The summer blockbuster Star Trek Beyond beams its way into theaters this week, much to the delight of geeks everywhere. They will undoubtedly line up to catch the latest installment of J.J. Abrams' rebooted franchise. They're not only infatuated with the adventurous stories set in an optimistic future, but also with the characters they've come to (re-)know and (re-)love: the heroic Captain James T. Kirk, the logical Mr. Spock, the tough-as-nails Doctor McCoy, the tougher-than-nails Lt. Uhura, the smart-but-funny Mr. Scott, the brave Sulu, and the quick-thinking Chekov.
The Star Trek universe is one rich in history, dating back to the 1960s. During that time, it has spawned several television shows, films, games and – more importantly to this audience – books. A few weeks back, I suggested a handful of Books to Kickstart your Summer, Star Trek books among them. But did you know that, aside from the long-running publication of prose novels set in the Star Trek universe, there is a notable selection of non-fiction and otherwise untraditional books celebrating the popular franchise, too? No? Well it's a good thing that I'm here, then.
Star Trek was conceived by Gene Roddenberry in 1964, who, influenced by television westerns, envisioned a space-themed "Wagon Train to the Stars". That vision turned into a reality two years later with the premiere of Star Trek. While the show's true influence would not be realized until after its short three-year run, the impact made by its creator was already evident. Roddenberry's view of humanity's future was uniquely optimistic and diverse. Gone was a fractured humanity fighting it out over space real estate. Instead, Roddenberry saw a future where all of humanity cooperated in exploring the universe and forming peaceful alliances with aliens. (That didn't mean there weren't bad aliens who had to be fought. Drama trumps optimism in storytelling, after all.)
Gene Roddenberry's life is the topic of Lance Parkin's new biography, The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, Creator of Star Trek. In it, Parkin traces Roddenberry's rise from humble cop show script writer to influential producer. He looks at Roddenberry's contributions to the show, including the view that it pushed a liberal, egalitarian and multi-racial agenda. Roddenberry's involvement with Star Trek continued up to his death. He oversaw several reincarnations of the show intended for more modern audiences and even consulted on the earlier films in the franchise. Parkin puts all of these contributions in perspective as he looks at the colorful life of its creator.
Star Trek turns fifty years old in September and what better way to celebrate than by immersing yourself in a conversation about the show's decades-long history? The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman offers readers an uncensored oral history of the show's sometimes-controversial existence. The ambitious authors interviewed hundreds of people who were there during the show's production, including the television and film executives, the writers, the creators of the various shows and cast members, too. Coming out next month is the follow-up volume The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years: From The Next Generation to J. J. Abrams: The Complete, Uncensored, and Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek which continues the candid look at the series. Save room on your bookshelf for both volumes. They're huge.
Star Trek's optimistic vision of the future was considered a "post-scarcity" economy. That is, it depicted a society in which the majority of goods could be produced in great abundance and with minimal human labor, thus enabling those goods to be very cheap or even free for everyone. Sounds crazy, right? To be sure, a post-scarcity economy is currently a theoretical one, but that hasn't stopped author and economic historian Manu Saadia from writing Trekonomics, a book that explores the post-scarcity future depicted in Star Trek and whether our present day society is equipped for it.
Not quite non-fiction, but certainly less traditional narrative, is Hidden Universe Travel Guide: Star Trek: Vulcan by Dayton Ward. Imagine if you lived in a Star Trek future and wanted to travel to another planet on holiday. This guide book would be your indefensible tour guide to traversing the futuristic planet that is home to one of the universe's most logical races: Vulcan. It will cover everything you need to know including how to say hello (the well-known Vulcan hand salute), where to find the best tourist sites, how to learn about Vulcan culture and history, and even where to find the hot shopping outlets. There are even maps included so you can find your way around. You know…as if it were real.
Star Trek can only last forever if the current fans' love of the show is passed down to younger generations. Robb Pearlman believes that the sooner that happens, the better. He's written the perfect book for the Trekkies…excuse me, Trekkers…of the future. The humorously illustrated Star Trek: Redshirt's Little Book of Doom is formatted like the Little Golden Books of our youth. The story is about one of the perennially doomed wearers of the red shirts who, in the Star Trek universe, have a very poor survival rate. Don't worry…in this family-friendly satire, our little redshirt is simply having a very, very bad day. One example, sitting behind a very tall Gorn in the movie theater. Parents will love the in-jokes, kids will love Anna-Maria Jung's fantastic illustrations. It's a terrific way for Sci-Fi fans to share their love with their children.