If you’re a Star Trek fan then it’s almost certain that, at some point, you’ve picked up a Trek paperback. These days they’re common place, the shelves any paperback section from Barnes & Nobles to your local grocery store are littered with them. For a geeky young JT trapped in the 80s though, the discovery of dozens of new Trek adventures on the shelves of my local library was a revelation. I spent summer after summer pouring over the work of writers like James Blish and Vonda McIntyre.
Not all of them are great, particularly these days when it’s all been watered down, but for every ten throwaway adventures occasionally there’s something utterly brilliant. Do yourself a favor and look into the Trek universe work of Peter David for instance. You won’t regret it.
They did more than simply rehash already used Trek themes and stories, they expanded the Trek universe, the mythology, sometimes in lasting ways. For instance, it’s thanks to those Star Trek novels that Mr. Sulu has a first name.
In an interview with io9 Vonda McIntyre talks about writing one of the first ever Trek novels, The Entropy Effect and in the process reveals that she came up with Sulu’s first name, Hikaru.
It seems no one had bothered to think of one, before she was commissioned to write her novel. Strangely, once she decided the character needed one, it wasn’t the name she chose that anyone had a problem with, more that Paramount simply didn’t want Sulu to have a first name at all. Luckily George Takei and series creator Gene Roddenberry took McIntyre’s side and the name stuck, eventually showing up in Star Trek feature films.
McIntyre’s brief account of the early days of Trek novelizations is worth a read, particularly since like Peter David, she’s one of the few Trek authors worth reading. If you stumble across it, make sure you pick up McIntyre’s extremely well written book Enterprise and click over to io9 to read her full account.