Strange New Worlds (pro book)
|Title:||Strange New Worlds|
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Strange New Worlds is an annual collection of short stories set in the Star Trek universe, written by amateur writers chosen through an open submissions process. The first volume was published in July 1998, with the tenth and final volume published in 2007.
Each of the anthologies was published by Pocket Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. The main editor of these anthologies was Dean Wesley Smith. Co-editors of the series included John J. Ordover, Paula M. Block, and Elisa J. Kassin. Contents of these anthologies are available on isfdb.org.
Some 1998 Comments
Re: Pocket Books and John Ordover. So far, none of the fan stories chosen by Dean Wesley Smith have done that for me in Strange New Worlds. Here's a thought: could it be that each of the editors have a different agenda and different restrictions? Or that-- here it comes, you knew it would-- the better (IMHO) stories were chosen by women and the newest ones are chosen by a man? Pocket Books saw a good thing (ie: they FINALLY figured it out) and proceeded to over saturate the ST market with only one thing in mind: PROFIT. I am used to the quality of fan writing; it makes me laugh, cry, it inspires me, shocks me, delights me. I have a great collection of ST books, when that meant something. Now I have stopped buying them, or only very selectively, because I see what Pocket Books is doing to the series: they are over franchising it to the point that any really serious fan who is drawn to anything ST will soon become broke! I feel this has diminished the value of my collection, that is monetarily. Emotionally it still has enormous rewards. I am a bit saddened by this-- boy, have you got me going! 
There's been a discussion over on ASC about the New Frontiers series. Most of the folk who's posted seem to feel that those books suck. Haven't read 'em, so can't comment. But I have my own theory about why they introduced New Frontiers. They're trying to coax us die-hard TOS fen into other areas, because they think they've done all that can be done with TOS. HA! I say again, HA! HA!
The trilogy may be a step "backwards"--in other words, in the right direction. But it will probably be more of the same--slick, action-packed, professional, and no heart whatsoever.It's up to us! 
Other Star Trek: TOS Pro Books with Fan Connections
- Star Trek: The New Voyages (1976, 1978)
- The Price of the Phoenix (July 1977)
- The Fate of the Phoenix (May 1979)
- The Prometheus Design (March 1982)
- Black Fire (January 1983)
- Triangle (March 1983)
- Web of the Romulans (June 1983)
- Yesterday's Son (August 1983)
- The Vulcan Academy Murders (November 1984)
- Ishmael (May 1985)
- Killing Time (July 1985)
- The IDIC Epidemic (February 1988)
- Time for Yesterday (August 1988)
- Strange New Worlds (1998-2000)
Reactions and Reviews: Issue 1
This is a story-by-story review of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. In a few days I will be posting a "deconstruction of the editors", with my suggestions about what you might put in a submission for SNW II.
All of this is emphatically unofficial. I have no connection whatsoever with Paramount, Viacom, Pocket Books, or John Ordover. Obviously, I have bought the book and read it, and I urge anyone who's serious about SNW II to do the same.
I am a professional book reviewer and editor, and these are my professional opinions. If you (or a friend of yours) wrote one of the stories I review here, bear in mind that (a) I am only saying, honestly and occasionally bluntly, what *I* think; but (b) I do this sort of thing as my job. Like most critics, I'm an egomaniac, but my opinions are based on experience and on a volume of reading (all kinds) that no-one on this newsgroup can better (how do I know? 'cause your brain would melt -- mine almost does).
TOS "A Private Anecdote," Landon Cary Dalton. Grand Prize Winner. The paralysed Christopher Pike thinks back, wondering if any of what he has experienced since Talos is real. Rather bitter in tone, first-person, with very little about the regular cast. I don't actually think this is the best story in the anthology, but it is very tight with a good ending.
"The Last Tribble," Keith L. Davis. Cyrano Jones cleans up tribbles -- for 17 years, as Spock had predicted. Includes a much better explanation of tribble biology than in the episode, but IMO too much of an infodump.
"The Lights in the Sky," Phaedra Weldon. Third Prize. Sequel to the truly bad ep, "The Gamesters of Triskelion." Set immediately before ST: Generations. Triskelion is about to join the Federation, after have fought off a Romulan invasion, and Shahna (she was Kirk's Drill Thrall) is the first Ambassador. A valiant attempt to make an actual character out of a TOS bimbo-babe. The story itself suffers from numerous flaws of execution, especially with regard to Spock: he is called "Mr. Spock" by all & sundry (including Kirk!), and is given completely uncharacteristic lines such as "He figured that . . ."
