Celebrate: Star Trek anniversary

Celebrate blog hop

It’s the 50th anniversary of Star Trek this year, and I’m celebrating. Since I was 8 years old when the original Star Trek premiered, you can do the math and find out how older-than-dirt I really am.

Why did the original Star Trek work so much better than its television successors or the movies? In large part because the original Star Trek was written for a mass audience. Not only that, a mass audience of the 1960s, when Western television shows that didn’t violate Judeo-Christian values were the most popular form of entertainment, and the three networks had strict rules to keep swearing and sex out of the public’s living rooms.

One thing that made the original Star Trek beloved is that the Enterprise was a military space ship— you can tell by the military ranks and command structure, and the fact that the ship had state-of-the-art weapons and defenses. Military was something that a lot of men in the audience could relate to in 1966. Some had served in World War 2, and others in the Korean War, and military service was something people did proudly. It was not until a bit later that the anti-Vietnam-War movement convinced large segments of the people that military veterans were people to be spat upon.

The original Star Trek gave us an optimistic vision of our future. Perhaps the most optimistic, for me, is the sheer number of times the King James Version of the Bible was quoted by a Star Trek character. Probably unintentionally, Gene Roddenberry let me know there was a place in his future vision for a Christian like me.

Contrast that to the most popular vision of the future we have on the small screen today: The Walking Dead. The message seems to be that if you are one of the lucky few to not become a zombie, you can have a good time killing zombies for a while. Then Negan will beat you to death with his pet ball bat, Lucille. Not my favorite view of the future (though I’m a zombie prepper anyway.)


My own private Star Trek universe:

I’ve been making up stories in my head about starships and the Enterprise crew since about 1966. Still do, some of the time. By the time I was a teen I began to realize that my versions of the Enterprise crew were beginning to drift away from the original concepts.

By the time I became a Serious Writer, I began to think of making a Star Trek universe of my own with characters who belonged to me. In the past couple of years I’ve been working harder on it, and have come up with the Starship Destine universe.

The Starship Destine is at the center of the universe’s stories, so far. It is a massive spherical ship that only rarely lands on a planet. At the core of the ship is a forest— transplanted tree by tree, plant by plant from a forest plot owned by an Amish farm family and sold to the Fleet.

The starships of the Destine’s time are not the massive government funded exploration ships of the Star Trek universe. A major role of the starships is to facilitate interplanetary trade, and to engage in trade themselves to pay the bills.

The starship Destine is a new starship, which was landed on the planet Sackett on the grounds of the Fleet Academy. During an attack on the planet Sackett by unknown forces, cadets and instructors from the Academy and neighboring Amish farmers took refuge on the ship. One almost-graduated cadet, deemed captain of the ship for the purpose of a training exercise, became captain for real when the Destine escaped the attack on Sackett and began a search for surviving Fleet authority figures….


This is a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. It is a Friday event which gives bloggers a chance to interact with other bloggers and build up a bigger readership. To sign up yourself, go to: http://lexacain.blogspot.com/2015/01/celebrate-small-things.html

 

The first book I ever bought for myself.

The first book I ever bought for myself.

Love science fiction movies? Maybe it’s time to try a book.

I’ve been a science fiction fan since childhood. I started off with science fiction TV— Star Trek, The Outer Limits, Lost in Space— and the kind of science fiction movie that made it on to ‘Creature Features’, the Saturday night scary movie show.

But science fiction books are better. It was a struggle, as a child, getting in to science fiction books. Neither of my parents read it. In third grade, a boy in my class brought one of the Star Trek novelizations by James Blish. I somehow got my own copy of that book— it was Star Trek 3— before the month was out.

Going beyond novelizations was difficult because one of the first science fiction stories I read— from a collection in a school textbook— was about a spaceship crew that found the star of Bethlehem— a sun went nova, killing a world full of sapient life forms, to mark the birth of Jesus Christ, yay God. That felt too much like propaganda to me.

Another school-approved science fiction story was The Cold Equations, in which a girl I thought was the viewpoint character got spaced out the airlock for being a stowaway on a small ship that didn’t have fuel for two. Depressing.

I have since learned that short stories are the enemy. Short stories are filled with characters that authors feel all right about killing because, after all, the authors haven’t known those characters long. Short stories can be utterly depressing because they are short and the reader hasn’t invested much time or money in them. Avoid short stories at all costs, unless they are stories related to a novel series.

Science fiction novels are better, because the author, like the reader, is more invested in them. Series novels are particularly nice for those of us who grew up on Star Trek or Babylon 5 or the like.

But science fiction novels can do more. TV and movie science fiction is more about the explosions and the special effects. Science fiction television can take the time to be a little thoughtful— the characters can encounter a new world with a new species of sapient life, and take the time to learn about them— perhaps to find out that their initial impressions were wrong, all wrong. But to really experience science fiction as a fiction of ideas, you need to go over to the books.

For those of us thoughtful enough to consider ideas beyond the conventional within the science fiction community, books can have their down side. Many contemporary SF authors are playing to the hateful-atheist crowd these days and in their books, if you find a person of faith, they will prove to be the enemy. If you find a dogmatic, preachy atheist, you’ve found a good guy. So, if you buy your SF books new, keep your receipts. It’s perfectly legitimate to return a book when an author expresses bigotry against your religion, political views or life philosophy. Just don’t read the book while eating Cheetoes.

