Triangle (Star Trek pro book)

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You may be looking for the 1985 meta essay about the relationship between Spock and Christine Chapel, and Spock and Uhura: Triangle.

Title: Triangle
Creator: Myrna Culbreath & and Sondra Marshak
Date(s): March 1983
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Language: English
External Links:

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Triangle is a Star Trek pro novel written by Myrna Culbreath & and Sondra Marshak.

front cover

Summary

From the book jacket: "Kirk's soul... Spock's life A dark plan has been unleashed in the galaxy, a design so vast, only a collective – and ruthless – mind like the Totality could have conceived it. Now Captain Kirk must battle the seductive force of the Totality's will. It was reasonable that Captain Kirk and Federation Free Agent Sola Than would fall in love. But no reasoning in the universe could have foreseen the tragedy of Spock's own passion for the same woman. Now this unimaginable conflict could cost Captain Kirk his very soul, and bring death to the proud Vulcan. But in the unimaginable lies their only chance, and the freedom of the galaxy depends on the outcome of the... Triangle."[1]

Star Trek: TOS Pro Books with Fan Connections

Reactions and Reviews

1983

Their latest, TRIANGLE, is again a mixture of silly pseudo-philosophies and ideas whose consequences have not been thought out. [2]
I can't understand why many fans do not like this book. The reviews I have read and friends' comments all bring it down, but I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

For me, Marshak and Culbreath are two of the best Trek writers, their understanding of the characters and their inter-relationships in my opinion is second to none. In this book that comes out to the full and weaved into an absorbing plot which includes Spock in Pon Farr and Kirk falling in love with the only woman that can save Spock's life - it is the setting for some pretty in-depth character analysis.

The plot itself is rather involved but includes all the ingredients of a Marshak
 and Culbreath recipe ie galactic conquering, bad guys, seemingly impossible feats of strength and endurance by our heroes and the flashback rememberances to previous missions and events which for me not only enhance the story but give it
 the feel of real Trek.

Add to this the comedy and all the pure Trek touches such as "I'm a doctor, not a magician" and in my opinion you have the type of story Trek is all about. After all were not many of the 79 episodes and both movies littered with either a sweet talking Kirk or a First Officer forever pulling a rabbit out of his Vulcan hat? For me this novel captures that feeling and I would recommend it heartily.

My only reservation is to the final outcome which is fairly unimaginative, but the rest of the book more than makes up for this and I suggest if you haven't already bought a copy then at least borrow one, it's worth reading. [3]
If you want to see a K/S relationship between the accepted real Trek characters I think Marshak and Culbreath are the ones I've read who are consistent with aired and movie Trek. Their new novel Triangle could so easily and acceptably become K/S still being consistent with aired Trek. They just don't write the K/S scenes in because the book is going to the general public which may not be ready for that.[note 1] But, yes, I can see the "real" K and S enter into a lover relationship. The only possible difference between theirs and the idealistic stories of K/S is that I really think theirs would be somehow more peculiar than what we read — at least at first. No relationship is the same as someone else's. Their's would be strange to say the least, and I don't see it as ideal, at least in the beginning stages for them. [4]
Just read Triangle by Marsha and Culbreath. I have liked all their books, especially The Price of the Phoenix and its sequel. For pro work they really have an amazing amount of pain and suffering, although the cause for which they suffer is such a worthy one like saving the galaxy, it is acceptable. [snipped] More than h/c, the Marshak and Culbreath stories seem to be more like shared hurt. Triangle was the 1st such story with a really strong woman character Sola Thane, who in the end, was stronger than both K & S and only she could save them and possibly the universe by sacrificing herself. A nice change from Kirk always doing it! I cried when she had to leave them to go with the Totality. The plots in their stories have been good SF ones. [5]
I didn't think Sola Thane was so great. I thought she was just another glorified Mary Sue -- or is that redundant? More sophisticated than your run-of-the-mill Mary Sue, but nothing more than that. I don't mean to say that I didn't like "Triangle" 'cuz actually, I did enjoy it. The ideas in it and the plot really weren't too bad but -- who WHERE those guys wearing Kirk's and Spock's clothes? [6]

1984

At this point, I know of six pro Trek novels that I consider better than most fan fiction, and four that I think are better than the best fan fiction. You've been reading mediocre stuff or your taste and mine are totally at variance. I suspect so because I think that Yesterday's Son is contrived and therefore badly written. If it were not for the content which gives me a sentimental attachment to the book, I would rate it below mediocre books like Corona, because it's inept. Corona is at least decent hack work. Crispin has a way to go before she's a competent writer, but she does have a sense of characterization even if she has none for plotting. This is a sign of hope for the future because my favorite pro Trek novel was written by a pair that started off as much worse writers than Crispin, and they've come so many light years beyond their first efforts that it is mind-boggling. The Phoenix novels had potential for some of their ideas, but their plotting and characterization was so atrocious that it was hard to believe they had gotten published. Because I was interested in Marshak and Culbreath's ideas, I kept reading them hoping they'd improve. The Prometheus Design was somewhat better, but still not a good novel.

