The Fate of the Phoenix
|Title:||The Fate of the Phoenix|
|Creator:||Myrna Culbreath and Sondra Marshak|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: TOS|
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In a Prior Form
From the book jacket: "With the Romulans approaching the boundaries of Federation space and the Klingons threatening to break the Organian peace treaty, Captain Kirk and his crew face a new peril in the person of Omne, the powerful and twisted creator of the Phoenix process."
From Carolyn Kaberline's review at Orion Press: "As this sequel begins, it isn’t long before Kirk and Spock begin to notice a series of "flames" in the galaxy, and while they believe some of these may be nothing more than chance happenings, some appear to have been engineered by Omne himself. Soon Kirk is appointed Ambassador Plenipotentiary of the Federation to preside over the naming of the new Regent of the Voran Dynasty, a world near the Romulan sphere of influence. It is on this isolated planet that all forces come together and the crew of the Enterprise must once again face Omne, the man who triumphed over death. Also on hand are the Romulan commander, who is suspected of treason for joining forces with the Federation on Omne’s world, and a disguised James. While Omne once again holds Kirk prisoner, a deadly ray is released on those gathered there, and many members of the assembly are injured. Spock seems to be severely affected and shows no sign of life; however, Kirk’s pleas cause Omne to resuscitate him. It is at this time that we also find that Omne has created a duplicate of himself—a duplicate that seeks to kill Omne and Spock as well. It is only by joining forces that there is a chance to destroy the duplicate and guarantee the safety of all."
Some Covers from Other Editions
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 Entropy Effect (June 1981)
- 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 (1998-2007; 2016)
Not Canon, and The Hands of TPTB
According to Marshak and Culbreath, Gene Roddenberry and Paramount were concerned that fans would assume the Phoenix novels were canon. They were the first professionally published Star Trek fan-written novels, so this assumption might not be as far-fetched as it sounds.
The authors claimed that Roddenberry had reviewed The Price of the Phoenix but as work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture progressed, turned subsequent reviews over to someone else (Susan Sackett, or possibly future Star Trek Archivist, Richard Arnold?). This unnamed reviewer demanded that James, Kirk's Omne-created doppelganger, must die, because with the film then in production, "there could not be a second, identical, real Kirk left in the Star Trek universe."
This explains the bizarre ending to the second novel; James, now committed to his new life as a Romulan, is about to establish a matrimonial bond with the Romulan commander, when he is teleported to an alternative dimensional planet where Omne has been exiled. Spock and the Commander believe it will be possible to retrieve him, but the novel ends there.
Reactions and Reviews
Re Marshak and Culbreath and The Fate of the Phoenix: I am going to go out on a very shaky limb here. The book had excellent parts to it; the Romulan scenes were beautifully done. Alas—the ladies make one HUGE assumption, which brings us back to my original premise—they start their book exactly where the first one leaves off, which is totally bewildering to the novice reader who picks up the thing at the bookstore because it's with the STAR TREK stuff. A simple prologue would have solved a lot of continuity problems for a lot of people. I'm not even going to go into the philosophical arguments put forth by the characters, except to say that I don't agree with them. And the action becomes so furious that after a while you need a scoreboard to tell who is who, who is a clone, who is Omne, and who has been sucked into the Black Hole. 
I enjoyed the 'Phoenix' books by M. & M., although I thought the plots in both were convoluted with too many subplots and wordiness, besides which their own macho image of the superior male superseded Spock and Kirk's true characterization. At least it was a good attempt to provide some depth and soul searching within the characters' psyches. 
The first K/S story I ever read was Shelter, by Leslie Fish. And believe me, I would have hurled the zine across the room if it been mine to hurl. Aha! But why would I have done it? Not because I didn't believe, but because I did. Before reading Shelter, my only exposure to the notion of K/S had come from the "Phoenix" books, by Sondra Marshak & Myrna Culbreath, and it wasn't the kind of "exposure" I wanted. In short, though I found the books enjoyable overall, I didn't believe what they were trying to tell me between those professionally-written lines. There was something in the Phoenix books that made me squirm — and not in the same way Shelter made me squirm. The Phoenix books made me uncomfortable, argumentative, and downright bitchy whenever I encountered the concept of K/S. Though, like I said, they're great books in and of themselves.
