If you’re into Star Trek and roleplaying games and you haven’t yet sampled the Star Trek Adventuresroleplaying game, we need to have a chat about that because I think you’re missing out on some kickass gaming potential.
Those of you who follow my ramblings are (hopefully) aware that I make occasional contributions to the game. My association with Modiphius Entertainment began waaaaaaay back in 2016 when friend, fellow word pusher, and STA’s project manager, Jim Johnson, invited me to work with him and Scott Pearson on some early story development. This resulted in the “Living Campaign,” something of a juiced up testbed where players took the then-new game’s rules out for a spin and offered feedback to the developers while (hopefully having a good time).
Working with direction from Jim and the rest of the game’s core team of developers, Scott and I created “the Shackleton Expanse,” a region of space ripe for exploration within the game’s setting, as well as the “Tilikaal,” a mysterious alien race which along with the Expanse itself was to be the main driver for the living playtest. We laid down some basic info on the area and the aliens, provided some story springboards as to how a proper campaign might evolve over time with additional adventure scenarios thrown into the mix – those offered by Modiphius as well as anything a gamemaster might devise for their group of players – sat back, and watched what happened.
These are the voyages where the legend began, 55 years ago tonight!
I’ve mentioned this before (about a zillion times), but my earliest memories include Star Trek to some degree. I wasn’t old enough to watch the show during its original broadcast run, but I watched the reruns every day after school. Beyond that, I had the Mego figures and that crazy bridge set. I built the AMT models, and I read the occasional Gold Key comic book or poster book or collection of James Blish episode adaptations.
All of that was just filler of course. Anchoring all of that were the reruns. Always, the reruns.
Back in those far off days of Yesteryear which was the setting for my childhood, you had to wait for your favorite episodes to cycle back around in the rotation on one of your local TV stations. I watched the series on a little black and white television and its crappy little antenna as the show was broadcast on a low-power local UHF channel in Tampa. Depending on the time of day and prevailing weather conditions, I might not always get a decent picture. If I was out in the boonies somewhere–like my aunt’s house–I might have to fiddle with the antenna throughout the episode, and as often as not I might be forced to choose between having a picture or having sound.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that today also marks the 48th anniversary of the animated Star Trek series, which premiered on NBC on this date in 1973. I did catch (most of) those episodes during their initial run, and the show helped to spark a lot of the Trek-related toys and other merchandise which came out in the mid 1970s, like those aforementioned Mego action figures.
Today, of course, I have Star Trek literally at my fingertips: Blu-rays on the shelf or episodes streaming over the internet, and I even have my favorite episodes stored on my phone. Then there are the books (Fun fact: I’ve written a few of those, in case you were wondering), comics, role-playing games, computer games, toys, models, websites, and pretty much anything you’d care to name. Star Trek is everywhere. Hold up a picture of the original Enterprise or Kirk and Spock, and most people will know what you’re talking about.
Meanwhile, fate and circumstances have seen to it that I’m able to continue contributing — albeit in a very small way — to this vast, ever-expanding universe that Gene Roddenberry gave us back in 1966. It is the very definition of a “dream job.” I doubt I’ll ever have another job that’s as rewarding and just plain fun as what I’m currently privileged to do, and I never allow myself to take that for granted. Ever. My only regret is that I didn’t figure this out years and years ago.
Speaking of years? Star Trek looks pretty dapper for 55. Enjoy your cake, everybody.
“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.
Star Trek fans were saddened yesterday to learn of the passing of Edward J. Paskey, who died three days short of his 82nd birthday.
If his name isn’t familiar even to longtime fans of the original Star Trek series, chances are good those same fans would recognize his face. Mr. Paskey was a ubiquitous presence in numerous episodes throughout the show’s three-year run.
Though he sometimes had other names – whenever he had a name at all – Paskey’s character was most often referred to as “Mr. Leslie” or “Lieutenant Leslie.” As you can see from the small gallery of photos, he showed up all over the place, wearing different uniforms and occupying different positions, such as various bridge stations or as a member of a landing party or security detail. He also served as a stand-in for William Shatner and his hands were used in a couple of close-up shots as stand-ins (hand-ins?) for James Doohan, who was missing the middle finger of his right hand as a consequence of wounds suffered during his service in World War II.