So, what are some good ways to get a taste of science fiction in book form? I, being a major, obsessive Star Trek geek, started with reading Star Trek novels. They were a cut above most movie/TV tie in fiction, though often restricted by the fact that Paramount owned Star Trek and limited what an author could do with the characters.

Going to an actual bookstore with a decent-sized SF/fantasy section can help because you can browse through the section reading the back cover until you find things that appeal. Or you can find a source for recommendations online. For example, if you read a blog that has given you good recommendations for television and movies, perhaps they also recommend some books.

Here are a few series that I liked that may appeal to you:

  1. Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card. Starts out with a space war against the Buggers, an insect-like race, and goes on, in other volumes, into a period of space colonization. Card is a good author for Christian readers since he is a member of the LDS church and has held prolife and pro-marriage values. And has experienced discrimination within the SF community for it.
  2. Worldwar/Colonization series by Harry Turtledove. What if we humans gave a World War and the aliens came? This series, with multiple character groups set around the world, gives a panoramic view of a World War Two disrupted by an alien invasion. This series is great for the older history buff, though younger persons won’t get enough World War Two history knowledge to understand the history in these books. The books are not clean as far as sex events are concerned. Also, the author portrays Pope Pius XII as a quisling who helped the aliens conquer Earth, while in real life that pope was a heroic figure who stood up to the Nazis and saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. But the series is very readable in spite of this.
  3. Vatta’s War by Elizabeth Moon. Series of five books featuring the adventures of Ky Vatta, a young woman who got kicked out of her planet’s space academy and was sent off by her family to captain an old trade ship on its last voyage. Decently envisioned worlds, and lots of action including fights with space pirates, mutiny, and the rescue of a cute puppy.
  4. Amish Vampires in Space by Kerry Nietz. Yes, that’s a real book title. I haven’t read more than the free preview on Kindle, but found it very readable. And, hey, it’s worth the purchase price just to have the book to display in some prominent place in  your home.

I hope these recommendations will help some science fiction fans start to explore the world of the novels in our genre, and break free of dependence on big budget Hollywood hyped SF movies in which the explosions are more important than serious SF content.

If you have any great science fiction reads to recommend, please do drop us a comment. We are always searching for Something New to Read.

Space Westerns: You May Already Be a Fan if…

serenitycrewSpace Westerns: it’s a genre. Not a beloved genre for those who hate and despise real Westerns (usually without reading any, or even seeing a quality Western movie or TV show), or hate gritty realism, but one which has influenced the science fiction universe. Are you already a fan of space westerns? You may be, if….

…you are a Firefly fan.

The Firefly television series was very plainly and openly based in part on themes from Western fiction. Heck, they even herded cows once! It was set in the aftermath of a big war, as many Westerns deal with the aftermath of the Civil War. The Western touch made Firefly more gritty and realistic than your typical antiseptic and intellectual-ivory-tower sci-fi tale.

… you are a fan of the original Star Trek.

Space— the final frontier…. These are the voyages…. Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, got his start in the television industry by writing scripts for Western TV shows. He pitched Star Trek as ‘Wagon Train to the Stars’. For younger readers, I must explain that ‘Wagon Train’ was an excellent Western television series, which had quite renowned actors and actresses as guest stars. It was also a very popular show.

Star Trek was set on the frontier of the Federation worlds. Sometimes they visited remote Federation colonies, and at other times they discovered new worlds. Since the series was aimed at a US television audience who mostly loved America and had fought for her in WW2 and Korea, using themes from the American frontier, often in a subtle way, was a natural.

…you like Star Wars.

I never really was a Star Wars fan. I watched the first movie when it first was on television and watched bits and pieces of the others. I did notice there were a few Western themes and images in that series, and I’m sure that’s part of the reason that it was a popular series.

…you enjoy actual Westerns.

It’s funny. People who despise Westerns often proclaim that the genre is dead. And yet, to this day in a used paperback store Western novels sell well. At flea markets some of the junk dealers offer a box or three of Western novels, and charge more than they would for similar used books in other genres. Western television shows, admittedly, are uncommon— perhaps because of the need to include loud proclamations of feminism/abortion rights and openly gay characters in every form of fictional television these days. It doesn’t work well in a genre anchored in a historical reality.

If you are a Western fan who likes one of the sci-fi television series mentioned above, perhaps the space Western is your genre. And if you haven’t read or viewed Westerns yet….

Discover Westerns: There is a cable television channel, Encore Westerns, which has a block of old Western TV series from about 1pm to 7pm. Most series are from around 1958 to 1962, with a few as late as 1968. They include Maverick, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, old half-hour Gunsmoke episodes, Cheyenne, Death Valley Days, and Wanted: Dead or Alive (starring Steve McQueen). In the past, they’ve had Have Gun, Will Travel, Lawman, Rawhide and Wagon Train in the lineup.

Western novels are not the brainless shoot-’em-ups of rumor. The best of them feature fine writing and extensive historical research. Try something by Elmer Kelton (Seven-time Spur Award Winner) or Louis L’Amour to discover what Westerns are really all about.

Read More about the Space Western genre:

http://www.spacewesterns.com/