[snipped]In all fairness, of course, perhaps the Phoenix books would have affected me in the same way Shelter did had they been done as fanzines, without the need to write between the lines rather than on the lines. All I know is that reading the Phoenix books originally turned me into what's known nowadays as a "rabid anti-K/Ser". You see, the Phoenix books didn't convince me that Kirk and Spock might be lovers, or at the very least, were involved in some pretty kinky pastimes in the privacy of their own thoughts. Shelter, on the other hand, more than convinced me. And I, a stubborn, starry-eyed, 22-year-old girl, didn't want to be convinced. I kicked and I screamed and I yowled — my heroes wouldn't do this! But... Leslie made me believe they would. She made me know they would by showing me how it was possible - which is the mark of a good writer. (And when I got through kicking, screaming and yowling, I went straight to my friend's zine collection and promptly devoured all the K/S I could get my hands on — which, back in those days, wasn't a lot. But it was enough to get me started on the way to delightful perversion, where I've lived happily ever since...). 
... Every character - and they bear no resemblance to the people we know and love - talks in grand, meaningful terms, full of allegory and bullshit, basically. Marshak and Culbreath epitomize the worst of Star Trek fan fiction: they endow the Kirk/Spock relationship with a depth that is perilously close to that of lovers, making this entire book a thinly veiled description of Spock's infidelity to his captain. Kirk's interaction with Black Omne is more than just mildly homoerotic, and the whole thing comes across as a gay love triangle. In anything other than a Star Trek book, this might have worked: in The Fate of the Phoenix, it makes the book an extremely distasteful and very, very boring waste of time. Avoid this one at all costs. 
On the other hand I have to vehemently disagree with whoever recommended the Phoenix books by Marshall and Culbreath (sp?) These were/are truly awful and what is more they are not awful by accident. Unlike (say) [T]he Patrian Trangression, which is merely dull and badly written, the Phoenix books have a lush and exotic awfulness that can only the the product of great effort. This is not awfulness by mistake, this is awfulness that was striven for, they meant it to be like this and *this* is truly terrible. For a start their prose is so over wrought you could bounce pennies off it like an army bed and for a finish both authors are smitten by "ol hazel eyes", both have a sadistic streak a mile wide and neither have any built-in sense of the ridiculous so that both books read like a cross between a cheap gothic romance and a pulp 50's scifi without any of the fun of either. I finished it feeling faintly grubby.... I love K/S...and I love H/C and I still hate this book. I think it is the relentless sadism, physical and mental... it's the S without the M that turns my stomach. That and the lack of self-knowledge by the authors, much of what they write is by any standards ludicrous and they either don't know or don't care that what they write is so relentlessly flavoured with sexualised violence as to be (to me at least) embarrassing. Sort of like watching your maiden aunts throw their knickers on stage at a Tom Jones concert. YMMV of course. 
I am not a big fan of K/S stuff. Mainly because I'm not much of a M/M fan. But when I heard about the Phonix books I went out and bought them and I read them both in one sitting. I looked, and looked hard, and the funny thing is, I never saw anything other than a profound friendship in those books (gee, thats gonna get me flamed), and I looked hard. The Phonix books are not my favorite, but they are by far the best Star Trek books I have ever read. When I want to curl up with an old friend I break out Uhura's Song, Dreams of the Raven, The Three Minute Universe. or Dreadnought and Battlestations. But the Phonix books are a very different kind of story. I don't like to read them because I don't have the stomach for that much violence. The story is H/C, but more of a four way H/C story in many ways. And the people get hurt really bad.
I'm reviewing both [The Price of the Phoenix and "The Fate of the Phoenix] together -- (Slashy, strange story in which Kirk must battle a superman named Omne who progressively gains the skills of his opponents.) Includes the Romulan commander from "The Enterprise Incident," like all good slash. Kirk gets cloned and she keeps the clone as an, uh, body servant. The worst thing about these books is the elliptical, "insider" dialogue, which no sane person save the authors could make heads nor tails of. Yes, I was harsh because I wrote this during my little anti-slash period. Not all slash features the Romulan commander, after all. But I still think they suck. 
Their novels, _Price of the Phoenix_ and _Fate of the Phoenix_, are explicit slash, but written in code so that if you don't know you're looking at slash, you don't see it (you just get confused as hell). If you do know it's slash . . . well I got through exactly 3 and a half pages of _Fate of the Phoenix_ the last time I had a go at it. The cognitive dissonance was too fucking much. They may have thought what they were doing was very clever; I just got a headache. 
