go back a few years and read a little prologue of sorts.
     
  2. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    The Sundered: Part Two: Castaways

    So, here's the first experiment in reading things not as they were intended to be read. It’s part two of a novel, taken in isolation. A slim 30 pages offers the first part of The Sundered's unfolding backstory, intended to slowly reveal the origins of that novel's guest culture, which here serves as our introduction to the Trek universe instead. It's an informative and reasonably engaging look at a familiar Earth as it stabs for space and boils over, making great strides while teetering on the edge of total instability. Essentially, a planet in its angry teenage years, in which it rides impressively down public railings on its skateboard before falling off and smashing its face in on the concrete.

    The population (ten billion) depends on the scientific output of the orbital facilities, which becomes a blessing when they're the only advanced settlements left completely unscathed by a large-scale exchange of nuclear weapons. In short, we open our story with World War III, here viewed from above and without much in the way of specific explanation, so it comes across, no doubt intentionally, as "one day everyone started lobbing bombs at each other". They all just finally had enough.

    Actually, I'm glad the politics of the surface isn't given too much attention - much as I love the Eugenics Wars books and their rather clever efforts at using actual history as a frame for the fictional canon (we'll get to those events when I reach the 2260s, because the past is far too intertwined with the future in that case), I think Trek should distance itself from actual politics and near-future speculation wherever possible. It can't help but be tainted by one's own perspectives and it probably won't stand the test of time very well. Indeed, does it really matter?

    Besides the Third World War, we also get our introduction to Project Phoenix. Odd that it's being called that already. I always assumed that it was named Phoenix because it was taking flight from the ashes - that is, launching in the aftermath of the nuclear war. But apparently it was named prior to the war. Hmmm. We also see that, logically, Project Phoenix has support from some influential backers.

    Anyway, the plot here is that scientists assisting Dr. Cochrane in his warp field tests end up accidentally shooting their habitat - an asteroid facility named Vanguard (no relation to the space station, though the end product of both will wind up seriously ticking off the Tholians) into interstellar space. They wind up 200 light-years from Earth, stranded. The sense of progress and advancement warring with disaster and setback continues, then, by having the Vanguard people confirm the viability of subspace as a medium for effective travel, only to be stranded out of range of the people back home who need the knowledge.

    It's amusing that in this run-through the first aliens we encounter are in fact the Nausicaans. They'll not become important players by any means, but we'll be seeing more of them. Also noteworthy is that the first aliens we meet are brutal and hostile, as well as incomprehensible, and the Humans are woefully unprepared for them. The characters trade a lot of theories about alien life and the laws that might govern it, in a way that makes it obvious just how hypothetical the whole matter is to them. One, the director, insists that spacefaring aliens will invariably be peaceful because less "enlightened" species couldn't harness the technologies required without being destroyed by them. Everyone has their favoured theory and somewhat dogmatic speculation. The Nausicaans aren't impressed with any of this and simply behead the director. This may be a huge event for the Humans, for which they’re pulling out and parroting their favourite intellectual theories, but for the Nausicaan band this is just another alien settlement that won’t do what they want and quickly earns their ire.

    Overall, the impression here is that the galaxy is no different from Earth, and your problems don’t magically disappear because you have warp drive (interesting, given that a lot of Trek, early TNG and season one of Enterprise in particular, seemed to insist that they do).

    Perhaps surprisingly, this section isn't as overtly political as we might expect from Mangels/Martin. Or perhaps it is, but the subject matter is intense enough that it doesn't come across that way. Not a bad look at Earth’s most severe crisis; viewpoints are well enough tied to characters that it doesn’t come across as promoting any particular perspective. Overall, everyone’s just trying to make it through a very rough time.

    First Appearances of Things That Are Important:

    Earth. Politically unstable, high population, rapid technological advancement. Ignored by spacefaring races for some reason; we’ll get to that in later posts.

    Zefram Cochrane and Lily Sloane. Earth’s greatest scientist and his ally.

    Warp drive (sort of).

