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The Trek Nation - A Brief History of 'Ships of the Line'

A Brief History of 'Ships of the Line'

By Margaret Clark
Posted at October 4, 2006 - 6:56 PM GMT

I keep getting asked, "Just what is Ships of the Line?"

Well it's a should-have-been-a-book, that became a calendar, that became a book. I've been an editor here at Pocket Books handling Star Trek books for so long that DS9 was still in production. As the last hired, I was given the task that everyone hates, the black hole of book production: calendars. Come on, you wonder, how hard can it be to do a calendar? Twelve images and you're done. (Actually it's fourteen.)

However, if you care you start choosing photography with the rule of thumb that every lead actor: one, should have a shot by themselves; two, that is interesting; three, that is flattering and four, that hasn't been used before. Not so easy. And you need a centerfold and a cover image. Personally, if I saw a cast shot, for a particular show, used as a cover image one more time, I was going to scream. Pocket had reached out to Gary Hutzel and he had done a cover for us… I called Gary and asked if he would do calendar covers and centerfolds. He did for TNG, several DS9, and even a TOS. The images he created were unique and exclusive to Pocket. We got a lot of positive feedback from the fans.

Then we were asked to add a calendar to the mix. At the time, I had a book project with budget issues, but I reasoned that if I could defray the cost of producing the book by creating images for a calendar and reusing them in the book… it could work. I asked the authors of the book, Mojo and Rob Bonchue, if they could create fourteen images for a calendar. Then, I did the unthinkable: I rotated the calendar's orientation from vertical to horizontal, reduced the size of the monthly grid. I heard the howling from our sales reps, and the buyers. "Trust me. You guys aren't looking for larger numbers, and the fans will love it." We went back for three printings. (Of course, the next year, when the calendar was done traditionally, the complaints were deafening.) The book never was able to clear the budget hurdles; however, Ships of the Line Calendar is the number one selling Star Trek calendar.

Now, I work with the one and only Doug Drexler. He not just one of the talented artist I use and abuse, he is my "ship wrangler." The artists on the Ships of the Line Calendar are given the freedom to do what they want without the usual pages and pages of notes that they could get from a producer of the show/film that they are working on. From, me they get, "Could I have it a little lighter? Or, I'm sorry you won. You are going to be the cover, so you need to do redo your image so that it's square." You can see from the spreads a sample of images that have appeared in our calendars and the creative freedom that is given.

This year we were asked if there was a book that could be added to the schedule for Star Trek's 40th Anniversary? (Oh, and could I have it ready in six to eight weeks?) Ships popped into my head, but I wondered if I had enough images for a book. Even I was amazed by how many we did have, and how I didn't have to use every ship image that was ever created for us. I knew that I needed text that would speak to the heart of Star Trek. I could only think of one person to write it, and luckily Mike Okuda agreed.

Ships of the Line is a unique book, and I'm not saying that because I'm the editor. Every page shows the passion that has been the heart of the Star Trek phenomena, right in front of your eyes. Artists who grew up watching the show now get to create if only for a instant Star Trek, and with their creation they can share with other fans that moment of wonder when they first discovered the final frontier.

All images are copyright Pocket Books and are exclusive to The Trek Nation. Illustrations are by Gary Hutzel, Koji Kuramura, Pierre Drolet and Daren Dochterman respectively.

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Margaret Clark is Executive Editor at Pocket Books.