There’s a subset of fandom that knows I write Star Trek novels, and have been doing so for… well, a while now. Within that group is a smaller faction of people who follow me on Facebook or Twitter, and therefore know that I can be a bit of a smart aleck in those spaces. While there’s obviously an element of self-promotion for me and my work going on there, I tend to spend more time having fun with those who choose to follow me on those platforms. This means I tend to post a fair number of Star Trek jokes, memes, cartoons, and whatever else I think is worth sharing. I’m definitely not afraid to poke a little fun at this thing I’ve enjoyed my entire life, but it always comes from a place of love and appreciation for something that’s entertained and enthralled me for more years than I care to count out loud. I became a writer because of Star Trek, and that I actually get paid to write Star Trek stories is something I still occasionally have a hard time wrapping my head around.
This is all a long-winded way of saying that it probably was inevitable I’d eventually get around to writing something like the Star Trek: Kirk Fu Manual.
When I write Star Trek novels, I take the work very seriously. In addition to just trying to tell an entertaining story, there’s also a lot of work involved making sure I adhere to the onscreen canon and remain consistent with the lore established across the various series and films. It’s fun and rewarding, of course, but for many many years I’d been wanting to write something lighthearted and quirky. For a while I was able to scratch that itch with the occasional piece for StarTrek.com, including an article I wrote about my “10 Favorite Kirk Fight Scenes.” Then there were later books like my Vulcan and Klingon Empire “travel guides” which let me bake in a lot of humorous bits along with in-jokes and references only the hardest of hardcore fans might recognize. When my writing partner, Kevin Dilmore, and I were offered the chance to write a Star Trek comic, we zeroed in on the idea of an homage to the old Gold Key comics from the 1960s and 70s. While those comics are so far afield from what we know as “real” Star Trek, they hold a timeless, goofy charm for me. We couldn’t resist the chance to honor them in some way.
I pitched Kirk Fu to Chris Prince, my editor at Insight Editions, as a riff on military-style instruction manuals you might see devoted to teaching unarmed combat techniques. Chris was enthusiastic about this idea from the jump, sticking by it (and me) long enough to convince others at Insight this was something worth pursuing. It took some time for the planets to align in such a manner that the book was greenlit, by which time I was working with another editor, Paul Ruditis, who is also an accomplished author of several books including a few Star Trek reference works. Paul guided me along the path of beating the manuscript into shape before he too was promoted and given new responsibilities which prevented him from continuing to oversee this project. However, the very capable Holly Fisher, with whom I’d already worked on a couple of other Star Trek projects, took over editorial duties and helped get me to the finish line.
What did we end up with?
I think we can all agree a manual devoted to Captain Kirk’s rather unique fighting style is absurd on any number of levels, which was precisely what I wanted. My idea for Kirk Fu was for the text to play the gag completely straight to the maximum possible extent, never breaking character as I outlined step-by-step instructions on how to perform Kirk’s various moves. The humor would lurk within the illustrations I envisioned as accompanying my prose. This meant the idea would live or die on the shoulders of the artist with whom my editors chose to partner me.
Thank all the stars in the sky for Christian Cornia.
The art Christian provided for the book is simply perfect. It imbues the precise tone I wanted, playing off the text to masterful effect. His full-color splash pages, each one devoted to showing us an encounter from Captain Kirk’s many adventures and sparring matches with all manner of otherworldly foes, are hilarious and I really want big prints of them for my office walls. However, it’s the line drawings he created to illustrate the proper employment of each move that really make the book shine. Whereas I was keeping things more or less “serious” with my text, Christian truly leans into the whole premise with art that is hysterical while at the same time pushing the joke over the top.
I’m sure there are people out there who will look at this and come away thinking that I’m just throwing snark at Star Trek in general, or perhaps Captain Kirk in particular. Let me assure those with such concerns this is not at all the vibe I’m going for, here. Kirk Fu is intended as an expression of unapologetic love for the original Star Trek — the one I grew up with and which remains my personal favorite of all the series — to say nothing of Captain Kirk, the hero of my childhood. We’re talking about a man who can use a pillow or even just a wall as a weapon. Who doesn’t want to learn how to fight an Orion disguised as an Andorian, or even a Gorn?
I’m filling a market niche here, people.
Kirk Fu will never be confused with a serious reference work or anything other than what it’s actually intended to be: a hopefully amusing book of the sort any casual fan can enjoy because they understand the inherent humor in something like this. I’ve long believed that there’s nothing wrong with Star Trek embracing a bit of whimsy now and again, be it on the screen and certainly within the realm of its rather enormous merchandising machine. This extends into the publishing realm such as the comics crossovers IDW has done connecting Star Trek to Planet of the Apes, Doctor Who, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and even the Transformers. Books such as those written by friend and fellow author Robb Pearlman (Body By Starfleet, Fun with Kirk and Spock, Redshirts Little Book of Doom, Search for Spock) and even the recent Little Golden Books aimed at younger readers demonstrate we don’t have to be so dour and serious with our Star Trek all the time, right?
Star Trek: Kirk Fu Manual is a brand-spanking new hardcover gift book from Insight Editions, and it’s officially on sale starting Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020 at all brick-and-mortar and online book retailers. Get your copy and learn to fight just like the legendary Captain Kirk himself! Just be sure to have plenty of spare shirts handy.
Dayton Ward (he/him) is a New York Times bestselling 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. As he’s 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.