Black Fire

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Title: Black Fire
Creator: Sonni Cooper
Date(s): January 1983
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Language: English
External Links:

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Black Fire is a Star Trek pro novel written by Sonni Cooper. The book became a flashpoint discussion about the quality of Trek pro books.

Cooper was a Star Trek fanfic writer and fan club organizer, something that gave many fans great hope that the Trek pro novel she was hired to write would be a step above the pro novels that had been previously published; perhaps Cooper, being one of "them," would serve up something that fans really wanted to read.

front cover

This was not to be; most fans disliked the book very much.

It is difficult to know just how much of this was due to the fact that it was a bad idea that was badly written, or if Cooper had been the victim of Pocket Book's strict guidelines as well as the perceived expectations a professional novel's audience had as opposed to a fan audience.

Cooper asked fans in Interstat what they thought of the book, and they told her.

About a year later, Cooper printed the "out takes" of her novel a year later in the zine Infinite Diversity #5.

In Boldly Writing (1996), Joan Verba wrote:

The professional novels got a lot of press. In January [1983 issue of Interstat], Sonni Cooper wrote 'By the time this is published, my Trek novel, Black Fire, will be available. I'd like some feedback.' She got both positive and negative reactions.

S.L.R. responded, 'Black Fire, in my opinion, is the poorest excuse for a pro novel that it has ever been my misfortune to read. In fact, there is, to my knowledge, no excuse for this book.'

Jeffrey K. Wagner had a more positive reaction: "Black Fire, by Cooper, was exciting, action-filled, and generally very believable.'

In April [1983 issue of Interstat), Lisa Wahl and Julia Ecklar complained once more about the poor quality of the pro novels: 'Is everyone as tired as we are at discovering that Trek novels by award-winning science fiction writers are not as good as many fans' works?" In June, Lisa Wahl suggested that Star Trek fans boycott the Timescape Star Trek novels in October and November of that year, in order to protest their poor quality. That got a lot of fans writing in. Several fans said they were afraid that such a boycott would hurt sales of Yesterday's Son, which they had read in manuscript form. Howard Weinstein was one of them, though he added, 'Lisa and Julia get no argument from me when they complain that not all the pro Star Trek novels are as good as they might be.' Howard also wrote, 'Since the publication of Covenant, I've gotten several hundred letters from readers...I've found overwhelming approval.' This matched reports of every single pro author who wrote to a letterzine: all reported getting hundreds of positive responses.

Summary of the Book

From the book jacket: "When sabotage strikes the Enterprise, Spock's investigation leads him into an alliance with the Romulan and Klingon empires against the Tomarii, a bloodthirsty race for whom war is life itself. Spock is declared a traitor and sentenced to the Federation's highest-security prison, and Kirk must choose between friendship and duty, with dire consequences for himself, Spock, and the entire Federation if he's wrong."

Star Trek: TOS Pro Books with Fan Connections

What Was Left Out of the Pro Novel?

"Black Fire" as a pro novel was published in January 1983.

In 1984, Cooper, perhaps unhappy with the editing the pro book had received and seeing an opportunity to set the record straight (or wanting to help sell a zine), published addition fictional material from "Black Fire" in the zine Infinite Diversity #5. An ad in Datazine #32 (October 1984) for that zine said: "Do you want to know what was left out of Sonni Cooper's "Black Fire"? Then you will want a copy of ID5. [It includes] things that were changed or left out of the book."

from Infinite Diversity #5 (1984)

Some context: a year later, the very controversial book Killing Time was published.

In 1987, Jacqueline Lichtenberg (who had feet in both the fan camp and the pro camp) commented on the differences in editing between pro books and zine fiction in regards to "Black Fire":

My daughter [name redacted] picked up 2 'zines at West Coast cons, INFINITE DIVERISTY #'s 5 & 6, without knowing I have known Sonni Cooper (author of both these 'zines) for many years. But the real surprise came when I opened ID#5 and found the very illo that the artist Donna Banzhof had sent me - a haunting study of Spock as Blackfire.

