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?

On Alien3

I watched Alien3 last night.  I hadn’t seen it in about two years, and I’d recently picked up Se7en on DVD and thought I’d watch another David Fincher film.  Random thoughts….

Paul McGann is completely unrecognizable, and for the role he has I can’t figure how he ended up being fourth billed.  He has all of about ten lines of dialogue in the whole film.  Not to criticize his performance or the script, but Golic was strictly a nobody character.  (Also, we never see Golic die in the film.  His last appearance is when the alien is loose in the infirmary with him cowering on his bed, but the alien has left the infirmary at that point having killed the Doctor and breathing on Ripley and heading to kill the Superintendent.  While I can I’m sure Golic does die–since Morse is seemingly the only survivor–we don’t know that for certain.)

I always thought Charles Dance died way too early in the film.  Damn, the one sympathetic character (other than Ripley) gets whacked early and then the rest of the film happens.  The reality check is that Dance dies exactly half-way through, but I think I know why I felt like he’d died too early.  The first hour of the film is all character development, and the relationship between Ripley and Clemens the Doctor has some emotional resonnance to it.  Out here in the middle of nowhere these two characters find some happiness in their lives, a kindred spirit, and then, BOOM, the alien comes, Clemens gets his head blasted out, and Ripley’s on the run.  Okay, so I still think that Charles Dance gets booted out of the film too early.  But then, how would you keep him further in the film?  I can’t think of any good way to do that.

Elliot Rosenthal sucks as a film composer.  Alien3, Batman Forever, Batman and Robin.  Why do people keep hiring him to crap all over the films?  (The odd thing is, I said at the time Alien3 came out that I could imagine Danny Elfman’s Batman score over some scenes in Alien3; ironic since Ronenthal followed Elfman on the Batman films.) Rosenthal doesn’t write music, he writes noiseBatman Forever didn’t have a score, it had a lot of banging on lead pipes.  Alien3 didn’t have horrific music in the background, it had a lot of loud brass instruments blaring.

It’s amazing the film turned out as well as it did.  It didn’t have a finished script when filming began.  David Fincher was a late minute choice to direct.  The script problems are legendary.  But in spite of all that, something decent came out it.

I’ve always liked Alien3, and I’ve known a lot of people who absolutely hated it.  I think the people who hate it hate the film because it isn’t Aliens.  Excuse me, but nothing is going to be Aliens.  Even Star Trek: First Contact tried to be Aliens, and that sure as hell didn’t work out.  Alien3 was content to be its own film, and a visually stylish one at that.  I can forgive a lot things.

Tania Tobias, Anyone?

While reading a book the other day, suddenly I wondered, whatever became of Tania Tobias?  And might we see her appear in a future Star Trek: New Frontier novel, possibly as part of Shelby’s crew on the Trident, possibly as Shelby’s first officer?  Or is Ms. Tobias no longer in Starfleet, or did she perish in the Dominion War?

Why was I wondering this?

In Keith R.A. DeCandido’s recent Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Diplomatic Implausibility, we have cameo appearances by McHenry, Soleta, and Kebron, characters that attended Starfleet Academy with Worf, and they send Worf letters of congratulations on his appointment as the Federation’s Ambassador to Qo’noS.

So, where’s Tania Tobias?  Why didn’t she send him a letter of congratulations?

Peter David's Writing Style

O. Deus wrote:

[Peter] David doesn’t do nice stories. He’s the one writer assigned to doing R-Rated ST stories which is pretty much his function. If he didn’t keep shoving in the violence and sex and betrayals, readers might begin to notice that he’s no better a writer than any of the other franchise’s pens for hire.

Despite my repeated criticisms of New Frontier and Peter David’s apathetic writing in the New Frontier recent novels, I have to take issue with this.

“assigned to doing R-Rated ST stories…”?  Not true.  No Star Trek novel would, if filmed, rate an R-rating by the MPAA.  Most Trek novels would rate a PG; at worst, some would rate a PG-13.  The Star Trek novels don’t feature graphic violence or sex.  Even when the characters in New Frontier are engaging in sexual acts, they are described either as having happened or in such a way that little attention is drawn to them.  (I’m still in awe of the humorous sexual metaphors used in describing the Robin/Nik encounter in the simulation ride in Renaissance; funny and accurate.)

Admittedly, Peter David gets latitude because he’s the best-selling author in the Trek writing stable and because New Frontier is his series, no one else’s.  He has written some brilliant Star Trek books in the past–Imzadi, Q-Squared, A Rock and a Hard PlaceNew Frontier doesn’t represent his best work, however; only Once Burned approaches the heights of those previous books.  At best, New Frontier is diverting.  At worst, it’s dull.

Particularly with the Excalibur trilogy, his New Frontier writing is marred by sloppy plotting and poor characterization.  These are either stylistic quirks or evidence that PAD’s taken on too many writing assignments.  (Six novels in one year is a bit much.) But I don’t find his work gratuitously violent or sexually graphic.

Your mileage may vary, however.

The Psi Phi Project: Re(7545): Questions about next movie novelization

I imagine Simon didn’t notice that the defense of Diane Carey came from “fed up in Seattle,” and we know that Dave Galanter lives near Ms. Carey in Michigan.

(Of course, now I’m trying to think of who here lives in Seattle; must be a newbie or a lurker.)

That said, I stand behind everything I said on the subject of Diane Carey and novelizations. Ms. Carey usually writes three Trek novels a year, and of those three one is very good, one is mediocre, and one makes me want to run for the hills screaming just so I can get away from its vileness.

