Other Stuff Exists

Don't get too comfortable with the familiar–other stuff exists, so go explore!

Spockanalia #2

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 13, 2017

As we continue catching up on fanzines, we come to Spockanalia #2, published in April 1968.

During the interval since the previous issue, the editors engaged in correspondence with several figures in the Trek world, and excerpts from their letters are reprinted. Featured are Gene Roddenberry, Dorothy Fontana, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, DeForest Kelley, and Leonard Nimoy.

Sherna Comerford writes “A Revisit”, which updates articles from the first issue in light of information from the newer episodes and communications.

“The Man in the Hero Suit” by E. A. Oddstad is a very interesting essay on Kirk’s character. An excerpt from the end:

Kirk’s morals are a set of words and actions imposed on him. They are not part of his character. The Kirk in the parallel universe had learned other words and actions. Though the mirror Spock has integrity and the mirror McCoy humanity, the mirror Kirk is (or was; he must be dead by now) a thorough going rat. The only redeeming quality in either Kirk is a deep-hidden humanity that occasionally, unexpectedly, surfaces. When it does, it’s like finding a diamond ring at a beach.

Fortunately, ‘our’ Kirk lives in a less repellent society and obeys its laws. And he has Spock for a logical conscience and McCoy as a humane conscience.

“Stars Over Vulcan” by V. A. H. Nietz tackles Vulcan astrology.

“The Dour Scots Engineer” by Ruth Berman examines the character of Scotty as an example of the archetype named in the title.

Poul Anderson contributes a poem in Kirk’s voice, “Star Date:6721; Condition:Confused”, a parody of “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer: “I think that I shall never grok / A man as logical as Spock.”

In “Terran-Vulcan Genetic Compatibility”, Susan Hereford writes:

The theory, held by some, that the Terran woman involved is a direct descendant of Mr. Sherlock Holmes and therefore carries many of his traits, is unprovable because of the number of bastards in the line. It would easily account for her attractiveness to a Vulcan. Proponents of this theory point out that there is a pronounced physical resemblence between Mr. Holmes and the hybrid.

Leonard Nimoy would go on to play Sherlock Holmes in a short film in 1975 and on stage in 1976, and the Holmes connection would get a nod in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (written by Nicholas Meyer, author of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution), when Spock says, “An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

In “Message Tape”, Miriam Langsam writes as “Lieutenant Miriam Langsam”, offering advice on what life is like on a starship.

“The Allure of Uhura” by robert toomey is a somewhat aimless essay in praise of Uhura–especially of her beauty. She is competent, too, toomey allows, which she manages “without ever once losing any of her feminine appeal.” It’s a curious thing to see.

In “Communication from Star Fleet Intelligence”, John Mansfield offers up “the Klingon view of Vulcans, and of Vulcan-Terran relations, which is quite faulty.” The Klingon opinion is that Vulcans are deceitful and that Earth is “waiting for the day when it will be liberated from the Vulcan yoke” by the Klingons, whose job it is “to spread enlightenment throughout the stars.” A unique view of Klingons!

In “God and the Vulcan Mind”, Joyce Yasner author argues that Vulcans could be religious, for they “as a people of science and logic, could find a scientific explanation of God which says that He is energy” and that “Vulcans can also believe in reincarnation and immortality.” This issue would eventually be addressed by Star Trek: Enterprise, many years later.

In “A Speculation on Spock’s Family”, Sandra Miesel argues that Sarek might have been wed to a Vulcan woman before Amanda, and thus produced offspring other than Spock, though “leading Vulcan xenologist Dorothy Fontana” maintains otherwise. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier agreed with Miesel on this one.

“Personal Diary Entries” by Deborah Langsam descibes how Ensign Michaelson, a medical trainee who has been placed under Chekov’s command in order to get some interdepartmental experience, gets back at him for sexually harassing her and generally being a jerk.

“To Christine” by Lyn Veryzer is a poem warning Christine (Chapel, presumably) not to waste her time pursuing Spock, who cannot love her.

“On the Origin of Humanoid Life in Our Galaxy” by Jean Lorrah and Willard F. Hunt argues that the striking similarity of the species in the galaxy indicates that the galaxy must have been colonized, long ago, by some earlier humanoid species, which has been lost to memory. TNG’s “The Chase” supports this theory.

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The Trouble With Tribbles by David Gerrold

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 9, 2017

Time for another step back in the Trek schedule. Today, we’ll take a look at David Gerrold’s The Trouble With Tribbles, published on 12 April 1973.

