Charting the Star Trek Expanded Universe – Source Material for March 7th 2017
Welcome to Source Material, where I ramble on about what I’m reading, watching and generally enjoying. All the stuff that won’t fit into a real article, basically.
Gone, but “Not Forgotten”
As of this writing, there are currently 38 hours left of the “Not Forgotten” Kickstarter campaign. The comic book anthology concerning Public Domain superheroes is still short of its goal, so if you want to donate please click here and do so immediately! As well as donating myself, I’ve been doing what I can to raise awareness of what looks to be an awesome project with a lot of hard work being pumped into it. I carried out interviews with contributors Omar Morales and Casey Desilets, as well as the campaign’s organisers, creators and editors Matt Harding and Einar Masson here on Awesome Source, and I collected those interviews into one super-mega interview over on Multiversity Comics which you can find here! If you’re on the fence about it, check out those articles and the campaign itself; even a couple of dollars would help them to reach their goal.
Books Books Books
Every so often I go on a reading binge. Let’s face it, whether it’s comics or internet articles about comics I’m always reading something, but times like these I love to dive into novels. I’ve branched out a little bit with the last two novels I’ve read (I’ll talk about my usual books of choice shortly). The last novel was Slade House by David Mitchell, a fantastic, relatively short book about a seemingly impossible house in a forgotten alley that entices people in who inexplicably never come out again… I won’t say any more in case you want to read it, and you really should, but it was a really engrossing read that I polished off super fast. The other book that I am ashamed to say I’ve yet to finish is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a book that’s surprisingly prescient in today’s political climate and I urge you to pick it up if dystopian, politically charged science fiction is your jam, I’m just sorry that I’ve not had the chance to really dedicate the time to it. I have however been able to dedicate many reading hours on books that are significantly easier to absorb and appreciate, books that are no less steeped in the sci-fi genre but decidedly lighter in tone, and that’s:
Star Trek Novels
Did you guys know that the Star Trek universe (I mean the ‘TV Shows/pre-Abrams movies’ universe) is alive and kicking in book form? I did, and I’ve been reading the novels for literally decades at this point, which is frankly a terrifying admission of my advancing age. I started reading the novelizations of the movies (which in itself is a fascinating past time) and moved on to the original stories around the time that Star Trek: The Next Generation was ending, so about 1994? Thinking about it, I probably started reading before that but let’s just say it was then. The series of novels that really hooked me in, however was Star Trek: New Frontier. Written by fan favourite novelist and comic book scribe Peter David, New Frontier came out in 1997 and centred on a brand new ship (The Excalibur) and a relatively new crew (it was mostly made up of minor background characters from the show) exploring a previously uncharted area of space. Weaving its way through the gaps in the show, New Frontier came at a time when Star Trek books were thriving, and it was the perfect gateway to the entire line of novels.
Each of the TV shows (TOS, TNG, DS9 and Voyager) all had their own series of original books, not to mention New Frontier, books that follow the movie continuity, episode novelizations and a myriad of series exploring other forgotten areas of the universe, including chronicling Picard’s history on the USS Stargazer and the adventures of pre-Kirk Enterprise captain, Christopher Pike. This was at a time when I could only watch the episodes when they were either shown on TV (I didn’t have cable so I was stuck with the four terrestrial channels) or when I could convince my mom to head to the video shop where I’d rent the VHS tapes (each only had two episodes on), so to discover this hard to access universe was practically exploding with fresh new content on bookshelves was amazing. I collected as many books as I can and absorbed them as quickly as possible, reading most of them multiple times.
What was better was when DS9 ended the series continued in book form, each novel picking up exactly where the series left off and creating an eighth season of sorts. This sort of thing is done all the time now in both comics (with Buffy, Firefly, even Charmed) and on Netflix (Arrested Development and Gilmore Girls to name a few), but at that time when a series was over it was over. The books had been interweaving between continuity for a while now thanks to books like New Frontier, but now that all the DS9 characters were off the board, the books were free to open up and become the new-canon for that corner of the universe. Similarly, the Next Generation crew concluded their adventures on the big screen in 2002, and Voyager ended on TV the year before, meaning the same could be done with those characters. There was always the chance that a TV Show or movie could contradict this expanded universe, much like the now abandoned ‘Legacy’ EU of the Star Wars franchise, but that was becoming less and less likely. Enterprise was the only TV show airing at the time, and that was set 100 years before even Kirk showed up so that wasn’t going to interfere, and with the advent of the new Kelvin Timeline in the Abrams movies, the books were now the only source of new stories coming out with those characters, leaving them free to craft the OG Trek universe as they saw fit.
I dropped off the books a long time ago, only managing to read the odd one here or there, but over the last few months I’ve been trying to break back in. It can, however be absolutely baffling navigating the new continuity. The books aren’t numbered as such and are named for the individual shows they represent, which is great if you want to follow the adventures of your favourite crew, but what if, like watching all of the TV series, I wanted to enjoy the universe as a whole?
Enter ‘The Almighty Star Trek Lit-verse Reading Order‘, a mouthful in itself. Clicking that link will take you to a massive, incredibly impressive, still-updating flowchart that attempts to provide you with everything you need to not only follow your favourite crew but to see how those continuing adventures feed into the larger continuity landscape, which at this point contains even more series focusing on such things as the USS Titan, the ship and crew commanded by Captain Riker (I know) and The Department of Temporal Investigations (only shown in one DS9 episode, the one where they time travel back to Kirk’s troublesome adventure with the tribbles). It’s kind of unbelievable to think someone, or a group of people have gone to this much trouble, although I’m eternally grateful. It’s also pretty overwhelming if, like me, you’ve read about 2% of the books referenced on the list.
It’s amazing that this reference source exists, and they’ve gone to great pains to make it as easy to use as possible. If you want to follow one series, the list is organised by series. You want to know how the Crossovers tie-in to the main series, you can follow the connective threads to see where to go. The only thing it doesn’t do, the only thing, is provide a complete novel by novel reading list, in a vague continuity order, so that you can work my way through every single one of these books in the order they’re supposed to be read, like they are one giant TV Show or movie franchise. The reason it doesn’t do that, I suspect, is because no one is as bonkers insane as to want to read every single book on this list in the order they’re supposed to be read, like they are one giant TV Show or movie franchise. Well, almost no one.
So in true standing-on-the-shoulders-of-giants fashion, I’ve put together a dauntingly long reading list for myself so that I know where to start and where to go next. It’s by no means perfect but I’ve put it together based on two key sources: obviously the flowchart, but also the release schedule of the novels, which you can find categorised by year here. Having not read the books I’ve no idea if they read better in any particular order, but thought that if I hadn’t lost touch with the books all those years ago I’d have been continuing to read them as they came out, so the release order was useful, and I’ve got the flowchart to guide me when there are crossovers or stories that read better if tweaked away from the release schedule slightly.
So here’s my list – it’s in epub format so that I can easily reference it from the ebook reader on my phone and I have to stress it’s designed purely so that I know which order I should read the books I want to read, so don’t @ me. Just kidding, you can @ me if you want, especially if you have any suggestions that can help me. I’ve also not included a whole bunch of books that don’t continue the ongoing post-TV-Movie, Nu-canon continuity. Plenty of books have come out in recent years that slot in between the episodes of the shows, but I’m more interested in what happens next. Again though, if there are any books that I’ve missed that you think I should include, let me know. It feels like madness but even if it takes me years (and it definitely, absolutely will) then I’m strangely comforted knowing I’ll always know what book to read next.
Until next time,