Beginning with the second pilot episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” Mr. Paskey appeared in 58 of the show’s 79 episodes, more than George Takei as Sulu or Walter Koening as Chekov, though his role was of course much smaller. He only had spoken dialogue in four episodes, and only received screen credit for two of those appearances. He even died a couple of times, only to appear an episode or two later, perhaps wearing a different color shirt or sitting at a different station. This “phenomenon” is but one of the original series’ many quirky charms, and Mr. Paskey’s contributions to the show make for one of its most fun anecdotes.
We send our sincere condolences to Mr. Paskey’s family and friends for their loss.
Today marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Gene Roddenberry. Though he had worked consistently in Hollywood by contributing scripts to a number of television series throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, it was in the fall of 1964 that he unknowingly began creating something of a cultural shift when he sat down at his typewriter and wrote this:
Yes, he’d written about Star Trek before, largely in the form of an extensive pitch document which he used to convince executive producer Herbert F. Solow and Desilu Productions (including, yes, the legendary Lucille Ball herself) to take a chance on his concept for a new science fiction/action-adventure series unlike anything which had yet graced TV screens. But it wasn’t until he actually set to the task of writing that first story that his idea took on substance.
While the completed pilot episode as presented to NBC didn’t wow network executives, it intrigued them enough that they allowed Roddenberry to try again. His second effort, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” was enough to get a thumbs up and a series order, and the rest…as has often been said…is history.
Since then, what spawned from Mr. Roddenberry’s typewriter has grown and expanded to to include (to date) ten television series along with two more which will premiere in the coming months (and others in various stages of gestation), 13 feature films with — as I write this — another on the way, hundreds of stories told in the pages of books and comics as well as computer and other gaming platforms, and so much more.
I think, at this point, it’s safe to say the man had an influence on a writer/blogger/online babbler of your acquaintance. My earliest childhood memories include watching afternoon reruns of the original series. Then a bit later there was the animated series on Saturday mornings, followed by playing with the Mego action figures and using them to create my own adventures for Captain Kirk and his crew. Building the U.S.S. Enterprise model, or even that “Exploration Set” so I could run outside and “play Star Trek” with my friends. The giant swing/ball/slide thing in the middle of our neighborhood playground was our Enterprise, and everything else we filled in with our imaginations. Those were the days, amirite?
Then there were the comics, and the books.
Not nearly so prevalent as they are today, Star Trek comics in the early-mid 1970s along with the occasional book were squeal-inducing finds at the local Woolworth’s or other department store. Pickings were slim back in those days, and let’s be honest: As kitschy, charming and whimsical as I still believe them to be, the Star Trek comics as published by Gold Key during the late 1960s and early 1970s are pretty insane. I mean……
So, yeah. Those.
On the prose front, from what I remember my Star Trek reading began or at least was heavily influenced by the slim volumes of episode adaptations as penned by noted science fiction author James Blish. Working from early script drafts, Blish translated each of the episodes into short stories, divided across what ultimately became 12 books, with an additional book, Mudd’s Angels, adapting the two episodes that featured rogue scoundrel Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd as well as an original Mudd tale penned by Blish’s his wife, author J.A. Lawrence, who also assisted with the final installments of the episode adaptations when her husband’s health began to decline.
These were but the first of my many forays into the written world of Star Trek. Little did I know that reading these books and the ones that followed would eventually lead me down a path toward wanting to try my own hand at writing. Not for one second did I ever dream I might one day be able to contribute to what is now a very large number of Star Trek books, as I’ve been privileged to do for going on 20 years, now. Perhaps even more exciting than that, I actually get to help other people make Star Trek, and I don’t mind telling anyone who’ll listen that it’s a pretty good gig to have. Talk about your dream jobs….