This book goes into some detail about how Gerrold came to write the titular episode, and includes several drafts as well as the final script, each annotated with information about how and why some of the earlier concepts were changed for the final script. In addition to describing the writing process, Gerrold gives a bit of information about how the props were made and how shooting went, and finally reflects on the impact the episode has had, both on him and others. He concludes the book with an anecdote about sending a spare tribble to a hospital to encourage a girl, paralyzed by meningitis, in her recovery.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this book–I noted it last year, when I wrote about Gerrold’s The World of Star Trek (published simultaneously), but I’ve only recently acquired a copy. Was it worth the wait?

Not really. It’s well written, of course, and amusing enough to read, but by the time I got through the final draft of “The Trouble With Tribbles”, I was pretty well sick of the story. Whitfield’s The Making of Star Trek goes into more interesting detail about the production aspects, and Gerrold’s own The World of Star Trek is a more interesting look at the writing. The form of the book is basically autobiographical, but it’s rather scant of details. There’s a little talk at the beginning on how Gerrold has always been a fan of science fiction, and a few more anecdotes scattered throughout, but otherwise the focus is very much on the revision of the script.

My suggestion: unless you’re a particularly big fan of “The Trouble With Tribbles”, read The World of Star Trek, instead.

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Star Trek Log Five by Alan Dean Foster

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 5, 2017

In July 1975, five months after the publication of the previous volume, was published Star Trek Log Five by Alan Dean Foster. This volume, as usual, adapts three episodes from Star Trek: The Animated Series: “The Ambergris Element”, “The Pirates of Orion”, and “Jihad”.

The Ambergris Element

The blurb on the back of the book for this story reads: “Marooned on the strange water world of Argo, Kirk and Spock are in incredible danger . . . pursued by a hideous sea monster!” That is only accurate in the most approximate sense. There is a water world, and a sea monster, but Kirk and Spock aren’t marooned and the story isn’t about a sea monster chasing them. Rather, a sea monster attacks their submarine and they’re injured. The water-breathing natives find and heal them, mutating Kirk and Spock into water-breathers as part of the process. The story is about Kirk and Spock attempting to return to normal, hindered by the cultural traditions of the aliens, but aided by some of the younger aliens, who are willing to ignore the old traditions to do what’s right. The blurb does not do the story justice.

This is a good story, and Foster improves on the episode. An altogether satisfying adaptation.

The Pirates of Orion

Spock has contracted a deadly illness, and the only cure has been stolen by pirates. Kirk must catch them and retrieve the medicine before it is too late.

Like many of these stories, the tension is provided by what amounts to a timer counting down. In this case, Spock’s life is on the line, and to be fair it is interesting to see how affected Kirk is by the situation, but ultimately the plot isn’t interesting.

Jihad

Kirk and Spock, along with several others of various species, are tasked with retrieving a religious artifact stolen from the Skorr before they declare war on the rest of the galaxy. The group must work together in a hostile environment where all previous efforts have failed.

The plot of this story is unsatisfying. It feels like the group just wanders around, stumbling from danger to danger, until finally they discover the artifact, survive the climactic encounter, and the story ends. There’s no particular buildup; the story doesn’t go anywhere so much as it churns in place for fifty pages and then spits everyone out the other side.

In summary

“The Ambergris Element” is the only worthwhile story in this one. The writing is good, as usual (though my edition, at least, is positively riddled with typographical errors), but it isn’t enough to save the other two stories.

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Star Trek 11 by James Blish

Posted by Tracy Poff on August 20, 2017

Published in April 1975, Star Trek 11 was the last entry in that series completed before Blish’s death. Star Trek 11 contains adaptations of six episodes: “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”, “The Squire of Gothos”, “Wink of an Eye”, “Bread and Circuses”, “Day of the Dove”, and “Plato’s Stepchildren”.

What Are Little Girls Made Of?

The Enterprise investigates the planet where Dr. Roger Korby, who incidentally was Christine Chapel’s fiance, disappeared several years ago. They find him working on a technology that can make lifelike androids and even transfer a human’s consciousness into an android. He wishes to use this technology to build a better society, free from want or hate–but is it really better?

Michael Strong’s performance as Korby in this episode was quite good, but Blish eliminates some unfortunate things like Ruk’s “That was the equation!”. I’d say this is of comparable quality to the episode, overall. An enjoyable adaptation of a good story.