Then came Triangle, and I was staggered. It was so excellent. I still consider it the best Trek novel published thus far. I admit the fact that it deals with a sexual triad raises it in my estimation. There are very few good books about triads that aren't fatally marred by jealousy and this is the best one I've seen. Triangle is on my top ten favorite novels too. It also ought to be pointed out that Marshak and Culbreath have always had a strong sense of the K/S bond. Their books have been the closets to K/S in spirits of all the pro Trek novels and Triangle is no exception. Other pro Trek novels that have impressed me are "The Search for Spock" [novelization], My Enemy, My Ally, and The Final Reflection. All these are better than the best fan fiction. "The Tears of the Singers" and The Wounded Sky are better than most fan fiction. So is Yesterday's Son for that matter. [7]

I am going to do the right thing by humanity and warn you to avoid one of Timescape's newest excuses for a Star Trek novel. You might as well save the $2.50. 1 found the book to be pompous, full of unfaithful characterizations, with a Mickey Mouse plot and convoluted dialogue. I was never really sure of what was going on, or why. Reading the book made me feel like I was being talked down to. I feel snobbish intellectualism has no place in Star Trek I can not testify under oath about the plot, but 1 did figure out a few things. A "dark plan" has been unleashed and our heroes must make the galaxy safe once again. There are two "collective minds" or futuristic Reverend Moon types called the Oneness and the Totality who are fighting each other to dominate the rest of everything. It was never fully explained (or at least not in English) what these "collective minds" are. Sola Thane's inclusion in the book is never clearly justified and she is a major character! It seems her only purpose is so that Kirk and Spock can have someone to fall in love with, which they do immediately. The two of them spend an inordinate amount of time being noble, denying their "love" for Sola Thane and stepping aside for one another.

[snipped]

The three main characters. Kirk, Spock, and Sola, are traipsing about the landscape getting into all sorts of trouble. Captain Kirk is nearly pulverized by a giant snake. Spock is playing king-of-the-hill with what the authors so cleverly call, "man-things". It is here, in the face of danger, that our intrepid band reunites. After a day of fun-filled activities, the trio retires for a cozy night in a cave. Following an evening of inane conversation, they decide to walk into the Totality's headquarters, situated in the middle of an active volcano. Shades of "Moonraker". The next big scene is where the bad guy has our two "heroes" on the edge of a cliff. With only one that Sola can save, we have Kirk yelling, "Save Spock" and Spock yelling, "Save Kirk". The book ends with Sola Thane and Soljenov running off into the sunset, while the Enterprise crew beams back to the ship with the volcano exploding in the background. Fade out...

On the front of the book was proudly claimed in 3/4" bold white letters, "A BREATH TAKING NEW STAR TREK NOVEL"... I kept referring to those words to remind myself it was really Star Trek. At least on Dragnet they changed the names to protect the innocent. The trouble with the characters in Triangle is: they're not real. Not even the ones who have familiar names.

They're so far out that customs would turn them back at the border of the Twilight Zone. I can't help but wonder what would happen if these characters were strangers and not well-known? The authors missed the main objective: To get the reader to care about and identify with the characters. I sure didn't on both counts.

The Spock that Leonard Nimoy portrayed was kind of a stuffed shirt. Therefore, this Mr. Spock was lucky he wasn't arrested for impersonating a Starfleet officer and a Vulcan. Even if we buy the fact that Spock could jump in bed with Sola Thane, I just can't buy the fact he would lie there in bed and watch the woman get dressed with a gleam in his eye. Now, I ask you, is that the Spock we all know?

It certainly isn't the one I know.

The blurb on the back of the novel said, "It was reasonable that Captain Kirk and Federation Free Agent Sola Thane would fall in love." Yeah... The whole book was written with the idea that anything the authors wanted was reasonable. I hate to tell you, it doesn't work that way. Writing from that point of view is called "Mary Sueism."

