RIP Della Van Hise

Della Van Hise, a writer most relevant to the purview of this website as author of the 1985 Star Trek novel Killing Time, died of heart failure in Loma Linda, CA on March 3 following a series of cardiac arrests throughout February that confined her to the hospital. The news was reported on her Facebook page by Wendy Rathbone, her domestic partner of forty years. She was 65.

Van Hise published erotic fan fiction both in the Star Trek universe and with original characters and settings under over a dozen pseudonyms, the most notable of which was Alexis Fegan Black. She was also highly committed to a New Age-esque spiritual journey of the self, which she documented in Quantum Shaman: Diary of a Nagual Woman (2005) and subsequent expansions. Quantum Shaman purports to continue the work first laid out by, among others, shamanist Carlos Castaneda in 1968’s The Teachings of Don Juan, a book originally published with serious intentions as an anthropological document but nowadays widely considered a work of fiction. Van Hise also offered “evolutionary workshops” that claimed to aid others who wished to embark on this type of journey. 

Killing Time was, rather (in)famously, the novel that forced Gene Roddenberry’s hand in cracking down on overtly sexual elements in Star Trek novels. Killing Time‘s first printing was recalled and subsequently pulped, and Pocket Books issued a second edition with a handful of new edits after it was discovered that an earlier unedited version of the manuscript had somehow reached publication. Copies of it still exist, however (one of which I was fortunate enough to find in a secondhand bookstore), which are most easily distinguished by the title being embossed on the cover, and additionally by certain telltale passages within the text. Perhaps needless to say, it would be Van Hise’s only official Star Trek novel.

Van Hise’s own later statements about the book are characterized mainly by a seething resentment of society’s and fandom’s treatment of slash writers, as well as a stubborn insistence that Paramount ripped off the novel’s plot for later works such as the 2009 J.J. Abrams film, which to her was a fact as simply and immutably true as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west (though her beliefs would probably have led her to question that as well).

Looking back on my own review of Killing Time, I’d say that while it was long and certainly informative, and I tried my best to be even-handed, I was definitely more than a little immature about it in places. Perhaps in the far-flung future, when we’ve finally exhausted the master list of almost 700 Pocket Books novels and I have to move on to reviewing the Bantam books and other adjacent pieces of Trek culture, we’ll take another look at Killing Time—this time looking at it from the perspective of the unedited version.

#172: The Last Stand (TNG #37)

This week, when the Enterprise checks out a warp signature a few light years off course, they find a people huddling in a galactic corner waiting for the end. But when it turns out they’ve arrived ahead of the expected company, Picard’s mediation skills will be stretched to their limits. Does a Star Trek novel need an “entr’acte”? Should Tamarian reference-speak be Starfleet SOP in dangerous situations? And are y’all ready to talk some poop-beaming theory? All this and more in The Last Stand, the book that dares to ungrow the beard.

#171: Violations (VOY #4)

This week, Voyager wakes up from a sketchy deal with one less computer core. But when they reboot in safe mode, they’ll need to get it back before it gets used to start a revolution. How many different ways can the EMH get “sick”? Is it cruel to drop continuity teases you know you can’t deliver on? And how necessary is it to tell people in the Delta Quadrant that you’re from the Federation? All this and more in Violations, the book that does a barrel roll.

On Donating Books

I’ll cut to the chase on this one. For the three years plus that Deep Space Spines has been a thing, I’ve been able to comfortably afford the books thanks to the relative cheapness of mass market paperbacks and the generosity of my readers, and have built up quite a strong reading buffer. Following the most recent review for The Laertian Gamble, I have in my possession every book to be reviewed for the next 53 weeks. However, after that point, some titles, particularly in the YA line, are outlandishly expensive even at my level of combined disposable income and financial patronage. So, operating on the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I’ve decided to open up the site to donations of books as well as money. To that end, I’ve added a page called Books the Site Needs, where I’ll list books that, shall we say, make my eyes bug out when I look them up online, and see if I can’t get some of them that way.

Thanks as always for frequenting this silly little site of mine and being the awesome people you are.

#170: The Laertian Gamble (DS9 #12)

This week, when Bashir agrees to gamble on a telepath’s behalf, he breaks more than just the bank. When entire ships and moons start disappearing, Dax and Kira have to wrestle with the forces of chaos itself to bring them back. What’s the deal with Complexity Theory? What are Ferengi priests like? And is the closest point of comparison for this book really that episode? All this and more in The Laertian Gamble, the book that’s brought to you by Meat Product 62!

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