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The Not-So-Final Frontier

A Seattleite wrote the Star Trek backstory. Will the new movie ruin her universe?

April 23, 2009 Published in the May 2009 issue of Seattle Met

The future, not what it used to be: Chris Pine (left) plays Captain Kirk in Star Trek, in theaters May 8.

ON FRIDAY, MAY 8 geeks from Redmond to Lynnwood will feast their eyes on the first Star Trek movie to hit the big screen in seven years. The $150 million prequel, directed by Lost creator J. J. Abrams, promises to give the 43-year-old science-fiction franchise a much needed jolt. The film centers on the first mission of Captain James T. Kirk and crew. One problem: Acclaimed science-fiction writer and Wallingforder Vonda N. McIntyre already wrote a prequel, the 1986 novel Enterprise: The First Adventure, in which Kirk meets the Enterprise crew and takes helm of the ship expecting to save the universe, but his bosses assign him to Starfleet’s equivalent of a USO tour, which includes a magic show and a flying horse. (Don’t expect equine flight or anything else from McIntyre’s imagination in Abrams’s version.) The author, 60, recently spoke to us about her initiation into Trekkiedom, how it feels to have your decades-old story ideas rendered irrelevant, and what it means to be a sci-fi writer in this most nerdy of Northwest cities.

The original Star Trek TV series premiered September 1966, shortly before you entered the University of Washington. How did the show affect you? I was instantly entranced. It captured the sense of wonder that is so appealing about classic science fiction. I took a teeny-weeny black-and-white TV to college with me, and a bunch of us got together every week to watch the show.

Kirk or Spock? As a science geek, I did of course find Mr. Spock interesting; the hunky hero, not so much.

How are you dealing with the fact that the new movie will nullify the backstory you created in Enterprise: The First Adventure? The books and everything in them belong to Paramount, which can do anything (or nothing) with the material. There’s no point in getting in a lather about the differences. Ideas are plentiful; it’s how the writer uses them that counts. If you read science fiction, you can deal with, and appreciate, multiple timelines and parallel universes.

What about Seattle, aside from its status as the Geek Capital of America, makes it such a great place to thrive as a science-fiction author? I never found anyplace better than Seattle. I particularly appreciate the Seattle Public Library and the UW library, and the folks at the UW, the Burke Museum, and elsewhere who cheerfully answer weird questions. Even with the Internet there’s no substitute for talking to someone, or for a library that has books such as The Journal of the Marquis de Dangeau, which I drew on for my novel The Moon and the Sun. (The UW library had to dig it out of the basement for me.)

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