At first glance, something like Star Trek: The New Voyages might raise a few red flags. It’s a two-volume (though more were planned) fanfiction compilation professionally published under the Bantam Star Trek line edited by Gene Roddenberry and convention regulars Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath. Immediately, one wants to angrily declare that fanfiction does not require professional validation and is a perfectly legitimate art form in its own right and something like this is only going to lead to a slippery slope where fanfic writers will be competing with each other for places in an artificially constructed hierarchy of credentials.
But in practice, that’s not how Star Trek: The New Voyages reads at all (…at least at first, but we’ll get to that). Instead, this is, rather heartwarmingly, nothing short of an unabashedly warm embrace by the Star Trek production team of the fanfiction community and a firm declaration that this is who Star Trek is really for and with whom the future of the franchise ultimately lies. Gene Roddenberry’s introduction to the first volume is quite simply one of my favourite things he’s ever written: Naturally, he positions himself as the creator from whom all of Star Trek springs from and claims the Original Series was “…not a one-man job, although it was something very personal to me-my own statement of who and what this species of ours really is, where we are now and something of where we may be going”. This is somewhat difficult to swallow knowing about the contributions of Gene Coon and D.C. Fontana and Roddenberry’s own off-the-record statements about how Star Trek is really “just mini Biblical tales”, but hey, it’s Roddenberry and we expect him to say something like this. What we, or at least I, did *not* expect Roddenberry to say is what comes after.
“We were particularly amazed when thousands, then tens of thousands of people began creating their own personal Star Trek adventures. Stories, and paintings, and sculptures, and cookbooks. And songs, and poems, and fashions. And more. The list is still growing. It took some time for us to fully understand and appreciate what these people were saying. Eventually we realized that there is no more profound way in which people could express what Star Trek has meant to them than by creating their own very personal Star Trek things.
Because I am a writer, it was their Star Trek stories that especially gratified me. I have seen these writings in dog-eared notebooks of fans who didn’t look old enough to spell ‘cat.’ I have seen them in meticulously produced fanzines, complete with excellent artwork. Some of it has even been done by professional writers, and much of it has come from those clearly on their way to becoming professional writers. Best of all, all of it was plainly done with love.
Good writing is always a very personal thing and comes from the writer’s deepest self. Star Trek was that kind of writing for me, and it moves me profoundly that it has also become so much a part of the inner self of so many other people.