More on Sulu novels

From John Ordover:

Yes, we could use Spock as a prop for Sulu, just as we used Picard and Spock in the first New Frontier book – but why should we?:)

For the exact same reason as the NextGen angle was played in New Frontier: to draw in readers. For the same reason Picard features on the cover of Avatar, Book One: the draw in readers. It’s the same reason Batman appeared in damn near every DC comic in the summer and fall of 1989. It’s the same reason Spider-Man will appear in damn near every Marvel comic next summer. It’s because Batman in 1989 and Spider-Man in 2002 will have drawing power. It’s the same reason Peter David writes New Frontier: his name has drawing power.

I wonder if The Captain’s Daughter might have sold better had it had someone in addition to Sulu on the cover. I’m willing to bet The Fearful Summons had higher sales than TCD because of Kirk’s presence on the cover. Once again, it’s the drawing power.

NextGen obviously sells. I’m assuming Spock sells. Sulu on his own you’ve said doesn’t sell. NextGen is mainstream. Spock is mainstream. Sulu is a niche concept.

Do we agree thus far? Props are used for drawing power, and Sulu lacks drawing power on his own? That Sulu is a niche concept in the Trek community? I think we can agree on this, John.

The question is whether or not the drawing power of another part of the Trek universe can be or should be used in conjunction with Sulu. I know we will disagree on this. Certainly another part of the Trek universe can be used with Sulu, but should it happen? You’re the editor, I’m just the reader, but I’m not so sure you have the magical answer in this case.

Sulu, IMHO, doesn’t have a particular draw nor does he provide a character that we would be able to change and grow at will, ala New Frontier. We’re better off putting our energy in other directions.

I wonder about this, however. If Sulu is the blank slate you’ve said he is, John, if Sulu is a character that the Paramount production offices have zero interest in, as they apparently feel, then why can’t Sulu be grown as a character? Given the definition that you’ve long claimed is lacking? I know your analogy–we knew more of Shelby from “Best of Both Worlds” than of Sulu in the past thirty-five years–but I question this assertion. In terms of sheer knowledge about the characters, Okuda’s encyclopedia gives us more on Sulu than on Shelby. And we’ve had twenty-plus years of novel adventures with Sulu, detailing his history from his childhood on Ganjitsu to when he took command of the Excelsior. Non-canon, I realize, but certainly background color.

In terms of providing a link to Trek‘s past, Sulu would be more interesting than a non-Classic Trek character in a hypothetical novel about Spock’s first ambassadorial mission, for instance. The unknown character would have zero history with Spock, while Sulu would have a history with Spock that could lead to unexpected conflict if Spock and Sulu came to loggerheads on the best route of action.

I’m not convinced, then, that starting from a blank-slate unknown character is the best route to take.

You’re assuming your conclusion – you’re saying “Sulu is worth concentrating effort on, therefore here’s a way to concentrate effort on him that might be effective, and you should do it because he’s worth focusing energy on.”

Well, we can play at syllogisms all day if that’s what you want. 🙂

Honestly, the syllogism I’d have thought you’d take away from the Sulu question is:

1) Sulu is an interesting character in his own right.
2) Interesting characters deserve storytelling.
3) Sulu deserves storytelling.

And you’d question the initial premise, and you’d have that right. The second premise seems self-evident, otherwise why bother with storytelling to begin with (and you’d be out of a job, John)?

So, is Sulu an interesting character in his own right? I’ve always thought he is? Why have I thought this? Here goes:

Sulu is unique among Classic Trek characters in that he’s the only one of Kirk’s command crew to receive his own command and move outside of the Enterprise sphere-of-influence. After Kirk’s “death” and Spock’s retirement from Starfleet, Sulu is the only Classic Trek character still “boldly going” in the post-Star Trek VI period. More importantly, Sulu would be the only Classic Trek character to be in a position to experience the beginnings of the philosophic turn from the balls-to-the-walls Classic Trek era to the constipated NextGen era.

Do these make Sulu interesting for who he is or for when he lived? Perhaps the latter more than the former, but for providing a route into exploring that change in philosophy, Sulu would be the only viable option short of creating a whole new character from scratch. Spock can’t explore the change in Starfleet’s philosophy as he’s no longer in Starfleet post-2296 or so. McCoy? He wouldn’t fight the political fights. Uhura and Chekov? Here we’re constrained by canon; we don’t know what happens with these two, and while I like Shatner’s future for Chekov (C-in-C of Starfleet) and the Sherman/Shwartz future for Uhura (head of Starfleet Intel) I also know that you’re not constrained by past novels since they’re not canon, even if they happened under your watch. Sulu does appear to be the only route into exploring those changes, if that’s something even remotely of interest.

I’m not going to change your mind, John, but neither will you change mine. I don’t want an on-going Sulu series, but an occasional novel with Sulu and the Excelsior, just as we’ve had occasional novels and stories with Pike and the Enterprise, would make me happy. Doesn’t even have to be a novel with Sulu; an eBook novella would do just fine, thanks.

But there are other things to concentrate effort on that are simply more appealing than Sulu.

Hypothetical question. Suppose George Takei approached Pocket wanting to write a Sulu novel. Would you dismiss him out of hand because the novel would star Sulu?

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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