The Star Trek novels were my gateway drug. A lot of the SF/F authors I read early on I was introduced to by way of Star Trek, in particular the Pocket books that came out beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Not that I got around to reading the novelization of the movie for a couple of years. When the movie came out I was only in 2nd grade. And even though one of my earliest reading experiences was reading the Star Wars novelization out loud to my parents/grandparents (I started with the dogfight around the Death Star because that was the most exciting part of the movie for me) most of my reading at that time was much more limited. I couldn’t really be running over to an adult to tell me what a word was every 5 minutes. I’d get frustrated and they’d get annoyed.
But, by the time Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan came out in 1982 I was almost ready for that level of difficulty. I was still hitting The Hardy Boys pretty hard back then, a paperback copy of Night of the Werewolf being one of my prized souvenirs from a family vacation to Winnipeg. But, after the movie I started reading the Star Trek Log books by Alan Dean Foster. I think I read the first four volumes before I realized there was a cartoon series they were based on. That fall, for my birthday, my parents got me a copy of The Abode of Life. By then I was hooked. I sought out a bunch of the other books in the series, and from previous series. Spock Must Die! by James Blish captivated me. But, it wasn’t until I got to My Enemy, My Ally by Diane Duane and Ishmael by Barbara Hambly that I started thinking ‘you know, these people can really write’. While the Foster books were entertaining for a kid, they didn’t strike me as great stories that really spoke to me like Blish had.
I searched our library, which really had a pretty decent fiction section, for other stories by some of these authors, but other than Alan Dean Foster they didn’t really have much. By the time I was in junior high and could ride my bike all the way out to the mall (shush, don’ t tell my parents), about 4 miles each way with the river valley between, and get to the book store. That was when I was able to get my hands on more of these authors (and a lot more Star Trek novels as well). They had all three novels in Barbara Hambly’s The Darwath Trilogy (wizard sitting there with a beer in his hand blew my mind). And I kept my eyes out for other stuff of hers. The Witches of Wenshar was good, but she blew me away with Those Who Hunt the Night. I count the James Asher series as my favorite vampire novels. Bride of the Rat God is excellent as well. Really, I’ve yet to read one of Hambly’s novels that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.
All through high school I continued to devour those Star Trek novels. John M. Ford’s How Much For Just the Planet? Had me rolling in the aisles. I reread that one several times, whenever I started feeling a little down. I had to be careful while reading in class though or I’d start laughing and disrupt the class.
Greg Bear’s contribution led me to his other stuff outside Star Trek. Slant is among my favorite nanotechnology novels.
Jean Lorrah’s contributions were great as well. The Vulcan Academy Murder’s got my Mom hooked on the Star Trek novels, too. She’s the one that got me watching the old Star Trek reruns on Saturday afternoons, so it was no big surprise. The IDIC Epidemic was darn entertaining as well.
Then I found Mel Gilden, and while his Star Trek stuff was OK, his Zoot Marlowe series had me in stitches.
So, the Star Trek novels led me down the primrose path of SF/F. Not that it took a lot of arm twisting, a vivid imagination, a belief that science could lead us into a better world and wanting to be the White Knight who rides in and saves the day already predisposed me to it. But Star Trek, it gave me that first really addictive taste that I just couldn’t walk away from.