melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen posting in [community profile] starry_sea
Time for discussion post #2, in which we discuss

The Wounded Sky!

Pocket Books #13, by Diane Duane.

I've gotta confess, people: I am incapable of being anything but squeeful about this book. Not only is it just really excellent, but it taught me a lot of things that became the foundation of the way I understand the universe. (It's *that* good.)

...but, hey, it's also just a Star Trek novel! So feel free to discuss whatever you'd like.

Here's a few topics I was thinking about, just to get us started:

1. Science! This book has a scientific bibliography at the end, and if you go back to the source post, we actually posted copies of a couple of the articles and books that are listed in the bibliography. You probably didn't read them, and if you did, you probably didn't have a clue what they were talking about (I didn't), but what do you think of the way this book handles science in general? It definitely shows that it's a book that's done its research, especially when it comes to astronomy. (Red Matter = de Sitter Space, y/y/wtf?)

2. Diversity! One thing that really stands out in DD's work in general is the way she 's really committed to showing that not all aliens look like Terrans with latex foreheads, and not all aliens think like Terrans, either. In this book we've got Sulamids, hestv, Hamalki, Sadrao, sa'na'Mdeihei... and that's just for a start. What do you feel about how that Federation looks as compared to the one we see too often where everyone's just humans in costume?

And how does diversity among alien species interact with diversity among Human characters? Does it detract? Does it intersect? Thoughts? How to her original characters (human and not, female and not) fit in to that diversity? Do they work? (I will never get over K't'lk discussing sex and religion and death and taxes in Jim's cabin. On the other hand, does that relationship only work because she's sufficiently non-humanoid that he doesn't see her as a woman? Why *is* sex off the table? Jack Harkness would've hit on her anyway... Heck, *I* would hit on her; her brain is shiny.)

3. Kirk/Enterprise/Crew: meant for each other, yes? (OMFG, yes. Also: she thinks he's her pet, and he's adorable.)

4. How about all the pop-culture references that get casually thrown around? We've got everything from Lothlorien to landsharks. It's a really fannish way of doing things, maybe, and I think it works in the universe she draws. But does it really add to the story for everyone? Is there a danger in going overboard? Am I overestimating how much she does it?

5. The spirituality. She notes at the end that a lot of what's in this book came from The Tao of Physics, by Fritjof Capra, which I'll admit I've never finished reading (it's been partially-read for years) but I've read a fair amount on Tao in general, and on physics and faith. And I still don't quite buy that singularity causes mind-melds, or that creative physics works quite like that. Although remembering K't'lk's logic has helped me, more than a few times, understand some topic in science or philosophy. Duane's concept of entropy as the death-principle was my first introduction to the term, and when I learned later how the concept actually works in science, it was both confusing and illuminating.

In the end they bring entropy to a new universe, a universe they build around a game, where an eternal plural Oneness can play at being people. That's an echo of a creation myth that shows up in mystical traditions the world around - from the Tao te Ching to the Sefer Zohar, though frequently it loses the element of laughter along the way. Does it work for you fictionally? Does it have echoes into your own real life spirituality? I'll admit that my answer to "Why is there pain and death?" is still (depending on the audience) either "Because we'd be really bored without it" or "Because without the second law of thermodynamics, there is no change."

Anybody know any Wounded-sky based fanfic? Anybody want to write any? I've been craving, for a very long time, a story that brings back the universe they created - imagine an older Kirk and Spock and Scotty (or the reboot versions!) wandering into a universe in which they're the great founding archetypes that have shaped every story and every philosophy...

oh, wait, that's our universe. :P (Imagine, then, them wandering into a universe where K't'lk is still-always-singing creation, and it's a creation built of love and compassion and integrity in-the-other's-skin.)


The Wounded Sky is also, of course, the first of Diane Duane's Star Trek novels, introducing some characters, characterization, and worldbuilding that recur in her other six ST books, which shaped the way a lot of Star Trek fans understand Star Trek. Feel free to discuss it in that context, or even in the context of DD's entire ouvre (I'm something of a fan, you might have noticed.)

Next discussion will be on Spock's World (the return of K's't'lk, among many other things!), but I may be a bit late getting files up (due to massive computer woes), and it's a longer book, so I'm going to give us two weeks to finish reading it.

ETA: Who wants to make me a recording of Enterprise, Starship? (Or the one about the asteroid miner's daughter and the weird-looking creature with all the eyes. I'm not picky.)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-05 04:15 am (UTC)
stellar_dust: Stylized comic-book drawing of Scully at her laptop in the pilot. (BL - denny knows things)
From: [personal profile] stellar_dust
(Alas, I really cannot write an Epic Essay for every book in this comm, so here's .. something.)

