James Blish was a Nebula and Hugo-award winning science fiction author. In addition to his original work, Blish wrote the first original Star Treknovel for adult readers, Spock Must Die! He also wrote the novelizations of almost all of the original series' 79 episodes (some completed after his death in 1975 by his wife, J.A. Lawrence).
In 2002, he was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.
Star Trek BibliographyEdit
"James Blish trained as a biologist at Rutgers and Columbia University, and spent 1942–1944 as a medical technician in the U.S. Army. After the war he became the science editor for the Pfizer pharmaceutical company. His first published story appeared in 1940, and his writing career progressed until he gave up his job to become a professional writer." (Wikipedia)
Ironically "...Blish's state of relative financial security derived not from the sale of his best books but from a series of contracts he signed with Bantam Books to produce collections of story versions of the hit TV series Star Trek." (Ketterer, David; Imprisoned in a Tesseract; 21)
"Blish's doubts about this project are recorded in a notebook entry: 26 July 66 An apparent opportunity has arisen to do a book of 8 short stories derived from scripts of the forthcoming TV series Star Trek for a flat fee of $2000. This creates a dilemma. I need the money and could do the work quickly. One the other hand I don't like this kind of work and it's bad for the reputation to get involved in that sort of hacking.
I suppose the best out is to do it under a pen name- and bear in mind that it might help to work for the show directly- especially since the producer will be at the Tricon [1966 World Science Fiction Convention in Cleveland]."
Despite his reservations, Blish signed a series of four-book contracts with Bantam Books, and beginning in 1967 eleven Star Trek collections appeared under his own name." (Ketterer; 249) "A 'Writing Accounts' ledger entry indicates that Blish received a $2,000 advance for each of the Star Trek collections." (Ketterer; 324)
"Blish, in Josephine Saxton's words, 'affected to despise Star Trek' and, in fact, he had not written Star Trek 10. Judith Blish has revealed that Star Trek 6-11 (all of which appeared under Blish's name except the last where J. A. Lawrence appears as collaborator) were essentially written by Judith Blish and her mother Muriel Lawrence." (Ketterer; 25)
When Blish wrote Spock Must Die! he had already finished the first three of his books of adaptations of the Star Trek series. This is was his first original effort, and is meant to be set after the events of the first three seasons of Star Trek.
On August 16, 2004, S. C. Mitchell of Mesa, AZ wrote in a review of the book on Amazon.com that "James Blish was contracted to write this book because he had experience writing for Star Trek: he's (sic) already written most of the episode adaptations. The problem was that he was living in England at the time, where the show was not airing; he based his adaptations on scripts, many of them early draft scripts. In short, Mr. Blish was contracted to write a novel based on a show he had never seen." (Mitchell; ) The fact is that until April, 1969, Blish lived in the United States, and if he had never seen Star Trek, it was because he didn't want to.
"The third of Blish's "Writing Accounts" ledgers indicates that he received an advance of $3,000 for this book (Spock Must Die!)- $1,000 more than the sum he was paid for each of the Star Trek collections." (Ketterer; 358)
According to Blish: "...no serious Blish student...should take anything in Spock Must Die! seriously. It was a potboiler, and to keep myself interested I threw into it at random anything that occurred to me whether it made sense or not." (Ketterer; 268)
In the Star Trek fanzine T-Negative, (issue 5, 1970), the publication of Spock Must Die! was announced, noting that the price was 60c. "It is essential to note that the price of Spock Must Die! was comparable to the price of many fanzines at the time. After the double-digit inflation of the early 1980s, the gap in the price between fanzines and pro novels widened, so that later, the average price of a fanzine became at least twice that of a pro novel. This makes the pro novels more of a bargain today. In these early days, by contrast, there were far fewer pro novels and far more fanzines. Many fanzines had professional quality stories and were comparable in price, making them more attractive than the pro novels of the time. (However, then and now, more Star Trek fans knew about pro novels than fanzines..)" (Verba, Joan Marie; Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan & Zine History, 1967-1987; 4)
"Blish lived in Milford, Pennsylvania at Arrowhead until the mid-1960s. In (April 1969), Blish emigrated to England, and lived in Oxford until his death from lung cancer in 1975. He is buried in Holywell Cemetery, Oxford, near the grave of Kenneth Grahame." (Wikipedia)
"Dedicated to Kay Anderson": Kay Anderson is one of the early members of Star Trek Fandom.
