Last Skimmer to Jericho

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Star Trek Fanfiction
Title: Last Skimmer to Jericho
Author(s): Winston Howlett
Date(s): 1974
Fandom: Star Trek: The Original Series
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Last Skimmer to Jericho is a gen Star Trek: TOS story by Winston Howlett.

It is a science fiction story that gives a glimpse of African culture in the 23rd century.

It was printed in Probe #1 and #5, The Goddess Uhura, and Furaha #1.

From the Author: 1977

I hereby make a public confession: "Last Skimmer to Jericho", when it was publicized in the back of PROBE 1, was just a vague idea in the back of my head for a quickie-action-melodrama, star ring everybody's favorite communications officer. At that time, PROBE's staff was only three people: Diane Saunders, Paul Kirby, and yours truly. PROBE 1 had no STAR TREK stories in it, and the zine was supposed to be 50% TREK, so I figured I'd better get cracking with something.

But I think that racial pride became more of a guiding factor than my desire to just write a ST story (my first) for PROBE 2. I went to the local library and began skim through every book they had on African culture (particularly Bantu tribes) and Swahili. At the very least, this story would have to be culturally accurate.

I found "The Warrior" in a book of translated African poems. Its theme of independance and individuality struck a responsive chord in me, and I knew I would have to create a story character to match it. That is how 'Umri' was born and shaped, and where I got the foundation for the heroic action that got him killed. This was even before he had a name, since the only Swahili I knew at that time was the fact that 'Uhura' is an effeminization of 'uhuru.' the Swahili word for 'freedom'.

The library's only Swahili book was barely adequate, but it enabled me to find some description-words with which to name the characters: Uhura' s friend was an old man, so 'age' gave me 'Umri'; Uhura's enemy gave me the chance to inject some irony: a bitter woman with a kindly name: 'Utamu', meaning 'sweetness'. I also bent the book's few Swahili phrases to fit my purposes: "Si ku tu" means "You're welcome". "Hapa" means "here" (as in "I'M OVER HERE!") But I needed Utamu to greet Uhura in Swahili when she arrived at her house, so I got "You are welcome here" out of "Si ku tu hapa", and list ened to the sounds of my ancestors turning over in their graves.

I did not get around to starting "Skimmer" until October. The issue was due to be out in November. Would you believe that I hit a writing snag in that flashback sequence, and did not find a solution until nineteen days later? And when I did find the solution, other strange things began to happen: the characters began writing a different story, taking it into directions that they wanted to go. Melodrama gave way to drama, as I began to subconsciously seek out certain kinds of story elements that would touch the reader's soul. This was done through basic sub-themes and universal phenomena.

[MUCH snipped]

The closer I got to my self-imposed deadline, the more frantic my ]]Typewritertyping]] became...and the more stubborn the characters were in trying to stretch out the tale. Thirty planned pages became about forty-five, with an ending written more by 'feel' than by design. The climactic skimmer crash (making the title ironic, since the vehicle never actaully reached Jericho) is every bus trip down a curvy hill and every ride with an average New York City cab driver (insaneI) all rolled into one experience. And Uhura's final conversation with Utamu almost seemed to write itself, as I tried to fully put myself in Utamu's place and explain her bitterness through basic truths about human nature. [1]

From the Author: 1989

[Winston A. Howlett]: Now, I started off with one story: ... ‘Last Skimmer to Jericho.’ I wanted to do a TREK story for my own zine, because my first issue of PROBE had no Trekfiction in it. It had TREK articles, it had crossword puzzles, it had all kinds of nice things, but no Trekfiction. So I decided for my second issue to cook up a quick Uhura story. It started out as an adventure piece, it turned into a drama piece, and by the time I was through with it, I was very proud of it. I’d wanted to do a throw-away, but the characters turned on me and said, ‘You’re going to write a good story, or else!’ So, I did. And then I decided to write a sequel to this story when somebody asked me to, so I wrote ‘A Plague of Dreams.’ But in going through the course of that, I got rid of Uhura saying (high voice) ‘Captain, I’m frightened!’ (Laughter) which I could not stand. I killed that off and made her psychologically independent of Captain Kirk, so she’d never run to him any more whenever she needed help. And when I ended that story, I said, ‘All right, where do I go from here?’ The whole thing was published as GODDESS UHURA, PROBE Special Number One. That’s all it was. [2]