    Continuity Notes:

    Christopher Brynner, from "Past Tense", is involved in funding the asteroid habitats. A Roykirk Colony features among them, presumably named for the creator of one-half of Nomad, AKA the Murder-Probe (Earth is going to build up a habit of launching apparently harmless things into space which then merge with alien influence and become deadly. To be honest, the inhabitants of Vanguard are in fact among them). There’s a Starling habitat (named for Henry Starling of "Future’s End"), and one which features the name of Offenhouse (Ralph Offenhouse, the capitalist who gets the last laugh over the holier-than-thou Federation). Brynner, Starling, Offenhouse: It’s clear that the true leaders of Earth, its most notable names, are the rich businessmen; that it’s their legacy and their support that defines the era.

    Next Time: First Contact. Already Earth has attracted enemies.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2014
  3. Dimesdan

    Dimesdan Living the Irish dream. Premium Member

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    Interesting, so you'll be writing a blog type thing then on what you read/discover/what ever?
     
  4. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Mostly it's just going to be my usual rambling posts, but I think it will be interesting to see how the various stories resonate differently, or become more or less successful, when considered as chapters in an unfolding story. Which isn't how they were intended to be read, but you can justify approaching them that way. Hopefully my perspective on some of them might change in interesting ways.
     
  5. Enterpriserules

    Enterpriserules Commodore Commodore

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    Best of luck! I'm going to enjoy following your posts
     
  6. Use of Time

    Use of Time Commodore Commodore

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    This is going to be fun and I will monitor closely. I started a similar project that will use the memory beta chronology (not perfect I know but good enough for me). I plan on doing complete works only and not individual timeline events that happen in a single chapter. I am just going to use the general framing of the story as the marker for when I read a particular book or short story. For example I would read the Rise and Fall of Khan books when I get to the 23rd centruy, in which those particular stories are framed.

    The beginning of this project has taken place mostly in the Strange New Worlds volumes due to things like the Captain Proton stories that take place soley in the 1930's. There were some other stories framed in the 50's that focused on John Christopher and the aftermath of his encounter with the Enterprise. I knocked out a few other Strange New Worlds entries as well in the pre-Enterprise era but the journey will bascially begin with Broken Bow.

    I'm not that far ahead of you (Just watched "Civilization") and I don't know what kind of pace you are going to be able to maintain but I'm pretty much taking my time on this huge task so I'll probably be pretty close to you. This works out perfectly for me. Good luck!

    /Oh forgot to ask. Are you going to include comics? I decided that it would muddle things a bit too much for me so I'm going strictly Trek Lit and on screen media.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2014
  7. VST

    VST Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Yeah this is a great thread idea. I'm especially interested as I'm embarking on something very similar.

    I've been doing very similar to Use of Time above, started with Strange New Worlds pieces that go back in the more distant past & I'm now working up to the start of Enterprise. I imagine certain stories I've missed or will connect back as part of future narratives but that's ok, long as I get a general feeling of chronology.

    Interesting experiment though. I'll be following your journey for sure.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's quite a trick, seeing as how that encounter happened in July 1969... :devil:
     
  9. Use of Time

    Use of Time Commodore Commodore

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    I'm a magician.:cool:
     
  10. Enterprise1701

    Enterprise1701 Commodore Commodore

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    Deranged Nasat, titles of television episodes are supposed to be in quotes, not italicized.

    Fantastic endeavor by the way.
     
  11. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    I always forget that. Thanks; I'll edit (and I'll try to keep it in mind going forward).
     
  12. Dimesdan

    Dimesdan Living the Irish dream. Premium Member

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    Good luck.

    Says who exactly?
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Actually there are some style guides that endorse italics for episode titles, or quotes for movie titles; but personally I do find it clearer to use quotes for episodes/short stories and italics for books/series/movies, because it makes it easier to tell apart identical titles, like, say, the episode "First Contact" and the movie First Contact, or the episode "Metamorphosis" and the novel Metamorphosis.. With so many Trek novels sharing titles with episodes, it's a helpful distinction.

    I'm never sure what to use for Trek e-novella titles, though. Since they're short fiction, I feel they should be in quotes; but they're published as complete works rather than portions of a longer work, so that argues for italics. Although then what do you do with SCE/Corps of Engineers? Its installments were essentially like episodes or issues in an ongoing series, so it seems their titles should be in quotes, but the convention is apparently to italicize them. I'm so confused!
     
  14. Paris

    Paris Commodore Commodore

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    Good luck Nasat! That's quite the undertaking. I was thinking about doing the same kind of thing, but just with the onscreen fare, and the books that follow the series, but reading the DS9 relaunch has taken precendence. I'll follow the posts for sure :techman:
     
  15. Enterprise1701

    Enterprise1701 Commodore Commodore

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    That's how I've always seen it. It's also Wikipedia's policy.

