I swear this newsletter is not turning into a Star Trek blog or anything, but Star Trek has been on my mind quite a bit lately, for various reasons. And this is a mini-rant about something I keep seeing lately.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has indeed been a delight, a breath of fresh air, and a much needed dose of optimism and old-school Star Trek fun, during a challenging time. But over and over, people can't seem to praise Strange New Worlds without disdaining Star Trek: Discovery the show that Strange New Worlds spun off from. I feel like this is a daily occurrence lately.
And I just want to say: knock it off.
Why can't we like both? Why can't Star Trek be big enough to encompass a multitude of tones, styles, and approaches to storytelling? To love Star Trek is to love its limitless potential, which is really exemplified by these two shows and their divergent formats.
I've greatly enjoyed all four seasons of Discovery thus far, but I also feel as though Discovery came into its own, and became a much better show, with its third and fourth seasons.
Minor spoilers ahead...
At the end of season 2, Discovery sends its titular ship forward into the distant future, centuries after all the other Star Trek shows. At long last, we're seeing what happens to the federation after Picard, Sisko, and Janeway have long since passed on. Enterprise, the most recent films, and Discovery's first two seasons all rewound Trek continuity to the Original Series era, or even earlier, and this is also when Strange New Worlds now takes place.
So it's been revolutionary and exhilarating to see Star Trek do once again what it did with The Next Generation back in the 1980s: leap further into the future --- because it's all about boldly going, right?
But also, seasons three and four of Discovery have kept getting sharper and better, in multiple ways. The characters are really jelling now, the crew feels more like a real family, and they let Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) smile and appear happy to be here, while the first two seasons seemed to require her to scowl constantly. At the same time, the show has created a smaller queer chosen family within its larger crew family, with the introduction of Adira (Blu del Barrio) and Gray (Ian Anderson), who are non-binary and trans respectively. Both characters we're adopted by Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), who are modeling how gay men can nurture and support young queer people everywhere.
So many of my favorite moments in Trek canon have happened in Discovery, especially in the past couple of seasons. I love Burnham's romance with Book (David Ajala), which feels unusually lived-in and intimate for a Trek romance (despite some bumps in the road, especially in the latest season.) I love Tig Notaro and David Cronenberg showing up occasionally, and clearly having the time of their lives. It's matured in a really fun, thoughtful show.
I don't just love Discovery because of stuff like its Black female captain, or the multitude of queer characters-- though I have to admit those things make me immensely happy. I also cherish Discovery because -- true to its name -- the last couple of seasons have been all about scientific exploration and problem-solving, albeit with huge stakes. Season three is all about uncovering the causes of the burn, a mysterious phenomenon that caused starships to explode. And season four is all about figuring out the cause of a new anomaly that threatens planets everywhere.
Along the way, Discovery has also focused on fighting oppression, particularly in the struggle against the Emerald Chain which enslaved people throughout the galaxy. And it's also had a strong focus on first contact and diplomacy, and finding a peaceful solution wherever possible -- which is kind of the through-line of season four, where the crew faces an alien species who communicate in a drastically different fashion. The two far-future seasons have a focus on what it takes to rebuild, and how to build strong institutions that can accomodate different points of view.
What could be more Star Trek than scientific investigation with a focus on positive change and learning to understand other cultures? In the last couple of years, I really feel as though Discovery has blossomed into the best of Star Trek, a show that can stand alongside the franchise's greatest shows and movies. So it makes me especially sad to see people expressing their completely justified love for Strange New Worlds by putting down this wonderful show.
I'm about to be at San Diego Comic Con! I'm doing a panel tomorrow (Friday) at 11 AM in 32AB, with Paul Cornell, Pierce Brown, Blake Crouch and Ryka Aoki. Come say hi!
On Saturday, Annalee Newitz and I are giving a keynote at the San Francisco Writers Conference.
On Tuesday (July 26) at 7 PM, Annalee and I are reading at the Seattle Public Library as part of the Clarion West series.
You can still pick up Marvel Voices: Pride #1 (2022), a kick-ass comic that includes the debut story of Escapade, a trans mutant superhero I co-created. Escapade will be back this fall in New Mutants #31.
And finally, I've published four books in the past year or so. There's my YA trilogy: Victories Greater Than Death is out in paperback now, and the sequel, Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, is out in hardcover. If you are into stories about artists and nerds and creative people (who are almost all extremely queer) saving the galaxy, these books might be your cup of tea. Also, I have a short story collection called Even Greater Mistakes, which ranges from very silly comedy to dark intensity. Finally, I have book of advice on writing yourself out of hard, scary times called Never Say You Can't Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories, which was just shortlisted for a World Fantasy Award!