Edit: Yeah I totally commented without clicking the cut text, and so my numbers have no relevance to your numbers. Oops? Possibly more thinky thoughts tomorrow.

1. Yes, this book totally shaped my cosmology in more ways than I realized!

2. The part where they're all trooping through the netherworld together is very very Last Battle-ish. (I may have read those books very near this one once upon a time.) Onwards and upwards! Except it's, like, backwards - ultimate creation instead of ultimate destruction - and I heart that so much.

3. OMG Doctor McCoy and your glowing with compassion self of awesomeness, marry me.

4. This book is really very id, isn't it?

5. What I said in my reply to the intro post, about how Kirk is never ever allowed to die because, because I said so? I'm now thinking he's never ever allowed to die because K't'lk said so. Their conversation about politics/religion/death/taxes is imprinted in my brain.
Edited Date: 2009-06-05 05:47 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-05 02:35 pm (UTC)
stellar_dust: Shatner!Kirk is the original omnisexual space captain! (ST - original omnisexual space captain)
From: [personal profile] stellar_dust
It's true! Even if he did eventually make it out of the Nexus as in the novels, there's still an imprint of him in there because the Nexus is timeless, right? Right!

Oh and on the Kirk/K't'lk thing, I think I'm used to bookverse Kirk treating women with actual respect, so I didn't particularly find it odd that he wasn't putting the moves on!

However, Jack/K't'lk, yes please omg.

Are we just gonna zoom straight through all the Diane Duane books now? (.. which is to say, which books should I load up my iPod with for the summer?)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-06 06:45 am (UTC)
feanna: The cover of an old German children's book I inherited from my mother (Default)
From: [personal profile] feanna
When you dig down deep enough we are all of made of love.

That's a really beautiful sentiment!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-05 09:44 am (UTC)
valentinite: "This Ipod Sucks" text on animated Spock with a tricorder (star trek animated)
From: [personal profile] valentinite
I reread this right after the movie, and I'm still craving fic in either universe with K't'lk or K's't'lk (depending on timeline) and the red matter, because it does seem like the sort of thing she'd do, and it makes the wacky physics suddenly awesome rather than lame.

It doesn't hold up as well as I'd hoped -- the whole marching scene seems over the top (both in references and in purple prose) to me now when it didn't when I was younger, but the characters are still lovely. Duane is best when she sticks to characters rather than action, I think.

...Possibly more when it is not 5:45 am and I am on my way out of the house.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-05 11:38 pm (UTC)
sineala: Detail of The Unicorn in Captivity, from The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestry (Default)
From: [personal profile] sineala
I was so excited about this being next up... that I totally forgot to reread it.

Um. Give me a couple days.

(Also, if that novel-based fanfic challenge gets off the ground, someone had better do Wounded Sky.)

I can't decide whether I like this or Spock's World better. Don't make me choose. I'll probably read this and say that of course I like it best, and then read Spock's World and think the same thing.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-08 02:25 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] aerynkatrika
I first read The Wounded Sky as a pre-teen, and it shaped a lot of my perceptions. DD introduced me to the concepts of entropy (very useful in my later studies of cosmology and physics in school) and alternative genders (i.e. the hestv).
I adopted Harb Tanzer's theory (that all of us are game pieces in a game played by a god who's got an eternity to kill) as my own personal religion years ago, and it has served me well ever since.
As for the pop-culture references, I didn't get most of them the first time through, and it didn't detract from the story for me at all. In fact, I read "Hitchhiker's Guide" after The Wounded Sky, so when I got to the part about "There's something wrong with the universe!" "Oh, that's just paranoia, everyone has that," I thought for a moment that Douglas Adams was referencing Diane Duane.


(no subject)

Date: 2009-06-11 05:51 pm (UTC)
sineala: Detail of The Unicorn in Captivity, from The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestry (Default)
From: [personal profile] sineala
Can I come back and play now? Have I missed it?

Anyway. Um. Let's see if I can break DW's comment limit. (I'm having some commenting difficulties, so hopefully this doesn't, like, post six times.)

I don't even know what to say about this book. I've had this post sitting open for days. Every few years I reread this book, and it hits me just as much as it did when I was thirteen. I don't usually put it on my "favorite books" list, because I am embarrassed to be the sort of person whose favorite books list has Trek profic and not, like, Srs Literature on it. But what the hell, it's on there. It's way up there.

And, having just reread it, I have to say that it still holds up. Of course, you might wonder if by now I'm just rereading the version of the book that's in my head and not the one on paper. Well, uh... I really like the one in my head.