Annotations to the Author's Note:
"...American network..." NBC
"...a ratings service of highly dubious statistical validity..." Nielson Ratings
Corgi Books: A division of Transworld, the British publishing arm of Random House, who also own Bantam Books (see above)
"...an enterprise so well conceived..." Blish puns on the USS Enterprise
Our book today is a doozy, a true and unexpected delight: Barnes & Noble’s latest addition to their sterling, mouth-watering series of leatherbound classics is a Star Trek volume! Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the original TV show’s appearance (an anniversary Paramount Pictures has decided to honor by, astonishingly, shamefully, mostly ignoring it), B&N has brought out an utterly gorgeous black hardcover volume collecting 42 of the episode adaptations mid-century sci-fi hack James Blish wrote up for the earliest Star Trek volumes that fans ate up eagerly and made into the most unlikely bestsellers of that or any other season.
The volume itself is a lovely thing, with color cast photos as end papers and with a pretty outline of the USS Enterprise inlaid on the back cover. The texts were taken from the three-volume paperback omnibus editions Paramount put out back in 1991, each containing an Introduction by Norman Spinrad that gives a quick and heartfelt overview of rackety birth of the original series, when Gene Roddenberry fought the network in order to make his new science fiction show something more than just a spaceship-oriented Wagon Train. Spinrad does a sensitive job of tracing Roddenberry’s determination to create something special:
[Gene] Roddenberry could have stopped there and, having cracked the basic problems, probably gotten his science fiction series on the air. But it wouldn’t have been Star Trek, and it wouldn’t have become the phenomenon that created the present mass audience for science fiction both literary and cinematic. It would have been merely Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in Outer Space, a good format for a successful TV series maybe, but not something that would pass into the collective popular unconscious.
Blish created these short adventures not from the televised shows but, on some tight deadlines, from the original scripts. He’s a wooden, unimaginative writer who can nevertheless do a quick and confident job with the interpersonal scenes that are the hallmark of Star Trek (for a science fiction writer, his actual science fiction – both in these stories and in his other books – is very noticeably bad), but the main fascination of re-reading his Star Trek treatments comes from relishing the differences between what he had in front of him to work with and what had eventually made it to broadcast. Star Trek every week had a sound stage crammed with quick-witted and intensely creative people, staff and cast, who quite often changed things about each episode on the fly.
So, for example, Blish’s adaptation of Paul Schneider’s original script for the great 1966 episode “Balance of Terror” takes us to the tense moments on the Enterprise bridge when Communications Officer Lieutenant Uhura is working her magic to get Captain Kirk an inside view of the Romulan warship currently facing off with the Enterprise outside the Romulan Neutral Zone. The moment in the episode is fast and fairly straightforward; Blish’s elaboration of it gives us some choice back-and-forth that will leave any fan of the original show not only imagining the original cast saying the lines but wishing they’d seen it:
The Bantu woman paid no attention to anything but her instruments. Both her large hands were resting delicately on dial knobs, following the voices in and out, back and forth, trying to keep them in aural focus. Beside her left elbow a tap deck ran, recording the gabble for whatever use it might be later for the Analysis team.
“This appears to be coming off their intercom system,” she said into the tape-recorder’s mike. “A weak signal with high impedance, pulse-modulated. Worth checking what kind of field would leak such a signal, what kind of filtration spectrum it shows – oh, damn – no, there it is again. Scotty, is that you breathing down my neck?”
“Sure is, dear. Need help?”
“Get the computer to work out this waver-pattern for me. My wrists are getting tired. If we can nail it down, I might get a picture.”
Scott’s fingers flew over the computer console. Very shortly, the volume level of the gabble stabilized, and Lieutenant Uhura leaned back in her seat with a sigh, wriggling her fingers in mid-air. She looked far from relaxed, however.
“Lieutenant,” Kirk said. “Do you think you can really get a picture out of that transmission?”
“Don’t know why not,” the Communications Officer said, leaning forward again. “A leak that size would be big enough to peg rocks through, given a little luck. They’ve got visible lights blocked, but they’ve left a lot of other windows open. Anyhow, let’s try …”
Like any fan of the original show might, I have my little quibbles with the editor’s selection of episodes (mainly, my gripe is that the under-appreciated episode “Requiem for Methuselah” isn’t here), but even so, this volume is a pure, outright gift to Star Trek diehards who aren’t seeing nearly the level of commemoration this year that they’d like. Seeing it makes me day-dream about a much bigger volume containing The Price of the Phoenix, The Fate of the Phoenix, The Prometheus Design, and Triangle, but alas, I suspect no book like that will ever appear.
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