The World of Star Trek (Star Trek pro book)

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Commentary
Title: The World of Star Trek
Commentator:
Date(s): 1973, revised 1984
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek
External Links:
cover of original edition
cover of revised edition
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The World of Star Trek is a pro book by David Gerrold. It first published in 1973. A revised edition was published in 1984.

Contents

The book contains four chapters and an epilogue.

  • The First World of Star TrekGene Roddenberry's Dream (includes interview excerpts of Gene Roddenberry and D.C. Fontana, and gives a brief overview of the creation of Star Trek)
  • The Star Trek Family – The People Who Made The Enterprise Fly (the longest section, accounting for half of the book's material, includes interview excerpts from William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, and Majel Barrett, and two-time guest star William Campbell.)
  • The Star Trek Phenomenon (comments on the impact of the program, its fans, and the conventions)
  • Star Trek Analyzed – The Unfulfilled Potential (Gerrold offers his insights and opinions on what the program did right, and criticizes its perceived failings.)

Fan Reactions and Reviews

Like a lot of people, I came to science fiction via Star Trek. But I also owe Trek for showing me how to write. Or rather, more specifically, I owe David Gerrold and his book The World of Star Trek for teaching me how to think about stories... it was Part Four of The World of Star Trek, subtitled “The Unfulfilled Potential,” that taught me how a story should work.

In this section, Gerrold looks at the trends that developed during the series’s three seasons, dissecting what succeeded and what didn’t. He differentiates between legitimate stories and ones he calls “puzzle box” stories, where there’s a dilemma to be solved that has no real effect on the characters. He identifies the crucial difference between the network expectations (“Kirk in danger!”) and the series’s best tendencies (“Kirk has a decision to make”). He also points out the repeated theme of Kirk coming into a society, judging it and remaking it as he sees fit.

Some of his observations are both pithy and delightful. To describe how unpleasant Klingons are, he says they “fart in airlocks.” Of the convention of the heroine as hero’s reward, he says, “Of course she loved him—that was her job!” And he creates an hysterical “formula” Star Trek episode that is a pretty accurate catalog of everything the series did wrong. [1]
I first read David Gerrold's The World Of Star Trek when it was first published in 1973. I didn't immediately get some of his remarks that I initially took as unfair criticism. [small, yellow laughing gif thing]. Hey, I was only 14. But on closer inspection and a second reading I got what Gerrold was saying. His remarks were not born of distaste but of the same enthusiasm and love as I and many others had for the show.

Somewhere along the line I lost track of that book and all I had was recall of what I had read four decades ago. I know the book had been reprinted, but it wasn't until recently that I learned that Gerrold had revised the book in 1984 and added materiel regarding the first two feature films.

It isn't too hard to see where he added things. In the main body of the text you can spot references to things that happened after the 1973 printing. This wasn't long before TAS debuted. The latter parts of the book are definitely about what has happened since (I wonder if Gerrold ever thought of taking another crack at this in light of so much that has happened since the early '80s, particularly with his early involvement with TNG?) Anyway I ordered a good second hand copy through Amazon and I'm about a third of the way through it.

It's an interesting small window into another time, back when TOS was the only game in town. I recommend this book to TOS fans who have never read it and also to Trek fans for whom TOS either isn't on their radar or mightn't be their favourite Trek. It gives a glimmer of understanding of what fandom was like back then and glimpses of the seeds of what it became and is today.

It's a decent reference book yet in a different way than The Making Of Star Trek and Inside Star Trek. Those are more about the show itself and the ideas in it whereas Gerrold's book is more about what fans got out of the show, how they were influenced by it and how they in turn influenced Star Trek. [2]
It isn't really surprising that the author of this book could write a STAR TREK episode entitled "The Trouble With Tribbles" (Which was nominated for the Hugo Award...) and then write a book such as this one. David Gerrold gives a very honest and often lighthearted account of the episodes and the show in general, for instance if he does not like a particular episode for some reason or other (eg poor script) he will say so and likewise with episodes he thinks are very good. I must state that he does not try to degrade the show in any way. There are pictures and interviews with the stars and 64 fascinating scenes from many of our favourite episodes. In the centre of the book there is a list of all 79 episodes, plus a list of the guest stars against the episode in which they appeared. There is also a piece on the STAR TREK fans and fandom. This book really is worth all the bother of trying to buy or borrow it. [3]
The World of Star Trek, David Gerrold: 4.75 out of 5. This was the first ST book I read after I started getting my hands on everything Trek that I could find. And boy, I don't think I could have find a better or more exhaustive one. The author, who apparently wrote what is considered the most popular episode of the original series, "The Trouble with Tribbles", writes with humor and has a gift for vulgarisation and summarizing. From what I understand, a first version of this was written in 1979; the edition I got from the library was revised and updated in 1984 to include information about the first 3 movies. In this book you find all the relevant facts of the ST phenomenon, anecdotes about the cast, crew and shooting of both the TV shows and first 3 movies, pictures, in-depth analysis of the show on the bases of believability, scientific accuracy, and televisual efficiency, and more.