"Reflections," Dayton Ward. Could have been titled "It's a Wonderful Life, Captain Kirk." The Organians show the dying Kirk the escalating disasters that would have occurred if he'd resigned after Edith Keeler's death. If this kind of thing is going to work for *me*, the characterization has to be a lot more powerful and consistent than it is here.
TNG "What Went Through Data's Mind 0.68 Seconds Before the Satellite Hit," Dylan Otto Krider. I *really* like this story. Of course, what goes through Data's mind is -- a lot of things: he writes bad poetry, he ponders human psychology, he calculates stellar densities. Oh, and incidentally -- he saves the Enterprise from destruction. Very nicely done.
"The Naked Truth," Jerry M. Wolfe. Reg Barclay & Ro Laren. Mixes adventure and characterization pretty successfully, but pushes the length limits and failed to stir me deeply.
"The First," Peg Robinson. A Prime Directive Dilemma story, featuring Picard. The best story in the collection IMO. Thoughtful, deeply felt, with Peg's beautiful fluid prose.
"See Spot Run," Kathy Oltion. How and why does Data's cat keep getting out of his room? A valiant attempt at funny, to which I am always well-disposed. Some good lines, but it's not consistently zany, witty, or ironic.
"Civil Disobedience," Alara Rogers. Q has to decide whether to prevent the Borg from conquering Earth. Not Alara's best work, I think, but (naturally) one of the best stories in the collection: to the point, carefully thought-out. In many ways an archetypal Trek morality story.
"Of Cabbages and Kings," Franklin Thatcher. Second Prize. May be the only story in the book that qualifies as realio-trulio science fiction, not Trekoid sci-fi. The Enterprise, sans crew, finds itself (herself?) in a "bubble" universe -- a concept currently popular among cosmologists -- and has to consult with a Picard holocharacter to get out.
DS9 "Life's Lessons," Christina F. York. An "interstitial" story, set within the episode "Looking For parMach in All The Wrong Places." Nog has a crush on Keiko. I might well have given one of the prizes to this story, which is extremely professional, falling in the upper part of the usual ST profic range in both style and substance (which may make it seem rather conventional).
"Where I Fell Before My Enemy," Vince Bonasso. Sisko and the gang are on the Defiant when they run into the Metrons and the Gorn (from the TOS ep, "Arena"). This story would have made a good episode, and is another with a characteristically ST moral. The only problem is that it is not quite tight enough. But the title is great -- lyrical enough to be from Babylon 5! (oops, did I say that?)
VOY "Good Night, Voyager," Patrick Cumby. Why have those pesky gel-packs stopped working this time? Yet another story that might have made a good episode, i.e. somewhat predictable. Marred by small failures of editing, characterization, and science.
"Ambassador at Large," J. A. Rosales. Voyager meets Bailey and Balok from the TOS ep, "The Corbamite Maneuver." Probably the funniest story in the collection, though most of the jokes are on Neelix, which is like shooting fish in a barrel.
"Fiction," jaQ Andrews. It looks as though the Voyager crew has been stuck on the planet Draanis IV for four years, and Chakotay is so resigned to circumstances that he has married a native, Renaii. But are things what they seem? Any similarities to this past season's ep "The Killing Game" is purely coincidental, of course, but interesting. The style is somewhat overwritten, and I'm not sure I believe Chakotay would act like that, but it's definitely as good as many of the episodes.
"I, Voyager," Jackee C. The closest thing to mushy stuff in the collection, might count as a PG-rated J/C on ASC. The POV is that of a very unusual entity meeting the Voyager crew, whose alienness is emphasized by the author's clever word choices. Good characterization as well; one of the best stories of the bunch, IMO.
"Monthuglu," Craig D. B. Patton. Voyager goes through a very unusual nebula. Any similarities to this past season's ep "One" are clearly coincidental. Another story marred by small failures of editing, style, etc. (e.g. "on route" for "en route).In a few days, I'll post my Deconstruction, looking at what kind of stories you might want to think of writing for SNW II. 
