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TREKKIES MUST, BUT NO ONE ELSE CARES TO
By TOM SOTER
from THE COLUMBIA DAILY SPECTATOR
March 9, 1978
The City on the Edge of Forever, by Harlan Ellison, adapted by Mandala Productions (Bantam, 16Opp., $1.95).
Where No Man has Gone Before, by Samuel A. Peeples, adapted by Mandala groductions (Bantam, 160pp., $1.95).
"On the day the news of (James) Blish's death reached America," reports Damon 'Knight in his recent book on science fiction, The Futurians, a fan at the Star Trek convention in Philadelphia picked up one of Blish's Star Trek books from a .dealer'stable and asked 'Is this the guy 'that died?' When the dealer said yes,the fan asked, 'Is he going to be doing any wore of these?' "
This sadly funny anecdote is revealing about the sort of fans and type of marketing something like Star Trek has a ;tendency to create. Not really good drama, and often too pseudo-sciencey to be good science fiction, the decade old TV series is a phenomenon of sorts. It premiered on NBC television over ten years ago; had a relatively short Ijfe (1966-69); and then, then, like the Phoenix, became a huge success across the country, rising from the ashes of cancellation in syndicated reruns. Star Trek .conventions were subsequently held throughout the country wherefans, affectionately or d.isdainfully referred to as "Trekkies" could exchange. "memories,i trivia and hopes for the show's resurrection.
Needless to say, Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek's creator and executive producer, was not slow to realize the marketing potential that lay here: he and his cohorts auctioned off scripts, props and other "priceless" objects of memorabilia (the irony being that when talk of revival came, Roddenberry had nothing to revive but his rrwmories).
James Blish's 12 Star Trek books are one result of this popularity, and it's sad comment on the reading public that, of all Blish's thought-provoking earlier works,. these things are the only books that brought him any sort of general recognition or real profit. They are bastardizations-transcribed scripts with the necessary descriptions added-and easy money for the author. The fans didn't seem to care, however, and Knight's story is appropriate since Blish's death really alters nothing. Anyone could write these hack pieces (as evidenced by Alan Foster's Ballantine Books adaptations of the Star Trek cartoon series), regardless of talent, and the unfortunate thing is that the new "Blish" will be as successful as the old one. There are 10 million copies in print of theStar Trek books.
This assembly-line process has been taken one step further with Bantam Books' latest gimmick: Star Trek "Fotonovels." Here, the adaptor or author has been turned into a company-Mandala Productions gets the author's byline-and the books themselves employ full.color frame enlargements and word balloons to depict "actual adventures" from the show. Added' features include an illustrated cast listing, a glossary, notes on the episodes and trivia quizzes.
The photos are, on the whole, excellent, and though some of the transition captions are a bit hokey ("McCoy stares unbelievingly at Edith's' twisted, broken body. But Kirk cannot bear to look.") the book amusingly captures the spirit of the show, which was something of a comic strip anyway.
The volumes available now are The City on the Edge of Forever and Where No Man Has Gone Before. The first was written by noted science fiction author Harlan Ellison (who was reportedly quite upset by the changeslllade in his script) and won a number of fandom awards. Other "fotonovels" scheduled for publication include The Trouble with Tribbles, A Taste of Armageddon, Metamorphosis, and All Our Yesterdays. A must for Trekkies, but hardly for anyone else.
A LOOK BACK
Although you wouldn't know it from this piece, I actually like Star Trek Looking back, it is hard for me to remember why I took such a sneering tone, unless I was ticked off at the exploitation that went on around it. Or perhaps I just wanted to be different. For a better view of the series, see my later article in Diversion at http://tomsoter.com/?q=node/772.