Friday, February 02, 2007

The thrill of the hunt! Part 3

It's been a looooooong time since I've been surprised by a "new" Star Trek book, just sitting in front of me on a shelf. It happened to me this week and it gave me a rather nostalgic buzz.

The Internet really spoils things. I mean, thanks to places like Psi Phi and TrekBBS, I know the titles, authors, covers and blurbs of most Star Trek books for months - even years, sometimes - before they turn up.

On Tuesday, I started back in a school library, refreshing those forgotten, cobwebbed corners of my brain that used to understand the OASIS computer database, the Dewey Decimal System, and how many library books could be borrowed by a Year 4 child with a cloth library bag.

Refamiliarising myself with the Enquiry facility of OASIS, I typed in "Star Trek" as a search term - I'd recently donated a hardcover copy of the "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Storybook" by Lawrence Weinberg to the library, which I'd found at a bargain price - and up came a single title I didn't recognise: "Rain May and Captain Daniel", an Australian fiction book for primary aged children by Catherine Bateson (UQP Storybridge Series, University of Queensland Press, 2002). It had a subject heading of "Star Trek: The Next Generation [Television series] - Fiction". Mmmmm...


How I missed it when the book first came out I just do not know. It was even shortlisted in the Children's Book Council of Australia's "Book of the Year" Awards. (My class had studied the picture book "Bear and Chook" that year, performing the story as reader's theatre at the assembly - and our group poster for the library was on the theme for 2003, not just one book.) Had I still been editor of "Scan", I'd have proofread the review, and organised the uploading of said review to our website.

Of course, even finding the book wasn't easy. My first scan of the "B" fiction shelves didn't locate the book, although it did turn up on Thursday. Then, last night, I found my own copy at Dymocks in the city. I was fairly sure they'd have it, since the book is also on the list of recommended reading for the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge..., of which I'm a member of the book review panel! Did I say, "The thrill of the hunt"? Yeah, "the hunt" is supposed to be enjoyable. It's why we crave it. But it's usually the "finding" that overrules all the previous feelings of frustration.

Now, "Rain May and Captain Daniel" is not a Star Trek book per se, but it is about a group of school students, living in Melbourne, Australia, who like (and/or come to appreciate) Star Trek - in all of its TV incarnations. Although Rain explains that she's named after a line in an e e cummings' poem, "Captain" Daniel assumes she was named for Rain Robinson, a guest character from the "Voyager" two-parter, "Future's End". Daniel seems to live and breathe Star Trek, keeps a diary he calls his "Captain's Log" (complete with stardates), thinks of his neighbours as alien colonists, and even knows a counsellor named Diana, just like Deanna Troi of TNG.

These kids identify strongly with the ST ideals and characters, mainly of "The Next Generation" and "Voyager". They support each other through some serious issues, in ways that would make Gene Roddenberry proud. They go shopping for Star Trek lapel pins at the real Minotaur Bookshop, can quote Kirk and Spock as readily as Deanna Troi - and are enthralled when a friend gives them a disk of the downloaded "Enterprise" premiere, long before it was to be commercially available in Australia!

There are a few glitches in the novel: references to Lieutenant Tom Parish (Paris), Counsellor Troy (Troi) and Volcan (Vulcan) three-dimensional chess, but overall the story rings true. In the 80s I knew several primary aged kids who got thoroughly immersed in the Star Trek phenomenon. It's rarer to find them today because the newer ST series screen on free-to-air TV sooooo late at night, and to such an erratic schedule of delays and pre-emptions for sporting events and infommercials.

Some fun quotes from the book:

"I haven't much bargaining power, as the Ferengi would put it..."

After watching the teaser of "Enterprise": "Then there was this dicky music and some credits started to come up." "... The music is so stupid... It completely sucks."

"And she thinks Scott Bakula is a total stud puppy."

From the back cover blurb: "Together these unlikely friends adventure where no one has gone before.

Hunt for it! It's a great little read.

Captain's Log: Supplemental.

Stranded in Boringsville
US title: "Stranded in Boringsville".


Jean Prouvaire said...

The line of Star Trek "meta fiction" (fiction about Star Trek, if I can call it that) is relatively short compared to the vast catalogue of Star Trek pro and fan fiction, but it goes back quite a long while.

Perhaps the earliest (and certainly one of - if not the - best) examples is "Beam Us Home" by Alice Sheldon, aka James Tiptree Jr, published in April 1969 - while the show was still running!

Therin of Andor said...

Yes indeed. I've been meaning to track that one down for a while!

Therin of Andor said...

Just found out that "Rain May and Captain Daniel" was published in the USA under the bizarre title, "Stranded in Boringsville"!