You know, Star Trek used to be pretty simple.
Back when I was a kid, there was Star Trek: The Original Series, and the cartoon, and... well, that was pretty much it. Okay, not really. After all, there were toys, and games, and model kits, and comic books, and the occasional novel here and there. Back in those days, Star Trek was a show that aired every day after school on the local UHF channel, and it had its casual and hardcore fans (of which I was among the latter), but for a long time, no one seriously thought there’d ever be more to it. So, a lot of those old comic and novel writers were on a pretty loose leash, allowed to do all sorts of things with the Enterprise gang. After all, there was no new episode coming next week, so why couldn’t the wild adventure as told in the odd paperback really happen to Kirk and company?
With the advent of the Star Trek films and subsequent television series and the greater attention paid to “media tie-in” products like novels and comics, the writers of such “additional material” eventually found themselves operating under guidelines designed—more or less—to ensure such stories didn’t conflict with what was shown on screen. Only the editors and licensing officials at Paramount (now CBS) know how many tie-in story pitches were scrapped because they drifted too close to a film or episode in some stage of development.
Even with such safeguards in place, the occasional contradiction manifested itself, usually in the form of a TV episode or movie coming along and offering a different take on some character or plot point which already had been the focus of a comic book or novel. That’s one of the hazards of writing such material, which isn’t considered “canon” by the producers of the parent television or film property. Contradictions or “overwriting” are just going to happen. Such is life.
Does this “canceling out” of older stories told in comic or prose form make such tales any less worthy of being read and enjoyed? Oh, heck no, just like an older science fiction novel doesn’t stop being good even though real history passes it by. I still think The War of the Worlds is one of the benchmark alien invasion stories, despite us knowing that there are no Martians on Mars (assuming you believe the government disinformation campaigns). Clive Cussler’s Raise the Titanic!, written a decade before the wreck was discovered by Robert Ballard, is still a cracking adventure yarn, even though the whole thing hinges on the ship being found one in piece.
So, what about Star Trek novels that no longer “fit?” I call books like these “canon fodder,” in that they’ve been overwritten, superseded, or otherwise rendered “incompatible” due to television episodes or films subsequently added to the vast “Star Trek canon.” Some fans choose to view such tales as now taking place in some “alternate reality,” like those posited in the The Next Generation episode “Parallels” or even the 2009 Star Trek film. Me? I tend to look at the films and episodes as the “real history” of the Star Trek characters, and the tie-in stories in a vein similar to historical fiction.
Yes, I know that’s a bit geeky. Have we met?
So: Ten novels passed over by “the Star Trek Canon.” For this article, I solicited titles from readers on my blog and Facebook page. This obviously isn’t a complete list, and I wanted to make sure that every television series got some love and attention, so feel free to add your favorites in the comments section. Also, we’re not worrying about how the 2009 film might’ve jacked things around. After all, it jacked EVERYTHING around, right? With that in mind, here we go:
Okay, that’s a good start. Who’s got more?
The Ten for Ward backlist:
“Ten Star Trek Historical Events Which Should’ve Happened by Now” – February 2012
“Ten Favorite Star Trek Games” – November 2011
“Ten Favorite ‘Classic’ Star Trek Comics” – September 2011
“Ten Favorite ‘Old’ Star Trek Books” – June 2011
Dayton Ward is the author or co-author of numerous novels and short stories, 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 Communicator, Star Trek Magazine, Syfy.com, and Tor.com, and is a monthly contributor to the Novel Spaces writers blog. 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: http://daytonward.wordpress.com.