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Star Trek trivia: The evolution of “mind meld”

A while back, I noticed something interesting about the history of Star Trek terminology. We’ve all come to think of “mind meld” as the standard term for the telepathic contact used by the Vulcans, and it’s been used consistently and near-exclusively in most Trek productions over the decades. But in fact, it was never used in the original series until the third season, and then only twice. TOS was quite inconsistent in its terminology — as with so many things, they made it up as they went and it took time for the concept to settle down. Here’s a list of the terms they used, and how they were depicted (originally posted in a thread on Tor.com, and put together with the help of the Star Trek Script Search app):

  • Dagger of the Mind: “an ancient Vulcan technique to probe into Van Gelder’s tortured mind” — The template for the mind meld as we know it.
  • Devil in the Dark: “the Vulcan technique of the joining of two minds” — Also a very deep fusion and blending of identities.
  • The Changeling: “mind probe” — Ditto.
  • By Any Other Name: “mind probe” and “mind touch” to refer to the telepathic suggestion used with the Eminian guard and Kelinda, much less of a connection than we’ve seen before.
  • Patterns of Force: “mind probe” to refer to Spock reaching Gill’s mind, but we didn’t see how deep it went.
  • Spectre of the Gun: Debut of the term “mind meld,” to refer to what was basically hypnotic suggestion.
  • Elaan of Troyius: “mind meld” suggested but not used as an interrogation technique.
  • The Paradise Syndrome: “mind fusion” used for a full “our minds are one” joining.
  • Is There in Truth No Beauty?: “mind link” to refer to the full union of two minds.
  • One of Our Planets is Missing: “mind touch” for Spock allowing the cloud creature to see and speak through him, much like his “link” with Kollos.
  • The Infinite Vulcan: “mind touch” to refer to a full transfer of mind/memory from giant Spock to original Spock.

So that’s “Vulcan technique” in season 1; “mind probe” and “mind touch” in season 2; “mind meld,” “mind link,” and “mind fusion” in season 3; and “mind touch exclusively in the animated series. The usage was all over the place, and “mind meld” was the third-most common term after “mind touch” and “mind probe.” And the writers’ bible for TOS refers only to Spock’s “strange Vulcan ‘ESP’ ability to merge his mind with another intelligence.” In the first major Trek reference book, The Star Trek Concordance by Bjo Trimble, the version that gets the longest lexicon entry (29 lines) is “Vulcan mind touch,” with “mind link” (non-Vulcan) getting six lines, “Vulcan mind fusion” five lines, and “Vulcan mind meld” only four, the shortest entry (though no “mind probe” anywhere in sight). I always used to have the sense that “mind touch” referred to a shallower, more basic telepathic communication while the “meld” or “fusion” was a deeper, more complete blending, but as you can see above, the terms were used more interchangeably than that.

And yet the 1977 writers’ bible for Phase II, the TV revival project that later turned into Star Trek: The Motion Picture, did use the term “mind-meld” for Vulcan mental abilities. The term was then used in onscreen dialogue in TMP itself, for the contact between Spock and V’Ger’s memory crystal. It was also used in The Search for Spock (referring retroactively to Spock’s katra transfer to McCoy in TWOK) and The Voyage Home (for Spock’s mental communication with the whales). And it’s been the exclusive term in every subsequent Star Trek production. (“Mind probe” was used twice, in The Next Generation‘s “Menage a Troi” and Deep Space Nine‘s “Extreme Measures,” to refer to mind-scanning technologies akin to the Klingon mind sifter, but never for Vulcan telepathy.) So sometime between TAS and the movies, the term became standardized.

It also occurred to me to check into the tie-in fiction that came out between TOS and TMP. 1970’s Spock Must Die! by James Blish used yet another unique term, “mind-lock.” But the next original Bantam publication, the 1976 anthology Star Trek: The New Voyages (which was mostly reprinting earlier fanfiction stories, though newly revised for the anthology), uses “mind-meld” consistently in multiple stories. As far as I can tell, it was pretty standard in Bantam’s books from then on (though I don’t have them all in my possession). So in both screen and prose Trek, the term “mind meld” somehow became the default by the late 1970s — but how? Why that term, when it was so infrequently used in TOS and never in TAS?