Fate Of the Phoenix was the only ST book that I bought and didn't get through. Just seemed like way too much mind meld!
Oh no, please. Another monumental fan-fiction release by the hellish fan authors Sondra & Myrna. Extremely awful, I absolutely hated it all the way. Made me think twice about doing this whole Star Trek reading project, but I’m sure that the rest of the the authors are nowhere so absolutely hateful.
The books carry on and on in endless dialogs, internal angst and anguish in very long long diatribes and philosophical musings. Action is very very thin and the plot is difficult to follow. Their fan adoration is served thickly all throughout, and it would not be so horrible if they would not try to pair up Kirk with Spock in horryfing thinly veiled “slash”, not to mention the extreme violence and fetishism. The characters are NOWHERE near what they would normally say or do, and seem like twisted sock puppets being forced to perform.
This book was only printed because they had already previously published, and sold to unsuspecting fans, their badly written trash passing it on as a Star Trek stories. I’m sure it would not pass muster on any current publishing house.This was the absolute worst of the whole Star Trek collection. The authors did keep on writing tons and tons of fan-fiction, but fortunately those have not been officially published. Stay away from these authors!!
...Really, it got to the point I just didn't care anymore. I really didn't care for this book at all. I rarely find a book that I just don't like. I never give up on a book so I read it to the end. But it's unfortunately because I think there are a lot of interesting bits but they were just left hanging. And Omne had a lot of potential, but there were too many loose threads. Not only his history but his motives were hard to discern as well. Why was he trying to destabilize the quadrant? He seemed like a much different character in the past, what changed? He's apparently a Romulan but how does he fit in with the Romulan Empire? And sometimes he is helping the heros (Kirk, Spock, the Commander) and other times he's trying to kill them. And the motives of the Other aren't well developed either. Why couldn't they join forces? Why can't they co-exist, they'd be stronger together. Other than some vague plotlines that Omne basically couldn't stand having his 'other self' roaming the galaxy there's no real resolution there. Maybe others have a different take. I just found the story overly complicated in some areas and I found poor development in other areas. I found it a chore to read. 
It often seems that sequels are nothing more than pale imitations of the original; however, that is definitely not the case with this novel. During the course of the book, not only do we catch a glimpse of life and intrigue in the Romulan Empire, we also find in Omne a villain extraordinaire. At the same time, however, we see him in the role of the tragic hero whose fatal flaw is his hubris in making a duplicate of himself—a duplicate with his own agenda. We again see Kirk in the role of the "son of moral certainty" as he faces an enemy who has cruelly defeated him and with whom he must now join forces if he is to survive.While the characters are all familiar to us, we see new depth to their portrayals as they face a world where death is not necessarily final and learn to cope with all that it means. While this book can be read as a stand alone novel, it works best as a continuation of the story begun in The Fate of the Phoenix. But either way, the recommendation is the same: give it a try and you won’t be disappointed. 
- Full review at Orion Press.
- Jeff Ayers, Star Trek: Voyages of Imagination (Pocket, 2006).
- See also this in-depth interview with Richard Arnold regarding his attitudes and philosophies on Star Trek, particularly his view of canon re the tie-in novels and what he thinks of Interstat and other fanzines. Very enlightening.
- from Interstat #21
- from Bev L in Interstat #71 (1983)
- by Alexis Fegan Black in K/S 101: an essay on the techniques & tricks of writing K/S (August 1993)
- by Craig Hinton in "TV Zone Issue 64"
- The Patrian Transgression, an official fan novel by Simon Hawke published in 1994, has Kirk and a landing party visiting a world where telepathic police monitor everyone's thoughts. Naturally, there's a resistance movement, etc. This book has been described as a standard TOS episode; not great, but okay.
- comment by Parkin Pig at alt.startrek.creative, August 1, 1996
- comment by Brian K. Bragg at alt.startrek.creative, August 1, 1996
- Pro Book Reviews, by Hypatia Kosh, 2000
- comment by Hypatia Kosh at alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated
- comment by Julie at alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated
- Review: The Fate of the Phoenix at Reading Star Trek, April 4, 2013.
- Star Trek: The Fate of the Phoenix by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath (1979), review by Damian in "Trek Literature" discussion on Trek BBS, dated January 28, 2019, with many comments.
- Read the full review by Carolyn Kaberline at Orion Press