Pocket Books Takes New Writers To The Stars:
Finally, fans can buy a short story collection which spans all four Star Trek series...with all the stories written by new talents. Strange New Worlds, a trade paperback from Pocket Books, contains eighteen Trek stories written by amateur writers, selected out of thousands of submissions to a contest of the same name.
"The book was created out of love," writes editor Dean Wesley Smith, explaining the desire on the part of Pocket Books Senior Editor John J. Ordover to create a way for fans to write for other fans. Of course, such stories have existed for years in zines and on the net, but the writers in Strange New Worlds were paid for their stories and several won significant bonus prizes. In addition, the professional sale makes several of them eligible for membership in the SFWA association, and could lead them to agents, book contracts, and further success in their writing careers.
"When I saw the post John Ordover made about the contest, I knew I had to submit to it - the opportunity to possibly get actual Trek fiction published was too good to pass up," says Alara Rogers, a well-known Internet fan writer and former psychobiology grad student who's hoping to raise enough money to go back to school. Her Next Generation story "Civil Disobedience," in which Q must weigh his own sense of right and wrong against the Continuum's orders, emerged from "trying to justify Q's non-involvement in humanity's war with the Borg in the light of my belief that he introduced humanity to the Borg mostly to let humans know the Borg were coming."
Rogers notes that she didn't write the story specifically for the contest - she wrote it sometime earlier. "Q is my favorite character, and the Q and Borg episodes of TNG are among my all-time favorite Trek eps of any series," she adds. This is her second professional publication.
Strange New Worlds is also the second professional publication for Jerry M. Wolfe, author of "The Naked Truth," in which Reginald Barclay and Ro Laren must sift through their troubled histories in order to save an injured shuttle crew. "I like them both for their quirkiness and felt I understood them both fairly well," he explains. They do not fit the usual Starfleet "mold." And yet, beneath it all, they have the essential qualities necessary for their jobs. I also picked them because I felt there would be fewer stories submitted that centered on them, while there would be dozens and dozens of Picard stories, Kirk stories, Data stories, etc."
A mathematics professor at the University of Oregon, Wolfe is a member of the Eugene Professional Writer's Workshop and a "long-time and avid reader of both science fiction and fantasy." He says the Strange New Worlds contest presented him with an excellent opportunity to enter the market without competition from established writers. "Even better, I am a long-time Trek fan, so this was a labor of love," he points out, adding that the contest also held out the possibility of "opening doors" at Pocket Books for a Star Trek novel proposal.
Editor Ordover isn't promising the contest winners special treatment, and actually recommends in his afterword to Strange New Worlds that writers consider submitting to magazines like Analog and Fantasy and Science Fiction instead of working on Trek stories. "It's a very limited market," he noted in an interview with Mania earlier this year. Still, he has high praise for the caliber of the writing by the Strange New Worlds authors, and has been promoting them online and assisting them with contacts in the industry.
Phaedra M. Weldon, third-prize winner for "The Lights in the Sky," says she considers herself a writer already "because when attending the 1996 Southwest Writers Conference I heard Dean Wesley Smith say, 'A writer is someone who writes.'" Her story is about Shahna, the former Thrall from "The Gamesters of Triskelion," decades after Kirk's wager freed her people from the Providers.
"I love Trek! It was a wonderful, unbelieveable opportunity," she says of the contest, noting that she has written Star Trek fiction for herself, but never for a fanzine - "I've read them though." A lifelong Trekker from a family of Trekkers, she plans to follow Smith's advice for writers: "Write everyday, regardless, and submit one story a week to a professional market while working on a novel."
Peg Robinson, a legendary fan fiction writer on the alt.startrek.creative newsgroup on the internet, has a story upcoming in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine in addition to the one in Strange New Worlds, and is currently working on a novel. "John Ordover and Dean Wesley Smith have been very friendly and supportive; the chance to learn a bit first-hand about how a book comes together has been just fantastic," she notes of the experience. "I now know a little about editing galleys - and getting them in late. My success in the contest has increased my confidence, and the reaction of other fans has been incredible."
While Robinson's story in Strange New Worlds concerns Captain Picard taking a serious look at the ways the Prime Directive can become an exclusionary law, she is best known among fans for co-writing the Voyager "Talking Stick-Circle" series, and for her prolific posts on a.s.c. about the parameters of fan fiction and writing criticism. "I was trying to think up something for the contest [but] the ideas that I was coming up with for other series were too long, by far -- they all wanted to turn into novels," she admits. "So I asked myself what one topic I really would like to take on, came up with the Prime Directive, and immediately found myself dealing with Picard."