All because of a little TV show my mother let me watch every day after school before starting my homework, created by a man who would’ve celebrated his 100th birthday today.
“I would hope there are bright young people, growing up all the time, who will bring to [Star Trek] levels and areas that were beyond me, and I don’t feel jealous about that at all….It’ll go on without any of us, and get better and better and better. That really is the human condition–to improve.”
– Gene Roddenberry, 1988
Thank you, Mr. Roddenberry, for giving us such a wondrous sandbox in which to play and dream.
Welcome to this irregularly appearing latest installment of my irregular recurring blog feature, “Tuesday Trekkin’.” Basically, it’s a place for me to wax even more nostalgic than usual about some older, perhaps little known or even wholly unknown aspect of Star Trek, Trek fandom, Trek collecting, and whatever other Trek-related thought tickles my fancy. For this latest excursion down Memory Lane, we’re going back – waaaaaaaaaaaay back – all the way back to 1967, but first? A bit of set up.
When I was a kid in the 1970s and early 80s, I collected all sorts of trading cards. Baseball and football cards, for sure, but also a ton of “non-sports” cards. Star Wars had major representation in my house, of course, due in no small part to the three…four…six bazillion sets Topps produced just for the first film, followed by multiple sets for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Then there were all manner of sets for a variety of films and TV shows of my childhood: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Space: 1999, Planet of the Apes, Alien, The Six Million Dollar Man (actually a set of card-sized stickers) to name just a few, along with…naturally, Star Trek.
I don’t have much in the way of card sets, anymore. However, Topps in recent years has seen fit to release special books revisiting some of the more popular non-sports sets. The 1976 Star Trek set along with Star Wars and Planet of the Apes, for example. These have proven to be an inexpensive means of revisiting these fondly remembered cards from yesteryear, as finding original sets can be challenging…and pricey.
One set I never expected to see in the flesh is the very first collection of Star Trek trading cards. Produced by Leaf in 1967, they were apparently distributed in limited quantities and were of course long gone from store shelves by the I time was wandering around with loose change in my pockets. I’d seen a few individual cards, sold by dealers at cons over the years, and suffered sticker shock when I saw how much a complete 72-card set might cost me.
Like so much other Star Trek merchandise from the late 1960s and early 70s, this card set is fun and more than a little hokey. The card images are black and white, which by itself is rather retro and cool. Publicity photos — including a few which had to be taken before the show’s premiere — are mixed in with what look to be stills taken during filming of various episodes. Most if not all of the images are naturally from Star Trek‘s first season, including a good number from the pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”
What kills me about this set are the captions on many of the cards. They only rarely have any connection to the image or the episode from which said image was taken, and a few have no link to any episode at all. For example:
I know, right?
Flash forward to the 2017 Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. I’m wandering the exhibitor hall and come across a dealer selling stacks of card sets. Sitting on the table was a set of the Leaf cards for a rock-bottom price. I was informed this was a reprint set, and that was good enough for me, as I just had to have it.
I’ve since learned Rittenhouse created a different reprint set back in 2006 for Star Trek‘s 40th anniversary, and even included a special subset of “new” cards to go with the originals. One of these days, I’ll have to see about hunting those down.
If you’re a Star Trek or card collector and don’t have these, I’d recommend tracking down a set. They’re like a wacky little time capsule from a period when the original series was still in production, and therefore hold a charm forever lost to card sets that came years later.
In the meantime, call me “Big Joker.” I have no idea why.
So, hey! It’s been a minute since the last time I babbled incoherently on somebody’s podcast, and we all know I can’t go too long without falling into that particular sort of trap.
A couple of months ago, I sat down with Mike Bovia and Jamie Rogers, hosts of The Divine Treasury podcast, to talk about my lifelong affection for Star Trek and the collectibles I’ve acquired over the years. As I explained during that interview, my interests have always leaned toward the books (both fiction and non-fiction/references tomes), comics, and other forms of storytelling we’ve been given over the years. That might include computer games, roleplaying games, and so on.
