Tuesday Trekkin’: Old-school Star Trek book covers.

“Wait,” I can hear someone saying. “It hasn’t even been a month since the last time Dayton did this. You don’t think he’s trying to make this ‘irregularly recurring’ thing of his more regular, do you?”

Sometimes, I like to change things up and actually do things like this on a more frequent basis than “Oh, holy hell. It’s been eleventy billion months since the last time I did something like this.”

And so, here we are.

For those just joining in our reindeer games, “Tuesday Trekkin’” is basically an excuse for me to wax nostalgic about some facet of old-school Star Trek fandom, be it a fondly remembered bit of funky merchandise, anniversaries or other celebratory observances and “milestones” of important dates in franchise history, convention memories, or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day. The “Tuesday Trekkin’” moniker is something of a tip of the hat to a pair of friends, Dan Davidson and Bill Smith aka “The Hosts of the TrekGeeks Podcast.” Over on Facebook, they have a fan group, Camp Khitomer, devoted to all things Trek where all are welcome to join in their positive vibes and community. They also like to push a #TrekTuesday hashtag over there where they invite members to share updates, links, and/or pictures celebrating their fandom, so this feature is definitely offered in that same spirit.

What are we yammering about today? Old-school art that graced various Star Trek books way back in the Before Time. This is one of those topics which can go off the rails pretty quickly, so for today’s look back we’re sticking with those books published by Bantam Books during the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s. That means we’re starting our conversation with the covers that graced the set of original series episode adaptations written by James Blish.

Published between January 1967 and November 1978, each of these 12 volumes included prose adaptations of various scripts from the series. Published in no discernible order, the stories included in each book tend to skip all through the show’s three seasons (with the exception of the first two installments, which only feature episodes from Season 1). The art from the first book is actually a promo piece created by artist James Bama for the TV series premiere in September 1966. The next two volumes featured photo covers before returning to painted covers with #4. Artist Lou Feck contributed art for volumes 4-6 and 8, while J.H. Breslow painted the cover for #5, and Eddie Jones (under the pseudonym “S. Fantoni”) finished out the series with books 9-12.

No, the artwork didn’t always depict Star Trek with slavish accuracy (particularly the Lou Feck covers), but it had style…again, particularly the Lou Feck covers). I have a print of the art from #1 as well as a larger poster for #4 without the text/trade dress, and I would love similar posters/prints for volumes 5, 6, and 8.

(Trivia note: On #4, the Enterprise‘s registry number is wrong. I only discovered this when I obtained the poster version if this art as a Christmas present for Kevin one year.)

Indeed, the covers from volumes 4, 5, 6, and 8 were on my mind way back in late 2005 when Marco Palmieri, at the time one of the Star Trek editors at Simon & Schuster, asked me if I had any ideas for cover art to go with Star Trek: Constellations, the then forthcoming anthology which would celebrate Star Trek‘s 40th anniversary in 2006. I think he already had a notion of somehow paying homage to classic covers from Star Trek‘s long publishing history, so of course we discussed the Blish covers. Artist Jerry Vanderstelt went to work at Marco’s direction, and the result is very much a tribute to those covers.

I’m not going to say this was my idea, because I can’t believe I was the only one he talked to, much less the only person who suggested some nod to those awesome covers of yesteryear. Still, it was fun to be in on the brainstorming; an additional thrill after being invited to write for the anthology in the first place. The cover for Constellations is one of my absolute favorites from recent years. I have a cover flat for it framed and hanging in my home office…the only one so far to receive this treatment.

The Blish covers would be a point of discussion in 2012, when friend and fellow Trek novelist David Mack and I began pondering a sort of spin-off to the novel series we’d recently concluded, Star Trek Vanguard. Both of us had seen and appreciated the fan stylings of artist Rob Caswell, who had created updated versions of the Blish covers using modern techniques. He’d also taken to creating covers for “novels that didn’t exist,” using one of the starships Dave had created for Vanguard, the U.S.S. Sagittarius, for an imaginary spin-off Star Trek series, The Seekers.

The faux cover was enough for Dave and I to start spinning ideas. We take two of the ships and crews from Vanguard, which in that series had basically been supporting characters to our main cast, and we give them their own series. We pitched this idea to Simon & Schuster and CBS Consumer Products, and everybody was onboard. They even went with our idea of hiring Rob to create covers for the books, as a “thank you” for inspiring us but also because we’d decided we wanted him to emulate the style of the old Blish covers. You can see how that turned out:

Beyond the James Blish adaptations, there was Mudd’s Angels, written by Blish’s wife, author J.A. Lawrence (who assisted with Star Trek 12), it adapted the two Harry Mudd episodes from the original series (“Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd”) and also featured an orignal novella: The Business, As Usual, During Altercations. Originally published in May 1978, this volume saw to it that every episode of the original series was adapted to prose, a feat matched earlier in the year by author Alan Dean Foster with the publication by Ballantine Books of his tenth and final volume of episode adaptations for the animated Star Trek series.

Between January 1970 and April 1981, Bantam also published thirteen original Star Trek novels and two collections of short stories. The roster of writers included names familiar to science fiction readers of that era – James Blish, Theodore R. Cogswell and Charles A. Spano, Jr., Gordon Eklund, Stephen Goldin, Joe Haldeman and his older brother, Jack C. Haldeman II, and Kathleen Sky – as well as fans turned writers Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath.

Last but not least, science fiction author David Gerrold, who among his numerous writing credits includes the original series script “The Trouble With Tribbles” and its animated sequel, “More Tribbles, More Troubles,” contributed what many fans consider the best entry of the Bantam novel era, The Galactic Whirlpool.

Marshak and Culbreath also were the editors of the aforementioned short story anthologies, Star Trek: The New Voyages and Star Trek: The New Voyages 2. Essentially curated selections of fan fiction based on the TV series, these volumes are spiritual ancestors to the series of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthologies published beginning two decades later by Simon & Schuster, which helped launched the writing career of a certain blogger whose yammerings you’re reading at this very second.

It’s worth noting that most of the Bantam titles have been reprinted numerous times over the years – with later reprints featuring different cover art, which I may cover in a subsequent “Tuesday Trekkin'” installment. I tend to prefer the covers from the initial run. None of these books have been reprinted recently, except for a special 50th Anniversary edition of the James Blish adaptations. Released in 2016 and presented by Barnes & Noble in a hardcover, faux-leather tome, this fairly fancy volume includes 45 of the 79 original series episodes. It looks mighty nice on the shelf, I must say.

There you go. More than a bit of nerdity for your Tuesday. We now return you to your lives, already in progress.

5 thoughts on “Tuesday Trekkin’: Old-school Star Trek book covers.

  1. I adore old Star Trek book cover art, particularly from the Golden Age of Pocket in the 80s and 90s.

    Not to suggest you put a bug in CBS/Viacom/Paramount’s ear, but if you are in a postion to put a bug in CBS/Viacom/Paramount’s ear, tell them there are fans who would pay good quatloos for a coffee table book – maybe even a wall calendar – showcasing old Star Trek novel cover art. Just sayin!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It would be interesting to know where all the original paintings for these covers are now. They would be worth a pretty penny to many collectors.

    Liked by 1 person

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