I once read: "Make Kirk, Spock, and company real and vivid, reacting as all the readers know they will react. Mary Sue must fit into the world of the Enterprise and not the other way around; and if she does not fit, transfer her off the ship and start all over again." This was from an article written by Kendra Hunter, who was examining ST fan fiction. Triangle IS Mary Sueism at its worse. The type of man that the Captain portrayed on TV and in the movies didn't fall in love with a woman at the drop of a space helmet. He chased and he had his fun, but the women he fell in love with were strong and had a purpose.

[snipped]

An author must understand human nature to be successful at characterization. These authors don't understand human nature in general, much less understand the nature of the Star Trek people, who were doing things and saying things no self-respecting Star Trek character would do or say. For that matter, I would be willing to bet a credit to a starship, no real person would. These characters' only motivation to act was that the writers told them to. A case in point is the relationship between Spock and Sola Thane. Before I knew what had happened, he had gotten her in bed. There was nothing to justify the relationship. And how's this for great dialogue between her and Spock? '"Spock, I am a lesson in philosophy. I am possibly the only lesson you still needed to learn. That is what your body knew in the clearing. That is what it knows now. And that is what will kill you if you do not finally break out of that box.'" Huh?

The theme should be expressible in one word; or at most, one sentence. If not, you don't know what you want to write about. ST: TWOK had a strong theme. An old Chinese proverb sums it up nicely: "When you seek revenge you must first dig two graves, one of them for yourself." I did not see any theme in Triangle... Other than the authors wanted to sleep with Kirk and Spock. They succeeded with Spock this time. Want to bet Kirk gets slept with next time?

The best thing about the plot was page 189 (there are only 188). Plotting is a matter of one thing leading to another in a coherent manner. There's nothing coherent about this plot. The end of the book looks like the authors got tired of writing or maybe the last pages went down the garbage disposal. But more likely, the authors wanted an excuse for "writing" another book. The end of the novel was reminiscent of the end of "V - Part One". There was a conclusion with the right side winning some sort of a small battle, but with the wrong side still retaining the upper hand. There is nothing wrong with that sort of ending, but on top of everything else that is the last straw.

You might be able to find it in your heart to forgive the authors, if you didn't know this was their fourth book. And I hate to tell you they haven't learned a damn thing.

Now really, don't you have better things to do with your time; like dig worms or chase parked cars, if nothing else?! [8]

1990

It was a promising idea but degenerated to the usual "Let's beat Kirk up and see if Spock will rescue him whilst delving deep into the emotions of both." [9]

1993

I would highly recommend a mainstream commercially published novel called 'Triangle' by Marshak and Culbreath. In this one, K and S both fall for a fascinating alien woman whose very presence causes S to go into Pon Farr. Each man sacrifices himself for his friend by encouraging him to sleep with her, so they both end up sleeping with her. It's very slashy by implication. Both men are jealous and the atmosphere seethes with barely controlled lust among all three members of the triangle... seriously, 'Triangle' is great. [10]

1995

Triangle was a very good and gripping book, but suffered from the premise that nothing in the situation of the Enterprise personnel must change. It was a let-down, but nevertheless this had all the makings of a triangular love story (_not_ a menage a trois, because none of them could sustain a family life). It was clear that Kirk would give an arm and a leg for Spock to be happy, and it is also clear that Kirk was the most important person Spock had ever come near to. The woman (and quite a woman, too) loved them both, intensely, but she also loved her work, and her priorities were incompatible with life on the Enterprise. [11]

2003

I just finished reading their _Triangle_ -- in part because someone here mentioned that they liked it, and I enjoyed it enormously. Sure, it was obvious that this was the sort of Trek book that fan reviewers (especially fan reviewers who don't like fanfic) would have torn to pieces as "femmefan wish fulfillment." But I found it enormously fun, like a trashy romance novel or a soap opera. There's a character in there who is basically Super Mary Sue (though I actually kinda liked her),[12] and she, Kirk and Spock spend way too much time babbling redundantly about their relationships with each other, but given that most Trek pro-novels go the other way, with endless reams about ion particles and theta radiation and anti-matter-wap-core-phaser-photon-velocity crap at the expense of anything to do with the characters, I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. On a recent ski-excursion with my husband, I spent most of my time in the lodge reading this book (I'm not that athletic), and I liked it so much that I ferreted out a copy of _Fate of the Phoenix_, which I am finding to be enjoyable in the same "guilty pleasure" way. But yes, I can certainly see where it would be considered a poor piece of writing -- especially compared to seriously good fanfic. [13]
What is so terrible about this one? "Farcical melodrama" truly sums it up. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy meet a Starfleet secret agent. Kirk, Spock, and the agent fall madly, deeply, passionately in love - in less than five minutes. And, my friends, this is a love without boundaries, destined for each from years back. The agent was fated for Kirk, but Spock needs a lover to survive pon farr, but Spock is conflicted because she's Kirk's woman, but Kirk is willing to sacrifice her for Spock, and oh my God it just goes on and on like that, enough to nauseate even those with the strongest stomachs. And keep in mind that this one takes place shortly after V-ger; so the reader is stuck with a mental image of Bad Hair Kirk playing the seducer. Yuck and double yuck. As if that wasn't enough, we are forced to deal with the same hyperbolic descriptions of Kirk and Spock we got in the authors' Phoenix series. Spock is the Supreme Vulcan Male, you see, and while Kirk is Supreme Human Male, he must still be tenderly protected by Spock from the Big Bad Universe. This melodrama was, somehow, tolerable in the Phoenix novels. After less than a hundred pages of this one, though, my eyeballs hurt so much from all the rolling that I had to take an Advil.[14]