Despite TREKLINK's policy of avoiding analysis of the prof, market, Trekdom, pro-STdom, and even sf fandom are becoming inextricably intermixed; the moreso since ID#5 is the "out-takes" from the pro-novel BLACKFIRE. I was eager to see these cut bits especially because I had enjoyed BLACKFIRE so much.

My bifurcate taste was starkly evident as I read cut scenes from the first half of the novel. Oddly enough, even without rereading the novel, the cut scenes track very well - the editor is due applause for this feat. I enjoyed reading the bits, getting the grand, fulfilled feeling I usually get from 'zines, while at the same time the trained writer in me was going, "good cut" - "well cut" -"perfectly cut" - "pity that had to go, but it didn't belong there" - "what a shame but I'd have cut it too," - and so on to the end.

Sonni and her critics/editors did a superb professional job developing her manuscript into a pronovel. Any aspiring novelist would do well to study the novel, the "out-takes" in ID#5...[1]

Comments by the Author: 1983

Speaking of books: My Trek novel, BLACK FIRE (finally have a name for it) will be published sometime this fall. It's been a loooong haul. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have written to thank Susan Stephenson and me for our work with WISH. The club's demands were simply too much for us and we are both happily back to writing. I have not lost touch with Bill, however. I will be working with him in Birmingham and will be accompanying him to Houston in June. I hope to see many of you there to share the fun and excitement.[2]
By the time this is published my Trek novel, BLACK FIRE, will be available. I'd love some feedback. The novel is essentially my swan-song to fandom. My work is receiving some very kind attention in New York and I have two novels to finish: one a fantasy and the other about a contemporary American Indian family. I am going back to my work as an anthropologist and concentrating on my writing. STAR TREK will be always there, but as entertainment and memory of happy times and lots of friends. I won't miss fan carping and demands. I'm thoroughly enjoying being able to concentrate on my own work again. I've done my best in fandom and cherish the friends I have made through association with it.[3]

Comments by the Author: 2015

Legend has it that Gene Roddenberry never wanted “space pirates” in the world of Star Trek. Black Fire not only has space pirates galore, but Spock actually becomes one! What was your inspiration for all the romantic criminal activity?

Gene never mentioned his negative feelings about pirates in the series to me. Of course, Black Fire was never meant to be on TV. It would have been too expensive to produce for television. My agent submitted the book to Simon & Schuster. A week later I was having lunch with Gene Roddenberry and saw the manuscript on his desk. When I asked how he got [it] so quickly, he told me they had sent it for his immediate approval. “And did you approve it?” said I. “You’ve sold your book,” he replied. That was a celebratory lunch!

Was Spock’s epic journey in the book inspired by any great literature or folklore?

No! It was pure fun fiction for me. However, having extensively read sci-fi, I’m sure it was influenced by many books I had read. Before its publication I handed the manuscript to Theodore Sturgeon, who was a house guest at the time. I was thrilled when he said he loved it and thought it was publishable. He promised to write the introduction when the book was published and, true to his word, he did. I had always admired his writing, and considered it a great honor. How could anyone not feel that way? “Amok Time,” written by Ted, was one of my favorite [Star Trek] episodes.


This book is so sexy! Was that something you intended?

Spock always denied his human side and sublimated it as much as he could. It seemed right, and ultimately amusing, to make him an object of sexual interest and therefore even more uncomfortable about dealing with his duality. The hardest thing I found to write was the bad poetry addressed to Spock by his women admirers.

I think you capture Spock so well. Do you think the dearly-departed Leonard Nimoy would have dug this book? Did he read it?