    I guess this isn't perfect, but I think that quotes generally go for works that are a subset of a complete publication while the complete publications go in italics. So short stories are quoted while the anthology containing them is italicized. Episodes are quoted while the shows (usually with DVD collections) to which they belong are italicized. eBooks novellas, I suppose, are italicized because novellas can sometimes be published on their own.
     
  16. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Rear Admiral

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    It's a standard convention in both the AP Style Guide and the Chicago Manual of Style. It's useful for quickly distinguishing longer works and those that comprise other smaller works from shorter standalone works.

    For instance, I was trained during my years as a newspaper and magazine editor that album titles are italicized, while song titles are put in quotation marks; television show names are italicized, episodes in quotes; novel titles are italicized, but novellas and shorter literary works are identified with quotation marks; film titles in italics, etc.
     
  17. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Star Trek: First Contact :borg::borg::borg:

    Our first time travel piece, one that bridges the 21st and 24th Centuries; the nature of Cochrane’s encampment actually makes the temporal gap seem wider, since the settlement is so low-tech and ramshackle. Since I’ll be watching this again - far, far down the line - I’ll not pay much attention to Picard, Data, or the Borg, since we’ll get more mileage out of them when they’re in the right temporal context, so to speak.

    I like how the 21st Century Humans are portrayed, I’ll say that much. They’re nicely balanced between being rougher, more suspicious and more desperate than the Enterprise crew - appropriate for tired survivors of a widespread conflict - and being just like the Starfleet Humans; particularly when the latter (well, Picard) show that they're just as capable of desperation and misplaced aggression after all. This theme of commonality is definitely a more intelligent handling of the relationship between "present" and "future" Humans than we've had (or will have) on other occasions.

    Lily Sloane is the best character, very well-realized and well used in her interaction with Picard. Her immunity to the Starfleet chain of command, and more importantly to the personal charisma of Picard, lets her effectively challenge him and call him out on his mistakes. The most interesting and arguably most important moment in the film is when her wonder at, and sardonic sense of distance from, the future world Picard represents is broken by her realization that he’s something she in fact finds familiar – someone who was hurt and angrily desires to find a misplaced satisfaction in striking back. Oh, she thinks, I know you after all. It’s a great implicit reference to the recent world war and the turmoil her people have been through without actually distracting us with the details, and it collapses the bubble of supposed 24th Century distinction without shattering anything fundamental to Star Trek’s positive future. It brings her humanity and Picard’s together, for two different meanings of the word. She recognises Picard and his demons because they’re universal, and you don’t build a better future by hiding from your problems or thinking that you’re above them (keep this in mind when we move onto Cochrane).

    The heart of the film, which elevates it above being merely a fun action-adventure, is this conference lounge scene between the two of them; Picard and Sloane are great together (Alfre Woodard played against Patrick Stewart very well); I also think it’s wonderful that they had the male lead become close to a woman who was not his love interest. The fact that Picard will remember her as a friend and advisor, not a lover, is actually a very refreshing touch. Okay, they did dance a waltz, but that was Picard blending in while he prepared to machine-gun a pair of drones, not anything to take seriously. ;)

    Cochrane is good too; if not so provocative a character then the idea behind him is one I like. Beneath the legend is a rather wearying man who thinks that alcohol and attractive women are the best things in life and who simply wants to get rich. Riker’s general bemusement throughout is great (Riker’s at his best when he’s simply enjoying life and its absurdities), and the same goes for Troi getting drunk as the only way to connect with Cochrane (drunk Troi is genuinely funny). There’s a great tension between Cochrane’s uncaring, freedom-loving ways and the sense that he’s penned in by future history, trapped by fate and by the perspectives of others. He's piloting the ship that breaks away and opens up the horizon, but he's having to accept that he himself is stepping into a suffocating, entirely fictional role pre-prepared for him. Apparently he does eventually resolve the contradiction, albeit because Riker told him what conclusion he should come to a decade prior...