The Squire of Gothos

The Enterprise finds a planet on which resides a strange and powerful alien, Trelane, who is very taken with Earth–the Earth of nine hundred years prior, that is. Trelane, styling himself the Squire of Gothos, forces them to dance to his tune for his amusement, while Kirk searches for a way to escape his power.

Surprisingly, this is pretty good even without William Campbell’s excellent performance–perhaps because I’m reading all of Trelane’s lines in his voice.

Wink of an Eye

The Enterprise, responding to a distress call, finds an empty planet. It turns out to be populated by people who experience time at a fantastic rate, making their movements far too quick for the crew of the Enterprise to perceive. The same disaster that caused their immense acceleration also rendered their men all sterile, so their queen, Deela, has taken the Enterprise in order to have Kirk as a mate.

Not too bad, but not great. A substantial part of the appeal of the episode was in seeing the non-accelerated members of the crew frozen in time, but the adaptation doesn’t convey the same feeling.

Bread and Circuses

The Enterprise finds a planet that has developed remarkably similarly to Earth, except that it is ruled by a modern version of the Roman empire. This is cited as an example of Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development–utter nonsense, of course, and not even consistent with other episodes.

As with “Wink of an Eye”, above, and as I said of “A Piece of the Action” in my review of Star Trek 4, much of the good in this episode was in the seeing, so the adaptation isn’t as interesting.

Day of the Dove

The crew of the Enterprise and of a Klingon ship are brought together by an energy being that feeds on hatred. They eventually drive it off by laughing at it.

That summary sounds pretty bad, but it’s a fairly good story, really. Incidentally, this is the first appearance of Kang, who later figures into stories in DS9 and Voyager.

Plato’s Stepchildren

The Enterprise, responding to a distress call, finds a planet where the thirty-eight inhabitants have psychokinetic powers. Their leader Parmen, who is gifted with the strongest power, is ill, and McCoy must save him. Once restored, Parmen is unwilling to let McCoy go–and in any case secretly intends to destroy the Enterprise rather than allow them to leave with knowledge of the planet’s location.

This episode didn’t have much going for it other than watching the actors pretend to be moved by external forces–including the famous kiss between Uhura and Kirk. The theme is simple: power corrupts. The plot resolves conveniently and Kirk rides off into the sunset.

In summary

This volume has a few good stories, and a few middling ones. I don’t know if Blish’s writing is stronger in this one, or if absence has made my heart grow fonder (it has been about two years since my review of Star Trek 10, after all), but I think even the lesser stories were pretty enjoyable. If novelizations are your thing, Star Trek 11 is a good entry in the series.

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Spockanalia #1

Posted by Tracy Poff on August 16, 2017

Spockanalia #1, published in September 1967, is the first issue of Spockanalia, a fairly important Star Trek fanzine. You can get some more detail about the series as a whole (and fanzines in general) from my previous post on the subject, written in September of last year. Then, I wrote about the little bit of Spockanalia that I had access to, and noted that I’d revisit it if I could learn more. Good news: I’ve recently gained access to Spockanalia, thanks to the Sandy Hereld Collection at Texas A&M, so here is the promised update. In my previous post, I wrote about “The Territory of Rigel”, “Spock Shock”, “Vulcans and Emotions”, and “Kirk and Spock”. I’ll copy here what I wrote then, with any additions and updates, interleaved with the new material.

Since this is the inaugural issue, I will give a brief summary of every item published in this issue, with notes and quotations when something is of particular interest. I will probably not be quite as thorough in my posts on subsequent issues, unless there is demand for it.

Lettercol

The issue opens with a letter from Leonard Nimoy, wishing the editors luck: “I sincerely hope that your magazine will be a success, and want to thank you very much for your interest in STAR TREK and MR. SPOCK.”.

The Territory of Rigel

Following the lettercol is printed “The Territory of Rigel”, a song written by Dorothy Jones. She introduces it as “a piece supposed to have been written by Spock, many years ago.” She describes it as a “Vulcan form called ni var” which “means literally ‘two form’ . . . a piece comparing and contrasting two different things or two aspects of the same thing.” This term would get a nod 35 years later in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Shadows of P’Jem”, as the name of a Vulcan starship. “The Territory of Rigel” is reprinted in Verba’s Boldly Writing. It’s an interesting exercise, but not to my taste as poetry.

Off the Top

A news and editorial section. First, it speculates on the upcoming episode, “Amok Time”, the second season opener:

In the course of the program, Spock will meet his assigned wife, for the purpose of satisfying the Vulcan septennial mating drive.
Vulcans – or at least Vulcan males (at the moment, we’re not quite sure which) must experience sex every seven years, or die.

