A Hero Raised on Star Trek

Willful Child by Steven Erikson
By Steven Erikson

I adore Star Trek, always have. I am a massive fan of Capt. Kirk (still the best captain of the lot in my opinion) and a huge fan of William Shatner (proud Canadian that I am). I play Star Trek Online, and I own a fair amount of Star Trek memorabilia. It is safe to say that I am a Trekker. So it should come as no surprise that I always wanted to write a Star Trek story.

One of the things that has consistently struck me as strange is that in all these SF future worlds, contemporary culture never seems to have existed. No matter the future world, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, even Buck Rogers, never seem to have happened. Starbuck doesn’t remember Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers doesn’t remember Kirk, and Kirk doesn’t know what a lightsaber is. The obvious reason is probably to do with copyright issues, but when you are designing a future universe based on ours, it seems so strange to leave out the big SF shows that have formed our opinion of space travel. And if copyright is the reason, well, that’s just ridiculous. Isn’t SF supposed to incorporate all that we were and are, into what we will become?

So you could say that when I wrote my new novel, Willful Child, I took for my premise the simple idea that a guy in the future grew up watching the adventures of the U.S.S. Enterprise and her formidable Captain Kirk, and decided that this was who he was going to be. A child raised by TV, and one show in particular, who is then given a spaceship and sent off to find new worlds to conquer. What would someone be like if Captain Kirk was their sole role model? Someone who leaps into battle sure in the knowledge that they will be back on next week? Someone who is apparently irresistible to every alien female he meets? Someone who believes the chain of command applies to other people and not him? A captain of the future living with 1960s cultural aesthetics?

Anyway, this was a chance to write something as over-the-top as I could manage. To extend the logic of Star Trek to absurd conclusions and play with the tropes of the show. This is what ultimately led to the adventures of Captain Hadrian Sawback of the A.S.F. Willful Child. A man-child who has modelled himself on Kirk without the benefit of a more realistic role-model, set in a future universe in which humanity has become aggressively, obnoxiously complacent, and written using an episodic approach that allowed me to parody the show. A rollicking space adventure that would make people laugh. A spoof of the gross-out cringe-comedy kind, with something offensive to someone on virtually every page.

Hadrian is my take on a James Bond, a Flashman, a Slippery Jim DiGriz. Not dark enough to be an anti-hero, not heroic enough to be a traditional hero, and certainly not evil enough to be a villain. But he’s no clean-cut paragon of virtue. He has blind-spots and feet of clay. He craves adventure and wants to bring his universe toward the ideals of the show he grew up watching, seemingly unaware that the real world doesn’t work according to the narrative strictures of a TV show.

While Willful Child works as a stand-alone book, I envisage this as a series that will allow me to develop the characters in much the same way that they slowly developed over the course of the show (only, in a more insane fashion). This is the pilot, if you will, for the continuing adventures of Capt. Hadrian. If after reading Willful Child, you want more, then get on my case. That is, if you really want to read The Wrath of Betty and The Search for Spark. I buckle under that kind of pressure, every time. And to be honest, I can’t wait.


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9 thoughts on “A Hero Raised on Star Trek

  1. I haven’t read anything beyond the excerpts posted on and I already want more of them!

  2. This sounds delightful, actually – putting our own pop culture into a novel makes it easier to put OURSELVES into that novel.

  3. Just fyi, my Holy Ground Trilogy characters are familiar with Star Trek and Arthur C. Clarke, and by implication with a lot of other SF. From Vol. I, THE RAGGED WORLD:

    At that moment an image flashed into Liam’s mind, a scene from one of the classic “Star Trek” episodes that he must have watched fifteen or twenty times with Jeff, who had been crazy about them. In this one Captain Kirk had once again fallen in love with some space bimbo he had had to leave behind. At the end Kirk had gone to sleep in his quarters, mumbling that if only he could forget … and Dr. McCoy had then seized the opportunity to treat Spock to one of his “humanism” lectures, saying how sorry he was for Spock because Spock, being unable to feel emotions, would never know the glories of love. “Really, doctor?” Spock had intoned. McCoy left the room. Spock leaned over the sleeping Kirk, arranged his long fingers about Kirk’s head in a miniversion of the Vulcan Mind Meld, and murmurred, “Forget.”

    And in Vol. III, THE BIRD SHAMAN:

    Looking out the window, then around the tram, she noticed a man across the aisle who was reading Arthur C. Clarke’s old science-fiction classic, CHILDHOOD’S END. She nudged Liam so he would see it too. “Jeff loved that book,” he said wistfully. “I bet it’s had a big revival.”

    “Lexi told me somebody wanted to make the movie. Maybe they still will.”

    “With computer-generated kid mobs.”

    The humans in Clarke’s novel had lost all their children, not through infertility but through an evolutionary leap to a higher form of existence, midwifed by aliens who looked exactly like devils. Technically it was a happy ending, but the book was sad to read. People too old to make the leap had suffered a psychological blow so devastating that they lost their desire to reproduce, ultimately leaving the planet devoid of human life.

    Also, in my 1987 novel PENNTERRA, the human settlers call the aliens Hrossa, after the aliens in C. S. Lewis’s OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET, which they resemble.

    I’m just sayin’.

  4. It is obvious that ALL of them are on separate time lines! The split probably occurred in August 1928 when that month’s issue of “Amazing Stories” was published.

  5. Damn it, don’t use “envisage” when you mean “envision.” A visage is a face or surface.

    1. Check before you correct—
      contemplate or conceive of as a possibility or a desirable future event.
      “the Rome Treaty envisaged free movement across frontiers”
      synonyms: imagine, contemplate, visualize, envision, picture; More
      form a mental picture of (something not yet existing or known).
      “he knew what he liked but had difficulty envisaging it”

  6. I remember a couple of Star trek novels that had references to the Doctor Who TV series. One of the characters was working on converting the 2D episodes into 3D.

    And in 2010 or 2061 by Arthur C. Clarke, he mentions the remains of a science fiction movie production in Tunisia that some people thought was evidence of an alien landing.

  7. Col. O’Neill from Stargate SG-1 has clearly seen Star Trek. He was very disappointed when his suggestion of “Enterprise” for Earth’s first starship was over-ruled.

  8. Don’t you remember when Garibaldi sat Delenn down to watch “Duck Dodgers in the 24-and-a-halfth Century”? 🙂

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