Editor’s Note: This cross-post originally appeared at Grounded Parents and is written by Lou Doench.
At last month’s panel on The Humanism of Star Trek at the Chi-Fi convention, moderated with an iron fist by the bad ass Jennifer Cross, I brought up during the all too brief question and answer period that I had had a lot of my Trek experience through the numerous Pocket Books Star Trek novels that I have collected over the years, and that a lot of the shows Humanist values are explored in more depth and precision in some of the novels than they can be in the somewhat limited creative palette available to a popular TV show. Pocket Books have been the official publisher of Trek Novels since the release of the novelization of “Star Trek:The Motion Picture” in 1979 and continue to put out new material to this day in every flavor of Trekky goodness, whether your fetish is The Original Series (me), Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, even Lens Flare Trek. This Wikipedia page, or the official database for licensed works at Memory Beta will show you the breadth of the world than writers and fans alike have built over the last 40 odd years of Trek fandom.
Oops. Ok… when did we get a scary floating robot attack drone? Well, Star Trek has always been great family entertainment. The Original Series (TOS), in its brief lifetime, created one of the first multi-racial, interspecies ensemble casts and had several TV firsts, the most famous being the first interracial kiss. The Next Generation (TNG) , and Deep Space Nine (DS9) added children to the mix, with mixed results certainly, but both shows managed to incorporate young people into their storylines without making them the butt of jokes or the equivalent of comic sidekicks the way they had been previously portrayed in Sci Fi TV. Plus all of the Star Trek shows are available on the major streaming sites, making it easy to begin sharing them with a new generation. Plus everything is PG. I don’t think there is much in the current Trek TV catalog that should scare or scandalize any kid over 10 these days.
The Trek Novels themselves, whilst they may vary in quality, fit pretty much the same bill, good PG family friendly reading. Reading is good for kids… right?
<PARENTING ADVICE DETECTED…BARELY. CARRY ON!>
Whew… ok then On to the meat of things, a few recommendations from my own shelf that I think show off the Humanism in Star Trek that Gene Roddenberry so obviously intended. Note, my favorite Trek for Novels is TOS, maybe because it’s relatively short run on TV left authors with more space to expand compared the more successful later series. I may also just be an old fart. So here are three TOS novels and a TNG prequel story to whet your appetites.
Prime Directive (1990) by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens.
Starfleet‘s most sacred commandment has been violated. Its most honored captain is in disgrace, its most celebrated starship in pieces, and the crew of that ship scattered among the thousand worlds of the Federation…
The Prime Directive or Starfleet General Order 1 came up as one of the most interesting, troubling and complicated of the concepts introduced by Star Trek. While often introduced simply as a narrative element, an obstacle for Kirk or Picard to finagle around in order to save the day/planet/damsel, the Federation’s doctrine of non-interference had noble anti-colonial origins. As opposed to the Klingons or Romulans who may simply conquer less advanced planets or the Orion pirates or Ferengi who might deceive or exploit them, the Federation crafted an overarching philosophy and a complex series of rules for their dealings with such species. Prime Directive is a sprawling novel that explores the aftershocks of a disastrous survey of a particular planet right on the cusp of joining the wider interstellar community.