We have been told that the story is handled with the same care and skill that made Star Trek our favorite program in its
first season. Look out, September 15th – here we come!

After this, it is reported that certain broadcasters have been cutting material from the episodes in order to make more room for commercials, including a section of about thirty seconds from “Dagger of the Mind”. Readers are encouraged to write to WNBC-TV to protest.

After some trivia about Spock and McCoy, Leonard Nimoy’s album “Leonard Nimoy presents Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space” is announced, plus the upcoming single “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins/Cotton Candy”, and a movie is mention in which Nimoy starred (and which he co-produced), Deathwatch.

Readers are then exhorted to continue the letter-writing campaign to ensure Trek‘s renewal.

Last, it is hinted that there may be a Spockanalia #2 in the future.

A Most Illogical Song

A song by Shirley Meech, Kathy Bushman, and Sherna Comerford about wishing to be near to Spock. It begins: “I wish I was on board the Enterprise.”

Physiologica Vulcanensis

An article by Sherna Comerford, Juanita Coulson, and Kay Anderson concerning Vulcan physiology–skin pigment, the circulatory system, pon farr, and more. Amusingly, “The interesting theory has arisen that the sentinant species of Vulcan has an ancestry which is far more feline that simian.” It is also opined that Spock is likely to be sterile.

The length–about half a page–devoted to pon farr, given that “Amok Time” was yet to air (and, indeed, the term pon farr was not yet known) prefigures the substantial and sustained interest that this particular aspect of Vulcan physiology would have in the fandom.

A Proprosed Model of the Vulcan Heart

An article by Sandy Deckinger (with a diagram!) speculating on what the Vulcan heart might look like. Two articles in one issue touching on that subject–I wonder if it had been brought up in a letter in another zine, or if there were some other motivating element.

To a Vulcan

A poem by Sherna Comerford on Spock’s emotions, or lack thereof. The ending is poignant: “Is life worth this price? / A man-machine would pay no price. / Would die. What logic bids you live?”

Also to a Vulcan

A poem by Devra Michele Langsam on loving a Vulcan.

The Vulcan Gambit

An article by Shirley Meech offering an explanation to why Spock would lose to Kirk at 3-D chess: he loses on purpose, so the victory will put Kirk :into a frame of mind which is beneficial to his self-image, his efficiency rating, and the well-being of the crew in general.” Logical!

Vulcan Psychology

An article by Juanita Coulson, framed as a report by a psychologist analyzing Spock. Coulson speculates that Spock pushes himself so hard because he was never able to please his father, and that he may see Kirk as a kind of substitute father figure.

Spock Shock

A brief skit by Sherna Comerford, which was later performed at the 1969 Star Trek Con. An absurd bit of interaction between Captain Curt, Mr. Swock, and others on the bridge of the USS Undersize.

Vulcans and Emotions

An essay by Devra Michele Langsam in academic style (with citations in end notes!) considering whether Vulcans experience emotions. It concludes: “It is the firm conviction of the author that Vulcan emotions do exist, however unlike human emotions they may be, and that these cannot be ignored in dealing with that planet’s sentient species.” The essay’s conclusion turned out to be correct, in fact: later Trek indicates that Vulcans do not lack emotions, merely control them. This is the earliest example of serious investigation into the ‘facts’ of the Star Trek universe I’ve seen; many more would follow.

Kirk and Spock

A short poem by Ruth Berman (reprinted from Pantopon #17) about the titular characters, so different, who “even when they disagree / (And they generally do) / Seek out each other’s company.”

Thoughts on Vulcan Culture

An article by Devra Michele Langsam speculating on Vulcan culture. Langsam argues that Vulcan children must be raised in small family units and that they probably have no family names, and wonders how Vulcan children might be trained. She speculates on whether Vulcans, who are immune to the effects of alcohol, might have some other sort of drugs which do have an effect. Amusingly, she echoes some speculation mentioned in “Physiologica Vulcanensis”: “Those who support the theory of feline Vulcan ancestry have suggested that catnip might have an invigorating, not to say intoxicating, effect upon them.”

A recurring theme in fan fiction comes up when Langsam writes about mind melds:

And yet, one wonders. Perhaps, despite its unpleasant aspects, the mind-touch technique offers Vulcans
a possibility of emotional contact within accepted social patterns. Assuming that Vulcans do not repress
their pleasure in the physical, is it possible that in the moment of intercourse, at the height of physical intimacy,
Vulcans permit their precious barriers to slip, in order to enjoy the doubled pleasure of mind and body, of each
other’s delight?