In K/S, faithfulness is a big issue because the mind-meld of a full bond demands it. So Kirk and Spock do a lot of dancing around the issue--they sleep together, but is Kirk really ready to give up his randy ways and be monogamous with Spock? Usually, the desire for a full bond causes him to go for it. There are a few mirror-universe stories in which Kirk is then unfaithful and gets punished terribly for it. But for the most part you never see Kirk screwing around or Spock getting jealous about it, in the zines I have read.

I would highly recommend a mainstream commercially published novel called 'Triangle' by Marshak and Culbreath. In this one, K and S both fall for a fascinating alien woman whose very presence causes S to go into PonFarr. Each man sacrifices himself for his friend by encouraging him to sleep with her, so they both end up sleeping with her. It's very slashy by implication. Both men are jealous and the atmosphere seethes with barely controlled lust among all three members of the triangle.

... seriously, 'Triangle' is great. [15]

2005

I absolutely could not put down "Triangle." I loved every trashy, kinky, slashy, Mary Sue-filled page of that book. [16]

2014

...same authors as the Phoenix books. It has K & S fall for the same woman but I swear, she is SUCH an obvious homosexual conduct. [17]

2016

There is one thing, and one thing only that is good about this Star Trek novel. It’s the last one written by Marshak and Culbreath... Once again, this one seems as nothing more than an excuse to write some shoddy fan fiction. One could argue that all the Star Trek novels are fan fiction, as they aren’t considered canon, but there are levels of professionalism and solid writing in others that is lacking here....

They may have some good science fiction ideas, but their designs and intentions to push the characters outside of themselves to fit into the authors’ stories distracts from any real story they may want to tell.

In today’s day and age, I’m sure they would be writing slash fan fiction on a website somewhere, and it still boggles my mind that Paramount and Pocket Books okayed this book, or their others, to be published.

It really is like no one at either company read their work, they just wanted another Star Trek book on the shelves to rake in some more cash. Instead of treating the franchise with respect, something that took a long time to happen, they simply wanted a cash flow from the fans who would buy something with the Star Trek name on it.

Thankfully the next one looks a little better, in fact, it was the first Star Trek novel to hit the bestsellers list, which should hopefully let us forget that this one and their others were ever written.

Ugh.[18]

Undated

[mid-2000s?]: Captain Kirk has been ordered to take Ambassador Gailbraith and a contingent of New Humans to Zaran, a planet recently unreachable because of a zone of mysterious disappearances. While passing through this Marie Celeste sector, Spock detects a one-man spacecraft on the surface of Cephalus IV, a marginally habitable class M planet.

All the meanwhile, Gailbraith and his New Human associates have been taking over the minds of Kirk’s crew, bringing them into the Oneness they want to bring to the galaxy. Gailbraith even touches Kirk’s mind while saving him from drowning in the ship’s swimming pool.

Uhura detects a signal from a Free Agent, a sort of 007 Federation super agent to whom every Starfleet and Federation vessel must answer. Kirk and Spock beam down to the surface of Cephalus IV and rescue the Free Agent Sola Thane in a scene which has so much dialogue and discussion that it’s almost laughably reminiscent of all the battles from Dragonball Z wherein the characters talk to and threaten each other as much as they actually fight. It’s totally distracting, quite unbelievable, and so typical of much of the rest of this book.

