Sunday, July 30, 2023

StarPodLog #33

If you grew up in the '60s, '70s, or '80s, you will love StarPodLog!

On this epic episode of StarPodLog, we consider the greatest geek year ever by reviewing the contents of Starlog magazine from 1982 in issues 65 and 66.

Burt Bruce prepares us for the return of Mark Hamill in Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi!

Lou, Rich, and Max discuss The Dark Crystal! Check out My Megolike: https:/

Anthony Rooney reminisces about The Time Tunnel!

Plus...the movies of 1982, Laserdiscs, and more on this episode of StarPodLog!

Once again, we will be presenting panels as professional guests at Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia on Labor Day weekend!

Monsterama! The incredible classic sci-fi and horror convention in Atlanta, Georgia returns on Halloween weekend.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Star Trek and the Final Frontier of Essays

 By  The Honorable Kavura


The book Star Trek: Essays Exploring the Final Frontier, edited by Amy H. Sturgis and Emily Strand and published in 2023 by Vernon Press, was a diverse collection of essays that mostly covered the Star Trek television shows up to 2005 and the Star Trek 2009 movie. The book started with an excellent forward by one of the most popular Star Trek novelists, Una McCormack. She confessed that she didn’t like Star Trek at first. Well, lucky for us fans that she likes it now! The book’s essays (chapters) were divided into three sections: “Exploring the Series and Films”, “Exploring the Ideas”, and “Exploring the Multimedia Storytelling”. While I do not have the space here to go into each essay individually, I will say that all ten of them had their own unique take, and I found all of them to be compelling indeed. The book provided many fresh ideas on Star Trek and its different series and movies, while showing how Star Trek reflects our culture and vice versa. It was both informative and fun to read. Each essay had been thoroughly researched, and the essays cited not only Star Trek reference books, such as The Making of Star Trek, but other books concerning history, culture, philosophy, and many other intellectual pursuits.  The authors were scholars with diverse credentials, often writing in their field of specialty, such as Daniel Unruh who had a degree in Ancient Greek History, who wrote a fascinating essay about Greece and Rome in Star Trek.

            Edward Guimont’s contribution was “The Truth is Out There (Specifically, the Delta Quadrant): Star Trek: Voyager as 1990s Conspiracy Culture”. It was a very different take on Voyager as a series. Voyager is mostly, if taken broadly, known for its similarity to Battlestar: Galactica or Lost in Space as a show about getting back home to earth. Guimont describes Voyager as being influenced by the The X-Files and other paranormal stories that were unusually popular in media at the time. It was fascinating to learn that a show touted as science fiction embodied so many paranormal and pseudoscience tropes. It definitely challenged the reader to think of Voyager in a different way.

            The book’s co-editor Amy H. Sturgis wrote “Beyond the Wilds and the Waves: Reevaluating Archer, the Armory, and Enterprise”, which analyzed Captain Archer as a representation of the United States of America and Lieutenant Malcolm Reed as a representation of England. Sturgis also gave great exposition on Horatio Hornblower, a British character who was one of Gene Roddenberry’s early inspirations for Captain Kirk. Roddenberry had also viewed Star Trek as “Wagon Train to the Stars”. Sturgis deftly examined the integration of both the British Hornblower and the American “Wagon Train” into Enterprise as a beautiful blending of cultures.

“Darmok and Jalad on the Internet: The Importance of Metaphors in Natural Languages and Natural Language Processing” by Kristina Sekrst focused on “Darmok”, one of the most popular episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. How wonderful to learn that this episode has been used by teachers to help explain different types of languages and communication and that metaphorical imagery is actually a “thing” that is used to study language. This was my favorite part of the book. I loved the discussion of language as a study of psychology and culture. And it was a hoot to learn some “colorful metaphors” used in other languages and what they mean.

            The two essays in the third section were more research than analysis. They provided very intriguing information on the evolution and development of Trek in books, fanzines, and comics.  Here we found that Gene Roddenberry’s influence unsurprisingly extended from the television shows and movies into the other media.

            Andrew Higgins wrote “Dif-Tor heh Smusma,” “Jolan tru,” “NuqNeh”: Exploring the Glossopoesis of the Star Trek Universe”. Die-hard Trekkers can easily recognize the Vulcan, Romulan, and Klingon words in that title. From just looking at the title, I must say that I recognized all three of those alien phrases, but had to google the meaning of “glossopoesis”. (It means “construction of an artificial language”, in case you didn’t know.) Many of the beloved Trek alien languages were documented in Star Trek fanzines long before there was an official Klingon dictionary. Higgins mentioned a lot of behind-the-scenes stories about alien languages being in the the show’s scripts but then being cut out of the final draft. The essay was an enlightening read just for the amount of info on the background development of original Trek and the Trek alien languages of fans in fanzines and Star Trek novels.

            “Expanding Universes: Star Trek and Rise of Multimedia Narratives” by John Jackson Miller (who has written several Trek novels) presented a detailed history of Star Trek media tie-in writing. It was a great read for anyone who wants to know the evolution of published Trek from the first book in 1967 to today’s novels -- from James Blish’s early episode adaptations, which caused Gene Roddenberry to forbid writers from using early copies of scripts, to the freedom of writing novels when there were no more Trek shows or movies in production to constantly have to sync with. Miller interviewed fellow Trek scribe David Mack, who also provided valuable insight on the state of Trek books. Miller also discussed the current streaming environment of Trek shows and how it affected, and still affects, the tie-in novels.

            These are just some of the highlights. I found each essay to be extremely informative and thought-provoking, much in the spirit of Star Trek itself. Star Trek has always provided a rich ground of topics to be discussed in casual conversation by laymen and by scholars alike. This is the type of book that celebrates the best of what Star Trek has to offer: compelling issues about people, history, and culture. The authors of the essays were clearly Trek fans, and provided just the right touch of their own humor, ideas, and style. I leave you with this quote from the infamous Q in the TNG episode “Q Who”. He was describing the universe, but it also applies to Star Trek and this collection -- “It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross, but it's not for the timid.” Live long and prosper.

Kavura is the co-host of StarPodTrek, the podcast that explores Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future.

                                Kavura and John Jackson Miller at Shore Leave 2019.