When I checked my nonfiction text sources, I found that The Making of Star Trek, written by Stephen Edward Poe (as Stephen E. Whitfield) and Gene Roddenberry during season 2 of TOS and released shortly before the premiere of season 3, refers to Spock’s ability as “mind-melding” — making it the earliest public use of the term. It’s possible Poe/Whitfield got it from the scripts to “Spock’s Brain” and “Elaan of Troyius,” though, depending on how early they were written. Or maybe it’s just the term Roddenberry had decided on, and so it got around behind the scenes.

People today often don’t realize it, but TMoST was the definitive ST reference book in its day, the source of a number of things that became conventional fan wisdom even though they were never stated onscreen, such as Kirk being the youngest starship captain, McCoy’s divorce backstory (proposed by DeForest Kelley for the second-season writers’ bible but first publicized by TMoST), and the Romulan-Klingon alliance (from development notes for “The Enterprise Incident” to explain the Romulan use of Klingon ships, which seems to confirm that Poe had access to early third-season scripts). Not to mention technical details that weren’t canonized until later, like the idea of the forward parabolic dish being a navigational deflector. TMoST was also the second work to establish a 23rd-century setting for TOS, preceded by James Blish’s “Space Seed” adaptation in the collection Star Trek 2 seven months earlier.

So if all these things became conventional wisdom because they were in The Making of Star Trek, it follows that TMoST’s use of the term “mind-melding” is the reason that term became standardized later on. And it does seem that it used the term because it was written around the same time as the two TOS episodes that did use it. If it had been written a few months earlier, we might’ve ended up talking about “Vulcan mind probes” for all these years.

THE FACE OF THE UNKNOWN is now on sale!

December 28, 2016 1 comment

Just a reminder that Star Trek: The Original Series — The Face of the Unknown officially went on sale yesterday. I’ve updated this site’s homepage and Star Trek Fiction page with ordering links, and I’ve added a book discussion page, although I haven’t had time to do the spoiler annotations yet.

ST Face of Unknown cover

Also, as I mentioned a couple months back, this is my first Star Trek novel to get an audiobook version, something that Simon & Schuster seems to have begun doing regularly with Trek novels now. The narrator is Robert Petkoff, and judging from the sample I heard on Amazon, he does a good job capturing the TOS cast’s voices.

Book signing event at Joseph-Beth Booksellers January 26!

I’m going to be at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati’s Rookwood Pavilion for a book signing and discussion event next month. Here’s their events page with the announcement:

http://www.josephbeth.com/AdultEvents.aspx

I figured that, since Star Trek: The Original Series — The Face of the Unknown and my Analog novelette “Twilight’s Captives” were both coming out around the same time, it would be a good opportunity for a signing, and the folks at Joseph-Beth agreed. It’ll begin at 7 PM on Thursday, January 26th at 2692 Madison Road in Rookwood Pavilion (directions are here). This will be my first signing at J-B since the one I did for Only Superhuman three years before. I’ll be talking about the new book and story and answering questions, so hopefully my voice will be in better shape than it was last time. I expect there will be copies of some of my older books available as well.

Look what else arrived today!

December 15, 2016 2 comments

I should’ve waited — I could’ve posted both of these at once. Here’s what I found when I checked the mail this afternoon:

Star Trek: The Face of the Unknown

Yep, my copies of Star Trek: The Face of the Unknown are here, and they look terrific. The spines look good too, with a vivid gold logo on a deep blue starscape background that wraps around from the front. They even look good on the inside, with a nice, classic, easily legible font. I’m happy with how these turned out. I hope readers are happy with them too. They’ll be on sale in just a couple more weeks!

