50 minus 13: long vs short

Posted: 4 August 2014 in fiction, personal, writing
Tags: , ,

A short post today; had stuff on…

I have no idea how many people will recognise the two book covers pictured here, but I’m quite curious as to the number who do:

They’re adaptations of the original Star Trek episodes. Thing is, they’re not full length adaptations, they’re short stories, covering the episode, five or six stories to a book. And, as I recall, there were eleven or twelve books in the series. They weren’t particularly thick books either, as I recall.

Say 150 pages each, so each story was about 25 pages each.

I remember reading them, as a child (my brother had a full set of them, but British versions with a very different cover) and thoroughly enjoying them. Obviously, with each story so short, they didn’t delve into the histories of the characters; it was assumed that everything you needed to know about the characters, you already knew or you’d not have picked up the books. These were entirely plot drives stories, hardly any characterisation at all.

It reminds me of a comment made a while back by some comics pro that back in the 60s, say, you’d have a four page Superman story where he fought an underwater creature which was threatening an ocean liner, or a city, or some such; neither Superman nor the readers would give a damn in the story about where the creature came from, its motivations or what it had been doing three days earlier, etc.

These days, the same story could easily fill a 22 page issue, and you’d probably find out the creature’s name, its reason for the attack, and probably what size pizza it preferred.

And I’m not saying I wouldn’t enjoy the story just as much as I did then (there’s a lot of the old comics stories I simply don’t enjoy, because of the art or the writing) but it occurred to me that it’s not just comics that it’s happened to.

Can you imagine, say, BSG being novelised at 400 pages per series? No, nor I.

No real reason for this post; it just hit my brain and I wanted to get it out.

Also, one more thing, based upon the title of this blog post. My favourite legal gag of the last few years is the following:

If ever I opened a pub for lawyers, I’d call it R vs Anchor

  1. It was twelve volumes in all. The earliest of them weren’t even based on the final transcripts of the episodes as filmed, but rather, upon some of the earliest drafts of the scripts. So goes the legend about those adaptations of TOS. Never got them all, and eventually it seemed unnecessary.

    And the comparison to the pre-1960’s anthology comics is an apt one. You’re spot-on there.

    No, you couldn’t handle Galactica – not Moore and Eick’s version – in the same way.

    You wouldn’t want to.

  2. Phil Friel says:

    I still have all twelve volumes, adapted by SF author James Blish. I quite enjoyed them, despite the brevity of the stories and the differences with the televised episodes. These covers are from US editions. The books I have are all the classic UK Corgi Books editions, which I think are the ones you are remembering, Lee. Like you said, thin books, each with eight or ten stories at about a dozen pages apiece.

    Personally, I thought that Alan Dean Foster’s adaptions of the animated episodes were far superior. Star Trek Logs 1-10 were each two, maybe three times thicker than the James Blish adaptions. And there were only three stories per book, so each episode got around a hundred pages each, despite the fact that the animated episodes were only half the length of the live episodes.

    Some of these are really, really good, and expand upon and add greatly to what we saw on TV. Totally the opposite of the Blish books, and well worth reading, especially the first two or three, which contain the best episodes.

  3. And those American covers still influence new Trek stuff.

    Dean Caswell riffed off the design aesthetic on DeviantArt for some faux novel covers that ended up inspiring the launch of a new series of novels: Star Trek: Seekers, co-written by David Mack, Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore.


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