Sample Art from Probe #2

Reactions and Reviews

… we are shown what Uhura can do when given the chance and she definitely isn't 'mere' at all. In 'Last Skimmer to Jericho,' Uhura takes shore leave on the planet Duquesne, hoping to visit a dear childhood friend. Instead, she finds he has recently died and soon is running for her life and that of a child. The characterization of the people, the setting, and the plot itself are all brilliant. [3]
What has to be the best piece in this journal is 'Last Skimmer to Jericho.' In this beautiful novelette, Uhura manages to get leave from duty for three days to visit friends on the colony planet of Duquesne. She is met by an old friend and former Star Fleet cadet, Utamu. To her dismay Umri, the friend she had come specifically to see had died the day before her arrival. Also, Uhura finds that Utamu's brother and sister-in-law have been killed in an accident and that Utamu, who now takes care of the orphaned child of her brother, hates her. At the funeral of Umri, Uhura finds a friend among the few people there who fills Uhura in on some of the details of Utamu's problems, helping her to cope with the gap that Uhura has suddenly found between herself and her friend. During that evening, explosions and fire rock the small village of Mombasa and Uhura, Utamu, and the child must flee to escape destruction. It is here that we see much of the emotions brought to bear during this flight scene. The entire story shows a beautiful understanding of the feelings and characters involved in the figures of this story and although the disaster that occurs in the story almost seems to be a too-convenient way to bring it all to a climax, it is well-managed and the author does indeed know how to bring the action to a hilt. I only wish I had read this story long before. [4]
I did enjoy that. Very much. The plot and story-line were good, and carried out effectively. And, you were able to keep each person with their original characters. Another thing, I could not out-guess you. I did not know how the story would end, except that eve had to turn out OK. I've been read ing SF for about 25 years, and can sometimes see what is coming. ...One thing I always must comment on in fanzines is the spelling, punctuation, and typographical errors, often those three things are evident, it nearly drives me crazy. I stumble over each spelling error, debate each wrong punctuation mark, and fuss at typos. I am not such a great "speller" myself, but I do know how to use a dictionary. Evidently, you and your staff do, too. Congratulations and thanks! [5]
Last Skimmer to Jericho" should be nominated. Best Uhura Story. Superior writing, raced just right, and you captured the personality of Uhura and her culture beautifully. Would you consider writing a story for RIGEL? Hint, Hint … [6]
When Enterprise is called on to transport materials to Duquesne, Uhura manages to obtain shore leave there to visit an old mentor and his family who have become colonists there. Sadly, she arrives shortly after Umri has been killed rescuing his infant grandson from the local beasts of prey. Uhura is unable to understand or penetrate the hostility of the surviving daughter Utamu, formerly a great friend, who has left Starfleet to remain with the family on the new colony. The colony then comes under attack from living nuclear firebombs. Uhura manages to rescue Utamu and the child, and get the three of them onto the last vehicle back to the capital - and she also manages to stun one of the "fire-things" and wrap it up safely to take back to Enterprise for examination. It attempts to communicate with her through her dreams. After a crash, all four are rescued by Enterprise, and it is determined that the Ballenites live by means of small-scale nuclear energy. A swarm of them were headed off to colonize a new planet after their own was destroyed, but they ran out of steam and got sucked down onto Duquesne where they exploeded. The only survivor is the one Uhura stunned, Soor. Enterprise takes Soor to its original destination and drops it off to found a new population (they bud) and Uhura and her childhood friend are reconciled. [7]


  1. from a long article by Winston Howlett in Probe #10
  2. from Creating Universes: A Writers' Panel: Winston A. Howlett, Jean Lorrah, and Pat Paul (1989)
  3. from The Halkan Council #20/21
  4. from Spectrum #22
  5. from an LoC printed in Probe #6
  6. from an LoC by the editor of Rigel, printed in Probe #6
  7. from Halliday's Zinedex