Yeah, yeah, you’ve probably heard this already: I write Star Trek books.
But before that, and when I wasn’t building Star Trek models or playing with Mego action figures or running around outside pretending I was Captain Kirk while trying my best to put out my own eyes with my Star Trek “tracer gun,” I collected Star Trek books. All sorts of them, during the 1970s and 1980s: novels, story books, technical manuals, episode guides, comic books, role-playing game books. You name it, I bought it, at least as far as my meager allowances would allow.
For the ones I couldn’t afford, if I was lucky a friend had it, or else I looked at a copy at the library. It wasn’t until I was older and possessing of more disposable income that I was able to begin the arduous process of filling the gaps in my collection. Still, I managed to get my hands on most of them way back in the before times, when the world was still black and white. A few of those have required replacing over the years due to age and wear, but for the most part? I still have several of the books I bought the first time around, and a few of them still rank among my all-time favorite Star Trek publications.
So, let’s take a look, shall we? Ten of my favorite Star Trek books, all of which were published prior to 1980, and ordered by nothing more insidious than how I recalled them when compiling this list:
Star Fleet Technical Manual, written and drawn by Franz Joseph Schnaubelt (1975) – Along with the Star Trek Blueprints, this imaginative tome is the granddaddy of all “Treknical” publications. Extrapolating from information presented in the original Star Trek series, the book is stuffed to its gills with data and illustrations about ships, equipment and uniforms. The level of detail is amazing, and even though the book’s content may have been superseded by ideas presented in the Star Trek films and latter television series, it stands as an unparalleled classic.
Star Trek: Spaceflight Chronology, written by Stan and Fred Goldstein and illustrated by Rick Sternbach (1979) – Published as a tie-in to Star Trek: The Motion Picture and years before the concepts of timelines and “canon” would drive Trekkies to unchecked fits of FanRage™, this awesome book provided a comprehensive future history of human space travel, from the earliest orbital pop shots to the brand-spankin' new U.S.S. Enterprise (inaugural movie edition). Comprised of excerpts from news sources, mission reports, personal anecdotes, and whatever else the Goldsteins could dream up and supported by a truckload of Sternbach’s line drawings and wonderful paintings, the book is a masterpiece of artistry and imagination. Who cares if it’s largely incompatible with the current, “official” Trek chronology? Put your hand down, you.
The Making of Star Trek, written by Stephen E. Whitfield & Gene Roddenberry (1968) – The self-proclaimed “Book on How to Write for TV!” First published while the original Star Trek was still in production, this is a fascinating peek behind the curtain at how the show was conceived and how it evolved from Roddenberry’s typewriter to weekly series. Liberally supported with photographs, sketches, memoranda and other correspondence exchanged between key production staff, this remains a wonderful time capsule preserving the essence of the show that started it all.
Star Trek, adapted by James Blish (1967) – Here it is, the very first Star Trek book ever published. Noted science fiction author was hired to write the first of which ultimately would be 12 volumes of stories, each adapting a handful of episodes from the original series. As with most of the early editions in this series, the story adaptations were based on whatever versions of scripts Blish could obtain from Desilu Studios. In most cases, the scripts were early drafts, resulting in adaptations which differ to varying degrees from the final broadcast version of the episodes in question. This is but one of many of the books’ many charms. They definitely don’t make ‘em like this anymore!
Star Trek Concordance, written and compiled by Bjo Trimble (1977) – Years before “companions,” “encyclopedias,” and “chronologies” became part and parcel of Star Trek fandom, there was the Star Trek Concordance. In its original form, it was, according to Trimble herself, hundreds of index cards stacked in her living room. Those were later partnered with an idea she worked on with fellow fan Dorothy Jones Heydt and titled Star Trek Concordance of People, Places, and Things for a fanzine in 1969. The voluminous notes eventually evolved into what arguably was the most comprehensive Star Trek reference of the time. Despite having more than few errors—some of which were propagated into later reference works, before a corrected edition was published in 1995—the Concordance is still a highlight of 1970s Trek fandom.
Star Trek Fotonovel #1: The City on the Edge of Forever, adapted by Mandala Productions (1977) – Ah, nothing says 1970s pop-culture cool like the “Fotonovel.” In the days before VCRs, DVD players, and aside from catching the reruns on local broadcast TV, these were the best way to revisit favorite episodes. Fotonovels—essentially a neat little hybrid of paperback book, comic book, and film clips—were used to adapt 12 original series episodes, including the story generally regarded as the best of the series and one of the finest of all Star Trek episodes, Harlan Ellison’s “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Now with films and TV shows available at your fingertips, the Fotonovels are a relic of a bygone era... but they’re still pretty sweet.
The Trouble With Tribbles, written by David Gerrold (1973) – The meticulously-detailed recounting of the popular episode’s creation, as conveyed by the man who brought it to us. Gerrold’s chronicle traces the genesis of the story from initial idea spark to its broadcast, including early drafts, anecdotes, memos, and no small amount of humor and reflection. Other than Eric Stillwell’s The Making of Yesterday’s Enterprise, I’m hard-pressed to think of other instances where a single episode of a television series is subjected to such introspection. Almost 40 years old, and like The Making of Star Trek it is a wondrous nostalgia trip back to the days of the original series’ production.
Six Science Fiction Plays, edited by Roger Elwood (1976) – What? This isn’t a Star Trek book, is it? Well, it is...sort of. Included in this collection is Harlan Ellison’s initial script for what became “The City on the Edge of Forever.” For years, this was the only way to read the complete version of that original teleplay, though now you can obtain it in an edition published by Mr. Ellison himself. If you’ve heard some or all of the stories surrounding the development of this seminal episode, you owe it to yourself to read Ellison’s original script.
Star Trek: The New Voyages, edited by Sondra Marshak & Myrna Culbreath (1976) – This was the first-ever professionally published collection of Star Trek stories written by fans. Until this book’s creation people had toiled in the trenches of fandom, writing for those good old-fashioned fanzines printed on mimeograph machines, with fancy covers, interior artwork, and all that good stuff (I say all that with no sarcasm or smarminess whatsoever, as I have a pile of old-school fanzines of my own). The book was followed in 1978 with a second collection, after which it would be 20 years before the experiment was attempted again with the first Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthology from Pocket Books.
Mission to Horatius, written by Mack Reynolds (1968) – Contrary to what some fans believe, the very first original Star Trek novel was not James Blish’s Spock Must Die! Instead, it was this little bad boy right here. Originally published by Whitman Books as one of several tie-ins to various television properties of the era, the story is very much aimed at kids. For a long time, finding a copy of this in decent condition was a tough job for a collector. I actually used to have two copies, but I sold one to Pocket Books back in 1996, which they used as a guide for creating a facsimile edition of the book that was published later that year in honor of Star Trek’s 30th anniversary.
That’s 10, right? And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we do that.
Assuming I get invited back to this party, I’ll be sure to bring another list with me for us to chew on. Until then, maybe you’ve got your own “Ten for Ward?”
Dayton Ward is the author or co-author of numerous short stories and novels, including a whole bunch of stuff set in the Star Trek universe, and often working with friend and co-writer Kevin Dilmore. He’s also written (or co-written) for Star Trek Magazine, Syfy.com, and Tor.com. As he is still a big ol’ geek at heart, Dayton is known to wax nostalgic about all manner of Star Trek topics over on his own blog: The Fog of Ward