    Cochrane actually has a fascinating subplot in that it's a strange reflection of Picard's arc. Both are facing an idealized 24th Century vision of Humanity; Picard clings to it and refuses to face his problems because he's using it as a shield: "we're not like you, we're evolved beyond that"; while Cochrane violently rejects it and runs as far as he can away from it. Eventually, Picard has to accept that he's just a man and Cochrane has to accept the same - only they have to accept this in different ways. Picard becomes more self-aware, accepting that he's as capable of losing himself to "negative" emotions as anyone of any era, and Cochrane learns to be less self conscious, to just be himself and not worry what others will make of him. They're all just people, nothing more, nothing less.

    At the end, when Lily Sloane and Picard exchange goodbyes, they describe how they envy one another, for the worlds they get to live in. Again, for all the “evolved Human” superiority that could be annoying in early TNG, it’s handled very well here. This film isn’t the oh-so-enlightened 24th Century talking down to the 21st (if anything, it reversed that dynamic by showing Lily Sloane to have a clearer grip on certain essential matters of the heart than Picard), and instead it chooses to celebrate the shared achievements and linked humanity of these two points on the journey - three actually, as a 21st Century Human and a 24th Century Human referenced the words of a 19th Century Human. That’s a truly positive message of future development, and this is why First Contact is a lot more than just an action film. It’s a good piece of Star Trek and a rewarding place to start this journey. The message feels good, and isn't thrown in your face either.

    Other than the “Ahab” scene, the best scene is the First Contact itself, which manages to be stirring and emotional without being overblown; there’s a charming simplicity to it. Again, I’d say that this film shows a real humility toward “beginnings” and “the past” that really serves it well.

    Definitely one of the best Trek films. Surprisingly subtle for what seems like simply a cyber-zombie action piece.

    Continuity:

    We don’t see much of Earth at all; we’re told there are only a few functioning governments, and we’re limited in what we see to one run-down camp in the woods, but we’re also told that fifty years later the planet will be a pretty great place to live. We’re told that the Vulcans had no interest in Earth until they realized Humans had broken the warp barrier; reinforcing that this is the moment it supposedly all changes for a civilization, even if The Sundered: Castaways was rather more cynical on that point.

    First Appearances of Things That Are Important:

    Time travel (the nature of this run-through means we’ll be experiencing quite a few temporal loops that we’ll later get to close, which ought to make this more fun).

    Klingons: "I am a Klingon". Indeed you are, Worf. Humans will be meeting a fair number of races. (There were several Klingons among the drones, too. I guess this Borg ship assimilated a Klingon outpost or two before heading into the Federation).

    Borg: Here, without the original context, it really gives a sense that it's a hostile universe out there, that fleets of starships are sometimes required to hold back these vast dangers from the stars, e.g. cyber-zombies that "assimilate whole worlds". Contrast with the small settlement in the woods that represents Humans in this film. On the other hand, Humans go from that settlement to having fleets of starships that turn back the cyber-zombies.

    The Vulcans: Introduced in a low-key way that nonetheless has a lot of gravitas. They seem friendly, if a little uptight. Cochrane manages to visibly startle them, which is quite impressive.

    Next Time: The Lives of Dax: “First Steps”. The Humans aren’t the only new protégés of the Vulcans. We’ll be off to the conservative and isolationist planet, Trill.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2014
  18. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    The Lives of Dax: First Steps

    Next we have a short story from The Lives of Dax. This is actually my favourite tale in the anthology. It's set around the time of First Contact, focusing on another planet new to space, in this case a world that achieved contact about a generation prior, and is still coming to terms with it.

    Trill is doing better than Earth - there's no nuclear war here, and it seems very stable politically and socially, even prosperous. Indeed, it's too stable, because the leadership of Joined Trill who think in terms of the meta-life and not the individual life have encouraged a rigid conservatism. This is an intelligent story, and a large part of the reason I like it so much is its sensible portrayal of social conservatism and the pull of tradition. We sympathise with Dax's position, but there are no real villains, merely frustrating political obstructionists, and Dax questions herself in realistic and sympathetic ways. We see that not only does Dax have unusual ideas, but as the first iteration of her Joining she's practically a member of the unjoined; on top of this, it's still highly controversial for a woman to hold public office, and plenty of her fellows aren't pleased about her being there because of it. None of these points against her are made the focus, they're kept to the background. What matters is that Dax, by her nature and in multiple ways, is a challenge to tradition, a threat to convention. Even if she weren't calling for change, she represents it anyway; or, at least, represents a loosening of the old rules. She stands at the crumbling outer edge of The Way Things Are.

