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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Star Trek Week: The Wrap-Up

I must confess, this past week was a lot more fun than I’d expected. We’ll have to do this again, and soon. Next week is New Book Release WeekYes! After ages of incubation STUPEFYING STORIES #23 is at last beginning to peck its way out of its shell! So next week our primary posts will be all about the authors and stories that make up SS#23.


I also must confess that it was really great to get guest blog posts from Guy Stewart, Pete Wood, and Henry Vogel. Thanks, guys! (Er, and Guy.) This is an area where I’d really like to expand on what we’re doing, by getting even more content from an even wider range contributors. So if you have a hankering to write something for the Stupefying Stories blog—and to slip in a little shameless self-promotion while you’re at it, that’s okay, too—let me know. We haven’t really settled on a schedule yet, but here are some of the themes we’re considering for upcoming weeks:

  • Overlooked Movies Week: Tell us about some fantastic movie you love that no one else seems to even know exists.

  • Forgotten TV Series Week: Same idea, but oriented towards TV, not the big screen.

  • Overlooked Authors Week: Tell us about some SF/F author whose work you love, who you feel has been unfairly forgotten. (Doris Piserchia, anyone? Or how about John Sladek?)

  • Author Interviews: As fond as we are of the authors whose work we grew up reading, we would love to get interviews with actual living, working, writers who are writing right now! After all, that is the true mission of Stupefying Stories: to seek out and publish the authors everyone else will be reading in about five years; to boldly go...

    Ah, you get the idea. So who do you think we should be paying attention to now, because they’re going to be doing even bigger and better things in the not-too-distant future? (This is something I’d like to see become a weekly feature. Ditto for reviews of new book releases.)

  • Cyberpunk Week: I cringe just at writing those words—but okay, it’s time. I’ve been evading my grandfatherly responsibilities for too long. Arguing that the whole idea of an Elder Spokesman of Cyberpunk is absurd to begin with—what part of punk don’t you get?—is getting me nowhere, so it’s time to bite the flash drive and get on with it. Have a question you’ve always wanted to ask me? Here’s your chance. Fire away.

  • Suggest a topic! The foregoing are just a few of the topics we’re considering for upcoming theme weeks. If there’s something else you’d really like to see the Stupefying Stories Secret Inner Circle address—or some topic you hope to God we never address, because you’re already sick and tired of reading about it—let me know!

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Meanwhile, back to this week’s thesis question: What was it about Star Trek that made it a force to be reckoned with for more than 50 years, while other more commercially successful SF/F TV series came and went, having had their runs and then vanishing as if they were never were? 

We’ve had a lot of really interesting conversations around that topic. I particularly liked the thread that developed on Facebook in response to Guy Stewart’s column, Did the Federation Assimilate the Borg?  A slight pity that the main discussion occurred on Facebook and not here: I’ll have to look into some better commenting mechanism for this site. I particularly liked the ideas that developed from Jorge Salgado-Williamson’s and Vincent LaFrance’s comments. The idea that the future history of the Federation might follow the Roman model—Republic, then Empire, then ultimately, fragmentation—is a fascinating idea, and suggests a shared-world idea worth developing and writing stories in. (While taking great pains to avoid infringing on anyone else’s intellectual property, of course.) 

I will also confess that the idea—I think it was Jorge’s—that the untold origin story of the Borg is that they were a machine civilization that was doing just fine by itself, bothering no one, until Captain Kirk came blundering along and introduced meat into the matrix—


Well, that’s just hilarious. I love it. I guess that would explain why the Borg Queen is so obsessed with Star Fleet captains. Deep down, she still has a thing for men in uniforms…

Back to our thesis question, though. While no one ever directly answered it, I think all the side discussions that developed provide the answer all the same. SF fans love to think and talk about Star Trek. In an ironic way, I think the Star Trek universe was saved and became a cultural touchstone precisely because the original series was cancelled prematurely. Comparing it to other SF series that had their full runs and completed their story arcs—Battlestar Galactica and Stargate SG-1 spring immediately to mind, with Babylon-5 not far behind—the original Star Trek opened a door, introduced us to a fascinating and complex future world that we could imagine ourselves wanting to live in—and then, because the series was cancelled at the end of the third season, it left the door open

That, I think, is why for more than 50 years now generations of fans have been discovering this door, checking it out, and then going through it, eager to discover what might lie on the other side. 

Isn’t this what science fiction is supposed to be all about? 

—Bruce Bethke



GuyStewart said...

"...the original Star Trek opened a door, introduced us to fascinating and complex future world that we could imagine ourselves wanting to live in—and then, because the series was cancelled at the end of the third season, it left the door open."

Now THAT'S insightful!

It's also supported by the fact that there are some 1390 ST novels ( They aren't written by dewy-eyed fans, either. Among the authors of ST novels:

Vonda N. McIntyre, James Blish, Joe Haldeman, Jack C. Haldeman II, David Gerrold, Alan Dean Foster, Greg Bear, John M. Ford, Melinda Snodgrass, Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Theodore Sturgeon, James Gunn, Jerry Oltion, Pamela Sargent, David Bischoff, Dafyd ab Hugh, Esther Friesner, Robert Sheckley, Nina Kiriki Bonhoff, and Mack Reynolds...

So -- "leaving the door open" invited literally millions of people into the STAR TREK Federation...and here we are today. We just spent a week analyzing an elaborate LIE! (And I'm happy about it!)

Pete Wood said...

The success of Star Trek can be summed up in as great storytelling combined with likable believable characters. Few science fiction shows before or since have pulled that off.
I love the characters on the original Battlestar Galactica, but the storytelling with a few exceptions left a lot to be desired. Storytelling on the reboot was much better, but damn I hated all the characters. What they did to Starbuck was criminal.
Babylon 5 had fantastic characters and great storytelling.
X Files. Great story telling and great characters.
Star Trek was the first, though.