I gave Leonard a copy of Black Fire and he enjoyed the humor in it. He had a hard time [then] with being so closely identified with the Spock character. In Hollywood, that kind of association can limit or kill a person’s career. Fortunately, Leonard was more of a Renaissance man, with many talents and the ability to express himself in many ways. I always enjoyed our chats, and will miss his wit and intelligence. [4]

Reactions and Reviews

1983: From Interstat

(Ms. Cooper—if you are reading this letter and wish to have an enjoyable day, I suggest you turn the page immediately. Consider yourself duly warned.) "Black Fire", in my opinion, is the poorest excuse for a pro novel that it has ever been my misfortune to read. In fact, there is, to my knowledge, no excuse for this book. The plot is chaotic at best. It was written in such a hurried fashion that I'm sure that even the author didn't know where it was going next. (Lucky girl.) It jumps from plot device to idiotic plot device with the desperation of a frog with hemorrhoids. The characterizations were ludicrous (Kirk obviously spent an extended length of time recuperating from being rebuilt organ by organ and only noticed Spock s absence after returning to the Enterprise), more than a few of the laws of physics were completely ignored (can anyone explain to me how a culture, barely above stone knives and bearskins, could have possibly conquered a civilization which owned a technology advanced enough to dcveJop warp drive, phasers, etc.? Tenacity in a pig's eye), and methinks McCoy doth "cluck and fret" too much. The ending was too, too predictable for my taste, but tell me one thing—when a certain Vulcan gives a certain doctor his earring does this mean they're engaged? Oh, I don't think I should go on. There are so many things that grated on my nerves in this book, I could never (and don't want to) mention them all. To give credit where credit is due, there was one member of my household who enjoyed the book immensely. My dog found it delicious. P.S. And will someone please tell Theodore Sturgeon that there are "79" episodes...[5]
I could not specifically recall that Sonni Cooper requested to be publicly flayed alive so I backtracked and sure enough, I discovered that Ms. Cooper had originally asked for some "feedback" on her new novel. Black Fire. If "feedback" can be loosely defined to mean constructive criticism, then the comments contained in your issue #65 contribution to INTERSTAT can in no way be termed that since they were completely devoid of any serious critical or analytical thought. Nothing constructive to offer but heavy on the criticism and therefore, a totally valueless effort on your part. Teri Meyer: I must say I was somewhat appalled by the sarcasm and downright nastiness of the aforementioned letter. It seemed unnecessarily tasteless and cruel. I'm wondering if it isn't time (past time, perhaps) for the editor, who "reserves the right to edit contributions," to do just that. I think that the type of "fan comment, analysis, and reaction" that INTERSTAT aspires to is meant to be of a somewhat higher form than "My dog found it delicious." I mean, you gotta draw the line somewhere.[6]
I wasn't crazy about Black Fire (Sonni Cooper seems to think Spock's first name is 'Mary Sue'; I disagree), but you did it an injustice. It was well-intentioned and far from the worst pro novel I've ever read. That dubious honor is shared by The Klingon Gambit (barf) and Death's Angel (double barf). You don't know what trash is till you've suffered through these two. I can't decide which is worse; does anyone care to cast the deciding vote? [7]
I liked "Black Fire." Liked it so much that I read it in one sitting (4 1/2 hours). I thought that Starfleet was ignoring the facts of the case, but I thought that it was because the invasion Spock feared had already begun— replacements, plants, doubles... I agree Kirk would miss Spock, but perhaps McCoy lied all along, telling Kirk that Spock had been re-assigned. I realized that something was fishy when Spock 'walked' out of a penal colony. It was all too easy, even for Spock.[8]
To Sonni Cooper - I dip my pen in purple ink to you, to your Black Fire:... Black Fire was a long ways from being everybody's cup of Trek, but buckle my swash, it was fun! [9]
I didn't like Black Fire. I thought the plot was so thin as to be transparent. I felt that Spock was out of character, and most of all, I think Sonni Cooper could use a few classes on writing prose—at least the pro writers who don't seem to know Trek are, technically, good writers. Still, I thought [S.L. R's] comments were rude and nasty and I would not have made them. However, I also thought they were witty and funny and I really enjoyed reading the letter I think the same principles apply to other INTERSTAT writers and that other readers may well feel the same way. Rude comments are often entertaining.[10]
Regarding the novel BLACK FIRE, I felt it was one of the better pro novels— interesting, fast-paced, colorful. Sure, it had its defects—what Trek story, pro or fan-fic, doesn't? [11]
