On Nuclear War in the Star Trek Universe

Nuclear war happened in the Star Trek universe. “Encounter at Farpoint” talks about the Post-Atomic Horror. Star Trek: First Contact tells us 600 million dead. But where?

Asia and the Pacific Rim? Gone, reduced to radioactive slag. That makes sense, given what Q showed us of the court from the Post-Atomic Horror, and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be anyone of Asian descent in the 23rd and 24th centuries (and those that we do see clearly hail from North America–Sulu from San Francisco, Harry from South Carolina [I think], and Hash [from NF] probably from Georgia).

North America? Europe? Largely untouched. San Fransisco looks a little different, the Eiffel Tower still stands, so we know these cities didn’t get hit with mushroom clouds. (On the other hand, a lot is going to depend on the yield of the weapon and whether it’s an airburster or a groundburster, so these cities could have taken a nuclear hit.)

Something to remember, though. A nuclear war in the 21st century won’t render a place uninhabitable; you could in time (a decade at most) return to the area and resettle it. (Brendan DuBois’ kickass alternate history Resurrection Day deals with that very point.) So, just because Asia is a radioactive parking lot in 2060 doesn’t mean no one’s living there in 2360.

Essentially, the point I’m trying to make is this: a nuclear war doesn’t necessarily have to be global. Something beginning in India, Pakistan, or China wouldn’t necessarily involve everyone. (Though I would question a situation where India and China were exchanging nukes and China didn’t take a pot-shot at Russia or the United States just to get one in.) The Cold War mentality is that a nuclear war would affect everyone , and while there would be some global cooling in the short term (since it looks like Carl Sagan overstated the nuclear winter hypothesis), a limited nuclear exchange is more probable in Trek‘s history.

Or at least, that’s the way I see it.

On Quintin Stone

Here’s what I think would be an interesting way to play with Quintin Stone in Star Trek: New Frontier. A Rock and a Hard Place makes the point that Stone used to be a quiet, by-the-book officer, until the Prime Directive situation on Ianni that drove him over the edge and made him the rough-and-tumble gritty officer that he became. Let’s suppose that either Shelby or Calhoun knew Stone back in his quiet, bookwormish days, and now they have to deal with the hyperintense Stone on Paradise. Could be very intriguing, especially if Stone and Shelby had a history together. (Perhaps Stone was Shelby’s first sexual experience, alluded to in Martyr.) Hmm.

On Borg History

I’ve been puzzled about the timeline for Annika Hansen’s meeting with the Borg. In tonite’s episode of Voyager, Janeway says to Seven that the Borg took away 20 years of her life and it was punishment enough. How is this possible if it was Q who brought the Enterprise and Picard to first contact with the Borg 10 years ago?

There are two theories. One is that the Borg time travel in Star Trek: First Contact mucked up the timeline so that the first contact between human and Borg occurred before “Q Who” and that this episode didn’t happen at all.

The second theory, which I’m sure others have developed as well, is this:

Starfleet knew about the Borg from the late-23rd century. The evacuation of the El-Aurian homeworld was the first clear sign, the number of El-Aurian refugees heading to Earth showed that something major was afoot. Starfleet intercepted what El-Aurian refugees they could, debriefed them about what happened to their homeworld, and learned of the threat of the Borg.

However, not all of Starfleet knew this. This information was classified at the highest levels. Section 31 knew undoubtedly, Starfleet’s Commander-in-Chief and his inner circle knew as well. But the rank-and-file didn’t know. (I postulate Starfleet sent a ship, the Excelsior under Sulu’s command, to investigate what happened to the El-Aurian homeworld. I suspect Sulu might have been the first in Starfleet to make contact with the Borg. I think what he found scared Starfleet intensely.)

Then, after the Tomed Incident in 2311, the Borg fell upon the Romulans.

The Hansens I suspect were part of Section 31. Assigned to survey the Borg, trail one of their ships. Boom, they get assimilated.

When Picard stumbles across the Borg in System J-25, he doesn’t know anything of the Borg; they’re classified far above what he needs to know.

After the first Borg assault on Earth, Starfleet levels with its officers about what it knew about the Borg. Not how it knew it, but what it did know. Even what Section 31 knew, but not revealing how they knew it. Thus did Janeway have the logs of the Raven. So, there’s a bit of revisionism in the history of the Borg and how Starfleet encountered them.

A possible history.

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 noise. Batman 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 Place. New 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.