The Women Writers Behind Pocket Books’ 1980s Star Trek Novel Line

Surprising absolutely no one given my nerdy proclivities, I’m a big fan of Star Trek, and have been since I was 8 years old. I’ve seen all the shows and movies, have dozens of action figures, and every now and again I read a Star Trek novel. As such, I usually take a look at the Star Trek area of the sci-fi section whenever I’m in a used bookstore, and recently I found something surprising: A Star Trek novel written by a woman.

Women writers aren’t entirely unheard of in the world of modern Star Trek books; most recently, Kirsten Beyer has been writing the Voyager franchise. But they’re definitely in the minority, especially in the bigger original series and Next Generation lines. So when I saw a Star Trek book from the 1980s written by a woman, I decided to check it out.

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The book is Star Trek: Dreadnought! by Diane Carey, and I quite enjoyed it. A recently graduated female cadet gets assigned to the Enterprise after frying the computers during the famed Kobayashi Maru test, and ends up helping Kirk and Spock stop a rogue Starfleet admiral with a massive, secret warship. The novel was a lot of fun, and at the end of the book was a list of other titles in the line, many of them written by women.

In fact, of the 97 numbered titles in the original series Star Trek novel line, 58 of them were written by women. That’s 60%, a clear majority. And that’s just the numbered books; there were several side-books as well, including adaptations of the movies which were all written by women after Gene Roddenberry wrote the first one.   These women writers included:

  • A.C. Crispin
  • Barbara Hambly
  • Barbara Paul
  • Carmen Carter
  • Carolyn Clowes
  • D.C. Fontana
  • Dana Kramer-Rolls
  • Della van Hise
  • Diane Carey
  • Diane Duane
  • J.M. Dillard
  • Janet Kagan
  • Jean Lorrah
  • Judith Reeves
  • Judy Klass
  • Julia Ecklar
  • Kathy Oltion
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • L.A. Graf
  • M.S. Murdock
  • Majliss Larson
  • Margaret Wander Bonanno
  • Melinda Snodgrass
  • Melissa Crandall
  • Myrna Culbreath
  • Pamela Sargent
  • Sondra Marshak
  • Sonni Cooper
  • V.E. Mitchell
  • Vonda N. McIntyre

That’s quite a list. All together, there were 30 different women writing 58 Star Trek novels. This substantial number of women writers is a pleasant surprise given that they’re in the minority by a sizeable margin in modern Star Trek novels. Generally speaking, we expect progress in representation, but Star Trek novels seem to have gone backwards.

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The novels that I’ve read so far are both written by women and feature a wide array of smart, fleshed out female characters. In the last book I read, The Tears of the Singers by Melinda Snodgrass, Uhura is the main character and Kali, the wife of Klingon captain Kor, is a key player in maintaining the peace between humans and Klingons as they investigate a space/time rift. There’s even a moment in the book where Kirk momentarily worries that Uhura might neglect her Starfleet duties because of a new romantic interest, and then he checks himself and remembers that he’s dated lots of ladies and it didn’t affect his work so he shouldn’t expect any different from Uhura.

On top of showcasing so many women, real and fictional, the novels are great because they’re from the 1980s, where each book had a painted cover. These days, Star Trek novel covers are just photoshopped, but they had to do it old school in the 1980s. There must be originals for these covers somewhere, right? If I ever came across one of those paintings, I would totally try to buy it, especially one with 1980s hair on futuristic clothes.

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Anyway, women-written Star Trek novels are now my go-to used bookstore objective. I’ve got six or seven already, and am hoping to get them all. They’re a cool memento of strong female representation from an era where you wouldn’t really expect it, plus they’re fun to read too.

Published by Tim Hanley

Tim Hanley is a comic book historian and the author of Wonder Woman Unbound, Investigating Lois Lane, The Many Lives of Catwoman, and Betty and Veronica: The Leading Ladies of Riverdale.

11 thoughts on “The Women Writers Behind Pocket Books’ 1980s Star Trek Novel Line

  1. This is absolutely awesome to see! I’ve recently started watching the OST on Netflix and I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s very cool to see that my favorite incarnation of Star Trek continues to be a head of its time.

  2. Great post. I LIVE at my used bookstore for pocketbooks. I even have the Star Trek book collector application on my phone to help me navigate them. I am a HUGE fan of the writing style of both Cristie Golden and Kirsten Beyer, who have authored Voyager books. Great article. Thank you for posting it.

  3. Great article and observation. I will go one further.In publishing in general you will find women are the majority of executives and personnel.. Also many of these early ST writers went on to have fine non-st careers too.

    While I still have all these ST books carefully packaged and stored, I do wish that S&S would release the ST back list on Kindle Unlimited. I think fans would enjoy discovering them.

    My favorite would also be “Dreadnought”. The perspective from a new character was a wonderful change and it was an excellent story!

  4. Everyone acts like Tim Zahn invented the notion of a published Expanded Universe, but these ladies did it fifteen years before him…
    (although it’s funny that you picked up Dreadnought as your first book, because that was basically the first major published Mary Sue story…)

  5. I had never noticed back when I was reading those. A lot of them use initials so I wouldn’t have known anyway. But it does explain a lot of the better moments such as those you pointed out. There were quite a lot of good stories in those novels, with just a few bad ones. Better than anything Paramount has put on screen in decades, anyway. I enjoyed reading about this. Thanks.

  6. The painted covers were so much more entertaining and attractive than the current Photoshop stiff crap they put together nowadays.

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