I have just finished Black Fire, and enjoyed most of it, especially the first half. I was rather deflated with the ending, although all along I wondered how Sonni Cooper was going to get Spock out of the mess he was in. For me, the most unbelievable part was the pirate section, which, ironically, Black Fire was named for! Sonni does have a knack for dialogue, and her efforts are better than some pro novels which have our crew say and do things completely out of character. I do recommend Black Fire, for even with its flaws, the action and dialogue are superior to most ST pro novels.[12]
I had great expectations for BLACK FIRE by Sonni Cooper, but I thought the plot was pedestrian, and Spock was characterized as a super-mortal.[13]
In regard to [S.L.R's] criticism of Black Fire: I agree that it was caustic—perhaps unnecessarily caustic. It was certainly not constructive. On the other hand, Ms. Cooper, by publishing that book as a professional, set herself up for it. She even asked for it. Unfortunately, the lady's attitude has in the past seemed to me to be: "I'm a professional at what I do; don't complain to me, because you're not a professional, and therefore your thoughts about my work are worthless." In my opinion, the novel was not a shining example of Treklit—pro or otherwise. Along with Death's Angel and one or two others, it should never have seen print. (In my opinion. I require no one to share it.) That it did see print in its present form is not Ms. Cooper's fault. Dave Hartwell wasn't doing his job. He is a fine editor when it comes to general SF, but the line of Trek novels is Pocket Books' stepchild. The books make lots of money for them, and they have to put almost no effort or expense into producing the series. It's no place for inexperienced fiction writers to begin because they'll get no TLC from the editorial department at Pocket Books. The publisher's attitude is demonstrably, "Why should we care?" [14]
I agree that the professionally published ST books are the pits, despite the money they make for Pocket Books. One would think that any publisher would try to get hold of the best writing in any category—not this inane pap obviously hacked out for the money. (After reading BLACK FIRE I was left with doubts that Sonni Cooper and I ever watched the same ST series.) Since Pocket Books refuses to read or accept unsolicited manuscripts, and since most fan writers do not have literary agents to handle their work, fandom doesn't have much of a chance to get its best writing even looked at, much less published (the Murdock book notwithstanding—how did that happen?). Perhaps we should focus our attention on persuading Pocket Books and editor David Hartwell to give unrepresented writers a chance. If they devised (necessarily strict) guidelines for submission, some of fandom's fine writers could help them recover their reputation, and ST pro books would hopefully improve.[15]
Admittedly I was rude and nasty concerning Ms. Cooper's tool "Black Fire". The letter was written in a fit of pique and all my pent up anger poured forth. My distress has not lessened, however, since the writing of said letter. The villain is not Sonni Cooper. One cannot and should not edit or critique one's own work. The fact that it was published in its obviously un-edited state makes me believe that someone at Timescape is not doing the job they get paid for. Maybe I expect too much, but at least someone there should have given it one good read-through before they sent it to press. Oh, and remember when I said that my dog found it delicious? Well, I guess I was a little premature. The next day he threw up all over the rug.[16]
I agree that Black Fire was a sort of fun novel, although it was horrendous.[17]
I would like to say also that Sonni Cooper's Black Fire was great. I had more than one chuckle while I read it and I enjoyed it thoroughly.[18]
Sonni Cooper's novel was just an extended fan story that combined the Mary-Sue, Get, Lay, and Galactic Hero cliches that render much fan fiction trite and predictable. I'm sure she had fun writing it, and once I realized what was going on, I laughed myself silly. Here was the perfect parody of all those awful read-once-and-toss-in-the- closet zines we all have kicking around. Either Pocket Books has a much more highly developed and sophisticated sense of humour than we thought or else Ms. Cooper has perpetrated a truly Spockian joke on them and on us too.[19]
I enjoy the pro novels, for the most part. I don't think any of them are deserving of some of the criticism that has been leveled against them. I thoroughly enjoyed BLACK FIRE; I opened the book with a bit of trepidation after having read the things that INTERSTAT writers had said about it, but I soon decided that it was best for me to just enjoy it and decide for myself.[20]
BLACK FIRE wasn't very good at all. It had all of the flaws of fan fiction and none of the good qualities.[21]
She plunked down a friendship between Spock and a Romulan which was never shown with any emotional or mental capacity and with little clarification or explanation of how and WHY it occurred. I felt the spirit of Trek lacking in it as well as the humor nullified by its apparently poor rendition. But it HAD potential. It spit out in scenes here and there and I would have appreciated a good editor getting a hold of it and doing her job properly.[22]
Black Fire was—odd. It wasn't, quite, Trek, but it did show flair and was full of enthusiasm, a quality that always appeals to me.[23]

