So things conspired against me - which is to say, ST coming up in a bunch of online conversations, and me finally getting my hands on "The Empty Chair" and my sister buying all the DVD sets and carrying them about like a security blanket - and I ended up spending much of the evening putting Star Trek books into LT. The number of more useful things I could have been doing instead is as myriad as ... well, as myriad as the Star Trek books, but Used Book Sale Season is coming up. And anyway, sometimes a girl just needs to spend some time with her Star Trek books.
So there's now 154 books in LT tagged "star trek" and that's only three out of four boxes (I didn't tackle the TNG ones) and doesn't include the ones that are scattered elsewhere in the house. We've got to the point where the list of "Star Trek Books We Don't Have" fits on a half-sheet of notebook paper. Of course I haven't read them all - in fact, going down and tagging, there's a lot that I have no idea if I ever even read them because they made so little impression on me (interspersed with ones that I practically have memorized, and ones that I don't remember but I remember my sister liked them.)
It's also really obvious looking down the list, sorted by publication date, exactly when I lost my consuming interest in Star Trek books - 1997, which just happens to be the year I started high school. (I can't help but wonder if part of the reason I've been going back is how much time I've been spending in my old middle school lately --) But I really don't think that my loss of interest had anything to do with my age, so much as a visible change in editorial direction in the franchise. You can see it in when you look down the lists of books - for twenty years, they're happily churning out book after book of the Enterprise crew going where no man has gone before and having adventures and finding things out, and when you picked up a Star Trek book you more or less knew what you were getting. After 1997 or so, though, it's all miniseries! And New Frontiers! Every new book had to be a Great Event that did something different than they had ever done before!
...yeah, not interested. I want *more of the same*, goldangit! Which, okay, at first glance seems almost heretical: this is Star Trek, it's all about the spirit of exploration, new horizons, taking risks! Let's move on! But ... on the other hand, it felt to me like they were saying that the old-fashioned Enterprise adventure stories were played out. Like there was nothing more to say with them, like we should be *bored* with them. And explorer should *never* be bored, because there's *always* something more to learn to see. Saying "there's so much more to see, we can't afford to stay here when there's a horizon over there!" - that's one thing. Saying "We've done everything there is to do here -" You can *never* do everything there is to do. If you think you have, it's a defect of your own vision, not in what you're looking at.
Sure, to your average publisher, a hundred novels about the same few characters doing the same few things *seems* like it could get old - especially when the characters don't even get to *grow* and *change*, because every story has to start and end more-or-less in the status quo. But it *doesn't*, because characters are *infinitely* complex, and the forty-leventh time that Captain Kirk sets foot on an alien planet that looks suspiciously like Earth, there's *just* as much new things to learn and new ways to see as there were the *first* time. And I think Captain Kirk would agree with me, because that's *why* he keeps doing it.1
I think it's really interesting that *both* of the TOS pilots made an analogy between outer space and inner space, that going out and exploring is also expanding the limits of your *self* (and that being trapped is as much being trapped in your own head as being trapped in a cage.) And that the original pilot - canned for being 'too cerebral' - was about getting *out* of the headspace that kept you trapped and going and doing the physical exploration - and then the series re-used the footage but *switched* the moral, giving Captain Pike the change to take on that inner world and a consolation prize for losing his starship, and maybe it's a consolation prize but a prize nonetheless.
Because for all that Trek was supposedly about New Worlds and New Civilization, when it was at its best it was always about understanding youself by seeing yourself through new eyes. IDIC isn't about notching some kind of cosmic bedpost, it's about the way that listening to a thousand different viewpoints is still not enough to tell the whole story - but that doesn't mean you stop asking.
Now excuse me, I need to go moon over the kissing scene in "The Empty Chair" some more.
1Er, and all that talking about Kirk is completely ignoring for the purposes of this post that part of the reason I missed out on so many of the classic slashy K/S novels is that I refused to read anything that didn't have your basic Recommended Daily Allowance of McCoy goodness in it.