Remarkably, though, it hasn’t been her novelizations that have provoked that response in me. Ship of the Line might be one of the worst pieces of garbage Pocket has published since the days of yore when Marshak and Culbreath were regular fixtures of the Pocket schedule.

However, I did enjoy Fire Ship immensely, so what does that say?

The Psi Phi Project: Re(7521): Questions about next movie novelization

Truth to tell, Yavar, I consider the Generations novelization to be a mixed case. Parts of the book were well-developed; remember that the first third of the book is set in the 23rd century. We get the final day of Kirk’s command of the Enterprise, his final moments as the ship’s master and commander (and a nice echo to similar scenes in The Lost Years, and some indication of where Kirk went after he was mustered out of the service. What interested me the most (and something that Shatner picked up on in The Ashes of Eden) was the political situation between the Federation and Klingon Empire Dillard had used as the backdrop for Star Trek VI continued into the Generations novelization. Those Klingon border skirmishes from the VI novel were mentioned and given context in Generations.

However, the last two-thirds of the novel didn’t continue the trend. I thought the NextGen portion of the novel were nothing more than a dry-run for Dillard’s by-the-numbers approach of her succeeding novelizations. There wasn’t any sense of expansion in the NextGen portion of the story, just a rote recitation of the events of the film.

To be honest, I don’t know what Dillard could have done with the story.  Generations didn’t have the storytelling opportunities for expansion that the Classic Trek films did. Because of its disjointed structure, because there wasn’t a linear plot from the Enterprise-B to the Enterprise-D, building a backdrop to Generations as she did with Star Trek V and Star Trek VI wouldn’t have been easy to achieve.

The Psi Phi Project: Re(7519): Questions about next movie novelization

A friend of mine and I had a conversation on Star Trek: The Motion Picture about two years back. Knowing I was a reader of the Trek novels, he said: “Roddenberry didn’t write the novelization.  Alan Dean Foster did.”

I thought about it, filed that factoid away, and eventually decided that no, Alan Dead Foster did not write the ST:TMP novelization. I’ve read a lot of Foster’s work, and ST:TMP doesn’t feel like his work. Hell, it doesn’t even feel like his Star Trek Logs.

For all I know, though, it could have been ghost-written.

But if Roddenberry did write it, it’s a shame that he ignored it in later years. I liked the partial version of 21st century history he gave. I liked the drained Mediterranean Sea.

It’s different. That’s all there is to it.

The Psi Phi Project: Re(7517): Questions about next movie novelization

I’m guessing J.M. Dillard will be writing the novelization of Star Trek X. Doesn’t have to be, but I’d very much prefer it not be written by Diane “The Seven-Day Wonder” Carey. Leave her to the episode novelizations where readers don’t expect quality.

I wouldn’t mind, though, if someone other than Dillard wrote the next film novelization. I think her novelizations started off well, with her novelizations of V and VI really making the most of the material by fleshing out the background events. Especially on V where she portrayed the critical history of the Spock/Sybok relationship, something I wish other novelists had picked up on. (I’ve mentally edited Sybok’s presence into Vulcan’s Forge, so all is right with the world.)

Her NextGen film novelizations, though, have been by-the-numbers with little beyond what we saw on screen. Maybe that’s a virtue, maybe not.  With her Classic Trek novelizations Dillard gave us insight into the characters and what they were doing in the periods before the film we didn’t get to see. In her NextGen novelizations there isn’t that kind of development. Instead, the story happens, and that’s all there is.

Perhaps I’m asking for too much. It’s just a novelization after all. You don’t expect art (or in Diane Carey’s case, time) from them.

The Psi Phi Project: Re(7437): Ro and the Maquis

Baerbel wrote:

The Bajorans and the Maquis had two things in common, they were victims of the Cardassians and they feel betrayed by Starfleet – the Maquis because of this agreement Starfleet made with Cardassia and the Bajorans because Starfleet did absolutely nothing to help except voicing their outrage now and again. From “Ensign Ro” I deduct that even giving humanitarian aid to Bajoran refugees rarely happened. I am sure that many Bajorans worked with the Maquis. These were in essence Ro`s people.

A couple of points. First, the agreement was between the Federation and the Cardassians; Starfleet was merely enforcing the DMZ on the Federation side. (Remember, the Federation is the government, Starfleet is her military.)

Second, what could Starfleet (or the Federation) have done for the Bajora during the Occupation? (Yes, I just used the older term “Bajora” instead of “Bajoran” because I like it.) Anything the Federation did could be considered Prime Directive contamination, or the Cardassians might disallow any Federation intervention. In modern terms, that would be like attempting to give Tibet aid and assistance in contravention of China’s barbaric policies toward Tibet. China’s not going to allow us to do anything in Tibet that would interrupt their control, so neither would the Cardassians allow the Federation to do anything with the Bajora that might weaken their hand.

Picard might not care for this situation, but what can he do? His hands are tied, if not through Prime Directive concerns than very certainly by Federation mandate and foreign policy. Disrupting internal Cardassian affairs wouldn’t have a positive outlook; if anything, it would bring the Federation and the Cardassian Union closer to the brink of a second war.

Picard knows and understands the policy and its reason. Ro’s second-guessing of the policy and her ultimate break with Starfleet, though possibly well-intentioned, isn’t justified. She had her duties to Starfleet, duties she ignored.