I have no idea how I picked up this book in the first place. I may have grabbed it after getting hooked on Spock's World and discovering that K'(s)'t'lk originally first appeared here. I have to say, though, I wouldn't have grabbed this based on the cover, which features an exceedingly red-faced Spock and Kirk (both wearing blue tunics?) in front of a jellyfish-like thing that is presumably supposed to be K't'lk. And, seriously, the cover blurb reads THE U.S.S. ENTERPRISE LEAPS BEYOND OUR GALAXY -- INTO THE DEADLY VOID OF THE UNIVERSE! which sounds (a) kind of silly, and (b) like our galaxy isn't even part of the universe. I'll spare you the back cover prose.

The characterization:

I really think Duane gets these people *right*. And I don't mean that they're like their canon selves, although of course in some sense they are -- but they're the people their canon selves should be. They're better, nobler, more altruistic. The kind of people who run around the universe finding cool new stuff because they delight in it. It is a joyful thing.

Like, I understand why people would follow Kirk, reading this book. I understand his charisma. I get it. And this Kirk, in comparison to canon Kirk, does not so much think with his dick (this is the guy who has a new girl every planet, right, guys?), and is instead weirdly almost asexual. It probably helps that K't'lk, being a large glass spider, is really not his type, but they manage to have a rational conversation about life and death and sex (and what a lovely scene it is, too) in his quarters without him coming across as some kind of skeezy player. (And when you give him people who are more humanoid, he still doesn't go for them. Can you imagine canon Kirk reacting to Ael the way he does in the Rihannsu-verse? He'd spend every minute hitting on her. I'd hate it. So, really, I'm a fan of not-playboy Kirk.) I also appreciate how he comes across as smart. Because, you know, he's supposed to be. And he is.

As for the other series regulars, it's not really about them. A lot of Trek's about Kirk and Spock, or Kirk and Spock and McCoy (and, yeah, I like that too; that's what fanfiction's for), and this is really about Kirk and the Enterprise. The ship and the crew all together. (His first inversion experience is certainly Kirk/ship, and the rest of the book is Kirk/crew. So there's not as much of the "normal" character development, but if you have a camaraderie kink, it hits it hard. (This is another trait of Diane Duane's writing; I think she got a little more stylized with it later, but at the same time the more raw version does a better job -- for me -- at heading to the Id Vortex.)

So, yeah. Spock. Hmm. This Spock is exactly the Spock in my head, and I think he's actually pretty close to canon. The role of Exposition, usually played by him, is instead mostly played by K't'lk and Scotty, so he doesn't have much to do. He's there to be brilliant and be support, basically. McCoy really doesn't have much to do, but I enjoy his snark at K't'lk during the briefing. Scotty is there to help act as physics exposition, and I find his friendship with K't'lk rather charming. Uhura -- hmm -- really only comes into action at the end, with the other universe, but it's very good. Sulu gets to play awesome starship computer games, and then outrun the dastardly Klingons, and I'm really glad he gets to, y'know, be competent. Chekov doesn't have much to do, but we do get a couple pages of him and Jim during inversion that's rather nice.

The people:

One of the things I -- and probably everyone else -- love about Diane Duane's writing is that her non-human characters are people too. And you know they're not human, and that's okay, because they're great, they're different, that's wonderful. Look at all the wondrous variety of the universe. This is IDIC in action, and very few of the Trek books actually pull this off. I read the first couple Titan books a few years ago, and they were all about tolerance, how they had the most diverse crew in the fleet, and that was just it -- tolerance. With gritted teeth. The Enterprise crew here is made up of many, many species, with many differences, and they all love each other for it, because it'd be awfully boring if we were all the same. And that's Star Trek. That's what Star Trek should be, anyway.

(I mean, it's the little touches: they're "the humanities." All of them. They all get to be human, too.)

Here, of course, is where K't'lk comes up. And I like her really more than any arachnophobe should. I wouldn't be afraid of her. And, from a technical standpoint, I really appreciate how she somehow manages not to be a Mary Sue -- she's brilliant, accomplished, makes friends with everyone on the ship, and sacrifices herself saving the day. But she's not a Mary Sue. Maybe the glass-spider thing is a factor. I mean, it also helps that Diane Duane is really good at showing you how K't'lk is a genius, exactly. You respect K't'lk's competence and don't get the sense it's wish-fulfillment. I do, anyway. (Come to think of it, that's another trait of the Duaneverse crew -- they are all really, really, deeply competent. You can see why they deserve to be the flagship. Competent intelligence is one of my fiction kinks.)