Excerpt from The Young Vulcan’s Handbook of Emotional Control

An article by Shirley Meech. In a nod to Tolkien, Meech claims merely to be the translator: “The following is an excerpt from a Vulcan book-tape, obtained via the Baggins method from the possessions of Commander Spock, on his recent visit to Earth.” I believe that ‘the Baggins method’ is the best euphemism for theft that I’ve ever heard.

Printed following this article is a paragraph from Sandy Deckinger once more connecting Vulcans with cats. In part: “Mr. Spock’s ears meet the requirements set by the Cat Fanciers Society of America for the Abyssinian breed of feline.”

Record Review

A detailed review by Dorothy Jones of “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space”. Jones is not terribly impressed with the instrumental tracks, but finds the vocal tracks enjoyable, and is complimentary of Nimoy’s voice–though admitting he does need vocal training.

Star Drek

A story by Ruth Berman, reprinted from Pantopon #16, which places Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and McCoy in the world of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. It would be republished, the Trek references excised, as “Ptolemaic Hijack” in Worlds of Fantasy #4 in 1971. To be perfectly frank, I think that ‘drek’ gets it about right.

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Star Trek Log Four by Alan Dean Foster

Posted by Tracy Poff on August 13, 2017

Another day, another book of adapted cartoons. In February 1975 was published Alan Dean Foster’s fourth book of Star Trek: The Animated Series novelizations, imaginatively titled Star Trek Log Four. This volume contains adaptations of “The Terratin Incident”, “Time Trap”, and “More Tribbles, More Troubles”.

If there’s one unifying theme to these stories, it’s that they have very little plot to speak of. Just oops, here’s a bit of trouble for five dozen pages, and then they turn the crank or whatever and the trouble is resolved. For a bit more detail…

The Terratin Incident

The Enterprise receives a strange transmission in a long-obsolete code, the only intelligible word of which being ‘Terratin’. When they go to investigate, they are hit by a strange light, which destroys their dilithium crystals and–it turns out–causes the crew and all organic material on board to begin to shrink. They must find some way to fix things before they become too small to operate the ship.

This story is filled with interesting asides, satisfying bits of trivia about the characters, and an utter lack of developing plot. Just page after page of “and they got a bit smaller, so they had to rig up an extra-long pole to reach the coffee pot”, until finally they get to the end of the story and things are explained, and they solve the problem by sending everyone through the transporter to return them to their natural size.

Time Trap

Exploring a weird section of space, the “Delta Triangle”, a futuristic analog of the Bermuda Triangle, the Enterprise is attacked by a Klingon ship which promptly vanishes. Then they escape from that ship’s compatriots by following it through a pothole in space to a pocket dimension called Elysia where, for some reason, people don’t age and dilithium quickly degrades to uselessness (unreliable stuff, apparently).

This is another story in which there is precious little plot. The Enterprise gets stuck, so they glue it to the Klingon ship for an extra boost, and the problem is solved. The people living in Elysia exist pretty much solely for the sake of communicating to Kirk a last minute warning about a Klingon plot.

More Tribbles, More Troubles

The Enterprise, escorting ships carrying grain, encounters a Klingon ship chasing a small Federation vessel. They beam the pilot aboard just as his ship is destroyed, and what do you know, it’s Cyrano Jones, out selling tribbles again. This time, instead of reproducing rapidly, they just grow to immense proportions. Oh, but actually they still breed explosively, too. So… yeah. Tribbles, again. They beam them over to the Klingon ship, again.

In Summary

This is just not a good selection of stories. If it’d been just one or even two of them that were very light on plot, it’d be bearable, but for all three to be so mindless? It’s pretty bad. The writing is as good as usual, though, and Arex gets a fair bit of ‘screen time’ throughout, which is nice. The show could really have done with some more focus on the non-human (and non-vulcan) crew, so it’s good to see the novelizations correcting that. Even so, I wouldn’t recommend reading this one unless you’re a completionist.

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When a Wolf is Hungry by Christine Naumann-Villemin and Kris Di Giacomo

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 6, 2017

How about another break from the long stream of science fiction? I’ve received a lovely children’s book, today: When a Wolf is Hungry, written by Christine Naumann-Villemin and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo. It opens:

One Sunday morning, Edmond Bigsnout, lone wolf, left his home in the woods with a great big knife in his paw.

Edmond had a hankering for some rabbit.

Not just any ordinary cottontail, though. What he craved was a grain-fed, silky-haired rabbit, one with just a hint of sweetness. A city bunny.