James T. Kirk is a man of action, not of incessant talk, especially when action is needed. This is not to say Kirk is not a deeply introspective character (we’ve seen that he is), but he knows not to be so self-absorbed during a crisis. Unfortunately, the authors do not seem to understand that. In every battle, crisis, physical confrontation, they go to extremes to have Kirk and Spock and Sola discuss every single possible nuance of the infinite permutations of the situation.

The resolution doesn’t exist. The characters just agree to part ways, although it could be said that Gailbraith actually experiences character growth. The solution of a Kirk-Spock-Sola triangle seems unthinkable to our heroes, and one can’t understand all the sturm und drang of the physical and metaphysical crises because it’s all lost in extraneous dialogue.

It makes for a very sorry read." [19]

2020

Hey, guys. Don’t even bother reading this blog post. It’s bad. I said everything I need to say about Marshak and Culbreath when reviewing The Prometheus Design and this is just me flailing around to reach a word count with nothing new to say.

After reading The Prometheus Design and the first half of this book, I’ve come to a conclusion.

Marshak and Culbreath hate the Star Trek that was written, produced, and broadcast in the 1960s and there’s no point in trying to read their books if you enjoyed it.

[snipped]

Marshak and Culbreath were titans in the early Star Trek fan scene, running zines, organizing events, writing reams of fan fiction, etc. The thing is, you never see any of this adoration for the property in their licensed writing.

With The Prometheus Design and Triangle, the authors seem to have gotten paid for some sort of AU version of the property, one in which all of the charm and humanity of our favorite characters was replaced with aggressive, unpleasant sexual tension.

I’ll put it simply: these women are horny. In fact, they may have been hornier than Gene Roddenberry, who, as you know, was horny to the detriment of his work, his relationships, and his health. It’s not a fun horniness that permeates their work, though. It’s a cruel take on sexuality that just doesn’t fit in with Star Trek.

With their earlier Pocket novel, they at least established that things in the galaxy were getting weird and that our characters were undergoing a mental assault that led to some odd behavior. Here, it seems like Culbreath and Marshak simply chose to ignore what’s canonically presented on-screen so they could explore their kinks and proclivities. Ignoring the characters and tone of the franchise you are writing for defeats the point of writing for that franchise.

[snipped]

Short version: bad novel, bad writers, glad to have written this so I can close the book on them forever.[20]

Notes & References

Notes

  1. ^ Rumors circulated for decades that Marshak and Culbreath had written K/S scenes for all four of their published novels, available only to their inner circle. Therin of Andor mentions this in a 2010 trekbbs discussion and again in 2013. In 2016, David Gerrold confirmed the existence of "distinctly pornographic" chapters, "left out when the book was published, but which they privately distributed."

References

  1. ^ A fan using the handle "Sileya lek_Thun", writing in 1998, cited this cover blurb in part of a discussion on "K/S Slip in Pro Novel" and said "You know how I mentioned that the book "Triangle" seemed to be very slashy? Well, guess who wrote it...none other than Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath. Imagine that." K/S Slip in Pro Novel, Usenet alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated, dated August 21, 1998.
  2. ^ from Joan V in Interstat #67
  3. ^ from Beta-Niobe, August 1983
  4. ^ from K/S & K.S. (Kindred Spirits) #5 (June 1983)
  5. ^ from K/S & K.S. (Kindred Spirits) #5 (June 1983)
  6. ^ from K/S & K.S. (Kindred Spirits) #6 (1983)
  7. ^ from K/S & K.S. (Kindred Spirits) #11 (1984)
  8. ^ from Legends of Light #2
  9. ^ from IDIC #8
  10. ^ comment at Virgule-L by E (June 8, 1993)
  11. ^ comment on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (November 18, 1995)
  12. ^ Sondra Marshak reportedly based Sola on Modesty Blaise, a James Bond-like competent woman character who is often labeled a Canon Sue.
  13. ^ comment by Chris at alt.startrek.creative.erotica.moderated
  14. ^ "Farcical Melodrama", review by amazon.com user jrmspnc at amazon.com's page for Triangle dated Sept. 21, 2003.
  15. ^ comments by EB, from Virgule-L, quoted with permission (June 8, 1993)
  16. ^ 2005 comment at ASCEML
  17. ^ a fan's comment at Star Trek book recs, November 2014
  18. ^ Timothy Rideout and Sue Maynard, review of Star Trek: Triangle at The Mind Reels, 2016-04-27: WebCite
  19. ^ from Randy Landers at Orion Press
  20. ^ Kevin Church, I couldn’t finish Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath’s “Triangle” and I only feel a little bad about that., Archived version, blog post in They Boldly Wrote, July 27, 2020.