In what is generally a favorable write-up of Star Trek: Seekers #1 – Second Nature, reviewer Steve Donoghue of Open Letters Monthly makes an observation I find troubling:

“In this first volume in the Star Trek Seekers series, Second Nature, Captain Terrell heads a somewhat predictably multi-racial crew — there’s a Vulcan, a Trill, an Arkenite, a Denobulan, etc. — and, unfortunately, Mack tends to lean on these race-implications just as so many Star Trek fiction writers have done before him. (It lends itself to an egregious laziness that would be condemned as simple racism if it were being applied to people from Lithuania instead of Alpha Centauri; countless times, Mack designates these characters by their races – “the Vulcan” this, or “the Trill” that).”

seekers1Considering how eagerly I and other Star Trek authors of recent years have strived to create a more inclusive portrait of humanity and of diverse ideologies and lifestyles in the novels, this note of his gave me great pause.

Have we been guilty of perpetrating a “lazy” and “casual” form of racism by using species identifiers in our prose? I know that I and some other authors do it to avoid pronoun confusion in scenes where several characters are of the same sex, and to avoid resorting to physical attributes (“the blonde,” “the tall man,” etc), or overusing the proper names to the point of distraction.

But now I’m curious. Does Mr. Donoghue have a point? Are writers of speculative fiction (including but not limited to Star Trek) committing a sin against the inclusive philosophy many of us consider important by using species identification as a form of literary short-hand? Or is this reviewer overreacting to an innocuous trope of the speculative fiction genre?

I’m not looking to pick a fight or incite people to pile onto Mr. Donoghue. This is a serious inquiry: How can we improve this aspect of SF and Star Trek fiction without creating clunky prose problems in the process? Or is this not even really a problem at all?

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Do you have both of the first two books of Star Trek: Seekers? Here’s a little hint: they look like this —

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If you do, and you weren’t able to get to Shore Leave in Baltimore last month, and want a shot to win one of these gorgeous posters—

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—autographed by yours truly, as well as by authors Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore, and Seekers cover artist Rob Caswell, then you need to know about this:

Dayton is running a contest on his blog to give away FIVE of these signed posters. Go there for the details, then enter by September 6, 2014, for a chance to win!

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The Trek Collective has posted a Q&A with Rob Caswell, the illustrator who crafted the covers for the new Star Trek: Seekers novels.

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They get Rob’s perspective on learning that his work had spawned a new officially licensed Star Trek novel series, and then he offers a look behind the scenes at the creative development process behind the cover art for the first two Seekers novels — which are now both on sale: Book 1 | Book 2.

It’s appropriate that Trek Collective should bring readers this exclusive peek behind the curtain. It was their articles — the first featuring Rob’s brilliant Blish Book Covers Remastered, and the second featuring his Lou Feck-inspired covers for the fictitious adaptations of an imaginary Star Trek spinoff series called The Seekers — that made me, Dayton Ward, and Kevin Dilmore aware of Rob’s outstanding work, and set the wheels turning in our cycle of inspiration, culminating in the new Star Trek: Seekers book series.

So, a tip of the hat to The Trek Collective!

 

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