Edmond finds an apartment building where a likely meal lives, but forgets his knife in the elevator (where it’s found by another resident of the building, who was in need of a knife). No matter, he thinks, and returns to his home, this time retrieving a chainsaw. But when he gets back to the apartment building, he encounters a bear who mistakes him for a new tenant, and just so happens to need a chainsaw. Edmond lends the bear his chainsaw and returns home for yet another tool… and so it goes.

Eventually, Edmond has provided all the necessary tools for a rooftop party. If you can’t beat them, join them, so Edmond moves to the city and becomes a vegetarian–and president of the Good Neighbor Association.

When a Wolf is Hungry a a fun little story. I think I’ve usually enjoyed stories with wolves–Walter the Wolf by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, or The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka, for example–I wonder if there’s some connection? The art is very nice (you can see some more samples of it on the artist’s web site)–it reminds me of I Want My Hat Back, a bit–and the story is satisfying.

When a Wolf is Hungry was originally published in France in 2011, and will be published in English by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers on 2017-08-07. It is recommended for ages 4 to 8.

Disclosure: I received this book for free in exchange for a review.

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Star Trek Log Three by Alan Dean Foster

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 18, 2017

Continuing, after quite some delay, my series of reviews of Treklit, we come to Alan Dean Foster’s Star Trek Log Three, another in his series of novelizations of Star Trek: The Animated Series. This volume contains adaptations of “Once Upon a Planet”, “Mudd’s Passion”, and “The Magicks of Megas-Tu”.

Once Upon a Planet

This story is a sequel to the TOS episode “Shore Leave”, in which the Enterprise happens upon a ‘shore leave planet’ that is designed just to satisfy, as Kirk noted, the need of complex minds for the simplicity of play.

The Enterprise has been overtaxed, lately (the stories in these novelizations are written as taking place in sequence), so Kirk asks for something special in the way of reward for the crew, and he gets it: approval for shore leave on the Shore Leave Planet, in the Omicron region.

Upon arriving, Uhura, Sulu, and McCoy beam down together and note that everything seems to be as it was when last they saw the planet, down to the appearance of Alice and the White Rabbit. They go their separate ways in order to enjoy their own–private–fantasies, but McCoy has scarcely come into view of the Southern mansion he dreamed up when he is set upon by armed playing cards, straight out of Alice, who attack him in deadly earnest. He manages to call for an emergency beam-up just in time to escape them.

Shore leave is canceled as the crew of the Enterprise strive to determine why the planet is attacking, why the Keeper didn’t intervene, and what has happened to Uhura, who has vanished without a trace.

This story is pretty good, and translated well by Foster.

Mudd’s Passion

Cutting shore leave somewhat short, the Enterprise is ordered to investigate the activity of an old ‘friend’, Harry Mudd, who we last saw in “I, Mudd”. He is up to his old tricks, swindling people far and wide. This time, he’s selling a love potion.

This story is very thin and no better for Foster’s efforts.

The Magicks of Megas-Tu

The Enterprise is sent to investigate the unusual phenomena at the center of the galaxy, including a ‘negative black hole’ busily ejecting matter, which they presume to be the source of all matter in the galaxy, drawing its energy from a multitude of other universes. Then they begin to be drawn into a cone-shaped vortex which is drawing in–and destroying–matter, from which the Enterprise cannot escape. They gamble that it may be safer in the center of the vortex, and, passing through it, they find themselves in another place, strange to them, operating by no known laws.

The delicate equipment of the Enterprise does not take kindly to this lawlessness, and begins to fail. The crew, dependent on this equipment, begin to fail as well. When the situation has grown most desperate, the Enterprise is suddenly saved by a strange alien–half man, half goat–who appears on the bridge. He restores their environment with what appears to be magic, then introduces himself:

“Who am I? Oh, you want a name! Call me Baal.” He paused thoughtfully. “Or Lucien. Yes, Lucien. But above all, call me friend.” One finger fluttered skyward as he declaimed, “Never could I abandon those who have come so far to frolic with me . . . for such purpose you must have been sent.”

Lucien introduces the to the planet Megas-Tu, where the physical laws correspond to what the humans would call magic. His people had ventured out of their own universe before and encountered Earth, but their welcome had not been so warm. When others of Lucien’s people discover the humans, they quickly put them on trial for the crimes of their species, as exemplified by the Salem witch trials, in which, weakened by the distance from their own world, the Megans were persecuted and even burned.

