Monday, 10 September 2018

The future back then

I had an odd introduction to Star Trek. Before I even knew the TV show existed, I came across the first ST book by James Blish in the newsagents on Wych Hill in Woking where I used to hang out in the hope of grabbing occasional US imports of Conan and Lin Carter books. The Pokemon Go of its day, that book-hunting. This must have been late '68 or early '69.

OK, so I'd heard of Blish and I figured this was in the same vein as Eric Frank Russell's Men, Martians & Machines. It was only when I got home and read the blurb that I realized the stories were adapted from TV episodes which were not, as it turned out, going to air in Britain until the summer of '69. My mental image of the characters was informed solely by that cover. So I read the stories envisaging Spock as green and Bones looking like an older Jimmy Olsen.

I gave the book to a friend of mine at school who was taken to hospital with rapid-onset diabetes. He and I used to swap Ace Doubles (back-to-back SF books) that you could buy super-cheap in Woolworths back then, so I figured he'd enjoy Star Trek. A few months later the BBC started running the show and all my friends became Trekkers. But I got there first.

With its grown-up storylines and in-built socialist humanism, Star Trek was always going to appeal more to me than the reactionary trend in SF typified by tropes like - well, royalism and mysticism and black-&-white morality and libertarianism. Naming no names. It was another era; an age of reason and hope. We were boldly going together towards a future that never contained the likes of Trump and Brexit.

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