1983: From Other Zines

This story was originally written to explain why Spock went to Gol the end of the five-year mission. It's therefore set between then and ST-TMP, and during it, the uniforms change. It also explains why the Enterprise needed an extensive refit. However, presumably because of the time that has passed since ST-TMP was released, it is no longer presented as an explanation of Spock's retreat to Gol.

It starts with an explosion on the bridge. Kirk is seriously injured, Spock slightly less so. Spock suspects sabotage, and in spite of his injuries insists on investigating, disobeying McCoy's medical instructions (advice?) to do so. He finds little enough that could be called proof of his suspicion, and at a Starfleet hearing, his views are pushed aside. With Starfleet refusing to act on his suspicions, Spock persuades Scott to assist him in borrowing a small ship and setting off to try to discover additional evidence.

A Romulan and a Klingon ship have also both been sabotaged, and the three investigating parties form a temporary alliance. Spock promises the Romulan leader that if he survives and she does not, he will warn the Romulans of the threat the saboteurs pose; this he does, and as a result is courtmartialed, since it is against regulations to contact the Romulans -- the charge is treason. Found guilty and sent to a rehabilitation centre, he soon escapes with a Romulan who has also been a prisoner there - and becomes a pirate (the Black Fire of the title). Kirk, with the best will in the world, is helpless to assist him. And we're still only half-way through the book....

This is a fast-moving book full of surprises. It has a tendency to be a Spock-bonker, and will probably be better liked by the Spock fans among us than by the others; although Kirk and the Enterprise are in the story, much of it follows Spock, Sonni was originally a fan writer; like all fans, she knows the characters and relationships, and it shows. [24]

An explosion on the Enterprise; Kirk is badly hurt; Spock and Scott pursue their own investigations against orders; Spock is court-martialled, found guilty, sentenced to a term in a penal planet, escapes .... now read on!

To go into any more detail about the plot would spoil the story. Suffice it to say that to one reared on a diet of Masters, Buchan and W.E. Johns, the outcome was obvious by Chapter III.

This well-written book owes more of its characterisation of the big four to fan fiction than to pro-publications, though there are minor quibbles. Spock behaves like a damn fool on occasion (as does Scott) and Kirk needs his behind spanking - he behaves like a spoilt child when he discovers that he has a new second-in-command. There is an understanding of the interactions of the main characters, though relationship scenes are handled with welcome restraint throughout.

There are blessedly few Americanisms, the author's style carrying the reader into the story and along with the action. A whole new dimension of jokes along the lines of "there was a Klingon, a Romulan and a Vulcan" could arise from this tale, but my favourite quote is a statement of you-know-who, "I'm a doctor not an actuary!".

I would recommend this book to hardened Trekkers and Newcomers alike. [25]

Three weeks ago I ordered two new ST novels from Space Age Books. When they arrived seven days later I went into Shock. After a long and Painful Association with the Post Office, I had not expected them for several weeks. Having sufficiently recovered I began with mounting enthusiasm to unwrap my parcel. After several abortive attempts I began to wonder if it was supposed to be opened at all! However, persist, nee eventually paid off and I settled down to read "Blackfire".

"Blackfire" reads like an Agatha Christie mystery. There are humorous twists and turns to the plot to ensure that the Reader is never Bored. Now don't get the wrong idea. It is not a jumbled affair. It's extremely well-written. Sonni Cooper enables you the Reader to leave the Realm of your Reality and enter another one which is set around Spock, Kirk, Romulans, Klingons and the new and often puzzling Tomarri.