And there's Katha'sat. Who has a couple of scenes, but yay for SF fun with gender time. I like it, and I appreciate the book showing me Jim's friends who aren't on the Enterprise.

And then there's a whole bunch of non-Terrans who show up here and there: the na'mdeiheh, Amekentra from Dietary, Mr. Athende the Sulamid (first of several in the series, and there's one in YW). Plus a lot of people just there as background. It's really nice. I wish this book had Naraht in it, but, well, I guess we see enough of him soon. Oh, and there's d'Hennish! I almost forgot him. I actually don't like him as much as I think I could -- he doesn't have much to do until the end, and it seems to me that you're supposed to like him just because he's a cat person. (The cats in the Grand Central worldgates YW spinoff series are much better.)

Plus, hey, the throwaway references to non-Terran-crewed (or -named) ships are good. I like this version of Starfleet. It is way, way less species-ist than canon.

I also appreciate the minor recurring Earth-human characters who show up again later: Harb Tanzer (and Moira, who I think is an honorary human), Lia Burke, and there are references to Janice Kerasus and Lieutenant Freeman.

The plot:

If I described the plot, it would sound kind of silly: There is an experimental device, the inversion apparatus, that allows starships to enter a new kind of space and travel farther than ever before. The Klingons want it, and the Enterprise has to fight them off. While using the device to travel, not only do they not end up where they want to go, the crew begin having visions of things they have never seen -- at first entirely unfamiliar things, and then memories of their fellow crewmates. What's more, inversion is doing very very bad things to space, and they have to fix it, and help a baby universe along, all the while hanging out in a great big mindmeld. And K't'lk dies to do it, then comes back to life, and all of Starfleet shows up to say hi when they're on their way back. (I love the detail with the shields and the color of the homestar.)

And, yet, it really works.

I'm not sure how I feel about K't'lk coming back. On a reread, it kind of cheapens her sacrifice knowing she has another life left, but I don't know why I should think that. (Also, it, uh, reminds me a lot of similar sacrifices in Young Wizards, like Ed or Fred, but they've got Timeheart rather than reality proper for meeting again.)

Also, Red Matter from AOS is totally the inversion drive gone a little wonky -- the effects, including the singularity, are pretty much as described. I definitely want some fanfic about this.

I am not a physicist -- but I did track down the Nature article in the bibliography, which I entirely failed to understand -- but if it ain't right, at least it sounds plausible to me. And I like it. (This is generally my attitude toward the large amounts of Science in Diane Duane's books in general.)

The worldbuilding:

Seeing as how other people have already admitted this, I suppose I can step forward and say it had a profound effect on my view of the universe, too. I really like Harb's "life as one great big game" idea. A lot. I can't really come up with anything articulate to say about how much the worldbuilding has affected my own personal view of the universe, because I can't think of the words to talk about it. (That's why this took so long to write.) Plus I would feel ashamed admitting that a Trek novel is a major foundation for my spirituality, such as it is. So, uh, let's say it really had an impact on me, and leave it at that.

The theme of entropy is here, as you might expect from Diane Duane, but it's a little different than, say, the Young Wizards 'verse. The wizards take up the cause of fighting against entropy. Here, they have to give the new universe entropy because, well, they can't not do it -- besides, it would get boring. On the other hand, the lack of entropy in the universe the crew finds themselves in is what leads to the awesome group gestalt thingy, so. (And even in their regular universe, they're still awesome -- they're just in each others' heads here a little more.)

I really like the last section of the book, when they are all together there -- it hits this kink for me that's kind of the telepathy kink, and kind of the camaraderie kink, and kind of the awesome competent people being awesome kink, and the power of language kink, and so far nothing else I've read by any other author has hit exactly the same things for me. (Diane Duane is really good at this.)

I'd like to see what the new universe contains, actually. There should be some fanfiction about this. It would be fun.

I like the little fannish details, like naming the planet Lorien. It's never thrown me out; I figure if you get it, you get it. Besides, clearly Starfleet personnel are big geeks in an environment that values geekiness. I also like the other details -- you get the sense that they're part of a wider universe, talking about things you don't see but you know they did (like, how, in the Rihannsu-verse, I've always liked how Jim already knew who Ael was from previous missions) -- like the songs. The songs are awesome. And of course they have their own songs; why shouldn't they?

There are probably other things I could say, because I could probably talk about this book forever. Because, yes, I do like it that much.

So, uh, in conclusion. Yes. This book is a good thing.

(P.S. The "Spock's World" file is missing all its apostrophes and quotation marks. Saaaaaad.)

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