As you might imagine, all of that certainly played a part in helping me along to where I am now, a writer of Star Trek stories of my own as well as someone who helps other Star Trek stories get from writers to readers.
Yeah, it’s quite a fun job, and all of that is what Mike and I talk about about on this follow-up installment of the podcast. We actually recorded this segment the same evening as the other interview, but it’s only now making its way to your ears through the wonder that is recorded media. Have a listen:
Was it really just yesterday that I finally was able to share the cover for Moments Asunder, the first book the epic Star Trek: Coda trilogy, on which I’ve been working with friends and fellow word pushers James Swallow and David Mack for pretty much two years, now?
Why, yes. Yes, indeed, it really was just yesterday, but for those who don’t feel like clicking the link up there, here’s the cover again because why not?
For today, however, I now can add other treats, like this tasty morsel of back cover description:
STARFLEET’S FINEST FACES A CHALLENGE UNLIKE ANY OTHER
TOMORROW IS DOOMED Time is coming apart. Countless alternate and parallel realities are under attack, weakening and collapsing from relentless onslaught. If left unchecked, the universe faces an unstoppable descent toward entropy.
WANDERER, ORACLE, ALLY Scarred and broken after decades spent tracking this escalating temporal disaster while battling the nameless enemy responsible for it, an old friend seeks assistance from Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise. The apocalypse may originate from their future, but might the cause lie in their past?
EVERYTHING THAT WILL BE Identifying their adversary is but the first step toward defeating them, but early triumphs come with dreadful costs. What will the price be to achieve final victory, and how will that success be measured in futures as yet undefined?
The book is due in stores on September 28th and is available for pre-order from all of the usual haunts in trade paperback and eBook editions, as well as a digital audiobook download version. Star Trek: Coda continues on October 26th with James Swallow’s Book II: The Ashes of Tomorrow, and the senses-shattering conclusion arrives on November 30th with David Mack’s Book III: Oblivion’s Gate.
At long last, we have the cover for Moments Asunder, the first book of the forthcoming Star Trek: Coda trilogy on which I’ve been collaborating with friends and fellow wordsmiths James Swallow and David Mack. It’s been a long road these past two years – getting from there to here, as the song goes – but we’re finally nearing the end of our writing journey and preparing to unleash this epic and dare I say unprecedented adventure not just for Star Trek but indeed media tie-in writing in general.
It’s one thing to be granted such wide latitude for Star Trek novels and comics to go boldly in all sorts of directions over lo these many years while there was little to no “new” Star Trek appearing on television or movie screens. But it’s something else entirely for those same publishing ventures, once Star Trek “woke up” and started producing new TV episodes (and, if rumors are true, more movies) to be given the chance to “re-align” themselves in what we consider rather grand fashion to better conform with those new stories in this ever-expanding universe. On behalf of Jim and Dave, I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to our editors at Gallery Books and the good folks at ViacomCBS Consumer Products for affording us this rather unique opportunity.
(Here’s hoping we don’t screw it up.)
Okay, enough of that, because I know you’re here to see the cover, a creation of acclaimed and award-winning science fiction artist Stefan Martiniere. Check this out:
As some folks have asked and others have suspected, this image is designed to work in concert with what will grace the covers for Books II and III, forming a triptych that’s gonna melt your brain. So, you’ve got that going for you…which is nice.
Moments Asunder is due in stores on September 28th and is available for pre-order from all of the usual haunts in trade paperback and eBook editions, as well as a digital audio download version which as of this writing I’m fairly certain will be read by frequent Star Trek audiobook narrator and all-around cool guy Robert Petkoff.
As always and if you are at all able to do so, I hope you’ll consider purchasing your copies through your favorite independent bookseller. You can find one close to you by utilizing the “Indie Bookstore Finder” feature of IndieBound.com. This includes features for supporting your favorite indie bookseller even if you opt to buy eBook or digital audiobook editions of new titles.
Welp. There you have it. All that’s left to do at this point is wait for September 28th, and awaaaaaaaaaaay we go!