Yesterday's Son

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Title: Yesterday's Son
Creator: Ann Crispin
Date(s): 1983
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Language: English
External Links:

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Yesterday's Son is a Star Trek: TOS pro book written by A.C. Crispin.

front cover

Series

Summary

From the book: "The Romulans attack the planet Gateway, where Federation scientists are studying the Guardian of Forever – the mysterious portal to the past. The starship Enterprise must protect the Guardian – or destroy it. But Spock has already used the portal to journey to the past. On the planet Sarpeidon, 5,000 years ago, Spock knew a beautiful, primitive woman. Now he has gone back to meet his son!"

Another, more lengthy plot summary is at Memory Alpha.

Some of Journey to Publication as Per Jacqueline Lichtenberg

For a time, Bantam allowed fans to submit ST novels, and though many were successful, for some reason they abandoned that policy and went to allowing only established professional writers to supply novels. Many widely read sf/f authors contributed to the body of work.

Paramount wanted to keep control of the content of the published ST novels. They even issued strict guidelines to be used by authors before they wrote a word. I believe the reason was the intense popularity of these novels and the deep seated urge by fans of the show to add in their own vision of where the ST story should go.

Roddenberry and Paramount wanted to direct the story-line so that what was published in the books didn't contradict or steal the thunder from what they planned to do next on screen, for example developing the Vulcan background in just a certain way and not other ways.

This "write-to-formula" method of producing TV spinoff books demotes them to the level of Nancy Drew -- children's books written by many authors all using the same byline. Fans generally find this disatisfying when compared to fanfic.

During this period of strict adherence to guidelines, I was approached by a fan at a convention in Virginia one summer. She was married, pregnant with her first child, and she had written a ST novel she desperately wanted to submit. But she'd never written anything and had no agent. I didn't think that novel could be any good, but I took the manuscript home.

It was absolutely dynamite!

Alas, in the MS state, there was no way it would get past the slush readers because it violated the guidelines then in force. The ending was a particular problem because it changed the ST universe permanently.

I agonized, but finally I wrote to her that she had to change the ending and adjust several points in the MS to make that ending "work" in order to conform to the formula imposed by Paramount. I told her that if she could do that I would personally agent the book for her. I knew that what I was asking would "ruin" the book -- blunt the emotional impact, distort the artistic integrity. But I also knew it would never be read if these changes weren't made.

Without argument, she sent me back a perfectly re-constructed manuscript and we signed an agenting contract as a one-shot deal so I could present the book. On one of my own trips into Manhattan to see my editors, I stopped off and hand-delivered her MS, had a nice chat with the editor about how special this novel was -- and left, certain the book would be bought.

It was.

The title is Yesterday's Son by A. C. Crispin who has gone on to found an entire career on writing TV and film spinoffs, none of which I've agented. Yesterday's Son was a NYTimes Bestseller. [1]

Mentioned in the Forward

A number of people are acknowledged in the book's forward. Among them are:

  • Flamingo is referred to as the Red Queen. [2] "O'Malley, the Red Queen, ("Who cares, Ann? Nobody cares about a dumb detail like that; it doesn't advance the story. Out! Off with its head!"), who is a terrific editor -- but don't ask her to spell..."
  • Jacqueline Lichtenberg "not only a good writer, but also a kind and gracious person who goes out of her way to help others get a start..."

Other Star Trek: TOS Pro Books with Fan Connections

Reactions and Reviews

A 1983/1984 Discussion in Interstat

From Ann Crispin, the author:

Today I learned that a group called the "Association for Readable Trek" (ART) has proposed a boycott of all professionally-published Star Trek fiction in time for Christimas, "83. As one of Timescape's new crop of "fan-oriented" writers (my Star Trek novel. Yesterday's Son, will be the next release by Timescape), this suggestion disturbed me profoundly. I would like Lisa Wahl and Julia Ecklar to know that I sympathize with their frustration over some of the published Trek books over the years. Yet in promoting a boycott of Trek fiction, they may well be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, for I have it on good authority (the Timescape editors) that Paramount at long last has relaxed the strictures levied against would-be Star Trek writers, allowing them more latitude to experiment with and create in the Trek universe. This increased latitude in theme and structure can result in nothing but more creative, better, and more fan-oriented published Trek. Melinda Murdock's Web of the Romulans is an excellent example. I found it to be well-written, fast-paced, recognizable Star Trek. The characters were perfectly in accord with aired Trek. It is a matter of record that a recent issue of Starlog carried a statement from the Timescape editors saying that many new faces will be featured in the upcoming books, as well as some of the better-known fan-oriented writers, in particular, Howard Weinstein. Let's give Timescape a chance to make good on their stated commitment to improve the quality of the pro Trek novels! My own novel, Yesterday's Son, is definitely a fan-written story. I wrote it originally for my own amusement, with no thought of publication in mind. Its theme is one that has been done many times in fan fiction — and the fact that Timescape and Paramount would allow a story of this type to be published augers well for the future. (As to what the story is about, the title is a strong hint. More than that must wait for publication.) I've been a die-hard Star Trek fan since the third aired episode, and I think those who read my story will be able to tell that it was written by someone who loves Trek and did her damndest to produce a story in keeping with aired Trek. Thanks, Teri, for allowing me to express myself on the proposed boycott. I hope the readers of INTERSTAT (including Lisa and Julia) will like my story and give Timescape a chance to carry through their good intentions. I'd love to hear from you after Yesterday's Son is released (August), as to whether you (and your readers) felt I succeeded. [3]
From Deborah A. M:
...fans who refuse to buy this summer's Star Trek books will be missing a real treat: YESTERDAY'S SON, by A.C. Crispin. I had the pleasure of reading this book in manuscript, and it is a truly good novel by any standards. Star Trek or otherwise. It combines an intriguing premise, believable characters (both familiar and new), and warp-paced action into a well-written story that never lags. (It's the Haagen-Dazs hot fudge banana split with real whipped cream extravaganza, folks! I should add, it's the fans who bought Star Trek books (even the bad ones) in the past, proved there's a market for them, who have given this talented new writer the chance to break into publishing. And we're all going to win, with a great read this summer. [4]
From Brian L:
Add A.C. Crispin's YESTERDAY'S SON to my canon. This is not only an A-l, top-notch, well-written novel, it's pure STAR TREK. Logical, well-paced, with all our favorite characters (no artificial substitutes), this is a perfect example of what ST novels should be and should be given as a primer (along with Weinstein, Mclntyre and the Great Bird) to all aspiring authors. [5]
From Mark C. H:
This book is good. Some of the glimpses of the characters "after hours" are precious, and nothing seemed jarring or out of place. All in all, the work of Ann Crispin here is first-rate fiction, and I've gone and bought three copies just to show my appreciation to Ann and to Pocket Books. I'm very happy. And I never would have read this were it not for INTERSTAT.... I was happy indeed. Just think! A fanzine in paperback. [6]
From Linda C. B:
I've finished reading Ann Crispin's "Yesterday's Son," and loved it. I realize that nothing will appeal to everyone in Trekdom, but for me, this has to be one of my favorite pro novels. [7]
From Joan V:
I bought two fanzines at SPACE TREK II, and either of them struck me as superior to both WEB OF THE ROMULANS and YESTERDAY'S SON …. As for YESTERDAY'S SON, someone last issue described it as having "warp-paced action into a well-written story that never lags." My opinion is exactly opposite: I felt that it never got off the ground, and that even the action scenes were dull. Before I read them, I had high hopes for both of these novels, because I have met both M.S. Murdock and A.C. Crispin, and both fans convinced me that they are dedicated STAR TREK fans and that they want to write good ST fiction. I wish both authors well, and I hope that they write something in the future that I like better. [8]
From Lisa W:
And I did greatly enjoy Yesterday's Son. The main characters were not strangers. There was nothing in it I found offensive. (It's a crime that I feel this to be the highest praise I can give a pro book, but it's true.) The plot was interesting, and I liked the characters. This is the kind of ST book I like to see published. But I said something in a previous issue about how we nit-pick on TWOK because we love it. Anyone care to pick a nit with me about Yesterday's Son? For example: How is it Zarabeth and Spock are so genetically compatable that she not only con ceives naturally, but apparently has so uncomplicated a pregnancy that she delivered the baby without even the help of a midwife? Is logic inherited? Why did the tri- corders seem so useless on Sarpedion? Why did the Romulan weapons seem so ineffec tive compared to those of "Balance of Terror"? Why didn't our heroic trio try again after they found the adult Zar, to go to an earlier time and get Zarabeth and the child? [9]
From Leslie W:
Yesterday's Son was very excellent; I enjoyed it very much. And it's always nice to hear a success story like Ann's. Gives the rest of us fen hope. [10]
From Daniel W:
I thought that WEB OF THE ROMULANS was a bit over-rated, but YESTERDAY'S SON is incredible! I think it's the finest Trek novel (pro) ever! Ann, PLEASE write some more! [11]
From Ann Crispin, the author:
Well, 6 to 1 ain't bad, either! While I'm sorry [Joan V] didn't like my book, she enjoys (?) the unique position (so far, and this is not a challenge, folks) of being the first fan not to like it. Which is sort of remarkable, since I know from personal experience what a varied bunch of types and tastes we Trek fans encompass. Actually, negative remarks are good for a writer, in a way. They keep us from getting complacent, make us try harder next time. And, as Doctor Asimov has sadly pointed out (in his typically hilarious way), one can get 100 absolutely adulatory letters, but it's the one negative missive that will induce sleepless nights... At any rate, I'd like to thank very gratefully all those who wrote to me to reassure me that they liked my story, in response to my earlier letter. Thanks also to all the kind people who said so publicly in INTERSTAT. If you write to me personally, please don't be impatient with delays, and please send a SASE if possible. I'm trying to answer all my mail, but it takes time. I have turned in a proposal for a second Trek novel. If Pocket buys it, I'll probably write it sometime in 1984. This one is developing in a much lighter vein than YESTERDAY'S SON, and is completely my own idea, not a spin-off from a former episode. It concentrates more on Kirk this time, while again showcasing the good doctor (I feel McCoy is too often eclipsed in fiction, and he's one of my favorites). Spock is another favorite...heck, they're all my favorites! I love those people, that universe, and I guess the reason so many people have liked my story is that they can tell I really do.... Finally, thank you, Teri. Your 'zine has helped me stay in touch with fandom at large, and that's the main thing that the publication of YESTERDAY'S SON has meant to me — that Trek is very much alive and well. [12]
From Michele A:
I hate to be the one to throw a wet blanket over the jubilation connected with YESTERDAY'S SON, but I'm afraid I must. Like many readers, I found the book quite good in nearly all respects. Characterizations of Enterprise personnel were familiar and sometimes charming, the foundation for the plot bedded in basic Star Trek (the All Our Yesterdays episode), the writing smooth and the dialogue fresh. The character Zar, Spock's son, was appropriately Vulcan and primitive, though I have to question where he learned so much about Vulcan ways since Zarabeth and Spock were together so little. Despite all these positive points, I found a definite lack of emotional "meat" to the thing, most obviously at the end, during the Zar-Spock mind-meld. A.C. Crispin has written this mind-meld—one totally extraneous to the plot so she must have thought it important—as just a placement of Spock's fingers on Zar's face. Afterwards, Zar called the meld between himself and his father the "truth," and yet we readers can only guess what that truth may be, "No one has a greater right to know," says Spock. Know what? The scene is written so that all of the emotional truth between Spock and his son happens "off-stage," so to speak. I suppose the truth is that Spock really did love Zar, or wanted to be with him, or did love Zarabeth, or a half-dozen other considerations. The point is that we readers will never know what A.C. Crispin thinks Spock's "truth" is, because she doesn't bother to tell us, doesn't milk that scene for a lot more. I fear that is what is missing from many of these professional books—the emotional honesty that makes Star Trek's characters really human and therefore a powerful fictional experience for the reader. Likewise, WEB OF THE ROMULANS—much better written than YESTERDAY'S SON—falls short in its emotional portrayal of the love between the Romulans, S'Talon and the Centurion. My point is that while these novels are no doubt a definite cut above most other professional Trek novels, they are still often not as satisfying as a good fanzine story. Perhaps Pocket Books feels that descriptions of in-depth psychological motivations would be too wordy and therefore boring—I don't know. I'm just surprised that Pocket Books would allow Crispin (or vice versa) to cheat her readers out of such a powerful scene. Spock's real feelings about his son are only hinted at in YESTERDAY'S SON, and I, for one, do not appreciate having to fill in the blanks myself. [13]