    Interestingly, we're told that Lela the host had no particular interest in space, that it was Dax the symbiont who looked to the stars. Dax is a dreamer, more so than the Humans we've met, who were interested in the survival and practical betterment of Humanity as a motive for reaching space, or simply wanted to better themselves individually in strictly material terms (Cochrane). Cochrane and Sloane did have a sense of wonder regarding space and new horizons, but Dax is the one who embodies it.

    It's surprising just how blatant the disregard for anyone who hasn't lived more than a single lifetime is on 21st Century Trill. We learn that Lela Dax spoke for the "disenfranchised unjoined" - a bit of an eye-opener - and her antagonist-ally Odan bluntly insists that the unjoined don't really matter. I guess Trill is lucky that alien contact exploded over the next century, or it seems likely that the discontent we'll see in Worlds of DS9: Unjoined would have flared earlier, given the right spark. I suppose the loosening of tradition that will see Trill become a reasonably prominent member of the interstellar community takes the edge off their unofficial caste system for a while. Plenty of opportunities out there in the galaxy, even if only the Joined have a realistic hope of gaining the more prominent positions at home.

    The plot of First Steps features Lela Dax wrestling with the question of whether she did the right thing in a disastrous contact situation with an unknown race. There are many layers to the issue, the question of how Trill should deal with its neighbours; Dax wonders if she was too eager, too quick to reach out, just as the other politicians were too fearful. There aren't any easy answers, and Dax wavers after getting a taste of how problematic the outer universe can be. Again, we have the sense that the galaxy is a dangerous place, that there are incomprehensible perils and no guarantees of life being easy out there. This has been the case consistently across these stories. The Trill note that the Vulcans gave "no assurances that we live in a peaceful universe".

    Those Vulcans, however, keep Dax on the right path, soothing her concerns regarding her position on Trill's potential future. She has a wonderful conversation with a Vulcan named T'Pau. Obviously, this was intended to be the same T'Pau we'll meet as an older woman in TOS, but we now have to assume it's a different Vulcan with the same name. That doesn't cause any difficulties, so no foul. This T'Pau notes that species which strive, species which challenge and take risks, will prosper in the universe (Humans, irritating Solkar's people with rock music as we speak, are cited as an example), while those who hide away eventually stagnate and never amount to much, or are destroyed. This is very interesting given where the Vulcans themselves will be heading as a society over the next generation or two; the next century will see their own rigid conservatism and resistance to change muddying their relationship with their neighbours; the soft imperialism that defines their relationship to Earth, Coridan, Andor, etc. The Vulcans will be the Odans of local space going forward, not the Lela Daxes. It seems that Vulcan mainstream society is beginning to forget, or will soon forget, the logic that T'Pau is teaching the Trill here. All very interesting how that turned out...

    I like this story; it does a good job sketching in the planet Trill as it exists in this era, it's a rare look at how a world deals with the aftermath of contact and the revelation of its status in a larger universe, and the tussle between conservatism and change is multi-faceted and realistic.

    First Appearances of Things That Are Important:

    Trill. And Trill's most important child, Dax. The Little Symbiont That Could is going to serve and protect Trill and its friends from the stars in a variety of ways over the next three centuries (at least).

    The Vulcans in their role as mentors to the younger races, as political/social leaders in their region of space. Vulcans are the wise, experienced visitors from the stars.

    Cute Moments/Continuity:

    Odan wears his hair long and in a way that conceals his spots, as though he's ashamed of them. It's not his fault the Trill had a reboot after their first appearance. He must be a little confused. I suppose his conservatism and adherence to tradition across his lives continues to define him into the 24th Century, hence why his hosts are continuing the work of prior hosts, e.g. at Peliar Zel.

    Next Time: The Valiant, parts one and three: They've been warp-capable for two years and already they think they're gods. Humans, eh?
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014
  19. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    I'll only be including a few that I think are particularly relevant to Trek lit. The Gorn Crisis, Perchance to Dream, the Andorian tale from the Alien Spotlight. Things like that.
     
  20. Enterprise1701

    Enterprise1701 Commodore Commodore

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    How are you putting all this trans-series stuff in order? The Voyages of Imagination timeline?