More Trek news: RISE OF THE FEDERATION — PATTERNS OF INTERFERENCE

November 12, 2016 4 comments

The word has been out for a little while now, so it’s high time I mentioned it: My next Star Trek novel after the upcoming The Face of the Unknown will be Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference, the fifth book in the ROTF series. Here’s the blurb:

The time has come to act. Following the destructive consequences of the Ware crisis, Admiral Jonathan Archer and Section 31 agent Trip Tucker both attempt to change their institutions to prevent further such tragedies. Archer pushes for a Starfleet directive of non-interference, but he faces opposition from allies within the fleet and unwelcome support from adversaries who wish to drive the Federation into complete isolationism. Meanwhile, Tucker plays a dangerous game against the corrupt leaders of Section 31, hoping to bring down their conspiracy once and for all. But is he willing to jeopardize Archer’s efforts—and perhaps the fate of an entire world—in order to win?

The listed publication date is August 29, 2017, which makes it officially the September 2017 book.

Before anyone asks, yes, the title is kind of a nod to the TOS episode title “Patterns of Force,” but it’s not directly related to that episode, aside from dealing with Prime Directive issues. I just thought it was a reasonably good title (it’s a bit of a pun on interference patterns in physics) and the resonance with a prior Trek title was a bonus.

A couple of other STAR TREK news items…

October 27, 2016 3 comments

First off, following up on my cover reveal for Star Trek: The Original Series — The Face of the Unknown, Simon & Schuster has also included a listing for an unabridged audiobook adaptation of the novel. I know this is a real thing, since I was recently contacted for input on the pronunciation guide. This will be my third audiobook overall, and my first for a Star Trek project.

Second, Cross Cult, the German publisher of Star Trek novels in translation, has posted the preliminary cover artwork for their translation of Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures:

ROTF 1 Am Scheideweg cover

Am Scheideweg = At a Crossroads, apparently. Nice translation for A Choice of Futures.

And I like it that it’s just Star Trek: Rise of the Federation, instead of ST: Enterprise: ROTF. That’s what I would’ve preferred it to be called, since it’s broader than just ENT.

STAR TREK: THE FACE OF THE UNKNOWN cover is out!

October 27, 2016 2 comments

Here it is:

ST Face of Unknown cover

I quite like this cover. It’s got nice vivid colors, it’s a dynamic scene, and I like the menacing Scary Balok Puppet head looming over the scene (and tying in nicely with the “Face” in the title). The swarm of angular red ships attacking the Enterprise is what really sells it, I think, adding color and energy and novelty to the scene; take them away and it would just look like a poster for “The Corbomite Maneuver.” It’s interesting how one element can make the difference like that.

Also, I just realized that the dominant colors on the cover are gold, blue, and red, the three TOS uniform colors (although the “gold” was actually more an avocado green that looked gold under stage lights, but anyway). How appropriate for the closing book of TOS’s 50th-anniversary year (it’s technically the January 2017 book, but its official street date is December 27, and a publishing year is considered to run from February to January).

Here’s the blurb again:

Continuing the milestone 50th anniversary celebration of Star Trek—a brand-new novel of The Original Series featuring James T. Kirk, Spock, and the crew of the USS Enterprise!

Investigating a series of violent raids by a mysterious predatory species, Captain James T. Kirk discovers that these events share a startling connection with the First Federation, a friendly but secretive civilization contacted early in the USS Enterprise’s five-year mission. Traveling to the First Federation in search of answers, the Enterprise suddenly comes under attack from these strange marauders. Seeking refuge, the starship finds its way to the true home of the First Federation, an astonishing collection of worlds hidden from the galaxy beyond. The inhabitants of this isolated realm are wary of outsiders, and some accuse Kirk and his crew for bringing the wrath of their ancient enemy down upon them. When an attempt to stave off disaster goes tragically wrong, Kirk is held fully accountable, and Commander Spock learns there are even deeper forces that threaten this civilization. If Kirk and Spock cannot convince the First Federation’s leaders to overcome their fears, the resulting catastrophe could doom them all!

And here’s the ordering page at Simon & Schuster, with links to other vendors.

Just two months to go!