From Ann Crispin, the author:
I don't know how many INTERSTAT readers are interested in trying to go pro with their Star Trek stories [many folks thought I was crazy (and said so) for submitting YS to Pocket], but there probably arc a few, so here's some advice: Never forget that the audience the professional Trek books are designed and marketed to satisfy, includes , but is not limited to , trueblue Trek fen like the folks who read INTERSTAT. This is very important to keep in mind, because then the dichotomy between the fan fiction and pro fiction is obvious — pro Trek fiction is designed for an audience in the hundreds of thousands , whereas a really big printing on a fanzine is probably under a thousand copies. Most fanzine stories are heavy on the emotional side of things, and much lighter on plot and action, as opposed to the pro Trek books. Most fen enjoy reading stories in which Kirk and Spock (especially those two) arc thrown into terrible personal conflicts due to changes in their lives. That's impossible to do in pro fiction, because you can't change the status quo, the way fan writers are free to do. Remember also that much of the audience the pro Trek books are aimed at includes young people in their teens. Therefore you've got to include a certain amount of action-adventure material, in order to appeal to the broadest possible spectrum. And marketing for this audience pretty well precludes any nitty-gritty sex, which is an oft-occuring theme in fan fiction, also. How many truefans are there in the U.S.? I have no idea, but I do know that Timescape would go broke pretty quickly if they accepted books aimed specifically to please the audience of diehard Star Trek fans. This means no matter how many people love reading R or X-rated Star Trek stories (and I've enjoyed reading a number, myself), that you'll never, in the forseeable future, see these stories selling pro Trek — they're designed for too small of a portion of the entire Star Trek readership. If these points seem obvious, please forgive me. But I've read so much controversy about the subject that seems to assume that Pocket Books, if they only had the sense God gave a donkey, would see that publishing the best of the fan fiction — no matter what the subject-matter - would net them the best sales. 'Tain't so. Admittedly, some of the pro fiction has not been my cup of tea, and I would not have selected it if I were doing the choosing (thank goodness I'm not — being an editor is an ulcer-making job), but that doesn't mean most of the fan fiction would have been better for mass publishing. This difference between what is suitable for fan fiction and what is suitable for pro fiction explains why, in many cases in YESTERDAY'S SON, (including the mind-meld), I deliberately chose not to tell the readers what to think, but left it up to their own imaginations. Because nearly everyone's idea of the Star Trek characters (especially Spock) is different. If I'd managed to please 50% of the readers with my interpretation of exactly what Spock said, (and 50% is probably wishful thinking), then as surely I'd have displeased the other 50%. To me, it was better to hint strongly at what was conveyed, and leave the reader to fill in the exact words to her/his liking. A cop-out? I don't think so...reading is not nearly as passive an activity as television or movies, and even there the viewer is sometimes called on to use his/her imagination and "fill in the blanks." For any folks who really need those blanks "filled in," what Spock said to Zar was this, essentially: "Before you leave, I want you to know that you have come to mean a great deal to me, and that I value you for what you are. I owe you my life — and more, for you saved my Captain and my ship. I am proud of you. "I know you have wondered many times about my involvement with your mother — all I can tell you is that I cared a great deal for her while we were together, no matter what circumstances allowed me to experience this caring. On learning of her death I grieved, for she was a fine person — as you are. Farewell, my son." That's the essence of it — and, surprise! — you knew it all along, didn't you? But spelled out baldly like that, I know there would be many who would argue (with some justification) that Spock was being over-emotional. [14]
From Michele A:
I look forward to reading a sequel to YESTERDAY'S SON. It's a story that cries out for one. Sorry my comments continue to bother you so much. [15]