Robinson deems her entry in the contest "sort of a loving and ritual farewell to fanfic," which she labels "sort of a surprising and pleasant scenic detour for me." She credits her writing partner and the friendly fan community with getting and keeping her involved, "and a huge store of things I wanted to deal with in the Trek universe. It seemed the logical thing to do at the time." Still, given her decision to devote herself to completing and submitting projects to magazines and working on her novel, she doesn't foresee writing more Trek stories in the future, though she also doesn't rule it out.
Rogers, however, who has been involved in setting up and maintaining the alt.startrek.creative archives and has been a judge of its annual contests for fan writers (in which Robinson has won awards), says, "I will continue to write fan fiction for the same reasons I always wrote fan fiction. It is true that writing fan fiction does not build your skills for pro fic, and it also takes time away from writing pro fic. I write fan fiction as a social activity and because it is a completely different kind of fiction to pro fiction - I would no more quit doing it because it impairs my ability to write pro than I would quit writing SF because it impairs my ability to write The Great American Novel."
Unlike Wolfe, Robinson and Rogers, Bobbie Benton Hull, who wrote "Together Again For The First Time" for Strange New Worlds, had never submitted a piece of writing to anyone before the contest. A full-time mother with a degree in soil science who was raised in rural Washington, she has trouble finding time to write because her two daughters and herself are heavily involved in 4-H, taking care of eight sheep, six lambs, about 25 rabbits, a dozen chickens, four ducks, a turkey, and a pig. Strange New Worlds was the first writing project she completed, but not the first award she has won in fandom, having gotten costuming prizes at conventions for her Kai Winn outfit.
Hull's story concerns Picard and Guinan's first meeting in San Francisco in the 1890's - a sequel of sorts to the episode "Time's Arrow." Hull credits several high school teachers with cultivating her love of writing, but admits she really didn't think about working at it professionally. She'd started but never finished a novel, and thought writing for the Pocket Books contest would give her "a kick in the backside."
Now, she laughs, "I have never received a rejection notice! I'm one for one, which seems to really put the pressure on for my next project!" She hopes that the anthology publication will make it easier for her to get an agent now that she is working on stories for submission elsewhere. Since Strange New Worlds was her first professional publication, she is also eligible to enter the contest again, which she intends to do.
Craig D.B. Patton, who describes his entry as "a ghost-type horror story done in the Voyager context, also plans to enter the context again next time out. In "Monthuglu," Voyager and its crew encouter a starship graveyard and only one survivor, an alien captain who tells them the anomaly is inhabited by a supernatural force. Though Voyager is not Patton's favorite Trek series, it seemed the best setting for his story.
Though he wrote creatively in college, Patton, the marketing director of a software company, had mostly done business writing for the past several years. He decided he wanted to flex his creative muscles again, and says the contest format gave him "the things I needed: a deadline to work against and the ability to use characters and settings I was already familiar with."
"The result is my first published story," he smiles. "If I can do this after not having written a story in 6 years and holding down a full time job, what might happen if I actually work at it for a bit?"
Jackee Crowell also submitted a Voyager story, about an alien's encounter with the crew and is affected by their influence. "The idea for the story didn't come all at once - it was actually something I began writing because I was blocked on the story I wanted to write for the contest," admits the North Carolina-born customer service technician for a small technical firm.
Crowell is a member of JetC, the large internet Janeway/Chakotay fan organization which currently has over fifteen chapters. "I like the fanfic reading community because it has given me the courage to do some things I would never have had the nerve to do otherwise," she writes. "It directly led me to enter this contest, which has allowed me to realize the beginning of a dream. I can say that I am trying to go pro, and I can also say that I'm happy that if there is a story I really want to tell that fits no place else, newsgroups are there."
If Strange New Worlds sounds like a labor of love for the contributors, the editors say it was for them as well. Editor Smith was a long-time Trek fan who has written several novels with his wife and writing partner, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, while Paula M. Block of Paramount licensing used to work on zines and Ordover has a long history of Trek fandom. In fact, in a section called "Because We Can," Ordover and Block included some of their own Trek fiction (which I am tempted to label "Mary Sue").At the end of the volume, readers can find information for entering the contest for the second anthology, and get a piece of the action themselves. 