Ms. Cooper explores further into the Vulcan character than any other novelist I have so far encountered. She shows expertly Spock's Vulcan side which is softened and this made easier to comprehend by his Human Emotions, which she effortless shows does exist.

You experience the same feelings of frustration, anger, disillusionment that Jim Kirk feels when he finds out that Spock and Scotty have taken off for parts unknown. You try, along with Kirk, to rationalise and explain Spock's actions but all you can do at this point is keep reading.

When Spock, Scotty, the Romulans and Klingons are captured and taken prisoner on Tomarii and when the Tomariian Begum Ilsa falls for Spock without realising it inflicts humiliation after humiliation on Spock, you want to take her by the shoulders and shake her and scream, "You can't do this to a Vulcan! You can't do this to Spock!"

The ending, I'm pleased to report, doesn't leave you high dry with a lot of questions and queries. Everything is full explained and you wonder why you couldn't work it out for yourself!

For those of you who like myself who over the years have come to know, respect and admire and even love Spock, I can thoroughly recommend "Blackfire". As for those who don't thrive on Spock or any Vulcan for that matter, I'm sure that "Blackfire" will hold your attention and imagination just as strongly as it did mine (ever tried eating omelette and reading at the same time?'). [26]
Black Fire is fan-fiction at a level only millimeters above the mediocre, and it's frustrating to see it professionally published when superior material remains confined to fanzines and therefore unknown to the general public.[27]

The latest Star Trek novel to hit the presses is BLACK FIRE, by Sonni Cooper. The title refers to an alias devised by Spock when he supposedly leaves Starfleet in disgrace and hooks up with some not-too- goodniks. In reality, of course, it is all a ploy, and Spock is still a good guy. The book does have some interesting aspects. During the course of the story, several changes take place that happened between the series and the first movie, For example, it is during this tale that Chekov becomes a lieutenant. Theouniform change-from the old favorites to the grey- and tans in ST:TMP also occurs in this story. The characterizations are excellent and the old rapport is still there. Sounds like the quintessional STAR TREK novel, right? Wrong.

For one thing, the book is too campy. Spock's ship when he becomes Black Fire is called THE EQUUS, for instance. (For any of you who don't know, Leonard Nimoy starred in the play, ("Equas") (?) Also, the book was around twenty pages too long. But my biggest complaint is the alarming predictability and similarities it had. It was an updated version of "The Enterprise Incident", and even had Spock becoming very close with a Romulan commander. (Doesn't that sound familiar?) BLACK FIRE is an excellent book for characterizations and adherence to TREK lore. However, if you want a plausible plot with fresh ideas, this isn't the book for you. [28]


This novel is only of moderate length but, a great deal happens in it. It is primarily a Spock story (though Scotty also gets a decent outing) and therefore ought to be among my favourites, but many factors spoiled my enjoyment.

Spock goes through just about everything in this - injury, humiliation, court martial, convicted as a traitor, imprisonment, escape, a stint as a Romulan pirate, and even serves as an officer in the Romulan fleet! Out of character? Well, yes, although there are always reasons for his actions, and there is a denouement at the end which explains all, but alas, I was not convinced. Perhaps it might, have worked better for me if the reader had been in on the secret right from the start, Sonni Cooper's style of writing is too superficial for my taste. Although I don't look for long descriptive passages in ST novels, the description in this is so cursory as to be near non-existent, and I got little sense of atmospheres in the various scenarios. The complex plot is well thought out however, but Spook's behaviour stretched my credulity beyond breaking point - especially in the earlier chapters when he stoically suppressed pain from an injury. During this time he is held captive in Spartan conditions and refuses to eat because only meat is available. Consequently he is reduced to a pathetic condition, twice attempting suicide! Where is the logic in refusing food on purely ethical grounds when this results in his abilities being impaired and the success of the mission being endangered? This jars, especially as he acquiesces to sleeping with his fellow prisoner, a female Romulan (for warmth!) at the same time as he is starving himself for lack of fruit and veg! Really, you can't have it all ways, Ms Cooper!