Kirk argues that if humans were once so savage, they have changed, and continue to strive to change, to be better and more noble. The Megans accept that this may be so, but declare that Lucien still must be punished for bringing the humans to Megas-Tu. Kirk defends him, as well, accusing the Megans of being as cruel as they accused the humans of being. In so doing, he passes a secret test, proving by his concern for Lucien, known also as Lucifer, that humans truly have changed. Should humans again visit Megas-Tu, they would find a warmer welcome.

Where to begin with this one? The adaptation is good–superior to the original. It spends too long on the setup and not enough on the resolution, but it’s still well done. As for the story, it was obvious to anyone just who a goat man named Lucien would turn out to be, but it was satisfying, all the same. Kirk and McCoy question whether Lucien was really the Lucifer of myth, and McCoy concedes that it doesn’t really matter, except:

“It’s just that–if he was, Jim–this would be the second time he was on the verge of being cast out. But thanks to you, this is the first time he was saved.”

The author of this episode, Larry Brody, indicated that originally, the Enterprise was to meet God out in space, but that idea was nixed by the censors. But meeting the Devil in space was fine, and so the episode was born. This episode must have been influential, indeed. In the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Encounter at Farpoint”, Q puts the crew of the Enterprise on trial for the crimes of humanity, and Picard, too, argues that Q should consider whether humanity is presently as savage as in times past. Then in “Where No One Has Gone Before”, the Enterprise is taken to the edge of the universe, and find it a strange place where reality is impacted by thought. Then, in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the Enterprise (under Kirk’s command, this time) visits the center of the galaxy, where they find a godlike being who turns out to be evil.

In summary

The first and last stories in this are quite good, though the middle one is forgettable. That’s a pretty good ratio for novelizations of television episodes. “Once Upon a Planet” is perfectly like any Trek episode you’ve ever seen, and “Mudd’s Passion” is like most of the bad ones. “The Magicks of Megas-Tu” isn’t a top-tier story, but it’s pleasant enough, and interesting in how it presages later Trek. If you’re a Trek fan looking for a little light reading, this book isn’t bad.

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The Iliad of Homer by Richmond Lattimore

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 15, 2017

I’ve been trying to read the classics, and there’s nothing more classic than the Iliad. There are a wealth of translations available. As with my choice of translation for Aristotle’s Poetics, I wanted one that was as similar to the original as was reasonable. To that end, I selected Lattimore’s translation. As he says:

My aim has been to give a rendering of the Iliad which will convey the meaning of the Greek in a speed and rhythm analogous to the speed and rhythm I find in the original.

Rather than strive for poetical language, he aims for a plain and direct translation, as to better reproduce Homer’s directness of language:

I must try to avoid mistranslation, which would be caused by rating the word of my own choice ahead of the word which translates the Greek. Subject to such qualification, I must render Homer into the best English verse I can write; and this will be in my own “poetical language,” which is mostly the plain English of today.

So, what’s this Iliad thing all about, then?

In short, when the story begins, the Trojan war has been on for nine years. Chryseis, the daughter of a priest of Apollo, has been captured by Agamemnon, and he quite rudely refuses to ransom her back. As a result, Apollo punishes the Achaians. To placate Apollo, Agamemnon agrees to return Chryseis to her father, but only if he is given Achilles’ captive, Briseis, in her place. This offends Achilles greatly, so he asks his mother, Thetis, to entreat Zeus to punish the Achaians in order to demonstrate his worth.

The bulk of the epic is a description of the battles between the Greek forces (particularly a few main actors such as Agamemnon, Odysseus, Diomedes, Ajax, and Nestor) and the Trojans, led by Hector, over the course of which the Achaians are pushed back to their ships, as Achilles begged of Zeus. Afterward, Achilles’ friend, Patroklos, is killed by Hector, and Hector is in turn killed by Achilles.

When the epic ends, the Trojans have been driven back into their city, which is yet uncaptured, and Achilles, though still alive, is soon to die.

The story is usually entertaining, but there are several sections which present the genealogy of some character or other, which I found to be of little interest, and the battles are often long strings of “Foo, son of Bar, beloved of Zeus, was struck by the spear under the nose, and it pierced through. The darkness closed over both eyes, and he fell to the ground, thunderously, and his armor clattered upon him.” Even bloody battles can be made dull by too much of this.