Unknown Date

From Diane Doyle:
This novel is a sequel to the third season Star Trek episode "All Our Yesterdays," where Spock and McCoy traveled back to the Ice Age of planet Sarpeidon, with Spock reverting back to the behavior of his ancestors and becoming romantically involved with a woman named Zarabeth. The premise to the novel was Spock had impregnated Zarabeth while he was there.

Two years after that encounter, some Federation archeologists were studying remains from that world and discovered paintings in a cave dating back from the Ice Age of Sarpeidon which included a face with Vulcan characteristics, including upswept eyebrows and pointed ears. Upon seeing the pictures, Spock concludes that he had fathered a child via Zarabeth. Figuring the child would have a difficult time surviving in the Ice Age, he requests permission from the Vulcan leader T’Pau to bring the child to the 23rd century.

Hence, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy use the Guardian of Forever to go back in time to the Sarpeidon Ice Age to retrieve Spock’s son. However, instead of encountering a child, as they expected, they encounter a young adult in his mid twenties named Zar. His mother, Zarabeth, turns out to be dead, having fallen into a crevice of ice seven years earlier.

The novel describes how Zar becomes educated to life in the 23rd century, including the history and customs of Vulcan. It depicts the conflict between the reluctant father and his son. It reveals that Zar has not only inherited telepathic abilities from his father but also the ability to project emotions, such as fear. It also describes how Zar helps the crew of the Enterprise defend the Guardian of Forever from a Romulan attack, along with his eventual fate.

The novel is definitely a logical extrapolation of the events of "All Our Yesterdays." The author shows her affection for the characters, especially Spock, in her characterizations. Zar seems to display Vulcan personality characteristics, despite not being raised on Vulcan. Many of his decisions are so reminiscent of Spock.

The novel is well-written and well-researched; it's a must read for any fan of Spock and anyone who ever wondered about what happened to Zarabeth. [16]

1989

A group of archaeologists are studying the Guardian of Forever and, by chance, Spock comes across one of their articles. This leads him to believe that, whilst an Sarpeldon, he gave Zarabeth a son. Obtaining permission to use the Guardian, he goes back in time with Kirk and McCoy, to find his son and bring him 'home'. To say more would really give the story away.

I loved this book. I don't know if the author is a former zine writer, but it certainly reads like a top quality zine. The characterisation is excellent and the triad of Kirk, Spock and McCoy are at their relationship best. If anyone out there no longer reads 'professional ST books' because of the garbage that's been published in the past, I urge you to make an exception with this book. You'll not be disappointed. My only criticism - and it's a small one - is that Spock's son Zar takes everything too much in his stride. By the way, the author has written a sequel to this book entitled, Time for Yesterday'. I'd have to rate this 10/10. It's the best book I've read in a long time. [17]

2005

The trio fishes Zar out of his ice age solitude, brings him back to the present, and then decides that the best place for him to acclimate to his new life is the Enterprise. There are two really notable moments in this process. The first is when McCoy cuts Zar’s hair to look like Spock’s. This didn’t strike me as important when I first read it at age 13, but my re-read at age 35 screeched to a halt while I pondered the implications. Shouldn’t McCoy ask first? Is a haircut culturally appropriate for a guy who just moved in from the prehistoric ice age? What if waist-length hair MEANT something? McCoy is unconcerned. I am furious. Just before I hurl the book with great force, I realize that I’m upset because I like Zar and I don’t want anyone to hurt him. Zar doesn’t seem to mind. I forgive Crispin and make peace with McCoy’s tactlessness.[18]

2009

probably set post-series and pre-TWOK; I can't place it more precisely than that. An ensign studying the records of the destroyed civilization of Sarpeidon discovers a cave painting that seems to depict a Vulcan, which is inexplicable for that time and place... except that Spock once accidentally traveled 5000 years into Sarpeidon's past and fell in love with Zarabeth, a woman who was also trapped out of time. Now Spock, Kirk, and McCoy use the Guardian of Forever to travel back and bring Zar, Spock and Zarabeth's son, to the present. Of course, nothing is ever that simple. *grin* This is a likeable book, but it felt like either a long introductory set-up or the stripped bare remains of a much longer novel. There is too much telling/summarizing and not enough showing, which is annoying since the book is about emotional reactions and how they change or are revealed over time, and that kind of plot demands detail in order to be at all believable. But I did like Zar -- as I say, it's a very likeable book -- and I wish Crispin had had the time and space to do him [and his relationship with Spock] more justice.) [19]

References

  1. from The Connection to Star Trek Lives!
  2. Remembering Ann Crispin, posted September 13, 2013
  3. from Interstat #69
  4. from Interstat #70
  5. from Interstat #71
  6. from Interstat #71
  7. from Interstat #71
  8. from Interstat #71
  9. from Interstat #71
  10. from Interstat #72
  11. from Interstat #72
  12. from Interstat #72
  13. from Interstat #73
  14. from Interstat #74
  15. from Interstat #78
  16. from Orion Press
  17. from Enterprise Originals #12 (1989)
  18. Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer, review of both Yesterday's Son and Time for Yesterday at tor.com, 2012-04-05.
  19. Fan critic edenfalling, "book list, June 2009; lots and lots and LOTS of thoughts on Star Trek tie-in novels" July 1, 2009.