Saturday, December 22, 2007

My Star Trek Novel

Back in the mid-80s, when it looked like I might have a real career in SF (a major illness took care of that fantasy), I wrote a portion-and-outline of a Star Trek novel. It’s around in my files somewhere, but I’m going to reproduce the gist of it from memory. This was, incidentally, before any of the Trek follow-ons, so it was Classic Trek.

The story opens with the Enterprise getting multiple sensor alarms from what, after some investigation, turns out to be an object moving at some ungodly warp number, but rapidly decelerating. Given such rapid slowing, it only takes Enterprise a week to reach the vessel. When they finally arrive, they find the shape of a giant Conestoga Wagon, with what looks like “Antares or Bust” painted on its side.

It turns out to be a ship with “morphing” capabilities; it can change its shape at the whim of its captain, who is the only person on the ship, in fact.

The captain’s name is Tom, and he’s a Vulcan inventor. In fact, he’s pretty much Vulcan’s only inventor, which used to puzzle him. So he looked into the matter and came to the conclusion that the Vulcan education methods for controlling emotion had become so restrictive that they were stifling curiosity, imagination, etc. Therefore, he set out to find a way to reverse the damage,

Tom devised a method using conditioning, meditation, and other things (“Drugs?” asks McCoy. “Oh yes,” says Tom. “Lots of drugs"). When it was completed, he’d increased his inventive productivity, imagination, etc. as well as gaining a sense of humor. Unfortunately, it was a somewhat compulsive and adolescent sense of humor, and, among other things, it came out as practical jokes. After he gave a hot foot to a high Vulcan official, he was prosecuted for arson and criminal insanity. He fled the planet, so now he’s on the run.

Owing to vagaries in interstellar law, he’s not under any sort of Federation warrant, (the Vulcan Authorities do not want the details of the crimes made known, as one might expect) so Kirk allows Tom to make use of the docking facilities on the Enterprise to repair his craft. Spock assists, in hopes of learning some of the new drive technology etc. Besides the Vulcan repression thing is of importance to him personally.

A few days later, a Vulcan battle cruiser shows up and begins pacing the Enterprise. They can’t demand that Tom be handed over, because he’s broken no Federation Laws. But as soon as he leaves the ship…

After repairing his ship, Tom creates a distraction: a computer generated “entertainment” in the form of an old minstrel show, with Spock as Mr. Interlocutor, and Bones as, well, Mr. Bones. There is song and dance. There are jokes. It is all quite confusing to the Vulcans who are listening in. It’s fairly confusing to the humans on the Enterprise. The minstrel show allows a discussion of historical racism on Earth, and how it’s such a good thing that We’re Past That Now.

Tom uses the distraction to launch his repaired craft from the Enterprise. The Vulcan ship gives chase and fires a phaser beam at him.

It turns out that one of Tom’s inventions is a new kind of ship's shield, an “energy sponge,” that converts attacking energy (like the phaser blast), into ship’s power and motive force. The power of the Vulcan ship’s attack refuels Tom’s craft and he disappears in a burst of warp speed. The last, lingering signal from his craft is a sound like a bottle being rapidly stoppered and unstoppered, and a single “Beep, beep.”

In the coda, Kirk learns that Tom has given Spock the recipe for de-repression. Spock does not believe he can safely use or divulge it while still a Star Fleet Officer, but he will retire someday…

My agent sent in the Portion and Outline to whoever was editing the Star Trek novels at the time. We got back a rejection letter that said that the proposed novel was contrary to absolutely everything that had ever been said about Vulcans in the series or in the tie-in novels. Apparently, for once, I hadn’t been subtle enough.


Arnaud said...

Did you know that P-J Farmer, that old trickster, wrote a short story, The Shadow of Space from a rejected Star Trek synopsis. I read it a long time ago, and in French, so I cannot vouch for the quality of the characterisation but I rather suspect the frank sexual content was the reason for its rejection!

Interestingly, I couldn't at first remember the title of that story so I had a rummage on the collection of tubes; I discovered that one of my favourite P-J Farmer stories Sketches Among The Ruins Of My Mind also arose from a rejected Trek story, unlikely as it seems.

James Killus said...

I wasn't aware of the Farmer backstories, but I haven't followed Farmer that closely.

I do have another portion of a novel that began life as a Star Trek: Voyager book proposal, but I've filed the serial numbers off of it. I will get back at it Real Soon Now, in my Copious Spare Time.