The most interesting part, I think, is how recognizable the characters’ motivations are. Achilles is motivated by anger at being slighted, and in the end by grief and rage at the death of Patroklos. Or take Athena, who is upset with Aphrodite. She grants Diomedes the ability to recognize who among the combatants are gods, and tells him:

Therefore now, if a god making trial of you comes hither
do you not do battle head-on with the gods immortal,
not with the rest; but only if Aphrodite, Zeus’ daughter,
comes to the fighting, her at least you may stab with the sharp bronze.

Or when Diomedes is struck by an arrow shot by Paris, who brags of his success, and replies with this boast:

You archer, foul fighter, lovely in your locks, eyer of young girls.
If you were to make trial of me in strong combat with weapons
your bow would do you no good at all, nor your close-showered arrows.
Now you have scratched the flat of my foot, and even boast of this.
I care no more than if a witless child or a woman
had struck me; this is the blank weapon of a useless man, no fighter.
But if one is struck by me only a little, that is far different,
the stroke is a sharp thing and suddenly lays him lifeless,
and that man’s wife goes with cheeks torn in lamentation,
and his children are fatherless, while he staining the soil with his red blood
rots away, and there are more birds than women swarming about him.

Lattimore’s translation is generally very easy to understand, though his choices for writing names can take some getting used to: he renders Ajax as “Aias” and Achilles as “Achilleus”, for example.

The direct, unpoetical language has its benefits, I suppose. The translation is never confusing by fault of overly florid language. But all the same I find myself a little disappointed how much it reads like ordinary prose; I enjoyed the more lyrical style of Cowper’s translation, though it was a bit harder to follow.

Overall, I enjoyed the Iliad and was satisfied with Lattimore’s translation. Even if it weren’t an important work of literature, I think the Iliad would still be worth reading. It’s not a quick read, by any means, but it needn’t seem intimidating, either. If the Iliad is on your reading list, go for it!

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Aristotle’s Poetics: Translation and Analysis by Kenneth A. Telford

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 11, 2017

Returning to my long project of reading the classics, I read Aristotle’s Poetics: Translation and Analysis by Kenneth A. Telford. This particular version appealed to me because it is meant to be a very literal translation:

In this translation of the Poetics the primary concern has been to make as literal a reproduction of Aristotle’s words as is consistent with readability. I have not tried to give the treatise any grace or facility of expression which the Greek text lacks. Nor have I tried to make the translation an interpretive reconstruction of what might be presumed to be Aristotle’s intention.

This book must be considered in three parts: the translation, the work itself, and the analysis.

As for the quality of the translation, I find no fault (speaking as someone with no knowledge of Ancient Greek), and the footnotes were generally very helpful in identifying the works Aristotle refers to or providing references to other sections in the text which relate to the current argument.

The work itself is very interesting. Aristotle has much to say about the proper construction of a tragedy that is applicable to writing generally, and it is astonishing to me how much of what he says is still reflected in writing advice today. Following are a few excerpts I noted.

A plot should have unity:

A plot is not a unity, as some suppose, by being about one agent, for many and indefinite things happen to one agent, some of which do not make a unity.

Therefore:

[Plot] ought to be imitation of action that is one and whole, and the parts of the incidents ought to be constructed in such a way that when the parts are replaced or removed the whole is dislocated and moved. For that whose presence or absence makes nothing evident is no part of the whole.

Regarding characters:

There will be character […] if the speech or action makes it apparent that the agent has made a choice, and the character is effective if this choice is effective.

I’ll leave the excerpts at that, but there are many other interesting sections throughout. There are, though, several sections much more specifically concerned with the tragedy as such–details about its structure, the use of spectacle or melody, etc.–which are of perhaps less interest as they apply less to literature in general.

Finally, the analysis.

I feel like I had a better understanding of the Poetics before I read the analysis. It seems to have a good, coherent framework and supports its arguments well enough, but it seems to me that it is much more concerned with showing that the argument of the Poetics fits that framework than with elucidating the subject of the book. There is, no doubt, some understanding to be gained by doggedly viewing every statement in the book as relating to one of the four causes of whatever is presently under discussion, but how much? I would much rather see some deeper consideration of the argument, rather than merely its form. Is Aristotle right about what best serves the catharsis of pity and fear? What can we take away from his discussion about word choice? Is he correct in his assertion that the tragedy is superior to the epic in that it is shorter? The analysis is concerned with none of these.

On the whole, I think this book was well worth reading. I have no basis for comparison of the quality of the translation, but it seemed lucid enough to me. I’d recommend anyone with an interest in literature take a look at it. I wouldn’t bother struggling through the analysis, though. For what it’s worth, I grant any future readers dispensation to skip that.

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