The whole story suffers from this kind of contrived behaviour on Speck's part and I was much happier with the passages concerning Kirk, especially his reaction to losing Spock as a convicted traitor, and later meeting up with him in his various new "jobs". Even so, more emotional mileage could have been had from this situation, particularly from Spock's viewpoint, though since none of the Spock portrayal really worked well for me this additional disappointment was only to be expected.

Overall the story did keep my attention quite well when I first read it some time ago, but I found I was very conscious of the faults when re-reading it for this revue. However, my objections are very largely on grounds of personal taste, and others may find this portrayal of Spock more acceptable. I would only give it two marks out of five.[29]


Star Trek novels have been written for many years. An oldie but goodie is Black Fire by Sonni Cooper published nearly 10 years ago. This novel is good sci fi, good fiction and good Star Trek. Black Fire begins with a bang. Literally. An explosion on the bridge injures all the bridge crew and disables the Enterprise. Captain Kirk is seriously injured and unconscious. Spock postpones surgery to remove schrapnal near his spine in order to take command of the Enterprise as she limps into star base for repairs. Spock and Scotty then leave for an unauthorized investigation of who caused the explosion. They encounter Klingons, Romulans and a new enemy of the Federation, the Tomariians. Eventually Spock and Scott are held captive by the Tomariians. Kirk recovers from his injuries and successfully finds and rescues Spock and Scott. Spock, instead of being praised for exposing the Tomariians, is sentenced to prison for leading an unauthorized search. Soon Spock escapes from prison, making himself one of the Federation's most wanted. Meanwhile, Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew are being kept busy trying to capture a notorious space pirate Black Fire.

The surprise ending of this novel leads the Enterprise back to the Tomariians, a confrontation with Romulans, whom Spock may be associated with and a final resolution that unwinds the many twists

to this book's plot.[30]


Most people liked [this] so what do I know. I just didn’t like their portrayal of a pirate Spock and especially, how he formed a reeaaaaaaaaally close bond with another man who isn't Kirk and a loyalty that almost surpassed the one he owed Jim.[31]


A long time ago, back in the early 80's, Pocket Books (a division of Simon & Schuster which was owned by Gulf+Western, who also owned Paramount Pictures) took over publishing Star Trek novels from Bantam Books. Fans had grown unhappy with the direction the Bantam novels were going, and had high hopes that Pocket Books would bring intelligently written Star Trek novels.

Their hopes were dashed with a number of Star Trek novels, but most aggregiously by this particular tome.

In a word, it's terrible. The story construction is convoluted in the extreme, and a number of coincidences arise to make it implausible. It fails to understand that space is three dimensional, fails to comprehend the true nature of stars and their planets, and in all honesty, fails in its writing style (juvenile, multiple shifts of perspective even in mid-paragraph, poor paragraph structure).

The story itself begins with a bang as a saboteur destroys the bridge of the Enterprise with an explosive device. With Kirk in the hospital, Spock (who is in need of surgery) and Scotty set out to follow a series of clues that lead them to a hostile alien planet. The population of this planet are an aggressive hirsute race with designs on galactic conquest even though they themselves have no technology other than that which they've stolen from other races. Spock and Scotty are quickly captured, and undergo a lengthy imprisonment during which time the queen of the alien race falls in love with Spock (as does a fellow Romulan commander). During an escape attempt, the Romulan Commander is killed, and Spock is incapacitated by his heretofore ignored injury. Rather than kill Spock, the queen of the alien race has Scotty try to nurse Spock back to health. Spock, on the other hand, wants to do the logical thing and end his own life.