Strange New Worlds is the result of a Star Trek short-story contest sponsored by Pocket Books. 371 pages long, it features 18 stories from all four incarnations of Star Trek. Though written by amateurs, the stories had to adhere to pro Trek novelists' standards, in that they could make no major changes in the lives and/or relationships of the characters depicted.
Undoubtedly because of those strictures, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds doesn't have much that's strange - or much that's new, either. Almost any fanzine, and many of the stories available on the Net, include material that's bolder and more speculative. It's still a decent book. Most of the works are fairly well-written, with acceptable characterization and more plot than is common in fan fiction. They're also free of any of the excessive emotionalism, melodrama, or sentimentality that sometimes crops up in amateur ST tales. But, in attempting to avoid the depths to which fanfic can sink, this book for the most part also misses the heights to which it can rise.
A wonderful exception is the grand-prize winner, Landon Cary Dalton's "A Private Anecdote." A story about Captain Pike and how his adventure on Talos IV ("The Cage") affected his life and career, it's intelligent, plausible, and emotionally engaging. Not only is it a worthy winner, but it's also a superb example of character-driven fan fiction. Another exception is Peg Robinson's "The First," which puts Picard in the position of deciding the fate of a woman, and a race, who have just discovered space flight. Robinson demonstrates a real understanding of Picard's and Star Trek's, adventurous spirit. But if you like her work here, you have to check out some of her Voyager tales on alt.startrek.creative. This story is very good. Those are remarkable.
Fairly entertaining stories include Alara Rogers' "Civil Disobedience," Kathy Oltion's "See Spot Run," and Dylan Otto Krider's "What Went Through Data's Mind 0.68 Seconds Before the Satellite Hit" (TNG), and Christina F. York's "Life Lessons" (DS9). Other works are less successful. Second-prize winner Franklin Thatcher's "Of Cabbages and Kings" (TNG), despite an innovative premise, is convoluted and difficult to follow, and Phaedra M. Weldon's third-prize story "The Lights in the Sky" (TOS) tries to pack too much into too small a space. Bobbie Benton Hull's "Together Again for the First Time" (TNG) involves a plot twist that is, bluntly, ridiculous.
The five "Voyager" stories are mostly decent, but not outstanding. J.A. Rosales' "Ambassador at Large" is the best of the group, as "Voyager" encounters a First Federation ship and its human ambassador, Bailey, formerly a crewman on Kirk's Enterprise. The story's entertaining, and the crew is well-characterized, but it's a irritating to see Janeway again comparing her people (and herself) unfavorably to heroes of the past. Jackee C's "I, `Voyager'" seems the most "fannish" of the batch to me, but it has a cool point-of-view character, and I like how it managed to sneak in a J/C element despite contest rules. Though jaQ Andrews' "Fiction" has one of the most unique premises in the book, Janeway and Chakotay are both out of character in the resolution - and Chak being misled by a woman isn't exactly new territory. Patrick Cumby's "Good Night, `Voyager'" has some nice bits, but I figured out the solution to the mystery pages before the crew did. Craig D.B. Patton's "Monthuglu" is the weakest "Voyager" tale. Its most memorable aspect is a very-multiple-first-person point-of-view that's so distracting it's easy to see why it's rarely employed.
Is Strange New Worlds a worthwhile investment for the Voyager fan? Probably not, especially if Voyager is the only Trek you really enjoy. The material isn't distinguished, and there isn't that much of it. If you like the other Treks too (especially TNG, which has the most stories), you'll get a bit more for your money. And that has to be a consideration here, especially since Pocket - for reasons known only to God and Paramount - decided to release the book, not as a $6 paperback, but as a $14 softcover. That's about the price of an average fanzine, and if you want "strange" and "new" that fanzine would probably be a better investment.Side note: besides the contest winners, "Strange New Worlds" also includes stories by two of the judges. John J. Ordover's "The Man Who Sold the Sky" is sentimental and somewhat amateur, but Viacom rep Paula M. Block's "The Girl Who Controlled Gene Kelly's Feet" (which originally appeared in a 1970's TOS fanzine - Block's a longtime fan) is exceptional. Intelligent, insightful, innovative, it manages to be both entertaining and disturbing, and may well be the best piece in the book. It also violates nearly every rule the contestants had to abide by, which tells you something about the real nature - and the real strengths - of fan fiction. 