The amount of information I learned from this book alone is staggering. That Spock is half-human (no, I didn't know before). That the show became popular, amazingly, AFTER it was cancelled, when it was sold to local TV stations where the ratings, previously unremarkable, exploded. That the third season happened at all only because of a massive letter campaign led by the fans. That Nalini Singh actually didn't invent the idea of a race of beings who completely shut down their emotions. And I now know a ton of tidbits about the story and making of varied episodes I haven't even seen yet. How weird. And now that I've discovered so much about the canon, I realize a lot of other references to it that were in the movie and escaped me then. Just take the nerve pinch, for instance; I thought it was a really cool move that fit that impossible, stern man to perfection, but I didn't know it was such classic Spock. How much more thrilling must it have been for long-term fans to see Spock use it, and on JIM? Lol. I wish I hadn't learned that Spock died at the end of movie 2, but then at this point I'm sure would have come across the information somewhere else anyway.

It was "fascinating" to see Mr Gerrold reveal the mechanisms of a TV series and see him place it among its genres, explain what works and doesn't work, what makes sense and what was bullshit. Some of his remarks could be considered rather scathing yet his love of the world and characters is obvious. Those kind of analysis I am normally unable to read for long but this time I was so swept away by this new passion that I read right through the whole book like it was a novel. I was in that anticipatory period where I drink everything I can find avidly and it's better than reading the book after I'd seen the shows, because then it would have felt déjà vu and I wouldn't want to dissect them, so as not to lose the magic. So a fantastic read, and I hope I can find myself a copy because I would definitely love to add this to my library.

Bonus points to the author for this line: "Paramount Pictures will probably produce Star Trek movies as long as there is an audience willing to go see them." I'm sure even he couldn't have guessed how absolutely right he was, and that even 40 years after the original premiere the ST fever still lives. [4]

The Revised Edition

It was the revised edition that caused controversy in fandom. Gerrold added comments about fans that many found offensive. In particular, his commentary on slash was particularly troublesome to some.

It sparked his Open Letter to K/S Fandom by David Gerrold. The opening lines:

This is probably going to turn into a long letter, because I don't have the time to write a short one. But you have my permission to pass it on to any fanzine you choose for reprint. A little bit of history here: Since the reprinting of THE WORLD OF STAR TREK, I've received an enormous amount of mail. A small amount of it has been about the 8 paragraphs on K/S fandom.[5]

The Book as an Eye-opener

In 1984 and 1985, slash fandom, particularly K/S fandom, was embroiled in discussion over whether it was better to remain underground and secret, citing fear and unease that slash fans felt regarding exposure to the mundane world, or whether publicity was a good thing.

As the 1973 edition along with the later Star Trek Lives! introduced many to fanfiction, Gerrold's remarks about slash were what ultimately introduced a number of new fans to the genre. Some of this publicity was welcome:

A fan writes:
I first read about K/S in a rude comment in a David Gerrold book (thank you, Mr. Gerrold!) and then in fan literature. It sounded a little weird, but okay. When I actually saw some, I was hooked immediately. Now it's the only Trek I buy." [6]
Another fan writes:
My involvement with K/S began in early '86. I'd been thinking/fantasizing about Kirk and Spock "like that" for ages... when I finally chanced upon Gerrold's famously funny remarks about the "K/S ladies'; - and practically jumped for joy! I wasn't alone!! The first zine I ever ordered was AS I DO THEE 2, and it was even more wonderful than I'd imagined K/S would be. [7]

Some of the publicity of K/S, however, wasn't welcome:

... am I right in assuming this is a book [8] in general distribution? If so, I find the prospect disturbing... whether it's a 'loving, fascinating' analysis or not, it still amounts to drawing public attention to K/S in the same way David Gerrold and the Australian radio debacle did. I don't believe K/S and the greater proportion of its adherents need or want publicity of whatever tenor. [9]

Some fans saw Gerrold's statement on slash in the book as an unprovoked attack on a group of people who never did anything to Gerrold personally except embrace a fictional concept he found unacceptable. That he did it in a publication directed at millions of Star Trek fans in a mainstream platform that would reach many hands, knowing the fans being attacked had no like forum in which to defend themselves in equal measure, was felt to be cowardly and bullying behavior.

Some Similar Incidents

For more on fans' opinions on publicity, see:

References

  1. How The World of Star Trek Taught Me to Write by Alex Bledsoe, posted March 21, 2011, accessed September 16, 2012
  2. The Trek BBS, posted May 19, 2012, accessed September 17, 2012
  3. from STAG #38
  4. Star Trek books, Mary Monroe, June 30, 2009 -- the reviewer has this 2014 disclaimer: "Keep in mind that when I read World I had barely started watching TOS - you’ll easily see why I give this disclaimer. Lol." Star Trek book recs
  5. You can read the eight paragraphs as quoted on Slash Controversies right here at Fanlore. Start where it says "Trimble's friend, science fiction author David Gerrold..."
  6. from The LOC Connection #22
  7. from The LOC Connection #22
  8. "Magic Mommas, Trembling Sisters, Puritans, and Perverts" by Joanna Russ
  9. from Not Tonight Spock! #12