Meanwhile, Captain Kirk recovers and his annoyed to discover that without telling him Starfleet has replaced Spock and Scotty with two new officers. Kirk's disappointment is compounded because these men are not the super problem solvers that our resident Vulcan and our favorite Miracle Worker are. After a while, the Enterprise manages to rescue Spock and Scotty, and the alien queen simply lets them do so. Spock and Scotty are then arrested, quickly tried, and sentenced to a prison planet. By an amazing coincidence, Spock's fellow in-mate is a Romulan pirate, and together they quickly escape their prison and head to a world populated by pirates. Spock then becomes a pirate like his Romulan friend, and dons a disguise to pursue his new career. Eventually he's nearly caught by the Enterprise, when suddenly the Romulan pirate rescues our beloved Vulcan and takes him back to Romulus. Surprise of all surprises, the Romulan pirate is actually a Romulan fleet commander whose sister is in actuality the Romulan Commander of "The Enterprise Incident." Spock and his new Romulan Commander set out to discover the nature of the alien race that's causing trouble. Heading for the alien planet, which--okay, I couldn't make this up if I tried--is on the opposite side of a supersized star (it takes days to get around it at Warp Factor 3) from the pirate planet.

Captain Kirk, being no slouch, goes to the alien planet as well, and after a terse confrontation wherein Spock acts as a peace mediator between the Federation captain and the Romulan commander (whose sister has now disappeared in the vicinity of the alien planet), they set up a blockade. Apparently this star is so massive that's there's no way around the blockade created by the two ships. Eventually, the aliens are forced to capitulate, and the galaxy is at peace. Spock returns to the Romulan Empire but asks that the Enterprise be stationed near the Neutral Zone so peace can be established between the Feds and the Rommies. Although his ship is severely damaged, he agrees. Spock tells the Romulan Commander this will be a perfect chance to capture the Enterprise. Uh-huh. And within a few pages, Spock is aboard the Enterprise facing trial for treason against the Federation. Fortunately, he's soon released and it's revealed that he's been acting as an undercover agent. And they lived happily ever after...except when I think about it, the two guys who replaced Spock and Scotty. Guess they aren't so happy after all...

And neither was I. Fans were so incensed by this book that they were calling for a boycott of all Star Trek pro-novels in the pages of Interstat and on convention floors. Melinda Murdock, who wrote a Star Trek novel that had not yet been released begged that this sort of talk end and to give the new folks in charge at PocketBooks a chance. Fans relented, but never forgave Sonni Cooper for this book. The amazing thing to me is that the introduction is by Ted Sturgeon who wrote "Amok Time" and he praised Sonni (and her book) to high heaven. Guess he never read it.

Pass up any chance to read this book. It's probably the worst Star Trek novel ever written.[32]

Other Reading


  1. ^ from Treklink #10
  2. ^ from Sonni Cooper in Interstat #55
  3. ^ from Sonni Cooper in Interstat #63
  4. ^ Throwback Thursday: Crazy/Sexy/Spock—Sonni Cooper on Her Vintage Star Trek Novel Black Fire by Ryan Britt (April 2, 2015)
  5. ^ from S.L. R in Interstat #65
  6. ^ from Bobbie H, Interstat #66
  7. ^ from Linda S, Interstat #66
  8. ^ from Tom A, Interstat #66
  9. ^ from Anne E. B, Interstat #67
  10. ^ from Lisa W, Interstat #67
  11. ^ from Frances F, Interstat #67
  12. ^ from Suzanne M, Interstat #67
  13. ^ from Joan V, Interstat #67
  14. ^ from Mary Ann D, Interstat #68
  15. ^ from Carol F, Interstat #68
  16. ^ from S.L. R, Interstat #68
  17. ^ from Brett B, Interstat #69
  18. ^ from Lucia J, Interstat #69
  19. ^ from D. Booker, Interstat #70
  20. ^ from Gennie S, Interstat #70
  21. ^ from Mark C. H in Interstat #71
  22. ^ from Bev L. in Interstat #71
  23. ^ from Leslie W in Interstat #72
  24. ^ from Communicator #10 (Feb 1983)
  25. ^ from Communicator #10 (Feb 1983)
  26. ^ from Beyond Antares #23
  27. ^ from Universal Translator #17
  28. ^ Where No Fan Has Gone Before (February 1983)
  29. ^ from IDIC #12 (1990)
  30. ^ "The Wright Stuff" (PDF). 
  31. ^ a fan's comment at Star Trek book recs, November 2014
  32. ^ review by Randy Landers at Orion Press