Reactions and Reviews: Issue 4
Strange New Worlds IV demonstrates that it's time the series got a new editor and relaxed its rules. This volume's about as good as SNWIII, but there are far too many similarities -- too many repeat authors (some of whom surely should be ineligible now under the "amateur" rules of the contest), too many tales with clever structure yet little substance, too many of the same themes over and over. SNW contest judge Dean Wesley Smith might argue that the pieces he included were the best submissions he got, but I know from reading fan fiction on the internet (some by the very same authors) that better Star Trek stories have been written.
The appeal of Strange New Worlds for readers is twofold. Its contents come from fans, who tend to focus on the characters and themes of Star Trek rather than on adventure stories or science fiction gimmicks. Plus the anthologies contain stories spanning all four series plus the films. Given the number of selections in the SNW anthologies that bend or break the contest rules, one wishes Pocket Books would simply open the anthology to submissions including character deaths or flagrant violations of canon, to avoid the sort of stagnancy evident in SNWIV. The rules are supposed to be in place to avoid story cliches like Spock dying in a hurt-comfort scenario, but at this point they're stifling a lot of creativity.
The contest receives thousands of submissions each year, which is one reason it's annoying to find the same writers featured over and over -- not to mention people who pitched unsuccessfully to the Trek shows, which puts their "amateur" status on a whole different level from people writing at home after ten hours working as a nurse. Many fan authors publish rejected submissions on their own web sites or in fanzines; some of the stories that don't make it in are extraordinarily well-written. One starts to wonder whether all the SNWers are writing for love of Trek, or whether most of them are looking for the money, fame and access to agents mentioned in many writer biographies. Any number of professional writers could churn out decent Trek stories; given that they're charging $14.95 a volume for SNW, Pocket Books might as well offer some Hugo- and Nebula-winning writers a chance to take a crack at it.
The good news is that very few of the SNW entries resemble anything one might expect to find in a typical Pocket Books Star Trek novel. E. Catherine Tobler's Ro Laren character study "Flash Point," for instance, has a unique narrative style and manages to create a powerful impression using very few words -- Tobler's is one of the shortest contributions to the anthology yet it's one of the most memorable. By contrast, Ilsa J. Bick's highly stylized Seven of Nine story "Shadows, in the Dark," the second prize winner in this anthology (she won the grand prize in a previous collection for another Seven of Nine-centered story) starts out superbly but starts to drag; metaphors like a planet howling and descriptions of Janeway waving as if dispelling a cloud of gnats don't fit in very well with a sharp storyline about deadly aliens and parallels with a crisis from "Is There In Truth No Beauty."
Many of the entries incorporate elements from more than one Trek series, which makes them fun for long-time fans. In "The Name of the Cat," this year's grand prize winner, Steven Scott Ripley tells a superb McCoy story, but it's set mostly in the Next Generation era and has implications for Picard's life. Lynda Martinez Foley's "Tears For Eternity" brings one of the young Horta from "Devil in the Dark" back into contact with Spock after an encounter with Picard. Foley's offering, Victoria Grant's Kirk story "First Star I See Tonight," Penny A. Proctor's Voyager tale "Uninvited Admirals" and Tonya D. Price's Troi-centered "Prodigal Son" pay welcome attention to the theme of motherhood in the Trek universe; on the series we've gotten lots of stories about characters trying to live up to their fathers while the mothers are largely absent, irrelevant or neglectful (or in the recent case of Q2, all three).
Unfortunately, it's hard for any writer to transcend the limitations of the source material. Pocket Books has been publishing excellent original series spinoff novels for years, but churns out relatively little decent Voyager material. Similarly, Strange New Worlds features a number of terrific early-series stories, but the Voyager offerings are as uneven as the series. Chuck Anderson's "Return," in which Kathryn Janeway drops in on Trevis and Flotter on the holodeck, should be a charming fairy tale, but the childlike quality is ruined for me by Voyager itself -- when I see Janeway alone on a holodeck with fictional characters, I assume she's probably there for sex, and I wouldn't put it past the captain of "Fair Haven" to get it on with Naomi Wildman's imaginary friends. William Leisner's Captain Proton fable "Black Hats" suffers from the limitations of the black-and-white world view (so to speak) of "Bride of Chaotica," and to some extent from comparisons with the Next Gen Moriarty episodes.
