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Thursday, July 19, 2012

David Gerrold’s Protégé

What's bugging Mr. Spock?
(Not to mention Katalya!)

The “Star Trek” novel Vulcan!, written by Kathleen Sky, includes an introduction by David Gerrold.  He wrote this, he says, not at the invitation of the author or the publisher, but because he insisted on it.  In eight pages, he describes his friendship with Kathleen Sky, and how he has watched her grow and mature as a writer.  He describes the pride he felt when she wrote a story good enough for his anthology Generation, even though “she claims she was a student of the David Gerrold Bludgeon and Blast school of science fiction criticism,” in which he threw each manuscript into the air, and jumped up and down while yelling at her how terrible each story was. 

In my teen years, I found David Gerrold a consistent source of entertainment and inspiration.  Each month, I paged through “Starlog” magazine, seeking out his columns.  I remember how he compared Roy Neary’s experience with UFOs in Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” to that of a believer who claims to have been visited by an angel.  Reading his columns every month made me want to read his books, and I still regard two of his novels, When HARLEY was One and The Man Who Folded Himself, as all-time favorites.  Then, of course, there was his book The Trouble With Tribbles, in which he offered a behind-the-scenes view of how the “Star Trek” TV show took his story from the initial pitch stage through to a filmed episode. 

In Kathleen Sky’s novel, the Enterprise is sent to investigate the planet Arachnae.  Mr. Spock believes the inhabitants to be sentient, but the scientist sent to study them, Dr. Katalya Tremain, contends they are no smarter than insects.  The creatures resemble the bugs in “Starship Troopers,” the movie version of Robert Heinlein’s novel portrayed so vividly (and viciously) by director Paul Verhoeven.  Could the Arachaens be capable of rational thought, and worthy of joining the Federation?  This is not the only source of contention between the two officers who will lead the expedition.  Dr. Katalya Tremain, a scientist Spock has previously respected for her logic, loathes not just him, but the entire Vulcan race.

Dr. Leonard McCoy finds himself defending Mr. Spock against her attacks, when he is usually the one who derides Spock for his cold, unemotional nature.  As deplorable as he sees her racism, Dr. McCoy cannot help his growing attraction for her.  Thus he studies her as he woos her, yearning to rid her, if he can, of what he sees as an inexplicable psychological disorder.  He ends up worrying over both of them when an Arachnaen attack kills all expedition members but Katalya and Spock, and circumstances prevent the Enterprise from beaming the two back to safety.  So it is Mr. Spock, the man she hates, who must unravel the twisted threads of Katalya’s past, while the two investigate (and are attacked by) these bugs that may or may not be sentient, but are definitely lethal.

I found reading the novel again every bit as satisfying as I remembered it.  Her engrossing story left me wondering if my own efforts might be improved by “the David Gerrold Bludgeon and Blast method.”  Sadly, I may never get to know him, or receive the benefit of his opinion concerning one of the novels I hope to publish.  Nevertheless, his books, stories, and columns fed my own dreams of becoming a storyteller.  Unlike Kathleen Sky, I may not have the honor of being called his protégé, let alone become his friend, but I can envy her for the relationship she shared with the great David Gerrold.

Remembering my early influences,
Dragon Dave

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