Five of the six Voyager stories in this anthology and many from previous collections don't take place in series time or even on the ship, but in alternate realities, on a holodeck or back home on the Earth the crew has left behind. Proctor's "Uninvited Admirals," centering on Gretchen Janeway and Owen Paris, does a fine job with the theme of families waiting for news -- it's a bit reminiscent thematically of an entry in a previous SNW collection, Mary Wiecek's "The Ones Left Behind." But every Trek fan really should go to Proctor's web site and read her opus "Revisionist History", the greatest Voyager story ever told and a prime example of why all rules for the SNW contest should be discarded.
Bill Stuart offers a delightful tale about Q and the Borg Queen that's only tangentially Voyager-based, though it has a great line in which Q sardonically thinks of Seven as Janeway's pet drone. After the unexpectedly moving conclusion of "Iridium-7 Tetrahydroxate Crystals Are a Girl's Best Friend," Diana Kornfeld's predictable Q-ex-machina-gets-them-home story doesn't have the same impact, though "Welcome Home," too, gives Q some great lines, particularly when he thinks Janeway is having a ménage a trois with Chakotay and Mark. I loved Kevin Killiany's "Personal Log," in which the backup EMH from the excellent "Living Witness" contacts his original.
Neither of the collection's Deep Space Nine stories is set in that series' canonical era. Jonathan Bridge's "Captain Proton and the Orb of Bajor," imagined as a radio play, makes Tom Paris' heroic cliché the hero of the wormhole instead of Captain Sisko. Bridge's script is clever and witty, but one really hopes Benny Russell would never sell out in such a manner -- it's unnerving to see Deep Space Nine rewritten as the sort of white-bread story Russell's editors wanted from him on the show. Kevin G. Summers' "Isolation Ward 4," my favorite story in the entire collection, consists of the diaries of Dr. James Wykoff -- the Damar-lookalike physician treating Benny Russell in a mental institution during "Shadows and Symbols." In Summers' period piece, a racist doctor and his family read Russell's stories and evolve into better human beings -- one of Trek's most powerful themes, revisited with grace and passion.
Some of the original series entries are delightful. TG Theodore's "A Little More Action," in which an Iotian lackey shows up with Kirk's cut of the take, has pulp novel dialect and rhythm down perfectly. Pat Detmer turns up a few tribbles "Missed" when Scotty cleaned up the ship. The engineer stars as well in Michael J. Jasper's "Scotty's Song," sharing his love of bagpipes with the whales from The Voyage Home. Fans of the films will also appreciate Robert J. Mendenhall's "Prodigal Father," which re-tells The Wrath of Khan from David's perspective and provides insight into the young man's rejection of his father, Kirk. The most unusual original series story must be Mary Sweeney's "Countdown," narrated by a starship programmed to self-destruct.
The gimmick of the Next Gen offering "Flight 19" may remind Voyager fans overmuch of "The 37s," but Alan James Garbers' story about World War II pilots abducted from Earth by an alien searching for water has a nice retro quality and terrific original characters. "The Promise," Shane Zeranski's Picard-as-Kamin offering, recreates one of Next Gen's best episodes -- "The Inner Light" -- focusing on the conflict between family obligations and longing for adventure among the stars. Jeff Suess' "Seeing Forever," a beautiful family piece set in a place of ancient wonders, didn't have to be a Star Trek story -- it could have been about any family with a child heading for the stars -- yet the tale should appeal to fans of all the shows.This is a strong anthology, but I don't have the compulsive urge to reread the stories over and over as I did the first time I read Bantam Books' The New Voyages. That was a true fan anthology in that it included stories that shattered canon, sappy poetry, even intimations of Kirk/Spock slash. One suspects the Strange New Worlds contest will become stale without changes in editorial policy and staff to vary the contents of each volume. Still, most people reading this review may be able to have an impact on the future of the collections. At the end of SNWIV, readers can find information for entering the contest for the fifth anthology, and get a piece of the action themselves. 
- comment by Susie Bowers, July 18, 1998 at alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated
- comment by Jungle Kitty, July 18, 1998 at alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated
- comments by Mary Ellen Curtin at alt.startrek.creative, September 1998
- Exploring "Strange New Worlds", Archived version
- from Now Voyager #22, here
- Exploring "Strange New Worlds" For the Fourth Time, Archived version